Saturday 4 December 2010

DVD Reviews

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Nicolas Cage, Alfred Molina
Director: Jonathan Turteltaub
Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 6th December - £15.99 (DVD) & £22.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is a modern-day sorcerer with his hands full defending Manhattan against dark forces. When a seemingly average kid shows hidden potential, Balthazar takes his reluctant recruit on a crash course in the art and science of magic to become the ultimate sorcerer's apprentice.

It should come as no surprise that this Disney Magic-‘Em-Up plays it pretty safe, throwing nothing new into the arena. You know where the plot’s going to go before you reach the half-way point. You’ve seen this movie a hundred times before. It’s The Never Ending Story without the clever breaking the fourth wall bit. Yeah, the bit that makes The Never Ending Story awesome. That bit.

The movie does itself no favours by make Dave, the titular Sorcerer’s Apprentice, so annoying that you actually want to punch him into oblivion. He’s belligerent, obnoxious, and the actor behind hims isn’t much better either. Just because he’s a nerdy character doesn’t mean you have to talk like Professor Frink!

And The Bad Guy’s name is “Whore Vac”. I stopped even trying to take it seriously at that point.

There are some good action sequences, and the effects are pretty good. All in all, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice will pass a lazy Sunday, but don’t go out of your way to see it.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Some scuffling and magic combat.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A thoroughly average fantasy movie. Some good ideas are spoiled by a formulaic narrative and obnoxious protagonist. 5/10

Second Opinion: It has to be said that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice ticks all the boxes and has all the ingredients of the perfect film. The special effects are stunning and the overall viewing experience will leave you completely satisfied. 9/10 - Kelly Prior

The Evil Cult
Starring: Sharla Cheung, Jet Li, Chingmy Yau
Director: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo and Jing Wong
Cornerstone Media

Available Now - £9.99 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

I’ve seen some mad Asian films in my time, from live-action anime Kung-Fu films in the form of Jackie Chan’s City Hunter to low budget gore-a-thon Tokyo Gore Police to the just plain bizarre comedy stylings of Robo Geisha and Tokyo Zombie. However, it seems that these "just plain weird" movies have been in production way before this, as is shown in Jet Li’s The Evil Cult. Although sadly, The Evil Cult is weird in a bad way.

The plot makes little or no sense, as Jet Li’s character tries to avenge his parents death, but must learn to cure his crippling wound he received as a child via a special stance, which he learns from a crazed monk who is strapped to a large boulder and rolls about to get around (I’m being deadly serious). Whilst this is fine in itself, the film suffers with not being able to decide whether it wants to be taken seriously or not, and this is made worse by the fact that the subtitles on this DVD release are absolutely atrocious and with no dubbing to save it. With a garbled translation, it is hard to understand what characters are saying even with jokes about penises and rape (that ever hilarious subject matter). Therefore, what we have here is a mess.

However, this film does have a saving grace, which is in the form of some very good lightning fast wire-fu. Sure there are made up supernatural moves that throw fireballs about, but the choreography is still good and shows that Jet Li is a great Kung-fu star despite whatever pile of bum he is in. This does raise the question of whether a Kung-Fu movie needs a strong plot in order for it to be good, and whilst I am a firm believer in great Kung-Fu taking priority, the numerous flaws in the presentation and plot of this film are too strong for it totally shine.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Plenty of blood, fast and frenetic Wire-Fu and over the top destruction to be witnessed here.
Sex/Nudity: None, although there are references to erections and rape throughout (but hey, that’s apparently comedy).
Swearing: Quite a bit of swearing, but this may be an attempt by the translator to admit he doesn’t really know what people are saying and just making them say 'shit' a lot.
Summary: There is some enjoyment to be had here for fans of Wire-Fu and Jet Li, but you’d to put up with a mad story and some confusing dialogue thanks to poor subtitles. Therefore this is hard to recommend, as there are just so many better Kung-Fu films out there with a better plot and, sadly, better Kung-Fu. Therefore, this is one for Jet Li fans who wish to complete their collection only. 5/10

Lethal Weapon Collection
Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci
Director: Richard Donner
Warner Home Video

Available Now - £44.99 (5 disc Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

You all know what this is, right? If not, then you should go buy it, watch it, and come back when you’ve wiped the stunned expression from your face. If you do know what this is, then no doubt you’re pretty excited.

The Lethal Weapon series is everything that was awesome about late 80s/early 90s action movies rolled up into one little package. The hyperbolic explosions, the banter, the humour, the protracted saxophone solos...sure, it all looks a little cheesy these days, and it’s hard not to think of the fantastic National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon whilst watching it, but if you can switch your brain off, they’re still a hell of a lot of fun.

The Blu-ray release is finally here, and, all things considered, it’s a really nice package. The picture is razor sharp (less so in the first instalment than in the others, but that’s doubtless a film-stock issue), and the sound is excellent, too. If you’re a fan of the series, then it’s certainly worth upgrading from DVD for this version. The extras, however, are a little lacking, so only do it if you’re a fidelity obsessive (which I am).

Oh, and it's got Lethal Weapon Four in it, which is a bit of a bummer.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Explosions, gunfire, stabbing and punching, all accompanied by a jazzy saxophone soundtrack.
Sex/Nudity: Some, but relatively infrequent.
Swearing: Frequent and strong.
Summary: A great Blu-ray set, and the picture/sound is just good enough to make it worth your while upgrading your DVDs. 8/10

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