This week it finally happened, Lovefilm is no more, it has now been completely consumed by its Amazon overlords and is now known as Amazon Prime and something that operates totally through your Amazon account should you have one.

At first this was a baffling experience, there was rumours of a lot more new content being added and when you logged into the IOS app for Lovefilm/Amazon post switchover, suddenly you were faced with A LOT of new content, things like Aliens, Congo, Cujo, Invaders from Mars and lots of HBO shows including Eastbound and Down, Enlightened and the Sopranos as well as Community in the ‘Recently Added’ section.

Of course this was too good to be true and you could add these to your watchlist but then not actually watch them. So when things calmed down and you logged back in, these titles it turned out were part of a purchase or rent scheme through Amazon which then connected to your Amazon app.

It may have been not wanting to let go of the initial excitement I felt when I saw all this new stuff or just in the spirit of trying out the tech, but I decided to purchase or rent some of this stuff because it was either deleted on physical media or hard to find, or I just couldn’t be bothered to trek 8 miles to my nearest disc outlet. Therefore I purchased Renny Harlin’s Cliffhanger in HD, John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness in standard definition, David Twohy’s underrated The Arrival in standard def and just rented Tobe Hooper’s 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars as nostalgia can be a bitter pill. The nice thing is that once these are purchased through the Amazon site, they are easily searchable through the Amazon app or in the spirit of convenience you can just add these to your watchlist.

How did it work in terms of a viewing experience? Well so far I’ve only watched Cliffhanger and In the Mouth of Madness and bearing in mind I have the supposed seconded fastest and reliable internet connection in the country (BT Infinity), Cliffhanger was kind of disappointing. Not the film mind because it’s a rollicking action packed and epic 90 odd minutes but the HD failed through most of the film with the first thirty minutes flicking between standard definition and what looked like an early 90s pirate VHS version. After 45 minutes it calmed down and eased into good old HD and it was good, so I am willing to put this down to a warm up session anyway. In the Mouth of Madness was standard and had the good old reliable look of a DVD throughout with really good quality sound so I definitely got what I paid for there and I was once again reminded of how good that film is and probably John Carpenter’s last great film which more people should be aware of.

This evening I will watch The Arrival and Invaders from Mars and maybe something else, if there are any significant upswings or downturns in quality I will report back but for right now put this down to ‘promising’ and a further step towards my abandonment of physical media completely.

Anyway this week’s new content of note is as follows:

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby (2013)

I find Baz Luhrmann films a very love it or hate it commodity. Everything is so very extravagant and over the top that it often takes away from the drama of the story or in the worst case makes the performances seem overly false and contrived. His latest is a take on F.Scott Fitzgerald’s famous story starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Carey Mulligan and it was met with a mixed response early last summer.

I have yet to watch this but I am looking forward to it and hoping it’s more Romeo and Juliet than Australia.

Available on Now TV

The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring (2013)

For the record, I thought Sofia Coppola’s most recent film about disenfranchised rich folk was one of the worst films of last year. I have come to realise that perhaps this is one that I should give another go, I was judging it against the stick of her previous work which I absolutely adored (even Somewhere and Marie Antoinette) and there are those close to me that love this thing. The Bling Ring has none of the atmosphere or ambience of her previous work and presents possibly the most unlikeable ensemble of entitled brats ever assembled in once place at one time.

This is based on a true story of course, some wannabes in Los Angeles who took it upon themselves to break into celebrities houses and take what they thought they deserved. Coppola casts a very un-judgemental eye over all of this meaning that we never really get an insight into anything where there is probably a lot to be said about the culture that bred this kind of person and worst of all at the end when it all comes crashing down there is a key scene with a great line of dialogue which is delivered completely flat when it could have been the moment we pointed at and said ‘yes! That’s the point!’ Like I said I need to give it another watch, but for now Spring Breakers did the same kind of thing a thousand times better.

Available on Amazon Prime

Stories We Tell

Stories We Tell (2013)

From last January and its film festival debut, critics have been falling all over themselves to praise Sara Polley’s latest film, a documentary exploring her colourful heritage and an examination of how stories evolve to be handed down through the generations and change in the telling through each person. Stories We Tell made a lot of people’s best of 2013 lists but this is one of those times I may have missed the point because although I found it good and worth watching I wasn’t blown away at all.

I mean I loved Polley’s Take This Waltz as much as it’s possible to love a film and Stories We Tell covers a lot of the same subject matter but done in a more personal way with a clever (really clever) use of what appears to be home video footage and it’s an interesting journey to take but isn’t it a bit….self-indulgent?  I appear to be in the minority with this opinion for now but it’s this lingering feeling which kept me from hailing it the masterpiece that so many are convinced that it is.

Available on Netflix


A Hijacking (2012)

You know how Captain Phillips focused on the personal risk and the sweaty tension of actually being the hostage of a bunch of pirates? Tobias Lindholm’s film based on real life events takes a different tack, focusing instead on the realities of lawlessness versus corporate overlords looking to save face and money even when lives are at stake. It also represents the filthy tedium of being a hostage for such an extended length of time.

