Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Avenging Angelo"

Have you ever had one of those “I never heard of that movie before” moments when perusing the DVD rental shelf at your local Blockbuster? The movie in question usually features a star you’ve heard of, perhaps even one who has appeared in some major releases over the years. Now, here you are face to face with a DVD box of a movie featuring someone you know in a movie you’ve never heard of. If you’re unaware of the “DTV” direct to video (sometimes called “direct to DVD” in these days, or “cable premieres” for those that run on cable TV first) phenomenon, you figure you must have somehow just missed it when it was in the theater. But if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know it most likely never made it to a theater. At least not in America.

There’s a reason for this, and it is best exemplified by something known as a “Q rating” or “Q score.” This concept refers to the practice of polling a group of people to gauge not only their awareness of a celebrity, but how they feel about that celebrity (the likeability factor). For celebrities with high awareness in other countries, it often means the ability to keep appearing in movie projects. For example, if a film star has a following in a particular country, an investor from that country may want to come on board a project that features that particular actor because of their following in that country. In many cases, they will even manage to get theatrical distribution for a project based solely on a performer’s participation in it, even if they are third or fourth billed. The video sales in that country are usually an extra to the theatrical release, while in America, the same movies go the DTV route. This is a practice that has made it possible for once red-hot stars like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal to keep having theatrical releases overseas.

“Avenging Angelo” is one such movie. This film made its debut as a theatrical release in Italy, and went on to appear on the big screen in France, Greece, Spain, Kuwait, Mexico, Egypt and Japan. But in Poland, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Finland and the United States, this film went straight-to-video. It was one of a handful of Sylvester Stallone films from 2002 and 2003 to go the DTV route, during the years in between his theatrical “Driven” and “Spy Kids 3-D” releases.

Since that time, Sly has managed to secure theatrical bookings once more, by returning to his roots with the characters that made him a household name. The seemingly improbable return of the Italian Stallion turned out to be a very pleasant surprise for many (including me) in the late 2006 release “Rocky Balboa.” Sly followed that comeback up just over a year later with the return of “Rambo” (alas, the Phantom has never been a big fan of big John, although I did enjoy the original “First Blood”). That one wasn’t as well-received (by either fans or critics) as “Rocky Balboa;” leaving Sly with a .500 batting average on the comebacks.

This also happens to be the last film of Oscar® winning actor Anthony Quinn. The Phantom is too pressed for time to go into this legendary actor's career, so you can learn more about him here. Likewise, the other most recognizable name here is actress Madeline Stowe. She has been in a bazillion movies and TV projects. Check out her filmography here.

“Avenging Angelo” is another hybrid movie, by the way. A romantic comedy that’s also a mob film (see “Prizzi’s Honor” or “Married to the Mob” for reference). Which is no surprise as Channel 7 seems to like their pasta sauce bloody – this is just another in a long line of mob films we’ve covered here at the Landfill (within my recent “Blood Vows” posting you’ll find links to all the other mob films that have appeared on the channel 7 late movie the past four months).

Could it possibly be any good? I don’t know. But I know I don’t have the time to find out. Variety actually reviewed this and gave it low marks. They particularly point out the lack of chemistry between Sly and Maddie. To quote Jerry Seinfeld, “that’s a shame.”

View the trailer here:

Or watch the entire movie on WABC-TV Channel 7 on Sunday, May 18th at 11:35 PM... if you dare!

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