I’m back! It’s been a long time and I apologise for that, moving house turned out to be a far far longer process than I anticipated or had been led to believe. Three weeks turned into six, six weeks turned into three months and now here we are.

Aside from the length of time it takes, moving house was a real eye opener in other areas too. Specifically in terms of how I inform you week on week of all of this wonderful content available to stream and then how you have to put up with lacklustre delivery from various ISPs.  I was living in someone else’s house on a connection that was not my own, not wanting to name names but there is one of the big three ISP’s in the UK which boasts about having one of, if not the, fastest broadband delivery on the market and yet streaming one episode of something quite often turned into a two hour slog due to its poor quality and constant disruption.

I’m no solicitor but I’m fairly certain advertising standards authorities should be involved. This combined with Now TV’s well publicised issues concerning their underestimation of just how many people wanted to watch Season 4 of Game of Thrones and the last three months have just been a world of pain in terms of the internet. Luckily now I am back with my own place and my own internet connection (one of the big three again) but even that is not without issues and most likely some kind of complaint letter eventually or chewing off my own tongue in a rage.

In terms of the ongoing streaming wars, Amazon is dominating the market in a way that I don’t think anybody quite imagined, even in the states now they are just going strength to strength and cornering the exclusives on recent releases such as Cheap Thrills and seasons of Hannibal. In the UK it seems to be a pattern where something stops showing on Sky and is instantly snatched up by Amazon. Poor old Netflix is getting left in the dust, although it still has the superior original programming and gets the exclusives on a fair amount of quality independent fare.

Speaking of which by the time you read this their original anime show Knights of Sidonia will have debuted, I think I have grown out of anime now but I am intrigued nonetheless.

This week I will cover all of the new content as well as play kind of catch up for some of the best content added in recent weeks:

Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips (2013)

One of the more glaring injustices of the academy in recent years was the complete overlooking of Tom Hanks performance in Paul Greengrass’s true life thriller. Hanks won twice in a row twenty years ago but good lord this is one hell of a performance, especially in those last moments. Captain Phillips was rightfully nominated in six other Oscar categories and although based on real life and a story which you may well remember the eventual outcome of; it still manages to be the most exciting film released last year.

The last twenty minutes are some of the most exhausting ever put on film with Greengrass direction, the performances and the editing all coming together to make something truly special.

Available on Now TV

Isla Fisher in Now You See Me

Now You See Me (2013)

This was the film from last summer that people loved to hate and could not figure out why it was so successful. Regardless of your opinion, Now You See Me was like Oceans 11 crossed with The Prestige and so people loved it obviously.

It has some wonderful ideas within it and some good set pieces but ultimately Now You See Me is undone by a twist which feels unearned and truly unbelievable. Still this is a fun Friday or Saturday night watch if you are in the mood for something easy-going.

Available on Amazon Prime


The Way Way Back (2013)

If I could go back and re-write my top ten films of 2013 then this little gem would be in there somewhere. Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s indie charmer captures perfectly that feeling you got when you was a kid and went on some kind of family holiday and got in with the cool kids and how it made you feel like you were the biggest pimp in the world.

It’s also a beautiful coming of age story with painfully shy Duncan reluctantly heading to a holiday home with his mother played by Toni Collette and her new boyfriend Trent played by Steve Carell in a rare slimy role, and then being exposed to the various complications that come with long-term committed relationships. Best of all though, this features Sam Rockwell in perhaps the best role of his career and one that in any just universe would have propelled him into Robert Downey Jr. levels of superstardom.

As Owen, the charismatic slacker who manages the local waterpark, Rockwell walks away with the film with no effort at all and his later scenes with Duncan as realisation sets in that his new-found happiness is only temporary, are just perfectly played. The Way Way Back is a classic that should and could find a whole new audience now it’s on streaming.

Available on Now TV

The Heat

The Heat (2013)

I rarely ever go out on New Year’s Eve anymore, and I usually end up renting something via VOD now that Blockbuster has bitten the dust. This past new years I took a chance on The Heat starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, mainly because I remember the film Feds from 1989 starring Rebecca DeMornay and I enjoyed it and this looked like a remake.

Well colour me surprised because The Heat is absolutely brilliant and I laughed the whole way through which seems rare for a comedy these days. As he did with Bridesmaids and many episodes of the American version of The Office, director Paul Feig proves that when armed with a great script he can really pull the best out of his leads and their gifts for comic timing.

Bullock has never been as good in a comedy as she is here and McCarthy makes you forget all about the woeful Identity Thief from last year. If you had written this off I advise you to give it a go, much like Pitch Perfect, it’s something that on paper shouldn’t work but really does.

