Saturday, 20 November 2010

DVD Reviews

The Karate Kid
Starring: Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Jaden Smith
Director: Harald Zwart
Sony Picture Home Entertainment

Available Now - £19.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray/DVD Pack)
Review by Brad Harmer

Dre Parker could've been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother's latest career move has landed him in China. He immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying, but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre's feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng.

With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han, who is secretly a master of kung fu (not karate). As Han teaches Dre that kung-fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.

Right, let’s get this out of the way. There is no karate in this movie. There is botched narrative, continuity errors, and an overwhelming stink of nepotism; so at least some of our expectations have been met.

Formulaic and bland, there are no surprises here (bar the absence of any karate), and at 140 minutes, it’s more or less exactly twice as long as it needs to be. The last time a re-make was twice the length of the original, it was Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Point made? Good. Also: no karate.

So what do they pad it out with? Sentimental popcorn-munching fluff, that’s what. There’s annoying tear-jerking moments, sickly-puppy-love moments, and sometimes just some good, old-fashioned unnecessary waffling. The Karate Kid (Warning: May not contain karate), with its bloated running time, obnoxious child protagonist and money-bags parents pulling the strings from off-screen stands for everything that is wrong with mainstream cinema today.

So why does it not get 1/10? Firstly, despite it being forged with all the artistic integrity of Paris Hilton's soul, it’s pretty competently put together. The cinematography and direction is even pretty good at times. Also: Jackie Chan.

Chan actually does very little kung-fu in The Karate Kid (and certainly no karate, either), but – and try and deny it all you want – he’s grown into a really good actor. The scenes that focus on Mr Han and his clouded history are certainly the best in the movie.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Some kung-fu, and some blood. No karate.
Sex/Nudity: None. Same as the amount of karate.
Swearing: None. A bit like the karate.
Summary: A well-produced kung-fu movie, but there’s no real heart to it. Watch it on TV if you’re curious, but don’t rush out to buy it. 4/10
Deadly Outlaw: Rekka
Starring: Sonny Chiba, Yuya Ichida, Joe Yamanaka
Director: Takashi Miike
Arrow Video

Available from Monday 22nd November - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

Following the death of his yakuza boss, Kunisada, an insane killer, embarks on a quest for revenge against those responsible for his boss' murder. However, when his actions begin to provoke the mobs, his own yakuza allies agree to assassinate him to prevent an all out war starting. Now the hunter and hunted, how far will the highly volatile Kunisada go to avenging his bosses death?

There is some good violence to be seen here in Deadly Outlaw: Rekka, but you have to be patient. There are quite a few arty bits with director Takeshi Miike demonstrating some excellent cinematography as usual. Also, when the violence does start, it becomes incredibly gruesome. From crowbars lodged in gang members’ backs and heads to large vicious shootings, the action never holds back. Although this violence style is typically Miike, it is proof that this style works well.

There are some problems, though. The plot does seem to take forever to get going and most scenes can feel twice as long as is absolutely necessary. I also thought the action scenes could have been paced a little closer together to help keep the flow of the story and action interesting. Finally, despite apparently having improved subtitles, I did find the subtitles to be dogged with flaws and mis-spellings which made some of the scenes harder to understand than normal. However, persevere with it and the ending can make for some explosive entertainment.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Lots of detailed, realistic violence that doesn’t ever shy away from being gruesome.
Sex/Nudity: There a brief shot of nudity but nothing you would really notice as it happens fairly quickly.
Swearing: Some swearing, but not very strong.
Summary: An enjoyable action film, but focuses a bit too much on being arty than being about the violence. Nice for a change of pace, but those wishing something more action based would be better going for other Miike films like Ichi the Killer and the Dead or Alive trilogy. 6/10
Higanjima: Escape from Vampire Island
Starring: Hideo Ishiguro, Asami Mizukawa, Dai Watanabe
Director: Kim Tae-Gyun
Manga Entertainment

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD) & £19.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Kelly Prior

Higanjima is an eerie and mysterious island, uncharted and unheard of. Run by a creepy vampire overlord Miyabi, and home to drones of the vicious creatures of the night, the island thrives on blood from visitors, castaways and people tricked into coming to there. Rei, a beautiful mortal, is Miyabi’s mistress and is also the person who lures people to the island.

