Channing Tatum is 'Magic Mike' in an unexpectedly compelling story inspired by the actor's real life experiences. Steven Soderbergh directs.

‘Magic Mike’ on HBO Max

Magic Mike (2012) was an underdog success story of 2012. While megabudget spectacles and potential tentpole films collapsed under the weight of heavy productions over flimsy scripts, Steven Soderbergh took a story inspired by actor Channing Tatum’s early experiences as a male stripper and a budget that wouldn’t pay for the reshoots on Battleship and […]

Sanaa Lathan navigates ‘Love & Basketball’ on Hulu

Using sports as a metaphor for life and love is nothing new but filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood, a former college athlete, puts her spin on it with Love & Basketball (2000). Sanaa Lathan is the fiercely driven, hot tempered tomboy Monica, who gives her all for basketball. Omar Epps is Quincy, the son of an NBA […]

Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster star in the modern outlaw western from director David Mackenzie

‘Hell or High Water’ – Outlaws of the new west on Hulu

Hell or High Water (2016) is as good an American drama as you’ll see this year. Jeff Bridges stars as a Texas Ranger on the trail of a pair of bank robbers and his playfully crusty performance as a laconic frontier lawman on the verge of retirement gives an easy, laid back quality to a […]

Matthew McConaughey is ‘Mud’ on Netflix

Mud (2012), the third film from director Jeff Nichols, is a story of childhood adventure steeped in the rural culture of life on the Mississippi and the mythology of Huckleberry Finn, but this boy’s adventure is also tangled in the world of adults and family bonds. Matthew McConaughey is the man called Mud, a scruffy […]

‘Reservoir Dogs’ – Quentin Tarantino begins on Amazon Prime

Reservoir Dogs (1992), Quentin Tarantino’s quotable blast of post-modern crime movie cool, is one of the most attention grabbing directorial debuts in history. Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Steve Buscemi—all dressed in identical black suits with thin ties and dark glasses—are gangsters who regroup in an empty warehouse in the aftermath of jewel […]

Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, and Zachary Quinto star in 'Margin Call'

‘Margin Call’ – the banality of greed on Peacock

The Big Short earned raves for explaining the economics of the financial crash of 2008 but the first dramatic feature to explore the subject, Margin Call (2011). The fictionalized drama, which echoes the real-life activities of Leman Brothers, digs into the how and why of the market crash, not just in terms of economics but in […]

Reese Witherspoon in Alexander Payne's satire 'Election' with Matthew Broderick

‘Election’ – Vote Tracy Flick on Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and Criterion Channel

Election (1999), Alexander Payne’s wicked satire of power and (social) politics set in the overheated incubator of a high school student body election, is as sharp and perceptive now as it was in 1999. Matthew Broderick is the passionately dedicated and somewhat condescending civics teacher Jim McAllister, whose extra-curricular involvement helps compensate for a passionless […]

Brie Larson stars in the award-winning 'Short Term 12,' inspired by the personal experience of filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton

‘Short Term 12’ on Peacock

Brie Larson earned an Oscar for her performance in Room (2015) but her breakout role was in Short Term 12 (2013), a tender and touching drama set in a facility for at risk, abandoned, or otherwise homeless kids that can’t get placement with foster families. What could be a portrait of instability and institutional failings, however, […]

Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke in Richard Linklater's 'Boyhood'

Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ on Criterion Channel

It’s common knowledge that filmmaker Richard Linklater and his four central actors—Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as the parents, Lorelei Linklater (the director’s daughter) as the older sister, and Ellar Coltrane as Mason, a six-year-old boy as the film begins—shot Boyhood (2014) over the course of 12 years to watch not just Mason but everyone […]

‘Being John Malkovich’ on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

Being John Malkovich (1999), a devastatingly funny portrait of unhappiness, desperation, desire, and the vicious things we do for love, catapulted Spike Jonze from music video wunderkind to visionary director and Charlie Kaufman from sitcom scribe to brilliant screenwriter. In 1999, when our obsession with celebrity was mainly fed by gossip magazines and entertainment programs, […]