Saturday 14 August 2010

DVD Reviews

Whip It
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Juliette Lewis, Ellen Page
Director: Drew Barrymore
Lions Gate Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 16th August - £17.99 (DVD) & £22.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Drew Barrymore makes her directorial debut with Whip It, the story of an ex-beauty pageant contestant named Bliss who leaves her crowns behind after joining a roller-derby team. While her mother would prefer that Bliss unlace her skates and step back before the judges, the rebellious teen instead seeks the wisdom of rowdy mentor Malice in Wonderland in learning the tricks of the circuit track.

Whip It tries so hard to be alternative and subversive, but what it fails to realise is that it’s careering blindly into cliché virtually every step of the way. From the horrendous subversity by numbers of the principal character shocking the church hall by – gasp – dyeing her hair blue (because no teenage girl has ever had odd coloured hair before!), to the mother being annoyed with her daughter wanting to partake in an alternative sport, there isn’t a single aspect that wouldn’t have been out of place in the 1980s. Had it been a period piece, that would have been fine. But when all the aspects that are supposedly “subversive” and “shocking” are pretty much normal in 2010, it’s hard for them to have any impact.

The plot is pretty much your standard Billy-Elliott, teenager-wanting-to-do-their-own-thing-despite-adversity movie body checking roughly into a down-on-their-luck-team-reinvigorated-by-plucky-newcomer sports movie. There follows an overdose on predictable plot elements, cheesy montages and more dud jokes than you’d find on a “Best of Cannon and Ball” DVD.

The acting, for the most part, is excellent (hardly surprisingly given the calibre of the cast) and the direction pretty solid. The romantic sub-plot is also surprisingly endearing, delivering some heartfelt emotion and originality, which is sadly pretty much the only original thing in this movie.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several scenes of full-contact sport violence (for those not in the know, roller-derby has an ice-hockey-like level of violence), with some blood.
Sex/Nudity: Some making out/foreplay, but fully clothed/parts obscured.
Swearing: Some mild swearing, one “fuck”.
Summary: A tired coming-of-age plot hits a tired sports-movie plot. Some good acting, and a couple of good gags, but otherwise, this is tired dross. 5/10

The Crazies
Starring: Joe Anderson, Radha Mitchell, Timothy Olyphant
Director: Breck Eisner
Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment

Available Now - £17.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

A husband and wife in a small Midwestern town find themselves battling for survival as their friends and family descend into madness. A mysterious toxin in the water supply turns everyone exposed to it into mindless killers and the authorities leave the uninfected to their certain doom in this, frankly shitty, re-make of the George Romero movie.

Sheriff David Dutton; his pregnant wife, Judy; Becca, an assistant at the medical center; and Russell, Dutton's deputy and right-hand man, find themselves trapped in a once idyllic town they can no longer recognize. Unable to trust former neighbors and friends, deserted by the authorities and terrified of contracting the illness themselves, they are forced to band together in a nightmarish struggle for survival.

I don’t know what the mission behind this was. Was the idea to try and make a zombie/horror movie without having to resort to such trite narrative and cinematic devices as “tension” or “pacing”? Was it to make a movie using the flattest characters possible? Was it to try and squeeze in as many zombie movie clichés into ninety-seven minutes as possible? If the answer to any of these is “yes”, then The Crazies is a resounding success. If it’s for any other reason, then it’s an abject fucking failure.

By the twenty-minute mark all interest in the “mystery”, the town or the heroes has been lost. Everything is just so retarded that it’s hard to believe anyone involved in the movie’s production was taking it seriously. Everything hinges on fortunate convenience and bad set-pieces.

The best thing about this botch-job of cliché and phoned in performances is that the gore work is “okay”.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Shooting, power tools/surgical implements used as weapons. Some stabbing, mutilation and immolation. Blood and gore is of a frequency and intensity that is standard for the genre.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Typical for the genre.
Summary: A hackneyed and hastily put together zombie movie that stumbles into so many clichés that with a little effort it could have made a really good parody. 3/10

14 Blades
Starring: Damian Lau, Donnie Yen, Wei Zhao
Director: Daniel Lee
Icon Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 16th August - £17.99 (DVD & Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

At the dawn of the Ming Dynasty, in order to consolidate all power and keep his bloodline on the throne, the Emperor established a secure system of defence for himself by taking young orphans off the street and training them to the highest martial arts standards to become his secret guards. Called Jinyiwei, the Brocade Guards, these warriors operated under their own code of law, led by the most skilled of their number, Qinglong. Bestowed upon him as leader is a box containing 14 steel blades, eight of which are to be used for interrogation and the remaining six for execution.

