Mike Flanagan counts himself as an admirer of writer-director Remi Weekes’ “His House” (Netflix), and it’s no wonder: Like Flanagan’s work, Weekes’ calling-card film uses the structure and tropes of horror to slyly tell a surprising, insightful story about the human experience. Specifically, it’s the chronicle Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) Majur settling in the U.K., having fled the tribal war in South Sudan.
In a cosmic coincidence, Philip K. Dick’s depressive yelling-into-a-void rants that make up his wonderful midcentury California novels share common ground with the comedic sensibilities of the French. Fittingly, director/co-writer Jérôme Boivin’s “Barjo” — which translates as “nutcase” and is based on “Confessions of a Crap Artist” (written in 1959 and published in 1975) – is the lone movie drawn from PKD’s non-SF catalog. (It can be found here, with unfortunately too-literally translated subtitles — did they come straight from Google Translate? And you’ll want to change the Settings to 0.75 playback speed.)
Battle Royale” is the 2000 Japanese film that predated “The Hunger Games’ ” saga of kids fighting each other to the death per government mandate, but it’s a lot more than that. It might be the ultimate BYOM movie, as in “bring your own metaphors.” At times it plays like screenwriter Kenta Fukasaku (son of director Kinji) – adapting the 1999 novel by Koushun Takami – is a teenager putting his disillusionments into an absurdly violent action movie.
The idea of zombie fiction featuring great character development and performances was old hat by the time of “Train to Busan” (2016); the Tens were dominated by TV’s “The Walking Dead,” after all. But while the Korean film from writer Park Joo-suk and director Yeon Sang-ho doesn’t break new ground, it covers every inch of the old ground expertly, giving us an elite piece of zombie fiction that steadily plows forward and never runs off the track.
Foreign filmmakers, particularly in Asia, have been making long, engrossing, surprising statements about human issues of the day for a long time, and “Parasite” (2019) may not be the elite example of the form, but it’s a worthy Best Picture winner. If this first-ever foreign film to win Best Picture gets people to check out more subtitled gems, it’s worth it. Director/co-writer Bong Joon Ho, along with co-writer Jin Won Han, crafts a darkly funny commentary about South Korean class relations that the American film “Us” wishes it could’ve approached.
In the tradition of great Asian cinema, “Burning” (2018) is intensely strange and immensely engrossing. Fittingly, lead actor Ah-in Yoo, as Lee Jong-su, seems to barely be giving a performance, but we’re right there with him as his life gets weirder and weirder.
When I throw around the phrase “makeshift family” in reviews, I’m usually talking about tight groups of friends. But the Japanese film “Shoplifters” (2018) shows us a more literal makeshift family. It’s about six societal castoffs who live together in a tiny house owned by the woman they call “Grandma” (Kirin Kiki).
With the Oscars coming up, the guilt of constantly scrolling past “Roma” (2018) on Netflix en route to “Daredevil” episodes finally got to me, and I gave the Best Picture nominee a watch. And also, my Cold Bananas colleague Shaune watched the first 20 minutes, laughed, and said I can claim this one in our attempt to check Oscar films off our list.
Abizarrely specific subgenre of horror has gotten a lot of play in recent years: Ouija-board horror. The two films officially sanctioned by the Warner Brothers board game – the bland “Ouija” (2104) and its much better prequel, “Ouija: Origin of Evil” (2016) – are the most well-known. But stories of terror being summoned via a supernatural-themed game date back to 1986’s “Witchboard,” and a quick IMDb search reveals at least 20 movies with “Ouija” in the title, several of which we have all noticed (but probably not actually watched) while lazily scrolling through our Netflix queue.
“Harry Potter’s” Luna Lovegood, Evanna Lynch, hasn’t broken out to be the major star one might have assumed, but she shines as a depressive, real-world answer to Luna in the Irish film “My Name is Emily,” now streaming on Amazon. In Simon Fitzmaurice’s assured writing-directing debut, a young Emily frets over being labeled “weird” by schoolmates, but her dad (Michael Smiley) assures her that there’s nothing wrong with that.