Brawler DVD Review (Kirk Haviland)

Brawler DVD 

Starring Nathan Grubbs, Marc Senter, Pell James and Michael Bowen

Written by Chris Sivertson and Nathan Grubbs

Directed by Chris Sivertson

New on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada, is an MMA inspired fight film that explores the seedy side of underground fight clubs, Brawler. Based on a true story, the familiar tale of brother versus brother, realized most recently onscreen in last year’s Warrior, is familiar ground. The real test of the film will be if it can deliver a realistic product inside the cage.

Brawler is the tale of two brothers, Charlie (Grubbs) and Bobby (Senter) Fontaine, who find themselves in a vicious, bone-breaking, jaw-smashing underground “fight club” circuit under Mafia control set on the riverboats of New Orleans. Sidelined by an injury incurred while protecting his young brother, Charlie is blindsided after a devastating betrayal by Bobby and his new wife Kat (James). The two brothers return to the underground fight club scene in New Orleans and prepare to battle each other to the death.

The scenario is hardly new and the script really does not do anything fresh here to spruce it up. The dialogue is pretty pedestrian as well, but that’s hardly why we are here. The fight sequences actually work fairly well. You can tell Grubbs and Senter have done their homework as real MMA techniques and holds are used and mixed in with traditional movie fight punches and kicks pretty seamlessly. The fight scenes are by far the highlight in the film. The rest of the film unfortunately falls flatter than a ruined soufflé. Grubbs seems to have all of his charisma in the ring and none outside. But even he comes off better than Senter, who apparently feels acting like a drunken frat boy with a mischievous grin constitutes depth of character and range. While I see, with coaching, a possible future for Grubbs, Senter seems doomed to a straight to DVD string of follow ups. James and Bowen both really have nothing much to do here. James’ cocaine and substance addicted Kat could have been an interesting character to delve into but the film barely scratches the surface. Setting the film in New Orleans brings a certain level of griminess to the film, but also leads to many awkward cuts with inappropriate music cues forcing in Zydeco music to constantly hit us on the head that we are in New Orleans.

The DVD comes equipped with a trailer only. The disc itself suffers from a volume fluctuation that could very easily have been the fault of the filmmakers and not the authoring. The volume of dialogue is a mere whisper between the jacked up music and fight sound effects. The sound fluctuation had me adjusting the volume throughout the runtime of the film.

While I will give Brawler kudos for coming up with effective fight sequences the rest of the aspects of the film simply do not work. Sadly Brawler is a non-recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Bait 3D DVD Review (Kirk Haviland)

Bait 3D DVD 

Starring Xavier Samuel, Sharni Vinson, Alex Russell, Phoebe Tonkin and Julian McMahon

Written by Russell Mulcahy and John Kim (with additional writing by Shayne Armstrong, Duncan Kennedy, Shane Krause and Justin Monjo).

Directed by Kimble Rendall

From the Gold Coast of Australia Anchor Bay Entertainment brings us Bait 3D on DVD and Blu-Ray. The film stars a cast of rising stars from Australia including Xavier Samuel (Loved Ones, Twilight Saga: Eclipse), Sharni Vinson (Step Up 3D, You’re Next), Alex Russell (Chronicle) and Phoebe Tonkin (TV’s The Secret Circle, Tomorrow, When the War Began). The cast is further rounded out with some veteran presence in the form of Julian McMahon. The question remains with the overabundance of Shark based thrillers out there is Bait more part Jaws or Sharktopus?

After a gargantuan freak tsunami hits a sleepy beach community in Australia a group of survivors, including store staff Josh (Samuel) and Ryan (Russell), Josh’s former fiancée Tina (Vinson), Police Officer Todd and his daughter Jaimie (Tonkin), and the untrustworthy Doyle (McMahon) find themselves trapped inside a submerged grocery store. As they try to escape to safety they soon discover that there is a predator among them more deadly than the threat of drowning – multiple vicious great white sharks are lurking in the water. As the bloodthirsty sharks begin to pick the survivors off one by one, the group realizes that they must work together to find a way out without being eaten alive.

