Saturday 15 August 2009

DVD Reviews

Black Lagoon - First Barrage: Volumes 1-3
Sunao Katabuchi
MVM Entertainment

Review by Blake Harmer

Hey there fellow E14ers, Asian correspondent Trisha Takan… I mean Blake Harmer here ready to deliver a slice of anime goodness. First up is Black Lagoon, which is possibly one of the most E14 anime series I have seen in a long time.

The story focuses on Rock, a Japanese businessman who was constantly mistreated by his managers. Whilst he was on an important journey to deliver an important disc to the company headquarters, his ship was attacked and he was taken hostage by pirates on the ship The Black Lagoon, who are working on a contract with the Russian Mafia to steal the disc so they can Blackmail Rock’s employers. The pirates include Dutch the Boss, Benny the Mechanic and general techie guy when it came to using computers and other instruments for navigation, and Revy the muscle known as “two hands” as she is highly experienced with using two guns at once. Upon discovering that his company no longer care for his welfare and dispatch mercenaries to kill him and the pirates in order to recover the disc, Rock realises he has nowhere else to go in life and decides he wants to be a pirate and works with the crew of The Black Lagoon to defeat the mercenaries, and eventually joins the Black Lagoon. The rest of the series follows the crew of The Black Lagoon's exploits fighting other pirates and trying to get along as best they can whilst they complete contracts and go after booty.

This series is excellent for several reasons. Firstly, the action is superb, with fantastic firefights and great one-liners adding for some genuinely cool moments and dialogue which is actually funny unlike most animes (which I touch upon in my review of Samurai Deeper Kyo). The characters are all instantly likeable and have their own distinct personality, the calm and collected Dutch, the complete Psycho that is Revy, and the obvious newbie that is Rock. Also, Revy is probably the most Emotionally Fourteen anime heroine ever. She is a skinny, large breasted woman who kicks large amounts of ass with guns and rocket launchers, saying cool one-liners, and doing it all whilst wearing denim short shorts. The only thing that could be more E14 is Darth Vader force choking a Balrog whilst ManOwar plays in the background.

If I can name a gripe, it would be that I find Revy’s voice to be quite annoying at times. That and for £21.99 for 12 episodes seems a little bit steep, especially as there are no special features to go with it. But if you over look these this is an awesome series and definitely worth the money in turns of entertainment.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Lots and explosions and gun fire in every episode. Gore is present but not done over the top to give it a more realistic feel.
Sex/Nudity: None, the focus is more on the action and adventure than whats under Revy’s top. And she’s more likely to blow a tentacle demon’s cock off than show that.
Swearing: Lots of swearing and insults used to great effect Especially Revy giving such great threats as welding Rock’s arse together if he doesn’t stop bitching about being in a firefight.
Summary: An excellent anime series that will keep you hooked with cool explosions and one liners from start finish. This is a must watch and a necessary addition to any anime fan’s collection. 9/10

Samurai Deeper Kyo: Volume 1 - The Demon Awakens
Junji Nishimura
MVM Entertainment

Review by Blake Harmer

Being a fan of quite a bit of anime films and TV series, I do still find myself having a couple of gripes with them. Namely, that any comical elements that occur in an anime are not funny. There are quite a few “funny” bits that occur in Samurai Deeper Kyo, probably about as often as these moments occur in the children’s hit cartoon Pokemon. However, Samurai Deeper Kyo does rise above these moments and delivers a decent premise with plenty of action.

The story revolves around a legendary samurai known as Demon Eyes Kyo, who is a legendary slayer of a thousand men at The Battle of Sekigahara. During the battle he was fighting against an equally fierce warrior known as Kyoshiro Mibu. However, during this battle, a meteorite crashed on them and after the smoke has cleared, they have both disappeared. Four years later, Kyoshiro, who is now a mild mannered medicine man, is discovered by a bounty hunter named Yuya who wants to claim the bounty on his head as he leaves a restaurant without paying the bill. However, when Yuya tries to capture him, they are attacked by a Kenyo demon, one of many demons that have appeared within the four years after the meteorite crash. Kyoshiro tries to fight off the demon, but in his fury awakens the soul of Demon Eyes Kyo that appears to be residing within Kyoshiro and is determined to find his own body so his soul can return to its rightful place, and awakens whenever Kyoshiro and Yuya are thrown into battle.

