July 2008

 
 

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DVDs I bought or received in the month of July

DVD/Blu-ray/HD DVD
  • All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (R0 UK, Blu-ray)
  • Dark City (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • Gangs of New York (R0 USA, Blu-ray)
  • Persepolis (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • Teeth (R1 USA, DVD)
     
 
Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2008 at 10:07 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD
 

Blu-ray Stendhal this year

Blu-ray

Blue Underground’s web site has been updated to include a release date for the company’s upcoming Blu-ray release of Dario Argento’s splendid The Stendhal Syndrome: November 18th. This and Don Taylor’s The Final Countdown are the only two Blue Underground Blu-ray releases to have release dates, and, while I’m slightly surprised that this will by the first Argento film to be released in high definition (Jenifer doesn’t count), I’m more than happy that it’s on its way. Now hurry up with a release date for The Bird with the Crystal Plumage!

 
Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 9:48 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV | Web
 

But… but… grain!

HD DVD

Paramount’s HD DVD release of Babel features a stellar transfer (note: the MPEG-2 Blu-ray version is not reviewed here) which shows off the varied methods of photography to great effect. From the rough, 16mm Moroccan scenes to the 35mm anamorphic look of Tokyo, there’s really nothing to complain about here barring some minor artefacting. Predictably, not all reviewers were quite so impressed, some of them labelling the abundant grain a “problem with the transfer” (morons), but I’ll let you judge for yourselves using the images below.

Babel
(Paramount, USA, AVC, 25.8 GB)

Babel Babel Babel Babel Babel Babel Babel Babel Babel Babel Babel Babel Babel Babel Babel

 
Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 7:31 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Reviews | Technology
 

These are the hands that ruined a movie

Blu-ray

What the hell do you call this? Good grief, it looks like someone took a dump and sealed it between the two layers of this BD-50. This is one of the worst high definition transfers I’ve ever seen, and it reflects very badly on Disney that they thought it was in an acceptable state for release. I’m not convinced that any additional commentary is necessary on my part: just look at the pictures, as they do a more than adequate job of conveying the sheer awfulness of this disc.

Gangs of New York
(Buena Vista, USA, VC-1, 38.8 GB)

Gangs of New York Gangs of New York Gangs of New York Gangs of New York Gangs of New York Gangs of New York Gangs of New York Gangs of New York Gangs of New York

 
Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 6:52 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology
 

Soon on this screen

DVD/Blu-ray/HD DVD

It’s time for another rundown of the upcoming Blu-ray releases that I intend to pick up (finances permitting, of course). The second half of the year sees quite a few impressive titles debuting in high definition.

July 29th, 2008:
- Dark City (New Line) (ORDERED)
- Doomsday (Universal) (ORDERED)

August 26th, 2008:
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (Buena Vista)

September 9th, 2008:
- The Omen: The Collection (20th Century Fox)

September 23rd, 2008:
- The Godfather Collection (Paramount)
- LA Confidential (Warner)

September 30th, 2008:
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Dark Sky)

October 7th, 2008:
- Carrie (MGM)
- Sleeping Beauty (Buena Vista)

 
Posted: Monday, July 28, 2008 at 9:27 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema
 

It’s okay to emote, you know

The Witcher

Over the last few days, I’ve been playing a game I got the previous Christmas but, for one reason or another, never really devoted much time to, until now. The Witcher is based on a series of Polish fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, about which I must confess I know next to nothing. I am, however, told that they are phenomenally successful in their homeland, spawning a film and television series, comics, card games and now a PC role-playing game.