Available on Now TV


Elysium (2013)

Although it is nowhere near a bad film at all, Elysium was still one of the biggest disappointments of last year for me. I think director Neill Blomkamp set us all up for a fall really because District 9 was so damn good with its breath-taking violence and social commentary, it even managed to get nominated for an academy award for best picture.

So along comes Elysium with a vague message about the growing divide between the rich and the poor and essentially it’s just a good action sci-fi movie with elements of Johnny Mnemonic and the recent Total Recall remake as well as Blomkamp’s own dirty and filth ridden aesthetic.

The violence is there and few others film on-screen carnage as well as Blomkamp. The production design is amazing as is Matt Damon in the lead but there is just something missing. For a similar message sci-fi movie done 1000 times better, look forward to Bong Joon Ho’s forthcoming Snowpiercer.

Available on Now TV


The Wolverine (2013)

After X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which came after the lacklustre X3, I think people were either really wanting the franchise to get back on course or for Fox to just leave the whole thing alone. So then we got the reboot and reinvigoration of X-Men: First Class and then they hired James Mangold to direct the next stand-alone Wolverine movie after Darren Aronofsky left the project.

The Wolverine isn’t quite a completely brilliant and bold stand-alone Wolverine movie but it’s a step in the right direction. This has moments of brilliance, the opening, the scene on top of a speeding train, but it also struggles with the central thing that makes Wolverine so flawed a character, namely how much tension can you get with a character who essentially can’t die?

The Wolverine gets around this in a way but it causes the pace to lag a bit and it sometimes feels like an extended TV movie until the bravo showdown at the end. After this we got X-Men: Days of Future Past which is now the highpoint in this ongoing saga and it can only be downhill from here.

Available on Now TV

Shane Carruth in Upstream Color

Upstream Colour (2013)

It took almost ten years for Primer director Shane Carruth to make a follow-up film to his debut brain twister but the wait was more than worth it. Whereas Primer was a feast for the mind, with a plot that can only be worked out through excel pivot tables and pie charts, Upstream Color/Colour is a feast for the eyes, ears and heart.

Like much of David Lynch’s work, the plot makes sense on a subconscious level and rather than sitting there trying to work it all out, you should just let the film carry you and then use later viewings to catch things you missed. Carruth wears more or less every hat in the production; he directed, starred, did the music, distributed it and more than likely did the sandwiches on set too. As a result you have that rare thing that is a truly singular vision of one of modern cinema’s most fascinating and uncompromising talents.

Available on Netflix


Only God Forgives (2013)

During a post film Q&A at the Curzon Soho with Nicholas Winding Refn, there was one guy who just seemed offended and angry and above all disappointed in Only God Forgives and was very vocal about it. This view was echoed at the films reception at Cannes in 2013 and this guy’s opinion may well be valid to all those people who previously enjoyed Ryan Gosling and Winding Refn’s collaboration on Drive.

Only God Forgives has nothing in common with Drive except its lead actor and seems like a mission statement by Winding Refn to completely reject the mainstream outright. I still border between outright loving this film and feeling incredibly frustrated by it. On one hand viewed in a dark cinema or late at night with all the lights off and the sound up, Only God Forgives is a hypnotic and surreal descent into hell, the kind of which Takashi Miike is so good at.

On the other hand, Only God Forgives is not a film I can see myself watching over and over the way I did with Drive as it’s just too stifling and overbearing. Either way, give this a watch and make up your own mind, you have been warned.

Available on Netflix


We’re the Millers (2013)

Inexplicably, We’re the Millers made a ton of cash last summer even in the UK where it hung around the charts until October. Maybe it was the presence of Jennifer Aniston as a stripper or talented young British actor Will Poulter; maybe it was just Jason Sudeikis’ time in the spotlight as the new Chevy Chase.

The thing is when people bad mouth comedy; the sort of film they are thinking of is We’re the Millers. It’s not downright terrible, there are a few chuckles along the way but it really is lowest common denominator entertainment, with all the humour coming from toilets, farts, and sex and dick jokes and for its length it really should have more actual laughs. Somehow this has an IMDB rating of 7.1, so maybe I’m just really out of touch. Still based on the success of this film, Jason Sudeikis became the new Fletch for a planned reboot which is pretty good casting really.

Available on Now TV

The Banshee Chapter

Banshee Chapter (2013)

This low-budget horror film garnered some good buzz this time last year but truthfully I’m struggling to understand why. The premise is quite good with a journalist investigating a friends disappearance and being led to government experiments with a powerful form of LSD in the 50’s and the awful doorways this opens.

There are two major problems with the film though and the first is that although this starts as found footage it then seemingly abandons this format near the start but remains filmed in the same manner which leads to all sorts of confusion. The second is Ted Levine’s blatant Hunter S.Thompson rip off character, I know the great gonzo doctor is dead now but somebody somewhere should be suing somebody for this. Still major flaws aside, there are worse crimes going down in the name of horror online.

