Tuesday 23 February 2010

DVD Reviews

Blood and Bone
Starring: Michael Jai White, Julian Sands (wow, I haven't seen him since Arachnophobia
!), Eamonn Walker and Dante Basco
Director: Ben Ramsey
Momentum Pictures

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

A mysterious drifter becomes ensnared in the seedy world of underground street-fighting. In the back alleys of Los Angeles, life is cheap, and to go against the grain is to take on the most powerful criminal organisation on the West Coast.

You’ve seen movies like this before, right? If not, we’ve reviewed what’s basically the same move
here, here and here. The “Underground Fighting Movie” is what the Reality TV generation has done with the Kung-Fu movie. There’s still the fight sequences, the same characters, and the same plot...no wait! Instead of a plot, which would result in the writers having to actually come up with some excuse as to why there’s all these guys fighting, it always just so happens that a huge martial league/tournament is on next week! We can enter you, so you can raise the money to pay off your daughter’s operation/orphanage repairs/David Carradine memorial tattoo!

As a genre, they’re lazy, sloppy and appeal to the lowest common denominator, and they need to stop.

Blood & Bone isn’t a bad film by any stretch. If anything, the production and cinematography is actually head and shoulders over every other Underground Fighting Movie that I’ve seen. The fight scenes are pretty good. The acting is, for the genre, okay. But it’s just a movie I’ve seen a hundred times before, and always with the same cliched narrative.

Oh, except for the kung-fu sequences shot from a first-person perspective. Don’t do that ever, ever again.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several scenes of strong, although comic-booky, violence.
Sex/Nudity: Some.
Swearing: A reasonable amount.
Summary: Underground Fighting Movie by the numbers. Far from technically flawed, but such a tired formula you may fall asleep before the end. Occasionally fun, maybe even good, but there are so many better examples of the genre. 4/10

Starring: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle and Georgina Reilly
Director: Bruce McDonald
Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD) and £19.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

It appears to be just another humdrum winter’s day in Pontypool, Ontario as shock-jock Grant Mazzy goes on air to present his morning phone-in radio show from a studio in the basement of the town’s church. But amidst the minor news items regarding school bus cancellations and missing cats being reported by Mazzy’s listening public and his “Eye in the Sky” reporter are a series of bizarre reports of local people developing strange speech patterns and committing acts of horrific violence.

With no confirmation of these events on the official news wires, Mazzy, his producer and assistant suspect that an elaborate hoax is being played. However, it isn’t long before the radio team realise that the reports are real and that something terrible is happening beyond the studio walls. Trapped inside the church as bloody chaos reigns outside, they must decide if they should stay on air in the hopes of being heard and eventually rescued, even though they suspect their broadcasters may be contributing to the madness infecting the residents of Pontypool.

Pontypool is a pretty gripping and original zombie movie, because instead of focusing on the gore and zombies, it focuses on the survivalist characters. A zombie movie with great dialogue and great acting and...wait for it...virtually no zombies on screen (for the most part)? If that doesn’t sound great, then it should.

Taking place in a single location, with a core cast of five (one of whom is only heard, never seen) Pontypool is not only tense and immersive, but it’s also a damn original way of telling a zombie story. Some minor plot holes mar what would have been an otherwise great movie, but other than that, this is well worth a watch.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some unarmed combat, blood and gore.
Sex/Nudity: Some kissing.
Swearing: Frequent and strong.
Summary: A well put-together horror movie that shows great potential, but leaves too many questions unanswered to be truly satisfying. 8/10

Starring: Antonia Thomas, Lauren Socha and Nathan Stewart Jarrett
Director: Tom Green and Tom Harper

Available Now - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

Who wants a superhero with an ASBO? A gang of five teenage outsiders - party-girl Alisha, hard-as-nails Kelly, one-time sporting hero Curtis, painfully shy nerd Simon and smart-aleck Nathan - get caught in a flash storm while on Community Service and suddenly find themselves saddled with strange superpowers.

Unlike their more conventional counterparts, they don't swap their mobile phones and ankle tags for capes and tights. Instead, they discover just how tough life can be when you're all that stands between good and evil. Well, that and your curfew order...

It is a really fine line to walk between serious superhero action series which is darkly comedic such as The Punisher and Batman and parody such as the hilarious Mystery Men; this show lands somewhere between the two. Don’t get me wrong, the concept for this series is pure genius and the acting is beyond reproach, there are just the moments within the series when it seems to flounder and wonder what to do next or even worse seem like a trashy soap opera. That said, the majority of the episodes are a joy to watch and the dialog between the kids is hilarious. I also believe that once this show really gets into the swing of things it will move onto bigger and better things.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: There is plenty of violence, this show is not for the faint hearted.
Sex/Nudity: Plenty of that, you even get to see a pair of Granny boobs.
Swearing: I think half the dialog is swearing, but this only seems to add to its realism rather than seem fake or in your face.
Summary: This is a fun and gritty show that I believe will do well and will improve with every series to come. 7/10

Ben 10: Alien Force - Volume 2: Max Out
Warner Home Video
Available Now - £9.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Following straight on from the end of the previous volume, this second collection presents are fair few twists as the meta-plot develops, including the disapperance of Grandpa Max, the arrival of Ship, and the true secret behind Gwen’s magic powers.

