Saturday 23 July 2011

DVD Reviews

Lake Mungo
Starring: David Pledger, Martin Sharpe, Rosie Traynor
Director: Joel Anderson
Second Sight Films

Available from Monday 25th July
Review by Brad Harmer

Sixteen-year-old Alice Palmer tragically drowns while swimming in the local dam. Her body is recovered, a verdict of accidental death returned, and she is laid to rest. In the days that follow her grieving family begins to experience a series of strange and inexplicable events. Profoundly unsettled they seek the help of psychic and parapsychologist, Ray Kemeny. In their search for answers they discover Alice had been living a disturbed life and hiding dark secrets. Something haunted their daughter and the terrifying truth awaits at Lake Mungo.

Ghost stories are exceptionally well suited to the documentary style, in my opinion. I always feel that if a ghost is presented in a standard way, then more often than not, it just ends up being another monster. When presented in a documentary fashion though – whilst there’s a chance it can always go tits up and you wind up with Paranormal Activity – when done well you can end up with something that’s genuinely chilling, and a little bit nervous that night.

There are plot twists a plenty in this, but they all feel natural and – once you look back – some you even kick yourself for not noticing before. The mystery progresses at a brilliant pace, and the ghost/haunting effects are brilliant.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: SPOILER [Highlight to Read] One scene depicting full-sex (no parts visible) END SPOILER
Swearing: None.
Summary: A highly entertaining and original ghost story, full of unexpected plot twists. Well worth hunting down, if ghost stories are your thing. 8/10

Evil Rising
Starring: Tommi Eronen, Viktor Klimenko, Ville Virtanen
Director: Antti-Jussi Annila
Matchbox Films

Available from Monday 25th July
Review by Brad Harmer

The year 1595 - a long and brutal war between Russia and Sweden is finally over. Brothers Knut and Erik - who are part of the commission marking the border between Finland and Russia - commit a terrible sin as they leave a young girl to die a horrible death. As the commission crosses the uncharted swamp the girl returns to haunt them, her face pouring with endless filth. Weary men find solace from the nameless village. Seeking forgiveness the brothers step in...

I get so fed up with lazy horror movies, sometimes. I hate that people are fucking the genre up with their lazy editing, bad lighting, abominable CGI (especially CGI blood – what is that about?), which is one of the reasons that I was so pleased to stumble upon Evil Rising. This is because Evil Rising gets what is important in a horror movie.

It’s one thing: horror.

It may seem obvious, but looking at the horror scene as it stands now, it apparently isn’t. Being horrifying actually comes way behind tits, heavy-metal soundtracks, CGI blood and an upbeat ending. Evil Rising, however, is grim, nasty, and it goes beyond being ‘tense’ or ‘scary’ and jumps the scale right into 'unnerving'. A slow burning plot leads into mystery and eventually horrifying climax. The direction and lighting is second to none, and the only real criticism I have of Evil Rising is that the quality of the acting is a little iffy at times; not enough to ruin it, but enough to stop it from being truly great.

If you’re looking for a horror movie that stands out from the crowd, then you could do a lot worse than this diamond in the rough.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Frequent, graphic and gory.
Sex/Nudity: Full male nudity.
Swearing: Some, strong.
Summary: An excellent supernatural horror movie that eschews ‘jumps’ in favour of genuine eeriness. 8/10

Thor: Tales of Asgard
Starring: Matthew Wolf, Christopher Britton, Jay Brazeau
Director: Sam Liu
Available now (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

Set in Asgard, this animated film centres around a younger Thor who wishes to prove himself as a man and a warrior, so, after sneaking out of the royal grounds with his brother Loki (who is still learning his mischievous magic) and sneaking on a boat of the warriors three (three boastful warriors who have never really been anywhere dangerous), they set on a quest to find the Legendary Lost Sword of Surtur. But little does Thor know is that this quest has perils so great that it could lead to the fall of Asgard itself.

There are some good action sequences to be enjoyed here, from fighting Frost Giants with a giant flaming sword to a bar room brawl to the climactic battle at the end. I also found some of the more comical moments to be enjoyable, and the characters are likeable and unique which means they interact well with each other throughout. One specific highlight is where Thor loses his sword during the bar room brawl and Loki passes him a mallet to use. After throwing it and taking out most of the bar, Thor doubts his own ability with a hammer and wonders if Loki had actually cast magic on it.

That said, the main problem with Tales of Asgard is that plot wise it is incredibly clich├ęd. From the problem to the plot twist to the resolution to the important lesson learnt, there have been countless other animated films that cover similar grounds, and sadly this does very little to try and differentiate itself from the crowd. In fact, if you were to change the characters names and have Odin as just a king, than this could just be a generic fantasy adventure.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Plenty of sword fights and explosions, think Ben 10 style violence and you’re pretty much there.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None, although Thor does refer to women as wenches when he gets angry with them.
Summary: An enjoyable fantasy adventure that will keep the kids entertained, even though it could easily have been told without being set in the Thor universe, and never separates itself apart from the hundreds of other animated films and shows out there. 6/10

Yu-Gi-Oh! – Bonds Beyond Time
Starring: Gregory Abbey, Matt Charles, Dan Green
Director: Kenichi Takeshita
Available from 25/07/2011 (DVD, Blu-Ray)
Review by Rob Wade

In the future, the world has taken a turn for the worse. Civilization is on the brink of extinction and all hope of a brighter tomorrow has been cloaked with dark uncertainty. One man, however, thinks he can do something about it. Paradox figures out a way to travel through time so that he can eliminate the scourge that he believes is responsible for causing his world to decay – the Duel Monsters card game! Paradox, determined to eradicate this perilous threat from the annals of time, begins rewriting the future by erasing the game – one card at a time. Standing in his way are three legendary duelists who will do whatever it takes to save what’s on the line – their friends, their family and the game they love. For the first time ever, Yugi, Jaden and Yusei will team together and battle with all their hearts in a duel that will decide the past, the present and the future!

As a fan of the card game in my younger days (slightly embarrassingly, not that much younger), I have watched and enjoyed the movies and the series in the past, so was optimistic to give this a go, particularly as this movie has been done to mark the 10th anniversary of the series as a whole. Imagine my trepidation, therefore, to realise that the entire presentation lasts an hour. Imagine my even more considerable dismay to find that the hour-long presentation contained a ten-minute montage detailing the successes of each of the three duellists across time. Let me repeat that. Of sixty minutes of footage, only fifty of it is new footage. When you consider that the movie got a limited 3D cinema release, it adds up to a financial butt-fucking for any parent unlucky enough to have a kid as a fan.

It’s a shame, as well, because the premise is really well done for the short time it is done. The animation, too, is really good for the series, with the CG bits on things like Yusei’s bike (incidentally, when did that series jump the shark and start taking after Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors?) done really well. Most of the movie, however, I found myself asking simply “Why isn’t this longer?” The framework is there. Like I said, they did the premise already; that’s been done. The story begins at a point where it could easily have already developed the story further, jumping in as it does with Paradox already attacking Yusei, with no build-up. Ultimately, it just doesn’t do enough to justify its existence, even though the tools are there, and as a result feels like a shameless cash-in.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: None, only the monsters fight. They blow up when they’re defeated, but that’s about it.
Sex/Nudity: None whatsoever.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A really promising premise let down by lazy execution. 5/10

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