Thursday, 24 December 2015

Have A Very Metal Christmas

  In theory Heavy Metal and Christmas shouldn't be in the same room as each other without an enormous fight. "Joy To The World" vs "Raining Blood"?  Messy.

In practice, lots of metalheads love a bit of tinsel and a chance to sing about reindeer.

Here's a small selection of Metal carols for you all. Enjoy.

Twisted Sister - O Come All Ye Faithful

 

Orion's Reign - Deck The Halls

(It turns out that Symphonic Metal and Christmas music go together really well)


If you've ever sat down and wondered what Rammstein doing a Christmas song would sound like, have I got a treat for you.

 Psychostick - O Tannenbaum (In the style of Rammstein)




And to finish...you may have heard the Trans-Siberian Orchestra song "Carol of The Bells" . well here's the original version by one of my favourite bands of all time.

 Savatage - Christmas Eve/ Sarajevo 12-24




That's all folks. 

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Heavy Metal Cover Girls Strike Back

  Time to post part two of our look at SF album covers. In most cases the SF element consists of "wearing a shiny catsuit and holding a blaster" but I don't really see a problem with that.

  The Soda Shop Records Comp 3 

Space girl with blaster.
 Picture originally from http://www.thesleepingshaman.com

 Well, I was about..15% right on the shiny catsuit. The bit over her boobs is definitely very, very shiny. 

Shiny...

So shiny...

Where was I?  Ahem.

This is a free-to-download compilation which can be found at the above link. Go check it out. 

The next one brought some extra firepower. 

Kerion - Cloud Riders Part two: Technowars. (France 2015)

Girl with giant mech
I don't think you really need the swords love.

The band don't sound the way I expected . See for yourself. 


Dire Peril - Queen of The Galaxy EP (USA 2014)

How long did it take you to notice that there's another person on there?

I've had this cover in my folder for about 3 months and I only just noticed the robot-ninja thing.  

The band definitely like their SF. This track is inspired by Barbarella and guest stars the lead singer of Unleash the Archers. 



This nexct one is from the darker, more cynical end of SF.
Less Star Trek  (Shiny  and clean) and more Mad Max (Everything is shit and the people are nutters.)

Bobaflex -Anything That Moves (USA 2015)

I've never understoood why people who survived the apocalypse immediately start wearing the weirdest clothes. Why is she dressed like a  player from the Lingerie Bowl gone viking? Who knows.

The band are scuzzy Hard Rock and not bad at all.



I think this next young lady could use a nice big gun right about now.

Platzdarm - Another Breed EP (Russia 2015)

I have to go. Aliens just stole my date.

Check out their music at  https://platzdarm.bandcamp.com/
If you like the crunchier end of metal you might dig them.

That's all folks.


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Heavy Metal Cover Girls...Conquer The Galaxy

Given all the hype about a certain film franchise at the moment, today seemed like a good chance to post some covers I've had in my folder for a while. I think you'll agree that they are very, very appropriate.

 First up, some Scandinavian rockers who may possibly have a thing for classic Sci-Fi

Kal-El - Pakal (Norway 2014)



He's behiiiind you....

 Kal-El (Norway) - Ecosphere (2015)



  Cover one is a tribute to the Golden Age pulp. This cover is a tribute to the SF covers of the 70s/early 80s. 
I would buy both of these if they were comics, just going by the covers.  

The band are Stoner Rock with a bit of groove going on.
https://www.facebook.com/kalelproject/


 Compare and contrast those covers with this more up-to-date take on the theme.

Otherworld - My Final Sacrifice Ep (USA 2015)

That's a big-ass gun. That's also a lot of hair.
 I have to wonder how often she gets those flowing locks trapped in the airlock. 
No wonder she isn't wearing a helmet.

The band are ModernMetal/Metalcore, it says here. 


I tend to use a very, very loose definition of Metal for these posts, which is why so far we've had Stoner Rock and Metalcore. This next lot are very definitely Heavy Metal - unless you're one of those strange types that think anything with clean vocals is practically AOR.

 Barque Of Dante - Lasting Forever (China 2013)

 She's got tangled up in her headphones, the poor love.
While he looks pleased with himself.  

I really need to hear more Chinese Power Metal



Kantation - Nephilim (USA 2015)

 Some of my favourite covers are the ones where you find yourself making up a little story to go with them. 
My immediate thought when I saw this one was "Welcome to Earth motherfuckers!"

Kantation are somewhere on the border between  Heavy and Power Metal. 



Some Old-School Cool to finish

Deserts Of Mars - Transmission (USA 2013)



This cover makes me sad.

This is what the 21st century was supposed to be like.

Instead we got The Kardashians, X-Factor, ISIS, Austerity and a world that keeps getting greyer and uglier.

There aren''t any songs on Youtube but check out their Bandcamp site.
If you like sludgey Heavy Rock you might dig these guys.

https://desertsofmars.bandcamp.com/

That's all folks.

Expect Part 2 in a day or so.


Saturday, 12 December 2015

Cheapo DVD Review: Rise Of The Fellowship (2013)

This bad-tempered rant  review is likely to get quite sweary. You have been warned. 


 Just for a change I'm going to post the back cover of the DVD as well. It will become relevant, trust me. 

  "A group of friends embark on an epic journey to find a new world they have only heard of, encountering dangerous obstacles and threats around every corner. During their quest they lose one of their most precious possessions and must display depths of bravery and heroism that they never thought possible. With the aid of some unexpected allies along the way, the companions fiercely look for certainty that they can reach their destination. "

    There's a reason one of my post tags is "DVD artists are lying bastards" and that's because of stuff like this :  Films cynically repackaged as something they aren't to grab more sales. 

I've seen a lot of that over the last few years and it annoys me. Maybe I'm naive but when I pick a film off the shelf because the cover looks interesting, that's the film I want to see. Discovering that I've been gulled yet again does not put me in the right frame of mind to appreciate the movie. 

"Rise Of The Fellowship" is probably the most extreme example of this bullshit I've ever encountered. 

Look at the DVD covers, both of them. You should now have a mental image of the film contained therein, right? 

Wrong.

