It’s 2013! Happy New Year everybody! In the first two weeks of the New Year both Netflix and LOVEFiLM have added a lot of content. Not just films either, TV is really getting a look in, especially on LOVEFiLM. Netflix have also introduced a SUPER HD option which I haven’t seen myself yet but that I hear is super impressive.
Blinkbox’s free selection has yet to return sadly but below is a pick of the best stuff to make its way on to the streaming services over the last two weeks.
Let Me In (2010) – LOVEFiLM
People were all ready to write off this remake of the Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In. Matt Reeves broke through after directing Cloverfield so of course he would go and direct a horror remake and there was no way it could be good, only it is. Somehow Reeves made a film which is pretty close to the original but somehow makes it his own and the American version has a more heartfelt emotional core when compared to the rather detached and cold original. As a result the film feels like some kind of messed up bloodier version of E.T with a troubled kid discovering a friend nearby who threatens everything he knows. Don’t write this off as just another remake as it could end up being the best thing you see all week.
Dexter: Season 4-6 (2009-2011) – Netflix
The general consensus seems to be that Dexter has run its course now and is jumping the shark with alarming regularity. Whatever your opinion is of everyone’s favourite serial killer, there is no doubt that Dexter is still, at its worst, one of the most compelling things on television. By the time you get to these later seasons the supporting cast has stopped being annoying and relaxed into their roles and you care about them as much as the lead. Many people proclaim season two but for me season four is the peak of the show. John Lithgow’s Trinity Killer is truly the most terrifying and damaged adversary that Dexter has faced and the season is loaded with jaw on the floor moments. Season Five introduces a new love interest/victim for Dexter to empathise with and does this well despite being a whole twelve episodes mainly taken up with recovering from the events of season four. Season six however is probably where it starts to feel a little less essential than before, the ingredients were all there but it doesn’t quite know what to do with them and is treading water. Haven’t seen season seven yet and I hope for the best but fear the worst.
Timecrimes (2007) – LOVEFiLM
Nacho Vigalondo’s debut film is one of the best time travel films of recent years and on a limited budget too. Vigalondo makes the best of having no money and sets the film in and around one house but the film is so fiendishly clever and so inventive as events spiral out of control, that you don’t notice the lack of special effects and fireworks. Imagine if Alfred Hitchcock directed a time travel thriller and the result would be something like this. Vigalondo’s follow up movie Extraterrestrial remains frustratingly unreleased in the UK.
Mission: Impossible (1996) – Netflix
The first in the Mission: Impossible film franchise to some is still the best. Personally I think it’s the third movie but this first entry into the series is an almost completely different animal compared to what came later. This film, directed by Brian De Palma, has a lot of the director’s signature touches and flourishes and is concerned more with double dealing, backstabbing and all sorts of treacherous shenanigans rather than explosions (although there are two that are great) and disappointed a lot of people back in ‘96 as they had just gotten the first major Bond return with GoldenEye. Despite defying expectations it’s a supremely fun film that laid down the gauntlet for TV into film franchises for the rest of the decade.
Battlestar Galactica (2003-2008) – LOVEFiLM
Ronald D.Moore’s superb revamp of Glen A.Larson’s Star Wars inspired television series is one of the best works of science fiction from the last ten years. Not only does Moore create a show with all the memorable characters, spaceship battles and tension that you could ask for but he also manages to make you think whilst doing it. So the series asks lots of questions about religion, politics and the rights of living beings no matter their origins which feel out of place for a show funded by the Sy Fy channel but does so against all the tropes of a typical lost in space type show. Why Battlestar Galactica really stands above most of what has come before or since is because the makers had a plan that would last four seasons with a beginning, middle and ending and arcs and revelations aplenty and they didn’t divert and told the story they needed to, unlike some other things I could name. If this is your first viewing then stick with it through season one because by the middle of season two you will be well and truly hooked.
Caprica (2009-2010) – LOVEFiLM
Sadly this prequel series was overlooked, undervalued and only lasted for one season. Many have labelled this a kind of ‘sci fi soap’ like Dynasty with robots but this is a little unfair. Set fifty years before the events of the masterpiece series, Caprica takes place on the titular planet and follows the fortunes of the Adama and Graystone families as tragedy and circumstance lead to the creation of the first Cylons who will eventually go on to rebel against the humans. Caprica has some cool plotlines about artificial intelligence and virtual reality where you can see the beginnings of what lead to the events of Battlestar Galactica and it’s a shame it didn’t get to play out fully the way it should have.
War of the Worlds (1953) – Netflix
The first film version of HG Wells’ classic alien invasion story is probably still the best version of the story despite there being numerous TV shows, remakes and re-interpretations. None of these have come close to this with its still scary moments of alien spacecrafts rising from beside a road and the fleeting glimpse of the hideous aliens. It probably doesn’t stand up to modern viewing but this still has enough B-movie charm to be a good hour and twenty of entertainment.
Heroes (2006-2010) – LOVEFiLM
Ah Heroes, cast your mind back to 2006, Lost was in full swing and every other network was casting an ensemble cast around a central mystery and it’s an effect we are still feeling now. Heroes followed this template but combined it with a superhero story told without capes and costumes. The first season is brilliant television, there truly is a sense of wonder as the various special powers are revealed and we get to know the characters and it’s surprisingly violent for a network show. Then we get to the second season which was reduced due to the writers’ strike, it’s still good but merely good rather than great. Then come season three it’s all gone wrong, time travel is introduced and becomes a major part of the storyline and the show writes itself into a tangled mess of realities and parallel universes. I never made it to season four but I hear it got better - too little too late sadly.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Netflix
Not just Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman’s best work of cinema so far but also one of the best films of the last decade. ESOTSM is a trippy, heartfelt and thought provoking piece of work which is cleverly structured and beautifully performed by Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson and Kirsten Dunst. Also features Mark Ruffalo as a convincing dork and Elijah Wood as a true creep. So much of the film is hilarious and true and really asks yourself, when faced with heartbreak, if you’d really want to erase everything that lead to that moment. A film about facing your problems instead of running away but done in a way that Philip K. Dick would be proud of.
Martyrs (2008) – LOVEFiLM
As of time of writing I have not yet seen this film. Pascal Laugier's breakthrough horror film is extremely popular with horror fans and it’s the one they point to when people try and dismiss ‘torture porn’ as exactly that because it has some kind of point to make. From what I understand this is not an easy watch but is rewarding if you can make it through and as soon as I grow a pair I am going to give it a watch.
Vampire’s Kiss (1988) – Netflix
Another one I haven’t seen yet. Oddly enough another writer for Starburst recommended this to me recently as a pretty hilarious film and then lo and behold it appeared on Netflix. Probably most famous for being the film where Nic Cage actually ate a live cockroach on camera but he wouldn’t get known for his ‘mega crazy acting’ for another twenty years or so.
Waterworld (1995) – Netflix
I make no bones about it, Waterworld is a bad movie but it’s a great bad movie, in fact it’s so great that I watched it a lot back in the ‘90s. Somehow this got labelled as a box office flop despite being at number one in the US charts for some weeks back in the summer of 1995. I think it was just around the time that everyone turned on Kevin Costner so people were all too happy to pile on the over budget film and the label just stuck. Despite some pacing problems around the middle, Waterworld is action packed fun with a nicely realised world that is waterlogged and has the survivors learning to adapt. At the time the action scenes were amazing but I suspect that viewed through the lens of what we get now they don’t compare.