Saturday 3 July 2010

DVD Reviews

Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Rosario Dawson, Logan Lerman
Director: Chris Columbus
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Review by Brad Harmer

Trouble-prone teen Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out school - but that's the least of his problems. The gods of Mount Olympus and assorted monsters seem to have walked out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology texts and into his life - and they're not happy. Zeus' lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Now, Percy and his friends must embark on a cross-country adventure to catch the true thief, save Percy's family, and unravel a mystery more powerful than the gods themselves.

The effects look good, the monsters look good, and the premise is an interesting one. It’s just a shame that the important things like character and story are added as afterthoughts. None of the character, from Percy to Chiron the Centaur, have any real personality; so when they’re in mortal danger it’s pretty hard to give a crap about them.

One of the main problems is that every single adventure on the group’s quest to discover the lightning bolt is overlong and hammy. The segment in the casino? Ten minutes too long, predicatable and painful. The section with Uma Thurman as a gorgon? Way, way too hammy and irritating. There are plot holes you can drive a truck through, and the character decisions are frequently stupid and annoying.

Steve Coogan plays the Big, Bad Evil Guy in what is possibly one of the worst casting choices ever. It’s very hard to take Hades seriously as a bad guy when he sounds like Alan Partridge.

If I sound too down on this movie, rest assured that it’s not that bad. The effects are fun, and I think that a sequel (should there be one) would have the potential to be really good, now that the scene setting is over with. Kids will probably like this, but it’s just too simple and riddled with plot holes to entertain adults.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Sword fighting and decapitation.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A decidedly average fantasy movie, with too many plot holes and inconsistencies. May be good Bank Holiday TV viewing, but don’t part with your cash for it. 6/10

Battle for Terra
Starring: Justin Long, Luke Wilson, Evan Rachel Wood
Director: Aristomenis Tsirbas
Universal Pictures UK

Available from 5th July - £12.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

When the peaceful inhabitants of the beautiful planet Terra come under attack from the last surviving members of humanity adrift in an aging spaceship, the stage is set for an all-out war between the two species for control of the planet. But will an unlikely friendship between rebellious young Terrian Mala and an injured human pilot somehow convince their leaders that war is not the answer?

I’m not convinced this was supposed to be a mockbuster, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feel like one. It feels like a badly animated CG mash-up of Avatar, District 9 and Planet 51 – made cute for younger viewers, of course. Can you imagine showing a small kid District 9? Jesus...

Anyway, the story itself is pretty crappy – the sort of thing that you’d “meh” your way through in a compilation of sci-fi short stories, with the added bonus that the good guys all look like Emo tapeworms. With phoned in voice acting, paper thing characterisations, and a conveniently cloudy planet so that the animators don’t have to do too much background work, this belongs firmly in the bargain bin.

The ending is actually something of a surprise, but by then it’s too little too late to save the rest of the movie. Not even the combined efforts of Dennis Quaid, Danny Glover and Ron Perlman can save Battle for Terra from the Land of Mediocrity. Avoid.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of spaceship combat, laser firing and explosions. Blood. Asphyxiation.
Sex/Nudity: Partial male nudity.
Swearing: The racial slur for a Terrian is a “Floater”. Just one more example of unintentional hilarity in Battle for Terra.
Summary: A flat and lifeless animation that leaves the viewer disassociated and bored. One to be avoided. 3/10

Resurrecting The Street Walker
Starring: Lorna Beckett, James Powell, Tom Shaw
Director: Ozgur Uyanik
Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment

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

Whilst documenting his life as a lowly intern, James Parker uncovers the long forgotten film The Street Walker. Desperate to make a mark on the film industry and to prove his ever- doubting parents wrong, James endeavours to complete the unfinished horror movie, resulting in a murderous obsession. Delving into the past world of 'snuff-movies' and the modern trials and tribulations of internships and making it big, James' genius and madness is captured on tape by friend and documentary maker Marcus. Unbeknown to those around him James declines so far in to the fantasy world of Street Walker that he is unable to untangle himself from the mystery he uncovers whilst resurrecting the film relic. For James, the there is only one way out, and for some there is no escape...

Rather than using the ‘found footage’ approach of movies such as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, Resurrecting The Street Walker instead plays upon it. By making the found footage the subject, rather than the medium, we’re able to witness just how much madness and carnage the movie creates. Taking its inspiration from Chamber’s The King In Yellow, The Street Walker slowly brings darkness and madness with it.

The acting is superb, the pacing amazing and – especially considering the budget – the editing, music and production is fantastic. If you’re looking for the sort of thing I mean when I go off on one about how “if you can see past the re-makes and sparkly vampires the horror genre is the best it’s been since the 1980s”, then check out Resurrecing The Street Walker.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several snuff-movie like depictions of murder, some scuffling.
Sex/Nudity: Some relatively graphic sex scenes, possibly rape.
Swearing: Realistic, but frequent.
Summary: A strong, grim slice of real horror nastiness. If Death Metal was a movie, it’d be Resurrecting The Street Walker. 10/10

The Spaghetti Westerns Collection
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Klaus Kinski, Eli Wallach
Director: Sergio Leone
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Available Now - £44.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Blake Harmer

Everyone who is emotionally fourteen knows that Clint Eastwood is awesome. So it is a time of great rejoicing as some of his finest westerns have come out in a lush Blu-Ray set.

