The first time I watched this Pooh special I wasn't really too impressed by it. Back then I watched a whole series of Pooh stuff front to back though, and it was late summer when I caught A Very Merry Pooh Year, not the best time of year for a Christmas/New Year special. I surely didn't mind it as much the second time around.
This film basically pastes together two separate stories. The first sees Pooh and his friends writing a letter to Santa. When Pooh finds out he's forgotten to ask Santa for a present, everyone comes together to try and fix Pooh's conundrum. The second story shows how Rabbit it getting fed up with everyone. When he threatens to leave, they decide to change their personalities hoping they can convince Rabbit to stay.
It's certainly not up there with the best Pooh films, it's just two random (holidays-themed) stories stuck together to reach the 60-minute mark. But there's a definite charm to Disney's Pooh franchise, not in the least because of the charming dub and the cartoony art style. Pretty decent.
South-Korean remake of Parkhill's The Caller. I've seen that one before, but honestly couldn't remember a single thing about it. That makes it hard to compare both films, but at least score-wise this one has the edge. The Call is a fine mystery, with some thriller and horror elements to keep the tension alive.
Seo-yeon returns to the house where she grew up in. When she's there, she starts receiving weird phone calls from a girl in peril. The calls come from Young-sook, a girl who lived in that same house 20 years ago and was held hostage by her mom. Young-sook really loves talking to Seo-yeon, and to show her appreciation she decides to try and save Seo-yeon's father, who died around that time.
I'm not a big fan of time travel/loop narratives, but this film offers a pretty interesting variation. The performances are strong, the cinematography looks polished and the pacing is decent. The film loses a little steam in the final quarter, but it's more than solid filler if you're looking for a good mystery.
I didn't quite like this film as a kid, so I'd never really bothered giving it a second try. It's a holiday classic though, so I figured I might just as well get it over with this year. Turns out it's really not that bad a film after all. Not quite the masterpiece some make it out to be, but definitely entertaining enough for casual filler.
Neal promised he'd be home on time for Thanksgiving, but the weather messes up his plans. On his journey back home he meets up with Del, a jolly but slightly irritating salesman who happens to be going in the same direction as Neal. The two don't get along together that well, but getting home is their first priority.
Martin and Candy have a lot of chemistry together, there are some hilarious secondary characters and even though it's a comedy, there's also a surprising amount of snide. It's a pretty solid road movie, just don't expect too much from the cinematography and soundtrack. Solid filler.
A feature-length demo tape for Kubo and his crew. It's a full-blown introduction into the High & Low franchise that highlights all the gangs and factions, while setting the stage for the main trilogy. It's also a playground for Kubo to get the vibe just right and a warming up for the actors to get a feel for their characters.
SWORD is a group of five gangs that hold each other in check. They quarrel and fight, but there's never one gang strong enough to rise above the rest. There is one Yakuza family that thinks it can outsmart the SWORD alliance and to do that, they infiltrate the gangs and try to play them against each other.
Watching this film after the main trilogy is a bit weird, but it does underline the smarts of this pilot-like approach. While the potential is clearly here and there's already a lot to enjoy, it doesn't come close to the polish, vitality and joy of what would become the main course of the High & Low franchise. A fun introduction, but not as good as the real thing.
I was actually quite excited to see a relatively modern short film receiving some critical praise, of course it turns out it's a 80s film pretending to be a 40s film. I probably should've known better, I've been around critics and films fans long enough, but I still fall for it once in a while.
Mignon Dupree is one of the few powerful women in Hollywood, with that power she tries to create a better world for struggling actresses of color, who aren't even being considered for onscreen parts. What the people around Mignon don't realize is that she's a black woman herself, parading around as a white girl.
If it isn't clear enough from the narrative, this is a short about racial and sexual oppression in 40s Hollywood, and its broader impact on society. The film isn't exactly subtle and the 40s look, while relatively efficient, isn't something I was really happy to see. Too crude and predictable to be good, but not entirely uninteresting.
An early drama by Eiji Uchida. Uchida is no doubt an interesting director, but also someone who would need awhile to rise above his low budget roots. Topless has its charm and the potential is clear for all to see, at the same time it could've use a little extra polish to better bring out the core drama.
