Archive for March, 2011

Lovefilm vs. Blockbuster – The battle for best online DVD rental

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

lovefilm-vs-blockbusterThey are undoubtedly the two heavyweights of online DVD rental; Lovefilm and Blockbuster boast a huge library of over 70,000 titles each, and both have developed a globally recognised brand name and enormous customer base. Does anything separate these two giants of movie rental, or does it simply depend on which website looks a bit nicer?

Blockbuster has been around for a long time, and shoppers trust a tried and tested brand name. A customer using Blockbuster online can enjoy some great prices for pre-owned games and DVDs, whilst the subscription online rental packages are also very competitive. A cheap trial period, pre-paid postage for returns and 1st class delivery are all very appealing aspects of the service, and Blockbuster also offers Blockbuster exclusives.

These are initially only available from Blockbuster, and don’t just include straight-to-DVD suck-fests like Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past. Some genuinely great films debut for rental at Blockbuster, such as Gran Torino, The Wrestler and Taken.

Lovefilm has casually strolled ahead in the online DVD rental market, offering an incredibly diverse range of movies from a multitude of genres. The library is very impressive; you could search for Jaws: The Revenge and find it available for rent (obviously this would be a massive mistake, but it’s good to know). Hellraiser 5 is also available, in case you wondered.

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Brothers And Sisters – Sibling rivalry at its best

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

brothers_and_sistersHere at DVDrental.co.uk we have realised that we offer our professional critique on a lot of films, but have never really concentrated on reviewing TV series, which can become more a part of our lives than the quickfire 90-minute movie.

We dedicate more time to TV series than we do with film; we watch a movie and if we don’t enjoy it then we forget about it, accept the lost hour and a half and simply move on, but with TV we make a conscious decision to continue to watch.  We have a greater opportunity to relate to the characters because we see them on a regular basis; we go through life with them and share in the plethora of compelling events and emotions that shape their fates.  We engage on a whole different level.

I mean, who didn’t cry when Madge Bishop passed away in Neighbours?

I could name brilliant TV shows all day, (Lost, Heroes, 24, ER, Prison Break etc) , but I think you would stop reading, so what I will do instead is tell you about a US series that has been showing on Channel 4 and More 4 over the last few months – Brothers & Sisters.

This show follows the life of a seemingly normal family, the Walkers, from idyllic Ojai, California, but looks can be deceiving and even as early as the first episode, it is clear that everything is not as it seems.

William Walker, the head of the family and founder of the family business, has a sudden fatal heart attack whilst talking to his granddaughter at the side of his pool, and soon after his death the skeletons in his closet slowly start to rear their ugly heads.

William leaves behind his wife Nora (played brilliantly by the legendary Sally Field), and five children, all of whom have not only their own issues to deal with, but now two more particularly pressing ones. Not only have they found out that Dad has been having an affair for over 20 years, but he has also seriously embezzled the family business, leaving them on the verge of not only bankruptcy, but a lawsuit too.

The characters in Brothers & Sisters make for a riveting watch, not least because of their intriguing individual issues that they must tackle.

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The Kids Are Alright…. but what about the film?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

the-kids-are-all-right-posterThe Kids Are Alright is the Oscar-nominated comedy-drama telling the story of a married lesbian couple, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), who have both given birth using the same sperm donor. Nic and Jules seem happy enough, but cracks are appearing in their once stable and loving relationship, and Nic’s working hours as an obstetrician are certainly not helping.

Matters are made worse by young son Laser (Josh Hutcherson), who wishes to seek out his biological father in order to satisfy his growing curiosity. Laser knows that Nic and Jules will forbid this, and he is too young to legally find the donor himself, so the inquisitive teenager persuades his 18-year-old sister Joni (Mia Wasikowska) to do this for him.

The kids meet up with sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo) and it quickly becomes clear that he wants to be part of their lives. Inevitably, Nic and Jules find out what their children have been up to and condemn their actions, but come to the conclusion that it’s best Laser and Joni make their own choices.

The couple agree to meet up with Paul, who gets the frosty reception from Nic, but a warm welcome from Jules, leading to further arguments and an increased strain on their already rocky relationship. His involvement pushes the limits of a once happy family, and forces them to confront and understand their true feelings for one another.

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Inception – No rest for the wicked

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

inception3British director Christopher Nolan has been a revelation; he seems to craft innovative, compelling cinema, whilst handling his own side of the publicity with extraordinary skill. He releases tantalising teasers of information, sowing the seeds of intrigue and controlling the world’s awareness of his next movie’s premise and plotline.

