Thursday 11 March 2010

DVD Reviews

Saw VI
Starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Costas Mandylor
Director: Kevin Greutert
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

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

After the incredibly disappointing Saw V, I will admit that I was very worried that this would be similarly rubbish - a ludicrous plot and very cheap excuses for deaths. However, I am happy to report that unlike its predecessor, Saw VI is a) actually a good film and b) has deaths that actually relate to the plot.

Saw VI continues the story following the death of Special Agent Strahm and Detective Hoffman as the successor to continuing on Jigsaw’s legacy. When Detective Hoffman and Jigsaw’s wife set a game into motion that reveals the Jigsaw’s grand scheme to fulfil his revenge, Detective Hoffman tries to take matters into his own hands as the FBI close in on him.

This film is good as it retains a lot of great things about the previous movies such as cleverly created death contraptions, plot twists that you don’t see coming and some genuinely squeamish moments with lots of blood and gore. Where the film goes better than Saw V is that the deaths in the film relate to what is going on in the storyline rather than Saw V going “Wow, this is very story specific, but lets throw in some random deaths for no reason so people will still go and see it.”. The uses of the contraptions are also good as they are meant to torture the protagonist psychologically as they brought towards their impending physical demise.

However, where the film falls short is that, six movies on, the plot still doesn’t look like it is going to end, which raises the question of how long they are going to keep the plot going for before it eventually becomes too watered down and makes little sense like so many TV series (I’m looking at you Lost and The X-Files). However, at least this film shows more promise that there is a good ending in sight, but with the franchise currently commissioned to do thirteen films, I am very worried that this will occur.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of death and gore shown in graphic detail, as can be expected from a Saw movie.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: IMDB mentions 38 uses of "fuck" as well as other profanities, which means this is an E14 horror movie in my book.
Summary: An enjoyable return to form for the series and a must have for fans. However, if you haven’t seen any of the Saw films, I strongly advise starting at the beginning due to the series having a very complex plot with lots of plot twists. Sure, Saw VI won’t beat the brilliance of the first movie, but retains the series high standard after the horribly average fifth instalment. 7/10

Planet Hulk
Starring: Rick D. Wasserman, Marc Worden and Kevin Michael Richardson
Director: Sam Liu
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Available Now - £12.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Millions of light years from Earth, the Red King rules planet Sakaar with an iron fist. When Hulk arrives on Sakaar, he is sold as a slave and forced to fight as a gladiator. The people of Sakaar need a savior, and as Hulk fights his way through a series of formidable opponents, he forms a powerful bond with four fearsome warriors. Later, along with the help of fellow combatants Miek, Korg, Hiroim, and Elloe, Hulk wages war on the despotic Red King. As the battle intensifies, it begins to appear that Hulk may be Sakaar's destroyer, rather than its saviour.

If you like Saturday Morning Cartoons and The Incredible Hulk, then you’re going to get at least some enjoyment out of this. The animation is pretty good, featuring a base of cel animation, with some CG shading and augmentation that really adds some depth and flair to it. The voice acting is pretty solid, too. There are also some very nice cameos from other Marvel superheroes (although the pivotal one is a pretty obscure character).

Unfortunately, if you’re not already a Marvel Zombie, then you may have some difficulty following this. You’re expected to just accept that Hulk has been evicted from Earth, with only the briefest of explanations as to why, and you may want some knowledge of some Marvel characters before going in to this.

