Saturday 24 September 2011

DVD Reviews

Starring: Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Patrick Wilson
Director: James Wan
Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment

Available Now
Review by Brad Harmer

Josh and Renai are a happily married couple with three young children who have moved into their idyllic new suburban home. When tragedy strikes their young son, Josh and Renai begin to experience things in the house that are beyond explanation. Before long, their lives are turned upside down by demonic forces, hell-bent on terrorising their very existence. Forced to seek help and protect their family, they learn the terrifying truth: it's not the house that's haunted but something far worse.

While I was watching Insidious, it has to be said that I really enjoyed it. It’s an airport novel of a movie: fun and well-paced – but once it’s over, the cracks start to show if you think about it too hard. The tension is almost painful throughout, the haunting effects almost “realistic” (more so during the first half of the movie), and there are more than a few jump moments that genuinely shat me up, and I’m no stranger to this sort of thing. Insidious is a great haunted house movie.

Unfortunately, once the adrenaline wears off and you think about it over the next couple of days...there are a few things that just don’t sit right. The James Wan “twist ending” is developed from a plot-point that isn’t mentioned at all until well over an hour into the movie...and is predictable long before the end. James, sometimes a happy ending is better than a twist one. You don’t want to turn into M. Night Shymalan, do you? No-one wants to be M. Night Shymalan.

Then you realise that, while enjoyable, it’s basically a re-make of Poltergeist.

Then you realise that the bad guy is basically a really camp Darth Maul.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Standard for the genre.
Summary: A solid, scary ghost story, with more than a few moments that will properly shit up even the most ardent of horror fans. The “twist” ending feels like an afterthought, and it’s not as original a story as it likes to think it is, but this doesn’t stop it from being highly enjoyable. 7/10
Attack the Block
Starring: Nick Frost, Luke Treadway, Jodie Whittaker
Director: Joe Cornish
Studio Canal

Available Now
Review by Brad Harmer

Trainee nurse Sam is walking home to her flat in a South London tower block when she's robbed by a gang of masked, hooded youths. She's saved when the gang are distracted by a bright meteorite, which falls from the sky and hits a nearby parked car. Sam flees, just before the gang have to fight off a small alien creature that leaps from the wreckage.

While Sam and the police hunt for the gang, a second wave of meteors fall. Confident of victory against such feeble invaders, the gang grab weapons, mount bikes and set out to defend their turf. But this time, the creatures are bigger. Much bigger. Sam suddenly realises that the bunch of no-hope kids who attacked her are about to become her best and only hope to survive.

So, for starters, our heroes are thuggish, moronic, evil criminals. And we’re supposed to side with them. That’s not all of the characters, granted, but the rest of them are paper-thin alien and chav fodder, so it’s hard to say which we really prefer. So, Attack the Block starts off a poorly conceived, ill-thought-out mess, and it never really improves from there.

It’s actually quite to hard to think of anything that Attack the Block does right. The action scenes (which comprise approximately 95% of the running time) are truly awful, with no real thought given to continuity, pacing or any sense of excitement or tension. The aliens themselves are terrible CG abortions, comparable to (and possibly worse than) effects I’ve seen in straight-to-DVD petrol station fodder. The director obviously realises that they’re balls, as well, so they’re on screen as little as possible. This has the down side of meaning that the majority of the film is composed of footage of chavs running round a tower block. And I could go to Peckham to watch that.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Frequent, bloody, badly rendered and botchily edited violence, fighting, blood and gore.
Sex/Nudity: Some verbal references.
Swearing: Near constant, of the “big, hard and clever”variety.
Summary: Badly conceived, edited and produced, this is an boring, repetitive and botched waste of time. 2/10
Starring: Asami, Maria Ozawa, Yûya Tokumoto
Director: Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Bounty Films
Available from 26/09/11
Review by Rob Wade

Tomayo is heiress to her wealthy family's fortunes. In order to protect her from outside danger she is looked after by three android bodyguards. The first android is masterful and good looking. The second has beast-like strength, and the third is a clumsy misfit who can't seem to get anything right. He fantasises over his mistress and is adored by her. Together, the three androids help detect danger, and serve Tomayo during the day, and occasionally engage in after-dark 'bedroom protection' as well...

