JOE: DVD review

I can see the headlines now, 'Nicolas Cage in good film shocker!' It's about time too. Knowing, Season of the Witch, Bangkok Dangerous - the taxman sure has a lot to answer for. I haven't enjoyed a Nicolas Cage movie this much since 2005's Lord of War, though parts of me still have a thing for Drive Angry. That might have more to do with Amber Heard than anything else, mind.

A gripping blend of friendship, violence and redemption erupts in the backwoods of the South. Welcome to Joe, a gritty adaptation of Larry Brown's celebrated novel. Directed by David Gordon Green, who is now forgiven for inflicting Your Highness and The Sitter on the world, Joe marks a welcome return to Indie roots for both director and lead actor, a film that finally gives Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage something to sink his teeth into.

Nick stars as hard-living, hot-tempered ex-con, Joe Ransom, who is trying to dodge his instincts for trouble. Until he meets young tearaway, Gary (Tye Sheridan - Mud), a boy who awakens in him a fierce and tender-hearted protector. They come up against a lot of damaged individuals on their travels, not least Gary's envious father, who threatens their friendship at every turn.

Gary Poulter brings Wade to life, a troubled man whose real life journey was just as tragic as the character he plays on film. He is phenomenal though, certainly no less compelling than Cage and Sheridan, who each bring their A game to the table. Nic keeps it low-key and as such, this is his most understated performance in years. Poulter is terrifying throughout, a ticking time-bomb of a man whose body-socking skills easily outweigh his body-popping ones.

The first act takes its time to get going but the second half of the film reels you in with violent outbursts, mesmerising performances and hard-hitting realism. Joe doesn't paint a pretty picture at all, but it does strike a chord throughout, sucker-punching the audience with heartfelt emotion and grim reality. The storyline doesn't amount to much but the three leads do, and the supporting characters that come and go (many of which, like Poulter, are untrained actors) bring authenticity to the piece.

Difficult to watch but even harder to take your eyes off, Joe is a brutally compelling drama that demands your full attention. 'Date Night' movie applicants need not apply.

Joe Trailer


Remember that level in Streets of Rage where you battle a horde of bad guys on a lift as you make your way up to the final boss? That's what Ninja Apocalypse reminded me of. But without the awesomeness. Obviously. Ninja Apocalypse isn't a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, it's just not a very good one either. Directed by Lloyd Lee Barnett, who has worked on the visual effects for big budget pictures like Avatar, Spiderman and The Lord of the Rings, Ninja Apocalypse reads like a goofy concept on paper but takes itself far too seriously for that. Thankfully, as you would expect considering his track record in the industry, Barnett does conjure up some nifty effects work along the way. It's not much but it certainly takes the focus away from the lukewarm action choreography.

Framed for assassinating Grandmaster Fumitaka (Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat), the Lost Ninja Clan must battle their way through an underground nuclear bunker filled with supernatural enemies. All the while, pursued by Hiroshi's (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II) unstoppable Ninja army, with orders to hunt them down. Trapped a thousand feet below the Earth's crust, the Lost Clan must first defeat the shoddy writing, weak acting and unforgivable lack of laughs if they are to emerge from the bunker (and the movie) unscathed.

I'd never heard of Christian Oliver before this, but he's been around the block a few times, working with the likes of Steven Soderbergh in The Good German, Brian Singer in Valkyrie and the Wachowski Brothers in Speed Racer. He's a personality vacuum though. In fact, none of the characters are memorable and the storyline has been done to death. But then, you don't come to movies called Ninja Apocalypse for compelling storytelling. The action sequences are competent enough and there's plenty of CGI blood, but there's nothing new to see here, and had it not been for the creative use of effects I would've given up sooner. Ninja Apocalypse is largely forgettable then. A few more laughs and a charismatic lead would've prevented it from lurking in the shadows, but I'll be sticking with Scott Adkins for my low-budget action kicks for now.

TAZZA 2 heads for the U.S

The follow-up to the 2006 box office hit 'Tazza: The High Rollers' aka Tazza 2: The Hidden Card, is heading for North American Audiences after Topping Korea’s Box Office opening Weekend record.