This series is very strong when it comes to this plot, with each of the characters having their own storylines and needs that contradict the other characters. For example, Yuya gets more and more friendly with Kyoshiro as the story progresses, but also wants the huge bounty on Demon Eyes Kyo for him slaying a thousand men. Also, the design of the bad guys, especially the Kenyo demons are very inventive although distinctly familiar with other anime monsters such as the Zoanoids from the Guyver series. The action is great too, although it seems to be aimed at the slightly younger audiences who enjoy Dragonball Z by focusing on the action looking flashy and cool rather than being over the top and gory like in the Guyver and Fist of The North Star series (hence its PG certificate).

Samurai Deeper Kyo does have quite a few flaws though. Namely it has too many of the shonky “cutesy” comedy stuff that too many anime programs use as mentioned before, such as looking like a baby or just having a face with two enormous eyes and nothing else, or falling over in two frames of animation when someone delivers a crappy punch line. I also didn’t like some of the animation where the screen just freezes in an admittedly more detailed shot for no reason and the people keep talking. This must’ve been a decision by the artists, but I found that it was difficult to work out which people were talking sometimes. Which didn’t help when the story starts getting more complex later on.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Fairly action heavy throughout with lots of flashy fighting when it does kick off. No real gore though.
Sex/Nudity: None, there’s lots of anime girls in skimpy kimonos but that’s it. It is a cartoon at the end of the day, and aimed at a younger audience so not an 18 rated tentacle in sight.
Swearing: Rare swearing, I think there was a couple of "bastards" but apart from that it is fairly tame.
Summary: An enjoyable anime with a storyline that will keep you interested throughout. Ideal for younger fans of the anime series. But for older fans I can recommend much better series such as Ninja Scroll and the awesome Black Lagoon which I have also reviewed. Definitely worth a checkout if you’re a fan of other anime series such as Dragonball Z and Bleach though. 7/10

Red Mist (Freakdog)
Paddy Breathnach
Revolver Entertainment

Review by Brad Harmer

Have you ever seen I Know What You Did Last Summer? Did you, whilst watching that slasher movie think to yourself “Yeah, this is pretty good, but it would be a hundred times better if instead of college students they were trainee doctors, and if instead of running over an old-man they instead spiked an autistic guys drink with potent drugs.”? If not, then the search for this movie’s target market must continue.

Straight off the bat, I will say this: This is not a bad film. It’s not a great one, but it’s not bad.

Anyhoo, as mentioned, one of the young doctors, Catherine (Arielle Kebbel – Dirty Deeds, John Tucker Must Die) administers a powerful and untested cocktail of drugs to the poor little autistic kid, Kenneth, whilst he’s in a drug induced coma. Instead of curing him, however, it triggers a powerful "out-of-body" experience and enables Kenneth to inhabit other people's bodies and take revenge on the bullying medical students who were responsible for his condition. Pretty neat twist on an old idea, I wonder how it’s all going to pan out. Let’s see.

This film wears its influences on its sleeve. From the obvious I Know What You Did Last Summer plot, the Ju-On: The Grudge style camera work, and the Lustmord style soundtrack it doesn’t have much originality going for it. The bad guy as a coma patient twist is nice, but when everything else is this unoriginal, it just seems like so much window dressing.

Some of the death scenes in this movie, such as the one using the bottle of acid are actually really inventive, and that’s what makes these kind of films popular. What’s more, the major plot twist was actually really clever. Well, kind-of. It was a clever idea, but I’d figured out what had happened about twenty minutes before the characters did, so the “stunning revelation” was pretty lost on me.

Like I say, this is entertaining enough, but for every positive feature, it also has a negative one. If you’re a fan of horror B-movies, you’ll probably enjoy this, and it’s the ideal sort of movie to get together with a few friends and take the piss out of. There are plot holes you can drive a truck through, but all things considered, you could do a lot worse.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Uncompromising, including stabbings, beatdowns, acid burns...
Sex/Nudity: Nips.
Swearing: A realistic amount, except for Harriet, the British Goth and her “fuck” filled script.
Summary: A fun straight-to-DVD horror movie. Not great by any stretch, but entertaining nonetheless. 5/10

Lamberto Bava
Arrow Films
Review by Brad Harmer

Macabre opens up with Jane, a New Orleans housewife, leaving her daughter and son home alone to meet her lover, Fred Kellerman. After getting some hot action, she receives a call telling her that her son has died. Her lover rapidly drives her to her house, but skids and ends up plowing into a crash barrier, which decapitates him. Fred rather unsurprisingly dies from this widely know but little understood medical condition, and Jane is sent to a mental institution to recover from the trauma.

