Saturday 10 July 2010

DVD Reviews

Green Zone
Starring: Matt Damon, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson
Director: Paul Greengrass
Available from 12th July - £19.99 (DVD) and £24.99 (Blu-Ray)
Review by Rob Wade

Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller is a soldier in the US army’s WMD division, charged with the task of finding WMD in Iraq following the deposition of Saddam Hussein. After a series of fruitless intelligence tip-offs, Miller begins to question the validity of their sources and is introduced to Martin Brown, a CIA officer who is beginning to feel the same way. Together, they enter into what they soon realise is a much bigger problem than originally thought…

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this movie was another cynical conspiracy theory movie perpetrated by those with an agenda or a grudge against the US for their part in the Iraq war, but in doing so you’d be ignoring one of the smartest war dramas I’ve ever had the privilege of watching.

The story is really well done, with just the right level of information being passed to you at all times. The plot doesn’t really deal in twists so much as gradually releasing information. In fact, the closest thing to what could be considered a twist is revealed so naturally that although you may have seen it coming, it’s not annoying to you in the least when it comes.

Also, the acting performances in this movie are superb. Matt Damon of course puts in a solid performance as Miller, the soldier involved in all this. Also of note is Greg Kinnear, putting in a really strong showing as Poundstone, the blindly loyal US government official striving to install a US-friendly Iraqi as the country’s leader. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Jason Isaacs make an appearance as a Special Forces soldier of particular importance to the plot.

It’s not all awesome-sauce though. While the plot is extremely well-done, it’s not strictly original in the truest sense, as it’s not the first war movie that’s touched on the subject of the Iraq war, nor is it the first movie about a big conspiracy theory. This movie is a good example of both of these things, as the realism is definitely there, but ultimately the film isn’t totally innovative.

Also, I have this hatred of journalists in movies, as they always seem to be rat characters who break the rules and risk everyone’s lives in order to get a good story. Also, they’re usually total hypocrites, who want characters to dish the dirt on everything under the sun, but when it comes back around on them, fob off with “oh, I can’t talk about my sources”. Regrettably, there is a journalist character of this type in the movie, and I spent a large portion of it hoping her character would get killed in some big accident or something.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Plenty of gunfire, bombs, fist fights and a rocket launcher.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A few uses of “fuck”, “son of a bitch” and “shit”. They are at war though.
Summary: A really strong performance by all of the cast, and the result is one of the smartest war films in quite some time. 9/10
Dragonblade: The Beginning
Director: Anthony Szeto
Eagle One Media

Available Now - £9.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Since time immemorial, a legend has been passed down about a weapon of ultimate power. Bestowing invincibility in battle, it is a blade which may only be wielded by the pure of heart and spirit. For untold generations, warriors have sought to discover its hiding place, a place so secret and fraught with danger that no one who has gone in search of it has prevailed. This ultimate weapon is known by the name of DragonBlade.

The film follows Lang, a teenage martial arts fanatic who embarks on a quest to find the legendary DragonBlade to save the people of his hometown from a terrifying monster.

I knew something was off with this from the beginning. For starters, either this is the worst picture resolution I’ve ever seen on a DVD, or I’m suffering from a really nasty cataract. All of the CG is painfully cheap – like what you’d expect to see in a cut-scene of a Nintendo Gamecube game, dodgy collision detection and all.

The story itself is woefully weak. I’m aware kung-fu movies generally follow a pattern, but there’s a difference between obeying the conventions of the genre, and staggering blindly into the realms of cliché. And the referencing of other movies as a little side joke for the grown-ups pitiably roped into watch this turd grew very tiresome very quick. I smirked at a little at the well-timed and appropriate “Boards don’t hit back.”, but the rest of them were completely irrelevant and crammed in for no good reason at all.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some cartoon violence and kung-fu.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A poorly put together and shoddily animated dose of fantasy adventure. All promise it has is wasted in the execution. 2/10
WWE: Wrestlemania 26
Starring: John Cena, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker
Clear Vision

Available Now - £29.99 (3 x DVD Set) & £34.99 (3 x Blu-ray Set)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

Each and every year WWE attempts to blow the roof off with Wrestlemania. Imagine the World Cup Final, the Super bowl or...Wimbledon? That’s Wrestlemania.

