In a canny move surprising few, Amazon have gone and echoed a pattern Netflix began around a year ago and nabbed a series from the US where they will add an episode each week the day after its US broadcast. This practice worked well with Breaking Bad and From Dusk Till Dawn in the past year and the publicity it got could well be the reason why you might encounter so many people who are only now making their way through five seasons of Breaking Bad via Netflix. So the show in question which be all exclusive up in here is the new Steven Spielberg/Halle Berry joint called Extant.

I knew nothing about this show going in and that is perhaps the best way to view it. I’m not going to claim this is the new Lost or whatever at this point but the first episode was ‘promising’ but then so were the first episodes of Invasion, The Event and Flashforward. There is a lot going on in the first episode of Extant, so much is crammed in that it feels oddly paced and far less than its 45 minute running time. The set-up is some time in the future where Halle Berry is an astronaut who has just returned to Earth after a 13 month solitary stint on a space station. Bizarrely she turns out to be pregnant despite being told she cannot conceive. On top of this she and her nice robotics doctor husband have a state of the art cyborg child (played by the kid from Looper) who seems to be exhibiting some strange behaviour and there is also some shady privatised version of NASA who seems to bringing dead people back to life. Extant looks far more expensive than anything I have seen on the box for a while and there are a lot of interesting strands that make it worth a watch. It’s too early to say which way this will go yet but I would give it a go just in case.IW-Shining

Far more immediately impressive is Silicon Valley just added to Now TV’s entertainment package and is Mike Judge’s satirical HBO takedown of the whole start-up technology world. Much like Office Space, Judge’s targets are dead on with a whole bunch of socially inept geeks looking for the next app or Facebook like success that will make them the next Jobs or Gates or simply billionaires. Silicon Valley stars a bunch of comedy support you will have seen before bringing their A game, people like TJ Miller, Martin Starr and Zach Woods. The way in which Judge satirises Google’s offices and figures like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg is really impressive, not really making fun but just hanging out with an ironic eye cast over the whole scene, and this is only in the first episode!

This week’s other additions of note are as follows:


About Time (2013)

Last autumn, Richard Curtis’ latest effort really split people down the middle. There were those that saw this as business as usual and responded in the same manner as they would with any of Curtis work, either with adoration or revulsion. Then there were those who liked Curtis breaking with formula and bringing in a sci-fi conceit whilst telling a really touching story of a relationship between a father and son as well as a girl in the mix somewhere who called their dads straight away on leaving the cinema.

Rachel McAdams remains the kind of actress that was created in a romantic comedy lead factory somewhere but Domhall Gleeson impresses the most along with Bill Nighy. Whichever side of the fence you fall on Curtis work, this film is now available for you to discover anew or to watch it again.

Available on Now TV


Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013)

I love the fact that in between directing highbrow awards worthy films like Her and Adaptation, even with his own quirky sensibilities, Spike Jonze is producing these none more puerile Jackass movies. In lieu of a new film featuring the whole crew hurting themselves for our enjoyment we get a full length feature of the usually weakest segment of the series and films with Johnny Knoxville donning the old man prosthetics and going out and about to shock and confuse the public.

There is a loose narrative to keep things just about on the right side of taste and a cross-country bonding trip of sorts between and grandson and boozing, womanising grandpa. Sometimes I am ashamed to admit what I laugh at to the world but I laughed until my stomach hurt and there were tears in my eyes at a lot of Bad Grandpa. This is perfect viewing for a boozed up night at home with some mates.

Available on Now TV


Short Term 12 (2013)

One of the best films of last year was this low-key and heart-warming indie drama from director Destin Cretton. Brie Larson stars as a member of the staff at a residential treatment facility for those under 18 who haven’t had the best of lives so far, kids who are abused, subject to extreme poverty or a danger to themselves.

Short Term 12 does at times feel like the pilot episode of a series that we didn’t end up seeing but it really doesn’t matter because Cretton crams so much into this film but paces it superbly. Just because you don’t get to stay with these characters for as long as you would like doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing and so you get perfect little glimpses into the lives of some of the residents as well as the care workers in frequently heart breaking and occasionally uplifting and funny scenes all perfectly played.

Short Term 12 is so good that it made me get back into picking up the thread of a possible change in career that I still may go back to, it’s seriously that level of great. See it immediately.

Available on Netflix


Insidious: Chapter Two (2013)

James Wan’s Insidious from 2011 was a surprise in many ways as it was the first film for a while to be actually scary without resorting to cheap found footage gimmickry and because it still managed to be cheap enough so that its success was one of the most profitable for a long while.

Insidious may have riffed on Poltergeist, The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror but Wan is so good with the well-timed scare and using the frame of the camera to full effect that it ended up being a damn good time at the flicks. So the sequel picks up directly after the first film and follows a thread glimpsed in the first film but not fully explored. Insidious chapter two is a film that is not without merits but one that is still something of a disappointment.

It’s less scary this time around as the surreal nature of the first is gone in favour of something more in line with a psycho thriller from the 80s or 90s that even more so this time isn’t wholly original. It’s quite neat the way they tie it in with specific scenes in the first film and if you were a fan of that movie then it’s worth a go, I just wanted more and after Wan gave us The Conjuring a couple of months earlier, it’s like he treated this sequel as a kind of rest project rather than the escalation in scares we expected.