Meanwhile another family member, Tsukiyo who is jealous of Tomayo, hires a private detective to spy on her. He uncovers a dark secret that Tomayo is in fact the 'bastard daughter' of a servant. When Tsukiyo discovers this, she is consumed by rage believing Tomayo to be an embarrassment to the family and not pure blood . Along with her servant Azami, she plots to regain the inheritance she believes to be hers. Can she distract the three Androids long enough to exact her plan? Which Android will win Tomayo's love?

Sounds like a relatively interesting premise, am I right? Three robots in the house, one of whom is developing human emotion because of lust. The premise is certainly more original than your standard "Man with serious face saves day in order to clear name" action film, or "man and woman show initial mutual disdain but eventually develop attraction for each other" romantic 'comedy'. The problem, however, is that if I gave you the film's apparent budget in cash, you'd still get change from a gift voucher. Part of this, I suspect, is a result of what I call the "Mac effect" (not to be confused with the awesome game Mass Effect).

Essentially, what it boils down to is that some people buy Macbook Pros, which come loaded with programs like iPhoto and iMovie, which make video and photo editing very simple. Before you know it, the owner of the Macbook Pro is asking you to like their professional photography page on Facebook, and petitioning to get given the movie rights to Evil Dead 4 because they think they can suddenly do a better job. If there's one thing you can take away with you as one of Rob's Golden Rules, it's the following: Easy to use software/websites/services give people an undeserved sense of accomplishment, and a hyper-inflated boost to their own self-worth.

I can tell that one thing is for certain in this film; the director does indeed own a Macbook Pro. I know this, because it's shown repeatedly throughout the movie. Now, unless this is a hyper-intelligent Macbook Pro (Almost oxymoronic in itself) giving a visual homage to M. Night Shyamalan by emulating his traditional tactic of giving himself a small supporting role in everything he does, I suspect my Golden Rule is in full swing in this one. It's simultaneously a shame and a blessing, therefore, that there is no pre-installed scriptwriting application on Macbook Pro devices, because the film clearly suffers from not having one (a script, that is, not an application).

Here's a small snippet from the movie (and spoiler-free, I might add). The third android quite fancies the girl, and he overhears the girl tell the first android that she really wants to try a particular food. The first android can't organise it for her for reasons I won't go into, and the third android decides to save the day. Cue a ten minute sequence where the third android runs out to buy the girl the food she so craves. The food in question?

Cup. Fucking. Noodles. The Japanese equivalent of a Pot Noodle. I fucking shit you not. Of course, while he's away, the first android senses the girl browsing porn online, and decides that it's time to offer himself up to her sexually for the purposes of, for lack of a better expression, breaking her in. So while the third android is running out to the Co-Op late at night for those Pot Noodles she so desperately craves, she's got the chance to find out which attachments on Robot 1 have suck AND blow actions.

Does she take him up on his ever-so-thoughtful offer? More importantly, why do you care? As if that sequence wasn't bad enough, the ending does such a job of jumping the shark that I'd be amazed if it could see the dorsal fin without the Hubble telescope.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Infrequent, but graphic, violence.
Sex/Nudity: Heavy sexual themes, naked boobs and arse (of both genders - just the arse). Scenes of sex, no penetration.
Swearing: A couple of uses.
Summary: An interesting premise wasted by giving it a budget of about £19. 3/10
Cannibal Holocaust
Starring: Francesca Cirdi, Robert Kerman, Perry Pirkanen
Director: Ruggero Deodato

Available from Monday 26th September
Review by Brad Harmer

A crew of four documentary filmmakers disappears while filming primitive cannibal tribes deep in the Amazonian rain forest; the horrific footage they shot is then found by a second expedition who will discover the horrific real reason for the demise of the four filmmakers...

When I was a kid, Cannibal Holocaust was one of the most extreme horror movies I had ever seen. Now, ten or so years later, it’s still one of the most extreme horror movies I have ever seen. Gut-churning, gorge-rising, sanity stretching, brain draining, balls out gross out horror. And it’s still really, really good.

The pacing is spot on, and the gore and prostethic work still looks great over thirty years later. The content is still very strong, though, and new audiences should take it to heart that you may think you’ve seen extreme horror movies, but you haven’t until you’ve seen Cannibal Holocaust.

