The film that kick-started Chuan Lu's career. I'm not a big fan of his work, but he made some amusing films and Mountain Patrol has somewhat of a positive reputation, so I figured it wouldn't hurt giving it a chance. It's not a bad film, but the potential was there to do a lot better with the material.
A reporter from Beijing travels to Tibet to join a unofficial patrol group. They roam the mountains looking for poachers, who kill antelopes and sell their hides. It's a treacherous area to patrol though and since they don't receive any funding, they have to make do with what they can find.
The setting is majestic, but Lu doesn't always make the best use of it. While there are some pretty shots to be admired, they're actually quite sparse and the film looks a little too gray and unattractive. The plot is pretty basic too and the performances are nothing special. Not bad, but overall I was a little disappointed.
A Turkish classic. I haven't seen too many Turkish films yet, but this didn't inspire much trust in the rest of their output. I couldn't find anything unique or original here (except maybe the ending) and at two hours it's way too long. Just a simple crime flick that feels like it was made for TV.
Baran is an eskiya (a mountain thief) who spent the last 35 years in prison. Upon release, he vows to find his old love. That journey takes him to Istanbul, but Baran isn't used to the big city life. In Istanbul, he bumps into some city criminals who decide to help Baran with his little quest.
Sener Sen is a nice lead and the finale stands out, but the rest of the film is quite poor. The cast is disappointing, the cinematography is dim, the soundtrack atrocious. The story is also quite predictable and the pacing is too slow, dragging everything out unnecessarily. Not worthy of its reputation.
A simple sci-fi/action flick by a first-time director, who is a little too eager to show his worth. While Monsters of Man is a well-made and amusing film, there's nothing particularly noteworthy that sets it apart, nothing that warrants a 2-hour plus running time. A real shame, at 90 minutes this would've been a lot better.
A young start-up is hired by the army to test out their new AI robots. They're told they're taking part in a simple nav mission, but it's clear that their bosses have ulterior motives. The mission doesn't go as planned and one of the robots defects. When it starts killing civilians, they need to act quick to try and save their own hides.
The CG is competent, the plot simple but sufficient, the robots looks quite nifty and the action is solid. Performances are a bit middling and there's really nothing you haven't seen before. Just a bunch of AI robots battling it out with some unsuspecting humans (one of which just happens to be a former SEAL agent). 90 minutes, that's all this needed to be, sadly there's a bout 40 minutes of cruft, making this much tougher to sit through than needed.
Howl's Moving Castle is high fantasy. That's not really my preferred Miyazaki material, but the level of execution is so perfect here that it hardly bothered me at all. The animation is superb, the characters are charming and the pacing is exactly right. Not his best film, I prefer his more modest narratives, but great fun nonetheless and a must for animation fans.
After the immense success of The Queen's Gambit, this old Hollywood feelgood schmaltz was dragged out of the shadows again. It's good timing to bring this film back into the spotlights, as the quality is actually pretty low and it would be hard to get people to watch this without the prior chess hype.
Josh Waitzkin is a child prodigy. When his parents recognize his talent, they hire a specialized teacher to get him the education he needs to become a champion. Josh loves chess, but isn't a big fan of the teaching methods, nor the fact that he has to give up everything else to become the best chess player in the US.
Cheap Hollywood morality, stern but laughable performances, cheesy music and a cheery ending you could predict 5 minutes in. It's the worst kind of Hollywood movie, lacking any kind of quality, any discernible input from the director and any form of genuine drama. Back to obscurity with this one.
A film with a reputation. It reportedly inspired Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and it stands as one of the highlights of the Japanese New Wave, up there with the best films of Wakamatsu. The other Matsumoto I watched also left me quite impressed, so I definitely looked forward to this one.
And the film doesn't disappoint. There's a simple narrative that lies beneath all the weirdness, about two gays/drag queens who fight for the romantic attention of their boss, but that seems little more than an excuse for some joyful experimentation. In other words, don't expect an easy film.
Matsumoto doesn't seem bound by genres, styles or conventions. He includes interviews with the cast, switches to segments with hyper editing, there's some slapstick, a little hippie partying and a rather horrific ending. The overwhelmingly white cinematography feels fresh too and there's plenty of imagery that lingers longs after the end credits have faded. Good stuff, just a tad long and a bit too uneven.
