After last week’s news about Netflix securing The Blacklist for a record fee, a similar story came to light this week concerning the pre Batman prequel series Gotham. Now rather than getting it day and date after US broadcast as per Breaking Bad and From Dusk Till Dawn, Gotham’s entire run will just arrive on Netflix after it’s finished its TV broadcast. Worse news is that this means you have to wait for Channel 5 to get their finger out and schedule it on one of their three channels and then muck it around the schedule just to confuse you further and for it to finish its run there. Kind of takes the wind out the sails doesn’t it? I wouldn’t expect to see Gotham on Netflix until this time next year at best but we will see.

In better news David Wain’s relatively well received They Came Together has arrived on VOD the same time as it’s in (1 or 2) cinemas. After Cheap Thrills and David Gordon Green’s Joe successfully adopted this model, a film starring no less than Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler has now done the same and I am pleased. So many films this year have been given short shrift because distributors dithered between wanting to get a larger audience and not wanting to spoil relations with your local multiplex. Go on IMDB and look at the coming soon section for cinemas this October, go ahead I’ll wait…Ok you are back, looks good doesn’t it?

Yes this October after years of disappointment, there seems to be at least one horror film coming out each week for the entire month and although this is wonderful it’s inevitable that some of them are going to get lost completely. There is easily at least two of these films which would be better served going to VOD at the same time as the cinema (Life after Beth and The Babadook I’m looking at you) and if there are distributors thinking there will not be people happily at home Halloween weekend with a desire to watch a new horror film that’s actually quite good, well then someone needs to be fired. More than anything I am just looking forward to these films but watching how they are handled is like watching the stock market or trending topics on twitter for me and is not without its entertainment value.

This week’s highlights are as follows:


Riddick (2013)

This third entry for Vin Diesel’s convict anti-hero in space very nearly gets things back on course as intended after the low-ish budget and gritty original and overblown second outing. The problem with Riddick is that it wants to be all things to all people who love this franchise. So (in the theatrical version at least) the Necromongers are given very little follow-up and initially the film seems like it’s blazing its own trail with a first act that finds Riddick marooned on a planet and surviving amongst an eco-system where humans were never meant to be. Then the stock mercenary characters turn up with their well-worn tropes and characterisation in tow and I can still abide this and the film remains entertaining as Riddick messes with them.

Then the somewhat inevitable but extremely damning reveal of a massive monster threat happens and you start to get a feeling that you have seen this film before, and that’s because you have…it was called Pitch Black. There was so much potential here for a stand-alone chapter in this universe which was simply Riddick versus the mercs on a hostile planet but because it’s the third film and the first one was successful it unnecessarily calls back to that one and therefore is merely an above average entry in the sci-fi action genre. It does have a lot of good-looking scenes and some stuff that makes you think its cool the way 2012’s Dredd was cool but then again it has some dodgy gender politics too despite the presence of ass kicker Katee Sackhoff raising the material to heights it doesn’t aspire to. I have a feeling that even if you were devoted to this franchise, this might still be something of a disappointment.

Available on Amazon Prime

Halle Berry

The Call (2013)

Brad Anderson at one point was looking like he would take M.Night Shyamalan’s crown as the new post millennium Hitchcock after films like Session 9 and The Machinist. Even the fatally flawed Transsiberian and Vanishing on 7th Street had moments of greatness. Here he has made his greatest success thus far and with WWE films producing no less. Halle Berry plays a 911 operator who gets a call from young Abigail Breslin who has been kidnapped by a sick demented lunatic and of course Berry gets personally involved and out and about in the world trying to help the girl. For most of its run time this is gripping stuff riffing on both Phone Booth and Cellular with a dash of something like Kiss the Girls. In the last twenty minutes though it stretches the premise a bit too far and most will either reject it out right or be so fully invested so they don’t notice or care. Still in a quiet week it’s more than likely this is one you haven’t seen and as such it has lots going for it despite the generic surface.

