Saturday, 17 April 2010

DVD Reviews

The Descent: Part 2
Starring: Krysten Cummings, Shauna MacDonald, Natalie Jackson Mendoza
Director: Jon Harris
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Available Now - £19.99 (DVD), £22.99 (Double DVD with The Descent), £27.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Blake Harmer

Following on the end of the previous movie, The Descent: Part 2 sees Sarah - the only survivor of a caving expedition gone horribly wrong - escaping from the newly discovered cave system in the Appalachian Mountains. When she is found half crazed, covered in blood and incoherent of the events, Sheriff Vaines thinks she is withholding dark secrets, and forces her back into the caves with a search and rescue team to locate the rest of the group. However, when fallen rocks trap the rescue party, they discover the fates of the missing girls and now they must try and escape before it’s too late...

Unlike what can normally be expected with sequels to popular horror films. The Descent: Part 2 actually has a decent budget and steps up to the challenge of delivering the same quality that the original film delivered. The monsters still look great, the blood and gore is still awesome and the deaths are quite squeamish. My personal favourite deaths involve an electric drill going through one of the monsters, and a monster’s head being crushed by falling rocks making it smash like a melon. I also liked the film using the same locales in the cave as the first film so you can see the decomposing corpses of the girls from the first film.

The only drawbacks that stop this film being as good as the original movie is that you have to accept that the twist ending of the original movie wasn’t as much as a downer as originally perceived, and that Part 2’s ending just isn’t as brilliantly done. However, seeing as these faults are pretty minor, if you loved the original movie, you will like the sequel as it brings more of the same: More jumps, more gore, and more cool death sequences. At the end of the day, what more could you want from a sequel?

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Full of cool death scenes such as pickaxes to the head and necks being torn out. Does the gore and violence of the original movie justice whilst ramping it up at the same time.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A fair amount for your typical horror movie but nothing to get truly excited about.
Summary: A great horror movie sequel, which is quite rare in this day and age. Fans of the film will enjoy this as it contains everything that made the first film great and more. Whilst it doesn’t have as good a plot or ending, it is still a thoroughly entertaining gorefest nonetheless. 8/10
Henry Lee Lucas: Serial Killer
Starring: Antonio Sabato Jr. and Kostas Sommer
Director: Michael Feifer
Lions Gate Home Entertainment

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

Henry Lee Lucas: Serial Killer is the story of one of the most famous American serial killer of all time. Surrounded by violence his whole life, he consequently went on a rampage across the souther US on a brutal and mindless killing spree.

When the law finally catches up with him, Henry comes up with a diabolical solution and confesses to thousands of murders all over the country. Unable to sort the lies from the truth the legal system threatens to set him free...

This must have been a hard sell from the start. If you’re looking for a serial killer to do a biopic of, why would you choose Henry Lee Lucas. He’s most well-known for two things: a) fabricating most of the murders he allegedly committed and b) being the subject of the serial killer biopic Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer – the pinnacle of the genre. It’s not exactly surprising, then, that instead of being an insightful and thought-provoking piece, it’s pure exploitation trash.

From the gratuitous scenes of murder and rape, the fact that Lucas’ reputation as a compulsive liar is only really dealt with in passing and the that the whole thing seems to consist of nothing but relatively bland acting and musical padding – this is one to pass on. A money-making biopic of a real life murderer is often wont to leave a nasty taste in the mouth, and whilst Henry Lee Lucas: Serial Killer doesn’t paint its subject in a positive light, neither does it attempt to condemn him. Rather then seeming impartial and honest...instead it just offends with its neutrality.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several graphic and bloody scenes of rape, torture and murder.
Sex/Nudity: Rapey rapey.
Swearing: A realistic amount.
Summary: A tawdry dollop of exploitation that fails to even provide an interesting life story for history’s most questionable serial killer. 3/10
Night of the Living Dead 3D
Starring: Johanna Black, Sid Haig and Greg Travis
Director: Jeff Broadstreet
Stax Entertainment

Available Now - £12.99 (DVD with two pairs of 3D glasses)
Review by Brad Harmer

Barb and he brother Johnny arrive late for the burial of their aunt – and walk straight into a nightmare. With zombies on her heels, Barb flees the cemetery and is rescued by Ben, a local college student. The two seek refuge in the nearby farmhouse of the Cooper family, where the laid back residents aren’t even remotely prepared to have their lives turned into a horror movie.

But Barb is destined for an even grimmer confrontation with the local mortician, Gerald Tovar Jr. (Sid Haig).

