I was wrong; September didn’t necessarily bring the big guns out fighting when it came to adding content. If anything things came through in dribs and drabs with comedy and drama fans being best served by Netflix when it added shows like The League, Modern Family and Breaking Bad as well as films like Warrior and 50/50. However as are mid way into October things seem to have heated up with LOVEFiLM stepping up and adding a whole heap of genre titles from the last thirty or so years, even some really good stuff I had forgotten completely. LOVEFiLM were due to add Red State and Melancholia at the end of September but this hasn’t happened for some reason.
Anyway this week’s pick of the best titles for your streaming pleasure are as follows:
House on Haunted Hill (1999) – Blinkbox
Horror at the end of the ‘90s was not in a good place, Scream had sort of revitalised and ruined the genre in one go so every horror poster was more concerned with pretty young people staring gormlessly back at you. When Robert Zemeckis and pals formed Dark Castle with the intention of revitalising old William Castle movies for a modern audience, hopes were mixed at best. These were the people that brought us the brilliant Tales from the Crypt but they were still essentially remaking the classics. House on Haunted Hill was their first film out of the gate and probably their best; it has a pleasingly weird couple of scares, a camp Geoffrey Rush and Famke Jannsen and a fairly thrilling finale. Still far from perfect but an entertaining watch.
Candyman (1992) – LOVEFiLM
Speaking of the ‘90s, Bernard Rose’s film version of Clive Barker’s short story was probably the last seriously good slasher movie before Scream ruined things for the rest of the decade. Candyman is still a beautiful, scary and brilliantly performed horror film which has a social conscience and stands amongst the very best of the genre. With the current fad for dark fairy tales, now is the perfect time to catch this one if you haven’t seen it yet. Also a good reminder of when Clive Barker was serious business to horror movie makers even though they didn’t quite get him the way comics did.
Tideland (2005) – Netflix
Perhaps it’s a good thing that Terry Gilliam finds it so hard to make films and has to deal with so much hardship whilst in production because it leads to things like Brazil, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus and the frequently wonderful The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. When he is given a lower budget and suffers no hardship we end up with Tideland, an interesting failure but a failure nonetheless. The problem with Tideland is that it just meanders and annoys when it should thrill and enlighten. Worth a watch just to see what Gilliam is like at his worst.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) – Netflix
One of the best films of the ‘90s is now on Netflix for all of you. Greenlit in the wake of Tarantino’s ascent to geek god, From Dusk Till Dawn was once a directorial project for Tom Savini and also a ‘Tales from the Crypt Presents’ movie. When Tarantino became huge the project fell back into his lap and he brought in Robert Rodriguez to give it some stylish visuals. The film is still a hell of a lot of fun; you have George Clooney being a badass when he was on the cusp of mega stardom, Tarantino’s brilliant dialogue and some awe inspiring gore. A great Saturday night beer and pizza movie.
The Fifth Element (1997) – Netflix
Luc Besson’s late ‘90s sci-fi spectacular is a strange beast. Visually it’s amazing with future New York being especially impressive but tonally it’s all over the place. It has a weird sense of humour, is oddly scored and half way through Chris Tucker shows up as an especially annoying DJ and proceeds to turn the whole thing into a camp riot. The design, though, is where this film excels with the costume and production design really creating something that hasn’t been seen before and mostly through practical effects too. The alien opera singer sequence in Earth orbit is still quite amazing. The core plot regarding an evil planet threatening the Earth is fascinating and surreal but not a lot is actually explored with it. So far the rumoured sequel entitled Mr Shadow has failed to materialise.
Resident Evil (2002) – Netflix
Once upon a time George Romero was attached to direct the live action version of Capcom’s beloved Resident Evil franchise, however Romero wanted too many zombies in an actual zombie story and so Paul WS Anderson was brought in. This is the genesis point for five movies that have clogged the multiplex for ten years now. Truthfully this first entry isn’t bad; it has some relation to the videogame stories and some cool concepts. Like most of Anderson’s work though it lacks a satisfactory third act, fizzling out instead of leaving a lasting impression.
