Tatsuya Nakadai in the Akira Kurosawa epic

Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Ran’ on The Criterion Channel

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 […]

Jean-Pierre Melville directs the French Resistance classic starring Lino Ventura and Simone Signoret

‘Army of Shadows’ – Jean-Pierre Melville’s French Resistance on The Criterion Channel

Legendary gangster movie director Jean-Pierre Melville turned his familiar crime film iconography on its head with Army of Shadows (France, 1969), his gravely personal drama about the early days of the French Resistance in World War II. Gangster movie icon Lino Ventura plays Resistance leader Philippe Gerbier with an observant stillness and coiled calm different […]

Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan star in 'Anthropoid,' directed by Sean Ellis.

‘Anthropoid’ – Killing Heydrich on Kanopy

Anthropoid (2016) isn’t the first film to dramatize the real-life operation to assassinate SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the Final Solution and Hitler’s third in command in the Nazi hierarchy. That honor belongs to Fritz Lang, who made the highly fictionalized and highly charged Hangmen Also Die in 1943, barely a year after the […]

Édgar Ramírez plays Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, aka Carlos the Jackal, in 'Carlos,' from filmmaker Olivier Assayas

‘Carlos’ – The making of a terrorist superstar on The Criterion Channel

Carlos (2010), Olivier Assayas’ epic account of the life and myth of real-life terrorist Carlos the Jackal, is a mesmerizing portrait of a committed activist who transforms himself into a media-hungry rock star of an international terrorist. Édgar Ramírez plays Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, aka Carlos the Jackal (a name he appropriates from a Fredrick Forsythe […]

Korean action epic ‘The Great Battle’ on Netflix

Grandly mounted and filled with sweeping battle scenes, the costume battle epic The Great Battle (South Korea, 2018), retells the true story of the invasion of Goguryeo, a kingdom on the Korean peninsula, by the Chinese Yang Empire in the 600s. Korean pop star Zo In-sung stars as General Yang, the commander of the Ansi […]

Oscar-winning ‘The Lives of Others’ on Netflix

Is there anything more dangerous than a true believer who approaches his mission with unshakable certainty and unwavering dogma? Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others (Germany, 2006) follows the odyssey of a staunchly patriotic Stasi agent (a brilliant Ulrich Mühe), the secret police of the GDR (Communist East Germany), and his surveillance of […]

Warren Oates is ‘Dillinger’ on Amazon Prime Video

John Dillinger was the most notorious of the Depression-era gangsters and his exploits (and attendant newspaper coverage) made him a romantic anti-hero to many of the folks who felt betrayed by the bankers and businessmen of the country. Dillinger (1973), the directorial debut of John Milius, plays on that image of the gentleman gangster who […]

‘Zulu’ on Amazon Prime Video

The sun sets on the British Empire in Zulu (1964), an historical epic built around a legendary colonial battle of the late 19th century. Legendary to British history, that is. The Battle of Rorke’s Drift in South Africa would be all but unknown in the U.S outside of historical societies were it not for Zulu. […]

‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ on Netflix

The wacky minds of Monty Python took on the legend of King Arthur for Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975, PG), their first “real” feature film (I’m not counting their skit comedy And Now For Something Completely Different) and Camelot has never been the same. Graham Chapman is King Arthur (the closest the film […]