On the face of it, the game is not unlike any number of other CRPGs. Based on the Aurora Engine developed by BioWare for Neverwinter Nights, it features a tried and true combination of character building, item hunting, monster-whupping and plot development. It’s in respect to the latter that The Witcher distinguishes itself. Most fantasy RPGs have a fairly black and white view of the world, usually pits noble humans, elves and dwarves against irredeemable, bloodthirsty orcs, ogres and the living dead. This isn’t entirely surprising when you consider that almost all fantasy worlds are ultimately derived from JRR Tolkien’s writing, which had an “us vs. them” mindset to an even greater degree. As much as I enjoy games like Baldur’s Gate and Diablo, therefore, I often find myself drawn to the ones that try to do something a little different. Planescape: Torment, one of the best games of all time, did that by situating the game in the wildly unique and imaginative Planescape universe, which is devoid of traditional elves and goblins, and also by allowing the player to create a morally grey character whose actions and behaviour would have lasting implications on how he was treated and how the story unfolded. Seemingly minor decisions the player made at the beginning of the game could come back to bite him/her later - the Butterfly Effect, if you like.

The Witcher

I’m not going to suggest that The Witcher is the new Planescape: Torment. It’s far too clunky and awkwardly written (a by-product, I suspect, of the fact that I’m playing an English translation of a game originally written in Polish) for that. Planescape: Torment didn’t exactly have the most wonderful gameplay mechanics either (it used BioWare’s Infinity engine, whose combat system always seemed somewhat counter-intuitive, particularly in comparison with action-oriented CRPGs like Diablo), but its writing was first-rate, particularly for a computer game, and it, in conjunction with the evocative graphics and Mark Morgan’s moody score, helped suck the player into the world. In comparison, The Witcher’s mechanics seem rather unwieldy, while the world depicted definitely feels closer to a pastiche of Tolkien than something as original as Planescape, with the usual vile beasts and ale-swilling dwarves (complete with cod-Scottish accents, of course, since for some reason people have got it into their heads that all dwarves hail from my part of the world).

It does, however, appear to take the notion of the Butterfly Effect philosophy of game design to the next level. Seemingly insignificant decisions can open up entirely new avenues, while at the same time closing others off. There is also a commendable effort, on the part of the writers, to create a feeling of moral ambivalence, in that no ideology, race or decision is defined as unwaveringly good or bad. In the first chapter, for instance, there is an incident in which you have to choose between siding with some pitchfork-waving yokels who want to burn the local witch, and aligning yourself with the witch in order to fight off her assailants. This was by no means a straightforward decision. The locals were clearly stupid, violent and led astray by a corrupt priest, but at the same time ample evidence existed to suggest that the witch might very well have been up to no good. Champion of the underdog that I am, I decided to help out the witch, although, given that I then had to single-handedly defeat a horde of armed yobs, I suspect I chose the tougher path. The point is, though, that the game provided me with a moral dilemma and, instead of going with the easier option, I opted for what that felt more ethically acceptable. That, to me, is the essence of good game storytelling.

 
Posted: Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 5:56 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Books | Games | Technology
 

Is this not just the most awful thing ever?

TV

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6Ugp6RFUfQ

The above is a trailer that is currently being screened for Holby City, one of the BBC’s medical drama series. No, seriously.

This can, I think, be taken as ample proof for what I’ve been suspecting for some time now: that the show’s producers have completely lost the plot. I challenge you to decide which is the more ridiculous image: Amanda Mealing with a snake’s tongue, Hugh Quarshie being molested by disembodied hands, Rosie Marcel snarling and leaping about like Halle Berry in Catwoman, or Patsy Kensit wearing a white wedding dress.

The end of the world as we know it or the work of a demented genius? You decide.

 
Posted: Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 9:08 AM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | TV
 

DVD review: 101 Dalmatians: Platinum Edition

DVD
One Hundred and One Dalmatians marks one of the few occasions on which I read the book (a childhood favourite that I still revisit every few years) before seeing the Disney film. Consequentially, perhaps, when I finally did see Disney’s interpretation, it was something of a letdown, maintaining the plot of its source material but transposing a number of its most cherished moments. It’s still a cracking film, though, endlessly rewatchable and constituting a welcome change of pace from Disney’s previous string of folktales and fairy stories.

