Remember last year when through its Amazon overlords Lovefilm put several pilots online including the pretty good failed Zombieland pilot? Well, they are at it again with ten new pilots, none of which have committed to series yet but with which the lucky few will go to one of those full season exclusive type deals that Netflix do so well.

I don’t know about you but I kind of wish they would just commit to something right out the gate and take the risks, its paid off for Netflix so far and Amazon are attracting some major talent to their stable too.

The pilots include; Bosch a detective show based on a Michael Connelly book series and starring the great Titus Welliver, Kids shows Wishenproof, Hardboiled Eggheads, The JoB and Graff Show and Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street. We also have comedy from The Rebels; a kind of remake of Goldie Hawn 80s comedy Wildcats with Natalie Zea, Maker Shack Agency which sounds interesting, Transparent from the creator of Six Feet Under and Mozart in the Jungle from Paul Weitz, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman which goes behind the scenes at a symphony orchestra.

Perhaps the most promising sounding of these (for me anyway) was The After from X-Files creator Chris Carter who wrote and directed the pilot. Sadly in reality this pilot is the worst thing I have seen committed in the name of TV in quite a while. We find ourselves in the midst of an unexplained apocalypse with people just running everywhere and helicopters exploding with no real reason behind it, in this chaos we focus on the all too familiar eight characters that are thrown together trapped in a car park and presented with a mystery.

Remember Flash-forward? Invasion? The River? Well The After is another in a fine tradition of Lost clones except it’s badly acted, appallingly written and frighteningly racist, it even offends the Irish. It only really gets good in the final scene but in fine X-Files meets Lost tradition it just raises more questions, questions we will probably never get the answer to and frankly I cannot be bothered.

Anyway, below are some films added for your streaming pleasure this week:


Oblivion (2013)

Joseph Kosinski’s follow up to Tron: Legacy was met with middling reviews last spring when it came out and despite some pacing issues, it’s actually a better film and fairly unique amongst the current wave of sci-fi cinema.

Whereas District 9 and Children of Men popularised the current grungy aesthetic for gritty fantasy, Oblivion is a return to the clean surface sci-fi of 2001 and much of the 70’s and 80’s movies, touching upon things like Silent Running, Moon and even Independence Day. The scenario depicted and the threat eventually revealed is actually fairly original despite all of the derivative elements which got people’s backs up when it came out in the cinema.

On second viewing the pacing issues became more apparent and the last third feels a little small compared to all the epic sweep of the first hour but mostly this is really solid propelled by M83’s propulsive score and I predict that Kosinski will get better with each new film until he truly makes a masterpiece.

Available on Now TV


Dark Skies (2013)

Amongst last year’s onslaught of Blumhouse productions and other low-budget horror aiming at the Paranormal Activity crowd, was this alien abduction horror which inexplicably made less money than The Purge at the box office.

It’s actually better than that new franchise but is similarly a very frustrating film experience. Let’s face facts, getting pulled out of your bed in the middle of the night by skinny grey dudes with big heads and having something shoved in the holiest of holy’s is a terrifying notion and something that thousands of people believe has happened to them and Dark Skies builds on this with an almost unbearable sense of creeping dread for most of its first hour and all the unexplained nosebleeds and sleepwalking you can handle.

Then when the dread reaches its peak and turns to inevitable despair the film threatens to get even better by becoming a siege thriller which is then over in five minutes leaving you with a feeling that this was all build up with little pay off. Dark Skies is like Sinister with aliens but less good.

Available on Netflix


Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

In terms of films that were panned that turned out to be quite good, Bryan Singer’s most recent film isn’t quite The Lone Ranger or John Carter but it’s still fairly interesting and fun if you are under 12.

The main problem here is that Singer is a severely mismatched director for this kind of material that belongs firmly in the Terry Gilliam or Tim Burton realm of fantasy cinema. Despite early trailers causing concern, the effects work on the giants and the various action scenes are impressively rendered and Nicolas Hoult is a suitably dashing young lead.

Singer is out his depth though, really not knowing how to balance the tone veering between childish farce and horrifying violence with very little coherence. An interesting failure but not a fascinating one.

Available on Now TV

Sylvester Stallone Topless - Bullet to the Head

Bullet to the Head (2013)

You could probably point to this film and say it was the crappiest of 2013 but the fact is if you grew up in the era of the muscle-bound action hero before the mid 90s when things changed, this has a certain nostalgia factor which is endlessly appealing.

Walter Hill’s most recent film never reaches the heights of Last Man Standing or Streets of Fire but has mumbling hitman Sylvester Stallone on the rampage with a mismatched cop buddy and all the bone crunching violence and mayhem you would expect from a bygone era. Bullet to the Head is a pretty good Saturday nights entertainment with a few beers and that’s sometimes all you need.

