Saturday, 11 September 2010

DVD Reviews

Defendor
Starring: Kat Dennings, Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas
Director: Peter Stebbings
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Available Now - £13.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson) doesn't need superpowers or fancy toys to fight crime. Armed only with a childlike sense of wonder and his quirky arsenal of cheap, homemade gadgets, he becomes Defendor! He finds an unexpected partner when he rescues and falls for a local prostitute (Kat Dennings), but can the two of them take down the city's most fearsome crime boss without getting killed in the process?

At times moving, cute, hilarious and psychopathically violent, Defendor is one of those films that you wish had been more successful. It’s the sort of movie that you find tucked away in a little corner somewhere, and then have to show to everyone (Outlander Syndrome). The acting is phenomenal across the board, especially from the three main leads – Harrelson, Dennings, and that guy who always turns up in lots of different things but you’ll always think of as Casey Jones from the first Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles movie.

By boiling down the superhero genre to what it really should be about (standing up for good no matter what the adversity may be), rather than all the “gritty reboot” stuff that stuck like barnacles post The Dark Knight Returns, Defendor has managed to subvert the genre back to its roots, and if you’re a superhero fan, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Torture, several fights with melee weapons, guns, angry wasps, stabbing.
Sex/Nudity: One attempted blow-job.
Swearing: Strong and frequent.
Summary: A great superhero movie that boils the genre down to what is really should be about, without falling into any of its clich├ęs. 9/10
Black Lightning
Starring: Grigory Dobrygin, Ekaterina Vilkova
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Universal Pictures

Available Now - £12.99 (DVD) & £15.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

A student’s life turns upside down when he discovers the battered old car his father gave him can fly…After his entire world falls apart he makes a choice and shoots from zero to hero as a crime fighter known as Black Lightning. Little does he know that evil forces are watching... they want the incredible car and will stop at nothing to get it, even if it means killing him and destroying the city.

Black Lightning looks great, and has a pretty cool gimmicky twist on the superhero story. The effects are nice too, with some fun and percussive explosions and crashes. If you like the action movies fast and loud, then Black Lightning won’t disappoint on that score.

It’s when you dig a little deeper, however, that the dings and scratches on Black Lightning’s chassis begin to show. For all the shiny veneer, this is just a superhero movie that you’ve seen a million times over since Tim Burton’s Batman. Hell, I was calling the protagonist Peter Parker in my head all the time I was watching it. With a bit of a stretch he could have been bitten by a radioactive Alfa Romeo Spider.

If you like action movies or superhero smashy-smashy, then this is worth a rental, but it’s definitely a case of try before you buy.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some fighting, stabbing, shooting and explosions.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Some mild.
Summary: An enjoyable enough superhero movie that, despite a decent facelift, is still the same old story we’ve seen a hundred times before. 6/10
Sherlock
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves
2Entertain

Available Now - £19.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

John Watson: doctor, soldier, war hero, lost soul. Fresh from fighting the war in Afghanistan, a chance encounter brings him into the world of Sherlock Holmes; loner, detective and genius. A woman in pink lies murdered in an abandoned house.

Inspector Lestrade is the best Scotland Yard has got, but he knows he’s nothing compared Holmes. He can tell a software designer by his tie, an airline pilot by his thumb. He has a unique analytical brain unlike anyone else in the world, who earns his living and staves off boredom by solving crimes. The weirder and the more baffling the better…

Bringing the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle into a modern day setting is a really interesting concept - but does it work? I have seen so many plays and films that have been adapted to the future to be able to say that it is a really hard thing to do with any kind of degree of success. To do it properly, you have to change their conceived forms of propriety and transfer them to modern concepts of living. This is made harder by the fact that we are living in a world where science is so far advanced that we have specialist forensic teams and access to computers and the Internet. What made the Sherlock Holmes stories so special was the fact that they were written in the late 1800’s where there was no such thing as DNA profiling. When you take this man out of his original setting and place them in to our current time frame, he ceases to be special.

By taking it out of its time it has lost a lot of its charm. For example, when Dr Watson meets Ms Morstan in The Sign of the Four he instantly fell for her but there was a real issue surrounding the possibility of them being together due to their statures in society - largely dominated by their society’s views surrounding wealth. However, in the new Sherlock when Watson meets Sarah, this aspect of their relationship is not covered because of our preconceptions of wealth have changed.

