Believe it or not, films and television programmes added to Netflix and Amazon do have a tendency to expire and no longer be there after a while; this isn’t as publicised as when the titles in question are added though. So by the time you read this there are around 50 titles disappearing from Netflix.

If you have ever wanted to watch the 2002 version of The Count of Monte Cristo then you have probably missed your chance by now. What this does mean however is that probably next week Netflix will have added a whole raft of new stuff, I say new but it will probably be a mixture of catalogue and stuff from the last year. I know that the underrated Enders Game and the superior Hunger Games: Catching Fire is due there in September, I just don’t know when.

In other Netflix news, they made industry headlines this week after signing a record 2 million per episode deal for the Joe Carnahan produced, James Spader starring show The Blacklist. That’s not 2 million for the whole first season or second, that’s 2 million per episode. Now The Blacklist is actually something people seem to enjoy and something I have wanted to see for a while, I reached out to Netflix via the magical tweeter to ask if The Blacklist was coming to the UK version too but I got nothing.

This hardly matters though because it’s Amazon pilot season again! So after Zombieland got canned and the awful The After went to series, we now have five new pilots to view and vote on as to whether they get a series or not. This time around Amazon have attracted far more talent than ever before so the pilots involve people like Whit Stillman, Steven Soderbergh, David Gordon Green, Marc Forster, Jay Chandrasekhar and American Gothic creator Shaun Cassidy.

I watched all of them except for the Whit Stillman one called The Cosmopolitans, because I just simply ran out of time. Something struck me though as I got to the end of a couple of them. When HBO or whoever send out new shows to a website for review, they usually send the first four episodes on a disc so that the writer can get a real feel for the show and decide whether it’s worth your time or not.

Amazon gives us all one episode and I often couldn’t make up my mind based on the first hour of the show alone. There have been great shows that have started really poorly and then bad shows that started really well so how can you really tell? I understand there are budget concerns etc. but it would be nice if Amazon just took the plunge and commissioned 13 episodes with confidence as Netflix has done, The After might turn out be genius and I would have no idea.  Anyway you can vote for the ones you like at the amazon website as per last time.

Slim pickings again this week apart from the above but the highlights are below, enjoy!


Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

If you were such a fan of the first movie that lines from it find their way into your everyday speech, then chances are you already own this and are memorising lines from the sequel. Other people declared it pretty bad and the truth is, it’s not bad, it’s actually pretty damn great but the problem is it’s around 40 minutes longer than the first and the really great jokes are really spaced out with long stretches of minor to no chuckles and more plot than the first.

Therefore it feels less funny than the original which is not the case as the pacing is just off. Amongst the highlights here are Ron Burgundy’s adventures into an interracial relationship, his son, their adopted shark and of course Steve Carrell’s Brick Tamland. The fight scene echoing the first film’s most notable moment is of course bigger but fails to be as hilarious and becomes more amusing for a spot-the-cameo session than the actual comedy involved. All in all this was better than a lot of comedy sequels and here you get the theatrical cut because the alternate and extended version they put on the Blu-ray really was a slog to get through.

Available on Now TV

Magic Magic

Magic Magic (2013)

After Crystal Fairy and the Magic Cactus, this was the second film that Michael Cera made in Chile with director Sebastian Silva in an attempt to change his image. Honestly though, Magic Magic is again a bit of a head scratcher.

As a portrait of a young girl losing her mind then it’s pretty on point and suitably well done, but that’s not how it was sold to us. Michael Cera essentially plays another young weasel but he’s not the bad guy that some have portrayed him as playing here, when things turn a down a dark path, he is just as confused as the rest of the characters. The good news is that here Juno Temple again proves she really is a great actress with a compelling portrait of a troubled and paranoid soul.

There was a chance here to do a kind of South American Wicker Man but this isn’t where Silva’s interests lie, he is more interested in vague hints as to the cause of the breakdown which really doesn’t go anywhere and pregnant pauses that never make the full nine months. If you haven’t heard anything previously about this then you might gain some enjoyment from the lead performance but do not head into this thinking it’s a horror film because you’ll be double disappointed.

Available on Now TV

Violet & Daisy 3

Violet and Daisy (2011)

This film was the subject of a huge delay in release after its film festival debut some years ago. It’s taken on further weight and poignancy now due to the fact that it features James Gandolfini as a suicidal man. The problem with Violet and Daisy is that it really doesn’t know what it wants to be, is it a Sin City styled comic caper, is it a Luc Besson style action romp, is it a comedy or just a stagey character piece?

