Monday, 25 March 2013

New to Netflix UK - 25/03/13

This weeks cinematic offerings...

Rango - A pet chameleon, stranded in the desert, fancies himself a local hero when he vows to restore a communities water supply. Surprisingly decent animation that plays off the great clich├ęs of western movies with plenty of humour and plenty of memorable sequences.

Resident Evil: Extinction - Part three in the franchise that sees Alice teaming up with a band of human survivors in post-Apocalyptic Las Vegas. By this point you should know if you like these movies, though Extinction does have the better action sequences than it's two predecessors.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams - Documentary about the Chauvet Cave in France, home to the oldest (at the time) cave painting in the world. Only Herzog could bring such enthusiasm into creating a virtual tour of the world famous site that will inspire you to go see the thing for real.

Mongrels (TV) - Sitcom about a group of city-dwelling animals and the odd things they get up to. Series 1 of this cult favourite series is now available, which is sort of like an adult hybrid between Creature Comforts and The Muppets.

Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie - Two guys get a billion dollars to make a movie, only to waste it and find themselves having to make up the lost cash by doing up a shopping mall. Based on a US sketch comedy show that never made it to the the UK, the film has a few laughs but mostly it's full of gags that don't make much sense.

The Raid - A small task force of police raid the hideout of the local gangster but things turn bad quickly when the residents fight back. An extremely well made action movie that feels fresh and invigorating and doesn't shy from the violence.

When Harry Met Sally - Two friends explore their relationship together while resisting urges to take it to the next level. A charming and funny rom-com the features great performances from Crystal and Ryan.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

New to Netflix UK - 18/3/13

A few new additions to check out this week.

Archer (TV) - Series three has just been added which sees the hapless crew of ISIS get involved with Canadian terrorists, dead Italian politicians, Space Station and Burt Reynolds.Archer is one of the smartest and funniest animated shows around so if you haven't watched it, do so now.

Jackass 3.5 - Essentially a behind-the-scenes slash deleted scenes compilation that happens to run as long as the movie itself. Much better than the previous 'point five' versions of the movies offering up many more gross out gags.

The Woman - A lawyer brings home a feral girl where she is systematically abused by the entire family. Lucky McKee's controversial horror is not for the faint of heart, from the dark depictions of a family that sticks together to the raw message of justice at the end of the vicious and bloody finale.

Extras (TV) - An actor tries to get on with life knowing that he will never be more than a bit-player in the entertainment industry. You either love or hate Ricky Gervais however the series is chock-full of amazing cameos.

Blackadder (TV) - A 'historical' account of the Blackadder family with each series looking at the various devious schemes and ruses they concoct through different eras in British history. In terms of British comedy, you cannot go wrong with Blackadder; with lines upon lines of quotable insults and plenty of highly unusual characters.
[Also available is Blackadder's Christmas Carol, a very unique take on the Dickens' classic]

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Rant - How Can Netfix Improve It's Service to UK Audiences?

When Netflix first announced that they were bringing their online streaming service to UK shores, the general consensus was that it would usher in a revolution much in the same way it had in America (ie bring about the death of the rental stores...sorry Blockbusters). At the time the amount of online services for movies was severely limited, including LoveFilm which was pretty dreadful. No sooner was Netflix available however did everyone realise they has to work to keep their customers. Tesco's Blinkbox became a major player, LoveFilm finally expanded it's online collection ten fold and even Sky and BT set up rival companies.

So what can Netflix do to stand out from the crowd? Well for starters they can improve their catalogue, and I don't just mean by keeping up to date with new releases.

Netflix has the potential to become a historical archive for all the greatest shows and films from the yesteryears and yet the availability of the classics is very limited. Sure they have Fawlty Towers and Miss Marple but where's 'Allo 'Allo or On the Buses? Where's all those amazing Gerry Anderson shows that kids today should be watching or the original Hanna Barbera cartoons? How about some Carry On films or the Will Hay collection? Even some of the silent clowns like Laurel and Hardy or Mr Chaplin himself would be nice. I understand the need for licensing costs but if people knew that the great British crime shows they grew up with (The Sweeney, The Professionals, The Avengers etc) were all available under one simple subscription I'm sure they wouldn't think twice about signing up.

The American site has the right idea, offering their customers the Original Star Trek (films and TV show), Quantum Leap, Mission Impossible - but there's still so much out there just waiting to be added.

As well as tracking down long lost classics, Netflix should grab up the rights to films and shows unavailable in the UK (mostly due to low demand for physical copies). My main argument would go for the original Addams Family film which for some reason has never been officially released (despite it's sequel always being in stock). I've got a feeling this is due to a conflict in distribution rights but then why does it crop up on TV every now and then? I spend more time on the American site on account of they have films that never made it out here as well as obscure foreign classics (which actually surprised me).

