Saturday 26 June 2010

DVD Reviews

Solomon Kane
Starring: Jason Flemyng, Alice Krige, James Purefoy
Director: Michael J. Bassett
Entertainment In Video

Available from 28th June - £19.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

As a mercenary of Queen Elizabeth I fighting in Africa, Solomon Kane encounters a demon and realises he must seek redemption or have his soul condemned to hell. He returns to England and lives a life of peace but soon the doings of an evil sorcerer upset his plans and he must take up arms again.

Sounds a bit like Solomon Kane, right? A little? He’s got a big hat, so that’s enough, right?

Okay, no. This has fuck all to do with Solomon Kane, really. But is it a good movie in and of itself?

The action scenes in this are certainly worth a watch. They’re brutal, stylish, and just plain entertaining. The ropey CG should really be forgiven considering that it’s hardly a high budget movie, but that rather unfortunately doesn’t stop it from being more than a little distracting at times.

The story is pretty much generic fantasy-revenge-movie, with no real surprises along the way. Everything from major plot points to supposed “surprises” in a particular scene are telegraphed miles in advance – to say it’s predictable is an understatement.

With these points covered, it’s still not that bad. When it doesn’t rely on its CG, it looks fantastic, with the cinematography calling to mind a darker, grimmer Lord of the Rings. The acting is pretty good across the board. I just can’t shake the notion that it would have been a lot better if they’d spent their time and money know...a movie based on the stories of Solomon Kane.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Near constant acts of violence. Stabbings, slashing, shootings, blood, gore, evisceration and crucifixion.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A fun enough action movie, but it’s hard not to be stung by the wasted potential. The action scenes are excellent, but the narrative brings no real surprises. 6/10

Clint Eastwood: The Director's Collection
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Clint Eastwood, Sean Penn
Director: Clint Eastwood
Warner Home Video

Available Now - £34.99 (DVD) & £49.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Released in a special five disc set, Clint Eastwood: Director’s Edition pulls together five of his finest movies into one not-so-little package, and at a bargain price, too. We love Clint, you love’s hard not to love the man who gave us Every Which Way But Loose. So, how does this collection measure up?

The DVD overhaul isn’t good. It auto-starts from a bland menu, and the picture is VHS quality. The film itself, however, still shines. The violence is brutal and uncompromising, and the acting is fantastic all round...hardly surprising considering the talent on display! Gene Hackman is a genuinely nasty bad guy, and Clint is still the best heroic cowboy in cinema history. The best western ever made, and a great modern tragedy. Essential viewing. 10/10

Mystic River
Mystic River won a few Oscars when it came out, but one thing you will notice is that they’re all for acting. Tim Robbins in particular is fantastic in this dark and heavy crime drama. The direction here is competent, but the general story is unfortunately dull and unengaging. It’s worth watching for the quality of the acting, but this is the disc you won’t be revisiting as often. An overlong and rather unengaging crime drama. Far from the best in the set. 6/10

Flags of Our Fathers
Clint, we love you. Tense when it needs to be, slow when it has to be, and engaging through and through, Flags of our Fathers is a war movie that tackles the same questions, but in a very original way. This is one of those films that is so good that you want to show it to someone else straight away. A genuinely moving war movie that provides an excellent satire on war in the media. Superbly put together – do not miss. 10/10

Letters from Iwo Jima
Dodgy subtitle mastering on this issue. Unless you actively click the subtitles on, you’re going to be watching the movie entirely in Japanese, with no clue what’s going on. An easily corrected mistake, of course, but one that should not have even been an issue on a release of this calibre. Despite its length, the movie just flies by. The action scenes are earth-shaking, and all of the characters likable – to one extent or another. One of the finest war movies ever made. A wonderful blend of the painfully touching and the highly explosive. Essential, and the best movie in the set. 10/10

Gran Torino
Clint Eastwood plays this lead as Walt Kowalski, a grumpy, racist, gun-toting son of a bitch. An endearing and passionate modern western, brilliantly performed. The acting is good, the story is good...but the real thing that holds this together is an untouchable X factor. Asked to explain why I loved this movie so much, I’m afraid I can’t. As a reviewer, that’s an Epic Fail, I’m aware...but those who have seen it will know what I mean, those who haven’t should see it, then agree. Clint Eastwood is the best thing ever to happen to cinema. 9/10

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Slashing and stabbing, punching, kicking, mudhole-stomping, shootings, bull whipping, evisceration, immolation, suicide and torture.
Sex/Nudity: Several references, including some to paedophilia and rape.
Swearing: Mostly swearing, with some clean dialogue. Some of it is in Japanese. Gran Torino contains 82 variations on “fuck”. At a running time of 116 minutes, that’s pretty good going.
Summary: A great compilation of a great movies by a great actor/director. Some minor technical flaws hamper a couple of the discs, but considering the price, this is near essential. We love you, Clint. You are the Patron Saint of Emotionally Fourteen. 9/10

Caligula: The Blu Edition
Director: Tinto Brass
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, John Gielgud, Peter O’Toole.
Arrow Films
Available now, RRP £19.99 (Blu-Ray only)
Review by Rob Wade

Caligula tells the story of the emperor of Rome of the same name. Based on Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars, the film is the stuff of legend – originally released in 1979, the film was censored until 2008 when the film was finally granted an 18 certificate by the BBFC.

When the people responsible for the promotion of the film describe it as an ‘insane pornographic orgy of a film’, they’re really not kidding. This film is possibly one of the most E14 films ever devised in many ways. Violent, unapologetically pornographic, with a plot that ultimately takes the titular character through from a bumbling incestuous prince to the Emperor of all Rome, all the while teaching on the subject of death and power.