Very, very fucking wrong. 

  I was expecting a low-budget fantasy that bore a suspicious resemblance to a certain recent series about hairy-footed little people. What I actually got was a low-budget, indie-flick about a bunch of gamers on a road trip. 
  Instead of a LOTR ripoff, I got a film that really wants to be "Fanboys - Gamer edition"

I would be impressed at the way the marketing wankers carefully concealed any clue to the real film...

...If I wasn't so pissed off.   

  If you'd made the DVD cover bear some resemblance to the bastard film I'd still have bought it.  A bunch of gamers trying to get across the country to a gaming event? Sounds like it could be interesting, so let's give it a whirl.  

  As it is, I started watching and my immediate reaction was "What the fuck is this?" which is not a positive thing by anybody's standards. 

 And why the hell is the DVD sleeve covered in knights? There aren't any in the fucking film. That's the sort of thing I'm good at noticing.  
 I'm really good at spotting beautiful women too. So believe me when I say that if the blonde on the cover was in this film, I'd have spotted her.    

  Somebody made a conscious effort to put "Rise Of the Fellowship" out in a sleeve that outright lies.

  Somebody is taking the piss and I am not fucking happy. 

Aargghhh!


  Now that my blood pressure has gone back down and I no longer want to punch somebody, I suppose I'd better talk about the film itself.

 "Rise Of The Fellowship" is OK, I suppose. Amusing, rather than funny, in that low-key Indieflick fashion and with some nods towards the LOTR trilogy that make sense in context. 
 There's quite a few daydream sequences - which does explain the pics on the back cover.  

  The gang are straight out of Geek Casting Central - the straight man, the chick, the fat kid and the guy who thinks he's funny - all of whom are easy to like, so wanting to see them prevail is also easy. . 
 The bad guys are exactly what you'd expect from this kind of film - a bunch of Jocks who act like utter tossers just because they can and some authority figures who just don't listen, man.  

 You have to wonder what the hell was going on in American schools when the last two generations of film-makers were growing up. Somebody ended up with some real issues. 
  The story is straightforward with few real twists, none that can't be seen from a mile off anyway. No real wacky hijinks either. This is a PG film which does limit the shenanigans a bit.

How much did I pay for this: £1
Was it worth it?  Once I'd stopped being angry at the blatant bait & switch, "Rise of the Fellowship" is an ok movie. Not stellar and "Fanboys" does the same thing but better. 
 Having said that "Rise of the Fellowship" has its moments and enough charm to keep me watching so, yes, I'd say this film was worth the quid I paid. 

Ler me finish with a personal message from me to the misbegotten son of an ape who came up with the packaging. And all the other tossers who keep pulling this trick. 


  That's all folks. 


  

Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Metal Project: 2015 continued.



 Welcome back, friends, followers and people who arrived here by accident. 

   If you're in the mood for some self-referential metal, or just fancy doing a bit of headbanging, step this way.  I have a few more songs from this year and I think you're going to like..at least some of them.  Enjoy.

Starting with one I literally found twenty minutes ago,  here we go. 

Antipeewee - Thrash Metal Fist (Germany)


Honour to: FB Metal Groups 2

Black Vomit 666 - Carniceria Con Metal (Colombia)



Honour to: headwar88

Deathhammer - Total Metal (Norway)



Honour to: Nuclear Sodomy

Emerald Sun - Metal Dome (Greece)

(Has a definite touch of the Manowar and a spoken word intro for exta metalness. Excellent.) 


Honour to: mpampis flou


Dragonheart - Forged Into Metal (Brazil)




Honour to: diamhea


If you liked any of these, spread the word and check out the channels I linked to.

That's all folks.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Metal Project: 2015



    As we come towards the end of yet another year, it seemed like a good idea to do a round up on some of the songs that come out this year.  Trends may come and go, and new sub-genres may get created on a weekly basis but there is one constant factor in the world of Metal. 

Somewhere out there, somebody is writing a song about Metal and how awesome it is. 

 May it always be so, forever and ever, amen. 

  Primal Fear - In Metal we Trust (Germany)


Honour to: Frontiers Music


Eternal Thirst - Metal Rules The Earth (Chile)



Honour to: eternalthirstChile

Diavolos - Death Metal (Greece)

(FFO Bathory, Possessed and Venom)

Honour to: FB Metal Groups 2

Ancient Prophecy - Metal is Still Alive (Germany)

(The album cover suggests Death Metal but the band are actually Trad metal with dual vocals
May possibly be Christian Metal)



Honour to: zombie13

Grey Wolf - We Are Metalheads (Brazil)


Honour to: True Heavy Metal

Night Demon - Heavy Metal Heat (USA)

(Pure 1980s Heavy Metal worship. Fine by me.)  


Honour to: l.linhildr

Servant - Sludge Metal Destroyer (USA)

(As sludgey as a sludgey thing) 



Honour to: MrStoneBeliever

Majesty - War For Metal (Germany)

(A band that writes a lot of meta-metal songs.)
  

Honour to: Metal Desire

I hope you found something to like.
If you did, please take a moment to visit the channel that posted it. 

I still ahve a few songs left, but I'll sve them for another post so for the time bieng...

That's all folks. 


Thursday, 3 December 2015

Cheapo DVD Review: Rise: Blood Hunter (2007)

 Back at the start of November I bought 12 DVDs from CEX and I said I was going to review every single one of them. Now I remember why I don't usually do that.
 For the 12th and final act in this saga, I'm looking at one of the few films in history with a murder victim getting their own revenge.


 When reporter Sadie Blake investigates a subculture of vampire wannabes she inadvertently stumbles across the real thing and ends up getting her jugular ripped open. 
When she subsequently wakes up in a steel drawer, Sadie is not at all happy with her new status as a vampire, especially since nobody bothered asking her first. 
Aside from anything else, being turned into a vampire does involve being brutally murdered. That, she's really pissed off about and somebody is going to answer for it.

  
  I mainly picked this up because Lucy Liu is in it as I've been a fan of her work ever since Ally McBeal.

But, as one of my mates once put it "She's going to spend the rest of her career playing Dragon Ladies."

