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December reviews and a possible two-tier review system
With few reviewers and limited free time, we only get to cover a small number of the discs that are offered or sent to us. In a seriously overdue blog, Slarek outlines how things will run for the rest of this month and proposes a possible new review tier.
9 December 2019

I’m not going to kick off this belated piece in my usual manner by recalling my intentions for regular blogs and outlying the reasons why it didn’t happen. Well, maybe a bit, but this time it is relevant to the discussion below. I long ago decided to make it a weekend blog as I theoretically had more time free time then, but that’s not how it worked out. I’m always busy on Saturday evenings and usually just a little hungover on Sundays and for the past few weeks have been buried in getting particularly long and detailed reviews completed for Indicator’s superb four-film Hammer Volume Four: Faces of Fear and Arrow’s lovely Blu-ray special edition of Robocop. Hell, even now that I have found the time to post a weekend blog, the weekend is over. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Busybody Holmes.

Robocop Limited Edition spread

So what’s this one about? Well, two things, really, but they are intrinsically linked. To lay the groundwork I should note that as December really gets under way and the country and a healthcare system on which I and my sister are now dependent both stand on a precipice, new review discs effectively dried up. That’s not unusual for this time of year, with the next flurry of discs expected later this month in advance of early January release dates. One new release (it’s out today) that we did request from Arrow – Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas – didn’t show, though that’s possibly because I was a week late with my Robocop review, and distributors like to see reviews posted before the release date. In my defence, the review discs in question arrived on the Friday before the Monday release date and there were so many special features to write about and so much I wanted to say about the film, that it took a good week of free time to complete. I’m guessing it would have been the same story with Fear & Loathing but I had at least made a pre-emptive start on that one. I’ve ordered the retail disc so may finish the review and post it anyway, just for the hell of it. Which brings me nicely to…

As regular site visitors will be very aware, we’re essentially now a two-reviewer operation with occasional contributions from talented others, and we tend to favour longer and more detailed reviews of a few select releases over short reviews of everything we see or receive. In an age when a general audience seems to prefer tweet-length appraisals or personality-driven YouTube or podcast reviews, our lengthy and selective written coverage must seem a little old-fashioned, and to some a bit of a slog. I’ve many times wondered what would have happened if we were both fresh out of film school and starting up now, whether we’d have gone down the YouTube route and attempted to monetise videos and make out living that way. It’s an impossible question to answer because our whole approach has grown out of many years of personal experience and our time-evolved enjoyment of the writing process. Add to that the fact that even in my younger days I disliked sticking my face in front of a camera, and apart from pictures and videos taken on my holidays in Japan, I’ve avoided doing so for many, many years. Me host a YouTube channel? Not bloody likely. A podcast would have been a different story, and if Camus and I lived a little closer and if our respective careers and lifestyle were even remotely synchronised, then I could see that working as a sideline to this site. It would be a very, very different beast to our written reviews, however – get us talking about movies and you’ll be lucky to get a word or even a breath in edgeways.

But I digress. A bit. Because we tend to take on titles from the likes of Indicator, Eureka and Arrow, titles that we not only feel the need to examine in detail but which usually come with a boatload of extras that we also want to cover, we end up only reviewing a small number of the discs that we are sent or might under other circumstances request for review. Just recently, this has included a string of titles put out by Eureka, two from Second Run (although a review for one of them should soon be incoming) and one of last month’s recent Indicator releases. We’re considering addressing this in two ways. Firstly, with a probable two-week window before any January titles arrive, we’ve elected to cover some of the titles that we’ve missed, not all of which are loaded with special features. From the distributors’ viewpoint we’ve kind of missed the boat, but the discs in question are still for sale and people are looking for Christmas gifts, so I think it’s still worth posting a few late reviews. The second idea is one I’m still not sure of and is more a long-term proposal, and it’s that we introduce a second tier of reviews, one where the coverage of the films is more compact and accompanied by an overview of the extra features. These, theoretically, could be written and uploaded in far less time than it takes for us to write our longer reviews. The theory is that we would be able to cover (almost) everything that’s thrown our way as capsule reviews, but then pick specific ones to write about in more detail or expand upon at a later date. The upside of this is that we should be able to post reviews of more releases. If there’s a downside it’s that our whole identity as a review site is based around the depth and detail of our film and disc coverage, and such capsule reviews would mean compromising that style, which I’m not completely at ease with. The longer reviews would still get posted, but the capsule reviews would at least allow us to make comments and recommendations about films and the quality of transfers and special features of discs we might not otherwise cover. Of course, doing these would steal time away from that spent on the full-sized reviews, which might take longer and be fewer in number as a result…

So I’m throwing it out there and will follow this blog post with the same question on our Twitter and Facebook feeds. Do you think this is a good idea or should we stick with the long reviews for which we have become known, if only to a select but kindly appreciative few? Tweet us with your answers. For now, it’s back to mopping up a few of the titles we missed. First one coming very soon.