Not much to speak of in the pre-amble this week except that From Dusk Till Dawn episode 2 on Netflix continued in fine form and presented an interesting and somewhat unique version of a vampire which was actually quite scary. If you have written this off because it sounds cheap and forced (admittedly on paper it does) I urge you to give it a watch, the dialogue alone is better than most TV shows, “Got your balls on?” is a great line I will repeat ad nauseam henceforth.

In other news Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has criticised internet providers for not providing a good enough service to allow users to use Netflix to its full potential and the costs of maintaining such a connection, mainly what ISPs are expecting streaming companies to pay them. This has also kicked off a debate about net neutrality which I know little about. I believe this controversy is mainly focussed on the US at present but when it comes to the UK he probably has a point too.

At the present moment I have a top of the line BT Infinity connection which runs the streaming services with very little fuss and stoppage but before this with the basic connection, running Netflix was a nightmare and from what I understand much of the country still doesn’t have access to the top-tier broadband services. It’s all very well and good having access to all this entertainment at the click of a button but people need to research their access and capabilities in their area first otherwise it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I have to move house this week and I am dreading the possibility of having only access to the most basic of internet speeds again but hopefully not.

This week’s titles of note are as follows:

The Purge

The Purge (2013)

The latest in a long line of Blumhouse productions made for very little money was released last summer and ended up a big hit at the box office despite some poisonous reviews. For the record I do not hate this film the way that many horror fans do but it’s definitely a film with major flaws. The Purge presents us with a fascinating high concept and a world where all manner of illegal activity is legal for one night a year only to allow the citizens a release. It gives us a sketchy but impressive background over the opening credits and then does nothing with it but become another fairly average home invasion thriller, and we have had a lot of those lately.

After viewing this at the cinema I literally came up with five better stories that could be told in this world before I got home and I’m sure you could as well. The Purge actually threatens to become more interesting a couple of times in its first act where it hints at characters political views and issues with side characters being places they shouldn’t ,but none of these strands goes anywhere in favour of a rip off of The Strangers and Assault on Precinct 13. Despite this it’s not awful and you could waste an hour and twenty-minutes in worse ways, they don’t shy away from the brutality of the night in question which would have been easy in the current PG-13/12A target demographic favouring film industry. The sequel which is due out in June actually sounds miles better and the minute and thirty-second trailer for The Purge 2 is actually already a better movie than this one and due to the possibilities with this concept and world, I will definitely be seeing the film this summer.

Available on Now TV


Avengers Assemble (2012)

What can I say about the culmination film of Marvel phase one that hasn’t been said already? Probably not a lot, it’s hard to believe that anyone who reads this hasn’t seen this film already but in case you haven’t and have been working on the moon for the last three years then here is one of the finest blockbusters in recent memory. Everything that everyone hoped Joss Whedon would bring to the table when he was signed to direct this movie is here in spades and the individual characters seem far more alive here than they ever did in their individual movie efforts.

There are massive amounts of thrills, massive laughs and somehow it’s the best screen interpretation of the Hulk so far even though he shares the spotlight with everyone else. Curiously Whedon and Marvel seem to have stumbled a bit with the Agents of SHIELD TV show which keeps coming up bland every week despite the fact that it is sewing some interesting seeds which could have repercussions in future films as far as Shield goes. Anyway yeah even if you haven’t seen the individual movies that led up to this it’s still great big summer entertainment that shouldn’t be missed.

Available on Netflix

Queen of Versailles Still 1

The Queen of Versailles (2012)

For a real eye-opening experience followed by mild annoyance then you should watch this documentary which will fascinate and infuriate depending on your stance. Lauren Greenfield’s film follows billionaire couple David and Jackie Siegel leading the good lives who start constructing an exact replica of the palace of Versailles, why? Well because they can and because the wife wants it. Then the market crash hits and they have to abandon their plans and tighten their belts, except the definition of this for them is oh so slightly different from what it means for you and I.

