This week in streaming land I present you with the best of what has been added over the last few weeks and my suspicions were correct: September brought the competition between Netflix and LOVEFiLM out of hiding. Netflix have added some major titles from the last few years as well as some major TV shows like Breaking Bad and Modern Family which it appears to have an exclusive monopoly on. LOVEFiLM responded by adding… the Police Academy franchise but also some older titles and one recent decent that may be of interest.
So enough speculation and wonder, on with the round-up!
The Awakening (2011) – LOVEFiLM
This is an effective, adult and sophisticated ghost story set in 1921 and finds Rebecca Hall’s ballsy female paranormal sceptic (kind of a proto Scully) sent to investigate the sightings of a child ghost in a countryside boarding school. Not exactly the most original of stories but the strong characterisations and solid direction move this above its generic story and the film has some decent scares.
2012 (er... 2009) – Netflix
I think when this was released in 2009 the world really wasn’t in the mood. The economic crisis was starting to sink the world into a major depression and the last thing people wanted to see was the world essentially being destroyed. 2012 isn’t as bad as the first watch but it’s far from Roland Emmerich’s best destruction fest so far. Emmerich bites off more than he can chew dramatically and focuses the film on far too many characters when the emphasis should have been on John Cusack and his estranged family facing an apocalypse. As a result the film is at least thirty minutes too long and has some seriously hammy acting. Having said that the beautifully rendered destruction is something to behold, especially when LA essentially rises up and sinks into the sea, it’s breath-taking. Oh and of course there is a dog… that survives.
Heartless (2010) – Netflix
Possibly the best film you haven’t seen from this decade so far is Philip Ridley’s third directorial effort which is a Faustian tale set in contemporary London. Jim Sturgess plays Jamie, a man born with a birth mark on his face who starts seeing demons in the urban sprawl in which he lives. It’s not long before the evil on the streets comes too close to home and Jamie is given a choice by the demonic Papa B. Part of the joy of this film is discovering it for yourself so I will say no more. All I will say is like the best horror films this is a fable for our times about the climate of fear we live in, there is a lot going on in the film and it deserves to be seen by more people.
Iron Man 2 (2010) – Netflix
The second solo Iron Man film from Marvel is still something of a disappointment two years on. The rushed production has serious script and pacing problems and veers dangerously close to making Tony Stark an unlikeable asshole. Despite a seriously flabby and tedious second act there is a lot to like about this film, Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell are pretty great as villains and the action sequences certainly pop off the screen, could have done without the War Machine vs. Iron Man disco fight but I guess it had to happen. Now that they have had much longer in terms of pre-production time and have Shane Black on board Iron Man 3 should steer the solo franchise back on course.
Fire in the Sky (1993) – Netflix
I remember seeing this alien abduction drama in the cinema a week before going on holiday with the family to the US and being convinced I was going to be abducted by aliens once there. Fire in the Sky came out almost a year before The X-Files took off and got everyone interested in UFO’s for a while. It may come across like a TV movie but the film has a great performance from DB Sweeney as the man who was taken and the alien experiment scenes are terrifying and painful to watch. If you fancy something to freak you out late at night then this could be the ideal choice.
Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) – LOVEFiLM
This straight to DVD feature from DC is the best thing they have done so far with their animation division (yes better than Batman: Year One). Wonderfully animated and brutal, this is the animated version of the comics you have always wanted. Beginning with a harsh and severe murder of a long-time ally, we then move forward in time where a vigilante known as Red Hood is murdering criminals which brings him into conflict with Batman. Who is under the red hood? You don’t have to have a degree in surprise reveals to work it out but the journey is a heck of a lot of fun.
Face/Off (1997) – LOVEFiLM
John Woo’s ludicrous late 90s Hollywood film remains his best western directorial effort which he hasn’t really topped in any part of the world since. John Travolta and Nicolas Cage have a great time impersonating each other as terrorist and FBI agent as they end up swapping visages and psyching each other out. There is balletic two gunned mayhem the likes of which Hollywood has never seen and it’s thrilling, stylish and thought provoking. Could be the best action movie of the ‘90s.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) – LOVEFiLM
Garth Jennings’ interpretation of Douglas Adams’ seminal comedy/science fiction novel is far better than it gets credit for. It’s silly and the tone will seriously confuse some people but it’s true to the source material and a hell of a lot of fun. Sadly the film was not a box office success which meant that further films based on Adam’s books came to nought. If you haven’t seen this yet, cast aside your perception of the property as a twee British thing and watch one of the most ‘out there’ things ever greenlit by a major studio, this happens once every ten years so savour it.
Steamboy (2004) – YouTube
Katsuhiro Otomo’s animated follow up to Akira is a lesser film for sure. Otomo tries to do for ‘steampunk’ what he did for ‘cyberpunk’ but it doesn’t quite work, although the animation and design is beautiful. Worth a watch despite being overlong and hopefully the version they have here isn’t the awful dub with American actors trying to do Geordie accents.
Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) – YouTube
One of the things that keeps me interested in director Darren Lynn Bousman and his projects no matter what he makes is the fact that he made this insane horror musical somehow and will return to music with The Devil’s Carnival later this year. Some of the songs don’t quite pop the way they should but the film looks fantastic and is populated with figures from horror and pop culture to keep things sparky. Even if the film doesn’t quite work for you it’s worth watching as a curiosity. Already one of the biggest cult items of the last ten years.