Better late than never, I’ve reviewed Disney’s Region 1 Platinum Edition release of 101 Dalmatians, a feature-packed 2-disc presentation of one of the studio’s most enduring films.

 
Posted: Friday, July 25, 2008 at 8:47 PM
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | Reviews
 

You must see Wall-E!

Wall-E

After 13 years of producing hit after hit, I’ve learned to trust Pixar to deliver gold. To date, they haven’t made a single bad film (not even Cars, which for some reason seemed to attract a comparatively heavy amount of criticism from certain circles), and I think it’s safe to say that whatever magic formula they have tucked away over in Emeryville works.

I still wasn’t expecting their latest film, Wall-E, to be as good as it is, though. For me, it’s the best film I’ve seen this year… which, admittedly, isn’t a particularly high accolade when you consider that the only other 2008 release I’ve seen so far is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (not counting films made earlier but released in the UK in 2008 like All the Boys Love Mandy Lane and The Orphanage). However, I’d go so far as to say that this is the best film I’ve seen since The Incredibles in 2004: the last film to which I awarded the coveted “10/10” rating.

In comparison with warmer fare like last year’s Ratatouille, Wall-E is a rather sombre affair, something it shares with director Andrew Stanton’s previous film, Finding Nemo. The subject matter is unusually grim for Pixar: in the distant future, humankind has ruined Earth, turning it into a smouldering wreck of garbage and pollution. No long inhabitable, the luckier humans boarded a giant spacecraft and took off into the ether to wait until the clean-up of the planet has been completed and it is once more inhabitable. Alas, as time has passed, it has become increasingly clear that it will never be cleaned up, and the humans aboard the spacecraft, who, several generations down the line, have evolved into overweight, tiny-boned, borderline retarded bags of flesh, have all but forgotten about Earth. The only form of life that now remains on earth is a robot named Wall-E, tasked with cleaning up the planet - a monotonous task of collecting and compacting garbage which he has been performing non-stop for centuries, and centuries, and centuries.

Wall-E

I think a film like Wall-E is the perfect example of what makes Pixar’s output so different from, and so much better than, that of their competitor, DreamWorks. Whereas DreamWorks’ animated features are usually based around a one-note joke (Bee Movie, anyone?) or the latest celebrity actor they’ve snared to do a voice over (look - a talking fish who looks and sounds exactly like Will Smith!), or an endless cavalcade of sub-Family Guy pop culture references, boogers and farts (the Shrek franchise), Pixar builds their films around solid characterisation, with the rest flowing naturally. The last thing Wall-E is about is famous voices; actually, for a good two-thirds of the film, there is no dialogue whatsoever. Given that Wall-E can only make a few primitive speech sounds (which are provided by veteran sound designer Ben Burtt), and his only interactions are with a silent cricket and a fellow robot, EVE, whose vocal range is even more limited than his, his emotions have to be conveyed entirely through pantomime and the expressions made by his eyes.

There’s a lot of talk of Wall-E being 2008’s first contender for Best Picture as next year’s Oscars. That’s right, Best Picture, not Best Animated Feature. If an animated film can actually win the most prestigious of the Academy Awards, then perhaps it will finally break the long-held stigma against the medium.

See it!

 
Posted: Friday, July 25, 2008 at 12:47 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Animation | Cinema | Reviews
 

Don’t take advantage of the poor lady, you rats!

Mondo Vision

I’ve come to the conclusion that Andrzej Zulawksi’s L’Amour Braque, coming later this year from Mondo Vision, has the single greatest opening sequence ever shot for any movie at any point in the history of cinema. Can you name another movie that features a band of thieves in Disney face masks robbing a bank, filling the air with coloured smoke, evading the authorities by pretending to be statues, then finally dancing in the streets of gay Paris to celebrate their success, all set to the battiest synthesizer music ever heard?

