Saturday, 16 October 2010

DVD Reviews

Professor Layton and The Eternal Diva
Starring: Chris Miller, Maria Darling, Sarah Hadland
Director: Masakazu Kubo
Manga Entertainment
Available from Monday 18th October - £15.99 (DVD) & £19.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Rob Wade

The Professor receives a letter from his old student, the famous opera diva Janice Quatlane who will soon perform at the legendary Crown Petone Opera House. She sends Layton two tickets and invites him to attend as her special guest. Meanwhile, a rash of disappearances hits London. Two young school girls are the latest victims and the Professor suspects it's related to the strange things that are happening at the theatre. As Layton's assistant Remi stays behind to investigate the case of the missing girls, Layton and Luke travel to the Opera House to solve their toughest puzzle yet, the mystery of Eternal Life!

The Professor Layton series has been a firm favourite on Nintendo DS, selling in excess of 5.5 million units across 2 games, with a third to follow soon (which coincidentally is trailered on this DVD release). The general idea is that as the Professor, you solve puzzles in order to solve a much larger mystery. They’ve been incredibly popular for the simple reason that the puzzles themselves are well-executed and that the overall story tying them together is an engaging one.

Thankfully, the first venture into movies is of a similar quality. The Professor himself is a fascinating character, who has elements of the great Sherlock Holmes about him. He’s quiet until he has ideas, often sinking into a very short montage showing clues that he has picked up on, and as a Brit is obsessed with the idea of being both a master puzzle solver and a perfect gentleman. It’s this sort of whimsy that serves the film well ultimately, as it sets the boundaries of what’s acceptable very early on.

The animation on this movie is at times superb, especially when dealing with backdrops and scenery. Half the time I couldn’t decide if stuff was CG or just particularly good animation. The music, too, is excellent, with sweeping orchestral work to keep the story flowing with a suitable gravitas.

As I said, the key to the games is how well the puzzles interweave with the story as a whole, and in this vein the story is a good one. The theme of eternal life is a key one throughout (for a key reason that I won’t mention for spoiler reasons) and the puzzles are attempted by the guests of the opera house in order to win the supposed eternal life that is being offered.

On the down side, at times this movie does just feel a bit like watching someone play the DS game. You don’t tend to feel like much has been achieved when one gets solved, as you had no input into it at all, and generally if you didn’t figure it out before they say so, much like Scooby Doo you feel a little low. The film also suffers from the problem of being a Japanese movie that has been dubbed into English, although the movie is actually set in England, as the voice acting is a little ropey at times. Nevertheless, the movie is really enjoyable, and would be a great addition for the Layton enthusiast.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: A fistfight, and a swordfight.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A clever, engaging and fantastically whimsical animé.8/10
Ben 10: Alien Swarm
Starring: Ryan Kelley, Nathan Keyes, Galadriel Stineman
Director: Alex “Bill S. Preston, Esq.” Winter
Warner Home Video

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

Our world is threatened with an imminent invasion from a swarming alien menace. And there is only one hero brave enough, smart enough and tough enough to fight back – Ben Tennyson! But when Ben teams up with an outsider, he breaks ranks with Gwen, Kevin and Max and risks losing against the toughest enemy he has ever faced (apart from Vilgax, obviously. And Dr Animo. And the Forever Knights. And that time travelling thing from Alien Force. Okay, but he’s still in the Top Ten.).

The first thing that struck me about Ben 10: Alien Swarm was how amazing the casting was. The actors could not possibly look anything more like their cartoon counterparts, and they even get their mannerisms down pat. Really, it’s scarily good. It turns out you can replicate a Saturday Morning Cartoon perfectly without having to change anything, and it still looks good.

ARE YOU LISTENING, BAY? ARE YOU?

Anyway, this is literally like an episode of the cartoon come to life, and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s great that we get to see Kevin’s Mustang and Humungosaur, but the thing is...the plot still feels as small as you’d get in a Saturday Morning Cartoon. There’s no sense that this is any greater an adventure than they already have on a weekly basis. For a movie, there needs to be a sense of something larger than we’re used to...but that’s missing here.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some cartoonish/comic-book violence, plus explosions and ray-guns.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A fun Saturday Morning Cartoon come to life, and a must for fans of the series, which also moves on the Alien Force series nicely. 8/10
Zombies of Mass Destruction
Starring: Janette Armand, Doug Fahl, Cooper Hopkins
Director: Kevin Hamedani
Optimum Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 18th October - £15.99 (DVD) & £19.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Port Gamble, a quaint little coastal town known for its conservative residents and old fashioned, small town ways. An idyllic, scenic location, full of beautiful surroundings and tradition American values. All of which are about to be sent to hell with the arrival of a toxic, rotting corpse washed up upon one of its celebrated beaches. The community of Port Gamble is about to have its face ripped off, chewed up and spat out as the neighbourhood begins to transform into rabid, flesh eating zombies.

