Perhaps the only news of note this week is that in a move echoing what they did with Breaking Bad, Netflix has swooped in and gained rights to the TV series of From Dusk Til Dawn made in the states for Robert Rodriguez’s new El Rey network cable channel. Netflix will stream the episodes the day after they air in the states every week, curiously they are still billing this as ‘A Netflix Original’ when this isn’t the case necessarily. I have no idea as to the quality of this, the film From Dusk Til Dawn was one of my favourites when I was a teenager but how you drag that out into a ten part TV show I don’t know, let alone a possible second series. I watched the trailer and it looks solid and well-made as opposed to a cheap cash in and features Don Johnson as Earl McGraw in a role made famous by Michael Parks and Robert Patrick in the Harvey Keitel part. There are a couple of unknowns in the Clooney and Tarantino parts who are hopefully at least as charismatic on-screen as Tarantino if not Clooney, but we will see. A full report on episode one next week…

Oh and also I missed some news a couple of weeks ago about the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars getting streamed via Netflix with exclusive rights to the sixth season but as it turns out this isn’t applicable in the UK and Ireland so there ya go…

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


The Hangover: Part Three (2013)

This third film in the successful Hangover comedy franchise is a bit of a head scratcher. Obviously they couldn’t do a third go round of a night of debauchery followed by a series of wacky encounters as they recap their steps, that would just stretch things too far. So instead we get a story where Zach Galifianakis Alan is on the verge of insanity after an incident with a giraffe and his ‘buddies’ Stu, Phil and the one who always disappears stage an intervention and drive him to a facility. On route to the hospital they are intercepted by a drug baron played by John Goodman whose relationship with the wolfpack dates right back to the drugs Alan used to drug them all in the first film and they are tasked with finding Ken Jeong’s annoying Chow character who stole gold that didn’t belong to him. The tone here is all wrong, where the first film had a considerable amount of darkness; it balanced it out with great writing and a believable relationship between the friends. There is none of that here, people get killed violently, there is a weird subtext about how Alan and Chow are two sides of the same crazy coin and most importantly apart from one physical gag, it’s just not funny. This could have been a decent action comedy had someone decided to do a re-write and insert some actual humour but even the chemistry between the leads is absent. I wondered why on release but now its fairly obvious how this failed at the box office, The Hangover was never designed or meant to be a franchise and in this third movie that is painfully obvious, the desperate end credits coda says it all really.

Available on Now TV

Behind the Candelabra

Behind the Candelabra (2013)

This week we get Steven Soderbergh’s last two films since he decided to retire last year. The first one is this made for HBO story about Liberace and his extravagant flamboyant and somewhat risky lifestyle and how he treated his younger lovers whom he kept secret until his last breath. Michael Douglas is absolutely superb as the man himself, getting his mannerisms and vanity down perfectly alongside Matt Damon who is also good as a man seduced into a lifestyle and then subsequently broken by Liberace’s constant fear of ageing. It’s as over the top as the man himself but never less than visually interesting evoking the era perfectly and come the finale it’s actually quite sad. Well worth your time and something that rises above its TV movie origins.

Available on Amazon Prime


Hammer of the Gods (2013)

When I went into this film at Frightfest last summer I was really looking forward to a great mindless violent time at the cinema with Vikings on the rampage. Sadly despite the low-budget, director Farren Blackburn can’t decide what kind of film he is making. He has no skill with the epic piece he seems to think he is making and doesn’t have the actors to back up this ambition with every actor seemingly from a different region of the UK and then he just doesn’t go far enough in the exploitative direction either resulting in a film that is just a tedious slog to get through. For a similar thing done miles better on even less money check out Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising.

