Tag Archives: DVD

DVD Review: Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown (2011)

There are two versions of this poster: one with the MMA dudes, the other with Dean Geyer. I picked the one with Dean Geyer.

For those who have ever watched Australian Idol, have you ever wondered whatever happened to that Dean Geyer guy, the South African teen heartthrob who came third in 2006?  Well, after his music career failed to fully take off, it appears he has switched to acting, and his first feature is the lead role in Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown (!)  Holy crap!

Here’s a reminder of Dean the singer.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKuRnMhK1FU

The original Never Back Down was about a beefy high school kid (Sean Faris) who moves to Florida, gets his butt kicked by Cam Gigandet, and decides to get even by training MMA with the guy from Blood Diamond (Djimon Hounsou).

And let’s face it: Never Back Down wasn’t very good, and the only reason it has kind of endured is because of Cam Gigandet’s amazingly ripped bod.  I am not gay.

I think it moved

Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown essentially recycles the original from head to toe, except Djimon Hounsou is replaced by Spawn (ie, Michael Jai White — who also happens to be the director), and the Sean Faris character is split into four different college kids — the aforementioned Dean Geyer as a wrestler and the new kid on the block (with his long locks trimmed down), Alex Meraz (one of the werewolves from Twilight) as an ex-boxer, Todd Duffee as a gentle giant and Scott Epstein as the wimpy comic book store clerk (the last two of which are real life MMA fighters).

The obligatory eye candy waiting to be stolen away is played this time by Jillian Murray (probably best known for the seminal motion picture, Wild Things: Foursome), replacing Amber Heard from the first film.

The only returning character is Evan Peters, the obnoxious computer geek MMA fighter wannabe who’s always recording everything on video — he’s the one who organises ‘The Beatdown’ and I suppose is the catalyst who gets the ball rolling.

You don’t need me to tell you this movie sucked.  To be fair, it’s probably one of the less criminal straight-to-DVD sequels in recent times.  Spawn looked mean and buff, the fighting is well choreographed (perhaps more realistic, but nowhere as slick as the original), the acting is surprisingly decent and the kids are nice to look at.

But it also happens to be plagued with all the things you’d expect — a truly atrocious plot, even worse sub-plots (including corrupt cops, girlfriend envy, stripper moms and gay dads), cringe-worthy dialogue and horribly formulated characters.  In fact, the four young protagonists are all douches, maybe with the exception of Todd Duffee’s character, but it’s quite hilarious that they were trying to pass him off as a mild-mannered college kid — all you have to do is paint him green and he’s the Hulk!

You might wonder why films like Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown get made in the first place.  Well, I can almost imagine how this movie came into being.  Michael Jai White probably rented Never Back Down one rainy afternoon and thought, damn, I should have been in that movie instead of the Blood Diamond guy!  Let’s just make another one with me as the mentor, hire some kids for cheap, make some light modifications to the script and let’s make some money!

And the sad thing is, it probably will make a lot, paving the way for Never Back Down 3.

1.75 out of 5 stars

Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown will be released straight to DVD in Australia on 21September 2011

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIPPZm6wQPg

End of Year DVD Blitz: Part I

I’ve been watching too many movies lately and I don’t have the time or energy to review them one by one…and hence, here is my ‘End of Year DVD Blitz’…Part I!

Do you remember when Jonah Hex seemed like a promising film?

Jonah Hex (2010)

 

I remember when I first saw the trailer for this comic adaptation starring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox and John Malkovich and thought it was going to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year.  And I waited and waited for its release until the entire film vanished in a puff of smoke and never made it Australian cinemas.  Somehow, Jonah Hex, a film that cost $47 million and featured three big stars, went straight to DVD.

After watching this fantasy western, I can see why.  Jonah Hex, the titular character, is a scarred hero who is after revenge and killing bad guys.  Megan Fox plays herself as a crackwhore.  Even John Malkovich couldn’t save this mess of a film, which was all over the place, confusing and unengaging.  There were some visually impressive elements, a few good ideas and several valiant attempts at action sequences, but on the whole Jonah Hex was an uneven failure, which is a shame considering how much promise it appeared to have.

