Saturday 2 July 2011

DVD Reviews

The Adjustment Bureau
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie
Director: George Nolfi
Universal Pictures UK
Available from 04/07/2011 on DVD and Triple-Play Blu-Ray
Review by Rob Wade

On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, ambitious politician David Norris meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas - a woman like none he's ever known. But just as he realises he's falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself-the men of The Adjustment Bureau - who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must either let her go and accept a predetermined path... or risk everything to defy Fate and be with her.

Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (as apparently *every* intelligent film aside from Inception has to be), The Adjustment Bureau deals heavily with themes of free will and destiny, with Damon ever-determined to change his fate and reunite with what he feels to be the love of his life, no matter what the cost. The problem, ultimately, however, is that the film does this in a really sappy, over-the-top kind of way which detracts from the overall message intended. The film goes from “earn your freedom and make your free will count for something” to “spend years chasing a girl you met in a toilet”.

This is a good movie, ultimately. The performances are strong, with particularly great characterisation. People banter, and actually feel very natural, so rather than actors putting on a performance you feel much more immersed in the world that Nolfi has brought to the screen. The premise of the movie itself is really interesting, but then it’s Philip K. Dick. The idea is essentially that when someone deviates from God’s plan (they call him “The Chairman”, but come on – do you know *anyone* else with a plan whom you never see?), these Adjustment Bureau guys come and re-adjust memories and so on to put it back on track, all without being seen or known to those whom the plan affects directly, in this case David Norris. Matt Damon plays his part well (as he usually does), and Terence Stamp is also awesome as the threatening agent of The Chairman, suitably malevolent while at the same time ice-cool.

However, can someone explain to me where Emily Blunt’s character is from for the first quarter of an hour or so of the movie? From then on, she slips back into her nice British accent (and she does have a lovely one), but for the first quarter of an hour I caught hints of Scottish, American and finally English. It’s little things like that which can hinder one’s immersion.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: A couple of punches.
Sex/Nudity: A non-explicit sex scene.
Swearing: Emily Blunt gets a few “Fuck” and “shit” uses in there.
Summary: A clever, if a little overly sappy, thriller. 7/10

American Dad: Volume 6
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Wendy Schaal, Dee Bradley Baker
Director: Mike Kim, Joe Daniello
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Available now (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

American Dad is back for more mayhem as CIA Republican Stan Smith and his family battle the Anti-Christ, Steve suffers trauma from a Vietnam War re-enactment, and Roger becomes the dictator of Isla Island.

The show continues its cringe-worthy and risqué humour, as well as some standard surreal moments thrown in for good measure. There are also marked improvements where the episodes are a lot more consistent than previous series. Also, unlike the more successful Family Guy, the jokes seem cleverer and can build upon previous jokes as the humour is relevant to the episode or calls back to a previous episode without falling back on Family Guy’s trademark random gags. It is this difference in humour that really sets it apart from Seth Macfarlane’s other work, and it is more refreshing because of it.

The only real downside to this series is that a couple of episodes don’t pack in as many laughs as others, which stops the series being completely perfect. This aside though, this a fine piece of adult humour and is actually stronger than recent series of Family Guy have been, especially as American Dad is far less hit-and-miss with its humour. Sure, it still has the odd American joke, which us Brits won’t get, but they are far less frequent in this series, and it still doesn’t truly detract from the overall enjoyment of the show.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Lots of gunfire, fighting and explosions, but done in an over the top and comedic manner.
Sex/Nudity: Lots of references to sex, but nothing is shown.
Swearing: A Fair amount, but not as many as can be found in your average series of Family Guy.
Summary: A great show that just keeps getting better with each new series. Essential if you love American Dad, and well worth giving a go if you’ve never experienced Stan Smith and Co. 9/10

Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Starring: Andy Lau, Carina Lau Ka Ling, Lee Bingbing
Director: Tsui Hark
Cine Asia
Available now on DVD & Blu-Ray
Review by Rob Wade

When a series of bizarre murders threatens to delay the Empress’ coronation, she enlists the help of the previously exiled Detective Dee, the Kung-Fu detective, to solve the mystery in order to restore order to the chaotic kingdom. If this sounds like your kind of film, welcome to my world; it sounded just like mine. In many ways, with the fight choreography done by the man behind Ip Man, one of my most unexpectedly enjoyed films of my tenure at E14 thus far, it sounded like the perfect movie to appeal to my Sherlock Holmes-laden taste.

