Thursday 29 October 2009

DVD Reviews

The Uninvited
Charles and Thomas Guard
DreamWorks Live Action

Available Now - £17.99 (DVD) and £27.99 (Blu-Ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

The Uninvited centres around two teenage sisters, Anna and Alex Rydell, who return home from a mental hospital only to find their recovery unravelling because of a cruel stepmother, an ignorant father and a lingering, scary ghost. With their mental states deteriorating can they stay alive in a haunted house where the only thing they have is each other?

Yes, okay, this is another remake of an Asian horror film. Normally I’m against that – I generally don’t watch them on principle – but the thing is, this is actually really good. Whilst it is obviously based on A Tale of Two Sisters, it succeeds in taking things off in its own direction and is a really good horror movie in its own right.

The scares may be few and far between, but when they arrive, they are genuinely terrifying. They never turn into orchestra hit heavy chase scenes or ludicrous CG monsters...they’ve taken their cue very nicely from the J-Horror classics on the late 90s/early 00s, and very effectively presented they are too...

All the characters are introduced smoothly, and while the pacing is slow burning at times, it never seems to drag and all is wrapped up in a suitable time frame, with neither rushing nor dawdling required. If only all horror films were this good.

Those looking for a “jump a minute” horror movie would do well to look elsewhere, and some of the sentiment unfortunately still strays into Hollywood conventions of a horror movie; but its plus points way outnumber any arguments against it. As I mentioned earlier, I usually dislike re-makes, but this one is worth a gander.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several scuffles, and some weapon based combat. Some explosions. A healthy dose of blood and gore.
Sex/Nudity: Some sex noises.
Swearing: Some instances, but few and far between.
Summary: The best mainstream horror movie for a good many years. Genuinely creepy at times, with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. 8/10

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
Andrzej Bartkowiak
Available Now - £15.99 (DVD) and £19.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Rob Wade

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li chronicles the story of the young Asian lady's beginnings, from learning concert piano to learning martial arts from her father. When Bison one day arrives, Chun-Li's father is kidnapped and presumed dead. Chun-Li decides to continue her life as a pianist, until one day she receives a mysterious scroll which sends her to Bangkok, where Bison just happens to have recently put into motion some sinister plans. Chun-Li then has to deal with his agents, as well as local police and Interpol, while all the while trying to figure out what Bison's big secret is.

When this movie was announced, fans of the Street Fighter franchise cringed in anticipation of what could promise to be a simply terrible movie. Traditionally, video game tie-in movies are a genre destined for disaster (with Silent Hill so far the only one that I remember being any good). Particularly sore is the subject of Street Fighter, last tackled in 1994 as one of the worst adaptations of a video game in history, as well as one of the worst movies of all time in general. However, it is important to treat this as a franchise reboot, rather than having any sort of relation with the previous god-awful movie.

It's refreshing, therefore, that the movie does not acknowledge the existence of any previous canon, instead focusing on developing the characters and establishing the franchise anew. Bison, rather than being a military terrorist, is a high-powered businessman operating through the seedier channels of extortion and violence. Balrog is his personal bodyguard, rather than a boxer. Vega is Bison's assassin, rather than a cage fighter (although his development is quite minimal, leading me to believe that there will be more to come from him in later instalments). This modernisation is a completely sensible move on the filmmakers' part, and is to be applauded.

The acting, also, is not too shabby, although a little cheesy and over the top in places. Kristen Kreuk, famous for her performance in Smallville takes the role of Chun-Li, and does a very capable job of playing the heroine of the movie. Neal McDonaugh, similarly, plays Bison to a satisfactory standard, even if his accent is a little muddled (but then Bison being an Irish immigrant brought up in Bangkok can probably excuse somewhat for being a little unsure of his roots). Michael Clarke Duncan's Balrog character is probably one of the weaker roles in the film, but this is purely a script issue as Duncan's performance is absolutely fine (and he does a very convincing job of looking absolutely imposing). Vega, played by Taboo, doesn't really have enough screen time to develop properly, but isn't terrible in what he does. Even Chris Klein, of American Pie fame, isn't completely out of place as Nash, the Interpol agent, even if his dialogue gets a little corny sometimes.

