The Kid Detective

by Evan Morgan
Specifics
Canada [2020] - 100m
Genre
Comedy, Mystery
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Kid Detective poster

A dry, quirky and fun mystery. The Kid Detective is a film that may look a bit inconspicuous at first and might be glossed over rather quickly, but if you pay closer attention it's a pretty original film that finds the perfect balance between comedy and mystery and lives on an island of its own.

The premise is pretty silly, about a child prodigy detective whose life takes a turn for the worse when he can't solve the mystery of the kidnapping of his 14-year-old friend. Years later he finally gets a break, when a local girl hires him to investigate the gruesome murder on her boyfriend.

Brody and Nélisse are both terrific, the comedy is understated but funny, there are some fun little twists and the mystery elements are actually pleasant. The cinematography and soundtrack are just a little too plain to make this a real masterpiece, but it's prime filler that offers plenty of entertainment.

Cocktail

by Roger Donaldson
Specifics
Canada, USA [1988] - 104m
Genre
Romance
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Cocktail poster

Simple 80s romance. I once saw it a long, long time ago, well before I started keeping track of films. All I remembered was Cruise throwing bottles in the air and The Beach Boys' Kokomo. That wasn't by accident it seems, as these are by far the most remarkable things this film has to offer.

Cruise wants to make it big after coming back from the army, but his part-time job as a bartender quickly takes over his life. He's quite a talent and before he knows it bartending becomes his ultimate dream, introducing him to his best friend to be, his wife to be and ultimately a happier life.

Cruise is the main attraction and he does his thing quite well here. The plot is middling, Elisabeth Shue fails to sparkle, the drama is predictable and the soundtrack is pretty bland too. But there's an upbeat atmosphere that makes this a pretty each watch. Just simple fun, don't expect too much and it ends up pretty decent filler.

Spirited Away

Also known as
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
Specifics
Japan [2001] - 125m
Genre
Fantasy, Adventure, Animation
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
Spirited Away poster

Hayao Miyazaki's most popular film. Not my personal favorite, I still feel there are some pacing issues at the start, I also think Miyazaki fares better when he favors subtlety over grandeur, but there are definitely moments of genius here and by the end it does feel as if you just witnessed something epic. One for the ages.

Planet Terror

Specifics
USA, Mexico [2007] - 105m
Genre
Comedy, Action, Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Planet Terror poster

A slightly disappointing rewatch. I wasn't a very big grindhouse revival fan to begin with, but Planet Terror stood out because it was still batshit crazy even without all the grindhouse nods. That was back in 2007 though, before we got to the big 80s revival and before Japan unleashed its Sushi Typhoon madness onto the world. By that measure, Planet Terror just isn't zany enough anymore.

That isn't to say it's not a fun film. Rodriguez delivers more than just an ode to the grindhouse scene and combines crazy violence with over-the-top horror, keeping it light at all times and topping it off with some lovely randomness. Seeing McGowan with her machine gun leg is still good fun, just not as mind-blowing as it was the first time around.

The performances are fun, the nods to the grindhouse scene are pleasant (though the grain/dirt filter gets a little old after a while) and the pacing is perfect. Planet Terror is solid entertainment, but it aged a bit faster than I'd hoped. No doubt hardcore grindhouse fans will still eat it up, for me, it lacked that little extra.

Dragonball Evolution

by James Wong
Specifics
Japan, Hong Kong [2009] - 85m
Genre
Fantasy, Adventure
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Dragonball Evolution poster

Dragonball as seen through the Hollywood lens. I'm pretty glad that I have very little affinity with the franchise. I've seen a handful of the anime films, but never found it interesting enough to even consider going through the series. Still, I can imagine that fans (or just people more familiar with the Dragonball canon) got quite upset watching this film.

The cast is a series of miscasts, I really felt sorry for someone like Chow Yun-Fat here. The performances of Chatwin and Rossum are way worse though, it's hard to say what they were going for, but it's painful to watch. Though to be fair, the rest of the film isn't doing them any favors.

The CG is ugly, especially considering the budget. The plot is bland, the fights are boring and instead of going for fun and cheese, the film tries to be serious and kid-friendly at the same time. The cliffhanger finale no doubt signaled more films to come, but this one was such a flop that luckily they never materialized.

She Dies Tomorrow

by Amy Seimetz
Specifics
USA [2020] - 86m
Genre
Mystery
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
She Dies Tomorrow poster

A somewhat questionable mystery. There are traces of other genres too, though it's hard to say how intentional they even are. You could discover bits of drama, horror references, some people even see comedy elements in it, but it could just as well be Seimetz's failed attempts to create an uncomfortable atmosphere.