This film sequel is directed by Kang Hyeong-cheol (Scandal Makers, Sunny). Kang’s first two films have been the highest grossing Korean films of their respective years both being in the top 15 highest Korean films.

Tazza 2 makes its debut in the U.S. and Canada on September 26, 2014.

Synopsis: The Hidden Card, Dae-gil is a young man who learns he has a natural-born talent in gambling, which leads to a reunion with his first love, Mi-na. However, being new to the world of card sharks and con artists, Dae-gil gets tangled in a web of conspiracy and betrayal, becoming the scapegoat of a deal gone wrong and is forced to go on the run. He plans his revenge and prepares for one big fateful game, with Mi-na helping him every step of the way.


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MARK OF THE DEVIL: Uncut on DVD and Blu for the first time

Arrow Video is thrilled to announce the UK Blu-ray and DVD release of Mark of the Devil, once proclaimed as “positively the most horrifying film ever made”. Mark of the Devil finally arrives uncut in the UK on 29th September 2014. With Mark of the Devil, writer-director Michael Armstrong created a bloody and brutal critique of state-funded brutality and religious corruption with a doomed romance at its centre. In America, Mark of the Devil was distributed with a free sick bag provided for every patron. In the UK the BBFC were obliged to sit through the entire uncut film and deemed it “vicious and disgusting.” They recommended that a certificate be refused entirely and provided a list of required cuts to make the film acceptable for an X certificate.

This means that finally, after more than forty years, the full-blooded, full-frontal version of Mark of the Devil can be released with a host of extra features including an audio commentary by Michael Armstrong and moderated by Calum Waddell. An exclusive feature-length documentary, Mark of the Times, which looks at the emergence of the ‘new wave’ of British horror directors that surfaced during the sixties and seventies. The documentary will feature contributions from Michael Armstrong, Norman J. Warren (Terror), David McGillivray (Frightmare), Professor Peter Hutchings (author of Hammer and Beyond) and famed film critic Kim Newman.

Synopsis: A bloody and brutal critique of religious corruption, Mark of the Devil sees horror icon Udo Kier (Flesh for Frankenstein, Suspiria) play a witchfinder’s apprentice whose faith in his master (Herbert Lom) becomes severely tested when they settle in an Austrian village. Presided over by the sadistic albino (a memorably nasty turn from Reggie Nalder), the film presents its morality not so much in shades of grey as shades of black.

Mark of the Devil trailer

Arrow Films website

THE BURBS: Blu-ray review

Director: Joe Dante. Review: Adam Wing.

Why is Joe Dante so inconsistently consistent? I look back over his career in movies and see some of my favourite films growing up. Dante's first film was released in the year I was born, and Piranha still has more teeth than a lot of horror movies made today. It wasn't until 1984 that I started paying attention though, with the release of one of my all time favourite movies, Gremlins. Innerspace followed in 1987, The New Batch arrived in 1990 and sandwiched somewhere in between was The 'Burbs. Starring Tom Hanks, Corey Feldman (of course, it was the '80s) and Carrie Fisher, The 'Burbs is the kind of movie that gets better with age. "There go the Goddamn brownies..."

Joe's output became more infrequent in the 90s, with standouts being Small Soldiers in '98 and 2003's Looney Tunes: Back In Action. I only mention this because it sum ups Dante's career in pictures perfectly. At his best, Dante is the master of looney tune escapism; zany comedy gems that never get tired. He keeps himself busy with TV work these days, and 2014's Burying the Ex is yet to see the light of day, but Joe Dante's early work will always have a place in my life. I wasn't a big fan of The 'Burbs when I was younger, to me it was Joe Dante's 'lesser' movie. I've never really been a big fan of Tom Hanks either, not since he started playing it straight at least, so this was a good time for me to rediscover the film on shiny Blu...Continue review.

