Clarence: Mystery Piñata

Clarence-MysteryI don’t have TV in my household so despite loving most of Cartoon Networks shows Clarence was one that I wasn’t privy to until I reviewed the Cartoon Network Holiday Collection DVD. There were two episodes of Clarence on that collection and ever since I saw it I couldn’t wait til Clarence got a release of its own.

Clarence is set around a bunch of lower-middle class fourth graders in the town of Aberdale. Clarence is a happy-go-lucky kid who wants to be friends with everyone. He has two best friends, the intelligent clean freak Jeff and Sumo the crazy and mostly dirty problem solver. The three get into all sorts of innocent mischief that transported this 80s kid to a simpler time when kids ran around outside for fun and weren’t stuck on the couch/computer all day. Ughh I sound old.

What makes it so appealing is that it is equally silly, funny and naive as it is heartwarming and accepting. It’s not trendy and non-sequitir like Adventure Time yet has many of the same sensibilities. It references a lot of things that 80s kids will pick up on but isn’t smarmy about it and it’s just a really feel good cartoon that reminds you of how fun it was to be a kid. My nearly three year old loves it.

The animation is simple and so colourful and there’s no action or violence which makes for a nice change. The voices are also incredible with Clarence and Sumo being my favourite although apparently the creator and voice of Clarence (Skyler Page) was fired after allegations of sexual assault and someone else will be voicing Clarence which sucks as his voice is part of what makes him so lovable.

The set isn’t a complete season, it’s just a random few episodes of the first season. Sometimes I get a bit annoyed with compilation releases as when a full season comes out you sometimes have to get that to ensure you have all the episodes. It’s not even a release of episodes 1-12 of Season One, so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the show gets released. This isn’t the fault of Madman, all releases thus far are the same. A decent release with a runtime of 132 minutes and a pilot episode for an extra as well as a decent sized sticker of Clarence’s adorable face, this is the perfect introduction to Clarence.

A show that appeals to both kids and adults, Clarence hits the mark and should be a release to put on your wish list if you’re a fan of Cartoon Networks shows.

Episodes on this collection:

  • Fun Dungeon Face Off
  • Pretty Great Day with a Girl
  • Lost in the Supermarket
  • Jeff’s New Toy
  • Zoo
  • Rise and Shine
  • Average Jeff
  • Slumber Party
  • Dream Boat
  • Too Gross for Comfort
  • Neighborhood Grill


  • The original pilot episode.
  • Clarence Sticker

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

Deadlier Than the Male / Some Girls Do

Deadlier-MaleThe huge commercial success of Goldfinger in 1964 not only saw Ian Fleming’s fictional super-spy James Bond become a genuine international cultural phenomenon, but helped usher in the era of the Bond clones and parodies, with studios eager to carve out a slice of the box-office pie with a 007 of their own. As a result, the remainder of the 1960s gave us such cinematic super-sleuths as Derek Flint (James Coburn) and Matt Helm (Dean Martin), not to mention episodic series like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Avengers, Get Smart and Honey West on television.

Created (under the penname ‘Sapper‘) in 1920 by Herman Cyril McNeile, Bulldog Drummond had his origins in the decidedly grim, black & white world of the classic detective pulp magazines and early film noir, and had already been featured in nearly twenty films dating back to 1923 when veteran Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster and director Ralph Thomas decided to update the character and drop him squarely into the coolly pulsating, pop-art world of the Swinging Sixties. Ironically, Bulldog Drummond had been one of the biggest influences on Fleming when he created Bond, and now he was trying to walk in the footsteps of his infinitely more popular illegitimate son.

Based on an original story (rather than one of McNeile’s existing novels), Deadlier than the Male casts Richard Johnson as the suitably debonair and sophisticated insurance investigator Bulldog Drummond, hired after a private jet carrying a powerful oil magnate suspiciously blows-up while in flight. Aided by his eager but somewhat naïve American cousin (and budding playboy) Robert (Steve Carlson), and in between bouts of womanising, Drummond eventually uncovers a plot by a mysterious villain to destabilize the oil industry and throw it into chaos, which he aims to achieve by hiring two gorgeous female assassins (Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina) to kill off key oil figureheads in various creative ways.

