Saturday, 2 October 2010

DVD Reviews

Confucius
Starring: Chow Yun Fat, Yi Lu, Zhou Xun
Director: Mei Hu
Showbox Media Group

Available from Monday 4th October - £17.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Blake Harmer

Confucius, the new film starring Chow Yun-Fat is about - as you may have guessed from the title - the life the times of Confucius. When Confucius is made Minister of Law for the Kingdom of Lu, it flourishes but becomes the target for the warlike nation of Qi, and the people turn to Confucius to lead their army and he delivers a stunning victory against all odds. However, this upsets the aristocracy, who set out to destroy him.

Those expecting a high-octane adventure based on Chow Yun-Fat’s other works will be disappointed. The combat is few and far between all the political drivel, and when it does arrive, it relies on so much terrible CG that it is almost laughable in places. However, those who are expecting to see Confucius as an ideologist or a teacher will be disappointed to, as the most you see of this is in the form of his political decisions and a few proverbs to make him sound clever. The film also feels rushed in places and could have possibly benefited from being longer...as is proven in John Woo’s superb Red Cliff, which is also set in a similar historical setting.

The film does have it’s plus points however, Chow Yun-Fat does play Confucius well and demonstrates there is more to his acting ability than purely action and kung-fu films. The plot, whilst deep and intricate, is also strong enough to hold your interest throughout. However, these strengths can’t hide the niggles that plague the film from start to finish, and sadly it is these flaws that show up the strongest in the end.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Lots of death, blood and violence, although the poor CG ruin this mostly.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A film with lots of ambition, but fails on the execution. Some more development on the actual Confucius himself rather than shonky CG fighting and rushing through scenes would have made this a much better film and shown a much better depiction of the man himself rather than jus certain aspects of him. 5/10

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
Starring: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie
Director: Tom Six
Bounty Films

Available from Monday 4th October - £16.99 (DVD) & £19.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Two pretty - although slightly trashy - American girls on a road trip across Europe end up alone in the woods at night when their car breaks down in rural Germany. As they search for help they find an isolated house. Offering to call them a taxi, the house's owner Dr. Heiter, a retired surgeon, invites the girls inside with the promise of a drink and dry place to wait until help arrives. However they realise that there is something not quite right about the formidable Dr. Heiter...

As their demented host explains his twisted vision, the two girls discover that they are soon to become a lot closer to each other than they ever wanted to be. Heiter’s plan is to connect the two girls to each other with a third person, a hapless Japanese tourist, via their gastric systems in a daring bid to be the first person to create a Siamese triplet -bringing to life his sick lifetime fantasy The Human Centipede!

No, this is not a parody.

The Human Centipede is stunningly well executed. The acting is amazing from all parties, and the direction and editing give it a real sense of class. This looks great, and it’s – at its heart – a really, really nasty little movie. It’s grim. It’s vile. It’s hard to watch at times. If it was a band, it would be Cannibal Corpse.

Unfortunately, The Human Centipede’s batting average is not that good. For every single thing it does right, it does something else really stupid or really, really cheesy. As you can probably tell, mathematically that makes for an “average” movie. Also, it’s hard to get away from the fact that - whatever this movie does – at its centre is a really, really fucking stupid concept.

Also, Dr Hieter, the Big Bad Guy, lacks any motivation for the things he does. We’re given no backstory. Not explanation. Nothing. He is literally – and very, very disappointingly – mad for the sake of mad, and evil for the sake of evil.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several shootings, punching, kickings, and protracted scenes of medical torture.
Sex/Nudity: The Human Centipede is dressed in only underwear throughout the movie.
Swearing: Frequent and strong.
Summary: For every positive attribute, there is an equally strong negative. The lack of motivation from the Big Bad Evil Dude saps away too much emotional impact. Horror fans will get an evening’s enjoyment – and much discussion afterwards – with a rental of this, but most people should avoid. 5/10

The Sword With No Name
Starring: Jae-jin Baek, Jae-woong Choi, Seung-woo Cho
Director: Yong-gyun Kim
Showbox Media Group

Available Now - £17.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Kelly Prior

The Sword With No Name, also known as The Last Empress, tells the story of Moo-myeong, a young man who falls passionately in love with a young girl who goes on to become the Queen of Korea in the 19th Century and becomes known as Empress Myeongseong. Not wanting to be separated from her, Moo-myeong goes through a great deal to become a palace guard and, thus, be close to her. Eventually becoming her most trusted guard, he dedicates his life to protecting her against the rebels and attackers that want her assassinated. As rumours spread about their relationship and the politics of palace life become unbearable, the King begins to mistrust Moo-myeong and question his true intentions. Even when everyone turns against him and he is left disgraced, Moo-myeong will stop at nothing to protect his beloved queen.

