Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in the high school neo-noir by Rian Johnson

‘Brick’- High school noir on Netflix

Brick (2005), the debut feature from Star Trek: The Last Jedi filmmaker Rian Johnson, puts the collected works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett in a blender with a jigger of teenage melodrama and pours it into a high school mold. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays things so close to his chest that he’s almost unreadable as […]

Helen Shaver and Patricia Charbonneau star in the film by Donna Deitch

‘Desert Hearts’ – an American indie landmark on FilmStruck

An early example of modern American independent cinema and a landmark film in the presentation of same-sex romance in American movies, Desert Hearts (1985) follows the journey of Vivian (Helen Shaver), a college professor who arrives in Reno for a six-week stay at a vacation ranch set up for women who have come to Nevada […]

Viggo Mortensen stars in "Captain Fantastic."

‘Captain Fantastic’ – Alternative family values on Showtime Anytime

Captain Fantastic (2016) is a road movie, a family drama, a tale of loss, and a loving portrait of an alternative family that is prepared to face everything but the modern world. Viggo Mortensen is Ben, the father who (with his equally committed but currently absent wife) moved into the deep woods of the Pacific […]

Ethan Hawke in the film by Paul Schrader

‘First Reformed’ on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

Anyone who has followed the career of Paul Schrader could fall into the trap of simply cataloguing the ways in which First Reformed (2018) is a summation of his themes and inspirations. Imagine the promotional possibilities: “From the author of “Transcendental Cinema” and “Notes on Film Noir” and the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and The Last […]

Anne Carlisle in the cult film by Slava Tsukerman

Androgyny and aliens in eighties cult film ‘Liquid Sky’ on Amazon Prime Video

An avant-garde artifact straddling the eighties movie underground and the growing American independent movement, Liquid Sky (1982) broke into the college film circuit thanks to a trippy mix of drug culture, sexual androgyny, and indie sci-fi weirdness playing out in the New York eighties bohemian scene. Director Slava Tsukerman was a Russian émigré who studied […]

‘Inside Deep Throat’ – Porn in the USA on Netflix

With its party rock soundtrack, colorful (and at times damaged) characters, and portrait of the pornography industry on the cusp of a cultural shift, Inside Deep Throat (2005) is something of a real life Boogie Nights. Documentary directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato offer the story of a grubby historical event: an explicit but otherwise […]

Leo Gordon and Neville Brand in the prison drama by Don Siegel

‘Riot in Cell Block 11’ on Criterion Blu-ray and DVD

It may not have been obvious at the time but Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) was a perfect match of film and filmmaker. Don Siegel later made a name for himself with his gritty Clint Eastwood collaborations (not to mention his brilliant Invasion of the Body Snatchers) but was just a promising journeyman director […]

Joaquin Phoenix in the 2014 romantic drama from Spike Jonze

‘Her’ – Love in the digital world on Netflix

Her (2013), the first film from Spike Jonze since his underrated take on Where the Wild Things Are, returns to the territory of his debut film Being John Malkovich but without the satirical edge. Like his fellow filmmakers and former collaborators Michael Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, Jonze is narratively playful and challenging, but his […]

Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds in 'Mississippi Grind,' directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Ryan Reynolds works the ‘Mississippi Grind’ on Netflix

Mississippi Grind (2015) plays like a seventies character drama, a meandering road movie through the byways of American characters who populate the card rooms and dice tables and racetracks, and an oddball buddy movie built on a chance encounter and an instant kinship between two losers gambling their lives away. Ryan Reynolds is Curtis, a […]

Jacob Tremblay and Best Actress Oscar winner Brie Larson in 'Room,' directed by Lenny Abrahamson

Brie Larson in ‘Room’ on Netflix

It’s called Room (2015). Not The Room, simply Room, as if there were no others. And for Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the five-year-old son of a young mother (Brie Larson), there aren’t. It’s his entire world, his universe, and as far as he knows nothing exists outside the walls. His mother, known only as Ma in the film, […]