L'Amour Braque
L'Amour Braque
L'Amour Braque
L'Amour Braque
L'Amour Braque
L'Amour Braque

 
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2008 at 10:38 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Mondo Vision
 

DVD review: The Frightened Woman

DVD
Not quite trash and not quite art, The Frightened Woman represents Italian popular cinema at its most trippy. It’s just about as batty as they come, and I defy you to find another film that looks and feels anything like it. Beneath all that surface glitz, however, is a surprisingly deep construct, one that is likely to beguile and bemuse in equal measure.

We’ve got yet more toothed vaginas in my review of the deliciously weird The Frightened Woman, a unique offering of 60s sexploitation from Shameless Screen Entertainment.

 
Posted: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 11:59 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Reviews
 

DVD review: Teeth

DVD
Teeth is ultimately a highly promising debut feature that’s unique enough for me to recommend it on that basis alone. It has considerably more going for it than merely being different, however, most notably an excellent lead performance from an extremely promising actress and a quirky, infectious sense of humour. It’s not entirely satisfying, and it’s not quite as brave as its provocative premise might suggest, but it’s entertaining, engaging, and even strangely endearing. Be prepared to cross your legs, though.

Cross your legs and lock up your sons - Dawn is on the prowl! I kick off a delightful “vagina dentata” double bill with a review of Dimension Extreme’s Region 1 release of Teeth, which proves the old adage that sex is indeed a weapon…

 
Posted: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 6:58 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Reviews
 

Daylight robbery

Blu-ray

I was recently violated by the well-lubricated member of HM Thieves & Excise. As is commonly known, buying an item worth more than £18 from a non-European Union country and importing it into the UK incurs a fine quaintly described as a “customs charge”. Generally I’m careful to avoid going over the limit, or if I am buying something with a value of more than £18 to order from a store with a means of slipping the package under the radar, so to speak.

Unfortunately, neither of these safety measures were worth a damn when, on Monday morning, I received a card through my door from Royal Mail informing me that they were holding on to an item of mine with a £11.36 charge on it. Knowing that I hadn’t bought anything from outside the EU in the last few months that could possibly have such a charge, I was confused to say the least. Needless to say, I was even more confused when I handed over the cash at the sorting office only to be handed a copy of the Blu-ray release of Persepolis, ordered from DVD Pacific for the cost of £13.82.

You opportunistic little shits

You opportunistic little shits

Not only that, but, despite selecting the premium shipping option in order to ensure that the order reached me in time for my birthday, it failed to arrive in the UK until after it had passed - July 8th, according to the attached HM Thieves & Excise sticker. Of course, mail ordering is hardly an exact science, and there are an infinite number of variables that come into play when you have to send a package from one country to another. That doesn’t explain why the item reached Customs on July 8th and I wasn’t informed about it until July 14th.

So there you have it. Not only was I charged extortion money on a package that shouldn’t have been eligible, either Thieves & Excise or Royal Mail then held on to it for a further week for the privilege. I shall of course be claiming the money back, but, given that the charge is split between £3.36 of VAT (paid to Thieves & Excise) and a ludicrous £8.00 “handling fee” paid to Royal Mail, I can see this going on forever. I first have to claim back my £3.36, which will no doubt take an eternity, and only once that has been accomplished can I then get on to the robber barons at Royal Mail to get the other £8 back.

The moral of the story? Even when you’re on the side of the law, you still get buggered by the authorities. So, if you happen to dodge the odd customs charge or fiddle the system in some other way, I see no reason for you to feel bad about it.

 
Posted: Friday, July 18, 2008 at 2:49 PM | Comments: 6 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | General
 

Clinging to the flotsam

Hellgate: London

Recent reports about the closing of Flagship Studios may have been premature… but that’s about as far as it goes. After four days of silence, the company has finally put out an official statement on the matter, claiming that, while the bulk of the staff have been laid off, the studio still exists as an entity and has retained the rights to its games. As per DIII.net:

San Francisco, CA (July 14, 2008) — Flagship Studios has announced today that despite rumors to the contrary, the company is still operating.