Potential is just that.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, however. This film is not a bad movie. The problem for me, ultimately, was that it just wasn’t a very *good* movie. The film has character in absolute bundles, with some tremendously weird elements working really well in some aspects and not so well in others. The Kung-Fu element of this movie is really well done, in the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style with plenty of over-the-top jumping around and outlandish moves. If that’s your bag, this is a good movie to check out. If not, then maybe you’re a detective movie fan. In that case, this movie is a little misleading.

Let me precise. Detective Dee does one piece of detective work throughout the entire movie, which comes right at the end of the movie. The problem is that the detective work has pretty much all been done for him except for the motives behind said detective work. By someone else. Who’s not a detective. When I say detective work, incidentally, I mean the entire thing. Deduction, fact-checking and finally evidence. All done by someone else. I wouldn’t mind so much, but it’s the case breaking facts that this chump deduces!

Other than the ‘detective’ stuff, the movie is pretty enjoyable on the whole. The Kung Fu is strong in this movie. Detective Dee is a totally likeable character, with little nuggets of eccentricity making for a well-rounded experience. The CG effects (which I feel look out of place in Chinese Kung Fu movies - just me?) look absolutely phenomenal in places, especially when people are being burned - it's plot relevant, OK? Ultimately, the film is a great idea and a good attempt to do something a little out of the ordinary, but ends up so jumbled up at times that it's really hard to like it any more than a bit.

On the plus side, the film has a character called Dr. Donkey Wang. And Detective Dee fights a herd of deer. I wish I was making that up.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Kung-Fu aplenty. Detective Dee fights a herd of deer. I wish I was making that up.
Sex/Nudity: None. You see a topless girl’s back, but no more. It’s a nice back though.
Swearing: The most obscene word is ‘son of a bitch’. One character is called Donkey Wang.
Summary: What started off as a great premise is let down by some plain weirdness and some really odd storytelling decisions. Worth a watch if you enjoy Kung-Fu, but the “Detective” part of the name is slightly misleading. 6/10

Henry of Navarre
Starring: Julien Boisselier, Joachim Król, Andreas Schmidt
Director: Jo Baier
Available from 04/07/2011 (DVD, Blu-Ray)
Review by Blake Harmer

Henry of Navarre follows French king Henry IV and his protestant Huguenots as they struggle for survival in a war against the Catholic armies of Catherine De Medici after she orders the infamous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. It also shows his rise to power and him bringing peace by uniting France by allowing both religions to exist.

Whilst this epic attempts greatness and whilst it is not to be expected that Henry IV’s life played out like an actual movie script, the script that is used is pretty poor and filled with problems. The film feels like it rushes over some sections of Henry’s reign and expects the viewer to keep up with no explanation of what’s been rushed through. It also kills off characters without you really having any feeling towards them, due to the fact that not enough focus is really given on fleshing out Henry’s friends and they always seem to be just in the background. The film does always find it hard to nail the pacing right, with over-the-top, happy and sad scenes seeming to occur without warning.

There are some saving graces throughout the film; the acting is solid and the fight scenes, whilst brief when compared to other battles that can be seen in period epics, are well choreographed. Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack is also good albeit rather typical when compared to his other work so it isn’t truly outstanding.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: A lot of death is shown but the violence annoyingly cuts away a lot so very little is shown.
Sex/Nudity: Lots of sex scenes and full frontal nudity. It appears Henry IV was a randy little devil.
Swearing: A few uses, but nothing strong.
Summary: An enjoyable epic that captures the feel of Henry IV and of religion of the time, but struggles to get anything else truly right. Worth a watch if you like your French history, but otherwise film fans may want to look elsewhere for their slice of epic battles. 5/10


A group of peaceful Vampires are infected and turned into crazed zombie whose only motivation is to feed on flesh - human or vampire. Soldiers from across the ages, It is up to a comando of soldiers from across the ages to end the zombie infection.

Thanks to our friends at Metrodome, we've got three copies of The Dead Undead to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Saturday 9th July, making sure to put "Dead Undead" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Dead Undead" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

The Dead Undead is available from Monday 1st August, courtesy of Metrodome.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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