I made my Slim Pickings joke last week and this week, I got nothing. Things are a bit better this week anyway with a nice mixture of the new, the old and the quirky independent that has gone straight to VOD.

I imagine things will pick up massively into December as Now TV adds Iron Man 3 and Oz: The Great and Powerful and then the other service providers try and compete.

For now though below are the films to look out for this week, Enjoy!


Mama (2013)

The latest horror film to borrow Guillermo Del Toro’s name in order to present itself, is this ghost story from director Andres Muschietti. Jessica Chastain plays a woman who reluctantly becomes foster-mother to her partners’ two nieces after they are recovered from living feral in the wilderness. The problem is the girls were looked after by something nasty in the woods and they may have brought it back with them.

Despite a fairly unique opportunity to skewer fairy tale tropes and an interesting premise, Mama does very little with any of it. It has one or two nice moments of creeping dread but is undone by a reliance on CG for its monster, which was unnecessary if as a horror fan you know who actually played Mama herself, then a bit of make-up and some clever lighting would have worked wonders.

When Mama does actually appear on-screen, all fear and tension evaporates, which was probably the opposite of what they were going for.

Available on NOW TV

To The Wonder

To The Wonder (2012)

I consider myself a massive fan of the work of Terrence Malick and I think that The Thin Red Line and The New World were both amongst the best films of their respective years of release, if not THE best. When Tree of Life came out, I was on the fence as here was a film that could have potentially been the best film ever made on paper but somehow succumbed to Malick’s worst instincts and was overwhelmed by pretension where there should have been pathos. Sean Penn’s disgruntled comments at the time of release were right on the money.

Now with To The Wonder, he has lost me completely. If I hadn’t just watched The Host, then this would be the worst film I have seen in 2013 so far. To The Wonder is a tale of love both lost and found as Ben Affleck broods around the American mid-west with Olga Kurylenko or Rachel McAdams, he is torn between the two.

The problem is there is nothing to hold on to here, you never know why Affleck is in love with these two despite the endless pretentious voice over in lieu of dialogue because Malick would rather focus on a film that as far as I can tell, is more about Kurylenko twirling and twirling around in different locations because she is just that much of a free spirit. Poor Javier Bardem, potentially the most interesting character in the film is shafted like Penn was in favour of art.

Next time Malick should just artfully film a hula contest and be done with it.

Available on Lovefilm

a-very-harold-and-kumar-christmas 1

A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas (2011)

I realise what I am opening myself up for by slating Terrence Malick’s latest and going straight into praising the latest Harold and Kumar film, but that’s what I’m going to do.

Harold and Kumar are kind of the modern equivalent of Cheech and Chong and very much a reflection of our times with their diversity and their climbing of the corporate ladder backgrounds. This Christmas themed adventure is set 6 years after the last film and finds our heroes estranged due to clashes over responsibility. They are thrown into another adventure together when Kumar accidentally burns down the beloved Christmas tree of Harold’s father in law and they set out on a journey across New York in order to get a suitable replacement and encounter Neil Patrick Harris of course.

It’s silly and ridiculous but a lot of fun too and perfect viewing whilst you are putting the decorations up in your (presumably) child free house.

Available on NOW TV.

happy feet two trailer thumb

Happy Feet (2006)

Isn’t it amazing how director George Miller is able to bounce between Mad Max films to The Witches of Eastwick to Babe and then the animated penguin shenanigans of Happy Feet. It’s rare to see a director so diverse these days.

Happy Feet is the tale of a disadvantaged young penguin who can’t sing but it turns out he can dance and he might just change the other penguins long-held sacred ways of life and the world in the process. Moments of joy and surprising moments of darkness with sterling voice work by Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman and Robin Williams.

A really great animated film that didn’t come from either DreamWorks or Pixar/Disney, a rarity.

Available on Lovefilm.

the big bounce

The Big Bounce (2004)

Director George Armitage has worked not nearly enough for someone who makes such good films. He did some grindhouse films in the seventies and then nothing until 1990 and Miami Blues which is something of a lost classic and was the early indication of a sea change in the 90s with independent crime cinema.

Then he did Grosse Pointe Blank, one of the most beloved films of the decade that nonetheless was not a big blockbuster. It wasn’t until 2004 that he directed again where he took on Elmore Leonard in an adaptation of The Big Bounce which features Owen Wilson as a good-natured con artist teaming up with a femme fatale to do a major number on a real estate baron.

Problem is The Big Bounce never comes to life, too laidback and perhaps ironically mis-casting Wilson completely. It’s been nearly ten years and Armitage still hasn’t returned to the director’s chair. For a similar thing to this, done much better, watch The Big Lebowski or wait for next year’s Inherent Vice from Paul Thomas Anderson.

Available on Lovefilm


Traffic (2000)

Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of a British television crime thriller is perhaps a film that has been relatively forgotten recently. This tends to happen with ensembles which gain Oscar buzz and glory, look at how people have turned on Paul Haggis’ Crash in recent years (manipulative? Yes, Bad? No).

Traffic is not perfect, but parts of it are amongst the best stuff Soderbergh has ever done and each story thread has its own particular look which makes Traffic fairly unique amongst similar films. The stuff with Michael Douglas senator and his crack addicted daughter is a little too on the nose but Benicio Del Toro’s turn as a Mexican cop avoiding corruption is superb as is Catherine Zeta-Jones as a woman left to fend for herself when her drug kingpin husband is busted.

In the midst of all this is a great Don Cheadle-as-a-cop turn with a rare great role for the underrated Miguel Ferrer (George Clooney’s cousin). I guess I’m saying all this is a reason to watch it if you haven’t already.

Available on Now TV


Available on the pay per view streaming services where you pay a sum to rent for 24 hours are the following titles:

The World's End

The Worlds End (2013)

I’m still undecided as to whether this is my favourite Edgar Wright movie so far but it’s certainly the one that has resonated longest and is probably his most mature work to date. To a whole generation of people in their 30s and early 40s now, this film will probably come to mean a lot. At the core it’s a fun romp where Simon Pegg’s forever life and soul of the party Gary King, gets his four besties back together to complete their pub crawl which was the peak of his life.

Whilst back in their home town they discover the existence of a conspiracy to create a race of automatons and conform, even that plot line has resonance and meaning in the world we live in now dominated by social media and shallow talent contests on TV. The Worlds End is deep, and although it has all the fun and action you have come to expect from Wright, it still feels like a movie that could make me cry on any certain day.

The soundtrack and the struggles of Gary King are very familiar to probably anyone who grew up in that time shortly before social media and such melancholy and nostalgia has never been such fun.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies etc

Computer Chess

Computer Chess (2013)

Andrew Bujalski’s latest lo-fi efforts harkens back to the late seventies for a tale of a bunch of geeks at a road side motel for a computer conference. Shot on cameras that would have been available at the time, this takes in self-aware computers, weird cults, swingers, strange comedy and anything else that comes into Bujalski’s head.

Although it has been well received by people, I found this a little too obtuse and couldn’t quite get into it. I love surreal films and I love quirk but Computer Chess is a little too cold and lacks a certain amount of soul. It makes no concessions for the mainstream audience at all and this perhaps holds it back because a little more warmth and a little more skill with the comedy could have meant Computer Chess was a major independent entry in 2013, a shame.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies etc.