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Friday, 30 September 2016

Housekeeping

No new film review(s) today as I want to touch on an 'improvement' to my viewing opportunities that I have been meaning to write about for some weeks now. Back in July Sky Movies (or Sky Cinema as they now style themselves) announced that they would be premiering a new film every day, as opposed to the maximum of four a week that we had been receiving. Great, I thought to myself, perhaps now they will be showing more of the top-quality movies included on their pay-to-view Sky Box Office, many of which manage to fall through the cracks, never making it to the regular subscribers' Premiere Channel. In addition they promised a foreign language movie every Wednesday, another big plus for this viewer.

My verdict? I'm afraid it has been something of a disappointment. I do try to watch -- or in some cases begin watching -- each new movie, but there have been a sad number where I have been forced to give up well before their end. In this category I would place some very inferior European and Asian animations -- and I do count myself an avid fan of the best animated movies. Among the 'unwatchable' I would dump "Dragon Ball Z - Battle of the Gods" and its sequel "Resurrection F", "A Warrior's Tale", "Animal Kingdom - Let's Go Ape", and "Frog Games". Never heard of any of these? Nor me.

There are still one or two A-list productions each week as previously, but mixed in with these are some little-known and probably straight-to-DVD bummers with an average IMDb rating of well under 5/. I don't know how Sky sources these movies which are filling out their one-a-day promise, but there have been some real obscurities and an unfortunate few with no redeeming qualities. Some have proved strangely watchable like the South African trilogy of "Spud" movies about the growing pains of a teenaged boy in boarding school (each with a minor role for the usually annoying John Cleese, but quite likeable here)) and a few ambitious horrors like the American remake of "Martyrs" and the largely incomprehensible "Don't Blink". However looking back at the list of movies that I have attempted to watch these last few months -- and I did persevere through most of them, I'm ashamed to admit I have little or no recollection of many -- or even worse a negative recollection of some.

The same is unfortunately true for the weekly foreign language flicks, again largely little-known or only marginally-released films including several South African ones in tribal languages. There have been a few decent Danish ones -- although even these have left little impression, and the only two films which I can recall with any enthusiasm are "Tokyo Tribe" (a Japanese hip-hop musical live manga!) and "Welcome to New York" with the ever-watchable and enormous Gerard Depardieu recreating the sex scandals of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Not that either of these were particularly 'classic' movies, but I'm happy to have seen them; however there have been numerous other foreign releases over the last few years which I have not yet seem and which I would love to be made available.

So what of the future? Ever the optimist I do hope that Sky will keep up the good work of bringing more and more movies to my attention, although I can but hope that the overall quality will improve. However their current television ad promoting all these premieres talks about September and October only, with no assurance that this will be an ongoing phenomenon. Despite all the bitching above, I do hope they will continue this increase in my potential viewing and never return to the past. With all their new potential competition from Netflix, Amazon Prime and the like, who are grabbing up some of the better new films, they do need to keep on top of their game to satisfy their own viewers -- especially since the subscription price has rocketed over the years.

Next subject: It's London Film Festival time again and it's always a challenge to try to select the right balance of films to book over its 1l-day span. We have honed in on eight showings which I'll be reviewing over the next few weeks. These are a three-hour "Journey through French Cinema"; two American films which will undoubtedly be released soon-ish but which I am keen to see: the Cannes hit "La La Land" and the new Christopher Guest "Mascots"; "Interchange" a Malaysian-Indonesian horror (I think); "The Wailing" a Korean foray into the occult; "Lost in Paris", the latest concoction from the offbeat team of Dominque Abel and the unforgettable Fiona Gordon; "A Woman of the World" -- a silent from 1925; and finally "On the Milky Road" from the quirky Serbian auteur Emir Kusturica. This selection probably tells you a lot about me and my rather rarefied (some would say peculiar) tastes; I only hope these choices prove wise ones. 

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