Speaking of corny, cheesy and over the top, let's talk about the fighting. This movie has gone with the over the top philosophy when it comes to depicting fights and violence, and as a result you'll see plenty of impossible kicks and jumps from various characters over the course of the film. However, cheesier and more fantastical still is the martial arts training Chun-Li receives. Without meaning to spoil anything, it's clear that even though fireballs are unlikely to be summoned from people's hands, they obviously thought the idea was cool enough to include something vaguely similar.

Ultimately, the main problem this film has is that is simply "alright". All the time I was watching I found myself saying to myself "this isn't too bad" but it never got further than that. It's pretty much what you can expect from the movie by looking at it. As a video game adaptation it's mixed in its fidelity to the source material, but on the plus side the references are sufficiently minimal to allow for fans to get the gags. The ending, however, is questionable. Again, without meaning to give too much away, they seem to have closed a few too many doors for the film to allow development over subsequent instalments.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : Plenty of martial arts, of the over-the-top variety associated with Eastern martial arts cinema. A few gunfights, mostly between the agents of Interpol and the armed militia of Bison.
Sex/Nudity : None whatsoever.
Swearing : A couple of uses of "shit" and "ass".
Summary: One of the better video game tie-in movies, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li succeeds in setting up a future instalment of this introductory series for the characters. However, despite not being a bad film, it just doesn't have anything that pushes it that little bit further into true great territory. A shame, really, as the film shows plenty of promise. 5/10

David Howard
Monster Films
Available Now - £12.99 (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

Flick tells the story of Johnny Taylor, a teddy boy from the 1960s who is involved in a scuffle at a dance party killing several people, only to come a cropper while driving away from the party with the object of his desires, Sally, in the car. After they go over a bridge, Johnny sinks in the car while Sally escapes, and the car is left to its watery grave. Fourty years later, the car is recovered with Johnny's corpse inside, dead. However, when swing music plays on the radio at the morgue, Johnny comes back to life as a zombie hell-bent on revenge, and driven by the possibility of the dance he so badly coveted from Sally.

See, here's the problem with this movie. I want SO badly to like this film a tremendous amount. The idea was novel enough to keep my attention when I read the press release, and the cast is actually not too bad (bear in mind, though, that the lead roles are played by Faye Dunaway and the guy from the Nationwide building society adverts, so star power is not really something this film should become known for). Having said that, it's got Michelle Ryan from Bionic Woman in it as well, so maybe the cast isn't as bad as all that. Faye Dunaway, on the plus side, does get to play a wise-cracking cop with a fake arm. Awesome, right?

However, this film is let down purely on technical levels. The dialogue is bloody awful, despite the characters' best efforts to make it work. The visual style is horrendously bad at times, and merely passable at others. It seems like a film student made this, and not a particularly good one at that. The style seems designed to provoke contrast between the blood and the rest of the action, but at other times just looks like a poor quality camcorder. There's FAR too much use of shaky cam in this film as well, to the point that I thought the camera person may have been attached to a paint mixer while trying to hold still.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : A quite substantial amount of blood and violence.
Sex/Nudity : None.
Swearing : The odd word here and there.
Summary: Flick is ultimately let down by the lack of technical prowess demonstrated on all levels by the people responsible for making the film, and despite the best efforts of the cast, the film is just about watchable as a result. 4/10

Blood Rain
Dae-Seung Kim
Palisades Tartan

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Blood Rain marks the second feature of South Korean director Kim Dae-seung, and is a detective thriller set in 1808 during the Joseon Dynasty. Mysterious and deadly events are filling the residents of the remote island of Donghwa with a sense of foreboding. A local shaman collapses during an annual ritual, and seems momentarily possessed by the spirit of Kang, a local lord who was executed. Lee Won-kyu arrives from the mainland to investigate and is immediately met with a murder case. As the body count rises, Lee discovers a connection between the victims, and chillingly, to Kang himself.

If the notion of a “Samurai Style Sherlock Holmes” appeals to you, read on. If not, there’s nothing for you here – move along. If you’re after a crime/thriller/detective movie with a difference, however, this may be worth checking out.