2 stars out of 5

Lots of great posters for Pandorum, but this is my favourite

Pandorum (2009)

Here’s an underrated sci-fi horror that few may have heard of, but it’s a good one for hardcore fans.

Not an entirely original premise — Earth is running out of natural resources and send a colony of humans to the only Earth-like planet they’ve found in the galaxy.  But as usual, something goes wrong, and when Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid wake up from their hypersleep (or whatever it is), the ship has become a dangerous survival ground.

Pandorum works well as a dark, atmospheric and thrilling sci-fi action horror.  It’s entertaining, frightening and sickening, and it’s made stylishly, with good performances (including from German babe Antje Traue and MMA star Cung Le) and special effects all round.

Some might find it derivative or a bit ‘out there’ for them, but for me, it’s exactly the type of film that I can really get into and enjoy.

4 stars out of 5

The Japanese poster for this movie made it look fairly good

Tekken (2010)

The first ever game I got on my PS2 back in the day was Tekken.  I never thought it was a great game, but I was still intrigued when I heard that Americans had decided to make a film about it.  Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat — I don’t know what possessed me to watch this one, but I guess I deserved what I got in the end.

Tekken was horrible horrible.  Horrible.  It stars a British, half-Asian martial arts guy by the name of John Foo, who decides to enter  the ‘Iron Fist’ (in Japanese that’s ‘Tekken’) tournament for revenge.  His mother is one of the ladies from The Joy Luck Club (Tamlyn Tomita) and his love interest is the lovely Kelly Overton (mostly from TV), also a contestant in the tournament.  And one of the bros from Bros (Luke Goss) is his ‘sponsor’.

There was basically no plot, just a bunch of okay-choreographed fights and guys and girls looking pretty.  The script, seriously, was like a ninth grade school project.  The acting was awful, but I blame a lot of that on the dialogue.  Except for John Foo.  In a world where everyone spoke in American accents, including his mother, this guy couldn’t even make an effort to disguise his distinctive British bite.

No wonder Katsuhiro Harada, director of the video game series, tweeted that he thought the film was a piece of crap.

1 star out of 5

 

You're the loser

The Losers (2010)

Another comic book adaptation, one that didn’t look particularly interesting to me.  However, The Losers is fun, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than popcorn entertainment.  I read that the film drew comparisons to The A-Team, but I actually thought this was better.

Yes, it’s silly, over the top, and the characters take themselves way too seriously, but the action is good and the laughs are decent — plus there is one saving grace, which I will get to shortly.  The Losers stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), Zoe Saldana (Avatar) and Chris Evans (Push), and the absolute standout — Jason Patric, who is simply hilarious as the villain.  I haven’t seen Patric in such terrific form since that sauna scene from Your Friends and Neighbors, which I have taken the liberty of posting below.

The Losers is a slightly above average comic book action movie, but including the extra half-star just for Jason Patric, I’m gonna give it 3.5 stars out of 5

There’s going to be at least two more instalments in this DVD Blitz.  At least.  Stay tuned.  Anyway, here is Jason Patric from Your Friends and Neighbors.


Movie Review: Tangled (2010)

Disney, animation, fairytale.  You really can’t go wrong.

And so we get Tangled, Disney’s latest animated feature — a spin on the Rapunzel story.  You know, the girl with the really long hair.  As per usual, there is a heroine princess, an animal sidekick, a potential romantic partner, an evil witch, love, action and plenty of singing — an old and trusted formula that has succeeded time after time (this is Disney’s 50th animated feature!).

As you can probably tell by now, for me, Tangled is nothing special — but that doesn’t mean it’s not pretty good.

I watched the film in 2D (thankfully) and it was visually impressive nonetheless, with an intended ‘oil painting’-like quality to the animation.  The music and songs (led by Mandy Moore, who voices Rapunzel) flow effortlessly as you would expect from a Disney cartoon, and of course, the jokes appeal to the young, old, and everybody in between.