I do appreciate Seimetz dedication to creating something atmospheric and unique. The premise (about a fear of dying that appears to be contagious) is interesting enough and the meandering narrative isn't off-putting, but when it comes to creating atmosphere Seimetz simply plays it too safe.

The characters are flat and performances are mediocre at best, visually there are some interesting moments but they are few and far between. The soundtrack is too easy and not well integrated and the finale is a complete snooze. A cameo by Adam Wingard suggests that Seimetz is part of their clique, but She Dies Tomorrow is a far stretch from the films that put Wingard on the map. The potential is there, the result is disappointing.

Big Trouble

by Barry Sonnenfeld
Specifics
USA [2002] - 85m
Genre
Comedy, Crime
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Big Trouble poster

Disappointing crime/comedy. Maybe not too surprising considering it's a Tim Allen-led film, not quite the actor I'd trust to do a fun crime flick. I generally trust Barry Sonnenfeld to turn out something amusing though, even if it doesn't look too appealing on paper. Not this time, Big Trouble was the dud I feared it would be.

A little briefcase is causing a bunch of trouble for the people who get into contact with it. Most of them are unrelated bystanders who only got involved because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but isn't that always the case with crime comedies? At least the one with a somewhat darker streak.

Performances are somewhat unfitting, Sonnenfeld's direction is a bit too chirpy and the comedy simply isn't funny enough. There is definitely potential here, in fact it's one of the easiest genres of film to pull off I think, but even then Big Trouble feels way too safe and predictable to be truly entertaining.

The Block Island Sound

by Kevin McManus, Matthew McManus
Specifics
USA [2020] - 97m
Genre
Horror, Mystery
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Block Island Sound poster

Effective horror/mystery flick. Not one with broad appeal I'm afraid, since the film isn't too keen on explaining things. The audience is given some hints and shown some mysterious moments, but you'll have to connect the dots yourself and even then it's mostly left to your own imagination to come up with an explanation.

Fish are washing up on the shore, birds are falling from the sky and Harry's dad is suffering from full black-outs. Strange things are happening on Block Island, so much that the local conspiracy theorist is having the time of his life. Fact is that people are starting to go crazy and the source seems to be coming from the water.

The pacing is deliberately slow, performances are more than adequate and the soundtrack is quite atmospheric. The McManus brothers do a terrific job building up the mood and manage to keep the mystery alive, stretching it even beyond the final scene. A fun and entertaining genre flick, great filler.

The Sheik

by George Melford
Specifics
USA [1921] - 86m
Genre
Romance
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
The Sheik poster

Romance in the desert. The Sheik was a blast from the past. Not because I'd watched the film before, but because it's been some time since I last saw this kind of desert harem romance pop up. It feels as if this type of premise was a lot more prevalent back in the days, I guess it's not that hard to see why it didn't really stand the test of time.

A girl is rescued from the desert, after that which she is kept, handed over and kidnapped by men. Men she sees as possible suitors. With a story like that, you're not going to please too many modern viewers. Add to that the fact that this is silent, i.e. a film stringed together from crude drama, and you have a relic that is doomed to fade from memory.

Performances are overstated, the camerawork is very static and the plot isn't much to look at. The music wasn't great either, but I'm sure people who really dig this type of film could come up with an alternative score that at least works in favor of the film. Not really enjoyable though, I'm starting to understand why comedy and horror silents are the most resilient films from that era.

Titan A.E.

by Don Bluth, Gary Goldman
Specifics
USA [2000] - 94m
Genre
Sci-fi, Adventure, Animation
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Titan A.E. poster

US sci-fi animation. While hardly a film for adults, it's remarkable to see a US (mainstream) animation that doesn't feel the need to service every age group. So much in fact that I tried to come up with another example from the past two or three decades and felt stumped when nothing came to mind.

That doesn't mean Titan A.E. is a great film, but it's at least remarkable. Back in the day it was also notable for combining oldskool 2D animation with CG backgrounds and characters, 20 years later it looks more than a bit dated, but not as much as some purer CG animations of that time.

The story is very basic, the characters and sci-fi designs are rather flat and the voice acting feels uninspired, but it's nice to see some action-driven sci-fi animation for a change and some of the more adventurous sections of the film were pretty decent. Not a film I'd actively recommend, but it is a good reminder of how shallow and targeted the US mainstream animation scene really is.