Available on Now TV


Parker (2013)

Another film that just can’t decide what it wants to be. Based on a pulp novel, this kind of thing should have written itself once Jason Statham came on board as an hour and a half long violent blast of a revenge thriller along the lines of Brian Helgeland’s original cut of Payback which was derived from the same source material. Alas it was not to be and Taylor Hackford, not one known for this kind of thing, came on board as director with Jennifer Lopez playing the love interest and the whole thing was dragged out to two hours of tedium instead. Not violent or silly enough to be a classic piece of crime cinema exploitation and frankly it doesn’t have the talent behind it to make it anything along the lines of great neo-noirs from the last decade, Parker just kind of sits there, lifeless and dull with little purpose. Statham tried some different things last year, one of them worked (Hummingbird) this one did not.

Available on Amazon Prime

Side Effects

Side Effects (2013)

Steven Soderbergh’s penultimate release from last year should have had more people go and see it at the cinema. It works as a throwback to the kind of glossy thrillers that were everywhere in the early 90s as well as a critique of the state of modern medicine when it comes to mental health. You could remake this in the UK and it would actually be even more prescient but I digress. The basic premise has Rooney Mara’s young troubled woman put on a new anti-depressant and she then ends up stabbing her husband who has just been released from prison. Jude Law as the doctor, who prescribed the meds, then finds his livelihood and reputation under threat so he starts digging. What he discovers is extremely pulpy but somehow portrayed completely straight and so it works perfectly revealing one of the best thrillers from last year.

Available on Amazon Prime


Young Adult (2011)

Before stumbling with Labor Day, Jason Reitman gave us another great character study for modern times with this underrated film written by Diablo Cody about a successful but oh so shallow author of teen fiction coming back to her hometown to try to get her ex back who is about to get married. The scary thing is this kind of stunted person in their 30s who hasn’t moved on since high school is all too familiar. Charlize Theron excels as the young lady in question, completely nailing the arrogance and the sad desperation to reach some kind of happiness and Cody doesn’t fall back on the overly clever dialogue that put some off Juno so much. Theron is backed up by Patrick Wilson and an excellent Patton Oswalt in pivotal support roles in a story which asks if high school really ever ends.

Available on Netflix


Toy Story 3 (2010)

In terms of best ever third films in a franchise, Toy Story 3 must surely be near the top of a pretty short list. Toy Story 3 was also the last film in Pixar’s run of incredible work for over a decade, after this it was Brave and Cars 2 letting the side down. Toy Story 3 brings back all the characters you know and love but finds them cast aside into the loft as their owner gets older. Not only is Toy Story 3 just a great and heartfelt story but it also manages to be a considered study of getting older and people moving on. There is even a scene towards the end which could be read as an acceptance of death, amazing for an animation aimed at kids and from this point onwards its tears all the way for anyone of any age watching the film who ever drifted apart from anyone in their life. Toy Story 3 was one of the best films of 2010 which was an incredibly strong year for cinema.

Available on Amazon Prime and Netflix

Grimm Season One DVD

Grimm: Season One and Two (2011-2013)

As scripted programming for networks stateside dies a slow and quiet death in favour of more cinematic cable material, there are still one or two gems to be discovered along the way. Whilst Grimm isn’t exactly yet a gem, it could well be by the time you get through season two. The basic premise finds the world filled with characters from fairy tales and legends of old hiding out in the real world and the ‘Grimms’ assigned to keep them in line, in this case the Grimm is a cop played by David Giuntoli who discovers his heritage with the help of Silas Weir Mitchell’s werewolf ally. So it’s a monster of the week show with some ongoing arcs about some magic coins and corruption in the police department. The main problem with Grimm, in the first season anyway, is that every creature is a different riff on a werewolf. So there is a were-fox,were-swan,were-cobra etc and the make-up is CGI so it all looks a bit cartoony. The fact remains though that the people who are behind this thing were the main people responsible for brilliant Buffy spin-off Angel on a weekly basis and by the end of season one, the stakes have been raised with a riff on Sleeping Beauty and some nasty witches. Worth a look at this point and Grimm may still become essential viewing.

