The Superdeep

by Arseny Syuhin
Also known as
Kolskaya Sverhglubokaya
Specifics
Russia [2020] - 113m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
The Superdeep poster

This one was every bit as fun as it sounded on paper. The Superdeep wears its influences on its sleeve, ranging from Carpenter's The Thing, Clive Barker, The Abyss and even Half Life. Set in 80s Russia, is makes superb use of an underground research facility where a fearsome discovery is threatening the existence of mankind. Lovely effects, a thrilling score and tons of atmosphere makes this one of the most entertaining horror films in quite some time.

The Interpreter

by Sydney Pollack
Specifics
USA, France [2005] - 128m
Genre
Thriller
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
The Interpreter poster

A pretty tepid and soulless political thriller. Take a couple of big Hollywood names, throw in some political intrigues, a looming assassination and a director known for delivering sluggish Hollywood bombast, and you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from The Interpreter.

Kidman is an interpreter with a somewhat sketchy past working for the UN. When one night she inadvertently overhears a conversation not meant for her ears, she has to report it, knowing fully well that by doing so she might jeopardize her own future. With only three days to thwart an assassination attempt and with Kidman unable to disclose everything she knows in order to protect the people she loves, the police have their work cut out for them.

Kidman's performance is somewhat impassionate, Penn is a total miscast. The plot is predictable and by the numbers, the cinematography feels dull and with a runtime crossing the 120-minute mark the film has trouble keeping the tension going. This was a poorly executed film, I'd expected a bit more going in.

Make Way for Tomorrow

by Leo McCarey
Specifics
USA [1937] - 91m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Make Way for Tomorrow poster

McCarey is well known for directing comedies, if you read up on Make Way for Tomorrow you may notice it's often categorized as one. I didn't really get that from this film though. Sure enough there are lighter moments, but it's mostly a drama about generational differences. And not a very pleasant one at that.

I even got flashbacks to Bergman's Wild Strawberries, though McCarey's aesthetic and tone isn't quite as highbrow. But the contemplation and whining of two old people who are separated by their children because they're in financial trouble is something that would've been right up Bergman's alley.

The performances are pretty weak, the characters are cardboard and the drama is either timeless or chewed up, depending on your personal preference. For me, it was clearly the latter. A long-winded drama that felt a lot longer that its 90-minute runtime would suggest, certainly not my favorite McCarey.

Thunder Force

by Ben Falcone
Specifics
USA [2021] - 105m
Genre
Comedy, Fantasy
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Thunder Force poster

Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy team up again for their fifth film together. That means they must be doing something right, though I have to say I haven't quite figured out what that is. Thunder Force is another weak comedy that fails both the funny bits and its other genre elements.

The film tries to be a funny take on the superhero genre without resorting to outright parody. But as superhero film it's so tepid it makes Marvel look like higher art. And McCarthy's dispirited performance made me wonder whether it was part of her character or if she had simply given up on this film halfway through.

Olivia Spencer, Jason Bateman and the rest of the cast are pretty anonymous. The comedy is very basic and predictable, the action is subpar and the film is at least 15 minutes too long. It looked pretty expensive though, which only makes thing worse. Not worth it, unless you're desperate for some US comedy.

Allegro Non Troppo

by Bruno Bozzetto
Specifics
Italy [1976] - 75m
Genre
Comedy, Music, Animation
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Allegro Non Troppo poster

A pretty crazy Italian take/parody on Disney's Fantasia. It's a all over the place, with some extended live action scenes and a myriad of different animation styles, but overall it's weird and quirky enough to warrant giving it a fair chance. Not everything may work equally well, but there are certainly inspired moments here.

When a young artist discover his idea to create animated short films set to classical music is already been done before, he tries to give his project a novel spin. Things don't quite pan out the way he intended and even though he makes a downright mess of his project, the live audience seems pretty transfixed by the result.

Some of the animated shorts are pretty cool (the march of the animals for example), others are pretty basic and unattractive. The live action inserts vary in quality too. Some of them are fun and inventive, others a little simplistic. It's a bit hit-and-miss from start to finish, but at least it never becomes boring.

Snatchers

by Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman
Specifics
USA [2019] - 96m
Genre
Comedy, Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Snatchers poster

A surprisingly fun horror/comedy that echoes James Gunn's Slither. Snatchers is a film that goes for overt comedy, but doesn't shy away from getting its hands dirty (and its lens bloody). It can't quite compete with the best in the genre (the Braindead-like ending draws unnecessary attention to the fact that it could've been way crazier), but it's a fun entry in a niche that hasn't too many recent standouts.

A girl turns out excessively pregnant the very next day after losing her virginity. She turns to an old friend and together they visit a free clinic. There, an alien spurts out, which goes on to kill everyone present in the clinic. Together they'll have to fight an old Mayan curse that is about to off half the town.

The comedy isn't very subtle, neither is the horror. Snatchers goes for an even blend of both genres, which will no doubt be a divisive choice. Performances are on point, the horror is pleasantly graphic and there's clear love for the genre. The film is a smidgen too long maybe, but other than that it offers a jolly good time.