Isaac Ezban has been making a name for himself directing mysterious sci-fi films with loopy narratives. Parallel is his first English-language film, but it's a step down from the films he made in Mexico. It's also one of his most obvious films, where the mystery is fully revealed in the first third of the film.
A group of friends/team of app developers discover a hidden room in their apartment. There they find a mirror that transports them to parallel universes. It doesn't take them long to figure out ways to game this setup and to better their lives with it, but after a short period of elated happiness, they begin to distrust each other.
The parallel universes sound like they could provide a nice twist on the good old time travel stories, but in reality it doesn't change a lot. I also wasn't that impressed with the heist-like structure of the story, which adds to the predictability of the film. Performances are decent and there's still some fun to be had here, but I was hoping Ezban would be taking some steps forward, not backward.
The first of the three Majin films, all made in the same year. I was actually pretty excited to discover a new kaiju franchise, but don't let the poster of this film mislead you. While there's definitely a substantial kaiju side to Majin, it's equal parts jidai geki and yokai fantasy, with the kaiju elements only popping up in the latter parts of the film.
The village of the Hanabusa is seized by the cruel Samanosuke clan, who take all the villagers hostage and treat them like slaves. Some of the Hanabusa manage to escape though and take refuge in the nearby woods. These woods also houses Majin, a God revered by the Hanabusa. They pray to him, hoping he will help them defeat the Samanosuke clan.
The cinematography is crisp and surprisingly beautiful. It certainly adds to the atmosphere, but can't prevent the first hour from being a bit too slow. It takes just a little too long before the Majin peeps around the corner, luckily the finale makes up for that lost time. Mixed sentiments, but overall it's a pretty fun flick, I'm already looking forward to the sequels.
A Google Glass inspired found footage horror. I'm actually surprised they didn't make more of those, then again Glass never really took off. It's a perfect match for this type of film though, as the footage feels a bit more natural (for the most part at least, a lot of the digital interference was clearly added for cinematic reasons).
Rachel and Sarah are going on a vacation to Tel Aviv. They make a new friend on the plane and decide to follow him to Jerusalem. Once there they want to stick around for Jom Kippoer, what they don't know is that all hell is about to break loose. Quite literally, as the end of the world is nigh.
The intro is a bit long and the CG can get a little flaky, but the basic idea is quite cool, I'm rather partial to the found footage niche and the ending is pretty damn awesome. Once the chaos starts (about halfway through), the strict pacing and solid build-up of tension really make this into a fun ride. A neat little surprise.
A weird and somewhat unfocused drama. While it starts off promising enough, the film ventures off in a different direction about 1 hour in and never finds its footing after that. A severe lack of subtlety and some baseless venting doesn't really help Secret Sunshine's case either.
After the death of her husband, Shin-ae leaves with her son to go live in Milyang, the city where her husband grew up. The welcome isn't too friendly though and when disaster strikes again, Shin-ae desperately tries to look for comfort. When she can't find it, she starts lashing out.
Performances are somewhat decent, but the lack of subtlety really didn't work for me. The digs at religion were also pretty uncomfortable (even though I'm not religious myself), the film lacks focus and the solid pacing found in the first hour is set aside for a barrage of random drama. Not that great.
A somewhat dull noir. It seems to be taking itself a little too serious, which isn't really what the genre is good at. Apparently this film is a personal favorite of Scorsese and I guess it shows. It's a somewhat dreary crime story stacked with mean-spirited characters, I just wasn't that impressed.
Joe is a crooked lawyer who plans to bring all independent gambling bosses together under one powerful organization. His brother Leo is one of these bosses, but he isn't willing to play along. Joe isn't planning to give up on his dream and frames his brother, hoping that he'll come asking for his help. Things don't quite turn out as Joe hoped though.
Performances are rather weak, even though the film is short the pacing feels sluggish and the plot isn't much to look at. The film just lacks that juicy, self-aware fun of the better noirs, but at least the cinematography was pretty decent. It's not the worst film ever made, I just didn't find much to enjoy here.
Hocus Pocus came a year before Ricky Lau's Mr. Vampire, so I guess director Yuet-Sang Chin deserves his share of the credit for kick-starting this whole comedy/horror/action craze. The genre balance may not be perfect, but there's a lot of fun to be had with this film, just make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.
