November 2014 Home Video Picks

A look forward at the month's most interesting home video titles, from banner local releases and Criterion Collection special editions to international exclusives.

Before I begin this run-down of November’s home entertainment releases, a brief preamble. This month’s edition of The Shop Around the Corner will be focusing entirely on Australian DVD and Blu-ray releases. This is not because I have any particular moral objection to international brands – I have a swiftly accumulating collection of Criterion and Masters of Cinema Blu-rays myself – but rather than an attempt to recognise the burgeoning attempts to accommodate cinephiles in Australia’s marketplace (and I’m not just talking about that X-Men set that comes with the Cerebro helmet).

After all, previous editions of this column have identified Criterion’s impressive Jacques Tati box set – while an analogous set arrived on our shores months beforehand – or a sumptuous Miyazaki package that will soon meet its match in a local release. While perhaps local prestige box sets may not quite live up to the option offered overseas, as a consumer I want to support local distributors – if nothing else because I’m irrationally fond of perusing actual shelves of discs rather than virtual catalogues. It doesn’t help matters that acquiring a region-switchable Blu-ray player nowadays is nigh impossible (I would tell my own arduous tale of hunting down such a player, but we’d be here all day).

Evil Dead Anthology (dir. Sam Raimi 1981-1992, Fede Alvarez 2013)

Let’s start with an impressive release that is actually making its way to Australia before any nation: there’s patriotism I can get behind. The Evil Dead put Hollywood heavyweight Sam Raimi on the map with its gonzo gore and kinetic camerawork, and its tongue-in-cheek sequels are even better; Evil Dead 2 deserves a prominent spot on any serious (or not so serious) list of great horror films. Fede Alvarez’s 2013 remake isn’t as widely lauded, but while it couldn’t match up to its predecessors I found it impressively ghastly (in a good way).

Via Vision’s box set contains not only these four films on Blu-ray (a HD transfer seems a tad unnecessary for pictures filmed on 16mm, but that’s a whole ‘nother story), but a full 3 DVDs of special features including feature-length documentary Invaluable, which profiles the films’ FX artist Tom Sullivan. Alongside these discs is a 16-page replica of the infamous Necronomicon and a skeletal dagger just in case you happen to run into any Deadites on your next holiday in the woods. Released in Australia on November 25, 2014 – DVD and Blu-ray.

Mad Men – Season 7, Part 1 (various directors)

If scotch and fine suits are more your style than buckets of gore, Mad Men’s penultimate – and unsurprisingly excellent – season hits our shores in early November. Showrunner Matt Weiner has taken a lead from the show where he cut his teeth – Sopranos (which, by the way, has a relatively new Blu-ray release on the market if you’re somehow yet to see it), by setting up a final season that’s confident enough to casually upend the status quo. Essential viewing. Released in Australia on November 6, 2014 – DVD and Blu-ray.

Batman 25th Anniversary Edition (dir. Tim Burton, 1989)

Tim Burton’s Batman was a seminal film of my childhood, and I’m certainly not alone. This blockbuster take on the Dark Knight split the difference between the goofy legacy of the character’s television incarnations and his future, dark-and-gritty-my-parents-are-deeeeead intepretations, and a quarter-century later its influence is undeniable. Sure, we don’t tend to see superhero films scored by Prince – more’s the pity – but modern caped crusaders, dominating the box office as they do, owe a lot to Mr. Burton. If the film itself wasn’t a sufficient reminder, this edition comes with a comprehensive addendum titled Batman: The Birth of the Modern Blockbuster, going into the detail on the film’s history and legacy.

(Plus, you’re contractually obligated to catch up with this before Michael Keaton riffs on the character in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s (mostly) critically acclaimed Birdman, screening in Australia early next year.) Released in Australia on November 12 2014 – Blu-ray.

The Mule (dir. Tony Mahoney & Angus Sampson, 2014)

On the subject of supporting Australian releases and all that jazz, The Mule is one of the frontrunners of Australian films eking out an existence outside of the cinema. Aside from a limited run of Q&A screenings, The Mule is avoiding the big screen altogether, aiming directly for your television. Which is fitting enough, given the film opens with a close-up of a TV set to the tune of “Colour Television”. There’s a straightforward, if stomach-turning story here – of a drug mule who endeavours to avoid prosecution through constipation – yet it’s one of the better Aussie films of the year. Released in Australia on November 21, 2014 – VOD and December 3, 2014 – DVD and Blu-ray.

Charlie’s Country (dir. Rolf de Heer, 2013)

Another Australian film worth your time is David Gulpilil and Rolf de Heer’s Charlie’s Country, which was rewarded with a Best Actor in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes for Gulpilil and – perhaps unsurprisingly – disappointing box office receipts when it made it way home. This examination of Aboriginal identity and the devastating effects of the intervention – partly based on Gulpilil’s own recent incarceration – isn’t an easy watch, but it’s both important and poetic. Released in Australia on November 19, 2014 – DVD only.

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