It’s just that Tangled felt very much like just another regular Disney cartoon, like say Disney’s last full-length feature, The Princess and the Frog.  Don’t get me wrong — whether in terms of story, music, humour, heart or overall enjoyability, Tangled is very good, but just not outstanding.  Perhaps I’m just so used to Disney making great traditional animated features that simply being very good no longer does it for me.

But Tangled did apparently take 6 years and $260 million to make, so obviously the film was intended for great things.  I’m just not quite sure it gets there.

Ultimately, Tangled is good family movie that will make a worthy addition to any DVD cabinet, but is unlikely to be remembered as a classic in the vein of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast.

3.5 stars out of 5!

DVD Review: Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet (2008)

I first came across Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet when I was surfing online with the computer volume on full blast and a banner ad started screaming so loud that I had to shut down the page.  But at least it got my attention.  The next time I saw the ad I watched the whole thing and it seemed intriguing enough.  Naked ghost woman who hacks people to death sounded like an idea as good as any slasher movie out there, so why not?

As it turned out, I probably should have listened to the warnings.  Blood Night makes other straight-to-DVD movies seem like big screen feature blockbusters.  There’s nothing horrifically wrong with the film, but there’s also nothing to make it worth watching.

I thought I would learn something about the real Mary Hatchet story (if there is one), but as I understand it, the film is a mash up of a number of Long Island legends.  It has a cookie cutter plot and progression, complete with awful dialogue and acting (the only name I recognised was Nate Dushku, the brother of Eliza).  Worst of all, it wasn’t even scary.  Not even the ‘boo’ scares were effective.  The excessive blood and gore actually had the opposite effect, making the film campy and less frightening.

To me, Blood Night is the type of movie that may possibly be enjoyed by a group of drunk teenagers at a party — because you don’t really need to focus, the supposed scares induce laughter, and there is lots of nudity involved.  For everyone else, don’t waste your time.

1 star out of 5

DVD Review: The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Disney’s latest animation feature, The Princess and the Frog, will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on 16 June 2010.  Running time: 94 minutes. Rated: G

In the age of computer animations and 3D special effects, it’s always good to see a traditional hand-drawn story that is just as beautiful to the eye — but with that extra bit of fluidity and a human touch.  That’s exactly what Disney has delivered with Oscar-nominated The Princess and the Frog, a true family film that brought back the nostalgic feelings of those classic animated features from my childhood.

I must admit, The Princess and the Frog was not a film that immediately jumped out at me at during its theatrical run.  The original Grimm brothers’ fairytale about a princess who turns a frog into a prince never really appealed to me personally, and I thought the film would just be a simple retelling of that story.

However, full credit must go to John Musker and Ron Clements (creators of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin).  Instead of going down the expected route, The Princess and the Frog turns the original fairytale on its head, and the result is both surprising and hilarious.

The obvious thing that sticks out about this film is that Disney finally has a black female lead in Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose from Dreamgirls), a hardworking waitress who dreams of opening up her own restaurant.  But there’s a lot more than that.  Rather than some magical alternative world, The Princess and the Frog is set in French Quarter of New Orleans.  This backdrop gives the film an entirely new dimension, bringing back that fun-filled era of jazz music, big bands and old-school dancing never before seen in Disney animated features.

Young Tiana’s world is turned upside down when Prince Naveen (voiced by Bruno Campos from Nip/Tuck) arrives for a royal visit.  Of course, there is a mysterious villain, and without giving away too much of the plot, spells and frogs become involved and the setting is transformed from New Orleans to the mystical bayous of Louisiana, where more interesting characters are introduced, including a musical alligator and a lovesick firefly.

As I understand it, The Princess and the Frog endured a lot of controversies and changes over title, the lead characters, the location and the villain — but seriously, as always, it was much ado about nothing.  In the end, it’s just pure family fun without a suggestion of political messages or racial or cultural insensitivity.

