The Week In Video Part LII

Thursday, November 19 2015
The Week In Video Part LII

We’ve been busy with a few other projects in recent weeks, or home viewing has been curtailed not just by that, but also by something of a paucity of titles sent to us recently; the postman has hardly been weighed down by checkdiscs and screeners over the past week or two – so much for the Christmas rush…

Having said that, we’ve still had a few bits and bobs to watch, although a few of them are out and about in stores now…

Falling into that category is Terminator Genisys, a much maligned revival of the Terminator franchise. As someone who’s been kicking around the industry for a while, this writer remembers the fever surrounding the whole Terminator thing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the huge video success story of the first, the sheer anticipation of the second (and a ridiculously packed press screening at London’s Marble Arch, the near-perfect blend of blockbuster action and sci-fi genre fare that proved so intoxicating for the entire video industry. Sure, there have been misfires and mistakes subsequently and while the more cynical among us may not greet a new outing with the same kind of fanfare as those heady days when special effects took a seeming quantum leap forward , but as the box office and subsequent video success of Genisys has shown, sniffy critics and world-weary industry veterans do not the rest of the UK make. We’d initially seen it in Leicester Square, with our 12year old junior correspondent. Daft as it might have seemed to him, he still thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle. Despite its blockbuster bluster, it works better on home formats, mainly because that’s where it’s always belonged, going right back to the first film on the old Virgin Vision imprint. As well as a strong first showing, it should enjoy a decent life on other price points too. Just don’t think too much about the plot…

Replacing Terminator Genisys at number one after its initial strong showing is Spy, the latest espionage spoof (the lineage stretches back as far as the original Casino Royale and Our Man Flint in the 1960s). This carefully timed outing, 007 is, of course, back In cinemas as we pen this column, is a far more raucous affair than most spy send-ups, it’s peppered with fruity language, star Melissa McCarthy swears like the proverbial trooper and most of her supporting cast seem hellbent, or heckbent, on trying to outcurse her. This is ideal video fare, cutting across all kinds of different audiences and with the talent involved all having proven track records. Paul Feig’s McCarthy-starring have proven track records, this will continue it. And the presence of the likes of Jason Statham arguably open it up to a wider audience, even if he is sending himself up (whether he realises it or not).

Also just out is the latest addition to Studiocanal’s vast catalogue, a timely revisit to The Ladykillers, arguably one of, if not the finest Ealing Comedy. As essential as ever, this anniversary edition sees the company pulling out all the stops, with what could proudly claim to be the best ever digital presentation of the film, complete with new extra features and additional material. Again, anyone who’s been around the industry for any length of time will have seen numerous different versions of this film come and go, but none have been as good as this. The anniversary edition, complete with gorgeous packaging harking back to the original artwork, gives it a further hook to sell on and should entice some consumers back to the film again, but it should still find new fans along the way. Studiocanal is still digging out archive gems from the vaults, but it’s also working its crown jewels well, updating and giving them a new lease of life. The Ladykillers is a fine example of this and such deserves huge plaudits. 

Sticking with Studiocanal and another just released title, but worth noting in passing, is the excellent Hannibal. The series was cruelly cancelled, but it enables the company’s release of the third outing draw a satisfying line under this superb take on Thomas Harris’ serial killer creation. And as galling as the abrupt – and suitably ruthless – termination of the series might be for fans, it at least ensures the programme doesn’t drag on or suffer from endless stylistic and tonal changes, or wild swings in characters’ moods (we’re looking at you, Dexter). The conclusion of any series similarly brings with it its own opportunities, not least as a complete series collection. It doesn’t have the high streaming profile of some of its contemporaries, meaning that it could still have some decent appeal and shelf life.


Our other prime TV viewing, or at least another element of it, has been the rather excellent Detectorists, as far apart from Hannibal as you could imagine. Gentle, warming, exceedingly British and a whole lot more, it’s performed decently on DVD in its release from RLJ under the Acorn imprint and there’s no reason to suggest that the second series will fare any worse. In fact, given its reputation is growing weekly, backed with some impressive PR and support from its stars, then this series could perform just as well, if not better, especially in its compete boxset form. 

Also just released is Manglehorn, one of Al Pacino’s better recent outings, mainly thanks to the fact that he appears to be trying a lot harder rather than just playing, er, Al Pacino. It’s a curio, for sure – an American independent that will play well across the board, but more so to an older audience. Coming out through the Curzon Artificial Eye operation gives it a good chance too, the company has enjoyed success with this kind of film before.

Forthcoming from the same outfit is Red Army, a cracking little documentary which looks at the indomitable Soviet ice hockey team and what became of its stars after the Iron Curtain came down. It’s a fascinating look at the sport through the Communist era and should offer up a fairly wide appeal – to sports fans, to those more interested in the political angle… on it goes. The sleeve, using Soviet-era imagery (a theme that runs through to its menu screen too, has a powerful appeal too.

For someone who saw it on its original theatrical release some 30 years or so ago (twice within a space of weeks too), the arrival on Blu-ray of Stop Making Sense, the seminal concert film featuring the Talking Heads, singer and figurehead David Byrne’s big suit and all, was more than welcome. What’s more Second Sight, one of our favourite independent labels, is behind its first ever Blu-ray too. The film has been under-served by DVD releases, it never really got the treatment it truly deserved. That’s all changed with this new remastered version. It’s been painstakingly cleaned up and looks a treat, as good, if not better than it did at the cinema all those years ago. The release really illustrates the effort the label goes to in releasing titles such as this. It should enjoy a solid success – it is, after all, acclaimed by most as the greatest live concert film ever – over a long period of time Given the labour of love, it certainly deserves to.

Meanwhile, The Gift had a relatively low key release at cinemas but earned itself a solid reputation as one of the year’s better thrillers, which bodes well for the film going into its December 7 release. That strong word of mouth will propel the film along nicely, and deservedly so, it’s a real little gem and is certain to end up on a little Best Of 2015 critics’ and film fans’ top 10 lists, which should keep it going throughout the month. Jason Bateman gives it a bit of star power, playing against his normal comedy role and moving into darker territory. As with some other recent Lionsgate releases, it boasts a nice menu screen too – good to see one company trying to revive what has become a dying art…

Talk of menu screens brings us back to Universal, with its forthcoming film goodie Ted 2, set to arrive shortly. Universal’s menu screens are the polar opposite of, say, Lionsgate’s Turbo Kid (hands down the best menu screen of the year), with a static image and icons representing Play, Set Up and so on. It’s hardly inspiring, although we quite like the way it automatically starts playing if you leave it for a minute or two. Menu-gripes aside, you know what to expect with the film – look! The teddy bear is alive! And he swears! – but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The first was a huge success and there’s little reason to doubt that this film will follow up on its success, albeit with the kind of diminishing returns you’d expect from a sequel.

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