Natsuko is a free-spirited girl who lives with her friend Koji. Natsuko is openly gay and doesn't really mind what the world thinks of that, but not everybody finds it so easy to deal with. Her girlfriend breaks up with Natsuko to go and live with a guy, meanwhile she helps out a young girl looking for her mom.
The performances are decent and the drama is nice enough, but Uchida leans a little too much on the LGBT angle. It's simply not as revolutionary as he seems to think it is. The cinematography is rather plain too and the film's structure lacks a little coherence. It's definitely a worthwhile watch, just not a stand-out film.
An odd little film. Maybe I've seen a few too many film noirs lately, but I figured that stylistically this little heist flick was a pretty good match. The only difference being that this is a jolly old British comedy, with plenty of puns and an upbeat soundtrack, which makes for a very different type of film. Sadly it didn't make for a particularly good one.
An employee of a company that transports gold decides it's time to grant himself a little bonus. Together with a sculptor friend a few more hardened criminals he devises an airtight plan to steal the gold. During the heist the operation goes smoothly, but once they have the gold the real trouble starts.
It's interesting to see a more uplifting execution of a simple heist setup, but the comedy hasn't aged that well. It's all very stuffy and outdated. The performances are decent and the pacing is fine too, not in the least because the runtime is rather short, but in the end I didn't derive much pleasure from this film.
A classic Korean drama. Can't say I've been thoroughly impressed with them so far, though Hurrah For Freedom definitely shows some potential, especially the purely dramatic scenes. They are few and far between though, and hidden in between some rather oppressive nationalistic statements.
The first Korean film in the post-Japan era is of course about the Japanese occupation. It follows the story of a freedom fighter who is willing to give everything for his country. With the help of his fellow countrymen he fights the Japanese army from within, even when he gets captured.
There are some small highlights here. Dramatic moments supported by lovely cinematography and a fitting soundtrack, but most of the film is made up of functional narratives where characters bark stark nationalistic prose. Not really my idea of good cinema I'm afraid.
Slightly better than the first film. This one plays more like a Ghostbusters flick, only with the Scooby-Doo crew present. I'm still not too taken with the overly childish performances, but the monsters are pretty amusing in this one, and there's plenty of different ones to keep things interesting.
The Mystery Inc. gang is attending the opening of a museum wing dedicated to their successes. With the whole town watching, a new bad guy makes his entrance. He has a machine that revives all the monsters from the past, Scooby-Doo and his friends are on the case to save Coolsville from impending doom.
The film is quite loud and hectic, the CG looks a little cheap (probably because it's squarely aimed at kids, but that's just lazy) and the setup is a complete rip-off. But the monster designs are kinda fun and the pacing is hellish, which is definitely a plus for this type of film. Far from great, but somewhat entertaining.
This film was my first introduction into the work of Yôji Yamada, one of Japan's most prolific drama directors. I loved The Twilight Samurai, but never really became too enamored with Yamada's other work. I guess it has to do with an evolution in my personal taste, as revisiting this film wasn't a complete success.
Seibei is a low-ranking samurai. Others make fun of his scruffy looks and poor smell, but Seibei doesn't really mind. He doesn't have much money, but enjoys the time he spends with his two daughters and senile mother. When Tomoe, Seibei's childhood friend, returns to the village, it looks like they're destined to be together, but life has other plans for them.
The Twilight Samurai is a meandering drama. Very sweet and gentle, supported by strong performances and a fine soundtrack. There's just a little too much narrative push for my liking. The second hour is not quite as interesting, rather than focus on Seibei, Tomoe and their relationship, the film throws too many obstacles in their path, unnecessarily taking away from the pleasant mood. Still very good, just not the masterpiece I remembered it to be.
A Lupin III film helmed by legendary anime director Gisaburô Sugii. You're forgiven if the name doesn't ring a bell, but Sugii directed his fair share of remarkable films. Don't expect him to stray too far from the Lupin III template though, while the film is a tad more explicit than the ones I've seen so far, it's still very much a typical Lupin flick.
