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The HeyUGuys Instant Watching Guide – November 11th 2013

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The big news this week, that you have no doubt heard by now, is that Netflix has partnered up with Marvel Studios to bring us no less than four exclusive series’ based on their characters in 2015. Those characters are Daredevil (which I always thought would work better on TV), Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.

Now, Iron Fist was in development for years as a film so they have a head start but I would have liked to have seen Luke Cage on the big screen and I am only vaguely familiar with Jessica Jones. The intention is that each of them will have their own 13 episode run before teaming up in a Defenders mini-series.

So what does this mean for Netflix? This is an epic win basically and means that regardless of exclusives or new content over the next year, they are going to remain in the game until 2015 and will no doubt see a boost in subscriptions that year. Considering they are adding their content all the time lately and that they are planning on world domination, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Disney outright buy Netflix shortly either.

Let us hope and pray that they attach the right creative people to these projects and that the result is more Orange is the New Black than Hemlock Grove.

This week we have fairly slim pickings. Two great films from late last year, an underrated gem from this year, a Christmas classic and some modern classics to enjoy:

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Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film is again about conflict in the middle east but this time the action is less visceral than The Hurt Locker and more cerebral as it follows the almost decade long hunt for Osama Bin Laden and his assassination. Much like David Fincher’s Zodiac, this follows one socially awkward but incredibly driven character played brilliantly by Jessica Chastain and raises a lot of questions about the how, the why and the why didn’t this happen five years ago. We will probably never know how close this film is to what actually took place, but there must be some element of truth in it somewhere and even that kernel provokes thought. Wonderfully written and mounted, despite a somewhat rushed production, this deserves to stand up and be counted amongst the best depictions of the troubled times we live in.

Available on NOW TV

Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi

Life of Pi (2012)

Undoubtedly my favourite film of 2012, Life of Pi is a wonderful, spirited adventure that can change how you look at stories and the world in general. Ang Lee takes the unfilmable book and somehow manages to place it on-screen intact where other directors failed. That this didn’t end in disaster is testament to the fact that Lee will probably go down as the most versatile director of the modern age. Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan do a wonderful job of depicting both the younger Pi Patel and the elder, as they recount the tale of when they were stranded on a life raft with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Even on the smaller screen, this is a beautiful film and the message isn’t lost or diluted at all. It may sound hyperbolic but I can imagine as we become more enlightened as a species (hopefully) this film and book will become very important.

Available on Now TV

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The Kings of Summer (2013)

Jordan Vogt-Roberts debut feature is already underrated sadly as it was given such a short and minor cinema release over here before coming out on DVD and Blu. Those in the know are no doubt already preparing a top ten of 2013 and it will likely include this wonderful coming of age story. The film that The Kings of Summer gets compared to most is Stand by Me and it does share some similarities. It feels more of its own thing though and follows the wish fulfilment fantasy of young Joe deciding to move out and live in the woods one summer with his two friends in a house they build. Of course young love intervenes and splits the kids whilst they learn something about responsibility. This independent feature is so strong in everything from acting to cinematography and writing that it feels like people should be shouting about it far more than they are. Thanks to its quick release to a streaming service and Lovefilm’s continued admirable support of the little guy, this may well find a larger audience by years end.

Available on Lovefilm

The ABCs of Death

The ABCs of Death (2013)

This horror anthology of several short films designed around one letter and method of death is a very mixed bag. Some of it is amazing like Jason Eisener’s very personal music video Y for Youngblood, and Marcel Sarmiento’s slow motion dogfight for the letter D. Some of it probably pushed the censors to the limit because L is for Libido is possibly the most shocking thing I have ever seen. Sadly despite some directors pushing their meagre budget to the limit and producing some great work, we still get things like Ti West’s M is for Miscarriage, Noboru Iguchi’s F is for Fart and others that feel pointless and contrived. Skipping chapters hasn’t always been the easiest thing on streaming but hopefully someone somewhere online has made a list that will highlight those segments actually worth watching here so you can navigate through to the good stuff.

Available on Netflix

Green Lantern Banner

Green Lantern (2011)

DC and Warner Bros misfire from 2011 isn’t as bad as you have heard, in fact it’s quite fun but like a lot of Ryan Reynolds big budget efforts, its let down by its mixed tone. Green Lantern is a pretty silly superhero able to conjure anything from cosmic green light and his weakness being the colour yellow. It makes it difficult to prevent a film from descending into parody because of his powers so sometimes Green Lantern comes across as a higher budget and grittier version of The Mask. At one point in its development the rumour was that it would be a Mask like comedy with Jack Black in the lead. When the action is in space amongst the aliens controlling the Green Lantern Corps and Mark Strong’s Sinestro then the film works best. When it comes back down to Earth is where it stumbles and includes the tired old chestnut of some whirling energy field coming to destroy the planet. Still a lot of this is quite fun and if it had made more money then they wouldn’t be talking about a reboot because Reynolds is actually spot on as Hal Jordan.

