George Clooney stars in the political thriller by Tony Gilroy

Last chance: George Clooney is ‘Michael Clayton’ on HBO Max

“I’m not a miracle worker. I’m a janitor.” George Clooney simmers as Michael Clayton (2007), a legal “fixer” who works behind the scenes of a powerful New York law firm, in Tony Gilroy’s smart, sharp legal drama. When he’s sent to clean up the moral meltdown of the firm’s leading litigator (Tom Wilkinson), he unwittingly […]

Peter Sellers stars in Stanley Kubrick's political satire of mutually assured destruction

‘Dr. Strangelove’ – the screwball satire of mutually assured destruction on HBO Max

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Stanley Kubrick’s screwball satire of cold war posturing and mutually assured destruction, is the funniest film ever made about nuclear holocaust. But it didn’t begin as a comedy. The source novel, Peter George’s Red Alert, was a grave contemplation of the […]

Last chance: Morgan Freeman is Nelson Mandella in ‘Invictus’ on Netflix

Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandella as the newly-elected President of South Africa in Invictus (2009), Clint Eastwood’s reverent tribute to Nelson Mandella’s efforts to unite post-apartheid South Africa. This isn’t a biography of Mandella. Audiences come to the film with the understanding that Nelson Mandella spent 24 years in prison for protesting South Africa’s apartheid […]

‘The Executioner’ – a satire of Spain under Franco on Criterion Channel

The Executioner (Spain, 1963), Luis García Berlanga’s black comedy about an apprentice undertaker who marries the daughter of a veteran prison executioner and reluctantly takes his father-in-law’s job so they do not lose their government apartment, is a social satire with a sly sense of humor. Nino Manfredi plays the undertaker, a frustrated young man […]

Ewan McGregor is 'The Ghost Writer' in Roman Polanski's superb thriller.

Last chance: Roman Polanski’s ‘The Ghost Writer’ on Hulu

Ewan McGregor is The Ghost Writer (2010), a scribe-for-hire in the celebrity autobiography business who is contracted to rewrite the dry memoirs of a former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan), in the smart, gripping, subtly Hitchcockian thriller from director Roman Polanski and author Robert Harris. The writer has no other name in the film—he introduces […]

‘State of Play’ – political intrigue with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck on Netflix

Politics, journalism, and murder swirl through State of Play (2009), the American adaptation of the sharp, award-winning British mini-series. Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) is the old school reporter in rapidly evolving newsroom, still using an old IBM computer with the blinking cursor while everyone else is hooked up to the web. Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) […]

‘The Killing Floor’ – integrating the union on Criterion Channel and free on Hoopla

The Killing Floor (1984) is the slaughterhouse of the Chicago stockyards where Mississippi sharecropper Frank Custer (played by Damien Leake) finds work when he heads north for better opportunities during World War I. Working his way up to better-paying work as a butcher, he brings his wife (Alfre Woodard) and kids to Chicago, but he […]

‘The Tall Target’ – steam noir on Criterion Channel

Anthony Mann’s The Tall Target (1951) is a rare period piece noir. This one is set in 1860 and the tall target of the title is President-elect Abraham Lincoln. Dick Powell plays the lone police detective who believes in the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln on his journey to be sworn in as President and, in […]

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 HBO Max

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 […]

‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ – Tom Hanks vs. the USSR on Amazon Prime

If you think it was Rambo who led the American support of Afghan rebels against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the early eighties, here’s a hilarious reality check. Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) is the story of an otherwise minor Texas congressman who worked behind the scenes to create a coalition of Arab states, secretly […]