Sheng leads an opera troupe and is big on ghost stories. His disciples love to listen to his tales, but they get a little annoyed when Chia, when of their fellow actors, takes the whole ghost business a step too far. They decide to get back at Chia, but by doing that they run into a real ghost.
There's a bit of everything here. Comedy and horror are the main genres, but a film like this wouldn't be complete without some martial arts and fantasy elements. Performances are well over-the-top and the comedy's a little lame, but the lore and designs are cool enough and there's a spectacular finale that is more than satisfactory. Good stuff.
A quirky little romcom. Not the sappy Hollywood stuff that tries to be as mellow and agreeable as possible, but an edgier comedy that throws in a bit of romance just to keep the narrative going. I didn't expect that much going in, but was pleasantly surprised by Jordan Roberts' second film.
Frank returns home to celebrate his brother Bruce getting out of rehab. The two have grown apart, but Frank is willing to make an effort to mend past disagreements. Bruce is still pretty irresponsible though, and when he films Frank having a rather embarrassing one-night stand, the shit hits the fan.
Hunnam and O'Dowd are great (though it's a shame the latter had to drop his accent), Perlman and Caplan are also pretty memorable. There are some solid jokes, the comedy is quite dry and the romance never feels cheesy. The film isn't that long either and the pacing is on point. Very agreeable filler.
I don't really mind being the butt of a joke, I do mind being the butt of a 30-minute joke. Robert Nelson must've had a lot of fun making this short experimental film, I sure didn't enjoy watching it. It's a good thing YouTube didn't exist when he made this, or this film would've been swallowed into anonymity in the blink of an eye.
There's a little clock in the upper right corner of the screen, counting down the minutes. Every minute we get a different fragment, though most of the time we're looking at a picture of a boot with 5 or 6 names on top. One of the names belongs to the boat, two men are trying to guess which one.
And that's about it really. When we're not watching the boat quiz, we see other (seemingly random) fragments. No doubt there's a point to it all, but I honestly couldn't be bothered to find out what it is. A big waste of time, though there is some minor enjoyment to be found in the interaction between the two men.
I've been avoiding Fukasaku's films for the longest time, on account of not really liking some of his Yakuza work. It turns out I've should've been watching his samurai stuff instead. Samurai Reincarnation is a pretty rad film, a mixture of classic Japanese lore, some fantasy elements and a lot of cool.
After a gruesome battle, a Christian samurai loses his faith and sells his soul to the devil. In return, he receives the power to resurrect the dead. He starts on a long journey through the country. Whenever he meets disgruntled souls, he reincarnates them and adds them to his little band of misfits.
Japanese mythology is quite rich and Fukasaku is happy to exploit it for this film. Quite a few famous figures are combined in this narrative, with the showdown between Musashi Miyamoto and Yubei Yagyu as the absolute highlight. Awesome sets, a creepy atmosphere and some very cool action scenes make this quite the spectacle. A very pleasant discovery.
As someone who is wholly unaware of the old Peabody & Sherman cartoons, it all felt very random. A genius dog as the father of a young boy, going on time travel adventures. It sounds like a random mix of popular things thrown together for a quick cash grab, but apparently there's a bit more history driving the Peabody and Sherman characters.
Mr. Peabody is an incredibly wise dog, who earned himself the right to adopt an orphan boy. When Sherman makes a fuss at school on his first day, Peabody's ability to be a real father to the boy is questioned. To make amends, Peabody organizes a party, but Sherman messes things up when he takes out the time travel machine for a spin.
The animation looks pretty dated and the plot is a complete mess. It really feels like a bunch of shorts strung together, whizzing by at a pace that hopefully detracts from the lack of direction. Luckily the comedy is pretty decent, with a fun Mr Peabody (thanks to the voice work of Burrell) and some daft puns. Not great, but somewhat entertaining.
It's not that often that you see a Hong Kong adaptation of a Japanese manga, Legally Declared Dead is a good illustration of why that isn't really a perfect match. While there's a lot to like here, the somewhat fleeting and rushed style that characterizes Hong Kong cinema doesn't seem to be doing the source material justice (though I'm not personally familiar with it).
