First of all, something of an apology. I have been writing this column thinking that every single title due for release the following Monday would of course be released via some kind of pay to stream service. Of course it would, we are living in the future, and this is how things are done isn’t it?

Apparently not, last week I included Jeremy Saulnier’s much loved Blue Ruin in the pay to stream section and then it didn’t come out the way I thought it might. Turns out that some companies still have a fairly limited release pattern so Blue Ruin was released by channel 4’s DVD label and appeared on DVD and Blu but didn’t show up to stream on any of the major providers, not even Sky Store or Playstation Network.

So turns out that being a channel 4 release, you can of course rent Blue Ruin through Film4OD and not anywhere else. It’s both a stark reminder that although I may think these are the days of the future, really we are not quite there yet with a fully streaming world and also a sign that we are going to see a lot more of this with places like Film4OD and Blinkbox claiming exclusives to streaming titles with mass appeal potential.

I promise I will research this and provide more accurate info from now on.

This week’s titles of note are as follows:


Philomena (2013)

Stephen Frears’ latest film was the subject of much acclaim and Oscar whispering late last year and then when it came down to it, it was overlooked in favour of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity apart from a couple of BAFTAs.

Writer and star Steve Coogan plays a world weary journalist who tracks down the subject of a story regarding a woman’s long lost son whom she lost years prior due to her circumstances at the time. The great Judi Dench plays the woman in question whom Coogan travels to America with in one of those great road trip/mismatched couple type scenarios except here it’s incredibly sharp and witty as well as being a genuinely great story. Good stuff.

Available on Now TV


Enders Game (2013)

Thanks to the author of the source material holding some less than PC views, Enders Game was widely boycotted and ignored in favour of the latest Hunger Games sequel last autumn.

It’s actually a shame that Enders Game carries such troubling baggage with it because although it’s really quite a flawed film, it has a certain weight and darkness that elevate it above other boring middle of the road young adult adaptations. I have never read the source novel but the film adaptation has a level of brutality and intelligence rarely seen in a film involving characters so young.

The problem is that in a manner similar to what killed The Host last year, the book has concepts and ideas that translate well on the page in the mind of the reader and don’t work so well when transferred to a visual medium. Although I like the occasional moment of abstract cinema, a lot of this without the background info in the book may have left quite a few people scratching their head.

Thanks to not scrimping on the budget, Enders Game looks the part too with an often epic scope as well as moments of surreal alien beauty. At this point I think it’s fair to say that there will never be a sequel thanks to the poor box office reception but I think this might be a great loss because based on what I know of the follow up books , the story went even more surreal and even more out there than even the concepts presented here.

Available on Netflix

Michael Fassbender and Javier Bardem in The Counsellor

The Counsellor (2013)

From difficult material to material that on the page probably said winner and was then matched with completely the wrong director. Cormac McCarthy’s literary work deals a lot of with moral corruption and degradation in the face of bleak landscapes and hostile terrains with only the occasional glimmer of hope present. His work is rightly celebrated and we got a perfect adaptation of his work in the Coen’s masterful No Country for Old Men in 2007. Since then adaptation of The Road tanked but The Counsellor returns to more modern concerns of greed, violence and power and is McCarthy’s first original screenplay.

This was widely panned on release but I actually think the screenplay might have something to it; the problem is if you are adapting McCarthy’s work then the Coens make sense, Tarantino would make sense, probably even someone like David Cronenberg would make sense as a director. What doesn’t make sense is hiring a man who is primarily known for his visual style and his ability to marshal big budget potential messes into something approaching an acceptable blockbuster. Let’s face it Sir Ridley Scott’s best years are behind him and I am still baffled by those who proclaim Prometheus to be some kind of masterpiece. Scott has no idea how to portray this material so scenes filled with meaning and portent (Yes even the Cameron Diaz windscreen thing) end up as absolute clangers and dialogue seems like an afterthought when you need to light Javier Bardem’s hairdo just the right way.

What The Counsellor does have is an interesting commitment to nastiness and nihilism, an a-lister is killed in a horrid fashion and the movies most shocking moment is so casually portrayed it barely registered first time. It’s a real shame that nobody stopped and either re-wrote the film to play to Scott’s strengths or gave it to someone else because this had lots of potential.

Available on Now TV

3126 - Dom Hemingway - Photo Nick Wall

Dom Hemingway (2013)

The advertising and marketing would like you to believe that Dom Hemingway is kind of a cockney gangster version of Chopper but the truth is Jude Law plays not an insane character, just a really selfish one.

So loud and proud safe cracker Mr Hemingway gets out of jail and bowls it round London shouting his name and punching people like he is Ray Winstone’s Beowulf. He sets about getting wasted and getting laid after the spell in prison but ultimately this leads to a realisation of what his selfishness has cost him. It’s in these scenes that I found the film to have more value than most people found on release.

