Saturday 25 September 2010

DVD Reviews

Death at a Funeral
Starring: Chris Rock, Zoe Saldana, Luke Wilson
Director: Neil LaBute
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 27th September - £17.99 (DVD) & £22.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

When the patriarch of a dysfunctional family dies, his funeral turns into family circus. Misplaced bodies, blackmail, indecent exposure and a corpse that won't stay in the box get the party started, but when old family skeletons start tumbling out of the closet, all Hell breaks loose.

With a cast like this, this movie has to be good, right? I mean, even if the effects, music, direction, editing and everything else are terrible, the cast can carry it right? I mean, Chris Rock was at his funniest when it was just him, a stage and a microphone, so what more can they need?

The tragedy here is simple: the cast is terribly, terribly wasted. The jokes in the script are either flat or completely non-existent. The cast is hopelessly adrift with this terrible direction from Neil LaBute. They fall just short of looking into the camera with a “what the hell am I supposed to be doing” expression, but it’s pretty close. Any cleverness that there may have been in the script is ironed out by the truly awful direction.

What’s more? I have difficulty thinking of this as a spoiler when really it’s false advertising:

No one dies at the funeral.

One guy is dead at the start, but that’s it. There are no deaths at this funeral; this funeral is devoid of deaths. It’s the biggest titular lie since The Neverending Story.

The cast try their hardest, and it has to be said that Danny Glover is simply awesome in this. He’s the funniest actor in the cast, in fact. However...unless you’re a hardcore Danny Glover fanatic...avoid.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some scuffling. No-one dies.
Sex/Nudity: Man arse.
Swearing: Chris Rock.
Summary: A sloppily directed waste of the comedic talent on offer. No laughs in sight, and a car-crash narrative. 3/10
The IT Crowd: Version 4.0
Starring: Richard Ayoade, Chris O’Dowd, Katherine Parkinson
Director: Richard Boden & Graham Lineham

Available from Monday 27th September - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Banished from the ivory towers of Reynholm Industries, the IT crowd lurk below ground, avoiding work and social contact in equal measure...Another series of The IT Crowd renews our acquaintance with Roy, Moss and Jen, the co-dependant trio who continue, against all odds, to operate under the obscene rule of Douglas Reynholm. Their seemingly fragile friendship is reinforced when they are confronted with naked aerobics, bunking off work, marriages and divorces.

The fourth series sees each character taking on new challenges; Jen wants to stretch herself in the workplace so applies for the post of ‘Entertainment Manager’, Moss beats all records on Countdown, Roy spends a disproportionate amount of time trying to convince an old friend that he is not a window cleaner and Douglas joins the ‘spaceologists’.

The IT Crowd is the geek’s sitcom, and this series is as good as any of the others. When the gags are great, they’re really good and have some amazing punchlines, never strolling into the land of “surreal for the sake of surreal”. Richard Ayoade is the master of the comedic pause, and there are even some nice inter-episode callbacks, which add to laughs.

There’s nothing new here and, in fact, some jokes rely on previously knowledge of old material, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the funniest shows on TV. Also, it paints role-playing game in a positive, non-dorky light; that’s refreshing.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some slapstick.
Sex/Nudity: Some references.
Swearing: Some. Not from Moss, though.
Summary: Not the best series so far, but certainly not the worst either. When it’s funny, it’s very funny, but you wish it could achieve that more often. 8/10
Naruto Shippuden: The Movie
Starring: Kate Higgins, Maile Flanagan & Yuri Lowenthal
Director: Hayato Date
Manga Video

Available Now - £17.99 (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

A sinister ninja is using black magic to raise the spirit of the long-imprisoned demon Moryo. If Moryo's body is also resurrected, he will establish a Thousand Year Kingdom that will mean the end of life on Earth as humans know it. Only Shion, the priestess of the Land of Ogres, can stop Moryo by keeping his body sealed within a hidden temple. Naruto leads a special squad including Sakura and Rock Lee to protect Shion on her journey.

This film opens with the death of Naruto, and his subsequent burial. Even though it’s a dream sequence, you have to admit that’s one of the ballsiest openings to any feature-length movie.

Anyway, this movie is a typical escort quest movie, in that the characters start off hating their charge but through the power of love and cuddles…blah blah blah yada yada yada...learn a lot about themselves along the way etc. In fact, it seems to have a couple of similarities to the last movie I reviewed in the Naruto universe, Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom, where the gang have to escort a whiney brat of a child across a massive expanse, only to teach the child humility just in time. As movie formulas go, it’s pretty well-trodden territory.