A re-make of Night of the Living Dead (still the best zombie movie ever made) starring for Sid Haig and presented in home-version 3D? Well, let me get my big red pen out, because this is going to be...wait a minute...this is actually rather good.

This is the best version of home 3D I’ve seen since 3D started making its big comeback. Yes, it’s old red/blue lens technology, but it works – there’s some very nice dimension play there – and I didn’t have an epic migraine at the end of it like I did with the DVD version of My Bloody Valentine.

The 3D tech aside, this is a very loving remake, which remains relatively faithful to the original, but doesn’t allow itself to be hamstrung by it either. The moments when the cast members of this film are actually watching the original movie are genius. The make-up is great, and it has Sid Haig in it, and it is an unwritten law that one should always love Sid Haig.

It ‘s not without it’s flaws, however, the acting (apart from Sid Haig, right?) is pretty ropey for the most part, and the movie really needs to learn that “plot holes” are actually a lot less noticeable than “plot holes fixed with massive staples and pritt-stikk”. Here’s an example:

PLOT HOLE: No-one in the movie ever thinks to use a mobile phone.

PLOT FIX: The crazy old man doesn’t like cell phones on his property, because he thinks the government uses them to listen in on him, and his houseguests respectfully left their phones at home, in accordance with his wishes.

All in all, this is a fun zombie movie that’s well worth a look. No, it’s not as good as the original...but you didn’t really need me to tell you that, did you?

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Stabbing, scuffling, shooting, defenestration, murder, cannibalism, lots of gore.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A realistic amount (for Sid Haig).
Summary: A pretty tight and interesting re-make let down by a stupid and irritating explanation and climax. One of the better home 3D presentations, though. 7/10
Naruto Unleashed: Series 9: The Final Episodes
Director: Hayato Date
Manga Entertainment
Starring (Voices of): Kate Higgins, Maile Flanagan & Yuri Lowenthal
Available from April 19th, RRP £24.99
Review by Rob Wade

Naruto, Sakura and Lee are hired to escort a 'Ninja Dropout' - a criminal ninja - named Gantetsu to prison, and guard him against his comrades, who may be trying to free him. When they get to the transport boat they meet Todoroki, who seems to harbour a personal vendetta against Gantetsu .Will the three ninja be able to fend off any attacks if Gantetsu's friends come to save him? And what is Todoroki's connection with Gantetsu?

Meanwhile, a Sand shinobi, Matsuri, has been abducted by a mysterious ninja. In order to bring them bring back, Gaara must accept the mystery ninja's challenge. Can Naruto prevent this challenge ending in catastrophe? The time has finally come and its now or never!

I've made no secret in the past with my Naruto Unleashed Special Review Article of Mega Awesome that the ultimate opinion, for a first-time viewer, was that this series had some nice touches but ultimately fell short of drawing me in as a new viewer. That's not to say I'm not a fan of animé at all, I like a bit of Yu-Gi-Oh! and have some guilty pleasures involving Pokémon. That sounded less sexual in my head...

Anyway, this boxset represents the end of the Naruto Unleashed storyline, as Naruto and his friends begin training for the next stage. Before that though, they've got to get past the serious threat that they're up against at the end of this series.

Ultimately, the problem with this particular box set is that the final story arc is spread over two episodes. Now, in a show like Yu-Gi-Oh!, battles can run for a couple of episodes, but at the same time the action is always paced so that the battles run for the entire episode. In the final episode, the combat is carried over from the previous episode, then runs for about half the final episode. The last ten minutes therefore degrade into the characters just wandering around talking about what's next.

And another thing. It's just a minor gripe really, but if anyone's reading this who is responsible for DVD subtitles on Naruto Unleashed, you're lucky to have a fucking job. Read the script, then write those words so that they come up on the screen as the dialogue's being said. It CAN'T be that hard. If you can't do it exactly, for space reasons or whatever, at least have a go at it! How the hell does "I am feeling very powerful today" become "I'm feeling a little different from usual"? I mean, come on!

