Remember ten years ago when you would be in HMV looking at a DVD box set of something like The West Wing and then unfolding the twenty pound note in your pocket and wondering whether to part with all that cash for something you had never seen? You had just heard that someone somewhere liked it, but for that £30 you could get two films like Bad Boys 2 and Kill Bill volume 1!

These were difficult times my friends, and more often than not £30 would go down the drain and you would watch three episodes of whatever series it was and decide it wasn’t for you. Well thanks to modern technology and its mission to kill DVD, Blu-Ray and whatever other physical media dinosaur you prefer, this dilemma is a thing of the past.

Nowadays you can go onto Lovefilm, Netflix, BT Vision or whatever else and stream whole seasons of TV for almost nothing. So as a result I have ended up watching things like Sons of Anarchy, The League and The Venture Brothers and quite liking them, but I would have never blind bought the DVD sets for £30.

Netflix and Lovefilm/Amazon have even cottoned on to this fact and so started to offer self-made product with the entire season available in one go. Since the start of the year Netflix has given us House of Cards, Hemlock Grove and the triumphant return of Arrested Development. Lovefilm have so far given us something called The Vikings and a series of pilots including the unfairly cancelled Zombieland TV series.

Netflix have gone one better and now started to stream the newest episodes of season 3 of The Killing the same week they are broadcast in the states. This is the future folks, and fingers crossed they do the same with the final season of Breaking Bad when that starts in August.

Of course the main thing that probably gets people in the door is the selection of films, and although Netflix and Lovefilm seem to have the same deals signed with the same studios, occasionally one will get an exclusive over the other so it’s worth being aware of what is going on.

This monthly column will hopefully give you an idea of what has been added, what is recommended and what to avoid and you as a consumer can make your own choice. Or go for both, why not…

Thor Body

Thor (2011)

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins. Directed by: Kenneth Branagh.

Available on Netflix

I think we can all agree that this is pretty far from the best stand-alone Marvel movie. Chris Hemsworth is great as the titular god brought to earth in human form but for some reason it just doesn’t come alive the way that Iron Man, Hulk or even Captain America did.

Kenneth Branagh wisely restrains himself from the usual hysterics and operatic nature that has plagued his non Shakespeare work, but maybe a little bit of this would have made Thor more memorable than it is. Joss Whedon did a much better job with the character in The Avengers even as part of a larger ensemble. Not a bad film by any stretch, but could have been better and at least the sequel already looks better from the trailer alone.

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Take This Waltz (2012)

Starring: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman and Aaron Abrams. Directed by: Sarah Polley.

Available on Lovefilm

Sarah Polley’s second feature as a director was one of the best films of 2012. A low-key independent film about a married woman who seeks the comfort of another when her marriage starts to become stale.

Instead of becoming a melodrama though the film stands back and just observes all of the feelings, temptations and regret that unfold as characters deal with the consequences of their actions and the emotions come from that sense of loss. One of the most mature, moving and well observed love stories of recent times.

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Cosmopolis (2012)

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche and Sarah Gadon. Directed by: David Cronenberg.

Available on Lovefilm

Cosmopolis is not for everyone; truthfully it’s hard to believe this was made for anyone. David Cronenberg takes Don DeLillo’s unfilmable novel and plants it on the screen as dot-com billionaire Robert Pattinson goes around town in his airtight limo as the financial world collapses outside.

Is it a pretentious piece of nonsense or is it a timely exploration of those individuals who hold the keys to the kingdom? With the right mindset and patience and if you can accept its strange rhythms then it’s a fairly fascinating film and proof that despite the screaming masses, Pattinson can actually act.

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Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

Starring: Rodriguez, Stephen Segerman and Dennis Coffey. Directed by: Malik Bendjelloul,

Available on Lovefilm

One of the best documentaries of last year is this celebration of art and the power of music. The story concerns a musician from the early 70s known as Rodriguez who was believed to be the next Bob Dylan at one point, but then went nowhere.

Then during the 80s and the apartheid situation in South Africa, Rodriguez’s two albums become massive amongst those fighting oppression and Rodriguez becomes like Elvis in the country. The documentary concerns the mission to find out what happened to the man and eventually where he might be. Whereas most documentaries these days work to give you a feeling of outrage this is a feel good triumph.

Hanna - Saoirse Ronan

Hanna (2011)

Starring: Saorise Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett. Directed by: Joe Wright.

Available on Lovefilm

Take an acclaimed and blacklisted screenplay. Take one of the most acclaimed directors of a modern new wave of filmmakers. Stand back and watch this unique and wholly original tale of a teen assassin unfold.

In anyone else’s hands this could have been a bland and boring Bourne clone but Wright imbues the film with odd fairy tale tropes and a weird score by the Chemical Brothers to create something it feels like you have never seen before. It also has breath-taking and pulse pounding action scenes and one of Wright’s patented long single take scenes with Eric Bana in his best role since Chopper. There was talk of a sequel around the time of release, fingers crossed that we get it as the film’s reputation grows.

The Last Starfighter

The Last Starfighter (1984)

Starring: Lance Guest, Robert Preston, Dan O’Herlihy and Catherine Mary Stewart. Directed by: Nick Castle.

Available on Lovefilm

In 1984 Nick Castle took two things very popular at the time, Star Wars and Arcade games and then mashed them together into this.

The Last Starfighter is a fondly remembered and none more 80s tale of a games addict who finds that his local trailer park arcade cabinet is actually a recruiting tool for a galactic rebellion fighting against an evil empire. A starship/car turns up and he is whisked away by an alien talent scout. The reason this is fondly remembered is because it is well written, witty and full of a real sense of wonder.

