As readers of my monthly review will likely have already gathered, I didn’t go to the cinema this month. Well, if I didn’t make it out for some of the big hitters earlier in the year, I wasn’t likely to be tempted by the poorly-reviewed Thor: Love and Thunder or kiddie sequel Minions: The Rise of Gru, was I? (I actually quite enjoyed the first Minions film, to my surprise, but I’m still not paying cinema prices for the sequel. Happy to wait for it to be free someplace.) Other big screen offerings this month included The Railway Children Return (never seen the original), Where the Crawdads Sing (couldn’t tell you anything about that), and DC’s League of Super-Pets (a box office flop, apparently).
Also in cinemas — then on streaming a week later — were a pair of Netflix original movies. You don’t need to have even read Jane Austen to realise that Persuasion is not particularly faithful, even just from watching its trailer; and if you are a fan of Austen, apparently it’s a travesty. I may end up watching it at some point out of morbid curiosity, but I’m in no rush. Then there was action-thriller The Gray Man, which seems to have received universally mid to poor reviews, but which I know I’ll end up giving my time to someday. You never know: plenty of people seemed to hate Michael Bay’s Netflix movie, 6 Underground, and I found it passingly fun, so there’s always hope.
Other premieres further down the streaming hierarchy (as in, I don’t think they were granted theatrical releases) included The Sea Beast, a fantasy animation with “How to Train Your Dragon at sea” vibes that looks like it might be fun; and Rogue Agent, which is apparently a true story about a conman pretending to be an MI5 agent, starring James Norton and Gemma Arterton. I presume that one can’t be very good, because it’s had zero press that I’ve seen, but it sounds up my street. (Mind you, it’s not out in the US until 12th August, where it’s apparently getting a limited theatrical release, so if there’s any buzz to be had I guess it’ll come when US critics get their hands on it.)
As for Amazon Prime, it seems the best they could offer in the film department was remake Most Dangerous Game. Billed as a “new movie”, it turns out it was originally a Quibi series in 2020 (they never even tried to launch Quibi in the UK, so anything on there has had zero cultural footprint in the UK; which, as I understand it, is roughly the same as the cultural footprint it left in the US). As it has somewhat starry names (Liam “that’s the one who isn’t Thor” Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz), I guess someone felt it was worthwhile to repackage it as a feature film for Amazon. But before they go that far, as a series it moved to The Roku Channel, who commissioned a second season — assuming that goes ahead, I guess we might be treated to a ‘sequel’ someday. Maybe Amazon are on to something after all.
As I mentioned last month, I’ve dropped many streaming services I was subscribed to. The subscriptions for a couple of them lasted into this month — Disney+, for example, on which I could’ve watched the likes of The Princess or Flee if I’d pulled my finger out in time. (Though Flee was added on the very day my sub ended. After hearing about how good it is on Letterboxd for what feels like years, for it to finally be available to me — only to immediately not be — felt bloody typical.) Over on MUBI, there was acclaimed Nick Cave doc This Much I Know To Be True, but I never got round to the last acclaimed Nick Cave doc (One More Time With Feeling), so I feel I should see that first (probably doesn’t really matter, but you never know). Other titles of note included Paul Verhoeven’s sexy nun flick Benedetta; drama Bergman Island (it’s surely some kind of arthouse Inception when an arthouse film about the work of a famous arthouse filmmaker is available on the arthouse film streamer); Cold War (which I think is still available someplace else anyhow); and — a true rarity — titles streaming on MUBI that I own on disc! Namely, Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin and Mountains May Depart (I have Arrow’s box set; indeed, I mentioned it in June 2019’s failures. Over three years ago… jeez…
Speaking of box sets, on to the latest stuff I’ve been buying on disc, ready to leave on my shelf for years (or decades) to come before I finally watch it (maybe). This month’s brand-new releases included Everything Everywhere All at Once (imported, because there’s no UK disc release even scheduled currently), Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (what can I say? I’ve got to complete the set), The Northman, and anime Belle — all in 4K, naturally. And that’s not the end of it, because catalogue titles in 4K included Okja (also imported, because Criterion aren’t bothering to release on 4K over here, even though they’re region free so they could literally just send us the discs they’ve printed for the US); Out of Sight (also imported); Arrow’s new edition of Tenebrae (I’ve not bothered with all of their Argento 4K upgrades, but this is a significant do-over from the Blu-ray in terms of extras and packaging, no matter what the film’s PQ is like); also from Arrow, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (waited for that one to be discounted); Red Sonja (which StudioCanal didn’t see fit to give their box-o’-tat treatment, probably wisely); but they did do one for the second Doctor Who movie, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., and of course I bought it; and, finally, Second Sight’s lavish edition of The Witch (which, in my head, I still call The V-vitch).
I think I’ve mentioned before that my strategy for importing from the US these days is wait until I’ve built up quite a few titles I’m interested in, then order them in bulk. That spreads the postage thinner and, it seems, on the site I regularly use, if you spend enough then you dodge them adding a VAT charge (gasp!) So, alongside the aforementioned US 4K titles, I picked up Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (the last Batman: The Animated Series-adjacent movie I hadn’t upgraded from DVD); Warner Archive releases of Drunken Master II and the 1951 Show Boat (never let it be said my taste is not varied); Flicker Alley’s releases of rare noir Repeat Performance and In the Shadow of Hollywood, a box set of Poverty Row titles; anime Vampire Hunter D (to go with its sequel, Bloodlust, which I bought the UK edition of years ago; no local release of the original has been forthcoming); and… Zebraman. Total punt, that, but I happened to see someone review it on Letterboxd and it sounded awesome. Yeah, that’s all it takes to get me to fork over the cash sometimes.
That should be more than enough… but no, my lack of self control knows no bounds. For new releases of catalogue titles, well, I can scarcely resist a Shaw Brothers film nowadays, so of course 88 Films got me with Martial Club, and also The Seventh Curse; while Eureka tempted me with a trio of old Universal horrors in their Boris Karloff-starring Universal Terror set. And then there were the sales! From Dogwoof, documentaries Max Richter’s Sleep (the concept of which fascinates me, so a doc on it seems a good punt) and David Byrne’s American Utopia (a doc in technicality only, because it’s a concert film; one I adored). And HMV had one of their regular 2-for-£15 offers on their Premium Collection range, and (as usual) I couldn’t resist. Four titles this time: more Jackie Chan in Mr. Nice Guy; more noir in The Set-Up; more classic horror in The Mystery of the Wax Museum; and an upgrade from my old two-disc DVD for A Streetcar Named Desire.
Now, that’s plenty, right? …right? Nah, we haven’t even got to the stuff I bought on a random whim yet! Brothers Till We Die, In the Cold of the Night, Knight and Day, Sorcerer… Sometimes I think I might have a problem…