The Week In Video Part XLXV

Friday, October 31 2014
The Week In Video Part XLXV

This column has been missing for a few weeks, for all manner of assorted reasons, but while there’s been little in the way of reporting of our recent viewing, we’ve still been watching plenty too.

Let’s start with the biggest platform theatrical release of recent weeks, arguably the year too –Northern Soul. The film’s success has been well charted, both by us on The Raygun and elsewhere (although other commentators have missed the story that it’s Universal’s doing, in acquiring the film and then licensing it for theatrical release, overseeing the whole process, that should be celebrated as much as anything else, there seems to be a vague implication that the major missed a trick here, rather than driving the whole release with its assorted partners), but, having seen it twice now, it’s worth remembering that it’s a cracking little film too; one of the best crafted and most authentic slices of Brit youth culture we’ve seen on film. It has built up a real head of steam following its theatrical and DVD bow, with a wealth of coverage. What’s more, it has the legs to go on too – it should end up in a lot of 40- and 50-something blokes’ Christmas stockings come December 25, while northern soul the genre seems to be going through something of a resurgence too, so it should go even wider than that. The kudos it’s earned will stand it in good stead here too. A resounding success for Universal, a film that people within the studio championed; its performance should be applauded.

A wildly different music film, one still manufactured in the UK, although based at the other end of the country from the north – Brighton. Like Northern Soul, we’ve now seen the title, 20,000 Days On Earth, a number of times. What’s more we’ve seen the 4DVD-released film, a documentary about Antipodean renaissance man turned Brighton resident, by way of Berlin, Nick Cave, in different locations, at Cannes, at the film’s high profile premiere and, more pertinently, at home too. It works anywhere and everywhere; better, perhaps, at home, because it stands up to repeat viewing and it’s worth revisiting just for the music alone. With an accompanying single on its way, this is another that should have legs.

Just released by Studiocanal is the film with the longest title of the year, one that in itself presents all kind of issues, from the sleeve design through to the “what the hell can we fit in the ad once we get the title in there” marketing moments. But the fact it’s called The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared hasn’t held back the book the Swedish film was based on and Studiocanal has done a sterling job with the title, from the strong sleeve to its smart creatives and good targeting for the ads. It’s divided opinion among critics, earning some great reviews and some rather begrudging notices. Yes it veers towards the twee and schmaltzy at times, but yet it’s thoroughly endearing and a lot of fun. It’s Forrest Gump for Guardian readers, the addition of subtitles meaning that it’s OK to laugh it rather than deriding Hollywood corn. It should have a decent shelf life.

Documentary-fare now and we’d already seen an early version of Network’s first homegrown production, Filmed In Supermarionation, a documentary looking at the fascinating world of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and their assorted cohorts and fallen in love with it, but there were still a few tweaks to be made so we viewed it again in its finished form. This time we watched it with our junior correspondent, a who was similarly enamoured of this genuinely fascinating tale of British creativity. Network has done famously well, not just with the film itself but in terms of its PR and marketing activity, the former particularly scoring a coup with some of the coverage the film received (The One Show and the Mail, for starters). Gerry Anderson-related titles have sold exceedingly well over the years and there’s no reason this one shouldn’t stop that run continuing.

Because this column has been away for a few weeks, not only have we built up a bit of a backlog, but there’s a number of different films from a few labels. We’ve been on a kaleidoscopic journey for starters, thanks to a batch of titles from the thriving independent imprint Kaleidoscope. It’s offering up a diverse offering of titles and has recently made its presence felt in the documentary arena. Road is arguably the biggest of the bunch, so we’ll kick off with that. It follows in the footsteps of TT3D, the Isle of Man motorbike movie that became an unexpected hit a few years ago, at both cinemas and as a home entertainment offering. But whereas that was much more about the thrill of the ride, this is more akin to something like Senna, in that it looks much more at not just the highs, but the lows too. Admission here: we’re not the biggest motorbike fans, in case you hadn’t guessed, but were enormously impressed with this genuinely moving look at the need for speed, despite the risks, consequences and quite obvious devastation it can leave in its wake. What’s more, the film seems to be building up the kind of momentum that some of the aforementioned titles have generated, following in its wake, if you will. It could prove to ride nicely in the slipstream of some of those aforementioned titles.

