May’s Failures

Ever since the pandemic, the cinema has been “back” multiple times. The latest film driving that claim is Top Gun: Maverick, the belated-in-every-sense sequel (it’s both 36 years since the original film and something like three years since this one wrapped shooting, its release delayed until well after Covid was ‘over’) that’s been garnering rave reviews from almost everyone. Obviously, I didn’t see it (it self evidently wouldn’t be topping my ‘failures’ column if I had), but maybe next month. I’m sure it rewards the big screen experience as much as everyone says.

That wasn’t the only biggie in cinemas this month though, with multiverses causing buzz aplenty between Marvel’s latest, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and the UK bow of Everything Everywhere All at Once — another film we’re urged to see ASAP, and therefore on the big screen. Again, I didn’t have a chance this month, but maybe next. Other cinema releases look like small fry by comparison, even if they include a Stephen King adaptation (Firestarter) and Mark Wahlberg vehicle (Father Stu). Coming highly recommended, but limited (so far) to a single simultaneous global screening, was Andrew Dominik’s new Nick Cave documentary, This Much I Know to Be True. Hopefully it’s not one of those “you had to see it at the time” jobs and it’ll be on disc and/or streaming eventually.

Talking of streaming, the true headline-grabbers this month were new TV series, primarily Stranger Things 4 on Netflix and Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+. By comparison, original debuting films were thin on the ground. The only one I’ve got noted for Netflix is a new Ghost in the Shell animation, but it’s not a true new film because it’s one of those “cut down a season of TV into a feature” ones — full title Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Sustainable War — which popped up a couple of weeks before a new season of the show itself. I’ve never got round to watching the original incarnation of SAC, never mind the less well regarded (as far as I’m aware) 2045-set revival. Amazon Prime, meanwhile, offered up a Chris Pine vehicle, The Contractor, and a Zac Efron one too, Gold. Neither seem particularly noteworthy.

As far as new-to-subscribers additions go, Netflix arguably had the biggest hitter with Bollywood crossover hit RRR — even if it wasn’t in the original language (exclusivity for that has been nabbed by another streamer) and, I read, not in the original aspect ratio. It’s enough to put you off watching it… were it not for the piles of praise I’ve seen it attract. Naturally, being a product of the Indian film industry, it’s really long, so I just need to find the time for it. The next most noteworthy title on my list is another international hit, two-time Oscar and two-time BAFTA nominee The Worst Person in the World, which is on MUBI. Once upon a time Sky Cinema were king of this category — the whole reason it exists, even — but this month the best they could do was Dear Evan Hansen. Oh dear. Meanwhile, Amazon added C’mon C’mon, which seemed to garner a lot of praise on Letterboxd at one point last year, but that didn’t materialise into much during award season. It didn’t even make my 50 Unseen list for last year in the end. Still, it goes on the watchlist now.

Indeed, my watchlists on all these services were padded out with piles of catalogue additions; so many it would be far too dull to list them all, especially as sometimes it’s just a film jumping from one service to another (looking at you, Ammonite and Chaos Walking). There also seemed to be a particularly large number of things I’ve been meaning to watch on disc but haven’t, which always elicits mixed feelings — a blend of “well why did I bother buying it then” and “I really should’ve watched that by now”. It was, in fact, All 4 that were worst for the latter this month, airing several titles I’ve owned on disc for ages, including The Handmaiden, The Kid Who Would Be King, and Zhang Yimou’s Shadow.

Talking of stuff I own on disc, let’s just move onto that, because I certainly bought more than enough stuff this month. No new-new releases (i.e. recent films new to disc) this month. I’m not sure if that’s because there’s been a dearth of them or because none have interested me. There have been plenty of new editions of catalogue titles, though, mainly foreign genre titles thanks to the boutique labels: martial arts movies like Half a Loaf of Kung Fu, Hero, and Human Lanterns from 88 Films; a pair of poliziotteschi from director Sergio Sollima, Violent City and Revolver (coincidentally released in the UK on the same date by two different labels. Maybe the rights just became available or something, because there certainly wasn’t any apparent cross-promotion effort); and a whole box set of neo-noir titles from Australia’s Imprint label, titled After Dark: Neo-Noir Cinema Collection One. “Collection One”? Promises, promises.

The latter I ordered as part of a bundle of all of Imprint’s releases this month, which also included Paul Greengrass’s superb drama about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Bloody Sunday (it featured on my 100 Favourites list back in 2016); political thriller The Contender (never seen it, but it was more-or-less free by ordering the discounted bundle rather than just the other three titles, and I do like a political thriller); and Walter Hill’s The Warriors, a two-disc edition featuring the original theatrical cut on disc for, I believe, the first time. It’s the kind of release I’ve wanted for that film ever since I first saw it in 2018, so I was thrilled to get my hands on it. Just hope we don’t get someone like Arrow doing an even-more-bells-and-whistles version for the northern hemisphere anytime soon…

Talking of imports and genres, I picked up Arrow’s US-only releases of The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter and Come Drink with Me, which cost more than their UK counterparts but also boast considerably more special features. While I was getting those, I bulked up my order with a punt on the new 4K release of Heavy Metal, which comes bundled with its less-remembered sequel, Heavy Metal 2000; plus the latest classic 3D title to make it to disc, Treasure of the Four Crowns, a film I’d never heard of, but I’m always keen to support the continued release of genuine 3D content; and also a couple of films I had seen that don’t have Blu-ray releases on this side of the pond, steampunk animation April and the Extraordinary World and Clint Eastwood’s true-crime Southern Gothic Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

And that’s not even all! There were more poliziotteschi in Free Hand for a Tough Cop (great title) and Silent Action (aka The Police Accuse: The Secret Service Kill, which sounds much cooler); a couple of things I heard recommended so picked up half on a whim, like single-take sci-fi Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes and Woman at War; and a bunch of stuff that’s been lurking on my “consider buying” list for months/years and finally was on offer, like Irezumi, Over the Edge, A Silent Voice, The Spy in Black, and The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch (talking of cool titles…)

Finally for this month, the greatest frustration of all disc collecting: two re-releases of titles I already owned and hadn’t intended to re-buy but ended up caving on. First, Arrow’s 4K edition of Dario Argento’s Deep Red. I’ve largely been ignoring their 4K Argento reissues because I already bought them all on Blu-ray and, frankly, haven’t watched any of them, and the ‘only’ thing the new editions add is the 4K transfer (which isn’t always that much of an upgrade — I haven’t bothered with their 4K of Donnie Darko for that very reason). But I discovered this month that Deep Red actually added a host of bonus features, plus packaging more in line with their other Argento titles; and the screen caps do make the quality of the transfer look noticeably better, so I caved. Secondly, Eureka’s Blu-ray edition of Vampyr. I seem to remember when they released it on DVD (back in 2008) they decided the print quality wasn’t up to HD standard (although they released their first Blu-rays in 2009, so maybe I’m misremembering), but it’s since been restored; plus they’ve added new special features and a big ol’ booklet. It’s a film I had mixed/muted feelings about when I finally watched it last year, which was part of my reluctance to upgrade, but then I guess I got FOMO about a limited-edition pretty Masters of Cinema release. But hey, the film merits a revisit, and this will encourage me to do so… some day…

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