The mystery on hand here is well pulled together, and its intricacies and the parties involved are some of the cleverest parts of the movie. What’s more, those looking for traditional Asian extreme violence will be pleased, too. The murders grow more and more violent and more and more Dr Phibes as it goes along.

The only real flaw lies with the movies pacing, and unfortunately it is a major one. There’s altogether far too much discussion and dicking about and not enough actual detective work taking place. At 114 minutes long, it’s not exactly epic – but it could have been half an hour or so shorter, without losing anything.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some creative, gory and sadistic murders. Some scuffles and swordplay.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: None
Summary: A well put together, but ultimately slow and unengaging thriller. All the right pieces are there, but it never really seems to gel together. 6/10

Secrets of the Clown
Ryan Badalamenti
Brain Damage

Available Now - £2.99 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

When I watched this film it made me reminisce of when I was a child (which I will admit very few movies do) and I was playing Resident Evil on my Playstation for the very first time. Now I suppose you think I’m going to say that this movie was so immersive and scary that it reminded me of when the dogs leapt through the windows and turned my trousers brown. However, the reason it made me reminisce was because the acting was terrible that it reminded me of the opening cinematic, which has now become gaming legend for its awfulness.

The horrors of this movie don’t end there (and not in a good Halloween horror movie sort of way). How about a psychic who looks like he poos himself when he has a premonition? Or a demonic clown that looks more like a tit who is covered in papier mache holding a knife? Or the excruciating fact that it feels like the film ends about 20 minutes before the actual end and then carries on some stupid unnecessary plot twist? The list goes on, all I can say is that this is a waste of £2.99, which could be used on getting a second hand version of a good horror movie. Avoid.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
A fair amount of stabbing with lots of gore, although it is obvious that the effects have been done on the cheap.
Sex/Nudity: Some boob shots, which actually occur within the first five seconds of the film, which has awarded itself a bonus point just for that.
Swearing: Some swear words, but your focus will be more on “Why am I watching this?” than thinking the swearing, gore and tits actually make this film bearable.
Summary: This is a film that is so bad that at the end of it my fiancée gave me a dead arm for making her sit through it with me. You might be able to have a laugh with it by watching it with some friends and mocking it but even then there are better films that you can do that with. This is more shit than It. 1/10

Fringe: Season One
Warner Home Video
Available Now - £49.99 (DVD) and £59.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

Fringe is a sci-fi television series about a team which investigates cases of strange phenomena that exist on the fringes of science. FBI agent Olivia Dunham suspects a sinister presence behind the bizarre and unexplained goings on which have been occurring and enlists the help of a scientist who has been in a mental institution for the last 17 years, Walter Bishop, along with his son Peter. Together the team investigates various cases which go beyond the realms of normal police work and soon begins to uncover a trail leading to a global corporation called Massive Dynamic.

Fringe seems to be a new and updated version of the The X Files, but rather than exploring the paranormal the two leads Olivia Dunham and Peter Bishop along with the insane German scientist Walter Bishop investigate incidents where extreme scientific experiments have gone wrong.

The quality of the acting is top notch, the actors seem to have really captured their characters, especially Walter Bishop whose aloofness is endearing and engaging. Unfortunately, the chemistry between Olivia and Peter seems a bit lacking, hopefully this will be improved upon in the second series.

One of the series' major flaws is the believability of the show; the science just can’t seem to keep up with the storylines. Not enough time passes in the development of each episode to believe that an antidote or cure to some horrid disease can be made in such a short time by a man that hasn’t practiced science in seventeen years. It can all seem a bit tenuous that having gone insane, Walter is able to deduce what wicked experiment was used on some poor human being but is also able to solve the mystery in a matter of hours/days. Surgeries are performed in his old laboratory that looks like it hasn’t been cleaned or used in decades; surely the FBI would object to this.