It’s at this point where fascination perhaps turns to disgust and envy of the worst kind but the film makes no judgements it just points and shoots as dear old Mr Billionaire actually has to do some work and they move to a slightly smaller mansion and the wife gets all uppity about it. If you are a bit more even-tempered and not a class warrior then you might well see these people for what their lives are, rather empty and pathetic actually. Worst of all is the hint that Mr Siegel may well have been responsible for George W. Bush except we never get much exploration into this. Of course the Siegel’s turned around and sued Greenfield after this came out but it’s hard to believe this was edited to create a hatchet job on them, sometimes people just don’t like looking in the mirror.

Available on Netflix

Le Horde - The Returned

The Returned – Season One (2012)

Screened to much acclaim on channel 4 recently, French zombie series Les Revenants is now available on Netflix for anyone who missed it and recognises that the 4OD app is frankly awful. The take on zombies is slightly different here with people coming back from the dead and not craving human flesh but trying to get on with their own lives but then a serial killer starts some shenanigans reminiscent of past trauma. Mean, moody and unmistakably French, this is great television.

Available on Netflix

Fright Night 1

Fright Night (2011)

The 1985 original from director Tom Holland was a seminal film from my youth, a kind of Rear Window with a vampire, so I was worried about this remake from director Craig Gillespie who made the average Mr Woodcock and the pretty good Lars and The Real Girl. My fears were unfounded however because Fright Night 2011 is actually pretty damn fun. It follows most of the beats from the original except that from the start they are of the opinion that Jerry next door is a vampire and get to the fact that he actually is undead fairly quickly so they can up the action quota.

I like this a lot, it helps that Anton Yelchin is always a charismatic and likeable lead and David Tennant shows up and steals the film as a Kris Angel like version of Peter Vincent. The only thing that lets the side down as usual for one of these films is the over reliance on CGI when a good make up effect or two would have made the finale feel more organic and rather less plastic than it should have. Still it remains great entertainment and I can imagine today’s teens being just as affected by it as I was by the original.

Available on Netflix


Hancock (2008)

Another in a long line of fatally flawed summer blockbusters starring Will Smith that have a fantasy angle. It’s become very clear over the last few years that anything he makes now is going to end up this way due to the over development process in order to very carefully protect his mega star image. He was never going to be in Django Unchained; it’s too risky for him but is exactly the sort of thing he should be pursuing at this stage of his career.

Ten years previous, the screenplay for Hancock was known as ‘Tonight He Comes’ and dealt with a super being that couldn’t have sex because he would kill whoever he ended up doing it with. It was a dark and satirical piece and once upon a time was a possible Michael Mann film. Once Big Willy and Peter Berg got involved they emphasised the comedy and took out the darkness and tacked on a confusing third act which was a mess. The first half is actually quite entertaining but the second half when Charlize Theron turns up is a disaster and ruins the promise of the premise.

Available on Netflix


Alien Vs Predator (2004)

Once upon a time this really could have been something amazing but whoever was in charge at the time never saw the potential and maybe didn’t think that these creatures were still commodities at the box office. Then they hired Mortal Kombat trash auteur Paul Anderson and we ended up with this. I don’t know what the budget was on this but Alien Vs Predator feels cheap and only really lives up the possibilities in one flashback scene, the rest is a rather boring stalk around a pyramid in the snow with three aliens and one predator and a bunch of cardboard cut-out humans.

Plus it doesn’t really make a lot of sense in terms of motivations and what we knew about the creatures from previous instalments essentially pissing on the mythology and diluting things for the younger teenager. The sequel to this managed to correct things a bit with a more adult angle but still ended up a worse film than this. Maybe someday people will go back to this well and get it right but it’s possible that the damage is irrevocable.

Available on Now TV


Cellular (2004)

Ah Cellular, greenlit based on the box office success of Phone Booth and based on a story by that films writer Larry Cohen, the film came and went with nobody noticing in late summer 2004 but was an absolute blast. Ignoring the dodgy technology where Kim Basinger can hot wire a landline, this is still pretty good and works like Phone Booth crossed with Speed where a pre-Captain America Chris Evans ends up speaking to a kidnap victim on his phone and racing across Los Angeles to try to expose some dirty cops and rescue the woman.

It’s ludicrous of course and has silly things like a grizzled cop quitting to open a day spa and is very obviously pre-smartphone, but damn if it isn’t entertaining and probably alongside Final Destination 2 is one of the late director David R Ellis’ best films.