Where Captain Phillips was pacey and relatively loud, A Hijacking is a quieter but no less tense affair with a great deal of the horror taking place in quiet boardrooms with suited, financially minded men and grubby fly strewn kitchens with filthy bearded men in wife beaters bonding with their captors over a few months. When violence does erupt, it’s senseless and genuinely tragic but portrayed in a sensitive manner and shocking because of the measured way the story has been told up to this point. A Hijacking has been relatively overlooked in favour of Paul Greengrass’s brilliant thriller but hopefully now will gain more exposure on Netflix.

Available on Netflix

Deadfall 8

Deadfall (2012)

Take One False Move, A Simple Plan, Desperate Hours, Reindeer Games and Fargo, shove them in a blender and the end result is Deadfall. Although derivative it is not a bad film, it’s a pretty solid slice of gothic Americana and a pretty decent thriller to stream at home, but there isn’t really anything overly memorable here either. A possibly incestuous on the run brother and sister (played by Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde) separate after a major crime and set off on a journey towards a remote location.

On route Wilde hooks up with a charisma vacuum ex criminal played by Charlie Hunnam and Bana gets involved with a family with an abusive father and then it all ends in home invasion and a tense dinner situation. It’s solid if unremarkable stuff and a reminder of how good Eric Bana can be when he is used correctly if nothing else.

Available on Now TV

Juno Temple in The Brass Teapot

The Brass Teapot (2012)

Every now and then a really great concept squeaks through the development process and ends up in a lower budget film that ends up straight to DVD or the internet or whatever. The Brass Teapot is the latest great idea to fall victim to this, with a young financially challenged couple finding an antique teapot that spurts money every time they hurt each other, physically or emotionally. Of course for a while they live the good life but things have to get stepped up and the hurt more powerful and genuine to keep them in the life they have grown accustomed to.

This all sounds quite dark don’t it? But the truth is it’s all played for laughs and for want of a better word, it’s a bit twee. Michael Angarano and Juno Temple are a cute lead couple but the satirical aspect and relative darkness of the story is never explored and you are left with a film that it seems the director has completely misjudged in terms of tone and subject matter. Once upon a time there was probably a black comic masterpiece lurking in here somewhere but this isn’t it.

Available on Now TV


The Sitter (2011)

David Gordon Green really fumbled the ball with this one. After Pineapple Express, Your Highness and before the superb Prince Avalanche, there was this crass comedy with Jonah Hill as a college kid who ends up babysitting a bunch of troublesome kids for a night of mayhem. Riffing on Adventures in Babysitting, this never really comes alive and considering the talent involved it is a relatively laugh free zone.

Available on Amazon Prime

The Descendants

The Descendants (2011)

It’s interesting how in recent years the Oscar and awards celebrated films have almost nobody talking about them two years later. If American Hustle wins big this year then we will find ourselves in the same situation again most likely. Here we are two years after release and nobody talks about The Descendants at all in the same way that people talk about Sideways or Nebraska, Alexander Payne’s previous and current awards darlings.

I know I saw this and I know I liked it but I hardly remember a single thing about it apart from a solid George Clooney lead appearance and a Matthew Lillard supporting role. I could be wrong but I seem to remember this lacking the social bite that Election, About Schmidt and Sideways had and that’s perhaps why it’s not sticking out in my mind. Still a film nominated for so many awards is never a bad film and this is still worth your time.

Available on Amazon Prime

Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses (2011)

Since the triumph of The King of King, director Seth Gordon’s career has really slid downwards ending in the lows of Identity Thief. The good news is that Horrible Bosses is not as bad as that or the previous film Four Christmases, at least the first time you watch it.

Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day have good chemistry as the three put upon workers whose bosses make their lives a living hell but whereas this could have been a new Office Space, it favours crass farce instead of anything clever. To be fair Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey step up as the bosses in question but somehow on second viewing this all falls apart and becomes annoying opposed to the entertaining first watch. So in summary, if you haven’t seen enjoy it with a few beers, if you have seen then probably don’t watch it again.

Available on Amazon Prime

Miami Vice

Miami Vice (2006)

Ahh Miami Vice, allegedly this was a rather troubled production behind the scenes and arguably the results show in the final flawed but somehow compelling product. Michael Mann reboots his own none more 80s TV franchise into a movie franchise that was never meant to be. Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx take over as a more grizzled and real take on Crockett and Tubbs, undercover cops posing as traffickers to get in with a major cartel doing business on their turf.

It’s got all the visual sheen and great gunplay of the best of Mann’s work but unfortunately for most of the middle bit gets saddled with a fairly uninteresting romance between Gong Li’s sexy face of a drug cartel and Farrell and Foxx takes a backseat. When it works though it really works and the ending hints at great things to come in sequels we will sadly never see.