Shun is an insurance broker who is sent to Tak's home to follow up his case. Once there he discovers the body of Tak's grandson, hanging from the ceiling. Shun is a good-natured and trusting man, but he suspects Tak of setting up his grandson's death. Meanwhile, Shun's own troubled past is starting to resurface.
The cinematography is beautiful and both Karena Lam and Anthony Wong put in tremendous performances. Carlos Chan can't really convince as the lead though and the direction feels a bit too rushed. Though the film is quite long, it could've done with a little less fluff and a tighter focus on the parts that mattered. An interesting film, but a bit too flawed to be a true masterpiece.
A very simple noir. I honestly don't think you can get more core genre than The Narrow Margin. The setting is reduced to a single train, there's a lot of men in hats trying to be as spiffy as possible, while the damsel in distress has quite the foul mouth of her own. Add a plot twist and that's your classic film noir right there.
Agent Brown is tasked to get the wife of a notorious gangster to Los Angeles, as she's willing to testify against the Mafia. They take the train, but their journey isn't as inconspicuous as they'd hoped. Before long many people are on Brown's tail, trying to convince him that the woman is better dead than alive.
The performances are rather poor and the setting isn't really put to good use, but the pacing is decent and I do prefer this limited location noirs. There's not much time to get bored and once the little twist has been revealed, the film races towards its finale. It's all a bit plain, but there's some entertainment value here.
Hideo Nakata's tech thriller. It's a bit like watching an update of The Net (1995), only with some serial killer elements thrown in to make it a bit more exciting. It's actually somewhat successful too, though this film mostly underlines that Nakata hasn't been on top of his game for quite a while now.
Makoto is late for a meeting and stuck in traffic. He decides to take the train instead, but he forgets his phone in his cab. Shortly afterwards his girlfriend receives a call for a man who has found Makoto's phone. She picks it up and everything seems back to normal, what she doesn't know is that Makoto's phone got hacked.
Stolen Identity isn't a bad film, Nakata's direction is competent and a couple of minor twists keep things interesting. On the other hand, it's not a very notable film. Performances are decent, so is the cinematography and score, there's just little here that makes a big impression. Entertaining filler though.
A nifty nature doc. The bar for these documentaries has been raised significantly in the past decade, but director Sidey still found a way to distinguish himself for the many others out there. Elementa appears more artistic (think Koyaanisqatsi) than its peers, ditching facts and information for purer impressions.
Stark and ultra clean black and white cinematography, an ethereal electronic score and visuals divided into different panels offer a unique look at nature. The recordings are absolutely stunning and in combination with the music the film clearly aims to be a 45-minute audiovisual trip.
The music is a bit overbearing, the flow between the different segments feels a little janky and the black and white cinematography doesn't always appear to be the best choice. These are minor issues considering the visual strengths of the film, but for a film that aspires to be an audiovisual masterpiece it makes that Elementa never reaches its full potential. Would love to see more by Sidey though, as he clearly has a knack for these types of docs.
Another early Cheh Chang flick. It's a pretty good precursor to the 70s highlights of Chang's career, a film that is already quite epic in nature, offers a fair bit of martial arts and a very typical revenge plot. It's not quite up there with his best work yet, but it's no surprise this is the path Chang would choose to pursue.
After avenging his father, Li goes into hiding. There he meets Fang, a capable martial artist who gets mixed up in a bitter fight with some goons. Li tries to stay out of Fang's affairs, but as he grows closer to Fang it becomes increasingly difficult to turn a blind eye, especially since Fang's adversaries don't care for a fair fight.
The cinematography (including the scenes shot on location) look better than Chang's later work (as is typical for the Shaw Bros productions), the fights on the other hand can still feel a little flaky. Still, Trail of the Broken Blade is an entertaining film and no doubt part of the blueprint that would lead the Shaw Bros to big success in the following decade, so well worth a watch.
One of those films that exemplified the rise of DV and its impact on drama cinema. With no budget to speak of, Chui Mui Tan made a film that would've otherwise been impossible to make. Fifteen years later its impact may have been seriously diminished, but back then it won her a prestigious Tiger Award.
Ah Ping is a young girl who moved from the countryside to Kuala Lumpur. There she meets John, a city boy who takes a liking to her. Ping already has a boyfriend in Penang, but John is steadfast and keeps following her around. Ping finally caves, but she then finds out that there's a darker side to John.