Any resemblance between Deadlier than the Male and vintage Bulldog Drummond begins and ends with the lead character having the same name (and even then he is rarely referred to as ‘Bulldog’). This is pure sixties cinema pulp influenced directly by the Bond movies – and for what it is, it is quite superb. Director Thomas (perhaps best known for helming the popular series of Doctor comedy films) keeps the proceedings moving along at a cracking pace, ensuring the film doesn’t lose its steam by the third act (a problem which hindered several of the Bond parodies). The art direction by Alex Vetchinsky is fantastic, particularly the giant automated chessboard which features prominently in the climax, and the exotic Mediterranean locales are captured to full advantage by cinematographer Ernest Stewart. The soundtrack is suitably nightclub cool, and makes great use of the Walker Brothers’ hit title song over the opening credits. Richard Johnson makes a smooth, laid-back and confident hero, but he is rather overshadowed by Nigel Green as the deliciously Blofeld-like evil villain, Carl Peterson. Elke Sommer and the late Sylva Koscina are also hypnotic to watch, using their charm, their firepower and their curves to get what they want.

Whether emerging from the ocean clad in bikinis and clutching spear guns or glammed-up in the latest European fashions, Sommer and Koscina dominate virtually every frame of film they are in, and have a nice onscreen chemistry. They would have been great in a spin-off movie together. Other cast members of interest include Milton Reid (who went on to an official Bond film in 1977s The Spy Who Loved Me), Suzanna Leigh (The Deadly Bees) and the lovely Virginia North (who gained a minor cult following amongst horror fans for her role in The Abominable Dr. Phibes).

Three years after Deadlier than the Male, Johnson was back as Drummond for the second – and final – time in Some Girls Do. Ralph Thomas also returned to the director’s chair, and the film really amped-up the sci-fi and fantasy elements, as Drummond once again faces off against his old foe Carl Peterson (played here by James Villiers), whom this time around is using a harem of beautiful, scantily-clad robotic women to help him sabotage the launch of a new British supersonic airliner jet (there is little doubt that these two 1960s Drummond films were a major influence on Mike Myers’ Austin Powers trilogy).

Although it features many of the same elements as its predecessor, they don’t all gel as well as they did the first time around. The screenplay is lacking Jimmy Sangster’s input, and the villains aren’t as memorable as they were in Deadlier than the Male (as Peterson, James Villiers is a poor substitute for Nigel Green). The film is also a victim of its own timing, as by 1969 the initial wave of the James Bond craze was starting to die down, and the Bond films themselves were starting to become overblown parodies. Still, there is plenty to admire and enjoy here, not least of which is the appearance by lovely blonde Swede Yutte Stensgaard (from Hammer’s Lust for a Vampire) as one of the sexy robot drones. Also appearing are Virginia North (playing a different character from the first film), an uncredited Joanna Lumley (who was filming On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – also at Pinewood Studios – at the same time) and the portly Robert Morley, who tries to unsuccessfully add a bit of annoying comic relief and is thankfully killed off before too long.

Madman have done a suitably groovy job with their double-disc release of these two films. The 16:9 anamorphic widescreen print of Deadlier than the Male looks stunning – it’s crisp and sharp and literally pops with colour and depth. Unfortunately the 4:3 print of Some Girls Do is a letdown by comparison, giving the film a less spectacular TV movie feel, though the actual quality of the print is again superb. Extras on each disc include the original trailers and very extensive (and impressive) stills galleries for each film, while Deadlier than the Male also include some nice vintage on-set reports and cast interviews, filmed in black & white and no doubt intended to help promote the movie in cinemas and on television. Also included are two postcards featuring original promotional art for both movies, which gives the set a nice added visual appeal.

If you are a fan of vintage spy flicks, or just someone who loves everything that was silly, sexy and swinging about the sixties, this set deserves to be on your shelf.

