Sylvain Chomet's animated film of a Jacques Tati script

‘The Illusionist’ on Criterion Channel

With The Illusionist (France, 2010), animator Sylvain Chomet (of the delirious The Triplets of Belleville) transforms an unproduced script by they great French auteur Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle) into a tender tale of a French magician and a Scottish girl in the theater-folk society of London as the old world of stage performance gives way […]

‘The Night of Counting the Years’ – rediscovered and restored on Criterion Channel

A masterpiece of Egyptian cinema, The Night of Counting the Years (also known as The Mummy) (Egypt, 1969) is inspired by a real-life incident. An isolated mountain tribe in late 19th century Egypt was secretly selling off ancient artifacts from the tombs of the Pharaohs, specifically a cache of mummies hidden in the mountain caves […]

‘Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster’ on Netflix

Our story so far: the title character (played by Hong Kong martial arts maestro Donnie Yen) is the real-life martial Chinese arts teacher and proponent of Wing Chun style who was a hero during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria but is more famous to the western world for mentoring the young Bruce Lee. Which is […]

Gordon Liu in Liu Chia-Liang’s martian arts cult classic 'The 36th Chamber of Shaolin'

Martial arts classics ‘The 36th Chamber of Shaolin’ and ‘The Five Venoms’ on Netflix

Old school martial arts fans will love these cult Hong Kong classics from the Shaw Brothers canon. In The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (Hong Kong, 1978), idealistic student revolutionary Gordon Liu flees the Manchu militia occupying Canton after his group is betrayed and seeks refuge in a Buddhist monastery to learn the secret martial arts. […]

‘Eyes Without a Face’ – the poetry of horror on HBO Max, Criterion Channel, and Kanopy

George Franju’s perverse and poetic Eyes Without a Face (France, 1959) is at once lyrical, haunting, and deviant, an elegantly horrifying classic of sadism and shadowy grace. A famed plastic surgeon (Pierre Brasseur), wracked with guilt over disfiguring his once beautiful daughter (Edith Scob) in car wreck, lures young woman to his secluded mansion with […]

Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 acid flashback horror fantasy 'House'

‘House’/’Hausu’ – Japanese madness on HBO Max and Criterion Channel

I can’t begin to find the words to describe House (1977), aka Hausu, an unclassifiable Japanese haunted house/high school romp/demon killer/surreal fantasy film from Nobuhiko Obayashi. Made in 1977 and recently revived and released to the rest of the world, it’s the archival cult find of the decade: a candy-colored style bomb of horror movie […]

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

‘The Lure’ – Little Mermaids with teeth on Criterion Channel and Kanopy

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 […]

Gong Yoo stars in the South Korean zombie film directed by Yeon Sang-ho

‘Train to Busan’ – Korean zombie classic on Amazon Prime Video and more

You could call Train to Busan (South Korea, 2016) “Zombies on a Train”—it certainly makes a catchy logline and it frames the premise accurately and succinctly—but it reduces this fleet, fierce, unexpectedly human thriller to a mere gimmick. Apart from the slyly eerie prologue, the film opens without any hint of the viral rampage to […]

Johannes Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli star in the Swedish drama from Ruben Östlund

‘Force Majeure’ from Sweden on Amazon Prime and Hulu

One of the surprises in the 2015 Oscar nominations was that Force Majeure (Sweden, 2014), Sweden’s official entry for the foreign language film category and a Cannes film festival winner, did not place among the five nominated films. Director Ruben Östlund gives us a family on vacation and what appears to be the inciting event […]

Kwak Do-won stars in Na Hong-jin South Korean thriller The Wailing

‘The Wailing’ – South Korean horror on Netflix

The Wailing (South Korea, 2016) is a thriller that takes a dark turn into supernatural horror. Kwak Do-won is Jong-goo, a somewhat dim underachiever cop who is way over his head investigating a double homicide in his little town. Jong-goo isn’t too bright but he’s a doting father to his smart little girl and there’s […]