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 (Belgium, 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 […]

‘Being John Malkovich’ on Peacock

Being John Malkovich (1999), a devastatingly funny portrait of unhappiness, desperation, desire, and the vicious things we do for love, catapulted Spike Jonze from music video wunderkind to visionary director and Charlie Kaufman from sitcom scribe to brilliant screenwriter. In 1999, when our obsession with celebrity was mainly fed by gossip magazines and entertainment programs, […]

‘Black Dynamite’ on HBO Max

A tongue-in-cheek tribute to the black exploitation action cinema of the seventies, Black Dynamite (2009) is a dead-on parody of the sloppy filmmaking, aggressive overacting and slapdash writing of the cheapest films of the genre. Michael Jai White, who also co-wrote and co-produced the film, dons a neatly sculpted afro and a tough guy mustache […]

Billy Bob Thornton and Sandra Bullock in David Gordon Green's 'Our Brand is Crisis'

‘Our Brand Is Crisis’ on HBO Max

Our Brand Is Crisis (2015), inspired by the 2005 documentary of the same name, is a political satire with an engaging cast but a dull bite. Set in the 2002, it stars Sandra Bullock as an American political consultant lured out of retirement to work on a campaign to re-elect a former Bolivian President (Joaquim […]

Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy just want to put on a picture show in the affectionate Hollywood lampoon written by Martin and directed by Frank Oz.

Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy in ‘Bowfinger’ on HBO Max

Bowfinger (1999), Steve Martin’s tribute to shoestring filmmaking and big-screen dreams, is a loving lampoon that gamely straddles the chasm between cynical con-artistry and benign innocence. Martin wrote the film and stars as commercial director and would-be filmmaker Bobbie Bowfinger, a Hollywood dreamer with more chutzpah than talent. When he stumbles upon the perfect, a […]

Alan Arkin and Peter Falk star in the hilarious 1979 comedy written by Andrew Bergman

The original ‘The In-Laws’ on Criterion Channel

“You interested in joining the CIA? The benefits are great. The trick in not getting killed. That’s the key to the whole benefits program.” Ever had a relative who thinks they’re part of the CIA? Ever had one who really was? The original The In-Laws (1979) tackles both at once and delivers one of the […]

Timo Vuorensola directs this German farce about space Nazis.

‘Iron Sky’ – Steampunk Nazis on Amazon Prime

Iron Sky (Germany, 2012) is an inspired concept—Hitler escaped Germany with a cadre of Nazi loyalists and established a colony on the dark side of the moon—executed with total conviction, at least in the physical details. This isolated outpost lives in a steampunk world forged from the legacy of Krupp machineworks, all giant gears and […]

Nicolas Cage in Andrew Niccol's 'Lord of War'

Nicolas Cage is the ‘Lord of War’ on Amazon Prime

“There are over 550 million firearms in worldwide circulation. That’s one firearm for every twelve people on the planet. The only question is: How do we arm the other 11?” The opening line of Andrew Niccol’s Lord of War (2005) captures the film in a phrase: it’s serious, it’s sardonic, and it has both a […]

Bruce Willis and Reece Thompson in the film by Brett Simon

‘Assassination of a High School President’ on Amazon Prime Video

The name’s Bobby Funke. I write for the paper.” At least that’s how this picked-on sophomore imagines himself in Assassination of a High School President (2008): the loner who walks a straight line through the crooked halls of his corrupt Catholic high school. Funke (who is inevitably called “Funky” by his schoolmates) narrates his tale […]