‘Real Steel’ with Hugh Jackman on Netflix

Distill Rocky and The Champ, add a dash of The Rumble in the Jungle, shake well and serve in larger-than-life rock ’em sock ’em robots. That’s basically what you get with Real Steel (2011), and somehow all those second-hand pieces come together in a rousing (if awfully inevitable) underdog story. Ostensibly based on the same […]

‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ on Amazon Prime and Disney+

There is something very appealing in the gee-whiz earnestness and plucky patriotism of Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), a red, white and blue superhero journey wrapped up in the nostalgia of the World War II era, where American pluck and moral certainty made the battle. As the title hints, it is something of a […]

‘Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster’ on Netflix

Our story so far: the title character (played by Hong Kong martial arts maestro Donnie Yen) is the real-life martial Chinese arts teacher and proponent of Wing Chun style who was a hero during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria but is more famous to the western world for mentoring the young Bruce Lee. Which is […]

‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ – Matt Damon’s final run on Hulu

Matt Damon returns in the “Bourne” franchise in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), playing the great anti-Bond of Hollywood action cinema for his third and final time. Jason Bourne is a former covert assassin essentially programmed by the CIA to be an emotionless killing machine, and he’s determined to reclaim his identity and his humanity. His […]

Uma Thurman is The Bride in Quentin Tarantino's 'Kill Bill.'

‘Kill Bill: Volumes 1 and 2’ on Amazon Prime Video

Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003), Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film (as he insists in the credits) returns to his old passions with a new weapon in his arsenal: a visual eye. Tarantino created the role “The Bride” for Uma Thurman, who plays the lead with fierce intensity. A professional assassin left for dead, she wakes up […]

‘The Expendables’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Sylvester Stallone has a spotty track record as a writer/director: passably effective at best, painfully misguided and lost in blind alleys of melodramatic kitsch as worst (Driven). He’s best at serving his own screen image (especially if already established by a previous filmmaker, as in the Rocky and Rambo sequels). With The Expendables (2010), he […]

Matt Damon in 'The Bourne Identity' directed by Doug Liman

‘The Bourne Identity’ and ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ on Peacock

Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne is the anti-Bond of Hollywood action cinema. He’s almost emotionless when he clicks into gear and lets his training take over, like a killing machine suddenly switched on. Doug Liman directs The Bourne Identity (2002), an adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s novel (previously made as a TV movie with Richard Chamberlain) about […]

Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, and Angourie Rice in Shane Black's 'The Nice Guys'

‘The Nice Guys’ – wise guy action on Hulu

Shane Black helped remake the modern American action movie with his screenplays Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout. For The Nice Guys (2016), he slips into flashback mode for a tribute to the old school action movies and private eye thrillers of the 1970s mixed with Black’s knowing sense of humor. Ryan Gosling is Holland […]

‘Drive’ – Ryan Gosling’s getaway on VOD and DVD/Blu-ray

Sleek pulp crime cool meets arthouse style thriller in Drive (2011, R) starring Ryan Gosling as a taciturn getaway driver. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (a veteran of gritty, brutal Danish underworld dramas) with a silky smoothness and a stylized cool that recalls Le Samourai and Walter Hill’s The Driver, and an eighties vibe and […]

Gordon Liu in Liu Chia-Liang’s martian arts cult classic 'The 36th Chamber of Shaolin'

Martial arts classics ‘The 36th Chamber of Shaolin’ and ‘The Five Venoms’ on Netflix

Old school martial arts fans will love these cult Hong Kong classics from the Shaw Brothers canon. In The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (Hong Kong, 1978), idealistic student revolutionary Gordon Liu flees the Manchu militia occupying Canton after his group is betrayed and seeks refuge in a Buddhist monastery to learn the secret martial arts. […]