Empire On Demand (August)

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

PICK OF THE MONTH
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011), Sky Movies/Go/Anytime (from August 24)

Potter7SquareAfter seven films, 6 billion box office dollars and an almost single-handed revival of the British film industry, it’s hard to believe that director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves weren’t crushed by the weight of expectations on the final instalment of the epic saga of a boy wizard. Cleaving the enormous seventh Harry Potter book in two might have been perceived as a way to maximise the box office, but instead it gives ample room to combine action spectacle and emotional heft, ensuring that the final showdown ends with a bang and a few whimpers. Magical, in every sense.
★★★★

Toy Story 3 (2010), Sky Movies/Go/Anytime (from August 10)
Having launched computer-animated feature films with a five-star family fantasy, and arguably topped it with its sequel (also five stars), it’s almost unthinkable that Pixar could have made it three for three – but they did. With Andy off to college, Woody, Buzz and the gang are donated to Sunnyside, a daycare centre with a dark side, triggering a spot-on combination of prison-break and heart-break. A fond farewell.
★★★★★

The Guard (2011), LOVEFiLM
Whatever cracked Celtic genius In Bruges writer-director Martin McDonagh was born with, his brother John Michael has too – at least, on the evidence of this brutally funny, decidedly offbeat retort to buddy cop clichés, in which cynical garda Brendan Gleeson is paired up with slick FBI agent Don Cheadle. Bridesmaids may have made the most noise, but The Guard was quietly, unassumingly, the funniest film of last year.
★★★★★

The Dark Knight (2008), LOVEFiLM
Having mounted an impressive origin story in Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan managed to outdo himself – and every other action franchise on the planet – with this monumental, morally complex and massively entertaining follow-up, with the late, great Heath Ledger awarded a (tragically posthumous) Oscar for his wicked turn as The Joker. A blockbuster with brains and brawn, and in HD, too – if your bandwidth is up to it.
★★★★★

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Sky Movies/Go/Anytime (from August 31)
After Tim Burton’s disastrous “re-imagining” a decade earlier, hopes were not exactly raised for Brit director Rupert Wyatt’s reboot, which took the upside-down evolutionary conceit of the 1968 classic back to a singularity – with startlingly effective results. Now, as its writers prepare to rescue another much-loved sci-fi franchise (Jurassic Park) from oblivion, here’s another chance to hail Cesar as he rises to become the true Lord of the apes.
★★★★

Phenomena (1985), Netflix
If you’re unfamiliar with the work of Dario Argento, Italy’s most famous giallo filmmaker, here’s a great place to start. Previously cut to ribbons and retitled Creepers, this isn’t the most complete version available, but it’s arguably the best. Amazingly, the plot – at a Swiss finishing school, 14-year-old Jennifer Connelly hunts a brutal killer with the help of her telepathic ability to communicate with insects – may be the sanest thing about it.
★★★★

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), Netflix
Everyone male actor in America wanted in to James Foley’s adaptation of David Mamet’s extraordinary play about salesmen competing to keep their jobs, and many made it: Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino, Jonathan Pryce… On the big screen, its stage origins were seen as a shortcoming, but at home, it’s a widescreen treat worth playing on repeat.
★★★★★

Leaves of Grass (2010), Netflix
Taking its name from Walt Whitman’s 1855 poetry collection, Tim Blake Nelson’s offbeat comedy plays like mid-period Coen brothers, and boasts not one but two great Ed Norton performances. He plays Bill, a genius-level Ivy League classics professor, and his twin brother, Brady, who channels his own smarts into growing perfect hydroponic weed – until a bad drug deal gets him killed, forcing Bill to take his place.
★★★

Robin Hood (2010), LOVEFiLM
The fifth collaboration between Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, an origin story for the legendary outlaw, promised ‘Gladiator with bows’, but as entertaining as their Roman epic undoubtedly was, it was understandably short on big laughs, an omission rectified here thanks to a fizzing script, cracking villains and a welcome twinkle in Crowe’s eye. Epic in scale, packed with action and tonally spot-on, it’s a hugely entertaining romp through ersatz history.
★★★★

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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