Lena Headey

Meanest of the Mean…Ma-Ma

Njaahahahahaaaaa she cackles, rubbing her hands in glee. Another chance to shine some light on those dark characters. This year Ma-Ma gets a go. She’s got to be one of the most ruthless female villains I’ve come across. Just thinking of her gives me the shivers. Time to get all dark (hope you won’t think bad of me after this but it is The Great Villain Blogathon after all with more baddies found here). Let me introduce…Madeline Madrigal a.k.a. Ma-Ma.

Dredd9Madeline…sounds harmless. She doesn’t look too nasty above either…right? Wrong. Oh how very, very wrong.

We’ll call her Ma-Ma going forward (not Mama but slightly drawn out…Maa-Maa). I’d hate for her to be confused with a mother. Here are a few more that might help set the mood (not that we should judge by appearance):

Paint a better picture for you? I was kind enough to omit the screenshot of when the scar-producing injury is being inflicted. In fact, you may want to stop reading this post soon.

Peach Trees, a 200-storey high-rise in Mega City One, “the cursed city, stretching from Boston to Washington DC”. The building houses 75 000 registered residents of which 96% are unemployed. It has one of the highest crime rates in a city that records 17000 incidents a day. Ruling from the top floor down, Ma-Ma and her gang, the Ma-Ma Clan.

Played by Lena Headey, this is someone you’d hate to come face to face with in an alleyway (or anywhere for that matter). She is so brutal that when 3 small-time drug-dealers encroach on her turf they get…(stop reading if you are squeamish)….skinned alive, thrown off the top floor of Peach Trees…all while under the influence of SloMo…the latest drug she is punting which…yes…slows your perceptions down (substantially). Might be great if it is recreational but not so great when you see the atrium floor rapidly approaching slowly (contradiction intended).

Sent in to investigate this incident, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). They capture Kay (Wood Harris), who Anderson, through her psychic abilities, identifies as the guy who carried out the skinning. Desperate to prevent Kay from talking (I won’t reveal why) Ma-Ma gives orders to lock down the entire building until Dredd and Anderson are dead. Dredd, ever the just, loyal and fearless judge, assisted by Anderson, works his way up floor by floor, body by body, dealing justice with one goal…Ma-Ma. Easier said than done.

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Formerly a prostitute, she got cut up by her pimp. Her revenge…”Feminised the guy with her teeth”. Apparently this is when she became the woman who has no problem casually dealing out the most gruesome punishment to anyone she pleases. The poor techie (played by Domhnall Gleeson whom I barely recognised), who hacks any system for her, even had his eyes redecorated – her doing.

I honestly don’t know what could possibly justify her actions. Yes, maybe her pimp doing what he did may just have pushed her over the edge. However, watching her do what she does, there must have been some mean streak in her before then. Deep down, some darkness that was waiting to be triggered. I’d say she is one of the most vile villains I’ve come across.

Gruesome and violent, Dredd (2012) is still an excellent movie enhanced with a brilliant soundtrack. The SloMo scenes are fantastically presented with everything slowing down for added effect:

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While this is a post about Ma-Ma, I must mention that Karl Urban is perfect for the no-nonsense Judge Dredd (delivering some great deadpan lines). If you have been avoiding this one thinking “oh no! Judge Dredd” with the 1995 version in mind…don’t. With a current IMDB rating of 7.1 and 78% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer (72% Audience Likes), it really isn’t bad. Written by Alex Garland and directed by Pete Travis, you’ll be on the edge of your seat, wondering how this one could possible end. You have been warned though – definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Whew, so now I need a good, light movie to watch. Something with a “kinder” villain. Or a nice good Prince Charming.

For last year’s entry into this Blogathon have a look at Villain, villain on the Wall.

*Quote taken from watching the movie

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A whole lot of Swords and Sandals in 300

Oh, so you want swords huh? And sandals too? Fine…I’ll give them to you. You know what? I’ll give you 300 of them! Yes, 300 swords accompanying 300 pairs of sandals. Worn by 300 buff and tough warriors. For “we are Sparta!”. Ok, so there may not have been exclusively 300 swords but I’m not getting technical here, just like I’m not getting into the debate around the historical accuracy of this film. Nor am I even mentioning any sequel (I don’t do sequels of movies I enjoy). This is 300 (2006) as it stands.

Based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynne Varley, you’ll be rewarded with lots and lots of sandals. And trust me, plenty of swords together with a far larger body count as it tells a fictional version of the Battle of Thermopylae. Depending on how you look at it, you’ll also be rewarded with many a six pack and scantily clad (hmmm, actually cape-and-Speedo-clad) warriors as Gerard Butler, David Wenham and Michael Fassbender among others go into battle against the mighty Persian army appearing as if “all the world’s warriors gathered against us”. You may also appreciate the sandals (no sword I’m afraid, but I wouldn’t put it past her) of Queen Gorgo played by Lena Headey. She’s the perfect match forĀ Gerard Butler‘s Spartan King Leonidas.

This is a great movie that, for me, was best seen on the big screen as nothing quite compares to the visual impact of the Persian messengers coming to Sparta on horse-back and riding, no, almost flying over the ridge in one smooth swoop. And with a dynamic leader like King Leonidas you definitely need enough space that only the big screen can offer. What do you expect from someone who spurs his warriors on with “Spartans. Ready your breakfast and eat hearty for tonight we dine in hell!”. Xerxes played by Rodrigo Santoro likewise needs enough space (you may barely recognise him here just like you may miss him in his role in Jane Got a Gun).

What works really well in this case and probably makes the movie what it is are the effects used. Everything appears sepia with the exception of the Spartan warrior capes and graphically drawn splattering blood which come across in a contrasting red. This, together with the slowed down action sequences make for great viewing. In general, the various battle scenes are wonderfully choreographed (for in their slow motion they really are almost dance-like) and other scenes have a superb cinematographic detail. It really is something.

Make no mistake, this film is violent and gruesome but has ever so slight a comic relief from some great lines. One of my favourites is when a Persian messenger tries to intimidate the Spartans with “A thousand nations of the Persian empire will descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!” to which Stelios, a Spartan warrior replies “Then we will fight in the shade.”

Directed by Zack Snyder, 300 was filmed almost entirely using a green screen and stars Gerard Butler, Lena Headey as well as Dominic West, David Wenham (he’s great in Pope Joan), Michael Fassbender, Vincent Regan, Tom Wisdom (you should watch him in the fabulous Pirate Radio) and the list goes on.

As I always say, watch it for yourself and enjoy! Just one tip though – the bigger the screen the better. Happy watching.

PS: Out of interest, there’s a website that compares History vs Hollwood of different movies, 300 one of them, including a comparison of the characters. It makes for some interesting reading.

* Quotes taken from watching the movie.