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Blu-Ray

The latest winner in the format wars, we look at both television and movies that are hitting the shelves in this pristine new technology.

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Saturday, 29 May 2010

Mamoru Oshii, reknowned director of “Ghost in the Shell” and its sequel brings aerial combat and the psychology of war dramatically to life in this new Anime release. Despite being set in a fictional time and place, “Sky Crawlers” feels very much as though it belongs to mankind’s tragic past, present and future.

The Sky Crawlers of the title are a bunch of teenage, non-aging, genetically engineered pilots known as “Kildren”. The Kildren fight on behalf of two gigantic industrial corporations called Rostock and Lautern, each armed with its evenly balanced wings of junior combatants. Day in, day out these bands of aeronauts confront each other in the skies in a ceaseless bid to gain economic and strategic dominance.

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Saturday, 29 May 2010

Lucio Fulci’s “City of the Living Dead” rose to prominence on the crest of the wave whisked up by Romero’s zombie classics. “City” is not a simple retread, but rather establishes its own take on the genre, presenting the living dead as far more powerful, menacing and unknowable than previously seen in the likes of “Night of the Living Dead”.

In the small town of Dunwich, Massachusetts, a priest hangs himself in a church cemetery. This unspeakable act sets in motion the cataclysmic opening of the gates of Hell. As the dead begin to rise, the fate of the world falls on the unsuspecting shoulders of a reporter, a psychic, a psychiatrist and his patient. They have just 48 hours - until All Saints Day - to work out how to seal the unholy rift, or be forever plunged into darkness and suffering.

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Saturday, 29 May 2010

“Bad Day” is a homage to the British crime thrillers of the 1960s and 70s, one that packs quite a punch despite its meagre budget. Director Ian David Diaz called in plenty of favours, and used all of his contacts (and their contacts’ contacts!) to pull together an impressive cast and crew, all working twelve hour days free of charge. The end product speaks volumes about what can be achieved with sufficient focus and talent.

Claire Goose (The Bill, Waking the Dead) stars as Rebecca (aka Margaret), a strong-willed undercover copper who has got a little too emotionally attached to one of her suspects. She is in love with Harry McCann (George Calil – Waking the Dead, Band of Brothers), the boss of a cab firm which is actually a front for all sorts of criminal mob activity including drug running and prostitution.

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Thursday, 25 March 2010

The end of the world can generate a global box office take of $711 million worldwide. To prove this to be possible, “2012” is out now on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Acclaimed Director Roland Emmerich, creator of “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Independence Day” is at it again with another vision of apocalypse, but at the same time distracts all attention from the real prophecies that revolve around the date 21 December 2012.

John Cusack (“Con Air”), Amanda Peet (Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip), Woody Harrelson (“Zombieland”), Chiwetel Ejiofor (“Inside Man”), Oliver Platt (“Frost/Nixon”), Thandie Newton (“Crash”) and Danny Glover (“Saw”) lead an all-star cast in this tale of humans struggling to survive against all adversity.

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Sunday, 14 March 2010

In “Day of the Dead”, George A Romero’s zombies are back for a third helping of brains. Following on from events in “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) and “Dawn of the Dead” (1978), humans are now confined to just a few pockets of resistance against the shuffling undead hordes.

An enormous underground military complex provides refuge for a dozen or so soldiers and scientists. Outside, the massing zombies are relentlessly pushing at the perimeter fencing; inside, a deadly power struggle ensues as disagreements rage over the best survival strategy. The military personnel simply want to shoot all of the zombies in the head; the scientists want to overcome the threat by working out a way of making the zombies submissive, either through surgery, drugs or appealing to their buried memories of their former existences.

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Thursday, 28 January 2010

When Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader – a stalwart of the more recent Saturday Night Live line-up) sees his latest contraption accidentally destroy his town’s square and rocket up into the clouds, he thinks his inventing career is over. Then, something incredible happens as fast-food cheeseburgers start raining from the sky. His machine actually works! As you would expect of our world population these days, people greedily ask for more and more food.  As the machine is so obliging, it runs amok, unleashing spaghetti tornadoes and giant meatballs that threaten the world!