Available on Now TV


Sherlock:  Series One and Two (2010-2012)

Hard to believe you don’t know what this is as every single person in the UK tunes in just after Christmas every two years to see three more brilliantly written TV movies based on classic Sherlock Holmes tales. Basically this is a modern re-telling of these with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman playing Holmes and Watson for the modern age of twitter, texting and blogging.

Thrilling and clever and frequently moving, series one and two are the best that British television has to offer and because series three was something of a mixed bag, it’s time to savour these early episodes. At least if you haven’t seen this yet there isn’t the lingering painful wait between series one and two now.

Available on Amazon Prime

Parks and Rec

Parks and Recreation: Season One and Two (2009-2010)

Missing the American version of The Office? Wondering why Chris Pratt is now a lead in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World? Wondering where Aubrey Plaza from Scott Pilgrim and Safety Not Guaranteed came from? Well wonder no more because the answer is here in the brilliant US sitcom Parks and Recreation. Amongst other things, this is also a showcase for the wonderful comedic talents of Saturday Night Live alum Amy Poehler and introduced the world to Ron Swanson, as brilliant a character that’s ever been created. ]

Taking the format of The Office and adapting it or arguably bettering it, Parks and Recreation follows the staff of a local government office responsible for park spaces and leisure in small town Indiana. It has wonderful observations about small town US life as well as being frequently hilarious and getting the best out of Rob Lowe and Adam Scott, two actors who can frequently go either way. Considering how beloved this show is now and how in demand the cast are, I can’t see how this can continue much longer, season six is halfway through screening in the states. If you missed the BBC showings then now is the time to catch up on one of the best things on TV before it’s gone forever.

Available on Amazon Prime.

Pay Per View

Available on the pay once and stream for 24 hours services are the following titles:


Gravity (2013)

Come Monday we could be talking about how this triumphed righteously at the academy awards or how it was completely robbed. There is no doubt though that this will take the majority of the technical prizes. Much like Alfonso Cuaron’s previous film Children of Men, Gravity is a technical marvel with lingering continuous shots in zero gravity and a commitment to freaking you out with Sandra Bullock’s claustrophobic point of view shots as debris flies around her in the silence of space.

This was an experience meant for IMAX 3D or just the biggest 3D screen you can find so it’s possible that some of the flaws will become more apparent on the smaller 2D screen unless you are lucky enough to own a 3D TV. George Clooney’s character for one gets little to do apart from be a Buzz Lightyear like rock to cling to at the beginning of the film and there are hints of themes that don’t develop into much beyond one pretentious lingering shot of Sandra Bullock in her skivvies.  It’s the technical achievement and sheer thrills though that kept people coming back again and again and even on the small screen at home it’s going to be remarkable stuff.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies/Amazon Instant/Blinkbox


Austenland (2013)

This romantic comedy starring Keri Russell supposes what would happen if a Pride and Prejudice obsessed woman travelled to a Jane Austen themed amusement park to find her Mr Darcy. Considering how many people I know who are obsessed with Austen’s work, I’m amazed this wasn’t a bigger deal last autumn when it came out in cinemas but it came and went with barely a whimper.

It met with largely mixed reviews and some have praised its hilarity and the fact that it’s an entertainment machine and some have called it pandering rubbish. This week the majority of the British public gets to decide for itself.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies/Amazon Instant/Blinkbox

we are what we are

We Are What We Are (2013)

There is a pleasing and quiet trend growing in cinema at the moment which is a move back towards the simple pleasures of telling a considerately paced story. You could see it in Frank Darabont’s work, you can see it in Jeff Nichols wonderful last two films and now Jim Mickle is doing his bit for horror. After the flawed but interesting Stakeland, Mickle has decided to remake Jorge Michel Grau’s Mexican cannibal social horror We Are What We Are.

Apart from a similar but gender reversed opening, the films are worlds apart with Mickle moving the action to the rain drenched American countryside and expanding on the origins of the Parker family’s deadly feeding habits. For those that favour the slow burn, We Are What We Are is heaven, for others it might feel oddly slow for a horror film but when the nastiness does erupt its all the better for it. We Are What We Are also boasts remarkable performances from Bill Sage, Ambyr Childers, Julia Garner and the great Michael Parks. For some reason this was pulled from release last October when the world was crying out for a good horror flick and is now going more or less straight to DVD where hopefully it will gain the audience it deserves.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies/Amazon Instant/Blinkbox


Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013)

As far as I am concerned, Johnny Knoxville and Spike Jonze dressing up in old person prosthetics and going out and causing mayhem amongst the public was always the least amusing part of Jackass on both television and in the cinema. Someone somewhere feels differently though because they decided to make a full length film out of Knoxville’s bad grandpa character, within an actual narrative this time around though. Apart from amongst the most mainstream of critics who have a tin ear for popular comedy, this was quite well received with people praising its genuine sweetness as well as its gross out crass comedy. Possibly an acquired taste but probably comedy gold for those who have been with the Jackass crew through thick and thin since 2000.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies/Amazon Instant/Blinkbox