Saturday, 15 January 2011

DVD Reviews

Grown Ups
Starring: Salma Hayek, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider
Director: Dennis Dugan
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 17th January - £19.99 (DVD) & £22.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

In the tradition of The Big Chill, five childhood friends (Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider) reunite after thirty years to attend the funeral of their beloved youth basketball coach over the Fourth of July weekend. They all stay at the late coach's lake house with their families in tow. They relive old times, tease each other, and try to show their kids how to have fun the old fashion way.

Grown Ups presents us with an ensemble cast of some of the biggest comedy actors of recent years, and – as surprising as this may seem – they’re all really likable. All of the characters are there for friendship and love, and the fact that they are all such great, nice, real people makes you love them. If anything, Grown Ups reminded me of the classic Dan Akroyd/John Candy comedy The Great Outdoors – it’s not as great as that, obviously, but it has the same feelgood family tone.

The cast all delivers, with Rob Schneider and Steve Buscemi having several stand-out moments.

It’s not all great, though. Whilst it’s a light and feelgood movie, as a comedy it’s fair to middling. The laughs are just too few and far between to be a real success, and there’s a nasty sense that the production was basically an excuse for Adam Sandler and his friends to go on holiday for a couple of weeks. What little narrative conflict there is feels tacked on. Basically, what’s there is good...but there’s just not enough of it.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
A member of the cast of the Judge Dredd movie gets an arrow in his foot. We’re chalking that one up to Karma.
Sex/Nudity: Some references, and there’s a sexual tone to most of the humour...but nothing explicit.
Swearing: Frequent, but mild.
Summary: It’s a fun, feel-good movie, but the laughs are too few and far between to be classed a real success. Worth a rental or catching on TV, but don’t expect to be blow away. 6/10
Dinner for Schmucks
Starring: Steve Carell, Zach Galifianakis, Paul Rudd
Director: Jay Roach
Paramount Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 17th January - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

There's only one thing keeping aspiring executive Tim (Paul Rudd) from corporate success. He must find the perfect guest to bring to his boss' annual dinner party, where the winner of the evening is the one who arrives with the biggest buffoon. Luckily, Tim meets Barry (Steve Carell), a guy who recreates famous works of art with stuffed mice. When the duo show up to dine, the lunacy begins...

Dinner for Schmucks is not just a lame comedy. It’s a painful, soul-destructing waste of the talent involved. It’s a half-arsed, botched attempt at a farce. It’s another Hollywood remake of a foreign comedy. It’s bloody awful, is what it is.

The main problem (well...“a” problem, anyway...there are way too many problems for there to be a single one that is the downfall of the entire movie) is that every single one of the characters – with the possible exception of Tim’s girlfriend – is thoroughly obnoxious and annoying. Even Barry, who we’re supposed to think of as quirky and well meaning, just comes across as a massive, massive cock. You see what he does to people, and you hate him for it. He’s the guy you work with who means well, but bum-screws all his personal relationships by being a stupendous dick. This is the guy we’re supposed to root for? Fuck you, Dinner for Schmucks.

Combine this with gags that are either non-existent or feeble attempts at Carry On style humor, and this becomes a trial to sit through; but mix in the fact that major plot points require characters to act either completely out of character, or mind-bogglingly stupidly (depending on which is appropriate), and it leaps straight from stupid into “pointless”.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Some scuffling and so forth. Nothing major.
Sex/Nudity: Some clumsy and awkward BDSM.
Swearing: Some, but nothing of real note.
Summary: Soulless and stupid. This is a dire attempt at a farce, which fucks up everything more or less from start to finish. Avoid. 2/10
K-20: The Legend of the Black Mask
Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Takako Matsu, Tôru Nakamura
Director: Shimako Sato
Manga Entertainment

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD) & £19.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

Japan, 1949. The Second World War never happened. Japan is divided in two; the rich and privileged upper class, and the desperately poor everyone-else. Out of the division comes “The Fiend with Twenty Faces”, AKA, K-20 (Kaijin is Japanese for “faces”), a Robin Hood style character who steals priceless artefacts from the rich and gives to the...well, he just kind of steals them. No charity here.

