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Mr. J. Ryden (In your mind, in the part you've forgotten about.)

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Adam Chaplin [DVD]
Adam Chaplin [DVD]
Dvd ~ Emanuele De Santi
Offered by Disc-uk
Price: £20.46

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ultraviolence has never been this much fun, 4 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Adam Chaplin [DVD] (DVD)
Adam Chaplin is a non-stop assault on the viewer's senses as our man hunts down his wife's killer, and will stop at nothing or anyone before he wreaks his bloody revenge. After making a Faustian pact with some random demon, Adam is granted superhuman strength and powers with which to beat an entrailed-strewn path to Denny. That is all there is to it, plot is definitely not what to watch this film for. The hyper-realistic SFX are where it's at and, boy, these effects are possibly the most stylish and downright cool in any horror film i've seen. Such are the levels of 'splatter' that Adam Chaplin reaches I would advise against munching a pizza through it. So from a purely superficial stand-point it stands head and shoulders (no pun intended) above many of its peers.

There were some drawbacks which didn't allow me to fully immerse myself in all its gleeful carnage. As I say, the plot is rather on the thin side so it becomes more a case of a few fantastic scenes interspersed with 'I wish they'd just get onto the next dismemberment'. Our titular anti-hero isn't much of a natural actor; I daresay he was cast mainly for his admittedly chiseled torso and Latin good looks. Also the subtitles had a number of glaring misspellings to the point that it was putting me off the film a little. Lastly, I like to watch foreign films but I really didn't 'get' the decidedly Anglo-sounding character names (presumably to appeal to the English speaking audience) which kind of depressed me a little. I mean, the director has made this pretty damned fine film but felt it necessary to call his cast such awe-inspiring names as Derek, Clarence and Mike?

Nonetheless, it is a lot of fun and definitely worth a watch, if nothing else as there is little to compare this to; so it gets extra marks for being unique if nothing else. There are also some very good ideas here that prevent it from becoming out-and-out exploitation cinema. The mischievous demon and head-honcho Denny were the best characters of the film; the latter has a decent back-story; exudes menace like a pro; and possibly the most disturbing villain i've seen for a while. So, if you're happy to leave your brain at the door for 90 minutes and fancy something completely different then give Adam Chaplin a whirl.

Dead Island - Game of the Year Edition (Xbox 360)
Dead Island - Game of the Year Edition (Xbox 360)
Offered by LTLE
Price: £8.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Survival horror gaming at its finest, 1 Feb. 2013
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Dead Island is quite, quite brilliant. This genre is not normally my cup of tea but, by God, was I glad I picked-up this bad boy. Set on the fictitious island of Banoi, the holiday resort you're staying at has broken out in a viral epidemic which has turned 99% of the population into murderous savages (zombies between you and I). After waking-up from an alcohol induced sleep your character awakes to a deathly silent hotel. This is the obligatory intro to learn the ropes but still atmospheric as you're plunged into this waking nightmare. Guided by a disembodied voice over the radio you must make your way to them and salvation but not before doing loads and loads of main and side quests; not to mention being a one-man/woman zombie killing machine.

As far as survival horrors go it is magnificent in its job; I haven't been this creeped-out since the Dead Space and Silent Hill games. The opening level is very effective in immersing the player; entirely shot in bright sunshine, mutilated bodies everywhere, totally silent, as you explore the beach all you hear is the lapping of the waves. In the corner of your eye, palm trees swaying in the breeze and the shadows they cast look like someone approaching. So you turn around, 'phew, nothing there'. Then BAM from your exposed flank all you hear first is that dreaded moaning that you'll learn to hate as the zombie (and these suckers aren't the slow, shuffling variety from the films) creeps up to take a chomp at your arm. Dammit! They did it again. Seriously, not recommended for people on Beta blockers. Speaking of atmosphere, sometimes it's the smallest aspects of the game that are most chill inducing. Like coming across a weeping man in a blood red swimming pool surrounded by his family he had to butcher. The fact that you can't interact with the character fully means you have to leave him there, sobbing. Very effective. A bit like in Dead Space 1 with the clearly insane NPC beating his head bloody against the wall of the spaceship.