On her release a year later she moves into the boarding house where Fred and she would rendezvous. The landlord has passed away and her blind son, Robert, is left to maintain the house. Robert is obviously attracted to Jane, but she is obviously too in love with the late Fred to pay him any attention. Over one crazy weekend, everything comes to a head.

The first thing to strike me about this film was that the picture and sound were both in serious need of a clean-up. The picture is scratchy and the sound track is mostly clicks and pops throughout. We’re at the point now where it should be standard for publishers to at least run their movies through a noise filter before releasing. This is sub-VHS quality.

Unfortunately, the poor quality of this movie seeps into more than just a technical level. The writer’s attempt at slow burning, tense pacing just results in a very, very dull movie. Nothing happens for a good part, and I had accurately predicted the ending by well before the half-way mark. Granted, the fact that the “big, twist ending” was depicted on the sleeve art was pretty dumb, but that’s just a staple for grindhouse stuff, to be honest. There’s nothing here that isn’t done a hundred times better in a hundred other movies.

There are some things that work, but they are very few and far between. Early on I was curious about how the characters would interact and cross-over with one another; but to say that I was “engaged” by the story would be an overstatement. The Gothic atmosphere combined with its grindhouse sensibilities could have been interesting, but the way they went together here was just rather at odds – mashing rather than meshing. All over a most distracting soundtrack of pops and clicks. Oh, yeah, and the suddenly-supernatural-Jason-in-the-lake ending is quite possibly the stupidest I’ve seen since...oh, I don’t know...Jason popping out of the lake at the end of Friday The 13th.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Not a lot, to be fair. There are a couple of murders, and one decapitation, but it’s relatively tame stuff.
Sex/Nudity: Lots of sex/masturbation, but mostly clothed or at least covered up by bedding.
Swearing: A realistic amount.
Summary: A bad movie, held back not only by limited technical ability, but also by a lack of interesting plot. 2/10

Haunted Echoes: A Ghost Story
Harry Bromley Davenport
Revolver Entertainment
Review by Brad Harmer

Right, here are several signs that the movie you have just made may not be as good in real life as it is in your head. Firstly, is the entire soundtrack being performed on a Yamaha keyboard with a orchestra Voice? Are all your special effects created by just turning up the brightness? Is the main star Sean Young, who whilst not a bad actress by any stretch, hasn’t really been seen in anything since Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, where she was upstaged (in my memory at least) by Cannibal Corpse? If the answers to all of the above questions are “yes” – the, congratulations! You have directed Haunted Echoes: A Ghost Story. Oh, yeah...did you feel a need to tell the audience what kind of story it was in the actual title of the movie?

Anyway, Guy and Laura (Young) have recently suffered a parent's worst nightmare: their eight-year-old daughter Kimberly was abducted from her bedroom and murdered. They move to a charming old house in need of repair, hoping the project will alleviate their pain but they soon find themselves haunted by a young female ghost – it seems to want to tell them that what they believe about the circumstances surrounding their daughter’s death may not be the truth.

A low budget is not a reason to dislike a film in and of itself. The problem lies when the low budget serves only to make the other flaws much more apparent. The script is very heavy, with characters often announcing out loud how they feel in a Stephenie Meyer fashion. The editing, too, is very clumsy. Scenes either jump cut into each other, or there is an unnecessarily overlong black screen dissolve before fading back up. The main problem, though lies with the story itself, and that’s not a good place to be.

If anything, I would say that Haunted Echoes: A Ghost Story, actually gets worse as it goes along. What starts as a crappy haunted house movie, turns into two slightly mad parents hounding schoolgirls trying to dig up dirt on the local teacher whom they suspect of being a murdering paedophile. At the end, a supporting character asks him if they really think he killed their daughter, and Laura replies “I don’t think we’ll ever know. But he killed someone’s daughter.”. Great. Glad that’s all wrapped up.

