Henry Thomas and friend in Steven Spielberg's beloved science fiction fantasy

‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ on HBO Now

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Steven Spielberg’s suburban fairy tale for kids who think they are too hip to believe in fairies, is as glorious as ever 35 years after its debut. Henry Thomas is Elliot, an emotionally bruised kid suffering under his parents’ separation who finds another lonely, lost soul, a benevolent alien left behind […]

Christopher Plummer hosts 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,' a film by Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam’s ‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’ on Showtime

With The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) Terry Gilliam, the mad imagineer of such wickedly funny and wildly creative visions as Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Twelve Monkeys (okay, that last one isn’t quite so funny), dives back into his diabolical imagination for this carny sideshow of a Faust tale in the […]

Odette Joyeux and Jacques Tati in the romantic ghost story by Claude Autant-Lara

DVD: ‘Claude Autant-Lara: Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied France’ on Eclipse

Claude Autant-Lara: Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied France (Eclipse, DVD) Confession time: I had never seen a film by French director Claude Autant-Lara before this set and frankly had no concept of his reputation beyond the distaste that the critics-turned-filmmakers of the La Nouvelle Vague held for his work. He was the tradition of quality […]

Peter Jackson directs the first film in J.R.R. Tolkein's trilogy

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ – The journey begins on Netflix

With The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), New Zealand genre film maverick Peter Jackson does the impossible: he makes a faithful, magical, thrilling, and—most importantly—compelling film version of J.R.R. Tolkein’s great cult fantasy epic. Streamlining the complex story and wealth of detail from the novel, Jackson manages to introduce a […]

Timur Bekmambetov directs 'Night Watch' and 'Day Watch,' grunge-noir urban fantasy set in contemporary Moscow.

‘Night Watch’ and ‘Day Watch’: Russian urban fantasy on VOD and disc

The Russian diptych Night Watch (2004) and Day Watch (2006), based on the first two novels of a supernatural trilogy from author Sergei Lukyanenko and directed by Timur Bekmambetov, are what I like to think of as fantasy noir set amidst an urban underworld subculture of sorcerers, shapeshifters, seers and vampires in a depressed modern Moscow. […]

Jane Fonda stars in the campy psychedelic romp from director Roger Vadim

Last Chance: ‘Barbarella’ – Sexy space camp on VOD and disc

Barbarella (1968), a campy psychedelic romp produced by Italian Dino de Laurentiis, directed by French eroticist Roger Vadim, adapted from a risqué French comic strip by American satirist Terry Southern, and featuring an international cast, was Buck Rogers reworked as a sex kitten in space for the 1960s culture of free love and pop art. […]

Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszanska star in the polish horror fantasy by Agnieszka Smoczynska

‘The Lure’ – these Little Mermaids have teeth on Criterion Channel

The strangest take on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” ever put on the screen, The Lure (Poland, 2015) is a musical-horror-fantasy-romantic tragedy from Poland about mermaid sisters with a taste for human flesh. Like the sirens of Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska) are feral creatures who […]

Lars von Trier directs Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe in his dark psychological thriller

Lars von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’ on FilmStruck

I’m not sure how I manage to keep my simultaneous fascination with /repulsion for Lars von Trier in balance, but it’s there with a vengeance in Antichrist (Denmark, 2009), another provocation that is at once beautiful and perverse, personal and cynical, and filled with his sour vision of the emotional small-mindedness (small-heartedness?) of the human […]

Kim Hunter and David Niven in the classic by Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger

It’s ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ for Michael Powell on FilmStruck

Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death (1946) (originally released in the U.S. as Stairway to Heaven) is as gorgeous and rapturously romantic as movies come. The film opens with a celestial prologue and narration that offers the sense of cosmic comfort of someone watching over it all, of some divine authority 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 […]