Available on Now TV

Chloe Moretz in Carrie

Carrie (2013)

Kimberley Pierce’s remake of Carrie based on a classic Stephen King book and in turn a classic Brian De Palma flick was always going to struggle, especially as the De Palma film still holds up pretty well. The decision to cast Chloe Grace Moretz as the titular awkward teen was also perhaps a wrong move but she does well. So even with these things working against it, I’m not ashamed to say I enjoyed the film when I watched it a couple of months ago.

I can’t say I’ll ever watch it again but it entertained me in all the right ways even with its various shifts in sympathies and Julianne Moore’s slightly over the top character. A good watch if you ignored it late last year.

Available on Netflix

You’re Next

You’re Next (2013)

Ah the film festival, the only place where a film like Adam Wingard’s You’re Next can get so much heat that it inevitably can’t live up to the hype. In 2011 (!?!) You’re Next played on the festival circuit and critics fell all over themselves to proclaim it the second coming of horror etc. Lionsgate bought it for distribution and two years later it limped out during a crowded late summer and wound up neither fish nor fowl.

Truthfully You’re Next is good not great, it drags slightly at the start but then becomes a really fun riff on the Ten Little Indians scenario but the praise heaped on it did it a disservice, it’s hardly a reinvention of the genre no matter how many mumblegore staples it lines up in the name of death and mayhem. Probably going to work better for the casual viewer who now stumbles across this on streaming with no knowledge of the never-ending festival hype machine.

Available on Netflix


Odd Thomas (2013)

Looking at the pedigree of this you could be forgiven for not giving it a second look. Based on a Dean Koontz novel (notoriously a second-rate Stephen King) and directed by Van Helsing auteur Stephen Sommers, it doesn’t seemingly have a lot going for it.

The fact is though that this is Sommers slumming it away from the 200 million blockbusters and returning to something more on the scale of Deep Rising, with a story set in a small town with oh so likeable Anton Yelchin as a psychic outcast predicting doom for his lovely community. Odd Thomas is actually really enjoyable and fun even if Sommers can’t resist throwing tons of messy CGI on the screen and the finale is some of the most exciting and heartbreaking stuff seen in a film of this type for a while.

Hopefully this will lead to more stories with this character either on film or TV because it’s far better than the straight to DVD fate it got.

Available on Netflix

The Borderlands

The Borderlands (2013)

Now this is an interesting one, another found footage film it may be but stick with me here. We are set up with a couple of miracle investigators despatched by the Vatican to look into the latest miracle on video filmed in a west country church. One deacon is suitably haunted and alcoholic and his techie pal is mouthy and recognisable.

Rather than go the Paranormal Activity route of lots and lots of boring static footage, this instead relies on the genuine creepiness present in your everyday old church and English countryside. I’m sure you have been to one of these churches at one wedding or another and recognise the damp and cold atmosphere and it’s this that The Borderlands taps into. It also has a rather authentic feel with the investigators techniques and equipment feeling realistic in a manner similar to that seen in the underrated Apartment 143.

This has been compared to the work of HP Lovecraft and it’s a fair comparison, not many people are aping the work of Lovecraft these days so The Borderlands feels like a fresh take on a stale sub-genre and I can guarantee it doesn’t end the way you think it will.

Available on Now TV

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Up until earlier this year, Moonrise Kingdom was arguably Wes Anderson’s finest work and perhaps his most beloved as well. At its core this is the story of a first love between a couple of classic Anderson outcasts surrounded by another ensemble and Anderson’s style of front and sideways on shots like somebody filming a cross-section of a giant dolls house.

This could have probably grated in some way but Moonrise Kingdom is excellent with an on form ensemble including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as well as stunning work from young Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. In a word: lovely.

Available on Amazon Prime

The Amazing Spider-Man 3

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Marc Webb’s reboot of Spidey has a lot to answer for; ultimately this film leads to the mopey catastrophe of a sequel we got earlier this summer. For his first effort though Webb does a solid if unremarkable job with a new and thoroughly down with the kids take on classic characters which should have been less concerned with franchise building nonsense and more of an understanding of the tone of Spider-Man.

The one thing Webb gets absolutely right though both here and in the sequel is Andrew Garfield in the spidey suit; he’s physically perfect and delivers all the wisecracks from the comic.

Available on Amazon Prime


Simon Killer Poster

Simon Killer (2011)

Antonio Campos second feature from a couple of years back is a haunting and underrated gem. Essentially what you have here is a modern update of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley character, with Brady Corbet playing damaged American medical student Simon hiding out in Paris from some possible abuse situation with his ex and falling in with a prostitute.