Bait 3D establishes from the beginning that this is not a serious thriller out to uphold the Jaws legacy. It clearly has its tongue firmly planted in cheek. Why the script went through six writers is beyond me as the dialogue is pedestrian and the “twist” obvious to anyone watching the film well before the people in the film discover it. There is a lot of the traditional paint by numbers in the story, but the thing that keeps its forward momentum is the camp factor allowing for some humorous sequences and some decent death scenarios. I say scenarios because the deaths themselves come at the hand of one of the worst realized sharks I’ve seen in a theatrical production (it is playing theatrically in Australia but will be direct to video in North America) and play for laughs not scares. The young cast does manage to represent themselves well here and it’s obvious as to which of these actors are the ones that are already making inroads in not only Australia but Hollywood as well. McMahon serves as senior statesman here and perfectly encapsulates the charming, smarmy guy you know you should never trust but you still do. The setting of the film is actually pretty ingenious and the physical set, set decoration, and physical effects all add to the sense of claustrophobia and urgency of the film. The CGI portions do let the film down considerably as they never appear realistic at any time. Sadly Bait would have been better served with a “Jaws the shark isn’t working” type scenario that would have forced them to get more creative.

Ultimately there is a lot of fun to be had with Bait 3D, while it will never win any awards it does enough that it could easily become a cult classic. While Bait 3D will not be for everybody, there will be a lot who hate it outright and will claim I am losing my mind, I still must give it a Recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Donovan’s Echo DVD Review (Kirk Haviland)

Donovan’s Echo DVD Review

Starring Danny Glover, Bruce Greenwood, Natasha Calis, and Sonja Bennett

Written by Jim Cliffe and Melody Krieger

Directed by Jim Cliffe

Out this week, an exclusive release from Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada, is the Canadian production Donovan’s Echo. After a run on the festival circuit that included stops in Calgary and Edmonton, Donovan’s Echo, the Danny Glover semi-supernatural thriller is now available to take home. But is it something you need to buy, rent or pass on?

Set in 1994, Donovan Matheson (Glover) returns home after a 30 year absence to discover events from his past are replaying out with astonishing accuracy. Plagued by the idea of déjà vu, Donovan is convinced his young neighbour Maggie (Calis) and her mother Sarah (Bennett) will be killed on the 30th anniversary of his own wife and daughter’s death. Struggling to unlock the pattern, Donovan tries to convince his brother-in-law, Deputy Police Chief Finnley (Bruce Greenwood), to help prevent a similar tragedy but to no avail. When the facts don’t add up, Donovan’s sanity is questioned and he ends up scaring Maggie and Sarah with his wild antics. But as Finnley digs deeper will he find that Donovan is right and save the girls in time?

Sadly, Donovan’s Echo is a lot more like bad TV melodrama than sci-fi thrill ride. The script is predictable for the most part, with most of the more important parts of the narrative spelled out bluntly so that the audience isn’t confused. I really would have liked a little mystery/confusion, but instead Donovan’s plays it strictly by the numbers. The performances are fine, Glover is solid when not overselling it towards the end, but all of them have done better work before, with Calis currently doing excellent work in The Possession in theaters now. Greenwood is good here but the script has him spouting lines that simply feel awkward. The ending plays out exactly as you would expect, with the suspect in question being obvious from the beginning, and tacks on a goofy “present day” sequence that is laughably bad. Director Cliffe’s script may have been flawed but his eye for detail behind the camera is solid as the setting is quite splendidly realized throughout the film.

The DVD contains little additional material as we get a short behind the scenes featurette, a theatrical trailer and a Director/Producer commentary track. The behind the scenes featurette does little to sell me any more on the film. The disc does seem to have a different audio level between the film presentation and the featurette, but I was seeing this on a test disc and it may be corrected before the final authoring.

In the end Donovan’s Echo didn’t win me over completely but there was enough for me to stick with it through the entire film. Though not enough to allow me to give any more than a mild non-recommend, Donovan’s could be a decent inoffensive rental on a hot September night.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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UFC 146 DVD Review – Dos Santos vs. Mir: The All Heavyweight Card (Kirk Haviland)

UFC  146 DVD Review

MGM Grand Garden Arena, Paradise Nevada

May 26th 2012

Heading into UFC 146, the UFC was presented with one of its biggest scandals in recent years. The original headliner, Alistair Overeem, failed a drug test with severely inflated testosterone levels. Overeem, coming off his dominant victory over former champ Brock Lesnar, was the clear choice for contender for the heavyweight belt. This sent Dana White and the UFC scrambling to final a main event. The result is that the all heavyweight main card was sent into turmoil, as Mir was bumped up from the co-main event against Cain Velasquez, Cain’s opponent was changed to the debuting Antonio Silva, who was originally scheduled to fight Roy Nelson. But perhaps this helped the card in the long run as it led to very aggressive tactics in the ring.

