Archive for the ‘DVD’ Category

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After the fall of the Roman Empire, Rome has been stripped of its former glory and left desperate to recapture its past.  Prima schemes with all her cunning and spite to see her son declared the new Emperor.  In her way is her husband, a Roman general, who has forged his own deadly path to fulfil his ambitions.  The Lost Legion is a violent tale of manipulation and debauchery in the quest for ultimate power.

The Lost Legion is not, as its cover makes it out to be, a sword-swinging, hack-and-slash action-fest, but rather a slow burning, political thriller, with occasional bursts of extreme sex and violence.  Imagine if Rome did a crossover with Game of Thrones, and you’d be in the right ballpark.

The acting style is a little odd, but not bad.  It seemed at first as though the cast were overacting, but as it progressed it didn’t feel so much overblown, as more if it were stage acting.  In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that The Lost Legion were originally a stage-play, adapted for the screen; or perhaps that the directors had their background in the theatre.

The bursts of sex and violence when they occur are bloody and explicit.  This is by no means a bad thing, as it looks pretty cool on the screen, and that’s what the aim is; although one can’t help but feel some of it is a little childish and merely inserted for titillation.

Production wise, the costumes are excellent and the set-design – while limited by budget – is very good.  Again, this gives it a theatrical minimalist feel, adding to the feeling of adaptation from the stage.

The Lost Legion is an interesting movie if you’re into the senatorial side of Roman history, or just enjoy some Dune/Game of Thrones style political manoeuvring.  Don’t expect to be blown away by anything that’s on offer here, but it’s worth a rental or catching on a digital streaming service to fill a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The Lost Legion is available on DVD in the UK from 20th October 2014 priced £14.99 (Rated “18” for strong gory violence, sex, and sexual violence). 

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The Lost Legion Competition

Posted: October 13, 2014 in Ancient, Competitions, DVD

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After the fall of the Roman Empire, Rome has been stripped of its former glory and left desperate to recapture its past.  Urbina Prima schemes with all her cunning and spite to see her son declared the new Emperor.  In her way is her husband, Roman general Maximus, who has forged his own deadly path to fulfil his ambitions.  The Lost Legion is a violent tale of manipulation and debauchery in the quest for ultimate power.

Thanks to our friends at Metrodome Distribution Ltd, we’ve got three copies of The Lost Legion on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to lostlegioncompetition@yahoo.co.uk before midday on Monday 20th October, making sure to put “The Lost Legion” as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a copy of this awesome movie!

Don’t forget to put “The Lost Legion” in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

The Lost Legion is available from Monday 20th October, courtesy of Metrodome Distribution Ltd.

The SS & The Occult

Posted: September 10, 2014 in DVD, World War II

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Heinrich Himmler was the creator of the infamous Gestapo, the Waffen SS and the concentration camp network. Himmler was allegedly inspired by mystic visions, runes, horoscopes and a longing for a heroic German past which drove him to adopt an official policy which rested on an arcane set of beliefs in the occult roots of the Third Reich. The SS & the Occult re-visits the sites most closely associated with Himmler and traces the development of his idealogy.

The expansion of the SS was the brainchild of Heinrich Himmler. He was the driving force behind the whole dark edifice and was also a believer in the arcane and the occult who felt that Germany’s future was shaped by forces rooted in its pagan past. Himmler believed in astrology and developed a range of pseudomasonic rituals that he believed would help to drive his creation towards a new Aryan dawn.  This new study of Himmler and his SS Empire attempts to revisit this often overlooked aspect of the Third Reich.

The initial impression this DVD gives is not a great one, with the production being a little ham-fisted at times, but the archive footage is simply superb and the narrator is very engaging.  It’s a good thing he is, too, as the subject matter – by its very nature – can frequently be very vague and wishy-washy, name-dropping famous occultists such as Blavatavsky in an attempt to make as many connections as is possible.

With that said, there way it ties into the philosophy behind the implementation of the Eugenics programme, and the anti-Semitic beliefs of the Third Reich is very insightful, indeed!  Witnessing the development of the SS and the SD is very interesting, as it follows Himmler’s thought processes very clearly.

Ultimately this is a very engaging documentary, although it does wander somewhat from the original premise of the documentary by the halfway mark, the direction it heads in is much more interesting, so it’s very hard to object!

The SS and the Occult is available now from Pen and Sword Books.

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The German Propaganda Kompanien (PK) captured the events of Hitler’s war on every front. Their footage was used to produce Die Deutsche Wochenschau, a weekly cinema newsreel detailing the events of World War II on land, sea and air. Now, these unique primary source films have been collated, edited and translated into English in order to produce a complete military history of the Third Reich drawn exclusively from German primary sources. This range of films captures the events of World War II exactly as they were presented to contemporary cinema audiences while the actions on the battlefield were still unfolding. This volume – featuring translated Wochenschau newsreels – records the titanic Battle of Stalingrad which led to the destruction of the Sixth Army. The heavy losses sustained by the German army make it arguably the turning point of World War II.

Primary sources are always thrilling to be presented with, as for most of us, it’s the closest we’ll ever come to that ever elusive feeling of “touching history”, that “time slip” moment we all crave.

What’s strange about seeing this is witnessing a major German defeat, presented by the German media, as they use all their powers of misdirection to draw attention away from the fact that they’re suffering heavy defeats. They focus on minor victories and skirmishes and limited “retreats”. Hell, if you didn’t know any better you’d be forgiven for thinking that Stalingrad was a major Nazi victory!

The remastering on the video footage is great. It’s far from flawless, but it’s certainly as good as the source material allows. The aerial footage in particular is very engaging. The urban fighting is eerily tense and draws you right in.

