Tuesday 1 December 2009

DVD Reviews

Jaume Collet-Serra
Optimum Home Entertainment

Available Now - £17.99 (DVD) and £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

The tragic loss of their unborn child has devastated Kate and John, taking a toll on both their marriage and Kate’s fragile psyche as she is plagued by nightmares and haunted by demons from her past. Struggling to regain some semblance of normalcy in their lives, the couple decides to adopt another child. At the local orphanage, both John and Kate find themselves strangely drawn to a young girl named Esther…but Esther is not what she appears to be and, concerned for the safety of her family, Kate tries to get John and others to see past Esther’s sweet facade. But her warnings go unheeded until it may be too late…for everyone.

The dream sequence that opens up this movie may be one of the most frightening and chilling dream sequences I’ve ever seen. The surrealism and institutionalised horror builds an atmosphere of claustrophobia and terror that I haven’t seen for a while. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the first half hour or so of Orphan is a downright terrifying horror movie. It’s only as the mystery begins to strip away and we see the reason for all the weirdness that you become aware of how downright stupid it is.

Whilst the individual set pieces are terrifying, if a little clich├ęd slasher movie style at times, again it comes down to the overall story, that, in hindsight, is just plain stupid. It’s one of those horror movies that leaves you screaming at the screen because with only one exception, every character in it is just so dumb that you want them to die. I’m not talking about the “Don’t worry, I’ll go an investigate that strange noise in the dark, naked, with no weapon in this haunted old asylum” dumb – I mean “Can’t see the bleeding obvious when it’s hanging directly in their face with a sign saying ‘OBVIOUS’ in black marker on it” dumb.

The movie is worth checking out if you like scares and thrills, but you will be feeling dissatisfied by the ending. Given the amount of talent working on this film, it’s a real shame.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several gory deaths, violent assaults and explosions.
Sex/Nudity: Some foreplay/sexual intercourse.
Swearing: Some, but nothing extreme.
Summary: A great horror/thriller let down by a slightly unbelievable plot and a cheesy ending. 6/10

Silent Night, Deadly Night
Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Arrow Films

Available Now £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

After years of abuse at the hands of tyrannical nuns, Billy's finally flipped. Dressed as St. Nick, the teenager heads back to the oppressive orphanage of his childhood to exact his bloody revenge, "punishing" anyone who gets in his way.

You know what makes a truly great exploitation movie? Stupid characters doing things that make absolutely no sense, but are still spectacularly violent. In this regard, Silent Night, Deadly Night is awesome. If you’re after something spectacularly silly, or something to get together with friends and rip the shit out of – you’ve found a real festive treat. Buy it, immediately (or enter our competition here).

For those of you looking for a more serious review, well, this is a relatively slow moving and dully paced slasher movie, but without any real mystery or shock. All it is really is “Mentally Scarring A Child For Dummies”. Incidentally, if that book doesn’t exist, I’ll happily write it.

Silent Night, Deadly Night is relatively devoid of impact as we’ve seen much worse in horror movies since this. Quite frankly by 1984 we’d already had The Exorcist, The Evil Dead, Suspiria and god knows what else, so even by contemporary standards it can’t have been that shocking.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
A crapload of murders, with guns, blunt instruments and axes.
Sex/Nudity: Several scenes of nudity and sex. Right on.
Swearing: Nothing unusual.
Summary: A trash exploitation horror movie that leaves the audience completely uninvolved. Get yourself a copy of the original Black Christmas instead. 2/10

Sanctuary: The Complete First Season
E1 Entertainment
Available Now - £39.99
Review by Charlotte Barnes

In the middle of investigating a multiple murder that isn’t anywhere near as straight forward as the police seem to believe, forensic psychiatrist Dr Will Zimmerman is approached by the beautiful and enigmatic Dr Helen Magnus with an offer to join her in a very secretive project. Having devoted her 157 years to the study of cutting edge medicine and science, Helen is all too familiar that the world is full of things that most humans don’t understand. Not only does she recognise that the creatures of everyone’s childhood nightmares exist, she has proof that they do exist, contained within the walls of the Sanctuary, where she houses, protects and learns from the extraordinary and paranormal creatures that inhabit our world. Will along with Helen, her fearless daughter Ashley, technical genius Henry and a former patient and real life Bigfoot embark on the amazing and often dangerous task of tracking down these creatures that secretly share our world.

