Saturday 23 January 2010

DVD Reviews

John Frizzell
Optimum Home Entertainment

Available From 25th January - £15.99 (DVD) and £19.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Antarctica. The most isolated landmass on Earth. Six million square miles of ice. Six months of darkness. Temperatures at minus 120 degrees and winds at 100 miles per hour. For US Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale – Underworld: Evolution, Whiteout) things are about to get even more dangerous. During the last three days of her assignment, as the complete closure of the base for winter approaches, she is sent to investigate a body on the ice. Antarctica’s first ever murder.

A shocking discovery in itself, it will plunge her into an even more bizarre mystery and the revelation of secrets long-buried under the endless ice...secrets that someone believes are still worth killing for. As Stetko races to find the killer before he finds her, winter is already closing in. In the deadly Antarctic whiteout, she won’t see him until he’s a breath away.

I can only imagine the conversation at the studio:

“Hey, have we got anything for Kate Beckinsale?”
“ about something where she has to wear as much clothing as is possible?”

Whiteout suffers from two main flaws. It’s painfully slow...nothing really happens for long periods of time, and the story itself is...well, fairly predictable to be honest. If it wasn’t for the interesting location, it would be a movie you’ve seen a hundred times before. Some gritty crime drama, with occasional bursts of action – a genre we in the business like to refer to as a “Denzel Washington Movie”.

The action set pieces are fun, and keep the interest up, and the acting is solid all round. And it’s got Captain Dallas from Alien in it. It’s worth a watch, but there’s nothing to write home about, and you’ll forget it shortly afterwards.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some grappling/fisticuffs, gunplay, concussive force. Some blood and gore shown in detail.
Sex/Nudity: Kate Beckinsale has a shower scene, but you don’t see anything beyond underwear. A parade of naked dudes run by in the snow, junk waggling.
Swearing: Typical for a Hollywood action movie.
Summary: A thoroughly average crime thriller, with nothing noteworthy besides its setting. Worth a rental. 6/10

Severed Ways
Tony Stone
Soda Pictures

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

In 1007 AD on the mainland of North America, two stranded Vikings search against all odds to find their way home. As they struggle to survive in the vast forests of the New World, their paths diverge as one pursues a spiritual quest and the other reverts to his primal instincts.

I love Vikings. I love metal. Bring it on.

For the first ten or so minutes of this film, I sat amazed. This was because I had never before seen a cameraman actually fail to keep the actors in shot whilst filming. Throughout the entire movie the camerawork renders it practically unwatchable, and that’s on top of the movie’s many other faults.

Everything takes exactly twice as long as it needs to, from the painfully slow building of a shelter to the exploration sequences. It’s almost as if during editing they decided “Okay, we’ll need ten minutes of shelter building, ten minutes of walking, ten minutes of hunting, ten minutes of cooking, ten minutes of eating...” and then padded out the footage to fill their own self-inflicted requirements.

The sad thing is that there is nothing here that couldn’t have been fixed with actors, a writer and a competent production team. The soundtrack is pretty awesome if you’re into Black and Battle Metal. Of course, I am into Black and Battle Metal, and I still found this movie to be turgid dross.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some sword fighting, chicken decapitation, scuffling and church burning.
Sex/Nudity: Naked Viking butt-cheeks whilst the actor takes a very real poo.
Swearing: Some, disturbingly modern.
Summary: A boring, wasted opportunity of a movie. Even the most hardened Viking lover is advised to steer clear. Pick up Giles Kristian’s Raven: Blood Eye and a Turisas album instead. 1/10

Scared To Death
Christy Cabanne

Available Now - £7.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Scared to Death opens with a bunch of morgue examiners informing us that a “beautiful” woman has died of fright...literally. The movie begins proper via a series of flashbacks, revealing how she reached the fatal stage of terror. Married to the son of a doctor, the proprietor of a private sanatorium, the woman is under unwilling treatment. Both the son and the doctor indicate they want the marriage dissolved. Then, arrives on the scene a mysterious personage identified as the doctor's brother who formerly was a stage magician in Europe (Bela Lugosi – The Mysterious Mr Wong, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man). He is accompanied by a threatening dwarf, for no particular reason.

Every single element of this movie is botched. The screenplay and editing feels like an “Old Time Radio Mystery Theater of Doom” style play, badly illustrated by ill-colourised and uncomfortable actors. By the half-way mark, I’d lost all interest. Anyone could be killing anyone and I wouldn’t give a monkey’s...

