Saturday 20 March 2010

DVD Reviews

New Moon
Starring: Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart
Director: Chris Weitz
E1 Entertainment

Available From Monday 22nd March - £19.99 (DVD), £22.99 (Two-disc DVD), £24.99 (Blu-ray) and £99.99 (Limited Edition Memory Box DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

This next instalment of The Twilight Saga sees Bella Swan devastated by the abrupt departure of her vampire love, Edward Cullen, but her spirit is rekindled by her growing friendship with Jacob Black. Suddenly she finds herself drawn into the world of werewolves, the ancestral enemies of the vampires, and finds her loyalties tested.

Between the release of the original Twilight movie and this second instalment, I don’t know if you noticed, but The Twilight Saga got big. The first movie was a relatively low-budget affair that surprised everyone involved when it proved to be such a success. As a result, there is something about New Moon that seems lazy, hollow and somehow complacent. The overwhelming feeling is that no-one could be bothered to try that hard, because they knew it would sell anyway.

Much of New Moon seems to be held together with hope and duct-tape. It’s a shameless, hollow parade with no real substance to any of it. The characters don’t interact with each other like real people – they interact like a bunch of teenage Goths with Asperger’s Syndrome. Kristen Stewart can, and does, deliver a good performance for the more emotional moments, but so much is flat, lifeless and uninteresting that it’s hard to care.

The effects are, for a Hollywood movie, okay. For what was one of the most anticipated movies of last year, they’re fucking inexcusable. You had how long and how much to come up with realistic looking werewolves? And they’re still worse than the CG in the Narnia movies? Really?

And who dubbed some subdued darkwave/indie music over the biggest fight scene between a werewolf and a vampire? You don’t want some emo tripe for a werewolf fighting a vampire. You want this:

To be fair, some of the effects are okay – and the last fight sequence is pretty cool – but they’re far too hit and miss for a movie with these expectations on it. As I said earlier, it’s lazy. Very lazy indeed.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Vampires like shoving a lot. For the most part, that seems to be all they can do. Girl in the way of a truck? Shove her out the way. Vampire charging towards girlfriend? Shove her backwards, then shove him the other way. Fighting another vampire in a hall of mirrors? Shove him into the wall. Vampires playing baseball in a thunderstorm? Shove off.
Sex/Nudity: This DVD is like a Purity Ring. A big, fat, Mormon-subtext Purity Ring.
Swearing: None.
Summary: Fan pleasing fluff, but the whole thing is mere varnish without substance. Slickly produced, but a wasted opportunity. 5/10

Paranormal Activity
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat and Mark Friedrichs
Director: Oren Peli
Icon Home Entertainment

Available From Monday 22nd March - £19.99 (DVD) and £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Filmed in a documentary style, Paranormal Activity follows day-trader Micah and college student Katie, a young couple "Engaged to be engaged." - normal characters living out a seemingly mundane suburban existence. When Micah takes it upon himself to film Katie's claims that she has been haunted since childhood...sleep is going to be a problem.

I like subtle horror. To me, the scariest ghost stories are the ones with the most realistic depictions of hauntings. I like le Fanu, M.R. James and the investigations of Thomas Carnacki. For the first half-hour or forty minutes, Paranormal Activity makes an attempt at this style of horror. Unfortunately, the movie makes two major mistakes. Firstly, apart from a slight tension during the early night-time sequences, it fails to create any fear or tension. Secondly, by about the forty minute mark it seems to declare “Okay, that’s enough realism to help with the marketing campaign. Now let’s get retarded!”

The early sequences are slow, ponderous and dull. The characters are either making ridiculously stupid decisions, or being paper thin vehicles for the sequence of stupid scares. Even the entity/ghost/demon itself seems to have no real motive besides being a complete dick.

