Kind of a good news/bad news situation this week. Bad news for those of us who like to watch sitcoms of 30 minutes in length whilst we eat dinner during the week, Channel 4 has decided to remove most of its good content including Peep Show, The IT Crowd and Black Books from Netflix and Lovefilm as of February 15th. You can still watch these online but you have to go through their frankly useless 4OD app which I have never managed to watch a full episode of anything on without it crashing at the bloody adverts. Whilst its admirable that Channel 4 are taking things back in-house, they really need to improve their software first, or maybe they already have because I gave up on it back in 2012 and never finished season two of The Killing.

The good news is that Netflix have debuted season two of political drama House of Cards, admittedly I have yet to see a single episode but word is that on Friday the viewing figures for this already set some kind of record which is further evidence that the Netflix model is working. Now if they can just abandon Hemlock Grove and get some other new show in place, we will see…

This week’s pick of the new films available is as follows:


After Earth (2013)

One of the last year’s supreme flops that is actually a flop, this saw Will Smith and his nepotism come unstuck when he stuck his son Jaden in the lead of a big budget sci-fi movie with M.Night Shyamalan at the helm. The truth is this isn’t as bad as The Happening or The Last Airbender but the truth is also that this is a fairly dull plodding affair which due to the requirements of the plot, finds the Smith’s in monosyllabic and joyless mode even with a fairly impressive background of an Earth that has been taken back by nature with beasts meant as nothing more than man killing machines. Elder Smith plays the wonderfully named Cypher Raige and Smith Jr is his wimpy son Kitai, both bred to be ultimate soldiers without a sense of humour. Without his usual charm and bag of tricks, Will Smith simply shows up and some of the ideas they must have had about his character traits just never come across on-screen the way they planned. Perhaps in the hands of another star and director combo this could have been something minor but memorable but Smith and Shyamalan are so out of touch after years surrounded by yes men that they must have truly thought they were giving the world what it wanted to see. After Earth feels like it should have been another Pitch Black but it’s like someone took that template and chucked too much money at it resulting in an overblown and joyless bore.

Available on Now TV


Warm Bodies (2013)

Jonathan Levine’s zombie movie from this time last year went by fairly ignored at the cinema and audiences instead waited for the bland and wasted opportunity that was World War Z. It’s either a sign that people are finally getting sick of zombies or that people thought this was a Twilight clone for the zombie crowd, which the early promo artwork certainly indicated. Warm Bodies is actually quite a good riff on the zombie formula with some ideas that have even been hinted at in some of Romero’s classic zombie films. Basically after a major zombie apocalypse, Nicolas Hoult’s undead ghoul starts to fall in love with human survivor Teresa Palmer after eating her boyfriend and absorbing his memories. Considering that most of the time we are following Hoult who doesn’t so much talk as grunt and most of the key plot points are communicated by a voice over which is meant to be his very human thoughts, this works surprisingly well. Levine has proved a master of balancing a lot of different comedic and drama elements into a coherent whole with films like 50/50 and The Wackness and pulls off the same trick here with the comedy, horror or love story never becoming the whole focus and overwhelming everything else. Warm Bodies packs in laughs, horror and some actually quite lovely romance into a perfect film for valentine’s weekend.

Available on Lovefilm/Amazon

The Dark Knight Returns - Part 1 - Blu-Ray

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns parts one and two (2012)

Although they may be floundering in Marvel’s wake in the live action film stakes, DC have quietly dominated the straight to DVD animated movie market with some brilliant work such as Justice League: The New Frontier, Batman Year One and Superman Doomsday. With this adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal 1987 take on Batman and an ageing Bruce Wayne, they have perhaps reached a peak they will never equal again. Anyone who has read The Dark Knight Returns more than once could see that it was perhaps perfect as an animated film with a plot that would feel clunky in live action and this adaptation is just as perfect as you imagined it would be. This could well be my favourite Batman ever put on film; it’s that good and would have been awesome if given a cinema release. Probably not one for the kids but Jay Oliva’s two parter is one for comic book geeks, animation fans and just people who like good stories well told.

