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The HeyUGuys Instant Watching Guide – January 6th 2014

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Man is there a lot of new content on streaming services this week. There are literally hundreds of new titles available for your viewing pleasure, I couldn’t possibly have written about all of it because I would be writing into next week! Just know that there is something there for everyone whether your bag is comedy, drama, action or horror.

Most impressively this week, Netflix have stepped up to the plate and unleashed a full load of good stuff. They have also announced that they are going to add an audio commentary to their original show House of Cards, which can only be good news for those holding on to their physical media love and may mean that this most valuable of DVD extras is not going away but will instead be reborn in a different guise.

This week’s new titles are as follows:

 Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-Chris-Pine-and-Zachary-Quinto

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Last year’s sequel to JJ Abrams brilliant reboot of the Star Trek franchise is possibly the most frustrating film I have ever seen. The first hour and a bit is absolutely brilliant with all the action, charm and spectacle you would expect moving at a lunatic pace. The film even has a pretty decent idea at its core when the key values of Starfleet and the spirit of exploration are put to the side when paranoia and the shadow of war arise and a military force is prepared for a pre-emptive strike against the Klingon Empire. Peter Weller is his usual brilliant self as the head villain of this conundrum and has enough shades of grey to be compelling and somewhat relevant to the present day. It’s who Weller’s character is pursuing that is the problem.

There is a reveal with regards to Benedict Cumberbatch’s John Harrison character which was kept secret but which everyone guessed anyway and when it happens the film loses me a bit. Then watching it again you realise just how pointless this reveal was as it makes no real difference to the plot. To make things worse, JJ Abrams and his writers go and wholesale remake a classic scene from an earlier Trek movie and then the film loses me completely. The film ends on something of a whimper and all the good work JJ and co have done is completely ruined.

It’s like they were too scared to carry on in the manner they were going (which was great) lost their nerve and decided they had to needlessly harken back to an earlier time when really there was no need and the film is a lesser experience because of it. Fingers crossed that whoever comes on board for Star Trek 3 carries on in the spirit of reinvention so successfully laid down in 2009.

Available on NOW TV

big-ass-spider

Big Ass Spider (2013)

Considering this only came out on DVD on Christmas Eve, this is an amazingly quick turnaround for a film to arrive on streaming, and a film that happens to be quite good too. Basically the title says it all, you get a gigantic spider running amok in L.A as Greg Grunberg’s unlucky in love pest controller and his new Hispanic partner battle to keep it from getting any bigger and eating all of the citizens.

The effects work isn’t that great as its considerably lower budget than the money that would do the idea justice, it’s adequate however and the spider is quite well rendered. Frankly it makes all of the work of The Asylum and the SyFy network look like kids drawings and those guys could learn a thing or two from Mike Mendez’ s film which not only has the ludicrous monster thing but also has jokes and character to boot.

Big Ass Spider is probably great post pub viewing on a Friday or Saturday night.

Available on Lovefilm/Amazon

Olympus-Has-Fallen-Quad-Poster-UK

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

The first Die Hard in the White House film to be released last year was this Gerard Butler starring effort with Aaron Eckhart as the president who is taken hostage by some nasty North Korean’s. Butler plays a haunted former secret service agent having failed to prevent the first ladies death but he is pressed back into service when the Koreans impressively attack Washington DC and march into the big house.

It’s violent, it’s ridiculous and it is not without its charms. Think less Die Hard and more the Under Siege films.

Available on Netflix

Michael Shannon in The Iceman

The Iceman (2012)

The true story of contract killer and family man Richard Kuklinski may have a chilling central performance by the great Michael Shannon, it may have a brilliant cast including Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, James Franco and Ray Liotta and it has the period detail all very authentically presented. However this is one of those true life stories that feels a little incomplete and Ariel Vromen’s film seems like a highlights reel from a remarkable yet terrifying life with little connecting the events we see.

I’m sure there was a larger overhanging story to be told here that would have connected all of the harsh violence and Goodfellas like dialogue. Still much to recommend this film, it’s not cheery viewing but the performances and action keep it afloat.