Nikola Tesla has invented a device that can transfer electrical power through the air and, predictably, even the prototype can destroy a building. In an attempt to steal said weapon, K-20 frames circus performer Heikichi Endo (Takeshi Kaneshiro) as the secret identity of K-20 and drops him into the palms of top police detective Kogoro Akechi (Tôru Nakamura). For Endo, the race is on to stop the real K-20 from stealing the Tesla device, and clear his name. The best way to do this?: Beat K-20 at his own game.

So, I’m guessing you’ve seen The Dark Knight? Okay, cool. Take that movie, and stick a bit of good comedy in there. With me? Now, add some free-running and Kung-Fu inspired combat. Next, add some Japan. No, not the “Holy crap, where are they putting those tentacles?” type of Japan, the Samurai, pro-wrestling and sushi type of Japan. And there you go, you roughly know what’s going on.

First off, this movie is a great little action flick. Nice, deep drama accompanies plenty of cool fight scenes and free-running stunts. I’m not usually interested in free-running, but in this context (trying to cross a city really fast) it actually makes sense. Kaneshiro is a magnificent action star as Heikichi, and just as you settle into a good pace of fights and enjoyable dialogue, he unleashes a comedic side of the character that split my sides in a good few places. Heikichi Endo is no superhero, he relies more on gadgets and agility, and his almost-80s training montage is comedy gold, whilst still packing in the action. He bumbles through most of his situations, but at no time do you consider him an idiot, just a regular guy with incredible talents, pushed into a situation he must conquer.

The plot has a good few twists and turns all the way through, whilst still remaining easy to follow, without being overly simple. There’s a possible love storyline hiding in there, but it doesn’t block the root of the movie, which is the struggle between Endo and the mysterious K-20.

If the idea of an origin movie like this is to make you want to invest in the rest of the hero’s tale, this movie performs magnificently.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Punching, kicking, hitting with sticks and shooting. Various amounts of blood.
Sex/Nudity: One nude shot of a hot chick. YAY! From behind, shoulders up. BOO!
Swearing: A small amount. All in Japanese/subtitled.
Summary: A very fun action movie with a perfect comedy edge on it. If you’re looking to get into Asian cinema, but don’t know where to start, start here. 9/10
Betrayal
Starring: Kåre Conradi, Lene Nystrøm (yes, the bird from Aqua), Götz Otto
Director: Hakon Gundersen
Optimum Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 17th January – £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Tor Lindblom makes a fortune supplying the Nazis with everything from liquor and cigarettes to cement and steel. He also owns the Club Havana, a nightclub in Oslo frequented by the industrial elite of occupied Norway, Officers of the Wehrmacht and opportunistic hustlers of both sexes. Tor is in love with the singer in the nightclub Eva, a British double agent who works part-time for the Gestapo. When Dr. Walter from the Reich General Auditor's Office arrives in town to check the books, events for Tor Lindblom and his business partner, SS Major Krüger, take a sudden turn for the worse.

Betrayal is so atmospheric you can almost smell the cigarette smoke. It looks great. It looks authentic. Hell, it looks more authentic than most documentaries do. The acting and direction is excellent and, if you’re going on looks alone, then Betrayal is onto a winner.

Unfortunately, the story that it revolves around is one of those bureaucracy based thrillers. There’s a lot of paperwork, people’s names and various ephemera based evidence, but none of it very interesting. A wasted opportunity.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Some scuffling, gunfire and murderising.
Sex/Nudity: Some partial nudity.
Swearing: Infrequent.
Summary: A relatively bland historical thriller. The acting is good and it looks great, but the story is a little on the boring side. 6/10
The Tortured
Starring: Erika Christensen, Jesse Metcalfe, Bill Moseley
Director: Robert Liebermann
E1 Entertainment

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

The perfect marriage of Craig and Elise Landry is suddenly shattered when their young son is abducted and murdered. When the killer (Bill “ChopTop” Moseley) is brought to trial, he manages to plea bargain his way to a lighter sentence. Utterly outraged by this miscarriage of justice, the grieving parents decide to take matters into their own hands.

