Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder in the classic Mel Brooks comedy

‘Blazing Saddles’ on Hulu

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 […]

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 […]

Heath Ledger is The Joker in the Christopher Nolan Batman sequel starring Christian Bale

‘The Dark Knight’ vs. The Joker on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

Superhero films became increasingly sophisticated and decidedly darker as they become (for better or worse) a full-fledged genre in the 2000s. With Batman Begins, writer/director Christopher Nolan (drawing inspiration from the revisionist Batman comic books by Frank Miller and Jeph Loeb) rebooted the Batman mythos for the big screen, bringing the often lighthearted hero back […]

Shauna Macdonald stars in the subterranean horror from Neil Marshall

‘The Descent’ – subterranean horror on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu

British genre maven Neil Marshall howled his arrival with his werewolf combat thriller Dog Soldiers, a sly and inspired UK hit that made cult ripples stateside. With The Descent (2005), a nerve wracking, claustrophobic survival thriller about six spelunking women hunted by the creepiest cave dwellers to skitter across a screen, Marshall honed his skills […]

Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese's gangster classic.

Martin Scorsese’s ‘GoodFellas’ on Netflix

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” GoodFellas (1990), Martin Scorsese’s violent, dynamic, exhilarating adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi’s non-fiction book Wiseguy, about real-life wiseguy-turned-witness against the mob Henry Hill, exploded across screens in 1990 and was embraced as the first great American gangster movie since Coppola’s The Godfather […]

‘Slightly Scarlet’ – Film rouge on Amazon Prime Video

Slightly Scarlet (1956) isn’t well known to even many film buffs but it’s an interesting film noir in lurid Technicolor (call it a film rouge) from veteran director Allan Dwan, who began making films in the early 1910s and directed everything from Douglas Fairbanks action epics to Shirley Temple dramas to comedies to westerns in […]

Gene Wilder is Willy Wonka in the musical adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel

The original ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ on Netflix

“Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination.” Gene Wilder is the weird, wonderful, slightly sinister candy bar king who invites five children into his factory kingdom in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), a musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s fantasy. It is a rare breed: an imaginative live-action […]

John Cassavetes, Britt Ekland, Peter Falk, and Gena Rowlands

John Cassavetes is ‘Machine Gun McCain’ on Amazon Prime Video

John Cassavetes was doing his Orson Welles thing—by that I mean acting in whatever movie paid well so he could finance his own, personal productions—when he took the lead in Machine Gun McCain (Italy, 1968), an Italian mob picture/heist movie hybrid shot in large part on location in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. […]

‘Dawson City: Frozen Time’ – Film/history free on Kanopy

Bill Morrison’s films straddle film history and avant-garde expressionism, mining the wealth of silent film history and exploring the abstract beauty of decaying nitrate film, a particularly volatile medium that breaks down over time. Dawson City: Frozen Time (2016) celebrates the “Dawson Film Find” of 1978, thousands of reels of film buried in the permafrost, […]