Available on Lovefilm/Amazon

Matthew Goode in Stoker

Stoker (2013)

Considering how bad some of the western actors are in Chan-Wook Park’s Joint Security Area, you could be forgiven for being worried about this his Hollywood debut. Whereas his contemporaries Bong Joon Ho and Kim Jee Woon have seen their visions fairly diluted by the Hollywood system, Chan-Wook Park makes it over to the west completely intact.

Stoker has all of his trademark visual flourish, beautiful music and startling violence you could hope for as well as a very interesting central idea about family and what gets passed down through the generations. If you are looking for a comparison then this is nothing like Park’s Vengeance Trilogy and probably more in line with Thirst but arguably much much better.

Available on Now TV

Mine Games

Mine Games (2012)

Another in a long line of never heard of it or seen the DVD films that have popped up on Now TV, this film has people comparing it to The Cabin in the Woods but the truth is there is a cabin and a bunch of young people and that is where the similarity ends.

More along the lines of recent low-budget horror’s Resolution and The Dyatlov Pass Incident as well as Timecrimes, a group of twenty something’s camp out for a weekend with one of their number being an on medication schizophrenic and find that there is some kind of time loop situation coming from a nearby abandoned mine.

Crappy title aside, I am all for the continued career of straight to DVD starlet Briana Evigan, but this isn’t very good. It probably could have been a pretty good thriller at one point or another but everything here feels like it’s turned up to ten and shouted at you with very little suspense or tension building and the rushed pace is exhausting. In these modern times I am always measuring a film’s success by how long it takes me to check my phone; this made it thirty minutes with an hour left, make of that what you will.

Available on Now TV

The League - Season 5

The League – Season 5 (2013)

Considering the subject matter and how popular fantasy football is in the UK, I am perplexed as to how we haven’t reversed trends and remade this for a UK audience on ITV4 or something, it would be MASSIVE.

This is a highly improvised US basic cable series revolving around five friends and their (American) fantasy football league but also the challenges that people in their late twenties and early thirties face with things like marriage, kids, dating and careers, mostly though this takes a backseat to very laddish humour, the kind of thing I have to watch when the Mrs is out.

Starring a whole bunch of talent just breaking through including Mark Duplass, Nick Kroll and Jon Lajoie, this is very funny, consistently witty and endlessly quotable. We are up to season five now and the previous four are just sitting there on Netflix waiting for you.

Available on Netflix


John Carter (2012)

Now that the dust has settled and John Carter is officially one of the biggest flops of all time we can assess the damage. I’ll start, there are two big problems which meant that John Carter didn’t succeed, the first was the marketing campaign and the title, Disney didn’t sell the fun and left out the ‘Of Mars’ which was essential in terms of telling people what it was, anyone remember the Edgar Rice Burroughs books? Nope didn’t think so. In the UK we probably thought we were getting a cosmic sequel to the Manic Street Preachers song about Kevin’s brother John.

The second and perhaps biggest issue is the screenplay, clunky and overlong, it feels like three films mashed together with an unnecessary coda at the end. Having said all that, there are some great things about John Carter, during a couple of moments this feels reminiscent of the best moments of Indiana Jones or Star Wars and the visuals are lovely.

Taylor Kitsch is not as bad as some people have made out and Lynn Collins, the princess of mars is amazing, the alien culture and factions are fascinating and it would have been interesting to see how some of this paid off in future sequels that will likely never happen. John Carter is probably a good watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon and a future bank holiday cult hit.

Available on Netflix

another earth trailer

Another Earth (2011)

2011 was the year of the large looming death planet threatening our lives on earth at the art house. So along with Melancholia we got this slightly less showy melodrama about an exact copy of our planet appearing in our solar system.

Here though this planet is merely a backdrop to a film about guilt, remorse and making amends with Brit Marling having killed a family in her car due to the planets appearance. Interestingly enough this shares a couple of scenes similarity with Melancholia with the lead actress bathing nude in the night sky.

Another Earth is kind of a comedown of a film; it feels like it was made with Sunday morning in mind, or as something to stick on when you can’t sleep. I can’t say I enjoyed it but it was interesting and despite a sophomore Sundance disappointment last month, Mike Cahill may still be a name to watch in future.

Available on Lovefilm/Amazon

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The Missing (2003)

Apart from Apollo 13 and the recent Rush, I have always found Ron Howard a bit bland as a director but he seems capable of trying anything and only ever really comes unstuck when he is directing comedy.

In 2003, Howard turned his hand to the western and delivered a kind of horror western which although deeply flawed and too long has some very interesting moments with Cate Blanchett’s medicine woman teaming with her estranged father Tommy Lee Jones when her daughter is kidnapped by Apache Indians. The Missing has been unfairly forgotten in favour of recent superior films in the same genre but is not without its charms.

Available on Netflix

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

Unlike some of Terry Gilliam’s other work, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is not an example of the director thriving under pressure. It’s a solid film and is pure unfiltered fantasy straight from Gilliam’s brain but is too long, too insular and it’s difficult to find a way in unlike in Brazil, The Fisher King or Twelve Monkeys.