My favourite bit was the way it would play a bit of Theremin music, and but to the dead body on the slab, so a voice over could go “Meanwhile, the doctor was talking upstairs”, or words to that effect. It would then play the exact same piece of Theremin music, and cut back to the film, with such speed and regularity that it becomes hilarious.

The more this movie continues, the less sense it makes. A waste of seventy minutes of your life.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
A disgruntled dwarf kicks someone in the shins.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: The biggest sin with this farce is this: the DVD production is minimal. You have a menu, with one option: Play Movie. “Not so bad!” you’re thinking, “a lot of low budget movies do that!”. Yeah, but what you should know is that Scared to Death is actually in the public domain, meaning that you can download it for free or even watch it on YouTube if you really want to. Do you really want to pay £7.99 for that? 1/10

Ben 10 - Alien Force: Volume One
Warner Home Video
Available Now - £12.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

The boy superhero returns to save the world in this sequel to the original Ben 10 series. When he first happened upon the Ominitrix five year ago, it gave Ben the power to turn himself into ten different aliens--each with its own incredible abilities. Ben eventually gave up his role as a defender of Earth, and returned to normal life. But when Grandpa Max disappears, it sets Ben and his friends on a new course of interstellar adventures.

Ben 10 - Alien Force is that truly rarest of things – a sequel that is actually better than the original. With the aging of Ben, Gwen and Kevin as characters has come more mature feel to the morals – and the storylines. The show takes on a more science-fiction feel, catering less to the tropes of the Saturday Morning Cartoon genre. The central quest – trying to discover the whereabouts of Grandpa Max – is frequently diverted, and the show focuses just as much on the characters relationships as it does with the larger universe.

Fans of Ben 10 will already know what a great show this is, and should pick this up as quick as they can...people underwhelmed by the child-friendly-orientated emphasis of the original would do well to give this a look.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some shooting, and melee combat, slightly stronger than average for the genre.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: The best cartoon on TV just got better, darker and more awesome. 10/10

Speed Grapher: Complete Series Box Set
Kunihisha Sugishima
MVM Entertainment

Available Now - £49.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Once addicted to the rush of working in the line of fire, burned out war-photographer Saiga has been reduce to selling his artistic sould as a tabloid photojournalist in the near-future dystopian city of Tokyo. It is a morally corrupt society in which the rich get rich while the poor get less richer, and where even the most taboo desires can be satisfied...for a price.

In the midst of yet another seemingly dull paparazzi assignment, Saiga infiltrates an underground den of vie that specialises in pandering to the warped sexual desires of the city’s wealthiest and most powerful citizens. There, he witnesses a depraved ceremony in which the Goddess, a beautiful young girl named Kagura, is about to bestow a dangerous gift upon a more-than-willing victim. When his cover is blown, Saiga is only saved from certain death by a kiss from Kagura. It is a brief exchange that mysteriously gives Saiga a devastating new, supernatural ability. Forced to flee from his enemies with the young girl in tow, Saiga is plunged into a living nightmare in which he must confront his inner demons whilst trying to uncover the secret behind his remarkable transformation.

Meanwhile, unknown to Saiga and those who wish to see him dead, Kagura’s single, fateful kiss has ignited a chain of events that could destroy the entire social structure of Tokyo and bring the city to its knees.

The series begins with, as you now know, a rather nice set-up. It’s a good thing then that it manages to keep it up throughout, and the plot-twists and turns at the half-way point are mind-blowing. It’s not often that this kind of anime strikes a chord with me, but this did. Perhaps it’s the epic amount of explosions, or maybe it’s the fact that it actually tries to take an original stance on things. In any event, this is work watching, if you’re into the Japanese cartoon thing.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
A lot of shooting, fighting, bludgeoning, stabbering and murderising.
Sex/Nudity: A lot of boobies and BDSM style sexanigans.
Swearing: Frequent and colourful.
Summary: A highly enjoyable modern fantasy series, bursting with originality. I found it engaging, and would recommend it to both anime and fantasy fans. 8/10

Something inhuman has let itself loose in the Alaskan tundra, leaving a wake of unspeakable carnage. For bush pilot Alex Maguire the wreckage is especially chilling - Alaska was her refuge, the place to which she fled after the brutal murder of her family.

Alerted to the Alaskan slaughter, the Midnight Breed send Kade to quell the danger and ensure Alex does not learn the truth behind the attacks. But Alex is soon to be tested by the threat of otherwordly evil - and by her desire for Kade, a man she should fear but who is now her guide into a realm of blood and darkness.

Thanks to our friends at Robinson, we've got five copies of Shades of Midnight to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Saturday 30th January (UK time). The first five names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a copy of this awesome book!

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