While this film definitely prioritises its love story in favour of making a martial arts film with no depth, it still must be praised for its remarkable display of martial arts talent. Some fight scenes become almost like out of body experiences, as the characters are transported to isolated open plains, or battle grounds, in a similar vain to the Mortal Kombat fighting grounds. Twinned with the remarkable imagery that runs throughout this film, the fight scenes become breath taking moments of cinema. In one scene, the hero Moo-myeong takes on an entire army on his own. Because of the genuine talent of the actor playing him (Seung-woo Cho) this and other combat scenes really do seem genuine and believable.

Asian cinema always has brilliantly vibrant characters with exaggerated characteristics and personality. The Sword With No Name is no exception. The characters are wonderful and the musical score just adds to the perfection with its soulful and romantic sound. Some scenes are touching enough to bring a tear to your eye, and some a truly heart-renching. The historical accuracy and the attention to detail really make this a special and memorable viewing experience, with emphasis on the traditions and customs of Korea and the honour and loyalty that features so largely in this film. Not the sword slashing epic some may be anticipating, but more of a romantic Romeo and Juliet type love story for the ladies and the more sensitive men.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Martial Arts, lots of blood.
Sex/Nudity: Sexual scenes but nothing too graphic.
Swearing: None.
Summary: This is a film that both girl and guy can enjoy, she’ll get her soppy love story, and he’ll get some action thrown in. The perfect film for a night in on the sofa. 8/10

Army of the Dead
Starring: Ross Kelly, Stefani Marchesi, Miguel Martinez
Director: Joseph Conti
Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment

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

In 1590, a powerful Conquistador, Coronado, ordered a thousand of his most fearsome soldiers to find the legendary El Dorado - the lost city of gold. These men were never to return. Now, 400 years later, an adventurous archaeology professor and his students are exploring Mexico's Baja Peninsula and unwittingly wake a long dormant curse. Confronted by Coronado's long lost army - now a militia of skeleton warriors - the group find themselves in a life or death battle. But, how do you kill an army that is already dead?

Here follows my notes from whilst I was watching this movie. They sum up the genuine confusion, despair and drinkspitting much better than any mere “review” ever could.

0:09:54 – This is really low budget. The camera work is really shoddy. I mean, not Severed Ways shoddy, but it’s starting to give me a headache for sure.

0:18:43 – The screen play is actually okay, I guess. If you like hackneyed storylines and stupid, stupid dialogue. I’m going to my best to try and see through a budget that’s obviously less than I have in my wallet right now, but they’re sure not making it easy for me.

00:27:47 – Don’t ask me exactly how, but it’s getting worse. They’re trying to shoehorn in some human “bad guys”. Oh, no...wait...they’re dead now.

00:36:09 – This was better when it was a slasher movie. This has turned into a Indiana Jones conducting a really shitty Call of Cthulhu investigation.

00:45:41 – The fight scenes are awful. Truly, properly awful. I’ve seen shitty CG a hundred times before, but I’ve never seen poor collision detection in a movie before. The gore appears to have been done in MS Paint.

01:03:27 – Attempts at internal conflict are mere gestures. Everyone is very accepting of the idea of killer skeletons.

01:12:02 – When we see the skeletons, it looks awful. When we don’t, it looks stupid.

01:21:00 – Why are the skeletons hissing? What body part is doing that, exactly? This. Is. Wank.

01:30:00 – If you can accept the idea of electrocuting a skeleton until it explodes, this that’s a really clever ending.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several explosions, splatter movie style deaths, gunfire and bludgeoning.
Sex/Nudity: Some vague foreplay.
Swearing: Normal for the genre.
Summary: The sort of crap horror/action movie that you’ve seen a hundred times before...only with crappier special effects. Much crappier. 2/10

CSI - New York: Season 6
Starring: Gary Sinise, Carmine Giovinazzo, Hill Harper
Momentum Pictures

Available Now - £49.99 (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

CSI:NY opens its sixth season with the aftermath of a terrifying season cliffhanger: a drive-by shooting which has left one of the team members fighting for use of their legs (I won’t spoil it by telling you who and how they get on), and from there the team must contend with personal issues, as well as some of their most challenging cases yet, with a serial murderer who leaves compasses at the scene of the crime for no apparent reason…

As a fan of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, or CSI: Vegas as it’s more commonly known, I approached this review with almost no knowledge of the New York timeline save for a quick research session to familiarise myself with it before approaching the series. All I can say is…Wow.

