Absolutely Anything

by Terry Jones
Specifics
UK [2015] - 85m
Genre
Comedy, Fantasy
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Absolutely Anything poster

Terry Jones' final feature film is a fun and entertaining endeavor. Fronted by Simon Pegg and with a solid cast of supporting characters, it's one of those film that takes a familiar premise and gives it a rather original spin. I didn't expect too much up front, but was pleasantly surprised.

To decide whether the Earth should be spared from total destruction, a counsel of aliens grants one chosen human god-like powers. A single wave with a hand grants every wish. The geeky but amiable Neil is the lucky one, but he quickly realizes that these powers come with great responsibilities.

Pegg is perfect for his part, guys like Izzard, Bhaskar and Williams are on a roll and the Monty Python gang shines as the council of aliens. The comedy is quirky and goofy and though the romance is a little generic (Beckinsale is the only one underperforming) it never really bothered me. Good fun.

The Jewel of the Nile

by Lewis Teague
Specifics
USA [1985] - 106m
Genre
Romance, Adventure
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
The Jewel of the Nile poster

Insane 80s cheese. A sequel to Romancing the Stone that understands the less serious it is, the better. The result is pretty baffling really, no doubt more than a little offensive to some, but at least there are a handful of memorable scenes that deserve a recommendation, a step above the original.

There is a plot here, but trying to write it down just highlights how nonsensical it is. All you need to know is that Turner and Douglas are traveling through The Middle East and Northern Africa, trying to find and protect the "Jewel of the Nile", a holy man who can lead his people to peace and prosperity.

At its best, you're getting Douglas driving a fighter jet through a mockery of an Eastern European city and shooting everything to bits. At its worst, it's a pretty dull Indiana Jones knock-off with Danny DeVito in one of his worst roles to date. It's a big mess really, but when it gets crazy, there's at least some fun to be had.

Triangle

Also known as
Tie Saam Gok
Specifics
Hong Kong, China [2007] - 93m
Genre
Action, Crime
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
Triangle poster

A celebration of Hong Kong crime cinema. Three prominent Hong Kong directors each get a 30-minute segment to tell their part of a story of three incidental thieves, who have to do their utmost best to keep their freshly acquired bounty out of the hands of the police and the Triads. Dark, brooding and stylish, a superb experiment that I wouldn't mind seeing repeated.

Zen of Sword

by Man-Sang Yu
Also known as
Xia Nu Chuan Qi
Specifics
Hong Kong, China [1992] - 89m
Genre
Action
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Zen of Sword poster

Early 90s fantasy/martial arts flick. They were all the rage in Hong Kong back then, most crews could make a film like this with their eyes closed. You can see some of that baseline quality is present in Zen of Sword, but director Man-Sang Yu can't quite capitalize that potential.

The story isn't too exciting. We follow a princess who flees from the Ha Hou rebels, who are determined to destroy her kingdom. The princess has two generals with her who'll protect her at all cost. Things get a bit more complicated when the princess meets an enemy prince and falls in love with the man.

There are some solid action scenes at the start and end of the film, but the middle part is quite dull, with too much focus put on the plot. Michelle Reis is a decent lead, the rest of the cast is clearly less gifted. It's certainly not a terrible film and there are a few memorable fights, but it can't really compare to the better films of that era.

Brooklyn

by John Crowley
Specifics
Canada, UK [2015] - 117m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Brooklyn poster

Decent drama. Brooklyn is typical Oscar material, with its glorification of the past, the US and romance. It's an easy film to love, but it's just as easy to dislike, depending on what you want from a film and how forgiving you're feeling towards its faults. Personally, I had a pleasant time with it, but I was hardly blown away.

The story revolves around a young Irish girl who sets off to America to start a new life. She gets herself an education, finds a job and marries a bloke. Disaster strikes though and she has to return to Ireland to attend a funeral. Once there, she begins to forget the life she had built for herself in the US.

The tone is light, the drama is decent and Ronan's performance is strong. Her character's somewhat shady and even a little unlikable though, strangely enough the film doesn't really acknowledge that and pretends this is just a sweet little romance. It didn't really bother me that much, but it is quite remarkable. As for the presentation, it's pretty polished and slick, but hardly attractive. All in all a sold film, though not enough that jumped out for me.

The Blood of a Poet

by Jean Cocteau
Also known as
Le Sang d'un Poète
Specifics
France [1930] - 55m
Genre
Fantasy, Experimental
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
The Blood of a Poet poster

Jean Cocteau didn't direct many films, but he made them count. The Blood of a Poet is his first (surviving) film and sees Cocteau playing around with the medium. It's a laudable project, but 90 years later many of the experiments don't translate that well anymore, which makes this a rather tough watch.