Like I said, Marvel fans will get an Emotionally Fourteen thrill out of this. Newcomers would be better off with the more mainstream live-action movies. Except the Ang Lee one. That’s terrible.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Ridley Scott’s Gladiator – Russell Crowe + The Incredible Hulk = this movie.
Sex/Nudity: Hulk is topless for most of the film.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A fun, superhero actioner that supplies some excellent action sequences – but is may be a little too obscure in its Marvelness to appeal to all. 7/10

Starring: Honor Blackman, Susan George, Ian Bannen
Director: Peter Collinson
Optimum Home Entertainment

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

Amanda occasionally babysits for friends and neighbours, so when newly arrived village couple Helen and Jim ask her to look after their baby whilst they go out for dinner, she accepts. But when the baby is asleep and the parents have left, the house adopts a claustrophobic air of menace. The simplest domestic sound becomes an assault on the nerves: the relentless tick of the pendulum-clock and the tapping, squeaking, breathing of a high-ceilinged Victorian house in the dead of night...

And when Helen and Jim in conversation with Dr Cordell reveal that her ex-husband Brian is a psychotic, homicidal maniac who tried to kill her, it seems that the air of menace might turn out to be a very real threat indeed...

Fright is a hard movie to review fairly. It’s actually pretty well put together and has some very tense moments in it. It’s far from a bad film, bar some plot devices and dodgy acting which aren’t so much flaws as requirements for the genre. Fright was the very first of the “babysitter alone with a maniac/ghost/demon/serial killer” movies. However, it has dated very, very badly.

Several of the events that would have been original on its first release are now so hackneyed and overdone that it’s all but impossible not to see them coming a mile off. It’s also doubly hard to take seriously when it features the principal cast of Minder (yes, both Waterman and Cole are in this) and Trigger from Only Fools and Horses.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some scuffling, fisticuffs, and stabby/slicy. Some blood.
Sex/Nudity: You see bra.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A historically significant movie, but unfortunately one that the years have not been kind to. One for horror buffs and collectors only. 5/10

Blood Feast 2
Starring: John McConnell, Mark McLachan and Melissa Morgan
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Arrow Films

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

Two generations after the cannibalistic caterer Fuad Ramses wreaked bloody havoc in the suburbs of Miami, his heir and grandson, Fuad Ramses III is on hand to revive the family business. Unaware of his grandfather's indiscretions, and having inherited his ancestor's bakery and confectionery store, young Fuad takes over the premises and sets about establishing himself as the supplier of quality food to the local community. Unfortunately, he is immediately possessed by the long-dormant demonic icon of Ishtar, an ancient, blood hungry goddess. Soon, Fuad is sequentially knocking off the guests of a wedding for which he has been employed to oversee the catering requirements and is using their bloody remains as the secret ingredients in his culinary delights.

Unsuccessfully trying to get to the bottom of the current spate of bizarre murders are a couple of bumbling cops, one of whom is due to be the groom at the forthcoming nuptials, the other a food-junkie who develops an irresistible appetite for Fuad's delicious wares.

If you didn’t already know otherwise, you would never believe that this movie was made and released as recently as 2002. The style, the budget, the acting...everything screams “bad eighties horror comedy”. Everything here has dated very badly, and never really manages to feel like a coherent movie. Sure the gore work is good, and it will probably go down well with Lloyd Kaufman fans; and any movie that features The Butthole Surfers’ “Sweat Loaf” scores an extra point – but for the most part it’s just an embarrassment.

The contrived comedy sequences bring to mind the feeling of politely watching a stand-up comedian die on his arse as he trots out some “airline food” routine that he believes to be really original. All of the gags are contrived, and the early 21st Century “knowing wink to the camera” self-parody becomes grating by the twenty minute mark. Yes, we know we’re not supposed to take it seriously. Get on with it.

The occasionally retch-inducing gore is good, but not worth sitting through the “comedy” and “acting” for. If you’re after that, pick up a Lucio Fulci or Takashi Miike movie instead, and see how it looks when it’s done properly.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several graphic murders and gory torture sequences. There is an element of the comedic bizarre to most of them, though, which blunts their impact a little.
Sex/Nudity: Some boobies and scantily clad ladies.
Swearing: Some. Badly delivered.
Summary: A brainless, gross-out comedy that drives its gags home with a sledgehammer. Worth catching on TV, but don’t waste money on it. 4/10

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