Following a sequence in which a Ouija board not only plays by itself, but then catches fire, the movie gets stupider and stupider. Of course, I may have imagined the part where it catches fire. Neither of the characters seemed to feel it worthy of mentioning. Ever. From that point on it’s bangs, growls, smashes and creepy footsteps ahoy, with no real plot coherency, destination, or reason.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some scuffling/physical force and blood.
Sex/Nudity: One, implied, off-camera sex-scene.
Swearing: Some. Not as much as you might expect.
Summary: It would be wrong to say that this is one of the worst horror movies I’ve ever seen, but it is certainly one of the most ridiculous. If you want a ghost story, get Poltergeist. If you want “found footage” horror, get Cannibal Holocaust. This is a waste of time and money, best forgotten. 3/10

Sherlock Hound: The Complete Series
Hayao Miyazaki
Available now - RRP £29.99 (HMV Exclusive)
Review by Rob Wade

As many E14ies will know, I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan. I own the complete works, which I scored in a charity shop for 99p, the Jeremy Brett TV series on DVD and several of the adventure games available on PC. It's safe to say that Sherlock Holmes is a passion of mine, bearing in mind that I didn't entirely hate the Guy Ritchie film either, in fact I actually found it pretty amusing at times.

This show was originally released in 1986, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki who went on to create Howl's Moving Castle and Totoro among others. Re-released as a complete 5-disc DVD box set, this show apparently captured the imagination of children all over the world on its original release in the 1980s.

All I can be sure of is that said children never read a Sherlock Holmes novel in their life.

The creation process of this show seems to have been
"How can we make an action cartoon that we can guarantee someone will watch?"
"Attach a famous name to it?"
"Excellent, I've always liked Sherlock Holmes."
"Won't that involve making a detective storyli...?"
"Nah, we'll be alright. Lunch break!"

Hound doesn't use any detective skills in the first two episodes worthy of inclusion in Sherlock Holmes' repertoire, and when he finally does it's devoid of the enthusiasm one associates with his infamous powers of deduction. Sherlock Holmes is supposed to be excited about the logical reasoning that leads him to such subtle details, and instead he delivers it with all the enthusiasm of retail staff on Christmas Eve.

As if that wasn't enough, some fundemental details have been altered. Watson and Hound meet on a boat for no apparent reason, Mrs Hudson is changed from a kindly but impatient old woman to an attractive widow, and Hound solves all these crimes without a crack pipe in sight! To add insult to injury, Hound's sense of importance is utterly skewed. In episode three, he stumbles across a coin counterfeiting ring, but only because he decides to help a small child find her fucking cat.

The best way to sum up this DVD is like this: Remember Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, the kids' retelling of the Dumas classic? Remember how it had some basic resemblance to the novel but then embellished the story here and there in order to make it flow better as a cartoon? Now imagine someone's done the same thing with Sherlock Holmes, but just removed all the bits that make Sherlock Holmes distinct from any other chump.

It's not all bad though, the DVD has some moments that will make you smirk, and if it wasn't for the license attached tenuously to the show, it would probably be more enjoyable. All the familiar characters are there; Hound, Watson, Mrs Hudson, Inspector Lestrade and Moriarty, and some elements of the stories are retained, such as Hound's continuing triumph over both Moriarty and Lestrade.

As it is though, this show just seems to have taken all the best bits of Sherlock Holmes and replaced them with a series of 70s-style chase scenes using various modes of transport. I'm not even kidding, there's many of them. Oh, and Moriarty seems to live on a river bed, in what could easily be his mum's basement. All he needs is a D&D group, and his transformation to social recluse is complete.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : Cartoon chases and scuffles, nothing major.
Sex/Nudity : Have a guess...
Swearing : See above.
Summary: What could have been an incredible idea degrades very quickly into another generic cartoon. As much as it pains me to put a low score on anything with the word "Sherlock" in it, this DVD set is not something I'd recommend to Sherlock Holmes fans, maybe more for the anime completist who would own everything. Absolutely everything... 4/10

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