This week annoyed by a loudmouth blogger of some repute, who declared anime for paedophiles and insulted more or less the whole of Japanese culture, I decided to watch Netflix original anime Knights of Sidonia. His comments have widely been circulated and condemned by many people and he’s just made himself look a fool, and all this just because Gus Van Sant might be directing a Death Note movie. I recognise that anime is not for everyone but still, by dismissing all of it you are missing out on an awful lot of classic work and influential stuff.

Knights of Sidonia has been billed as a Netflix original but it’s quite hard to imagine that they would have been involved in the production of something like this, it’s pretty far out there even for anime and its more likely that Netflix have done what they did with From Dusk Till Dawn and slapped their label on it for western distribution purposes.

I used to be a big anime fan but then fell off the train when in western markets they kept releasing series in collections instead of the good old one-off OVA’s and movies like Akira and Ghost in the Shell. There have been some great things that haven’t had mainstream acclaim in the last ten years or so like Paranoia Agent and Summer Wars but I found that a great deal of the shows released in the collections were pandering towards teenage boys with something referred to as ‘fan service’ rather than telling a compelling story.

Knights of Sidonia is guilty of this in one of two moments but it also has a human race that has been genetically engineered to evolve from plants and therefore isn’t necessarily male or female so the jokes on the viewer if they respond. The show takes place in deep space on a space station civilisation called Sidonia which has a school for cadets to fly starships to take on the kaiju like race called the Gauna. It’s got elements of every anime ever pretty much and is gorgeous to look at, how much enjoyment you get out of it depends on how much experience you have with this sort of thing but it’s worth a look.

This week’s other titles of note are:


Blue Jasmine (2013)

Although Cate Blanchett won an academy award and a golden globe for her lead performance here, Blue Jasmine’s critical acclaim was tarnished somewhat by gossip and tattle with regards to director Woody Allen and some supposed misdeeds a long time ago.

This all leaked right around the very political awards season which doesn’t exactly lend it credibility but it didn’t really help the awards campaign and Allen himself was largely overlooked. Blue Jasmine is certainly Allen’s most acclaimed work for some time and tells the tale of Blanchett’s troubled socialite coming out of her privileged lifestyle and struggling, with wonderful supporting turns by Alec Baldwin and Sally Hawkins.

Not the easiest of watches but now available to stream so you can see what all the fuss is about.

Available on Now TV



Gus Van Sant’s film seemingly took forever to reach us in the UK after its low-key stateside release a long time ago. Starring Matt Damon and co-written by The Office star John Krasinski this has echoes of Bill Forsythe’s Local Hero and tells a timely tale of a small town facing environmental disaster with an energy company wanting to tap into their natural resources using controversial fracking techniques.

Damon plays the sales rep having his viewpoint changed by the locals including Frances McDormand and Hal Holbrook. This is one of those films that despite the quiet reception, it’s actually much better than you think it’s going to be and is ideal for a Sunday afternoon watch if it’s raining out.

Available on Now TV


Prince Avalanche (2013)

After his flirtation with mainstream comedy culminated in The Sitter, director David Gordon Green (once touted as the new Terrence Malick) decided to return to the world of independent film with Prince Avalanche. The good thing about this film is it doesn’t abandon the comedy all together but blends it with his indie sensibility to tell a hypnotic, funny and freewheeling tale of a couple of guys thrown together one summer to paint lines on a highway.

Paul Rudd is exceptional here as a man who is just not as great as he thinks he is and hides away in the hills to avoid the awful truth, the underrated and continuously great Emile Hirsch plays the young man working with him who consistently shatters the solitude with his boredom or reminders of the real world. Prince Avalanche is fantastic; but I can’t quite put my finger on why but it’s so brilliant. It’s endlessly likeable has great cinematography and is a real return to form for Green.

Available on Netflix


Best Worst Movie (2009)

This documentary from a few years back received a lot of festival love but never really got a mainstream release outside of the showings at Prince Charles cinema in London.

This is a story of how the “worst film of all time” Troll 2 became a cherished  cult classic and what happens to its director Claudio Fragasso and star George Hardy as a result. It’s pretty funny stuff and the clips it shows of the actual film are a hoot. What stays with you though is how warm, friendly dentist Hardy who lives the classic apple pie life in small town America, goes out on the road and is met by his cult stardom and is gradually repelled by it as appearances and screenings wear on and on and his ego rears its head after laying long dormant.

Best of all though is Troll 2 director Fragasso who still considers himself something of an auteur and doesn’t seem to be in on the joke that his film is being laughed at. Quite long-winded for a documentary of this type but still very worthwhile and entertaining.