Available on Now TV

Empire State

Empire State (2012)

Liam Hemsworth so far hasn’t lived up to his older brother’s stellar career on-screen. Hemsworth the younger seems to pick the more risky sounding project and they rarely if ever work, leading to some embarrassing films (Paranoia anyone?). This film from A Guide To Recognising Your Saints director Dito Montiel, is based on a true story and concerns a kid from the streets of New York ending up getting roped into a robbery despite his best intentions. The cut price Shia LeBeouf known as Michael Anganaro plays Hemsworth’s mouthy and doomed best friend and Dwayne Johnson pops up as the cop from the neighbourhood keeping his eye on them. Empire State ticks a lot of predictable and by the numbers boxes and is reminiscent of everything from Goodfellas to Saturday Night Fever by way of The Town. Despite the derivative nature on display, I didn’t hate it but none of it will feel new or fresh unless you are an underage film fan just discovering the crime genre.

Available on Netflix

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here (2012)

There is a sub-genre of dramatic thrillers that for the purposes of this we will call ‘middle class white people who should know better do silly things’ and Wish You Were Here is a good one purely for the fact that it really does give you that sinking feeling you get after a night out of heavy drinking where you don’t remember what went on. Director Kieran Darcy-Smith tells the story largely in flashback as guilt ridden Joel Edgerton arrives back in Australia after a holiday in Thailand where things got out of hand with his wife’s sister and her boyfriend. Edgerton is the main focus and is such a fantastic actor that even though the pace was slow burn, I never once was bored as the story unfolded and I remained gripped throughout. All too often in indie cinema, the build-up doesn’t pay off and films are content to coast by on the looks and edgy atmosphere. I would say that this is one of those times where the journey does seem worth it and the sobering, gut wrenching climax may well make you want to quit drinking all together. A low-key thriller that is well worth a look.

Available on Now TV

Aneurin Barnard as Guy, Jason Flemyng as Becket, Jamie Foreman as Coteral defend the keep
Aneurin Barnard as Guy, Jason Flemyng as Becket, Jamie Foreman as Coteral defend the keep

Ironclad (2011)

In structure if not location, Ironclad is reminiscent of Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins from a couple of weeks ago. Instead of samurai era Japan, here the action is in the muddy, disease ridden time of 13th century England. A small group of Knights Templar struggle against a siege at Rochester Castle from Paul Giamatti’s brutal King John. Like 13 Assassins this has a group of honourable types laying waste to the hordes of a despicable bastard and has a final hour or so which is all battle and pure exhilaration all the way. Although a sequel to this came out straight to DVD recently, it still feels like Ironclad is an underrated film with another great leading performance from should be star James Purefoy.

Available on Now TV


The Ward (2010)

John Carpenter’s first film in nearly ten years wasn’t quite the return to form hoped for but it wasn’t a complete loss either, but compared to Ghosts of Mars it looks like The Exorcist. The Ward stars Amber Heard as a young woman who ends up in a woman’s mental hospital which she then finds is haunted by the ghost of a dead woman with a grudge. If this all sounds again very familiar, that’s because it is. The Ward arrives around six years too late to really capitalise on the supernatural boom following The Ring and all the output of Sam Raimi’s production company Ghost House pictures. Even so there are one or two nicely done moments and the female ensemble led by Heard is really good, especially when they are all on-screen together and it contains another Jared Harris concerned/shady doctor character so there is that going for it too.

Available on Amazon Prime

The House of the Devil - Jocelin Donahue 2

House of the Devil (2009)

You wanna get retro? Fine let’s get retro. Whilst The Guest and Cold in July might have delighted everyone over thirty, evoking memories of knackered rental VHS types on those Saturday nights when the parents were out, Ti West’s The House of the Devil is the really real deal. If nothing else this is remarkable in the way that it is exactly a film that would have been made in 1979, you could tell nobody what year it was made, show them this and say it’s from the late seventies and they truly wouldn’t know any different unless they were huge fans of Greta Gerwig.

