Wonderful World End

Wandafuru Warudo Endo
2015 / 84m - Japan
Drama, Romance
4.0*/5.0*
Wonderful World End poster

Wonderful World End is a quirky coming-of-age drama, adding romance and idol elements to make things a bit more interesting. Matsui's direction is pointed, the performances are strong and even though the themes have been explored at length before, the film adds a contemporary spin that turns the film into a time capsule for future generations. Some successful stylistic touches sealed the deal for me. A very nice drama and the first Matsui I truly loved.

The Bad and the Beautiful

1952 / 118m - USA
Drama, Romance
1.0*/5.0*
The Bad and the Beautiful poster

Hollywood drama about Hollywood. Oh, how they love themselves. The Bad and the Beautiful is sentimental and unsubtle, it's a template for Academy-safe drivel that still haunts the Oscar ceremonies to this date. It's no surprise then that this film ended up with 5 of these coveted statues.

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Shields is a shunned producer in Hollywood, but he is hellbent on making a new film. For that he has three artists in mind, the problem is that all three of them have vowed to never work with him again. When they assemble, they dig up memories from the past, revealing their hatred of the producer.

It's a simple setup for a 2-hour film. The performances are weak, I didn't care for the setting, not the plot and the characters. This is a film for people who appreciate classic Hollywood, nothing more, nothing less. That's not a big surprise for a film directed by Vincente Minnelli, it's just not my thing.

Sting

2024 / 92m - Australia
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Sting poster

A fun creature flick set in a small apartment building. This film screams Critters, the biggest difference is that we're dealing with a spider-like creature here. It's a very rudimentary genre film, but the execution is on point and since it's been a while, it was fun catching up with this type of film.

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A meteor storm brings a small egg to our planet. It lands in a New York building, where a young girl with a taste for the morbid finds it. She captures the little spider that comes out of the egg and keeps it as a pet. The thing grows exponentially and it starts to prey on the pets roaming around the building.

The background story (about a struggling family) isn't all that interesting, but the creature is nice enough and the buildup is competent. There are some quirky characters, the pacing is slick and there are some decent horror moments, though none that stand out. Good fun, just don't expect anything novel.

The Watchers

2024 / 102m - Ireland
Horror, Mystery
3.5*/5.0*
The Watchers poster

Ishana, director of The Watchers, is M Night Shyamalan's daughter, and even though her dad is still doing his thing, she seems hellbent on continuing his legacy. She doesn't even try to distance herself from her father's work, though she does add some unique elements that help to distinguish herself.

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Mina is an American working in a small pet shop in Ireland. She has to deliver a special bird to a zoo, but on her way there she gets lost and ends up in a dark forest. Eerie creatures roam around at night but Mina is rescued by a curious trio. They hide out in a small cabin, where the creatures come to observe them every night.

The film offers a nice mix of mystery, horror, and fantasy and builds up the tension proficiently. It's a shame the explanations come relatively soon, taking away the mystery element. The performances are solid and the presentation is stylish, it's just that the ending felt a bit underwhelming. It's a promising debut though, I'm looking forward to seeing more of Ishana.

Zelig

1983 / 79m - USA
Comedy
2.5*/5.0*
Zelig poster

A cute little idea, but it's not quite enough to fill 80 minutes of celluloid. Zelig is a typical Woody Allen comedy but presented as a documentary. It's a setup I tend to enjoy and Allen works in some fun gags, but it does get pretty repetitive and the dramatic and romantic elements don't work that well.

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Zelig is a peculiar man. He popped up out of nowhere but gained fame for impersonating the people he frequented with. It's a rare condition that has doctors stumped. He is taken to a mental asylum, where he is treated by a psychiatrist. The two have a strong connection and she tries to cure Zelig of his affliction.

Allen is decent as Zelig, but it's the narrator who gets the best lines, whereas Allen's performance is mostly relegated to physical comedy. I had a few chuckles here and there, it's also funny how Allen merged his story with US history, but 80 minutes is too long for a one-trick pony that is only occasionally funny.

The Man of the Year

O Homem do Ano
2003 / 105m - Brazil
Crime
4.0*/5.0*
The Man of the Year poster

An interesting crime flick from Brazil. In essence, The Man of the Year isn't all that special. It's the story of a young boy who rises in the world of crime, but the narration comes with a level of wit and irony that helps to set the film apart from its many peers. The moody cinematography, solid score, and notable performances all do their part in keeping the quality level consistent. It's not the most memorable or exceptional film, but it is an extremely slick and fun crime film, which is sure to please genre fans.