The horror comes from multiple directions, as the paranoia and isolation of being out in the jungle with a psychotic and barbaric tribe of cannibals combines with the true gross out horror and sexual violence, and combines again with the first person angle – thanks to the bulk of the footage coming from “found footage” shot on video camera. If you like your exploitation horror, and think you’ve got the stomach to handle it, Cannibal Holocaust is a shining example of the genre. Be warned though, it is definitely not for everyone.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
A monkey has its head torn open. Turtle decapitation. Animal butchery, blood, guts, and gore. Bludgeoning. Sexual torture. Forced abortion. Infanticide. Impaling (Vlad Tepes style). Decapitation. Cannibalism. Gang-rape. Castration. More decapitation. Arson. Executions. Some of the executions and all of the animal killings are real/documentary and not actors/prosthetics.
Sex/Nudity: Near constant full male and female nudity. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Castration. Some more rape.
Swearing: Near constant, and strong.
Summary: Still gut-churningly sickening and scathingly satirical, Cannibal Holocaust is still a titan of exploitation horror. On Blu-ray it looks...pretty good. Not great, but certainly not bad, either. 9/10
South Park: Season Fourteen
Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Paramount Home Entertainment

Available Now
Review by Brad Harmer

Join Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny as they dive into social networking, defend against annoying Jersey "muff cabbage" and finally reveal the secret identity of Mysterion in an epic three-part saga. Top that with some never-before-seen deleted scenes and a little crème fraîche, and you've got a collection that will leave you drooling. Shablagoo!!

South Park makes you do that laugh that hurts. Not the laugh you do when you see or read something funny. Not that laugh you do when one of your friends say something so funny that you can’t breathe. South Park delivers surreal, off-the-wall, satirical and hilarious gut-punches of comedy that have you bark out a laugh before you realise what you’re laughing at. South Park is the best written of any of the adult animated series, and this series (its fourteenth now) is no different.

If you’re into South Park, this is a great compilation, featuring some of those painful laughs I mentioned, and the Mysterion trilogy. If you’re not already into South Park, trust me, this is a pretty good place to start.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Death, murderisation and gore are the order of the day in South Park. It is always hilarious.
Sex/Nudity: Some references and misunderstandings. In one memorable instance giant testicles feature.
Swearing: Strong and frequent to a degree that is classified as “South Park Levels of Profanity”.
Summary: Other adult, animated shows may have dipped or varied in quality, but South Park is still as funny and thought provoking as it ever was. If not funnier. And though provokingier. 9/10
Stargate Universe: Season Two
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Justin Louis, Brian J. Smith
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Availalble Now
Review by Charlotte Barnes

Stargate Universe follows a band of soldiers, scientists and civilians, who must fend for themselves as they are forced through a Stargate when their hidden base comes under attack. The desperate survivors emerge aboard an ancient ship, which is locked on an unknown course and unable to return to Earth.

In Season Two, the Destiny continues its journey through the Universe, while its crew suffers from a lack of supplies and no knowledge of its final destination. Struggling to control the ships systems, tempers and personalities of the crew clash. Facing uncharted space and enemies who would take the ship by force, the Destiny crew persevere in their struggle to stay alive and find a way home.

Apart from series one of Stargate Universe, I am a novice when it comes to this franchise. I have not got any kind of background on the previous series to be able to compare it to them. As I came to it cold I can happily say that this programme is a fantastic example of science fiction and stands alone. I do not need to have watched the other series in order to follow the plot or gain an insight it to the characters.

Once again the acting is fantastic, the storyline is dynamic and captivating, the special effects are fantastic (especially for television) and the direction is great. Robert Carlyle as Dr Nicholas Rush is a dream choice of casting and he really works well with Louis Ferreira (Everett Young) as his onboard foe. The series ends with a fantastic cliff hanger, which just tops off what is already a fantastic series.

