Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese's 'Mean Streets,' starring Harvey Keitel, Amy Robinson, and David Proval.

Martin Scorsese’s ‘Mean Streets’ on Netflix

“You don’t pay for your sins in church. You pay for them on the street. All the rest is bullshit.” Mean Streets (1973) is not Martin Scorsese’s first film, but it is the film in which he came into his own. Passionate, energetic, stylistically inventive and personally driven, it is the first mature, full blooded “Martin […]

John Wayne , Claire Trevor, Thomas Mitchell, John Carradine, Donald Meek, Louise Platt, directed by John Ford

John Ford’s ‘Stagecoach’ on HBO Max

Stagecoach (1939) – John Ford’s classic western is a landmark of the genre for so many reasons: mature, classically constructed and superbly directed, it made a star of John Wayne, revitalized the western genre, and introduced Ford to the breathtaking landscape of Monument Valley, which would become the mythic backdrop of his west. It was […]

Fay Wray in the ape's paw in the original 1933 classic

The original ‘King Kong’ on HBO Max

King Kong (1933) is the king of the jungle of giant creature features. The acting and the dialogue verges on kitsch, but the production from explorers, adventurers, and real-life adventure filmmaking pioneers Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack is still awe-inspiring and the special effects of Willis O’Brien, groundbreaking in their day, are beautifully […]

Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder in the classic Mel Brooks comedy

‘Blazing Saddles’ on HBO Max

When singer Frankie Laine was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air many years ago, he confessed that when he was engaged to record the theme song to Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974), he was not told that the film (and the song) was a spoof. He simply thought it was a bad song […]

Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in the 1971 western by Robert Altman

Warren Beatty and Julie Christie are ‘McCabe & Mrs. Miller’ on HBO Max

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Robert Altman’s third film since staking out his claim on 1970s cinema with M*A*S*H (1970), turns the western myth into a metaphor for the fantasy of the American Dream colliding with the power of big business. Warren Beatty is John McCabe, a drifting gambler who rides into the mining camp […]

Rod Steiger is ‘The Pawnbroker’ on Criterion Channel

The Pawnbroker (1964), the Sidney Lumet-directed 1964 film based on the novel by Edward Lewis, is a real time capsule. It’s the first American film to really take on the legacy of the Holocaust on a personal level, and it’s set in a Harlem pawnshop where a stream of slum stereotypes wander in and out […]

Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame star, Nicholas Ray directs from the Dorothy B. Hughes novel

Humphrey Bogart ‘In a Lonely Place’ on Criterion Channel

In a Lonely Place (1950) hasn’t much to do with the Dorothy B. Hughes novel on which it was ostensibly based, beyond the title (one of the most evocative in noir history), the Los Angeles setting, and the murder of a young woman that puts our ostensible hero, volatile, hard-drinking Hollywood screenwriter Dixon Steele (Humphrey […]

Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster in Alexander Mackendrick's great Broadway noir

‘Sweet Smell of Success’ – Broadway noir on Amazon Prime

“I love this dirty town.” The first and only time that Burt Lancaster’s J.J. Hunsecker drops the cynical twist from his clenched smile and allows genuine appreciation cross his face in Sweet Smell of Success (1957) is when he drops that line while strolling down the nighttime streets of Broadway. It’s not a proclamation or […]

Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Larry Fishburne in 'The Matrix'

‘The Matrix’ trilogy on Netflix

The Matrix (1999) has become such a touchstone of American pop culture—referenced, copied, parodied, and parroted—that it’s hard to remember just how new and different and distinctive it was when it debuted in 1999. Which is not to say that it is completely original. Image Tron as a Greek Myth, or Sim City as an […]

‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut’ – the definitive version of the SF classic on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1981/2007) – Ridley Scott’s visionary reworking of Philip K. Dick’s novel, “Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep,” was a box-office flop. Maybe it was too dark for a public flying away on the fantasy of E.T. in the summer of 1982, or too downbeat for audiences looking for a Harrison […]