Tuesday 29 September 2009

DVD Reviews

Crank 2: High Voltage
Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
Lionsgate UK

Review by Rob Wade

Jason Statham is one of those actors who find themselves inevitably pigeon-holed into a genre of film, if not by directors and casting decisions then by cinema-goers and particularly film students and people of that ilk. Speaking from experience, the staff at the cinema I've worked at for years are certainly of the opinion that a Jason Statham action film will have a certain quality level. The level of quality, however, differs from person to person. Some, the purists among them, will tell you that Jason Statham doesn't really work as a figurehead, and that the films end up being crap as a result, aimed at the same chav types who enjoy The Fast and the Furious. However, it's equally likely when you ask someone that they'll say that the movies are great fun and that you just need to approach them from an enjoyment point of view.

I wasn't sure which side to fall on until I watched Crank 2. It should be mentioned, incidentally, that I hadn't seen Crank when I watched this, although I had heard that it was an enjoyable, if implausible, film with plenty of over the top moments to keep action fans happy. Thankfully, the director has factored in that some people will not have seen the first film, and includes quick flashbacks in order to keep people following the plot. Understandably, the film does sort of hope that you HAVE seen the film, but then that's to be expected really.

It's clear when watching this movie that the director played a lot of video games when he was younger, but in case you hadn't figured that out don't worry; he opens the film with a computerised old-school sprite diagram of the last few minutes of the first film. Thankfully, the film gives you plenty of indication that the director is a video game fan, as it becomes absolutely goddamned ridiculous before too long. Luckily it's in a good way.

When last we left Chev Chelios (which, by the way, is one of the stupidest action hero names in history), he was falling out of a helicopter towards the ground of Los Angeles. When he arrives at his destination, he is picked up by a mysterious van and taken to a secret location. His heart is removed by these strangers, and replaced with an electric heart. Here's the catch; while looking for his heart, he has to keep the electric heart juiced up, as it's one that's not designed to be used for long periods of time. Of course, Chelios' battery gets destroyed early on, so he looks for crazier and crazier ways to keep himself alive while he seeks out the guy carrying the small cooler around, as well as trying to figure out who has set him up and why.

Understandably, being a Crank movie, the emphasis is on Jason Statham as a central figure for both action and over the top thrills. Thankfully, Statham seems sufficiently self-aware to be able to carry this off in a pretty amusing way. While most action heroes would probably turn their noses up at a movie like Crank appearing on their acting resumé, Statham is happy to send up those sort of over the top action movies he probably grew up on.

Amy Smart, also, is back reprising the role of Chelios' main squeeze, and accordingly there is yet another ridiculous sex scene between the two of them in an overcrowded public place, which the series seems to have become famous for in its own way. Some other intriguing roles include cameos by Geri Halliwell of former Spice Girls fame, as well as David Carradine in a very strange role. Try and spot him, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: Absolutely loads of bloody, super violent action. Over the top to the extreme, as well as plenty of scenes of torture involving electricity.
Sex/Nudity: Lots of tits and the occasional naked girl. Some CGI balls and a horse penis. One sex scene on a racetrack.
Swearing: Absolutely buckets of bad language, running the complete spectrum of words from "shit" all the way to the ones we find most offensive.
Summary: This is possibly one of the most Emotionally Fourteen films ever made. It literally has everything; guns, tits, girls with their tits out shooting guns. Over the top in every way, and totally enjoyable trash cinema. I'd have felt bad for paying to see it at the cinema, but totally worth a rent if you've got a few friends coming over and fancy a laugh. 9/10

Jon Wright
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Review by Brad Harmer

The best days of your life become your worst nightmare in Tormented, a high school comedy with a very sinister twist. At the exclusive Fairview High Grammar School all is not what it seems, although you wouldn't tell from its seemingly normal veneer. With a budding romance between head girl Justine Fielding and popular hunk Alexis blossoming for the whole school to see, a sinister undercurrent begins to sweep through the halls.

Alexis is a part of a group of friends headed by Bradley; a clique who victimise the weaker kids for sadistic pleasure. One such victim was poor Darren Mullett bullied so badly during the previous summer, he took his own life in order to escape their diabolical onslaught. Now, with a newfound confidence and absolutely nothing left to lose, Darren is back from the dead to take his revenge in the most bloody and inventive ways.

Tormented sucks on so many levels. Its characters are stereotypes, and the actors portraying them are of questionable quality – mostly culled from Grange Hill, Dream Team and Skins. What’s more, it fails as a horror film, because it doesn’t take itself very seriously, and when it does it stumbles apparently unwittingly into clichés that have been around since Tales From The Crypt. But even worse than that, it fails as a comedy because it is very simply not funny.

Mullet is utilised well early in the film, appearing in flashes and glimpses, or even unseen by the protagonists, in a fashion similar to the ghosts of Japanese cinema, such as Ju-On: The Grudge. Unfortunately, by the half-way mark in the film, he’s now used as a ginger, obese, asthmatic Jason Voorhees; thereby ruining what’s cool about Jason Voorhees in three different ways, simultaneously.