The first scene shows Ping on the bus to Kuala Lumpur. She needs to switch seats with an old man who has an headache, which takes her about 5 minutes. Tan observes. That's pretty much what you're getting, 90 minutes long. The DV cinematography is voyeuristic, putting the audience very close to its protagonists, but the film itself is quite low on actual drama. Love Conquers all offers solid slice of life entertainment, but be prepared for a sluggish film.
Myeah. I didn't really like part 1 of Hapax Legomena (understatement), part 2 turned out to be even worse. These experimental shorts often seem fascinating on paper, but the result is rarely much to look at. After about a minute I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like it, the following 29 minutes were just adding insult to injury.
Poetic Justice challenges you to dream up a movie of your own. All you're getting is 250 pages with a limited screenplay written down on them. The camera never moves and every few seconds a new page is added. The screenplay tells a little romance story, one without actors and setting, brought only to life with your own imagination.
No doubt it's meant as a reflection on the nature of cinema, an illustration of the power of the human brain and a quest to find the limitations of the medium, but I have little respect for a single, simple idea drawn out to a 30 minute short film. Might be fun for people who buy into it, others will wonder why they didn't just read a book. That'd be much faster too.
One of the poorer Bond films I've seen so far. The series has always struggled with its lead changes, and it doesn't seem like this 2-part Dalton episode is going to be any different. With Dalton, it feels like the series got a bit more serious again, which isn't the direction I wanted Bond to go in.
James Bond is asked to bring in a Russian defector, but only two days later the man is taken again by the Russians. It's not a good look for the British intelligence agency, and they immediately reactivates Bond. He has a little side mission to complete first, which of course puts him on track to uncover a hidden plot.
Dalton is a rather grim Bond, d'Abo is a dire Bond girl, the action is plain (apart from one scene on the ice) and the bad guys are incredibly dull. There's just not much joy here, which for me is the main draw of the better entries in the franchise. Let's hope the next one is better.
A peculiar little drama. Gô Rijû seems to be pretty good at them, it's a shame his films are so hard to come by. While Elephant Song sounds a bit macabre on paper, it's really just a small, poignant and subtle film that brings together a friendly set of characters as they join each other on a road trip.
Kanako is facing quite the dilemma. She once promised an acquaintance of hers that she would bury him in a specific place when he'd come to die, not realizing that day would come sooner rather than later. She needs a little help to get the body to the designated place though, so she asks a colleague at work if he is willing to give her and the body a lift.
Miyuki Matsuda and Susumu Terajima are both great, dealing with the somewhat ludicrous plot in a very gentle and down-to-earth manner. The soundtrack is quite soothing, the pacing is pleasantly laid back and the conversations between the characters are nice to follow. A great little discovery.
A non-Disney adaptation of the Peter Pan story. It's a bit darker than your average Disney film, apart from that I wondered why they even bothered making this film. It's the same old classic story, with a smaller budget, lesser known actors and some flakier special effects. That's not much of a draw.
Peter Pan finds three children living in London and convinces them to follow him to Neverland, a magical country where kids don't grow old. But Neverland isn't a very peaceful place. Captain Hook is Pan's biggest enemy and when he realizes Pan has returned from his trip, he's eager to catch his nemesis.
The film is not without charm, but the mediocre performance, the crummy effects and the familiarity of the story kept me from thoroughly enjoying the film. It's not that Peter Pan isn't an interesting story, but you'd think that the umpteenth adaptation would at least try and do things a little differently.
Tze-chung Lam gained a little fame from his appearances in early 2000 Stephen Chow comedies, but he never really made it big. It seems he's putting some effort in directing films now, though I don't think he'll fare much better. The Incredible Monk is a brave attempt, but far from a good film.
Ji Gong is one of China's many historical heroes, the kind of figure who goes on many adventures, each of them very lucrative for a movie adaptation. Some of Gong's old adversaries are popping up again, bothering the people on Earth. Ji Gong suspects something is wrong and stumbles into a big conspiracy.
On paper this is a fun mix of fantasy, martial arts and comedy, but the execution is quite poor and the performances aren't any better. It's a throwback to 90s Hong Kong cinema, but with some shoddy CG and none of the flashy direction that made these films so much fun. At least the pacing is decent and it's light entertainment from start to finish, but it's a shame they can't do better with this material.