Once upon a time, I never thought I’d be mentioning a Jackass film on this blog, but the release of revival movie Jackass Forever caused me to seek out the first two in the series, and I do intend to watch the rest eventually. Not going to the cinema for it, though. Or, indeed, anything else this month. Fare like Moonfall and Uncharted is very much in the “wait for streaming” camp for me — I’ll surely watch them both eventually, and it may even turn out I enjoy them, but they’ll wait. I did enjoy Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, so I was tempted by Death on the Nile, but, honestly, I’m still not sold on the whole “living with Covid” thing, so it’s going to take more than that to persuade me out to the cinema. Other things — like animations Belle and Flee — had more limited releases and I don’t even know if they came near me.
The return of the big screen doesn’t mean the streamers have let up on originals, although their quality continues to be variable. I’ve heard good things about Steven Soderbergh’s latest, Kimi, which went straight to Sky Cinema here in the UK, emulating it’s “direct to HBO Max” release Stateside. But their other originals — school shooting thriller The Desperate Hours and language-barrier romcom Book of Love — have received lesser notices. Netflix, on the other hand, could boast Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s first film in almost a decade, Bigbug, and yet I’ve seen precisely one tweet mentioning it. Their latest reincarnation of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, on the other hand, did seem to generate chatter, but little of it positive. And the less said about Madea and Mrs Brown teaming up for A Madea Homecoming, the better.
In that middle ground of “cinema releases coming quickly to streaming”, MUBI continue to rule with the likes of Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman and Icelandic folk horror Lamb, although Disney+ come close with Kingsman prequel The King’s Man and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch. On a slightly slower track, Sky Cinema also had a pretty strong showing of stuff this month, mainly in the horror realm. We’re talking Freaky, The Forever Purge (I’ve got a couple of others left before I get to that, personally), Ben Wheatley’s In the Earth, and Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (I quite enjoyed the first, so I’ll give it a chance). Also, not a horror but it looks horrific: Space Jam: A New Legacy. And quirky British true story comedy Dream Horse, which looks worth it just for the international cast’s attempts at the Welsh accent.
As usual, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and All 4 produced plenty of stuff from deeper in the archive that I’m happy to fill out my watchlist with while clearly being in no rush to get round to. Normally I’d include Netflix in that list, but I’ve not jotted down much on my shortlist this month; though MUBI had an uncommonly good showing, the standout being Jiro Dreams of Sushi right at the end of the month. Others of particular interest included The Passion of the Christ (I feel I really should’ve seen that by now), the 1950s version of Around the World in 80 Days, Ripley adaptation The American Friend, and Memento, which I haven’t revisited in many a year. I own it on DVD, but, naturally, it’s in HD on iPlayer.
Finally, the inexorable growth of my Blu-ray collection continued unabated, with a mix of new releases and sale pickups. Although I watched Ghostbusters: Afterlife in February, I picked it up in the series’ Ultimate Collection box set, meaning I now have 4K copies of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II on my watchlist. And that’s not all from the rewatch back catalogue, because HMV’s rolling offer of half-price UHD discs also allowed me to nab La La Land, Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, the original Scream, and The Shawshank Redemption — a rare film that I love (or like a lot, at least) but never upgraded to Blu-ray, so jumping from DVD straight to 4K feels like some kind of victory.
There were new releases in 4K too, of course, most prominently Dune: Part One (how I wish it said that on the spine — it inevitably won’t match the sequel), which I imported from France so I also have it in 3D, and The King’s Man. Could’ve just watched that on Disney+, or at least given it a go there first, but as I own the first two it was inevitable I’d buy it, so I just got on with it. And, as we all know, discs are better than streaming anyway. I also took a punt on adult fantasy animation The Spine of Night in 4K, imported from the US alongside a new edition of Candyman III: Day of the Dead — it’s meant to be a rubbish film, but it completes my Candyman collection. Unfortunately, it’s also a somewhat rubbish disc, with noticeably weaker picture quality compared to a German release from a while back. Still, lots of special features. If I actually like it when I watch it, maybe I’ll treat myself to the German disc too. Based on everyone else’s opinion, that seems unlikely.
UK labels continue to rollout martial arts classics — I feel like something must have changed in the licensing of these, because we got hardly any a few years ago, while now there’s at least a couple every month from 8 Films or Eureka, and now Arrow getting in on the game too. Anyway, this month’s releases included The Flag of Iron and Legendary Weapons of China from 88 Films, and Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon from Eureka, who also released silent epic The Indian Tomb on their Masters of Cinema line. They’d previously released Fritz Lang’s 1950s remake on DVD, which went OOP just before their release of the silent one came out. I presume that’s just a funny coincidence. And last but very much not least on the new release pile, Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: A New Generation. Long-time readers will surely remember how much I loved his series The Story of Film: An Odyssey, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting this sequel. Now I’ve just got to make room for its near-three-hour running time.
I’ve ummed and ahhed for years about upgrading my Charlie Chaplin box set to the Blu-ray version, especially as there have been a couple now, and the extra features vary, and the picture quality isn’t always the best. But Amazon cut it to such a low price this month, I decided just to give in — so that’s 11 features, a mix of ones I’ve seen and ones I haven’t. They may not be the very best available, but they’re a lot better than my DVD copies (which I can hang onto for the missing extras, because I’ll never make much reselling them anyway), and a lot cheaper than buying the films individually — which I can always do if I particularly love any of them. Criterion have put most of them out in the US, and are about to start bringing them to the UK, so we’ll see as they go along. Talking of box sets I’d overlooked but was tempted into by sales (it might not sound like a common problem, but it is for me), Indicator tempted me to grab their four-film John Ford at Columbia set this month; and because that wasn’t expensive enough to qualify for free postage, I also delved into their 5-for-whatever offer, picking up Eyes of Laura Mars, Modern Romance, Night Tide, See No Evil, and Time Without Pity. Their releases are so well-done, and their picks often so obscure but intriguing, that it’s easy to just keep buying them. Now, I just need to make the effort to actually watch more of them, too.
Looking at that (not-so-)little lot, it’s easy to see why my bank account felt severely depleted by the end of the month. Maybe in March I’ll finally resist the lure of sales… but there’s always all those exciting new releases… Oh, I’m damned.