The opening match is R-Truth and John Morrison VS. The Miz and Big Show? Oh dear. In fairness the tag-title match is fine, the crowd are excited, nothing goes wrong. Putting Big Slow in with 3 cruiserweights just doesn’t make sense.

Next is Ted DiBiase Jr. VS. Cody Rhodes VS Randy Orton. Good story coming into the match about the slow decline of the Legacy stable as DiBiase and Rhodes turned on their leader. The crowd in attendance love Randy as he battles with a 2 on 1 beat down. Unfortunately, I find everyone very bland. Rhodes is a cookie-cutter wrestler and Orton’s offence DiBiase shows promise, but he’s not his dad.

“HOLY FUCKING HELL! BODIES! EVERYWHERE!” is what I found myself saying during the 10-man Money In The Bank match. The briefcase above the ring contains a Championship match at the holder’s leisure, and Kofi Kingston, MVP, Evan Bourne, Jack Swagger, Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Kane and Christian attempt to ignore gravity (and spinal injuries) in order to obtain it. Queue falling bodies, flying ladders and all kinds of chaos. Highlights include Evan’s “AirBourne” shooting-star-press off a ladder and Kingston deciding that regular ladder-climbing is for wimps, and stilt-walks on two halves of a broken one instead. It may be stereotyping, but it is funny as hell.

Antonio Inoki and Ted DiBiase Snr. are inducted into the Hall of Fame. If that means nothing to you, how do you know what wrestling is?

Next up, everybody’s favourite pale, ginger turd of a wrestler, Sheamus, is guided by Triple H. To be fair, Trips drags a half-decent match out of Turdman, which is impressive.

CM Punk takes on Rey Mysterio next, with the stipulation that if ReyRey loses, he joins Punk’s Straight Edge Society. Punk’s promo is predictably awesome, and Rey is dressed as a blue-dude from Avatar. Nice little match that could have used five more minutes.

Everybody reading should know the history between Brett Hart and Vince McMahon. I’m not going to sully the good pages of E14 by describing it, or this abortion of a match that is marred by the legitimate fact that if Hart wrestles, he loses his disability claim with his insurance firm. Yes, it’s a big deal that Brett is in WWE, but this would have been more entertaining if Brett and Vince had taken turns shitting in the ring and building dirty snowmen out of it. (Is that how they made Sheamus?)

As if to apologise to the whole of Canada, Chris Jericho and Edge wrestle for the World Heavyweight Championship in a corker of a match, that is as dramatic as it is athletic.

There’s ten women in the ring. What are they doing? Oh, it’s a tag match, they’re trying to wrestle. They’re failing. Because they aren’t Japanese.

Next up Batista drops John Cena on his head and injures him. They carry on. It’s ok, I guess. I wasn’t expecting Super-J Cup ‘95 workrate here, so this is actually quite good considering both of these guys should always be carried by an experienced veteran.

Talking of veterans, Shawn Michaels puts his career on the line against Undertaker’s 17-0 Wrestlemania streak in the first main event in years that didn’t feature a Championship. It almost matches their other scrap in terms of drama and *SPOILER(Highlight to read)* is a fantastic send off for HBK. The end sequence makes both men look brilliant. ‘Taker is sympathetic, but knows what he has to do, and Shawn, knowing he has nothing left, goes out in a blaze of glory. *END SPOILER*. This match is amazing.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: Ladders and people done got broked!
Sex/Nudity: Big Show has MASSIVE nipples.
Swearing: Nope.
Summary: Not the best Wrestlemania, but the ’Taker/HBK match and the ridiculous amount of extras on the 3 discs may just cover. 8/10
Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, Carl Weathers
Director: John McTiernan
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Available Now - £22.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

It sees the heat of their bodies. It smells their fears. It hunts for sport. It kills for pleasure. In a place without rules - the hunter has become the hunted. Deep inside the jungles of Latin America, Schwarzenegger's team of elite commandos are being slaughtered by a mysterious predator. No longer are they hunters - they are the prey... of an alien whose only instinct is to kill. One by one it strikes with inhuman ferocity. Now to survive, with the jungle as their only ally, they face their greatest challenge: to stay alive.