The main problem is that the series is meant to be taken seriously and is meant to be believable like CSI or Bones, but the plot just is not strong enough for you to be able to accept it on those merits. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy watching the series, I just believe it needs to connect with the more science fiction elements more so that as an audience we can lose ourselves in it without a niggling voice in our heads screaming “this is not plausible!”.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of gun shots and blood.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: None
Summary: Fantastic acting, a great all round cast. The special effects were great especially for TV, the script writing was the only thing that seemed to dampen the series. 6/10

Disgaea: Volume Three
MVM Entertainment
Available Now - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

The King of the Netherworld has died and various demons are now building their own empires in an effort to take control. However, the late King's son has arrived and is out to reclaim his rightful place as ruler of the Netherworld. Along to help him is his vassal, Etna, with her Prinny squad, and Flonne, angel-in-training originally sent to assassinate the king only to find that he has already died. Join our three intrepid and somewhat eccentric heroes as they initiate their plan to conquer the Netherworld, Heaven and Earth!

Do you remember back in the day, when anime was mostly about giant fighting robots, sword-wielding samurais and Neo Tokyo about to explode? You do? Well, then you’re probably about the same age as me, give or take five years, and you can’t figure out exactly why all the kids these days seem to be under the impression that this wussy, big-animal-eared, emo-listening, winged, fluffcrud that seems to be filling the Sci-Fi channel and at least two drop downs of the nearest Waterstones is "cool".

And now there is this abomination.

Do you like “funny” moments in anime, where a character pulls a dazed expression for a second before falling off their chair? Do you like lots of MIDI brass music in the background (apparently composed on a NES, to boot)? Are you a fifteen year-old, female My Chemical Fall Out To Mars fan? Congratulations! Not only are you going to love Disgaea, but when you’re older, you’re going to hang around in joss-stick shops and own lots of cats.

For what it’s worth, whilst I didn’t much care for the original drawnings, the animation here is actually pretty nifty, blending cel animation and CG in a way that’s pretty innovati....okay, no it isn’t – they’ve been doing it for years. It still looks pretty cool here, though.

There is very little to recommend this series, seriously. Don’t support this kind-of garbage. Bring on the giant robots.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some conflict of the Saturday Morning Cartoon variety.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: None
Summary: A vapid and unlikable series full of obnoxious cliched characters, with almost nothing to recommend it. 2/10

Time Bandits
Terry Gilliam
Available now - from £9.99 (DVD) and £13.99 (Blu-Ray)
Review by Rob Wade

For those who have seen the film Time Bandits before, be forewarned; the above DVD contains very little that you won't have already seen. There is a new interview with Terry Gilliam for this year, otherwise it's all stuff that has appeared on previous DVD editions, so probably not worth the money at the moment.

For those who haven't seen it (which bizarrely until now included myself), brace yourself; this movie is an absolute headfuck, but one of the most instantly accessible films I've watched in quite some time.

Kevin is a young man whose mind always wanders into history, despite the efforts of his despairing parents. He can always be found with his nose in a history book, much to his father's chagrin. One night, however, he begins to see strange apparitions from his wardrobe and begins to question what is going on around him. One night, a group of midgets come through his wardrobe and whisk him off on an adventure, unaware of the malevolent presence that is watching over them all the time they are travelling through history. Along the way, they meet Robin Hood, Napoleon and even King Agamemnon!

I will happily admit as this movie started that I wasn't sure of the appeal. So many times, I've been a huge fan of a film as a child, only to find that after watching it back as a cynical adult, it just doesn't stack up to my memories. I was of the opinion that Time Bandits could potentially be one of those films, just like Super Mario Bros was all those years ago (don't judge me).

Thankfully, this movie was much more entertaining that I was originally giving it credit for. The acting, while typically 1980s, is enjoyable. The story is absolutely superb, a work of fantastical genius the likes of which nobody seems brave enough to try anymore. Thankfully Terry Gilliam has never been one to go for the safe route, as his back catalogue demonstrates expertly. There isn't a bad performance to speak of in this movie, everyone does their part sufficiently well. John Cleese, in particular, is enjoyable as a pretty ditzy Robin Hood, as well as David Warner playing the Evil role in the movie.