Meanwhile, another documentary from the label offers a different kind of sporting experience. The Short Game looks at young gofers being pushed into playing golf by increasingly pushy parents, desperate for their kids to succeed. It has a distinctly international flavour, taking in budding tiny Tigers for around the world, not just the US. The pint-sized putters are, it turns out, incredibly annoying and unlikeable, although you have to feel for them, what with their ridiculously pushy parents and all. It’s similar to something like landmark doc Spellbound albeit focusing on a different activity,  and has similar potential. The Lost Patrol focuses on a forgotten part of the Second World War, following a crack team of Brazilian soldiers fighting for the allied forces in Italy. No, us neither, but it doesn’t matter what language it’s in, war tales such as this have consistently proved themselves at retail, so expect this one to work too.

There’s been plenty of titles from the ever-busy Curzon and Artificial Eye labels, with each making strong offerings. Frank is the biggest of the bunch, although it’s probably been a bit more of a disappointment than many would have hoped for. Initial buzz from Sundance didn’t necessarily follow it through, but there is a nagging feeling that it will, eventually, get the respect it deserves. There’s still interest about this tale that sees Michael Fassbender taking on the role inspired by Frank Sidebottom, which will continue thanks to forthcoming soundtrack-based activity. A slower burn, both in terms of reaction and sales, than might have been expected, yet you get this kind of feeling that it will have done longevity.

Joe sees Nicolas Cage offering up something of a return to form, or, at least a return to acting (mirroring the great phrase attributed to SeAn Penn a few years back where he declared words to the effect of “I preferred Cage when he was an actor”). His recent outings have been successful, look at Anchor Bay’s Tokarev, and popular with both the DTV Devotees as well as a crowd of enthusiastic film fans who go gaga over Cage in a distinctly ironic fashion (“look at his hair! Listen to his funny accents! He’s overacting again!”) Joe, similar to the Oscar-winning and set in a rural white trash community in deepest, darkest nowheresville, USA, appeal to those audiences and many more; taking in disaffected Cage fans, as well as American independent cinema aficionados too. 

Fading Gigolo has been out for a few weeks now, but we can’t let its release pass without mention of this gentle US comedy. Unbelievable as t may be – John Turturro becomes a gigolo after the bookshop he works in shuts down, with former boss Woody Allen acting as his pimp. Oh, and Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara pay him for his skills. As jaw-droopingly far-fetched as it may be, it’s surprisingly good fun and deserves to succeed.

Equally deserving of success is Two Days One Night, featuring a mesmerising performance from Marion Cotillard. In the same way as Locke, it makes an essentially dull and routine task (going round to see factory workers to Locke’s construction minutiae) a fascinating exercise. Her performance has earned deserved plaudits and will help the film through.

And we’ll end with a trio from Solo Media, which like many of the more forward thinking independent labels is experimenting with different release windows and strategies. Arguably it’s biggest current release is Felony, available first through assorted vod and digital operators. It’s already picked up a few decent across the board reviews, thanks to its impressive cast. It’s one of those gritty Australian films that come along once every few years – think Animal Kingdom et al, albeit a slightly less violent take – and should enjoy a fruitful shelf life.

Gutshot is another title that got a digital only release first and is one of a multitude of films we’ve seen that feature Vinnie Jones, this time alongside an even older name, Steven Seagal, with AnnaLynne McCord giving it lad mag appeal. You know the kind of thing this is, Seagal films need little or no introduction, he keeps churning them out, people keep watching them, just moving forward in terms of formats.

One of the better films we’ve seen recently is the rather excellent Rob The Mob, which, depute its rather dodgy title us a little gem of a film. It’s a gritty thriller, based on a true story, about a couple who… well, you should have guessed it from the title. It strs the underrated Michael Putt, as well as older hands such as Andy Garcua and Ray Romano. It’s done exceedingly well as an EST option, which bodes well for its January physical release, and will be in our best DTV releases of 2014 come year end.

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