The Week In Video Part LXI
Here’s a look at some of our recent home viewing on the DVD and Blu-ray front, with a keen eye on their trade potential…
We’ve focused on a few labels over the past week or two, with a raft of releases from the ever-busy Arrow Video and Academy imprints keeping us busy for starters. A trio of just released titles came under our beady eye, all three classics in different ways. We’ll take them in order of release… Which means Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing first. It’s up to the usual standards you’d expect from the company – great overall package, with a sumptuous transfer and an especially gorgeous sleeve – and works a treat given the Arrow treatment. In a similar vein is The Manchurian Candidate, John Frankenheimer’s classic Frank Sinatra conspiracy thriller about a returning veteran returning after being captured during the Korean War and the fallout from his capture. Angela Lansbury is on fine form as his mother and, again, Arrow has come up with the goods, not least in a cracking design for the sleeve. This writer remembers its release towards the latter part of the 1980s, after Sinatra himself was said to have suppressed the film following the assassination of President Kennedy, traipsing up to see it in one of London’s then thriving rep cinemas. Times have changed, an Arrow release has, size of the screen aside, replaced rep cinema and thank heavens for that in terms of preserving a title like this. In a world without numerous picturehouses, it’s like having an impeccably programmed repertory in your front room. Its reputation as a slice of pre-1970s paranoid politics is unrivalled, a fact only further enhanced by the not-nearly-as-good-as-this Denzel Washington rerun. What’s more, titles like The Killing and The Manchurian Candidate will lift the rest of the catalogue too, enticing a wider audience into Arrow’s world. Its placing of catalogues and information on other titles in its library will help lift further films too.
David Cronenberg’s Rabid, on the Arrow Video imprint, is an entirely different kettle of fish all together. An early outing from the famed helmer, it’s when he was developing his tone and palette. A bona fide straight up horror, with familiar Cronenberg themes he’d return to later cropping up. Another supremely well put together package, Arrow’s decision to release around eOne’s Map To the Stars gives it a little bit of extra energy, but its release will be aided most by the relative unavailability of the film, Cronenberg’s second major film, in recent years. And obviously, Arrow’s involvement will inspire fans of the director to buy the film again – they know they’ll get a high quality Blu-ray, bespoke extras, sleeve notes and sleeve, all of which are up to scratch.
A couple from relatively recent label Altitude now, with the imprint bringing an eclectic mix of titles to the table. First up is homegrown extra-terrestrial horror The Rendlesham UFO Incident. The company has a production involvement in the film, as well as distributing it. We’re on familiar territory here – it’s a found footage-style outing about a group tracking down the story behind the eponymous encounter. The familiarity should help it – found footage is still a commercial genre that ticks over nicely, while this Brit-based tale pulls it off with some skill and style. It’s already built up a head of steam heading into its release, with strong reviews and a decent word of mouth helping it along. Should be a nice solid performer. Perhaps the best comparable comes in the shape of Metrodome’s The Borderlands, a found footage title set around an English church, which earned itself plenty of plaudits on the way to a successful release.
Drew – The Man Behind The Poster, meanwhile, is an entirely different affair. A documentary made with geeks and obsessives in mind, it charts the career of Drew Struzan, the famed film poster artist whose notable CV includes pretty much every film that fanboys have loved dating right back to the 1970s. Struzan’s career trajectory mirrors the rise and rise of the event blockbuster and it’s a fascinating insight into the business and marketing of these legendary films, offering a different, rarely seen perspective on some much talked about classics. One for the fanboys, sure, but such is Struzan’s reputation that his name alone will help this sell, as will the sleeve.
It’s shaping up to be a strong year for horror and there’s much to be impressed by that’s come across our desks in recent weeks. Take, if you will, Honeymoon, a juicy little sci-fi horror pic that blends the two together with just the right kind of Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers paranoia. One of those titles that could so easily slip under the net but deserves far better than that – it has some genuinely disturbing moments which will appeal to aficionados. Worth persevering with, even after the veritable honeymoon period is over.
