Tuesday, 3 November 2009

DVD Reviews

Year One
Harold Ramis
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Available Now - £17.99 (DVD) and £21.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

History was made... by these guys? Zed (Jack Black – The Never Ending Story III, Mars Attacks!) and Oh (Michael Cera) are cavemen who stumble out of the mountains into an epic journey of biblical proportions. One's a bumbling hunter, the other's a gentle gatherer; together, they become unlikely participants in history's most pivotal moments.

God bless Jack Black. He tries to hard, but his success rate is pretty much fifty-fifty, isn’t it? For every High Fidelity, there’s a Shallow Hal. For every Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny, there’s a Nacho Libre. Unfortunately, Year One is one of his movies that will be rapidly forgotten, for the simple reason that it’s just not very funny.

The opening is painfully unfunny, feeling like a school play, and it isn’t until about half-an-hour in that any real jokes materialise. Even then every skit, gag and exchange seems to run on for at least twice as long as it can sustain itself. It’s almost like a clumsy Saturday Night Live sketch...wait a minute...who’s acting in and directing this thing again?

The thing is, everything is actually really good in Year One – except for the paper thin and unfunny script. Black manages to be on top form, and is held in check brilliantly by his straight man, Cera. The guest stars such as Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt and Vinnie Jones are all great fun (yes, even Jones). Ramis’ direction is more than adequate, and the production values are high. But what hinders it again and again, is that the jokes just aren’t that funny. Sure, there may be a couple of laugh-out-loud moments here and there, but they are far too few and far between and, quite frankly, mostly down to the delivery rather than the gag itself.

It’s a road movie with no destination, a comedy with no jokes, and a fun romp with no...um...romp. The cast and crew try their best to hold it together, but with a script like this it was doomed from the outset.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some fisticuffs and swordplay. Someone is bludgeoned with a rock. References to genital mutilation. People burned alive.
Swearing: A few instances, but nothing too heavy or frequent.
Sex/Nudity: Some frat-boy references, but nothing explicit.
Summary: A tragically average Hollywood comedy, that never really allows any of the talent to shine due to its rather lacklustre script. 7/10

Drag Me To Hell
Sam Raimi
Lionsgate UK

Available Now - £19.99 (DVD) and £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Christine Brown is an ambitious L.A. loan officer with a charming boyfriend, Professor Clay Dalton (Justin Long – Galaxy Quest, Jeepers Creepers). Life is good until the mysterious Mrs. Ganush arrives at the bank to beg for an extension on her home loan. Should Christine follow her instincts and give the old woman a break? Or should she deny the extension to impress her boss, and get a leg-up on a promotion? Christine fatefully chooses the latter, shaming Mrs. Ganush and dispossessing her of her home.

In retaliation, the old woman places the powerful curse of the Lamia on Christine, transforming her life into a living hell. Haunted by an evil spirit and misunderstood by a skeptical boyfriend, she seeks the aid of seer Rham Jas to save her soul from eternal damnation. To help the shattered Christine return her life to normal, the psychic sets her on a frantic course to reverse the spell. As evil forces close in, Christine must face the unthinkable: how far will she go to break free of the curse?

Controversial as this statement may seem – there is no such thing as a good horror comedy.

Oh, you may be having a knee jerk reaction right now, so please come back when you’ve calmed down.

Ready?

Okay.

Sure, there are good movies that are hybrids of horror and comedy, but they tend to either be a) full on horror movies with occasional moments of humour in them (Freddy Vs Jason, Bram Stoker’s Dracula – even Se7en has some good one-liners in it), or b) full on comedy films in a horror setting (Army of Darkness, Braindead, Shaun of the Dead). They all favour one area or another – none are a dead-on 50/50 mix of horror and comedy.

