Tuesday 17 November 2009

DVD Reviews

Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian
Shawn Levy
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Available Now - £19.99 (DVD) and £28.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

When the Museum of Natural History in New York closes for renovation the exhibits are downhearted to learn that they will spend the rest of their days deep in the archives of the Smithsonian. Facing a future without the tablet that gives them life each night they bid a sad farewell to New York and to security-guard-turned-billionaire-inventor Larry as they make their way to Washington. Trapped in the vast archives of the Smithsonian it’s not long before the exhibits realize the move has gone disastrously wrong. The tablet of Ahkmenrah was smuggled into the museum with them and is bringing to life some of the most notorious villains in history!

This is the sequel that never needed to be made; the last film was so complete that it just feels like this film was solely created in order to make lots of money rather than as a valid continuation of a franchise. This really shows in the writing of the script, it often feels lazily put together with several repeated jokes from the previous film. It seems to take a long time to get into the swing of things, it is not until half an hour into it that anything starts to happen. The idea is that Larry has to go and help his friends in Washington; all the while he has an extremely important meeting with Wal-Mart in the morning which he can’t afford to miss. This film should be action packed, suspenseful and feel like a race against time, however it just seems to lose sight of that sense of urgency and just becomes a film about what statues can be brought to life in some “hilarious way”. I just can’t help but ask myself what is the point of this film?

It would seem that the calibre of the acting is the only thing that seems to save this film, with an all star line up from Hank Azaria, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams and Christopher Guest the seemingly thin plot seems to come to life. There were a couple of laugh out loud moments such as the face-off between Pharaoh Kahmunrah, Oscar the Grouch and Darth Vader and Octavius the Leader of the Roman Empire riding a squirrel, but these were few and far between. I think the major downfall of this film, similar to other sequels such as X-Men 3, there are far too many characters written into the script and not enough back story or character development to make them relevant to the plot.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some fisticuffs, but definitely worthy of a PG rating.
Sex/Nudity: A quick snog, but nothing to get excited about.
Swearing: None, whatsoever!
Summary: Lazy attempt at a sequel that just wasn’t needed in the first place. 5/10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season One
Warner Home Video
Available Now - £39.99 (DVD) and £49.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

As war rages through the galaxy, the heroic Jedi, including Yoda, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and newcomer Ahsoka Tano, fight to maintain order and restore peace. Meanwhile, the Separatists, led by Count Dooku, his assassin Asajj Ventress and the evil General Grievous, plot to defeat the Republic and gain control.

What is it that you like about Star Wars? Is it the hard science-fiction setting, the political wheeling and dealing and the bleak dystopian world it all takes place in? No, it’s not, is it? It’s the blasters, spaceships and lightsabers, that all go pyoo-pyoo, whoooosh, and psh-vrrm-psh-vrrrm-vrrrm, respectively. Star Wars doesn’t deserve to be compared to Star Trek as much as it does – stylistically it has much more in common with Indiana Jones than it does with Kirk and Co.

So, if what you like about Star Wars is the action sequences, and their occasional New-Age Buddhist mutterings of the Jedi, then you are going to love The Clone Wars. Forget the books, comics and what-not – this series catch the feel of the originals like nothing has before.

If I have to be objective, it isn’t without its short-comings. Some great stories are obviously truncated a little too-harshly to fit into their twenty-two minute time-slot, which seems odd, as the series long main arc is really solid. The animation too, whilst solidly put together and smooth, sometimes looks a little bit too much like a cut-scene from a video-game, and not enough like a Star Wars movie or cartoon.

If you can see past these niggles, however, this is another premium slice of a galaxy far, far away.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several lightsaber fights, blaster shoot outs, artillery blasts and...Goddamn, this is awesome!
Sex/Nudity: None, but I’m pleased to report that Natalie Portman is lovely, even in CG.
Swearing: The occasional “poodoo” or “sleemo”.
Summary: A must for all fans of the franchise – it’s not going to win any newcomers over, but that was never really the point. 9/10

Family Guy - Season 8
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Available Now - £27.99 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

Whilst I half expect to be condemned on the internet for saying this: Family Guy just isn’t as hilarious as it used to be. Don’t get me wrong; Family Guy is still a great show and one that I am sure to be watching for many years to come. It is just that if I was to compare the overall hilarity of recent episodes (specifically those found in Series 5-7) and I was to compare them to the first and third series of Family Guy, the quality has definitely dropped as it feels more jokes has become hit and miss.

Sadly, it appears Series 8 has also followed the trend of the previous series box sets, but Family Guy is still one of the greatest adult cartoons of the decade. In this series, I would even go as far as to say that the jokes are becoming even more offensive, presumably in an attempt to be put under review by the FCC again. However, because of this, I actually found the jokes were funnier, even though I felt bad about it afterwards. The prime example of this would be some of the Michael J Fox jokes that appear throughout the series. All in all though everything that makes the show great is here, and this season seems to be more Brian heavy than previous seasons, which is a good thing seeing as he is one of the best characters.