Akira is a young teenager, leading a relatively normal life. He spends his time with friends, and his parents fight like everyone else’s. However, Akira’s brother went missing two years earlier, so when a mysterious a beautiful woman tells him that his brother is on Higanjima battling vampires for survival, Akira and his friends take it upon themselves to travel to the island and save him.

What follows is two hours of action packed awesomeness. After finding Atsushi, Akira’s brother, the kids join him in his quest to murder all the vampires and eventually fight Miyabi. This film is full of blood and gore. Atsushi has developed a method of swinging a large log in vampires’ faces to smash their brains in, which results in lots of satisfying blood-splattering.

The vampires are really creepy (thanks, again, Japan!) and will probably have you peeking around corners for days. As if vampires weren’t enough awesome, this movie also throws in a Harpy and a giant Gargoyle. The film starts of pretty cool, but ends up being the most epic thing you’ve ever watched, with enough sword fighting and fighting to last a life time.

Higanjima: Escape from Vampire Island is tense and nail-biting, yet also incredibly touching. We really fall in love with the characters; the boy-come-hero, the tough guy, the loser, the geek, the girl, and, of course, the fat kid. This theme of friendship is what makes the film so loveable. The soundtrack is really exciting and emotional, too. This film is really impressive.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
More than you could ever wish for.
Sex/Nudity: Yes, they even get a “fangbanger” sex scene in there.
Swearing: It’s there, but it’s in Japanese.
Summary: As if really creepy vampires and hot Japanese Emo kids wasn’t enough, this film is also genuinely brilliant for its production values, intense plot and exceptional cast. 10/10
The Horde
Starring: Eriq Ebouaney, Claude Perron, Aurelien Recoing
Director: Yannick Dahan & Benjamin Rocher
Momentum Pictures

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Kelly Prior

The blurb on the back of this DVD says “A crack unit of elite cops infiltrate a high rise tower block to bring down a gang of crooks that have been terrorising the city for years.” What really happens is a group of idiots storm a building in masks and no back-up, get caught by some pretty hardcore gang members and scream like little babies about it. Now that we’ve corrected that little error, I’ll continue with the synopsis. Basically, zombies. Lots of zombies, for no reason. It’s stormy weather outside, so we’ll assume that’s got something to do with it. The wimpy French cops are forced to team up with the gang in order to survive. Fighting for their lives against the undead, they must find their way out of the multi-storey building (apparently this is really difficult...).

The rustic, Resident-Evil-style front cover is misleading. We expect a fast paced action thriller, and it’s not what we get. However, what we get isn’t really that bad. The zombies are okay, the fast RAGE kind instead of the slow creepy kind. There’s plenty of gory death scenes and loads of blood and violence. However, as zombie films go, this one is pretty generic. We won’t remember this one in five years time, and we certainly won’t be calling it revolution in the zombie film business. It’s less 28 Days Later and more Gangs of the Dead.

The zombies are nothing special in this sense, and there’s not much of a plot, but the characters save it. You do start to care about what happens to them and invest in their stories. The bad guys are particularly great, with some fantastic actors. The woman cop can go die, as she ruined the film.

The best character of all is an ex-soldier who is fat, old and crazy. He has some really comical moments and makes the film enjoyable and light hearted. He’s also awesome when it comes to zombie-smooshing. The ending is a bit stupid and frustrating, but to be fair, with the lack of a decent plot, it could hardly have a decent ending.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Blood, gore, guns.
Sex/Nudity: Nope.
Swearing: Yes.
Summary: A generic zombie film. It’s good for a movie to watch with mates, but it won’t ever be iconic. Worth a watch if you just want some zombie killing action. 5/10
The Final
Starring: Marc Donato, Whitney Hoy, Jascha Washington
Director: Joey Stewart
Chelsea Films

Available Now - £12.99 (DVD)
Review by Kelly Prior

The Final tells the story of a small group of outcasts, bullied at school and unhappy in their home lives, who decide to take out revenge on all the people who they believe are to blame for their shit lives. Together they hatch a plan and invite all their enemies to a fancy-dress rave in an abandoned building, where it turns out all their drinks are spiked. When everyone is unconscious, the team of misfits chain them up and wait for them to wake up into their worst nightmares. What follows is some pretty cool torture scenes, decent effects, and some psychological mind play.