One of the first things that struck me about this film was how phenomenally soothing the voice of John Gielgud really is. If he was never a radio host, it was a waste. The film begins with Caligula (played by Malcolm McDowell of Star Trek: Generations fame) as the heir to Emperor Tiberius, who fortunately for McDowell snuffs it within the first forty minutes of the film. He is then the next in line for the throne and becomes Emperor. However, he finds it difficult to hide his contempt for Rome and the system, and begins making ludicrous judgments in courts as well as having the previous Emperor’s assassin arrested.

There were some silly bits to this film; for instance, Caligula has checked Tiberius for breathing a number of times, and puts on his Emperor ring in order to see how it looks. He looks at himself in a mirror, and fails to see Tiberius sit up behind him. Just saying.

This film ultimately is a dramatically over-the-top masterpiece of decadence, with a superb performance from Malcolm McDowell in the role of Caligula, depicting fantastically well the transition from prince to Emperor, and the gradual madness that he descends into over his efforts to attain the status of a God.

It really is hard to know how to rate this movie. On the one hand, it’s a cinematically superb movie starring a whole cast of actors who perform their roles admirably. On the other hand, it’s a really long and at times overly long-winded film that runs at 156 minutes. Sometimes it means that there are considerable periods of very slow-paced narrative flow. All said, though, the film is very well done, with excellent performances from the cast.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Stabbing, people carrying around bits of horse, heads in cages, beheadings, Caligula twatting his sister in the face, a child’s head getting smashed against some stairs (I didn’t make any of these up); there’s absolutely bucketloads of blood during the course of the film as well.
Sex/Nudity: Absolutely tons of it, from nude girls and guys running around to explicit (and I do NOT mince words here) hardcore sex. Incest, homosexuality, fisting, rape, threesomes, orgies, blowjobs, lesbian 69s and fucking, when there’s sex and nudity in this film, they don’t fuck around.
Swearing: None. Surprising really, but there you go. Can’t have everything.
Summary: A tremendous cinematic achievement, with a superb cast of characters and performances. It is, I have found, slightly over-long in places, but a good film nonetheless. 8/10

American Dad: Season Five
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Rachael MacFarlane, Wendy Schaal
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Available Now - £27.99 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

American Dad, whilst not having the same success as Seth MacFarlane’s other popular adult cartoon (Family Guy) should not be underestimated, as in some ways (dare I say it), American Dad is actually a better show.

For those of you who no nothing about it, American Dad follows die-hard republican and CIA Agent Stan Smith and his crazy family, including house wife Francine, geeky son Steve, rebellious daughter Hayley, Roger, an Alien who’s living in the house to be kept under wraps, and Klaus, a German who has been transported into the body of a Goldfish due to a CIA experiment gone wrong. Series Five of the show has Francine becoming a businesswoman, Steve writing a porno, Stan becoming addicted to Trans Fats and Roger dressing up as the Phantom of the Opera in an attempt to ruin a CIA telethon organised by Stan.

American Dad is awesome for several reasons. Firstly, each episode is self-contained and doesn’t rely on a series of random sketches of varying quality as more recent episodes of Family Guy have become. Also, in places American Dad is slightly more cringey and risqué with it’s humour than the likes of Family Guy - but has managed to do it without being cancelled or getting into too much trouble with Fox or the FCC. In fact it is these gags that get the biggest laughs.

The only real downsides to American Dad is that because each episode is more about plot there may not be as many gags per minute as Family Guy whilst also suffering from Family Guy’s problem of having jokes that are a too American to be got over here in Blighty.

However, despite these problems, American Dad is a show that has gone from strength to strength with each new series (rather than Family Guy’s gradual decline), and Season Five is no exception. Fans of the show will love it, and I highly recommend it to newcomers, especially if they want to see something that’s a little bit different to Family Guy, but still just as funny.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of chase scenes and violence but nothing too gratuitous as this is just a cartoon at the end of the day. Imagine the violence in Family Guy and you pretty much have it to a tee.
Sex/Nudity: Lots of references to sex, but as this is a cartoon, nothing is really shown [I'm gonna have to give you some of this anime... - Brad].
Swearing: Lots of swear words, but used for comedic purposes.
Summary: A great show that deserves to be out of the shadow of its sister programme Family Guy. There are lots of great laughs to be had here, and I highly recommend it to anyone, but please please please, don’t compare it to Family Guy. 8/10

Top Gear: The Challenges 4
Starring: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May
2 Entertain

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Another Top Gear bundle has hit the shelves. Top Gear is usually entertaining, and sometimes even downright hilarious, but it seems with this fourth compilation of the “Challenges”, the barrel scrapers are starting to pick up a few splinters, along with the goodies.

The truly hilarious segments are the boys trying to make their own eco-car to rival the G-Wiz – which leads to them holding up traffic, cooking Richard Hammond’s head in a box and – astonishingly – actually being reviewed in Autocar magazine. Another “Challenge” in which they have to devise their own, cheaper, alternative to the standard Vauxhall Astra police car is brilliant – and leads to some genuinely unexpected and hilarious moments.

The rest of the set is however – either middling, or just plain dull. Richard Hammond races some skiers down the side of a mountain. The team go on a Time-Trial rally in an okay show. The second disc however, is where most of it falls apart. It holds your interest for sure, but there’s no real substance, sense of cohesion or – sad to say – consistency to really warrant forking over the cash for some that, let’s be honest, will be on Dave in a couple of months time.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some minor car collisions.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Some mild British slang (damn, bugger, etc.).
Summary: An entertaining enough compilation, but one you’re unlikely to view more than once. Worth a rental. You could get a similar effect by watching Dave for an afternoon. 6/10

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