Predator is tied in with my childhood, and it cannot be separated. When I was about nine or ten, I reckon this got watched about three times a month. That and Commando. And The Running Man. And Total Recall. There’s probably link there somewhere.

Predator is timeless, because it taps into the three most important elements in any movie for those who call themselves emotionally fourteen: monsters, guns and quotable lines. It has well timed moments of suspense. It has adrenaline fuelled action sequences, complete with miniguns. Stan Winston’s amazing prosthetic and gore work looks fresh here, and miles better than the crud being churned out by KNB today.

This Blu-ray edition (the second for Predator), is simply superb. The picture is one of the sharpest Blu-rays I’ve ever seen, with the colours looking vibrant, and the blacks solid. There’s no motion jerk, no pixellation and everything’s simply the best it can be. This is one of the best action movies ever made given the HD treatment it deserves. The extras are fun, informative, behind the scenes documentaries, a commentary...and preview of Predators.

Oh, and a trailer at the start indicates that some “friends” of the Predators will be getting a Blu-Ray release later this year. And that’s something to look forward to.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Military execution, several protracted scenes of gunplay, stabbing, someone gets clubbed round the head with a gun, evisceration, detailed blood and gore.
Sex/Nudity: Several jokes about “pussies”.
Swearing: Relatively frequent.
Summary: A fantastic movie, given a truly amazing HD makeover. And a bargain price too. If you’ve got a Blu-ray player, this is essential. This stuff’ll make you into a goddamn sexual Tyrannosaurus. 10/10

Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days
One is a flawed mercenary, the other is a medicated psychopath. What could possibly go wrong? Kane and Lynch 2 sees the dysfunctional pair reunited for another gun-toting, action-packed romp. This time around, the two vigilantes are brought together by a job gone wrong.

We had the chance to play the demo due for release later this year on Xbox Live, and had a play with the main story mode as well as the Arcade mode which pits AI-controlled criminals (with yourself amongst their ranks) against some enemies and rewards you with cash for kills and pickups, that you can spend on better guns in between rounds of combat. NOTE: Due to Xbox Live connection issues, we weren't able to access the Multiplayer modes available.

The story mode sees Kane and Lynch running through the streets of Shanghai, contending with police in riot gear after they’re ambushed at a noodle bar. The story mode plays out really well, and there are some really nice touches to the visuals and gameplay that make the game feel realistic and gritty. Camera controls, especially, are nicely done; when walking along the camera pans normally, but when you sprint the camera bobs up and down a little faster to illustrate speed.

The game looks pretty good, with nice smooth edges on everything, and the environments are nicely rendered and look sufficiently glitzy while at the same time lived in. One of the biggest mistakes that developers can make is to make a game’s environments look too polished, and the better more immersive games balance this with a sense of realism, and in this sense Kane & Lynch 2 works well.

Controls are pretty sensible and responsive, aiming and firing is mapped to the left and right triggers respectively, as is standard in most action games, but the new button-based cover system is really well done, and the environments are destructible - meaning you don’t get into the habit of staying behind the same cover for ages. It’s a nice touch, and makes for a more real experience.

Arcade mode is a good blast of quick fun as well, with points being racked up for killing enemies (and comrades, although this will make everyone else turn on you pretty quickly – there are cash rewards for killing a ‘traitor’) and picking up drops. It’s fun, fast-paced and is probably even more fun in multi-player.
Of course, this is merely a demo, and the game is far from fully polished. Characters disappear into each other when they occupy the same space, and at one point the sound dropped out completely during one of my games. This game is definitely showing some serious promise, however, and fans of the original will be pleased to hear that the game is shaping up pretty well indeed as it stands, and looks to have improved on the previous game.

Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is scheduled for release on August 27th 2010 for PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3
Pre-order the Xbox 360 version Here
Pre-order the Playstation 3 version Here
Pre-order the PC version Here
For more information about the game, see The game’s official website or keep checking back here at E14 for further updates!

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