  • Vintage Cast Interviews
  • Vintage On Set Reports
  • Image Galleries
  • Theatrical Trailers

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

Life of Crime

Life-CrimeLouis (John Hawkes) and Ordell (Yasiin Bey – probably better known as Mos Def) are a pair of petty crooks whose biggest achievement to date is running a pimp over with a van in order to steal his wallet-cash and his hat – but they have big plans. They’ve found out that a local businessman named Frank (Tim Robbins) has been using his various construction projects to siphon off millions of dollars and stashing the money in offshore accounts. If Louis and Ordell kidnap Frank’s wife Mickey (Jennifer Aniston) the pair reason he’ll have no choice but to pay a million-dollar ransom as he won’t be able to go to the police. Unfortunately, what neither Mickey nor her would-be kidnappers realise is that Frank is just about to divorce his wife so that he can live with his mistress Melanie (Isla Fisher) and isn’t too keen on paying to get her back.

Life Of Crime is an adaptation of Elmore Leonard‘s 1978 book The Switch and is the last adaptation of one of his books that Leonard was personally involved with before his death in 2013. In a film-trivia twist, this makes Life of Crime a sort-of-prequel to Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown because Rum Punch (the novel Jackie Brown is based on) follows on from The Switch and features the later career of Ordell (meaning that Mos Def ages into Samuel L Jackson circa 1997).

Life Of Crime is more Coen brothers than Tarantino – the plot is driven by bad people making bad decisions for bad reasons, rather than stylish action and slick pop-culture dialogue. Louis and Ordell’s plan (Frank’s intransigence aside) is critically handicapped by their reliance on a mentally-unstable neo-Nazi called Richard (Mark Boone Junior) to provide them with guns and a hideout. Mickey’s prospective lover Marshall (Will Forte) witnesses the crime (because he was trying to seduce Mickey when she was kidnapped) but is too worried about his wife finding out to actually do anything to help. Meanwhile, Frank (drunk and boasting about how clever he is) spills the details of his embezzlement plan to Melanie, who decides to play the femme fatale to try and profit off both sides (despite, for her part, being much less clever than she thinks she is). The sole point of innocence here is Mickey, who had naively believed everything that Frank told her and is utterly blindsided by the revelation that he refuses to pay her ransom. I admit I have a soft spot for “people being bad at crime” movies, but the assorted convolutions and incompetencies here are nicely put together.

Jennifer Aniston is excellent, and Mickey is a really unusual and interesting character in that she’s naive but also really smart and resourceful – adapting quickly to her new circumstances and trying to figure out ways to help herself out of her situation.

Unfortunately, for all that good stuff, Life Of Crime feels just slightly lacking in something. The whole film has this odd slightly tacky over-bright TV set look, which is probably a deliberate reflection of the characters’ low-rent conspiracies buts robs everything of the edge it would need to be fully engaging. It’s good, but stops short of quite being as great as it could be.


  • “Making of” featurette
  •  Theatrical trailer
  • “Madman propaganda” (trailers)

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Madman Entertainment.

Goal of the Dead

Goal-of-DeadThe French football knockout cup has drawn giants Paris Olympique from the top-flight against the amateurs of tiny Caplongue. A regulation cup match with a foregone conclusion, it is the kind of game that barely registers any interest. But for Paris captain Sam Lorit (Alban Lenoir), it has special meaning.

In the twilight of his career now, the veteran striker got his big break in the identical fixture 17 years prior when he was plucked as a talented teenager from the Caplongue ranks and never looked back since.

But the village folk have not forgotten their most famous son. They saw his departure as a betrayal, none more so than Doctor Belvaux (Philippe du Janerand), the father of Sam’s best friend Jeannot (Sebastien Vandenbergh). He has spent the intervening years doping up his son into a player focussed solely on vengeance. When a contaminated batch of steroids turn the now-hulking Jeannot into, well, a zombie – he sets out on the warpath with Sam and the Paris players securely in his sights.

Goal of the Dead is a French comedy/horror that does a lot of things right but in the end fails at being particularly funny or scary. Oddly presented as two parts – a second set of titles runs halfway through to introduce the ‘second half’ – the film takes its time with the set-up and introduces a pretty memorable batch of characters.

