Thursday, 6 August 2009

DVD Reviews

17 Again
Burr Steers
Entertainment in Video
Available from 10th August on DVD and Blu-Ray
Review by Brad Harmer

In 1989, Mike O'Donnell (Zac Efron – The Derby Stallion, Triple Play) was a star athlete with a full college basketball scholarship. He though he had it all, until, right before the championship basketball game, his girlfriend, Scarlet, told him she was pregnant. He made the decision to throw everything away and proposed to her.

About twenty years later, Mike's (Matthew Perry – Fools Rush In, The Whole Ten Yards) life is floundering somewhat. Scarlet has separated from him, and he’s living with his geeky, but millionaire, best friend Ned Gold. His job is going nowhere, and his kids Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg - Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight) and Alex want nothing to do with him. Whilst paying a visit to Hayden High School to reminisce about the life he threw away, he encounters the mysterious janitor. On the way home, he is magically transformed back into his 17-year old self. With his friend Ned posing as his father, he re-enrolls in high school, believing he has been given the chance to live his life over again, "but to do it right". So far, so Big/Freaky Friday, right?

Sure, the premise is far from original – it’s just a slight twist on a tried and tested theme – but the execution is excellent. For one thing, it’s hilarious. Yes, I know it’s got the guy from High School Musical in it, so you want to hate it...but the fact is that it’s a funny film, and a good sized chunk of that is down to Efron. The “cringe” comedy is a little hit and miss, but the one-liners are worth sticking around for.

Even the romantic stuff is actually handled pretty well. It’s a high-school comedy, granted, but one of the few I can think of that actually makes you care for the characters as characters, rather than just being bipedal joke machines. Ned’s attraction to the Principal and their awkward, geeky romance is hilarious all the way.

Some parts of the story, though, feel a little undeveloped. Maggie seems a little too much of a one-dimensional, easily-bamboozled, stroppy-teenager cliché for someone who is a main character. Also, towards the end, the story wavers a little bit, as the writers try to cram in more turns than the plot can really handle.
With that said, this is still a damn good example of a body-swapping/high-school comedy. There’s more than enough geeky humour in here to make it worth checking out for the Emotionally Fourteen, even if you do have to sneak it home in a brown paper bag.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Several fist, sword and lightsaber fights. Some of it realistic, some of it played for slapstick laughs.
Sex/Nudity: A fair amount, to be honest. There’s a lot of implied activity, nudity and sexual tension. A lot of double-entendres, as is typical of the genre.
Swearing: IMDB counts ten sexual references, five scatological terms, eight anatomical terms, three mild obscenities, name-calling, and eight religious exclamations. That’s pretty good going.
Summary: Don’t let the clichéd story and the flavour-of-the-month movie star put you off. This is a really funny movie, and worth checking out for a good chuckle. 8/10

Best of Deathmatch Wrestling: Mexican Hardcore
Best Medicine

Now this is what harcore wrestling should be like! It’s easy to become over reliant on gimmicks in a wrestling match. The key to making a good hardcore match remains the same as for any other type of match – knowing what to do, and when to do it. For every shitty Jackass style hardcore wrestler giving the style a bad name, there are two or three no-one ever hears of who manage to work the gimmicks in, without turning it into a farce of exploding fluorescent light-bulbs. This compilation, for the most part, showcases some good stuff.

Unlike a lot of wrestling compilations that get very repetitive when they try and showcase a particular type of match or style of wrestling, The Best of Deathmatch Wrestling: Mexican Hardcore actually manages to keep it fresh and interesting. There are tag matches, table matches, inter-gender matches...all well-spaced, so that there are never two types of the same match back to back. This really helps breaks things up and keep the interest level high – it’s exactly how wrestling organisations arrange things on their live shows, too.

When the matches involve Luchadore wrestlers, the weapons don’t come into play all that much, and when they do, it really shows the “in character” impact, turning things around, with them as the spots of the match. Then there are matches that are just plain old weapons heavy brawling...but these are good too! It’s a difference style, but just as entertaining, showing that high violent deathmatches can also be good wrestling matches.

There are some things that let it down, however. The ordering of the matches is a little off at times – opening up with the second best match? Good call. Closing with one of the weakest? Bad call, especially as the penultimate one is the best one! Also, there’s some rather clumsy editing, which makes it feel like moves have been removed at strange times, throwing off the heat of the match, and generally being rather distracting.

Also, the commentary is rather amateurish, and I’m not sure it was necessary to have no-name grindcore and/or death metal playing in the background of every single match.

Another unusual feature of this DVD is that the special features are really good. Most wrestling DVDs features are rather lacklustre, either being a couple of rather dull shoot interviews, or a couple of matches from TV tapings that no-one really gives a crap about. On this though, you’re treated to several matches from US Hardcore fed XPW, and the complete home video release of Terry Funk’s Hardcore Legends. Now that there, is a quality item.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Loads. In addition to wrestling there’s barbed wire, tables, light-tubes, chairs, tables, trashcans and all kinds of gubbins used as weapons.
Sex/Nudity: None. Unless you get aroused by a women’s hardcore match. You might.
Swearing: None in English.
Summary: A great compilation of hardcore wrestling, only let down by the low-budget limits under which is was shot and edited. Thankfully, this is volume one, so I’m hopeful volume two will be even better. 7/10

1 comment:

  1. I have to concur on '17 Again'. I also nearly didn't bother going to see it (and I have an Unlimited cinema card, so I can afford to go and see some real shite: it takes quite a lot for me to write a film off as not even worth going to see FOR FREE) because it just looked like yet another re-hash of 'Freaky Friday' meets 'It's A Wonderful Life'. I am so glad my other half persuaded me to go and see it with her, as it really does rise above its unoriginal premise... and, as Brad says above, it's actually bloody funny. A damned sight funnier than 'Freaky Friday' anyway... even the original.