Saturday, 2 April 2011

DVD Reviews

My Soul To Take
Starring: Zena Grey, Nick Lashaway, John Magaro
Director: Wes Craven
Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 4th April - £15.99 (DVD) & 17.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

A notorious serial killer uses his dying breath to place a deadly curse on a small town in this latest offering from legendary horror director Wes Craven. It's been sixteen years since the maniac who terrorized Riverton met his grim demise. Seven children were born on the night he died, and he vowed that he would return one day to claim them all. Like clockwork, exactly sixteen years later, the children born that fateful night begin vanishing without a trace. Could the killer have somehow cheated death the night that everyone thought he was killed, or has he perhaps been reincarnated as one of seven teens he swore to kill?

Only one person knows the answer to that burning question. Adam 'Bug' Heller never knew how close he came to death the night his father went on that bloody rampage, and despite remaining completely unaware of the atrocities that mar his family bloodline, he's suffered terrifying nightmares from as far back as he can remember. Now, in order to save his friends, Bug will be forced to confront the evil that won't stop until it accomplishes the awful task it set out to complete on the night he was born.

My Soul to Take is, I’m rather sad to say, something of a mess. Whilst at its core is a rather clever idea, it gets bogged down by all the trappings of the slasher movie genre that Craven himself killed off with New Nightmare. And again with Scream.

There are some true moments of genius, but it always seems as though for every one thing the movie does well, it then proceeds to do something else is a really stupid and/or clich├ęd way, which totally ruins the overall effect, obviously. Then the whole thing boils down to the biggest game of “I knew that you knew that you thought that I knew what you thought that I thought you knew” since Westley went up against a Sicilian when death was on the line.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Some bloody and highly graphic murders. Some punching, kicking and other miscellaneous scuffling. Stabberising and bullet related incidents.
Sex/Nudity: Several sexual references and scenes of partial nudity.
Swearing: Frequent and strong.
Summary: Momentary flashes of genius aren’t really enough to save this rather tired slasher movie. Woth a rental if you’re a big fan of Craven, but don’t expect too much. 5/10
Edge of the Empire
Starring: Ad Carabao, Arnut Rapanit, Alisa Sontirod
Director: Nirattisai Kaljareuk
Metrodome Distribution

Available from Monday 4th April £19.99 (DVD only)
Review by Rob Wade

When the Emperor decides to raise taxes to fund a bloody war the Thai people’s livelihood is rent in two and hardship falls on their nation. As tensions mount and the Empire’s forces become desperate to maintain order, vicious acts are carried out. Rising up to avenge his loved ones a young farm-hand must face his destiny and become a deadly warrior to defend his nation. Fighting terror, tyranny and an impossible enemy, his bravery will be put to the test in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought.

Based on historical events, one of the first things that strikes you about this movie is just how stylishly things have been done. From the introduction onwards, a lot of the battle scenes are stylised in the vein of films like 300 or Sin City, but the film adds its own unique touch to the scenes, making it seem more like a tapestry. It’s a quite nice effect, and what is even nicer about it is how sparingly it’s used throughout. However, the intro does run slightly long, and does get to the point where you find yourself wishing they’d just get started.

What’s also nice is the way the characterisation is done. Of course, being based on historical events, the character outlines are not going to be as difficult to do as you have some source material to draw upon. However, the main villain is suitably bastardy to make you glad when any trouble might befall him. Similarly, the initial twenty minutes sets up a really good character as one of the evil generals, but then hits him with some knowledge that changes his outlook. What’s really frustrating, though, is that the character they build up to be totally awesome gets chucked out of the movie about halfway through, in what I like to call “Sean Bean Syndrome” after his luck in movies.

The same positive things cannot be said, however, for the use of slow motion in this movie. Around thirty minutes in, I’d already seen a couple of montages which had been slowed down for what I can only assume is dramatic effect, and I figured that maybe the film ran short and they needed to pad it out. Then they start chucking in scenes that have been sped up in post-production and I don’t know what to think!