Downsides to the season aside from it being more hit and miss than the original series box sets (I felt the last episode of the series only made me laugh a couple of times) is that I felt that some of my other favourite characters weren’t used enough (especially Adam West) and that some of the jokes go on for a lot longer than they need to so that they no longer become funny. But these are my personal niggles and nothing that can stop the fact that Family Guy is still an amazing comedy and a lot better than a lot of other comedies out there at the moment. It is just one that I am worried it will get worse like The Simpsons and Red Dwarf did, rather than stopping when it should have and being remembered as being a brilliant show.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Lots of comic violence with some blood. Usually over the top but nothing to make you feel ill.
Sex/Nudity: Some but bits are normally covered up. This is a comedy show after all.
Swearing: Lots of heavy swearing, even more so than previous seasons, especially the one with James Woods in it.
Summary: Most people probably already know how they feel about Family Guy; fans will definitely buy it and will also enjoy the extras, whilst haters won’t find anything different here to convert them. I for one though still love Family Guy, but I just hope the overall quality improves soon and doesn’t get worse as I really don’t want for it to turn into The Simpsons. 8/10

Aquarion: Volume One
Shoji Kawamori
MVM Entertainment

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

When the Shadow Angels invade after 12,000 years of slumber, humanity is held captive by fear and sheer alien dominance. Eleven years after the Great Catastrophe decimated the world; most of those left alive are scavengers, dirty and starving in the streets. There is hope, however - Mechanical Angel Aquarion! Powered by three souls intertwined, a rare breed of pilot takes the controls. Known as Elements, one among them must rise if mankind is to survive.

There is nothing quite so emotionally crippling as having your dreams laid out before you, only to discover that your dreams are not what you thought they were. Here is an adult-oriented animated series about giant robots, featuring a blend of CG and cel animation, and an pretty cool fantasy/post-apocalyptic setting and...it’s just average.

Everything about that last paragraph sounds great, but pull it all together, and for some reason it just doesn’t click. Maybe it’s because this mish-mash of great things just relies on all of the other great things a little too heavily, and so doesn’t actually present anything in the way of innovation. Everything I see here, I’ve seen a dozen times or more, maybe not all at the same time, but...

Put it this way. The lots of little robots all merge together to form one giant robot.

My jaw did not hit the desk.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some great robot-on-robot combat, and some pretty cool kung-fu action too.
Swearing: Some mild uses.
Sex/Nudity: None
Summary: Fun, but you’ve seen it all before. If you really like your mecha anime you’ll probably get more from it than most. 6/10

Friday the 13th - The Original
Sean S. Cunningham
Warner Home Video

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

When it comes to horror films, there is nothing like slotting in a good classic horror film, and no horror film has as long a running a franchise as the Friday the 13th films. So it’s good to see that the original movie has been re-released on Blu-ray to show modern day slasher films just how it’s done.

For those of you who haven’t seen the film the plot revolves around a group of teenagers who are helping to rebuild the holiday camp known as Camp Crystal Lake. However, they discover about the camps gruesome past ever since a boy drowned in the lake and now the counsellors are being killed one by one by a mysterious murderer.

Friday the 13th still retains a lot of what made the film great almost thirty years ago: good, no-fooling-around death scenes, and the ending is still as scary as ever and stands the test of time excellently. There are also lots of extras on the disc to keep fans of the film busy for hours.

However, the downsides also come down to the age of the film, the transition to Blu-ray is poor due to the fact that it hasn’t been fully re-mastered, with the picture grainy at times even though slightly spruced up by being put into high definition. Also, with the slasher movie genre being done to death, newcomers to the franchise will probably find it very predictable, with the deaths not being as impressive when compared to more modern day slasher flicks. Which is a shame, as it is a fine piece of horror movie history, and whilst it isn’t as good as John Carpenter’s Halloween, it is still a slasher movie worth seeing.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Lots of murder as the killer hacks and stabs through the teenagers. The gore is realistic and not too over the top like other slasher flicks though.
Sex/Nudity: A sex scene involving a girl and a young Kevin Bacon with some boob shots.
Swearing: Some moderate language but nothing heavy.
Summary: A good package filled to the brim with special features. However, the film hasn’t been cleaned up as well as I would like to have seen it as it is brought to high definition life with the pictures being a bit grainy sometimes. So unless you are a whore for extras, I would either stick to the DVD release or wait for the inevitable re-mastered version. 7/10

1 comment:

  1. The entire point of 'Night At The Museum 2' is OF COURSE to see the lovely Amy Adams running about in those oh, so wonderfully tight trousers!

    I know Rob wouldn't have missed this fundamental point. You E14 writers clearly aren't talking to each other enough.