The graphics are absolutely beautiful with this paradise island perfectly rendered, though the further you progress the darker it gets. Combat is also excellent, I would highly recommend the analogue controls over the digital controls for combat. They are quite tricky at first as you have to manually raise your weapon then swipe in the opposite direction to connect the blow. Apart from the added realism it also means more accuracy so you can target various parts of the zombies' anatomy - weee, flying limbs and heads a-go-go!

Like Rage and Borderland before it, Dead Island does really well in mixing an out-and-out action game with RPG elements so you'll earn experience points via combat to level up your character meaning more health, more power and more skills to choose from. Some are more effective than others, I wouldn't bother with the medkit perks as you'll have more than enough energy drinks and medkits at our disposal. Then there's the rage mode, once you've filled-up enough of your rage meter you can unleash your, er, rage for a few seconds during which you become a whirling dervish of flashing guns or knives tearing your way through the zombies. Fun, fun, fun.

You get five characters to choose from (the fifth is only for the DLC version I think) all with varying skills; I choose Xian who is very weak (had I only known...) but an expert with all things pointy and sharp. Once she's fully buffed with skills and modded weapons with poison she is pretty damn mean towards the end.

The zombies are also well varied, not only do they level up with you, the further you get in the game the more a diverse range of zombies you encounter. Trust me, once you meet the Infected you will learn to dread the sound of their trademark screams. These guys will cut you to pieces in seconds. And woe betide you if there's more than one...

I could go on for ages but suffice it to say another cracking game for the Xbox and will provide over 30-odd hours of entertainment. Just in time for the sequel, Dead Island: Riptide, happy days.

The Evil Inside (DVD)
The Evil Inside (DVD)
Dvd ~ Hannah Ward
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The only thing evil was to release this dross to the public, 23 Jan. 2013
This review is from: The Evil Inside (DVD) (DVD)
Shoe-string budget - check!
Laughably wooden acting - check!
Contrived plot - check!
Cop-out ending - check!
Dubious production values - check!

Congratulations, you have just discovered the secret formula for a guaranteed 1-star cinematic experience. Oh dear, what was I thinking? Actually, on second thoughts, it was the wife whom chose this so at least my 'experience' was tempered with the knowledge that we should have chosen Irish horror flick 'Grabbers' instead. Sometimes the words 'I told you so' just aren't required.

So, The Evil Inside, where can I start? In hindsight, the opening credits were possibly the best part of the film; something about them appealed to my artistic sensibilities (pretentious, moi?). From there we are introduced to Sarah, a sullen teenager, perpetually on the verge of tears who spends most (if not all) of the film moping about with the screen presence of a wet lettuce. Lots of out-of-focus shots, muffled dialogue, and random scenes like a dead bird falling from the ceiling positively scream 'art-house aspiration'. About half an hour in, another random character claiming to be Sarah's friend seemingly invites herself over (with equally vacuous friends in tow) to Sarah's house for a par-tay!

Cue an exruciatingly cringeworthy scene as Sarah opens the door to the assembled half-wits with her trademark look of perpetual ennui; followed by probably the naffest party you'll ever have the misfortune to experience. The remaining hour running time is comprised of a few weird, inexplicable scenes, said half-wits meeting untimely demises and a 'no-one's ever tried this before, right?' ending. Seriously, I would consider it a right-thinking civic duty to reveal the ending here but that's probably bad form.

In short, avoid like a sullen teenager's 'house party', and a blatant attempt to capitalise on the relatively more successful The Devil Inside.

World's Greatest Dad [DVD]
World's Greatest Dad [DVD]
Dvd ~ Robin Williams
Offered by Jasuli
Price: £9.95

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The lies you tell will find you out, 22 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: World's Greatest Dad [DVD] (DVD)
Kyle is an obnoxious teenager. Not in the 'troubled soul struggling to find himself' obnoxious but in the sense that he totally without redeeming features. His favourite past-times are masturbating, thinking about masturbating, obtaining material for said hobby, and treating his father (Lance) with a complete lack of respect. Robin Williams plays Lance who spends his days alternating between being a failed writer, trying to make allowances for his wayward son, and a teacher whom secures little respect. Lance's only respite from his drudgery is his love-interest with a colleague, clearly punching above his weight.