Lucy Liu is a pretty decent actress and  has the range to handle a variety of roles. It just so happens that she's really good at playing tough cookies with a sharp tongue.
 It works really well in this movie. There's a nice contrast between the three stages of Sadie's life - confident reporter, traumatised victim and badass vampslayer. Like I said, Lucy Liu has the range to switch gears as required.
.   IMHO, I think Lucy's performance manages to make an OK vampire movie  just that little bit more OK.
 Not great, but better than it would be otherwise.

 Actually the acting is better than it normally is for this kind of film. Lucy Liu does a good job, so do Michael Chiklis, as a cop/grieving father seeking answers, and James D'Arcy who plays head Vamp Bishop with a mix of charm and complete bastard. Carla Gugino and the late Mako don't get as much to do but make the most of what they have.

 The movie itself is not as good as it could have been. The story jumps about between present events and flashbacks at odd moments, which derails things, and the movie as a whole is curiously flat. Considering the amount of blood shed in nasty ways, you'd expect a bit more punch to proceedings. I'm not sure why I didn't really feel it with "Rise..", just that I watched but was not immersed.

The idea of a vampire hunting down other vampires is not a new one and neither is said vampire being female (See the dreadful Bloodrayne films... the frankly appalling Vampire Shadows...and Innocent Blood which is one of my favourite vamp films.) but while Sadie is a decent character, the film on the whole is never more than "Sorta OK"

How much did I pay for this: £1.50
Was it worth it: Debatable. I realised halfway through that I'd rented this DVD a while back but had forgotten it. I never forget a film I've seen so what does that tell you?
 Watch if you're a diehard Lucy Liu fan but otherwise, I wouldn't go out of your way to see "Rise: Blood Hunter"

As it so happens, I bought some more DVDs at the weekend and I need to start working my way through those.

Nah, screw it... I'm gonna take a break from films and do some other stuff instead. Expect a Heavy Metal Cover Girls feature in a day or so.

 that's all folks.  

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Cheapo DVD Review: Tekken - Kazuya's Revenge (2014)

You may possibly remember that at the start of the month I declared a grandiose plan to review every single one of the DVDs I'd just bought. Well after a bit of a detour, it's time to return to that project.
For DVD #11 we're reviewing a Prequel nobody asked for.


 A young man wakes up in a strange room with no memory. Luckily there isn't a tiger in the next room or a traffic cone on top of the wardrobe but he does get armed goons kicking in his door. After a bit of a fracas, our amnesiac hero's day continues to get worse when he's captured by a mysterious old bloke called The Minister.   His life choices now boil down to "Kill people" or "Get your head blown off"
 Since the Man With No Past is really good at martial arts and stuff, option 1 is easy enough.
Problem is, he doesn't actually want to kill people...

  Can I just point out that the Amnesia angle would work better if the DVD title didn't give away Mr X's frigging name. 
 The viewer now knows who he is and if the viewer has played the games, which is quite likely, then they also know who the mysterious old bloke is that keeps popping up in flashbacks.

  Let me just take a minute to clap sarcastically. 

Oh well done, marketing people. Give yourself a cookie. 

The original title was Tekken: A Man Called X.  Maybe you should have stuck with it.  

  Maybe you should also have had a bit more fighting. This movie is based on a fighting game after all. 

  There's entirely too much footage of Kazuya wandering about the city looking fed up, as well as too many overlong flashbacks and this just slows things down way too much. 

I have a few other issues as well. A certain character is introduced and given a backstory then gets forgotten about. A subplot takes up time but goes nowhere. What was the point of that?

 Getting back to the fights, they are disappointing. The choreography is old-school martial arts, without  wirework, SFX or much flashy editing and that can work if it's done well. Some of my favourite cinematic punchups are like this, in fact.  It's just that for some reason,  I wasn't impressed. Tekken 2 needed some quality violence to make up for the lack of quantity and in that, it fails.

  Then we get to the climax which actually annoyed me. 

Kazuya and his new ally bust into the bad guys HQ and we all know how that's supposed to work. 
First you take out the mooks, then you take out one or more henchmen - a great chance to have two different fights go on simultaneously - then you face the Big Bad in a final showdown, kick his face in and walk proudly away clutching manly injuries, while Bad Guy HQ may or may not burst into flames for no apparent reason. 

  A vital part of this is that the henchmen should have been established earlier on as a genuine threat. Would the end of Return of the Jedi have been so good if Darth Vader had thrown a sickie and Luke had faced some random geezer instead?  Search your feelings. You know the answer. 

Tekken 2 drops the ball on this big time. Two characters we know are badass are brushed aside in seconds  while Kazuya ends up fighting a couple of blokes we've never seen before, that have no history whatsoever.  
 That's just sloppy and it bugs me.   

To cap it all, the Big Bad just casually wanders off. It makes more sense once you discover that Tekken 2 is actually a prequel  but personally I don't think you should have to visit Wikipedia to find out what the ending is all about.  

To sum up: Tekken 2 is too slow, not particularly interesting and has a rubbish payoff.  

How much did I pay for this: £3.50
Was it worth it: Not really. If you're not a fan of the games then there's no real reason to watch it. If you are a fan of the games then Tekken 2 might just annoy you.
Maybe they should have done a prequel about  the Williams sisters instead. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Anime From The Vaults: Love City (1986)

In which I dig out an anime cassette that I haven't watched in ...(counts on fingers)...about 10 years.
  Tokyo, somewhere in the future.  "Headmeters" are powerful espers who can do all sorts of cool psionic shit - flying, blowing stuff up, all that jazz. Kei was a failed attempt at creating a Headmeter who has done a runner with his daughter Ai,  ex cop Raiden and a large cat that's way smarter than it ought to be. 
 Kei's bosses want Kei back or dead. And they really want Ai back since she's some sort of living psionic booster.
  In the process stuff gets broken, people die messily and some seriously weird shit happens. 