Netflix UK has already done us a huge favour by streaming It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a show so niche in its audience that no UK network would air it. But it would be nice to see other shows make the list. King of the Hill, one of the greatest animated shows of all time, never made it past Series 5 on DVD here so why doesn't Netflix make the most of the situation (they do in America, despite all seasons being available on DVD out there)? Why don't they license out the rights to Malcolm in the Middle (a show which people still talk about) or The Job (the police sit-com-drama that was the predecessor to Rescue Me), again both already available in the US.

 What better way to attract customers than to offer them things they can't otherwise have.

This isn't a complete negative rant however as Netflix have made a positive leap in terms of getting involved with exclusive programming, namely House of Cards. Other than the fact the series is amazing in every possible way (the quality is up there with HBO), what made this series even better was that Netflix released every episode all at once for everyone. This wasn't just a one off however, with Eli Roth bringing out his Werewolf drama Hemlock Grove sometime later this year.

In addition to creating new shows, Netflix have also earned the respect of fans everywhere by bringing back to life Arrested Development. While it could be argued that the show ended at the right moment, there's no denying that the chance to see the Bluth family up to no good again is exciting all in itself. In addition to this, there's also rumours that they are looking to bring back Jericho as well as possibly Terriers (another show that never saw the light of day in the UK).

In the end, Netflix should seize the opportunity they have with the chance at building up the ultimate library of films and shows that both introduce new generations to classics as well as advertise rare and obscure titles, rather than just worry about getting the latest releases. I understand that there are some people refuse to watch anything that doesn't have a certain amount of special effects in it but the rest of us who appreciate entertainment shouldn't have to suffer as a result.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Trailer Time: The Hangover Part III, Much Ado About Nothing, After Earth

Three times the charm today with the new trailers circulating the web.

First up is the final conclusion to the Wolf Pack saga, which may or may not be good news depending on how well you welcomed Part II.

Initial reports for the story promised an event that would change the face of the world, with some speculation leading to an end-of-the-world scenario. Whether or not this is what happens has yet to be seen (certainly the line "Someone needs to burn this place to the ground" suggests a big event) however we have been promised that the plot will not mimic the events of the previous instalments. The film opens in the UK on May 24th.

Next up is that small movie Joss Whedon did immediately following his Avengers gig, his modern retelling of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

In terms of modern-interpretations of the Bard's plays, results have genuinely been positive (Romeo + Juliet, Coriolanus) and this looks to be no different. The choice to film it in black and white is a nice touch and it's nice to see so many faces from the Whedon alumni. The film opens June 14th.

Last up is the Will Smith/Will Smith Jr film set on a deserted earth.

I'm still sceptical as to how well this will pay off and the choice to not include Mr Shyamalan's name anywhere (while probably a good move) does not fill me with any hope. On a positive note, the film does look visually gorgous (the CGI animals could do with more work however) and I'm hoping that Stephan Gaghan's script (he of Traffic and Syriana fame) will give some depth to the story. The film opens June 7th.

New to Neflix UK - 11/03/13

I didn't expect to see many releases this week after last weeks bounty but it's nice to see some newer films making the collection.

The Hunger Games - To protect her younger sister a girl is forced to fight in the Hunger Games, a blood sport where children from every district fight to the death. A highly entertaining action film that does the book justice, mostly thanks to the highly charismatic performance by the lovely Jennifer Lawrence. (Note: Seek out the Extended Cut for a more brutal version of the film.)

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - A British man is called to help introduce the sport of fishing to the mostly water-free country of Yemen. By-the-books rom-com that doesn't really make the most of it's unusual story.

Headhunters - A headhunter finds himself in deep waters when he steals a painting from a ruthless mercenary. Exceptionally good action-thriller from Norway that puts most of the dreck coming out of Hollywood to shame.

Kaboom - The mundane life of a college student is changed forever after a night out goes severely wrong. Very bizarre story from Greg Araki which may annoy more viewers than win over.

Black Mirror (TV) - Charlie Brooker's darkly-sinister series that looks at what would happen in the future if technology was integrated into everyday. Each episode offers up some unique view points that shame us in our addiction to all things electronic.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (AKA Get The Gringo) - Finding himself in a Mexican prison, a professional thief must find a way out before the local crime lord and the men he stole money from kill him. An enjoyable, but throw-away, action film that sees Mel return to top form in the genre he once knew so well.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Trailer Time: Frances Ha

A trailer has surfaced for the new Noah Baumbach film, Frances Ha, which he wrote with Greta Gerwig (who also plays the titular character). The film follows Frances as she attempts to find direction in her life, even if the people around her don't understand her methods.

Very intriguing indeed. Baumbach films have always been hard to watch on account of the fact they often look at the darker side of human nature (Margot at the Wedding certainly stands out) but this film seems to project a much lighter tone.

The film has already screened to some people and it has currently had very positive reviews, with much of the praise for Miss Gerwig. No exact UK release date as of yet but it looks to be around the end of June.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

New to Netflix UK - 04/03/13

By the power of seems Netflix has finally heard our cries for more choice. Behold, the mighty hoard of movies now available.

Ghostbusters - A trio of friends start up a 'Pest Control' agency for paranormal entities only to find themselves the only defence against the end of the world. Aside from my shockingly bad synopsis, it still remains one of the greatest fantasy-comedies of all times and if you haven't seen it yet, go and see it; if you have, why not watch it again?