There have been complaints that this film moves at a glacial pace and I won’t argue it really does and this is indeed a problem and will turn off the casual viewer. For some reason though I just simply really like it, it’s drenched in atmosphere, the build-up really pays off and it’s genuinely scary and occasionally shocking.  Ti West topped this film with The Innkeepers and then The Sacrament earlier this year but this film is what made people sit up and pay attention.

Available on Netflix

Charlie Bartlett

Charlie Bartlett (2007)

For those that complain they don’t make films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off anymore, well they do they just aren’t seen as all that mainstream anymore. Charlie Bartlett updates all of the charm and humour of the John Hughes classic and gives it a modern spin.

Anton Yelchin plays the titular character that arrives at a new high school so full of himself that he takes to doling out therapy to all the students much to the chagrin of Robert Downey Jr’s principle whose daughter he also romances. Jon Poll’s underrated high school charmer is full of wit, snappy dialogue, heart and winning performances. You haven’t seen it no doubt but chances are it could soon be your inner 14 year olds favourite film!

Available on Netflix


Sunshine (2007)

From the last decade of cinema, Danny Boyle’s Sunshine is one of the films I return to frequently. It is perhaps also Danny Boyle’s most underrated piece of work and had a lot of people who saw it walking out scratching their head. It came after the box office and acclaim of 28 Days Later and the lower key and charming film Millions which nobody saw. Sunshine is big sci-fi with big ideas and although it is extremely flawed, it’s fascinating, thrilling and frequently beautiful with some stunning visuals and fantastic performances including Cillian Murphy, pre Captain America Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh and an uncredited guy who would go on to be very recognisable in UK-based productions. I still wait for more people to see this one because I wanted to debate the ending with lots of people but as yet that hasn’t really happened. Sort this out go watch it and come back and have a conversation with me!

Available on Now TV

Predator Face

Predator (1987)

Now this is the stuff that legends are made of, shortly to get the remake/boot treatment by Shane Black no less (who appears here) John McTiernan’s pre Die Hard Arnold Schwarzenegger classic is still really good, although some of the politics, macho posturing and effects work may have dated it. I know there are going to be people reading this who haven’t seen this one and on the other hand I know lots of you will have seen it several times. For the newbies, this is a film from a time when men were men, video boxes were huge and Jesse Ventura was one of the first wrestlers to appear in movies. It may be primitive and archaic but those Stan Winston creature effects are never going to date. Predator works not just as a mirror of the time it was made in but also as a bona-fide great thriller.

Available on Now TV


Aliens (1986)

On the flip side of Predator is the master hunter’s comic book nemesis in James Cameron’s Aliens. All four Alien movies have been made available on Now TV but this is the one that always stands out. Gone is the haunted house atmosphere of Ridley Scott’s original and it is replaced by a muscular, adrenaline pumping sci-fi war film as Vietnam parable. Cameron consistently changed the game from his second full feature onwards and here he redefined what a sequel could be.

Aliens is a second film in a franchise so good that it essentially torpedoed any other film that dare have an Alien in the title and call itself the third film, the only solution was really back to basics which they tried and failed although Alien 3 does have its merits. At the time Aliens was considered a modest budget exercise and used a lot of existing locations and yet Aliens somehow never ages apart from some primitive old school green screen and Michael Biehn and Sigourney Weaver’s youthful appearance giving the game away.  Aliens was a huge influence on the next decade of cinema and it continues to be influential even at nearly thirty years old.

