Cyber Ninja

Mirai Ninja: Keiun Kinin Gaiden
1988 / 71m - Japan
Action, Fantasy
2.5*/5.0*
Cyber Ninja poster

Cheesy but fun Tokusatsu film. Everything about this film screams Keiya Amemiya, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he co-wrote and directed the film. If you don't care for Tokusatsu at all this isn't a film that will change your mind, if you can look past the cheese there's some solid fun to be had.

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A warlord has created a gang of mechanical ninjas, using them for his reign of terror. He also killed a formidable fighter and fused his soul into a demonic castle. What remains of the fighter is revived as a cybernetic ninja. All he wants is revenge on the warlord, so he joins the human ninjas to help them get rid of their mutual enemies.

The effects are cheesy and the film is pretty low-budget, but the designs are fun and the commitment to genre pulp is pure and unrelenting. It's also a shorter film, so the pacing is high. It's not great cinema, but it's made with passion and there is plenty of fun to be had. Decent Amemiya filler.

The Blue Lamp

1950 / 84m - UK
Crime, Thriller
1.5*/5.0*
The Blue Lamp poster

A British noir. The classic British films tend to be a lot stuffier than their modern-day descendants, in part because they never seem to make use of their large selection of juicy accents and dialects at their disposal. The Blue Lamp is no exception, but at least the cinematography adds a little extra flair.

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Two policemen are going about their daily business. Meanwhile, a duo of gangsters are planning a series of robberies. They're using Diane as an insider. Things go wrong during the second robbery and one of the cops is shot by the gangsters. They won't let that slide and they start a citywide hunt.

The plot isn't too interesting, the performances are very wooden and unnatural and the pacing is rather slow. The only thing that made this a bit more bearable was the stark black-and-white cinematography, especially during the night scenes. It's not much, but at least it was something.

Puppet

2024 / 86m - China
Action, Mystery
3.5*/5.0*
Puppet poster

In many ways, this is Dai Yilin's best film to date. It's the one where he seems to be leaving his streamer roots behind, upping the overall quality of the production. And he doesn't disappoint, only now that he is playing with the big boys, the competition is getting way tougher. And that's where the film falls just a little short.

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While investigating the theft of some firearms, Ding Jian's wife is kidnapped by some bandits. He chases after her, but by the time he gets to her, it is already too late. Knowing the Third Prince was involved, Jian becomes a rebel, and together with his close friend, he decides to solve the mystery behind his wife's murder.

The costumes are superb (flashbacks of The Banquet), the cinematography is nice and the action is on point. But it lacks the grandeur and the excess of the best films in the genre, and because it's a more serious film, it's not quite as snappy and fun compared to the streamer flicks. Yilin has talent though, so just give the man more time and an even bigger budget, and he'll get there in the end.

The Emperor and His Brother

Shu Jian En Chou Lu
1981 / 101m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
The Emperor and His Brother poster

Yuen Chor trying to marry his moodier sets and fantastical elements with some proper martial arts. The result is a very solid film, but one that lacks the pure strength of what makes Chor's films stand out. This is a good entry-level film for people who want to know what Shaw Bros cinema is about though.

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The emperor's successor finds out he's not the legitimate one to inherit the throne. He is approached by members of the Red Flower Society, who want his help to get rid of the Manchus. The emperor is on to their plan and hires some men to kill him. It's the start of a tricky cat-and-mouse game.

The fight scenes are a step up from most of Chor's other films, but the fantasy elements are toned down. As a result, this is not one of Chor's best films, but it does offer a nice mix of Shaw Bros signature elements, properly executed too. A good, solid film, I'm a bit surprised I only found out about it now.

The Long Day Closes

1992 / 85m - UK
Drama
2.5*/5.0*
The Long Day Closes poster

Music matters. The Long Day Closes could've been a pretty atmospheric, impressive film, but the soundtrack is an absolute hindrance. Now, I appreciate it when a director makes bold choices with the score, but it just didn't work for me. For that, the selection was simply too bland and predictable.

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A man remembers the days growing up in Liverpool. His family gave him all the love he needed, but still, he struggled with the rigid Catholic upbringing in school and the passionate feelings for other men he was developing. As all kids know, puberty is a confusing time with ups and downs.

The cinematography is on point and there are several scenes that stood out because of the lighting and colors, but you need a good score to go along with that, and that's where the film stumbles. The performances are solid too, sadly I didn't care as much for the setting or the drama. It's a shame the film doesn't fulfill its potential.

2.5*/5.0*
Koji Shiraishi's Never Send Me, Please poster

Shiraishi returns with a novel found footage concept. This time he is featuring himself, as a director who gets sent lots of scary videos. It's just repackaging the same old horror stories though, then again, Shiraishi has made series like these before, which did get interesting several episodes in.

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Shiraishi is showing various videos to his viewers when he starts to notice a pattern between the different videos. He seems to recognize some people and he gets intrigued by their story. So much so that he decides to investigate what happened to him, turning his anthology film into a documentary.

Haunted houses, mysterious apparitions, and cursed visitors. And all that is presented in a faux-doc style. I think Shiraishi is one of the few remaining directors who is still making films like these. This isn't his best work, nor is it still very effective, but it's short and there's some genre fun to be had with it.

Dasepo Naughty Girls

Dasepo Sonyo
2006 / 103m - South Korea
Comedy
3.0*/5.0*
Dasepo Naughty Girls poster

A quirky South Korean comedy. It holds the middle between Volcano High and Cromartie High, but it isn't quite as good as either. The first half of the film is very promising, after that it runs out of steam a little too quickly. Still, if you love madcap Asian comedy, this is a very simple recommendation.

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The film follows the adventures of a very peculiar high school. Most of the teachers there are sexual deviants and the kids seem happy enough to indulge in their fantasies. They don't know their headmaster is planning something very special though, which may mean the end of their school.

The comedy is pretty weird and all over the place, the problem is that once the setting and characters have been established, the film shifts into a more narrative mode, which isn't quite as interesting. The finale is still fun, but the entire middle section leading up to it could've been better. Still, this is a fun comedy if you like your comedy weird.