It’s this lack of consistency, ultimately, which hurts this film. For every scene involving dancers and subterfuge (the scene that ties these two in, incidentally, is nothing short of excellent), there’s the aforementioned removal of one of the movie’s most prominent villains. At the end, similarly, the ruler of the city that is being subject to scrutiny from the Han people (the titular “Empire”) who is disgraced by the Han general then goes on to….lead the Han forces into the final battle. Even though they made him look like a complete twonk. Go figure.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: It’s a film about war and oppression, so understandably there’s a fair bit, from kung fu to armies fighting to women being boiled (no lie) to a woman being crushed by a horse-drawn carriage (you read that right).
Sex/Nudity: A little side boob, but nothing more than that. There’s rape, but you don’t see anything during that.
Swearing: One use of “Bitch”.
Summary: For what is essentially a documentary with a narrative, this one actually turned out pretty good, but is let down by some poor technical choices and editing. 7/10
Alien Vs Ninja
Starring: Mika Hijii, Shuji Kashiwabara, Masanori Mimoto
Director: Seiji Chiba
Revolver Entertainment

Available Now - £14.99 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

Set in feudal Japan, two orders of ninja are battling against each other to gain supremacy. However, in the midst of a raid, a meteorite crashes and an horrifying creature (well...a guy in a suit) emerges and goes about killing everything it sees, or turning them into its slaves using the tiny parasites on its head.

As you may be able to tell from this short description, Alien Vs Ninja is rife with flaws. There are shonky CG aliens (when it isn’t a guy in a suit) and explosions, half-baked kung fu, and an annoying “comic relief” that is so unfunny that his inevitable death led me to cheer at the TV screen. So as you can see there is plenty to criticise, here.

However, despite all the problems you may have with Alien Vs Ninja, you can’t say it doesn’t deliver exactly what it set out to do, which is give you lots of aliens fighting ninjas, even if it is in a shonky Power Rangers type way. The fact it seems to know it is low budget and doesn’t try to take itself too seriously means you can’t condemn it completely. A perfect example of this is when a crow is used to peck at the eyes of a dead ninja. That fact that it is obviously a doll with no moving parts having it’s beak smacked against the actors face means you can’t help but raise a giggle despite how truly terrible it is.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Plenty of violence and blood, although obviously computer generated. There are quite a few limbs and heads hacked off as well.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Not a lot, except there is one scene where a lot of ninja who are under mind control continuously say "fuck you" for about a minute for no real reason.
Summary: A shonky sci-fi movie that is rife with flaws, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Perfect to watch with friends to mock how bad it is. 3/10
WWE: Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Starring: Rick Flair, Hulk Hogan, The Rock
Clear Vision

Available Now - £29.99 (3 DVD Set)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

The latest in WWE’s “Like Who We Like and Buy What We Tell You” range is the new Top 50 Superstars of All Time DVD, which contains more surprises than M. Night Shyamalan’s Top 50 Movie Endings - The Movie and more propaganda than war-time Russia.

The main attraction of the set is the Top 50 countdown, which plays like any top anything, with a booming voiceover introducing each superstar as a highlight reel of them plays, intermingled with superstars past and present talking about memories and matches. Every now and again the DVD cuts to Todd Grisham in a studio, being an absolute tool. (Incidentally, I want to meet the guy that writes his jokes, so that I can shake his hand...then take a heel turn and kick him in the nuts.)

The talking heads are, for the most part, relevant and interesting, although some are very obviously scripted. John Cena heaps praise on everyone, actually saying “Growing up, I was a big fan of (X)” five times throughout the countdown. Kofi Kingston seems enthusiastic to be on here, William Regal is incredibly witty (including a “He had a pretty good mentor in World Championship Wrestling” remark about Triple H (A young HHH once tagged up with Regal in WCW.)), and even the great Antonio Inoki turns up to talk about Bob Backlund (but isn’t included in the list. Although he sticks to his comedy Italian gimmick, Santino is incredibly insightful and well spoken in his appearances, and is a credit to the WWE and its Superstars.

The list in itself is as surprising as it is hilarious. John Cena is slightly too high in the countdown, but not as much as you’d expect. The top ten includes eight guys that you wouldn’t call “McMahons Big Boys”, and is actually hard to argue with. Legends like Killer Kowalski, Dory Funk Jr, Terry Funk and Bruno Sammartino are given the nod with respectful positions, as are modern stars such as Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio and Kurt Angle. Even The Iron Sheik and Randy Savage are on here!

