A Night in with Sky Movies – Why you Shouldn’t be Giving in to the Netflix Craze JUST yet

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Whilst instant streaming services such as Netflix are ‘all the rage’ these days, they have their limits (especially for those of us without access to a fibre-optic broadband connection) Sky Movies has been providing cinephiles with quality content for over 20 years now and remains (in my humble opinion) the best place for movie fans to watch the latest and best Hollywood, foreign and independent films. With over 5 million subscribers via satellite, IPTV and cable television in both the UK and Ireland, Sky Movies is the largest television movie service in the world, now offering 12 separate channels (many of which enjoying their own High Definition variations) that cater to everything from Sci-fi and comedy to vintage classics and the latest big blockbuster releases. To underline the services merits, below I’ve written a selection of brief reviews for 3 of the most recent films I have caught on Sky Movies over the past month or so.

An Education

An effortlessly romantic period piece with enough spark and wit to enchant move fans of all denominations. It’s not without its faults and not all of the performances shine quite so bright as the two leads but it’s still without question one of the best British films of the last few years. The film is set in 1960’s Britain and revolves around the struggles of 16 year old Jenny (Mulligan) a bright young girl who falls in with a bad crowd. The crutch is this ‘bad crowd’ doesn’t take the well-trodden, Quadrophenia route of rambunctious youths, but older, well-to-do art thieves. Jenny is supposedly wise beyond her years, shunning the advances of ‘boys’ her own age for the glamorous, charismatic David (Sarsgaard), an older man who whisks her away on a journey of self-discovery.

Much has been made of Carey Mulligan’s BAFTA winning performance and I can confirm the plaudits are well deserved. She is a revelation as the instantly likeable Jenny whose charm and naivety has us rooting for her even as she makes so many questionable mistakes. Mulligan is an incredibly attractive girl but not off-puttingly so, there’s an innocence to her features undercut by an undeniable, latent sexuality which makes her the perfect embodiment for Jenny’s confused first steps into womanhood. Her co-pilot Peter Sarsgaard also offers a stellar performance which is at once charming and creepy in equal measures. However in my view it’s Alfred Molina who steals the show as Jenny’s lovably dense, overprotective father. Every time he’s on screen he steals it comfortably with a performance which manages to capture a subtle comic tragedy worthy of vintage Woody Allen. Supporting cast members also do an excellent job with Olivia Williams excellent as the concerned teacher who shows Jenny the error of her ways and Emma Thompson dependably solid as Jenny’s stern, almost Trunchball-esch head-teacher. Above it all, ‘An Education’ is just great entertainment, a genuinely moving film which doesn’t waste a moment of its screen time.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Taking place almost entirely in a grim council flat dungeon Josef Fritzel would be proud of with only 3 actors (Arterton is joined by the menacing Eddie Marsan and deceptively charming Martin Compston) on-screen to bring life to a sparse, tense script, this is film making at its purest and most exciting. Arterton plays the titular character, a ‘daddies little rich girl’ who is taken from her house by masked men, stripped naked and tied to a bed where they demand a £2 million ransom for her safe return. It’s a brutal and shockingly frank opening sequence and kudos to Arterton for not shying away from some pretty nasty scenes. Gratuitous nudity and ‘grit’ aside this sounds like a simple enough setup for a fairly bland thriller but things soon get shaken up by a couple of really interesting and unexpected plot twists and besides, the dank tone of the film (helped along by some wonderfully bleak cinematography and soundtrack work) is here almost as important as the story.

To further elaborate on the plot would be a great disservice to potential viewers as half the fun is in guessing where alliances lie and what’s going on behind the eyes of the expert, poker faced cast. The final resolution is predictable and disappointing, opting for straight american thriller which undermine the films masterful setup. It has the feel more of a particularly tense play than a feature film and this is actually to its credit as the cast play off each other wonderfully. Arterton’s Alice is a deceptively sly creature who spends the film playing the kidnappers off against in other in a manner so expertly subtle even the audience might find it hard to decide whether to root for her or not. Marsen and Compston too are both marvellous, conflicted characters whose dynamic takes a rather dramatic shift about mid-way through after a shocking revelation. The final 20 minutes offer a bit of a jarring ‘Hollywood ending’ and there is more than a little sense of the “Seen it all before’s” to the climax, but the first two acts offer some truly masterful cinematic moments that should entertain and disturb tense thriller fans and classic horror fans alike.

Animal Kingdom

This riveting Australian crime drama and family saga follows 17 year old Joshua ‘J’ Cody (the instantly likeable James Frecheville) who is invited to move in and live with his estranged grandmother (the incredible Jacki Weaver) and her extended family after his mother dies from a heroin overdose in what is one of the most subtly melancholic opening scenes of the last decade. The family initially seem quite close and friendly but it soon becomes apparent that J’s grandmother is the head of a notorious Melbourne crime syndicate with the eldest son, robber ‘Pope’ (Ben Mendelsohn) currently on the run from a group of mercenary detectives and volatile middle brother Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) a heartless drug dealer. The film follows J’s descent into the belly of the families criminality as his gentle girlfriend (Laura Wheelwright) and straight laced copper detective Leckie (Guy Pearce) strive to keep him from succumbing to a life of crime which seems ever more enticing and like the only real option left for our poor protagonist.

To go into further details would be detrimental to your enjoyment of the film but rest assured that in just under 2 hours this little Australian drama manages to weave a complex and believable world almost as deep as that of The Sopranos, a show which had the luxury of 7 seasons to achieve as much. The cast is genuine perfection with Frecheville giving a subtle, vulnerable performance which off-sets Weaver’s OTT dramatics perfectly. Ben Mendelsohn too is a genuinely menacing presence, a live-wire who keeps the plot on a constant knife edge as the bipolar loon ‘Pope’. The plot is a little slow moving at first but it soon picks up pace and the third act is packed full of heart-breaking moments with a shocking denouement which left me speechless and will no doubt reverberate with you long after the credits roll.

Conclusions

3 great films, all of which would set you back a small fortune on DVD and all of which are currently unavailable to stream on Netflix (in the UK at least). Sky movies is also the only service in the UK through which you can watch the annual OSCARS awards ceremony. If you’ve managed to be convinced that Sky Movies might just be the solution you’ve been looking for to sate to your cinematic addiction then it couldn’t be easier to sign up. If you’re already a Sky customer then simply ring the Sky Customer Support Number and inform them you wish to sign up for the movies package. Alternatively, Virgin Media customers can also sign up for the Sky Movies package either online or by contacting their local service provider.

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