Drag Me To Hell is the reason why you don’t do a 50/50 split. The horror moments in Drag Me To Hell are genuinely scary – they really creeped me out or made me jump. And the comedy bits are genuinely funny, if a little Farrelly Brothers gross-out humour at times. Unfortunately, when the tone of the film flips-flops so badly, it’s hard to really know what to make of it, and the effect as a whole is ruined.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several over-the-top moments of gore, often underpinned by slapstick violence.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Some “Bitches”, some “Shit”. A bit like my Internet history.
Summary: Some good sequences edited together in a mish-mash of a film that lacks any real identity. This didn’t work on Evil Dead 2, and it isn’t working here. 5/10

Witchblade: Complete Box Set
MVM Entertainment
Available from 9th November - £49.99 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

As a fan of anime, I am a big fan of The Guyver - I like the unlikely superhero premise and the story that is interesting and keeps up the pace with the violence and mutant slaying. So I was deeply saddened to find out that anime must be running out of ideas. Witchblade is pretty much a female Guyver in all but name and a few subtle differences…presumably to avoid any possible lawsuit.

The plot like this: Masane Amaha is a kind-hearted woman who has lost her memory during an unknown catastrophic event that ravaged Tokyo and, curiously, Masane was found unscathed in the phenomenon's centre, holding a baby in her arms and a mysterious jewel in her right wrist. Six years later, she returns to Tokyo with the child, now called Rihoko, and for whom she cares as a daughter, where she discovers that the mysterious jewel attached to her right wrist is actually the legendary artifact known as the Witchblade which turns her into a human killing machine. Since discovering her powers, a huge corporation who says the Witchblade belongs to them asks her to work with them to dispatch some robotic killing machines that were accidentally let loose into the world and can disguise themselves as humans, in exchange for a good life with her daughter. However, it turns out that Masane has also got herself involved in a power struggle the corporation and a government agency, who also want the Witchblade for themselves, and all whilst trying to live her life without her daughter knowing her powers.

Despite, the fact that Witchblade copies the ideas of The Guyver (Unlikely hero – Check, trying to keep her powers secret – check, evil corporations – check, vulnerable person close to the main character who the main character has to protect – check, weaker and more imperfect man-made versions of the Witchblade that try to kill her – check). It is still very enjoyable, the violence is fast and fluid and the ideas for some of the monsters is very well thought out. The story also holds your interest throughout even at times where there is little violence.

The downsides to the show , apart from what I mentioned earlier, is that the pacing can be quite slow at times, and sometimes you feel like you have to watch a few episodes for something to actually happen.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Lots of hacking robotic monster things into pieces and plenty of death, not as vivid as some animes though.
Sex/Nudity: None, although the costume the Witchblade wears is very close to nudity and Masane has incredibly huge boobs. The artist definitely enjoyed drawing her.
Swearing: A few swear words but nothing big and manly.
Summary: An enjoyable show with most of its flaws laying in its unoriginality. It’s not a bad programme and the boxset is a lot cheaper than most anime boxsets. However, there are a lot of better animes out there that deserve more of your attention. In short, just watch The Guyver, it is so much more awesome. 7/10

I Sell The Dead
Glenn McQuaid
Anchor Bay Entertainment UK

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD) and £24.99 (Blu-Ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

19th century justice has finally caught up to grave robbers Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan – Hetty Wainthrop Investigates) and Willie Grimes. With the specter of the guillotine looming over him, young Blake confides in visiting clergyman Father Duffy (Ron Perlman – Police Academy: Mission to Moscow, Fallout), recounting fifteen years of adventure in the resurrection trade. His tale leads from humble beginnings as a young boy stealing trinkets from corpses, to a partnership with seasoned ghoul Willie Grimes as they hunt creatures unwilling to accept their place in the ground. The colorful and peculiar history of Grimes and Blake is one filled with adventure, horror, and vicious rivalries that threaten to put all involved in the very graves they're trying to pilfer.

Do you know what my favourite part of my job is? It’s being pleasantly surprised by low-budget movies. And this is a corker. With the artistic sensibilities of a graphic novel crashing into Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari – it hurtles along like a great pulp novel, providing action, scares and chuckles along the way.

The effects are hardly groundbreaking, but they are never restricted by their low-budget, and the close sets and smoke adds to the atmosphere, if anything. The vampire and zombie make-up is great. And it’s got Ron Perlman in, too.
Whilst the “twist” ending can be seen a good twenty minutes from the end (if not further), the second twist made me laugh out loud, and is immensely satisfying. Highly recommended, and one of the best horror movies released this year.

