Well the gloves are well and truly off. Netflix continues adding content like it’s competing for some kind of content adding prize by the end of 2012 and Lovefilm have stepped things up by adding TV shows that are essential parts of any genre geek’s education. Below are some of the best titles that would appeal to you but bear in mind that there are still a great many films and TV shows added that I can’t even begin to cover all of them. It’s also worth noting that if you have a console through which you choose to view Lovefilm, then not all titles are available through that app on your system of choice, you sometimes have to log on via a PC to view these. This is true at the moment for the TV series mentioned below.
YouTube for the moment remains only useful if you want to view films with titles like Alien Hunter…
Splinter (2008) – Netflix
Splinter stands out as one of the best straight to DVD films in recent memory. It’s essentially a horror film with a creature similar to The Thing except set in the countryside by a gas station with a similar something that assimilates anything it infects. It’s tense, exciting and features a strong performance from the underrated Shea Wigham. It’s a shame that director Toby Wilkins is stuck directing episodes of the Teen Wolf TV series as this shows real promise.
Mission Impossible 2 (2000) – Netflix
Although this is the worst of the Mission Impossible movies it’s still got some great things in it. John Woo brings his stylish eye to the franchise and it’s got all his trademark gunplay and bird fetishes that you would expect. It’s just not really about the spying and the elements that we would later come to love about this series are not really present, the team aspect is never really a factor as it’s all about Tom Cruise and his flowing locks with the other members of IMF barely present, also Thandie Newton is a pretty but weak love interest who seems to inspire major passion in the hero and villain. Still it gets worse when the finale decides to defy the laws of physics and the abilities of Cruise’s feet but it’s still great action filmmaking.
The Horde (2009) – Netflix
The Horde begins like the recent action sensation The Raid with a bunch of cops going to a high rise to take out the criminals that dominate the block. It then adds in a zombie apocalypse that is taking place outside and the cops and criminals have to team up to survive. It’s not bad but you never get to know any of the characters so it’s hard to care about them as they die. It just seems like one loud mouth ape getting mowed down after another. For violent zombie carnage though it’s hard to beat and features an eye watering scene in a kitchen.
The Fall (2006) – Netflix
Those people who have written off Tarsem Singh as a director who is all style and no substance clearly haven’t seen this film. Yes it has his trademark visual style but in this one he uses it just as fantasy sequences filmed in real locations around the world which gives the film a weight that his other efforts have lacked so far. The real thrust of this film is the beautiful relationship between a curious young girl and Lee Pace’s crippled and suicidal stuntman in ‘20s Hollywood when films were silent but no less hard work. It’s wonderfully acted by all concerned and this is what stays with you, the visuals are second fiddle to the characters. Shockingly this beautiful film about the power of imagination and love nearly didn’t get released.
Dollhouse: Seasons 1 & 2 (2009-10) – Lovefilm
Dollhouse is the series that disappointed a lot of Joss Whedon’s fans a few years back but managed to last a full two seasons before getting canned. The premise is fascinating; people have their memories wiped and are implanted with different personalities depending on their mission by a shadowy organisation equipped with some dangerous technology. There is something of an arc to each season with which to hang your hopes on but mostly it feels like a ‘mission of the week’ show. You can’t help thinking that the premise would have been better suited to a cable channel like HBO where they really could have gone to town with the mostly implied sauciness. Still worth a look.
Firefly (2002) – Lovefilm
After being on Netflix for a while, Joss Whedon’s much loved and mourned Firefly makes its debut on Lovefilm. If you are reading this it’s hard to imagine you haven’t seen this yet but even if you’re not typically a sci-fi nut then you should give it a whirl, it’s oddly addictive. Whedon’s space saga has great characters, great dialogue, a wonderful set up and the possibilities were endless. It’s also the reason Nathan Fillion was fan casted in everything for the last few years. Sadly it was not to be and the network killed it after half a season. Still, we got Serenity which closed the loop essentially and was a damn good film so it wasn’t a total loss.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1 (1997) – Lovefilm
The one that started it all is now on Lovefilm and not Netflix. It’s hard to imagine now but without Buffy we probably wouldn’t be enjoying half the shows we do now in the same way that they are told with season long arcs and on-going characters. Buffy started all that and came at the perfect time with teen centric films suddenly becoming big business again. The first season has problems but introduces the characters and the relationships that will develop and make you smile and cry in the coming years and gets better and better the further you get from it. In short – it’s essential television.
Flashforward (2009) – Lovefilm
Of all the Lost clones that have come and gone over the years, Flashforward was the stand out. Humanity blacks out for two minutes and everyone gets a glimpse of their future. The world is devastated and the subsequent story delves into the impact this has on people’s lives and the investigation into why it happened. It was actually pretty smart and well written and I didn’t make it the whole way to the end but it seemed like it was actually going to give some answers. Still better than most of the crap they made trying to imitate Lost.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) – Lovefilm
Between Back to the Future films, Robert Zemeckis made this loving homage to classic noir and the golden age of animation. I still can’t quite believe we ever got a film with both Disney and Warner Bros cartoon characters sharing the screen. This may have been aimed at kids but the plot is surprisingly dark and scary and the acting with the blend of animation is right on target. We have never gotten a sequel to this film because this one was so damn good that the next one became too important to screw up. Much imitated over the years but never bettered and the effects work is seamless.
American Movie (1999) – Netflix
Not really a horror movie but a documentary about making a horror movie which has to be seen to be believed. Like the best documentaries, American Movie has targets that could so easily have been scripted and acted but they are real people living real lives no matter how out of touch they may seem. Director Chris Smith simply had to show up and roll cameras on Mark Borchadt, the would be horror filmmaker whose enthusiasm exceeds his actual talent. It would have been easy to let this slide into a piss take except it’s not mean spirited at all, there is a lot of affection for not just Borchadt but his friends and family too; all of whom have their own little quirks. This is a celebration of the little guy and his dreams and dares you to do the same or better. Brilliant.
Body Double (1984) – Netflix
Brian De Palma’s Body Double was way ahead of its time. Essentially it’s another one of De Palma’s Hitchcock riffs, this time on Rear Window and finds itself going through a power drill death scene, a musical interlude with Frankie Goes to Hollywood and eventually finds itself in the seedy underbelly of the porn industry. All the while following an unemployed actor who may be a pervert or may just be a good man but the film keeps you guessing until the end. I think this film has been oddly influential in its time, Richard Kelly must have seen it and oddly enough elements of it are reminiscent of David Lynch’s most recent work. It may be overlong for what it is but it’s a fascinating and fun watch.
Stargate (1994) – Lovefilm
When I watched Prometheus recently I was struck by how similar it was to this film. I was partially disappointed in that film because it didn’t know if it was a horror or an intergalactic adventure. When Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s first epic SF collaboration came out in late ‘94 the genre was dead, there was nothing going on. People saw the trailer and then there was all this talk again of how much people loved Star Wars, understandably the film hit big at the box office and we ended up with Independence Day two years later. Stargate is tremendous fun, it has pacing issues but has some great stuff from Kurt Russell, James Spader and the missing presumed dead Jaye Davidson. At the time the writer and director talked up a trilogy which was then ruined when they took it to TV with Macgyver in the Kurt Russell role. I’ve always wondered where the series would have gone had we got two more films from the original creators.