The only mark against it is the DVD packaging, which is very limited. The film auto-plays, and there is only a bare bones menu, with not even trailers for other related features in sight, which is a bit of a shame. If you can over look this minor flaw, however, this is a very interesting DVD indeed.

Battle Company: Korengal

Posted: July 4, 2014 in DVD, Films, War on Terror

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From the writer and director of Restrepo and the writer of War, Sebastian Junger spent a year with troops in Afghanistan. Battle Company: Korengal is his experience following the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company on a 15-month deployment in the Korengal Valley of northeast Afghanistan.

Battle Company: Korengal aimes to show war works, what it feels like and what it does to the young men who fight it. As one cheers when they kill an enemy fighter, another looks into the camera and asks if God will ever forgive them for all the killing. As one grieves the loss of his friend in combat, another explains why he missed the war after his deployment ended and he would go back in a heartbeat if he could.

Some documentaries focus on the battle, or the machines of war. Then there are those like Battle Company: Korengal that really show the people behind the story. As a viewer you feel an oddly strong attachment to the men of 2nd Platoon throughout their deployment. They are all engaging interviewees, all with unique – and frequently harrowing – stories to share.

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Plus, you know, there’s lot of gun porn, which is nice.

As they sit in the Korengal valley, taking fire from Taliban forces up to fourteen times a day, the men show a strange, almost grim, acceptance of their place. They are there to do a job, and it’s a job they’re going to do. Juxtapose this with home video footage of them larking about and having a good time, and you really get to know the troops from all angles. All of them are really likeable, and seeing the situations they often find themselves in can be near heartbreaking.

Battle Company: Korengal is a strange, macro-lense look at a squad in the War on Terror. Worth checking out for a very close up and personal taste of the period.

Battle Company: Korengal is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment, priced £17.99 and £19.99 respectively. 

100 Years War: Agincourt 1415

Posted: July 2, 2014 in DVD, Films, Medieval

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On 25th October 1415 Henry V’s Anglo/Welsh Army destroyed the French at Agincourt. This DVD from Pen and Sword looks at not just this battle but at the whole campaign that led up to this final victory of the 100 Years War.

Unlike the Crecy campaign of his great-grandfather Edward III, this campaign nearly ended in disaster. Although the initial landings and encirclement of Harfleur went well, the siege dragged on and the “Bloody Flux” – the scourge of many a medieval army – struck the English. Although they successfully captured Harfleur the army that was left was a shadow of its former self. Henry’s attempts to march to Calais were beset with problems as the French Army stalked him aiming to bring him to battle and destroy him and his socially inferior army.

Once again the English victory on the field of Agincourt was a demonstration of the French ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. As at Crecy the courage, discipline and steadfastness of the mainly yeoman Anglo/Welsh aided by the use of the longbow turned the massive and magnificent French Army, into a bloody ruin. This victory would allow Henry to achieve his political aim. However, it was only Henry’s early death in 1422 which stopped the English in uniting England and France under an English King.

This is a great DVD. Everything in it is very clearly explained, and the context is very detailed, so you can see how one event leads into another very clearly. Similarly, the whole presentation is very well paced, and you feel like everything is sufficiently covered before moving onto the next part of the campaign.

The location shots are great and really help immerse you in the history of both the campaign and the battle, and the footage of the historical re-enactment groups goes a long way towards acting as an “illustration” of the period. Similarly, the detailed battle plans and CG maps help explain everything very clearly, and you’re left with a good understanding of how everything fits together.

While the presenters are very good at engaging with the camera, some of the interviewees seem a little nervous, and this make for some awkward viewing at times, but nothing that is overly distracting. Altogether, this is a very solid documentary – informative and entertaining.

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Studio Canal

Available Now – Amazon

Forgotten Men is a documentary about the First World War, with footage produced in 1934 (before the outbreak of the Second World War). Presented by historian Sir John Hammerton, this rare account of the horrors of the First World War combines original footage and pictures taken by official photographers between 1914-1918; intertwined with interviews from a number of ex-Servicemen who describe their own personal experiences whilst fighting on the western front – less than 20 years after WW1 ended.

A haunting account of the horrors of war, Forgotten Men is a document, reminding us in this centenary year, of the many brave men and women who risked their lives to fight for their country’s independence in one of the deadliest conflicts in history.

Forgotten Men is a wonderful documentary for many reasons. It’s filled with rare, interesting and depressingly brutal footage. There are entertaining and engaging face to face interviews with actual servicemen of the First World War. However, being originally produced and released way back in 1934, it’s interesting as historical account in its own right, too. The stoic Britishness of it all is sometimes laughable…and more often sobering. A telling moment comes when these men can’t bring themselves to say the word “urine”, but the narrator thinks nothing of mere seconds later dramatically declaring in voice over “Look at that body! It once had a head!”

This juxtaposition of cheery British celebration of victory is tempered by the cold detachment with which Hammerton rattles off the death statistics. Sometimes he seems a little too detached, but then we cut back to the “lecture room” with all the ex-servicemen, and he grows somehow warmer, underlining the difference between faceless statistics, and the REAL men who fought there.

Forgotten Men also provides excellent parts on both the aerial and naval fronts, with some very detailed sections on plane operations, and a decent sized part given over to the Battle of Jutland. Then, for the Treadheads like me, there’s some great footage of the Battle of Cambrai, and a decent sized talk about their involvement in the War.

The picture quality throughout is as good as it could be, although blips and scratches are to be expected – especially from one sequence where the camera filming it is visibly blown apart by incoming artillery! The sound is very good, some tape hiss, but again, nothing that can be improved upon.

The extras are minimal – an interview with historian Max Arthur – but it’s definitely worth a watch for the detail and background he provides.

Forgotten Men is a touching memorial to the many victims of the Great War, and features some amazing archive footage to boot!