His first real success was Memento, a cerebral and original movie that showed the scenes in reverse order, creating a fascinating story and a thrilling ride backwards through the complex mind of Guy Pearce’s Leonard Shelby.

This would be a sign of things to come, and we are all very well aware of Nolan’s pivotal role in relaunching and reshaping the Batman franchise to become an accessible story, grounded in gritty realism. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are astounding, with the latter showing clear signs of influence from big city crime dramas such as Heat; arguably not the kind of movie one would usually associate with a comic book superhero film adaptation.

Once he gained the necessary big budget flick experience, combined with the offer of huge financial backing for anything he fancied doing, Nolan knew it was time to tackle his long-term goal of creating a film about dream thieves; a heist movie set in the mind, where there are no limits, except those imposed by one’s individual creativity. This movie would become Inception, a monster smash-hit that garnered mass critical and public acclaim, technical praise, Oscar wins and a box office return that likely left the film financiers pinching themselves…

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Due Date – Pains, Strains and Galifianakis

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

due_date_5Think Planes, Trains and Automobiles with a slightly different end goal and you pretty much have Due Date wrapped up, so you might want to move on and watch something else…. or, alternatively, you could watch this hilarious comedy and laugh from start to finish, as I did.

If, like me, you felt sorry for Steve Martin having to endure John Candy on a journey from hell, then you are about to feel ten times worse for expectant father Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr), as he embarks on the roughest of rides with the travel companion from Hell.

Hurrying to catch a flight home to see the birth of his first child, Peter Highman has a chance meeting with aspiring actor, and all-round disaster magnet Ethan Tremblay (The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis).

The commonly occurring accidental bag switch has Peter searched for drugs and, after an incident with Tremblay on the plane, he is thrown off and placed on the No Fly List. To make things worse, he has left his bag, containing his wallet and ID, on the recently departed former mode of transport.

With no way of getting home, no money and no ID to hire a car, he is pretty much stranded, until his rescuer arrives – yes you guessed it – Tremblay, and his brilliant barking bud, Sunny.

As an aspiring actor, Tremblay is heading to Hollywood to pursue his career, and offers Peter a lift.  Left with no choice, Peter begrudgingly accepts and the two unlikely companions set off on a bumpy journey to LA that will destroy cars, friendships and… er… Peter.

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Unstoppable – A train wreck?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

unstoppable-true-storyLoosely based on actual events, Unstoppable sees an unmanned train on the rampage with some 40-plus carriages, two of which are carrying molten phenol. It leaves Stanley Rail Yard in Walbridge, Ohio to begin a 66-mile journey of total destruction…

That morning, 28-year-old rail veteran Frank (Denzel Washington) is paired up with young rookie Will (Chris Pine) for a training day.  Tensions are high, as Frank is being forced to retire so that younger guys like Will can come in and take over the work.

Soon enough, and somewhat predictably, they have to join forces to face not only a runaway train, but also a company that seems to care more about protecting the cargo than the lives threatened by the charging locomotive.

Reaching speeds of over 50mph, the menacing missile tears through Northern Ohio for two tense and terrifying hours (well, at least they are supposed to be tense and terrifying).  With attempts to slow the train failing, Will and Frank decide to try and hook up their train to the speeding disaster zone, in order to slow it down before it’s too late.  Can the train be stopped before a tragic catastrophe claims the lives of innocent civilians?

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Best Of British Is Love, Actually

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

love_actually_ver42

The question ‘what is your favourite film?’ is a slightly daft one… no matter how hard we think,  we all come up with the same answer – Dirty Dancing!

Obviously.

A classic film that we all love to quote; just last week I told my friends that “I carried the water melon” and “no one leaves baby in the corner”.

Okay, maybe not, but ask women across the land and this film will no doubt be in their all-time Top 5.  So when I asked everyone in the office what they thought the best film ever was, I was certainly expecting more than a few votes for Swayze and his snake-hips.  However, I didn’t expect the 3 million other film suggestions that were thrown at me…

I decided to make the question slightly more streamlined, and asked my colleagues for their vote on the Best of the British. I asked our willing collection of film critics to name their top 5 Brit-flicks and there was an overwhelming response.