  During the initial anime boom the various companies quickly established a House Style. Manga Video tended towards SciFi and Horror aimed at the "Lad" crowd, the bloodier the better (Urotsukidoji, Fist Of The North Star) . Anime Projects released gentler, subtitled material forthe more hardcore Anime fanbase (Urusei Yatsura, Oh My Goddess)  while Kiseki sat somewhere in between the two (Black Magic M66, Plastic Little)

 And Western Connection released a bunch of stuff that they could get hold of cheaply. quickly slap subtitles on and dump onto the market with infamously poor tape quality.

 Even so, sometimes they released some decent stuff. The Lupin III movies and Devil Hunter Yohko were definitely worth buying. Ladius...um...not so much.
  So I had to wonder how well "Love City" would stand up after all this time.

For an anime from the 1980s, Love City holds up surprisingly well although some bits better than others.

 The animation isn't bad, especially given the era, although it is a bit strange seeing certain characters mugging like they just popped in from the "Urusei Yatsura" comedy next door.
 Espers making people explode followed by borderline slapstick is just odd.

Does this look like a man in a Dystopian SF/Horror?

On the subject of weird, there's some creative ideas in this OVA, starting with the aforementioned Headmeters
"Why are they called that?" I hear you ask cautiously.
  Every time a Headmeter uses their power, a handy guide appears on their forehead. Head...Meter. See?

 The serious looking redhead above is K2. Later on she gets a costume change.

 If I haven't said it already, this is not a comedy so don't ask me why she's dressed as a bunny. 

One of the villains is a wrinkly old dude in a robot suit. 

The mental image you just had is wrong. 

Here he is. 

 I don't know what that liquid is but I'm fairly certain it's at least 40% piss. 

Then there's this bit. 


We haven't got to the ending yet. The ending is where it gets really weird. 

 Allow me to go off on a tangent for a minute.  I've been watching anime now for about 20 years so I'm kinda used to it. 
But back when this stuff was just starting to trickle into the UK there was nothing around to compare. "Mindblowing" is not the word. Anime introduced me to whole new levels of bizarre. 

  The storyline is fairly simple by contrast. Bad guys want the girl. Good guys want to stop them. Bad guys want to bring about a messy armageddon. Good guys want to stop that too.  Simple but it's done decently and with some little wrinkles to keep things interesting. 

It goes without saying that the climax involves flesh squirming and mutating in ways that only happen in horror anime. Luckily there's no tentacle rape involved, which as far as I'm concerned is a bonus.  

To sum up: Love City is very much a product of it's era and is not without flaws. That doesn't mean it's without merit and if you like your anime bloody and a bit strange then Love City might be worth keeping an eye out for.   


Friday, 20 November 2015

Anime: Highschool DXD (Seasons 1-3)

   When it comes down to it, one of the major reasons I started this blog was to give me somewhere to go "Here's the cool thing I just discovered. Let me tell you about it." especially where anime was concerned.

 So...
This is something cool I've discovered. Let me tell you about it. 

Picture originally sourced from http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/

 Teenage perv Issei Hyudo has finally managed to get a date with a cute girl and it's been going great so far...

Right up until she rams a glowing spear through his chest. 

  Dying, Issei's last thoughts are of the beautiful redhead he saw that morning.

The next morning Issei finds himself alive and unharmed.

After a confusing day that involves being stabbed again, Issei awakens unharmed as before, except now he's naked.
So is the redhead lying next to him.

 Her name is Rias Germory, she is a Devil and Issei is now her servant.

  One night I found myself Youtubing Anime Vines (Short, funny vids usually with inappropriate audio tracks) In the process I began thinking "Hmm. Wonder what that anime is..it looks fun. So does that one...WTF is that?"  Which in turn  lead to me going away with a short list of anime to check out. 

 I'm trying to remember exactly why I decided to start with Highschool DXD.


Oh yeah. That would be it. 

  I ended up watching all three seasons in the space of a week because it turns out that while this particular anime might be heavy on the fanservice, there's lots of other stuff to like as well.  

  I'm not exaggerating about the fanservice. The opening credits start with the female cast butt naked, for crying out loud. I'm also convinced that the guy who drew the eyecatch panels (that bookend the commercial break) thought he was working for a porno anime because they go well beyond the usual anime cheesecake to the point where it gets uncomfortable.
   On the positive side, the hero's obsession with boobs leads to him developing some "special attacks" that have to be seen to be believed.

If that hasn't put you off, we'll move on.

  As Issei gets used to his new life, he meets the rest of the Gremory household (also devils) and develops his latent powers. It turns out that our slightly-depraved protagonist has a dragon-spirit living in his arm which enables him to do all sorts of spectacular attacks. In traditional anime fashion, as the series progresses, Issei gets more and more powerful. The rest of Team Gremory aren't exactly pushovers either, being either powerful magic users or superpowered.
 Which means epic anime fights. You know the sort of thing - lots of powering up, plenty of wilful property damage and, alright, female characters getting their outfits shredded.

 It never seems to happen to the blokes, for some reason. Whatever. 

  One of the things I did really like about Highschool DXD is the characters. For a series set in a school that could be described as part fighting anime, part harem show, I was amazed that everybody is likable. 

  Issei is overly dedicated to boobs but other than that, he's easy to root for being neither a cocky wanker, a doormat or a sex-assault waiting to happen.

  The other thing that annoys me about certain anime is female characters treating their male associates like disgusting human beings - even people they're supposed to be friends with - and resorting to violence three times an episode. (What? You said something I didn't like? Let's beat you bloody. Oops. Turns out it was a misunderstanding. Too bad.)

   So it's a refreshing change  Rias and the other girls seem to be quite fond of their newest member, which is where the "harem" bit starts to come in later on.  It starts off with a two-way rivalry between rias and ex-nun Asia, then Rias's lieutenant Akeno gets in on the act once she gets to know Issei better.
   The thing is, you can sort of see where they're coming from. Remember what I said about Issei being likable?  He gets some really nice character moments with the rest of the team.

 You know, for a bunch of literal devils, The Gremory household are a sweet bunch. Rias is probably the most pleasant demon-princess in anime history.
 Up until you hurt one of her gang, at which point you discover why she's got the tag "Crimson haired Ruin Princess"

 Everybody gets an interesting backstory, everybody has a function in the series. While the storyline  and battles revolve and Issei, it's not entirely The Issei Show. I like that.