We’ve eulogised at length elsewhere about The Babadook and the gorgeous looking Blu-ray that Icon has put together; it really is something special. Good then to see it off to such an impressive start at retail and it deserves every success. Word of mouth will only help this film – it’s one of those titles whose reputation will grow n coming weeks and month. Its growth in status will only add to its sales as time goes on. All manner of “have you seen The Babadook yet?” Conversations are certain to aid that. Icon’s strategy appears to be working – this is a hugely commercial offering, sure, but credible films too. Take, as evidence, the likes of The Guest, Cold In July and It Follows. We saw the latter film recently too, albeit at a cinema rather than at home and we’re sure we’ll be raving about it in the same way too further down the line (it really is highly recommended and, like The Babadook before it, is garnering plenty of interest and coverage and is earning itself excellent word of mouth. More power to the company’s elbow, we say.
Not quite horror, but resplendent with one of the finest endings we’ve seen for some time, is the just released Enemy from the Curzon Artificial Eye set-up. It’s a slow burner of a film, one whose reputation can only grow over time, which should aid long-term sales. The word of mouth – along the lines of “have you seen this, the ending is a bit mental” – is its biggest selling point over time; it’s one of those films that deserves longevity. Jake Gyllenhaal is on something of a roll at the minute and this film, which has a similar dual role theme as last year’s The Double, before veering off on an entirely different tangent, sees him excelling playing two characters. Curzon’s shortened window and strong marketing make for a good platform for this.
Its shelf life will further be enhanced by the arrival on March 2 of Nightcrawler, arguably an even better Gyllenhaal performance and one that sits nicely alongside Enemy, or, for that matter, on its own. It’s that perfect blend of credible, sizeable release. Seizing on its quality, eOne gave it real support at both theatrical and through into its home entertainment release. The company’s belief in the film will sustain it long into its physical bow, the big push through its bow at cinemas, riding on what should have been a clutch of Oscar nominations, makes for plenty of awareness. Oh, and Gyllenhaal really is outstanding, while Riz Ahmed is so good it took us a while to even realise it was him.
Nicolas Cage seems to be the hardest working man in Hollywood. As his films have increasingly eschewed the traditional route to market – theatrical then home entertainment – he’s become something of a figurehead for limited platform theatrical and vod bows, as well as the flag-bearer for DTV releases too. and never mind as the jump in sheer quantity of his output hasn’t dented overall sales – his presence is a guarantee of getting on the shelves and into baskets, both in supermarkets and elsewhere. Dying Of The Light, his latest outing due from Signature, contains the essential core ingredients needed for a successful Cage flick: the maestro’s usual, ahem, unrestrained performance (this time he has early onset dementia), plenty of action (he’s a CIA agent) and his dace writ large on the sleeve. Its potential is widened further by the involvement of Paul Schrader, whose at times wayward career path is never anything if not interesting.his CV alone guarantees interest from film fans. Cage’s namesake Winding Refn is also on the credits as executive producer, this should further engage film fans.
Another familiar face crops up on another Signature releases, as Danny Dyer stars in Assassin, as the current EastEnder lines up against a former Albert a Square bad boy Martin Kemp, appearing alongside brother Gary. But this ain’t like the TV soap, we’re back on territory more familiar from film outings from the Kemps and Dyer elsewhere. The latter stars as a hitman for two gangland brothers (an updated take on the Spandau siblings’ Krays outing), who slowly gets drawn into a relationship that offers up a conflict of interest with his assassin duties. It’s familiar territory, sure – within the first 10 minutes Dyer’s whacked some baddies and also visited a strip club – but it’s lifted about yer average East End knees-up thanks to the ever-watchable Dyer and the Kemps. It’s got bags of potential, with appeal through all retail channels. Dyer’s proved his worth all over again at retail after his mid-career blip, while the EastEnders connection gives it an even wider appeal. As commercial as DTV and, given the backing of Signature, this is a guaranteed biggie.
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