Saturday, 30 July 2011

DVD Reviews

CSI: Miami – Season Eight
Starring: David Caruso, Emily Procter, Agam Rodriguez
Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment
Available now (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

Following the ferocious gun battle in the season seven finale, the eighth season of CSI: Miami opens with CSI Delko fighting for his life once again. Meanwhile a deadly serial killer taunts the team by leaving them cryptic hints, the longer it takes to decipher these fiendish puzzles the higher the death toll rises. This is the ongoing story of the Miami Dade police department and their mission to control a city ablaze with crime, chaos and violence.|

CSI: Miami for me has always been the weakest of the franchise variants. For my money, the cast just has never resonated as strongly as the other shows’ casts. Indeed, Horatio Caine, most notable for his timely removal and application of sunglasses at key dialogue points, is more iconic for the places where he doesn’t speak than the places where he actually recounts lines. Those lines, too, are pretty cheesy, way in excess of what Grissom or Mac Taylor are capable of. It’s a relief, therefore, to watch a season of the show which seems less steeped in the cheesiness.

Now, granted, the first episode sees a flashback to when CSI Delko joined the team, which sees the origin of the sunglasses associated with Horatio Caine, as well as seeding a future returning member of the team, and understandably the episode is a little sappy. However, once the first part of that storyline is resolved (as the ramifications of the episode have effects ongoing throughout the series), the series goes back to having dark subject matter.

Now, the only issue here is that for fans who’ve maybe watched some of the other series but never delved into Miami, this doesn’t represent the best jumping-in point. Now, it may sound strange to say that, considering that this is series 8, but ultimately the cliffhanger ending of the previous series makes a *huge* difference to the flow of this series, and as a result the viewer feels disjointed if they jump in at the beginning of this series. Make no mistake, however; this is a fine collection of episodes, with some really clever premises by a strong writing team.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Guns, murders and so on. Surprising that a CSI show should contain such things, eh?
Sex/Nudity: CSI isn’t really known for it unless the detail is forensic, and you don’t usually see anything. This is no exception.
Swearing: Again, as it’s a particularly popular show, “Son of a bitch” is about as hard as it gets.
Summary: A strong series, maybe not one to jump into for the newbies though. 8/10

The Silent House
Starring: Florencia Colucci, Abel Tripaldi, Gustavo Alonso
Director: Gustavo Hernández
Studio Canal/Optimum Home Entertainment
Available from 01/08/2011
Review by Blake Harmer

With the idea of the film being shot in one continuous take (or creating the appearance of it), The Silent House follows Laura and her father Wilson, as they attempt to do up a house so it can be resold. However, after settling down for the night in the house so work can begin in the morning, Laura keeps hearing a noise upstairs which keeps getting louder and louder. It is only when Wilson goes upstairs to investigate do they realise there is more to this house than meets the eye…

As is to be expected with this undertaking, the camera work on show here is excellent. From showing you just enough to keep the tension rising, but not enough so as to give away the big scares, there is seldom a moment you’re not feeling tense. The acting and special effects are also great considering that this is quite a low budget film.

However, technical marvels aside, The Silent House does suffer with storytelling issues and leaves a lot of backstory out as well, leaving a lot of scenes to the viewer’s own imagination. Also, a lot of the jumpy moments aren’t very original to the horror genre. Examples of this include children’s music and toys to add to the tension and try to freak the viewer out. Another example of this is the use of a scary looking little girl, a horror cliché that practically every Japanese horror film is guilty of. There are also a couple of stupid moments in the film that makes you doubt the integrity of the film before it is explained later. Without spoiling the plot, the characters seem to act irrationally, but in such a way that it was too much even considering that most horror characters have a pretty low intelligence.

That said though, there are still some good scares and tense moments, so this is still worth a watch, on the proviso you are in it more for the technical brilliance of how it is pulled off over its other obvious shortcomings.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: There is a fair amount of blood and corpses and lots of violence is implied but nothing is truly shown as it is done too quickly.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A few, and not very strong at that.
Summary: A tense and jumpy horror movie that is masterfully shot on its low budget. Sure, it may not have the most original plot or scares, but if you want to experience a horror film in a new way with some great camerawork, then this is definitely worthy of a watch. 7/10

Cowboys and Zombies
Starring: David A. Lockhart, Camille Montgomery & Rick Mora
Director: Rene Perez
Left Films
Available from 01/08/2011 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

Set in 1849, a bounty hunter on his way back from capturing an Indian alive for the bounty, finds that the town has become overrun with zombies after a meteor that was discovered unleashes a deadly virus, and it is up to him, the Indian and a girl he originally uses as bait to capture the Indian, to try to survive and escape the infested area.

On paper, the premise of a zombie film set in the Wild West is a nice idea. However, when put into practice here, it just doesn’t work. To say this film was terrible is an understatement. The acting is atrocious, the dialogue is cringe-worthy and the plot is paper-thin. In fact, for the first half of the film you may as well have called the film “Cowboys”, as you don’t get an inkling of the walking dead until about the half way mark. The film also fails to be scary on any level throughout or really tries to engage with the audience, which makes it hard for the viewer to maintain any interest in it.

If there is anything that can be said for Cowboys and Zombies, it is that there is quite a lot of boobage in it (hence the E14 bonus point), and there is a scene involving a blind zombie that creates the film’s only scare, but even this scene was unoriginal and had been done better in other films such as The Descent.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence
: Lots of shooting zombies, hacking zombies to death and zombies eating people, but the special effects are so bad that even the blood is computer generated and looks appalling.
Sex/Nudity: You get boobs every 10-15 minutes for the first half of the film, then nothing. You also do get a chase scene where a zombie is chasing a woman with her boobs out though.
Swearing: A few but not a lot by most horror movie standards.
Summary: Cowboys and Zombies is a good idea executed poorly, as what could be a good premise for an action/horror film is neither scary or has action scenes that are particularly thrilling to watch. Avoid like an actual zombie infestation. 2/10

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