The Week In Video Part XLVI

Friday, June 19 2015
The Week In Video Part XLVI

Our latest round-up of our recent home viewing, paying close attention to each release’s potential in stores and online…

Released with little fanfare, but a title that caught our eye, was martial arts sequel Man With The Iron Fists 2. Directed by hip hop maven the RZA, the mastermind behind the kung fu friendly Wu Tang Clan, turned sometime actor and, latterly, biffer director. The first attempt was commercially successful and while some of the action was top notch, and it boasted plentiful supplies of claret and digital decapitations, it was an incomprehensible mess in terms of storyline. It’s more of the same here, albeit with slightly less flourish. It’s a shame that more wasn’t made of its bow, but if it catches the eye of consumers, it should sell.

This week’s medieval bloodfest comes courtesy of eOne, with Sword Of Vengeance falling under the auspices of the company’s ongoing deal with Vertigo. The latter production and theatrical distribution outfit has built a nice little sideline in homegrown actioners of this ilk. Heavy on violence, sometimes dense in plot, little by way of colour and a touch miserable (all make us fear for how long we’d have lasted in, say, 1066, when this film is set). We know exactly what to expect and, like many consumers, can’t get enough of this kind of thing. The partnership between Vertigo and eOne works, each arm seems to know exactly what it is doing and the brief theatrical running in to the home entertainment bow should help.

Also out now from eOne is an all together different kettle of fish in the shape of Lost River. It’s the directorial debut of Ryan Gosling and his involvement alone guarantees interest and sales. The fact he’s drawn in a strong cast of his showbiz pals, all working for scale, you’d guess, further boosts its credibility. It doesn’t exactly arrive with positive reviews ringing in its ears – some critics were essentially laughing at its ambition and pretensions – but, given the way the life cycle of a film seems to have sped up immeasurably, its DVD release makes it ripe for reassessment. Never mind the fact some consumers may be left scratching their heads, the film, like the accompanying looks a treat and its star name association give it commercial clout. Cineastes will be drawn in to see how much influence his mentors, such as Nicolas Winding Refn, have had on Gosling’s vision.

Just making its bow too, from Fremantle’s WWE arm, with its biggest title of the year, is the annual summer bow for Wrestlemania. The yearly event is the biggest on the grappling organisation’s calendar, the opening of this, the 31st event of its kind, confirms that – all noise, explosions, glitter and glitz in front of a huge stadium audience. The WWE feels as if it may be in a bit of a rut at the minute, but all bets are off when it comes to Wrestlemania, such is the pull of this event. The return to the proceedings of The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson, currently showing his acting chops – and commercial potential – once more with top 10 box office hit San Andreas, just gives further potential to the title. It was 2014’s bestselling sports title and there’s no reason this won’t follow its path.

On the same date came the new high definition take on The Wire from HBO. An impressive looking feat and one which had taken its time making its way to Blu-ray, but for fans of one of the finest TV programmes of the modern era, if not ever (© The Guardian and most broadsheet newspapers), this is worth the wait. The series has sold ridiculously well, this will give it a new lease of life. What’s more, it holds its price too, delivering real value at retail. Excellent stuff.

Sticking with TV product, the marvellous Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell is one of the higher profile homegrown productions of the year and, after an initial storm of publicity, faced a brief backlash (undeserved, from where we’re sitting) and has now settled into what we think is one of the finest British television programmes of the year. Ambitious, unique and riveting, it does all the kind of things that proponents of US TV dramas from the likes of HBO claim about their favourite programming. Viewing figures have settled down and it’s easy to see people returning to it once the DVD comes out, further boosting sales. The ever-quickening life cycle of the entertainment business means that those who may have turned up The book’s been a bestseller, no reason to see why this won’t follow it, particularly given RLJ’s Acorn imprint’s recent run of successes.

From another RLJ label, Image, comes DTV fare in the shape of Zombieworld. Falling strictly at the lower budget end of the scale, it’s trashy fun and you’ve got to hand it to the label for its impressive marketing of the title; from its efforts with the sleeve (it looks a treat) through to some of the marketing and PR initiatives behind it, the company has shown what can be done with fairly limited materials and deserves to enjoy success with the release.
On to higher profile fare, with Trash (Universal) coming off s a favela-inspired take on the kind of Slumdog Millionaire and Millions formula that has proved so successful for other Brits – and Danny Boyle in particular – before. Like the aforementioned titles, it’s caught somewhere between two camps, the 15-rating damages its potential as a family film for slightly older kids, the same kind of downside that afflicted the aforementioned Boyle films. The Working Title association, involvement of Stephen Daldry and Richard Curtis from is stable as director and writer respectively, will help it through; star names (albeit ones who are merely supporting the film’s three young Brazilian protagonists) and decent reviews should help.

Blackhat, also from Universal, is wedded to something far more technologically driven than the slums and favelas. The word cyber-thriller is one that fills us with dread, not least because films of this ilk are prone to rapid dating (think Sandra Bullock in The Net, Jonny Lee Miller and co in Hackers… the list is getting longer and longer). In the same way this writer sits watching Viking epics thinking about how long he’d have lasted in those days (about five minutes, incidentally, in case you were wondering). So sitting through this, oh-blimey-doesn’t-it-seem-modern affair, we spend much of the time tutting, shaking our heads and worrying that it’s all going to look incredibly out of date within a few weeks. Chris Hemsworth stars, post Age Of Ultron the sometime Avenger’s stock is fairly high, which gives this a decent chief selling point. Don’t expect it to have a long shelf life (we regularly used to see the likes of Hackers on the shelves of charity shops), but for this year at least, Hemsworth will help.

Worlds apart from hi-tech crime is Jauja, a tale set in Patagonia, starring Viggo Mortensen, a part Argentinian and part Danish film about a man loojing for his teenage daughter. It plays almost like a silent film at times, but is never anything less than gorgeous to watch. Similarly gorgeous is  Soda’s packaging for the film – mirrorboard Digipak that looks fantastic and will help it sell.

Also looking equally strong is Society, Brian Yuzna’s slice of old VHS gore given the Arrow Video treatment. Like the recent The Long Good Friday, it sets new standards in terms of packaging, moving beyond the reverse sleeves that the imprint built its name on and taking it to the next level. As well as the film itself, complete with excellent bespoke extras, there’s also a comic book sequel, all house within newly designed artwork. A must for 80s horror fans, one which will please the faithful Arrow Video fans and further entice in new punters too.

Also from the same stable comes another excellent transfer and one that could too go to a wider audience. The Hound Of The Baskervilles is a 1960s Sherlock Holmes adaptation, which should rise on the back of not just the Benedict Cumberbatch version, but also the theatrical release on June 19 of the Sir Ian McKellen take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation. This version, with another great British actor, Peter Cushing, appearing as the detective, is more akin to McKellen’s version rather than the younger, modern BBC version. But it’s given relevance to the newer BBC Holmes by virtue of Mark Gatiss being interviewed and putting this version into the context of the Sherlock universe – another of Arrow’s bespoke extras. This has more than just that too – it’s a Hammer film, with Christopher Lee involved too, giving it another key selling point. Regular readers of this column will know just how much we love

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