Available on Netflix

Jason-Statham-Hummingbird

Hummingbird (2013)

Hummingbird. It’s called Hummingbird and was released here as Hummingbird and yet for some reason on Netflix it has its US title of Redemption. Regardless, it’s the same film.

Jason Statham plays a homeless army veteran on the run in London who one day whilst fleeing attackers happens to invade a wealthy man’s apartment who is away on business for the summer. Whilst there, his on-the-streets companion is brutally murdered and Statham vows to find her killer. He becomes an enforcer for the Chinatown triads in order to learn more about the murderer’s identity. During this time he bonds with a nun who volunteers at a homeless shelter and starts to come around to the realisation that there is more to life and face up to the demons that led him to the streets.

Many wrote this off sight unseen, Jason Statham acting?!?! How dare he! But the truth is this is actually very good with Statham giving a great performance with vulnerability and a great well of sadness and anger under his frown. This goes hand in hand with his usual burly action film self and somehow it just works really well. The relationship with Agata Buzek’s nun is compelling and although she may abandon her principles a little too freely, she and Statham have considerable chemistry and because of this the film becomes less about wishing Statham would take vengeance and more about hoping he won’t so he can start a life with her and become the good person he really is inside. A great feature directing debut from writer Steven Knight.

Available on Netflix

Bruce-Willis-and-Jai-Courtney-in-A-Good-Day-to-Die-Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

It may have been a good day to die hard but it was a bad time in the cinema for everyone else. Last month I actually got into a conversation with someone who preferred this to Die Hard 4.0 and yet director John Moore makes 4.0 director Len Wiseman look like Orson Welles in comparison.

Everything good about this franchise has been tossed aside in favour of an empty, cynical, by-the-numbers plot for more money. Jai Courtney as John McClane’s son is actually the best thing about this film so you know it’s bad. John McClane goes from vulnerable yet tough everyman in the first to arrogant and obnoxious man on holiday looking for trouble who thinks nothing about jumping off a high building.

Note how in the first he reluctantly jumped off the top of a skyscraper with a hose wrapped around him? Here he just goes for that window, that sums up the problems here.

Available on NOW TV

LEE DANIELS - THE PAPERBOY-47.DNG

The Paperboy (2012)

It’s sort of hard to fathom how between Precious and The Butler, Lee Daniels made this sweaty and bizarre film noir which made critics howl with derision when it came out.

I can’t really recall the actual plot except that it had something to do with Nicole Kidman’s femme fatale being locked in an affair with John Cusack’s imprisoned murderer who may or may not have done it and reporter Matthew McConaughey investigating this whilst his brother Zac Efron fantasises about Kidman and she pisses on him (literally). Oh and Macy Gray narrates this and you can’t really understand her.

As far as I remember this wasn’t that bad but had a confusing tone and felt more like watching some kind of tabloid TV show on E4, its bad and you know it and yet you are compelled to watch. The Paperboy somehow manages to look more grindhouse than any of the grindhouse imitators over the last few years which adds to the whole sleazy air of the thing.

Available on Netflix

Arbitrage Richard Gere Nate Parker

Arbitrage (2012)

Richard Gere plays a wealthy but morally dubious man under investigation who is about to complete a major sale of a secretly worthless company who is then embroiled in a drink driving accident where his mistress is killed and the subsequent cover up.

Nicholas Jarecki’s film is never less than gripping but is less of a narrative and more of a character study as Gere’s character squirms and lies and works his way out of trouble. It’s like Michael Clayton except without any hope or redemptive arc and a timely look at those with the money and the power. A great supporting cast including Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling back Gere up in his award nominated turn.

Available on Netflix

Drug War

Drug War (2012)

Johnnie To’s latest film has your typical Hong Kong plot that we have seen in everything from Hard Boiled to Infernal Affairs with a cop busting a criminal who then agrees to lead the cop to the very top of the food chain in the Hong Kong drug trade.

