Tuesday 15 September 2009

DVD Reviews

Psychoville: Series One
Matt Lipsey
2 Entertain

Review by Brad Harmer

Written by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, it’s hardly surprising that this feels like The League of Gentlemen: Redux, as they comprise half of that writing team. If you love The League of Gentlemen: good news, you’re going to love this. If you don’t: be warned, this is very much more of the same.

The cast is the typical collection of dark misfits that you’d expect. Oscar Lomax, an avaricious blind collector (Steve Pemberton); Robert Greenspan, a lovestruck telekinetic dwarf (Jason Tompkins); Joy Aston, a desperately misguided midwife (Dawn French); David Sowerbutts, a murder-obsessed manchild (Pemberton); and Mr Jolly, an embittered one-handed clown (Reece Shearsmith)...

Despite their different backgrounds, different interests and different origins, they share a common link. Each one has been sent an anonymous, black-edged card which reads: “I know what you did”.

As with its predecessor, The League of Gentlemen, there are some truly great moments of comedy genius here. Watching two clowns have a massive slapstick rumble in a Fun House is great, and the one-liners had me in hysterics half the time. The old lady who ends up accompanying Mr Jelly for the last two episodes, despite her desperate attempts to stop for a wee was great. The episode centring around David Sowerbutts and his mother, Maureen (Shearsmith), is a masterpiece of comedy writing. Set entirely in the confines of one room, it shows a murder, and the desperate attempts of David and Maureen to hide the body. The guest appearance on Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentleman) does, however, highlight that this is old territory for all involved...

Dawn French in this however, is surprisingly terrifying. She does creepy very well. Who knew?

Psychoville, on the down side, is far from unflawed. Much like its predecessor, The League of Gentlemen, it sometimes strays too far into its horror side – ending up rather unfortunately just too dark to be funny. That and it has a surprisingly long narrative for sitcom, and the balance between making the audience laugh and progressing the storyline never seems to balance very well – it can do one or the other, but not both at the same time.

Seven episodes is a rather strange running length for a sitcom, and one can’t help but wonder if it had been trimmed a little, and been better for having been a six episode series.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several explicit fight and murder scenes. A musical number featuring famous Victorian serial killers. Carrie style telekinetic attacks. Two clowns fight in a Fun House. Not all of this is played for laughs.
Sex/Nudity: A butt naked dwarf.
Swearing: Lots of verbal uses. And someone writes “fuck pig” on the wall in his own shit.
Summary: An excellent comedy series, that suffers from perhaps being a little overlong, and being a little too dark for its own good. If you like The League of Gentlemen this is a must; if you don’t, you won’t like this for exactly the same reason. 7/10

Spongebob Squarepants: Who Bob What Pants?
Paramount Home Entertainment
Review by Blake Harmer

Are you ready for more nautical nonsense from the surreal sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea? Aye Aye Captain! *Ahem*, well at least that’s what Nickelodeon believes, and so they have brought out this DVD collection of 6 episodes for the pleasure of children and students alike.

For those of you who do not know about the children’s phenomenon known as Spongebob Squarepants, it is an incredibly surreal cartoon show about a sponge called Spongebob who lives in a pineapple under the sea in a town called Bikini Bottom and his many adventures, no matter how silly they may be. Also in Bikini Bottom besides the usual fishy townsfolk, is Spongebob’s best friend Patrick, a lazy Starfish; Gary, his pet snail; Sandy, a squirrel in a diving suit who’s a scientist; Squidward, Spongebob’s neighbour who has nothing but disdain for him; Mr Krabs, Spongebob’s boss at the fast food restaurant where he works “The Krusty Krab”; and Plankton, an tiny evil genius who owns a competing restaurant and wants to put “The Krusty Krab” out if business by stealing the secret formula of the restaurants amazing “Krabby Patty” Burger. If you think this sounds insane, that is just the beginning of it.