It's not just the film's age though, as I've seen films from the '20s (and even older - thinking of various Méliès films) that managed to deliver more refined special effects. Cocteau has a lot of interesting ideas, but many of the tricks he uses are a little too obvious, which detracts from the surreal atmosphere he tries to create.

Performances are somewhat mediocre too, the poetry doesn't really work and even though it's a pretty weird film, it never feels all that special or surprising. Still, at a time when many were pulling cinema into a more narrative direction, it's a welcome attempt to create something magical. It's just aged pretty badly.

The Great Adventure

by Arne Sucksdorff
Also known as
Det Stora Äventyret
Specifics
Sweden [1953] - 77m
Genre
Adventure
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Great Adventure poster

Scripted film about a bunch of forest animals living together with a family on a farm. What looks like a documentary at first quickly turns into a small-scale narrative adventure that's ideal to watch with little kids. If they can stomach the somewhat arthouse-like cinematography and pacing that is.

There's no real plot, instead the film focuses on several animals and how they interact/live together with a family in the woods. Foxes steal hens and are chased by the farmers, a lynx invades the forest and an otter is caught to serve as a pet for family's two boys. And yes, that are actual highlights.

The black and white cinematography is pretty atmospheric and the animal stories are cute enough. The humans are less interesting though and 95 minutes is a bit long for a film where nothing substantially happens. I feel I might've enjoyed this better when I was still a kid, now there's just not enough here to keep me hooked.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged

by Johannes Roberts
Specifics
USA, UK [2019] - 90m
Genre
Thriller, Adventure
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
47 Meters Down: Uncaged poster

Solid shark fun. This is one of those films that demand you shut off your brain before you can properly enjoy the film. Start wondering about probability and you can tear the film to shreds faster than the sharks eat their prey. On the other hand, accept the nonsense and you'll find a pretty fun and tense film here.

The setting's a little different, as we find ourselves in some underwater caves in Mexico. A couple of friends decide to go on a little adventure, what they don't know is that the caves are the inhabited by a family of blind sharks. With limited air, no sense of direction and big, man-eating sharks swimming around the caves it sure won't be easy to get out alive.

The sharks and caves have somewhat variable dimensions, characters only die at the whim of the writers and there's a succession of perils that merely seem to exist to drag out the runtime. But the performances are decent, the cinematography is nice and there are some pretty good scares. If you're looking for pure entertainment, this film has you covered.

Shadow in the Cloud

by Roseanne Liang
Specifics
USA, New Zealand [2020] - 83m
Genre
Comedy, Thriller
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Shadow in the Cloud poster

Unfiltered entertainment. The less you know about this film up front, the better. At least, if you're willing to let go of the notion that films have to be coherent and sensible. Shadow in the Cloud simply throws whatever it thinks is fun at you, regardless of genre, and it turns that's not such a bad concept after all.

Though the plot hardly deserves a second look, the setup of the film is actually pretty neat, as it tails the lead character from start to finish. The result is that for the first half we're mostly just getting audio feedback of the action, but it creates a solid tension and mystery (and it's pretty cost-effective too) that eases you into the film.

Shadow in the Cloud is not without faults. The CG is a little shoddy, the creature design is lame and Moretz is a poor fit for the girl power fantasy Liang chases, but all of that is easily forgiven when people start falling out of planes and are propelled right back in by the explosion of another plane underneath. It's that kinda film, and that deserves praise.

Three Men and a Baby

by Leonard Nimoy
Specifics
USA, France [1987] - 102m
Genre
Comedy
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Three Men and a Baby poster

A classic blockbuster comedy. It's been ages since I last watched this film. I didn't like it much when I was younger, didn't like much this time around either. Between the cliché characters, the predictable plot and the mushy intermittent drama there's simply very little of worth here.

Three bachelors are living a good life, until someone drops a baby on their doorstep. They're not used to taking care of kids, let alone babies, but as much as they hate it at first, they start to grow attached to the little bugger. Add some nonsensical drug plot to fill the time and you should have a good idea of what to expect.

The lead performances are pretty dim, the comedy is overly sanitized, the punchline is lame and even though the runtime isn't excessive, the film does start to drag after a while. It's one of those films that is so unoffensive that it effectively becomes offensive. Not what I call fun and relaxing entertainment.

Defective

by Reese Eveneshen
Specifics
Canada [2017] - 101m
Genre
Sci-fi, Thriller
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Defective poster

One of those sci-fi flicks that tries very hard, but fails to make a real impression. It's not because of lack of good will, it's just that the talent seems to be missing from this production. It's all just a little too DIY, making you feel like you're looking at a cardboard version of the future.