Hard Candy

by David Slade
Specifics
USA [2005] - 104m
Genre
Thriller
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
Hard Candy poster

Still exactly as uncomfortable as the first time I watched it. Hardy Candy serves a not so subtle cat and mouse game between two hardened predators. With just two actors and a limited location, Slade pulls out all the stops to keep the film interesting, and succeeds with flying colors. A superb thriller.

The King and the Mockingbird

by Paul Grimault
Also known as
Le Roi et l'Oiseau
Specifics
France [1980] - 83m
Genre
Fantasy, Animation
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
The King and the Mockingbird poster

Classic French animation. Sometimes cited as one of the best animated film ever produced. I don't have a source for that quote so I'm going to assume it was made a long (long) time ago, or by someone who has little affinity with the genre, but it's true that the film manages to stand out, even today.

The King and the Mockingbird offers an interesting variation on the famous story by Hans Christian Andersen. The premise has remained largely the same, but some retro sci-fi elements add an extra level of intrigue not present in the original story. It retains its fairy tale-like qualities though, meaning it does feel a little shallow.

The animation is pretty delicate, the art style quite distinctive. There are minor Disney influences that detract a little, but they are few and far between. Not everything is equally interesting and the film has some ups and down, but for a 40-year-old animation there are still a good few scenes that stand out. Nice, though a tad overrated.

Come True

by Anthony Scott Burns
Specifics
Canada [2020] - 105m
Genre
Sci-fi, Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Come True poster

One of the most frustrating films in years. The soundtrack is pretty insane (the kind I run into once every 10 years), but simply doesn't fit the film. For something that wants to be unsettling and dark, the score is way too neat and polished, ethereal even. It caused such a big disconnect in my brain that I found it difficult to truly enjoy this film, regardless of everything it did right.

The premise revolves around night terrors, a subject very much suited for a horror film. Thrown in some retro sci-fi (with strong Cronenberg vibes), lucid realities, a bit of active mindfuckery and a traumatized lead and everything is present for a sublime genre film. Burns did a great job with the setup.

The film oozes atmosphere and there are some truly unsettling moments, but because it never quite gels with the soundtrack the film fails to get really dark, uncanny, uncomfortable and/or whatever else Burns was gunning for. If that sounds negative it's only because it would've been so easy to make this film infinitely better. Films like this one are rare enough as it is, so it's just terribly disappointing to see it mishandled like this. Other than that, this was pretty amazing, from the strong lead performance to the gripping nightmarish visuals.

Leizhenzi: The Origin of the Gods

by Cong Zhao
Specifics
China [2021] - 93m
Genre
Fantasy, Adventure
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Leizhenzi: The Origin of the Gods poster

Another solid Chinese fantasy. Seems like this one had a slightly higher budget than most, sadly they spent it on more not-quite-perfect CG rather than flesh out their decors. The bottom line is that it feels just a tad more accomplished, but doesn't get near the masterpiece it tried to be.

The plot is a basic good vs bad guy/save the world affair. It finds its origin in Taoism, people familiar with Chinese religion and folklore may get a bit more out of it, but you're basically watching two brothers (and a childhood friend) battling each other to determine the fate of our world.

Settings and costumes are lush, the action looks solid and the CG isn't terrible. There's simply too much of it. Pacing and runtime are perfect for a film like this. The biggest problem is that there are so (so) many of these films nowadays that it's becoming really difficult for directors to differentiate themselves from all the others. Good genre fun though.

From Today, It's My Turn: The Movie

by Yuichi Fukuda
Also known as
Kyo Kara Ore Wa!
Specifics
Japan [2020] - 114m
Genre
Comedy, Action
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
From Today, It's My Turn: The Movie poster

When Fukuda makes a comedy/parody of a Japanese high school brawler, I take notice. The thing is that the genre isn't very serious to begin with, so if you want to do a proper comedy it really needs to be extra. Fukuda is one of the few people who can actually pull that off, but here he dropped the ball a little.

Maybe it's because the film is part of a franchise, which may have limited Fukuda's potential, but From Today, It's My Turn offers little more than a basic story about a proper student who ends up in the wrong school and has to fend for himself while gangs fight it out around him.

Compare it to the Cromartie High film, or the more recent High & Low franchise, and this one simply falls short. The characters aren't crazy enough, the plot is just average and the gags are rather predictable. That's not to say there isn't some fun to be had with this one, it's just that Fukuda can do better, especially when handling this type of material.

My Pretend Girlfriend

by Saiji Yakumo
Also known as
Momose, Mocchi wo Muite.
Specifics
Japan [2014] - 109m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
My Pretend Girlfriend poster

Decent but predictable romantic drama. There's no lack of them in Japan and My Pretend Girlfriend fails to set itself apart from its many peers. The premise is pretty standard and once it's clear which direction this film is going in, you're pretty much set for the remainder of the film.

