Saturday, 27 March 2010

DVD Reviews

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Starring: Christopher Plummer, Heath Ledger, Lily Cole
Director: Terry Gilliam
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Available From 29th March - £19.99 (DVD) and £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

The immortal Dr Parnassus holds the key to the Imaginarium, a wonderful place hidden in a “pop up” travelling theatre, where people can explore the very depths of their imagination. The doctor, however, has more hidden depths that his friends in the theatre troupe are aware of and his immortality has come at a price – the soul of his daughter, Valentina.

Unless Parnassus and Tony, the mysterious amnesiac whom he befriends, can coax a few more souls to lose themselves in the Imaginarium, Valentina will become the prize in a deal that Parnassus has made with The Devil himself, Mr Nick.

Combining what is his always faultless sense for striking imagery and great casting with an excellent modern fantasy story, Terry Gilliam has produced possibly his best movie since Brazil. The cast are fantastic (besides a distractingly wooden performance from Lily Cole), and the storyline immersive and enjoyable.

The pacing feels rather slow for a movie – often feeling more like a novel in that sense – but it works for the story it’s telling. The mystery of Tony’s backstory is ingeniously woven throughout, and all of the characters feel believable and likable – yes, even Mr Nick.

Obviously, the production of this movie was marred by the tragic passing of Heath Ledger, and the parts of Tony are filled in at various points by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. This is really not as distracting as you might think, as all three actors work their damnedest on a film that they saw as a tribute to their friend. The best thing? It works.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some fist fights/scuffling, and some scenes of hanging.
Sex/Nudity: One implied sex scene. Tony is played by four of the most attractive actors of this generation, and Lily Cole is rather top-heavy.
Swearing: Some minor uses.
Summary: A great, dark fairytale, with a stellar cast and fantastic cinematography. A little slow at times, but always engrossing. 9/10

Planet 51
Starring: Justin Long, Dwayne Johnson, Gary Oldman
Director: Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad and Marcos Martinez
Entertainment In Video

Available From 29th March - £19.99 (DVD) and £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Captain Chuck Baker was on a mission to boldly go where no man had gone before - a remote celestial body dubbed Planet 51. The scientific community had surmised that Planet 51 was uninhabited, so when Captain Baker steps out of his spacecraft to discover a race of tiny green people living in quaint communities reminiscent of 1950s America, he can't quite believe his eyes. Unfortunately, the tiny extraterrestrials suffer from a universal fear that their Utopian community will one day be overrun by alien invaders...just like the extra-large astronaut who now stands before them.

As the paranoid aliens attempt to capture the peaceful visitor and make him the latest attraction at the Alien Invaders Space Museum, Captain Baker must count on his robot companion, 'Rover', and his new friend, Lem, in order to navigate this strange new world and find a way back home before it's too late.

Combining the vibe of 1950s pulp-sci-fi B-movies and early 21st century CG animation comedy may be a rather odd combination, but Planet 51 does a pretty good job of pulling it off. A large part of the success is down to an amazingly cute robot named Rover, and a puppy with a strong resemblance to Giger’s Alien. The animation is top notch, and the sci-fi in-jokes will have you rolling with laughter.

Unfortunately, there’s something lacking. Most of the gags come from the in-jokes and references – the script itself doesn’t offer much in the way of amusement. Couple that with the fact it takes a good thirty minutes for the “call to adventure” to arrive, and you’ll see how this is not without its flaws. The story is also so generic you can predict everything a good five to ten minutes before it happens. Kids will probably lap it up, but for the rest of us, there’s a sense we’ve been here before. Many, many times.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some ray guns are fired off.
Sex/Nudity: The Rock gets nekkid.
Swearing: One “ass”. Which doesn’t really count. Say “arse”, dammit.
Summary: A fun kid’s movie, that will keep adults entertained – although it will be forgotten about fairly quickly. Except for Rover and the Xenomorph puppy. They’re awesome. 7/10

Hellbride
Starring: No one you have ever heard of, or will ever hear of again.
Director: Pat Higgins
Brain Damage Films

Available From 29th March - £2.99 (DVD). Yes. Two fucking ninety-nine. They have so much faith in this movie, that it costs less for you to buy it, than it would for you to hire it.
Review by Brad Harmer

Lee Parker and Nicole Meadows are all set to be married. There are, however, one or two problems on the horizon. Nicole’s engagement ring is cursed. Once the property of a wronged bride who went on a killing spree, the ring has a history of bringing death to all who come in contact with it.

