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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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

‘It Comes at Night’ on Amazon Prime

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 […]

Orson Welles is Harry Lime on Carol Reed's classic

Continental noir: ‘The Third Man’ on FilmStruck and Criterion Channel

Carol Reed’s continental film noir The Third Man (1949), written by Graham Greene and starring Joseph Cotten as a cynical American pulp novelist playing detective in the rubble-strewn underworld of post-war Vienna and Orson Welles as a charming but ruthless black marketeer, is one of the true classics. The film is directed by Reed but […]

George Clooney stars in the political thriller by Tony Gilroy

George Clooney is ‘Michael Clayton’ on Netflix

“I’m not a miracle worker. I’m a janitor.” George Clooney simmers as Michael Clayton (2007), a legal “fixer” who works behind the scenes of a powerful New York law firm, in Tony Gilroy’s smart, sharp legal drama. When he’s sent to clean up the moral meltdown of the firm’s leading litigator (Tom Wilkinson), he unwittingly […]

Jo Jin-woong stars in the South Korean thriller from Lee Soo-young

‘Bluebeard’ – A South Korean serial killer on Netflix

In Bluebeard (South Korea, 2017), a meek, newly-divorced doctor starting over as a junior staff physician at a clinic serving a largely elderly population become the unwitting witness to what appears to be a confession to a series of unsolved serial killings by an old man under sedation. Dr. Byun Seung-hoon (Jo Jin-woong), already suffering […]

‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ – Guillermo del Toro’s dark fairy tale on Amazon Prime

Pan’s Labyrinth (Spain, 2006), Guillermo del Toro’s dark fairy tale, is an elemental Alice in Wonderland amidst the horrors of Francisco Franco’s reign of terror in 1944 Spain. Our Alice is an imaginative young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) who escapes into an elemental wonderland after she moves into the country estate with her ailing […]