Another plus point I found about this film is that it's got one of the darkest overtones throughout the whole film, and deals with the idea of Supreme beings and religious discussion in subtle and intelligent ways. Also, this film has possibly one of the most awesome endings ever, which I was really not expecting at all.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Some midgets beating on a young boy. Otherwise a few people get vapourised.
Swearing: None that I noticed.
Sex/Nudity: Again, none that I noticed.
Summary: Ultimately a really enjoyable film, with one of the most original plots I've ever seen. This particular DVD edition is probably not for everyone, but at the same time if you don't own it already, it's a good excuse to pick it up.8/10

Ghost Ship
Steve Beck
Warner Home Video

Available Now - £17.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Blake Harmer

Everyone likes a good ghost story, and Ghost Ship delivers, keeping the traditional lost and doomed souls feel and putting it on a boat rather than the usual haunted mansion.

The plot is also fairly traditional as far as horror movies go: After discovering a ship missing since 1962 floating adrift in international waters, a team of salvagers claim the vessel as their own. Once they begin towing the ghost ship towards harbour, a series of bizarre occurrences happen and the group becomes trapped inside the ship, which they soon learn is inhabited by lots of ghosts, including a very powerful and evil entity.

I found that this film had quite a few flaws. Firstly, I felt the pacing could have been better, as it felt that it took a long time for anything to happen which then resulted in the ending feeling rushed. Also, I felt that some of the special effects felt quite cheap for a high budget Hollywood horror movie and this makes the experience feel like a B-movie at times. Also the film had some predictable scares in it and didn’t really make me jump throughout.

However, There are enjoyable bits to this film, I especially enjoyed the opening scene showing how a large amount of the crew dies using some high tension wire. I thought that this death was very inventive, and I found myself rather disappointed when the other deaths in the film didn’t follow suit. The film did also have an enjoyable story, although badly paced. The extras on the disc are also good and it is interesting to see how they did some of the special effects.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some fairly good gory effects which sadly now look dated when shown in full High Definition splendour.
Sex/Nudity: One of the ghosts lures someone to his death using her norks in one scene but apart from that you don’t see anything else.
Swearing: Realistic swearing, nothing out of the ordinary for a horror film.
Summary: An enjoyable horror romp, although not bursting with originality or super scares. You will be entertained, but there are better horror films out there than this. This is definitely worth a rental though and good for a Halloween party. 6/10

Gremlins: 25th Anniversarry Edition
Joe Dante
Warner Home Video

Available Now - £17.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Blake Harmer

At last, a truly awesome horror film to review! For those of you who have never seen the film are in for a treat, flashing monsters, hilarious over the top deaths, and possibly one of the cutest animatronic creatures ever made…Gizmo.

The plot to those who haven’t seen this classic monster movie is as follows: When Billy is given a small creature called a Mogwai by his father, who is an inventor, and calls him Gizmo. However, Billy is unaware of the carnage he is about to encounter. There is a huge responsibility in looking after Gizmo as there are certain rules that must be followed. The Mogwai must be kept away from bright light, never made wet and never, ever be fed after midnight. When an accident occurs involving Gizmo and water, the next evolution stage of the Mogwai appears, and it isn't nice at all.

The film is awesome, as it has some great animatronics, funny one-liners and some good jumpy scenes that are the makings of a great monster movie. The transition to HD has also been good for it, except for some mild dating of some of the effects, but then again this film is twenty-five years old. There are some great featurettes on the special features, which are also worth having a look at.

The only thing that lets this package down is that a lot of the special features on the disc are also on the DVD version, so unless you are a huge fan of the film and want it in HD, I probably couldn’t recommend shelling out for the film if you already owned it. However, this is still a superb film and has withstood the test of time brilliantly.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of violence and explosions that only a film made in the 80’s could supply, although most of the violence is comical. However, Gremlins does deserve special mention for having the best death scene in film history (the stairlift scene – need I say more).
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A few light swear words but this is more of a family horror film than a truly grotesque splatter fest with hard swearing and tits.
Summary: An amazing horror film for young and old people are like. You will find it incredibly hard to hate such an enchanting film. And you don’t like it, then it seems you are not ready for Mogwai. 9/10

1 comment:

  1. Good reviews, guys, and lots of 'em! Well done!

    I've never heard 'Gremlins' described as a horror movie before but, thinking about it, I suppose it is.