When the Imperial Court is usurped by the evil eunuch Jia, Qinglong is assigned to steal a list identifying those still loyal to the Emperor. But unknown to him, the Jinyiwei themselves have fallen under the control of Jia, who, in league with an exiled noble, Prince Qing, is plotting to rebel against the Emperor and seize power. During his mission to obtain the list, Qinglong is betrayed by his own men and barely escapes with his life. Now, as the most wanted man in the land, he must seek out and rally the loyalists to rise against Jia and restore the Emperor to power. But standing before him are the deadliest assassins in the land – his former brethren, the Jinyiwei.

14 Blades is more than just your average kung-fu/swordy movie. This is part emotionally charged, hard historical fiction AND part arse-kickery. The cinematography is just as vital as the kung-fu...and they are both flawless in the execution. Don’t think it’s just high spots all the way though – there are plenty of breaks for character development and drama too – but they never feel forced or out of place.

The only really irritating factor is the mastering of the subtitles on the DVD. They have been spaced out rather badly and so flash by a little too quickly at times...and the story is heavy enough that you can’t really afford to miss any of them. Thankfully 14 Blades is so good that it can overcome this little milestone...but it could have broken a less awesome movie.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Frequent kung-fu fighting, including bladed weapons. Some blood and gore, but presented realistically.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Strong, but infrequent.
Summary: A near perfect adventure/kung-fu movie. Full of emotion, to boot. They don’t make this this good that often. 10/10

Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Volume Four
Revolver Entertainment
Available Now - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Using characters intended for an episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, writers Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis created Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which began airing in 15-minute episodes as part of the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming, and this collection brings together all the episodes from the fourth series.

Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad are walking and talking food products who spend their days solving mysteries and coping with general problems regarding adolescence.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force is probably stoner humour. It’s bizarre, mad and frequently hyper-violent and sweary. However – and you can trust me on this – you don’t need to be a stoner to find it funny. If you’re a fan, then you’ll find Season Four to be more of the same – this is essentially more Aqua Teen Hunger Force doing what it does best

The episodes themselves, however, aren’t as strong as previous series. Whilst the best Aqua Teen Hunger Force episodes build up towards a hilarious climax, these (more often than not) will go out like a damp squib, and it’s hard not to imagine the writers shrugging it off and moving onto the next script. Don’t get us wrong – the ride is still fun, it’s just a shame that the destination isn’t so pretty.

Shake carries most of this series, whereas previously the gags have been pretty evenly split. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on whether you prefer Shake, Meatwad or Frylock, I guess. Or Carl. Don’t forget Carl.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Explosions, blood, gore, and crushinating.
Sex/Nudity: Some references.
Swearing: Frequent, but often bleeped out.
Summary: More of the same. Not quite on a par with previous series, put still worth owning if you’re a fan. 7/10

TNA: Destination X 2010
Starring: Abyss, Mr. Anderson, Kurt Angle
TNA Wrestling

Available Now - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

Well, TNA is confusing the hell out of me these days. Every Pay-Per-View seems to follow the same recipe: Take a few good matches, mix in a few sub-standard ones, stir in some crazy, then hand it to Hogan, Bischoff and Russo so that they can shit in it.

Destination X starts off brilliantly, with a high flying, fast paced opener in the form of a four-way ladder match. Kazarian, Daniels, Amazing Red and Brian Kendrick really miss the old ring here though, as they constantly come stupidly close to the ropes.

Tara defends her Knockout Championship against Daffney in a passable, energetic contest.

Next up, the Global Championship is on the line as Rob Terry throws Magnus about a bit. And a bit more. And we’re done here.