Available on Amazon Prime and Netflix


Sideways (2004)

Before The Descendants, Alexander Payne directed this touching, gentle and bittersweet comedy about a man who really needs to get out of his own way. The man in question is played by Paul Giamatti in a career best turn as a would be author and alcoholic whose eyes are opened when he goes on a stag weekend to wine tasting country with Thomas Haden Church’s man-child groom and meets a woman who makes him realise some things about himself. It’s consistently funny and really beautiful to look at and is arguably Payne’s best work to date.

Available on Amazon Prime

the thin red line

The Thin Red Line (1998)

Back in early 99, the star-studded world war two drama The Thin Red Line was released and a lot of people showed up still high off the moving brutal carnage of Saving Private Ryan expecting more of the same. What they didn’t realise was that The Thin Red Line was the first film in almost twenty years from director Terrence Malick, a man more concerned with beauty, nature and what war does to the soul of a man, so most walked out scratching their heads. Seeing this for the first time in the cinema expecting something else and then being completely hypnotised by it is an experience I will never forget. Even now I consider The Thin Red Line one of my favourite films of all time, it is disjointed and may well have suffered from a lack of focus which led to two and a half hours and whole characters played by well-established actors being left on the cutting room floor, but what you are seeing here is a true master at work. The opening scenes alone are like nothing I had ever seen in the cinema at that point and by the time that the storming of the village sequence happens with Hans Zimmer’s celebrated and never bettered score, you are right there in the violent beautiful chaos of all of it with these soldiers. The rumoured five-hour cut of this has never seen the light of day; this version apparently makes Adrien Brody’s Corporal Fife the main character as opposed to Jim Caviezel’s Christ like Private Witt. I sincerely hope I get to see that five-hour version in a cinema one day.

Available on Amazon Prime

the edge

The Edge (1997)

Interesting story: I planned on giving this a re-watch earlier in the week so I could write about it accurately but it turned out that the version on Amazon Prime at that time was the German Language version with a title something like ‘Das Bar Ist Pissed’ so I can’t really do this write-up justice. However what I remember of this was a solid if unremarkable story about two men with secret hate for each other lost in the wilderness as they are stalked by a huge grizzly bear. It’s directed by Lee Tamahori who at the time kept getting fascinating projects and not really doing anything of note with them but for some reason The Edge is quite fondly remembered now. I reached out to Amazon via Twitter and they were quite nice and said their technicians were working on it so hopefully this weekend fingers crossed I’ll get to watch it.

Available on Amazon Prime

event horizon

Event Horizon (1997)

Another film from 1997 which is seen through rose-tinted glasses and fondly remembered for baffling reasons. This is also a film which had something like 40 minutes cut out of it dealing with all the character development and nuance that most films have time for. On release Event Horizon was sold as ‘The Shining in Space’ and for a little while it is extremely creepy and unnerving but the director is Paul WS Anderson and so the atmosphere doesn’t last and is tossed aside in favour of loudness and explosions come the last act although the violence is pretty extreme for the 90s. Event Horizon also has perhaps the most inappropriate credits music for any film ever. If you watch as many straight to DVD films as I do then you know that sadly this film has become kind of influential for all the wrong reasons.

Available on Netflix

The Firm

The Firm (1993)

Back in the summer of 1993, Sydney Pollack’s The Firm was the first John Grisham adaptation to become a big blockbuster with Tom Cruise as the lead. Some friends went to see this due to a lack of options and it being a 15 certificate (a massive dare at the time) and ended up coming back gutted as it was boring. The truth is The Firm isn’t boring at all; it’s actually a solid thriller with a story about a young hot-shot lawyer entering into a company which is a front for some shady goings on. What stands out in my mind most for this film was the great supporting cast including Ed Harris, Holly Hunter and David Strathairn but I am sure there is more to it.