I haven’t been a big fan of animations for a while (with a few notable exceptions), but I really enjoyed The Princess and the Frog.  It is indeed a film intended for the whole family but the target is still clearly young children, despite a couple of “frightening” scenes involving voodoo and the “other side”.  The humour is very much geared towards the kids, though from about the halfway mark I found myself laughing way more than I should have been.

I don’t usually consider myself a jazz listener, but the score for this film was exceptional — lively and fun while remaining true to the Disney spirit.  But perhaps my favourite thing about The Princess and the Frog was the character of Prince Naveen.  For once, the male lead is not just some wealthy, handsome and unbelievably perfect guy who comes in to sweep the heroine off her feet.  Naveen is really a bit of a douche, and I was almost disappointed to find that he actually had some redeeming qualities by the end of the film.

3.5 stars out of 5!

2009 DVD Blitz!

I had initially planned on doing separate reviews for all of these DVDs I watched over the last couple of weeks, but I decided it was wasting too much of my life.  I need to focus on my studies and my novels more, and less on blogging.

Maybe I’ll eventually get around to reviewing them in full on 7Tavern.  But for now, here are some brief reviews.

The Taking of Pelham 123

I expected a bit of a stinker and my expectations were fulfilled. John Travolta was a shocker in this one (simply swearing a lot doesn’t make a villain cool or menacing or interesting), and Denzel feels the same as always. There were a couple of decent moments and flashes of excitement that prevented the film from being a total disaster, but on the whole this was one to forget.

2 out of 5

Never Back Down

Teenage mixed martial arts movie with all the expected crap that comes with it – average acting, bad dialogue and predictable flow. Good fight scenes though. Cam Gigandet’s evil smile reminded me of a chiseled Hayden Christensen.

2 out of 5

Redbelt

I was getting my MMA fix.  Hard hitting, both physically and emotionally, in true Mamet-style. For once a martial arts film that deals with more than just punching and kicking. Keeps you wondering where it would take you next. Awesome.

4 out of 5

Whatever Works

Look, it’s not a bad film. It’s just that Larry David is annoying enough for half an hour on Curb, so Larry David for 92 minutes straight gets a bit…

And it’s hard to ignore the fact that the movie is written and directed by Woody Allen, and surprise surprise, it’s about the relationship between a misunderstood old man and a girl that is far too young to be married to him. Thankfully, it’s not his daughter. 

2.5 out of 5

The Hangover

Maybe I expected too much. The Hangover is pretty good but not as gut-bustingly hilarious as I thought it would be. That said, it could have been way worse. Ken Jeong is an absolute classic.

3 out of 5

Lost Boys: The Tribe

Long awaited sequel to the 87 classic went pretty much according to script. B-grade all the way, but that doesn’t mean it was destined to be crap. I liked the tongue-in-cheek moments but there was too much serious stuff mixed in there which made it uneven. It could have been worse, I suppose.  RIP Corey Haim.

2 out 5

Michael Clayton

Oozes class all the way through. A tremendous opening sequence, an intriguing plot, and handled with style and precision. A well-made, gripping thriller.

4 out of 5

Fool’s Gold

Should have been simply titled “Fools”. Horrible plot (where is the adventure? People sit around, talk, and figure out where the treasure is?), annoying characters, and action without excitement. And it’s 110 minutes! And the ultimate killer blow? Matthew McConaughey.

1.5 out of 5

Did I mention I’ve been kinda busy lately?

Late addition – can’t believe I saw this film but totally forgot about it!

Vantage Point

Pretty clever idea and a great cast, but unfortunately they didn’t nail it. Despite the gimmick, in the end it turned out to be a rather pedestrian thriller plot. That said, there were some exciting scenes and at 90 minutes, the film didn’t outstay its welcome.

3 out of 5

DVD Review: The Proposal (2009)

The Proposal is one of those romantic comedies that you wouldn’t necessarily call good, but there are worse ways to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon than watching Sandra Bullock (Ms Oscar Nominee) and Ryan Reynolds (Mr Scarlett Johansson) on screen (though let’s face it, not many).