What makes Ben 10: Alien Force better than the average Saturday Morning cartoon is its willingness to stick with the rules of the genre, whilst also pushing its plot into darker and more adult territories. Some of the stories in the series are worthy of a harder sci-fi television show, and this is awesome not just for us adult viewers, but also because it’s a kids’ series that doesn’t pander to kids. Kids hate being treated like kids, and that’s a good reason why they, I, and hopefully you too, love Ben 10.

In this compilation the overall story arch progresses ever further. The quest to discover what has happened to Grandpa Max reaches its conclusion, and the second quest – to reunite The Plumbers begins.

In terms of quality, overall the episodes aren’t as strong as those in the previous volume – it always bugged me that Ship arrives, and then isn’t seen for several more episodes, and The Gauntlet really does feel like filler material.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some Saturday Morning Cartoon style combat and explosions.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: Another good installment of the series – not as strong as the previous volume – but still essential due to the storyline progression. – 8/10

The Big Bang Theory: Season Two
Starring: Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco
Director: Mark Cendrowski
Warner Home Video

Available Now - £24.99 (DVD)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

Leonard and Sheldon are brilliant physicists, the kind of "beautiful minds" that understand how the universe works. But none of that genius helps them interact with people, especially women. All this begins to change when a free-spirited beauty named Penny moves in next door. Sheldon, Leonard's roommate, is quite content spending his nights playing Klingon Boggle with their socially dysfunctional friends, fellow Caltech scientists Wolowitz and Koothrappali. However, Leonard sees in Penny a whole new universe of possibilities... including love.

If you loved the first season you will love this one even more, with its snappy quick witted writing and hilarious scenarios The Big Bang Theory makes geekiness the new cool. What is better about season two is that it moves away from Leonard’s infatuation with Penny, which allows for greater expansion upon the other characters within the show.

The TV series could easily go down the route of flat typical American comedy (e.g. Dharma and Greg and King of Queens) with the only interesting about it being that they are geeks living next door to a beautiful woman. Thanks to the brilliant writing and the wonderful acting, every character have so many dimensions to them that even Sheldon can appear endearing even when he is the most anti social of the group.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Comedic violence, no guts and gore.
Sex/Nudity: Very mild.
Swearing: Nothing stronger than "crap".
Summary: This is a truly wonderful show, with great writing and character interaction and with 23 episodes you couldn’t ask for more for your money. Bring on season 3! 10/10

James May's Toy Story
Starring: James May

Available Now - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

James May goes on a mission to reconnect today's youth with some of Britain's best loved toys of yesteryear. In an effort to get kids to put down their games consoles, the technology-enthusiast introduces the new generation to the pleasures, frustrations and ultimate sense of accomplishment found in Plasticine, Lego, Airfix, Scalextrix, Meccano and model railways. Each toy is explored in a group project on a giant, often surreal scale, designed to unite family members of all ages and reawaken the big kid in all of us.

I have always believed that James May is the most underrated member of the Top Gear team; always seeming to be the ‘sensible’ one or the ‘grouchy’ one, this TV series blows those notions out of the water. This show is so endearing, enthralling and so damn cute you can’t help but smile and succumb to May’s charm.

What is so great about the show is that you get to see in detail the processes which May and his team of children and adults have to go though in order to pull off some mammoth activities. You can see the struggle and the effort that each team have to go through rather than it seeming like a relatively easy task, that some documentaries make the mistake of doing. You get that genuine sense of community, passion and team work that you don’t get by playing your X-Box or Playstation.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: This is a great fun show for all the family to watch and brought out the kid in me all over again. Plasticine here I come! 10/10

Gunparade March: Volume Three
Starring: Natalina Maggio, Akira Ishida and Akemi Okamura
Director: Katsushi Sakurabi and Fumihiko Takayama

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

The Genjyu step up their campaign of destruction as the dawn of the new millennium approaches. Hayami and Mai find themselves in the spotlight when the news media takes an interest in Unit 5121's war against the alien menace. Things take an abrupt change when another HWT unit requests Mai as a replacement pilot. Hayami has until the clock strikes twelve to admit his feelings for her, or she'll be transfered out of his reach. In this war, it could mean forever.

Gunparade March is a series that has impressed me in the past. I admired its focus on characterisation and development rather than constant mech-on-mech rucks. Now that this final volume has arrived, it’s an immense disappointment to me that it’s such a damp squib.

The character based focus on the previous episodes seems to be rather lacking in this compilation – and not for any good reason. The attention focuses rather too much on Mai and Hiyami, to the rather unfortunate exclusion of the rest of the cast. The plot lines falter and flounder, and the whole things drags to its conclusion. There are one or two entertaining episodes, but even they aren’t as strong as the series’ start.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some scrapping and mech combat.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: Some light uses.
Summary: An overly sentimental collection of episodes that never really reach an effective conclusion. – 4/10

1 comment:

  1. A part of me already confirms that Pontypool is fully recostructable around the studios of radio sunlight. Ive always maintained that if a zombie apocalypse is to happen, im heading there and then prodiving the internet with an awesome soundtrack. Pontypool sounds great as its actually based in the radio scenario that I am in on a weekly basis, and in a way, this film could show me the consequences of what I may do in such an event, and an event is brewing.

    great reviews! lots of 10/10s! been @ the prozac?