How had I never heard of this show before? It is everything I enjoy in one neat package; it had me captivated from start to finish. It is like a newer generation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; enough Sci-Fi to appeal to the inner geek and enough sex appeal and sassy whit to maintain what I would call your Pink Points. I cannot recommend this TV series enough, the acting is engaging, the script is well thought out and well written and the characters are amazing. The thought of bringing in subplots involving Sherlock Holmes, the Invisible Man and Jack the Ripper is just a stroke of genius.

I was initially worried that the episodes would become rather formulaic and that the initial concept of the series would not be enough to maintain such a complex and inventive plot but I was 100% proven wrong. The only small quibble I would have lie with the special effects, although the “abnormals” are really well done using CG, I feel like they rely too much on computer generated graphics. It would look more believable if they had created full sets rather than constantly using the green screen. Surely a place like Helen’s office which is in almost every episode does not need to be generated by a computer.

A true highlight of the season is an episode called Instinct, don’t want to give too much away, but the Blair Witch style camera work on this is inspirational.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Plenty of arse kicking and bullets flying everywhere.
Sex/Nudity: Some snogging and sexual tension, Dr Zimmerman stripping off is defiantly a highlight.
Swearing: I would have to say I did not notice any.
Summary: Highly recommended, can’t wait for the next season! 9/10
In the plague-wracked and devil-haunted darkness of Medieval Europe, an elite few enjoy opulent lives while the majority eke out a miserable existence in abject poverty. Hungry creatures stalk the deep woods and desolate mountains, and both sea and sky teem with unspeakable horrors. For those ill-fated masses not born into wealth, life is but a vicious trial to be endured before the end of days.

Hegel and Manfried Grossbart couldn’t give a toss. Being of low birth means little, after all, when the riches of the mighty wait just inside the next crypt. The grave-robbing twins know enough about crusading to realise that if one is to make a living from the dead, what better destination than the fabled tomb-cities of Egypt.
But the brothers Grossbart are about to that all legends have their truths, and worse fates than death await those would take the red road of villainy.

Jesse Bullington's The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart is available from Thursday, priced £7.99.

Thanks to our friends at Orbit Books, we've got three copies of The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to brothersgrossbart@rocketmail.com with your name and postal address before midday on Tuesday 8th December (UK time). The first three names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a copy of this awesome novel!

Ip Man
Cine Asia
Available now - RRP £17.99(DVD)/£24.99 (Blu-Ray)
Review by Rob Wade

Set in Foshan, China, during the Sino-Japanese War, Ip Man brings to life the story of Grandmaster Ip Man, a Wing Chun impresario, whose matchless fighting skill is revered all over China. Upon refusing to teach his beloved fighting art to the invading Japanese forces, he is forced to fight in a deadly tournament for the honour of his country, culminating in a kill-or-be-killed showdown with Japan's greatest fighter.

Obviously, the foremost reviewing criteria for a martial arts movie (or "over-ground fighting movie" so that it doesn't look out of place on my review list) is the quality of the martial arts. Thankfully Ip Man does not disappoint in this regard. The kung-fu in this movie is of the highest calibre, with a very decent amount of realism. There's something to be said for realistic looking kung fu in martial arts movies, and this movie leans more towards that style (although it does occasionally delve into the fantastic for effect).

The performances in this film are of a good quality, as is the storyline. Obviously, being a biopic the story is somewhat difficult to elaborate upon, but to make up for this the set pieces are all very well done.

The only thing that I found weird about this film was the subtitle and dubbing work. Not only did the dubbing not seem to fit the mouth movement, which I found odd considering the fact that it was a Chinese movie with Chinese voices, but the subtitles seem to have been done by a seventeen year old girl from San Fransisco. I don't think 1940s Chinese martial arts masters used phrases like "I'm totally grateful!"

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : Plenty of hand-to-hand combat and the odd gunshot.
Sex/Nudity : None.
Swearing : A few words here and there.
Summary: While nothing groundbreaking, Ip Man serves as a very solid movie of its type, while at the same time painting a stirring story of the life of Ip Man, one of the most famous martial artists in history. Recommended for fans of the genre, but otherwise there's not much here to keep interest. 7/10

Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law: Volume 2
Revolver Entertainment
Available from 7th December - £19.99
Review by Blake Harmer

Harvey Birdman is an attorney who seems doomed to bad luck. If it’s not losing all of his cases, it’s his bad luck with the ladies or his boss going through severe panics and installing security throughout his office so that there cannot be any privacy. However, the main bulk of the humour isn’t based upon Mr Birdman, but upon all of his clients, who happen to be none other than the cast of pretty much every Hannah-Barbera cartoon ever made.

