Instant-Watching-Viewer's-GuideEach week we look at the best films and TV available on the various streaming and VOD services available. Here are our picks for this week.


The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Directed by: Christopher Nolan.

Available on NOW TV.

The weird quick turnaround time-lapse between hyperbole and backlash that we have seen plague our blockbusters this summer can be traced back to this film. As a follow-up to The Dark Knight, it is a disappointment but it’s still a fitting finale and is definitely on a par with Batman Begins. A lot of the problems this film had on release have to do with it coming so soon after The Avengers. The Dark Knight Rises is epic filmmaking and has many breath-taking sequences in its own right; it just doesn’t have four superheroes fighting aliens. Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman is spot on and Tom Hardy makes Bane a suitably menacing villain with his own back story which whilst not as memorable as Heath Ledger’s Joker, is at least in fitting with the previous films and is more of a physical menace than a psychological one. Could have done without the final five minutes though where it seems like Nolan either bowed to studio pressure or just lost his bottle.



The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Andy Serkis and Richard Armitage. Directed by: Peter Jackson.

Available on NETFLIX.

The Hobbit was never going to be like Lord of the Rings, It has a different tone altogether and probably shouldn’t be three movies either if we are being honest. A lot of the criticism thrown at this film is valid, it does take too long to get going with 45 minutes being spent making dinner, singing and washing up with dwarves, this stuff should have been saved for the extended edition due later this year. You could also argue that Jackson’s heart isn’t really in it and this time around there does seem an over reliance on CG giving the film less of an organic feel that the other trilogy. At the end of the day though this is still Peter Jackson back in middle Earth and its largely spectacular stuff just don’t expect the earth to move.


Frankenweenie cat

Frankenweenie (2012)

Starring (voices): Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara and Martin Landau. Directed by: Tim Burton.

Available on NOW TV.

After years of doing obvious stuff for the money, it’s at least good to have Tim Burton back doing something personal again. Frankenweenie is based on his original short and is in black and white in homage to the 50s monster movies he is so fond of. The stop motion animation is very recognisably Burton and it features a plethora of outcasts as per usual. Though it’s a personal journey for him this doesn’t reach the heights of Ed Wood, Big Fish or Edward Scissorhands. It has an odd sense of detachment and some warmth, like we saw in the similar Paranorman, would have gone a long way. This is more mid tier Burton that’s fun and sits alongside Mars Attacks, Sleepy Hollow and Batman. Worth a look just to see what he can actually get away with nowadays after Alice in Wonderland made zillions.


Sweeney Todd BTS 1

Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall. Directed by: Tim Burton.

Available on LOVEFILM.

Speaking of Burton and what he can get away with, I didn’t expect this to be as great as it is after not enjoying the stage production all that much. Sweeney Todd is brought to wonderful, bloody life by Burton and his best friend Johnny Depp with wife Helena Bonham-Carter. The songs come to life wonderfully and the story has a massive vein of tragedy that comes through even though everything is in song. Depp sounds like David Bowie which works for the character and Bonham-Carter and Alan Rickman can really sing. Oh and it’s no doubt the bloodiest, most violent musical you are ever likely to see. Wonderful.


Sinister UK Quad Poster

Sinister (2012)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, James Ransone and Juliet Rylance. Directed by: Scott Derrickson.

Available on NETFLIX.

This found footage film from last year reinvents the sub-genre because it actually involves someone finding the footage rather than us being observers to the footage found which is now extremely tired. Sinister is a remarkably tense, surreal and relatively nasty affair that really works thanks to some great pacing and acting from Hawke in the lead as well as a sense of menace helped by an odd and effective musical score. This is so effective in fact that you won’t realise first time, that there is actually pretty much only one location in the whole film and it also manages to invent a new movie monster for this century, which there has been a distinct lack of since the 90s.



Tower Block (2012)

Starring: Sheridan Smith, Russell Tovey, Jack O’Connell and Ralph Brown. Directed by: James Moran.

Available on NETFLIX.

This sniper thriller from last year is a timely and rather bleak morality play which works as a thriller as well as a think piece. Despite the laws of physics seeming to be completely forgotten about, this is unbelievably tense and has some really nasty moments. It also has some really on the nose characters which annoy at first but then have their fates play out unexpectedly meaning that you are never quite sure who is going to last until the end and a sense of loss is palpable. This is how to do low-budget British thrillers and other filmmakers should take note instead of just copying what was popular for five years at a time.


The Tall Man

The Tall Man (2012)

Starring: Jessica Biel, Jodelle Ferland and Stephen McHattie. Directed by: Pascal Laugier.

Available on NETFLIX.

Pascal Laugier’s follow up to Martyrs is not as memorable or anywhere near as shocking as that film despite treading similar territory. The Tall Man seems like a major grab for the mainstream and is more like a thriller with a very interesting idea at its core. The problem is almost none of the elements are given the weight required to make the central idea come to life and have an impact. It’s like watching Gone Baby Gone if nobody involved cared. An interesting failure.


Pusher - Richard Coyle

Pusher (2012)

Starring: Richard Coyle, Agness Deyn, Bronson Webb and Zlatko Buric. Directed by: Luis Prieto.

Available on NETFLIX.

Nicholas Winding Refn produced this London set remake of his own Danish crime saga and it’s a full tilt thrill ride that most people unfortunately gave a wide berth last autumn. Richard Coyle plays a drug dealer with the hot girlfriend, the swanky pad and the capital at his feet. He starts to unravel when he ends up owing a large amount of money to the wrong people because he has just been too kind. Pusher expertly portrays a situation spinning out of control and thanks to the strong central performance by Coyle as a man losing his soul, you are right there with the character in his shoes. Sadly due to the underperformance of this film, it seems unlikely we will get remakes of Pusher 2 or 3 which could have been interesting.