It's up to Flint, with the help of weather girl Sam Sparks (Anna Faris – Cindy in the “Scary Movie” franchise) and Steve, his talking monkey assistant (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris of How I Met Your Mother), to find some way to shut down the machine before the world is covered in super-sized meatballs!  Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” was based on a book by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett. The film is produced by Pam Marsden.

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Thursday, 28 January 2010

“Sin Nombre” (which means “without [a] name”) is a bit different from the films I normally choose to review on behalf of Cineology. It is an accessible, foreign art-house gangster film with a real heart. Édgar Flores stars as Willy, but he is better known by his gang title of El Casper. He is mixed up with a tough and very territorial Mexican gang called La Mara, most of the time doing their petty criminal work such as collecting “taxes” from local businesses (read: protection money).

However, occasionally he is also roped into more serious crimes like robbing already down-and-out waifs and strays, and killing rival gang members. La Mara is headed by Lil’ Mago (Tenoch Huerta), an utterly ruthless and sadistic killer who is covered from head to toe with gang tattoos. Second in command is El Sol (Louis Fernando Peña); each member of the gang from him down has fewer tattoos as if to signify their lower ranking in the organisation.

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Sunday, 24 January 2010

Pontypool” is a low budget horror movie with a high concept. Unfortunately I cannot reveal what that concept is, as that would amount to one hell of a spoiler! Bruce McDonald’s film opens with radio shock jock Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie – “2012”, “Watchmen”, “The Fountain”) on his way to start a new job in the back of beyond. In this case that happens to be Pontypool, Ontario.

It is a bitterly cold Winter’s day and the snow is falling. Whilst waiting at some traffic lights, a woman comes out of nowhere, beating on Mazzy’s window and uttering some gibberish that he cannot quite make out. Then, just as suddenly the woman vanishes into the darkness again. Mazzy is shaken, but continues on to work - a low-fi local radio station housed in a church basement. The outspoken DJ, having been sacked from his previous post, tries to rile his new audience, and is swiftly cut down to size by Sydney (Lisa Houle), the station’s no-nonsense producer.

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Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Producer Peter Jackson of “King Kong”, “The Lord of the Rings” fame was instrumental in getting “District 9” a high profile. You can see what impressed him as it’s out now on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Director Neill Blomkamp (“Crossing the Line”, “Tempbot”) enlists a cast of relative newcomers and a host of mind-boggling special effects. This is the allegorical story of aliens stranded in South Africa, and is a take on Alien Nation, but taken to an extreme.

The alien mother ship appeared, hovering over South Africa. The passengers are eventually released from their captivity aboard it, only to be openly imprisoned in a slum on the fringes of Johannesburg. The underlying message is that these ‘prawns’ (a none-too respectful slang word they are given due to their appearance) were surplus to requirements on their home planet.

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Saturday, 28 November 2009

The battle between man and machine officially continues in “Terminator Salvation”, the fourth film in the series, out now on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. To give this entrant box office clout, the producers have drafted in Christian Bale of “Batman” fame to star as an adult version of John Connor - leader of the human resistance in a post-Judgment Day world ravaged by deadly Terminators.

John Connor’s destiny was always to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. It’s 2018, and the future Connor was raised to believe in is altered, in part, by the appearance of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington – soon to be Jake Sully in “Avatar”), a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past…

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Saturday, 31 October 2009

Five years after the much-imitated “District 13” introduced Free-Running to the world, the sequel aims higher, as so many sequels have before it. “Bigger, slicker and darker” is its mantra. Set in a reasonably dystopian 2016, three years have passed since the events of the original came to a bone-crunching close.