On another note the acting is really rather good and Benedict Cumberbatch (His parents should be shot for giving his this name. Have they no shame? I would rather be called Um Fou Fou than fucking Benedict Cumberbatch!) is an excellent Sherlock Holmes (and he is also rather good looking...but I think I fancy him less now I know his name is Benedict Cumberbatch). Surpisingly there is no hammy acting like we have come to expect of BBC TV series... looking at you Dr Who!

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Plenty of gun shots, poisoning and fist fights.
Sex/Nudity: Mild petting (tee hee).
Swearing: None of note.
Summary: An interesting adaption of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories...it just doesn’t feel it quite lives up to them though. 6/10
Going Postal
Starring: Richard Coyle, Claire Foy, David Suchet
Director: Jon Jones
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Available Now - £19.99 (DVD), £24.99 (2 DVD Special Edition) & £28.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Suddenly, condemned arch-swindler Moist von Lipwig finds himself with a noose around his neck and dropping through a trapdoor into...a government job? By all rights, Moist should be meeting his maker rather than being offered a position as Postmaster by Lord Vetinari (a superbly cast Charles Dance), supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork.

Getting the moribund Postal Service up and running again, however, may prove an impossible task, what with literally mountains of decades-old undelivered mail clogging every nook and cranny of the broken-down post office. Worse still, Moist could swear the mail is talking to him. Worst of all, it means taking on the gargantuan, greedy Grand Trunk Clacks communication monopoly and its bloodthirsty piratical headman. But if the bold and undoable are what's called for, Moist's the man for the job--to move the mail, continue breathing, get the girl, and specially deliver that invaluable commodity that every being, human or otherwise, requires: hope.

The first thing that struck me about Going Postal is how brilliantly cast it was. In addition to Charles Dance, Richard Coyle (best known as Geoff in Coupling) is an amazing Lipwig, Claire Foy makes suitably harsh Adora Belle Dearheart and Andrew Sachs as Groat is an amazing role for an amazing comedy actor.

The laughs come pretty much as you would expect for Pratchett, a great blending of word-play and situation comedy that not many others can do this well. It’s a fun, comedy/fantasy ride, and the set-design looks pretty much as you’d expect Ankh-Morpork to.

The only real let-down is the abominable effects on Mr Pump, the golem. He looks spongier and foamier than The Thing in the Fantastic Four movies. Is it really so hard to make something that looks like rock? The character is endearing, don’t get me wrong, but he looks bad. And short.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some scuffling. Executions.
Sex/Nudity: Kissing. Adora Belle Dearheart gives a horse a dominatrix-like talking to.
Swearing: Very mild British slang (“bugger”, etc.).
Summary: A great adaptation of a good book. No prior knowledge is assumed, and the end result is a good fantasy/comedy for everyone. 8/10
WWE - The Best PPV Matches of the Year: 2009/2010
Silver Vision
Available Now - £29.99 (3 DVD Set & Double-disc Blu-ray)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

The aim of wrestlers is to get on pay-per-view. (Apart from me. All I want is an Omer Ibrahim action figure...) Not only does it give a higher profile position, but it also affords a higher pay-day. This pay-day is repeated when the event makes it on to DVD.

The stars on this DVD struck gold as WWE collects together the “best” matches of the 2009/2010 period (a WWE year starts the day after Wrestlemania, so March-April) and slathers them over three discs.

Of the fifteen matches included, in the grand scheme of wrestling, only five of them could actually be labelled “best”.

Christian fights for Jack Swagger’s ECW Championship from Backlash 2009 in a innovative and dramatic match. “Captain Charisma” doesn’t carry Swagger here, he seems to be comfortable and talented enough to keep up with the veteran. It’s no wonder that he scored the Heavyweight Championship later in the year.

Two months later, at The Bash, Rey Mysterio wagers his mask against Chris Jericho’s Intercontinental Championship. The pair of travelled veterans raise the diluted profile of the Championship by entering this stunning contest. Jericho wrestles with a vigour that he hasn’t displayed in years, and Mysterio brings back moves that the younger WWE fans wont have seen him perform before.