It has neither the budget to back any of this ambition up nor the quality of writing required. Violet and Daisy is the kind of film that would have done big business back in the late nineties when the post Tarantino crime wave happened. This is not that period however and time has moved on.

Having said all that I did kind of enjoy the film, Gandolfini is great and Saorise Ronan and Alexis Bledel have great chemistry and are believable in the titular roles as these sweet but misguided killers. Geoffrey Fletcher gets round his lack of budget with some great edits and shots in lieu of gory gun fights too and could well really make a masterpiece should he choose to direct again. If you are looking for an offbeat film under an hour and a half then Violet and Daisy will just about do the trick.

Available on Now TV


Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

I barely remember anything that happened in any previous Resident Evil film or why I should even care at this point. Someone somewhere must care though because they keep churning them out over and over.

I think this is like the fifth film in the series but it feels like the eighth and after the exercise in slow motion 3D that was the fourth movie; this just drops you into it and assumes you are up on the dense, rich mythology of the series. I could try and tell you the plot but I couldn’t without looking it up truthfully, all I remember is that it ended with a suitably epic final shot which would ensure muggins would be back for number six which doesn’t seem to be happening until at least 2016 after this scored less well at the box office (*coughrebootcough).

Available on Amazon Prime


Dreamgirls (2006)

I know it’s hard to believe but I don’t get to watch absolutely everything, there are some films that just pass me by completely even if they do get serious awards acclaim and buzz. Bill Condon’s Dreamgirls is one of those films.

It tells the story of a Supremes alike female singing group in the 60’s which features attractive Beyonce Knowles and Jennifer Hudson as the less attractive but more talented member of their group. Hudson won a supporting actress Oscar for her role here and Eddie Murphy was nominated in the supporting actor category. It makes things worse because I know I will love the music and it sounds like the kind of role I have wanted to see Murphy in for around twenty years. I will be watching this very soon.

Available on Netflix


The Sum of All Fears (2002)

There have been five films featuring Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character and across those five films, he has been played by four different actors. This is a franchise that they just don’t seem to be able to get right and yet continually try and reboot.

This could all be over now after the failure of Kenneth Branagh’s version that featured Chris Pine in the role and I would bet that Jack Ryan ends up on TV sometime soon. Perhaps the most underrated and one of the best films made in this weird ‘franchise’ is the 2002 version The Sum of All Fears featuring the soon to be pariah Ben Affleck. 2002 was a period where Affleck hadn’t yet gotten the grief that he would experience post Daredevil in 2003 and here his relatively green nature works well for the character.

It’s kind of an origin story in the way that Jack Ryan 2014 was but here it’s a bit more thoughtful with less of an emphasis on action until the fast paced, edge of the seat finale but here it works far better. Let’s not forget that Jack Ryan’s job title is ‘Analyst’, in my job I work with Analysts and they don’t carry guns sir, the Ryan character has always worked best as a kind of everyman who stumbles across these situations and at this point Affleck was ideal.

Considering it wasn’t even a year after 9/11 and this film features a nuke being detonated on US soil, it’s perhaps one of the ballsiest movies in recent memory too. The Sum of All Fears was unfairly overshadowed that summer by Matt Damon’s The Bourne Identity but even so it did alright at the box office but then….Gigli happened and we didn’t get any more featuring Affleck in the Jack Ryan role, a lost franchise.

Available on Now TV

Cool Runnings: the 1993 movie about the Jamaican bobsleigh team

Cool Runnings (1993)

A lot of memories have been brought back in this week’s column and this made me cast my mind back to John Candy’s sudden death in 1994 from a heart attack. Candy had been a major staple in the films we watched as a family and I was 15 at the time of his death so it hit me pretty hard even harder than Brandon Lee’s death the year before.

I think a lot of people around me must have felt the same way because although Cool Runnings was a moderate hit stateside, when it came out here in early 94 it became an unexpected and massive hit. Regardless of circumstance, Cool Runnings is the inspiring, heart-warming and hilarious tale of the Jamaican bobsled team entering the Olympics. There is plenty of fish out of water comedy but the performances and writing shine through. Even now twenty years later, this still holds up and John Candy is as missed a presences as ever.