To abandons his usual flair for the slow motion gun fight in favour of something far more immediate and alarming with the violence being less choreographed and stylised and more sudden and organic. The scenes of gun violence are just as thrilling as anything To has done and his film is full of great performances and twists and turns.

If you are new to the films of Johnnie To, this probably isn’t the best place to start but it’s a great stand out film in his roster and probably his best for a few years.

Available on Lovefilm/Amazon

Fire With Fire

Fire with Fire (2012)

As bad as Bruce Willis is in the latest Die Hard film, at least there he was ill-served by the writers and studio, Fire with Fire is a reminder that Willis has been able to hit lows recently that didn’t seem possible ten years ago.

Bland Josh Duhamel plays a fireman who witnesses a white supremacist commit a murder and enters the witness protection program where he begins an affair with an adequate Rosario Dawson. Willis is the useless and overacting cop who oversees this mess but when the baddies get to Duhamel, he has to get violent and he pukes a lot whilst doing violence to bad people.

It’s the kind of plot that would have been old hat going straight to video in the 90s and the moral conundrums they try and throw in like they are making a film in South Korea are meaningless because they are performed by a woeful cast just collecting a pay check. The result is a tedious slog. One to avoid.

Available on NOW TV

Vehicle 19

Vehicle 19 (2012)

Sadly now one of Paul Walker’s last films was this straight to DVD effort which had a really interesting gimmick and showed that although he was never the greatest actor, Walker was really into fresh ideas and taking risks. In Vehicle 19, Walker plays a former car thief who travels to South Africa to reunite with his lost love and ends up in a rental car that is being used to carry out various misdeeds. Walker is trapped carrying out the wishes of the bad guys in his vehicle otherwise his girl gets it.

Once Walker gets into the car, the whole rest of the film takes place inside it with the camera only peering out through the windows at the carnage going on outside as Walker carries out his mission and tries to get out of it at the same time. For the most part it works, but then the film goes on for far too long and loses steam. Still Vehicle 19 is an interesting diversion.

Available on Lovefilm/Amazon

Small Apartments

Small Apartments (2012)

Jonas Ackerlund’s Spun was an underrated and energetic drug film in the wave of drug cinema we got in the early part of last decade. After the disappointing Horseman, Small Apartments finds Akerlund back to his ‘style’ with the story of a bunch of misfits living in a run-down apartment block controlled by an asshole landlord.

The cast includes Matt Lucas, Johnny Knoxville, Juno Temple, James Marsden, Billy Crystal, Peter Stormare and Dolph Lundgren…..as a famous psychiatrist. For most of the running time we focus on Matt Lucas’ strange loner who has a fondness for a specific type of orange soda and walking around in just his pants as he tries to get rid of a body, then suddenly when the film feels almost over we squeeze in Knoxville’s stoner and Billy Crystal’s troubled detective.

Then the film just sort of stops and it feels like this possible Pulp Fiction for the weirdoes lost half an hour somewhere. The other problem is one of tone with the quirk not really matching Akerlund’s scuzzy mescaline vision mis-en-scene. The result is characters that are supposed to be appealing coming across as unlikeable and filthy. There are one or two laughs but this feels like it would have been better in the hands of someone else and would feel less like Neveldine/Taylor remaking Magnolia.

Available on Lovefilm/Amazon

ATM

ATM (2012)

Missing Christmas by about a week, ATM is a film set on Christmas Eve in the midst of an office Christmas party when unlikeable Josh Peck, Brian Geraghty and Alice Eve as the girl they both fancy, head to one of those booths in a car park that they have cash machines in in the US.

Once inside they are trapped by a hooded killer outside who blocks their escape. ATM has a good idea in the recent glut of sweaty single location thrillers but feels like it does little with it and has characters behaving very stupidly and some set pieces stretch credibility considerably. You could do worse however and ATM is a safe bet if you have watched everything else.

Available on Netflix

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES - Johnny Depp

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

I’m not of the opinion that the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is without scope for improvement or good sequels, there are literally hundreds of stories you could tell in that world. The problem with this fourth film is that is too beholden to what has come before and sticking to a formula rather than being its own thing and taking any risks.