Having said that, I actually found myself quite enjoying this movie. It’s much darker all the way through, as the opening sequence involving Naruto’s apparent death plays on your mind the whole time. The overtones of death and destruction during the course of the film are also good at setting quite a desperate atmosphere, where the people of the world want to live at any cost.

One of the best things about this movie is the quality of the writing during the action scenes. Oftentimes, battles on a grand scale get muddled, and the reasons for things happening aren’t clear. The best examples of it done well are, believe it or not, in Pok√©mon and Yu-Gi-Oh!. The characters’ actions are generally competitive, so someone explains why they’re a tactical genius and not just some twat with a small tortoise prisoner.

Despite all this, though, this movie just misses out on greatness through simply not being very original in its story or execution. Besides this, the ending is a bit of a lame duck. On the plus side, the person who does the subtitling on these series clearly doesn’t quite grasp concepts consistently, and bandies the word “bastard” around instead of “idiot” or “fool”. Fantastic.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: A lot of fistfights and ninjutsu attacks.
Sex/Nudity: Nope.
Swearing: One use of the word “bastard”, but most of the swears are hilariously in the subtitles.
Summary: An enjoyable, if a little predictable, action anime. 7/10
The War Lord
Starring: Richard Boone, Rosemary Forsyth, Charlton Heston
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Eureka Entertainment

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Kelly Prior

Chrysagon, a knight, played by Charlton Heston (Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Wayne's World 2), is sent by his duke to take over and rule a swampland in Normandy. With rebellious villagers and invading barbarians, Chrysagon has a hard time controlling his people. Opinions are also divided within the castle, where Chrysagon’s jealous and bitter brother and his counsel judge his every move. As he struggles with his new task as a lord of a castle, he discovers that power really does mean you can take whatever you want. After falling for a young woman he realizes that not even her husband can stop him having her, and to the villager’s outrage he takes her for his own.

This film was all right really. Nothing spectacular, but an enjoyable viewing experience. The character of Chrysagon is actually not a very likable character, but we still sympathize with his struggle. His ruthless behavior when it comes to having the woman he wants makes him out to be a massive dick, but it’s easy to see how his brother is manipulating him. It seems pretty historically accurate, set in the middle ages, but not cheesy or overly dramatic. While some parts are gripping and interesting, others are frustratingly boring.

Not a lot happens in this film, and with a title like The War Lord, its remarkable how little it has to do with war. In fact, apart from a scuffle with some barbarians in the opening, the first hour or so of the films goes by with no hint of a battle. After providing us with no action for more than half the film, we are then given an infuriatingly boring battle which goes on for far too long. The War Lord is one of those films that you have to watch with constant consideration of the fact that it is an old film, originally released in 1965. Of course it’s not going to have amazing special effects or really impressive battle scenes. What this film does boast is its historical accuracy and its perfect casting.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Battles are rare, but yes, they are there.
Sex/Nudity: Romantic love-making.
Swearing: None.
Summary: The War Lord doesn’t exactly deliver what it suggests from the title and the DVD cover, but it does deliver some touching scenes and a good portrayal of the world of the middle ages. 5/10


From the acclaimed producer of John Woo's Red Cliff and Jet Li's Warlords, comes this powerhouse biopic of the legendary Chinese philosopher, Confucius.

Showcasing a commanding and captivating performance from screen icon, Chow Yun-fat. This epic masterpiece balances breathtaking spectacle, visceral action and heart-wrenching drama to deliver one of this year's most unforgettable movies.

In 500 B.C., during China's famed 'Spring and Autumn Period', Kong Ze (Confucius), a commoner reverred for his outstanding wisdom, is made Minister of Law in the ancient Kingdom of Lu. Under his inspired leadership, Lu ascends to new heights but becomes a target of conquest for the warlike nation of Qi. Threatened with annihilation by their powerful neighbour, a desperate people turn to their greatest teacher to lead their most powerful army. When Confucius delivers a stunning victory against all odds, a jealous aristocracy sets out to destroy him, but they should never under-estimate a remarkable man whose wisdom is more powerful than the sword.

With cinematography from Oscar-winning director of photography, Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Confucius is one of Asian Cinema's finest achievements and is a compelling invitation to discover the remarkable story of one of history's greatest heroes.

Thanks to our friends at Showbox Media we've got two copies of Confucius to give away on DVD! For your chance of winning, send in your name and full postal address to before midday on Saturday 2nd October. The first two names out of the special electronic hat will win a copy each!

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