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Region 1 DVD
Clive Barker's Nightbreed, and Hellraiser (or the books Cabal and Hell-Bound Heart, respectively), are two of the most fascinating and twisted explorations of the mysterious and, especially in regards to Hellraiser, the depraved. But this isn't a HR review.Nightbreed is an exceptional example of style and substance, Barker revealing a mythology more labyrinthine than the underworld he depicts. A man, Boone, haunted by visions of another world buried beneath this one, becomes obsessed with the idea of finding it, manipulated by his psychologist who has his own very dark agenda. This curiosity leads him to a world of bizarre and diverse creatures, and he becomes entangled in their existence, as neither human nor monster, but something in between.The images are undoubtedly horrific in places--this is Barker, after all--but for all the blood and monstrous prosthetics (which are all marvellously done), it's definitely geared towards fantasy. If you just want to be shocked or revolted, maybe you'd be better off elsewhere. But if you want a strange, creepy and fascinating journey to undertake that will happen to shock you along the way, you should see this movie. There's blood, violence, danger, adventure, tragedy, sadness and even a dash of romance that is a world away from Hellraiser's vision. Oh, and the soundtrack's completely haunting, too. The only shame is that there's no region 2 release of this film.
The Man From Nowhere
Action movies have grown stale in recent years. Western movies mostly plagiarise Asian movies, and Asian movies mostly just stick to archetypes established by things like The Killer, Bangkok Dangerous, Old Boy and so on. TMFN seems to do the same, at first. But then it veers away from them and becomes something all its own. This is a somewhat stylised, almost poetic take on parenthood, poverty, compassion, justice and redemption, within the framework of an abduction thriller. Tae-Shik, as a protagonist, is a quiet, solemn pillar of strength, skill and wrath. He unleashes violence with ferocious determination, and doesn't blink in the face of death, as he fights to protect the little girl that brought some light to his life. As his desperation grows, so does the devastation he causes in the criminal underworld around him; building to a climactic--and very violent--showdown that is a feast for the action fan as much as it tugs on the heartstrings (a tricky mix it pulls off well).The Man From Nowhere is a truly remarkable thriller, surrounding a strong emotional core with the type of Asian action bliss we sometimes forget about in the sea of cheap Western knock-offs and sure-thing productions from Korea, China, Japan and Thailand alike. As a fan of Asian cinema, this is a must-see. As a fan of thrillers in general, the language/cultural barrier should not stand in your way. Go for it. 5*
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Far too few people have bothered to pick up this gem, which for me, outdid FFXIII last year. It's not perfect, the visuals are not quite cutting-edge, and the side quests are of the basic 'go there, fetch that' mould, most of the time (but there ARE brilliant exceptions). But it's still an incredible game, because with each and every moment, it exudes this ethereal sense of grace and implication, enhanced by its heartfelt story and its frankly phenomenal soundtrack; Nier had virtually the greatest music in 2010. Imagine a Zelda title pitched primarily at adults, you'll approach this game with the appropriate mentality. It tells a tale with much greater sophistication than FFXIII, and evokes at turns, amusement, excitement, compassion; and its world, whilst much more fragmentary than Zelda's and smaller in scope, is brimming with atmosphere than only deepens the longer you stick with it. Your attributes increase as you play, like a traditional RPG, you get all manner of new weapons and accessories, and the combat system is reminiscent of Fable II's, not quite deep, but you marry magic with physical attacks--but you get party members, too, each possessing a remarkable story all their own. Also, without spoiling much, once you've completed the game for the first time, you gain the opportunity to play new events with different characters, which, whilst not as deep or extensive as the main game, enrich Nier as a whole.
Square Enix have had inconsistent output since the merger, but Nier is very much evocative of the heyday of the action-adventure title, though you have to look past the most apparent cliches (said fetch-quests, unambitious combat etc) to appreciate that--something a lot of critics didn't bother to do. As if to exemplify this throwback, Nier switches perspectives and styles with abandon, harking back to the aforementioned Zelda, then the sidescrolling platformer--even Resident Evil, before returning to the free-camera third-person style that is its default. Any gamer seeking a potent reminder of the spirit of yesteryear, when FFVII was king, Resident Evil was making people dread door animations and when we first took Link out onto the fields of Hyrule in Zelda, really can't afford to pass Nier up, especially at this price. It may not be cutting-edge, but it's got a serious amount of heart and substance, with a memorable story and haunting soundtrack.
Disturbed Men's Circle T-Shirt (Black)
I paid almost three times as much for this tee in a Gothic shop not so long ago, so this is a steal if you like Disturbed. The central character in the design seems to have become a mascot for the band, sort of like Iron Maiden's Eddie.
Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys
My Chemical Romance - CD
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They're NOT emo. Never were, not then, most certainly not now. People love to slap labels on things, preferring to gloss over the details as they may impair they're linear perspective. MCR, like all great music, stands outside genre, and this album showcases every single one of the band's strengths, developing the lyrical variety of Three Cheers...and the personal signature of Black Parade. There is a story interwoven through the album, one of high-energy adventure, brief interludes of wistful contemplation, and cutting determination. Gerard's voice has never been better, and the soundscape feverishly changes gears with laser-point precision, dancing around the genres, as though challenging certain media groups to dare label them. More importantly, it's the mark of a turning point for this great band, leading its loyal fan-base into a bold new era, and undoubtedly winning it many new fans with it's daring tone. It may be too much of a departure for the hardcore, but this sort of creative development, refusal to sit down in one place yet still bear the hallmarks of its travels, makes MCR a fantastic band. If you're tired of hearing over-wrought, cliche-riddled, would-be pop records abusing one or two chords, and bands thinking a ceaseless, incoherent scream makes them 'cutting edge', then you really need to give this a shot. MCR have never been better, and it raises the benchmark significantly. Where they go from here is a mystery, but that's in keeping with their tone, and all part of the fun.
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Guards! Guards! is a literary masterpiece, further refining Pratchett's already formidable grasp of the foibles and charms of humanity. You can chart, all the way from The Colour Of Magic, Pratchett's growth as an author, how he hones, gradually to nigh-perfection, the balance between the comedic and the serious, and allowing us to laugh with and feel for the characters he creates without veering between tones. Here, in this book, the balance is reached. Equal parts satire and morality tale, from under the fantasy umbrella it tickles myriad other genres, teasing them and provoking them to chase it around the colourful hedge-maze of Pratchett's imagination, and taking you along for the ride. It pokes fun at humanity, society and politics as it seems only Pratchett can, yet even as it makes you laugh, it also prompts you to consider the nature of belief, the forgotten concepts of honour and duty, and what it means to stand up and be counted, after so long sat in a mould. We've all seen, heard and read about the faceless flunkies who seem to serve no other purpose than to fill out the numbers or give the hero something to occupy him for a few moments between key narrative events. We encounter them all the time, and take their presence as a given, and think nothing of their character. Well here they get their moment in the sun--and it's hilarious, touching, thoughtful and finally, uplifting. This book pretty much encapsulates the things that literature can offer that other mediums cannot in terms of entertainment, and you could safely consider it a treat for your mind if you sit down with this masterpiece, regardless of your age and/or experience of the Discworld mythos. There is no wrong place to jump in, but this is certainly a great one, so go for it. Pratchett is one of the world's greatest authors, and a true national treasure, and you'll soon see why if you get this book.
King Of The Hill: Season 1 (3 Discs)
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I won't waste your time going on about The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park or Futurama. Chances are, you are already familiar with the charms of those shows. Each has its strengths, but King Of The Hill, Mike 'Beavis and Butt-head' Judge's subtle, brilliantly-observed and affectionate take on small-town life, stands apart. More so than any of the aforementioned shows, it takes its humour from the real world, from the situations all of us can relate to, with just the right dose of surrealism that anchors the show and keeps it away from the outlandishly ridiculous. It has a sweeter nature than Family Guy, The Simpsons or South Park, prompting regular chuckles instead of outright, but rare, belly laughs. The first season is just a taste of what's to come; when the show was still finding its feet, but all the fundamentals are there. There's a heart to this show, a poignancy that comes out more than any of its contemporaries, and it is the quintessential feel-good comedy series--it hits all the right notes. It earns its place in your DVD player through its ability to tug your heart strings as much as tickle your funny bone, and it's something KOTH only grows more adept at with each succeeding season. Criminally, KOTH was recently axed (the more Fox changes, the more it remains the same), in order to make room for more Family Guy, its spin-off, and American Dad!. Family Guy has earned its status, but KOTH deserved better, and if I had the choice between the two, I'd pick this. The animation is better than all the above shows, the writing is consistently astute and as poignant as it is funny, and maintains a mature subtlety throughout. It's just a beautiful series, in every way. This is rated as one of 'The Greatest Shows Of All Time'--and after you've paid Arlen, Texas a visit, you'll no doubt see why. Thanks for your time.
