This week’s best new releases on all the Instant Watching platforms.


Spring Breakers (2013)

Harmony Korine’s critical darling from last year is likely to be talked about and discussed for a good long while yet. Holding up an uncomfortable mirror to our youth, Spring Breakers works on a lot of levels not only does it work as a surface level tale of four out of control girls on a debauched trip in Florida but it also works as a story about the spiritual death and rebirth of Generation Y and asks some important questions about how post war culture evolved into something where our youth think licking power tools in music videos is something to aspire to.

There is a scene fairly early on where the two most rebellious of our heroines sit in class discussing oral sex on paper as their tutor drones on about world war two, this could be seen as the key message of the whole film and Spring Breakers is loaded with little details like this which make it great for those repeat viewings. James Franco is a revelation as a Kevin Federline type drug dealer/rapper ripped right from an episode of MTV cribs and made a full-blown nightmare with Scarface on repeat as he leads these four girls further down a dark path which they see as fun and games and he sees as life and death.

The girls all do great work too but truthfully they are not really called on to do much heavy lifting, this is a film much like Terrence Malick’s work where the actors are mere window dressing as much of the important stuff takes place over the voiceover. Spring Breakers is pretty far from the mainstream and will be out-and-out rejected by most of the casual viewers of films on demand but it could well be the new Fight Club in terms of the cult it builds over the next few years.

Available on Now TV

Byzantium - Gemma Arterton

Byzantium (2012)

Neil Jordan’s return to vampire lore after Interview with the Vampire nearly twenty years ago is a visually splendid tale with really unique take on vampires, you could call it ‘kitchen sink vampires’ if you are into your labels. Gemma Arterton (quite brilliant here) plays an ex prostitute afflicted with the vampiric curse sometime in the 19th century which we see in flashback, in the present she finds herself in modern-day Brighton hiding out with her daughter Saorise Ronan, struggling not to kill and to make a home for themselves under the radar.

The mother daughter relationship is key here with Arterton and Ronan really stepping up to the plate and making these characters fully believable in an environment that constantly recalls rainy bank holidays at the seaside. The only weak link here is actor Caleb Landry Jones who is completely miscast and out-of-place as the human who leads Ronan’s character out into the wider world. Byzantium is a return to form for Jordan and a low-key but effective addition to the annals of cinematic vampires.

Available on Lovefilm

Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock

Hitchcock (2012)

A strange one this. Sacha Gervasi’s film avoids the biopic life story route of the master of suspense and instead decides to focus in on the making of Psycho and what was going on in Hitchcock’s mind at the time and his relationship with his wife. Unlike HBO and BBC’s The Girl which starred Toby Jones as Sir Alfred, this film is very much in Hitch’s corner, the weird obsessions with leading ladies are hinted at but he’s much cuddlier and the film is less salacious.

This could well be the problem though, the make-up and casting are there but it feels much like you are watching one of those scenes at a museum with wax sculptures and animatronics, it looks very nice but there is no blood pumping through the veins. Helen Mirren proves once again why she is a national treasure at this point as Hitchcock’s ever faithful wife Alma but everything else feels like an impression rather than a performance. One day someone will make a truly excellent film about Hitchcock and all of his foibles but until then this merely passes the time.

Available on Now TV


Resistance (2011)

On paper this is rather more interesting than it is in practice. Set during an alternate history version of World War 2 where the Nazis actually invaded the UK. We don’t focus in on the battle at the coast or the taking of London, these events are only heard on the radio. Instead we zero in on a small Welsh farming community of women and elderly folk who sit and wait nervously for the invading forces to arrive. Andrea Riseborough plays a woman named Sarah missing a husband who strikes up a relationship with Tom Wiaschiha’s Nazi commander.

The film has some interesting points to make about collaboration and what we do to survive with dignity at stake; however it does this in such a slow and ponderous manner that it makes the work of Winding Refn look like the Crank films. Riseborough is great but everyone around her is out of their depth and floundering in the misty depressing countryside with no forward momentum at all.

