Tuesday, 13 October 2009

DVD Reviews

Devil May Cry: The Complete Series Box Set
Shin Itagaki
Manga Entertainment

Available from 19th October
Review by Blake Harmer

Being a huge fan of computer games, and an admitted Sony “fan boy”, (I find the Wii hasn’t got the games and the 360 is too likely to combust for me to buy one, not that they’re bad consoles in their own right), I am therefore really into Devil May Cry and have followed the series avidly ever since the first one was released in the PS2’s early life. Dante is probably the coolest action hero you will ever find in a videogame and he is only rivalled by the likes of Kratos in the "Badass" category. It was probably with this in mind that I was given this anime series to review.

This series is set somewhere in between the events of Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 4 (DMC3 is a prequel to those who don’t know, and DMC 2 seems to have been struck from the timeline and forgot about, probably because it was bum.) and follows Dante (a half man, half demon, demon hunter who despatches his targets with his two pistols “Ebony & Ivory” and his sword “Rebellion”) as he struggles to meet his large debts through taking on jobs through his business Devil May Cry, that usually involves the slaying of lots of demons. Throughout his adventures he is accompanied by Trish, a demon who looks like his mother who is now a demon hunter, and Lady, another demon hunter who rides a motorbike and packs a huge rocket launcher. The series has also introduced two new characters that are outside the game franchise: Dante's agent Morrison who visits frequently and provides him with most of his work, and Patty Rowell, a young orphan girl who he saves in the first episode who seems to hang around the place.

The majority of the series are self contained episodes apart from a larger story towards the end that links back to the first episode. This idea works well as providing some stories about Dante outside of his main adventures in video game land and some of the stories well thought out and genuinely interesting, especially as I was expecting it to be 30 minutes of demon ass whupping every time.

However, the series does have its problems. Firstly, Patty, is incredibly annoying throughout the entire series, mostly because she’s quite whingy, but also because her being there at all destroys the feeling of dark gothic monsters and cool demon slaying that Devil May Cry should be about. Also, instead of Dante being about good one liners and being cool, he is instead complaining about being in debt all the time, not saying as much cool stuff and most battles are over too quickly in order to make Dante look like he’s still as hard as he was in the games. As a huge fan of the Devil May Cry franchise I found myself being too upset at the fact that the character of Dante wasn’t nailed on the head perfectly than about the actually pretty good storytelling.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Plenty of demon slaying throughout, but over too quickly and battles are pretty one sided and you never feel that Dante is in any peril at any one time.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A few swear words but to be honest I didn’t really notice them as a major presence in the series, I assumed it was toned down more to suit a more teenage audience.
Summary: There is a fun series to be enjoyed here, however it is not Devil May Cry. If the series was about another demon hunter like character I probably would have thought this series was really good, but because it’s based on a franchise I love as a gamer, I was annoyed greatly that it didn’t capture the essence of the games, especially as it hardly mentions Dante’s past, which it does throughout all the games at every given opportunity. If you are a huge fan of Devil May Cry I can’t recommend it as you will be as annoyed as me, however, if you have an interest in anime and enjoyed Devil May Cry but didn’t fall in love with it, you may really enjoy this. 7/10

Paul Blart - Mall Cop
Steve Carr
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Review by Blake Harmer

There are some things in this world that sound like bad ideas when you hear them and you go "Maybe it won’t happen". However, I am sad to say that one bad idea has happened, and that was the creation of this movie. The premise is terribly unfunny and sadly sets the tone for possibly one of least funny films I have seen since Shallow Hal.

The film centres around Paul Blart (if you couldn’t have guessed from the title) A single, overweight, parent, who lives a middle-classed lifestyle with his daughter, Maya, in New Jersey. After being mocked at in school, and having been unsuccessful to get employment with the local police services, he gets hired at a mall as a security guard. He is attracted to a mall employee, Amy, but his attempts to woo her are foiled by a pen salesman. However, things get complicated after he is instructed to train a new security guard who we find out has an agenda of his own...

As a comedy the film falls at the first hurdle, especially as it seems to have forgot to put any jokes in. I for one laughed a total of three times, which means that I have had more fun at a funeral than watching this dirge. The jokes are all based on clichĂ©s, from “hur hur, you’re fat” to “hur hur, he’s riding a segway, look how silly he looks” to “hur hur, he’s foreign” to “hur hur, he’s fat” again. The film does improve later on from its first half but by then I had lost a lot of interest and faith in this movie becoming credible. The Blu-ray package adds further annoyances by having an infuriatingly slow menu that decides to spend more time showing you an unfunny animation of Paul Blart driving a segway than actually getting about the menu quickly and efficiently like a menu is supposed to!

