J.J. Abrams channels Steven Spielberg for ‘Super 8’ on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu

J.J. Abrams, the high-concept super-producer turned director, writes and directs Super 8 (2011) but the DNA comes right out of Steven Spielberg. Set in 1979, before the home video revolution put video cameras in the hands of movie-mad kids, this is a monster movie adventure powered by creative kids, a love of movies, and an […]

The original ‘Cloverfield’ on Netflix

A 21st century Godzilla movie for the (pre-video phone) camcorder generation, Cloverfield (2008) is a high-concept reworking of an old-fashioned creature feature with a DIY aesthetic. The conceit of the film is essentially the home video record of an alien invasion as shot by a wise-cracking default cameraman recording every movement of a group of […]

What to stream: indie hit ‘The Farewell’ on Amazon Prime, ‘High Fidelity: The Series’ on Hulu, Oscar-winners on VOD

Here’s what’s new and ready to stream now on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Now, video-on-demand, and other streaming services …   The gentle indie comic-drama “The Farewell” (2019, PG, with subtitles) follows the story of a Chinese-American woman (Awkwafina) who can’t understand why her family won’t tell her Chinese grandmother she has cancer. It […]

Tilda Swinton in Bong Joon-ho 's 'Snowpiercer'

‘Snowpiercer’ – careening allegory on Netflix

Snowpiercer (2013), an international production from Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho and a French graphic novel, is a high-speed allegory speeding down the science fiction tracks of genre cinema. That’s the way I like this brand of filmmaking: with the symbols big, muscular, detailed, and punchy. You either give yourself over to the metaphor, in this […]

‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut’ – the definitive version of the SF classic on Netflix

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1981/2007) – Ridley Scott’s visionary reworking of Philip K. Dick’s novel, “Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep,” was a box-office flop. Maybe it was too dark for a public flying away on the fantasy of E.T. in the summer of 1982, or too downbeat for audiences looking for a Harrison […]

Barry Sullivan stars in Mario Bava's Italian sci-fi horror cult film

Mario Bava’s ‘Planet of the Vampires’ on Amazon Prime Video

Despite the title Mario Bava’s funky 1965 sci-fantasy thriller Planet of the Vampires (Italy, 1965), there are no bloodsuckers to be seen, merely an unseen force that kills the astronauts (led by a craggy Barry Sullivan) that land on a primeval otherworldly planet of jagged rocks, bubbling lakes of lava mud, and purple skies. If […]

Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson in the science fiction film directed by Richard Fleischer

‘Soylent Green’ – The future is bleak on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

Set in 2022 New York City, population 40,000,000, the eco-conscious science fiction artifact Soylent Green (1973) looks more prescient than ever. In this overpopulated world, the gap between the rich and everyone else is enormous, poverty is rampant, unemployment high and “the greenhouse effect” (those very words are used in the film) has brought on […]

‘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 […]

‘No Blade of Grass’ – Surviving the end of the world on VOD and DVD

Cornel Wilde’s grim No Blade of Grass (1970) is a forgotten dystopian classic due for rediscovery. Gritty and brutal, built on fears of ecological devastation through pollution and overcrowding (with hints of genetic manipulation gone bad), this 1970 end-of-the-world thriller seems to have gotten lost in the overcrowded apocalypse now science fiction cinema of the […]