The Skin I Live In (2011) – Netflix
Last year’s Pedro Almodovar dip into horror/sci-fi territory is now on Netflix for the rest of the world to discover. Read as little about it as you can in order to enjoy this twisted, shocking and above all thrilling take on the Dr Frankenstein tale. One of the best films of 2011 that will stay with you for weeks afterwards thanks to the powerful central performances by Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya and some emotional gut punches.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) – LOVEFiLM
Amazingly this went from flop to cult whilst it was still in cinemas. Edgar Wright’s film version of Brian O’Malley’s multi volume indie comic was a commercial failure in its first weekend but the movie geek audience raised on the video games that the film holds in such high regard as well as the hipster crowd caught wind that it was great and suddenly it was showing up in midnight screenings all over the place. Scott Pilgrim is a true one off film, a celebration of everything that is good in the world as well as a coming of age tale about a boy falling in love and having to take responsibility for the choices he made, with massive fight scenes. A film you can re-watch over and over and never get tired of.
Groundhog Day (1993) – LOVEFiLM
This film has become synonymous with a certain type of time travel story now and yet is so different from anything that came before or after that it’s easy to forget just how good this film still is. Bill Murray was in his sarcastic miser mode before he went all indie cool and was enjoying the odd success here and there but in this film, teamed with a great script and director Harold Ramis, he goes through the wringer performance wise. At first unlikeable, after living the same day again and again he becomes suicidal, god like and then turns things around in a way that can’t help but make you smile. One of the greatest films of the ‘90s - no question.
Ghostbusters / Ghostbusters 2 (1984/89) – LOVEFiLM
Speaking of Murray, here is the closest thing we are ever going to get to an on-going franchise from the great man. The first Ghostbusters remains timeless with great dialogue that went over most kids’ heads at the time and some great production design and effects work that mostly still holds up and great interplay between Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. Much imitated but never bettered, this was a collection of people performing at the top of their game. Ghostbusters 2 may not be the film the first film was but has a heart-warming message and finale and it’s good to see the gang back together. Even though Murray reportedly didn’t like the second movie he is still firing on all cylinders here and at his most likeable.
Hollow Man (2000) – LOVEFiLM
At the moment this is still Paul Verhoeven’s last dip into our genre waters and was now a full 12 years ago too. Hollow Man is not a great film but the invisibility effects work is still quite amazing and it’s a fun film for what it is. Kevin Bacon is good as the lead mad scientist who goes crazy once he disappears and there are some pleasingly nasty moments. Still don’t believe that one of the planet’s greatest scientific minds would actually go as crazy as this just because his experiment worked. Would love to see Verhoeven come back and make something crazy and classic in Hollywood again but it doesn’t seem like it’s on the cards.
Last Action Hero (1993) – LOVEFiLM
The same summer that gave us Spielberg’s Jurassic Park also gave us Schwarzenegger’s first big flop. Last Action Hero isn’t an out and out turkey but it is a mess, the screenplay was written and re-written by around 8 different writers and as such the tone is all over the place, too violent for kids and too silly for adults it kind of exists neither here nor there. Once upon a time there was probably the kernel of a great idea here but too much money, ego and hubris lead to this which, arguably, the film careers of Schwarzenegger and director John McTiernan never recovered from.
Runaway (1984) – LOVEFiLM
This is it, all my writing and obsession on streaming channels has led me to this point because Michael Crichton’s Runaway is now on LOVEFiLM! Making a big impression on me when I was 8, this film stars Tom Selleck as a future police officer whose speciality is tracking down and disposing of rogue robots. The film also has Gene Simmons as a bad guy, robot spiders and heat seeking bullets. I literally cannot wait to watch this film again, along with Trancers this was a big favourite growing up. I hope it holds up but it probably won’t.