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

David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’ on Netflix

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 […]

Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself in Mabrouk El Mechri self-aware thriller

‘JCVD’ – Jean-Claude at 47 on Amazon Prime

In the opening scene of JCVD (2008), Jean-Claude Van Damme takes out one heavily-armed, vaguely military bad guy after another with his bare hands (and whatever blunt instruments and discarded weapons he grabs along the way) in an elaborately choreographed long take. He comes out the other end huffing and winded as the set falls […]

James Woods and Brian Dennehy star in the smart little thriller written by Larry Cohen

‘Best Seller’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Best Seller (1987) is a modest but smartly-scripted thriller from 1987 that holds up remarkably well, thanks to a savvy original screenplay by Larry Cohen (who was better known at the time as a cagey creator of high-concept, low-budget exploitation films) and great casting. James Woods once again brings charm to the role of a pathologically […]

Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams in Brian De Palma's remake of Love Crimes

Brian De Palma’s ‘Passion’ on Amazon Prime

There isn’t a lot of passion in Brian De Palma’s Passion (2012, R) but there is a love of kinkiness, flirtation, sensation, and the thrill of playing big business games and an odd intimacy that we don’t always get in De Palma’s coolly observed, stylistically exacting cinema. The opening scene has an easy intimacy of […]

Riki Takeuchi and Sho Aikawa in Miike Takashi's Dead or Alive trilogy

Takashi Miike’s extreme ‘Dead or Alive’ trilogy on Amazon Prime

Takashi Miike made his reputation as Japan’s gonzo gun-for-hire, a genre madman who pumped manic energy and wild style into films he pushed to the extremes in every way, from violence to surreal twists. He once described himself as “an arranger, not an author.” Taking a cue from one of his own film titles, I […]

Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfus, and Robert Shaw star in Steven Spielberg’s summer blockbuster

‘Jaws’ – the original summer blockbuster on Netflix

Jaws (1995), Steven Spielberg’s meticulously-directed, tension-filled, career-redefining thrill machine, has been pegged as the original modern summer blockbuster. And while that is true, this pop-culture masterpiece is more than simply a well-tooled thriller. Spielberg brings a sense of community, family, and humanity to the supermarket thriller from Peter Benchley, a book more designed than written. […]

Bertrand Bonello write and directs this mesmerizing political thriller

‘Nocturama’ – A different kind of terrorism on Netflix

Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama (France, 2017) is mesmerizing. Ostensibly a terrorist thriller about a group of French millennials who stage an attack on the symbols of global capitalism, it becomes a portrait of anger and resistance transformed into an exacting yet vaguely-defined assault on property and information and cultural landmarks. The first half is a crisply […]

Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, and Riley Keough star in the horror thriller from Trey Edward Shults

‘It Comes at Night’ on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

The title of It Comes at Night (2017) sets certain expectations. What exactly comes at night? But the survival thriller from writer/director Trey Edward Shults, set sometime after the ravages of an unnamed and unexplained plague have ripped through the cities and sent survivors into the isolation of the wilderness, isn’t about monsters (human or […]

‘Alien: Covenant’ on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

You may recall Prometheus with both awe and astonishment, a film with astounding moments of beauty and horror and brilliance bumping up against stupidity and sloppiness and half-baked ideas. Alien: Covenant (2017), the second film in the Alien prequel series, takes place a decade after the events of Prometheus (2012) and continues writing the xenomorph […]