The Undercard fights were as follows:

Mike Brown vs Daniel Pineda/ Glover Teixeria vs Kyle Kingsbury/ Jacob Volkman vs Paul Sass/ Duane Ludwig vs Dan Hardy/ CB Dollaway vs Jason Miller/ Edson Barboza vs Jamie Varner and Darren Elkins vs Diego Brandao.

Only three fights went the distance as the Brown/Pineda and Elkins/Brandao fights felt like wars. The Miller/Dolloway fight was a bust as it appeared that either Miller injured himself during the fight or entered the ring injured already. Miller got slapped around pretty badly for three rounds and ultimately did himself no favors as this fight caused the UFC to outright release him from his contract. Glover Texiera makes a strong debut in the first round as he dispatches Kingsbury very efficiently. The other submission comes in the Sass/Volkman fight. The other two fights bring us two very impressive KOs. Varner shines mightily as a last minute replacement for Evan Dunham as he dispatches Barbosa, and Dan Hardy gets his first win since 2009 in bonus winning fashion as his impressive KO of Duane Ludwig earns him co-knockout of the night honors. A very strong undercard that featured many exciting finishes, after watching this disc I held some reservations going onto the main card.

Recent UFC DVD reviews will let you know that a certain trend has been occurring more often than not. Either the events have a strong undercard combined with a lackluster main card or vice versa. So after the watching the prelims, combined with the scrambling of the five main event fights, I had my reservations. The Main Card Fights are as follows:

Lavar Johnson vs Stefan Struve/ Stipe Miocic vs Shane del Rosario/ Roy Nelson vs Dave Herman/ Antonio Silva vs Cain Velasquez and the main event Frank Mir vs Junior Dos Santos.

The main card starts with a slick submission in the Struve/Johnson fight in the first two minutes of the fight. It was one of the co-winners of submission of the night. Next up is a devastating TKO in the 2nd round of the Miocic/del Rosario contest. So far the main event is delivering strong. Next we get a one punch beauty of a knockout from Roy Nelson as he crumples Dave Herman then follows up for the quickest finish of the night and the other half of the co-knockout prize. Next up is the utter and complete domination by Cain Velasquez. Cain obviously went into this fight determined to make a statement after his loss of the title to Dos Santos and boy does he ever! The gash he opens almost right away above Silva’s nose is nasty, and the blood starts pouring everywhere. Eventually Silva cannot see to defend anything and the fight is mercifully stopped. Cain looks primed for a title rematch. The Main Event of the evening also does not disappoint as all five main card fights are stoppages, an unbelievably fantastic result. Dos Santos shows why he is the champ as Mir never really has him in any trouble with the eventual TKO coming in round 2.

The bonus features are split between disc 1 and 2 this time around, as Disc 1 features the main card and the traditional Countdown show. The Countdown show this time runs a little flat as the shuffling of fights leaves little room for any growing animosity between fighters and the only bit of turmoil that comes up between Mir and Dos Santos is the fact that Mir broke Dos Santos’ mentor Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s arm in a previous fight. The second disc features your typical promo pack, a short behind the scenes feature and footage from the official weigh ins. The weigh in footage is the real gem here. You get the obvious stare downs and gamesmanship that always comes with fight preparation. But this time we get some fun antics from some of the participants as “Mayhem” Miller comes resplendent in pink. And Kyle Kingsbury shows that he is an old school wrestling fan with his “Ravishing” Rick Rude tribute and hilarious pose down attire. Ultimately though, until the UFC starts putting the Primetime series leading up to the fights on these discs they are incomplete for me.

In the end UFC 146 delivers exactly what you want and more, as one of the year’s most compelling and satisfying cards is finally available to purchase. UFC 146 is a solid recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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The Walking Dead Season 2 DVD Review (Kirk Haviland)

The Walking Dead Season 2

Starring Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Norman Reedus, Steven  Yuen, Chandler Riggs, Lauren Cohan, Melissa McBride, Jeffrey DeMunn, IronE Singleton with Pruitt Taylor Vince and Scott Wilson

Created by Robert Kirkman and Frank Darabont

One of the hottest shows on television today, out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week from AMC and Anchor Bay Entertainment is The Walking Dead Season 2. With all the behind the scenes turmoil involving the release of co-creator Frank Darabont mid-season as show runner, many people wondered if the show would suffer in quality because of his departure. Fortunately the second season proves that the dead are still running strong.