They capture the murderer, imprison him and subject him to the same monstrous acts he perpetrated upon their defenseless child. The unforeseen consequences, however, challenge their ideas of vengeance, justice and the true nature of evil.

Child abuse is the last big button left to the horror genre. Monsters are overdone, killers are overdone, so the abuse, murder and rape of a little kid is the only thing really left that genuinely disturbs most people. Well, you’ll never see it as crassly exploited as you will here.

The plot is “all right”, as is the direction/editing, but the actors seem distant and uninvolved, as if they suspect that the movie they’re in a is a pretty artistically moribund one. It’s a good forty minutes before we get to the meat of the movie, and it runs out of steam after fifteen minutes of that.

Yeah, the torture scenes are pretty good, but if you’re into that then you’re either a socially inept teenage boy or a serial killer. Or both.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Protracted scenes of torture, suicide and murder.
Sex/Nudity: Strong allusions to paedophilia and underage rape.
Swearing: Frequent and strong.
Summary: It’s the usual torture porn shenanigans. The twist ending is a clever one, but doesn’t make up for the rest of its shortcomings. 3/10
WWE: Hell in a Cell 2010
Starring: John Cena, Kane, The Undertaker
Clear Vision

Available from Monday 17th January - £17.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

If you’re anything like me, Hell in a Cell matches are something special. When I think of Hell in a Cell matches, I think of Mick Foley flying off the top and crashing through a table. I think of a blood soaked Shawn Michaels being used like a javelin. I think of Foley crashing through the cage and into the mat...twice. A long time ago, Cell matches were something to be respected, a bloody massacre of a spectacle that supposedly shortened the careers of its participants. Now, however, the WWE has at least two a year, and with its current ban on blood during matches, they just don’t seem brutal enough any more. Did the metal get blunt?

WWE opens the show by having Daniel Bryan defend his US Championship against John Morrison and The Miz in a Triple Threat Falls Count Anywhere match. The three men brawl brilliantly through the arena, using there surroundings in innovative ways to apply submission moves and original offence. Morrison is the weak link here, but not by much, he just doesn’t really know submissions like Bryan.

UNINTERESTING GINGER TURD UPDATE!

Sheamus, our favourite strawberry-blonde poop is in action as he tries to wrestle the WWE Championship away from Randy Orton in the first of the show’s Hell in a Cell matches. Funnily enough, the match isn’t the drizzling shits, it‘s actually quite good. Orton’s working wonders with the red-headed stool.

Next up, Edge and Jack Swagger have an “impromptu” match. It’s a bit of nothing really, a couple of good moves and sequences, but nothing special.

Once again, John Cena battles the odds (yawn), as he takes on Wade Barrett with a hefty set of stipulations: If Cena wins, Barrett’s Nexus must disband. However, if Barrett beats him, Cena must join Nexus. Also, the rest of Nexus are banned from ringside, and if they interfere, they must disband. With all this resting on them, they have a very average match. It’s not as bad as some Cena showings, but he still needs a more talented worker to carry him to quality matches, he cant quite carry someone else yet.

The penultimate match is for the Unified Divas Championship as co-champ Michelle McCool defends against Natalya. The two of them are building a good familiarity with each other that is proving entertaining, until a rubbish finish.

Main event time, as the Cell lowers again, this time over the Undertaker and Kane, as they do battle for Kane’s World Heavyweight Championship. The two “brothers” have never really had classics together, and this is no exception. It’s passable, but very slowly paced and with another rubbish finish.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: I wish.
Sex/Nudity: Pants.
Swearing: One “bitch”, but it’s bleeped.
Summary: A normal WWE PPV, pushed just over the average mark by the US Championship 6/10

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