The film does have a few merits, the cast is quite likeable and some of the best parts of the film involve Kevin James falling over and doing face plants. That and the film does have Frankenstein by Edgar Winter on the soundtrack which is worth a bonus point.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Comical, slapstick violence, no gore at any time. Kevin James falls over a lot and that’s it.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A few light swear words such as "ass" to fit in with the fat jokes. This is really top notch comedy here *sigh*.
Summary: An incredibly sub-par family comedy bereft of laughs or indeed anything to recommend it. You would have more fun watching a truly terrible film and taking the piss out of it with a few friends than watching this and just being left unsatisfied. 4/10

It's Alive
Josef Rusnack
Optimum Home Entertainment

Review by Brad Harmer

This grisly and gruesome update tells the story of Lenore, a woman who seemingly has everything she ever wanted: a beautiful home, a loving boyfriend (James Murray - Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire) and a baby on the way. The fate of the happy family takes a gory turn when animals and people end up brutally dead - all with a strange connection to their newborn. Could their new addition be the monster responsible for the gruesome murders?

Does this movie sound stupid? Yes, it does, doesn’t it? If you hadn’t guessed it from the summary above – yes, the killer monster in this movie is a newborn baby. Presumably covered in marks from the barrel scraper. Yeah, it’s a little chubby Chucky running around the air-conditioning, and eviscerating animals and people in a shower of blood and gore the Fred Krueger would be proud of. And its parents don’t suspect a thing, obviously.

The problem here lies with the movie’s presentation. It contains a concept that’s so ridiculous it’s impossible to watch it and not laugh. I could screen this to the wussiest, most squeamish girls I know (or even Rob Wade), and not one of them would be grossed out or scared in the slightest. The scares and gore are well executed, but you’re unable to disassociate yourself from the fact that the monster you are supposed to be scared of it a fucking baby.

If It’s Alive had gone down the parody route, which it could so easily have done, then this movie would have been hilarious – and for all the right reasons. Instead though, it simply lumbers along, seemingly blissfully unaware of exactly how stupid it is.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Lots of murders, gore, stabbings, eviscerations and so-on, all at the hands of babe in arms.
Sex/Nudity: Some boobs.
Swearing: Nothing noteworthy – standard for a movie of this type.
Summary: If you like your horror movies to have lots of stupid ideas, dumb characters and obviously dodgy special effects, then this movie is a ten. If you want something to get together with some mates and take the piss out of on a Friday night, then I endorse this movie. Otherwise, take a pass. 2/10


OUT NOW!

Years ago, a meteor shower burst from the heavens, raining destruction on the unsuspecting citizens of Smallville, Kansas. From the ashes of tragedy grew Clark Kent, whose transition from boyhood to manhood was particularly difficult as he came to grips with his emerging superpowers.

This season, Clark will be at a crossroads - and closer than ever to becoming the superhero of legend. He will face his ultimate challenge with the emergence of a legendary, unstoppable destroyer - and this won't be the only nemesis to appear. With realistic portrayals and award-winning, state-of-the-art special effects, Smallville reworks the Superman lore from its roots.

Thanks to our friends at Warner Home Video, we've got three DVD copies of Smallville: Season Eight to give away to you! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to smallvillegiveaway@rocketmail.com with your name and postal address before midday on Friday 16th October (UK time). The first three names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy of this box set.


Chuck: The Complete Second Season
Warner Home Video
Review by Charlotte Barnes

At the start of Season 1, Chuck was a regular twenty-something video-game obsessive, whose life was thrown into disarray when he opened an e-mail, subliminally encoded with government secrets. Unwittingly, this downloaded an entire server of sensitive data into his brain. Suddenly, Chuck was catapulted into a new career as the government’s most vital agent, protected by the bristly John Casey of the National Security Agency and his partner, Sarah Walker.

Now, a slightly more seasoned professional, Chuck’s new secret life is beginning to take its toll. Chuck's best buddy and fellow Buy More employee, Morgan Grimes, thinks the reason Chuck doesn't hang out with him as much anymore is because he's dating Sarah, something Chuck's ever-supportive sister, Ellie, and Ellie's fiancĂ©, Captain Awesome, also believe.

Chuck and Sarah’s relationship indeed reaches new heights this season, but is it strong enough to stand the tests they face from their personal battles and spy commitments or will their unique situation end up ultimately driving them apart? And will Chuck be able to rise to the challenge of dealing with menacing new operative, Colt (Michael Clarke Duncan - The Scorpion King) and the stress of someone close to him being taken hostage by the Fulcrum, all the while having to show up to work at the Buy More as normal, answering to his boss, Big Mike?

I am in two minds about Chuck, one part of me thinks that this is a really fun TV show to watch and another part is groaning at how ludicrously unrealistic it is. My best advice when watching this show is to forget that Chuck (who works at the UK’s equivalent to Curry’s) has now become the CIA’s most valuable asset only has two minders and one of them just happens to be leggy with nice tits and the added bonus of spending the majority of the series in just her knickers. One also has to ignore the fact that no-one has bothered to teach Chuck any self-defence and that somehow the bad guys seem to coincidently turn up at the Buy More and have no idea who Chuck secretly is. Chuck then finds out who they are and then the bad guys eventually get captured and put behind bars. If you can forget all that then you are in for a treat!

