Slim Pickens was an actor known for One Eyed Jacks, Blazing Saddles and of course Dr Strangelove. What you get this week is not Pickens the actor iconically riding the bomb down to the ground in the Stanley Kubrick classic or any kind of online retrospective of his work, but slim pickings in terms of new streaming choices. So it’s Netflix’s time to shine….

Netflix has added more or less all of the low-key interesting independent films from last year with real gems like Safety Not Guaranteed and Maniac and even the lesser likes of Excision and Some Guy Who Kills People. It’s entirely possible that Lovefilm/Amazon is behind closed doors after last week’s Marvel/Netflix news, plotting something with DC comics but we will see…

Mark Duplass in Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

One of the most charming and inventive indie films of last year was this time travel dramedy that went by in a flash last December but is now on streaming for the whole country to see. Aubrey Plaza plays an upstart journalist desperate for a break with a lecherous boss.  She finds a weird advert in a paper looking for a companion to embark on a time travel mission with the advertiser. She and her small crew travel to a coastal town and find Mark Duplass’s Kenneth is the man behind the scenes and is something of a town pariah and understood to be somewhat disturbed.

Naturally the suspicion is that he is full of it but an unlikely friendship grows between him and the journalist that feels wholly organic unlike many forced rom coms. Constantly surprising and witty, Safety Not Guaranteed is such a delight and so warm and inventive that it gained the director Colin Trevorrow the chance to direct the next Jurassic Park sequel Jurassic World, due in 2015. Miles better than About Time too.

Available on Netflix


Maniac (2012)

One of the best horror films of recent times is now available on Netflix for the masses to be horrified and enthralled by. On paper this sounds unwatchable, a remake of a grindhouse 80s low rent nasty shot all from the perspective of the killer by the director of P2. In practice it’s simply brilliant.

Challenging and thought-provoking in a way that modern horror seldom manages, Maniac isn’t comfortable viewing but that’s kind of the point. Elijah Wood is a scary choice for this role but is cast due to his familiarity to the audience and ratchets the identification level up to 9 so as to make the watcher even more uncomfortable. Director Franck Khalfoun shoots this in the same manner that Winding Refn made his last two films with a dreamy retro aesthetic that is very in vogue right now.

Highly recommended for those with the right mind-set to absorb this kind of thing, the casual viewer might want to stay away.

Available on Netflix


Excision (2012)

This suburban misfit horror film has many influences. It is reminiscent of Donnie Darko, Welcome to the Dollhouse and John Waters work. Waters himself actually pops up in the film as does Traci Lords as an uptight suburban mother.

Stunt casting aside, the main focus of the film is actually actress Anna Lynne-McCord as Pauline who is an outcast in her school and amongst her peers for some pretty bizarre behaviour. Pauline dreams of being a surgeon and is plagued by some weird dreams casting her as some kind of sexy violent maiden of death. These sequences are pretty visually stunning but stick out from all the dead on satire in the suburbs that director Richard Bates Jr orchestrates.

Traci Lords amazing revelatory performance threatens to overwhelm the film but it’s actually Anna Lynne-McCord who does the best work here in a role a world away from the teen pin-up she started out as. It may not be the most original piece but Excision is a great debut and a strong addition to the satirical suburbia horror sub-genre.

Available on Netflix


In Their Skin (2012)

Hands up who watched Funny Games expecting a straight thriller without all the 4th wall breaking guilt trippery? Well if you put your hand up this film is for you. In Their Skin is a home invasion thriller of the kind we have seen a lot of recently so it really is nothing new and features the cliché ridden plot of a bereaved family seeking solace in isolation when a group of identity stealing psychos come calling, which of course brings them closer.

Sometimes though all you want on a Friday night is this kind of vacuous thriller and In Their Skin does the job. Selma Blair and Rachel Miner do well as the put upon or victimized women and James D’Arcy does a great psychotic but Joshua Close is rather stiff and lets the side down as the Dad. Other than that its business as usual with sudden bursts of violence and dodgy sexual politics.

There are some lapses in logic which are par for the course in this kind of thing and some puzzling choices as to where to place the camera at any key moment but otherwise it’s a solid hour and a half.

Available on NOW TV

Some Guy Who Kills People

Some Guy Who Kills People (2011)

Starring Kevin Corrigan as a man fresh out of a mental institution who starts to work in a local diner and is then suspected and implicated in a string of grisly murders that occur. Wild Things 2 and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus director Jack Perez aims for the same kind of suburban satire as Excision or The Burbs but has neither the skill nor the patience to pull it off.

There are some chuckles along the way in the film and some potential for great black comedy. Due to the rather pedestrian direction though it feels like the pilot for a failed TV show on a lesser cable network and ends on an odd note of sweetness that doesn’t seem to fit with what has gone before.

Available on Netflix

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

In my mind Robert Rodriguez has never actually lived up to the promise he showed with his first three flicks and the way he talked about action cinema in the same way that Eli Roth now talks about horror. It was perhaps in his third Mariachi movie where the cracks started to show and it was the first of his films to really disappoint.

Once Upon A Time in Mexico brings back Antonio Banderas musical gun fighter and has him embroiled in a coup de tat conspiracy by Johnny Depp’s fun CIA agent. From here though it gets unnecessarily complicated with too many characters, too many plotlines all whilst trying to retain the brooding air of vengeance of Desperado.

It’s all too much and only really Depp comes out on top of the mess shortly before he became a mega star. It’s fun in spurts but the way in which Rodriguez shoots and edits a flashback chase to unwatchable extremes perhaps shows he has lost why we liked him in the first place.

Available on Netflix

Pay Per View / On Demand

Available this week on the rent for 24 hours streaming services are the following:


The Wolverine (2013)

I think we can all admit this is better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine, let’s get that out of the way for starters. Even though impossible to pin down director James Mangold directs with purpose and style unlike Gavin Hood’s mediocre effort, it still isn’t the solo Wolverine film that is possible and which they still seem to want to crack.

Jackman is solid as ever and will be coming back in an X-Men movie next summer as well as another solo outing down the line somewhere but it’s likely that will be an end to it. No idea whether the PPV service will include the ten minutes extra unrated directors cut that’s on the Blu-Ray, but I doubt it very much and that’s the version everyone wants to see right?

Available on EE/Virgin Movies/Film4OD etc.