Errol Morris’s landmark ‘The Thin Blue Line’ on Netflix

Documentaries have changed minds, championed causes, and even reversed policy, but The Thin Blue Line (1988) may be the first film to free a man from prison. Randall Adams was on death row in Texas for the murder of a patrolman, convicted on the testimony of another suspect and a psychiatrist who made his living […]

Jack Hawkins stars in the British caper film with military order from Basil Dearden

Last chance: ‘The League of Gentlemen’ – a very British heist on FilmStruck

Basil Dearden’s The League of Gentlemen (1960) is a sturdy and meticulous heist film built on an appreciation of teamwork, camaraderie and hard work: a professional work about professionals working. That’s the foundation of many a classic heist or men-on-a-mission thriller and this film offers it as a kind of skewed redemption for a misfit […]

Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. in the David Fincher thriller

David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Zodiac (2007), David Fincher’s drama about the notorious unsolved Zodiac killings that had San Francisco gripped in fear during the early seventies, was the filmmaker’s most disciplined, focused, and mesmerizing film to date when it was released in 2007. Based on the non-fiction book by Robert Graysmith, a newspaper cartoonist who became obsessed with the […]

Christian Bale is Batman in Christopher Nolan's 'Batman Begins'

‘Batman Begins’ – Christopher Nolan’s first take on the Dark Knight on Netflix

One of the defining films in the elevation of comic book movies to adult fare, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) rebooted the Batman mythos for the big screen, bringing the often lighthearted hero back to the shadows, both figuratively and literally. It’s quite a leap from the previous Batman revival launched by Tim Burton’s 1989 […]

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 […]

Ice-T and Drea Matteo in the film by Abel Ferrara

‘R Xmas – an Abel Ferrara holiday movie on Amazon Prime

Inspired by a supposedly true story by Cassandra De Jesus, this low-key drama is prime Abel Ferrara territory: a New York tale rumbling with irony and ambiguity. Doting Manhattan parents Drea Matteo and Lillo Brancato Jr. (both veterans of The Sopranos) keep their upper-class lifestyle together—private school for the kids, BMW for the parents, classy […]

Austin Stoker, Laurie Zimmer, and Darwin Joston in the John Carpenter film

John Carpenter’s ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ on Showtime Anytime

The first real solo flight by young filmmaker John Carpenter, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) is the film where he announced his influences, found his strengths, and began to develop his style. It’s is a siege picture, a cross between a Howard Hawks western and a horror film that meets in a desolate Los Angeles […]

Jake Gyllenhaal is Louis Bloom in Dan Gilroy's 'Nightcrawler'

‘Nightcrawler’ on Amazon Prime

Nightcrawler earned an Oscar nomination for director Dan Gilroy’s screenplay, a wicked satire of the tabloid news television that chases sensationalistic stories for ratings (the cliché “if it bleeds, it leads” is the guiding philosophy). It should also have earned a nomination for Jake Gyllenhaal, whose Louis Bloom is a twisted Horatio Alger with the […]