No word yet on which if any of the Amazon Pilots have been picked up yet but Netflix has announced yet another original series and this time coming from no less than comedy powerhouse Judd Apatow.

Love will be produced by Apatow and star Community’s Gillian Jacobs in a story regarding a twenty something’s search for love and happiness but avoid commitment. Love will debut in 2016 and although the premise isn’t the most inspiring, along with Apatow the half hour comedy series will also have some talent from Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Office involved too so it could turn out to be as essential as Orange is the New Black one day, we will see…

This week’s titles of note are as follows:


American Hustle (2013)

The fate of one time critical darling American Hustle is perhaps a sign of just how even more political the awards season has become in this age of twitter and rampant communication. I sit back and watch these things unfold and I find it just bizarre most of the time.

Late last year David O’Russell’s latest movie came out with a lot of buzz and a great deal of praise for the breezy fun O’Russell injected into his true life tale with great performances across the board from Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams. Then several commentators and people in the know started to suspect that this was going to be the one that would sweep the academy and end up winning everything. Alarmingly people turned on their heel and started slating the film, if this movie that dared to be ‘fun’ won over the serious and heavy 12 Years a Slave what would that say about the politics of Hollywood? We would all look like shallow fools!

Almost as soon as the buzz started it had ended and neither of the much touted films won much of anything because the academy went with a safer crowd pleaser with Gravity. Now that the dust has cleared and we build up to another year of weird praise and instant backlash over awards season, it’s time to look at American Hustle on its actual merits. It’s not entirely fair what happened to this film early this year because it is actually pretty great, not O’Russell’s best by any means but certainly up there with them and there is a reason it was a solid box office hit in this country.

American Hustle was a film that could well have won a shedload of gongs in a less political year, it’s a drama that isn’t afraid to be fun and wacky with some laugh out loud moments as well as moving bits and there are not many best picture contenders you can say that about.

Available on Now TV


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

In my mind the second Hunger Games book was always going to be the trickiest one to pull off on film, yet somehow new trilogy director Francis Lawrence managed and arguably bettered the first.

There was always going to be a delicate balancing act between the conspiracy thriller nature of the story with the relative re-tread that finds Katniss and Peeta back in the arena yet it never feels in any way like a rehash because the first couple of acts build the tension and lay the groundwork for where the story is going so well that by the time we come into a more advanced arena of death it feels like the most natural progression of the story.

It helps that this time around the characters joining Katniss in the arena are a much better bunch of actual well defined characters rather than cyphers. So we get a welcomely weird Jeffery Wright and Amanda Plummer, dashing hunk with a past Sam Claflin and a never better scene stealing Jena Malone. Most people seem to agree that this is a better film than the first; I’m not quite there yet although I will concede that Francis Lawrence has a better eye for action than Gary Ross. It’s good to know that as we head into the final two films in the series it’s in very safe hands.

Available on Netflix


Don Jon (2013)

Actor, writer, director, producer and all round renaissance man Joseph Gordon-Levitt made his directorial feature debut with this timely story of unrealistic expectations. The spread and growth of the internet and technology has in many ways been a good thing but with every technological expansion comes a boom in something that people don’t want to acknowledge but is there nonetheless…porn.

Whether you want to bury your head in the sand or not, porn is everywhere on the internet and Don Jon is about a man who’s love of porn has built up the physical act of love so much in his head that he cannot ever be satisfied with the real thing. You watch this character go out and about trying to pick up women week in week out only to be dissatisfied every time until he meets Scarlett Johannsson’s character that at first seems to be the ultimate object of desire but she in turn has unrealistic expectations based on her love of Hollywood’s romantic comedies.

Johannsson’s thread and her characters issues may get short shrift here and it perhaps isn’t as well explored as it could be but most of the time Don Jon is an insightful, warm and often very funny story for our confusing modern age and it never tips over into bad taste or crassness. Well worth a look if you missed it in cinemas and you probably did.

Available on Now TV


The Canyons (2013)

And so we come to The Canyons which at one point or another would probably have ended up on my most anticipated list as it comes from director Paul Schrader, writer Bret Easton Ellis and was supposed to give troubled Lindsay Lohan some kind of indie comeback cred. There are all kinds of behind the scenes stories on this one but the finished product looks nothing like a film that you would think would come from the writer of Taxi Driver and creator of American Psycho.

I suspect that we have only scratched the surface of what went wrong here but everything that constantly threatens to be obnoxious about Easton Ellis’ work is present and correct and fully tipping over into annoying, plus after the opening credits (which are aptly suggesting the death of cinema) it just looks terrible and Lohan really doesn’t look well. Basically this is a bunch of the trust fund assholes that Easton-Ellis hates so much apparently producing a movie but being far more concerned with shared sexual experiences and producers abusing their little power.

The casting of porn star James Deen in the male lead somehow forces everyone else to lower their standards and from the first scene onwards you won’t quite believe how awkward everything feels. This isn’t as bad as you have heard its worse!  And can’t even be looked at as a camp classic like The Room it’s just too boring, avoid.

Available on Now TV


Parkland (2013)

Parkland isn’t a bad film by any stretch, it’s quite admirable in what it’s trying to do and tells the story of the JFK assassination from a different perspective, that of those on the ground in the hospitals and trying to control where the information flows in the aftermath.

The problem is there isn’t really anything new to say here and the mournful tone of Parkland is a bit much sometimes despite solid performances from Zac Efron, Tom Welling, Mark Duplass and Paul Giamatti as the guy who shot the infamous footage. The definitive last word on this tragedy remains Oliver Stone’s JFK and Parkland is a moderately interesting diversion only.