These include the young talent Idriss Diago (Ahmed Sylla) on the verge of signing a big-money transfer deal to London United with the help of his douchebag agent Marco (Bruno Salomone), weary journo Solene (Charlie Bruneau), football teen groupie-with-a-secret Cleo (Tiphaine Daviot) and Caplongue’s tiny population of four football hooligans.

These are all well-realised and have excellent interactions without ever being particularly funny. When the zombie outbreak inevitably occurs, though, the film turns into a pretty bog-standard zombie film with the usual sequence of events. These include bailing up somewhere surrounded by the undead, using makeshift weapons and the time-honoured “one of the heroes gets infected.”

The film owes a lot to Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and, while it mimicks that movie’s tone, it never has quite the same wit or heart. This is despite a hefty six(!) writers being credited. There are some half-hearted attempts to skewer aspects of the footballing world, but there is no real satirical bite present.

What Goal of the Dead does have on its side is that it looks superb. The sequences through the French countryside and the embattled village have a real sense of scale with big, sweeping shots to take it all in. There are flashy slow-mo Matrix-esque shots and the football match itself – all smoke and flares – has atmosphere to burn.

The result is a film that is painless to watch – despite being a bit lengthy – but the lack of laughs make it just a very good-looking entry into a long pantheon of mediocre zombie movies coasting on a gimmick.


Aside from the usual array of trailers, there are also two short French films. These are of the ‘fake grindhouse trailer’ type and are crushingly amateurish and unfunny. Indeed, for one, they didn’t even bother with subtitles or dubbing. Fortunately, people in $2 shop wigs running around fake-vomiting on each other transcends language.

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story

Macho-ManThe 1980’s was a halcyon period for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The gaudy glitz of that decade, combined with the increase in American consumerism and the rise of cable television and pay-per-view special events, was just what young WWF owner Vince McMahon needed to push his burgeoning empire to the top, eclipsing all other wrestling promoters, who until this point had usually operated on a regional level, with an understanding that they would never venture into another promoter’s territory. McMahon and his WWF changed all of that, creating a brand of sports entertainment that reached a wider – and global – mainstream audience than the sport had ever previously experienced.

At the upper echelon of the WWF during this period, there was always Hulk Hogan, the golden blonde who wore comic book red and yellow, his oiled skin gleaning as he strode into the ring, ripping his shirt off to the accompaniment of Rick Derringer’s ‘I Am a Real American’. But not far below Hogan was ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, who burst onto the national wrestling scene in 1985 with a charisma that helped him became an instant sensation. Dressing himself in gaudy flouro outfits, glitzy capes and new wave sunglasses, Savage’s over-the-top flamboyance, along with his neanderthal-like behaviour and famous catch-cry of “Ooooooh yeahhhhh!” was more than matched by his prowess and often-exhilarating moves in the ring. His professionalism, willingness to take a loss in the name of theatre, and dedication to rehearsing and memorising every planned move in a match, earned him the respect of many of his peers. Having his real-life wife, Elizabeth Ann Hulette, playing his manager and love interest, became a huge part of the WWF soap opera from that period, as the Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth became akin to royalty amongst passionate wrestling fans and mid-western beer drinkers.

Put together by the WWE (formerly the WWF) and released on their own DVD label, Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story documents both the life and legend that is Randy Savage, opening on a poignant note with his younger brother Lanny visiting the scene of his death, before winding the clock back on his life. Born Randy Mario Poffo in Ohio on November 15, 1952, Savage was the son of well-known wrestler Angelo Poffo, who achieved fame as the subject of a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! illustration after he set a world record for consecutive sit-ups in 1945 (6,033 in four hours and ten minutes). Growing up in Downers Grove, Illinois, Savage initially had his eye on a career in major league baseball, but after slugging it out in the minor leagues for several years without getting the big break he hoped for, he ditched ball (and his girlfriend) to follow his father’s footsteps into the wrestling ring (Savage claims he changed his surname from Poffo because he didn’t want to make it as a wrestler on his father’s name).

