Tuesday, 20 October 2009

DVD Reviews

X-Men Origins - Wolverine
Gavin Hood
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Review by Brad Harmer

Do the readers of this website really need a run-down on who Wolverine is, and what his super-powers are? Nope, didn’t think so.

For those of you who have only a peripheral awareness – this movie is the first in a series of planned spin-offs of the X-Men movies, this one acting as a prequel for both fan and industry favourite, Wolverine. It shows us his life story, from the age of eight, right up to the point where he loses his memory – not too far from the start of the first X-Men movie.

The first thing that struck me as awesome about this movie was the opening credit sequence, that followed Wolverine and Sabertooth from the mid 1700s, up to present day, including their fighting in the American Civil War, World War One, and all the way through to Vietnam.

As a Hollywood blockbuster action movie, X-Men Origins - Wolverine is first class. All of the many fighting, explosion and car chase sequences are fantastic. There are a lot of them, too. That’s not to say that the movie is devoid of characterisation, plot and yadda-yadda...but the filmmakers knew that they weren’t making Citizen Kane, here – and if you’re looking for some popcorn munching fun, you’ve found it.

This isn’t to say that the film is without its flaws. There are a few too many in-jokes presented with a heavy hand. In-jokes are supposed to be subtle references so that people “in the know” can get a chuckle. When presented too heavily, it leaves those who don’t get it downright confused, and those who do thinking “Yeah, we get it...”.

Also, Wolverine’s claws look more than a little flat at times. I don’t know what the thinking was behind using CG for the claws at some times, and prosthetic at others – especially as purely prosthetic had worked for the previous three movies – but they just look bad. When your modern day CG looks worse than your prosthetics of ten years ago...seriously, why bother?

The supporting characters let the film down rather badly. Wolverine and Sabertooth look great, and act great. But when it comes down to Gambit, The Blob, and Deadpool...it’s like the writers didn’t actually read any comics. It’s like they looked at a drawing of each of them, and guessed what their backstory and powers were. If you don’t know any of these characters, then that’s fine, they work within the context of the movie itself; but anyone who is a fan of those characters is going to be pretty disappointed.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Lots of superheroes fighting, gunfire, murders, explosions, and vehicular collisions.
Sex/Nudity: Some male nudity.
Swearing: A couple of “shits” and some comic-book level swearing (hell, damn, etc.)
Summary: A good example of superhero movie making. Not as high a quality as X-Men, Spider-Man or Iron Man – but a damn sight better than Daredevil, The Fantastic Four and Elektra. In the region of The Punisher and Blade, I guess. 8/10

Damage
Jeff King
E1 Entertainment UK

Review by Brad Harmer

After four years in jail, John Brickner (Steve Austin - The Condemned) is granted parole. Surviving on the outside the only way he knows how, Brickner is driven into the illegal and brutal world of underground fighting. As Brickner attempts to outwardly rebuild his life and make amends with his past, his underground world becomes infused with cutthroat degenerates, criminals and killers. With his unrivalled, deadly fighting skills, and with the help of slick fighting promoter Reno and cut person Frankie, Brickner finds himself climbing up the underground ranks rapidly. The stakes are high as Brickner must put everything on the line in a fight to the death…

“Underground fighting movies”, which I never knew was a genre until I started writing for this site, are basically what the Western world has done to the kung-fu movies of Eastern cinema. Lone protagonist, usually with some initially altruistic goal, has to beat up a truckload of people in order to achieve what he set out to do. They often fall down on one of two goals – they cast a real fighter, who can’t act to save his life; and they fail to realise that MMA actually makes for very dull choreographed fighting.

Damage gets around this in two ways. Firstly, Steve Austin is actually a pretty good actor. No, he’s not going to be gathering any Academy Award nominations for this – but he does the job competently, and was a pleasant surprise. Then again, he’s spent his entire life playing in character and pretending to fight, so it probably wasn’t that hard a leap.