I also like the show's approach to mythology - you get devils, angels and fallen angels, Norse gods, dragons and Church warrior-nuns all thrown into the mix with regular school politics. Boring it isn't.

Animation quality is servicable rather than spectacular but they do remember to animate the fights and usually quite well. 
  
  Summing up: I enjoyed this series a lot. I cannot, in all fairness, describe Highschool DXD as groundbreaking, clever or ,particularly deep. But it does have a lot of entertainment to offer.

    You might want to be careful watching this anime around other people though...

 As you've probably worked out by now, I'm quite a big fan of Ms. Gremory. Here's an AMV somebody did that might explain why. .

That's all folks. 

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Cheapo DVD Review: Azumi 2 - Death or Love

Part 10 of my CEX DVD marathon and today we are watching a movie that I totally didn't buy because the cover had a Japanese girl brandishing a sword. I wanted to see it for the...cinematography...and the other thing.


  Assassins Azumi and Nagara are on a quest to bring peace to Japan, mainly by killing troublemaking warlords. There's just one left to deal with. Masayuki Sanada, who is getting ready to start a war.
 Joining forces with another female ninja and a motley collection of former brigands, to complete her mission Azumi has to face Sanada's army and his own, personal force of Ninjas.

 It would probably have helped if I'd seen the first Azumi movie. Correction, it would definitely have helped. 
Azumi 2 takes off where the first film left off, with our ninja twosome still determined to complete their assignment.  Which means that we're dropped into the middle of events and expected to get ourselves up to speed with who these people are and why they want to go here and kill this person.  
 There's some flashbacks, mainly to let us know that Azumi is still a bit traumatised by certain events from the last film. Said flashbacks being a bit hamfisted in my opinion - do we really need an overextended sequence of  a deceased friend smiling and saying "Azumi" to establish that our heroine had a bit of a thing for him? 

  I also thought it was a bit weird that Azumi isn't the most interesting character in her own film. Villainess Lady Kunyo was a lot more fun to watch and it's a shame that their eventual showdown was so disappointing. 
 Then there's the Kabuki painted brigand whose name escapes me. Going by the bits he's in, I think I'd have liked to see a whole film about him. 
 By contrast Azumi seems a bit flat. Maybe that's just me.  

  Moving on to the action sequences - the reason I picked up the DVD in the first place -  they're OK but could have been better. In true Ninja fashion, Sanada's crew have their own slightly preposterous gimmick but put up a surprisingly poor fight against Azumi and her team. 
 The best fight in the entire film is Azumi's showdown in a bamboo thicket against an opponent who weaves a net of razorsharp wires. It's got some real (ahem) tension to it and is definitely the high point of the film. By contrast the climax is a bit of a letdown. 
 It starts well, with Azumi literally taking on an entire army but then people decide to start talking instead and the momentum drops off. By the time the final duel rolls around I'd almost lost interest.

How much did I pay for this: £1
Was it worth it?  DebatableI thought Azumi 2 could have been better, frankly. I didn't hate it, but I wasn't impressed either. 
For some reason nobody has ever managed to do a decent, non-anime Ninja movie. Azumi 2 doesn't change that. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Cheapo DVD Review: Pandorum (2009)

On payday I bought 12 DVDs from CEX and in a fit of madness, declared that I was going to review every single one. In the process, I've reminded myself why I only do a couple of reviews per month.

#9 is a deep-space Sci-Fi Horror that isn't "Alien"

 Astronaut Corporal Bowers and Lieutenant Payton wake from hypersleep to find the ship dark and apparently empty. What happened to the other crew members? Why is the power flickering on and off.   And most importantly....


Who or what else is on the ship with them? 

Just in case you're wondering, the woman front and centre on the DVD cover is German actress Antje Traue and yes, she is important to the plot. 
 You'd think that if she's in pride of place on the cover, Ms Traue would get her name on there as well but I guess not. 
 If you work it out, her boobs are almost the focal point of the entire cover. That's not cynical marketing at all, is it?

Now on to the actual movie.

My initial reaction was not great "Oh wonderful" I thought, as Bowers explored his new surroundings. "Another film where everything is so dark you can't see anything."  Almost certainly not the reaction the director was going for.  
 For most of the film the lighting switches between "Dim" and "Practically nil" so if that annoys you, your enjoyment of "Pandorum" will suffer.  
 It does mean that we find ourself on the creepiest ship ever to cruise between the stars. The ironically named "Elysium" is a disturbing mix of grimey sci-fi and abandoned factory, the sort escaped axe-murderers like to hang around in.  Which brings me on to the other passengers sharing this pleasure cruise. 
 Thanks to the darkness and some jumpy editing, we don't get a good look at them until quite a way in. Picture a cross between the cave-creatures from The Descent and The Predators, with a smidgen of Xenomorph thrown in - the way the creepy bastards move, enhanced by music vid camerawork that makes them twitch and jitter across the screen.  

 So far we have a malfunctioning ship full of creepy cannibals. Not enough for you? Why not add a deep-space psychosis (The Pandorum of the title) that may be affecting one or both of our heroes. 
Mind you, once Pandorum is mentioned - in a way that screams "This is going to pay off later" -  it gets put on the back burner until the last third and suddenly becomes a big, big problem for the climax.

 After my initial reservations, I found myself getting more into this film. I have a few gripes with the ending  - there's some weird things going on at the climax and if you have a working knowledge of Sc-Fi cliche then the final scenes won't surprise you in the slightest - but on the whole "Pandorum" worked. 

How much did I pay for this: £1.
Was it worth it: Pandorum does come across as a film that mixes and matches bits from other films but it is decent enough. I just wish I hadn't spent the first twenty minutes squinting to see what was going on.   

 Here's the trailer if you want a sneaky peek.