Set in 2002, whilst the Second Gulf War was kicking off, Zombies of Mass Destruction actually makes pretty good use of the Post-9/11 paranoia that was rife back then – especially as two of the principle characters are Iranian and living in America.

The cast are generally really good, hamming it up well, even through some of the clumsy dialogue. The tense political satire/horror thriller has hit Braindead style zombie farce by the half-way mark, but to be honest, you could do a lot worse than this for a Halloween movie night with friends this year.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Frequent and bloody zombie-based antics. Stabbing, gunfire, torture, explosions.
Swearing: Frequent and string.
Sex/Nudity: Some partial nudity and making out.
Summary: Some novel characters and a couple of good gags aren’t really enough to lift this zombiethon above the crowd. One for zombies obsessives only. 5/10

Dawn of the Dead
Starring: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger
Director: George A. Romero
Arrow Video

Available Now - £19.99 (4 DVD Set)
Review by Brad Harmer

A National Emergency grips the US as the zombie population grows at an inexplicable and alarming rate. Two Philadelphia Police S.W.A.T. officers, a helicopter pilot and his TV reporter girlfriend escape the city and take refuge in an abandoned, suburban shopping mall after securing it following a series of brutal confrontations with the undead. Their survival is threatened when a band of looters leave a door open allowing the zombies access to the mall once more.

Zombies. Shopping mall. Tom Savini. George A. Romero. Ken Foree. This is the most inconic movie ever made, and if you haven’t already seen it then you have a lot to learn before you can label yourself Emotionally Fourteen. Even Rob likes it, and horror movies tend to make him feel physically sick. So, we know this movie rocks...let’s examine whether or not you want to buy this particular version.

Well, if you’re a fan of Dawn of the Dead – or zombie movies in general – then: yes. You do want to buy this version. With three different cuts (theatrical, director’s cut, and a third cut by none other by Dario Argento), extensive extras (commentarys and documentaries aplenty), multiple cover arts choices, and a poster. Put simply, this is the best incarnation this great movie have ever had. Arrow have done another classic proud.

If you’re a more casual fan...maybe not, but it would make a hell of a Christmas present.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Shooting, stabbing, mutilation, cannibalism, evisceration, screwdriver death.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: Some fucks, shits and frequent racist abuse.
Summary: One of the greatest zombie movies of all time gets the Arrow Video treatment. The extras, liner notes and multiple versions will keep you entertained for a long, long time. 10/10

Black Christmas
Starring: Keir Dullea, Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder
Director: Rob Clark
Metrodome

Available from Monday 18th October - £12.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

A sorority group’s Christmas holiday plans are violently disturbed by a sadistic, obscene phone call that threatens to shatter the yuletide for good. Their fear is calmed by the local police who assure them there’s nothing to worry about, but when the first body turns up, the depraved caller’s threats soon become a horrifying reality. Slowly the girls are picked off one by one and a frantic search begins to find the killer before their white Christmas turns blood red.

Black Christmas is a workhorse of the slasher movie genre. It’s not that great, granted, but it’s a solid example of the genre. It’s clichéd, but it does some things really well. The acting is, for the most part, actually pretty good compared to other slashers. It does, however, have some really creepy touches, especially in the camera work and the sound editing. The phone calls, in particular, and very eerie.

The picture looks good on this version. There are a few scratches, but other than that, it’s a pretty sharp image. If you’re a fan of slasher movies, then you should own a version of this – and this is pretty good version to get.

And it’s got John Saxon in it. There’s a bonus point.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
About average for a slasher movie, I guess.
Sex/Nudity: Nothing, really.
Swearing: “Fucks” and “cunts”.
Summary: Time has really not been kind to this classic. It’s well put together, but so clichéd in its plot that you have to be a real slasher movie fan for this to be of real interest. 7/10

FRAGGLE ROCK: SEASON ONE GIVEAWAY

From a fun-loving group of furry subterranean creatures came: millions of fans, one hundred original songs, ninety-six total episodes, five seasons, but only one First Season Boxed Set.

Dance your cares away with the complete first season of Fraggle Rock, featuring all twenty-four episodes - never before available on DVD!

Filled with all the Fraggley Fun you've been waiting for. Share in the music and memories that have kept fans rockin' for more than twenty years! So save your worries for another day and experience 715 minutes of frag-tastic fun in the ultimate Fraggle Rock collection.

Thanks to our friends at Lions Gate Home Entertainment, we've got three copies of Fraggle Rock: Season One to give away! For your chance of winning, send you name and full postal address to fragglerockgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk before midday on Saturday 23rd October. The first three names out of the special electronic hat will win a copy each!

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