The film went over budget and nearly collapsed several times but is truly still from an age of pre CGI fantasy, a wonder to behold. One of the more interesting big flops of the 80s and from a remarkable time where a true maverick was given this much money for such a personal vision.

Available on Netflix

Pay Per View

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

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips (2013)

One of the more astonishing admissions from the academy award nominations recently was Tom Hanks great central performance in this based on true life tale of a Somali pirate hijacking of an American ship. When you consider that Paul Greengrass and Hanks had the balls to show something not seen in big thrillers like this in the final scenes, the omission feels even more of an injustice.

If you are coming just for the thrills then you get this in spades, Captain Phillips is the most nail-biting and tense film in years and even though you can read about the outcome of the real incident or might remember it from the news, Greengrass has such skill with editing and staging scenes that it doesn’t matter, you are right there in the sweaty midst of all of it. Superb.

Available on Film4OD/EE/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox


Prisoners (2013)

Denis Villeneuve’s thriller from last autumn was the kind of film that rainy Sunday afternoons at the flicks were made for. On the surface a kidnapping thriller with Hollywood hunks Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, Prisoners is actually so much more than that and goes to some uncomfortable places and areas that suburban people don’t want to admit they are capable of.

It taps into those conversations you have about what you would do when you see these disappearance cases on the news and makes you confront the harsh reality of that. It’s in these moments when Prisoners is most interesting but at the same time it has to be a thriller so rather than a Gone Baby Gone style moral conundrum ending, you get a very dark but still fairly typical ending for this kind of thriller which renders a lot of the preceding drama fairly mute.

Still when it’s good it’s very good and Prisoners contains another overlooked awards worthy performance from Hugh Jackman.

Available on Film4OD/EE/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox


Filth (2013)

Considering the success of Trainspotting, it’s quite puzzling as to why we haven’t had more adaptations of Irvine Welsh’s books. This is only about the third in twenty years and I imagine that his stories are pretty hard to a) adapt and b) get financing for, as they aren’t exactly feel good entertainment.

Filth boasts a great central performance from James McAvoy as a policeman whose mental health is deteriorating and constantly threatening to expose his corrupt nature. A compelling wallow in the darkness. You can read our interviews with James McAvoy, Jon S. Baird and Irvine Welsh here.

Available on Film4OD/EE/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox


Prince Avalanche (2013)

After the comedy mis-step of The Sitter, David Gordon Green has returned to his indie roots with a few films and the first of those is this quite lovely and simple tale of two men painting a road one summer. Paul Rudd is a man who thinks he is deeper than he actually is enjoying the solitude and Emile Hirsch is his girlfriend’s brother who is young and stupid but still thinks he deserves more.

I can’t quite put my finger on why but this is a movie I really love, nothing much happens but the whole thing has such a breezy nature and a relaxed charm that it really recalls those times which you hated but later looked back on fondly. Paul Rudd has also never been as good anywhere as he is here, not even with Judd Apatow.

Available on Film4OD/EE/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox


Metallica: Through the Never (2013)

Metallica’s concert film with a loose narrative was designed to be a theatrical experience in IMAX turned up to 11 in 3D so it probably fares less well on the small screen unless you are a hard-core Metallica fan.

Nimrod Antal’s wrap around about the end of the world is visually impressive but pretty inconsequential. If you have a big 3D TV then this is probably worth it but otherwise it might just make a nice background distraction whilst you do the housework.

Available on Film4OD/EE/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox


Runner Runner (2013)

It promised to be one of the more interesting and cool releases of the autumn but then came out and was met with a resounding meh and died on its arse. A story of gambling, corruption and a seductive lifestyle starring pretty Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton and laid back Ben Affleck. If you really really miss the Oceans 11 films or long for a sequel to 21, this might just fill that hole.

Available on Film4OD/EE/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox


Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)

David Lowery’s film about a criminal on a journey to re-unite with his love is a prime example of how the hyperbole on the internet during film festivals is actually ruining their chances. Based on reviews last year coming out of Sundance, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was going to be the breakout hit, win all the Oscars and Lowery was the new Terrence Malick, then it came out in a re-edited form and disappeared with a whimper.

Was it a weight of expectation that the film could never meet? Or was it the communal atmosphere of critical love that spreads like a virus at festivals on solid if unremarkable films? Either way this film is now available for the masses and it will either remain obscure or become a massive word of mouth cult.

Available on Film4OD/EE/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox

odd thomas

Odd Thomas (2013)

I’m endlessly fascinated as to how this movie came to be directed by Stephen Sommers, that Stephen Sommers who directed the Mummy films and the first GI JOE film, all of which were box office hits, and here he is with a straight to DVD horror film based on a Dean Koontz book.

Anton Yelchin stars as the titular odd bloke who can speak to the dead and Willem Dafoe lends support. Word on this is actually pretty solid so it will probably end up a big hit on home formats.

Available on Film4OD / EE / Virgin Movies/Blinkbox