Cowboys and Aliens - Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig

Cowboys and Aliens (2011)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde. Directed by: Jon Favreau.

Available on NETFLIX.

This sci-fi and western mash-up from a few summers back failed at the box office. This is because it has two major problems, the first being that Cowboys and Aliens has been in development since the first Men in Black and so has been through multiple drafts and writers and therefore had all the life sucked out of it. The second is that Daniel Craig is terribly miscast and uncomfortable in the role of the mysterious hero. Along with this you have a film that is very silly but takes itself super serious meaning it ends up neither here nor there. One or two good set pieces though but I mean its cowboys AND aliens, this should write itself FFS.



Pineapple Express (2008)

Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride and Gary Cole. Directed by: David Gordon Green.

Available on NETFLIX.

Pineapple Express had one of the best trailers of recent times and seemed to promise a gonzo action comedy along the lines of True Romance. It doesn’t quite get there and is actually very silly rather than a black comedy and works best if you are imbibing the substances that the characters are on. It does have the occasional very violent death and some massively quotable dialogue and coasts by on the chemistry of its leads Seth Rogen and a revelatory James Franco. Still one of the better blendings of action and comedy of the last few years.


Vanilla Sky

Vanilla Sky (2001)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jason London, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz. Directed by: Cameron Crowe.

Available on NETFLIX.

Cameron Crowe’s cover version of Obre Los Ajos has much to recommend it. Tom Cruise for one is great as a rich boy brought low by tragedy and a broken heart and the film really captures what it’s like to be in New York City in the autumn and winter. The eventual reveal as things start to go nuts will turn a few off but thanks to Crowe’s ability to wring emotion out of the most ordinary of everyday things and soundtrack it to perfection, it can’t fail to bring a tear to the eye. One of the best ‘cover versions’ so far.


Seraphim Falls

Seraphim Falls (2007)

Starring: Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Angelica Huston and Michael Wincott. Directed by: David Von Ancken.

Available on NETFLIX.

This little seen western from 2007 finds Liam Neeson’s vengeful rancher pursuing Pierce Brosnan’s disgraced military man across the west from mountains to deserts. It’s beautifully shot and really captures the landscapes and the danger inherent in the territory. Neeson and Brosnan are great as two people who really hate each other and the story and details about their relationship unfold perfectly. Then things get all weird with religious overtones as soon as they run out of men to die and find themselves in the desert. It’s here that people will be left scratching their head or will just go with it. It takes some major balls to go to these places when everything that comes before has been so standard but it makes perfect sense if you are on board with the themes of David Von Ancken’s film. The kind of film that would be on BBC2’s Moviedrome if that were still going, seek it out.


Sucker Punch Stage

Sucker Punch (2011)

Starring; Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone and Scott Glenn. Directed by: Zack Snyder.

Available on LOVEFILM.

Zack Snyder’s most derided film so far suffers on the smaller screen. Visually stunning and best seen on the largest and loudest screen you can find, nonetheless this still has very little substance behind it. What Snyder is trying to say about female empowerment, the male gaze and Hollywood in general is lost under layers of reality featuring stunning songs sound tracking stunning battle scenes with steam-powered soldiers, dragons and robots. Never has something that looks so pretty signified so little, which is kind of the opposite of the point that Snyder was trying to make it seems. Still worth a look on a purely visual stand point.



Payback (1999)

Starring: Mel Gibson, Maria Bello, Gregg Henry and Kris Kristofferson. Directed By: Brian Helgeland.

Available on LOVEFILM.

Sadly not the superb directors’ original version of this film that came out a few years back with all the non PC brutality. This is the compromised version where the studio demanded re-shoots because Mel Gibson was not a nice enough character in the film, how little they knew. It also replaces Angie Dickinson’s voice with Kris Kristofferson and his spoilt brat son kidnap ploy. Even in its compromised form, this is a hugely entertaining noir thriller which finds Gibson still playing a fairly despicable character who somehow wins rather than the ambiguous fate he deserved.


Swimming with Sharks

Swimming with Sharks (1994)

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Frank Whaley and Michelle Forbes. Directed by: George Huang.

Available on LOVEFILM.

Shortly before he blew up with The Usual Suspects and Seven, Kevin Spacey played the most mean-spirited movie executive ever seen not at all based on Joel Silver, in this low-key thriller cum drama. Swimming with Sharks is so well liked that they effectively reinvented it for the west end stage a few years back with Christian Slater and Matt Smith as the leads. At its core this is a very dark comedy with Spacey his venomous best and Frank Whaley being very effective as a man with the world on his shoulders. If you’re considering a career in the biz you must see this film, from what I understand it’s still fairly accurate.



Fringe S3


Fringe Seasons 1-4 (2008-2012)

Starring: Joshua Jackson, John Noble and Anna Torv. Directed by: Various.

Available on NETFLIX

For a while JJ Abrams produced show Fringe was the natural successor to the X-Files which found the FBI’s Fringe Division investigating events labelled ‘The Pattern’ which had to do with fringe science beyond human understanding. Then like The X-Files, Lost and Alias, Fringe got all to complex come season 4 with multiple universes, doppelgangers and people who shouldn’t exist at all in our timeline. Now that it’s all here to see in one go, it’s probably going to be much easier to keep track rather than being consumed on a weekly basis. Fringe has all the nasty mutants and gore inducing weaponry you could hope for but also has a touching father and son reconnecting plot strand as well as an effecting romance between the two main characters. Not enough people in the UK were aware of this show when it was on so this could be the chance to correct that as it’s definitely up there with the best of them in this golden age of television.