20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment announced a pair of summer theatrical “counter programming” releases this past week that will be making their way to both DVD and Blu-ray during the post-Labor Day timeframe.
Not everything released during the prime summer season has to be loud and loaded with CGI effects. There can be plenty of room for films that target other audiences and both Paper Towns and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl are excellent examples.
Filmmaker Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s only other feature film was a remake last year of The Town That Dreaded Sundown, so it was hard to imagine what the end result would be for a film adaptation of writer Jesse Andrews’ debut best-selling novel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. They are polar opposites.
The end result is a stunner, especially for an indie film that opened at Sundance in January of this year, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award (and many more during its subsequent festival run). 20th Century-Fox quickly (and wisely) snatched it up for theatrical and home entertainment.
Now “counter programming” during a busy release period only goes so far. Screens and seats are at a premium between Memorial Day and Labor Day and unless a film is selling out Friday and Saturday nights on the opening weekend, it is quickly shuffled off to those quaint 100 seat arenas at the local multiplex and then out the door shortly thereafter. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, despite being one of the best films thus far of 2015, opened on the same day theatrically as Jurassic World … that was the kiss of death.
Fox tried to platform its release (a few screens, then a few more, etc.) in the hope that word-of-mouth would spread and the film would become a true “sleeper.” A spring release or a fall release might have worked, but against Jurassic World and in the teeth of the summer blockbuster blitz it turned out to be a fool’s errand. Ticket sales stand at a lackluster $6.7 million.
So it is DVD and Blu-ray to the rescue on Oct. 6. The ARR for that street date works out to 116 days.
One other note, the film opened in June, makes it to home entertainment in early October and that’s the end of it, right? The members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (Oscar, Oscar) would be wise to give this “indie” a second look come the award’s season.
Greg (Thomas Mann — It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Project X, Welcome to Me, etc.) is a self-aware high school senior who, by some standards, would be viewed as a slacker. Actually, he’s just bored with the high school scene and is ready to get it behind him — for what, well that’s question. He hasn’t given that much thought.
He hangs out with his buddy (er, “co-worker”) Earl (newcomer RJ Cyler) — they’ve made short parody films together over the years. The films are awful, but they are important to the overall story arc. His parents (played by Connie Britton and Nick Offerman) are cartoonishly weird and sort of set the mood for the film in general. Which, as mentioned, is a “stunner.” A total delight!
Rounding out the cast are Rachel (Olivia Cooke — as Emma in the Bates Motel television series, plus such films as Ouija, The Signal and The Quiet Ones), a childhood “acquaintance,” who is also a senior and the “dying girl” (leukemia) and Madison (Katherine Hughes), who is friends with Greg and helps move the story along.
As to bonus goodies, common to both the DVD and Blu-ray SKUs are commentary by producer/director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, the short titled “Abstract: Movie for Rachel” and deleted scenes (with optional commentary). Exclusive to the Blu-ray is the featurette, “This is Where You Learn How The Movie Was Made” and video session with Martin Scorsese and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
The other “counter programming” film on the new release docket this week is director Jake Schreier’s Paper Towns, which will be getting a DVD and Blu-ray push on Oct. 20.
This is a studio production, also with a high school theme (adapted from John Green’s novel of the same name, which came before his blockbuster adaptation, The Fault in Our Stars) and it opened wide (a little of 3,000 screens) as opposed to the “platform” run of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Paper Towns continues to play theatrically, with ticket sales thus far standing at $31.1 million.
The ARR for the Oct. 20 release date works out to a swift-to-market 88 days.
As with Greg, Quentin (Nat Wolff — The Fault in Our Stars, Behaving Badly, etc.) is also senior in high school. In any other story he would be “wallpaper,” you know, the kid passing by the camera in the obligatory high school hallway or cafeteria scene. The only thing that makes Quentin important in Paper Towns is that he lives across the street from the “shiny object” by the name of Margo (Cara Delevingne — The Face of an Angel), a beauty that is well outside the league of a “wallpaper” high school student.
One evening she climbs through his bedroom window in order to recruit him in helping her with a series of revenge pranks on her cheating boyfriend and others who were involved or knew of the betrayal. It’s a night of fun and excitement, especially for Quentin who gets to be close to Margo. She then abruptly vanishes.
With help of his nerdy “wallpaper” friends, he goes in search of her and discovers a couple of important life-lessons in the process. It’s a fun road trip, with a twist.
Bonus features include commentary with director Jake Schreier (Robot and Frank) and author John Green and five featurettes, including “Memorable Moments” and “Road Trips.”
Exclusive to the Blu-ray edition are four deleted scenes (with optional commentary), a gag reel, an alternate scene and a making-of featurette.