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Saturday, 24 March 2018

Talking Point: Are Movies That Go Straight- To- DVD That Bad?

For many years, straight- to- DVD and direct- to- DVD movies have been all tarred with the same negative brush: for these films, they have skipped a theatrical, cinematic or television release only to be consigned as straight- to- DVD fodder to be sold on the likes of Amazon online and retail stores, or these days, end up on Amazon Prime, Netflix or some other streaming service. Generally, this is seen as a bad thing, as it gives off the automatic impression that the film is not going to be good, & not good enough for theatrical distribution and that the quality, all the way from the production to the casting, will be nowhere as impressive as that than of their million dollar contemporaries. Though this post is in reference to these kinds of movies, especially, many of these points can also be brought up in relation to low-key theatrical films that have made less in the excess of millions of dollars that star A-list, or be it former Hollywood A-list stars of the 1980s and 1990s. 

The argument over these types of films will rage on, but also in viewing these offerings, I realise that as much as there are some - or be it many and truly appalling movies, which are being sifted through that ended up on the conveyor belt of crap, there are also several DTDVD (direct-to-DVD) films that get a pass from me, and that I find them to be not too bad and there is just enough quality for it to make the grade. 

Straight-to- DVD and its precursor in straight-to-video is a slang term for ''cheaply-made'', rushed, low-quality and in most extreme cases, films one wouldn't dare touch with a bargepole. Even though straight to video films were released during the 1970s and 1980s, it wasn't until Disney's Aladdin: The Return of Jafar release in 1996, minus the star acquisition of Robin Williams, that given it wasn't intended to hit U.S theaters that other filmmakers sought to take advantage and see to it that it was possible to release a film that wouldn't garner massive audiences, and yet still take a chance with it. The 1990s saw an increasing influx of direct-to-video movies surface and the results were mixed, although there was a lot of rubbish to go with it, as well as very few gems. The DTV (direct to TV) & DTDVD market was also a dumping ground for so-called inferior sequels to successful movies, such as Starship Troopers, Universal Soldier, Hollow Man & Kickboxer to name. Without the same budget and original cast on board, the feeling just wasn't the same as before, and two decades later, and whilst there aren't as many of these types of films produced nowadays, it still remains that one or two of them will get churned out. 

Whilst direct-to-DVD has long been synonymous with low-budget movies and action films, there have been quite a few films that went directly to DVD & whose budget cost in the region of millions, with the most notable culprits being Edison Force with Morgan Freeman, Justin Timberlake, Kevin Spacey & LL Cool J which cost $25 million to produce, 2007's The Flock starring Richard Gere and Claire Danes & dinosaur buddy cop flop, Theodore Rex which took over $33 million to make. So in some instances, it has been proven movie flops and so-called bad movies do not only apply to those with smaller budgets of $100,000 or less but those in the regions of millions too. Bad acting, less familiar faces, poor script, lacklustre action, lower production values and budget are the chief indicators of a straight-to-DVD film. Additionally, studios in the likes of Columbia Pictures, Universal, Warner Bros etc have no confidence in the movie doing well and reaping the financial rewards, and so, they just abandon them altogether, with independent and lesser studios picking up the abandoned scraps. Some of these films also mainly star actors or actresses, who were formerly & successfully bankable back in the days, but whose careers have been in freefall, ever since (John Cusack, Jean-Claude Van Damme, John Travolta, Christian Slater, Nicolas Cage and more recently, Bruce Willis): in this instance, this is seen by many as the deathbed for their craft. Or performers who have been reduced to doing these films, as they have been unable to carve out and secure an illustrious career as a mega movie star (Treat Williams, Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan). 

But all is not lost: like I said given my fair share of B-movies and consumption of straight to DVD flicks, as illustrated by many reviews of movies I have posted here & as mentioned earlier there are some of them that truly surprised me in many ways and that I have garnered enjoyment in. That otherwise would have turned out to be a stinker, is in actual fact, a bit of a gem & diamond in the rough. Thus showing that with direct to DVD films, it's not really about the budget or how much money is being spent, but HOW that is being put to use and how the end product fares. It's one thing to have money, but if you don't spend or invest in it wisely, that it is hastily produced and you churn out tripe, the film will be tripe. I mean, if it looks good, feels good, that I get enjoyment, pleasure and entertainment out of it, with an okay script, along with some decent performances, then that's all I can really ask for. With action movies, obviously the main thing I am looking for is decent action, but if the cast can back it up with the performances, that's an extra incentive too. 

There is good and bad everywhere you look, and the stigma surrounding films that end up in the bargain bins and shelves of Amazon, Wal-mart and as throwaway, disposable rubbish is largely understandable and justifiable. Having said that, one shouldn't judge a movie by its IMDb rating or what movie critics say, but by forming your own opinions, based on what you have seen and whether you liked it. That's not to say all or 90% of these low- budget films are good - far from it. But much like with the populist and box office hits, one can at least find one low- budget movie they have liked or enjoyed. 

Above: Exit Speed & The Courier - straight to DVD movies that I have enjoyed immensely 

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