For all the bad parts that I have listed above, I still can’t help but say that Chuck is a really addictive programme to watch. You secretly hope that Chuck will find a way to remove the intersect from his head, you wonder if Ellie and Awesome ever get married, will Morgan finally get laid and last but not least will Sarah and Chuck ever become more than just friends? The characters at times can seem to be one dimensional, especially the part of John Casey. However, the witty dialogue and the gloriousness that is the most under-rated character of Captain Awesome more than make-up for it’s shonkeyness. Highlights in the show are the surprisingly good cameos from Nicole Richie, Michael Clarke Duncan, Dominic Monaghan and who can forget Chevey Chase (although much older and rounder)!

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Martial arts goodness and plenty of bullets flying everywhere!
Sex/Nudity: Half naked women and good looking men only in their pants, although I would have liked more passion it frequently seemed a bit too PG at times for my liking.
Swearing: Couple of “Bitches” and “Crap” here and there.
Summary: This show was a good laugh, but don’t watch it if you want quality dialogue and a believable plot. 7/10

Amsterdamned
Dick Maas
Nouveaux Pictures

Review by Brad Harmer

When the brutally mutilated body of a hooker is discovered suspended from a bridge in the heart of Amsterdam's popular tourist district, the city's police fear the worst. Within days further murders confirm their suspicions - a serial killer is on the loose and is using the vast network of canals to traverse the city before dragging unsuspecting victims to their watery graves and escaping detection by hiding in the darkness beneath the surface.

Fearing an outbreak of mass hysteria and a serious blow to the tourist trade should the news break to the public, the mayor demands swift action from the authorities. The police respond by assigning their best man, Detective Visser, to the case. Figuring the killer must be someone with scuba diving experience, Visser begins his investigation at the city's principal sub-aqua club where he meets and befriends an attractive woman diver, Laura, and her therapist, who was also once a diving enthusiast. Meanwhile, as the body count begins to rise, Visser's adolescent daughter and her school friend have unwisely decided to try and track down the killer themselves.

We love exploitation horror movies here at E14. What we love even more is when a movie turns up with a hilariously awful title. What we love even more than that is when the movie turns out to actually be really good.

The great thing about Amsterdamned is how self-aware it is, without straying too far into the realms of parody. The black humour that pervades the movie is one of its strongest features. None of the moments are laugh out loud funny, but they certainly manage to raise a smile every now and again.

The acting, dubbing and production is about as bad as you’d expect from an Dutch exploitation horror movie made in the late eighties. Fortunately, this doesn’t actually hamper it in any way – when it’s being a straight horror movie, it does it very well – and when it goes a bit wobbly, it can afford to play it for laughs – a very good call on the part of the director.

There are plenty of action set pieces for those who don’t particularly get their kicks from gore and stabberings, and these come thick and fast. The pacing of the movie is excellent – there’s never really a dull moment. Oh, and keep an eye out for the Jaws parody. That’s awesome.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several murders, stabbings, shootings, eviscerations, etc.
Sex/Nudity: Some boobies.
Swearing: A realistic amount.
Summary: An excellent example of exploitation horror, that renews one’s faith in the entire genre. Worth checking out for both casual fans, and slasher movie aficionados. 8/10

X: Volume 1
MVM Entertainment
Available from 19th October
Review by Brad Harmer

The End of Days is approaching and soon a momentous battle will begin – one that will decide the fate of the earth and of all humanity.

Two mystical factions are preparing to engage in this final conflict. On one side are the Dragons of Heaven, whose intention is to save mankind from extinction. On the other are the Dragons of Earth, who believe that the only way to save the planet is by destroying manking and bringing about the earth’s purification. According to the seer, Hinoto, one man holds the power to sway the battle and shape the future. That man is Kamui Shiro who, after training with six other young people to prepare for the battle, has returned to Tokyo after several year’s disappearance. The prophecies claim that when Kamui reappears, another will rise to challenge him.

But Kamui is reluctant to become a part of either side. IT is only when his two childhood friends, Fuma and Kotori Monou, become caught up in the power struggle that Kamui is forced to take a stand and assume his fated position in the war to end all wars.

X is huge. In fact, this may be one of the largest and most ambitious fantasy series I’ve seen in a really long time. The setting is truly fantastical and epic, but that does bring its own problems. The first episode on this set is basically a twenty minute blast of exposition – and some previewing. This can result in a bit of a headache on the first viewing. However for all that, it somehow still doesn’t feel like enough exposition. The whole thing remains much of a mystery...and this is both a good thing and a bad thing.

X is so huge that it’s virtually impossible to gain a subjective opinion of the potential of this series from the four episodes on this disc. It’s much like the Pat Mills comic ABC Warriors – you don’t know why it’s awesome, you just know that it is.

Ultimately, this is a series to keep an eye on. It could potentially disappear up its own backside, but it could also be one of the greatest anime series ever. With a story this huge, it’s sadly just too early to say. Fans of epic fantasy and anime should definitely check this out – people with a passing interest may do better to hold fire for the minute.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some sword fighting, fisticuffs and telekinetic combat.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: A mild amount
Summary: One to watch, it has great to potential, and I recommend it to fans of the genre – but be warned, it is hard going at times – 8/10

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