‘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 […]

James Franco and Seth Rogen ride the ‘Pineapple Express’ on Amazon Prime Video

The Judd Apatow factory refreshed the coming-of-age comedy (for all ages of adolescent men) in comedies like Knocked Up, Superbad, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall before stretching itself thin (that’s my best explanation for Drillbit Taylor and Step Brothers). One of the smartest things he did was to seek out directors not normally associated with his […]

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 […]

‘Splice’ – Genetic horror on Netflix

Splice (2009) – Professional partners and happily unmarried couple Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) don’t need children. They procreate with genetic experiments—splicing DNA from a dozen animals into a lab-created life-form they hope to harvest for pharmaceutical properties—and their masterpiece is a pirate side-project involving human DNA spliced into their zoological genetic […]

Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, and others star in the film by Lana and Lilly (formerly Andy) Wachowski and Tom Tykwer

‘Cloud Atlas’ on Netflix

Cloud Atlas (2012) wants nothing for ambition. Jumping between six distinctive stories in six different eras, with a cast that plays different (yet connected) parts in the various storyline, it’s at once literal and evasive, a film that wears its heart on its beautifully stitched sleeve and its meaning in its design and yet finds […]

Burl Ives and Robert Ryan star in the western noir by Andre de Toth

‘Day of the Outlaw’ – snowbound western noir on Criterion Channel

Day of the Outlaw (1959), a western set in a snowbound mountain town on the high frontier, is one of the toughest, most tension-filled pictures from Andre de Toth, a studio filmmaker who could be counted on to bring a savage edge to his assignments. The town is already coiled like a spring thanks to […]

Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, and John Hurt star in the film adapted from the Alan Moore graphic novel

‘V For Vendetta’ – Fighting tyranny on Netflix

V For Vendetta (2005) – “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of the people.” His name is nowhere to be seen in the credits but this futuristic thriller about an authoritarian government out of 1984 and a lone revolutionary who takes them on comes from Alan Moore’s acclaimed graphic […]

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 […]

Iron Man – Photo credit: Marvel Entertainment

‘Iron Man’ – the MCU begins on Disney+

Iron Man (2008) is a superhero in both the mythic mode and the modern world, the hero felled by his own arrogance and revived with an Achilles heel. Behind the mask of the heavy-metal superhero is a playboy gazillionaire and armaments mogul with a bad heart and a high-tech pacemaker that powers not just his […]

Delphine Seyrig stars in Harry Kümel's elegant and sexy vampire

‘Daughters of Darkness’ – horror with elegance on Amazon Prime

Daughters of Darkness (Belgium, 1971) – “Every woman would sell her soul to stay so young,” remarks smarmy, troubled Stefan (John Karlen) to his newlywed wife Valerie (Danielle Ouimet). He’s referring to the impeccably poised Countess Bathory (Delphine Seyrig), who sweeps into the off-season luxury hotel they previously had all to themselves, elegant and ageless, […]