Sunday, 31 May 2009

Review: Drag Me to Hell

Sam Raimi has been responsible for at least two of my favourite films, namely Evil Dead 2 and The Quick and the Dead. Lately though he has slipped into what might kindly be called Hollywood hackery with the risible Spiderman series, which I dont care what you say, are all pretty shoddy, the latest instalment of which was an absolute stinker. He has now however, with Drag me to Hell, seen a return to the genre that made his name, and happily, a return to the glorious stature of his early work with all the thrills, spills and gross out moments that go with the territory.

Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is the sweet natured loan arranger, whose one act to demonstrate she is capable of making the tough decisions to her fickle boss and secure herself the assistant manager position, finds herself on the wrong end of a gypsy curse when she refuses the extension of a mortgage payment for the sinister Mrs Ganush. We should hope there is no lesson to be learned from Raimi’s cautionary tale, for what follows is 90 minutes of torture for the poor Lohman as she is hounded and brutalised by both the vengeful Ganush and the goat-demon set upon her for this heinous crime, all delivered in Raimi’s former trademark gross out, slapstick style. On realising the curse upon her she is given three days to try to get rid of it before she is taken to Hell to writhe in torment for all eternity, a task which she takes to with much gusto but not a great deal of success, despite the assistance of an unfortunate kitty. Raimi doesn’t muck about – considering the opening scene shows a previous victim of the same demon, a young boy who is violently dragged into the fiery pit within the first 5 minutes, it’s clear there’s no low to which Raimi wont stoop for our perverse laughs.

The plot is daft and 2 dimensional but this is a script written for pure thrills. Lohman’s rival for the promotion is unashamedly obnoxious. The boyfriend is simperingly besotted. The creepy Ganush is outrageously over the top. And yet they all perform their jobs perfectly to propel Lohman along her unenviable path. Scenes are orchestrated to wring the strongest possible squirms of embarrassment and horror from the audience as Lohman’s demonic stalking swings from the creepy to the gross and often to the downright hilarious, the dinner scene with the boyfriends snooty parents and some eyeball cake is a belter, and Raimi doesn’t miss an opportunity to scare our pants off with the big screams at any given moment. The horror slips into outright loony tunes in some places, even going as far as to drop an anvil on an old lady’s head, complete with trademark flying eyeballs.

Performances are all excellent – Lohman herself does an admirable job as she’s put through this ghost ride of grossness in a way probably only Bruce Campbell can really appreciate. Dileep Rao is also worth a mention as the spiritualist who diagnoses her situation and gives his help, brilliantly deadpanning “well, I think that’s enough for today” after the most drawn out and dramatic of scares. The whole thing zips along merrily and has no fat on it whatsoever, culminating in a satisfying macabre finale.

It’s an excellent return to form, full of laugh out loud moments and cheap screams – see it at the cinema- this is an experience best shared with lots of jumpy, screaming people. Short and sweet, this is mile a minute film making that only Raimi has ever got right. It’s just a shame he will still be returning to his Spiderman chair, as this nasty schlock corner is clearly where his heart, and his talents, lie.

Tree house rating


Drag me to the cinema

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Saturday, 30 May 2009

PSP-Go Details Leaked

From a leaked edition of June’s online magazine Quore available via the PSN, a video takes us through the new PSP-Go. Featuring a slide screen, the PSP-Go is not apparently meant to replace the PSP-3000 – it’s an additional SKU.

43% lighter than the PSP-3000
3.8” screen
16GB flash memory
Bluetooth support
All digital content (no UMD Drive)
Memory stick micro for increased memory space
Games to be downloaded directly from PSN Store
Emphasis on games (Gran Turismo/Little Big Planet/Jak and Daxter and all new Metal Gear Solid to be available)
Movies/TV shows to rent and/or buy
Works with remote play with the PS3

Looks sweet!

