Dr Kira Foster in her space suit

I.S.S. is a thriller set on the International Space Station where Russians and Americans are co-operating happily until a nuclear war breaks out down below. First up, why haven’t more films been set on the ISS? What a golden opportunity. Second up, did you realise (as I didn’t) that missions continue to be flown to the ISS, even though tensions between the USA and Russia are hardly at an all-time low (writing this in March 2024)? Pushing that tension into the fictional realm, I.S.S. becomes operational as a space thriller when one of the crew notices that massive eruptions are taking place down on planet Earth. Volcanoes, suggests one? It turns out the … Read more

Hanky Panky

Socially anxious Sam

Sam and Diane? Dr Crane and Lilith? Why is everyone in Hanky Panky named after characters in Cheers? The answer would appear to be that writer Nick Roth and his co-director/wife Lindsey Haun thought it was funny. Nothing deep, nothing meta, just good old-fashioned funny. The film’s title logo is styled like the Cheers one too, giving absolutely no indication that comedy horror is on the menu (though the Cheers set-up of a bunch of characters trapped together in a bar isn’t that far from horror). How to describe this? An inventive lo-fi gonzo comedy set out in a remote log cabin where Stephen King and Eli Roth might once have stayed. That … Read more


Yori and Minato

Second-rate Hirokazu Kore-eda is still first-rate moviemaking. Here’s Monster, the first film he hasn’t written himself for nearly 30 years, a mix of familiar Kore-eda themes and explorations of new fields. Yûji Sakamoto is the TV writer Kore-eda contacted to write his first Japanese-language film in several years, having gone to France for The Truth (2019) and South Korea for Broker (2022). He’d always wanted to work with Sakamoto, Kore-eda said. For his part, Sakamoto pounced at the chance, having once described Kore-eda as “the world’s best screenwriter”. No pressure then. What they came up with together is a faintly Rashomon-style re-examination of the same story from different angles. Each pass over the … Read more

Cobra Woman

Lola Montez in princess finery

She couldn’t act, couldn’t sing and danced like a wardrobe but for a while Maria Montez was quite the thing. Cobra Woman is probably the best example of a string of successful movies she made in the 1940s, often with the likeable, four-square Jon Hall as her romantic co-lead, all of them exotic, bright, colourful affairs, pantomime without the comedy. Montez, real name Maria Africa Antonia Gracia Vidal de Santo Silas, was born in the Dominican Republic to Spanish parents and while her star was high played the dusky princess, queen or slave girl in films like Gypsy Wildcat, Sudan, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, White Captive and Arabian Nights. Here she’s … Read more

You’ll Never Find Me

Jordan Cowan as the Visitor

Streaming channel Shudder picked up You’ll Never Find Me at the Tribeca Festival, proving yet again that whoever does the buying over there has an eye for a good horror movie. It’s an “it was a dark and stormy night” affair. A man sitting alone in his grungey trailer in the back of the Australian beyond is assaulted by a heavy pounding on the door. Reluctant to open up, he eventually yields, to reveal a young woman outside in bare feet, soaked to the skin and wide-eyed with fear. She’s been running, she says, from the beach through the storm. Warily he lets her in. And just as warily she enters. After all, … Read more


Rose in bed, red lips prominent

Shot of Niagara, anyone? As a film it’s famous for all sorts of reasons – a film noir in Technicolor, Marilyn Monroe’s first star billing, the use of Niagara Falls as a set backdrop. On the other hand it isn’t famous for being a good film. Even its stoutest supporters struggle to defend it, largely because it starts off as one thing and then fails to follow through on what looks like a delicious promise. Two couples at Niagara Falls, famous for its honeymooners. First we meet the Loomises. George (Joseph Cotten) the husband who we first glimpse moping about at the edge of the Falls at 5am. Rose (Marilyn Monroe) back at the … Read more

Nobody Is Crazy

Rafael and Nadie

Sci-fi as self-help, Federico Arioni’s second feature film, Nobody Is Crazy (Nadie Está Loco), does away with most of the trappings, scratch that, all of the trappings of the sci-fi movie and focuses instead on the mental well-being of Rafael, an Argentinian teenager with OCD. It’s a a strange, confident movie made for no money, starring whole swathes of Arioni’s family, including his mother, who plays Rafael’s mother, and Arioni himself, who turns up in black mask as a time-travelling “chrononaut”, or so he says. Or maybe he’s Rafael’s dad, arriving from the past, or Rafael himself, from some years in the future. The film is the story of the relationship between these … Read more


Titta putting his hand on Gradisca's leg in the cinema

Zig-zagging between fantasy, comedy and tender reminiscence, Federico Fellini’s Amarcord sets out to be autobiographical, from its title (Amarcord is “I Remember” in his native dialect), though Fellini always denied it was directly, explicitly the story of his life. But it is the story of a year in the life of someone who was born on the coast near Rimini in the 1920s, as Fellini was, and came of age as Mussolini’s fascists were flexing their muscles. Fellini kicks things off, and eventually brings them to a close, with the annual blizzard of a particular sort of pollen drifting through the town – it announces spring, the locals say – and then piles event … Read more

Manticore aka Mantícora

Diana and Julián hug

Manticore takes its name from the mythical beast with the head of a man, the body of a lion and the tail of a scorpion. But writer/director Carlos Vermut has another beast in mind – two, in fact – in this Spanish film giving us a flash of what it’s about before lulling us into a state of forgetfulness until coming back hard and horrible in its final moments. Nacho Sánchez plays Julián, a Madrid “monster modeller” who does all the mythical beasts for the video game company he works for. At home one day applying a horn, or some scales, to his latest 3D image, he hears cries from a neighbouring apartment, … Read more

The River

Sisters Valerie and Harriet

Is 1951’s The River a look in search of a story? It’s regularly described – often by people who haven’t seen it – as one of the greatest films ever made. Dig one layer deeper and the praise heaped on Jean Renoir’s “masterpiece” starts to look a touch more one-note. Martin Scorsese reckons this and The Red Shoes are “the two most beautiful colour films ever made.” Eric Rohmer, also no slouch as a director, called it “the most beautiful colour we have ever seen on the screen.” The New York Times in 1951 said “beautiful”. Time Out – “beautiful”. Sight and Sound‘s 2022 Best Films of all time poll rang the changes a … Read more