The Burbs trailer

The Vault: AKIRA

You don’t get much bigger than Akira, the cyberpunk landmark in Japanese animation. Akira is a 1998 animated sci-fi film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, based on his own smash hit manga series. The plot focuses on two bikers, Tetsuo Shima and Shotaro Kaneda, battling it out over the release of dangerous psychic Akira. Rebellion, friendship and the occasional nuclear explosion provide Akira with its heart and voice, and in a world reliant on computer technology, it’s refreshing to witness a pixel free animated movie.

The city of Neo-Tokyo isn't the kind of place you would want to raise a family. Anti-government terrorism and gang violence have been rife in the years that followed World War III. A teenage gang member, Shima Tetsuo, comes across an esper on a highway, bringing his buried psychic energy to the surface. Tetsuo is captured by the government for experimentation. Fortunately, an anti-government group - supported by Tetsuo’s best friend Kaneda Shotaro - plot to rescue him before his powers consume the city.

Highly regarded by fans and critics alike, Akira is often considered the benchmark of modern animation. Which probably explains why Hollywood is determined to sour the taste with a live-action remake. The production has been shut down four times already, probably because it would prove way too expensive to do the film justice, but thankfully we’ll always have the original movie to fall back on. I’ll always be an amateur when it comes to manga, and I'm still not sure I understand it entirely (the finale is both inventive and bizarre), but Akira introduced me to a brave new world, and you can’t ask for more than that.

NIGHT OF THE COMET on Blu isn’t a million miles away

Arrow Video is excited to announce the UK Blu-ray and DVD release of Night of the Comet. The 80s cult-classic, which since its initial release in 1984, has gone on to amass a legion of loyal fans with its hugely entertaining riff on the apocalyptic sub-genre of movies, paying homage to such classics as The Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth. In fact, this might be the most purely entertaining depiction of the aftermath of a catastrophic event, not just in movie history but possibly... well, ever.

The movie will make its UK Blu-ray debut on 22nd September 2014 in a newly restored transfer with a host of extra features including interviews with stars Kelli Maroney, Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Beltran and Mary Woronov. The disc will also feature audio commentaries with writer/director Thom Eberhardt, stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart and production designer John Muto. Alongside this, the Blu-ray disc will also feature newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin and a sizable collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic James Oliver.

Synopsis: Life can be tough when you’re a Valley girl. First, there’s making sure you’re on time for pep squad practice. Then there’s having to live under the same roof as your bitchy stepmother who, you suspect, is making it with Chuck from across the road. And then, of course, there’s having to keep on the lookout for the occasional marauding zombie hungering after your flesh!

Eighteen year-old Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart – Weekend at Bernie’s, The Last Starfighter) misses out on the event-of-a-lifetime when she ditches watching the comet in favour of copping off with the projectionist at the cinema where she works. But this turns out to be a wise move when, the next day, she discovers that the entire population has been reduced to piles of red dust – leaving only Reggie, her sister Sam (Kelli Maroney – Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Chopping Mall) and a handful of other survivors to fend off the roving gangs of glassy-eyed zombies.

A South African horrorFest is coming!

Never let it be said we don’t cover horror news from FAR and wide, and if your are in South African, and a fan of all things splattery, then this years horrorfest will be of interest. The 2014 poster has just been released and the call for entries has gone out. So it you’re in that neck of the woods, keep em peeled on the official site for news on what horrific fun is due your way.






Horrorfest official site

Donnie’s back to rumble in the KUNG FU JUNGLE

Donnie Yen is back, and if we're being brutally honest here, the last two years haven't seen the best of everybody's favourite shirtless wonder. Special I.D. was a little too goofy for our tastes, The Monkey King did big business back home but relied too heavily on CGI and gimmickry. Then there's Iceman (and potentially its upcoming sequel), which we've yet to see and really shouldn't comment on, but online reviews suggest another disappointing entry on Donnie Yen's kick-ass C.V.

