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

‘Magic Mike’ on Amazon Prime Video

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 […]

‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ – Guillermo del Toro’s dark fairy tale on Netflix

Pan’s Labyrinth (Spain, 2006), Guillermo del Toro’s dark fairy tale, is an elemental Alice in Wonderland amidst the horrors of Francisco Franco’s reign of terror in 1944 Spain. Our Alice is an imaginative young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) who escapes into an elemental wonderland after she moves into the country estate with her ailing […]

Sanaa Lathan navigates ‘Love & Basketball’ on Netflix

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 […]

Anya Taylor-Joy in Robert Eggers' 'The Witch.'

‘The Witch’ – Puritan horrors free on Kanopy

The Witch (2015) is a primal horror film rooted in fear and superstition, and there is no shortage of either in early 17th century New England, where a devout Puritan father has taken his family to start a new life. Adding to the general hardship of British village folk carving a new colony out of […]

‘Wings of Desire’ – Angels over Berlin on The Criterion Channel

“There are angels over the streets of Berlin,” insists Wim Wenders in his lyrical fantasy Wings of Desire (Germany, 1987), but these are like no angels you’ve never seen. Bundled in dark overcoats, they watch over the city with ears open to the heartbeat of the human soul, listening to the internal musings and yearnings […]

‘Get Low’ with Robert Duvall and Bill Murray on Netflix

A lovely film about regret, self-punishment and redemption on a scale both human and mythic (or at least American folkloric), Get Low (2009) is a feature film with the personality of a short story, filled with quietly offbeat characters and directed with a deft balance of comedy and tragedy. Which is why it had a […]

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 Netflix

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 […]

Jacob Tremblay and Best Actress Oscar winner Brie Larson in 'Room,' directed by Lenny Abrahamson

Brie Larson in ‘Room’ on Netflix and free on Kanopy and Hoopla

It’s called Room (2015). Not The Room, simply Room, as if there were no others. And for Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the five-year-old son of a young mother (Brie Larson), there aren’t. It’s his entire world, his universe, and as far as he knows nothing exists outside the walls. His mother, known only as Ma in the film, […]

Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson star the homefront war drama directed by Oren Movermen

‘The Messenger’ – The bearer of bad news on Hulu

In The Messenger (2009), combat veteran Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) may be “a goddamn hero,” in the words of his commanding officer, but in the final months of his enlistment he’s assigned to the most challenging mission of his career: casualty notification and the emotional minefield of civilians dealing with the death of a loved […]