Now, I’ll always give credit where it’s due. This movie could have been amazing. The concept is there; American high-school kids being so severely bullied that they go mad and torture half the school. Yes, we’ve seen it before, but it’s still a good story. However, The Final lets us down because it didn’t bother getting people who could act. It also tries far too hard (and fails) to be a total mind fuck of a movie, concentrating on the psychological game plays of the characters. The torture scenes are great, but they are few and far between. For a movie like this, what we really want is a blood bath, with loads of impressive gore. Think Saw.

The Final isn’t all bad though. It does get exciting at points and becomes quite sinister towards the end. Because it’s a fancy dress party, everyone is in costume, and that does make for some particularly freaky and intense bad guys. Have you seen Cry Wolf? It’s one of those tacky American horrors that is so crap, you end up loving it. This film sort of has that potential, too. However, I wonder if that’s actually something to be proud of...

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Freakish torture, but not a lot of it.
Sex/Nudity: None. We may be torturing people but we’re good American school kids.
Swearing: Minimal.
Summary: Watch it with a group of mates. This film might actually be more enjoyable if you take the piss out of it while you’re watching it. It’s not completely awful...but it is pretty awful... 4/10

Life Blood
Starring: Anya Lahiri, Sophie Monk, Scout Taylor-Compton
Director: Ron Carlson
Chelsea Films

Available Now - £12.99 (DVD)
Review by Kelly Prior

This is one of those films that, no matter how honestly I relay the plot to you, you just simply won’t believe the amount of bullshit I write. By all means, look this up yourself.

So...here it goes.

Brooke and Rhea are a lesbian couple in the 60’s. At a New Years Eve party Brooke randomly decides to kill a famous actor and they go on the run. After a fight, Brooke storms off, only to be killed by some swirly magic sand (It gets worse). Then God appears to Rhea, except God is not a man, but a raunchily dressed woman with her tits out. She makes out with Rhea and tells her she is going to make her into an angel (Are you following this?). Rhea begs for Brook’s life, and the two of them are reborn as angels...or, rather, Vampires. Honestly. Half naked and horny, they kill some people then find a convenience store to spend the day in, hiding from the sun. Just add some midgets and a hilariously stereotyped Pakistani family, and away we go.

Honestly, I couldn’t make that shit up.

The two leading characters can’t act. This film is just confusing and stupid. It’s not even got an underlying religious message. It’s just vampire angels and lesbian God. Nothing really happens and the ending is completely unsatisfactory. The only thing that saves this movie is the Pakistani father, who is hilarious. But the sad thing is, he’s only hilarious in a racist, stereotypey kind of way. Please avoid this film at all cost, unless you are horny. If you are horny, then by all means, watch it over and over again.

I’ve actually run out of things to say about this film. Thank you, Life Blood, for being the shortest review I have ever written.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Vampires nomming humans.
Sex/Nudity: Sexy vampires nomming humans.
Swearing: Nope.
Summary: It’s ridiculously bad. I don’t know how people come up with these stupid plots. And who is crazy enough to fund them? Don’t watch it unless you’re desperate. Moderately saved by hot lesbians, lots of boobs, and racist humour. 2/10

Sean Lock: Lockipedia
Universal Pictures
Available from Monday 22nd Novemer - £19.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-Ray)
Review by Rob Wade

Team captain of Channel 4's '8 Out Of 10 Cats' and one of the UK's most highly acclaimed and original comedians, Sean Lock is finally back on the road in 2010 with his highly anticipated new tour - Lockipedia.

For me, Sean Lock has always sat between Jack Dee and Lee Evans as a sometimes dark but always exuberant comedian. As someone who only had experience with his panel show work until now, I found myself cautiously optimistic that his stand up show would deliver something different.