Secondly, all of the fighting is presented in a comic-book fashion. The punches are huge, no-one ever puts a guard up, blood sprays, weapons do no lasting damage...that kind of thing. This actually works to the movie’s advantage, and what could have been a dull punch fest is actually a pretty fun action movie.

It’s not all roses, obviously. When “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is the best actor you have, you really need to fire your casting director. Also, the plot itself isn’t as great as it could have been. It’s all very formulaic, and there are no big surprises at any time.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several street fights, sometimes including weapons,
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: IMDB lists twenty F-variations...then they get bored of counting and just say “several uses of “Goddamn”, “Shit” and other profanities”.
Summary: An above average underground fighting movie. There are a few flaws, but recommended if you’re into the genre. 6/10



Adapted from the hit Capcom series of video games, produced by Madhouse Studios and directed by Shin Itagaki (Black Cat; Desert Punk), the complete Devil May Cry anime series comes to DVD as a three disc release featuring all 12 episodes of the action-packed horror adventure.

Struggling to stay on top of his ever-increasing financial problems, Dante makes a paltry living by running his small demon hunting business, Devil May Cry, along with his agent, Morrison. Half-demon himself and armed with a variety of weapons – including his twin pistols, Ebony and Ivory, and a massive sword he calls Rebellion – Dante is a fearsome foe for anybody who stands in his way, particularly those who are not human. His only weaknesses are beer, pizza and the women in his life. Among them are the young orphan girl Patty Lowell, a feisty fellow demon hunter named Lady, to whom he owes a sizeable amount of money, and Dante's beautiful and mysterious ex-partner Trish, who returns to his life unexpectedly and delivers a whole new bunch of problems.

Together (and often separately!), Dante, Lady, Trish, Patty and Morrison take on a never-ending horde of human-impersonating demons, their one intention being to send them straight back to Hell.

Cool, sexy and bloodily violent, Devil May Cry is a thrilling and mature anime series that will appeal to fans of other action-horror series such as "Hellsing" and "Karas".

Thanks to our friends at Manga Entertainment, we've got four copies of Devil May Cry: The Complete Series Box Set to give away to you! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to dmcgiveaway@rocketmail.com with your name and postal address before midday on Friday 23rd October (UK time). The first four names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy of this box set.

PLEASE STATE WHETHER YOU WOULD PREFER YOUR COPY IN DVD OR BLU-RAY.



Doghouse
Jake West
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Review by Brad Harmer

Danny is handling his divorce badly. His mates drag him off for a boys’ weekend in the country, but what was supposed to be a simple, boozy getaway quickly goes horribly wrong. The boys find themselves holidaying in a village overrun by psychotic, homicidal women who have fallen victim to an airborne toxin that has turned them into man-hating zombies and seven of these deranged women, each with an axe or two to grind, are stalking the streets. Somewhere out there are dozens more. Maybe hundreds…

Any British horror/comedy, unfair though it may be, is going to invite comparisons to the still reigning king, Shaun of the Dead. To get this out of the way first, no, this isn’t in the same ball park as Edgar Wright’s masterpiece, but it’s still a pretty good chuckle.

The main problem with Doghouse is that it doesn’t manage to get any really big laughs. It manages to raise a few chuckles, and a few smiles – but there aren’t any real laugh out loud moment. All the timing seems a little off, even on the slapstick moments. As a comedy, it may fail, but as a light-hearted horror movie, it’s actually pretty good. The effects are pretty good, and there are actually a few good jump moments.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several stabbings, eviscerations, bludgeoning, mutilations, burnings, scuffles and shootings.
Sex/Nudity: Some of the women are scantily clad. That’s about it.
Swearing: Lots of “fuck” variants. As would be expected for a bunch of lads out on a jolly.
Summary: An enjoyable, light-hearted, zombie action film that doesn’t deliver any big laughs, but is enjoyable nonetheless. Worth a rental. 6/10

Prey For The Beast
Brett Kelly
Brain Damage

Review by Blake Harmer

I cannot help but feel slightly sorry for the director of Prey for the Beast, or should I say director, producer and star of Prey for the Beast. This is because of the simple fact that as it is a low budget production, they seem to have about 15 people working on the entire film, with the actors also working as the camera crew. There must have been a lot of work put into making it which such a small team. So it is a large shame that it is a huge pile of bum, and I almost feel bad about having to pick his masterpiece apart.

