Thursday 20 August 2009

DVD Reviews

The Haunting in Connecticut
Peter Cornwell
Entertainment In Video

Review by Blake Harmer

The Haunting in Connecticut revolves around the Campbell family, who decide to move to a new house in Connecticut when their son Matt is diagnosed with cancer and they are having to make long car journeys to take him to the hospital there. However, they later discover that the house has a very bad history and that used to be a Funeral Home and also a place where a boy named Jonah, who is a very powerful Medium also held numerous séances there. Matt starts seeing things in the house, but is it his new medication, or are there dark forces in the house?

If you said there are dark forces in the house, you’d be right (even if you couldn‘t have guessed it from the film‘s title). Despite this film being based on a true story, throughout the film, you will constantly be thinking that you’ve seen this sort of film before. The plot is too similar to every other ghost based horror film you may have seen, from the jumpy “echoes” in 1408 to the predictable plot twist at the end of the film which shows that there is still more to come like in Poltergeist. I also thought that the initial ghosts you see at the beginning of the film were more laughable than scary as well.

However, there are good things to say about the film. The later ghosts are genuinely spooky and there are some good jumpy bits to enjoy. I also liked the use of Matt’s connection with the dead being due to his illness and him being close to death. It was one of the few nice bit’s in the film that didn’t feel starved of ideas. Some of the ghosts also reminded me of the zombies from Lordi videos, and anything that involves Lordi is made of win in my book

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Fairly gory, but not hugely in comparison to other horror films. Focus is more on scary and grotesque looking corpses an jumpy bits than actual gore.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Very mild, in fact as far as horror movies go, The Haunting in Connecticut is very disappointing on the sex, nudity and swearing fronts.
Summary: This is a fairly average film with nothing for me to suggest you to watch it over all the truly amazing ghost story films out there. True, there are some good jumpy bits, and the plot will keep you entertained throughout, but in a world full of horror movies, I couldn’t recommend it. You should probably consider giving it a rental if you’re in the mood for a ghost story, but apart from the plentiful documentaries the DVD package offers as extras, I cannot see a huge reason for parting with your cash for this. 6/10

The Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon
Daniel Lee
Icon Home Entertainment

Review by Blake Harmer

Normally when it comes to reviewing kung fu movies, I normally completely ignore the plot, which is normally a shoddy revenge plot loosely explained so that there is some pretence for a load of fight scenes to happen, and just focus on how good the kung-fu is. Take Jackie Chan’s City Hunter for example, the plot is so stupid it’s laughable. However, as it’s an early Jackie Chan film, the kung fu is really good with some truly great set pieces (not including the Street Fighter II scene, which is just silly). However, with the Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon, I was surprised to find that the plot was great and worth even more attention than the kung fu.

The film is based on the novel Romance in the Three Kingdoms and is set during the period of the three kingdoms which is the period where three armies fought to unify China and focuses on Zhao Zilong’s life fighting for Liu Bei’s army and his rise to power as one of the five tiger generals. The plot also follows a fellow officer who comes from the same town as Zhou Zilong and the relationship between them. However, unlike his counterpart, he has very little success and always remains a mere cog in the war machine.

I enjoyed the film on several levels. Firstly, the combat was good with some good use of wire-fu, but mostly keeping things simple with good swordplay on horseback. The kung-fu has no real mind blowing set pieces but is good enough to keep you entertained throughout. There is also plenty of gore during the battles, and although only a realistic amount is used, the deaths are still impressive enough to make you wince a few times. Secondly, the acting of Andy Lau as Zhao Zilong is fantastic and he adds some great emotion to the storyline, especially at the film’s climax. Thirdly, the plot is very engaging and keeps you feeling for the characters throughout, especially with a couple of good plot twists.

The film does suffer from a major gripe though, which is that I feel that it is too short. The film is just over 100 minutes long, but in that time tries to tell a story that happens over almost 40 years. It feels as if the large parts of the plot are described to you rather than actually shown. There is also a scene where we see Zhao Zilong’s wife, but then she is never shown again and the plot never mentions her again either which sort of made me feel that there was either a lot of plot left on the cutting room floor, or it was just a redundant scene which they could’ve used the time to expand upon the main plot. Finally, for a two-disc special edition, the DVD doesn’t seem to have a lot of extras so it seems like a bit of wasteful investment if you would like to see more on the making of the film.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Lots of large, bloody battles, good solid kung-fu, but nothing truly mind blowing that other films like House of Flying Daggers or Ong-Bak would offer.
Sex/Nudity: None, they were too busying having large battles to worry about anything else.
Swearing: Few uses of swearing, didn’t really grab my attention though.
Summary: This is a thoroughly enjoyable film with a good storyline and some solid set pieces in terms of kung fu. However, seeing that John Woo’s recent epic Red Cliff is based on the same book and is a whopping 5 hours long, you can see that the film feels rushed and there was more to the plot. Definitely worth a watch for kung-fu fans who want to see a kung-fu film with an actual decent plot though. 7/10

Diagnosis: Death
Jason Stutter
Revolver Entertainment

Slimeball teacher Andre Chang (bribery, letchery, the whole shebang) is horrifed to learn that he has inoperable bowel cancer. In an effort to prolong his life any way he can, he agrees to an experimental drug trial. Once he gets there, he meets a young literature student, Juliet, with whom he forms a friendship. Their happiness, however, is short-lived, as before long strange goings-on start to happen at the hospital, making them call into question whether all is as it seems on the ward...

From the outset, one thing is apparent with this film; the people involved WANT you to know that it's from the makers of Flight of the Conchords . If you doubt that one bit at any point, it's as easy as looking at the DVD box to see why, as several of the characters on the box only appear in the film for about five minutes. However, as they're actors from the famous TV show I just mentioned, they get a look in on the DVD cover.

Smart move, in hindsight, as Rhys Darby for me is the funniest character in the movie. One particular scene involving his character (Chang's doctor) giving the prognosis was funny in a kind of Ricky Gervais-esque awkward way, a kind of humour I have a lot of time for personally. However, throughout the whole film the only real attempts at comedy moments are all of this variety, and frankly the characters involved don't really have the comedic ability of Darby to pull it off.

One of the main critiques I have of this movie is that it seems to be an attempt to combine the appeal of Shaun of the Dead with the fanbase of Flight of the Conchords , but suffers from ultimately not being as well-written and funny a film. As a result, it feels like a pale imitation simply because it comes off as a film that can't decide what it wants to be; comedy or horror.

The horror elements, also, aren't especially good. At no point during the film did I find myself particularly terrified, largely due to some weak CG work and over use of the traditional clichéd "jump-out" moments and tension building to find that...nothing happens. The main villain, as well, isn't particularly terrifying at any point, even during the storyline's big reveal.

That said, I had no feeling while watching this movie that I was wasting my time, and there were some things that I enjoyed about it. I already mentioned Rhys Darby's brief appearance, but there were really not many bad acting jobs in this movie at all. The protagonists are sufficiently likeable and convincing in their portrayal of the characters involved. Even the main villain, though the character is not a particularly well-written one, is still sufficiently well-acted to be enjoyable.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : The odd gruesome bit, but all looks quite over the top and so not particularly jarring.
Sex/Nudity : Very little involving corporeal form (you'll see what I mean if you watch it).
Swearing : A few uses of "fuck" and "shit", nothing particularly exciting.
Summary: This is a difficult one to score, as the film ultimately cannot decide if it's trying to be a comedy or a horror film. In both genres, it succeeds to a certain degree, but not in any particular amount one way or the other. However, an entertaining enough film that's well worth a watch. 6/10

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