Starting perched on a lonely rooftop, walkie talkie in hand, Rick Grimes (Lincoln) recaps briefly the recent events from the final episodes of Season 1 over the device, aimed at reaching the man who helped him back in season 1 episode 1, Morgan. This leads us into a fragmented season 2 as it is split into two parts, separated by two months in its original network airing, the first-half focused on the children of the group and the last dealing with the resolution of the Shane (Bernthal) storyline. As the group leaves the remains of the CDC they run into a herd of the dead causing the group to lose Sophia (Madison Lintz) as she runs off petrified into the woods, Rick in chase. Rick draws off some walkers from Sophia’s trail, but ends up losing her in the process. During the preliminary efforts to find Sophia, Rick’s son Carl (Riggs) suffers a horrible accident that takes Rick and company to the farm of Hershel Greene (Wilson) for help. The crowd is temporarily segmented as Lori (Calles) joins Rick, Shane and Hershel’s clan in caring for Carl while Dale (DeMunn), Andrea (Holden), Darryl (Reedus), Glenn (Yeun) Carol (McBride) and T-Dog (Singleton) are left roadside looking for Sophia. Needing medical supplies to treat Carl, Shane and Otis (Vince) take off to an overrun Fema shelter while time becomes of the essence for Carl’s survival. The rest of the group slowly reconvene at the farm, while still sending out search parties for Sophia, and Glenn develops a relationship with the attractive farmer’s daughter Maggie (Cohan). Debate sparks over the treatment of the walkers and how long the group will be allowed to stay, as Hershel does not agree with Rick and the rest of his group, all the way up to the shocking mid-season finale.

The second-half of the season deals more with Shane’s descent into madness as Lori unveils a life altering secret that forces him over the edge. After Rick, Hershel and Glenn have a nasty encounter with some other survivors, Hershel begins to see Rick’s point of view and realizes correctly that the humans left are just as dangerous if not more than the walker’s presence. The season ends with members of the group not surviving, as the show proves yet again no one cast member is safe, and the farm becomes overrun. The group starts again on the road looking for salvation, with Andrea separated from the rest of the group desperately struggling to survive. We are also introduced to a pivotal new character from the original book series that fans have been clamoring for.

The Walking Dead features some of, if not the best, writing on television. Suspenseful and filled with dread, the scripts aim to tell stories and develop characters rather than just apply jump scares and gore all over the place. Many complained about the slow burn of the season with the Sophia storyline playing out over the first seven episodes and the drawn out story of Shane over the last five before the action packed finale. That said, both stories play out much more satisfying the second time around when you know where they are headed as many little nuances in the script and performances come to light when you know how they will play out later. This style of intelligent writing has been evident since the beginning, and since the original material of Kirkman’s Graphic Novel series is so ripe with carefully written material to begin with, it begs to be tapped into.

On top of the writing, the show has brought together one of the strongest ensemble casts on television. With many Darabont regulars like Holden and DeMunn supporting our leads Lincoln, Bernthal and Callies, the supporting cast may actually be the strongest part of the show. DeMunn’s Dale is the conscience of the group and Shane does not fool him for a second. Holden’s Andrea transforms from suicidal and ready to give up to a fiercely determined deadly soldier in the groups ranks. The Rick/Lori/Shane triangle is resolved and Lincoln’s Rick evolves as an even stronger leader as Bernthal’s Shane proves exactly why he shouldn’t be in charge of anything during the mid-season finale. Wilson is a welcome addition to the cast as his Hershel provides both a companionship to Rick as well as an adversary. Eventually and begrudgingly Hershel comes to see that Rick is correct. Wilson’s performance lends gravitas and a seasoned presence that is welcomed to the show and will be welcomed in the new season considering the loss of one character in particular.

The effects from Greg Nicotero and crew are top notch. Most studio film productions can’t compare to the effects work being put forward here. This helps lend to the overall cinematic feel of the show.

The disc is loaded with extras as we get over an hour of behind the scenes featurettes, all of which are well done and interesting to watch. We get five episodes with commentaries from writers, directors, producers and cast, and while they can be dry in tone they are full of information. Deleted scenes from eight of the episodes are also included here along with all of the segments, including commentary by director Nicotero, of the six-part web series based on one of the series’ most iconic walkers. All in all, the DVD/Blu-Ray provides a great set of behind the scenes footage.

Is the Walking Dead Season 2 worth the price? You better believe it is. The Walking Dead Season 2 is a MUST OWN.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto, as well as our expanding Home Video coverage.

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