Initially appearing in a mask and calling himself The Spider (as a way to avoid a clause in his still-active baseball contract which forbade participation in other sports), Savage quickly worked his way through the regional wrestling leagues, before catching the eye of Vince McMahon in 1985. Over the next few years, the Macho Man would rise to the top of the WWF, striding into the ring to the strains of ‘Pomp and Circumstance’, and treating audiences to a string of classic match-ups that would see him claim both the Intercontinental and WWF Championship belts. Savage’s popularity and public profile became even bigger as the spokesperson and national face of Slim Jims, the popular jerky and dried sausage snacks, and the televised SummerSlam 1991 event was climaxed by an on-air wedding between Savage and Miss Elizabeth.

It was a golden time for the sport in general and the Macho Man in particular, and while he never suffered a mighty fall, the final years of his wrestling career saw him relegated mostly to ringside commentary, though he also briefly resumed his fighting career by defecting to World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He also had to suffer through both the public divorce from Elizabeth, and her subsequent death, brought on by a toxic mix of pills and booze, in 2003 (an event which cast a real-life dark cloud over a comic book drama). Though Savage retired from the ring in 2005, he continued to be a popular figure and ambassador for the sport, devoting a lot of his time and resources to charity organisations, particularly those which helped children. He had only recently re-met and married his long-lost high school sweetheart when he was struck down by a sudden heart attack while driving in Florida in 2011, losing control of his jeep and crashing into a tree. The Macho Man was only 58.

Featuring plenty of great archival footage, rare photos and interviews with Hulk Hogan, Lex Luger, Jimmy Hart, Tito Santana, his brother Lanny, his mother and many more, Macho Man works as an affectionate portrait of this much-loved personality, though it unfortunately skips completely over some aspects of his life and career. Savage’s appearance in motion pictures like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) and on episodic television shows such as Baywatch, Walker, Texas Ranger and Mad About You are not even mentioned, and the long-running feud which developed between Savage and Vince McMahon is never fully explored (McMahon being a noticeable absentee from the interviewees). The documentary doesn’t completely glorify Savage – we learn of how controlling and insecure he was of Elizabeth, forever fearful that she may be having an affair, and making her part of his act primarily as a way to continually keep her within his sights, a stifling condition which would eventually help drive his wife away. The subject of steroids is never broached (not that I recall ever hearing any rumours about Savage, but when a wrestler or bodybuilder dies at a relatively young age, steroid abuse often seems to be somewhere in the picture. It seemed a bit strange for the documentary not to even bring the topic up, either to discuss it or deny it).

A real treat for fans and for anyone intrigued by the over-the-top zeitgeist of the American 80’s, even if it doesn’t dig as deep as it might have.


Unfortunately there are no extras in the way of deleted scenes, extended interviews or audio commentaries, but Shock’s DVD release of Macho Man does certainly pack on the action, with two bonus discs containing 15 full-length classic Randy Savage matches. Clocking in at over five hours’ worth, these matches are culled from the glory years of 1986-1997, and feature the Macho Man going up against some of his biggest contemporaries, including Ricky ‘the Dragon’ Steamboat, Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and more.

Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story is also available as a deluxe box-set edition, which also includes the three-disc Macho Madness: The Ultimate Randy Savage Collection, along with a t-shirt, bandana and sunglasses.

Available on R4 DVD and Blu-Ray from Shock Records.

Robot Chicken DC Comics Special II: Villans in Paradise!

RBCDC2Lex Luthor’s daughter Lena wants to go on Spring Break but Lex has other plans for her. She sneaks off to meet up with Conner/Superboy and when Lex finds out he wants to bring her back home. So naturally The Legion of Doom want a vacation and bust out of prison to go on Spring Break.  If the premise doesn’t intrigue you then surely the thought of seeing a bunch of evil bad guys on the beach in their swim suits should.