Not only that, but Nicole’s father has become involved in a fearsome dispute with a local mob boss, a situation that looks perilously closed to spiralling into bloody violence at any minute. Included in the mix are a massively unreliable best man, who yearns to reunite with his ex-girlfriend (who happens to be the bridesmaid) and an eccentric expert on the occult who has been hunting for the cursed ring for years.

We aim to make reviews on this site around 300-500 words long, as an average. I was just going to type “Fuck you, Brain Damage Films” one hundred times, but even that wouldn’t really show how I feel. Instead, I’d like to present to you, a direct transcript of my notes as I was watching it, so that you can feel my pain:

00:08:56 – This seems to have been shot on a camera phone. The actors appear to have been rounded up at the bus stop.

00:15:48 – The quality of the film stock is terrible. There is no way you should pay money for this. This is obviously a student project – a failing one, at that.

00:23:12 – There are some nice ideas, but they’ve all been botched. Really badly.

00:30:14 – Nothing of interest happening.

00:38:00 – This is really shit. This is really shit. This is really shit. A terrible abortion of a movie. That fact it’s been released at all is, frankly, laughable.

00:46:12 – Really bad stuff. Acting is terrible, and it’s not even trying to take itself seriously anymore.

00:53:58 – Some really, really boring scenes with no connection to anything. I could make a better movie that this right now. I mean, right now. On my couch. With a notepad. And no camera or actors.

01:01:02 – This is a large amount of balls.

01:18:41 – It’s realised that it sucks, and is now trying to pass itself of as an “intentionally bad” movie. Somehow, don’t ask me how, it’s even fucking that up.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
A rather moving scene in which I stop watching the film and opt, instead, to fire a staple gun into my own genitals.
Sex/Nudity: Some references.
Swearing: Some. All rubbish.
Summary: A movie that at first tries to be scary, and then tries to be a parody. It somehow manages to fail at both. 1/10

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Starring: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Christina Ricci
Director: Terry Gilliam
Universal Pictures

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

When a writing assignment lands journalist Raoul Duke and sidekick Dr. Gonzo in Las Vegas, they decide to make it the ultimate business trip. Before long, however, business is forgotten and “trip” has become the key word.

Fuelled by a suitcase of mind-bending pharmaceuticals, Duke and Gonzo set off on a fast and furious ride through non-stop neon, surreal surroundings and a crew of the craziest characters ever. But no matter where misadventure leads them, Duke and Gonzo discover that sometimes going too far is the only way to go.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a hard movie to review. I found myself entranced by it, but I couldn’t for the life tell you why. There’s no real destination, no real cohesion or any real storyline. It’s just "Hunter S. Thompson’s A Series of Spaced Out Events". I liked it, but I’m buggered if I can explain why. It’s stylishly shot, directed and acted – but what the buggery is it all about?

The transfer to Blu-ray is fantastic. The sound and picture are of remarkably high quality, with no sign of blurring, pixilation or jerkiness. If you’re a fan of the movie, then this is worth upgrading to.

Finally: Man, I wish more directors would cast even half as well as Terry Gilliam can. How the bloody hell does he do it?

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some scuffling and threatening behaviour.
Sex/Nudity: From IMDB: “A hallucination is seen involving a dinosaur orgy; various reptiles are seen in sexual positions, many covered in blood”.
Swearing: Near constant.
Summary: A fascinating ride that never really succeeds in engaging any of the characters at anything beyond surface level. A nice remastering job, though. 7/10

The Neverending Story
Starring: Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Allan Oppenheimer
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Warner Home Video

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

Bastian, a lonely schoolboy alienated from his father and bullied by his classmates, retreats to an attic where he becomes engrossed in a book entitled The Neverending Story. It is the tale of a magical kingdom appropriately named Fantasia - a world born of human fantasies. However, as humanity loses faith in the power of imagination, the once-thriving Fantasia is being destroyed by great storms of Nothingness.

Dangerously ill herself, Fantasia's youthful empress sends the young warrior Atreyu on a quest to find a cure for the kingdom. After encountering flying dragons, swamp monsters and a vast assortment of other strange creatures, the young hero discovers that only a human boy can save Fantasia, at which point Bastian is drawn, literally, into the pages of the story.

The Neverending Story is a movie I remember from my childhood – albeit, it turned out, not particularly clearly. The cinematography is still pretty impressive, and it’s fusion of fairy tale fantasy with Terry Gilliam type fantasy is still clever. It’s just unfortunate that a couple of bits have dated rather badly.

The picture has not made the transition to high definition particularly well. The images are very sharp, but the motion is rather jerky, and it shows up the black lines around the blue-screen work (of which there is plenty) quite badly. The puppetry work has not aged well, and the attempts at lip-synching the puppets are laughable...if they bother at all.

