10 Good Movies on Prime Video

You're in the mood for a decent film? Here are 10 that just became available on Amazon Prime.

10 Good Movies on Prime Video
A scene from "Brick"

I usually do these round-ups of new old movies on Netflix, but there’s nothing worthwhile on that service at the moment except for “Hit Man,” and I’ve yammered on about that one enough already. So, fine, here are ten good films that have just become available on Amazon Prime. If you’re already a Prime member, all you have to do is hit Play.

“Brick” (2005, ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2) – Down these cinderblock hallways a man must go. It’s Bogart goes to high school, basically, with a terrific Joseph Gordon-Levitt (above) as a student trying to solve a classmate’s murder and coming up against the usual film noir suspects: The Kingpin, the Shady Lady, the Cop, the Muscle, the Punk. Back in 2005 I pegged first-time feature director Rian Johnson as “a filmmaker to watch,” and I am pleased to say that bet paid off with one of the better “Star Wars” sequels and the glorious “Knives Out” franchise. The atrocious sound-mix does no favors to the script’s invented slang, half B-movie tough guy patter and half mall-hangout whatever.

“Control” (2007, ⭐ ⭐ ⭐) – The story of Ian Curtis and Joy Division as told by Anton Corbijn, the gifted celebrity photographer and music video director making his first narrative feature. Corbijn knew and photographed the band prior to Curtis’s suicide in 1980, on the eve of the group‘s first U.S. tour, and his film is a tender, moody recreation of time and place and a young man who tried to fight his way out of depression by inventing an entirely new kind of music. Sam Riley (above) captures Curtis’ bleak intensity with something like love – when Ian launches into “Transmission,” you feel like you’re sampling a secret history. With Samantha Morton.

“Cutter’s Way” (1981, ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2) – That we’re able to see Ivan Passer’s post-‘Nam neo-noir – originally titled “Cutter and Bone” – is something of a miracle, given that the film’s studio, United Artists, tried to bury the movie until unexpected critical praise turned it into a cult hit. Jeff Bridges (above right) gives one of his stronger early performances as Richard Bone, an innocent man suspected of murder, but he’s still overshadowed by a phenomenal John Heard (above left) as Bone's best friend, the embittered, conspiracy-minded Vietnam vet Alex Cutter.

“Gerry” (2003, ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2) – Two guys named Gerry, played by Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, go for a hike in the desert. They get lost. That's pretty much it. In 2003, I wrote: “Is Gus Van Sant's controversial new headscratcher Beckett in the desert or an art-house hoax? Depends on how you feel about films so intensely slow that they mutate into pure image. … Remember discovering, when you were a kid, that if you said a word over and over, it lost all meaning and became pure sound? Van Sant achieves that visually here, most mesmerizingly in an endless, tight two-shot of his actors' profiles bobbing up and down as they stride purposelessly at dusk.” “Gerry” isn’t for everyone – hell, maybe it’s for no one – but it’s a movie you can visit and revisit the way you would a temple sanctuary, a James Turrell artwork, or a piece of ambient music.

“I Love My Dad” (2022, ⭐ ⭐ ⭐) – When actor James Morosini (above right) experienced the ultimate Gen Z nightmare – the cute girl who befriended him on Facebook turned out to be his own estranged father trying to maintain a connection – what else could he do but write and direct a movie about it? The result is a mortifying but genuinely funny black comedy in which the fearless Patton Oswalt (above left) plays the father and Morosini essentially plays himself. Watch it with your own kids if you dare.

“The Kids Are All Right” (2010, ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐) – Or: Heather Has Two Helicopter Mommies. L.A. couple Annette Bening (above left) and Julianne Moore (above right) go a little crazy when their teenage kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) track down their moms' sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo), who turns out to be a very cool overgrown kid. Beautifully written and impeccably acted, Lisa Cholodenko’s comedy of boho-bourgeois manners is this close to a masterpiece. Bening has rarely turned in a bad performance, but she’s rarely been as enjoyable as she is here, and when was the last time Julianne Moore was allowed to have fun in a movie?

“Miami Blues” (1990, ⭐ ⭐ ⭐) – In case you’ve forgotten that Alec Baldwin (above left) was once skinny. This is the dark crime comedy-romance that put the actor on the map; based on a Charles Willeford novel and directed by Hollywood journeyman George Armitage, it lets Baldwin cruise delightfully along in the role of Junior, a genially sociopathic ex-con, while Fred Ward (above right) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (center) try to keep up. It’s the kind of movie where the anti-hero writes a haiku about breaking into houses – while he’s breaking into a house.

“My Best Fiend” (1999, ⭐ ⭐ ⭐) – In which director Werner Herzog (above left) either memorializes his long working relationship with actor Klaus Kinski (above right) or finally gets his revenge eight years after Kinski’s death. They’re pretty much the same thing. Funny, scary, and mind-boggling in equal measure, the documentary is testimony to a dysfunctionally functional creative marriage between two control freaks, with the occasional flare-up involving live ammunition. “Every gray hair on my head,” Herzog says here, “I call ‘Kinski’.”

 “Stories We Tell” (2012, ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2) – A documentary about the ways we shape the messiness of family life into legends and lies, the official version and Things We Don't Talk About. Actress-turned-director Sarah Polley peers into the mystery of her mother Diane, who died when the filmmaker was 11, and, through a suspiciously rich treasure trove of archival material, gets us to question the myths and truths about her family and our own. A work of deceptive craft, with a late-inning twist that hits a viewer like a kick in the head.

“The Woman in the Window” (1944, ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2) – One of two clammy, essential film noirs made in two years by Fritz Lang, the primary exponent of Fate’s cruel capriciousness when it comes to the best laid plans of men etc. (The other movie is “Scarlet Street,” and it’s on Prime, too.) Edward G. Robinson (above right) plays a mild-mannered sucker who finds himself with a dead body on his hands, courtesy of a femme fatale (Joan Bennett, above left). Dan Duryea co-stars as a quintessential noir heel. You can argue with the ending, but it’s the one Lang wanted.

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