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Friday, 29 May 2009

Let the battle commence

Earlier this month Sony announced a new and totally free on-demand music video-streaming service for the PS3 called ‘Vidzone’. It offers users unlimited streaming of music videos from a library of content to watch from their PS3 or have streamed to their PSP via remote play. Personally speaking, in addition to the service being free, its main selling point over YouTube (also available via the PS3) is the higher quality of its videos and sound. I’m a great fan of YouTube but, I must admit, the quality of the video and sound can leave a lot to be desired – even the alleged ‘HD’ videos. Sony state that Vidzone is "backed by several Major record labels as well as thousands of Independent labels" which is great news. Coupled with PlayTV where you can watch, pause and record free-to-air digital television, Vidzone further expands the wonderful entertainment possibilities of PS3. I’m already beginning to buy more Blu-rays and the list of games being released this year alone is making my wallet quiver in fear.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft has just announced a deal with SKY that will see live football, TV and film content brought to the Xbox 360 for a fee. Sky's channels will be available on the Xbox 360 later this year but they won’t free and as yet no specific content or pricing details have been announced.

Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 deals are good for the consumer in providing us with greater choice. The battle for our eyes, ears and money is being fought in the living room. What will we watch? How will we watch it? These are debates likely to endure for sometime but, regardless of whether you prefer a PS3 or Xbox there is no denying that these are exciting times for us.

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Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Team ICO’s Project Trico HD Trailer

Team ICO's next project should be introduced at E3 and this teaser trailer is utterly jaw dropping. I seem to be stuck in perpetual jaw dropping mode these days with every new video for new PS3 games being released seemingly more desirable than the next. Shadow of Colossus was painfully good - Munial bought a PS2 just for it. And now Team ICO are back. For the PS3 alone. Many more videos should be made available over E3. What makes me ache for this game is that we're being told that this is early footage *sigh* ... I simply can't wait.

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Saturday, 16 May 2009

Buka pintu!

The world economy may be going down the pan, jobs maybe scarce and unemployment high, house prices may be low but high quality games are coming to a PS3 near you throughout 2009. Oh yes sexy mama! It is a good time to be a gamer. Larger than life, in your face HD on a 1080p flat screen TV and the love of a sweet girl by your side (ok, maybe not the latter). This is Living (I finally get it)! This blog is not to gloat (calm down Munial), it’s just a heads up at what is fast becoming a day one purchase for me. Watch the video, revel in the detail, the comedy, the action, the drama of it all. Then realise that this game is going to be multi-player too … awesome. Just amazing. Awww heck, I think I need to change my undies. Again.

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Sunday, 10 May 2009

Book Review: A Wild Sheep Chase

A wild Sheep Chase is a novel written by Haruki Murakami and was published way back in 1982 by Harvill Press. I’ve been meaning to read a Murakami for some time now. His reputation is the stuff of legend – everyone who has ever read one tells me how amazing his writing is. Of course, this means that my expectations were very high and I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed. My main difficulty in writing this review has been trying to make sure I do justice to a book with that revolves around “A mission to find a sheep with a star on its back; not a lost sheep but a sheep with a will of its own.”

I have never known an author to go so seamlessly from ‘serious’ to ‘surreal’ and back again and make it seem so utterly normal. Murakami’s power over language is nothing short of amazing. Murakami said that A Wild Sheep Chase was "The first book where I could feel a kind of sensation, the joy of telling a story.” That sensation and joy he felt in writing the book translates well through to a reader pouring through its pages. A Wild Sheep Chase feels like a deep, meaningful work full of beautifully scripted metaphors that cover the religious, moral, political and of course the personal. It is very much about an ordinary man, mediocre in every sense of the word, sent on an extraordinary (and very surreal) quest to find a very special sheep.

On completing the book I felt I had been a part of something special – something profound but, I can’t tell you quite what the story means. I’ve asked the people who recommended the book and they all, without exception, looked at me with a slight blank expression. Words it seemed, escaped them. So, I’m left with a book which left me satisfied, that made me think hard about a variety of things in my own life, that I thoroughly enjoyed and felt a connection to and yet, I can’t quite tell you why. The words are so lyrical, so beautiful and so utterly satisfying it almost doesn’t matter. Go and read it. If you can work it out, drop me an email!

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