Another entry in the Lupin franchise, another treasure to hunt down. This time Lupin has to find the two half of the Twilight Gemini, a jewel that, when united, will reveal the hidden treasure of the Gelt clan. His quest takes him to Morocco, where he'll have to fight off more than a handful of adversaries.
The soundtrack is pleasantly jazzy, the voice acting is solid and even though the animation quality is rather basic, the distinct art style makes it fun to watch. If you've seen a couple of Lupin films you should know what to expect, but with the Lupin franchise that's hardly a negative. Pretty solid entertainment.
King Hu's first film is a romantic drama with strong musical influences, made for the Shaw Bros studios. Because of that, it's somewhat of an outlier in his oeuvre, but people familiar with his work are sure to recognize Hu's tranquil directorial style. That at least made it an interesting watch.
The film revolves around Chin-Lung Wang, the son of a wealthy minister, who falls in love with Sue San, a prostitute. As their relationship grows stronger, Wang wants to buy off Sue San's deb. When he informs his father of his plan, he disowns Wang right away. Wang won't give up though and looks for other ways to get the money.
The plot is pretty basic, the musical elements are woven through the film and pop up once in a while to hold up the plot. Luckily the cinematography is above average and the pacing is solid. I don't think I'll ever become a fan of Chinese operas, but from all the early Shaw Bros musicals I've seen so far this was definitely one of the better ones.
Music documentaries are always tricky, especially the ones that do little more than try to capture the atmosphere of a performance or a band. You could argue whether this film's a bona fide documentary, or just a promo film for a concert/tour, but since some people consider it the former I just went ahead and watched it anyway.
London '66-'67 is a film that will appeal to Pink Floyd fans, and maybe some historians with a soft spot for the 60s, but I guess that's about it. I'm neither, nor am I very interested in the music or social scenes of the 60s. To me, this was little more than a poor music video for a band that I really don't care for.
Most of the footage is either the band performing or the audience partying. There are some experimental filters to create a somewhat psychedelic vibe, but it's not very effective. There's very little synergy between the visuals and the music, and it's just 30 minutes of the same thing. Not for me.
A modern Taiwanese fairy tale. It's not a niche that's very popular in Taiwan, but back then China was experimenting with different kinds of genre films (Baober in Love is a slightly edgier example) and Taiwanese cinema was trying to move on from the New Wave, so it's not a complete surprise this film got made.
Dodo is born with a defect on her legs that prohibits her from walking. A successful operation rids her of the problem, but leaves Dodo with a newfound shoe addiction. The fascination for shoes grows so big that it stands in the way of her social life, until a visit to the dentist lands her into the arms of her prince.
The cinematography is very colorful and Hsu's performance is captivating. The tone of the film is light (even the more dramatic parts never feel too depressing) and the fantastical elements are well realized, but the film lacks that extra layer of polish that could've turned it into a true masterpiece. Extremely quirky and charming filler though.
An oddity directed by Cheh Chang. If you've traveled beyond Chang's wide array of martial arts films, you shouldn't be too surprised that he also directed a few musicals early on in his career. They were quite the rage in Hong Kong during the 50s/60s, so the Shaw Bros simply couldn't ignore the genre.
A crafty thief decides it's time for a career change, and becomes a suave singer. An ideal setup for combining cheesy songs with a more crime-inspired story, though the two never really mesh together. In the end the thief's past catches up with him and changing jobs will prove a lot harder than expected.
Having seen a couple of these early Hong Kong musicals, it's quite clear I'm not a fan. Luckily the songs are mostly contained to the first half of the film, which makes the second part a little easier to stomach. Cheh never reaches the heights of his martial arts films though. He took a rather bold risk with The Singing Thief, but it just didn't pay off.
A somewhat surprising hype, not in the least because Host is hardly the first in its genre. The computer-screen horrors have been around for a while now (the Unfriended films probably being the most eye-catching examples), and Host doesn't really innovate or even try to do anything new with it.
A Zoom meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic, with five girls and a dude preparing to do a seance. Their little gathering goes horrible wrong and before they know it an evil spirit is haunting their homes. One by one the participants of the meeting disappear, leaving the others fearing for their lives.