The program is a delight to watch, with each of the characters being instantly loveable despite their weirdness. The collection of episodes is great too, the best one being the special episode of which the collection of episodes is based on which is consistently entertaining from start to finish. The humour works perfectly for everyone as it remains in that “so stupid it’s funny” zone that it is easy accessible for kids, yet has a sly wit about it to keep adults entertained as well.

However, if I had to have a couple of gripes with this compilation, it would be that I would preferred to see a few more special features on the making of the programme. Also I found a couple of the episodes, whilst entertaining, weren't as great as the rest of the episodes in the collection. Otherwise despite these gripes this is a great purchase for fans of the show, whether they are young or old.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Not a lot, but where it is violent it is normally very slapstick and cartoony as you would expect from a children’s cartoon.
Sex/Nudity: None, and the thought of sponge sex just chills me to the bone to be honest.
Swearing: None, but then again this is a children’s cartoon.
Summary: A fun and entertaining collection of episodes from the TV show including an excellent special episode. Fans of the series will love it, and any fans of animation will find it hard to not fall for it’s charms. 8/10

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Brandon Vietti
Warner Home Video

Review by Brad Harmer

The newest animated hit on Cartoon Network and GMTV’s Toonattik is finally out on DVD, Batman: The Brave and the Bold Volume 1. As Batman teams up with other DC Super Heroes such as Plastic Man, Green Arrow and...others...it becomes obvious how much Batman is the only DC super hero who doesn’t suck...

This isn’t the worst animated version of Batman around, but it’s certainly far from the best. I fondly remember the really dark animated series from the 90s that Warner Brothers produced, and I was hopeful that this would be a continuation of that style. In that regard, it disappoints. It’s cartoony, loud and family friendly – but it’s still pretty damn good. If anything, it put me more in mind of the 1960s Adam West TV show in its style – all precarious problems, colourful villains and sock/pow/blam fist fights.

The animation is not amazing, but it’s not bad either. You could call it “functional” if that’s your thing. If that’s your thing, please don’t get in contact with us. Or anyone.

Whether or not it hits your personal definition of what Batman should be like - this is an excellent example of a Saturday Morning Cartoon. The good guys and the bad guys are cleanly defined, and there’s plenty of action sequences crammed into a twenty minute episode; in fact the pace never really lets up! On the down side, there’s not really much bite here for older viewers. What’s more, four episodes on this set feels a little too much like being shortchanged.

Much as with the Iron Man series released last week, adults are better off sticking with the books and movies, than with this cartoon offering. If you have younger batfans knocking around the house, however, this is guaranteed to go down a treat.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some Adam West style combat.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: None
Summary: Batgood Batfun, but not as Batgood as it Batcouldhavebeen. 6/10

Tokyo Gore Police
Yoshihiro Nishimura
4Digital Asia

Review by Blake Harmer

I should have seen this one coming really, from the moment I read the title of the film I should have said to myself: “This film is going to be silly!” But yet, once I sat down and watched this, I still wasn’t prepared for what I was going to see. I was expecting it to be gory; it indeed does live up to its title with everyone and everything being sprayed with about 300 gallons of fake blood at every opportunity. But what I wasn’t expecting were some of the methods of death. Prostitutes with crocodile legs, biting a cop’s legs off, a mad scientist shooting a multi-barrelled cannon that shot fists at people, a policeman with a mutated penis using it as a canon. As I said earlier, if you are looking for a serious film, this isn’t it.

The plot for this insane asylum of a film is this: The film is set in a future Tokyo where the police have been privatised and centres around katana wielding policewoman Ruka, a self-harmer who is out to seek revenge on the man who killed her father, who was also a policeman. She is a member of a Special Forces unit within the privatised police force who deals with the destruction of mutated criminals called “engineers”, who have the ability to transform their injuries into weapons and can only be killed when a key shaped tumour that lies within them is severed.

