The Week In Video Part LV

Tuesday, March 15 2016
The Week In Video Part LV

A round-up of our recent viewing across the home entertainment spectrum, taking in recent, current and forthcoming releases, paying particular attention to their trade potential…

Tangerine finally arrives on physical formats on March 28, and while it has been winding a slow path to DVD since it first aired towards the latter part of 2015, the buzz, building for longer than that, is still there. It’s a unique film, both in style – shot on an iPhone – and subject matter – it follows assorted hookers, transgender people and an assortment of lowlifes and colourful people in and around LA. The fact it still has legs more than a year since it first aired at Sundance is testament to the inventiveness and street smarts exhibited by this no-budget drama. Given the critics are behind it and its sleeve can boast a wealth of strong reviews, Metrodome has a good chance of reigniting interest in this.

Sticking with Metrodome, there’s a few others due from the company too, it has an incredibly busy slate. Just released are a brace of goodies in the shape of firstly The Visit: An Alien Encounter. Not to be confused with the M Night Shyamalan spooky tale recently released, this is, instead, a documentary that looks at assorted people, both government officials, assorted NGOs and what in the good old days you’d have called crackpots, discussing what you’d say to any aliens visiting the planet. It veers from reality channel style hokum to serious conspiracy theory X-files lunacy and is a thoroughly fascinating watch. It deserves to stand out, let’s hope it can.

And lastly, there’s another of those titles that Metrodome has cannily been picking up for the past few years – a relatively low budget but well crafted, smart horror film that appeals to both the cognoscenti as well as a broader audience too. This time it’s in the shape of Lost After Dark. Just when you thought you’ve seen enough homages to and pastiches of 80s genre flicks, something like this comes along. While not being as wildly original as some of its precursors, it has a charm all of its own and is never anything less than good fun. When you watch as much DTV fare as we do, something of this ilk should be welcomed – and not just by reviewers too, audiences will find something to enjoy here and it can easily be recommended without fear of irate customers returning to berate your recommendation…

Arrow Video, meanwhile, continues to go from strength to strength. Its steady stream of releases is almost unrelenting – how the relatively small team find the time to work on all these titles is completely beyond us, especially when you factor in the sheer amount of time and effort that goes into both the technical elements as well as the packaging and bells and whistles that accompany each release. Take, if you will, the American Horror Project, arguably its most ambitious project thus far. This really is as good as it gets, a triple pack boxset of classic VHS-era US horror and genre oddities. Diehard fans may be fully aware of what they’ve let themselves in for and will already have snapped this up, but to some the three titles, Premonition, The Witch Who Came From The Sea and Malatesta’s Carnival Of Blood will be unfamiliar. And that’s where the strength of Arrow Video’s brand really kicks in. All over Twitter and other social media, there are newfound fans of Arrow Video busy growing their collections and buying titles sight unseen. As a friend recently confessed to us, they’re currently buying more Arrow titles than is sensible and are collecting pretty much anything with the label’s logo on it. Throw in the fact that the book that provided the inspiration for the project, Nightmare USA, is well known among those in the know, and its author, Stephen Thrower, is closely involved in the project, and you’re looking at something that has real potential, not just for this release but the series.

Audition, meanwhile, is the latest addition to the Arrow Video imprint’s burgeoning range of Asian horror titles, some of which, like Takashi Miike’s Audition, were released under the groundbreaking Tartan Asia Extreme banner back in the early days of DVD. The mercurial Tartan founder Hamish McAlpine would be impressed with how Arrow has taken his vision and ushered it into the high definition era, even if he might be a bit miffed that someone else rather than his own label was releasing it. It’s good to report that, all these years on, Miike’s horror has lost none of its power, it’s still a decidedly uncomfortable watch, and it will not only be rebought by existing fans, but also picked up by those Arrow Video devotees.

Also just out is Spectre, and you don’t need us to tell you how well it will do – and continue to do (a Bond lifeycle is longer than that of the average film, with sales revitalised each time a new one comes along), suffice to say, Fox has done a tremendous job with this release. It’s got the balance right between the element for the hardcore 007 fans and also the wider, mainstream audience, the kind befitting a franchise of this size. What’s more, the Blu-ray looks a treat, especially in the rather spiffing Steelbook variant. Our caps are well and truly doffed…

One of the bona fide stars of the aforementioned Bond outing is Dave Bautista, the man who added a U once he moved away from the closer confine of the WWE and its grappling bouts and feature film sidelines (he was the man called Batista during his wrestling days). He’s following a well worn path from the organisation to the big screen, one trodden by the likes of Hulk Hogan and The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson. Bautista, however, is a different creature, with sheer toughness and size substituted for the charm of his predecessors. He’s a baddie through and through, as is Randy Orton, another wrestler making the transition from the ring to the film set. His latest flick is DTV actioner The Condemned 2. Never mind if you didn’t see the first, this recently released title from the WWE stable, in conjunction with Lionsgate, is short on plot and heavy on punch ups. With the WWE in a something of a state of flux at the minute, its big names are more often than not to be found in the world of films. Orton is one of those, so expect this to sell to the same kind of crowd who pick up WWE releases.

Curio of the week – albeit one with plenty of potential – is Dragon Blade, one of those historical epics so beloved of the Chinese film industry and one that has already earned its stripes in its homeland, where it broke box office records. Why is it a curio? Well, for starters, as well as all the requisite elements, not least the presence of Jackie chan as well as a cast of seemingly millions, and a convoluted and sometimes impenetrable story that people in China are entirely familiar with, it features a few Hollywood names in it, namely John Cusack and Adrien Brody as warring Roman army officers attempting to navigate the Silk Road (we won’t get too bogged down with the plot). Due from Signature on the back of a premium vod release, the added presence of some Western star power can only elevate above this kind of fare. As well as martial arts and Asian cinema fans, it will find an additional audience among the casual passer-by interested in what on earth Cusack and co are doing in a film such as this.

Also worth a look is Mississippi Grind, featuring man of the moment Ryan Reynolds, currently starring in Deadpool, ensuring that his currency is at an all-time high. This is the kind of DTV release that gives the format a good name and exactly the type of film that gets excellent word of mouth. “Have you seen that new film starring the fella from Deadpool?” should be a familiar refrain in the coming weeks, giving this a longer than usual shelf life.

And we’ll end with some classy fare – eOne’s Spotlight has just picked up the Academy Award for Best Film, which means its May release will come complete with the statuette and Oscar win writ large across the sleeve. You can see why it got the nod for both the best picture and, particularly, the best original screenplay gongs. It deals with a troubling and complex issue – the abuse of kids by Catholic priests in the Boston area and beyond – in a smart way, using the Boston Globe staffers’ tenacious reporting skills in a way that we, as viewers, discover the monstrous goings-on covered up by the church, as the journalists do. It’s oft been documented just what an Academy Award win means for a subsequent home entertainment release and this is ideally placed to capture that interest.

Also worthy of interest in the awards season, and now due fro Universal, is Steve Jobs, the biopic of the Apple visionary who launched a thousand portable devices (and more). You could argue it under-performed at theatrical, paving the way for a strong home entertainment release in the coming weeks. It’s a solid Social Network-style look at his career, backed by a fine cast and crew, and the relative lack of explosions and special effects means it works well in a home environment, further boosting its chances. The awards buzz and its arrival so close to Kate Winslet’s assorted gongs gives it a further leg-up.

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