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 Cabin in the Woods’ on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu

There’s more knowing horror comedy and meta-horror commentary than actual tension and thrills in The Cabin in the Woods (2012) self-aware, awfully clever love letter to the horror movie fandom from Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon. That’s fair, because scares or not, I had more fun watching Cabin than most recent horror films. Producer and […]

Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg in 'American Ultra.' Photo credit: Lionsgate

‘American Ultra’ – stoners and spies on Amazon Prime and Hulu

American Ultra (2015) reworks The Bourne Identity as a slacker comedy with a killer punchline. Jesse Eisenberg is Mike Howell, a sweet, underachieving stoner prone to panic attacks. He gets by as convenience store clerk in a dead-end West Virginia town with a supportive girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), who is almost impossibly understanding when it […]

‘The Pianist’ – the devastating Oscar-winning drama on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video

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 […]

Jesse Eisenberg stars in the Kelly Reichardt film with Peter Sarsgaard and Dakota Fanning

Kelly Reichardt’s ‘Night Moves’ on Amazon Prime Video

Night Moves (2013), the fourth film that New York-based director Kelly Reichardt made in Oregon with screenwriter Jon Raymond, was her most commercial project to that, though you won’t mistake this drama of eco-terrorists who blow a dam on a southern Oregon river for a Hollywood thriller. Reichardt and longtime screenwriting partner Jon Raymond focus […]

‘Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter’ – swashbuckling horror on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu

Forget Van Helsing. Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974) is the great swashbuckling dispatcher of the bloodsucking undead. Hard-faced Horst Janson is the brooding Kronos, a rangy, sword-wielding soldier who hunts the vampire scourge with his jovial hunchbacked partner, Grost (John Cater) and takes time out from his athletic battles and meditative interludes for a few […]

Channing Tatum is 'Magic Mike' in an unexpectedly compelling story inspired by the actor's real life experiences. Steven Soderbergh directs.

‘Magic Mike’ on Amazon Prime Video

Magic Mike (2012) was an underdog success story of 2012. While megabudget spectacles and potential tentpole films collapsed under the weight of heavy productions over flimsy scripts, Steven Soderbergh took a story inspired by actor Channing Tatum’s early experiences as a male stripper and a budget that wouldn’t pay for the reshoots on Battleship and […]

Al Pacino stars in 'Serpico',' directed by Sidney Lumet

Al Pacino is ‘Serpico’ on Hulu

“It’s incredible but I feel like a criminal because I don’t take money.” So says Al Pacino in Serpico (1973), Sidney Lumet’s take on the true story of frustrated New York policeman Frank Serpico. As portrayed by Al Pacino, Serpico is the resident nonconformist in the working class New York Police Department, a college-educated street […]

John Cassavetes, Britt Ekland, Peter Falk, and Gena Rowlands

John Cassavetes is ‘Machine Gun McCain’ on Amazon Prime Video

John Cassavetes was doing his Orson Welles thing—by that I mean acting in whatever movie paid well so he could finance his own, personal productions—when he took the lead in Machine Gun McCain (Italy, 1968), an Italian mob picture/heist movie hybrid shot in large part on location in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. […]

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 […]