Let’s make one thing clear about Tokyo Gore Police, it is not a good film, the special effects can be quite shonky, and the plot is mainly kept as a reason to string together the next stupid method of killing someone, and even then the plot dissolves into just a large slaughter fest until the director remembers to wrap the plot up in the last ten minutes.

On the plus side however, the film does know it’s silly and just goes with it and tries to keep it as silly and gory as possible. It is not a serious film and if you sink down to its level there is some enjoyment to be had out of the film, even if you do spend a lot of the time going “What the fuck?” There are also some very clever ideas in it’s madness, such as a gimp suited criminal that walks on all fours and has a katana on each limb. Whilst this is obviously stupid, it still looks pretty cool in a horrifying demented way, and the fight scene between the criminal and Ruka is one of the best fight scenes in the film.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Incredibly heavy, and you are covered in gore right from the off. Lots of severed limbs and imaginative, if not over the top, death scenes.
Sex/Nudity: A couple of sex scenes, including a memorable bit where a prostitute, who is giving a cop a blowjob then proceeds to bite his penis off, leading me to much wincing with my legs crossed. There is also some mutated boobs and penis in it as well.
Swearing: Common and used in a very over the top manner during fight scenes. As mentioned earlier, this is not a big or clever movie.
Summary: This is a bad film, but luckily the film knows it and instead relies on keeping things silly and bizarre so that you will still enjoy it, even in a “take your brain out and enjoy the large amounts of blood” sort of way. I recommend it to fans of Asian Splatterpunk movies, or for people who want to have a film to take the mick out of with friends. But for serious movie lovers, I couldn’t recommend it at all. 5/10

Jim Henson
Sony Picture Homes Entertainment

Review by Blake Harmer

I was filled with both joy and sadness when I popped Labyrinth into my blu-ray player. I was filled with Joy because this has been one of my favourite films from when I was a child and I am all about David Bowie and his great “acting” (Come on! Laugh!). Yet, I was filled with sadness firstly because I realised that I would have to be unbiased when I came to reviewing it, and also that this film is as old as me which made me feel like an old fart even though I’m the youngest writer for this website.

For those of you who haven’t seen Jim Henson’s fairytale masterpiece, the plot is as follows; young Sarah (played by Jennifer Connelly) is left at home to baby-sit her brother Toby by her father and her stepmother. Whilst telling a story to her baby brother to help him sleep and basing it on her own feelings as well as her favourite book The Labyrinth, she inadvertently summons Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie) to take Toby away and turn him into a goblin. Realising her mistake, she pleads with the Goblin King to return Toby to her but he refuses saying it was too late. He then gives her twelve hours to solve his labyrinth and get to his castle to find Toby; otherwise Toby will be turned into a goblin.

This film is brilliant because it is ripe with excellent ideas, from characters such as Ludo, a giant but kind-hearted monster who’s ability is the summoning of rocks to aid him, the wise man with the talking bird on his head, the helping hands helping hands and talking door knockers. There’s also the great Goblin weaponry such as the cleaners machine and the little biting monsters the goblins use as weapons. This imagination along with a strong fairytale storyline automatically captures the audience and doesn’t let go from the off. Chuck in David Bowie hamming it up in a codpiece and you’ve got a winning movie. The transition to Blu-ray is very sharp as you’d expect and the features including a picture-in-picture commentary interviewing various members of the cast is also outstanding.

If there are faults I have to say about this movie it is that it is rather cheesy in places and some of the special effects have dated quite badly, especially in the transition to blu-ray (not the puppets though, they’re still awesome), but you’ll be too busy falling under the spell of what is an excellent film with a magical plot and an endearing cast.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Comical violence verging more on slapstick rather than gory.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None
Summary: An excellent children’s film that will make anyone who watches it fall in love with it. Sure it’s cheesy, sure it’s incredibly 80’s and to be honest it’s only an 8 out of 10 film, but David Bowie’s acting codpiece just gives it that extra point of awesomeness, especially in all of it’s High Definition glory. Go out and buy it if you haven’t already. 9/10

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