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : Quite a significant, and at times bloody, amount.
Sex/Nudity : None.
Swearing : Very mild, but only in the subtitles.
Summary: A DVD set that really doesn't seem to capitalise on the fact that it's the end of a series, with the last episode particularly dull. Otherwise, a perfectly reasonable animé series. For enthusiasts only, because let's face it: if you jump into a 9-season TV show at season 9, you're a fucking idiot. 6/10
Bangkok Adrenaline
Director: Raimund Huber.
Optimum Entertainment
Starring: Daniel O'Neill, Priya Suandokemai & Gwion Jacob Miles.
Available now, RRP £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

Bangkok, Thailand: a paradise of sin where all vices are catered for. An exotic island of hidden pleasures where the nights are long and the women are as hot as the tropical climate. It's the perfect location for a bunch of fun loving guys in search of an overseas adventure. But when a sweltering night of hardcore gambling goes horribly wrong, a group of naïve backpackers find themselves indebted to a local mafia boss. Their only way of escaping execution is to agree to kidnap the daughter of a tyrannical millionaire. It's a deadly mission that results in them being hunted down by a merciless mafia boss, a demented tycoon and a crazed militia of martial arts assassins out for blood. Thrust into a violent criminal underworld they must fight for survival in the only way they know how: by kicking ass!

So this film starts with a group of idiots pissing away what little money they have gambling. They then go on to be indebted by 1 million Baht, which is particularly impressive when you consider that they started off with three thousand. To get into a debt of one million, you have to be a spectacular failure. It's also weird considering that throughout the gambling montage, they seem to be doing really well. Unless they're going "I've got twenty-one!" when they're playing Poker or something, I fail to see how you could lose that much money.

So they have this debt, and after some mild pick-pocketing, and the bigger lummox competing in a wrestling competition only to have half his winnings deducted by a crooked official, they decide that their only method of gaining the money is to kidnap a local businessman's daughter. In Thailand? They didn't just think of selling their arses to local businessmen instead? Whatever.

They then manage to kidnap her, despite the fact that they're very obviously muppets (one of them can't even seem to decide where he's from), and incur the wrath of the businessman. What then follows is a series of ill-advised attempts to extort the money, including an MSN conversation (I shit you not) where the businessman manages to successfully HAGGLE THE RANSOM.

You'd be forgiven, then, for thinking that I hated this film. I didn't completely hate it. I didn't love it, but it's by no means an appalling film in every way. Let's start with what I didn't like, aside from the stupid plot. The acting is, at times, woeful, with characters seemingly reciting their lines for the first time in a very "speak-and-spell" approach. At one point, I attributed this solely to crappy acting, but that isn't the whole story. Around 35 minutes in I noticed that actually, a lot of the dialogue seems to have been re-recorded and dubbed in over the original dialogue. Again, poor.

The cinematography is appalling, to the point that at one point, it appeared that a man caught fire BEFORE hitting a moving train. Spontaneous human combustion is not exactly a common phenomenon, I certainly don't feel it would be applicable in this situation.

However, there are positives. The martial arts and fight scenes in this movie are nothing short of breathtaking. The characters are clearly established fighters (except for one who is illustrated throughout as a crap fighter - shame really, I'd hate to think that any of the characters were chosen for their acting ability). Unfortunately, the film just doesn't work in any other way apart from the fight scenes and the free running. If you're a fan of this type of thing, I'd say it's probably a good rental.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : Some frankly incredible-looking over the top martial arts.
Sex/Nudity : None.
Swearing : A few mild words, most of them have been dubbed out though, so don't worry there.
Summary: What could be an amazing film is let down by sloppy (and at times woeful) acting and cinematography. A great shame. 5/10
LA Ink: Season Two
Starring: Pixie Acia, Mike Escamilla, Katherine Von Drachenberg
Revalation Films

Available Now - £34.99 (DVD)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

A year after opening her own shop, Kat Von D's life has blown-up and business at LA Ink is booming. Kat and her core group of artists - Corey Miller, Hannah Aitchison and Kim Saigh - have established the shop as one of the most foremost in LA. She has her own make-up line and a new man in her life: rocker Nikki Sixx of Motley Crüe. But her hectic schedule makes running her business alone impossible. She brings in her good friend Naheed as general manager of the shop, and hopes that working together won t ruin their relationship.

Meanwhile, Hannah tries to turn the crew at the shop into comic characters, Corey lives out his dream by creating a custom drum-kit and Kim turns her fantasy of joining the circus into reality. Kat's life won't slow down as she goes on the road with Nikki for Crüe Fest, makes the cover of Latina magazine and writes a book about her life through her tattoos.

I have always been a champion for tattoo documentaries as I have always found them fascinating. I watched Miami Ink and LA Ink right from the beginning, and I saw Kat Von D flourish as an artist as well as a businesswoman. My main question I have to ask with regards to these type of show is at what point does it stop being a documentary and where does it start becoming a producer manipulated reality television show? A show that should have been about the lives and work of some incredibly talented tattoo artists reeked of consumer driven programming. For example, Kat decides to quite smoking, so fifteen minutes of the 45 minute long episode was dedicated to her getting hypnotherapy to help her and other members of her staff to quit.