Despite the promises of those politicians not shamed by the revelations of the first instalment, the situation in Parisian District 13 has not improved. It is still a ghetto-ridden hell-hole, ruled by five gang warlords and their violent, drug-dealing thugs. Some people manage to avoid trouble and lead a reasonable, if down-trodden existence, but trouble lies around every graffiti-sprayed concrete corner.

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Saturday, 24 October 2009

It seems odd that it has taken this long to produce a movie about the man who taught Bruce Lee the art of kung fu. Behind every legend is a teacher. In this case, the fascinating character of Ip Man takes centre stage, played by Donnie Yen, a renowned martial artist in his own right and a star of dozens of action movies such as “Shanghai Knights”, “Iron Monkey” and “Blade 2”.

Opening in the Southern settlement of Foshan in 1935, the film quickly establishes that Ip Man, a Master of the martial arts discipline of Wing Chun, is a man of great integrity and humility, not to mention a stunning fighter. Challenged to a private, friendly duel  by the Master of a neighbouring kung fu school, Master Ip wastes no time or effort in making the other teacher’s skills look utterly pedestrian.

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Saturday, 17 October 2009

You will be forgiven for thinking this will be just another gothic horror about grave robbers. It certainly starts off that way, but the path it takes is quite different to the expected. You will be taken along on quite a different journey then you will have been on before.

"I Sell the Dead" begins with the execution of Willie Grimes for grave robbery and murder, Grimes does not go quietly. His partner in crime, Arthur Blake is to suffer a similar fate the following morning. On his final night Blake is visited by Father Francis Duffy who wishes to take the condemned mans last words and preserve them for posterity. Blake begins to tell the Father about his early life working with Grimes and of their adventures and misadventures culminating in the bizarre series of events that lead the pair to the gallows and the end of their careers as grave robbers.

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Thursday, 08 October 2009

A bunch of thirty-something men plan a booze-fest to help their mate Vince get over his divorce. Most of the men are suffering from something of a mid-life crisis, feeling like they have lost the masculinity and cocksure identity of their youth, and are pinning the blame squarely on the women in their lives, past and present. They book a chauffeur-driven mini-bus, and set off to Moodley, a miniscule village with a very alluring claim to fame: the women apparently outnumber the men four to one.

When they arrive there is no one around, and they fear they might have come to the worst place on Earth for a good time. That impression does not last long, though, as Moodley is actually a town full of rampant, blood-thirsty female zombies (or “zombirds” as the movie’s makers like to call them) who would like nothing better than to get up close and personal with the visitors!

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Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Brought to Blu Ray for the first time is this classic 1950s film which has the honour of being the first Cinemascope film in Technicolor.  "The Black Shield of Falworth" is based on Howard Pyle’s "Men of Iron", which some poetic licence used to add to the source material.

Tony Curtis ("Some Like It Hot", and of course The Persuaders!) stars as Myles, who with his sister Meg (Barbara Rush) live on a farm in Crosbey Dale. They are forced to move to Mackworth Castle after Myles has a run in with the local nobility. It soon emerges that Myles and Meg are not the simple country folk they thought they were. Myles is trained to become a knight and must fight for his family’s honour in a trial by combat against the Earl of Alban (David Farrar).

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Saturday, 12 September 2009

This is a brash and flamboyant Western from “Spider-Man” trilogy director Sam Raimi, featuring a stellar cast. Sharon Stone stars as Ellen aka “The Lady”, an unlikely and mystery-shrouded gunslinger with nothing on her mind but revenge. She arrives in Redemption, a typically dusty Western town where resident despot Herod (Gene Hackman) keeps the locals in check by instilling utter fear into their cowardly hearts.

The annual “quick draw” duelling contest is about to begin, and The Lady signs up along with a rag-tag bunch of stereotypical misfits with catchy names like “Scars”, “The Kid”, “Ace” and “Preacher”. Each has a physical characteristic or personality trait to make them stand out, be it youth, a gimmicky card act or apparent invincibility, and each thinks they have what it takes to win the prestige and large cash prize on offer.