Available on Netflix

The Machine

The Machine (2013)

I feel like I need to watch this film again very soon because this low budget British sci-fi movie had a lot going on, perhaps too much to adequately absorb on first viewing. For a film with a low budget this looks amazing, visually it’s beyond compare to anything we brits have done in sci-fi perhaps ever. The military has been mucking around with robotics and cyborgs in its injured soldiers and when a scientist is assassinated they make her into the first self-aware most advanced cyborg in their arsenal.

Beyond the visuals I had a hard time grasping what exactly was going on with the cyborgs planning some kind of uprising in their own newly developed language and Toby Stephens scientist being at the centre of some kind of conspiracy, which is why a second watch is in order because the ingredients fascinate me. It’s been a long time since true cyberpunk has been done properly on screen and despite what Hollywood thinks; The Machine is probably the closest we will get to Ghost in the Shell done properly in live action.

Available on Netflix


Dead Calm (1989)

It feels like back in the days of VHS rental and pricey sell through, around five films a month used to come out on video and we all competed to rent them no matter what it was. In a month that included Tim Burton’s Batman, Licence To Kill, Lethal Weapon 2 and The Abyss there was also Dead Calm, a smaller Hitchcock like story about a couple on a yacht menaced by Billy Zane’s insane drifter (literally).

Times were simpler back then, it came out and therefore you had to see it and if it vague genre trappings then that was even better. Dead Calm was my first exposure to a simpler kind of thriller which built tension and suspense instead of relying on explosions and swearing and I loved it. It’s probably not as good as I remember but I am looking forward to revisiting this one.

Available on Now TV



The Leftovers (2014)

I’ve been holding off reviewing this one because I wanted to wait until I had seen a couple of episodes first and could adequately judge the quality of this. It helps that with its ‘See it First’ stamp, Now TV now allows you to see the second episode the week after the first and you don’t have to wait two full weeks after the first has been broadcast anymore.

So The Leftovers is based on a novel by Tom Perotta and comes from internet film geek pariah Damon Lindelof who was the sole reason and Prometheus was such a disappointment and don’t get me started on Lost. In all seriousness I haven’t ever felt as strongly as others about Lindelof and as far as I am concerned so far with The Leftovers, he totally redeems himself. I suspect that if you go into this expecting a central mystery to be solved then eventually you are going to end up disappointed.

2% of the world’s population suddenly vanishes and most people blame it on some kind of divine rapture scenario. Of course every religious nutjob in the world takes this as a sign they were right and even more and worse religious movements pop up with everyone having lost something and looking for answers. The Leftovers literally is a study of those left behind as per the title, their grief and how they deal with it and so far it’s brilliant. At the centre of this is Justin Theroux, perhaps best known in this country for being Louis’ cousin, Aniston’s fiancée and possibly Mulholland Drive.

Theroux plays a newly minted police chief coping with a wayward daughter, estranged son, missing wife and possible madness in visions he is having. Around Theroux are a whole host of supporting characters including Liv Tyler, Amy Brenneman and a creepy Patterson Joseph as a cult leader and they are all perfect in their roles. I think we will look back on 2014 as the peak in this golden age of television and after Fargo and True Detective I really expected The Leftovers to be a let-down but so far it isn’t at all and can proudly sit alongside the others.

Available on Now TV

Community Basic Intergluteal Numismatics

Community – Season Five (2014)

After a shaky and Dan Harmon less season four, Community re-hired him as show runner and squeezed out a fifth season, the last to get a traditional TV broadcast after it was cancelled and picked up by Yahoo. What’s amazing is how without skipping a beat, Community is instantly back to the show we fell in love with in the first place, even with the absence of two of the most well-known and liked characters for most of the season.

Season five even manages to introduce new characters and make them instantly likeable to the point where it feels like they were always part of the show. It will be interesting to see how this fares free of the confines of television ratings now it’s on Yahoo will it become even more inventive and wacky or will it be so different we no longer recognise it?

Available on Amazon Prime


Available this week to rent and stream for a fee:


A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

One of the first big box office flops of the summer was Seth Macfarlane’s live action follow up to the massive hit that was Ted. This time around Macfarlane himself was playing the lead in something that spoofed the old west, less from a Blazing Saddles standpoint and more from a point of view that this was a terrible time to live in.

The film was not well reviewed and was not a hit at the box office; surprisingly it’s supposed to be fairly laugh free even with that great trailer and too long for a comedy. I suspect that this will pick up more of a following now it’s available at home but time will tell.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Amazon Prime/Filmflex/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox


Grand Piano (2013)

One of my favourite films of this year so far is Eugenio Mira’s excellent mash up of musical and thriller in Grand Piano. Elijah Wood plays an acclaimed pianist in his comeback performance that starts to get messages from John Cusack’s gunman that he has to play every note perfectly or he will be shot dead. There is a point to all this of course and its fiendishly good but Grand Piano is all about the journey and it’s one of the most fun times watching a film that I have had this year.

Perhaps it’s too obvious to call this a Hitchcock homage so let’s call it a De Palma homage and much of De Palma’s style is present and correct with split screen, overhead shots and other great camera moves merging perfectly with the constant flow of music and Wood’s great central performance, it’s one of the most well put together thrillers of recent times. Although it wears its influences on its sleeve it still feels like we have never seen anything quite like Grand Piano and it comes highly recommended.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Amazon Prime/Filmflex/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox