Saturday 29 January 2011

DVD Reviews

The Town
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm
Director: Ben Affleck
Warner Home Video
Available from Monday 31st January – £24.99 (Triple Play Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy) & £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

As he plans a job that could result in his gang's biggest score ever, a longtime thief plans a way out of the life and the town while dodging the FBI agent looking to bring him and his bank-robbing crew down. In addition to heading the cast, Ben Affleck also directed and co-wrote this crime thriller that unfolds - and often explodes - across gritty Boston locations.

I’ve always been of the opinion that Ben Affleck is an extremely underrated and talented actor, and that he got a bad rap mainly for his choice of women in Jennifer Lopez. It mainly comes from his excellent work in Kevin Smith’s movies and Good Will Hunting, as well as his clear ability to be able to act without taking himself too seriously. Hell, I even enjoyed Daredevil to a certain extent. As a director, however, I had no idea what to make of the prospect of one of his movies, particularly one about bank robberies based in Boston.

One of the good things about the movie straight away is that the casting is really well done. Affleck is superb as the bank robber looking to go straight, Jeremy Renner is great as Affleck’s long-time compatriot and fellow robber and Jon Hamm is absolutely superb as the FBI Special Agent. He’s especially good, thinking about it, as over the course of the film he becomes more and more obsessed with catching the four people he is so sure of convicting as the bank robbing foursome.

The plot of the movie is pretty good as bank robbery stories go, as it deals more with the robbers in between jobs, particularly Affleck’s character as the focal point of the movie. The characters are all really well written, with all of them believable and sufficiently despicable while at the same time human. The pacing of the movie, which at over two hours for the Extended Cut could so easily be the undoing of the whole thing, is really well done. You find yourself wanting to finish the story all the way through, and as they do more and more dangerous jobs increasingly efficiently, it’s certainly a hell of a ride from beginning to end.

Ultimately, the only thing I can say which is even remotely negative is that two of the characters are pretty much non-descript characters, but that’s not necessarily a massive concern, as the two lead robbers are so well done.

As if all that wasn’t enough, it also stars E14 favourite Pete Postlethwaite! *Applause*

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: It’s a bank robbery movie, and understandably there are some shoot-out moments and a fair bit of violence.
Sex/Nudity: Some brief nudity, a couple of non-explicit sex scenes.
Swearing: IMDB lists the movie as having 141 uses of “fuck”, 1 use of “cunt”, 43 uses of “shit” and 32 “other”,.
Summary: A slick, well-done, entertaining thriller which is compelling from beginning to end. 10/10
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen
Starring: Yasuaki Kurata, Qi Shu, Donnie Yen
Director: Wai Keung Lau

Available from Monday 31st January - £19.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Blake Harmer

As ever, the constant debate that rages in my head as to whether the plot or the kung-fu truly make a great kung-fu movie. Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen is definitely argues for kung-fu, and not in a good way.

That isn’t to say the kung-fu on show here is bad; that is definitely not the case. Donnie Yen demonstrates some superb kung fu with some good choreography. Sure, what is on display may not be as technical or as impressive as Ip Man, but Donnie Yen does deliver some good, if slightly over the top, moves with some satisfying blood and pain on show to make you wince. The plot is also gripping and will hold your interest despite a couple of bits where pacing seems to slow down.

The problems with the film is mainly down to the plot being so complicated that it can be hard to follow for those expecting the usual kung-fu romp. Filled to the brim with war, politics and deception, you would have thought Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen to be a complex thriller rather than merely a punch-a-thon. This causes a lot of the pace drops mentioned earlier, and also indirectly affects the kung-fu. The kung-fu scenes get so few and far between that you have to put up with a lot of plot before you get a fairly decent fight scene!

That said, persevere and there is a good plot and some good fight scenes to be enjoyed here. Just don’t expect this to match up to the likes of great kung fu movies such as Fists of Fury and Fist of Legend.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Plenty of kung-fu related violence with quite a bit of blood involved.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A few swear words but nothing out of the ordinary considering the film’s certificate.
Summary: Despite an overcomplicated plot for a kung-fu movie, the fighting displayed by Donnie Yen is pretty good, despite being a bit over the top at times. Fans of other Chen Zhen films such as Bruce Lee’s Fists of Fury and Jet Li’s Fist of Legend will be disappointed by this in terms of kung-fu awesomeness but this is still worth a rental if you like a stronger plot with your ass kickery. 6/10
A Swedish Midsummer Sex Comedy
Starring: Alexander Karim, Olle Sarri, Lisa Werlinder
Director: Ian McCrudden
Elevation Sales

Available from Monday 31st January - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

Dear all film makers,

If you ever decide to name your film something like A Swedish Midsummer Sex Comedy, please make sure that you have the following two things in your film: 1: sex (nude swimming and making out may imply sex is going to follow but doesn’t really show it) and, 2: comedy. Throughout the entire film I smiled twice and laughed once; this amount of humour doesn’t really deserve the term 'comedy'.