The “Lockipedia” for which the show is named is what Lock himself refers to as ‘Audience Battleships’ where he calls out a seat number and row, and the person in that seat suggests a topic for him to look up in his list of jokes. If that sounds at any point to you like a premise that is pretty much written for disaster, it’s a fairly safe bet that you should consider yourself spot on. In fact, the premise itself is actually the weakest part of the show. Thankfully it only lasts five minutes and the hilarity then resumes. Make no mistake; this DVD is packed with funny stuff.

This DVD is one of the funniest shows I have seen in some time, and certainly my favourite so far this year. Although the subjects are familiarly trodden territory (supermarkets fall into contention as one of the most overdone subjects of stand-up comedians, and there are some good routines on that subject already), Lock has a fantastically off-kilter way of looking at things that you can’t help but laugh at. Add to that one of, if not the strongest encore I have ever seen from a stand-up comedian, and you’ve got an hour and fourty minutes of hilarity. At times I was crying with laughter, it was that good.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: None.
Sex/Nudity: Talks about wanking and sex with Madonna. This in particular is hilarious.
Swearing: “Fuck” “Shit and the odd “Cunt”.
Summary: If you know someone with the right sense of humour for this, here is their gift. Not a gift idea, you should buy this for them. DO IT! 9/10

Simon Amstell: Do Nothing (Live in Dublin)
Universal Pictures
Available from Monday 22nd November - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

Simon Amstell is a comedian who has built a reputation for his open, intelligent and thought-provoking stand-up. Recorded at Vicar Street, Dublin on May 22nd this year, 'Do Nothing Live' is Simon Amstell's debut stand up DVD.
Simon Amstell is best known for his TV work, most notably Never Mind the Buzzcocks where he performed as the show’s host and successfully made the role his own despite having to fill the shoes of the fantastic Mark Lamarr. His stand-up has always been a curious one to me, as I have had it recommended on a few occasions before seeing this show.

If you like his TV work, prepare for a shock. His stand-up is completely different from his TV persona, and may alienate you completely. However, it is worth persevering.

The TV persona portrayed by Simon Amstell is a cocky, callous prick (and that’s even going back as far as his appearance on GamesMaster as a kid) who fans can’t help but enjoy even though he’s running down a particularly unfunny or thick guest. In his stand-up show, he’s a vulnerable philosopher struggling to cope with being gay and having just turned 30.

As stand-up shows go, Do Nothing is enjoyable enough, but falls down on two main reasons. Firstly, it’s such a stark departure from his on-screen persona that some people may feel cheated. Secondly, he’s only on for an hour. At £19.99 RRP for an hour of material, the value is pretty low on this particular one, and the disc isn’t even exactly brimming with anything else to bump up the time.
As shows go, if you ignore the discrepancy between Amstells, it’s engaging enough, and definitely has some laughs in there. The problem is that most of the time they’re interlaced with long monologues about very little.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: N/A.
Sex/Nudity: References to gay sex.
Swearing: “Tits”, “shit” and so forth.
Summary: One for the absolute enthusiasts. 5/10
Kevin Bridges: The Story So Far (Live In Glasgow)
Universal Pictures
Available from Monday 22nd November - £19.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-Ray)
Review by Rob Wade

Star of TV's Live at the Apollo & Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, Kevin Bridges is the next big thing in comedy and the one to watch in 2010. His unique brand of social commentary, astute observations and sharp one-liners arguably make him the hottest act to come out of Scotland in the last ten years.

One of the things that has frustrated me as a fan of stand-up comedy in recent years is how easily mediocre comics have been able to get onto really popular television shows, and how that has helped them promote their hack brand of boring topics. When I took a look at this DVD, I had this fear that I was in for more of the same, as I had heard the name Kevin Bridges only once, in connection with Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, which half the time could be renamed “Michael McIntyre’s Hack Wagon” without being flagrantly false advertising.