Available on Lovefilm/Amazon


Bernie (2011)

Richard Linklater’s black comedy based on a true event is truly one of the unsung cinematic gems of recent years. Ideally we should have been celebrating a Jack Black Oscar nomination the year this came out but it was not to be, it’s probably another case of a mirror being held up to a microcosm of American life that they reject outright and so Bernie limped out a minor release in the UK despite a lot of critical acclaim. Bernie works as both a solid drama and a blacker than night comedy and proves yet again that Richard Linklater is a master of whatever genre he might turn his hand to. The stand out performance here is Jack Black as the earnest and sincere undertaker who hides something mysterious in his eyes but he is backed up by a minor performance from the now essential Matthew McConaughey and a sad but spiteful Shirley MacLaine. The reputation of this film deserves to grow now that it’s available on streaming and hopefully it will not be forgotten in favour of Linklater’s newer more universally acclaimed work.

Available on Now TV


Final Destination 5 (2011)

I don’t remember an awful lot of plot details about the most recent Final Destination film but this is probably beside the point. What I do remember is that watching this was the best time I had with this franchise since the second movie. You know the drill by now, group of youngsters; one has a premonition of a horrifying accident which then leads to them all evading death which comes for them by a series of gory mouse trap style incidents. This doesn’t do anything new with the franchise but director Steven Quale orchestrates the mayhem like a conductor at a symphony orchestra with thrills, spills and shocks in all the right places. A return to form for a franchise that probably should have died at the fourth movie.

Available on Lovefilm/Amazon


Tombstone (1993)

Hard to believe that it is now a full twenty years since I saw this gung-ho take on the gunfight at the OK Corral in cinemas. That trip to the local fleapit stands out as a perfect pre adulthood trip to the flicks on a Saturday, a time before the internet when you didn’t see the trailer necessarily and the day was full of mystery and promise. Featuring a who’s who of action cinema legends of the time including Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn, Powers Boothe and Sam Elliott. Kurt Russell’s performance as Wyatt Earp is iconic as is Kilmer’s Doc Holiday and it’s amazing how good they both are here getting to mumble and growl some classic lines. When it tries to be dramatic, Tombstone comes unstuck a little and some of the dialogue doesn’t land as it should especially when things turn sour for the Earp’s, but when it’s being fun and badass the film has no equal. A year earlier Clint Eastwood reinvented the western with the elegant and sad Unforgiven, Tombstone is the total flipside to that coin, its fun and badass and has no pretentions about the legends it portrays.

Available on Now TV


Pay Per View

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


Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013)

The first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a sleeper hit that surprised due to its actually really funny plot and clever script and was the calling card of Phil Lord and Chris Miller who currently direct The Lego Movie which is surprising everybody worldwide as I type this. They sat out the sequel which focusses on scientist Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) living a happy life which is interrupted when he finds out his machine is now producing food/animal hybrids and must be stopped. This still has much for the kids to enjoy but perhaps less for the adults this time around.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox


Blue Jasmine (2013)

At the moment there is a lot of talk about Woody Allen and a lot of public re-opening of old wounds which is engulfing all of the early Oscar buzz for his latest film Blue Jasmine. Whatever happens over the next few months, Blue Jasmine is going to remain a highly acclaimed film featuring a sterling performance from Cate Blanchett as a troubled New York socialite who imposes on her sister in San Francisco. The headlines may well have overwhelmed the film but Blanchett’s performance remains a towering example of her extraordinary talent.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies


Machete Kills (2013)

It’s hard to fathom but Robert Rodriguez was once mentioned in the same breath as Tarantino and Linklater as an indie maverick paving the way for the future of cinema.  Now in 2014 we find Rodriguez churning out blackberry promotional short films and sequels to one joke movies nobody wanted. The first Machete film disappointed because it tried to be something more than its Grindhouse origins and lost the whole point, the sequel doesn’t address this deficiency and instead gets even more overblown with its endless stunt casting. Unless you really really loved the first movie, probably give this a wide berth.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox


The Fifth Estate (2013)

This dramatization of the events surrounding freedom of information hypocrite Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks farrago features a great impersonation by Benedict Cumberbatch and another great Daniel Bruhl performance. Gods and Monsters director Bill Condon however succumbs to what many based on true life stories succumb to and fails to really get to the heart of his subject and encompass the whole of the issue. For a true representation of the subject, the issues and the accompanying scandal then check out Alex Gibney’s We Steal Secrets documentary for a marvellous view of one of our ages more interesting and challenging topics.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies