Jack Hawkins stars in the British caper film with military order from Basil Dearden

‘The League of Gentlemen’ – a very British heist on The Criterion Channel

Basil Dearden’s The League of Gentlemen (1960) is a sturdy and meticulous heist film built on an appreciation of teamwork, camaraderie and hard work: a professional work about professionals working. That’s the foundation of many a classic heist or men-on-a-mission thriller and this film offers it as a kind of skewed redemption for a misfit […]

The complete ‘Lost’ on Hulu

Lost: Complete Series (2004-2010) – The very definition of high-concept television, this addictive survival series turned metaphysical mystery is arguably the most successful and certainly the most richly and deeply woven show of its kind. What began as an exotic Gilligan’s Island through The Twilight Zone turned into a mind-bending show with supernatural echoes and […]

Vince Vaughn in the prison thriller by S. Craig Zahler

‘Brawl in Cellblock 99’ – Vince Vaughn picks a fight on Amazon Prime

Brawl in Cellblock 99 (2017) is my pick for the smartest piece of cinematic pulp fiction in 2017. It didn’t draw audiences to theaters, perhaps due to the extremes of the violent action. But if it lacks the elaborate choreography and martial grace of John Wick (by design), it more than makes up for it […]

Song Kang-ho stars in the South Korean spy thriller by Kim Jee-woon

‘The Age of Shadows’ – Korean spy thriller on Netflix

Kim Jee-woon, director of such hits as hits The Good the Bad the Weird and I Saw the Devil, announced his return to South Korea after his Hollywood tryout with The Age of Shadows (South Korea, 2016, not rated, with subtitles), a sprawling spy thriller set in the underground resistance to the Japanese occupation of […]

Ice-T and Drea Matteo in the film by Abel Ferrara

‘R Xmas – an Abel Ferrara holiday movie on Amazon Prime

Inspired by a supposedly true story by Cassandra De Jesus, this low-key drama is prime Abel Ferrara territory: a New York tale rumbling with irony and ambiguity. Doting Manhattan parents Drea Matteo and Lillo Brancato Jr. (both veterans of The Sopranos) keep their upper-class lifestyle together—private school for the kids, BMW for the parents, classy […]

Jo Jin-woong stars in the South Korean thriller from Lee Soo-young

‘Bluebeard’ – A South Korean serial killer on Netflix

In Bluebeard (South Korea, 2017), a meek, newly-divorced doctor starting over as a junior staff physician at a clinic serving a largely elderly population become the unwitting witness to what appears to be a confession to a series of unsolved serial killings by an old man under sedation. Dr. Byun Seung-hoon (Jo Jin-woong), already suffering […]

Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams in Brian De Palma's remake of Love Crimes

Brian De Palma’s ‘Passion’ on Amazon Prime

There isn’t a lot of passion in Brian De Palma’s Passion (2012, R) but there is a love of kinkiness, flirtation, sensation, and the thrill of playing big business games and an odd intimacy that we don’t always get in De Palma’s coolly observed, stylistically exacting cinema. The opening scene has an easy intimacy of […]

Riki Takeuchi and Sho Aikawa in Miike Takashi's Dead or Alive trilogy

Takashi Miike’s extreme ‘Dead or Alive’ trilogy on Amazon Prime

Takashi Miike made his reputation as Japan’s gonzo gun-for-hire, a genre madman who pumped manic energy and wild style into films he pushed to the extremes in every way, from violence to surreal twists. He once described himself as “an arranger, not an author.” Taking a cue from one of his own film titles, I […]