Hayato Ichihara in 'Yakuza Apocalypse,' directed by Takashi Miike

‘Yakuza Apocalypse’ – Gangsters vs. vampires on Hulu

Yakuza Apocalypse (2015) – Takashi Miike, once the absurdly prolific wild man of Japanese cinema, earned a reputation for cranking out as many as four wildly inventive, full-throttle action, gonzo genre busting pictures a year. He’s slowed down as of late and even gone a little upscale; his 2011 13 Assassins (a collision of The […]

Klaus Kinski stars in Werner Herzog's eerie color remake of F.W. Murnau's original vampire classic

Werner Herzog’s ‘Nosferatu the Vampyre’ on FilmStruck

Nosferatu the Vampyre (Germany, 1979), Werner Herzog’s eerie color remake of F.W. Murnau’s original vampire classic (itself an unauthorized version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula), is at once faithful to Murnau’s film and quintessentially Herzogian. Klaus Kinski, Herzog’s demon alter ego, is both hideous and haunting as the chalk-skinned gargoyle, a melancholy monster seeking an end […]

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 […]

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 […]

Mathieu Amalric and Catherine Deneuve, directed by Arnaud Desplechin

‘A Christmas Tale’ – A messy family holiday on Criterion Channel and Sundance Now

A Christmas Tale (France, 2008), Arnaud Desplechin’s mercurial, knotty and cinematically vibrant drama of family dysfunction stirred up over a Christmas gathering, was my pick for best film of 2008. Directing with restless energy, Desplechin sketches out a family tragedy, the untimely death of a first-born, that precedes the story by decades and then only […]

Gael García Bernal stars in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's breakthrough drama from Mexico

‘Amores Perros’ – A dog-eat-dog world on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

A wounded figure lies helplessly bleeding in the backseat of a car recklessly careening through city streets while a pistol blasting thug in a souped-up pickup drives the fleeing car into a shattering crash. The jerky in-your-face camerawork, raw, earthy colors, and jagged editing looks just like a low budget crime picture that exploded from […]

Adèle Haenel stars in the film by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

‘The Unknown Girl’ from the Dardenne Bros. on Netflix

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s The Unknown Girl (Belgium, 2016) revisits themes from their earlier films—poverty in poor communities, families going paycheck to paycheck, immigrants at the bottom of the social food chain—but this time views them through the eyes of a young doctor (Adèle Haenel). She’s on her way out of a small neighborhood office […]

Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld in Christian Petzold's 'Phoenix'

‘Phoenix’ – from the ashes on Criterion Channel

Just as the title suggests, Phoenix (Germany, 2014) is about rising from the ashes, but filmmaker Christian Petzold is more interested than the smudged moral world in the ashes of Germany after World War II than in the promise of the rise. Nina Hoss, one of the great actresses of our time and star of […]

Johnny Hallyday stars in Patrice Leconte's French crime drama with Jean Rochefort

‘Man on the Train’ – Elegiac French crime drama on Amazon Prime

Man on the Train (France, 2004), Patrice Leconte’s elegiac crime drama is a well-tuned character piece starring screen legend Jean Rochefort and French pop icon Johnny Hallyday as strangers with nothing in common whose chance meeting sparks a powerful friendship. Rochefort is the droopy, self-effacing dreamer Monsieur Manesquier, a retired teacher who would like nothing […]