I’m not arrogant enough to assume that the people at Netflix read this column but… you can’t deny the correlation. Although there might not be much for the genre fanatic, they have stepped things up somewhat and their continuing devotion to Breaking Bad (season five!) and them nabbing things like 21 Jump Street is to be commended. The stuff that they have added that appeals is certainly eclectic enough to keep them in the game for now but LOVEFiLM still reigns supreme for the time being.
Black Sheep (2006) – LOVEFiLM
I don’t want to be a bitch so you should know that this has been available on Netflix since the start and has now made its way over to LOVEFiLM. Although Black Sheep is kind of hilarious in a way that only a film featuring a sheep driving a tractor can be, it still feels like it never rises above its ridiculous premise which is pretty much all it has going for it. Still some great practical effects and gore on display though.
The Guyver (2005) – Netflix
Not to be confused with MacGyver.If you are an anime fan in any fashion then you probably know of this series even if just by name. What you might not know is this is a modern version of it which is more faithful to the manga than the ‘90s series. The dub job here is much better than the ‘90s version and the animation is also superior although it has that annoying thing that most modern anime have where the opening credits feature stunning animation that doesn’t make its way through to the actual episodes. All 26 episodes are now here for you to enjoy and it’s pretty epic stuff, it’s surprising this hasn’t been done on a big scale by Hollywood yet (the straight to video ‘90s movies don’t count) as The Guyver is like Spider-Man in Japan.
Iron Sky (2011) – LOVEFiLM
Another film that is considerably less than the promise of its premise. Iron Sky is a Finnish, made in English international mish mash of a film that has a central premise involving Nazi’s encamped on the moon since the end of World War 2 that invade after an astronaut discovers their ‘camp’. Whilst it’s not a total disaster, Iron Sky is nothing like the greatness that it should have been. It is far too concerned with bad taste comedy and Dr Strangelove like satire than actually being something cool with airships descending from the moon. An interesting failure…
Synecdoche, New York (2008) – Netflix
Apparently Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze set out to make a horror movie and this was the result which Jonze bailed on and so Kaufman went ahead and made his directorial debut. This is a film about ageing and about not having enough time that anyone who saw Holy Motors recently will no doubt appreciate. Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a stunning central performance as the theatre director whose based on real life creation literally becomes a working breathing production of its own with an economy and living people. Of course his obsession means that he doesn’t notice the real life going on around him and the horror comes from him watching his loved ones get forgotten and die. It doesn’t make sense but it’s hypnotic and hauntingly beautiful.
The Lost Boys (1987) – LOVEFiLM
Of all the films that I saw as a kid this was perhaps the one that was the biggest influence on everything I wrote for about 20 years afterwards. Joel Schumacher is actually capable of great things when he isn’t just turning up for the paycheck and The Lost Boys is cool, self-aware, violent and just exciting as hell with a kick ass soundtrack. Oh and it has ‘The Corey’s’ before they became a punchline.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) – Netflix
Of all the failed young adult or kids fantasy books series that came to screens in the wake of Harry Potter this is the one that hurts the most. The film did okay but I think people were confused, Jim Carrey was a heavily made up baddie intent on murdering children and marrying a child towards the end and the whole thing had a Tim Burton esque look to it which confused people because it wasn’t actually Burton. Still there is darkness in this film aimed at youngsters that is refreshing (see also The Spiderwick Chronicles) and an old fashioned feel where someone is telling you a story right out of a book of dark fables. Sadly despite there being many, many books to draw from, it was one and done for this franchise.
Innerspace (1987) – LOVEFiLM
Another film from 1987 that is perhaps not as well-known as The Lost Boys but is just as good and still holds up surprisingly well. Basically this is Joe Dante’s take on The Fantastic Voyage with Dennis Quaid’s miniaturised pilot injected into neurotic mess Martin Short and the two of them have to work together to elude an evil group of rival scientists. Endlessly inventive and hilarious, Joe Dante’s films have an energy all their own that is missing from cinema.
Tokyo Godfathers (2003) – YouTube
Of all the losses we have had over the last five years the one I feel most deeply is that of the late Japanese director Satoshi Kon. Kon was pushing the limits of what anime could be and what he was making was like nothing else ever seen before or since. After Perfect Blue and before the masterpiece that was Paranoia Agent, Kon directed this sweet, heartfelt tale of three homeless people who find an abandoned baby in modern day Tokyo on Christmas Eve. Beautifully animated and uplifting in a way that only Pixar can usually accomplish, if you haven’t caught up with Kon’s work yet this is a good (and free) place to start.
Reaper: Season One and Two (2007-09) – LOVEFiLM
After the Kevin Smith directed pilot, I tuned out of this after about 6 episodes because it was kind of repetitive with a monster of the week formula that started to grate. I have since failed to catch up with this short-lived series despite endless repeats on E4. The basic premise is that a man and woman sell the soul of their child to the devil and the devil (played by the legendary Ray Wise) comes to collect and forces this useless slacker to become his bounty hunter. The slacker is aided by his friends and hindered by his boss at the hardware store where he works leading to all manner of Office Space like humour. It was funny and sometimes inventive and from what I hear it got better so I will be checking this out.
The Booth at The End: Season One (2010) – Netflix
I have been hearing a lot of good things about this show. At the moment 5 episodes at twenty minutes each isn’t much and easy to blow through but I hear it’s great anyway and season two has just finished stateside. The basic premise is that a man sits in a booth in a diner and grants those who come to him their wishes if they perform a task for him. It’s weird, clever and original and I can’t wait to dig in! At the moment someone recommends this to me at least once a week so it must be good…