The Week In Video Part LIV

Tuesday, January 26 2016
The Week In Video Part LIV

Our regular look at our recent viewing, paying particular attention to a film’s potential on home entertainment releases…

We’ll start with a brace of wildly differing titles from Soda Pictures now, which, as we noted on our newsletter, is in the process of branching out more into the world of DTV and similar video-friendly genres, with Breakdown, starring none other than Craig Fairbrass leading the charge. It’s a solid DTVer, with the former London’s Burning star turned film harman offering it a commercial angle that’s hard to argue against. We’ve all seen this kind of one-last-job-don’t-mess-with-my-family fare before, but this one isn’t all bluster and bravado, there’s a strangely existentialist air that hangs over it. Whether this is what drew Soda in is another matter, but it’s got plenty of sales potential too, which is far more important than deciding whether or not this has any hidden meaning.

Equally strong in terms of what it could do is Gemma Bovery, starring the film’s near-namesake Gemma Arterton as a woman who could just be the incarnation of the French literary heroine in this updated take on Flaubert’s classic. It co-stars Jason Flemyng and, like another Arterton vehicle, Tamara Drewe, this is based on a Posy Simmonds graphic novel. That previous title did well and even if this one is a dual language affair, Arterton’s presence gives it a star quality that will help it sell.

A trio of recent releases from Universal now, and both Straight Outta Compton and Everest have in consecutive weeks, topped the Official Charts Company listings, meaning that the pair have both already proved their mettle as home entertainment releases, so maybe we need little to add in terms of comment. But both are nicely put together packages, the latter in particular, joins The Walk as another sterling piece of 3D software, showing off the potential of the format, while the NWA biopic should enjoy a relatively long shelf life thanks to its Oscar nod, the soundtrack released at the same time and elements such as Ice Cube’s comprehensive PR support for his current theatrical release, Ride Along 2. Also from Universal comes The Visit, the kind of film that should work a treat on home entertainment formats. Its written and directed by M Night Shyamalan, whose career has faltered somewhat since The Sixth Sense catapulted him on to the A list. It’s an overwrought horror-lite tale and sees his trademark twist in the tale signposted more than ever, but, nonetheless, has enjoyed the success that eluded it at theatrical. Let’s not forget that, while critics might not be enamoured of him, the “from the director of The Sixth Sense” still has a certain cachet with the British public. Call it a kind of Sandler Syndrome, if you will, but never confuse the media’s opinions with a wider crowd…

Out this week comes the rather excellent cricket documentary Warriors, which follows a Maasai tribe who love the game travelling from their native land to that there London for an amateur tournament. As well as the cricketing theme, the doc also packs a powerful punch in the shape of offering a view of female genital mutilation, an horrific practice still in place in parts of Africa. It doesn’t always work – the music becomes a touch overbearing, especially the ubiquitous montage sequences, even if one of those, as they train ahead of the trip, is superlative. But it comes to DVD with an enhanced reputation, and has united feminists and cricket fans alike (let’s face it, not always comfortable bedfellows, especially when it comes to, say, MCC members). The involvement of current England bowling ace James Anderson further adds credibility. And with the England cricket team on a role, the game’s increased standing furthers its prospects.

After initially picking up pre-release Oscar buzz, The Program, based on the rise and ignominious fall of Lance Armstrong, the man who beat cancer to win a record haul of Tour De France titles, albeit, as it turned out, with the help of all kinds of banned substances, suffered something of a flat tyre on its theatrical bow and has yet to get under starter’s orders in the US. It’s a shame as this is a tour de force for star Ben Foster, who puts in a gruelling shift as the fallen hero cyclist. Its UK potential is boosted by the fact that much of the donkey work surrounding his eventual unmasking was put in by a Sunday Times hack, ably played by Chris O’Dowd. It makes for a strong double bill with Alex Gibney’s documentary about Armstrong and the sophisticated doping programme behind him. Hopefully its home entertainment release will help it restore its reputation, something, coincidentally, that won’t be happen to Armstrong any time soon.

Also from Studiocanal is a tragedy that’s been around a lot longer than Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace, Macbeth. The Shakespeare adaptation stars Michael Fassbender as the eponymous Scot, with the same kind of ruthless ambition that marked the cyclist out, although there the similarities probably end (let’s not stretch this point too far, eh?). Once every few years, a new take on a classic Shakespeare play comes along which picks up a wider audience than the Bard’s works normally get, and this take on the tragedy is one of those. It’s Fassbender’s performance that really elevates the commercial prospects of this take on the man who lets nothing stand in the way of his plans to become king, giving it a chance to achieve the kind of ennoblement that few takes on Shakespeare can achieve in terms of units shifted. It’s good to see Studiocanal really giving blockbuster support to this too, with a notable marketing push that should help it succeed.

A far more low-key outing, with its own share of tragedy, although with added laughs and ickiness is Nina Forever. This thoroughly inventive British horror comedy sees a dead girlfriend returning to put a spanner in the works of a burgeoning relationship. It has already earned its stripes among the cognoscenti, thanks to an appearance at last year’s Film4 FrightFest event and has built up a considerable head of steam between now and then. It deserves its rep, as it avoids the normal cliches and is a truly original outing. Its appeal could well lie beyond the traditional horror crowd too, It should earn interest from a wider audience of BBC3 of Channel 4 fans, with familiar faces from the likes of Utopia meaning it will be lapped up by fans of that kind of edgier drama.

Also on the horror front comes The Green Inferno, another former FrightFest entry. This is far tougher stuff and sees its notoriously controversial director Eli Roth, whose wildly disparate filmography veers dramatically between acclaimed horror to reviled schlock material, pay homage to 1970s Italian cannibal flicks. While Roth may court controversy, he’s never anything if not commercial; his track record may not always offer a guarantee of quality, but it’s never anything that doesn’t offer potential, especially at retail. The Green Inferno may require a lot of stomach to view – it spares nothing when it comes to some of the flesh-eating sequences, but it’s probably as good as it gets when it comes to offering up a cannibal flick that can sit easily – and sell well – on supermarket shelves. Some 30 or more years ago this would have ended up on the banned list, now it’s a more mainstream offering, a remarkable journey for the cannibal film. Like any decent horror, Roth’s film, which offers a modern twist on the patronising Westerners off to a remote part of the world where headhunting is not just a recruitment buzzword, comes with a FrightFest premiere under its belt. It may have been waiting a few years for a release, but it could well work for any retailer prepared to take a risk with a cannibal film…

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