Blinkbox’s free section has gone, seemingly never to return, although the website says that it will make its way back, bigger and better in spring of this year, we will see. In the meantime after a racy first couple of weeks of the year, things got quiet again with Netflix and LOVEFiLM both adding about one title a week. Then Netflix added House of Cards, an original series they produced and the game has been changed forever.
Not only is House of Cards a series starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright but the first two episodes are directed by David Fincher. Netflix build on the appeal of the weekend DVD series box blowout by adding all 12 episodes at once. They advertise this like Netflix is the only place you can see this series in a manner similar to Sky’s Atlantic channel campaigns. Netflix also has more coming; Hemlock Grove is a supernatural town series with the involvement of horror director Eli Roth which is due in April. The much celebrated and missed Arrested Development returns for a fourth series in May and there is also a kids CG animated series about a racing snail or something. As far as I can tell, LOVEFiLM has nothing like this on the cards…
Netflix has changed the game and it’s a very interesting time to be a member of the viewing public. If Netflix can keep its subscription charge low and maintain this exclusivity then it could win this war hands down.
Anyway in terms of films, the recent weeks have seen the below added to your favourite services:
Mad Max, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1979,1981,1985) – LOVEFiLM
Now is a good time to catch the original three Mad Max movies as the fourth, Fury Road is due out later this year or early next with Tom Hardy in the role Mel Gibson made his own. The first film is a revenge fuelled, stripped down, punk rock film at its finest. The second changes tack with whatever apocalypse was looming in the background of the first movie having happened and Max now roaming the outback in his V8 Interceptor. It also features some of the best practical stunt work ever which still manages to thrill and delight thirty years later. The third and final of Mel Gibson’s Mad Max movies is the most commercial with the fantasy elements ramped up and even featuring Tina Turner as the villain. Whilst they had more money, they lose some of the soul with a plot that is just a glossier re-tread of the second film when you get down to it. It looks very pretty but the carnage has been lost in favour of impressive sets and epic scope. If you haven’t seen them yet then you simply must watch these films, it’s a timely reminder of when stunts were performed by stuntmen in the real world and a time when Mel Gibson was one of the best screen presences out there.
Deep Blue Sea (1999) – LOVEFiLM
Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea is also something of a throwback because it represents a time when the big, ridiculous monster movie still had money thrown at it by Hollywood before the SyFy channel robbed it of all its potential and started churning out Sharktopus and CrocoPiranha or whatever it’s called. Deep Blue Sea is ridiculous but its great ridiculous and at the time of its release nobody batted an eye at just how silly the whole thing was if they were in a crowd. Three genetically altered mako sharks with big brains get loose at an underwater research facility and only Thomas Jane, LL Cool J and Saffron Burrows can stop them. Its CG may be fairly dodgy (especially during one infamous shock moment) but this was really good in the golden summer of ‘99 and still stands up (mostly).
The Green Hornet (2010) – LOVEFiLM
This is one of those big budget would-be blockbuster films where you can’t quite understand what the people behind it were thinking - yet somehow it works, for me anyway. So after years of development and going through talent like George Clooney and Kevin Smith, they finally made classic radio and later TV crime fighter The Green Hornet into a film written by and starring newly slim comedy superstar Seth Rogen and directed by visual mad man Michel Gondry. The film goes more for knockabout good natured action comedy rather than costumed heroics but the tone is still rather confused. For one thing when Rogen and Jay Chou as Kato decide to be crime fighters they seem to actually be going out and killing people and having a good time doing it, which is pretty weird. Christoph Waltz in his first big post-Tarantino villain role seems to be having the time of his life in a role previously filled by Nic Cage. It’s entertaining and good looking mayhem but you can’t help thinking what the other versions might have been like.
Near Dark (1987) – LOVEFiLM
Kathryn Bigelow’s second film as a director is a stripped down, grungy and violent affair which sees a young man fall in with a gang of blood drinking gypsy types. The tropes of the film are western through and through, nobody ever says the word ‘vampire’ and nary a fang or glowing eye is ever seen. Near Dark had the ill fortune to come out at the same time as the relatively more commercial and pretty The Lost Boys but time has been more kind to this film. Near Dark is stylish and violent and perhaps a film that, now 25 years later, is finally getting the recognition it deserves. After all the critical acclaim and Oscars it would be great to see Kathryn Bigelow return to low budget horror, we can only dream…
Child’s Play (1988) – Netflix
Tom Holland and Don Mancini’s first film featuring the Chucky doll possessed by murderer Charles Lee Ray is remarkable these days because of how straight it is played. Later films would lead to Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky which are polar opposites from this film. Due to what the series would become Child’s Play doesn’t really hold up, but at the time it was genuinely scary and suspenseful stuff. Try and watch it pretending there were never any sequels and this might still work… just.
Detention (2011) – LOVEFiLM
Some people absolutely flat out hate this film. I have seen it now about 5 times and every time I watch it I catch some new pop culture reference or gag. The film at its core is the story of a slasher who comes right out of a film series popular with the too smart kids at Grizzly Lake high school and starts killing them off. The film also includes time travel, aliens, body swapping and a mutant fly boy. Granted for some the rapid fire dialogue, pop culture references and fast editing is too much but Joseph Kahn’s film is such a joyous celebration of the last thirty years of teen culture that approaching it in the right frame of mind can lead you to the best nights watching for quite some time.
Livid (2011) – LOVEFiLM
Last year’s follow up to Inside from directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury is seen as something of a disappointment amongst horror fans who loved their first film. Approach it on its own terms though and it’s actually quite brilliant. The film is a great creep around a haunted house but refuses to be pigeon holed; alternately a ghost movie one minute and a vampire film the next. The film is massively atmospheric and stylish and deserves much more love than it’s currently getting.
The Goonies (1985) – LOVEFiLM
You should be warned that although you liked this film in your childhood, watching it as an adult is much like being at a children’s birthday party where all the kids are hopped up on popping candy and going crazy. It doesn’t really stand up to those in their thirties who watched it on VHS back in the day but there is still much to like about the film which harkens back to a time when kids movies were not afraid to go dark and Sloth, the inbred, deformed son of the criminals in the film is especially terrifying for anyone under 10. It’s telling that the BBFC re-rating has moved this from PG to a 12, sad…
The Human Centipede (2009) – Netflix
Not really a film I can recommend but if you want to see what all the fuss was about a couple of years back then it’s now on Netflix for all to see. The problem is that The Human Centipede can’t really ever get over its outrageous premise and despite one unpleasant scene it’s not really that bad and feels like director Tom Six is trying to emulate early David Cronenberg without the actual skill to do so. South Park episode ‘The Human Cent-iPAD’ is actually much better and does more with the premise. Tom Six then forgot all about the less is more approach and made a sequel which is so unpleasant as to be nearly unwatchable by anyone except the most disturbed basement dwelling horror fan.