Simon is manipulative, creepy and possibly homicidal and following him is both excruciating and thrilling with one of the best uses of music for a while along with some shockingly explicit sex scenes. Highly recommended if you can take the doom laden atmosphere.

Available on Netflix

A Perfect Getaway

A Perfect Getaway (2009)         

In between overblown Riddick films, writer and director David Twohy makes some entertaining films with some great ideas like Timescape and The Arrival. In 2009 he made what on the surface seems to be the most conventional film of his career with some couples thrown together as a murderer is on the loose in Hawaii.

A Perfect Getaway though is a film I come back to again and again because it features a great twisty plot and some perfect performances from Steve Zahn, Mila Jovovich and especially a never better Timothy Olyphant. When it came out this made barely a ripple but I can’t think of a more thrilling and surprising thriller that was released in summer 2009.

Available on Amazon Prime

Grace 2009

Grace (2009)

Paul Solet’s debut horror feature is another victim of the festival over hype but in truth this is actually really very good. Grace is very basic in its story, a baby is born craving blood instead of milk and it then goes to some very uncomfortable places in its depiction of overwhelming maternal instinct and grief.

The film is considerably paced but it challenges, revolts and makes you think in a way that is all too rare in horror. Sadly this never got a proper release the way it should have and remains fairly unknown. Like Simon Killer, this will probably make you uncomfortable but is a trip well worth taking.

Available on Netflix


Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black – Season 2

As of time of writing I am around ten episodes through this second season of Netflix’s celebrated original show based on a real life story of a lady who spent a year in prison.

The resolution of last season’s cliff-hanger ending may irk some but otherwise Orange is the New Black manages to still be solid, often hilarious and well written entertainment which introduces some new characters and plots and still manages to reveal some shocking details about existing characters with its Lost style flashback structure still working wonders.

Available on Netflix


Californication – Season 6

Californication is the TV equivalent of the Pizza Hut weekday lunchtime buffet, you know its crap and laden with stuff that is bad for you but you keep coming back week after week. Somehow I have watched all five seasons of this in a year because I was fascinated by the central romance between David Duchovny’s addiction addled writer and Natasha McElhone as his muse/ex-wife.

This fascination is fast fading though amongst an increasingly unbelievable satire of the Los Angeles lifestyle and culture. This season picks up after the end of season five with Hank Moody (Duchovny) riddled with guilt over the suicide of an ex and entering rehab whilst fending off a sell-out job offer from Tim Minchin’s rock star rip off of Russell Brand’s character from Get him to the Greek. At least the end is in sight now with season seven being the last.

Available on Amazon Prime

Black Mirror

Black Mirror – Series 2

Much like Sherlock, you wish that Charlie Brooker’s satirical and horrifying take on the modern world was a more regular thing with more than three episodes per series. Series two has some of the best work in the show so far with the first episode being a spot on take down of social media and its interruption of the natural course of human relationships. The second has to do with guilt and punishment and is really skewering readers of the Daily Mail with their outrage inducing front page headlines.

The last is perhaps the weakest and is again political in nature but is not without its charms. Black Mirror really is an example of the best British TV out there and should be seen by all.

Available on Netflix

Doug Jones - Falling Skies

Falling Skies – Season 3

Despite some massive initial hype, Falling Skies quickly became solid if unremarkable weekly entertainment with its decent production value depicting a world ruined by an alien invasion. The problem is that Falling Skies seems somewhat out of sync with the rest of this ‘golden age of television’ we are living through at the moment. It harkens back to things like The A-Team and V and not the good mini-series of V either but the second weekly camper type from 1985.

Despite this it’s never boring and Noah Wyle is a good lead and the relationship he has with his kids is a strong emotional core that hooks you in. If you have exhausted every other superior show currently available on Now TV then Falling Skies is quite good and old-fashioned entertainment to watch around tea time.

Available on Now TV

Community - Season 4

Community – Seasons 1-4

This beloved show has survived death for the umpteenth time and will get its sixth season courtesy of none other than Yahoo in 2015. Beloved though it may be, Community is still fairly unknown in the UK as it was buried on some obscure cable channel somewhere and rarely saw the light of day until the DVD’s came out. Now thankfully, Amazon have added the whole first four seasons so that the UK can finally learn what #darkesttimeline and #sixseasonsandamovie actually mean and catch up with the comedic brilliance of Troy,Abed,Britta,Jeff,Annie,Shirley and Pearce Hawthorn played by a still on form but underused Chevy Chase.

Remember when they wanted to Americanise Edgar Wright’s Spaced? Well Community is how that should have turned out and a healthy alternative for anyone still missing Wright’s seminal show. Inventive, frequently touching and hilarious, watch it now!

Available on Amazon Prime