The Week In Video Part XLXVII

Monday, January 5 2015
The Week In Video Part XLXVII

In spite of – or maybe because of – the onslaught of seasonal TV, Christmas Day soaps and specials and all, we still managed to catch up with a few current and forthcoming DVD releases over the festive period. Heck, we even watched Retribution, a rather serious drama about kids going off the rails, on Christmas Eve while we were wrapping presents. Here’s a round up of our pre- and post-Christmas viewing…

We’ve already covered Lionsgate’s innovative release strategy for its romcom Are You Here release in our newsletter, but what, we hear you ask, did punters be getting for their money when they saw the film, either in digital form when they downloaded it on to their (possibly brand new) tablet or laptops on Christmas Day, or for that matter, when they saw it in the cinema a week later? It’s been on our recent viewing list and, without damning it with faint praise; you can see why the independent chose to experiment with it. Not that we mean that in a negative way, it’s a good comedy with an excellent cast – Owen Wilson, Zach Galafianakis and, best of all, Amy Poehler. It’s a commercial offering and its week’s worth of exclusivity will give it a more than fighting chance ahead of its arrival in cinemas.

We didn’t see too many Christmas dog films around December 25 – they’ve been a mainstay of supermarket shelves for a good few years now, all follow a simple formula, not least in cute puppy and the word “Christmas” in the title. We’ve had our fill in recent years and it seems that the actual content in the box makes little difference to a film’s potential chances. White Reindeer, one of the few seasonal outings we saw in 2014, is an altogether different kettle of fish. It’s a strong American indie film and has already picked up some critical support. Not a huge money-spinner, but word of mouth should have helped.

Not strictly seasonal – there’s barely a Santa in sight – but Dead Snow 2 has acres of the white stuff in it. The film is a sequel to the improbably successful first outing about Nazi zombies. Never mind it was a foreign language outing, it easily notched up a six-figure sum in terms of units sold, and this sequel cashes in perfectly, with what seems to be a heightened sense of awareness of its own potential. There’s more English and less subtitles, plenty of gore, Nazis and everything else you’d expect. Hugely commercial and a worthy successor to the first outing.

A brace from Signature now, both due at the start of the year. Erebus: Into The Unknown is a well-constructed documentary, which blends contemporary interviews with reconstructed footage to tell the tale of a 1979 air disaster over Antarctica. It’s a damning indictment of the New Zealand airline’s cover-up over the disaster, as well as testament to the bravery of the investigating team looking into the crash – ordinary coppers were thrown into the world’s most inhospitable environment to solve the mystery. On a personal level, we’re suckers for any films involving Antarctica, so we were drawn in today. As ever with Signature, the sleeve is a masterpiece of selling the film (it depicts a crash you don’t really see happen), which will give it a flying start at retail.

Another strong outing from the imprint comes in the shape of Retribution, starring Aaron Paul – aka Jesse out of Breaking Bad – about a family that is falling apart in front of its very eyes. Paul is the dad and, along with Juliette Lewis, offers up its main selling point. He still has plenty of goodwill left in the bank from the TV outing, giving it standout on shelves and giving reviewers an in to watch the film (it’s why we watched it, apart from the fact it’s our job too). Another commercial sleeve, which again bends the plot to give it more oomph, will further help. Having said that, it’s eminently watchable and, despite being rather grim, is decent enough to not leave viewers disappointed.

Last year saw Signature releasing hugely successful religious film God Is Dead, which we discussed a few weeks back; the next big religious release to anoint the market is Left Behind, due from 101 Films. It’s arguably the biggest release ever for the independent imprint and a move away from its horror, DTV and classic Western fare. The Left Behind of the title refers to the unfortunate ones who don’t ascend to heaven when the rapture occurs, unbelievers who have to fend for themselves while God’s lot have a whale of a time up above. It is essentially a bug budget remake of an unexpected US box office hit from a few years back, one that worked through word of mouth and a marketing drive that went through churches and places of worship rather than standard channels. Nic Cage now stars as a philandering pilot who gets his just desserts, making it all the more bizarre. It will also help pull in knowing, ironic Cage fans, a secondary market behind religious types. We may not be as big on the end of the world and rapture business as the Americans, but that doesn’t mean to say that this film won’t work. And Cage’s inclusion gives it a more mainstream thrust. Highly recommended by us, if only because may not see anything as weird as this – for non-believers, anyway – for the rest of 2015…

Making waves in the market verily as we speak is The Guvnors, a Brit crime and hooligan outing that is another production from Metrodome itself, one made with home entertainment in mind. And it’s as commercial as this genre gets, while neither overstaying its welcome nor descending too far into cliché. And Harley Sylvester is a revelation, his Rizzle Kicks fame adds another string to the film’s bow and further enhancing its potential. We’ve discussed it at length on our newsletter, it should now be selling through and renting at respectable levels and deserves support.

What The Guvnors does do is herald an impressive year ahead from the company; we were lucky enough to receive a nice care package or two from Metrodome recently and this made up much of our viewing over Christmas. Chief among these is The Grandmaster, Wong Kar Wei’s epic martial arts take on a familiar story (think IP Man). It’s taken a meandering path to the UK market (it’s due at the end of March) and has been the subject of plenty of online chatter thanks to the fact it’s now been available in other territories in its original form – the US and UK releases are the Weinstein cut made for the American market. Critics of Metrodome’s release are, at best, being a touch unfair on the independent – it is striving to bring strong releases to the market, taking a punt on foreign language martial arts epics, bringing them to a wider audience and its efforts are worth supporting. This kind of title has always worked on supermarket shelves as well as elsewhere and will be worth keeping an eye on…

No date yet set for a film we’ve been banging on for a while – What We Do In The Shadows, released towards the end of 2014 at cinemas and due to arrive later this year. It’s from some of those Flight Of The Conchords types, notably Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, with Rhys Darby making an appearance too. It was one of our favourites of last year and deserves full support.

First among the titles we watched, however, in terms of release date, is Stage Fright. It’s not the old 80s horror tale given a new lease of life last year, rather an all-new slasher outing set in a summer camp there the students put on a musical each year. It’s that rarity – a horror musical. What’s more, it’s also very funny (the opening number at the camp is genuinely hilarious) as well as providing a few decent gory moments. It boasts some decent names and should find an audience, it certainly deserves to do so. It’s out at the end of January and is a worth addition to what’s looking like an impressive slate from Metrodome this year.

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