No Worries on the Recruit Front

Also known as
Shushoku Sensen Ijonashi
Specifics
Japan [1991] - 103m
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
No Worries on the Recruit Front poster

One of Shûsuke Kaneko's earlier films, where he started to move away from his pinku origins. Kaneko has had quite a varied career that spans several peculiar niches, No Worries on the Recruit Front is a more basic mix of drama and comedy that seems to target more commercially-minded audiences.

The premise feels a bit otherworldly by modern standards. The idea that college graduates need to fight off prospecting companies may be typical for the Japanese bubble era, but rings a bit hollow now, especially with Kaneko's slightly exaggerated approach. No doubt this had a bigger impact upon its original release.

Performances are decent but nothing special, Kaneko's direction feels a bit uninspired and the drama is too by the numbers. Some office troubles, romantic woes and the unavoidable baseball at night scene, there all in here, but they never manage to leave a solid or coherent impression. Not terrible, but also not a very remarkable film.

24 Hours to Live

by Brian Smrz
Specifics
USA, China [2017] - 93m
Genre
Action
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
24 Hours to Live poster

Basic but decent action flick. It copies the premise of Crank, but lacks the balls to the wall direction of Neveldine and Taylor to turn it into a masterpiece. That doesn't mean it's a bad film though, just that it's safer and more predictable genre fare. Good filler for those who are craving a little onscreen action.

Hawke plays a killer for hire who gets liquidated, but is given another 24 hours to live. More than enough time to get back at the people who put him in this dire situation and help a few others to atone for his past sins. There's also a bit of fringe drama, but that's just boring filler in between all the explosive bits.

The direction is pretty solid, the pacing is fine and the performances are on point. Nothing really sticks out as exceptional, but there are no obvious weak points either, unless you dislike action films with a minor sci-fi touch. 24 Hours to Live delivered exactly what I expected from it, and sometimes that's enough.

A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness

Also known as
Hishu Monogatari
Specifics
Japan [1977] - 93m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness poster

Seijun Suzuki's comeback film. After 10 years of silence, Suzuki returned to the world of cinema, though somewhat haphazardly. A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness contains vague traces of Suzuki's trademark style, but it's no doubt one of the oddest entries in his oeuvre (mostly because it isn't very odd at all).

The plot revolves around Reiko, who stands on the verge of becoming a great golf player. The agency that represents her has different plans for Reiko though, and tries to sell her off as a model. Reiko decides to play along, but soon finds herself losing her own sense of identity as her agency keeps pushing her to become something she is not.

Performances are quite mediocre and the film exudes a 70s vibe (not really a positive in my book). Apart from some interestingly edited scenes and a quirky soundtrack, Suzuki's signature is mostly absent and the film is actually pretty straightforward. The story isn't really that interesting though, making this a somewhat lackluster film in Suzuki's oeuvre. For completists only.

The Dead Ones

by Jeremy Kasten
Specifics
USA [2019] - 73m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Dead Ones poster

Crazy film. The Dead Ones takes a flying start and hardly ever slows down. It's a 70-minute-long finale that comes off more than a little confusing, but does offer some answers in the second half. This one is all about style and vigor though, a film that cares more about offering a bewildering experience that serving a clean-cut story.

A couple of kids are forced to clean up the local school. It looks as if the building was hit by a tornado from the inside, but no explanation is given as to what exactly happened to the place. Masked men are sealing off the building and the kids start having hallucinations. It's a big old mystery and answers are scarce.

The editing is frantic, the cinematography erratic. Together with the soundtrack it makes for a pretty bad-ass presentation. The special effects look pretty cool too, the only problem is that the performances are really below the norm (even for a B-horror). Still, if you're looking for a nifty, gritty horror flick there's plenty to like here.

Love in Blood

by Li Chengkun
Also known as
Di Wang Ye Zhi Xiu Luo Xin Niang
Specifics
China [2020] - 79m
Genre
Romance, Fantasy
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Love in Blood poster

Pretty cool. Love in Blood offers a neat mix of fantasy and romance elements. It's certainly not the most original of films, clearly part of that big boom of Chinese genre films that's flooding the market right now, but Li Chengkun uses his limited means to great effect and delivers a slick little genre film.

The setup is pretty basic, with a love triangle between a prince, a general and a demure bride. To spice things up, a magical flower is thrown into the mix, turning the bride into a blood-sucking demon. The perfect excuse for some additional martial arts and horror elements to help create that typical Chinese fantasy vibe.