The problem with the comedy could be because the film is mainly in subtitles (due to being set in Sweden), affecting the delivery. But when you consider there are plenty of foreign comedy films that are funny and get over the language barrier there is nothing here saving this.

In the films defence though, the film isn’t all bad. The plot is nice and light hearted even though it is a premise that has been covered hundreds of times before (a wedding that doesn’t go according to plan). There is also some good character interaction to be had here and there is also a nice soundtrack to help keep things happy and lighthearted.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating

Violence: A couple of comedic style bits where a drunk man runs into a pole and man kicks a car out of rage, but nothing really violent.
Sex/Nudity: Lots of full frontal nudity but there is no real shows of sex scenes and the worst you’ll see are couples making out.
Swearing: A few swear words but nothing out of the ordinary.
Summary: A light hearted affair that is brought down by a lack of originality and very few actual comedic moments for something that has been sold as a comedy. However, if you want a film that you don’t have to think about and will raise the odd smile then this could make a good rental for fans of romantic comedies. 4/10
Starring: Kate Dickie, Karen Gillan, James Nesbitt
Director: Colm McCarthy
Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment

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

When Mary and her teenage son, Fergal, move to yet another new home, it soon becomes clear that they live their lives on the run, hiding from someone or something, terrified of being found. Their hunter Cathal soon picks up the trail, intent on tracking and killing Mary and Fergal, he will go to any length to succeed in his quest often using dark arts to aid him. Mary's only defence is to use an ancient form of magic of her own in order to protect her only son.

When local residents begin to be brutally murdered by an unknown life force, the sense fear escalates. Is Cathal the beast responsible for the killings? Or is it the beast that he is trying to destroy?

Outcast is very slow to get going, and the editing and absolutely atrocious camera work don’t do it any favours. Visually, it’s a mess, and hard to follow.

The main trouble is that instead of presenting its monsters as something new and original, they instead wind up being buried under the weight of their own mythology. Here, there are so many good ideas that just don’t pan out.

With that said, there’s a lot of promise here. The violence is hard hitting and vulgar, and the romance is realistic and touching. McCarthy is one to watch out for in the future. With a better story and editing, he could produce something pretty special.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Blood, gore, bludgeoning.
Sex/Nudity: Oh, yes.
Swearing: Frequent and coarse.
Summary: What flashes of genius there are here are buried under the weight of its own mythology and the woefully slow pacing. Maybe worth a rental. 6/10
Starring: Robert Bathurst, Ruth Jones, Aidan Turner
Director: Dan Zeff
Channel 4 DVD

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

Thanks to the success of the Carry On films, actress Hattie Jacques was famous for playing 'fat and funny' characters. However behind closed doors, Hattie became the star in her very own scandal when - in the middle of filming Carry On Cabby - she began a passionate affair with her handsome young chauffeur, John Schofield, while she was still married to Dad's Army actor John Le Mesurier.

Set in the bohemian world of 60s London, Hattie shows that, despite the matronly roles she played on screen, the real Hattie enjoyed an adventurous and passionate love life - risking everything to pursue the man of her dreams.

Hattie is shot brilliantly, and the direction from Dan Zeff is absolutely excellent. The roles are perfectly cast, and the actors obviously studied their parts excellently – Bathurst and Jones both manage to capture the little mannerisms of the stars they are playing. On the surface, Hattie seems fantastic.

Unfortunately, whilst as a piece of visual cinema it’s great, it lacks enough substance to make it truly essential. The pacing is rather slow, even grinding to an apparent halt around the hour mark. The actors are fantastic in their roles, but the way their parts are written makes them feel rather like caricatures, often making very odd decisions, without any real explanation as to why.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Sex/Nudity: Frequent sex scenes. Involving Hattie Jacques. Maybe anime isn’t the worst shift you can pick on this ship...
Swearing: Strong but infrequent.
Summary: A rather strange biopic. It is not a true “life story”, but instead chooses to focus on one pretty odd affair. Well shot and acted, but ultimately unsatisfying. Worth a rental if you’re interested in Jacques, or the Carry On movies. 6/10


Film director, Hong, takes young starlet, Hyun-ah, to the countryside to discuss a new role, where they stop at a farm that is renowned for its home-made chicken soup.

The owner of the farm, Pan-gon, is a recluse and social outcast with a very dark secret. Jealous of Hyun-ah's beauty and insulted by her disdainful treatment of him, he ruthlessly strangles Hong and imprisons Hyun-ah in the basement. Does he want to torture her, use her for sex, or is his agenda even darker?

After Hyun-ah's sister becomes concerned over her disappearance, she contacts the police. A trail of evidence points toward the farm, but will they make it in time to save Hyun-ah from the whims of the unhinged maniac, or will Pan-gon's vengeance be complete?

Thanks to our friends at Cine Asia, we've got two copies of Missing on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Saturday 5th February January, making sure to put "Missing" as the subject. The first two entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy each!

Don't forget to put "Missing" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Missing is available on DVD from Monday 31st January, priced £15.99.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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