The Week In Video Part XLIII

Thursday, February 13 2014
The Week In Video Part XLIII

More dispatches from the front line of home viewing, with a batch of titles we’ve been watching over the past seven days or so, with a particular eye on their commercial potential…

Dean Koontz is something of an anomaly in contemporary horror writing. Whereas his contemporary Stephen King has seen nearly all his work translated into big screen (or, in the case of some of them, miniseries, Koontz’s prolific output has rarely been optioned for filmed adaptations. Odd Thomas is one of the few that has made the transition and illustrates why, commercially speaking, it’s a curious case for it comes from a bestseller, offers a decent plot and a few familiar faces, Willem Dafoe chief among them here. It’s typical Koontz fare, about a youngster with a gift for seeing future ills battling against a satanist threat, and is the equivalent of an airport novel such as Koontz’s – decent fare, albeit a touch forgettable. And hopefully it will prove to be just as successful.

Prince Avalanche, also from Metrodome, is a far gentler tale from nowheresville, USA, although where Koontz is more concerned with small-town life, this is even more remote, following a pair of workers trekking across a barren landscape painting lines in the middle if the road. Much as we dislike the word, it’s quirky,independent fare, with Paul Rudd as the senior of the pair, providing its main selling point. It’s a touch more esoteric than his standard fare, such as This Is 40, and it’s all the better for it. But not is it some whimsical Wes Anderson tale, it has a spiteful edge that helps it with the same kind of crowd who’ve brought into Rudd in those Judd Apatow comedies too.

Of course it wouldn’t be The Week In Video without some Signature titles, which leads us on to Inescapable, a kind of Syrian take, as it were, on Taken. It’s a decent Middle Eastern thriller, that concerns itself more with personal politics than any overarching worldview. There are a few decent names in it, former Dawson’s Creek starrer Joshua Jackson among them, it’s also notable for the slightly bizarre sight of Marisa Tomei as a Syrian native. Signature has a canny knack of both turning sow’s ears into silk purses and for helping decent films achieve successes where others might fail. This one falls into the latter category, in that it’s a decent film which Signature should help left to another level.

Over to Netflix, where we’ve not spent nearly enough time recently, for a look at one of its latest arrivals, Mitt, a documentary looking at the (twice) failed presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney. It’s not much of a fix for House Of Cards fans who can’t wait for the second series of the fictionalised political drama to air on the service. For starters, you pretty much know the outcome of the film before you begin (SPOILER ALERT: the clue is in the word “failed”) and it’s more hagiography than anything else, Romney gets a fairly easy, this is no Jon Ronson or Nick Broomfield look at the high finance world of US politics. The scene of Romney and his family praying is, however, both illuminating and chilling, although US viewers are probably more used to that kind of thing. It’s decent enough fare, it could have just done with a bit more oomph. Much like Romney’s campaign, you might say. It’s good to see Netflix looking towards different areas, however, let’s see more, smarter documentaries now.

Dogwoof is, of course, a company that knows what it’s doing when it comes to documentaries, having distributed many of the past few years’ finest efforts in the UK and sold them to territories worldwide. Its latest offerings are a rejuvenated Dark Days, a title originally released some years ago, and Muscle Shoals. The former was originally released by Studiocanal, then known as Optimum, and was at the forefront of a wave of documentaries that in turn gave rise to the likes of Dogwoof. The independent has already garnered a decent amount of support for its theatrical and now DVD release, with director Marc Singer being interviewed in the quality press and elsewhere. New lease of life is the right word for it and it’s a powerful film charting the lives of the mole people living in abandoned subway tunnels below the streets of New York. A worthy title that deserves another chance to shine.

Muscle Shoals, meanwhile, is a belter of a music documentary, which can even escape the fact that Bono is one of the many contributors waxing lyrical about the legendary studio in the middle of nowhere which, despite its unassuming location, became a veritable hit factory. Bono aside it’s a fascinating trawl through the history of a place that became a destination for musicians from around the world, eager to grab a slice of its authentic southern soul sound. It will work not just within the traditional Dogwoof arena, but will also sell to music fans and beyond. Highly recommended.

Another cracking documentary comes courtesy of Soda. Teenage is based on a Jon Savage book of the same name and charts the rise and birth of the 20th century phenomenon known as the teenager. It’s remarkably well put together, blending archive footage with specially shot footage, held together by narrators such as Ben Whishaw. It’s picked up a buzz since it aired at the London Film Festival and on its subsequent recent theatrical release and it should find its natural home on DVD on its release.

Also from Soda, but as far away from Teenage as you could get, is Wadjda. It too has been building a critical head of steam for some months – just check the sleeve emblazoned with stars and glowing quotes if you don’t believe us. The home entertainment release of this foreign language title, the first film from Saudi woman director to be released in the UK, will give it a chance to reach a wider audience outside of the main cities where it played on its theatrical release. It’s a strong world cinema title, with just the right kind of word of mouth to build on. Expect this to be a consistently strong seller throughout the year…

One title we saw outside the home was Fox release Vikings, viewed in the screening room at the British Museum, a suitable venue. We’d already seen this when it aired exclusively with LOVEFiLM last year, but its subsequent sales performance – it currently stands at number one in the TV charts, shows how svod services and physical can co-exist side by side and even complement each other. Oh, and it’s also testament to Fox’s marketing nous too…