Matt Damon is Mark Whitacre in the movie by Steven Soderbergh

Matt Damon is ‘The Informant!’ on Netflix

Biochemical engineer and corporate whistleblower Mark Whitacre might have been a national hero for his help in exposing international price fixing. Too bad he was also a compulsive liar and an embezzler caught up in delusions of grandeur and secret-agent fantasies. Though based on a true story, The Informant! (2009) is not The Insider but […]

‘The Wrecking Crew!’ – the musicians behind the sixties hits on Hulu

The Wrecking Crew! (2008/2015) was the secret weapon of the Los Angeles recording studio culture of the sixties and seventies. Hal Blaine, Plas Johnson, Carol Kaye, Earl Palmer, Don Randi and Tommy Tedesco played on literally hundreds of pop songs and albums, working with everyone from Frank Sinatra to The Beach Boys, Herb Albert to The […]

Donald Pleasance and Gary Bond in the 1971 Australian drama by Ted Kotcheff

Australian cult film ‘Wake in Fright’ on Amazon Prime Video

Wake in Fright (1971), one of the seminal works of the New Australian cinema of the seventies, is a brutal, blackly funny thriller of an urban schoolteacher (Gary Bond) posted to the Australian Outback, which is a sun-blasted nightmare as far as he’s concerned. He can’t leave fast enough when his Christmas vacation arrives, but […]

Tatsuya Nakadai in the Akira Kurosawa epic

Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Ran’ on FilmStruck

Akira Kurosawa Ran (Japan, 1985), the story of an aging warlord who hands power to his sons is loosely inspired by the story of sixteenth century warlord Mōri Motonari, who conquered his rivals and extended his kingdom with the help of his three sons. The script is firmly built on King Lear, with sons taking […]

Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer star in Rob Reiner's 'This is Spinal Tap'

‘This Is Spinal Tap’ – crank it to 11 on Hulu

“It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.” – Nigel Tufnel Rob Reiner walks that fine line in his hilarious mockrockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (1984), ostensibly the portrait of a has-been metal band resurrected from a well-deserved obscurity for a disastrous comeback tour. Improv comedy veterans Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer don’t […]

Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh in the film by Orson Welles

‘Touch of Evil’ – Orson Welles on the border on Netflix

Orson Welles’ baroque border town murder mystery Touch of Evil (1958/1998) is a wild masterpiece, a sleazy, grimy, jittery, and ultimately dazzling work of cinematic magic. It’s considered the last great film noir and the bookend to the true noir era. It was also Welles’s last attempt at a career in Hollywood before he packed […]

Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman in the 1955 film by Douglas Sirk

‘All that Heaven Allows’ – Love as suburban opera on Amazon Prime Video

Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman were so successful in Douglas Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession that they all reteamed for All that Heaven Allows (1955) as Sirk became Universal’s house melodramatist. He turned improbable plots into social commentary and pulling back the covers of middle class hypocrisy with an ironic visual style and an almost operatic emotional […]

James Cagney and Jean Harlow star in the gangster classic by William Wellman

‘The Public Enemy’ – James Cagney’s original gangster on FilmStruck

James Cagney became an overnight sensation as the streetwise dynamo Tom Powers, a Chicago slum kid turned brutal mob goon in The Public Enemy (1931), William A. Wellman’s archetypal gangster classic. In the first depression-era films of the mob rats blasting their way to big screen glory like Molotov cocktails, Cagney’s Tom Powers was the […]

Tommy Lee Jones in the Coen Bros.'s Oscar-winning 'No Country for Old Men'

Oscar-winner ‘No Country for Old Men’ on Netflix

No Country for Old Men (2007), adapted from Corman McCarthy’s novel by directors/screenwriters/auteurs-of-our-age Ethan and Joel Coen, is a perfect match of story and storyteller. Josh Brolin’s Llewelyn Moss, a cowboy in modern Texas who returns from poaching trip with a fortune in drug money, is just smart enough to outrun trouble, but he’s a […]

Marlene Dietrich in the 1932 classic by Josef von Sternberg

Criterion Blu-ray: Dietrich & Von Sternberg in Hollywood

Dietrich & Von Sternberg in Hollywood (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) At the dawn of the sound era, as German movie star Emil Jannings left Hollywood to return to Germany, the actor invited Austrian-born/American-raised director Josef von Sternberg (who directed Jannings in The Last Command, 1928) to Universum Film A.G. to direct him in that studio’s first […]