All this changes when Kyle meets a sticky end after a auto-erotic asphyxiation attempt cuts short his shallow life. Apparently to avoid the ignominy of having his son found like this Lance makes the death look like a suicide, complete with profound goodbye note hinting at a deeper despair hidden from his peers. This decision then has a domino effect on Lance. Kyle's school comes together in united grief, students and staff alike eulogising this talented and promising alumni cut down in his prime. From there of course, Lance's lies spiral out of control gaining a momentum of their own as you just know this can't end well.

What worked well about World's Greatest Dad (irony of the title not lost) is that most of the cast are no better than Kyle; rather, at least Kyle didn't pretend to be anything other than obnoxious. It's almost a moral parable, what motivates people (although superficially altruistic or noble) is often borne out of self-interest; 'what can I get out of this situation?'. Also that somehow death magically confered the deceased with attributes that were never there in the first place; all wrongdoing cleansed. I assume it's meant to be so insomuch the assembled malingerers and hangers-on desperately want to believe the fantasy (former) life that Lance has painted so they can buy-into the grief; it's laughably pitiful and a real sideswipe at their hollow grief.

Williams shows again that, in my opinion, he does best when playing it straight and here he is no different. Supported by a very able assembled cast, Williams plays Lance well as the sad-sack father and teacher who strives to be a good person who can't help but capitalise on a twist of fate that promises him a better life. In short, an enjoyable watch which pulls no punches in its subject matter. Plus, I imagine Daryl Sabara had a whale of a time playing Kyle; I bet he couldn't believe his luck when he saw the script.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 4, 2013 3:00 PM GMT

Bad Ass [DVD]
Bad Ass [DVD]
Dvd ~ Danny Trejo
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.20

3.0 out of 5 stars Pernicious pensioner pulls no punches, 14 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Bad Ass [DVD] (DVD)
Bad Ass sees Danny Trejo as the decorated Vietnam vet forgotten by his country, scraping by in a subsistence existence. That's until a chance encounter on a bus with some hoodlums prompts the pacifist to open a can of whupass on said ne'er-do-wells. Thanks to the joys of advanced technology, videos of his bad ass exploits go viral in seconds. Overnight he becomes a cause célèbre; suddenly he's regarded as a hero by the public, t-shirts with his rugged features blazened across the front begin circulating.

In an unrelated incident, his best friend and fellow-Vietnam vet comes a cropper in a botched robbery. Faced with a police force making litte effort into the murder investigation, our man Trejo takes the case into his own hands unleashing a one-man kick-ass army onto the streets to find his friend's killers. Cue lots of 'kapows' and other such comic book shenanigans; think Death Wish without the gratuitous violence.

Bad Ass is a likeable film albeit rather two-dimensional. Trejo plays Frank Vega well as the humble pacifist whose life has stayed in stasis since the 1960s; bewildered by a life passing him by which he can't relate to anymore. It's apparent that he's a reluctant 'hero'; many of his badass exploits preceding with 'I don't want any trouble...' shortly before knocking out a group of people. The villains of the story are adequate in their roles as the 'boo-hiss' cookie-cutter caricature albeit arguably a waste of Ron Perlman's abilities. Another slight drawback was Trejo's love interest, it really didn't work for me and came across as overly-contrived (mainly because of the yawning age gap) and didn't fit within the film as a whole.

So Bad Ass is a straightforward, non-cerebrally taxing 90 minutes of fun and mayhem where it performs the job admirably; and it's hard not to root for our man Frank Vega. In some ways though I felt the director had missed a trick here. It could have worked really well as a social commentary and the examination of the powers of modern technology/mass media and how they shape the public's consciousness. Sure, there was a nod to that in the opening scenes where we see the footage circulating from the passengers' smart-phones, to the internet, to viewers all over the US forwarding the clip onwards, ever onwards. There was also a scene towards the end where the bested 'baddie' delivers the line "did someone call the amberlamps?".

Google 'Amberlamps' and you'll find the video on Youtube of a very similar ilk. So the director is obviously savvy enough to blur the boundaries between real life and art, but definitely a missed opportunity not to have expanded on this throwaway reference.

All told, a decent film which does what it says on the tin but could have been better, I thought; the makings of a much better film suppressed in favour of a warts-and-all beat-em-up.

