An increasing number of movies are being released for home viewing at the same time as they are going into cinemas. It is still largely pictures less likely to enjoy a huge amount of attention on the big screen, foreign language films and low budget flicks, but it is not unsual now for relatively high profile projects to turn up for rental and steaming as well. Several notable actors who the marketers could easily use to get bums on seats have had their work put out with this simultanteous release pattern in the last few months, including Nic Cage, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd.
What I find interesting then is that the publicity for these films is often minimal and any there is seems to play down the wide access. Any posters that get put up on the underground might have a line on the bottom saying ‘On Demand’ but it is never pushed and more often than not these films go entirely under the radar. This is odd when you consider how big the promotion of Blu-rays and DVD has become in the last few years with disc releases almost as big a deal as the cinema dates. The armchair pound is strong.
It is as though distribution companies are a little embarressed by any project not seen as big enough to hold its own in the auditoriums but there are good films put out this way.
The last two weeks have seen three such movies; Coherence, Two Night Stand and Predestination. The last two of these featuring Miles Teller and Ethan Hawke, performers that have recently been spotlighted by their involvement in big Oscar nominated films.
Teller’s Whiplash follow up Two Night Stand is essentially a romcom but manages to do something a little different in a crowded genre. Mind you, after I Give It A Year, They Came Together, Friends with Benefits and the like, doing something different with a romcom is kind of the cliche now. In this one the couple have sex first and then fall for each other after but that’s not really what sets it apart. There is something else.
The reason their one night stand is extended is because a blizzard traps them together in his flat and as a result most of the film is set in this one location. I mean, it’s not My Dinner with Andre but it does give the film a nice focus.
Starring alongside Teller is Analeigh Tipton which is probably not a name you’ll know but you might recognise her face (described here as like ‘a pretty alien’) from Warm Bodies, Lucy or Crazy Stupid Love. Like Teller I am sure her star will rise. She is probably the better of the two performers here with Miles Teller not showing the same brilliance he demonstrated in his previous film.
Still, if you fancy a film centred around sex and relationships, I am sure right now you could do a lot worse.
Predestination is an adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1959 short story All You Zombies. It has nothing to do with the undead as the original title would suggest but is in fact the mother of all time travel paradox tales. Believe me, Terminator, 12 Monkeys, Back to the Future 2 and Interstellar look like Mr. Ben by comparison.
Of course we know all these other films. We know about the future chimps going back in time and parenting the first intelligent simian in Escape from the Planet of the Apes and we know that Dave Lister turns out to be his own father in Red Dwarf. We’ve seen these time loops several times and they just aren’t as mind bending as they were fifty five years ago. This is perhaps why the book has not been brought to the screen before.
This isn’t really a problem though. The pleasure in Predestination is not in seeing how it all fits together. There is no great surprise in discovering how the characters turn out to be related to one another. In fact there is one moment at the end that I think is meant to be a big reveal but I thought they had already made it clear earlier on. What is great about the film is seeing it all play out. The whole thing is still a pretty audacious conceit and directors the Spierig brothers and star Ethan Hawke juggle it well.
The final movie, Coherence is the best of the bunch and is a download of the ‘no budget for a wide distribution in cinemas’ variety. This is a little movie, the whole thing was made by unknown film makers for just $50,000 and was shot in a single location. Without it getting picked up by one of the big studios, à la The Blair Witch Project, it was never going to get into more than a few screens.
What Coherence shows though is that you don’t need a lot of money to make a good film. All you require is a strong story idea and a foot in the door. Remember the name of writer/director James Ward Byrkit because after this he is heading for bigger things. He isn’t totally new to the world of cinema, having worked as a storyboard artist on the initial Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, but this is the first we’ve seen of his own creative endeavours and it could work out to be his calling card.
The set up of Coherence is both simple and clever. A group of friends meet for a dinner party and the lights all go out. Looking outside they realise that the power is down in the whole street apart from one house a couple of blocks away. Some of them go to investigate and the other house turns out to be their house with a whole other lot of them inside it. It seems that a comet passing overhead has caused different realities to converge.
The way the people in the first house react to this discovery, if indeed they are actually the people in the first house, is all very interesting. Like Predestination, this is a nice example of a sci-fi movie driven by ideas not special effects and I recommend you check it out.
Even with the micro-budget there are a few familiar faces in the cast, particularly for viewers of Homeland and Buffy. Yep, Buffy! Ever wondered where Nicholas Brendan went? He’s here.
Coherence and Predestination are in selected screens, available on DVD and on ITunes and Amazon Instant Video now. Two Night Stand is on all the same formats other than DVD.