I am saddened to hear that Stargate Universe will not be returning for a third series, I feel sad at this loss for television and the science fiction genre. At least is had a longer innings that Firefly. Still, I think they have made a mistake by dropping it, when it still had so much to give.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Plenty of aggression, laser shooting, fire and death.
Sex/Nudity: Some, no open nakedness though.
Swearing: None of note, enough to be suitable for the drama.
Summary: Fantastic television series, well worth a watch. If you haven’t seen it yet I really encourage you to go and buy it on DVD or Blu-Ray now (right now, put down your cup of tea and order it now). 9/10
High School of the Dead
Starring: Marina Inoue, Junichi Suwabe, Ayana Taketatsu
Director: Tetsuro Araki
Manga Entertainment

Available Now
Review by Blake Harmer

As is the usual plot for anything zombie flavoured: a virus that turns people into the walking dead who feast on the flesh of the living has been unleashed and things are rapidly going to hell. This virus strikes Fujimi High School, where unlikely hero Komuro, his ex girlfriend but still love interest Rei, Kendo star pupil Busujima, genius Saya, Hirano the nerdy gun nut and the dumb big titted school nurse must escape the school and head for the city to see if they can find their parents.

High School of the Dead actually tells a pretty good zombie story filled with awesome fast and energetic fight scenes, and plenty of zombie death. From zombies being beaten in with wooden swords and baseball bats, to being shot through the skull with nailguns, rifles and even a drill at one point, there is plenty of blood and violence throughout. The story holds it own well, too, with some good relationships between the characters and good emotional drama to move the plot along and break up the zombie slaughter, there is even the odd bit of humour too.

However the main downside to High School of the Dead is the painfully obvious attempts at titillation. Even from the opening credits were shown obvious panty shots, bras and torn clothing to expose the very well endowed girls. This only gets worse as the series progresses, with the bath scene in episode six deserving special mention with all the girls squeezing and playing with each other’s jubblies before then trying to come on to the men and wearing very skimpy pyjamas or clothing. This almost spoils what is essentially a good zombie story by making it trashy, rather than a cool guns and boobs action series. However, if one can overlook this and appreciate the actual storyline and action, then this is a treat for anime fans.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Lots of zombie death both in the form of being bitten as well as being shot or bashed in the skull.
Sex/Nudity: You see boobs but apart from that it is mostly skimpy clothing and lingerie.
Swearing: Lots of uses of "fuck" and other strong language
Summary: An excellent anime series filled with action and a pretty well written story that is let down for trying to dilute the experience with poor titillation. Worth looking into if you love your zombies and your anime. 8/10
Halloween: The Inside Story
Go Entertain
Available Now
Review by Blake Harmer

One of the most influential horror movies of our time, John Carpenter’s Halloween popularised the slasher flick genre and made horror films what we know and love today. Here this documentary looks into the success of the film and the story of its creation.

The documentary goes quite in depth into the making of Halloween and benefits from having direct interviews with the actors of the film and John Carpenter himself, rather than some cheaper documentaries that rely on secondary sources. The documentary even has fans of the films talk about the film, including Rob Zombie (who directed the 2007 remake). The documentary also benefits from covering multiple aspects of the film, from how it became successful, to how John Carpenter made the film with very little experience in film making to the experiences of the actresses involved with making the movie.

The only downside to the documentary is that I did find it to be a bit too Americanised for my liking, with constant clips or excerpts from the film, and feeling the need to reshow certain bits. Also, I felt that the documentary loses its focus a couple of times and kept falling back on things it had already mentioned in previous parts of the documentary, but this could again be because of its American TV style format.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
None in the actual documentary, obviously, but it does show a lot of the murders shown in Halloween.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A few, but not really strong.
Summary: An insightful look into the original Halloween and worth a watch if you’re a fan. Sure it’s not without its flaws, and its format could be better, but this is still an entertaining look into a horror classic. 7/10


To the delight of fans throughout the UK, Season 4 of the original series of The Twilight Zone is out now. This timeless classic is available for the first time ever in high-definition Blu-ray, as well as digitally remastered DVD formats.

Season 4 of this iconic series moved from half-hour episodes to eighteen hour-length TV episodes and included appearances by Dennis Hopper (He’s Alive) and Robert Duvall (Miniature).

Delve into the world of Twilight Zone over on the friendly official forum!

And if you need to refresh your memory as to just how good The Twilight Zone is we're giving you the amazing chance to win the first three volumes of the show on Blu-ray!

Thanks to our friends at Cult Labs, we've got a copy of The Twilight Zone: Series One to Three on Blu-ray to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Friday 7th October, making sure to put "Twilight Zone" as the subject. The first entry out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a copy of this awesome prize!

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

The Twilight Zone: Season Four is available now, courtesy of Cult Labs.

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

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