Vince Vaughn in the prison thriller by S. Craig Zahler

‘Brawl in Cellblock 99’ – Vince Vaughn picks a fight on Amazon Prime

Brawl in Cellblock 99 (2017) is my pick for the smartest piece of cinematic pulp fiction in 2017. It didn’t draw audiences to theaters, perhaps due to the extremes of the violent action. But if it lacks the elaborate choreography and martial grace of John Wick (by design), it more than makes up for it […]

Fernando Di Leo’s ‘Milieu Trilogy’ on FilmStruck and Fandor

Fernando di Leo was, in the estimation of genre-hound Quentin Tarantino, “the master” of the Italian crime movie, or the “poliziotteschi.” A violent action genre that picked up the escalating violence of American films like Dirty Harry and The French Connection, films where blood spattered and cops got their hands dirty, it was never as […]

Song Kang-ho stars in the South Korean spy thriller by Kim Jee-woon

‘The Age of Shadows’ – Korean spy thriller on Netflix

Kim Jee-woon, director of such hits as hits The Good the Bad the Weird and I Saw the Devil, announced his return to South Korea after his Hollywood tryout with The Age of Shadows (South Korea, 2016, not rated, with subtitles), a sprawling spy thriller set in the underground resistance to the Japanese occupation of […]

Adam Sandler and Emily Watson star in Paul Thomas Anderson's offbeat romantic comedy

‘Punch-Drunk Love’ on Hulu

Paul Thomas Anderson, fresh off the critical successes of Boogie Nights and Magnolia, wrote Punch-Drunk Love (2002) for Adam Sandler while he was riding high on the success of doofus comedies. He channels the familiar Sandler personas—the meek boy-man, the repressed powerkeg who explodes with uncontrollable rage, the mumble mouth goofball, the socially retarded misfit—into […]

Steven Spielberg directs the big screen adventure adapted from the Herge graphic novels

‘The Adventures of Tintin’ on Netflix

The Adventures of Tintin (2011), Steven Spielberg’s first foray into motion capture filmmaking, turns the legendary boy journalist and globe-trotting adventurer from the early graphic novels of Herge into a big screen hero, complete with trademark cowlick and best friend canine Snowy watching his back. Spielberg and his collaborators (notably co-producer Peter Jackson) chose to […]

Jalmari Helander directs this satirical holiday adventure thriller from Norway

‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale’ on Amazon Prime and FilmStruck

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Finland, 2010) comes from the land of the original Father Christmas but he’s no cuddly old man who hands out presents at Christmas. This Santa Claus, who has been buried in a man-made glacier like a wooly mammoth, is a child-snatching demon who punishes the naughty with the help of […]

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in Greg Mottola's semi-autobiographical coming-of-age film 'Adventureland.' Photo credit: Miramax

‘Adventureland’ on Netflix and Hulu

Adventureland (2009, R) is more than just a chintzy theme park outside of Pittsburgh, where college grad James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) spends a summer trying to save money for graduate school. It’s the real world adventures of life in the space between college and independence, that place where you think that you’re an adult but […]

Patricia Neal, Michael Rennie, and Gort, directed by Robert Wise.

The original ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

The original The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) remains the most thoughtful of the first contact films. Michael Rennie makes a striking American film debut as Klaatu, the well-spoken stranger from outer space who lands his saucer in Washington D.C. to speak to the world’s leaders. They shoot first, of course, and Klaatu escapes […]

Blu-ray: ‘DC Universe 10th Anniversary Collection’ on Warner

DC Universe 10th Anniversary Collection (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Blu-ray) Warner Bros. is struggling to create its own live-action superhero universe on the big screen to compete with the huge, interconnected Marvel Comics Universe, and mostly falling short. But for the past decade, Warner Home Video has been producing a steady series of direct-to-disc animated […]