So there is a romantic young star-crossed lovers subplot shoe horned in needlessly with sub-par actors who don’t convince as well as other call backs to the first three films surrounding Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow and the result is an overlong, boring and dull re-tread which could have been great. Still this made millions of dollars but curiously it’s been very quiet with regards to a Pirates 5. Hmmmmmm.

Available on Netflix

Californication

Californication Season Five (2012)

In case you don’t know, Californication is the Showtime networks comedy drama about Hank Moody (played by David Duchovny) a writer from New York who moves to California with his wife and child and finds his life a mess of addiction to women and booze. As the show has gone on, it’s become less about Hank trying to reconcile with the love of his life played by Natasha McElhone and more about the sexual comedy and faux pas of his agent and his agent’s ex-wife.

At this point the show is now more about gratuitous flesh and sex, it’s literally non-stop and yet somehow I cannot stop watching it because the core mission of Hank getting back with his wife compels me ever onwards despite the show really getting worse and worse as it goes along and becoming the TV equivalent of 70’s sex comedies made in the UK starring Robin Askwith. It’s junk TV to be sure and sometimes that’s just exactly what you need and it could be worse, you could be watching reality TV.

Available on Netflix

dead silence

Dead Silence (2007)

James Wan’s underrated horror film from 2007 now seems like a dry run for Insidious and The Conjuring; it has very similar ideas and a commitment to creepy puppets. It’s a wonderfully retro tale of an evil ventriloquist and the town she cursed as well as her ghost coming back to collect the tongues of the towns folk who wronged her.

It curiously has an out-of-place finale aping Saw and some of the scares are not as well-timed as Wan’s later films but this is still a superior horror movie that deserves more love.

Available on Netflix

A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly (2006) 

Philip K.Dick’s original novel is my favourite book of all time and so I approached Richard Linklater’s film with caution. Although it is absolutely a faithful adaptation of the book, I don’t feel that Linklater nails the tone completely.

The book is actually quite funny as well as sad with the comedy 80% and the horror 20%. With the film Linklater goes back the other way with the misery being 80% of the film which makes A Scanner Darkly a quite depressing watch especially with Dick’s coda from the book being tagged on the end, reminding you that these were based on real people who lost themselves to drugs.

With the decision to rotoscope animate the film that Linklater shot live action, he really gets the hallucinogenic and fragile reality of the book and gets the best out of Keanu Reeves, Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr who all clearly love the source material. Not an easy watch but at least they didn’t turn it into an action movie.

Available on Lovefilm/Amazon

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Chopper (2000)

Remember Eric Bana? Remember how good he was in this film? The debut film from director Andrew Dominik, who would go on to impress again with Brad Pitt and a considerable amount of time between his projects, Chopper is the tale of real life outlaw and probably insane person Mark “Chopper” Read who wreaked havoc on criminals and then wrote a best seller in prison about his possibly real and possibly imaginary exploits.

The good thing about Chopper is that it’s completely balanced between showing Chopper as a despicable person and also something of a folk hero, it makes no judgements either way and the filmmaking technique and performance on display make it a real stand out from the crowd in crime cinema. The last shot of the film is superb and sums up the character completely without ever feeling heavy-handed.

Available on Netflix

Wayne’s World

Wayne’s World (1992)

The music may have aged and fashion may have moved on but the comedy and spirit lives on in the Wayne’s World films and Mike Myers and Dana Carvey remain hugely appealing comedy leads. Wayne’s World is still very very funny and set the template for the comedy that Myers would go on to make his own brand in the Austin Powers films.

Sad to see that over twenty years later Carvey has gone into obscurity and Myers has started to retreat into a weird rumoured control freak shell. The underrated sequel is also available on Now TV if you have time.

Available on Netflix

who-framed-roger-rabbit

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

Animation geek nirvana is here represented by Robert Zemeckis 1988 film when he was on a roll pushing boundaries and effects technology with each new film and redefining the blockbuster. This has Disney, Looney Tunes and vintage characters together as well as some new creations in what must have been a licensing nightmare.

