Peter Jackson directs the first film in J.R.R. Tolkein's trilogy

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ – The journey begins on Netflix

With The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), New Zealand genre film maverick Peter Jackson does the impossible: he makes a faithful, magical, thrilling, and—most importantly—compelling film version of J.R.R. Tolkein’s great cult fantasy epic. Streamlining the complex story and wealth of detail from the novel, Jackson manages to introduce a […]

Emile Hirsch stars in Sean Penn's 'Into the Wild,' adapted from Jon Krakauer's non-fiction book

Head ‘Into the Wild’ on Netflix

Into the Wild (2007), Sean Penn’s adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction book, is a bracing cinematic plunge into the odyssey of Christopher McCandless. The real-life young man fled a middle-class life of what he perceived to be the compromises and corruptions of the material world to embark on an “Alaskan Adventure,” a quest of self-reliance […]

Peter Wyngarde and Janet Blair star in the adaptation of the Fritz Leiber novel from director Sidney Hayers

‘Burn, Witch, Burn!’ on Amazon Prime

Burn, Witch, Burn! (1962), also called Night of the Eagle, is a smartly-turned thriller about witchcraft, skepticism and dark magic adapted from the Fritz Leiber novel “Conjure Wife” by two of the masters of fantasy, horror and suspense: Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont (both veteran Twilight Zone scriptwriters). Peter Wyngarde stars as the college psychology […]

Marlon Brando stars in the Oscar-winning film by Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’ trilogy on Netflix

“It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.” Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s bestseller remains the great American epic of the immigrant dream turned family business. Al Pacino stars as Michael Corleone, the clean-cut white sheep and patriotic soldier boy son of New York Godfather Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando in an Oscar–winning performance), and this […]

Gene Wilder is Willy Wonka in the musical adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel

The original ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ on Netflix

“Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination.” Gene Wilder is the weird, wonderful, slightly sinister candy bar king who invites five children into his factory kingdom in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), a musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s fantasy. It is a rare breed: an imaginative live-action […]

Robert Pattinson stars in David Cronenberg's creen adaptation of Don Delillo's sprawling novel

David Cronenberg’s ‘Cosmopolis’ on Amazon Prime

Cosmopolis (2012) is a microcosm of a disconnected existence, life lived in a bubble in financial dealings and digital communications and brief face-to-face conversations and sexual intermissions in a space shuttle of a limousine creeping through the gridlock of an anonymous New York City. David Cronenberg adapts Don Delillo’s massive novel, distilling it down to […]

Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld in Christian Petzold's 'Phoenix'

‘Phoenix’ – from the ashes on Criterion Channel

Just as the title suggests, Phoenix (Germany, 2014) is about rising from the ashes, but filmmaker Christian Petzold is more interested than the smudged moral world in the ashes of Germany after World War II than in the promise of the rise. Nina Hoss, one of the great actresses of our time and star of […]

Anna Magnani stars in Jean Renoir's adaptation of the Prosper Merimee play

Jean Renoir’s ‘The Golden Coach’ on Amazon Prime and FilmStruck

Anna Magnani stars as the earthy, vivacious diva of The Golden Coach (France/Italy, 1952), an adaptation of a Prosper Merimee play about a traveling troupe of Italian commedia dell’arte players in a Peruvian backwater where three men (a viceroy, a bullfighter, and a fellow performer) vie for the affections of the company’s leading lady. An […]

Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, and Claudia Cardinale star in Luchino Visconti's adaptation of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel

Burt Lancaster is ‘The Leopard’ in Luchino Visconti’s masterpiece on FilmStruck

The Leopard (Italy, 1963), Luchino Visconti’s adaptation of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel (said to be a national touchstone for Italy), is his masterpiece. Burt Lancaster (his voice is dubbed by a deep-voiced Italian) may seem an unusual choice to play Prince Don Fabrizio Salina, an idealistic 19th century Sicilian prince (Visconti favored Laurence Olivier, a […]

Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof star in the modern dress Shakespeare adaptation from Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon does ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ on Hulu

Joss Whedon shot Much Ado About Nothing (2012), his modern-dress take on the Shakespeare farce, in two weeks at his own house during down-time in the middle of making The Avengers, and his invited old friends and collaborators to join him. Angel co-stars Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof take the lead roles of Beatrice and Benedick […]