That's all folks. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

DVD Review: Tropic Thunder (2008)

I've been reviewing all the DVDs I picked up on payday. I bought 12. This is #8 and just for a change I'm writing about a film people have heard of. 
 When shooting for megabudget Vietnam goes badly off the rails, the harassed director has a desperate plan to save his movie and his job: take his cast of prima donna stars out into the jungle and shoot guerilla style. No trailers, no PA.s, just bugs, sweat and some serious method acting..
 Needless to say, it all goes tits up    
  Now these Hollywood stars have to become real heroes in the Heart of Darkness.

 Since proper reviewers who write proper columns for proper money have already covered this movie, I shall keep my writeup short. 

"Tropic Thunder" didn't make me laugh out loud but it was entertaining, especially once we'd got some way in and things were starting to pick up. Probably the best part is Tom Cruise's turn as a balding, ball-breaking uberprick of a movie mogul and considering who else is in the film, that he still manages to be the performance you remember says a lot for how good he can be. 
  Jack Black does what he usually does and so do Ben Stiller and Matthew McConaughey, while Robert Downey Jr's performance as a blacked-up Aussie method actor channeling a badass African-American sarge is..interesting..and ramps up the absurdity levels.

 How much did I pay for this: £1.50   
Was it worth it: Not as funny as I thought it could have been but more than entertaining enough for my needs. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Cheapo DVD Review: Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

I've been working my way through a stack of 2nd hand DVDs I picked up from CEX on payday and I promised myself I would write a review of every damn one. For tonight's offering, we have a quirky horror with a unique premise and more depth than you'd expect.
  In a small, run down nursing home in east Texas the man formerly known as Elvis Aaron Presley reflects on his life and his decision to walk away from fame and fortune. But when his fellow OAPs start dying, Elvis and his friend Jack - who swears blind that he's JFK despite being both alive and African American - have to face a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy in cowboy boots.
 Can the King  Take Care Of Business one last time?

 Bubba Ho-Tep has been on two separate lists ever since I found out about it. Films I want to see and Films I'm nervous about seeing.  When you think about the premise, can you really blame me?  This had the potential to be really good or a complete train-wreck.

As it turns out, "Bubba Ho-Tep" is the former rather than the latter.

  For some reason this film really got under my skin and a  lot of that is down to Bruce Campbell's performance as an Elvis who is unhappy with his current life and regretting the life he had. Some of it is comic but there's a strong undercurrent of tragic as well.
 Maybe I'm reading things into this film that the writers never meant to put there but Bubba Ho-Tep isn't just  film about a soulsucking mummy, it's a film about being old and past your time.

  It's also a film where a black JFK and Elvis have a conversation about whether a mummy needs to crap or not. Then you get a lesson in Ancient Egyptian profanity. So not all that bleak.

  The film builds slowly until the first appearance of the creature, which is genuinely chilling. Campbell and Freeman play off each other really well, taking a couple of characters that ought to be ridiculous and making them work.
That, I think, sums up "Bubba Ho-Tep" - a daft idea that works.

How much did I pay for this: 75p
Was it worth it: Very definitely. I enjoyed this film more than anything I've watched thus far in this DVD marathon.

Although I am now utterly terrified of getting old... 



That's all folks. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Cheapo DVD Review: Defenders Of The Earth - The Story Begins. (1985)

  Day 6 of my DVD review marathon. Or day 7 if you want to be pedantic and count yesterday, when I didn't post anything. Hey, I didn't say I was doing 12 DVDs in 12 days.

Today's offering is blatantly stitched together from several episodes of an old cartoon.
When the evil space-tyrant Ming the Merciless lands on earth with a surprisingly small army of minions, a group of heroes come together to foil his dastardly plans on a weekly basis.

Flash Gordon - hero of the spaceways
His lovely wife   Oops, sorry. The memories of his lovely wife, built into a computer.
Rick Gordon - Son of Flash and computer wizard.
The Phantom - Protector of the Jungle and wearer of purple long-johns.
Jeda - The Phantom's teenage daughter. Friend of animals and token chick.
Mandrake The Magician. A magician. he wears a cape and everything.
Lothar - Mandrake's sidekick/muscle. He's big, black and desperately trying not to be a stereotype.
LJ - Lothar's son and token black kid.
Kshin - a spare brat Mandrake found lying about who totally isn't going to get underfoot and be annoying

And whatever the hell this..thing ...is.  
It's a mascot character. I hated mascot characters when I was a kid and nowadays, the only way I can describe how I feel about the unfunny little bastards would need words the English language hasn't invented yet.   

  On the bad guys side we have Ming the Merciless - green for some reason - his camp son, his really camp robot octopus and a platoon or so of Ice Robots because every 80s cartoon villain needed useless mooks to get utterly teabagged.
 Ming's daughter shows up in a later episode but I doubt she's as much fun as Princess Aura from the 1979 cartoon.  .
9 year old me was a big fan of Aura. I can't really blame him.

 I vaguely remember Defenders Of The Earth being on when I was much, much younger but I don't think I ever saw any episodes. Which means that when I finally got to see this movie  batch of episodes shorn of credits and duct-taped together I didn't have my nostalgia goggles on. 

I think I needed them. Some 80s cartoons aged well or were so cheesy that you can have fun watching them for the cornball.
 DotE has neither. It doesn't have the charm of, say, Thundercats or much in the way of memorable characters chracters. Then there's the storytelling.
Ming has an Evil Plan Of The Week, the team foil it - all very standard. 

 In theory, having three famous heroes team up to fight the bad guys could have been interesting. Having their kids fight alongside them might also have been interesting. Then again, this was the 80s and the idea of cartoons with intelligent writing was a concept some studios hadn't grasped yet.

Flash Gordon's wife is rather brutally killed in episode 1, which is unusual,. But everybody has forgotten about it within 10 minutes, including Flash and Rick. That bugged me. 

It also bugged me that the little purple sod kept changing size every other scene. 

Available evidence suggests that back in the mid-80s, I didn't miss out on much.

How much did I pay for this: £1.50
Was it worth it: Not particularly.  Defenders of the Earth is a typical 80s cartoon with all that implies. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Cheapo DVD Review: Fist Of The Warrior (2009)

On payday I bought 12 secondhand DVDs for the princely sum of £13. In a moment of sugar-fueled madness, I decided that I was going to write a review on every single one.
For day 5, we have a film marketed as something it isn't.
I really, really love those.


