‘Inception’ – Christopher Nolan’s mind-heist on Netflix

Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010), a caper film that heists dreams instead of treasure, is surely the most cerebral action thriller to become a blockbuster. It’s a genre film that reshuffles the rules and lays them out in a mind-bending pattern. Playing out on multiple planes of dream reality, it’s also another Nolan film to completely […]

‘The Tall Target’ – steam noir on Criterion Channel

Anthony Mann’s The Tall Target (1951) is a rare period piece noir. This one is set in 1860 and the tall target of the title is President-elect Abraham Lincoln. Dick Powell plays the lone police detective who believes in the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln on his journey to be sworn in as President and, in […]

Aaron Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Nicolas Cage star in the superhero movie by Matthew Vaughn

‘Kick-Ass’ – wicked superhero fun on Peacock

Kick-Ass (2010) is a comic book movie with a killer premise: what if regular people in the real world became costume vigilantes like the superheroes in comic books? Based on the uber-violent comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., this film tosses a high school teenager (Aaron Johnson) into a crime-fighting culture he isn’t the […]

Brian Dennehy and James Woods as cop and killer in 'Best Seller,' written by Larry Cohen and directed by John Flynn

‘Best Seller’ – James Woods kills on Amazon Prime

Best Seller (1987) is a modest but smartly-scripted thriller that holds up remarkably well, thanks to near-perfect casting and a savvy script by Larry Cohen, who was better known at the time as a cagey director of high-concept, low-budget exploitation films. James Woods brings charm to the role of Cleve, a pathologically vindictive hitman who […]

‘I Am Legend’ – Will Smith is the last man on earth on 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 […]

‘District 9’ – the aliens have arrived on Hulu

The aliens arrived almost thirty years ago, their crippled spacecraft hovering to a halt over Johannesburg, where it remains floating over the city. That defining image hovers over the entirety of District 9 (2009), a savagely whipsmart satire of first contact with an alien species that has been reduced to repressed immigrant population stranded in […]

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

‘Riot in Cell Block 11’ on Criterion Channel

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 […]

Tommy Lee Jones in the Coen Bros.'s Oscar-winning 'No Country for Old Men'

Oscar-winner ‘No Country for Old Men’ on HBO Max

No Country for Old Men (2007), adapted from Corman McCarthy’s novel by directors/screenwriters/auteurs-of-our-age Ethan and Joel Coen, is a perfect match of story and storyteller. Josh Brolin’s Llewelyn Moss, a cowboy in modern Texas who returns from poaching trip with a fortune in drug money, is just smart enough to outrun trouble, but he’s a […]

Diane Kruger stars in the German drama directed by Fatih Akin

Diane Kruger is ‘In the Fade’ on Amazon Prime

Director Fatih Akin, a German filmmaker of Turkish heritage, likes to dig deep into raw emotion and conflict, both personal and cultural. In the Fade (Germany, 2017) takes on the rise of white nationalism and domestic terrorism through the ordeal of a young widow grieving over the brutal bombing murder of her family. Diane Kruger […]

‘Point Blank’ – pulse-pounding French thriller on Amazon Prime

The French crime thriller Point Blank (France, 2010), not to be confused with John Boorman’s 1967 post-noir masterpiece, opens in full sprint and pretty much stays in that adrenaline-pumping state. There is one peaceful interlude, a flashback to the calm before the storm with nursing student Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) and his pregnant wife (Elena Anaya), […]