There are, however, many things that Tormented does very well. Whilst its characters may be stereotypes (the bully, the toff, the Goth, the slut, the geek, etc.), they aren’t clichés – they’re fully formed and rounded characters. What’s more, they’re all inherently detestable. Whilst that makes for sometimes hard viewing, I can’t help but admire a movie that’s willing to buck tradition and intentionally make all its heroes villains. What’s more, the (slightly) limited budget is well utilised, and the gore work is pretty damn good.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several very gory death scenes of the Friday the 13th variety. Some schoolyard scuffles.
Sex/Nudity: Some titties, some softcore sex scenes.
Swearing: Lots, consistent with that of most Grammar school pupils.
Summary: An exceedingly average slasher movie, whose twists and turns aren’t as clever as it thinks. Would probably appeal to 18-21 year olds...and other people who don’t know any better. 6/10

Bring It On: Fight To The Finish
Billie Woodruff
Universal Pictures

Review by Brad Harmer

Los Angeles high school cheer squad captain Lina Cruz (Christina Milian – Def Jam Vendetta, Torque) and her best friends Gloria and Treyvonetta (???) with high hopes of winning the Spirit Championships with the team's fiery fusion of Latin and hip-hop moves.

Instead, Lina's world is turned upside down when her mother remarries and her family relocates to Malibu, where she is forced to adjust to a new home, a new stepsister and a new school with a terrible cheer squad.

Always ready for a challenge, Lina takes on the task on transforming her school cheer squad into a winning team, but she will have to get past the award-winning Jaguar cheer squad and their sassy captain, Avery. Lina's budding romance with Avery's brother Evan only intensifies the rivalry. With the stakes higher than ever before, Lina devises a bold plan that could blow the Jaguars right off the competition floor and lead her team to victory.

Can you think of anyone you know who would want to see this DVD? You do? Is it a fourteen year old girl? Yup, thought so. Only fourteen year old girls can possibly be interested enough in dancing, romance and Christina Milian to justify spending money on this piece of toss.

Throughout the movie is this all pervading sense of “not trying very hard”. It’s not a bad film – the direction, acting, editing and what-not is all well and good, but it’s only good enough. It’s a film made by jobbing actors and technicians, and none of them feel any need to make this movie shine in any way. Especially the writers of the dialogue – I have never before encountered dialogue that was so clunky I actually bruised myself on it.

Almost none of the characters are likable – they are all self-serving or slimy in some way or another. For a serious drama: fine, do that. It’s challenging viewing, but that’s the point. For a straight-to-video cash-in job, it’s ridiculous. And they are all clichés, but that’s expected in the High School Movie genre, to some extent.

As I mentioned earlier, this movie isn’t truly bad, but it is lazy, and with a couple of things that are so bad they break any suspension of disbelief you may have already been suffering from. For example, two girls do a showdown, scuffle type thing, but entirely through the medium of sloppy Latin dance moves! How great is that? Not at all? Correct!

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some scuffling, some of which is through the medium of dance.
Sex/Nudity: Some kissing, some trampy clothing.
Swearing: None. Maybe some of the Spanish “street” language is rude. I could not tell.
Summary: Another cheap cash in from a franchise that should have been put to bed two sequels ago. Whilst far from bad, it is lazily executed, and there are much better High School Movies to spend your money on. 3/10

Uwe Boll
In 2 Film

Review by Brad Harmer

Sam Seed, an insane mass murderer, is scheduled for execution at the hands of Warden Wright. After three attempts to electrocute, complete with boiling blood that steeps from his eyes, Seed is still alive. The executioner, Wright and the doctor collectively agree, that the breathing Seed be pronounced dead. He is bound and buried alive. After biting and clawing his way to the surface, Seed, the blood soaked, enraged madman, is now bent on vengeance.

Sounds awesome right? No, you’re right, it sounds like a saucepan full of monkey faeces, doesn’t it?

Let’s get the good points down first. Firstly, the pacing at the start is excellent. Seed has a noir-ish quality to it that creeps along inexorably towards the horror that waits. Of course, as the film progresses, you realise that this pacing is necessary, as if it progressed at a more realistic pace, it would only be forty-five minutes long. With that said, this movie is considerably better than all the other Uwe Boll films I have seen. Of course, that’s a rather like being the tallest man in Lilliput, as it is still a saucepan full of monkey faeces.

As mentioned earlier, a key problem is that everything in this movie takes twice as long as it needs to. Take for example, the post-execution scene. If any normal movie was going to show this (and let’s face it, it wouldn’t need to), it would show the body in the coffin, and the lid being placed over it. In Seed, you see the doctor and undertaker signing papers, the lid pushed on...each individual nail hammered in, and then the coffin being wheeled away.

This is, of course, alongside all the usual motifs of a Uwe Boll films: paper thin characters, an over-reliance on truly terrible CG, a bizarre overconfidence that it’s “shocking” (you’ll see more shocking subject matter in CSI), and a retarded ending.

Just to show you what I mean, here’s the torture sequence from Seed. I will let it speak for itself.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of killings, stabberings and electrocutions.
Sex /Nudity: None.
Swearing: A retardedly high amount.
Summary: A truly dire film. It was going to score a 3/10, until I reached the torture sequence. 1/10

1 comment:

  1. Seed.. much like a budget Texas Chainsaw.. Also, with that tourture scene.. was anyone else thinking that this was the last time they'd let stevie wonder practice reflexology?