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Sunday, 12 July 2009

Following on from the massive success of "The Da Vinci Code", "Angels and Demons" was always going to be a blockbuster. The film has gone down a storm at the box office and to coincide with the launch of Dan Brown's new book (which no doubt was optioned by Hollywood even before a single page had been written), Sony are releasing "Angels and Demons" on Blu-ray and DVD on 15 September this year.

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Thursday, 04 June 2009

He's back! And this time, he's err...old? Arnie's swansong as his most famous character, that of The Terminator, has been released on Blu-ray to coincide with the release of the new “Terminator: Salvation” big screen feature. “Rise of The Machines” again centres on John Connor (this time played by Nick Stahl), and his ongoing escape from the agents of Skynet.

The film opens with Connor crashing his motorcycle and breaking into a Veterinary Hospital in the dead of night to get supplies to treat his injuries. Quite by chance (yeah, right!), the Hospital is where a young woman named Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) works, and she just happens to know Connor from when they were young.

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Sunday, 24 May 2009

"The Da Vinci Code" tells the story of how symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is drawn into the ancient battle between the Catholic Church and a secret society which guards something hidden that could shake the Church to its very foundations, or even destroy it.

He is joined in this adventure by cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) and the action moves from Paris to the French countryside, London and Scotland in a desperate search for the Holy Grail. Allong the way, he is aided by Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen in a role he seems to be enjoying a little bit too much) and chased by the French Police in the shape of Captain Bezou Fache (Jean Reno) and the albino monk Silas (Paul Bettany). But then you already knew that, right? (There can be few people who by now have not either read the book, seen the film, or both).

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Saturday, 10 January 2009

Adam Sandler stars as Zohan Dvir in this impossibly zany action comedy. The film opens with Zohan operating as an elite Israeli agent combating Palestinian terrorists. Sick of fighting an archetypal “war without end”, Zohan decides to fake his death at the hands of his arch nemesis, The Phantom (John Turturro), and surreptitiously journeys to the USA to start a new life. A new life as a disco-loving hairdresser!

Setting his sights on a job in the prestigious Paul Mitchell salon, Zohan quickly realises that he must first prove himself worthy, by getting a trainee job in a small barber’s shop run by Dahlia, a pretty Palestinian girl (Emmanuelle Chriqui).

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Friday, 14 November 2008

The featurette on this Blu Ray disc is entitled “Not your typical Christmas movie”. A review could leave it at that, but it would be a criminal disservice to such an unusual film. “Bad Santa” is a twisted comedic antidote to the avalanche of saccharin-sweet, “fun for all the family” films that get released every December. It is also a movie that is most certainly not for kids!

Billy Bob Thornton stars as Willie, a nomadic, down-and-out shopping mall Santa. He is joined by Marcus (Tony Cox), his vertically-challenged elven helper, and together they plan an annual big score in the self-same store that hires them.

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Friday, 14 November 2008

Director Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”, “Leon”) co wrote with Andrew Birkin (“Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”) this historical drama in 1999 and it is now getting a much deserved Blu Ray release.

Milla Jovovich (“The Fifth Element”, “Resident Evil”) stars in the title role of this almost epic piece. We follow Joan’s early life in a small village in Eastern France as a committed Christian, who finds life wonderful and beautiful until the Hundred Years War disturbs her peace with tragic consequences. Joan receives messages from God and is determined to do His wishes. She is convinced that she will lead the French against the English and end the war.

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Sunday, 20 April 2008

'When I am through with you, there won’t be anything left'*

A Review of “Damages” Season 1 on Blu-Ray Disc

In her first ever lead TV role, five-time Oscar-nominee and Golden Globe winner GLENN CLOSE leads a stellar cast in the riveting top-rating series Damages, available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

A compelling mix of legal thriller and gripping murder mystery, Damages comes from the creator of The Sopranos and is directed by ALLEN COULTER. Debuting on BBC1 with a 3.2m audience, Damages has increased its ratings over subsequent weeks.

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