The Week In Video Part XLIV

Wednesday, February 26 2014
The Week In Video Part XLIV

Almost 40 storeys above London, in one of the city’s newest and most enviable landmarks, staring out at the twinkling lights of the capital as darkness fell, vast ensconced in a member’s only part of one of it’d highly desirable and most chi-chi addresses… It’s hardly the average home viewing experience for us at The Raygun.

And yet it’s where we’re starting this week’s Week In Video column. What were we doing near the top of the Gherkin, in the heart of London, the lazy reality TV show producer’s visual shorthand for the city?

We’d been invited by Warner to this unlikely screening forum to preview its March 3 release Gravity, in one of the capital’s highest locations. But to keep our feet firmly on the ground, we were viewing this is in a way as close to the home viewing experience as possible.

So rather than a giant screen in a cinema, it was on TV from a disc, albeit a decent-sized screen and 3D Blu-ray. Firmly ensconced in comfy chairs with 3D glasses on, we felt right at home, even though we were alongside other journalists, drinking perfectly chilled wine and nowhere near as sprawled on the sofa as we would be at home.

But, more importantly, what of the film itself? Well, were pleased to report that it works just as well on a home format as it did in the cinema. The 3D works as well in on the smaller screen too. For grown up viewers it is likely to replace The Life F Pi as the one viewers use to highlight the potential of the 3D format in your own living-room, it really is that good. What it loses when brought down in size – the vast emptiness of space, earth, lights glowing, spread out below – it makes up for in other elements, particularly enhancing the claustrophobia of Sandra bullock and George Clooney’s plight in space. With its hugely successful event-sized release behind it and Sunday March 2’s Oscar ceremony likely to further boost its credentials – and, crucially gongs – as well as what is certain to be a major campaign from Warner behind it, you don’t need us to tell you how big this could be. And given the quality of the 3D Blu-ray, this should encourage some wavered tot trade up. They won’t be disappointed.

Back down to earth and Kaleidoscope has, as we’ve noted elsewhere, recently received something of a cash injection after a new backer came on board. Its recent release Not Another Happy Ending perhaps shows the independent’s ambitions in one genre. It’s a solid, very commercial romcom, with, in the shape of Karen Gillan, better known as Doctor Who’s former assistant Amy Pond, a strong commercial hook. It’s commercial all right, and shows the company’s nous when it comes to acquisition. More money, to pick up more releases like this, bigger and bigger in a bid to grow its market share. Worth keeping an eye on.

More homegrown fare comes in the shape of The Machine, a superior bit of Brit sci-fi. Its production values belie its relatively small budget; its ambitions and inventiveness means it looks and feels far bigger than it has any right to be. Certain elements of the plot may hark back to other films, but the end result feels fresh and original. One of the kind of films you’d use to show someone that low budget British films released with a limited platform or straight to DVD, aren’t all about gangsters and birds, that they can offer up something unique. Anchor Bay’s recent track record includes the likes of Vendetta, there’s no reason why it can’t make this genre film work either. It certainly deserves it and, wrapped in a decent sleeve with some strong support behind it, this could easily succeed.

Much of the rest of our viewing over the past week has centred on TV related product.

The night after our Gravity screening, we were off out again, this time for an sneak preview of some of the extras from the latest Game Of Thrones release. By now, you don’t need us to tell you how successful this has been: retail sales in its first week were worth a whopping £5.4 million. Suffice to say, watching it in a room with a bunch of Game Of Thrones fans you realise just how deep its appeal runs, and how, into its third season, it is just as, if not more popular than ever. Meanwhile, piracy apologists will claim that illegal downloads and streaming are helping Game Of Thrones grow as a brand and increasing its popularity. You could, of course, counter that with the following argument: think how big it could be if it wasn’t the world’s most pirated TV show…

Meanwhile, while everyone – both those watching on legitimate channels, aka Sky Atlantic, and illegally, including, it would appear, scores of journalists, industry types and people who should know better – has been banging on about True Detective (we’ve not seen it yet), a British cop procedural has been building strongly. We’ve already talked about Line Of Duty after recently viewing the first series, out at the start of February, while the sophomore outing arrives later in March. This one will only grow in size in the coming months.

And so to another much-talked about show, House Of Cards. Currently available on Netflix in its entirety, the second season is dominating discussion among TV and film fans. It’s a triumph of Netflix’s marketing skills, good PR and the fact that newspapers, magazines and websites all seem to want to write about Kevin Spacey, the show and the service and company itself. What we think is, perhaps, irrelevant (not as good as the first, unnecessarily complex just for showing off’s sake, albeit still compelling), but to give Netflix its due, it really has pushed the programme well.

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