So you'll be forgiven for feeling a little bit anxious on this one, even though the trailer looks pretty damn impressive. What's more, Kung Fu Jungle is directed by Teddy Chan, and we were big fans of their last collaboration, Bodyguards and Assassins. Teddy also directed Purple Storm back in 1999, a personal favourite of ours at 24FPS. So maybe, just maybe, this is the return to form we have been waiting for. Kung Fu Jungle is released in China at the end of October, which means we might see a DVD release at the end of the year.

Synopsis: A martial arts instructor from the police force gets imprisoned after killing a man by accident. But when a vicious killer starts targeting martial arts masters, the instructor offers to help the police in return for his freedom.

English subbed trailer for Thai horror THE SWIMMERS

It’s already been out in its home country, and now Thai horror The Swimmers is heading for Malaysia, meaning better access to English subs, and synopsis.

Sophon Sakdaphisit is the man in charge behind the camera and as he directed two really rather good fright flicks - aka ‘Coming Soon’ and ‘Laddaland’ - and co wrote the horror classic ‘Shutter,’ we’d be foolish to let this slip the net.

Synopsis: The plot of the film is about two prominent male swimmers who fall in love with the same girl. The only problem is that they also encounter something supernatural beyond their expectations. This movie looks chilling and I can’t wait to see how this suspenseful and thrilling plot will unfold.

The Swimmers trailer


Adrift in Tokyo is a touching drama by Miki Satoshi, the director of Instant Swamp and Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers. It's a road movie with a difference, unique because our main characters spend most of their time on the sidewalks of life (unless of course they’re being chased down by the owner of a small clock shop who thinks he’s Bruce Lee). Fumiya and Fukuhara walk, talk, argue and discover a little something about themselves. On the surface there’s little more to it than that. What might sound painfully dull on paper proves in fact to be one of the most engaging films in years.

Up to now, Fumiya’s life has been anything but extraordinary. A university student for the past eight years, his life is going nowhere fast, but all’s about to change the day he meets Fukuhara. Fumiya owes money to loan sharks and a man called Fukuhara turns up to collect the repayments. Fumiya can’t afford to pay the loan back so Fukuhara makes a proposition. He will cancel the debt as long as Fumiya agrees to walk with him across Tokyo to the police station of Kasumigaseki, where he plans to turn himself in for a crime he deeply regrets.

Fumiya and Fukuhara are fundamentally the same person - transparently lonely, one a little wiser than the other, but with an inner sadness that radiates from them both. It’s the little things that truly affect in life and Satoshi is making a career out of depicting them. His films have always had the ability of finding meaning in the most trivial of exchanges. As such, Adrift in Tokyo is a poignant roller coaster ride of genuine emotion, full of ups and downs and - rather fittingly - an all too abrupt conclusion. Comedy, drama and touching performances provide Miki Satoshi with his most accomplished film to date, an enchanting masterpiece that rewards in the subtlest of ways. Highly recommended.

Adrift in Tokyo Trailer

Kim Ki-duk’s MOEBIUS is coming to UK DVD this October

No matter what you think about Kim Ki-duk as a director, every new release carries the heavy weight of expectation. He has his fans, that's for sure, and he's not afraid to take chances. Check out his warts and all documentary, Arirang, for a fascinating glimpse of self-administered therapy. He openly admits that the love of his movies is not universal – he’s a lot like marmite to us – but few would deny his filmmaking prowess.

UK fans have a lot to look forward to this October, with the release of 2013's Moebius. A daring portrayal of a dysfunctional family that is as controversial as the films of Lars von Trier. Initially banned, the latest tour-de-force from the Cannes-award winning director plays like a warped Greek tragedy. A teenager is caught between his adulterous father and psychotic mother. An extreme act of revenge forces father and son to deal with its bloody aftermath.

This pitch-black study of lust and guilt circles this destructive family whilst questioning one's basic sexual desires. An outstanding and unforgettable work from the director of Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring. Kim Ki-duk's latest is up for pre-order here, and available to buy on DVD from October 13th, 2014 courtesy of Terracotta Distribution.

New Korean thriller, MANHOLE, leaves nothing uncovered

Filming for the new South Korean thriller, Manhole, finished on March 31, 2014. So it's about time a new trailer surfaced, and here it is, looking like it's probably worth the wait.

