The Week In Video Part LXIII

Sunday, April 19 2015
The Week In Video Part LXIII

Here’s some of our recent viewing of new and forthcoming home entertainment releases and more…

Currently performing strongly as a physical release, after a similarly strong showing as a theatrical and premium vod release is Predestination – and rightly so too. It’s an area that Signature is excelling in and after getting some unnecessary flak from some quarters – at least one national newspaper reviewer seems to have it in for the company – it’s good to see the independent not only succeeding again, but managing it with a film that is among the best it has released in its relatively short history. It’a a cracking little sci-fi number, similar in theme, at least loosely, to the likes of Looper and Source Code and it’s proving to be as successful as those. What’s more, it narks the next stage in the rehabilitation of Ethan Hawke as a marquee name, the kind that can really sell a film.

If you could say that Predestination is one of the best films that Signature has released, then we might go so far as to suggest that one of its May releases, Bad Land: Road To Fury, is the best it has ever put out under its banner. Retitled from Young One and given a kind of Mad Max-alike title (and sleeve too), it really is that good. Signature has honed its craft and while it might irk some, for reasons it’s not always easy to fathom, it must be said, it bears all the hallmarks of a classic Signature title. A renamed film, a new design, some strong quotes adorning the front, a few strong names and a commercial genre… it’s all here and the company has already proved it’s a formula that works. Renaming films seems to really wind critics and cinephiles up, but it’s long been a cornerstone of our business and this sci-fi-esque tale (we’re avoiding phrases and words such as “dystopian” and “post-apocalyptic”) stars one of our favourite actors Michael Shannon and further boasts the likes of Nicholas Hoult too. Very commercial, highly recommended.

Also from Signature and completing a trilogy from the independent, was Kidnapping Freddy Heineken, the English language remake of a European title released by Arrow a couple of years back. Anthony Hopkins, the biggest name on show here, is the titular millionaire kidnapped by a gang of Dutch wannabe gangsters and then held hostage as they demanded plenty of guilders from his wealthy family. It’s more commercial fare, with a name or two to sell it on and all the right boxes ticked for another Signature success. And a couple of Taken-style car chases give it further commercial appeal too.

A few titles from another thriving independent, Metrodome, came under our watchful eye too. Discopath is all title and slightly daft plot, about a troubled man who is driven to kill by disco music (in the same way Abel Ferrara’s Driller Killer is sent potty by punk). It’s a cracking title, that alone will help it sell. There’s a slightly unpleasant undercurrent running through it that is not easy to shake off, but it does partially redeem its more dubious elements thanks to a couple of decent premises, including one killing beneath a dance floor. There’s some decent music in there too.

Starry Eyes is a recent release from the company and is a cracking little tale of wannabe actors plying their trade on the fringes of Hollywood and a satanic cult that could help at least one of them out a la Rosemary’s Baby. Another decent buy from the company, it’s a cut above your average DTV title, deserves to succeed too.

Metrodome was one of the key companies mentioned in a feature on homegrown DTV gangster flicks in the Guardian last week and we’ve viewed a couple of the other titles mentioned recently too – Hackney’s Finest, from Trinity and Snow In Paradise from Curzon Film. Both boast something a little bit smarter, wiser and more inventive than the average, lifting them above the average DTV fare and preventing them from sliding into obscurity. In the case of the former it’s a bad boy grime sensibility that makes it feel grittier than the normal cliched offering, as for the latter it has an art house sensibility that gives it its own distinct flavour. Both will ride on their gangster elements for the supermarkets; a more devoted film fan will be drawn in by their additional flavours.

Sticking with Curzon and its Artificial Eye arm comes Wild Tales. It’s already showing its worth at theatrical and via Curzon’s on demand service and deservedly so. It’s a series of vignettes about revenge, a collaboration between Spain and Argentina with Pedro Almodovar acting as executive producer and adding his weight to the proceedings. IT’s been glowingly reviewed all over the place, bringing a wealth of four and five star reviews to to its eventual DVD and Blu-ray release (we’ve also been banging on about it In our Raygunesque column on The Ransom Note) It will arrive on physical formats later in the summer and should prove to be one of the year’s most commercial foreign language offerings.

Another title covered extensively in our Ransom Note column is Rollerball, the latest exemplary release from Arrow Video. It’s already out there, but this is the kind if film that could easily widen its customer base, given the film’s broader appeal, and draw more people into the label’s by now truly exceptional catalogue. It’s got all the prime qualities you’d expect from one of its releases (again, something we’ve catalogued on our other column), but this really is a father exceptional release.

Another catalogue title worthy of mention is from another of our favourite imprints, Second Sight. Midnight Run is one of those films that doesn’t seem to have attained the status it deserves – while all kinds of pop-up cinemas show other 80s films, where’s the special screening that this Martin Brest directed Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin starrer truly deserves? And yet most people we’ve mentioned the title’s imminent Blu-ray release to can’t wait to see it. That may not be a scientific way of me highlighting its potential, but this film shouldn’t be underestimated. For those in the know, film fans and, more pertinently, anyone who rented a VHS in the 80s or 90s (the film made its name as a rental title, where its stature grew and grew after theatrical release), this is a must own film. As with Arrow Video, you should know what to expect from a title such as this and it lives up to the high standards set by the independent.

The biggest title of the week, in terms of box office haul and awards recognition is probably The Theory Of Everything, due from Universal on May 11. It’s a film that works equally well for home viewing and in cinemas. While it may have plenty of science, it’s no Interstellar in terms of scale and visual ambition, meaning it’s ideal for home viewing. And of course, being able to emblazon the sleeve with its awards success, especially for star Eddie Redmayne, gives it an extra commercial edge which everyone should be able to exploit. Universal’s have the kind of once-in-a-lifetime year that studios can only dream of, this will further enhance its hugely impressive 2015.

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