Available on Lovefilm

Winter's Bone

Winter’s Bone (2010)

The film that brought us Jennifer Lawrence when she was only 19 has been overshadowed by the likes of The Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook since but this is still arguably her best performance. Debra Granik’s film is essentially a piece of neo noir set in the Ozark meth underworld as Lawrence’s Ree searches for her missing father purely for financial reasons and asks questions that nobody wants to answer with John Hawkes helping/impeding her as her scary as hell uncle. Winters Bone brings you a view of a world you have never seen before and this world is frankly terrifying, a world where people survive on less than a dollar a day and hunt their dinner, a world where nobody speaks about those who have been disposed of and threatens those that do.

Filled with craggy faced character actors cast to perfection in this environment, Lawrence comes across as a woman in her late twenties rather than a teenager which indicates the struggle her character faces. There is a scene mid-way through where Lawrence goes to a house where some kind of birthday sing-song is going on in the living room and it’s somehow the scariest thing for ages. Winters Bone is an effective and haunting piece of cinema not to be missed.

Available on Netflix

Step Brothers

Step Brothers (2008)

I’m not saying we are living through a golden age of comedy or anything but if you look at all of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell’s collaborations from Anchorman through to this and Anchorman 2 then the gag rate and quality are pretty consistent. If there is a weak link then Step Brothers is probably it as it doesn’t have quite the same richness as Talladega Nights, Anchorman or even The Other Guys. Step Brothers is a kind of different beast, it walks a fine line between gross out juvenile comedy and just plain disturbing with Ferrell and John C.Reilly playing two man children who are 40 and still live at home with their parents and are thrown together when their parents get married.

Much of the comedy comes from Reilly and Ferrell’s chemistry and their attempts to get one over on the other with their child like naivety and it’s very funny if you are in a silly enough mood. Like all of McKay’s work, the supporting cast including Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins and Kathryn Hahn all get their moment to shine.

Available on Netflix

son of rambow

Son of Rambow (2007)

Garth Jennings’ film Son of Rambow is pretty high up on the most underrated film of the last ten years scale, it’s the kind of story that is so filled with great observations about childhood and heart that you just know its likely based on something very real. A young boy who just happens to be a Jehovah’s Witness ends up accidentally seeing First Blood one day in the 80s and has his mind blown sky-high and strikes up a friendship with the school pariah and they set out to make a sort of sequel to Stallone’s era defining franchise.

Son of Rambow features two performances by young Bill Milner and Will Poulter which are so good they feel like awards worthy turns that were completely overlooked in 2008 when this film came out. Jennings script is filled with wit and wacky visuals straight from the mind of a kid who has just opened his eyes for the first time and it’s also very funny with just enough nostalgia so it doesn’t tip the balance into a game of spot the reference. One of the best British films of recent years that you likely don’t know about.

Available on Lovefilm

children of men

Children of Men (2006)

Some films are just ahead of their time and come out in a period where the audience just doesn’t exist for it yet. Alfonso Cuaron’s film Children of Men was one such film. Released with little fanfare in September 2006, people went in expecting just another action movie with a sci-fi slant but what they got was so much more and people didn’t quite know what to make of it and it was three star reviews all around. Then it came out on DVD and got more people talking about it and those three stars worked their way up to five and now Children of Men is rightly thought of as a modern classic.

Although it’s not perfect, the film is so detailed, so terrifying and so visually compelling that any minor quibbles about the script or character motivations can easily be overlooked. In years to come Children of Men will gain even greater respect because of the way that the film reflected our fear dominated society at the time, it was a warning about a precipice we could have stepped over and one we have thankfully seemed to step back from for now.

Available on Now TV


Breakdown (1997)

Sadly overshadowed here on release by Scream on the same weekend, Jonathan Mostow’s Breakdown is one of those great thrillers with action, thrills and a plot with twists turns and reveals that keeps you guessing and gasping until the end. A mixture of The Vanishing and Duel, this has Kurt Russell searching for his missing wife and coming up against the late J.T Walsh’s hissable truck driver villain. Between this and U-571, Mostow proved himself to be a master of the mid budget thriller but then he lost his mojo with Terminator 3 and Surrogates. Also a timely reminder of just how much I miss Kurt Russell making films on a regular basis.