Without giving too much away, Bullock plays Magaret Tate, the bitchy executive editor-in-chief of a publishing company, and Reynolds is Andrew Paxton, her hard-working assistant.  You can pretty much work out the whole story from there if you have a think about the name of the film (ie The Proposal), the poster, and what type of roles Bullock and Reynolds seem to always play in rom-coms.  And to top it off, the director is Anne Fletcher, who was at the helm of Step Up and 27 Dresses.  Let’s stop pretending the movie is not entirely predictable.

Fortunately, The Proposal does have some funny parts, and it does have a bit of heart.  There are a few decent laughs, mostly involving Bullock and her silly character traits, though Reynolds does have surprisingly good comedic timing.  However, it’s not what I would call a hilarious movie – a number of jokes don’t quite have the intended effect, and a few simply fall flat.

Another plus of the film is that there a couple of minor breaks from the ordinary rom-com cliches, and a few unexpected little twists.  You probably wouldn’t even notice them, but they’re there.

What I probably liked most was that the film was set in a major publishing company.  Though the opening scenes were relatively short, it was interesting to see how a place like that worked.  I’m not so sure I’d like to work in one now!

3 out of 5 stars!

[PS: Sandra Bullock’s character unfortunately reminds me of quite a few power women at work.  Despite the fact that it’s hilarious to make fun of them, their lives are actually really really sad.]

Movie Review: Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Talk about a letdown.

You have Diablo Cody, the creator of cult favourite Juno, which just won her the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (and also the award-winning TV show The United States of Tara).  You have Amanda Seyfried, the up-and-coming star of Mean Girls and Mamma Mia!.  You have director Karyn Kusama, who was at the helm for Æon Flux (I know), but also the critically acclaimed Girl Fight.  And of course, there’s Megan Fox, who is widely regarded as the most desirable woman on the freaking planet.

On paper, Jennifer’s Body looks like a sure winner.  But somehow, the film received a lukewarm reception and totally bombed out.  It will go straight to DVD in Australia early next year.

After seeing it, I can kinda understand why.

As per usual, I’m not revealing the any more of the plot than necessary.  Just know it is set in a high school and is a horror comedy about two teenage girls.  One good thing is that the previews are somewhat misleading and don’t give away too much.

In a way, I can see where the movie was coming from.  At its heart, Jennifer’s Body is a very dark black comedy which pays tribute to the old school horror movies (and has a certain 80s feel to it).  There are parts that are genuinely funny if you appreciate dark humour (I certainly do), and there are a couple of scenes which may give you a fright, or at least make you cringe in disgust.

However, watching it, I got the distinct feeling that Cody deliberately set out to make a ‘cult’ movie – and that just doesn’t work.  Movies are given the distinguished ‘cult’ status by the fans.  When you try too hard to make a film quirky and wacky, it just gets weird – but without the accompanying unintended laughs.  There were so many WTF moments in Jennifer’s Body, but they weren’t necessarily good WTF moments.  Don’t get me wrong, Cody is a skilled screenwriter who writes witty, crisp dialogue and creates great characters, but it feels all too polished and packaged.

It’s a difficult film to rate because it has some great elements to it.  It’s sexy, hip and stylish and knows how to manipulate the audience, especially teenage boys (whom they probably thought would flock to see Fox and Seyfried get it on).  The performances are solid, especially Seyfried, who manages to pull off an ‘average’ teenage girl convincingly.  And Megan Fox surprised me with her acting ability.  Yes, she was playing a skanky, bitchy slut of a girl so it might not have been a stretch for her (think Eminem in 8 Mile), but she was actually very good.

On the other hand, Jennifer’s Body just wasn’t that enjoyable.  There are solid moments but it’s not particularly scary nor particularly funny.  It was a little all over the place (though this was probably intentional).  It’s unfortunate because I think they had something going here with the premise and the concept, but the pieces just didn’t fit together for some reason.

2.5 stars out of 5!