Inbred [DVD]
Inbred [DVD]
Dvd ~ Alex Chandon
Price: £3.22

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Emmerdale Farm on hallucinogens, 19 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Inbred [DVD] (DVD)
Inbred, what a fantastic old-skool gory horror film; possibly my favourite UK film of its genre since 28 Days Later. On a related note, the special effects team deserve an award for some in-yer-face gore and splatter. The opening scene gives the viewer a taste of what to expect. As soon as the limbs started flying I thought "aye, aye, I haven't seen one of these for a while". Exploitation cinema with a healthy dose of black humour.

Plot - as if anyone really cares - sees group of young offenders taken on a retreat accompanied by two of their case workers. You know exactly what's going to happen when the sat-nav ceases to work in this back-water, deepest, darkest Yorkshire. From there it goes from bad to worse, to 'oh my god, who on Earth dreamt up these ideas?'.

The miscreants (the young offenders, that is) and their case workers are actually a rather lacklustre bunch who aren't given many favours in the script they're left to work with. On the other hand, the stars of the show (possibly a deliberate decision) are the titular inbreds who are all - bar none - fantastic. Look out for a brilliant cameo from the above TV soap. A deliciously demented and blood-soaked exercise in sadism accompanied with nervous laughter (should I be laughing at this, i'm pretty sure I shouldn't...).

If Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the genesis of horrific, unsettling cinema; Inbred is the twisted, third generation product of a dwindling gene 'puddle'. What I liked about this film was that there is no 'goodies' and 'baddies' just a relentless thrill ride into depravity daring the viewer to see how much they can take.

In short, an excellent horror film which will prove very divisive due to its content. Only suitable for gore hounds with strong stomachs.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2013 9:22 AM GMT

Avoid The Shortcut (DVD)
Avoid The Shortcut (DVD)
Dvd ~ Dave Franco
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £6.88

3.0 out of 5 stars If you go down the woods today..., 11 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Avoid The Shortcut (DVD) (DVD)
Not too bad a film Avoid the Shortcut, it makes a nice change from the out-and-out gore-fests that seem to be everywhere these days. The story starts off in 1945 where two high-school students take an ill-advised trip home via the titular shortcut. Newsflash: they don't make it home, shock, horror! From there it's back to present day where two brothers, new arrivals to the same school, learn of this shortcut which has earned legendary status in the town's mythos. The fenced-off woods are frequented by a 'creepy old guy'. Tsk, what is it with be-whiskered, spooky old guys? They don't make life easy for themselves what with their habit of being, well, old and spooky.

So rather than being a proper horror per-se it's more of a mystery flick as the brothers and their friends attempt to get to the bottom of the shortcut mystery (rumours of missing people over the years abound). There's also a decent back story which is revealed throughout the film in a series of flashbacks which gives the viewers clues as to our creepy old guy.

There's a couple of twists; one which is reasonably predictable and the other less so which serve to elevate Avoid the Shortcut above others in the horror genre. Then again there's also a few plot inconsistencies though thankully none too unforgivable. As I say, not much in the way of gore (the 'hand' scene left me incredulous) but a decent amount of suspense and curveballs to make up for it.

In short, a diverting quasi horror which will entertain for 90 minutes without causing any sleepless nights.

Margin Call [DVD]
Margin Call [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kevin Spacey
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Capitalise the gains; socialise the losses, 7 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Margin Call [DVD] (DVD)
Margin Call; a film which proves you don't need zombies, breasts and guns to make a film exciting. As the subject matter is dryer than a Martini it's wholly down to an excellent ensembled cast (with more big names that you can shake a stick at) which help keep the viewer engaged in what could have been a rather dull yawn-fest. Mortgage backed securities, derivatives, margin calls; terms which, to be frank, largely went over my head.

The film is a quasi-fictitious documentary depicting the genesis of the 2008 credit crunch. Newly sacked risk manager hands to his junior analyst a risk report he had been working on shortly before being shown the door. Rocket scientist-cum-junior analyst (kid ye not) finishes off the formulas; something to do with financial models and laffer curves - the long and short of it is that the 'value' of their assets have become decoupled from reality such is the genius of the financial sector's jiggery-pokery.