Available on Now TV

Analyze This

Analyze This (1999)

Now that the great Harold Ramis has passed on it’s a good time to be looking back at the films he gave us. Ramis was old school, despite his appearance in Knocked Up, Ramis’s films favoured good old-fashioned story with comedy coming from the situation and the characters rather than the new school of crass and often surreal comedy that is currently in vogue. When he tried to be down with the kids we ended up with the awful Year One which felt like he wasn’t really present.

Analyze This was probably his last big box office success and came at a time when people had nearly forgotten Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro was about to go all out comedy with Meet the Parents as well. Analyze This plays to both performers strengths and is almost like the comedy version of The Sopranos which had just started at the time. It’s often hilarious but like many comedies pre 99, there are stretches without any laughs which may bug some but is a reminder to the rest of us that Ramis really had a gift with timing and knowing where and when to let characters and jokes breathe.

Available on Now TV


Blade (1998)

Do you want to know why the world is so flooded with comic book adaptations now? Blade was the first and ironically for such a minor character in the Marvel universe, it kick started the whole boom as it was a surprise hit and with an R rating too. Wesley Snipes plays Blade in a world where we are secretly being controlled and overrun by vampires; he is a character with a massive chip on his shoulder as half of something he hates and an awesome array of gadgets and weapons.

Director Stephen Norrington would have such a bad experience on his follow-up comic book adaptation that he and his lead Sean Connery actually retired but Blade is directed with one eye on the classic exploitation of the past and the new school influenced by video games and anime that would come to a head the following year with The Matrix and it’s an absolute blast despite some pacing issues in the last act. Guillermo Del Toro would somehow go one better than this with Blade 2 before the franchise was killed in 2004 by Batman reviver David Goyer. There are seeds sewn here and in the second movie that should have been paid off in an apocalyptic third movie but sadly one which never came to fruition.

Available on Now TV

A Clockwork Orange VHS cover

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Like The Exorcist, A Clockwork Orange was one of those titles that weren’t available on video for a very long time but this wasn’t the BBFC being all draconian in the video nasty days, Stanley Kubrick himself was so distraught over the allegations of copycat violence that he withdrew the film from circulation himself. It then became the holy grail for emerging film buffs during the late 80s and early 90s and every now and then you would come across someone who had the film on an imported VHS in good condition.

The allegations of copycat violence are interesting considering that A Clockwork Orange is actually not very violent at all and the underlying message is so anti-violence that it’s hard to believe that anyone saw this with its karmic undertones and thought yeah I want to go out and commit crimes. Even the much talked about rape scene and cries of misogyny seem rather silly compared to what you can see nowadays. Anyway A Clockwork Orange is a classic example of Stanley Kubrick at his very best and features a tour de force performance from Malcolm McDowell whose career went sadly downhill after this.

Available on Now TV

Pay Per View

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


Philomena (2013)

Stephen Frears latest film was the recipient of a lot of critical praise and awards whispers when it came out last autumn and then there was something of a minor backlash in the weeks that followed and the film didn’t do great at the box office. By all accounts though this is a touching and often hilarious tale about a world-weary journalist latching on to a very human interest story featuring another wonderful performance from national treasure Judi Dench and a back on form Steve Coogan.

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

Tom Hanks on set of Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr Banks (2013)

Another film with early praise and then a subsequent backlash because this is a film featuring Walt Disney about his relationship with Mary Poppins creator PL Travers made by…Disney. You could see the backlash coming a mile off really but by all accounts Saving Mr Banks is quite wonderful and features a great Emma Thompson role after too long in the shadows and the second over looked awards worthy performance by Tom Hanks from last year.

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

Vincent & Machine

The Machine (2013)

After last week’s Veronica Mars, this week we get another film available on demand whilst it is also apparently playing in some cinema somewhere in the country. Like the recent In Fear, buzz has been building on this low-budget sci-fi featuring the creation of an artificial intelligence which apparently accomplishes more with a lower budget than films with seven times the money. Another fine example of a British film that doesn’t follow the pack and dares to do something recognisable but with an original and fresh approach.

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