There are some genuinely funny bits in the show, be it Secret Squirrel who is on trial for looking like he’s flashing people when he gets out a gadget. Or Grape Ape, who’s on trial for using steroids during an Olympic event. If you were a fan of Hannah-Barbera cartoons as a child then you will find the references to them truly hilarious.

So why the average score I hear you cry over the Internet? Well, call it Harvey Birdman’s bad luck but aside from these occasional moments of comic genius in each episode, the rest of each of the ten minute shows isn’t normally that funny. There are large gaps between anything truly funny that are bereft with humour and normally filled with random and completely surreal moments.

However, at the end of the day this is definitely a cult show, and I am sure there are people out there who would love this type of humour. I for one though didn’t find it amusing.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Some comical violence such as the dog from the Jetsons being attacked by vultures, but nothing truly hardcore about it. It is definitely an adult cartoon though.
Sex/Nudity: Lots of sexual references including Secret Squirrel being a flasher but nothing is shown without it being blurred or covered up in some way.
Swearing: A few swear words, but as it is a mock take of Hannah-Barbera cartoons there is nothing really strong as it would seem completely out of character.
Summary: A collection which does have some genuinely funny moments, but I felt that the laughs too far apart for this to be truly worth recommending. Fans of the show will love the collection I am sure and I recommend they buy it straight away. However, I for one didn’t get the appeal of this particular Adult Swim show. 6/10

Always My Santa
Noriyoshi Nakamura
Manga Entertainment

Available Now - £14.99
Review by Brad Harmer

I am not normally the warmongering type, but after watching this movie, it is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that as of eleven o’clock, I am at war with Japan.

An unlucky boy named Santa who happens to be born on Christmas Eve has it tough... He feels like he falls between the cracks of everyone's holiday happiness, and even his parents don't seem to care. Great. Neither do I.

There might not be any mistletoe, but good cheer comes down the chimney with a kiss from the crazy young Santa-in-Training named Mai. She has been sent to show sad-sack Santa the true joy of the season... And if he can quit acting like a bummed-out bump on the Yule log long enough to surrender to her considerable charms, the festive fireworks between the two might be hot enough to light up the tree.

This is a fifty-five minute blast of every anime “joke” you can imagine once every twenty seconds. It flashes and buzzes across the screen like Pikachu on speed and isn’t in the slightest bit funny, or interesting, or even Christmassy. The characters are non-sensical, and...I’d like to believe that something has been lost in the translation, but quite frankly, I’m relatively sure that there was none of it there to begin with.

Oh, and anime? Yes. Panties. We get it. Ha-ha fucking ha. Move on.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
A disgruntled internet journalist’s fist smashes through a TV screen.
Sex/Nudity: Some panties and boob shots. So...none.
Swearing: None
Summary: At best, a terribly unfunny comedy. At worst, someone deliberately trying to kill me. 1/10

The Green Mile
Frank Darabont
Warner Home Video

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

To celebrate its tenth anniversary, The Green Mile finally comes out on Blu-ray, updated to pure HD and with great extras to boot.

Based on Steven King’s novel, The Green Mile focuses on prison guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks - Joe Versus The Volcano). That is until John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan - The Scorpion King), an eight-foot tall man who has been convicted of killing two children, is sent there. However, Edgecombe soon realises that unlike the hulking brute that Coffey looks like, he is in fact kind at heart, and whilst watching over him, Edgecomb learns that there is more to Coffey than meets the eye.

This is a great film for many reasons; the acting is brilliant, the story, whilst epic, is gripping from start to finish, and the direction is also masterful. Also, if you are a fan of mice, the paranormal, and people being electrocuted so much that they catch on fire, then this film is definitely for you. If you’re not a fan of this, then you’ll probably still love this film anyway.

The only downside to this film is that if you already own the film on DVD, unless you are a die hard fan, you are unlikely to rebuy this unless you are replacing all of your DVD collection with Blu-rays, which is a shame, as it is a great package and possibly one of the all time great films of the nineties.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Some violence and pretty vivid death scenes when it comes to the executions, but the film is more about the story and won’t excite gore hounds.
Sex/Nudity: There is a sex scene but you don’t really see anything.
Swearing: A fair amount, but when spread over an epic that is over 3 hours long, you are likely to notice it being a major part of the film.
Summary: A fantastic film from start to finish and a worthy addition to your collection if you are a fan of Stephen King or film in general, and as it is currently going at Internet retailers for about £12 at the moment, it is truly a steal in comparison to other Blu-Ray movies. 9/10

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