Empire On Demand (November 2012)

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

PICK OF THE MONTH
Young Adult (2011), Sky On Demand (from November 30)

YoungAdultSquareAfter the disappointment of Jennifer’s Body, screenwriter Diablo Cody reunited with Juno director Jason Reitman for this blackly comic drama about Mavis (Charlize Theron), an author of ‘young adult’ novels who returns to her home town to snare an ex (Patrick Wilson) who’s just had a baby and is, she therefore assumes, desperately unhappy. Theron is on searing form, perfectly capturing the neuroses of an immature, self-deluded former prom queen, utterly oblivious to anyone else’s feelings, particularly those of a physically challenged former schoolmate (Patton Oswalt) whom she used to bully. The fact that the film escaped Oscar attention is mystifying. ★★★★

Grosse Point Blank (1997), Netflix
As one of the co-writers of this cracking comedy, John Cusack gave himself a plum role as a conscience-pricked professional killer, who finds that his next hit is due to be carried out in his Michigan home town, Grosse Point, during his high school reunion. Old friends, new enemies, and an ex with a grudge (Minnie Driver) ensure that nothing goes to plan – except for the comedy, which is bang on target. ★★★★

Haywire (2011), Sky On Demand (from November 2)
Former American Gladiator and mixed martial arts star Gina Carano got a tectonic-level break when Steven Soderbergh decided to build her a star vehicle, cram it with A-list passengers (McGregor, Fassbender, Tatum, more), and take it on a hair-raising, bone-crunching drive through Barcelona, New York and Dublin. The result, while a little too cool for its own good, is what a Soderbergh Bourne movie would like. ★★★★

Contagion (2011), Sky On Demand (from November 30)
For his second star-studded, globe-trotting ensemble of 2011, Steven Soderbergh put Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Marion Cotillard in the path of a deadly viral outbreak, with frighteningly feasible, frustratingly uneven but always fascinating results. Don’t be fooled by the 12A rating – this is terrifying stuff, with a credible threat – mutated bird flu – that’s not to be sneezed at. ★★★★

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011), Sky On Demand (from November 2)
When newly-separated Cal (Steve Carell) hooks up with a womanizing barhound (Ryan Gosling) who teaches him how to meet and seduce women, the results could fall anywhere between Knocked Up and Roger Dodger. Dan Fogelman’s superb screenplay arguably trumps them both, by remembering that even the sharpest romantic comedies need romance and comedy. It’s played with perfection by all concerned, and boasts one unforgettable scene among many memorable moments. ★★★★

Snowtown (2011), LOVEFiLM
The best Australian film since Animal Kingdom is this bleak, bone-cold true story about John Bunting, the country’s most notorious serial killer, who wormed his way into the lives of a suburban family, luring a naïve and impressionable sixteen-year-old into his twisted world. As Bunting seeks bigger thrills, what begins as a purportedly righteous crusade against so-called transgressives descends into sheer bloody murder. ★★★★

The Castle (1997), Netflix
In this laugh-out-loud character-based comedy from Aussie comedy troupe The D Generation, the eccentric Kerrigan family stand up to bureaucratic bullies who want to bulldoze their home, ironically nicknamed ‘the castle’, to make way for a new airport runway. Crammed with unforgettable characters and hilarious ersatz wisdom, you’ll be quoting it for years. ★★★★

The Last Boy Scout (1991), LOVEFiLM
One of the late, great Tony Scott’s most under-appreciated films is this white-hot adaptation of a million-dollar script by Shane ‘Lethal Weapon’ Black, in which a scuzzy private eye (Bruce Willis) buddies up with ex-pro-footballer (Damon Wayans) to investigate the execution-style killing of a stripper (Halle Berry). After a jaw-dropping opening scene, it careens along at breakneck speed, pausing only razor-sharp dialogue. Be prepared. ★★★★

Greenberg (2010), LOVEFiLM
Little seen and under-appreciated on its initial release, Noah Baumbach’s sixth film, co-written with girlfriend Jennifer Jason Leigh, is a brilliantly-observed comedy-drama about a neurotic New York (Ben Stiller) who, self-obsessed and in denial about where his life choices have taken him, comes to Los Angeles to house-shit for his immensely successful brother. Stiller is remarkable, somehow evoking sympathy for a character with few redeeming features. ★★★★

The Stepfather (1987), LOVEFiLM
Long before he was Locke on TV’s Lost, Terry O’Quinn played the best screen sociopath since Norman Bates in this superbly suspenseful Reagan-era thriller, scripted by Donald E. Westlake (The Grifters), about a killer who insinuates his way into the lives of single mothers, trying to create the (unattainable, of course) “perfect” family. A dim-witted remake appeared in 2009, but 25 years on this is as good as ever. ★★★★

WORDS: DAVID HUGHES

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