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So many superlatives have been heaped upon this game, it's easy to come at it with expectations it couldn't possibly meet, but Bayonetta is one of a select few that warrants it, without exception. Devil May Cry is the model here, the most revolutionary action game of the last generation (no DMC, no God Of War or any other adrenaline-fuelled actioner, simple as). If you've played DMC 3, then you'll know how insane its cutscenes were--if anything, they actually stole the show. Well, Bayonetta doesn't just let you watch, it lets you PLAY such moments. And there are oh so many of them. Literally dance on the ceiling, fight your way down the side of a skyscraper, take a joyride on a rocket, and ride a motorcycle into the heavens, to name just a few. This game never peaks, Kamiya's imagination runs rampant from start to finish, and raises the bar for any titles that come afterward, maybe too high, to be honest. There are many nods to Devil May Cry, both in script and artistry, and even a charming but understated nod to the beautiful game that so few bought, Okami. This game has an intense focus on entertaining you, but it will test your skills. We're not talking Ninja Gaiden 2 here, but definitely a match for DMC 3's notoriously high difficulty, though there are two Easy difficulties on Bayonetta for gamers yet to hone their skills--though the Automatic technique utility those levels employ may seem a bit patronising. The story, initially seeming a mess, gradually gains focus and intrigue, but always with its tongue firmly in its cheek. Suffice to say, you'll be rooting for Bayonetta by the end, and be grinning from ear to ear. Old-school in structure, ground-breaking in execution, and vivid in imagery, Bayonetta marries the thrill and challenge of retro titles (and it nods to them, as well, it must be said), with the easy accessibility of modern games, and layers it all with hilariously OTT violence and sexuality (though the latter never explicitly). I just hope the damn thing gets a sequel, and you probably will too! The theme tune is Fly Me To The Moon (Evangelion fans should recognise that), and rightly so, because this title most definitely takes you for a trip there!
District 9 (Nine)
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District 9 is a masterpiece. There, that's all. Now click Buy. Seriously. This film is a poignant allegory for Apartheid, for sociological prejudice that is simply seeking another outlet, and has not been erased from our nature. The alien, or 'prawn', becomes the new maligned minority, marginalised and segregated, and regarded as nothing more than a nuisance, potential threat, and a drain on valuable resources. This is how our lens on this affair, Wikus, a subscriber to the story told on the television, and printed on the page, sees these unfortunate immigrants, and it is on that foundation he interacts with them, as per him job as an inter-special official. But this small-minded, unsympathetic little man in a white shirt and tie with a clipboard has his world incontrovertibly merged with that of the aliens, and the conflict with it's conventional boundaries and clear sense of right and wrong spillls into his reality, and he's forced to see it from the side of the victims. This is sci-fi with something on its mind, it wants to show you something, and many elements of the narrative bear haunting similarities to Apartheid Africa. The film unfolds in documentary-style for the most part, only deviating in moments of intense personal drama. Wikus is slowly transformed before our eyes--literally and figuratively--from a cowardly blue-collar bigot into an incidental revolutionary awakening to a greater cause, his eventual heroism all the more affecting because of the journey to it. Humdrum Q & A, and celebrating a promotion turns into horrified persecution and brutally instantaneous blood-letting, all granted higher impact by the more intimate and naturalistic filming method. The film invests us, then blows us away with a quite frankly jaw-dropping closing act, that at once works as resolution and catharsis. The actor playing Wikus is truly wondrous in the role, particularly when you realise the majority of his lines are ENTIRELY IMPROVISED, and the unpolished cinematography and scripting grant the film a more realistic style that's been much attempted, seldom accomplished. Also, for a relatively low-budget sci-fi, the special effects are incredible, and are all pulled off with intense believability, though the film never relies on CGI to carry it through; it complements the narrative, as opposed to the modern sci-fi storytelling method where narrative is nothing more than garnish to computer wizardry. The ending sticks in your mind, even as the adrenaline peters out of your system, and, if you're anything like me, you'll watch the credits to the end, in awe of what you've just seen. Make no mistake, this film stands up there with Blade Runner, Alien, 2001 and The Terminator. It's intelligent, raw, profound, brutal and superbly-acted. You'll love it!
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A decidedly literal exploration of our sense of identity, and inability to see the forest for the trees, Moon envisages how we would react if confronted with what we were, as opposed to what we've become, and of how we find meaning again in a personal sphere of reality that is not quite how it appears (I won't spoil the 'twist', so I'm keeping it vague). The film is a tour-de-force for Sam Rockwell, who again displays the remarkable acting talent that has been marginalised by Hollywood (thank God for Indie cinema!). The central conceit or twist of the film, revealed surprisingly early on, is largely the foundation of a rumination on the id and ego, and the science fiction is far more subtle and almost bereft of any illuminating exposition, giving the viewer a sense that he/she too, is on a journey, along with Sam. The film gets four stars and not five simply because, in terms of narrative, it's strictly functional; a framework for exploring the Self, and it ultimately amounts to less than what you may expect (it's also surprisingly brief for a film of this type, clocking in at just over 90 mins) It's still a remarkable film, however, and certainly deserves your time, but the films to which it's been compared, Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey, are exponentially better. This film is certainly a modern classic in the sci-fi field, but not one that will stand with the all-time greats.