Here is what they came up with:

Snatch, Lock Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels, Harry Brown, The Beach, Layer Cake, 28 Days Later, Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Slumdog Millionaire, Human Traffic, Looking For Eric, The Krays, Shallow Grave, Notting Hill, Four Weddings And A Funeral, Love Actually, All James Bond Films, Trainspotting, Shakespeare In Love, East Is East, Withnail and I, The Damned United, Sliding Doors, This is England, Dog Soldiers, Sunshine, Green Street & Death at a funeral

…….and the DVDRental Top 5 Brit-flicks are (drum roll please……)

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Toy Story 3 – Can this toytastic sequel give you a Buzz?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

toystory_32Toy Story was a phenomenal success, and set the bar for a new age of animated films. With the critically acclaimed Toy Story 2 proving an even bigger hit, Toy Story 3 was only a matter of time. The film features all the main characters from the previous movies and introduces a few new ones along the way. We are once again treated to the endearing vocal talents of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, as well as Whoopi Goldberg, Joan Cusack, Michael Keaton and a host of other famous names.

Toy Story 3 begins with a grown-up Andy setting off for college; without anyone to play with them, all our favourite toys feel unloved and rejected, all except Woody, who is chosen to join Andy, much to the dismay of the cowboy’s friends. In a state of confusion, the other toys that should have been put in the attic end up on the street, with the dreaded bin lorry fast approaching. Convinced that they are no longer wanted, they escape from the bin bag and, led by Jessie and Buzz, hop into a Sunnyside Daycare donation box, ready for an adventure of their own.

Once they arrive at the Daycare centre, Lotso the Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear tells them that the children play with the toys all day, every day and that they will never be forgotten or lost, as the Daycare centre has new children arriving all the time. Little do the new toys realise that their new home is not what it seems…

Meanwhile, a saddened Woody has followed his friends to the Daycare centre to try and explain the earlier mix-up, but he is found by an imaginative, caring child named Bonnie. He has a great time playing with her, but then he meets Chuckles the sad clown who has something very important to tell him.

What has happened to Woody’s friends, and will he get back to Andy in time?

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XBOX Kinect – Move your body

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

xbox-kinect-deal-front2Here at DVD rental, it’s not all about sitting around and watching DVDs, we occasionally have to get up to visit the toilet or make more bags of popcorn, so imagine the shock when we were told to review the Kinect for XBOX 360.

I had a Nintendo Wii from the day it was released and was in awe of the technology that it possessed, I could play tennis, go bowling and swing a baseball bat all from my living room and all just using a small hand held remote and a sensor.  But two things became apparent to me very quickly: the first was that it can be dangerous, my old TV will testify to that as he sits on the scrap heap with his broken screen and Wii controller embedded in it…

And secondly, there was the cheating factor; I soon realised that I could sit on the sofa eating chips and still beat Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final.  This may well be an amazing achievement, but it wasn’t really giving me the fitness that I so desperately craved.

Could there be another way? A way that we couldn’t cheat?  A way that didn’t involve small children throwing big white bricks at TVs?  The answer to this is YES!!

Bill Gates and all of those who work at Microsoft have completely revolutionised the gaming world, by bringing you a console that allows you to play games without using a controller – yes, that’s correct, your body is the controller!  But how?  Kinect uses a sensor to track your body movement, recognise your face and even listen to your voice.  But could you still cheat your way to winning? I was about to find out that the answer to this question is very much NO.

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The Town – Ben Affleck burgles Boston banks…

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

the_town_poster2Despite appearing in a collection of incredible stinkers, with Daredevil, Gigli, The Sum of all Fears and Surviving Christmas heading the list, it should be remembered that Ben Affleck was one half of the writing team behind the excellent Good Will Hunting screenplay, and turned in a great performance too.

He was given the opportunity to direct, as well as write and star in, an adaptation of Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan (a story that has very little to do with Robin Hood), which was retitled as The Town and provided a showcase of Affleck’s raw movie-making talent.

The Town begins by highlighting the severity of bank robberies in the area of Charlestown, located in Boston. This is followed by a heist on a local bank, orchestrated by Affleck’s career criminal Doug MacRay, along with his lifelong friends Jem Coughlin, Gloansy Magloan, and Dez Elden.

The masked thieves encounter a minor hitch, which results in the kidnapping of bank manager Claire Kessey, who gets blindfolded and dropped off at a nearby beach. After the robbery, MacRay decides to follow Kessey, which leads to a relationship between the two, whilst she is blissfully unaware of his involvement in the robbery and her kidnapping.

Whilst MacRay tries to hide his guilt, and keep his friends from knowing his actions, FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley is behind a concentrated effort to get MacRay and his crew behind bars.

For a heist movie, there is very little in terms of bank theft, but this is a conscious decision by Affleck, and allows time for the impressive characterisation and performances to develop fully. This film really is a clever mixture of action and drama, with startling efforts from all the leads.

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