Are you paying attention, Drag Me To Hell? This is how you do it.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Stabbings, shootings, punching, shovelings, beatings and all manner of violencery.
Sex/Nudity: A man and woman in Victorian-era underclothes.
Swearing: Would be considered coarse for the time period depicted, but not by modern standards.
Summary: Excellent horror/black-comedy fare that is never hampered by its budget. Great fun all round. 8/10

X: Volume 2
Yoshiaki Kawajiri
MVM Entertainment

Available from 9th November - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Unable to accept the truth behind his mother's death, Kamui visits Hinoto, the dreamseer for the Dragons of Heaven. He refuses to believe her prophecy - that he is the key to the Earth's fate! She pleads with him to try and change the future she foresees. As Kamui ponders his options, the Dragons of Earth start attacking Tokyo! Meanwhile Satsuki begins to recall her past when attacked by a mysterious organisation!

Back when we reviewed volume one of this, I basically had to put my hand on my heart and say that I didn’t know how this was going to pan out. As a series it had such potential, but at the same time, it was so huge that it stood every chance of dropping the ball as it went along. Well, so far, it’s doing good. Like a lot of anime, I’d be lying if I said I fully understood all that was happening, but what I do get, I like.

The mystery is gradually revealing itself, and by now we’re starting to get a handle on things. There’s actually some conflict in this set, too, and it’s really well done. The animation is still more than adequate, and the characters are starting to get more of a chance to shine as well. It’s almost like there’s a high-fantasy superhero team in the making here.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some explosions and sword-play.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: Very little.
Summary: Advances the story sufficiently from the end of the last disc. Those who had been holding fire, are now advised to dive in. 8/10

Pandemic
RHI Entertainment
Available now from £12.99 (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

When a nineteen year old man dies on a flight from Australia to the United States, the circumstances are instantly dubious. The Center for Disease Control is called to Los Angeles International Airport to investigate, but soon discovers that they are dealing with something altogether more dangerous than they are prepared for. And when a passenger listed on the manifest is missing, the team realise that their problems are only just beginning...

Pandemic is a mini-series comprising a veritable "Who's Who?" of 1990s sitcom talent, from Tiffany Thiessen of Saved by the Bell fame all the way to French Stewart, the squinty-eyed one from Third Rock from the Sun. Oh, and Faye Dunaway, in yet another E14 DVD review appearance. The cast in this series is actually pretty good, and the standard of acting on the DVD is considerably higher than I was expecting, considering that the title of the disc is called "Pandemic". I was expecting a cheesy cash-in with terrible production values, capitalising on our global pandemic scares from swine flu to bird flu to SARS. Thankfully, all I got was a cheesy cash-in capitalising on our global pandemic scares from swine flu to bird flu to SARS, and the production values for it were actually considerably higher than expected.

The plot of the series is pretty entertaining as well, with a decent pace keeping everything going at a decent rate. There's also a sub-story involving some ex-convicts and medication which is pretty engaging, if a little 24-esque. If I have one criticism of this DVD, it's that this series suffers from the traditional action drama clich├ęs, particularly as the series winds down towards the climax. Still, at three hours running time in total, the quality of this DVD is largely good, with some understandable cheesiness in for good measure.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : A few gunfights, some light fisticuffs.
Sex/Nudity : None whatsoever.
Swearing : A very small amount, to the point where I didn't really notice any.
Summary: Despite my apprehensions about this going in, I actually enjoyed this show a pretty significant amount. What it's let down by, ultimately, is little things, namely that it does suffer from cliched moments, mostly towards the end of the series. 7/10

1 comment:

  1. it seems the movie masterminds are trying to make a new comedy pairing, and ice age showed that this forumla didnt really work.

    it seems that JB is just crusing thru films now, after trying serious film roles (king kong) he seems to have been shoehorned into what the public expect him to do.. farting and throwing rock horns. rock horns.. quite apt for a film about cave men..

    now ive not seen the film.. but from the reviews ive read, including yours mr wade, i feel like i have already seen it..

    much like nacho libre.. the laughs were few and far between, but there were a good couple of chuckles, shame they used those gags for the film's trailer..

    if only films like this were reduced to 30 second snippets.. it will save everyone time and that way we can spend time doing other things.. like remembering the good JB films.

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