Available on Now TV

Rolling Thunder 6.tif

Rolling Thunder (1977)

One of Quentin Tarantino’s favourite films has gained more and more momentum over the last few years as we all turned our eyes back to the grindhouse films that he was so enamoured with. Essentially dumped by the studio on release because of its bleakness and violence, Rolling Thunder has William Devane as Major Charles Rane coming back from Vietnam with Tommy Lee Jones younger soldier, both are broken men having spent a great deal of time as POW’s. Rane can’t adjust back to normal life and when his family is the victim of a home invasion he strikes bloody and efficient revenge with his former army buddy along for the ride.

Y’know what I was saying about films being ahead of their time a few paragraphs back? Yeah this is the prime example of that notion. In 1977 the wounds of Vietnam were still fresh and Rolling Thunder took those and made an exploitation movie out of it which people really didn’t want, First Blood was still five years away. Interestingly enough like much of the great work done in the 70s; this film still really stands up with impressive gun play and Tommy Lee Jones like you have never seen him before and a mean misogynistic streak a mile wide. If you haven’t seen it yet then do make a point of watching it, it’s fast becoming an essential piece of 70s cinema.

Available on Netflix



Rush (2013)

Ron Howard’s formula one saga about the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda has been overlooked in almost every single awards category this winter despite everyone loving it on release. The issues may lie in the states where formula one isn’t a thing and the film was ignored on release. Apart from spot on performances by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl this also boasts the visuals and the sounds of F1 recreated perfectly so you can feel just how dangerous and loud it actually is.

Available on Film4OD/EE/VirginMovies/Blinkbox

Casey (Abigail Breslin) in TriStar Pictures thriller THE CALL.

The Call (2013)

Brad Anderson’s thriller from last year is an entertaining time waster and nothing more; Anderson has yet to reach the heights of The Machinist and Session 9 from his early career. Halle Berry plays a 911 call centre operator who is called by a kidnap victim who is in the trunk of a serial killer’s car. The first half is riveting stuff with the tension racked up and Anderson’s camera and the editing work really selling the feeling of things being out of control. Then the film settles down a bit and changes tack to become something of a revenge/rescue story and becomes rather cookie cutter and boring. Still the first half is still a safe bet for a Friday or Saturday night rental.

Available on Film4OD/EE/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox

Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus

Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus (2013)

Michael Cera is going through something of a career renaissance at the moment, wisely trying to change people’s perceptions of him and teaming up with writer and director Sebastian Silva. Silva has cast him against type in forthcoming horror film Magic Magic and first of all here in this mumblecore effort. In this film Cera plays a young man on a trip through South America looking for new experiences mainly related to drugs. He becomes fixated on a mescaline trip on a specific beach and teams up with a few similar minded folk and they bring in the titular Crystal Fairy along the way, a hippie met at a party played by former child star Gaby Hoffman.

Although this is an experience we can probably all relate to at one time or another, this is a film that really emphasises the mumble in the mumblecore with very little actually happening and a lot going into the process only to lead to a moment of unselfish realisation from Cera’s character based on the Fairy’s ramblings. Still if you like this kind of thing it’s just the right side of boring but remains more interesting than good.

Available on Film4OD/EE/Virgin Movies/BlinkboxThe Banshee Chapter

The Banshee Chapter (2013)

Fresh from some minor love at horror film festivals, Blair Erickson’s film follows a journalist investigating a disappearance that leads her into the shadowy world of government experiments with radio signals and chemicals. Some claim this is genuinely scary and despite its plot sounding reminiscent of the recent Dyatlov Pass Incident and it being another found footage horror movie, word of mouth is surprisingly strong.

Available on Film4OD/EE/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox