Empire On Demand (February 2013)

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

HouseCardsSquareHouse of Cards (2013), Netflix

In the BBC’s critically-acclaimed political drama from 1990, Tory Chief Whip Francis Urquhart (a serpentine Ian Richardson), passed over for a cabinet position, took Machiavellian revenge on members of his own party. Now, no lesser talent than David Fincher has updated the story, transplanting it to Washington, D.C., with John Doe himself, Kevin Spacey, playing sleekly untrustworthy Republican Majority Whip Francis Underwood, Robin Wright as his equally ruthless wife, and Kate Mara as his journalist confidante. With later episodes directed by James Foley, Carl Franklin and Joel Schumacher, the Netflix original series premieres simultaneously here and in the US on February 1.

The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists! (2012), Sky On Demand
On paper, it seemed like a match made in movie heaven: a madcap adaptation of Gideon Defoe’s barmy children’s book, about a hapless pirate captain and his motley crew, brought to life by Aardman Animation’s unparalleled stop-motion techniques. On screen, it was even better, largely thanks to Defoe’s amiably daft script, the countless tiny jokes crammed into the fast-paced story, and Grant’s winning portrayal of The Pirate Captain.
Empire rating: ★★★★

Detention (2010), Lovefilm Instant
If you thought Jennifer’s Body was a lame excuse for a hipster horror movie, console yourself with Joseph Kahn’s über-cool comedy, in which The Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson leads a group of teens kept behind after school by their harassed principal (Dane Cook), while a B-movie-inspired killer named ‘Cinderhella’ stalks the halls of Grizzly Lake High. Laced with hit-and-miss pop culture references, it’s the best meta-horror since Scream.
Empire rating: ★★★★

The Grey (2011), Sky On Demand
When their plane crashes, a group of rugged oil drillers (including Liam Neeson and Dermot Mulroney) are stranded in the Alaskan tundra, at the mercy of a pack of savage wolves whose ‘kill zone’ they have inadvertently stumbled into. There’s nothing supernatural about Joe Carnahan’s alpha-male movie, but this is pure survival horror, a no-holds-barred punch to the gut, with Neeson at his grizzly best.
Empire rating: ★★★★

The Hurt Locker (2008), Lovefilm Instant
It made Jeremy Renner a star, won six Oscars, and beat Avatar to the Best Picture prize. Now, with Zero Dark Thirty in cinemas, it’s the perfect time to revisit Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq-set story about an adrenaline-junkie bomb disposal expert (Renner) going about his knife-edge, nanoseconds-from-oblivion day job. The most manicure-imperilling movie since Henri-Georges Clouzot took a truckload of nitro-glycerine for a drive in The Wages of Fear.
Empire rating: ★★★★★

Wild Bill (2011), Sky On Demand
Judging by the deft touch displayed in his debut as writer-director, Dexter Fletcher must have been paying attention to what was happening behind the camera during his 35 years as an actor. In his beautifully shot East End ‘Western’, Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles) is released from prison after eight years, forced to deal not only with shady figures from his past, but the two young sons whom he barely knows.
Empire rating: ★★★★

The English Patient (1996), Netflix
The sudden death of writer-director Anthony Minghella in 2008 only makes his swooningly romantic adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s poetic novel – about a Hungarian cartographer (Ralph Fiennes), a married Englishwoman (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her husband (Colin Firth) all the more poignant – Winner of nine Oscars including Best Picture, it’s the closest thing we have to a late-20th century Casablanca.
Empire rating: ★★★★

The Usual Suspects (1995), Netflix
Bryan Singer’s highly unusual crime drama – which won two Oscars, including one for Kevin Spacey’s virtuoso performance as physically disadvantaged stoolie Verbal Kint – not only deserves repeat viewing, but virtually demands it, thanks to Christopher McQuarrie’s labyrinthine script, which fiendishly fools the audience into thinking they know what’s going on, only to pull the rug out from under them in the final moments.
Empire rating: ★★★★★

Somewhere (2010), Lovefilm Instant
Movie star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) probably spent much of his twenties elegantly wasted. Now he is comfortably numb, living at LA’s famous Chateau Marmont hotel, able to have anything he wants – if only he knew what that was. Could his estranged daughter (Elle Fanning) be the solution to his existential emptiness? An exquisitely observed portrait of celebrity ennui from Lost in Translation writer-director Sofia Coppola.
Empire rating: ★★★★

Berberian Sound Studio (2012), Curzon on Demand

In British writer-director Peter Strickland’s dark masterpiece, an unassuming Surrey sound engineer named Gilderoy (Toby Jones) is invited to the eponymous Italian studio to work on a giallo splatterfest. Obliging at first, the achingly parochial Gilderoy soon questions the artistic validity of the patently misogynistic killings the film portrays, until gradually his sanity threatens to succumb to the dark horrors he is forced to watch, on repeat, every day.
Empire rating: ★★★★

All films free to subscribers with subscription package, except Curzon on Demand (prices vary). Details correct at time of going to press. Terms, conditions and bandwidth limitations may apply.


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