The good news is that the noir meets cartoons style still holds up in a relatively complex conspiracy tale with Bob Hoskins teaming up with an animated rabbit when he is framed for the murder of a powerful studio head. Sadly the toons during wartime sequel never got made despite everyone loving the script, maybe one day…

Available on Netflix

Coming to America

Coming to America (1988)

Admittedly when you think of classic Eddie Murphy films, over a thirty year career you can count his best on one hand. Coming to America is definitely among them though and has Murphy practicing his thing of playing more than one character under heavy make-up, most memorably during the energetic and hilarious barber shop sequences.

This film was ahead of its time as it was very rare in the 80s to get the perfect balance of silliness with a traditional rom com plot in one film but Coming to America manages this effortlessly and is all the better for it.

Available on Netflix

The Blues Brothers 3

The Blues Brothers (1980)

The third in this week’s celebration of Saturday Night Live alumni on Netflix, The Blues Brothers celebrates the talent of Dan Aykroyd and the late great John Belushi and their comedy styling’s as well as the music that they love so much. This was made during a time when director John Landis was on a creative streak and the comedy is still funny and the music still brilliant.

Flopped on release but went on to become a massive cult with the pre-requisite sequel twenty years later forgetting why we all liked the original in the first place.

Available on Netflix

PPV

Available this week on the pay and rent for 24 hours streaming services are the following titles:

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The Way Way Back (2013)

If I could go back and re-write my top ten of 2013 then this would feature for sure. Rivalling The Kings of Summer for the best coming of age tale for many a moon, The Way Way Back directed by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon follows a shy introverted kid who is forced away for the summer with his belligerent new step father and his mother and step sister.

Whilst away the kid discovers a water park and gets in there with the management and gets a job, he subsequently learns a lot about himself and comes alive. Remember those holidays you went on as a kid reluctantly that only got good as time went on and you got to know the girls and boys around you and then suddenly it was time to go home?

The Way Way Back captures that feeling wonderfully and is a nostalgic and moving treat with great performances especially from Sam Rockwell as the local hero and an against type Steve Carell as a real dick head. Simple and brilliant, I love this film.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies/Blinkbox

Insidious 2

Insidious Chapter 2 (2013)

After the triumph of The Conjuring it was perhaps inevitable that a month later, James Wan’s next film would be something of a come down. Doubly disappointing was the fact that it was a sequel to Insidious which was pretty great.

This sequel isn’t a bad film, its relatively fun and picks up where the first left off but it delves into an aspect of the first and explains away a lot of the surreal terror in the first film rendering a lot of this toothless and then goes for a Psycho like killer story instead of a truly terrifying exploration of otherworldly evil. It’s not Blair Witch 2 but it’s not as good as it could have been.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies

Under the Bed

Under the Bed (2012)

Director Steven C.Miller made the brilliant The Aggression Scale a couple of years ago which had tremendous energy and confidence. This follow up has been showing to mixed reviews at some film festivals and is now available to rent.

Despite the mixed word of mouth, this looks like it’s a real throwback to 80s kid centric horror like The Gate and The Monster Squad with two brothers doing battle with a monster under their bed. Whatever the quality of the film, this will appeal to a whole swathe of film fans in their thirties on a nostalgia level if nothing else.

Available on EE/Film4OD/Virgin Movies

you're next

You’re Next (2011)

Adam Wingard’s keen take on the home invasion film follows up his fine work in the horror genre and is a tension-filled slasher film which refuses to play to expectations. The film concerns itself with a family gathering in a remote vacation house and then some very nasty things happening to them there. It is a simple set-up, made all the more effective by the fun Wingard and his writer Simon Barrett have with their family dynamic before the blood starts to flow.

It is this reeling in of the audience which doesn’t so much attach us to the characters as make us interested in their fates, something which any decent horror should do if at all possible. A well-told tale with an impressive new genre star in Sharni Vinson, You’re Next is worth making time for.

Available on Blinkbox

JL