This being WWE though, it has to fuck a few things up. Jeff Hardy is on the list. That shouldn’t have happened. There’s no Sting (understandably) and no Ultimate Warrior (not understandably). One could make the point that this is the “Top 50 Superstars”, not “Top 50 WWE Superstars”, and that if they include Kowalski and Gorgeous George, they should surely include such luminaries as Mitsuharu Misawa, Jushin Liger and El Santo, but that’s an entirely different debate. Possibly the biggest shocker here is that the World’s most famous wrestler, Hulk Hogan only just gets into the top 25. I’m not a big fan, but that’s just ri-cock-ulous.

Discs Two and Three are matches, featuring at least one match from everyone on the list, which is impressive. The matches vary from rare golden-era footage, to 80’s nonsense, and random RAW and Smackdown! multi-man matches. It’s a mighty collection, but not every match is a gem.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Every match here, even the old ones, is PG13.
Sex/Nudity: Fabulous Moolah. In a singlet. My eyes!
Swearing: Nope.
Summary: If you enjoy those Channel 4 50 Best Toys/TV Moments/Things You Remember From Being A Child/Cheese-Based Theme Parks shows, this is the set for you! A good collection of matches could have been much better. A must for the collectors out there. 7/10
WWE - Live in the UK: November 2010
Starring: Wade Barrett, John Cena, Alberto Del Rio
Clear Vision

Available Now - £17.99 (DVD)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

Is it that time again? Really?

Twice a year, the WWE invades the UK, and twice a year it “treats” Britain to a DVD containing all of the shows filmed here. So, essentially what you get is a below average episode of RAW, Smackdown!, Superstars and NXT, as the “big” stars tend to phone in their performances. In happenings that actually matter from each show:

Nothing.

In happenings from the shows:

NXT: The commentators mock the show endlessly. Although genuinely hilarious, it doesn’t do anything for the quality of the show, or the confidence of the rookie divas. Goldust argues with a rookie he “married” the week before. Ted DiBiase was the “priest”. His wife, who’s name I forget/never learned fights another woman who’s name I forget/never learned in the main even, a match instigated by a disagreement at the start of the show, prompting a brilliant commentary quote of: “Who will come out on top of this epic, 45 minute long feud!”

Superstars: This shows actually boasts two good matches: Yoshi Tatsu vs. Zack Ryder and Drew McIntyre vs. Kaval. That’s all it boasts.

Smackdown!: Alberto Del Rio takes on Kofi Kingston, some other stuff happens, including Kane losing Paul Bearer, Edge takes on David Otunga of the Nexus in a ludicrous lumberjack match, Cody Rhodes makes fun of British teeth (and its actually quite original and...good) and Kane goes up against Big Show, who seems to have transformed into the world’s friendliest giant.

RAW: Even less happens here. There’s a big tag match with the Nexus taking on the team of Randy Orton, The Miz, Daniel Bryan, R-Truth and Mark Henry. Oh and there’s an:

UNINTERESTING GINGER TURD UPDATE!

Sheamus, who may now be slightly interesting, is the guest on Santino’s Tea Time, and cant help but laugh as the Italian pokes fun at him, asking if he likes ginger tea and if he wants his tea milky. He also points out that Sheamus has anger problems, probably stemming from the fact that he was bullied in school, on account of being “terribly ginger”. Every time the crowd roar with laughter (and they do), Santino brilliantly quips “Thank you, but you’re not helping! He’s getting angry!”. Santino, Koslov and Sheamus are all genuinely hilarious and should be commended in this sketch, which comes to a close when Santino “accidentally” pours tea on Sheamus, and they have a short match.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Nope.
Sex/Nudity: The bottom half of Layla’s ring gear is really low. Its not a bad thing...
Swearing: Nope.
Summary: If you were at the shows, you’re going to pick this set up to mark it, I would. If you weren’t, you didn’t miss much, just don’t bother. 4/10

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