‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ – Guillermo del Toro’s dark fairy tale on Netflix

Pan’s Labyrinth (Spain, 2006), Guillermo del Toro’s dark fairy tale, is an elemental Alice in Wonderland amidst the horrors of Francisco Franco’s reign of terror in 1944 Spain. Our Alice is an imaginative young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) who escapes into an elemental wonderland after she moves into the country estate with her ailing […]

Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster star in the modern outlaw western from director David Mackenzie

‘Hell or High Water’ – Outlaws of the new west on Netflix

Hell or High Water (2016) is as good an American drama as you’ll see this year. Jeff Bridges stars as a Texas Ranger on the trail of a pair of bank robbers and his playfully crusty performance as a laconic frontier lawman on the verge of retirement gives an easy, laid back quality to a […]

Jacob Tremblay and Best Actress Oscar winner Brie Larson in 'Room,' directed by Lenny Abrahamson

Brie Larson in ‘Room’ on Netflix and Kanopy

It’s called Room (2015). Not The Room, simply Room, as if there were no others. And for Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the five-year-old son of a young mother (Brie Larson), there aren’t. It’s his entire world, his universe, and as far as he knows nothing exists outside the walls. His mother, known only as Ma in the film, […]

Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson star the homefront war drama directed by Oren Movermen

‘The Messenger’ – The bearer of bad news on Hulu

In The Messenger (2009), combat veteran Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) may be “a goddamn hero,” in the words of his commanding officer, but in the final months of his enlistment he’s assigned to the most challenging mission of his career: casualty notification and the emotional minefield of civilians dealing with the death of a loved […]

‘Wings of Desire’ – Angels over Berlin on FilmStruck

“There are angels over the streets of Berlin,” insists Wim Wenders in his lyrical fantasy Wings of Desire (Germany, 1987), but these are like no angels you’ve never seen. Bundled in dark overcoats, they watch over the city with ears open to the heartbeat of the human soul, listening to the internal musings and yearnings […]

Michelle Williams in Kelly Reichardt's frontier western

‘Meek’s Cutoff’ – Lost on the Oregon Trail on Amazon Prime Video

Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff (2010) opens without preamble. We are given a place and a year—”Oregon, 1845,” stitched into a piece of homespun embroidery—and then dropped in the high desert to observe three frontier families ford a river. They wordlessly, almost morosely, march across, then take the opportunity to fill canteens, wash and check the […]

Brie Larson stars in the award-winning 'Short Term 12,' inspired by the personal experience of filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton

‘Short Term 12’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Brie Larson earned an Oscar for her performance in Room (2015) but her breakout role was in Short Term 12 (2013), a tender and touching drama set in a facility for at risk, abandoned, or otherwise homeless kids that can’t get placement with foster families. What could be a portrait of instability and institutional failings, however, […]