The scenes with Emilia Clarke and Richard E.Grant with Dom realising what his choices have cost him and how difficult the path to redemption is are where the film shines for me and I actually liked it quite a bit. If you are expecting another Guy Ritchie wannabe then look elsewhere, if you fancy something a bit more thoughtful like Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast then this could well be the film for you.

Available on Netflix from 16th September



Skyfall (2012)

You can tell when a film in a long running franchise has well and truly gone and upped the game and become a stand out because all kinds of stories about the follow up start to leak out as the producers dither around trying to if not top then at least equal the last film. It happened with Alien 3 and now seems to be happening with the next Bond film after Skyfall as there have been false starts, location leaks and tales of re-writes all over the shop.

So eventually when the next Bond film comes out it does indeed have to follow this and it’s going to be tough because Skyfall gives an urgency and intimacy to the Bond franchise the likes of which haven’t been seen before. Sam Mendes has managed the tricky feat of creating a Bond film that pays homage to the past but also manages to be what everyone liked about the 2006 reboot in the first place. It’s gritty and violent but it’s not afraid to be funny and fantastical either. It’s a film so gripping that it’s only really afterwards that it registers that it takes place primarily all in the good old United Kingdom.

Some have complained that Javier Bardem’s Simon Silver is a bit too close to Heath Ledger’s The Joker as a villain but I truly do not get this comparison. Silver has a plan and isn’t an agent of chaos for the sake of it, he is actually one of the most interesting villains for a while with a truly sympathetic grudge. Let’s face it Daniel Craig isn’t getting any younger but at this rate he is going to have the best run as the character since Sean Connery, no easy feat.

Available on Netflix


Contagion (2011)

Jude Law pops up again as a slimy journalist in Steven Soderbergh’s worrying and somewhat cold vision of a pandemic. Unlike Wolfgang Peterson’s Outbreak, Contagion isn’t setting out to thrill you, it wants to scare you and it does this through a sprawling ensemble of characters from the government and medical personnel involved to the common man in the street.

You could argue that this film doesn’t go far enough in depicting the sort of desolation and anarchy that a global pandemic would cause but mostly this is gripping and essential cinema from one of the greats.

Available on Amazon Prime

Unlikely Hero aka Paperman (2009)

Released as Paperman in the states in 2009, this film squeaked out on to DVD here recently renamed as Unlikely Hero. Jeff Daniels stars as an author with a rocky marriage who gets away from it all in a cottage in a leafy neighbourhood. Whilst there he bonds with a troubled teenager played by Emma Stone and gets visits from his imaginary super hero friend played by a bleached blonde Ryan Reynolds. It’s a fairly typical set up that you have seen countless times before but it does nothing interesting with any of it. There were several angles they could have gone with here with the characters and situations but the film just middle roads it the whole way with no real momentum or anything of value. There have been worse crimes committed in the name of indie cinema but few that have wasted a cast this good.

Available on Amazon Prime

Pay Per View

Available this week to stream for a fee:


Sabotage (2014)

Oh dear, not only did this garner the worst reviews of Arnie’s return to cinema so far but also the worst notices of End of Watch director David Ayer’s career so far as well. This doesn’t bode well for October’s Fury which looks like it could be Ayer’s best film to date but now could go either way.

Basically this has a bunch of corrupt DEA cowboy’s led by Schwarzenegger finding themselves being picked off one by one by people they have wronged who have obviously had enough. It’s been criticised as being loud, crass and violent beyond belief. I don’t know, sounds like a good time to me.

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

The Two Faces of January

The Two Faces of January (2014)

The trailer for writer turned director Hossein Amini’s film screamed class all the way with a little bit of The Talented Mr Ripley thrown in. Oscar Isaac plays a tour guide slash con artist who encounters Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst on holiday and ends up embroiled in a weird game of who is conning who and who is who and what the hell is going on.

Jealousy, paranoia and possibly murder are all involved and despite its old school approach, this will appeal to all those who like their thrillers a bit more considered and skilful.

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

Only Lovers Lefts Alive Poster

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Jim Jarmusch has left behind the hipster coffee house chats and an ageing lothario played by Bill Murray for the vampire. Well I say vampire but let’s be honest, this is defiantly indie Jarmusch’s version of a vampire, so it’s always going to be a bit too cool for school.

Although it’s never going to go mainstream, nonetheless this sounds fascinating with Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston playing an immortal on again off again couple who have seen it all in a film that will appeal to anyone who has ever felt a little left of the mainstream.

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


Frank (2014)

I have been dying to see Frank, a fascinating take on the Manchester music scene, because like 24 Hour Party People, this is something I actually remember from when I was a lad. Frank Sidebottom seemed to pop up on TV either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, so jarring and strange was his appearance and mannerism’s that minds would have exploded if he appeared on something like Loose Women.

This is a fictionalised take on the story with Michael Fassbender playing the man under the paper mache head and Maggie Gyllenhaal and Domhnall Gleeson lending sterling support in Lenny Abrahamson’s quirky but already much loved music biopic.

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