Smart Sci-Fi

The space elevator carries passengers and cargo to the transport ship Aniara in Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja's Aniara (2018)

Quiet, contemplative character-based science fiction movies feel like a refreshing oasis in a desert of big, loud, empty franchise blockbusters. James Gray’s Ad Astra (2019), Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja’s Ad Astra (2018), Sion Sono’s The Whispering Star (2015) and Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer (2008) provide satisfaction on many levels.

Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman:
Criterion Blu-ray review

The Count's men head out to ransack a recently sunken ship in Karel Zeman's Invention For Destruction (1958)

A new three-disk Blu-ray from Criterion showcases three fantasies by the great Czech animator Karel Zeman, whose unique, inventive style creates a child-like sense of wonder in even the most jaded viewer. The superb restorations provided by the Karel Zeman Museum in Prague are supplemented with some terrific extras, including an excellent feature-length documentary about Zeman’s career and four of his early short films.

“Folk Horror”

A chilling image of religious belief in Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man (1973)

“Folk horror” is one of those categories which is hard to define – but you know it when you see it, like film noir.Two very different features and two dubious documentaries seem to fit the category – Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973), Erik Blomberg’s The White Reindeer (1953), Malcolm Leigh’s Legend of the Witches (1970) and Derek Ford’s Secret Rites (1971) – all available in excellent Blu-ray editions.

Boxed In

The vampire curse spreads in Gerardo De Leon's The Blood Drinkers (1964)

From trash to art, boxed sets enhance the viewing experience by providing a broader context for individual movies – here, four more features from William Castle, The Trilogy of Life by Pier Paolo Pasolini, and a grab bag of five horrors from poverty row distributor Hemisphere.

Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero (1983): Criterion Blu-ray review

Natural value trumps commercial value in Bill Forsyth's Local Hero (1983)

Following the surprise international success of Gregory’s Girl (1980), writer-director Bill Forsyth was given greater resources by producer David Puttnam and made what on the surface was a whimsical comedy reminiscent of Ealing Studios in the ’50s; three-and-a-half decades later, the delightfully charming Local Hero (1983) can be seen as a subtly prescient warning about the most urgently pressing issues we now face – climate change and the need to find sustainable ways to inhabit the planet.