Available on Netflix


Drinking Buddies (2013)

Joe Swanberg’s latest slice of mumblecoria from last year was one of the indie breakouts of the year, if we still have such a thing. Drinking Buddies is a very simple tale of a guy who works at a beer bottling plant with another female co-worker/friend/romantic interest and then their respective love interests outside of work. There is some love triangle and cheating stuff going on and that’s about it really.

Most of the drama comes from wondering whether Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson will end up with each other and whether they actually should really as both seem to be really selfish and flawed people. There is some stuff outside of this with Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick but that barely registers.

Although it’s light and perhaps a bit too self-consciously hip for its own good, I couldn’t hate Drinking Buddies and if you are in this kind of mood on a Sunday afternoon then you could do worse.

Available on Netflix

HATCHET III / Director BJ McDonnell

Hatchet 3 (2013)

I have always admired Adam Green’s Hatchet series for its intention rather than the actual end product. Green was trying to create a series that would rival A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween or Friday the 13th with a newly minted movie maniac to root for and fear for the new century. The problem is that the films, and especially the second one, have always veered sharply towards spoof by the time the monster shows up and end up playing out like some kind of fan tribute.

This third effort sees Green step away and stick with writing and producing with BJ McDonnell directing and the action picking up immediately after the second film. Hatchet 3 was something of a revelation for me because I was drunk off my arse when I watched it and it was absolutely perfect entertainment. I could still spot the cracks, the bad acting and the awful direction but somehow they were papered over with drunken shimmering horror bliss.

I’m now convinced this is the way this film was meant to be watched and will be returning to the previous two films in the franchise whilst drunk at some point no doubt.

Available on Netflix

The Battered Bastards of Baseball

The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014)

This film got some good notices at film festivals earlier this year and Netflix have snapped it up to be an exclusive for them. This basically concerns Kurt Russell’s dad Bing Russell who appeared on Bonanza and how he created the only independent baseball team in America with the Portland Mavericks featuring younger Kurt and director Todd Field.

Despite cynicism from the sporting world at large, the Mavericks went on to shatter attendance records, hired controversial figures ostracised by the major baseball leagues and hired the first female general manager in the history of the sport. This story has a lot of love around it and is apparently a true celebration of independent spirit.

Available on Netflix


In Fear (2013)

Released with little or no fanfare late last year was this little British horror film which marks a return to proper psychological horror that is far more effective than most films with three times its budget.

A newly minted young couple drive around lost in the countryside looking for a hotel and are subject to the mind games of a local lunatic hitchhiker. I knew very little about this when I saw it and so it drew me in and worked on me really well, it has a very familiar set up for anyone who has ever driven anywhere with a rubbish sat nav.

It’s a shame this film isn’t more widely publicised or acclaimed because this proves you can still make an effective horror film for about £10 and not use wobbly found footage as an excuse.

Available on Amazon Prime.

Russell Brand - Rock of Ages Junket

Rock of Ages (2012)

Translating a hit musical to the screen from the stage and trying to keep the spirit and atmosphere intact is a tricky business.

It worked for Evita, It didn’t work for The Producers but then it worked marvellously for Hairspray. So the latest cheesy pop musical to get this treatment is of course the hair metal era celebration Rock of Ages. Let’s start by saying that Rock of Ages on the stage is an absolute blast of nostalgic fun, the film is considerably less so.

It’s not that it’s terrible, the tunes are there, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Julianna Hough are wonderful but the atmosphere just doesn’t come across on-screen like it does on stage, it doesn’t have that same magic and is rather lifeless. It doesn’t help that it drags on for what seems like forever and God help us, the extended version is also available on here too.

Available on Amazon Prime.

Michael Clarke Duncan - The Green Mile

The Green Mile (1999)

For the longest time, The Green Mile contained my favourite Tom Hanks performance and perhaps his most underrated. Frank Darabont’s second directorial project after The Shawshank Redemption was again based on a Stephen King story and again set in a prison except the focus here was on the guards assigned an awful duty to shepherd the convicted to their ultimate end.

Hanks’ character is simply a good man having to deal with some awful things who questions everything when he is met with John Coffey, an honest to goodness miracle convicted of some terrible things.

The Green Mile is a long film but not exhaustingly so, Frank Darabont is one of the best storytellers on film and so the film needed to be as long as it is to allow the story to unfold with Darabont’s considerable skill. The Green Mile is another example of a classic Stephen King story done justice by someone with the talent required to pull it off.

Available on Now TV


Hemlock Grove

Hemlock Grove – Season Two (2014)

Confession time, I didn’t make it the whole way through Hemlock Grove season one because well, it was crap. Eli Roth has always talked a good game and around the time of the debut of this last year, his twitter feed was full of people praising the hell out of this show and its apparently shocking werewolf transformation sequence.

I wonder what these people were watching because the show was badly written, awfully acted and had nothing to recommend it other than it’s slightly better than American Horror Story. I have no real reason to go back and watch the rest or this second season because the twitter hype machine is in full flow again claiming this to be the best thing ever. I’m not being stung by this again. Orange is the New Black and House of Cards are the right way to do this kind of thing; Hemlock Grove is the worst way.

Available on Netflix