The Week In Video Part LVI

Tuesday, April 26 2016
The Week In Video Part LVI

After a brief absence, our regular look at current and forthcoming releases across the industry, returns. As ever, we’re paying particular attention to how the film might perform in the market…

Out on the shelves as we write this is Sisters, a comedy that woos both the Will Ferrell crowd and a Bridesmaids audience too, straddling both worlds successful enough to give it a wide appeal. It boasts two bankable stars, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, whose combined might gives the comedy extra oomph. Universal is a past master of the extended edition for this kind of release – it pioneered the uncut, often higher certificated releases of comedies for their home entertainment release going right back to the VHS era and the likes of American Pie, showing it knows exactly what it’s doing when it comes to bawdier comedies. Like many of its extended edition contemporaries, the longer version doesn’t necessarily work in terms of viewing, but fans seem to love it. There’s a strong campaign been put together for it and judging by a handful of store visits, it’s got very support and placement in stores, meaning these siblings should succeed.

Also out this week, nestling in nicely next to the likes of Fey and Poehler, is Keanu Reeves starrer Exposed. It’s the kind of thriller that might get your dear old mum scratching her head and asking what’s going on every now and then – out of sequence, dreamlike elements will do that – but it’s the kind of film that Signature has worked with great success time and time again, there’s no reason why this one won’t enjoy the same kind of success that the distributor has enjoyed with films starring names of the stature of Reeves (it’s a natural home for the kind of proven theatrical to DVD talents, those who can drive titles to big week one sales) and it knows just what it’s doing when it comes to release strategy. It’s a bit of a mess, to be honest, but that’s never damaged Reeves or his output before, his name alone is all you need here.

Further down the line from Signature comes Mojave, another title given the limited theatrical and premium vod treatment, this juicy little thriller is the kind that will be championed by a few, initially, but should see its reputation grow over time. Oscar Isaac’s star is still in the ascendancy, and his mean drifter role here will do nothing to dent that reputation. As well as more traditional revenge thriller elements, Mark Wahlberg, as a Hollywood producer, helps inject a bit of lively fun with his over-the-top portrayal of a Hollywood producer. This one has good potential, don’t desert it (sorry for that awful pun).

Following that formula so successfully furthered by Signature comes 101 Filma’ I Am Wrath. John Travolta has, in keeping with many of his big name contemporaries, turned into a very dependable DTV name – he’s still weighty enough a name to carry a movie, he can elevate lesser films into stronger potential winners and is still enough of a draw to earn him a place on supermarket shelves. I Am Wrath offers up a darker take on some of his more recent activity, with the man formerly known as Tony Manero and Danny Zuko as a grieving husband out for revenge after a brutal killing of someone close to him. It’s independent imprint 101 Films’ biggest release thus far and it’s good to see labels such as this still prepared to be ambitious and actively seeking out hits and opportunities.

Alongside new releases, the biggest catalogue launch in the market, and the subject of much press, is the Criterion Collection, the much vaunted, and loved, label from the States, which, after 30 plus years in existence in the US, has finally come over here through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. It comes with a fearsome reputation in the market and the first package out in April, including Tootsie, Grey Gardens, It Happened One Night and Only Angels Have Wings, is as good as it gets, highlighting the breadth that the imprint offers, as well as showing off its painstakingly restored and lovingly crafted Blu-ray releases in full. It’s an exemplary package – everyone loves Tootsie, Grey Gardens is a genuinely groundbreaking documentary and the others all have their place in cinema history – and should succeed. Where the label will work is in months ahead, as more are added and collectors look to grow their collections by buying into multi buy offers and promotional activity. Essential stuff.

Loosely based on King Lear, and given a timely release in a gorgeous new version to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Kurosawa’s Ran is the latest classic title from Studiocanal’s vast archive to be re-released. The strategy here has seen it come out again as a limited theatrical release, one that was accompanied by a wealth of five-star reviews, ahead of the Blu-ray and DVD a month later. With the glut of glowing notices and 30 years of history behind it, you don’t need us to tell you about the stature of this film. What is worth noting, however, is the sheer quality of this new transfer, it looks sumptuous and is perfect for film collectors, who should lap up this lovingly restored version of a classic film. Studiocanal’s ongoing efforts, mining its vast catalogue and reviving classic films, deserve applause too.

Also from the same stable comes a wildly differing film, Pink String And Ceiling Wax. Gone are the vibrant colours and vast scope of Ran, this is a black and white homegrown drama, an Ealing drama, set in Victorian Brighton. It boasts a cast of familiar faces, not least a very young Gordon Jackson (The Great Escape, Upstairs Downstairs, The Professionals) alongside Googie Withers as Pearl Bond, the femme fatale at the heart of the film, whose desperation to escape her domineering husband sets off a chain of events. Where it is in keeping with Ran is the work Studiocanal has put into this release, again, it looks a treat and plays well. It might be slightly less well known than some of its other Ealing titles, but it’s no less worthy and given the striking sleeve, should fit in well with the rest of its catalogue.

Two wildly different classic films that have been brought back to the fore again, both just released by independents and both worthy of note: 88 Films’ Burial Ground, on Blu-ray, and Craze, from Nucleus on DVD. As we’ve oft noted before, there’s a cabal of small labels mining untold seams of old horror films, bringing back rarely seen films or giving old sleaze and splatter titles the kind of treatment normally reserved for the likes of Kurosawa. There’s not the 4k high definition budget, or the painstakingly, done by hand frame by frame restoration, but the love and enthusiasm the likes of 88 and Nucleus show, the passion they have for the product, elevates it to that kind of level. Burial Ground is an over-the-top zombie flick, all splatter and bad dubbing and showing real nous, 88 has smartly made two versions available on the disc, one cleaned up and the other a grind house version, the poor quality adding authenticity and further scuzz to the film. Craze, meanwhile, is a London-based horror, dealing in black magic and the worship of a deity. An out of place Jack Palance is the chief worshipper, while Diana Dors is its other big name, as brassy as you’d expect, but there are loads of familiar faces involved too, especially for an older audience. Again, the imprint behind it has gone the extra mile in terms of putting the material together, complete with an accompanying documentary. Labels such as these make the UK market as vibrant as any other, and the envy of horror fans in other territories.

Another genre now, and the martial arts sector should get a welcome boost from IP Man 3, the third instalment in the kung fu series, which is just the kind of title that can help push the sector back on to supermarket shelves and give it a renewed high profile. Kaleidoscope has already enjoyed a strong success with this release at theatrical, the home entertainment bow should go even further. Anyone who’s seen the previous two outings will know what to expect, but this is the kind of franchise that can elevate the films further.

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