“It is with deep regret that I must announce that Flagship Studios has laid off most employees. However, the core management and founding team members are still at Flagship.” said Bill Roper, CEO of Flagship Studios. “The past five years have been an incredible experience for us, but unfortunately, we couldn’t sustain the size of the company any longer.”

Flagship Studios owns the rights to all its technology and IP, including Hellgate: London and Mythos. Due to the current situation, Flagship will not be taking any new subscribers for Hellgate: London, and all current subscriptions will not be billed.

Flagship wishes to extend their heartfelt thanks to those that have supported the company and games over the past five years.

Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, I don’t think this development can be considered to be particularly good news. It smells suspiciously like a last ditch attempt to hold on to their property, and, although I’m first and foremost in favour of artists being allowed to have control over their own work, whether the results are good or bad, part of me feels that it would be better for the game in the long run for it to be handed over to someone else. With only a skeleton crew left at the studio, I highly doubt that we will be seeing any ongoing content updates (such as the 2.0 patch, currently in beta on the test server) any time soon. In any event, their reputation has been so greatly tarnished, partly because of false information being reported by several major gaming news sites as fact, and partly because of the reality of the situation (bugs, lack of content updates, general lukewarm reaction to the game itself), that, barring divine intervention, which of course is a fantasy, there’s no way they’re going to bounce back.

Really, this is just prolonging the inevitable. I will, however, be holding off on my planned Hellgate/Flagship autopsy until we have more definitive news about what to expect from the game and the company in the future.

 
Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 8:21 PM
Categories: Games | Technology | Web
 

A game everyone can play

A game everyone can play

Source: Spumboard

 
Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 5:22 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Animation | TV | Web
 

Gaming in living colour

Devil May Cry 4

Well, the decidedly neutered 2008 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is under way, and, as Lyris reports, Microsoft are set to shovel yet another selection of derivative and/or colour-sucked titles out on to the Xbox 360, along with some big news in the form of their ensnaring of the previously Playstation 3-exclusive Final Fantasy XIII. For me, the only upcoming games that have any pulling power whatsoever are Diablo III, Starcraft II and Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (in roughly that order), only the latter of which is being shown at the expo, so none of this really matters from my perspective.

And yes, Anephric, you were right, Gears of War 2 is considerably more colourful than its predecessor. How strange that this paragon of brown and grey now looks comparatively saturated among the current Xbox 360 line-up.

Right now on the gaming front, I’m keeping track of the ongoing developments (or lack thereof) regarding the closure of Flagship Studios and what this will mean for their two games, Hellgate: London and Mythos. In spite of the hyperbolic and at times downright unpleasant statements from various commenters (yes, I’m sure you spending $50 on a disappointing game justifies personal attacks on the people who made it and jubilation over them losing their jobs - not), Flagshipped.com is providing by far the most comprehensive rundown of the situation. (For a slightly less vitriolic version, try Voodoo Extreme.) With the developers seemingly in hiding, unwilling to make any public statements on the matter, there’s no real way of knowing what’s going to happen in the near future. At least the game servers are still up at the moment, although it’s anyone’s guess how long that will remain the case.

On a brighter note, I received the retail version of the PC port of Capcom’s Devil May Cry 4 (or, as I’m apparently supposed to call it, going by the entry created in my games control panel, DEVIL MAY CRY 4) today. So far, it’s pretty good fun, but I remain unconvinced that gamepad-style gaming is for me. To be honest, I find the process of mashing buttons on a crudely shaped lump of plastic clunky and unwieldy, and would be far more at home with a traditional keyboard and mouse combo. I suppose I’m just a died-in-the-wool PC gamer who can’t change his ways after all these years, but I still wish Capcom had offered the option for PC gamers to play the game with the keyboard and mouse. I can’t imagine it offering any problems, and I’m sure it would have been quite straightforward to use the mouse for camera movement and the W-A-S-D keys for character movement.