Previous to this episode I had no knowledge that she even smoked, let alone was struggling to give up the habit. For those who like to watch reality TV programs I am sure that this is your bag, but if you want to get an informative documentary you should look elsewhere. To be honest I have never been more disappointed, as I used to love watching an episode of LA Ink of an evening.

On a separate note one that that is really grating about the DVDs was all the bloody filler! Obviously on the DVDs there are no advert breaks within each episode, so why do I need know at two different intervals what is coming up on the programme! Also, do I really need a million interspersed shots of Los Angeles scenery? Bloody hell, I bet if you cut out all the crap each show would only last thirty minutes.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
None.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: What do you think of it so far? RUBBISH! 4/10
Stargate: Special Edition
Starring: Jaye Davidson, Kurt Russell, James Spader
Director: Roland Emmerich
Optimum Home Entertainment

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

It has been buried for thousands of years. A mystery. A secret. A threshold. Stargate. One man will break its code and open the door, the other will lead the way.

They prepared for danger, they expected the unknown but they could never have imagined what they would discover. Now they must find the key to return home or remain trapped on the other side of the known universe forever. The most amazing discovery of our time is about to become the most extraordinary adventure of all time.

I saw this movie when it first came out, and I have never been able to explain exactly how such a slow moving and relatively bland sci-fi turned into the biggest sci-fi franchise of the past ten years or so. Everything seems to take at least ten times longer that it really needs to, and even when it does happen its not that interesting.

Fans of Stargate however, will be very pleased with the treatment it has received. The remastering is absolutely top-notch, none the effects seem to have dated, and it’s heavily laden with extras.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Shooting, scuffling and explosions.
Sex/Nudity: Some implied, off-camera rumpy pumpy.
Swearing: “Say hello to King Tut, asshole.”
Summary: A Marmite franchise, and the film has its ups and downs. Love it or hate it, though, this is a fantastic edition of the movie. 8/10
Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde
Starring: Ralph Bates, Martine Beswicke, Gerald Sim
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Optimum Home Entertainment

Available Now
Review by Blake Harmer

Dr. Jekyll discovers that the key to making an elixir of life lies within female hormones, but when trying his elixir, he accidentally turns himself into a beautiful but evil woman. However, as the morgue runs out of bodies he can use for science, he must murder women for their hormones whilst eluding the police using his newly found alter ego. But is Dr Jekyll in control, or will Sister Hyde take over his body forever?

There is no need to read the above paragraph again; it is indeed the plot of this Hammer horror film, and whilst the film does try and take itself seriously, there is no denying the fact that it is stupid. As is the concept of making Dr Jekyll a Jack the Ripper style whore-stabber and then making him change into a man or a woman when the plot needed him or her to be. In fact, I can happily say that I predicted when he would change form at every single moment of the film just because it seemed necessary or awkward to protagonist for it to happen. Chuck in some poor acting, and some errors such as the mole on Dr Jekyll being on the other side of Sister Hyde’s face and you have a terrible horror movie.

However, the film does have a couple of saving graces. For example, unlike other Hammer productions, such as Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires which attempts to marry vampires with kung-fu, Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde actually succeeds in its marriage of a slasher murder movie with mild cross-dressing humour.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Some pretty poor murder scenes that normally lead to blood splashing up a wall and a scream.
Sex/Nudity: You do get to see Sister Hyde’s boobs, which would be great if it weren’t for the fact that you know she will change back into a man any second.
Swearing: None, which is pretty lame compared to modern horror films.
Summary: A poor and badly dated horror movie, which is sadly a lot better than some other Hammer produced movies I have seen. However, unless you want a movie to take the mick out of with a few friends, I can’t really recommend this to you, and even then there are better movies to mock than this. 5/10


1321.

Fear is a question of what you believe. And belief could be the death of you.

In the heart of the countryside lies an isolated village, where pagan Owl Masters rule through fear, superstition and murder.

When a group of religious women ill-advisedly settles outside the village, they awaken dangerous jealousies. Why do their crops succeed? How do their cattle survive the plague? Are they concealing a holy relic that protects them from harm?

The Owl Masters cry "witchcraft" and sharpen their talons. As tormet and hellfire rain down, the women must take a stand to stop this darkness from spreading its evil across the land.

The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland (author of Company of Liars) is out now from Penguin.

Thanks to our friends at Penguin, we've got a copy of The Owl Killers to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to owlkillersgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk with your name and postal address before midday on Saturday 24th April (UK time). The first name drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

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