Performances are rather weak and the hauntings feel like a cut & paste job from better films. Some chairs move, things appear on camera that aren't there in the real world and thumping noises are coming from the attic. It's a simple but relatively effective setup, sadly the build-up is flawed and the execution subpar. I expected more from this one.
Early Joris Ivens documentary. The Spanish Earth is a rather one-sided account (one stop short of calling it a full-on propaganda film) that tackles the Spanish Civil War from the point of the Spanish government. Any familiarity with the subject is appreciated, because Ivens doesn't really bother to give too much context.
For most of the documentary, Ivens observes. He plants his camera down and shoots footage, without providing major insights. The sparse commentary comes from Ernest Hemingway, who blasts out platitudes with extreme gravitas. It's a very weird stylistic choice that didn't make much sense to me.
While I'm sure this documentary made sense in 1937, it has lost much of its value over time. The one-sided approach isn't very informative, the crude and brutish styling is rather off-putting and the fact that it only tells half a story (it was made during the Civil War) isn't working in its favor either.
During the late 80s/early 90s, there was a big surge of fantasy/comedy/action mixers in Hong Kong. The better ones (like Chinese Ghost Story) became landmark releases of the era, inevitably some lesser known films fell through the cracks. Devil's Vendetta is one of them, and it deserves a second chance.
Twiggy the Demoness (for real) has agreed to refrain from wreaking havoc on Earth, but only when her daughter loses her virginity before a certain deadline. Her daughter grows up in an all-female Taoist school, her lover is part of a rival all-male school, which makes it quite difficult for the two to hook up.
The plot is nonsensical, the comedy is juvenile and the effects are pretty basic. But the pacing is insane, the entertainment value is through the roof and the fantasy elements look very cool. It's certainly a film for a niche market, but if you like this type of film then Devil's Vendetta comes well recommended. Solid entertainment.
One of the more recent films in the core Lupin series. The art style feels a bit more polished compared to the older films, so does the plot. While that sounds neat on paper, it does take away from the raw energy that is so typical for the Lupin franchise. And so the pros and cons cancel each other out here.
The story is a pretty basic affair, with Lupin being hired to steal a couple of rare gems. The stones are linked to Lupin's past and hold mysterious powers, so of course Lupin is interested. They turn out to be forgeries, which kick-starts a race to find the real stones before the bad guys lay their hands on them.
Eternal Mermaid is a pretty fun and entertaining Lupin film, but it lacks the overt craziness and mad pacing of the better films in the franchise. It's all quite safe and expected, with Lupin going through the motions, but never surprising or taking it all the way. Fun filler in other worlds, but nothing too remarkable.
One of those typical thriller/horror flicks from a first-time director with no money to spend. It shows potential, but at the same time the film completely fails to escape its no-budget roots. The people behind Awaken the Shadowman paid close attention to other genre films, but failed to properly emulate their peers.
Adam gets a distressing call from his brother Jake. His mom is nowhere to be found, and they assume the worst. Adam and his wife Beth travel back to help his brother look for their mom. Some strange people in the neighborhood seem to have taken an interest in their case though, and Adam becomes increasingly worried that something very odd is going on.
The plot isn't all that bad, but the performances are weak, the cinematography looks cheap and the soundtrack fails to add any atmosphere. That makes it virtually impossible to get totally immersed in the film, which is quite vital if you want a horror film to be successful. Only interesting if you're desparate for a horror film.
The Shaw Bros are best known for their vast library of martial arts films. Delve deeper and you'll find some other genre films too, mostly crossing over in the horror genre. If you peel away another layer and go all the way back to the studio's roots though, you'll discover they started out serving a way broader array of genres.
During the Japanese occupation of China, Tang Qi and Xing Ya fall in love with each other. Their families are opposed to them being together, but their affection runs deeps, and they vow to continue seeing other behind people's backs. It's certainly not the most original setup, but it's certainly good enough for a tragic romance.