World of Warcraft figures

Oh, and, while I was out shopping today, I picked up a couple of World of Warcraft figures at HMV - a steal for a fiver each, particularly given that the two that I was able to find, Valeera Sanguinar and Thargas Anvilmar, are both out of print. (Personally I’d rather have had a Warlock, but they didn’t have any left.) The pair of them look rather fetching perched on top of my (extremely dusty) audio decoder.

 
Posted: Monday, July 14, 2008 at 10:41 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Games | General | Technology
 

The dream is over

Hellgate: London

It looks as if Hellgate: London developers Flagship Studios have finally bitten off more than they can chew. After numerous rumours of employees leaving in droves and customers dissatisfied with the quality of the game and/or the support being provided with it, the final nail has been hammered into the studio’s creaky coffin, with Flagship apparently closing its doors following the laying off of the entire staff. Financial support from Korean distributor and co-owner of the intellectual property HanbitSoft has reportedly dried up, with the implication being that HanbitSoft will, from now on, take full control of the franchise and continue to develop it themselves:

HanbitSoft states that the reason it is pursuing this course of action is because “It is hard for us to accept Flagship Studios’ requests for continued support in capital and funding any longer and because Flagship was being difficult”, and because it co-owns a direct stake in the IP, it therefore “has a say in reviewing and determining any course of action to be taken with Hellgate: London.”

HanbitSoft is expected to take full control over the IP. HanbitSoft goes on to state that in doing so, it will be able to “properly manage and develop Hellgate: London into a good game with proper content”, with its own in-house team of developers.

Ouch.

I’m not entirely surprised, but I’m disappointed nonetheless. I would have liked to see Flagship Studios succeed. The games industry is coming ever closer to mirroring the movie business in the sense that all the power these days is in the hands of a small number of megacorporations, and something about the idea of Flagship striking out on their own as an independent developer appealed to me. Theirs was a worthy attempt to deliver a triple-A game as an autonomous company, but ultimately they failed to pull it off. I still like Hellgate: London, in spite of its myriad flaws, and I genuinely hope that HanbitSoft are able to salvage something from the wreckage, but it’s a damn shame that its creators will no longer be involved with the project they poured their heart and soul into, whatever you might think of the end results.

No creator, regardless of the medium in which they work, likes to see their baby dragged away from them, particularly under circumstances such as these (shades of the 1992 Nickelodeon takeover of Ren & Stimpy, methinks), and I can only hope that the Flagship people are able to bounce back from this in some form or other. Hmm, I suspect they’re probably greatly regretting walking out of Blizzard Entertainment back in 2003.

 
Posted: Saturday, July 12, 2008 at 9:57 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Animation | Cinema | Games | TV | Web
 

The Internet tells you what to think

Diablo III

Something Awful’s humour can be a bit hit or miss at times (though their Photoshop Phriday features rarely fail to put a smile on my face), but they’ve absolutely nailed it with their reaction to the negative buzz surrounding Diablo III in some circles. I particularly like their take-down of the (by now tedious) “it’s too colourful” argument:

My Initial (Wrong) Opinion: Wow, it’s the world from Diablo in 3D, rendered like a painting to retain the 2D flavor of the previous games. The dark and ominous themes are still there, only now we don’t have to use our imaginations to fill in the details suggested by blocky sprites.

The Internet’s (Correct) Opinion: Wow, it’s a shitty cartoon! This is NOT the same world that Diablo I and II took place in. No way.

[…]

Here’s the dark and gritty Diablo II, which Diablo III should look like:

Diablo II

I rest my case.

 
Posted: Friday, July 11, 2008 at 10:20 PM
Categories: Games | Web
 

No innuendos about electric toothbrushes, please

DVD

Yesterday heralded the arrival of a much-awaited review copy, the delightful Teeth, a film about a young lady who has a set of razor-sharp fangs inside her vagina, and the hilarity that ensues as she has various, ahem, prickly encounters with the opposite sex.