Performances are decent and the pacing is solid. It's obvious that the budget was quite limited, as the film sometimes reverts to "tell don't show", but the lush settings and lavish costumes, the fine use of color and lighting and decent CG make this film well worth the trouble. Sampling these films is really starting to pay off.

Dean

by Demetri Martin
Specifics
USA [2016] - 94m
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Dean poster

Demetri Martin made a film and it turned out to be exactly the way I imagined a Demetri Martin film would turn out. A hipster dramady with minor romance elements, an indie/singer-songwriter soundtrack, some tragic comedy and light drama and an array of quirky side characters. Check them checkboxes.

Dean is a film about dealing with loss. Dean's mom died a year ago, but he and his father are still finding ways to cope with this new reality. To avoid selling his parents' house, a deal his father is trying to push through, Dean takes a little trip to LA where he meets the fun and joyous Nicky.

It's all very predictable and it felt like I'd seen this film many times before, but all things said and done Martin did a pretty solid job acting, writing and directing his first feature film. It's not going to blow away anyone but the biggest indie/dramady fans, but it's solid and pleasant filler, which definitely counts for something. Decent fun.

Monster Hunter

Specifics
Japan, USA [2020] - 103m
Genre
Action, Adventure
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Monster Hunter poster

The latest Anderson/Jovovich collaboration. After successfully translating the Resident Evil franchise to the big screen, they're now trying to do the same with the Monster Hunter series. Not sure if it's going to be quite as popular since the lore of this one is noticeably weaker (disclaimer: I'm not familiar with the games), but at least they've managed to make a pretty decent action spectacle out of it.

A bunch of army folk end up in an alternate reality after a sandstorm hits them dead on. They soon find themselves outclassed by the monsters living there, but with the help from a couple of locals they manage to survive. Getting back to their own reality will prove a bit more difficult though.

While I wasn't a big fan of the monster designs, it was nice to see some puny humans battling giant creatures again. The action looks slick, the CG is solid and the pacing is perfect. After a short introduction, the film delivers non-stop action, which I exactly what I want from a film like this. It's not what you'd call masterpiece material, but it's a damn entertaining blockbuster.

Mesa of Lost Women

by Ron Ormond, Herbert Tevos
Specifics
USA [1953] - 70m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
0.5*/5.0*
Mesa of Lost Women poster

Pulpy horror from the 50s. The film tries to sell you Tarantula women, but in reality you're watching a horrible cast going through lines and lines of cheap dialogue, just to keep the special effects to a minimum. It's an effective cost-saving mechanism, but it doesn't make for good cinema.

You better like flamenco music, as it's loud and ever-present. It doesn't really gel with the atmosphere, but that doesn't seem to bother Ormond and Tevos. The performances are flat, the effects are laughable and there's disappointingly little in the way of horror and/or sci-fi. That's not really uncommon for old horror flicks, but even by that measure Mesa of the Lost Women underperforms.

The film is short, but because there's so much talking it still feels quite long. Don't hope for a sprawling finale either, there clearly wasn't enough budget (or talent) to come up with anything decent. If you really love classic cult/pulp then there might be something here, otherwise I suggest you think twice before watching this one.

Moxie

by Amy Poehler
Specifics
USA [2021] - 111m
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Moxie poster

A Hollywood rebellion flick. Poehler plays a mom who used to be a spirited activist and rebel, but who ended up like any other boring (single) mom taking care of her kid. Moxie feels like a film directed by that very character. It feels safe, uninspired and deflated, everything this film shouldn't have been.

I'm going to guess Poehler/her writers aren't very in touch with the kids of today. That's probably why her character's daughter reaches back to her rebellious past and we end up with some sanitized punk kid who inspires a club of feminists, who sound a collection of average Twitter woke whines.

The direction feels flat, the performances are cringeworthy and the social critique is so on the nose that it's start to grate, especially since this film runs almost 2 hours long. It's a film that tries to be rock 'n roll, seemingly unaware that being rock 'n roll has been out of vogue for at least two or three decades. This was just painful to watch.

Shiver

Also known as
Senritsu Seshimeyo
Specifics
Japan [2021] - 89m
Genre
Music, Experimental
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Shiver poster

Toyoda gets a little weird. He strips virtually all narrative elements and delivers a visual album/album film based on the unique collaboration between Koshiro Hino and the Kodo, Taiko Performing Arts Ensemble. Hauntingly rhythmic music combined with fitting visuals make for a riveting experience, but this isn't going to be for everyone.