One of the things that struck me straightaway about this series was that they only ever work on one case at a time, which was unusual to me as a fan of Team Grissom/Langston, as the team in that work on at least two unless it’s a particularly high-profile case or the cases cross over (which happens in the series significantly more than it must in real life, for sure). I thought I’d like this less, as it might get boring over the course of a 45 minute episode, but actually it works in its own way. When it comes to the episodes and plot lines spread over multiple episodes (such as the aforementioned “Compass Killer” series), the series definitely benefits from having more of a focus.

Another good thing about this series is that the characters, while maybe not any more developed than the characters in other CSI franchises, don’t have their backstory shoved down your throat every bloody week. We get it: Catherine’s a single mother who used to be a stripper in CSI: Vegas. Horatio Caine really likes taking off sunglasses in CSI: Miami. These things are clear enough to us without having to be reminded every other episode. Characters in this series are much more well-rounded, with the only real running theme the “will they-won’t they” cliffhanger of whether the shot character ends up requiring a wheelchair.

Having said that, the show does suffer from certain clich├ęs inherent in the series. Musical interludes depicting lengthy research procedures still dominate, and to a point characters are still within that protective bubble that you expect from a TV series about a recurring cast. Overall, though, the series is well worth checking out if you’re a fan of the others, though you’re probably better off jumping on at series 1.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Lots of murders. It’d be pretty tedious otherwise.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: As with many traditional dramas, it’s really limited to ‘bastard’ and ‘god-damn’.
Summary: A great cast and some really good storytelling make this one of the most entertaining shows on TV, and certainly a contender for the better CSI story arcs. 8/10

WWE: Undertaker's Deadliest Matches
Starring: Mankind, The Ulimate Warrior, The Undertaker
Clear Vision

Available Now - £29.99 (3 DVD Set)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

“How can a wrestler peak 25 years into his career?”
-British wrestling star, Zack Sabre Jnr.

Sabre not only sums up The Undertaker’s career, but also this three disc compilation of his “deadliest matches.”

Saying “deadliest” instead of “best” works as it allows WWE to omit some of his choicest matches, available elsewhere, and include other, lesser known bouts.

Not always a good thing.

When Mark Calloway first entered the WWF as The Undertaker, he played a Zombie. Now, one of the key attributes of the living dead is that they move...very...slowly. I mean, they make Randy Orton look like Paula Radcliffe. Not that Orton has a habit of wetting himself. How did we get here? Anyway, The Undertaker is slow, is what I’m getting at. Very slow.

The first match is a Body Bag Match against The Ultimate Warrior. Apart from the sight of an absolutely bat-shit insane Warrior wiggling out of a body bag, it’s well worth missing. Also in this line of quality are the various Casket Matches against opponents like Kamala and King Mabel. The Inferno Match with Kane is mostly filler on an episode of RAW, and has aged.

The brawls in and out of the Boiler Room with Mankind are intense and hard hitting. They showcased the imagination of Foley and ‘Taker, and were ground-breaking in their day. This also applies to the Buried Alive match with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, a contest still holding its ground today.

Disc two starts slow with two matches against The Big Show that, apart from showcasing Show’s strength, don’t really go anywhere.

Then we skip five years.

Wait...what?

The DVD misses out the entire “American Badass/Big Evil” part of his career. Considering he had two “deadly” Hell in a Cell matches in that time, one of them the first ever 6-Man Hell In A Cell (against HHH, Angle, Rock, Austin and Rikishi), there is no reason to skip this era. We don’t even see him return as “The Deadman” against Kane at Wrestlemania XX, we just jump from June 7th 1999 to a nothing handicap match against The Dudleys on June 27th 2004. I know you have to skip certain matches to make an interesting compilation, but missing out five years is just stupid. He started using The Last Ride as a finisher in that time, for Foley’s sake.

We stumble through Casket Matches with Heidenreich and the father-son duo of Randy Orton and "Cowboy” Bob Orton before we reach a Hell in a Cell match between “The Phenom” and Randy Orton, which, although a slow starter, is a gripping contest.