The plot is pretty bland too. An overly invasive government that tries to control its citizens in the name of safety, secret medical experiments and out of control robots are hardly original. In fact, it's getting a little stale and the execution is way too heavy-handed for a simple genre flick like this one.

The suits and gear look pretty flimsy, performances are rather weak and Eveneshen's direction feels too formulaic. There's some basic genre fun to be had here and the movie never really slows down enough to turn boring, but unless you're looking for some last resort sci-fi, it's not an easy recommend.

League of Gods: Alluring Woman

by Tao Hai
Specifics
China [2020] - 95m
Genre
Fantasy
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
League of Gods: Alluring Woman poster

More fox fantasies. This is not a sequel to the earlier League of Gods film, instead Alluring Woman is a smaller budget spin-off based on the same source material. I've been watching quite a few of these films lately, and they're pretty fun, though still one step away from masterful genre work.

A nine-tailed fox spirit is rescued by the king, giving her a second chance to make the most of her life. She returns to his palace and sneaks in as an innocent girl. Once there she starts manipulating people in order to seize control over the palace. She's doing well until an old enemy shows up in the palace.

The costumes and sets are extremely lush. Vibrant colors and rich details make this a visual treat. That is, if you don't count the poor CG. It's a hurdle that's keeping a lot of these Chinese films down. Performances are decent and the plot is fun enough, if only they'd put a little more effort into their computer foolery films like these would be at the top of their niche.

Despicable Me 3

by Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin, Eric Guillon
Specifics
Japan, USA [2017] - 89m
Genre
Comedy, Animation
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Despicable Me 3 poster

The third (and let's hope final) entry in the Despicable Me franchise. A perfectly predictable cash-in that adds nothing substantial to the previous films, but managed to draw in the crowd based on reputation alone. Can't say I enjoyed it much, even when my expectations were pretty low to begin with.

As if there weren't enough irritating characters, this third entry introduces Gru's brother. A more fun and carefree version of Gru, because that's the kind of weak characterization films like these hope to get away with. Together they plan one final heist, one that won't go quite as planned.

Like most of these films, my main issue lies with the comedy, which is bland and irritating. Annoying characters, horrible puns, predictable gags, everything feels just completely lazy. The animation is competent, but the art style is ugly and the soundtrack a disaster. At least the film is so unmemorable that I'll have forgotten all about it by tomorrow. Generic nonsense.

The Furies

by Tony D'Aquino
Specifics
Australia [2019] - 82m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Furies poster

A sweet reminder that brutality has been slowly seeping out of the horror genre over the past decade. For all the psychological, elevated horror we got in return we seem to have lost the films that reveled in guts and gore. It's nice to see some directors still have a sweet spot for the more straightforward approach.

The premise is pretty basic. Two girls are kidnapped and are released in the woods. Deformed, maniacal killers are chasing them and try to slash'm down. There's a little twist (a very predictable one) that transpires after the halfway mark, but this isn't a film you'll be watching for its intriguing, well-developed plot.

The start's a little slow, but once the first victim gets her faced scraped off with an axe it's clear that The Furies is going to be a lot of fun. D'Aquino isn't afraid to focus on the gory details of the kills, add to that some twisted characters and all the ingredients are there for some good old-fashioned slasher entertainment. A very pleasant surprise.

Look Out, Officer!

by Sze Yu Lau
Specifics
Hong Kong [1990] - 90m
Genre
Comedy
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Look Out, Officer! poster

There aren't many Stephen Chow films left I haven't seen, but once in a while one of them pops up. Look Out, Officer isn't one of Hong Kong's absolute highlights, but if you're craving some Chow comedy it's a perfectly capable film that is sure to provide the entertainment you're looking for.

The story is basic. A cop gets killed during a police investigation. It was made to look like he committed suicide, so before he can go to heaven he has to prove his innocence. He returns to haunt the living to find the one who can clear his name. And that's where Stephen Chow steps in.

Chow's typical brand of comedy is fully present. With the help of Stanley Fung and Bill Tung he brings a lightness to the film that is unique to Chow. Sze Yu Lau's direction is a little inconspicuous, and it does feel like a cut-and-paste job from a bunch of other (more popular) films, but I've come to a point where I welcome even the more basic Chow comedies and Look Out, Officer didn't let me down in the slightest.

