‘The Dirty Dozen’ – the original World War II caper on HBO Max

The 1960s were full of big budget wartime caper-style films—The Great Escape, Where Eagles Dare, Kelley’s Heroes, just to name a few—but none of them have the brawny machismo and wily bad boy gusto of The Dirty Dozen (1967), Robert Aldrich’s testosterone-fueled tough guy classic. Lee Marvin is the hard-as-nails Major who is “volunteered” to […]

Joan Crawford stars with Ann Blyth, Zachary Scott, and Jack Carson

Joan Crawford is ‘Mildred Pierce’ on HBO Max

Is Mildred Pierce (1945) film noir or melodrama? I say why choose? Film noir is almost entirely associated with crime stories and life in the shadows and at night in the city and sure enough Mildred Pierce, based on the novel by James M. Cain, opens with death and darkness and the twilight of the […]

Gary Cooper, Julie London, and Lee J. Cobb star in the 1958 western directed by Anthony Mann

Gary Cooper is a ‘Man of the West’ on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel

The great western director Anthony Mann and aging western icon Gary Cooper teamed up for the first and only time in Man of the West (1958), a stark frontier drama of a trio of train passengers stranded in the desert after a railway holdup. Taking responsibility for his helpless compatriots (Julia London as a sad-eyed […]

Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden, and Ernest Borgnine star in Sam Peckinpah's western masterpiece 'The Wild Bunch.'

‘The Wild Bunch’ – Sam Peckinpah’s frontier apocalypse on HBO Max

The film that branded Sam Peckinpah with the nickname “Bloody Sam,” The Wild Bunch (1969) blazed onto theater screens in the era of Bonnie and Clyde, when genre conventions were being blasted away and directors pushed the boundaries of what was once considered “acceptable.” Peckinpah, ever the irascible maverick, rode roughshod over every unspoken rule […]

Gary Cooper is ‘The Pride of the Yankees’ on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel

Gary Cooper, that great Oak of an American actor, progresses from the awkward and naively shy rookie to the seasoned “Iron Man” first baseman of the New York Yankees without losing his idealism or modesty in The Pride of the Yankees (1942). Nominated for 11 Academy awards (winning one for film editing), this handsome biographical […]

The ‘Alexandria’ Trilogy – Youseff Chahine’s autobiographical epic on Netflix

Youseff Chahine, the Egyptian director who first drew international attention to his country’s cinema and earned a lifetime achievement award at Cannes 1997, was always a groundbreaker in his domestic cinema. Whether or not his autobiographical Alexandria trilogy are the greatest films of his career, they are in many ways his crowning achievement: his love […]

John Wayne , Claire Trevor, Thomas Mitchell, John Carradine, Donald Meek, Louise Platt, directed by John Ford

John Ford’s ‘Stagecoach’ on HBO Max

Stagecoach (1939) – John Ford’s classic western is a landmark of the genre for so many reasons: mature, classically constructed and superbly directed, it made a star of John Wayne, revitalized the western genre, and introduced Ford to the breathtaking landscape of Monument Valley, which would become the mythic backdrop of his west. It was […]

Fay Wray in the ape's paw in the original 1933 classic

The original ‘King Kong’ on HBO Max

King Kong (1933) is the king of the jungle of giant creature features. The acting and the dialogue verges on kitsch, but the production from explorers, adventurers, and real-life adventure filmmaking pioneers Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack is still awe-inspiring and the special effects of Willis O’Brien, groundbreaking in their day, are beautifully […]

Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet in the film adapted from the Dashiell Hammett novel by John Huston.

‘The Maltese Falcon’ – the stuff dreams are made of on HBO Max

If there is a cooler, tougher, more shrewd and self-sufficient private detective in the movies than Humphrey Bogart’s incarnation of Sam Spade in John Huston’s note-perfect adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1941), I’ve yet to see him in action. The 1941 classic wasn’t the first screen version of Hammet’s iconic novel, but it […]

Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in the 1971 western by Robert Altman

Warren Beatty and Julie Christie are ‘McCabe & Mrs. Miller’ on HBO Max

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Robert Altman’s third film since staking out his claim on 1970s cinema with M*A*S*H (1970), turns the western myth into a metaphor for the fantasy of the American Dream colliding with the power of big business. Warren Beatty is John McCabe, a drifting gambler who rides into the mining camp […]