A young girl (Kim Sae-Ron) is kidnapped by a serial killer (Jung Kyoung-Ho), a vicious murderer who uses manholes to kidnap and kill his victims. However, he hadn't counted on the young girl's older sister (Jung Yu-Mi) trying to save her.

In the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, "Then later there's running and screaming." Manhole is directed by Shin Jae-Young, with a release date set for this October back home. We'll keep you posted on DVD and Blu-ray news as and when we get it.


Manhole Trailer

In a Nutshell: WAY OF THE WICKED

"When the sons of the fallen came upon the daughters of men they bore the way of the wicked." An opening gambit that reads infinitely more interesting than the tagline for Kevin Carraway's latest low-budget horror movie. 'Evil Never Dies', anyone? Well, as the filmmakers so eloquently put it, evil never dies but film careers do. Remember when Christian Slater was the epitome of cool? Now he's playing heroic priests in inexplicably dull horror movies. Remember when Vinnie Jones had the world at his feet? Ok, so that's a bit of a stretch, but Jones stars alongside Slater in the straight-to-DVD feature that riffs on The Omen and Carrie.

Here's a twist for you. Christian Slater plays a holier than thou priest and Vinnie Jones plays the part of a doting father. He's still a cop of course but the role of John Elliott is as close to 'affecting' as Vinnie is likely to get. He's one of the best things about the movie as well, which will be a hard pill to swallow for anybody still reeling from his performance in X-Men: The Last Stand. After an inexplicable murder occurs in a small, isolated community, Father Henry goes to a local police detective with a theory on why the murder, and crimes that took place several years before, has occured.

Vinnie is better here than he has any right to be, Slater on the other hand barely registers. He's not really involved though, taking a backseat to a the teen cast members and a plodding script that lacks inspiration. Leading lady Emily Tennant (Heather) deserves better, but her relationship with Robbie (Jake Croker) lacks conviction. It doesn't help that Jake Croker is a personality vacuum, mistaking creepy for intriguing and lacking both the charisma and charm to pull off the role of captivating outsider.

With the best of intentions I found myself drifting as the lack of development became more and more frustrating. Carrie built to a devastating climax and The Omen was drenched in religious subtext and grand ambition. Way of the Wicked feels like a watershed version of Dawson's Creek. A ridiculous twist seals the film's fate, raising questions about the validity of what we've seen but failing to implant any desire to find out why. As the film reaches its ludicrous climax one of the characters says, "The cop and the priest. You two should have your own sitcom."

Now there's an idea...

The ICEMAN cometh to US DVD

We’ll start the ball rolling here by saying we think the cover art is a tad hokey, but that minor niggle falls by the way side, because Martial arts icon Donnie Yen is bringing his trademark action to US ICEMAN...from Well Go USA Entertainment.

A remake of the 1989 film Iceman Cometh, Yen plays a Ming era warrior who, along with his three traitorous childhood friends, are accidentally buried and kept frozen in time. 400 years later, they are defrosted and continue their battle in modern times where they left off.

Directed by Law Wing Cheong (Punished, The Wrath of Vajra), ICEMAN also stars Eva Huang (Kung Fu Hustle, Race to Witch Mountain), Wang Baoqiang (Lost in Thailand), Simon Yam (The Thieves, Ip Man franchise), Mark Wu (Due West: Our Sex Journey), Gregory Wong (Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen) and Yu Kang (Special ID).

Bonus materials include the seven-part featurette "The Making of Iceman," which takes an in-depth look at the filming of the rooftop sequence and the disco scene, as well as interviews with Donnie Yen, Wang Baoqiang and Eva Huand. Iceman debuts on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Nov. 11.

Synopsis: Donnie Yen is a Ming Dynasty palace guard, wrongly accused of murder and hunted by three vengeful brothers. All four are accidentally buried, frozen at the height of battle. 400 years later, they are defrosted and resume their mortal struggle – while also adjusting to modern-day life.

Iceman US trailer