Saturday 19 March 2011

DVD Reviews

Starring: Brittany Daniel, Scottie Thompson, David Zayas
Director: Greg & Colin Strause
Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 21st March - £19.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Kelly Prior

Los Angeles, one of the party epicentres of the rich and famous, was simply not prepared for the devastation that followed the descending of the lights...On what seems to be a perfectly normal night in L.A. the city plummets into chaos as dazzling blue lights fall from the sky. Unable to resist the allure of the lights, people flock to them like lambs to the slaughter. One by one they disappear. For Jarrod and Elaine, this is a party vacation gone terribly wrong. Staying at a friend’s penthouse they have a front row view of the strange and terrifying occurrences. Terrorist attack? Climate change? What ever they may have expected, their worst nightmares come true as the gigantic alien ships come from the sky, hovering over the buildings of Los Angeles, searching for human brains to harvest.

Well, it sounds like your average alien sci-fi movie; but regardless of the pretty basic plot, this movie kicks a lot of arse. From the very beginning, with an immensely impacting opening scene, Skyline is fast paced and hard hitting. It’s The War of the Worlds meets Cloverfield, with its own unique spin on the alien invasion plot that’s been done so many times before.

The aliens and their ships are remarkable. A very mechanical looking design is improved by adding a very organic element to the vessels as well as the aliens themselves. The special effects are excellent, from the weather effects to the massive explosions and airship battles.

The army fights back in Skyline, but we watch it through civilian eyes. There is something quite innocent about this film. It really is quite an accurate interpretation of how the everyday folk would react in an alien invasion. There is no cop or army official taking control, and no big bravado speeches or politics. The aim for Jarrod, Elaine and their friends is simply to survive. It’s the usual formula for a survival film: a small group of people are forced into one place and have to escape and try to stay alive. What is charming about the directors take on the formula is that these people are all real people, not exaggerated, overly animated characters. We don’t have a “baddie”, a “traitor”, or even a “hero”. We just have a realistic bunch of people in a disaster scenario.

The cast, which includes Donald Faison (Turk from Scrubs) is truly spectacular. Some really impressive scenes show off the great acting abilities and the raw emotion you should expect from this type of movie. Skyline was a little bit shorter than I would have liked, and the experimental ending didn’t really impress me. Apart from these slight disappointments, this movie is a winner.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Lots of alien arse kicking.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Not anything too extreme.
Summary: Very intense, with a definite horror aspect. Very much worth watching for Sci-Fi fans. 9/10
Starring: Ryan Donowho, Juliana Guill, Jessica Lowndes
Director: Kaare Andrews
Anchor Bay Entertainment

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

Five teenage friends, including rookie pilot Sara, (Jessica Lowndes) rent a small plane for a weekend getaway. But shortly into the flight, something suddenly goes wrong. The instruments begin to malfunction. The plane won't stop climbing. A storm is closing in and fuel is running out.

Now for everyone on board, the true horror has just begun: A mysterious force wants them all to die...and only one of them has the power to stop it.

Altitude is a really nice concept. No, it’s not especially original, but it’s not that bad, either. It’s a shame, then, that the nice concept is fingered into oblivion by the ham-fisted direction and the emotionally challenged actors. The first half an hour consists solely of the cast shouting at each other for no particular reason. A third of the film down, and nothing interesting has happened whatsoever. Jolly good. I’d hate to think that watching this film is just a waste of time that could be better spent holding my penis against a belt-sander.

Altitude’s main problem really is the vacuous, annoying cast. You’ve got a bunch of twenty-something arseholes all flying somewhere so that – oh, I don’t know – they can all go to Crufts or something; and nearly the whole of the film takes place inside a six-seater plane. Yup. That’s your lot, guys. Six actors, one shit director, one location. And it won’t get any more interesting by the time it’s over, either.

Then, it transpires that the story is built around a twist ending that you only won’t have seen coming if you’re blind, concussed and/or Jeff Hardy. This would have made an entertaining five-page Tales from the Crypt comic. It makes a lame movie.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Some blood and explosions.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Some mild.
Summary: Altitude would have made a great Future Shock in 2000AD, but there’s just not enough substance here to pad out the ninety minute running time. The resulting movie is full of lots of bugger all happening and a “twist” ending you see coming by the thirty minute mark. 3/10
Damned By Dawn
Starring: Taryn Eva, Dawn Klingberg, Bridget Neval
Director: Brett Anstey
Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment

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

After receiving a mysterious gift from her dying grandmother, Claire takes her new boyfriend home to meet her family who live on an isolated property in the country. The family reunion begins well but Claire soon becomes increasingly uneasy with her grandmother's medicated mumblings about a screaming banshee intent on coming for her during the night. It's not long before the family's worst fears become their reality as the banshee and her army of undead arrive to unleash blood soaked fury on them all.

Damned By Dawn has a really great first thirty minutes. The characters are all really clear, and the atmosphere surrounding the first appearance of the banshee is amazingly well done. It’s tense, creepy and everything you want out of a good horror movie. Hey, they should bonus points just for using a banshee rather than a ghost or demon or zombie or something, right? The make-up on the banshee is awesome, but it’s the sound-editing on it’s scream that’s perfect. It’s genuinely weird and terrifying.

Unfortunately, Damned By Dawn is very much a movie of two halves. The first half is a supernatural chiller, but by the forty-five minute mark it basically turns into a Tesco Value knock off of The Evil Dead. Any originality it has is completely lost, and there’s little left to do but stare in dismay at what they’re doing to all that potential.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Frequent gore, blood, stabberising, and several detailed and grisly deaths.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Infrequent and mild.
Summary: Some nice script ideas don’t really stop this from being anything more than a shonky The Evil Dead clone. A shame, as the first thirty minutes really had some promise. 4/10

Naruto Shippuden: Volume 4
Starring: Kate Higgins, Maile Flanagan, Yuri Lowenthal
Director: Hayato Date
Manga Video
Available Now – £24.99 (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

Volume 4 of Naruto Shippuden sees the team confronted by Orochimaru, and a battle quickly ensues between him and Naruto, who is gradually losing control of his own will as the Spirit of the Nine-Tailed Fox begins to take control of his body as his anger grows. Before long, Naruto is fighting for control of his own body, and Sai reveals himself as a man on a secret mission…

One thing I’ve been saying all along with this series is that it is becoming more and more awesome as it goes along, and that the storyline has been gaining momentum. This is certainly still true in the case of Volume 4 of this series, with the aforementioned battle having a fair bit of screen time understandably. The battle between Naruto and Orochimaru, in particular, has around an episode and a half completely devoted to it. It’s really well done, although one of the episodes is completely devoted to Naruto getting progressively more and more annoyed, and at the end he goes bat-shit crazy and becomes the Nine-Tailed Fox.

This series has some interesting issues, which are relatively minor things really. As an enemy, Orochimaru is formidable, with supreme chakra power and a malevolent streak. However, he has one of the wimpiest voices I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s minor, as I said, but it does make it difficult to take him 100% seriously when snakes come out of his mouth brandishing swords from *their* mouths, only to know that he’s going to sound only slightly more masculine than Droopy.

The problem is that this series tends to be difficult to just jump onto, and as a result will be unlikely to win new fans midway through simply because of the depth of narrative. Not abysmal, by any means, as it has a strong narrative flow, but maybe a side-effect.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Plenty of fighting, but mostly magic-style power stuff, as is traditional with this series.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: “Bastard”. That’s about it really.
Summary: Another strong action-packed volume, and the series gears up on and on. 8/10

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