Thankfully, I learned a lesson about not judging a book by its cover in this instance, as Kevin Bridges is a much more capable comedian than half of the dross that’s on TV at the present time. At 24, I'm really impressed with how comfortable he is on stage, and how well he handle hecklers (although admittedly his heckler response in this case didn’t require much work, as they were completely incomprehensible).

It’s not all gravy, however; there are some lumpy bits in amongst. Although he is much better than most of the dross on TV, he seems a little too self-amused to be a truly great comedian, as often you see him flashing a cheeky little smile as if he finds himself funnier than you ever could. Maybe it’s a conscious attempt to distance himself from the more rant-heavy comedians like Frankie Boyle, but it comes off as a little schmoozy at times.

Also, he seems to forget at times that he’s recording a DVD, and makes the material so skewed on Glasgow that it’s almost impossible to identify with any of the subjects that he references during the show. While some of the talk of the differences between a Scottish house party and an English house party are amusing enough, you can’t help but feel like the audience is enjoying it much more than you.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: References to that sort of thing.
Sex/Nudity: Talks about wanking.
Swearing: Lots of pretty coarse language, but nothing more offensive than most comedians on the circuit.
Summary: A strong performer let down by a mediocre set choice. Definitely one to watch for the future though. 6/10
TNA: Slammiversary VIII (2010)
Starring: Abyss, Rob Van Dam, Sting
TNA

Available Now - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

Along with Bound for Glory, TNA’s Slammiversary PPV is supposed to be the highlight of the TNA calendar. Much like WWE’s Wrestlemania, it is supposed to end feuds and answer questions. But then again, Russo is booking, and Hogan is involved.

The first wrestler through the curtain is Kazarian as he takes on Kurt Angle. Kurt drags a fantastic match out of Kaz, even taking the ridiculously dangerous reverse-tombstone, which isn’t something I would be comfortable taking, let alone with Angle’s history of neck damage. The match may go on a bit for a curtain-jerker, but you didn’t expect Angle not to pull out an epic on PPV did you?

Next up, Douglas Williams defends his X-Division Championship against Brian Kendrick in a British style of match. Lots of nice holds and exchanges, and Kendrick hits some brilliant high spots.

Time for a women’s match, as Madison Rayne pits her Knockout’s Championship against Roxxi’s career. Roxxi suffers a nasty cut at the opening of the match, and is dripping blood. Nonetheless, the girls have a decent match.

Now Brother Ray takes on Jesse Neal. Ray talks a lot, then a match happens. It’s pretty average, apart from the fact that Jesse shouldn’t use the spear. It’s stupid. He’s billed at 231 pounds (16.5 stone), but looks more like 14 stone, which is far too light to be using such a high impact move. I know, it’s my finisher, and I only just get away with it at 18-odd stone.

Matt Morgan takes on Hernandez in a brawl in which Hernandez is after revenge for his neck injury. On the perfect event for a feud-ender, he gets screwed and this dead-end rivalry continues. Hernandez is wasted not throwing people around and Morgan is boring for a seven-footer.

Desmond Wolfe and Abyss’ Monster’s Ball match is a weird affair. This is where Abyss excels, but Wolfe is better in technical contests. Nonetheless, he keeps up with Abyss, and the two of them use glass, barbed wire and “brass knucks” to tell a good story.

Ric Flair hogs the spotlight as AJ Styles battles Jay Lethal in a great match, marred by Flair slipping into dementia at ringside and a flat finish.

Next up Jeff Hardy and Mr. Anderson take on Beer Money Inc. Decent “American Rasslin” match with some good exchanges, but Hardy and Anderson shouldn’t have looked so strong against an established team.

So, main event time. Rob Van Dam defends the TNA Championship against Sting. Will we find out why Sting has been so heinous recently, like he promised? Will we see a good match? Will RVD start taking this shit seriously instead of phoning in a performance just to collect a cheque?

Nope.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Chicks bleeding.
Sex/Nudity: RVD is very flexible.
Swearing: Wankers. Man, the USA crowds still aren’t catching on to what that means.
Summary: Usual TNA PPV: Great undercard, spoilt by the headline/veteran/money grabbing acts. 7/10

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