For that, there’s a darkness to the story that will entertain older audiences, although it may be lost on younger people. The scene with Atreju and the Exposition Wolf is excellent, as is the final scene with the princess. It’s still a good fantasy movie, but there’s not a lot to recommended forking out for the Blu-ray version.

Also, the guy who does the voice of Falkor? He’s Skeletor.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some combat, one minor spontaneous human combustion.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A great kid’s movie that is not without its flaws, but still rather enjoyable. 8/10

Day of The Dead
Starring: Joseph Pilato, Terence Alexander and Lori Cardille
Director: George A. Romero
Arrow Video

Available From 5th April - £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Blake Harmer

Like the other movies before it, George Romero’s horror classic Day Of The Dead has finally come shambling into HD, and just in time for it’s 25th Anniversary, with the popularity of zombies almost at fever pitch. But, with the option of picking up the DVD fairly cheaply, is it worth new fans purchasing? Is it worth current Romero lovers upgrading?

For those of you who are unaware of this film, it is the third in George Romero’s Dead series and acts as the end of the original “trilogy”. With zombies having already taken over USA, one of the last pockets of human life left is a collection of the military and scientists in an underground research facility. However, with scientists doing experiments on zombies to find out more about them and come up with a cure, the military start to lose faith in them. But will they stay together in humanity’s darkest hour, or will the zombies take over for good?

In terms of the set, there are plenty of extras here to keep Romero fans happy. However, I think the film hasn’t made the transition to High Definition very well, and this is because of the cleaning up of the old film that needed to be done. The footage is still a bit grainy and the sound isn’t as crisp as it should be.

On the plus side though, the film has still held the test of time, with great looking zombies and some really gruesome death scenes to keep people happy. But when compared to the likes of Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, this is definitely the weakest in the series.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Lots of blood and gore that can only be expected with a zombie film, especially by the great George Romero.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Quite a bit of swearing, even more so than the other films in the series. You may be swearing at the fact you could have saved money by up-scaling the DVD though.
Summary: At the end of the day, Day of The Dead is still a good zombie film despite being the weakest film in the trilogy. However, with the Blu-ray only really offering plenty of extras rather than a superbly cleaned up HD zombie blood-fest, I find it hard to recommend it over the infinitely cheaper DVD version, and that new horror fans would be better off watching Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead over this. 6/10

WWE - Tagged Classics: King of the Ring 2001 & Invasion 2001
Silver Vision
Available Now - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

King of the Ring 2001

It’s clear that the WWF was setting the scene for the WCW/ECW Invasion angle that was soon to explode with this Pay-Per-View. Surprisingly, this show isn’t filler, but mostly quality matches.

First match up is a KOTR Semi-final between Christian and Kurt Angle. Pretty standard, but not a bad match.

The second Semi-final is Edge vs Rhyno. Two friends clash in an impressive and hard hitting match, featuring the Spear vs Gore spot that fans wanted.

KOTR Finals up next, as Angle and Edge coast through a decent match that sets up Angle’s upcoming brawl

Jeff Hardy vs X-Pac happened. Girls went wild. I didn’t.

Then the Undertaker beats up Diamond Dallas Page. Fans went wild. I didn’t.

Angle effortlessly carries Shane through a stunner of a Street Fight, featuring suplexes through glass, broken tailbones, and a top-rope Angleslam. That this match at no point resembles a stunt-fest is testament to Angle’s abilities.

Main event, and Steve Austin defends his Championship against Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. They work an exciting match featuring spot-on timing. The finish is an anti-climax, but fits the storyline.

Recommended:
Rhyno vs Edge
Kurt Angle Vs Shane McMahon - Street Fight Match

Invasion 2001

The first PPV of the Invasion Era is a hit and miss card. Ten matches seems too many, and there are enough dud matches that there could have been a cull.

Lance Storm and Mike Awesome vs Edge and Christian is excellent. Thanks to this, the crowd are as hot as Wilma Flintstone.

What?

Referee Nick Fucking Patrick vs Referee Earl Fucking Hebner? Fuck, fuck, fuck.

How do you follow such an athletic contest? APA vs Sean O’Haire and Chuck Palumbo? I wouldn’t. WWF would. Palumbo and O’Haire show promise here, but Bradshaw’s politics show when he and Farooq squash the youngsters with minimal effort.

Cruiserweights clash next as Billy Kidman and X-Pac trade flips. Could be better, but fun enough.