Available on Netflix

Blood: The Last Vampire

Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)

One of the biggest B movie disappointments in recent years was this live action anime adaptation. The original anime film this is based on was 45 minutes long but was visually stunning and just really cool with tons of atmosphere.

This live action adaptation from Kiss of the Dragon director Chris Nahon should have been a slam dunk but doesn’t have the budget to realise its ambitions. So instead of expanding the 45 minute run time with slow burn character and tension building it instead expands the action scenes into a long chase which it doesn’t have the budget for.

The effects work is the most shonky seen in a cinema release for a long time and it renders any tension or suspense mute because the main character is essentially battling floating grey blobs of computer ink. A real missed opportunity.

Available on Amazon Prime


Shifty (2008)

One of the things that disappointed about Eran Creevy’s Welcome to the Punch is it had all the hallmarks of a film made by a man who was trying to run when he should have still been learning to crawl.

Shifty, his debut film from 2008 is a lower than low-budget and extremely well written character piece just featuring basically two lads walking around the suburbs facing life changing and potentially dangerous moral dilemmas. Shifty is frankly brilliant and the kind of film that makes a career made for almost no money at all.

For his next trick Creevy should have found something between this and the overblown and sleek Welcome to the Punch and then maybe that film would have been something special. As it stands Shifty is an excellently crafted film from a still promising talent that shouldn’t be missed.

Available on Netflix



Episodes – Series Two (2012)

When celebrated sitcom Friends was at its peak of popularity I thought that the only one who would have any kind of strong career would be Matthew Perry with his great hair and magnificent comic timing. I have been proved wrong though and Jennifer Aniston continues to be a romantic comedy staple and then there is Matt LeBlanc.

Joey Tribbiani was perhaps the most beloved character from Friends and yet audiences didn’t tune in for his solo spin-off set in Los Angeles. Le Blanc disappeared for a bit but then resurfaced in this British and American co production where he plays a debauched and immoral version of himself who is forced on successful British sitcom writers Tamsin Grieg and Stephen Mangan.

Although it’s not consistently hilarious, Episodes is really good stuff and Le Blanc is merciless in lampooning himself which is extra funny if you have ever seen interviews with him where he comes across as extremely shy and introverted. Episodes also has a wonderful sense of satire of the entire Los Angeles scene and what Hollywood does to its remakes with a none more British comedy set in a boarding school being mutated and twisted into something called Pucks that revolves around an ice hockey coach.

It’s really on point and sharp stuff. The second series finds more focus on the support characters and dealing with sudden success of Pucks and then the inevitable fall down the other side of the peak as LeBlanc playing LeBlanc continues to sink to new lows.

Available on Netflix


Also available to stream this week, for a fee….


The Lego Movie (2014)

Everything is awesome indeed! The Lego Movie was the surprise success of the first quarter of 2014 and scored directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller their first commercial and critical smash of the year before 22 Jump Street.

Funny, satirical and endlessly clever, that song ain’t leaving your head for months after viewing this one.

Available on EE/Virgin Movies/Filmflex/Amazon/Blinkbox/Wuaki

The Zero Theorem poster BANNED

The Zero Theorem (2013)

Depending on who you talk to, Terry Gilliam’s latest is either a return to form or another misfire along the lines of Tideland. The plot has elements of Gilliam’s Brazil and Baron Munchausen with Christoph Waltz’s computer hacker trying to find the secrets of the universe and being constantly interrupted by bureaucracy and of course love.

Whichever side of the fence you fall this will never be less than interesting viewing.

Available on EE/Virgin Movies/Filmflex/Amazon/Blinkbox/Wuaki


Need for Speed (2014)

There was a lot of hype around this video game adaptation earlier in the year with much being made of it being leading man Aaron Paul’s first big test as to whether he can cut it as an action star.

The common consensus seems to be that he just about manages it but that the film is just far too long. Still if you are in this for the cars until the next Fast and Furious film arrives then it will just about do the job.

Available on EE/Virgin Movies/Filmflex/Amazon/Blinkbox/Wuaki

Not Safe for Work (2013)

Not Safe for Work (2013)

There was some whispers and scuttlebutt in the horror world late last year of the fact that suddenly a whole swathe of Blumhouse low-budget horror thrillers would be going direct to home video rather than make their way to cinemas, including apparently the much-anticipated Stretch from Joe Carnahan.

Director Joe Johnston (yes that one) also found himself the victim of this and his thriller Not Safe for Work debuts via VOD in the UK. The simple premise of a someone trapped in the office with a killer on the loose is the kind of thing that has been done to death (see P2) but Johnston even managed to make The Wolfman better than expected so this could well be low-key but great entertainment.

Available on EE/Virgin Movies/Filmflex/Amazon/Blinkbox/Wuaki