Empire on Demand (October 2012)

Our pick of the 10 best movies to download or stream in October

PICK OF THE MONTH
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010), LOVEFiLM

ScottPilgrimSquareWith all the superhero films released in the last couple of years, it’s easy to forget that one of the most thrillingly entertaining comic book adaptations is this hilarious action-comedy, which doesn’t just adapt Lee O’Malley’s manga-influenced pocketbooks, so much as captures their spirit on film. It should have been a game-changer, a blistering box office bonanza that rewrote the rules of 21st century movie-making and instantly made everything else look dull and old-fashioned – even the 3D films it was up against. Instead, it went straight to cult status – which, unless it was made with your money, is perfectly fine.
★★★★★

War Horse (2011), Sky Movies/Go/Anytime (from October 19)
Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel and its subsequent stage adaptation each used different forms of narrative innovation to bring to life the story of a farm boy (and later WWI Tommy) and his beloved horse. Steven Spielberg’s lush adaptation goes straight for pure old-fashioned movie-making (channeling his heroes, including David Lean and John Ford) for a film that works best with the irony button switched to the ‘off’ position.
★★★★

Texas Killing Fields (2011), Sky Movies/Go/Anytime (from October 26)
Sinister, atmospheric and relentlessly bleak, the debut feature from Michael Mann’s daughter Ami is almost overwhelmed by its own sense of dread and foreboding, but is lifted by some terrifically low-key performances, notably from Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jessica Chastain as the dour detectives investigating a series of murders in the eponymous Texas bayou, and Chloë Grace Moretz as the girl who may be the killer’s next victim. ★★★

My Week with Marilyn (2011), Sky Movies/Go/Anytime (from October 5)
Largely inconsequential to anyone but the callow youth (Eddie Redmayne) on whose (possibly fanciful) memoirs the film is based, Simon Curtis’ film is nevertheless a worthy showcase for acting, boasting one brave impersonation (Michelle Williams’ Marilyn Monroe) and one uncanny personification (Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Sir Laurence Olivier), and certainly more entertaining and worthwhile, if only marginally less slight, as the film (The Prince and the Showgirl) whose production it charts.
★★★

The Rum Diary (2011), Sky Movies/Go/Anytime (from October 19)
Johnny Depp’s veneration of Hunter S Thompson continues with this barmy adaptation of the great Gonzo journalist’s fictionalized account of his early experiences as a reporter trying to find his voice in early 1960s Puerto Rico. Depp nails the young Thompson’s guileless naïveté, and the script fizzes with cracking dialogue, courtesy of writer-director Bruce Robinson (himself no stranger to the demon drink), who came out of a near 20-year retirement to bring it to the screen.
★★★★

Melancholia (2011), LOVEFiLM
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and Lars Von Trier feels fine – at least, on the evidence of this audacious, visually arresting yarn about a chronically depressed young woman (Kirsten Dunst) whose lavish country house wedding (to True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard) is overshadowed by the asteroid hurtling towards Earth, threatening to obliterate mankind. Von Trier may be pulling our leg, but he does it in style.
★★★★★

50/50 (2011), Netflix
You wouldn’t think The Big C would make a suitable subject for humour, but odds are you’ll laugh and cry watching this touching comedy-drama, based on the real-life cancer-survival memoir by Will Reiser. Well-judged and superbly written, the film makes excellent use of a superb supporting cast, including Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Huston, while its funny scenes could hold their own against many an out-and-out comedy.
★★★★

Double Indemnity (1944), Netflix
If you haven’t seen this first-rate film noir, stop reading and start watching immediately – it’s that good. Barbara Stanwyck scorches as the archetypal femme fatale, who seduces hapless insurance salesman (Fred MacMurray) into killing her hubby, arousing the suspicion of his boss (Edward G. Robinson). Adapted by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler – talk about your dream team – from the novel by James M. Cain, it’s a masterpiece that fits together like a watch.
★★★★★

Iron Man 2 (2010), Netflix
Jon Favreau’s Iron Man seemingly came out of nowhere to set the gold standard for the modern Marvel movies, creating massive expectations for the sequel. Despite memorable turns from Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell, and the introduction of Scarlett Johansson’s ass-kicking Russian, Black Widow, the film mostly runs on the spot. A minor piece of the Avengers assembly, it’s still one of Netflix’s bigger HD offerings.
★★★

Bottle Rocket (1996), Netflix
In Wes Anderson’s first feature, expanded from an early short, brothers Luke and Owen Wilson (also co-writer) play lifelong friends who team up for a serious of ill-thought-out robberies. Astonishingly, all of the 27-year-old director’s future trademarks are in place – quirky characters, absurdly misguided leadership figures, rostrum shots, idiosyncratic music choices – are present and correct in this enjoyably goofy indie.
★★★★

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

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