Dark Story of a Sex Crime: Phantom Killer

Also known as
Gendai Sei Hanzai Ankokuhen: Aru Torima no Kokuhaku
Specifics
Japan [1969] - 66m
Genre
Thriller, Crime
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Dark Story of a Sex Crime: Phantom Killer poster

Part of Wakamatsu's ongoing fascination with sexual predators. It's an incel film avant la lettre, executed in true Wakamatsu style. Certainly not his most prominent or polished work, though fans of Wakamatsu won't be disappointed. Others should probably seek out his more famed work first.

The film follows a frustrated young man. He yearns to be in the company of a woman, but seems unable to make any kind of meaningful connection with them. When a friend of his offers to share his girlfriend, he accepts reluctantly, but his first sexual experience awakens dark feelings that will drive him to commit violent crimes.

Wakamatsu offers another glimpse into the mind of a very troubled soul. It's certainly not a pleasant film, let alone a titillating one, so if that's what you're after you can better skip this one altogether. If on the other hand you like a stylized and frank descent into the rotten mind of a violent pervert, Wakamatsu has you covered.

Phobias

by Camilla Belle, Maritte Lee Go, Joe Sill, Jess Varley, Chris von Hoffmann
Specifics
USA [2021] - 85m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Phobias poster

Phobias is an ambitious horror project that tries to mix a traditional narrative with an anthology setup. It's an interesting idea, but I guess it turned out to be a little too ambitious as the result felt more than a little confused and unbalanced. And not in the way a good anthology accomplishes.

Each short handles a different phobia (it would've been nice if explanations were listed with the titles, especially since these aren't the most common phobias), though few are actually relevant to the phobia they are dealing with. The wrap-around segment tries to tie everything together, but fails to make it cohesive.

The problem with Phobias is that there isn't enough of a difference between the different shorts, which is one of the key reasons why I love anthologies. By themselves the shorts are pretty decent, but they're all a bit samey. At the same time the continuous interruptions make it more difficult to get into the main narrative. Would've worked better as either a stand-alone narrative or a more focused and detached anthology. But if you're looking for some solid horror film, Phobias is pretty solid.

Infinitum: Subject Unknown

by Matthew Butler-Hart
Specifics
UK [2021] - 86m
Genre
Sci-fi
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Infinitum: Subject Unknown poster

Time loops on the cheap. I guess this is the kind of film we'll see more often in the coming months, as this was shot during lockdown (which, if you pay attention, was pretty obvious from the way it was set up). A low-budget film with a limited cast and few character interactions. It's a brave attempt, but not a great film.

I will admit that I'm a bit tired of the time loop premise, especially since the first halves of these films invariably hinge on repetition. The second part is usually where things get a bit more interesting and Infinitum is no exception, though by that time it gets there boredom might've already settled it.

Performances aren't that strong, the cinematography looks a little cheap and the premise takes too long to get interesting. The second half is in fact a lot more fun, but the film never really rises above its limitations and with so many similar films out there, Infinitum fails to get itself noticed. Decent sci-fi filler though, if you're in the mood.

Yeah

by Yohei Suzuki
Specifics
Japan [2018] - 45m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Yeah poster

A peculiar little drama. I wouldn't call it an experimental film, but it's definitely different from what you might be used to, especially when you're expecting a run-of-the-mill Japanese drama. Yohei Suzuki shows a lot of promise here, though the production is just a little too cheap-looking to leave a big impression.

The film follows Ako, a young girl who spends her days walking around the city, holding a plant while talking to inanimate objects. She seems completely disconnected from our world, but with nobody to take care of her Ako just wanders around, drawing attention from others loitering outside.

It's an intriguing setup and there are moments of true beauty here, but Suzuki fails to keep it interesting all the way through, which is a shame as the film isn't that long to begin with. The cinematography is a bit barren and the soundtrack could've been more distinctive, performances are solid though and Ako's character is a real treat. Suzuki shows promise, I'll keep an eye on him in the future.

Victor Frankenstein

by Paul McGuigan
Specifics
Canada, USA [2015] - 110m
Genre
Fantasy
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Victor Frankenstein poster

A rather basic retelling of the Frankenstein story, this time from the perspective of Igor, Frankenstein's hunchback assistant. A bit odd since the original story didn't even have the Igor character, then again who cares with all these modern reboots and reimaginings. The monster is there, that's all that counts.

McGuigan's film focuses mostly on the creation and history of the monster. There's a little extra background to Igor's character, a hapless romance that amounts to nothing and a police investigation that fails to add extra tension, but most of the time is spent trying to bring Frankenstein's creature to life.

It's a shame then that the film fails to capture the imagination. The setting is rich enough and McAvoy/Radcliffe do their best, but the film is just a little lifeless, much like its famous creature. I had hoped McGuigan would've taken this to the next level, sadly he delivers a rather generic blockbuster interpretation. It's certainly not terrible, just forgettable.