Disc three picks up the pace in First Blood and Last Ride matches with Mr. Kennedy. Undi’ really works his gimmick in this feud. Tricks like showering Kennedy in blood on the ramp-way and doing the Deadman-Sit-Up-and-Face-of-Terror over his shoulder in the back of a hearse may not exactly be rasslin’, but they’re entertaining as hell!


The Last Man Standing match with Batista isn’t a patch on their ‘Mania clash, but is still exciting and dramatic, unlike a SmackDown! match with the hilariously obese Big Daddy V. Other than being the first time he used his Hell’s Gate submission, it must have been included so that we can laugh at all twenty-six pairs of V’s breasts. Who the hell took this guy’s shirt off? And where do they find the amount of oil that they need to cover him? It’s like they killed a whale and stapled bits of the flesh to him.

The collection rounds off with Hell In A Cell and Cage matches against Edge and Big Show, on the opposite ends of the quality scale. I’ll let you work out which way round...

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Blood, cages, blood, shovels, blood, fire, blood, JCB’s. And blood.
Sex/Nudity: Big Daddy V’s breasts are visible. If you squint real hard. In your nightmares.
Swearing: Nope.
Summary: This set could have been the definitive collection of a veteran of the sport, but instead is very hit and miss. The Badass exclusion is unforgivable, but for the WWE/Undertaker collector, this is a must-own. 8/10

WWE: Over The Limit 2010
Starring: Batista, John Cena, Randy Orton
Clear Vision

Available Now - £17.99 (DVD)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

This PPV screams “FILLER!”. There is only one great match on the card, and one other that could be considered “good”.

Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston tries to be good, but the sheer lack of emotion that McIntyre emits here sucks the life out of the match. Kingston is a bright, charismatic worker, and he deserves much better than this.

R-Truth vs. Ted DiBiase is also poor, probably because DiBiase suffered a concussion from a slap at the start of the match. How this happened, I’m not entirely sure, but I remember a thirty-three stone Pro-Boxer turned Pro-Wrestler telling me that if a ten stone man caught him in the “sweet spot” on the jaw, he’d go out like a big fat light. Still, it must have been a nasty shot, and kudos to DiBiase for finishing the match.

Up next is the best part of the DVD. Rey Mysterio goes up against CM Punk, and if Rey loses, he must join Punk’s Straight Edge Society. However, if Punk loses, Rey will shave his head. The two put on a spectacle with the perfect amount of highspots and near-falls. Punk exhibit’s the skills he learnt on the independent circuit, and Rey pulls moves out of his arsenal that I thought he had forgotten. The match nearly gets ruined by WWE’s blood stoppage rule after Punk gets cut open. The highlight of the match comes when CM Punk throws Rey out of the ring, under the bottom rope. Rey often takes this move, and lands flat on the floor. Though this time, there’s a barber chair in the way. Rey smacks the chair head-first in the perfect balance of violence and comedy that I rewound a dozen times.

Don’t judge me, I have issues.

After that barnburner of a match, The Hart Dynasty vs. The Miz and Chris Jericho for the Unified Tag Team Titles couldn’t compete. It’s a very decent match, but in the wrong place.

Randy Orton vs. Edge is the second match to produce an injury. During this average match, Orton sets up for the RKO in his usual mat-punching routine, when he suddenly stops. His arm is hanging. He just dislocated his own shoulder. The two veterans think up a clever ad-lib finish and go home early.

Yes, I rewound this too.

If your new World Heavyweight Champion is good at throwing people around and executing takedowns, don’t book him to defend against the 7’2”, 500 lbs Big Show. Jack Swagger is a capable worker, but there’s not much he can do here.

WWE Divas Championship Match. Eve vs. Maryse. Just...no...

Main Event time as John Cena defends the WWE Championship against Batista in an I Quit Match. It’s a pretty standard brawl, made bad by Cena’s ridiculous Superman comebacks, but saved by an innovative stunt of a finish.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
CM Punk accidentally bleeds.
Sex/Nudity: Nope.
Swearing: Nah-uh.
Summary: Filler PPV, but worth a bargain-bin buy for the Punk/Mysterio match. 6/10

Forbidden Planet
Starring: Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon
Director: Fred M. Wilcox
Warner Home Video

Available from Monday 4th October - £17.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

In the year 2257, and Altair 4, a distant colony, has three inhabitants; Professor Morbius, his bewitching daughter, and a dutiful robot, named Robby, who speaks 188 languages. When a space cruiser from Earth lands on the planet a deadly secret is revealed that could spell doom for all on the planet...