The boxset, which contains The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, has each of the films crammed with extras and each of them given a visual overhaul for the High Definition age. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, whilst already been released on Blu-Ray has the best conversion, with crisp visuals, excellent sound and just being a bollockingly awesome film overall.

However, the other two films, whilst showing an improvement, have not been cleaned up to the same degree. The blacks are not as crisp and the picture can seem a little grainy at times. However, considering the age of the films they still have been cleaned up well.

At the end of the day, this boxset is a sterong collection of mind blowing films, but if you already own them on DVD, it really depends on how much you love the films and their extras to decide if you really want to rebuy this.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of violence and shooting.
Sex/Nudity: Several mild references to sex and rape, but no actual nudity.
Swearing: Some swearing but nothing overly impressive.
Summary: An excellent collection of films and with some good restoration to HD awesomeness. If you don’t own these films you really should. But if you already do, there’s only the extras that warrant the need to repurchase this, and it is that that stops this collection being truly essential. 9/10

The Dam Busters
Starring: Ursula Jeans, Michael Redgrave, Richard Todd
Director: Michael Anderson
Optimum Home Entertainment

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

Dr Barnes Wallis was possessed with a seemingly crazy idea - the creation of a bouncing bomb, designed to destroy the Ruhr dams and paralyse the enemy's industrial nerve centre. He fought persistent scepticism and disbelief that such a feat was possible though even with the matchless skill of RAF Wing Commander Guy Gibson and his squadron could such a mission succeed?

The reason so many war/biopic movies have fallen by the wayside whilst The Dam Busters remains an unforgettable classic is due to one simple thing: all of the characters are loveable. They’re not just likeable, they’re loveable. Wallis isn’t just some scientist trying to show everyone the new tactic for killing as many Germans as possible – he’s presented as a real everyman hero. It’s hard not to cheer when he gets the funding for the bouncing bomb, or punch the air when his prototype finally works. Gibson’s crew are similarly fun characters. It’s hard not to want to be one of them. This is what makes The Dam Busters such an essential movie.

The remastering on this release is simply the best I have ever seen. We were only able to view the DVD version, but running through a DVD upscaler at 1080p, the picture looked flawless – almost as clear as a good Blu-ray picture. If you love this movie – and if you’re an British male, chances are you some fond memory of it – then this is the edition that you’ve been waiting for.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some shooting and explosions.
Sex/Nudity: Nigger is naked for the entire movie.
Swearing: The dog’s name is Nigger. Technically not swearing, but I kind of like it anyway.
Summary: Still a real classic. A real boys film, most likely, but the remastering job is first rate. 10/10

City of the Living Dead
Starring: Christopher George, Katherine MacColl, John Morghen
Director: Lucio Fulci
Arrow Video

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD) & £22.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Blake Harmer

There are few who can deny that Lucio Fulci is an awesome director when it comes to horror movies, especially with his masterpiece Zombie Flesh Eaters being one of the greatest zombie movies of all time. However, can City of the Living Dead, Fulci’s most recent horror movie to be given the Blu-ray update, live up to such a great movie?

Sadly, the answer is no. The film is rifled with flaws, most notably the film's confusing plot, which has a portal to hell opening up in the small American town of Dunwich after the local priest commits suicide there. This leads to the dead rising and magically appearing out of nowhere to eat people’s brains. Whilst this is acceptable for most horror films, what isn’t are the bizarre moral choices made by the characters, such as a man trying to free a woman who has been mistakenly buried alive by trying to break open the coffin with a pickaxe, which almost leads to the woman having a third eye socket. The end of the film is also confusing and will most likely have you screaming at the TV for an explanation...but whether this is down to poor storytelling or dubbing is hard to tell.

The conversion to Blu-ray is also a disappointment, with textures still feeling grainy and not a huge leap forward from the DVD version.

However, there are good things to be said for this release. The sound quality has been improved, and there are a wealth of extras to keep even the most bloodthirsty of zombie fans occupied. The film also has some great set pieces and some incredibly gory moments, such as a man having a drill poked through his skull. Also, the zombies still look as great as they first did and look genuinely terrifying thanks to some great uses of make up and prosthetics that even put most modern day zombie movies to shame.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of violence and gore with lots of brains, organs and body parts on show as the zombies tear their way through the cast.
Sex/Nudity: Several mild references to sex and rape, but no actual nudity.
Swearing: Some swearing but nothing overly impressive.
Summary: An enjoyable albeit heavily flawed horror film that will please most zombie fans. However, the update to Blu-ray has not been kind to this thirty year old film, so unless you are keen to get hold of the extras, you will probably be better off sticking with the DVD release. 6/10

1 comment:

  1. Nigger for a dog name? I didn't know this one, I will add it to my lists:
    Dog names