Empire On Demand (July)

Empire’s pick of the 10 best movies to download or stream in July

Drive (2011), Netflix

DriveSquaresFor his second English-language feature, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn took a carload of movie conventions, from Westerns, pulp and film noir, strapped Ryan Gosling into the driver’s seat, added a faux-‘80s sheen, and hit the gas – and created an instant classic. In a star-making role, Gosling oozes Steve McQueen-cool as the movie stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver, Carey Mulligan shines as a damsel in distress, and Albert Brooks makes a menacing villain, proving that a clown isn’t funny in the moonlight. Watch, re-watch, then play on a loop until someone makes a cooler film – but don’t hold your breath.

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011), Sky Movies (from July 13)
Michael Bay must wonder what all the fuss is about – “It’s just two hours of CCTV and then somebody slams a door!” Watching at home with the lights off may actually be the scariest way to experience the found-footage ‘chillogy’, the third instalment of which is an ‘80s-set prequel from Catfish directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Makes going straight to bed afterwards a creepy challenge.

The Change-Up (2011), Sky Movies (from July 20)
When a married-with-kids lawyer (Jason Bateman) magically switches bodies with his feckless, womanising best bud (Ryan Reynolds), hilarity only sporadically ensues, as Hangover writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore too often chase the scatological in preference to the comical. Bateman and Reynolds make the most of the material, however, and Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde and Alan Arkin offer support worthy of a superior film.

Cowboys & Aliens (2011), Sky Movies (from July 13)
James Bond and Indiana Jones battling aliens in the Old West, you say? How could anyone resist? Amazingly, Jon Favreau’s film proved highly resistible to audiences – a shame, because his much-maligned Wild West (with Aliens) adventure is darker, edgier and sharper than the pitch might suggest, and it’s fun watching Harrison ‘Indy’ Ford and Daniel ‘Bondy’ Craig compete in a no-holds-barred curmudgeon contest.

Tyrannosaur (2011), LOVEFiLM (from July 6)
Few would have expected that the feature-length expansion of actor Paddy Considine’s 2007 short Dog Altogether would result in this grim, gripping and remarkably assured character study, in which Joseph, a violent and psychologically damaged widower (a reliably brilliant Peter Mullan), becomes involved with charity shop worker Hannah (Empire Award winner Olivia Colman; astounding), a victim of domestic abuse. An outstanding début.

TT: Closer to the Edge (2011), LOVEFiLM
Stripped of its iffy 3D gimmick, Richard De Aragues’ documentary about the Isle of Man TT race, a hair-raisingly dangerous annual superbike race, is arguably even better – now the only blurry bits are the scenery whizzing by. The film quickly finds its focal point in Wolverine-whiskered would-be champion Guy Martin, who sees sex as a poor rival for 200 mph-on-two-wheels thrills. On this evidence, he may have a point.

The Thin Blue Line (1988), Netflix
Every factual filmmaker owes a debt to Errol Morris, the father of the modern documentary, and this is his masterpiece: a rigorously constructed investigation of the shooting of a police officer in 1976, comprised of interviews with slick reconstructions, it resulted in an innocent man’s wrongful conviction being overturned. As compelling and influential today as it was nearly 25 years ago.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), LOVEFiLM
The late Anthony Minghella approached Patricia Highsmith’s potboiler with the reverence of someone undertaking an adaptation of, say, The Great Gatsby, and the result is a shimmeringly beautiful and deliciously amoral thriller, crammed with handsome young actors every bit as talented as the eponymous Mr. Ripley, including Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Cate Blanchett.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966), Netflix
With Sergio Leone’s definitive ‘spaghetti’ Western unavailable on Blu-ray (outside of a Scandi import), Netflix is one of the few places to see it in all its HD glory. The unholy alliance of Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef would be entertaining by itself, but the stylistic pizzazz of Leone’s film, the epic conclusion to his ‘Man With No Name’ trilogy, amounts to a deconstruction and reinvention of what was, by the 1960s, a creaky genre.

Dreams of a Life (2011), Netflix
2011 was an extraordinary year for documentaries, one of the benchmarks of which was Carol Morley’s exploration of the lonely death and mysterious life of Joyce Vincent, whose body lay undiscovered in her north London bedsit for three years. Although the root cause of the tragedy remains elusive, Morley’s film is a heartbreaking study of neglect and loneliness, with a chilling there-but-for-the-grace-of-God undercurrent.

All films free to subscribers with subscription package. Availability correct at time of going to press. Terms, conditions and bandwidth limitations may apply.

David Hughes


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