Available on Netflix


Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Made back in a time where Tim Burton wasn’t yet seen as a brand name he made what could be seen as possibly his most personal film. Johnny Depp plays the Frankenstein like monster with Burton hair who is discovered and taken to live in a bland small town representation of America with his bladed fingers making him something of a celebrity for a bit. Of course it all goes wrong but not before Edward can fall in love with Winona Ryder in some of the most moving and beautiful scenes in any Burton film. This came out twenty-four years ago nearly and Burton has only recently come close to re-capturing the magic with Frankenweenie. If we could get him away from remakes and obvious fairy tales then we could possibly get more like this.

Available on Amazon Prime

Raising Arizona

Raising Arizona (1986)

After Blood Simple, everyone probably had the Coen Brothers pegged to become the great noir storytellers for the modern age but in a move that would become a signature for their entire career; they simply defied expectation and went the opposite way for this brilliant comedy. Raising Arizona has a young Nicolas Cage giving a bravo comic performance before he became a punchline and also has Holly Hunter proving why she is one of the most underrated actresses around. Apart from that it also is one of the best live action cartoons ever made with some of the most thrilling sequences of slapstick comedy ever put on film. Raising Arizona is a timeless comedy that stands out from the pack in the 80s, there was simply nothing else like it at the time and it remains one of the Coens best films, forming a sort of loose trilogy of silliness with The Hudsucker Proxy and O’Brother where art thou in their filmography.

Available on Amazon Prime

Tim Curry Rocky Horror

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

It’s hard to know what to make of all this. I only saw this cult classic very recently whilst sober and without a huge crowd to tune me in to its charms so when seen in this manner it works as a very silly spoof of the B-Movie’s of old with some surprisingly great music. Tim Curry is also on fire here as FrankNFurter along with young Susan Sarandon who clearly got it and has some fun. The problem is without intoxicants and a crowd singing along, I’m just a bit like ‘Is that it?’ So if you are going to stream this one weekend, maybe invite round some of your friends in the know, dress up, get drunk and just go crazy for a good time otherwise it might make you a bit puzzled.

Available on Amazon Prime

Pay Per View

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

Enders Game UK Poster

Ender’s Game (2013)

Ender’s Game came and went last autumn with barely anyone looking up from their controversial headlines about the original author Orson Scott Card and his bigoted views on gay marriage. It’s a shame that the author being a douche so detracted from the finished film of his novel because to be honest it’s quite good. Visually it’s very impressive and it takes a surprisingly dark tone considering how young the cast is and doesn’t shy away from things like death and mass genocide. Some of the more interesting aspects of the story with regards to the aliens and their communication with humans don’t quite work on the screen as they do on the page but this is mostly epic and intelligent sci-fi which should grow in reputation over the coming years even if we don’t get anymore films in this series.

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

The Butler

The Butler (2013)

Last autumn you could be forgiven for thinking that Lee Daniels’ The Butler was going to clean up at the Oscars last week due to its box office performance and its standing as a kind of racially minded Forrest Gump with a great performance from Forest Whitaker as the butler in the White House living through several presidencies. Is it manipulative? Is it historically accurate? Probably and probably not but is it moving, well-played and handsome? Yes sir Mr President.

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


Short Term 12 (2013)

I’ve been dying to see this universally loved and acclaimed indie from last summer for a while now but it’s probably been completely ruined already for me under the weight of expectation as so loud was the praise for this from its film festival debut last year to its eventual release. Short Term 12 is the story of a young woman who works at a halfway house for abused youngsters and probably should have gotten a more widespread release than it actually did, it was originally talked up for all the awards and then went on to score none. Now that the film is widely available the cacophony of acclaim should only grow louder.

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


In Fear (2013)

There is only so long you can go hearing acclaim for a horror film until you have to check it out for yourself even if this type of thing isn’t typically your bag. That’s certainly the case with Jeremy Lovering’s film In Fear starring Iain De Caestecker from Agents of Shield and Alice Englert. Those that saw it during its very brief theatrical run are certainly singing the films praises. Despite a plot echoing a thousand others with a couple lost on the road in the dark, this gets fairly surprising and fairly twisty fairly quickly leaving an end product a cut above most of the low-budget horror that gets produced in the UK.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies/Amazon