Jeff Hardy and CM Punk fall off of ladders, go through tables and crack each other with chairs in a TLC Match for the Heavyweight Championship from Summerslam in an innovative stunt fest. Both men were sore the next day, that’s for sure.

At Hell in a Cell, Legacy (Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes) take on D-Generation X (Triple H and Shawn Michaels) in a Hell in a Cell brawl that is less a match, and more of an incredibly told story. There’s a reason that playing the down-beaten hero on the brink of defeat is called “doing a Shawn Michaels”, and he displays it perfectly here.

And just to prove that he doesn’t just do this, he goes toe to toe with The Undertaker at Wrestlemania as he pits his career against The Phenom’s undefeated streak. Though maybe not quite on par with their 2008 show stealer, this is two men who know their trade unlike anybody else, putting on an example of pro-wrestling at its best.

There’s plenty of footage from John Cena, Randy Orton and Edge, among others, and while matches such as Cena and Orton’s I Quit contest from Breaking Point are enjoyable, they fall flat on one aspect or another (usually Cena wrestling like a cartoon character and mounting super-human comebacks after soaking up a battering. Even Hulk Hogan wasn’t this bad.).

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
No blood here in WWE!
Sex/Nudity: Two divas roll around in cake. One of them is in a fat suit. Japan...
Swearing: Nope.
Summary: A good enough collection. Worth getting if you want a few good matches from the year, but avoid if you have more than a couple of the matches already. 8/10
Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 1
Director: Hayato Date
Starring: Kate Higgins, Maile Flanagan & Yuri Lowenthal
Manga Video
Available now, RRP £24.99
Review by Rob Wade

Naruto Shippuden tells the story of Naruto, a young ninja hoping to become one of the legendary Hokage. The story begins two years after the terminus of the previous series arc, much like some of its contemporaries have done, such as Ben 10. Naruto must now prove that his training has not been in vain, while at the same time dealing with his feelings regarding his missing friend Sasuke and his inability to defeat him when required.

Confusingly, if you’ve never watched a Naruto series before, this box set actually isn’t the first bit of the series, as in this particular canon the last five episodes of the first arc are considered part of the continuity. Just a caveat, in case you’re looking at using this series as a jumping-on point. Thankfully, aside from that first five minutes linking into the previous episodes, the rest of the series is more forgiving.

Unsurprisingly, the series is almost identical to the previous iterations thematically and visually. Characters are largely unchanged, though the first couple of episodes go quite heavy on the “wow, they’ve really matured over two years during their adolescence” thing in order to drive it home that these characters aren’t supposed to be two-dimensional one-note jokes.

Thankfully, this series is actually pretty enjoyable, and much easier to get into than previous series I’ve reviewed. The new series comes with a new set of enemies, whose presence in episodes is secretive and intriguing, and the action involving the main characters is enjoyable with some moments worthy of a hearty chuckle.

That said, of course this series is going to be of considerably more interest to those who have invested heavily in the series before now. Having said that, this series is much better at starting you off with the necessary information to enjoy it effectively, without any prior knowledge beyond an understanding of the basic premise behind the first series.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : Quite a bit. It is a ninja show.
Sex/Nudity : None. Were you shocked by this? Really?
Swearing : None. See above.
Summary: Definitely more of a jumping-on point than previous series (aside from series one of the original series, obviously). 7/10


A PLAGUE OF HERETICS GIVEAWAY!

With the city of Exeter ravaged by an outbreak of the 'yellow plague', Sir John de Wolfe, the county coroner, must divide his time between visiting his sick brother, William, who has been struck down by the disease, and dealing with a series of brutal murders which appears to be linked to a revival of heresy in the city.

When some of the cathedral canons begin a crusade against this danger to the Church, Sir John finds himself accused of being too sympathetic to the heretics, bringing him into conflict with the ecclesiastic authorities. As the situation worsens, the coroner must seek sanctuary in order to save his skin. Can he survive long enough to unmask the real killer?

Thanks to our friends at Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books, we've got three copies of Bernard Knight's A Plague of Heretics to give away! For your chance of winning, send in your name and postal address to aplagueofhereticsgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk before midday on Saturday 18th September. The first three names pulled out of the electronic hat will win a copy each!

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