  Lee wants to quit his job and start anew somewhere else with his lovely girlfriend Sarah . Lee's boss John, being a local mobster and not used to negative feedback,  is not happy about this and hires goons to kill his reluctant employee.
  The goons fail to kill Lee but do manage to kill Sarah, which pisses Lee off something chronic and he begins working his way through John's employee roster in violent fashion. 
 Can police wonderboy Craig get to Lee before Lee gets to John? 

 You know, if I was ever a mob boss I'd have written in large letters behind my desk "Treat your workforce well."  This would definitely apply to any martial-arts killing machines I had on the payroll. "Oh, you don't want to do this anymore? Fine. Here's a bus ticket to anywhere you like. Here's a bonus to keep your mouth shut. Go be happy"

I definitely wouldn't try to kill them, their families or their pet budgies. That always ends badly.

The thing is, though, "Fist Of the Warrior" isn't the martial arts rampage you'd expect from the cover and the back cover blurb. That would involve more fights and probably a lot more of supposed hero Lee. 

 A bit of research revealed that this film was originally known as "Lesser Of Three Evils" which is a bit silly - but does explain a lot. This film isn't really about Lee. 

"Fist Of the Warrior" splits the focus between Lee hitting people and having flashbacks about Sarah, Craig juggling police work, his *ahem* other line of work and his wreck of a home life, and John dealing with the fallout of one of his dumber ideas.

  Given that the film centres on Craig more than the other two, I have to wonder if he was originally supposed to be the protagonist, before the movie was rebranded and re-editted. 

  I'm always a bit pissed off when a film is sold to me as one thing and I get another, so that did ruin my enjoyment somewhat. Instead of the martial-arts action I was expecting, I got a so-so crime drama where every now and again somebody has a fight.  

  Other gripes: Lee's flashbacks are cute to start off with but after a while just trip things up.  I genuinely wonder what Marina Sirtis and Michael Dorn were doing in this film, besides picking up some pocket money for the 1 scene each is in. And the supposed climax is ...

No getting around it, the final showdown between Lee and John is utterly pathetic. It's not even a fight. 

Oh, and the fight scenes are nothing special. 

How much did I pay for this: £1.50
Was it worth it: I was rather disappointed. The cast isn't bad and the director was trying to make us care about Lee and Sarah. Unforunately, the end result is nothing special. Sorry. 

Monday, 2 November 2015

Cheapo DVD Review: Operation Delta Force IV - Deep Fault (1999)

Day 4 of the 12 DVD, 12 Reviews challenge I set for myself and we come to the film I had the lowest expectations for. Yesterday I reviewed a DVD that cost me 25p. This one cost less than that.  
 A bad man nicks some plutonium. Some Americans try to get it back before he can carry out his dastardly plan of triggering an earthquake and dropping California into the Pacific. 

Hang on..did they just nick a plot from Superman: The Movie?

Also: Operation Delta Force  makes no sense. Delta Force Operation (whatever) would make sense but the other way around is just silly.  I suppose they wanted to get Delta Force into the title somewhere, in the hopes that people might think there's a legitimate connection to the Chuck Norris action classic.

Which there isn't.

 This is a DVD that was quite obviously part of  a 4-for-1 "Action Classic" multipack of the sort you buy from a service station, but only ever buy once because they are invariably 4 films that nobody would ever spend money on otherwise.

 The entertainment value you get from "Deep Fault"  depends entirely on your tolerance for low budget, generic action movies where American military cliches save the world from sneering bad guys and mooks who can't shoot for shit.

  I did enjoy the sequence where our heroes are having a gunfight from on top of an overturned tram that's still unaccountably sliding down the road (probably for all the wrong reasons) and if you want your films to have lots of automatic weapons fire and explosions "Deep Fault" might be an ok way to spend an evening.

How much did I pay for this: 10p. Wow.
Was it worth it: At that price , yes. "Deep Fault" is a generic action movie with cardboard characters and an overwrought climax. But if you liked the kind of film "Hot Shots" was taking the piss out of and you think firing machine guns while ziplining is cool, you may possibly like this.

Here's the trailer:

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Cheapo DVD Review : Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London.(2004)

  On payday I had a bit of a splurge in CEX and embarked on the following challenge: I bought 12 DVDs. I shall write 12 Reviews.  (Hopefully in 12 days but don't hold me to that.)
 Of course some of these reviews may end up a bit short. So expect to see "Watched (film X). It was shite."  at some point. 

 For Day 3 we shall be discussing...




 Teen agent Cody is sent after an agent who has gone rogue with some top secret Mind Control technology in his back pocket. Undercover in London as a musical prodigy in an International Youth Orchestra, Cody must stop the deranged Victor Diaz before he can set his plans in motion. 
 It would probably help if his London handler wasn't an idiot. It would also be easier to pass as a youth musician if he knew how to play a damn instrument. 

  I saw the first "Cody Banks" film years ago and rather enjoyed it, mainly because it had the delightful Angie Harmon and the acting god that is Ian McShane in it. "Cody Banks 2" had neither of these people so while I still wanted to see this film, I wasn't in any great rush.  
  The other day I found "ACB2" on sale at a price I couldn't resist  so added it to the pile and away I went. 

  As a proud Briton I was a bit less than chuffed at the film's depiction of us. The first Englishman that gets any major screen time is a tea-drinking, bucktoothed eccentric straight out of a carry on film. (Paul Kaye, hamming it up for Queen, Country and Saint George) The second and third are a pair of cartoon aristocrats of the sort that became an endangered species in the mid 1950. In fact, any Brit with dialogue is an annoying stereotype. The one exception is Hannah Spearitt, late of teenpoppers S Club 7, and about the only UK resident not depicted as an utter twit. 
 The villain is Keith Allen - another Brit - but since he's trying to play an American, he doesn't count. Note the word "trying"

 Mind you, the International Youth Orchestra are all national stereotypes as well.  

I suppose this film was intended for teenagers and American teenagers at that, so I suppose I should be glad Dick Van Dyke doesn't show up as a cockney.  

