‘Frozen River’ on Amazon Prime

Courtney Hunt delivers the best kind of American independent drama with Frozen River (2008), a film that is respectful of its characters, responsive to its location, and honest in its storytelling. This kind of uncompromising filmmaking is often a hard sell. Hunt not only got her film a theatrical release, she earned Academy Award nominations […]

Susanne Wuest in the German horror drama 'Goodnight Mommy,' directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz

Last chance: ‘Goodnight Mommy’ on Hulu

Goodnight Mommy (Germany, 2015) is an unsettling horror film built on scars (physical and psychological) that upset the connection between a mother (Susanne Wuest) and her sons, adolescent twins named Lukas and Elias played by real-life twin brothers Lukas Schwarz and Elias Schwarz. That fraternal connection is apparent in every scene, not just affection but […]

George Clooney stars in the political thriller by Tony Gilroy

Last chance: George Clooney is ‘Michael Clayton’ on HBO Max

“I’m not a miracle worker. I’m a janitor.” George Clooney simmers as Michael Clayton (2007), a legal “fixer” who works behind the scenes of a powerful New York law firm, in Tony Gilroy’s smart, sharp legal drama. When he’s sent to clean up the moral meltdown of the firm’s leading litigator (Tom Wilkinson), he unwittingly […]

Justin Simien's satire Dear White People on Amazon Prime

‘Dear White People’ – a sharp social satire on Hulu

Dear White People (2014), the feature debut of director / writer Justin Simien, is a sharp, smart, ambitious satire of race, racism, privilege, prejudice, and power at an Ivy League college that has drawn comparisons to Spike Lee. It’s a fitting comparison. Simien uses humor and provocation to explore issues of race and race relationships […]

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in the high school neo-noir by Rian Johnson

‘Brick’- High school noir on Criterion Channel

Brick (2005), the debut feature from Star Trek: The Last Jedi filmmaker Rian Johnson, puts the collected works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett in a blender with a jigger of teenage melodrama and pours it into a high school mold. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays things so close to his chest that he’s almost unreadable as […]

‘Whip It’ – grrrl power on the roller derby rink on Hulu

Whip It (2009), the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore, is a grrrl power movie on wheels. Set in the funky DIY world of local roller derby leagues, it stars Elliot Page in their best role since Juno. Bliss Cavendar is neither as smart-ass nor as confident as the sardonic Juno MacGuff. This restless girl in […]

‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ – Saving the future on Hulu and Paramount+

“This is the story of our most excellent dads.” Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter bring those most excellent characters, Theodore “Ted” Logan and William “Bill” S. Preston, Esq., back to the screen in Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020). More than thirty years after Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the teenage best friends, wannabe […]

‘Fantastic Planet’ – the animated cult classic on HBO Max and Criterion Channel

La planète sauvage, the original French title of Rene Laloux’s legendary animated feature Fantastic Planet (France, 1973), is a better indication of the torments that await the inhabitants of this cult science fiction classic. The oppressed (and very human-like) Oms live in a world ruled by blue-skinned giants called the Draags, who treat the diminutive […]

George Clooney is ‘The American’ on Amazon Prime

Anton Corbijn’s The American (2010) is a cool, continental thriller starring George Clooney as the titular American, a professional in the assassination game in Europe. I use the term “thriller” in the generic sense, as this plays out more like Jean-Pierre Melville portrait of isolated underworld professionals, freelancers in the international network of criminal enterprise. […]

Miguel Sandoval, Spike Lee, and Ossie Davis

Spike Lee’s ‘Do The Right Thing’ on Peacock

Do The Right Thing (1989), Spike Lee’s vibrant, vital, thoroughly accomplished third feature, opens on a call to action – “Fight the Power,” shouts Public Enemy in the credits – and ends with a call to “Wake up!” Rosie Perez pumps out an aggressive shout of a dance in the opening credits, staged in front […]