Snatch - The story of a stolen diamond and the various criminals and low-life's who enter its' possession. Debate still rages as to whether or not this is better than Lock Stock (or just a more expensive remake) however there's still plenty of charm and humour to be found from the well-written dialogue and cleverly devised plot twists.

Pitch Black - The survivors from a crashed spaceship place their trust in a notorious criminal to get them to safety before the planet's carnivorous creatures get them. While a few people have complained that the plot is too generic, there's no denying that there is still a lot of thrills to be had and Vin Diesel steals the show as the anti-hero Riddick.

Weird Science - A group of teens create the perfect woman to help them climb the school social ladder. Classic John Hughes comedy that, despite it's odd premise, still manages to sustain the warmth and heart associated with his movies.

Me, Myself and Irene - A police office fights for his sanity as his alter-ego threatens to destroy his life. Typical Farrelly Brother comedy which has a few laughs but overall doesn't amount to much else than watching Jim Carrey scream for 90 minutes.

Forrest Gump - A mentally challenged man recounts his extra-ordinary life-story as he waits for the bus. This is one of the best fictional biographies ever committed to film, combining both humour and heart-felt drama, and Tom Hanks gives one of his best performances of his already amazing career.

The Tudors (TV) - Racy retelling of regal life during Henry VIII. While the strength and pacing of episodes vary it's still a worthwhile watch with the acting excellent all round.

Heathers - A girl trying to become part of the popular crew at school befriends a rebel who has a much more sinister way to make her popular. A brilliant pitch-black satire of high school politics with great writing and a devious plot.

Ali G InDaHouse - Big screen adaptation of Baron Cohen's infamous Staines 'gangsta' who finds himself elected as an MP to save a leisure centre. It's no way near as good as the TV series but there's still amusement to be had in watching Ali ruin the government.

Barton Fink - A novelist finds himself dragged into the hell that is Hollywood after he's hired to write a screenplay. A Cohen Brother cult classic, John Tuturro shines as the tortured Barton who finds himself in increasingly odd and sinister situations.

Rain Main - Arguably one of the Cruisters best roles, the dynamic between him and the equally brilliant Dustin Hoffman help to shape this unusual road-trip movie.

Bad Boys - Two detectives with questionable methods find themselves bodyguards to a girl who witnessed the actions of a dangerous criminal. It's a love-it-or-hate-it film, as per Mr Bay's normal standards, but the banter between Smith and Lawrence is always very funny and it is enough to fulfil your weekly quota of explosions and mayhem.

Six Degrees of Separation - A young man lets himself into the lives of a wealthy couple, but is he who he says he is? A big-screen transfer from the play, the film still manages to provide enough laughs and intrigue to keep you watching until the end.

Punch-Drunk Love - A troubled man juggles his problems as he starts a new relationship and is extorted by a mattress salesman. Evidence that Sandler can indeed act, this offbeat rom-com from Paul Anderson is a joy to watch.

Do The Right Thing - Racial tensions run high in a Brooklyn neighbourhood during a heatwave as everyone's deep-seated problems finally surface. Spike Lee, never afraid to stir up controversy, presents a shockingly brutal look at racism in America.

Seven Years in Tibet - A hitch-hiker befriends the Dalai Lama during the Chinese takeover of Tibet. The story isn't as grandiose as when it was presented in the book but it's still a well made adaptation that's also a wonderful visual treat.

The Patriot - A farmer turns military leader following the death of his son at the hands of the British in colonial America. It may be slightly over long but the action is well shot and Mel plays the part well enough to make it a good movie for a Saturday night.

Serpico - An honest cop goes undercover to expose the corruption in his police department. The combination of Lumet and Pacino results in this riveting and powerful crime drama that still holds up even today.

Balto - A half-dog/half-wolf goes against all odds to save Alaska from a large environmental threat. It's one for the kids.

Jarhead - A sniper finds himself in Iraq during the first Gulf War but it's not what he expected. Largely overlooked when it was released, Sam Mendes' contribution to war films is one of the best in recent memory mostly thanks to a great cast but also due to it's depiction of what modern warfare is really about.

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days - A woman, with the help of her best friend, seeks out an abortion in 1980's Romania despite them being highly illegal. This dark and disturbing movie, while not an easy watch, presents a highly critical look at the Socialist government that ruled with an iron fist in Romania.

The French Lieutenant's Woman - A man engaged to be married dives into an affair with another woman; meanwhile the actors playing the roles find themselves in a similar situation. The film-within-a-film technique may prove to be too much for some however it's still a decent attempt to adapt the book for a modern audience.

A Passage to India - A study of the racial tensions in colonial India when a woman accuses an Indian doctor of rape. David Lean's final film is a magnificent spectacle to behold with stunning cinematography and a fantastic cast, all while offering a critical view of life in India under the British Empire.

Friday the 13th (parts V to VIII) - There are people who like these movies...apparently...