The Week in Video Part LXII

Tuesday, March 24 2015
The Week in Video Part LXII

Here’s our latest round-up of recent viewing, with a keen eye on a film’s trade potential…

We were singing the praises of British gangster flick Assassin, a homegrown outing that boasted, thanks to the likes of Danny Dyer, a hugely commercial potential. Well, another week another commercial film from these shores, Hyena is, in fact one of the best of its ilk we’ve seen for some time. It too has plenty of potential in terms of sales and despite playing within the genre’s boundaries – there’s Cockneys, gangsters, cocaine, strippers, some pretty gruesome killings and plenty of claret – still feels fresh and original. It moves along at a fair old pace, aided, in no small part, by a cracking score penned by Matt Johnson, aka The The. Neil Maskell and Stephen Graham are among its outstanding cast and worthy of one of those “if you only see one British gangster film this year…” epithets. It also really deserves to do well…

Also from Metrodome, but a lot further down the line, is The Town That Dreaded Sundown. It’s due at cinemas in April, ahead of a home entertainment bow, and is a fine horror remake, one that manages to reference the original at the same time as carving out its own niche. Its nod to the original will please hardcore horror devotees; younger horror fans who don’t know the first version will not be too left out and this is far superior to the standard genre fare that is bunged their way.

The Imitation Game gas finally arrived after what seemed like an age since its theatrical bow, such was the publicity that followed throughout its theatrical run as its awards push continued. Everyone should know about it by now, such was the depth of the campaign, and deservedly so too. Studiocanal’s exemplary campaign has crossed over to its home entertainment release too, giving further longevity to the film and getting it off to a cracking start. A worthy success and more power to Studiocanal’s elbow.

Also just released is Artificial Eye’s Leviathan, like The Imitation Game it’s an awards-laden title, having arrived with a raft of nominations from gong ceremonies around the world. Consumers may not know the finer details of the plot of this Russian fable of greed and corruption, but they’ll sure as hell recognise its striking artwork, giving this sober, sow-burner a lengthy shelf life at retail.

More from relatively recent newcomer Altitude now and it continues with its shortened window strategy, the latest t benefit from a relatively truncated gap between theatrical and home entertainment is White Bird In A Blizzard. It’s the latest form Gregg Araki, US indie maven whose work is never anything if not interesting. It may not quite have the visceral and shocking punch of his earlier works (this writer remembers the shock at seeing some if the first screenings as he was he was breaking through in the UK and the shock was palpable). But there’s still plenty here to leave the viewer open-mouthed. What’s more, there are even plenty of commercial selling points here too – not least the presence of Shailene Woodley as the messed up girl trying to make sense of her mother’s life and disappearance. Araki’s film arrives on the back of her punishing PR schedule for Insurgent. Younger fans might need to steer clear of this, but the older audience will be wooed by her presence here (and very good she is too, incidentally).

Another week and another title or two from one of our favourites, Signature. Extra-Terrestrial has already proved its worth as a limited theatrical and vod release and now arrives as a physical outing. It follows the recent vogue for sci-fi horror crossovers – aliens as nasty, probing creatures who suck you up into the sky, perform all kinds of strange experiments and then spit you out, all ahead of some kind of human farming or earth takeover plan. No familiar faces, but eminently watchable genre fare, there are no surprises here, but Signature has proved its chops in this kind of area, the company’s backing ensures it should perform. It’s a cracking lenticular sleeve too, one which really provides standout on shelves.

Another area that Signature has specialised in is children’s product – solid, well-crafted animated fare with a certain air of familiarity to it. It annoys the hell out of serious critics, who’d much rather recommend that kids see a Studio Ghibli film, but is very popular with kids. Fairytale: The Story Of The Seven Dwarves is a perfect example. Decent animation, characters you already know and, as our seven-year-old junior correspondent proved while raptly viewing it, it goes down well with younger viewers too.

Our youngest reviewer also sat down with Ribbit 3D, another animated tale, this time due from Lionsgate. It’s more of the same – good animation, a loosely familiar feel to it and, better still for this, it’s available in a 3D Blu-ray SKU too. As any regular children’s and family animated viewer will know, kids aren’t looking for sophisticated animation with lots of in-jokes and gags appealing to parents, they want bright colours and fun. Ribbit serves that up and certainly kept our junior correspondent quiet.

Also from Lionsgate, on a slightly different path, is Girl In Progress, a coming of age teen flick that has potential to a more female-skewed audience. It stars Eva Mendes, who brings A-list credentials to it, as does a resurgent Patricia Arquette, arriving on the back of her Boyhood Oscar win, which is, somewhat smartly, flagged up on a sticker on the sleeve. It’s watchable fare and the clear sleeve does well to convey what isn’t necessarily an easy sell.

Now, if we were selecting a barking mad documentary of not just this week but the month and the year for that matter, then Sirius is the one. Now, the basic premise is relatively simple – the documentary follows a group of alien observers and UFOlogists – but the reality is so much more complex than that. It might not stand up against some of the finer documentaries from the Dogwoof catalogue, not least in that it appears that some of the film’s leading conspiracy theorists have financed the proceedings. While that may not guarantee balance, it ensures that this is a bit livelier than you might otherwise expect. At the same time, it doesn’t do its potential too many favours, perhaps marginalising it more, removing it from the mainstream. Having said that, there are still plenty of believers out there who will find this, ahem, probing enough.

A different kind of documentary comes in My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn. Essentially an extended Making Of, directed by Refn’s wife, Liv Corfixen, it follows the Refn clan as they head to South East Asia to shoot Only God Forgives. It’s part travelogue, family kind of stuff and part documenting an obsessive struggling with a problematic shoot. And yes, Hearts Of Darkness, the Apocalypse Now documentary that defined the Making Of genre, is its closest comparable. While it’s not nearly as revealing as the Coppola family home movie, it’s still fascinating stuff. Expect decent sales, over a period of time – every new Refn film will draw attention to this and it’ll offer nice drafting opportunities, exclusive doublepack content and more. And, of course, thanks to Drive, he has a sizeable army of UK fans.

We’ll end with an April release, one of the first to arrive from Anchor Bay after its recent management buyout. Road To Paloma is one of a slew of Jason Momoa titles out or due out. The former Conan and Game Of Thrones star is offering up a double whammy with this existential road movie, it’s his directorial debut too. More thoughtful than you’d expect from the beefcake, he also stars, alongside real-life wife Lisa Bonet. It’s a decent little film and one that should bring adequate rewards.

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