The Week In Video Part XLXII

Monday, August 18 2014
The Week In Video Part XLXII

Some more home viewing from the past week or so, with a keen eye on a title’s trade prospects. Although rather than at our normal abode, we’ll start off in a cinema…

We’ll start away from home, instead heading to the prestigious BFI Southbank, where Universal was airing one of its latest home entertainment acquisitions, the rather wonderful Chinese Zodiac, which promises to be the final action movie starring (and directed by) the maestro Jackie Chan. Except it may not be – he’s now adding further caveats to his “retirement” and this may hang as true as, say, Jet Li’s similar pronouncements. The film itself is fine Chan fare – daft plot, but some great set-pieces, unbelievable stunts and oodles of fun. Universal’s move to bring him over (offset by making it an international junket) looks to have paid off, showing that if you’re prepared to invest in the DTV sector you can reap even greater rewards.

Another action hero who’s made his mark is Tony Jaa, the latest in a long line of martial arts experts touted as a successor to, if not Chan, then Jet Li or even Bruce Lee. Warrior King 2 sees him returning to the fray and you can trace a relationship between Jaa and eOne going back to the old Contender days, meaning this sequel is a comeback in more ways than one, It’s got some impressive action, as you’d expect, and eOne certainly knows what it’s doing in this sector. It’s pushing the film through PR channels, with online clips coming to the fore. That’s as good a way of showing off just what Jaa can do. He still impresses and this title should work well.

Sticking with eOne and Pompeii is its special effects spectacular that charts the rise and fall of the Roman city, destroyed (and later preserved) by the eruption at the nearby Mount Vesuvius. With special effects liberally featuring in every shot, this is a triumph of CG special effects. Frankie Howerd it ain’t, reminding us far more of Titanic, as you spend most of the film waiting for the action to start. “Has the boat sunk yet?”, the refrain we had to endure while a sleeping family member dozed throughout Titanic’s Christmas Day TV transmission, has essentially become “has the volcano erupted yet?” It works a treat on home formats, its 12 certificate enables it to pull in a wider audience too. Forget the dafter elements of the plot (we struggled with Kiefer Sutherland as a Roman bigwig, in all honesty), it’s all about the real star, Vesuvius (or a rendering of it), its main character and its key selling point.

On to a couple of interesting horror items, one which has given the BBFC its fair share of problems in recent years and one which has caused problems just in the past few months. 
The Woman is intriguingly, the first physical release from TheHorrorShow.TV operation. The vod service has built up a nice portfolio of titles for its service and this marks the next step in its development. The film had already been released by Revolver a few years ago. The flailing indie’s support for it was true, but maybe it was hampered by the problems the label was already experiencing, so it deserves another push in its new guise. Lucky McKee’s tale had drawn its fair share of controversy during its original release (it’s not for the fainthearted), but it stands up really well a few years after its original bow – if anything, it seems even better now than on first viewing. The horror community has warmed to it and it’ll be interesting to see how TheHorrorSHow.TV utilises its channels to push this. The operation has made a name for itself which should provide a strong launchpad for this, marketing activity around FrightFest will help further. Worth supporting, we reckon.

Just released from Soda is a film that’s fallen foul of the BBFC this year, Soulmate. An unconventional ghost story, Axelle Carolyn’s tale of a recovering suicide victim’s recuperation and some ghostly goings-on, is as far from being a splatter-fest as you could imagine, but its problems stem from the old “imitable behaviour” chestnut – the early attempted suicide shows our heroine doing it the “right way” (down, rather than across) and this shows any viewers how to do it. The fact that Carolyn admits in her commentary she learnt this from, er, the movies, means little here. It does seem harsh (we’ve seen the uncut version), but its excision shouldn’t temper what is an otherwise excellent movie. And, as is often the case, the upside of this inexplicable censorship is drawing attention to the film. The approval of director turned producer in this case Neil Marshall further adds credibility to the tale (he is, incidentally, married to Axelle Carolyn) and the two turn in a fascinating commentary, which, thankfully, doesn’t dwell too long on the censorship row. A highly recommended release.

More from Signature, with its hefty release slate, we’re getting regular drops of its forthcoming titles and Alien Abduction is one of those. It’s a found footage title and regular readers of this column or anyone who’s watched their fair share of titles from this genre will know the lay of the land on this one. The title alone tells you what to expect and although this offers little in the way of surprises, it is effective. It’s easy enough to find fault with it if you give it any close inspection (why does the kid film so much footage?) but it works as a throwaway piece of evening viewing and at the right price would be worth picking up. As ever, Signature has wrapped it up in a commercial sleeve, so expect this to work.

The Borderlands is next up from the independent. It’s an actioner with a recognisable plot. Solid, with little in the way of surprises, its vibrant cover gives it a good way into stores. Signature is as good as anyone in the business at dressing titles up ready for retail and this offers more of that.

We sat down with our junior correspondent to view a brace of titles, including one, continuing our theme, from Signature. Its titles have worked as well as anyone’s in the DTV arena, and Kung Fu Rabbit is the latest of these. Parents might see through it (it’s a me-too style title, produced in China, that is essentially a retread of Kung Fu Panda, only this time our hero is a giant bunny and, ironically, the bad guy is a panda), but our six-year-old thoroughly enjoyed it, placing it on a par with the DreamWorks biggie of the same name.

Equally effective for our same junior correspondent was Khumba: A Zebra’s Tale, just released via Kaleidoscope. This is more akin to Madagascar set around a watering hole and featuring lots of animated African animals, giving it a Lion King element too. It’s a decent standard of CG creativity, boasts some strong voice talent and will easily keep the kids quiet – it worked for our junior correspondent. The 3D works a treat too. It’s already made its mark, but shows that Kaleidoscope nope has the clout and the nous to make a title such as this work from theatrical through to home entertainment release.

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