Toni

1935 / 84m - France
Drama, Crime
1.0*/5.0*
Toni poster

An early Renoir. While in many ways very different from its US contemporaries, sound also steered French cinema towards dialogue-heavy films in the 30s. Rather than quippy romance though, the French quickly defaulted to poverty porn and drearier dramas. Point in case: Toni.

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Toni is a young Italian who moves to France to find work. He ends up working in a quarry and lands a roof over his head with Marie. Marie falls in love with him, but Toni has his eyes set on Josepha. His love dies out when she is raped and married off to her rapist to avoid a big scandal.

There's a ton of dialogue to wade through, especially during the first half of the film, which is a bother since the performances aren't great. The cinematography is dreary too, the drama is predictable and uninteresting and the few songs in between are terrible. Not a great film, cinema struggled in the 30s.

Wakeful Nights

Nezu no Ban
2005 / 110m - Japan
Comedy
3.5*/5.0*
Wakeful Nights poster

Wakeful Nights is an ode to rakugo comedy. It's pretty crude, dark, and somewhat absurd, but I don't mind that type of comedy. Some of the jokes are very elaborate (like the opening setup) and the film can get quite episodic, but overall, I had a good time and enjoyed the many madcap stories.

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A rakugo master lies on his deathbed. His final wish is to see the private parts of a young woman one final time. His disciples are unsure of what to do next, but one of them is willing to convince his wife to grand their master his final wish. After a little back and forth, the wife agrees, but something feels off.

Many of the jokes revolve around death and/or sex, though the film itself isn't too explicit in that regard. The cast is solid, the presentation is polished (but a little dry) and the comedy is fun. It does get a little repetitive, so a slightly shorter runtime would've been better, but this was a nice discovery.

The Tenant

Le Locataire
1976 / 126m - France
Thriller
1.5*/5.0*
The Tenant poster

A classic Polanski featuring Polanksi. I'm not sure if it was smart of Polanski to play the lead, but at least it was pretty gutsy. I'm not the biggest fan of his older thrillers though. People tend to describe them as pretty weird and mind-bending, but I find them a bit tepid and underwhelming.

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A young man arrives in Paris and rents out an apartment. He learns that the previous tenant tried to commit suicide and when he visits her in the hospital, he encounters the woman's best friend and he hooks up with her. From that moment on, the man starts to spiral and sees threats everywhere he goes.

This could've been a fun mind-bender, but Polanski's direction feels a bit too safe and restrained. There are moments where things get more interesting, but rather than build on them, the film slows down immediately after, never going full out. I didn't like Polanski's acting either, but at least there are a handful of memorable scenes. That's not enough for a 2-hour film though.

Eat Pray Love

2010 / 133m - USA
Romance
0.5*/5.0*
Eat Pray Love poster

Insultingly bad. This felt like a movie made by some fringe mental health cult. It tries to sell these grand ideas about self-discovery and life choices, but it's depressingly shallow and completely random. Add to that some crazy imagery about foreign (read non-US) cultures and you have one of the worst Hollywood films ever.

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Gilbert isn't happy with her life. She files for divorce, lands in the arms of a young boyfriend, and learns about an Indian guru. Her new relationship doesn't pan out either, so she decides to halt her life and take a sabbatical, traveling to Italy, India, and Bali to try and find what exactly she wants from life.

That seems to be the core of this film: take some time off to travel so you can learn who you truly are. It's wrapped up in Hollywood cheese, sporting hilarious clichés about three handpicked foreign countries, a few poor performances, and a terrible score. And all of that lasts more than 2 hours. Yuck.

The Contestant

2023 / 90m - UK
Documentary
2.5*/5.0*
The Contestant poster

The origin of the eggplant emoji. I was somewhat familiar with the story of Nasubi, but not so much the finer details. It's certainly a story worth telling and a documentary on the subject sounded like a good way to catch up. Like most documentaries though, the result is a little lackluster.

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Nasubi wanted to make it as an entertainer and became the primary contestant on a Japanese game show. He was put in a room and could only survive with prizes he won from magazine sweepstakes. It's a show that would last 15 months and would make Nasubi famous, but the toll on his mental health was tremendous.

The documentary highlights some of those mental problems, but sticks mostly to the facts, mainly providing a recap of 15 months of questionable TV moments with commentary from the principal participants. The Everest finale feels out of place and the doc fails to dig deep, but the story remains quite crazy. It's not a terrible watch, but this could've been a lot more interesting.