I’m not a huge fan of superheroes bar Batman, and even then I’m really only interested in the 60s TV show. I reviewed the first DC special and wasn’t a great fan of it however I did really enjoy this special. To me what made this special better than the first one is that it had a story and wasn’t just random skits. I know that so many of the gags go over my head as I don’t know a lot about super heroes but I still enjoyed it and had a few laughs. The Wonder Woman invisible plane gag (although I am sure they’ve done it before) is always a crack up and I had a chuckle at The Penguin in his bathing suit getting excited over a nude beach (it was really a private beach). There’s a few musical numbers in this special but they pull all of them off so well. The most mentionable being the band Sexx Luthor and the funny and kinda gross homage number to Grease about Lena Luthor and Conner hooking up.

Guests this special include Seth Green, Alex Borstein, Clancy Brown, Zac Efron, Nathan Fillion, Clare Grant, Sarah Hyland, Breckin Meyer, Alfred Molina, Paul Reubens, and Giovanni Ribisi. It wasn’t til I watched the extras that I even realised it was Sarah Hyland and Giovanni Ribisi but now that I look back I can totally place their voices.

The only downside to these specials is that they have an incredibly short run-time but this is not necessarily a bad thing, but only if you’re a fan of extras. They go overboard with the features and in the behind the scenes they question why they even bother to make a behind the scenes feature anymore now that people hardly buy DVDs. But any self-respecting hard-core fan will own all the releases and this release is no exception as it has plenty (90 minutes worth) to offer. I enjoyed the 20 Questions segment which asked cast and crew 20 super hero related questions, was an entertaining watch.

Unlike the previous DC Special there is no Blu-Ray release as of yet. If you’re a scrooge hopefully one day they release a box-set of all the specials together.


  • The Making of #RCDC2VIP
  • Bad Hair, Musical Numbers & Sequels
  • The Ones That Got Away
  • 20 Questions
  • Chicken Nuggets
  • Cut Animatics (6 clips)
  • Cut Sketches (2 clips)
  • Actors’ Commentary – With Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, Nathan Fillion, Breckin Meyer and Zeb Wells.
  • Writers’ Commentary – With Hugh Davidson, Mike Fasolo, Tom Root, Kevin Shinick and Zeb Wells.

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

When Animals Dream

When-AnimalsFor Marie (Sonia Suhl), life in her small coastal town is simple and now that she is 16, she gets a job at the local fish processing plant to help bring money into her family – her father (Lars Mikkelsen) and her catatonic, wheelchair-bound mother (Sonja Richter). She catches the eye of a handsome young fisherman named Daniel (Jakob Oftebro), but not everything bodes well.

Doctor Larsen (Stig Hoffmeyer) warns her that she will likely inherit her mother’s debilitating condition and several bullying men at her new job have decided she is the perfect target for taunting and abuse. Then Marie feels her body beginning to change…

The werewolf has always been a potent metaphor. Typically used as a male id symbol, the concept of physical change has also been applied to awakening sexuality. On rare occasions (most notably the Canadian film Ginger Snaps) it has been applied to female sexuality.

When Animals Dream takes that a step further. Marie’s real identity, her real destiny, is as a werewolf. As she comes of age, she does not flee from this. Her mother, heavily-medicated by her controlling (but caring) father and her doctor, serves as a warning of what happens if she just toes the line.

The feminist statement of the film is writ large, right from the uncomfortably sexual opening scene where Marie is examined for bodily symptoms by Doctor Larsen. Marie is wanting freedom and independence which clearly scares the traditionalist menfolk of her town.

Daniel is the exception. He is the only one who accepts Marie’s true nature and does not fear her for it. But the others in the town do, and they will not tolerate Marie in their midst. The more she stands out from the crowd and defies expectations, the more she raises their ire.

Debutant director Jonas Alexander Arnby shows a remarkably assured hand. The performances are all low-key and believable, free from overt affectation. The shooting is handheld and his Denmark is a bleak, cold place where the sun never seems to shine. The setting is a place of dying tradition, where there is no future, superbly realised.

The pacing is careful and the plot itself is very simple. This, perhaps is the film’s weakness. The ideas it presents are evocative and powerful, but along the way entertainment is somewhat sacrificed. The progression to the climax is single-minded, leaving little room for twists or turns in the storyline and while the inexorability of the film is part of its message, it does adversely affect the more superficial thrills.

