The Week In Video Part LIII

Thursday, January 14 2016
The Week In Video Part LIII

After a Christmas break, we’re back with another batch of our rent viewing, paying particular attention to a film’s commercial prospects…

Let’s start with some titles from the Artificial Eye and Curzon set-up, which has got off to a busy start to 2016 with a clutch of big releases. Chief among these is 45 Years. It should have arrived in stores – released on January 11 – complete with a raft of BAFTA nods, but it seems as if the film, while earning a decent amount of nods, was one of those deemed by those in the know to have been snubbed. One of the key complaints came from the lack of recognition for Charlotte Rampling, who gives a fine performance as the wife of the couple celebrating the wedding anniversary of the film’s title. It’s one of those crossover hits, moved from the arthouse to a wider audience and, furthermore, brings in an older audience too, one that doesn’t always go to the cinemas. It’s a crowd too that may not go for that new-fangled downloads or other digital HD options, giving it a more than fighting chance as a physical release too.

From the same stable comes a wildly differing title in the shape of Love, directed by Gaspar Noe. It falls into the loose category that this writer has often dubbed “soft porn for students”, although this is much more explicit than other entrants into this genre such as Betty Blue – hardcore porn for students, to clumsily coin a phrase. The French director has a group of, ahem, hardcore fans, with titles such as Irreversible proving to be seminal world cinema releases. As well as those, Love is something of a novelty in that alongside the more standard DVD and Digital HD releases, there’s also a 3D Blu-ray to enable the more curious or keener viewers to fully immerse themselves in this world (no sniggering at the back).

More love, as we move on to Love & Mercy, the Brian Wilson biopic that earned plaudits on its theatrical release and has since seen its reputation growing further – Mojo rated it as the best film of 2015. It’s easy to see why the average Mojo reader would love this, there’s plenty in it for the discerning music fan, not least the scenes were Brian Wilson is recording on his own and with the rest of the Beach Boys. Its burgeoning credibility will give it a further lift and this should enjoy a certain longevity. Oh, and it’s worth programming alongside Odyssey’s rather wonderful Grace Of My Heart – a perfect double header.

Sticking with SPHE and Sony has pulled out all the stops for The Walk, the tale of Philippe Petit, the French tightrope artist who walked between the top of the Twin Towers in New York in the 1970s. It’s a well-worn tale thanks to Icon’s documentary Man On Wire, but where this Joseph Gordon Levitt starrer really comes alive is on the 3D Blu-ray version. Here the film, made with all director Robert Zemeckis’ customary flourish, truly comes alive, becoming a fully immersive experience. The film has its flaws, sure, not least its star’s slightly dubious French accent or the fact that some of the drama and tension is lost if you’ve seen Man On Wire, but the effects and 3D elements are so good that, if the viewer suffers from any kind of fear of heights, they will genuinely be petrified by the climactic sequences. One of those killer apps they’ll show to their friends too, making the 3D SKU an essential purchase.

More love now and, among a brace of mid-January releases from the BFI come a couple of cracking releases looking back at some of the darker periods of British history. Love On The Dole is a tale of ordinary working class folk that plays like a real curio. Its northern accents – all over the place and spoken my middle class actors – are reminiscent of Harry Enfield’s Mr Cholmondley Warner, making it all the funnier. As ever, it’s beautifully put together, although it does pale next Ration Books And Rabbit Pies, one of those titles the BFI does so well. It’s a compilation of public information films and propaganda from the wartime austerity years and really is a wonderful collection of historical oddities. We’ve said this elsewhere, but the section about making tea is one of the most joyful things we’ll see all year. Both titles have a real historical and cultural importance and will find their home within the natural BFI audience.

A few recent releases now, and among the glut of Boxing Day and post-Christmas titles there lurked a smattering of both commercial and eminently watchable titles. Take the latest from the prolific Signature operation, Rise Of The Footsoldier Part II, the latest tale that touches on the Cockney goose that laid the proverbial golden egg, the Essex Boys murders. The original has sold by the proverbial bucketload, while Signature has now taken over the reins of the franchise from Studiocanal and Optimum. We’re on familiar territory here, as the ICF hoolie turned gangster Carlton leech continues in his quest to become a fully fledged gangster. This genre simply refuses to die and its sales throughout the holiday period – some 45,000 in its first 10 days or so on sale – highlight that again. What’s more, given how well the original has sold over the years, and its pairing with that in a box, then this should enjoy a fruitful shelf life too.

At the same time, Heist, from Lionsgate, shows that the quality of DTV fare is far from going downhill, as this tale, an Ocean’s 11 meets Speed tale of the titular blag going awry and its protagonists escaping on a bus, boasts an impressive cast, headed by Robert De Niro as the Casino-style casino boss. It’s a decent, watchable film, De Niro might phone it in, but he’s still eminently watchable and former WWE grappler Dave Bautista is now proving to be something of a DTV winner too.

Back to Signature, although its Momentum title, already the subject of a premium vod release, would maybe have been better off if it had come out a few years ago, under the, er, Momentum banner. It’s a convoluted tale of another heist, aided by a star turn from Olga Kurylenko as the thief pulling one last job. Daft it may be, violent too, but Signature know exactly what to do with this kind of film, as highlighted in the hugely commercial sleeve.

Out this week, and far more restrained, is Black Or White, another DTV outing and one that sees Kevin Costner cementing his newfound role as wizened old fellow, this time with a battle with alcoholism thrown in for good measure. Octavia Spencer supports, it’s a strong weepie about family problems and has a distinctly retro feel to it, playing like an old Odyssey rental release from the 1990s (and we mean that in a good way too). 

And we’ll end with a forthcoming Signature title, its Reg and Ron sequel, The Fall Of The Krays, the follow-up to its big 2015 hit The Rise Of The Krays. It’s essentially more of the same, a right old knees-up of a British gangster flick and will arrive hot on the heels of Studiocanal’s Legend. Expect this to be another winner from the independent.

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