The TNA ring has it’s gravity field generators turned off for the Tag Team Ultimate X Match between the Motor City Machine Guns and Generation Me. They put in a highly charged spotfest featuring some incredibly innovative double-team moves and some sore looking bumps from the bright red cables.

More four man action as Scott Hall and Syxx-Pac fight for TNA contracts against Eric Young and Kevin Nash. As much of a fan as I am of Nash, this was a stupidly predictable match with not a lot happening.

Douglas Williams ties Shannon Moore and his ridiculous Book of DILLIGAF into tasty British knots, all whilst putting his X-Division Title on the lin.

Doug - Keep doing the oh-so-British hand/head thing.

Shannon - Stop. Stop everything. Grow up.

Swerves ahoy as Beer Money Inc. take on Hernandez and Matt Morgan. Hernandez and Morgan aren’t getting on in their Tag Title defence and it’s a well worked story. Unfortunately it kind of overshadows the fact that the incredibly talented Beer Money are even in the match.

Kurt Angle challenges Mr Anderson in a grudge match over a medal. Not his Olympic medal. A dog tag thing. Or something. A rare miss for Angle, as the match is good, but never really becomes a Kurt-Epic.

In the main event AJ Styles puts the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on the line against “The Monster” Abyss in a barnburner of a match, until Hogan and Flair decide that they are bigger stars than either of them, and decide to interject themselves into the finish. Which involves a big hole in the ring. Who booked this shit? Oh...

Four way ladder match
Ultimate X match

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Bodies. Falling. Hard.
Sex/Nudity: “Zombie Hot” says it all really...
Swearing: Only me. “What the fuck is that?”
Summary: Disappointing. The high-spot matches are amazing, but it doesn’t excel beyond that. 6/10

Acclaimed filmmaker Zack Snyder makes his animation debut with the fantasy family adventure Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole based on the beloved Guardians of Ga’Hoole books by Kathryn Lasky. The film follows Soren, a young owl enthralled by his father’s epic stories of the Guardians of Ga’ Hoole, a mythic band of winged warriors who had fought a great battle to save all of owlkind from the evil Pure Ones.

While Soren dreams of someday joining his heroes, his older brother, Kludd, scoffs at the notion, and yearns to hunt, fly and steal his father’s favor from his younger sibling. But Kludd’s jealousy has terrible consequences—causing both owlets to fall from their treetop home and right into the talons of the Pure Ones. Now it is up to Soren to make a daring escape with the help of other brave young owls. Together they soar across the sea and through the mist to find the Great Tree, home of the legendary Guardians—Soren’s only hope of defeating the Pure Ones and saving the owl kingdoms.

The film features the voices of Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Emilie de Ravin, Ryan Kwanten, Miriam Margolyes, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving and David Wenham.

Snyder directs Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole from a screenplay by Emil Stern and John Orloff, based on the Guardians of Ga’Hoole novels by Kathryn Lasky.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is in cinemas from 22nd October.

Follow gaming's most notorious criminals through the most intense and violent shootout ever seen in a videogame in the new uncensored launch trailer for Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days. This trailer is definitely not for the fainthearted and has been classified as too violent for TV when it came to using the footage as part of the game's television adverts.

"We've worked very closely with the UK TV advertising regulatory body to ensure our TV ad is suitable for broadcast after 9pm," says Jon Brooke, UK Marketing Director at Square Enix. "After much editing and many submissions we now have a 10 second version which begins airing tomorrow – we hope you enjoy it."

As the Cold War rages in the full glare of the world media, the Underground War is fought in ruined bunkers, dank tunnels, building sites, and bombed out apartment blocks.

In the divided city of Berlin, the Reserve Police Agency hunts down monsters left over from sinister experiments and twisted technology. Things from beyond our space and time, strange creatures altered by bizarre machines, the decayed corpses of undead soldiers, things that hide in the darkness.

But the Reserve Police Agency itself is riven by suspicion, mistrust and political ambition. The four occupying powers of Britain, France, the USA and the USSR all see the need for the RPA, all contribute personnel, all have their own agendas.

The great battles may be over, but the war carries on.

Join the fight.

Thanks to our friends at Cubicle 7, we've got a copy of the awesome table-top RPG Cold City on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Saturday 21st August (UK time). The first name drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

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