The Week In Video Part LXV

Friday, May 29 2015
The Week In Video Part LXV

Here’s out latest look at our recent home-based viewing, with a keen eye on a film’s potential for the trade…

After missing numerous opportunities to see it in previous months, it was good to finally catch up with the rather wonderful Foxcatcher, which thoroughly deserved most of the superlatives thrown in its direction. It’s one of those films that myst be hard to find comparables for – given that it’s a tough drama, with an uncommercial subject matter – but its sheer strength, especially from its fine array of performers, should help it through. It’s already off to a decent start, deservedly so. Continued support will give it a decent shelf life, at catalogue too.

Out on the same day was Soda Pictures’ documentary about filmmaker Robert Altman, entitled, er, Altman, with an amazing logic. It’s a well put-together, thoughtful tale, musing over one of America’s finest helmers who was on a winning streak during Hollywood’s 1970s heyday, only to see it all go horribly wrong in spectacular, and costly style, before eventual redemption. A familiar one, maybe, but it’s told with real affection, some great footage and excellent interviewees talking about his work. It’ll work as a nice companion to some of his great films currently available too.

It’s strange to think in a market that has seen all manner of titles released since DVD first arrived in 1998 that there are still desirable films and programmes that have yet to see the light of day – and yet labels such as Second Sight are still managing to find some gems. The latest treasure it has unearthed is Your Cheatin Heart. It’s a curate’s egg all right, created by John Byrne, it was the follow-up to his hugely successful Tutti Frutti. This too is Scotland set, but his seeming refusal to play by the rules – thick Scottish accents abound, for those south of the border it’s near incomprehensible at times – could be one of the reasons it has lain dormant in the BBC vaults for so long. Not only has it never been released on DVD, perhaps more pertinently, it has never even been deemed worthy of a repeat on either the BBC or the myriad of other channels. Its stars are instantly recognisable – the likes of Ken Stott and John Gordon Sinclair are still regularly on TV and elsewhere – while Tilda Swinton has become a huge star since its transmission. A curio, sure, but good to see publishers still striving to find unreleased items that have a pent-up demand and possibly wider than niche appeal. Will be interesting to see what it can do, it deserves success.

As well as mining catalogues, it’s good to see independent, non-studio operators still coming to the market. One of these comes in the form of Tricoast, a US distributor that has come to these shores in a set-up that can only be described as very 2015. Its digital business is handled by the Movie Partnership, a company created just to look after that for independents, while the physical side of the business comes under the aegis of Fusion Media. Its first release in the UK – and it’s promising something like two a month, one souls digital, the other both digital and physical – is due in June. Heavenly Sword arrives with built-in awareness, it’s an adaptation of a bestselling game and if the recent comparable of the Halo releases are anything to go by (120,000 units and counting), then now is as good a time to any to come to the market with a property taken from the games business. It also fits neatly into the anime sector too, which still works with the right property.

Sticking with the genre fare and The Last Knights (Signature) is one of those in-between titles that, prior to the advent of the collapsed window, platform release or day and date theatrical release, would have been caught somewhere in no man’s land between a DTV release and theatrical. It’s a strong medieval action kind of film, with Clive Owen looking cut out for the part, accompanied by an impressive cast (including all kinds of guards and soldiers waiting to be sliced and diced with swords, arrows and all manner of medieval weaponry), such as Morgan Freeman. A familiar plot, sure, but one that continues to play itself out on the shelves to good effect. It’s already prove its worth as part of its theatrical and premium vod release, so expect it to continue to work on the shelves.

Another title which is following a similar model, theatrical and premium vod, followed by a separate physical release, is is Stonehearst Asylum. If anything it’s more star-studded than the aforementioned Signature release, boasting a couple of Sirs (Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley) alongside character actors (Brendan Gleeson, the almost omnipresent Jason Flemyng) and big marquee names (Kate Beckinsale). It’s a hoary old psychological thriller about an insane asylum, all gothic mood, strange goings-on and loaded conversations. Again, it arrives (on June 22) with awareness built in thanks to its earlier release. You can almost imagine the sleeve without seeing it, the names give it that extra boost to help it off the shelves.

Back to Signature and its Can’t Come Out To Play. Regular readers of this column will know that we’re big fans of Michael Shannon, one of the finest actors currently plying his trade on Hollywood, especially in the kind of film that we write about here, so we were stupendously keen to see his latest outing, in which he co-stars with Samantha Morton, as parents of a sick child. It plays somewhere between a creepy psychological horror and an old Odyssey true story flick, making for a somewhat strange affair, although it works better than the description might initially sound. Morton gives it homegrown appeal, Shannon is as mesmerising as ever and its suitably creepy sleeve, which makes its stars look like ageing goths (in a good way) and new title (its original, slightly spoilerish name The Harvest was ditched), make it a more enticing commercial proposition for the UK.

Our last title from Signature is Jurassic City. It comes in a rather fetching O-ring. Its release is timed rather neatly to coincide with Jurassic World. That’s pretty much all you need to know – we’re firmly on “me-too” territory here, this rather cheap dinosaur actioner, all digital effects, but probably not as good as those that’ll be on display in the latest instalment of the Jurassic Park franchise, which arrives in cinemas shortly. Listen, we’re not here to pass judgement on the quality of this film (we’ll leave it for at least one reviewer who seems to keep picking on Signature releases), instead we’ll applaud the independent for picking up the title, putting it in a very sellable sleeve and timing the release to capitalise on the reawakening of dino-mania…

Tags: ,