Forbidden Planet is one of those movies that you, frankly, have no excuse for never having seen. If you’re into your sci-fi (and if you’re reading this site, I think it’s a given that you have at least some interest), then you already know that this is one of the classics. But why is that so?

Well, put simply, it’s Space Opera at its finest. A sci-fi adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with a slightly psychological twist to it, it delivers action, intrigue, romance...and a little food for thought. It’s the quintessential Saturday morning pictures movie.

The main question here is: How good does it look on this Blu-ray edition? Well, the answer is, sadly, pretty bloody awful. The picture is smooth and shows no jerkiness...but it’s far from sharp. The picture contains scratches and blips (especially visible on the bright colours) and, frankly, you’d be better off watching the old DVD version on an upscaler rather than forking out for this. The fact there is so precious little in the way of extras hardly helps its case, either.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some laser blasting and scuffling.
Sex/Nudity: One girl is allegedly naked, but you don’t see anything.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A legendary sci-fi movie gets a rushed and lacklustre Blu-ray job. A wasted opportunity. You’d be better off picking up the DVD version for much cheaper. This doesn't stop it from being an awesome movie, of course. 8/10

Doctor Who - Revisitations: Volume One
Starring: Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Paul McGann
Director: Graeme Harper, Peter Hinchcliffe, David Maloney, Geoffrey Sax
2entertain

Available Now - £39.99 (7 DVD Set)
Review by Kelly Prior

This new collection of Doctor Who favourites features Tom Baker, Peter Davidson and Paul McGann in three separate adventures chronicling the advances of the Doctor Who universe. Each actor gives the Doctor their own personal interpretation, while also managing to keep hold of that really special “x-factor” that makes The Doctor timeless. This revisitation boxset not only has three amazing adventures, but also boasts an incredible four discs of special features.

First off, we join Tom Baker as The Doctor in the six episode adventure, The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Set in nineteenth century London, this thrilling story sees The Doctor and his assistant Leela investigating a series of murders and missing girls, while fighting off giant rats and an evil doll. This series is incredibly atmospheric and downright freaky at times. The musical score adds greatly to the mood. But, dang, they are some of the fakest looking giant rats I have ever seen!

The Caves of Androzani is Peter Davidson’s last outing as The Doctor. Military troupes and gunrunners clash in this four episode story. The Doctor and his assistant Peri become prisoners of the masked and mysterious Sharaz Jek and The Doctor faces more tests than ever before, and some big decisions are made for the sake of his assistant. Bursting with tacky costumes, androids and bad acting, this really is classic Doctor Who. Davidson does a wonderful job as the Doctor, and has the same kind of kooky cuteness that David Tennant achieved with his version. It wouldn’t surprise me if Tennant took inspiration from Davidson.

Paul McGann stars as the eight Doctor in Doctor Who: The Movie. While taking the remains of his arch enemy, the Master, back to his Home planet of Gallifrey, the TARDIS malfunctions and has to make an emergency landing in San Francisco, December 31st 1999. With the Master clinging desperately to his last life, he manages to take over a human body. In the meantime, the Doctor meets a human doctor called Grace and the two try against all odds to defend Earth from the Master and his wicked plans. Doctor Who: The Movie is modern, funny and sensitive. It makes good use of the Millennium Bug conspiracy, and the street gangs of America, in an effort to be contemporary.

The special features are interesting and entertaining to watch, especially for hardcore Doctor Who fans. These include interviews with cast and crew, an eye-opening presentation of the differences between filming and directing in the eighties compared to how we do it now. The feature on Who Peter showcases just how popular Doctor Who was and how dedicated Blue Peter were to standing by the series during “the wilderness years” when it was off air.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Lots of guns, child friendly combat scenes.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: None.
Summary: With two regenerations, lots of monsters, plenty of annoying assistants and even a love story thrown in, this is a great mix of some of Doctor Who’s greatest moments. 7/10



ASTERIX GIVEAWAY

Asterix and Obelix's Birthday: The Golden Book receives its English language release on Thursday, celebrating fifty years of the one of the funniest comic books ever created!

Scanning back and forth across fifty years of the village of indomitable Gauls, this is a book no fan will want to miss out on!

Thanks to our friends at Orion Books, we've got five copies of Asterix and Obelix's Birthdat: The Golden Book, to give away! For your chance of winning, send in an e-mail with your name and full postal address to asterixgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk before midday on Saturday 9th October. The first five names out of the special electronic hat will win a free copy each!

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