The lush colors and polished cinematography are definitely a plus here, performances are not on the same level and the film can get quite melodramatic. Some musical bits and a random war scene at the end don't really add much to the film either. It's not all bad though, definitely interested to see where the second part will go from here.
Curtis doing what he loves to do. He takes an essential issue of our modern times, then tracks back to find its political, sociological and ideological origins. Like his other documentaries, I'm not always convinced by the apparent certainty of some of the claims and their connections, but no doubt there are some very interesting tidbits here.
The Trap tries to sketch how our quest for freedom and liberty became a means of oppression and limitation. By reducing people to mathematical models and nudging them to behave certain ways, our actual freedom and choice have been decreasing, while the inequality gap has been growing.
I'm definitely most drawn to the sociological deep dives, which is why the middle part was by far the most interesting for me. Curtis did a great job of showing how setting targets distorts people's goals, as the target itself becomes a goal and people forget what the target is supposed to represent. There were other parts where I had a harder time keeping engaged, but it's no doubt a worthwhile documentary.
John Glen's second Bond is quite a step up from his first attempt. Some new locations and original stunts bring back some much-needed appeal to a franchise that is a little too dependent on routine. Though when all is said and done, Octopussy is still a pretty predictable and standard entry in the Bond franchise.
Bond is chasing a forged Fabergé egg and ends up in India. There he discovers a Russian general is behind the forgery. The general is disgruntled with his government, as they prefer a peaceful rather than a forceful spread of the Russian ideals. The Fabergé eggs are just a small piece of his plan to dominate the world.
Moore is getting a little old to play Bond, but since these films are borderline comedies it's not a showstopper. It does mean that the action scenes are becoming quite stale, especially when Moore is required to do physical action. Some goof jokes (Bond disguised as a crocodile stands out) and very light-hearted vibe keep things entertaining.
Hong Kong's fantasy spectacles from the late 80s/early 90s are pretty great, many of them are personal favorites of mine. I was quite interested to discover the roots of this niche, with that in mind I decided to watch The Legend of the Mother Goddess. That turned out to be a pretty bad gamble.
Mak-Leung is a young woman destined for greatness. From the moment she was born, fate has smiled upon her. When she's a little older a dragon emerges from a well in her garden and grants her a wordless book. With this book, Mak-Leung sets out to save the world. So far so good.
The effects are so incredibly drab that it's really hard to take the film serious. That itself is not without a certain appeal, but there are quite a few scenes where the film was just too cheap for me to enjoy. Silly costumes, crappy action and some Kaiju-like nonsense make for light entertainment, but overall this was only borderline acceptable.
Broadly touted as the definitive adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It's a story I never encountered during my childhood, but the last couple of years I've been doing some catching up. Can't say this was my favorite version, but it has some interesting touches that makes it stand out.
The story should be familiar to anyone who's ever seen one of the many adaptations. Scrooge is a grumpy old man who detests Christmas. One Christmas day he is visited by four different ghosts, who show him his past, present and future. A reality check that is powerful enough to make Scrooge a different man.
Hurst's version is surprisingly dark and depressing. It might be due to the stark black and white cinematography, but the first hour or so doesn't feel like a very Christmas-y film at all. Alastair Sim does a pretty great job as Scrooge and the ending is quite uplifting, but it feels more than a little outdated and the story gets a bit stale after having seen so many adaptations.
One of Ki-duk's harder to find films. Like most of his post Arirang work, One on One is quite violent and dark, though never gratuitous or without a more contemplative side. I appreciate both eras in Ki-duk's oeuvre, the reason why this one didn't pan out to be a full-on favorite is because of its narrative focus and its somewhat repetitive nature.
A group of vigilantes is hunting down soldiers who were involved in the execution of a young woman. They followed orders, but it's clear they were saving someone's hide rather than act to protect the country. The vigilantes want every soldier to sign a confession, and they want to find out who gave the order for the kill.
There's quite a few soldiers to go through though and the crux of the film is revealed early on, so after a while the torture scenes do get a little repetitive. They also take time away from the character development, which is probably why the ending was as intense as it was supposed to be. It's still an interesting film with more than enough to chew on, it just isn't quite up to Ki-duk's usual standard.