From there it's an anxious weekend drafting in increasingly senior big-guns until the head-honcho (a brilliantly omnipotent Jeremy Irons) has to be called in to contain the situation and formulate an exit strategy before the stock markets re-open on Monday morning. Sure, on paper it hardly sounds like a rivetting story but it did well in cranking up the tension; this isn't just a bank run like It's a Wonderful Life, this a global financial catastrophe in the making and you're watching it unfold - the ultimate calm before the storm (not least with the benefit of hindsight).

As Irons' character points out, boom and bust cycles have been around for centuries and this is no different; the challenge is to get out first and pick up the pieces in the aftermath for small-change. That's what I liked about Margin Call in that it doesn't try to beat the viewer into submission with an 'avarice is evil' meme.

It's certainly not a Saturday-night-in-with-a-pizza film but if you fancy something a little thought-provoking and unique then you could do far worse than this.

Lockout [DVD]
Lockout [DVD]
Dvd ~ Guy Pearce
Price: £2.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Please leave your brain at the door, sir., 4 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Lockout [DVD] (DVD)
Lockout is a shameless low-brow, high-octane slice of entertainment with a well-observed B-movie feel. As others have said, it's a latter-day Escape from New York set in space. In the place of Kurt Russell's Snake Pliskin we get one-line quipping, sardonic Guy Pearce in the role of anti-hero, Snow.

The opening scene sets the pace nicely with our man Snow getting - ahem - 'interrogated' for a murder he didn't commit, couched in wonderfully stylised series of flashbacks with a quick biog of the key characters. Speaking of stylised, the bike scene (you'll know when you see it) could have been woefully mismanaged but really works well as a Manga-esque futuristic thrill-ride. Quite pointless to the plot but a great scene nonetheless; Luc Besson clearly flexing his artistic muscles.

In short, Snow must save the president's daughter who has made a seriously ill-advised trip to a floating space prison filled with the most degenerate, dangerous ne'er-do-wells you could never want to meet. A bit like Manchester, come to think of it.

In any event, the plot really can and does take a back seat as Lockout is all about the visual titilation and wanton violence where it succeeds with aplomb; nor does it take itself seriously and pretend to be something it's not. A perfect Friday night in with lots of beer and pizza? Look no further.

388 Arletta Avenue [DVD]
388 Arletta Avenue [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nick Stahl
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £2.37

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Glacial pacing and very dull, 18 Nov. 2012
This review is from: 388 Arletta Avenue [DVD] (DVD)
"The worst, and most boring, film i've ever seen".

That was the wife's assessment and, to be honest, I can't really disagree. For a so-called horror film, the greatest sin one can commit is to leave all the best bits till five minutes from the end. The director might have got away with such plot development had the lead actor been strong and the plot interesting. What's supposed to be a nail-biting exercise in a stalker's one-man reign of terror turns out to be more of a mundane documentary of domestic minutiae interspersed with a few moments to relieve the boredom.

The entire film is shot via a series of handheld and installed cameras, I guess so the viewer can share the killer's 'excitement'. Unfortunately, this means we never get to see the antagonist so that I never felt immersed in the story but, rather, an idle spectator.

Quick summary as follows; couple are stalked by unseen ne'er-do-well who plants cameras and listening devices around their house. Girlfriend goes missing around half an hour in. Remaining running time is comprised of our laughable 'hero' idly searching for said girlfriend.

It truly is a stultifying experience where very little happens to keep the viewer interested. So much so that I was keeping an eye on the counter to see how long of the film I had left to watch. At an hour in we get a false dawn as something mildly interesting occurs then it's back to another half hour running about looking for the girlfriend. Bizarrely, the main character's decision-making processes are inconsistent insomuch that when his cat goes missing he calls the police in (who can't help) but when he finds evidence that something untoward has befallen beloved moggy he keeps schtum.

Also, because the girlfriend doesn't feature much in the film it was hard to feel for her plight. Minor aspects baffled me; like how on earth did he get a camera behind the screen of the PC monitor at his place of work? On the plus side, it's been a while since I heard 'Midnight at the Oasis' by Maria Muldaur, which is possibly the high point of the film.

The final scenes are reasonably engaging but by then I was paralysed with ennui so I couldn't care less. Let's put it this way, My Little Eye is a classic compared to 388 Arletta Avenue, and that's saying something. In short, a dreary and inconsistent 'horror' that's more akin to the likes of Big Brother in terms of real-life banality.

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