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This Week's VoD gems on Google Play and iTunes

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If you don’t fancy bracing the upcoming week’s semi-hurricane conditions, this selection of content available to buy or rent at the click of a button or smartphone will keep you entertained. From a black and white drama set in Poland about a nun to one of this year’s surprise horror treats, these titles are varied, exciting and, in the case of some, still waiting to be discovered.

To help, the prices are listed with each title (correct at time of publication) and where you can get it from. Happy viewing!

Time for a film...

What Maisie Knew (2013)

This charming drama from 2013 (pictured above) is a modern adaptation of Henry James’s story  of the same name. It stars Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan as separated parents, with their daughter largely being looked after by their respective new partners (Joanna Vanderham and Alexander Skarsgard). It’s touchingly observed, with a wonderfully honest central performance from Onata Aprile as Maisie.

Available to rent for £1.49 (HD & SD), or buy for £9.99 (HD)/£7.99 (SD).

Ida (2013)

If you can’t get to a cinema nearby showing this new work by acclaimed director Pawel Pawlikowski (Last Resort, My Summer of Love), this moving and intimate drama is available to rent on Google Play. It’s about a young novitiate nun in Poland during the 1960s who discovers a dark family secret linking back to the years of Nazi occupation. Quietly distressing and utterly unforgettable.

Available to rent on Google Play for £9.99 HD/£8.99 SD.

 

Oculus (2014)

One of the biggest surprises of 2014, this high-concept horror stars Karen Gillen and Brenton Thwaites as siblings whose life has been touched by tragedy. They believe an evil spirit within an old mirror is the cause and set up an experiment to see if they can lure the spirit out. This might sound silly, but it’s very effective and includes a memorably nasty scene involving a light-bulb.

Available to buy on Google Play for £11.99 HD/£9.99 SD.

Wodehouse in Exile

An involving, fascinating film featuring a stellar cast (including Tim Pigott-Smith, Zoe Wannamaker and Julian Rhind-Tutt) about how the author PG Wodehouse was faced with a charge of treason during the Second World War and how the creator of Jeeves and Wooster became exiled from his homeland.

Available to buy for £2.39(HD)/£1.49 (SD).

 

 

Loving Miss Hatto (2012)

This is a quite remarkable story. After years of being unable to rise to the heights she is thought to be capable of, pianist Joyce Hatto became famous in the 1970s for her beautiful solo recordings. This film, written by Victoria Wood, throws light on the true story of Ms Hatto and how the public were ultimately conned by her alleged talent.

Available to buy on iTunes for £2.49 (HD)/£1.89 (SD).

 

The Selfish Giant (2013)

Clio Barnard’s latest film is a contemporary fable, taking its name and themes from the classic Oscar Wilde story. 13 year old Arbor (Conner Chapman) and his best friend Swifty (Shaun Thomas) are suspended from school. Whilst wondering their town the two boys meet Kitten (Sean Gilder), a local scrapdealer. They begin collecting scrap metal for him using a horse and cart, leading them into both adventures of wonder, joy and tragedy.

Available to rent for £1.49 HD & SD or buy for £11.99 HD/£9.99 SD.

 

Frank (2014)

Offbeat and more than a little weird, this sort-of-comedy is about a wannabe musician, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), who joins an avant-garde pop band led by Frank (Michael Fassbender), a mysterious musical genius who hides himself inside a large fake head. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson (What Richard Did) and written by Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Frank is an work that’s both odd and heartfelt.

Available to rent from Google Play from £4.49 HD/£3.49 SD.

 

Longford (2006)

The acts of murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley have cast long shadows across history. This sombre and informative piece of filmmaking from The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper charts Lord Longford’s famous and shocking crusade to free Hindley, believing she has potential for redemption. Both Samantha Morton as Hindley and Jim Broadbent as Longford are superb, though it is Andy Serkis’s chilling turn as Brady that really stays with you.

Available to buy from iTunes. £4.99 (SD).

 

Something to binge on...

Peaky Blinders (2013)

This drama from Steven Knight is a compelling period drama shot through with a cruel, brutal beauty. It’s as if Martin Scorsese and Nick Cave reimagined a Martina Cole novel set in a post-WWI Liverpool. Actually, Nick Cave is present somewhat, contributing some tunes (most of them recycled) to add mood to the piece. Cillian Murphy is magnetic as the head of a criminal gang fighting for survival in the ever changing landscape of Britain in 1919. For those naive snobs who dismissively think British TV offers nothing but Downton Abbey and Miss Marple, this should set them straight with a jolt.    

Series 1 on Google Play for £4.99 SD/£12.49 HD. Series 2 currently airing and available for free in the UK on BBC iPlayer. 

Happy Valley (2014)

Created by Last Tango in Halifax writer Sally Wainwright, Happy Valley seems deceptively gentle at first. It’s about a police officer trying to make her troubled Northern town a safer place. However, when she becomes involved in the case of a kidnap things get dark. Then very dark. Then deeply disturbing. This comes close to storytelling-perfection; brilliant characterisation (helped by the great Sarah Lancashire in the central role) and scriptwriting and direction that creates a richly detailed, immersive and at times harrowing world.

Available to buy on Google Play for £7.49 (HD)/£5.99 (SD).

One to avoid...

Bad Neighbours (2014)

This dreadfully limp and unfunny comedy is about a uni society (well, Fraternity, since we’re in the US) who moves into a house next to a couple with a baby. The couple (Rose Byrne, Seth Rogan) try to befriend them but end up having to fight back against the more disruptive Frat boys (including Zac Efron and Dave Franco) and their outlandish activities. The film attempts to pass off explicit sex jokes, sudden erections and yobbish behaviour as comedy and there is a very worrying normalisation of dangerous drug abuse throughout. Overall, this is bleak, seedy and depressing stuff.




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