Available on Amazon Prime


Red Oaks

Red Oaks (2014)

Out of all of the Amazon pilots, this is the one I want more of immediately. David Gordon Green directs and Steven Soderbergh produces this coming of age, 80’s period comedy starring Submarines Craig Roberts as a kid who between school and college, starts a job as a tennis coach at an upper class country club. He struggles after his father’s heart attack reveals some truths about his parents sham marriage, or is he just projecting his own fears about growing up and commitment on to them?

It’s part Caddyshack, part Adventureland but has a winning formula and warmth that is really appealing and I can see being super addictive once it goes to series. Roberts’ character is the main focus but he is supported by some great supporting players who will no doubt become more important as the show rolls on. This gets a big yes vote from me.

Available on Amazon Prime


Hysteria (2014)


Whenever you see a pilot for something featuring an ensemble cast and a central mystery aping the Lost formula then you scratch your chin and go ‘hmm promising’.  Based on the strength of this first episode I would say that the evidence suggests this could well be elevated to ‘excellent’ but I recognise that these things can go either way very easily (see Flashforward and The Event). Hysteria has an evocative opening credits sequence and then stars Mena Suvari in her best role to date as a haunted and somewhat unorthodox psychiatrist who is brought in when some teens start experiencing spasm’s and seizures that are unexplained but seem to be linked to our social media dominated world. Creator Shaun Cassidy has previously brought us American Gothic and Invasion and whilst there at the time audience patience wasn’t to be found on network TV, here it could be the perfect canvas for Cassidy to bring a complete vision to us. Hysteria is surprisingly cinematic stuff with some controversial and timely subject matter ripe for exploration and whilst the finale might give away too much too soon, I can’t wait to see where this goes.

Available on Amazon Prime


Really (2014)

So far this is the only one I’m not sold on. Really wants to be a kind of Thirtysomething for a new generation and revolves around creator and actor Jay Chandrasekhar’s relationship with his wife played by Scrubs’ Sarah Chalke and their friends. The problem is this just tries too hard and is too predictable. As soon as a door was opened on a dinner party scene I knew that one of them was going to be having an affair with someone else’s spouse and lo and behold ten minutes later I was proved right. Most of this first episode seems to revolve around attempts to get birthday oral sex and though I recognise a lot of the patterns of life as a long term couple, I just couldn’t get over the contrived and unfunny nature of it all. The good news is there is something similar done far better over on Netflix, it’s called The League. This gets a no vote from me.

Available on Amazon Prime

Hand of God

Hand of God (2014)

On paper this sounded like the most promising of all of these pilots but in practice it may vary depending on your personal tastes. Ron Perlman plays a moderately corrupt judge who after his son’s suicide attempt suffers a breakdown, finds religion and then starts to receive messages which are going to lead him on a path to vigilante justice, salvation or damnation.

The problem with Hand of God is that it starts smack in the middle of a story that is already in progress and it feels like you are expected to know what is going on and who certain characters are like you started reading a book halfway through, it’s a brave move but one that doesn’t always pay off. The other problem is that fascinating premise aside, Hand of God is kind of crass and loud and occasionally comes across as if a better title might have been ‘Bad Judge’ in a manner imitating the Billy Bob Thornton Christmas classic. On the plus side Ron Perlman is good to watch no matter what he is in and this gives him more to do than Sons of Anarchy ever did. This first episode feels like something finding its feet which could turn out to be essential. This gets a wavering yes vote, just.

Available on Amazon Prime.


Available this week to stream for a fee:


Killers (2014)

In a manner similar to the underrated I Saw the Devil from a few years back, this Asian serial killer saga concerns a psychopath triggering a journalist’s dark side as they connect over the internet which leads to all manner of ultra-violent shenanigans. This film from Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto and the producers of The Raid has gone down a storm with the horror crowd and much like I Saw the Devil, is a true endurance contest for anyone watching. Let’s not forget that Tjahjanto was also partly responsible for the best segment of V/H/S 2 with Raid director Gareth Evans so it’s got that on its side too.

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


Extraterrestrial (2011)

Not to be confused with the vicious brothers’ forthcoming horror flick, Nacho Vigalondo’s follow up to the ingenious Timecrimes in 2007 has taken an age to get to us over here in the UK. It could be because Extraterrestrial isn’t the easiest to market, being primarily a romantic comedy which just so happens to have an alien invasion as a backdrop. Although it may seem to suffer from difficult second album syndrome, the premise and talent involved is enough to make Extraterrestrial worth a look.

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