Why Nick Castle never became as loved as someone like Joe Dante is a mystery although he did make the forgotten The Boy Who Could Fly which was equally wonderful.

Magic Mike

Magic Mike (2012)

Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn and Matthew McConaughey. Directed by: Steven Soderbergh.

Available on Netflix

If you are a straight man and you have written this film off as a female fantasy piece then give it another look.

Magic Mike does have the buff men in various states of undress cavorting around but it also has at its core a universal story about people trying to better themselves and live a life of purpose and meaning and also a subtext about age and the fact that none of us are going to be in our prime forever. This is perhaps best depicted with Matthew McConaughey’s character who is sort of the villain of the piece, but ultimately he is just as troubled and desperate as everyone in the film.

Sadly one of Steven Soderbergh’s last films as he seems to bring the best out of Channing Tatum upon whose experiences this film is based.


The Rocketeer (1991)

Starring: Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin and Timothy Dalton. Directed by: Joe Johnston.

Available on Netflix

There is little doubt in my mind that director Joe Johnston got the Captain America job based on his work with this film.

The Rocketeer is a retrotastic blast of fun and adventure from a time shortly before Hollywood was throwing 100 million budgets at films as routine. It does suffer a bit from the lower budget affecting what they can actually do stunt wise and with a rocket man, but it’s still one of the better and most underrated blockbusters from the early 90s wasteland and a year dominated by Robin Hood and Terminators.


Ravenous (1999) 

Starring: Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette and Jeffrey Jones. Directed by: Antonia Bird.

Available on Netflix

Believe it or not, there was a time when 20th Century Fox was releasing the most subversive product of any of the big studios into the mainstream. Over this two-year period we got Fight Club, Pushing Tin, Monkeybone and this weird concoction of western and horror.

Ravenous theorizes what might have happened to the infamous Donner Party and how they might have succumb to cannibalism and the wendigo myth and then adds lunatic looney tunes style violence into the mix with Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman’s celebrated score. After an almighty box office flop, this films reputation has grown and this is very nearly a masterpiece.

innerspace1InnerSpace (1987)

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, Meg Ryan and Robert Picardo. Directed by: Joe Dante.

Available on Lovefilm

Joe Dante is a director whose work is sorely missed. After Gremlins and before Gremlins 2, Dante directed this comedic riff on Fantastic Voyage with hypochondriac Martin Short being injected with Dennis Quaid’s miniaturised test pilot.

We get memorable characters like The Cowboy played by Robert Picardo and Vernon Well’s handy assassin. Also this was back at a time when PG movies could still be fairly risqué and actually funny. Great effects work and great stunt sequences and a reminder of when Meg Ryan was just as cute as a button.

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Fast and Furious 5 (2011)

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Directed by: Justin Lin.

Available on Lovefilm

Or Rio Heist, or Fast Five, or whatever we are calling it now. The Fast and Furious franchise was fairly middle of the road until the fifth film came along, it seemed content to coast on nice cars and wobbling booty to R&B numbers.

Justin Lin in his third go around, rebooted the franchise into a caper heist series using all the familiar characters from previous movies. Lin also introduced Dwayne Johnson’s Agent Hobbs character who exudes testosterone and a film of sweat layering his skin at all times, even whilst sitting down. The action scenes are awesome and all the macho posturing never gets tiresome. An absolute blast from start to finish.

The Hunter. Photo by Matt Nettheim.

The Hunter (2012)

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill and Frances O’Connor. Directed by: Daniel Nettheim.

Available on Netflix

Going completely under the radar last year was this strange beast of a film from Australia. Willem Dafoe plays a mercenary who is despatched by a corporation down under, to track and kill the elusive Tasmanian tiger for its DNA for genetics research.

Whilst there he meets Frances O’Connor’s catatonic widow and her kids and shady corporate employee Sam Neill. This film is unique and haunting and will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

Essentially it is a character study about a driven man learning to feel something and is completely unpredictable and ultimately moving. Willem Dafoe has rarely been better in a rare modern leading role and this is perhaps the best Sam Neill performance ever. Also has the best use of a Springsteen song since Lawn Dogs.


Desperado (1995)

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Joaquim De Almeida and Cheech Marin. Directed by: Robert Rodriguez.

Available on Netflix

Hard to believe these days but there was a time when Robert Rodriguez was considered to be the saviour of action cinema. He made big noise about wanting to do several promising sounding films most of which never came to fruition and then Spy Kids was the beginning of the end as he settled into mid budget blandness.

For his second film he remade and revamped his own franchise which he started with El Mariachi, but instead cast Antonio Banderas in the main role of the wandering assassin/mariachi and introduced the world to the smoking hot Salma Hayek. The action is over the top John Woo nonsense but it does have a sense of humour about itself and some of the dialogue is very cool.

Sadly the trilogy capper didn’t live up to this film as Once Upon A Time in Mexico was a convoluted mess. Still Desperado is a cool modern-day western (Mexican?) that no action junkie should pass up.

The Quick and the Dead

The Quick and the Dead (1995)

Starring: Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. Directed by: Sam Raimi.

Available on Netflix

In between Army of Darkness and Spider-Man, Sam Raimi made some interesting if not entirely successful films in a bid to go mainstream. One of them was this western made at the height of Sharon Stone’s fame and popularity in the early 1990s.

Stone plays a gunslinging cowgirl who struts into town to take part in a quick draw contest and take revenge on Gene Hackman’s crooked lawman. The film came after Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven had breathed new life and elegance into the genre but this film is more concerned with fun and a side helping of cheese. It features early performances from Russell Crowe as a bad ass ex-gunfighter and Leonardo Dicaprio as a cocksure wannabe. It also features all the signature lunatic Raimi camerawork you could hope for.