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Reservoir Dogs (1992) Directed by Quentin Tarantino Tarantino’s revelatory gut-punch of a first feature, now 25 years old, has profoundly influenced crime movies. It established snappy dialogue on life’s banalities, 1970s nostalgia, extreme casual violence, vintage noir tribute, and foul-mouthed jokes as staples of the genre that endure to this day. The tone is set in the legendary pre-credit sequence, with the color-codenamed gang of veteran thieves eating at a diner. Mr. Pink (Buscemi) whiningly questions...
Beat the Devil (1953) Directed by John Huston Like in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Humphrey Bogart is a globe-trotting fortune hunter out to plunder the developing world like a Conrad antihero who grew up playing stickball—here, he and dreamy-divine wife Gina Lollobrigida are en route to a shady uranium fortune somewhere in Africa. Like in The Maltese Falcon, he’s racing for his MacGuffin in unfriendly competition with a seedy gallery of expatriate character actors...
Spartacus (1960) Directed by Stanley Kubrick Sure, Kubrick was technically a director-for-hire on Spartacus, and certainly there’s little evidence in it of the distinctive personality of the auteur that would later in the 1960s fashion an ironically lyrical montage out of mushroom clouds and send human beings through a light-show trip “beyond the infinite.” But if humanity—or, rather, the lack of it—could be said to be a consistent theme of Kubrick’s over the span of his...

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