Available on Now TV


The Blacklist

The Blacklist (2013-14)

Okay so it seems that maybe Netflix UK won’t be getting this for a while. Perhaps alarmed by the news from one of their competitors, Now TV have decided to put the entire first season of this smash hit back on demand for a limited time only. All 22 episodes are now available but they don’t hang around on Now TV so chances are you have at best three weeks to binge watch all of this. I would say that having watched the first three episodes, The Blacklist is well worth your time. The first episode is one of the best pilots of recent times and the follow-up episodes don’t slow down either. Something we will call ‘Breaking Bad Syndrome’ seems to be occurring recently and network shows are really upping their game. Between this and Hannibal, US networks are giving us a reason to watch normal TV again. The basic premise has a wonderful James Spader (enjoying the Kevin Spacey phase of his career) as a master criminal who gives himself up after being off the radar for more than twenty years.

The FBI take him in and he demands that he will only reveal secrets and foil terrorist plots with a newly minted federal agent with issues of her own. An unlikely partnership is formed and more and more secrets are revealed with plenty of twists and turns on the way. Like many network shows, this has often lunatic pacing but also knows when to slow it down and focus on two people in a room talking. Somehow though it was long thought dead, The Blacklist brings back the network trope of weekly self-contained stories with each new episode involving the tracking of some new criminal menace whilst still having an overall arc and it works. The Blacklist has all the best parts of Alias, Spooks and Kevin Spacey being interrogated in a police station in The Usual Suspects. In other words its good…go watch now!

Available on Now TV


Available this week for a fee in most places where you can rent stuff.


They Came Together (2014)

I think it’s fair to say that the Zucker style spoof kicked off with Airplane and The Naked Gun has been more or less run into the ground thanks to those moronic films like Meet the Spartans that spoof movies one year after they come out and are loaded with soon to be dated pop culture references. There is hope however, and that hope is represented by director David Wain who first teamed up with Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler not to mention a young Bradley Cooper on the underseen Wet Hot American Summer which spoofed US summer camp comedies from the 80’s with some often surreal humour. Now Wain, Rudd and Poehler have given us this spoof of the romantic comedy formula and it works wonderfully.

Every trope of the romantic comedy is skilfully skewered by Wain and co, from the use of New York City to the quirky characterisations of the female lead and the main non offensive romantic leads group of stock character friends. They are a few obvious jokes of the ‘walk this way’ variety but it makes up for it by going off on weird random tangents about soiled superhero costumes at Halloween parties and white supremacist in-laws. So far this year I have not laughed at a comedy this much and They Came Together had me crying and my rib cage hurting it was so funny. Probably not to everyone’s taste but if you are in a silly mood then check it out.

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


Bad Neighbours (2014)

Simply titled Neighbours in the states, somehow they thought this might be mistaken for an Australian soap featuring a character named Toadfish. Bland title aside, the trailer for this Seth Rogen and Zac Efron two hander promised lots of base laughs and entertainment this summer and duly made lots of money. However the simple fact is that most of the laughs are in the trailer and the film is disjointed and frankly doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Rather than sharp dialogue and the ridiculousness of the situation, the humour harkens back to films like There’s Something About Mary and American Pie or Road Trip and really feels tired. Along with this it has a rather confused tone, constantly wanting to go dark but then bottling it and going for the gross out. At times Zac Efron’s character seems like he belongs in a different movie altogether, perhaps a drama from a Bret Easton Ellis novel and the less said about the end the better. For me this was one of the big disappointments of the summer but who knows for you it might be just what you need after a busy week at work.

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


Blue Ruin (2013)

Slightly hampered by the fact that it appeared on very few screens rather than going VOD simultaneously, the acclaimed Blue Ruin is finally available to view in your home. Luckily although it was present, Jeremy Saulnier’s revenge saga hasn’t fallen victim to film festival overhype and seems to be becoming much-loved amongst film fans through good old-fashioned word of mouth.

This has often been compared to many of the South Korean revenge sagas from last decade as well as the work of the Coen brothers and was apparently director Saulnier’s last grab at a film career which seems to have paid off. We will be seeing more of this guy, mark my words.

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