William Regal squares off with Raven. For the only time on the show, the crowd switch off. They probably spotted how sloppy Raven was tonight too.

Six-man tag action as Shawn Stasiak, Hugh Morrus and Kanyon are not given long enough with Big Show, Billy Gunn and Albert. Heated match spoilt by the fact that Shawn Spastik is just awful.

Tazz and Tajiri could have done with five more minutes, but still put on a great match, as expected.

RVD vs Jeff Hardy is a thrilling hardcore affair that features moonsaults in the crowd, concrete powerbombs, and metal things going into faces.

WWF booked a Bra and Panties match before the main event to add a drama gap. Lita and Trish Stratus vs Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler works well enough, but I didn’t get to see Lita in a thong. Fucksticks.

Main event time in the InauguralBrawl. ECW/WCW’s Dudleyz, DDP, Booker T and Rhyno meet WWF’s Undertaker, Kane, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and Steve Austin. Bodies fly all over the arena as ten talented workers fight it out in a tight, hard hitting matchup with a twist in the finish.

Recommended:
Lance Storm & Mike Awesome vs Edge & Christian
The Dudley Boyz, Diamond Dallas Page, Booker T and Rhyno vs The Undertaker, Kane, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: Blood, tables, ladders, chairs. Wrestling movez.
Sex/Nudity: Bras and panties.
Swearing: “Bullshit”.
Summary: A good set, if you’re into the AttitudeEra. KOTR is the better disc. 8/10

WWE - Tagged Classics: Unforgiven 2001 & No Mercy 2001
Silver Vision
Available Now - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

Unforgiven 2001

One month has passed since the ECW/WCW hordes invaded, and the angle (and Kurt Angle) is in full swing. The gold medalist realises his true potential here, and hasn’t let up much since.

The show explodes with an elimination tag bout, featuring Hurricane and Lance Storm, the Hardyz, the Dudleyz, and Big Show with Spike Dudley. Every member is on form, and The Big Show looks incredible. If he could keep up this quality...

Perry Saturn fights for his girlfriend Moppy the Mop against Raven. Nothing match, sloppy finish.

“Brothers” Edge and Christian clash in a heated match that really exhibits the young men’s talents.

Let’s be clear; Kronic are piss-poor. They permanently look lost in the ring, couldn’t sell if bricks fell on them, and only ever looked good in that match in WCW where Goldberg accidentally knocked himself out. Undertaker and Kane try not to outclass them in this one, but can’t stop themselves.

Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho’s match is like watching a wrestling seminar. As capable as RVD is, Y2J is simply better. Starting with a mat wrestling lecture, then summarising by showing Rob how to work hardcore without making it look like a pre-determined stunt-fest, and all without showing him as weak.

Next up, The Rock is in a handicap situation against Shane McMahon and Booker T. Rocky is fantastic when outnumbered, and his impeccable timing really shines in this enjoyable outing.

Rhyno and Tajiri are given a high card spot, and use it to put on a hard-hitting spectacle that could have been outstanding with five/ten more minutes.

The main event sees Steve Austin defend his Heavyweight Strap against Kurt Angle in a slow moving affair that builds to a dramatic and emotional finish.

Recommended:
Y2J vs. RVD
Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle

No Mercy 2001

Tensions in the WCW/ECW Alliance are the backbone of No Mercy, as the top two members clash with WWF’s hero.

Hurricane and Lance Storm tag to face the Hardyz in a fast paced and enjoyable opener.

Test vs. Kane is a standard match, that may be Test’s pinnacle. Not amazing, though.

Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler have a lingerie match that is devoid of wrestling. It is saved by SEX PIN!

Edge and Christian’s ladder match is a stunt fest, but plays well on their previous match.

Dem Dudleyz tangle with Tajiri and Big Show. ECW originals plus The Big Show on form is a pretty good formula for wrestling. This is well worked with nice sequences.

Undertaker leads Booker T through what he thinks is a technical wrestling match. Nicely set out, but long and forced.

Chris Jericho and The Rock, on the other hand, breeze through a real technical wrestling marvel that showcases two men in their prime.

RVD is outclassed by Steve Austin and Kurt Angle in the main event. They cover him well, but his lack of main event presence shows through as the only weakness in this rewarding match.

Recommended:
Dudleyz vs. Big Show and Tajiri
Y2J vs. Rock

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: WRESTLING!
Sex/Nudity: SEX PIN!
Swearing: Austin hilariously says “Oh, shit!” when Angle catches him for an Anglelock.
Summary: Good set, pull the good matches from both, and you have a fantastic PPV. 8/10

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