The only real strength this movie has is that the quality of the acting is actually really good, and it’s a shame that the dialogue is so terrible. The actors do as good a job of it as they can...but the problem there is that it just makes them look like a bunch of retards who make massive leaps of faith every now and again.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
At least two murders. Oh yeah, and a cat is cooked in a microwave. Don’t worry though, at no point do the special effects leave you in any danger of believing that it’s a real cat. The characters also react to this spontaneous cat cooking as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.
Sex/Nudity: References to statutory rape.
Swearing: A realistic amount. Not a lot, all things considered.
Summary: A ghost story that isn’t frightening in the least. As a short story, this may have been entertaining. As a movie, it’s barely watchable. – 2/10

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus
Rated 15
Review by Rob Wade

While on a research excursion, Emma MacNeil (played by 80s US pop sensation Debbie Gibson) witnesses a catastrophic incident involving whales disturbed by an experiment involving a military sonar system. During the incident, she spots something she can't even fathom (nautical pun ahoy): A Giant Octopus encased in ice along with a big fuck-off shark. Of course, the ice cracks when the whales become so disturbed that they actually smash into the ice, thus releasing the beasts into the ocean. From there, it's up to MacNeil, along with her old mentor and a Japanese scientist to figure out a way to rid the world of these prehistoric terrors.

The subject of a viral trailer sensation on Youtube, much like Snakes on a Plane , excitement grew to fever pitch over this movie (or at least as high as a movie about sharks and octopuses can, in any case). Similarly, the name DOES evoke interest, as I found when mentioning to people that the DVD was in my review pile. Cries of "I HAVE to borrow that after you're done with it" were commonplace.

As soon as I was told that we'd have the opportunity to review this movie, my mind began to race. Could a movie based around the concept of two oversized aquatic predators deliver half as much in execution as it did in my head? At 90 minutes, would I eventually get bored of the shark fighting the octopus? Could I really consider myself Emotionally Fourteen if I did?

Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. Have you ever watched a film that’s good because it’s so bad? I own a couple in my collection, unashamedly I might add. Such films as Plan 9 from Outer Space and Hawk the Slayer, while terrible films in terms of quality, deliver the goods in terms of the laughs they can give a group of similarly embittered people simply because of how unashamedly bad they are.

Unbelievably, despite the promise demonstrated by the name, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus fails to deliver even in this regard.

Let’s get the good bits out of the way first: This movie ends. Seriously, that’s about all the good I can find in this movie. Apart from one scene about eighteen minutes in, which I can’t really talk about without giving away about the only good part of the film, this film is absolute dross from start to finish. The acting is appalling, even by B-movie standards. Characters have absolutely no decent dialogue whatsoever, and the only character who can actually act seems to be one submarine captain who’s on screen for about ten minutes.

The visuals are appalling frankly; the CG looks like it’s been rendered on a Playstation 2. Worse still, in order to seemingly cut costs, they re-use quite a few shots over and over again. Trust me; it’s not difficult to spot either. I saw one particular sequence three times in a twenty minute sequence, involving a guard with sunglasses being passed by another guard with sunglasses, who then turned to a 90 degree angle from the other guy (presumably to cover the blind spot for the first guy). In any case, it just screamed ‘lazy editing’ at the top of its lungs. Or gills, I suppose, as it’s a movie involving sharks.

As if all that wasn’t damning enough for the impending score of this movie, I put to you the following question: If a movie is called Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, wouldn’t you expect that you would see some sort of aggression on their part before the 80th FUCKING MINUTE OF A 90 MINUTE FILM? If the answer, you feel, is yes, then I have more bad news: the fight only lasts about 2 minutes, and as expected really about 40 seconds of that is re-used footage that’s just been flipped in a mirror image.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : A disappointingly low amount, considering the title of the film.
Sex/Nudity : None whatsoever.
Swearing : A few smatterings of dirty words here and there, nothing to write home about.
Summary: "Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus" is most DEFINITELY a rental at best. If you have a few friends over who can appreciate shit films, then rent this one and laugh your balls off. Otherwise, avoid like Mega Plague. 2/10


  1. Good grief! SIX reviews in one post! Are you guys having trouble sleeping, or something?

    Nobody could ever accuse E14 of not giving value for money!

    Particularly as it's free...

  2. bollocks... bought mega shark last week. there will be a viewing no doubt this week..... I wish id read the review b4 purchase.

  3. OK OK! So it seems EVEN the production company The Asylum who were incharge of making Shark vs Squid can fuck up an absolute diamond.. they can hype very well.. but not make movies at all.. someone should tell them they are useful for making cheap photoshop rip off cover art ONLY and should leave the movies to a production company who can do good with a script, camera or sfx!

    OK OK.. so i kinda only bought the film for the free poster i got with the dvd.. so dont flame me too much.. kool poster after all..