Available on Lovefilm

Elf-Will-Ferrell

Elf (2003)

Elf has now become a perennial Christmas favourite and NOW TV has added it to their roster just in time for the big day. This was probably the film that broke Will Ferrell through into the mainstream as well as director Jon Favreau who would go on to put Marvel Studios on the map. It’s a heart-warming and hilarious tale of an elf that is actually a human and grows up around the other Christmas elves not knowing this. When he finds out he sets off for New York City to find his real dad and all sorts of fish out of water comedy ensues along with Christmas cheer. It’s really really good and doesn’t descend into crass commercialism like most Christmas movies that come out and disappear very quickly.

Available on NOW TV

Dumb and Dumber

Dumb and Dumber (1994)

It has taken them twenty years but they are finally making a proper sequel to this film with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels back on board as the dumb as a post Harry and Lloyd. Dumb and Dumber To will be on our screens in 2014 but meanwhile you can enjoy this first film all over again. Probably the first comedy I saw in the cinema that had me laughing non-stop the whole way through, Dumb and Dumber is still very funny and manages to wring a lot of mileage out of the simple premise of two stupid guys on a road trip. At the time this was fairly assassinated for its lowest common denominator ambitions and was heralded as the dumbing down of America. Then the Grown Ups films happened; now it seems like the work of the Marx brothers.

Available on NOW TV

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Goodfellas (1990)

When I was watching The Iceman recently it revealed to me that nearly 25 years later Scorsese’s brilliant rags to riches to rags tail of mob rat Henry Hill is still influencing filmmakers but has been diluted over many imitations. This was like a bolt from the blue when it first came out and took the mob film and shook it up with a unique style, whirling camera work, amazing soundtrack and some clever use of voice over. Up until this point gangster films had all been fairly mournful affairs but this showed the glamour and the danger and sexed it up with a breakthrough performance from Ray Liotta as well as a terrifying Joe Pesci and great Robert De Niro. Goodfellas was subsequently homaged and ripped off through everything from Boogie Nights to Blow and The Simpsons. Despite the actors involved having seen their careers peak here and then slide somewhat, Goodfellas hasn’t aged a day and remains a landmark in cinema.

Available on NOW TV

The Shining Still 2

The Shining (1980)

Although they missed the ideal Halloween window with this one, documentary Room 237 is still available on Lovefilm so you could watch both that and this, the inspiration back to back if you wish. I go back and forth on The Shining. When I first saw it when I was 12 it was amazing, then I watched it again and it felt long and overrated. Then I saw it on Blu-Ray and fell in love all over again. The simple fact is that this is not Stephen King’s book and since I found that out I went off it a bit as I was exposed more and more to King’s writing over the years. Taken on its own terms though The Shining is pretty unique in that it was Kubrick’s only true horror film and his detached and stark style actually works to create an atmosphere of isolation and a descent into madness that only brilliant Jack Nicholson can keep up with.

Available on Lovefilm

VOD /PPV

Available this week on the on demand streaming services where you pay to rent for 24 hours are the following:

Pacific-Rim-Idris-Elba

Pacific Rim (2013)

In a summer which was perhaps the most divisive ever Pacific Rim was another case of nerds vs audiences x critics = middling success. Even if Pacific Rim had lived up to its wonderful premise (which it does mostly) it still wouldn’t have been the box office bonanza everyone hoped it would be for the simple reason that this summer the public decided they were sick of the big blockbuster. Every film that came out got fairly good reviews on the Monday, followed by a poisonous backlash on the Friday. Pacific Rim’s backlash took longer to happen because the film is so much damn fun but will likely lose something on the smaller screen where the cracks will show. There is some substance under the style to do with the ‘drift’ mechanism where two Jaeger pilots are linked through memories. This mostly takes a back seat to the robot vs kaiju carnage though. Still just the most fun time at the cinemas over the summer though.

Available on EE/Virgin Movies/ Film4OD

The Great Gatsby 2

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Like most of Baz Luhrmann’s recent films, his version of the F.Scott Fitzgerald novel met with mixed feelings when it debuted this summer. Critics were baffled but audiences did show up in further proof that Leonardo Di Caprio can really bring them in. Luhrmann’s version of the story highlights the excess and the glamour of the rich haunted man’s life and uses a modern soundtrack full of decadent numbers by today’s pop artists. Like most of Luhrmann’s work this sounds like a love it or hate it affair with no doubt another great Di Caprio performance and sterling support from Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire.

Available on EE/Virgin Movies/Film4OD

Monsters-University

Monsters University (2013)

Another summer film that divided people. Early reports on Pixar’s sequel to their 2001 hit had people describing it as Revenge of the Nerds with monsters and were pretty positive on that front. Then when the film came out a lot of people found it a disappointment. It still made money and still managed to be far funnier than most live action comedy that came out this year. Though this is something of a return to form for Pixar after a couple of disappointing years, you can’t help but think that the shine is fading from their pre-film bouncy lamp. Still should keep the kids happy for an hour and a bit.

Available on EE/Virgin Movies/Film4OD