‘Haywire’ – bad-ass action on HBO Max

Haywire (2011) is Steven Soderbergh’s drive-in assassin action movie by way of a sleek art-house conspiracy thriller. According to the director, the film sprung from his desire to develop a film around the talents and skill of mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano, and the finished film — which casts Carano as a covert agent […]

‘The Limey’ – Terence Stamp’s revenge on Amazon Prime

The Limey (1999), Steven Soderbergh’s immediate follow-up to his sexy and stylish Out of Sight, is an equally stylish but far more austere crime drama, cool and removed and filled with regret where Out of Sight was warm and romantic and sexy. Terence Stamp is Wilson, an aging cockney criminal fresh out of prison who […]

‘The Pianist’ – the devastating Oscar-winning drama on Netflix

The Pianist (2002), Roman Polanski’s film of the true story of Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman, is uncompromising in its portrayal of survival. We see the Holocaust through his eyes (via actor Adrien Brody) as the occupying Nazi military slowly but inexorably takes away the rights, the property, the humanity, and in most cases the lives […]

Orson Welles is Harry Lime on Carol Reed's classic

Continental noir: ‘The Third Man’ on 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 […]

‘The Woman in the Window’ on Amazon Prime

Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window (1944) is a film noir nightmare in every definition of the term. Edward G. Robinson is the middle-aged philosophy professor who meets beautiful young model Kitty (Joan Bennett) on the street. His wife and kids are out of town for vacation so he joins this single, sexy young […]

Nicolas Cage and John Travolta ‘Face/Off’ on Hulu

When John Woo, the action maestro of Hong Kong cinema, is working at the top of his game, he transforms violent action cinema into a ballet of blood and bullets that matches the emotional intensity of his character drama. Face/Off (1997) is his second American film but the first to reach the pitched level of […]

Ethan Hawke in ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ on HBO Max

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) is a surprisingly taut, tight, effective remake of John Carpenter’s genuine debut feature (I count Dark Star as a practice run). Ethan Hawke stars as a former undercover cop who hit the bottle and retreated to desk work after one case went horribly wrong. Now a gun-shy station commander overseeing […]

‘I Am Legend’ – Will Smith is the last man on earth on Netflix and Peacock

I Am Legend (2007), the third official adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel (and the first to carry the novel’s name) about the last human in Earth after a plague turns the survivors into undead creatures, strips the story down to essentials. This version, directed by Francis Lawrence, focuses on the visceral experience of roaming an […]

Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton star in Sam Raimi's thriller

‘A Simple Plan’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

A Simple Plan (1998) – An endless white landscape of rolling hills and snow-blanketed forests. A lonely acoustic score (by Danny Elfman) plays in the background. A vision of rural simplicity portrayed in hushed tones. The stillness is about to shatter. Brothers Hank (Bill Paxton), an accountant at a small town feed store, and Jacob […]