If you’ve heard this story before, then you’ve probably encountered a form of the vagina dentata myth, which we might describe as a product of the male of the species’ enduring suspicion and/or fear of women. You might also have heard of a no-budget British shocker called Penetration Angst, reviewed here by the indomitable Baron Scarpia. Penetration Angst is, I’m reliably informed, absolutely dreadful, which is why, when I first read Teeth’s synopsis, I was surprised, to say the least, to discover that both films shared almost exactly the same premise. The notion of a toothed vagina is, of course, nothing new, but the precise details of the two films’ plots makes it hard for me to believe that mere coincidence is at play here.

I’ve been saying for ages that, instead of remaking good films, studios would be better off remaking bad ones, and it sounds as if Penetration Angst is as bad as they come. Teeth, I’m sure, is considerably better, but I still haven’t decided quite how I feel about it. Like Penetration Angst, it falls into the trap of making all the men that our intrepid heroine comes into contact with end up being filthy slimy perverts (to quote Tenebrae). It’s frustrating because of its predictability, and also because it allows the writer/director, Mitchell Lichtenstein, to dodge any potentially difficult questions - like why are we rooting for a serial killer/mutilator? The way the film is set up, everyone who loses their wang (or, in one case, fingers) basically “deserves” it (yep, even the gynaecologist to whom she rather astutely pays a visit when she realises something isn’t quite right downstairs), and the majority of the sexual encounters are forced on her (the only one that isn’t is someone she actively seeks to entrap).

The acting in Penetration Angst is described as being uniformly awful (which is probably appropriate enough given the apparent quality of the rest of the film). This isn’t a problem with Teeth, whose lead, Jess Weixler, is actually very very good. She has the rather unenviable task of playing a character whose head is firmly up in the clouds (she is a blissfully ignorant Christianity enthusiast who gives talks to impressionable teenagers about “waiting” - c.f. the Silver Ring Thing), and the film, not unreasonably, treats her attitudes without a great deal of respect. Somehow, though, she doesn’t lose our sympathy, at least until the final third of the film, in which a rather predictable tonal shift occurs and it becomes considerably harder to root for her. Actually, it’s a rather well-made film all round, more so when you realise that it’s the director’s first feature. I think this raises the bar in terms of quality and prevents it from simply being moronic dross. That, and the fact that a very interesting balance of horror and sly comedy is maintained throughout.

Expect a full review in the near future, once I’ve had a chance to mull it over.

 
Posted: Friday, July 11, 2008 at 9:35 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Reviews
 

Transmission interrupted

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8

In the unlikely event that you’ve been waiting on tenterhooks for my review of Issue 15 of the dreadful Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 comic (you know who are, you weird, weird freaks), then I hate to break it to you: it’s not happening. Today, it suddenly occurred to me that the festering thing hadn’t arrived, despite it having been released over a month ago. A quick peek at my TFAW account explained this anomaly: my subscription actually expired with Issue 14.

This means that I won’t be able to tell you which forms of sealife are jumped in the four and final instalment of Drew Goddard’s woeful little tale of Japanese vampires, dead Slayers and laughably predictable plot “twists”, and, to be honest with you, I don’t care. Back when I thought I would also be receiving Issue 15, I contented myself with the knowledge that, although I was abandoning the series, I would at least be jumping off the boat at a semi-logical point. Discovering, today, that I would essentially be left hanging, I realised just how much it doesn’t bother me. And why should it? The comics themselves are risible, and I don’t consider them to be in any way canonical, regardless of what their creator might say. So, while it’s slightly frustrating to be ending on a comma rather than a full stop, as it were, at least this means I can devote less time to writing about crap and more time to stuff I actually like.

 
Posted: Friday, July 11, 2008 at 5:43 PM | Comments: 6 (view)
Categories: Books | Buffy the Vampire Slayer | Reviews | Web
 
 

 
 
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