To sum up the largely pointless plot, four men go away on a camping trip to cheer up their friend who had recently divorced his wife. They meet some female hitchhikers who out to get away from life’s troubles as well. However, they soon discover that there is a weird predatory animal out in the woods that has a thirst for human flesh and a bite that causes people to become sick and die.

The whole experience is terribly clich├ęd from the off, and you care so little for the characters that you are wishing for them to be killed just so you know that the film will end that little bit quicker. The special effects are terrible, especially as it seems that they thought using red cloth that was probably used as a rope for a dressing gown was a good substitute for intestines. The sound effects seem to have been stolen from Doom as well, which is all well and good until you realise, they are using sound effects from over 10 years ago and thus makes the screams, roars and gunfire sound very dated. Also the monster is so bad it actually looks worse than my Halloween costume last year when I decided to go as a werewolf and sadly ended up looking like female genitalia:


The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some shonky fight scenes, with plenty of gore when the beast kills someone, although the gore and intestines are very low budget.
Sex/Nudity: None to my recollection, which is very disappointing for a B-movie horror film.
Swearing: Quite a few swear words but not enough to make up for the lack of decent gore or nudity.
Summary: A terrible movie that goes from bad from worse. Worth a purchase if you want a film you can take the piss out of with a few friends but apart from that I can only say this…AVOID! 1/10


Serum
Steve Franke
Brain Damage

Review by Brad Harmer

Bloody chaos rules when Dr. Edward Kanopolus inadvertently unleashes a marauding monster in the form of his nephew, Eddie, when the side effects of this latest “cure all” serum prove to be slightly more severe than anticipated. Now poor Eddie is running around with a seriously disturbing skin condition and a hunger for human flesh that cannot be sated.

Apparently, according to the blurb. The film was so dull I found it hard to concentrate.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this was a student film. It looks like someone’s dissertation that they’ve then had the gall to put out on general release, despite the fact it has a budget lower than my weekly food shop.

Here are all the things that the movie did right:

Considering the budget, the special effects are not bad.

Here are all the things that the movie did wrong:

There are about twelve people involved in the whole thing. Considering what Blake said in his review of Prey for the Beast (above), I can’t help but wonder if the cast, production team, and Brain Damage films aren’t all the same bloody people.

They didn’t cast people the right age for the roles. A bunch of “eighteen year old students” are quite clearly in their early thirties. The tragic part? The actors playing their parents are quite clearly in their early thirties.

The low quality actors, script, score and filmstock made it feel like I was watching a soap opera and not even a very good one.

None of the characters have any apparent motive for anything they do.

Brain Damage films are apparently unaware that there are other sources of sound effects than Doom.

Normally, I never switch off a review copy before it has finished. This is the first one. Sorry, Serum, but I had to switch you off because I realised that sitting naked on a folding chair, repeatedly firing a staplegun into my genitals would be a much better use of my time and effort.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
A zombie got killed messily in the first three minutes, and then there was nothing for an hour or so until this journalist started firing staples into his genitals.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: None. Well, there might have been loads after the first seventy minutes, I guess.
Summary: A retarded, stupid, derivative and badly put together movie with nothing to recommend it. This is so bad you wouldn’t even have a good time getting together with friends and mocking it. Avoid. 1/10

2 comments:

  1. The Wolverine movie must be the first instance of you liking a comicbook based movie more than I did... something of a landmark, perhaps.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, no... I forgot about 'Ghost Rider'.

    ReplyDelete