Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’ on Amazon Prime

Is there another American filmmaker who takes such joy in telling stories and spinning cinematic spells as Quentin Tarantino? I don’t mean tackling big issues or making epic statements. I’m talking about the sheer pleasure of telling audiences a tale that takes them places they don’t expect and ways they haven’t quite experienced before. The […]

Sean Connery in ‘The Wind and the Lion’ on HBO Max

The Wind and the Lion (1975), the sophomore feature of director John Milius, is a small-scale version of the kind of grand historical epic that blossomed in the 1960s. Set in 1904 Morocco and loosely based on a true historical incident, the 1972 historical adventure stars Sean Connery as Berber chieftain and rebel leader Mulai […]

John Wayne storms the ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ on HBO Max

Sands of Iwo Jima (1950) is the best war film that John Wayne made outside of John Ford’s masterpiece They Were Expendable. Made four years after the end of the war in 1949, it was the biggest picture that Allan Dwan, once a major director of big silent movie spectacles and handsome star vehicles, had […]

‘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 […]

Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman

‘Wonder Woman’ on HBO Max

Wonder Woman (2017) is, if you’ll pardon such an obvious comment, a wonder of a superhero movie, a film that doesn’t transcend the genre but most certainly sets a high bar, especially next to the ponderous, humorless films of the new big screen universe of interconnected DC Comics heroes. Gal Gadot debuted as Amazon princess […]

Carice Van Houten stars in Paul Verhoeven's World War II resistance thriller 'Black Book'

Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Black Book’ on Amazon Prime Video

Paul Verhoeven left Hollywood and returned to Holland to make Black Book (2006), a riveting World War II resistance thriller with a runaway pace and a gripping sense of peril. Carice Van Houten (best known to American audiences as Melisandre, the priestess / witch of Game of Thrones) is our heroine, a Dutch Jew in […]

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

‘Anthropoid’ – Killing Heydrich on Hulu and 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 […]

‘Das Boot’ – The 2019 series on Hulu

Das Boot (Germany/France, 2019) shares the same title as Wolfgang Petersen’s 1981 film (and is technically a sequel), but familiarity with the original is unnecessary to start the series. Also based on the novel Das Boot by Lothar-Günther Buchheim as well its sequel Die Festung, the 2019 series is set in late 1942, nine months after the film’s finale, […]

Bruno Ganz is Adolph Hitler in the Oscar-nominated film from Oliver Hirschbiegel

‘Downfall’ – The last days of Hitler on Amazon Prime Video

Downfall (2004), Oliver Hirschbiegel’s ambitious and complex dramatization of the final days of Adolf Hitler and the collapse of Germany, is a compelling history lesson and a riveting drama. Bruno Ganz plays Hitler with creepy charm and paternal affection amidst his ping-ponging emotional instability. His megalomania and paranoia take over in an adrenaline rush and […]

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 […]