A reflective, delicate and sombre film, When Animals Dream is a low-key gem and a reminder of how powerful the metaphors of fantasy and horror films can be to reflect our real world. An excellent debut.


Just trailers, which is disappointing for a film of this thematic depth.

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

The Legacy

The-Legacy-DVDI’m pretty much up for reviewing any Scandinavian film or television series and when I saw that this show was from the makers of The Killing and Borgen I had to check it out. I’ve taken a stance of reading very little about the things I review so I can watch it with an open mind. Naturally, not knowing anything until reading the blurb, I assumed this would be another among the many Nordic crime wave shows.

Continue reading

Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead [Blu-Ray]

Dead-SnowMartin (Vegar Hoel) is having a tough time. His skiing holiday with his friends turned into a massacre when they accidentally awoke a platoon of frozen Nazi zombies and now, as the only survivor, he has to somehow stop the undead fascists as they set their sights on a new target.

Complicating the situation is that his own severed arm has been surgically replaced with the arm from the zombie commander Herzog (Orjan Gamst) which has something of a mind of its own. His only chance is to contact a group in the US who call themselves, “The Zombie Squad” in hopes they can somehow help him as the Nazi zombies march inexorably towards a sleepy Norwegian village…

Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead is that rarest of beasts – a sequel that improves on the original. Admittedly, that is not a particularly high bar in this case. Dead Snow was a derivative, unfunny mess that only sprang to life in a splatter-laden final act. Right from the outset, the follow-up is a step up as it picks up right after the first left off.

The lack of set-up means the plot can get rolling immediately and the pacing in general is much improved. The film holds the attention throughout, with a series of gory set-pieces stopping things ever getting mired down. It all builds to a mass open-field battle between the Nazis and a group of Russian zombies reanimated by Martin to end a decades-old blood feud.

Where the original Dead Snow relied almost completely on references and jokes from other horror films, this time the confidence is there to strike a more original path. The film is all the stronger for it.

After his soujurn into Hollywood with 2013’s Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, writer/director Tommy Wirkola presents a much more polished sequel here. The camerawork is fluid, the editing vastly improved and the overall package is much slicker all round.

The US presence is interesting – the Zombie Squad (led by Martin Starr) are American and so speak English, as do all of the Norwegian characters whenever any of the Squad are present. That leaves only a few films where only Norwegian characters are present alone, but even then they speak English…except in another version of the film available as an extra feature here, which has those scenes in Norwegian and with (obviously) different takes.

Tonally, the Zombie Squad trio feel out of step to the rest of the film. The humour with the other characters stems from their situation (when Martin’s possessed arm rips internal organs out of a small child, he calls out to a watching police officer, “It’s not what it looks like!”) whereas the Zombie Squad characters try to crack jokes. In particular, Monica (Jocelyn DeBoer) makes endless Star Wars references that are never funny and always annoying.

This is the main flaw with Dead Snow 2. While it is intermittently humorous, it is certainly nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is. For every joke that elicites a chuckle, there are three that fall flat. As with the first movie, Dead Snow 2 is at its strongest when wading into the over-the-top gore for laughs and, once again, there are plenty of intestine-related gags.

The cast seems a bit lost amongst the jokes at times. Hoel’s Martin remains appropriately taciturn throughout, but other seems unsure as to how broad to go. This only adds to the uneven feel of the comedy and badly hampers the film’s effectiveness.

There are enough quality moments to carry the day for Dead Snow 2, but it is a mixed bag of a movie. The originality helps hugely and this is a fun flick, if never truly exceptional.


Aside from the already-mentioned international version of the film, the other key extras are a featurette and a short film.

The featurette is a rapid-fire look at some of the VFX composite shot constructions, but it breezes by very quickly and is very superficial.

The short film by Thomas Lunde is Armen (The Arm), which is related to Dead Snow 2 by virtue of it being about a man with a possessed arm. It is a very polished piece of work but at 14 minutes it is at least 10 minutes too long, although the punchline just about makes it worthwhile.

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Madman Entertainment.