Now I've got that out of the way, on to the film. As comedy  spy movies go, it's not that bad, especially since it's a comedy spy movie aimed at a family audience. You get some nifty gadgets, some slapstick and enough actual thrills to keep things moving along.  
 I could have done without comic foil Derek though. Most of the time he isn't that amusing. 

 Cody himself is a bit obnoxious at times but hey! Teenager!   And Frankie Muniz does get the sheer oddness of his life down nicely - in the field he's competent. In a room full of other teenagers, he's awkward and  out of his depth.  

  Keith Allen and Hannah Spearitt get the job done with no real surprises. It's good enough to work but doesn't give the film that extra shine McShane and Harmon brought to the first one. 

I did like the chase scene with the moped and the special flashlight, by the way. A nice idea and if I ever make my own film I'm nicking it. I also quite liked seeing what happens when a CIA agent tries to commandeer a vehicle in London rush hour. ("No. Now naff off.")

How much did this film cost me: 25p  That's right. 25 British pence. There is almost nothing you can buy these days for that amount of money. 
Was it worth it.  Yes. Cody Banks 2 isn't as good as the first one and if you're British may piss you off a wee bit. But it's watchable enough. Your kids might like it more than you do, though. 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Cheapo DVD Review: Brothers In Arms (2005)

The second of 12 DVD reviews I'm doing, as I work through the pile of DVDs I picked up on Friday.  

  Outlaw brothers Linc and Zane Malone put the gang back together for one final bank job: stealing a cool half-million dollars in railroad payroll. As added incentive, the bank at Driscollville is owned by man who had the Malone family farm burned and their kin murdered.
 Gathering their team - a beautiful bandit in the least convincing 1880s outfit ever, a lethal ex-preacher who gave up on 9 of the 10 Commandments, a suave gambler in a nice hat,  and a couple of other guys who don't matter because they're obvious cannon-fodder - the Malones quickly discover that this is one job that not everybody comes back from.

 I don't know why I bought this DVD.   As soon as I got it home I remembered that MoviesForMen show "Brothers in Arms" at least twice a week. For free. 

Whatever. I bought it anyway. I watched it . Here's what I thought. 

 In most respects, Brothers In Arms is a standard modern B-Movie Western. Evil town boss, bad guys trying to get out of the racket, bullets that do more damage to minor characters, a bit of bonding around the campfire.. all the usual stuff really. 
 The most obvious way "Brothers..." differs from the pack is that the good guys aren't your regular WASPs.   Having African Americans as the lead in a western has been done before but it is still unusual, hence the slightly  laboured title and some anachronistic hip-hop on the soundtrack. There's also some flashy,MTV style editing early on which adds nothing. 

  David Carradine was clearly having fun as the sneering, amoral Driscoll but manages to keep it on the right side of panto, while the other cast members mostly do a decent job. There's a conscious effort to make the Malones and their crew into characters the audience can root for, or at least understand.   How well the film manages to achieve this is debatable.  YMMV.

  There's a decent allowance of western gunfight action. Nothing especially cool but it's done competently, except for the climax which is a bit silly.  And interestingly the closest we get to a romantic subplot is very, very minor indeed and could be construed as a bit tacked-on. It makes the character involved a bit more human so I can forgive that.

 On the whole, "Brothers In Arms" is a decent stab at a B-movie with an unusual angle. I found myself getting into it more as the film went on, only to be let down by a finish that was overcooked and overseasoned. 

How much did I pay for it?  £1.50
Was it worth it? Yes. I  thought "Brothers In Arms" was sufficiently watchable to pass my time. You may disagree. 
 Next time it;'s on MoviesForMen, give it a try and see what you think. By my reckoning, it should be on again in a day or so.  

Cheapo DVD Review: Haywire (2011)

  On paydays I like to treat myself to certain things. One of them is a takeaway for my tea. The other is a fistful of DVDs from CEX.
 Personally I'd rather get 10 DVDs for a tenner than 1 DVD for a tenner.  It means I get 10 nights of entertainment rather than one, although whether I get an evening of good entertainment is another question entirely.

 This month I picked up 12 DVDs for £13 and I've decided that I will review each and every single one.

Hello Mr Rod. Meet Mr Own Back. You two will be seeing a lot of each other.

First up is...


 A backroads diner suddenly erupts into violence as the couple in the corner start trying to kill each other. One leaves the other in a groaning heap and makes her getaway by commandeering a car - and the driver too.
  As they drive away she starts telling her bewildered travelling companion a story. Her name is Mallory Kane, she's a Private Contractor that does certain things for the US Government and it all started with a job in Barcelona...

 If you look at the DVD cover you will recognise some quite big names. With the exception of Ewan Mcgregor and whatever accent he was trying to do, most aren't in for for that long. Meanwhile actual star Gina Carano appears to have been added to the cover as an afterthought.

  I will start by saying that Gina Carano does make a convincing action heroine and she's not bad in the bits requiring actual acting either. Maybe a bit "one-note" which makes it hard to warm up to her, but most action stars seem to suffer from that to some degree.

 I struggled to "warm up to" this film in general. Part of that is the structure - for the first chunk, the tale bounces between past and present as Mallory explains it all. For me, that made it a bit hard to keep track of events and I definitely struggled to follow why our heroine was doing certain things at certain times.
  Maybe the director was expecting his viewers to be smart enough to keep up, in which case he definitely gave me more credit than I deserve.

When it comes right down to it "Haywire" turned into the sort of movie where I wasn't exactly bored but wasn't exactly feeling it either.  There's nothing I can point my finger at and say "I didn't like that." but nothing where I can say " I liked this."

 The acting is the quality you'd expect from that cast , the fights and chases aren't bad, the story is making a decent stab at it. In the end the result result can only be described as "OK but..."

 How much did I pay for this: £1
Was it worth it? Maybe. It kept me occupied for long enough to eat my pizza but I can't exactly deliver a glowing recommendation. It's an OK thriller but there's plenty of films about that are  "OK"

 If you want to see Gina Carano in a thriller, get In The Blood instead. It doesn't have the name power but I enjoyed that film a lot more.
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