To impress an older boy, Momose stages a fake relationship with Noboru, a will-less boy from her class. Noboru goes along with the charade, but the more they hang out together and the longer their fake relationship lasts, the more the two begin to develop real feeling for each other. Lots of pining ensues.

Soft piano tunes, sullen-looking characters and bright-colored settings make for a typical romantic drama. The problem is that there's nothing quite distinctive in the execution and it felt like everything had been done before, only better. It's not a terrible film, there's definitely some quality here, it's just too run-of-the-mill to make a real impression.

The Crowd

by King Vidor
Specifics
USA [1928] - 98m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
The Crowd poster

Classic melodrama that felt extremely rudimentary. The kind of film that prompts me to visit Wikipedia right after watching it, curious to find out whether it holds some kind of historic value. I find it hard to come up with a reason why else this film might have survived as one of the ultimate classics of the 20s.

John Simms is a regular Joe who grows up somewhat protected from the real world. His father hopes/believes John will end up a big deal. When he marries his sweetheart life seems rosy, but after they've moved to the big city (New York in this case) John finds out he's just one of many.

Performances are extremely basic, so is the drama. Everything is spelled out to the extreme, emotions are broad and unsubtle, the dramatic turn of events are predictable to a fault. It's a film that merely goes through the motions. It may have been one of the first to do so, but its motions were never very attractive to begin with. Poor.

In the Name of the King: The Last Mission

by Uwe Boll
Specifics
Canada, Germany [2014] - 86m
Genre
Fantasy, Action
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
In the Name of the King: The Last Mission poster

I've never seen the first two films in the franchise, but since it's an Uwe Boll project I figured it wouldn't matter that much. I was right. In the Name of the King 3 is a simple action film with a rather ridiculous premise, executed with a minimum of talent, but with a nose for entertainment and fun.

A hitman kidnaps two young girls during a job in Bulgaria. One of the girls has a mysterious penchant. When he snatches it off of her, it transports him back in time. The only way to return is to help out some local folk in their quest to beat an evil warlord. Not the most inspired story, but it's decent enough for this type of entertainment.

Dominique Purcell has to carry the film, but he's a pretty dire action hero. His performance is by far the worst part of In the Name of the King 3. The CG is also pretty crummy and the uninspired direction isn't great either, but at least there's some genre fun to be had. Far from a great film, but not quite as bad as some make it out to be.

Sex Family

Also known as
Sei Kazoku
Specifics
Japan [1971] - 73m
Genre
Thriller
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Sex Family poster

Wakamatsu coming off of his 60s high. The first 10 years in his career were a real whirlwind, with '69 as one of the most pivotal years in his oeuvre. After that Wakamatsu slowly started to swerve, finding it harder to keep the pace and to keep coming up with new variations on the same old theme.

Sex Family is Wakamatsu's take on the family drama. Of course this is no ordinary family, the issues they face aren't exactly copies from Ozu's films either. But even when its topically every bit as provocative as his 60s work, the film lacks a sense of urgency to set itself apart from his other work.

The black and white cinematography is nice, though not quite as dashing as his better films. The plot and characters are a little meandering and the impact isn't quite as big as Wakamatsu clearly hoped it would be, but the film is short 'n sweet and even when it doesn't really stand out in Wakamatsu's oeuvre, it's still a pretty wicked and crazy film by any other standard.

The Ape

by Jesper Ganslandt
Also known as
Apan
Specifics
Sweden [2009] - 81m
Genre
Drama, Thriller
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
The Ape poster

Interesting concept, interesting execution, uneven results. The Ape is a film that keeps you in the dark from start to finish. Throughout the film you're given some hints at what happened to the main character, but Ganslandt makes sure you're not getting all the information needed to paint a clear picture.

Krister wakes up in his bathroom, covered in blood. He washes it off, leaves his house and tries to pick up his normal life best as he can. But guilt starts gnawing at him and it's obvious Krister will have to face his demons sooner or later. He returns home and finds his son half-dead in his bed.

Sarri does a great job, especially since the camera stays within close range of him all the time. The mystery is solid and doesn't get weaker, there are some dark, impressive moments, but Ganslandt can't quite keep it up for the entire film. There are a few too many dead moments, other than that it's a great film.

Rock & Rule

by Clive Smith
Specifics
Canada [1983] - 77m
Genre
Sci-fi, Music, Animation
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Rock & Rule poster

Delusional rock animation. One of those films that places rock at the center of the universe and paints it as the salvation of mankind. That might've been a fun idea in the 80s, for someone who has nothing with the music though the cheese is simply overbearing, even somewhat embarrassing.

Angel is the singer of a rock band, who gets kidnapped by the legendary rock god Mok. He needs the girl for a satanic ritual, but her band members are determined to chase Mok down and stop him dead in his tracks. It's the kind of plot you could've derived yourself from a random 80s hard rock album cover.

The animation is somewhat decent, but the art style is absolutely poor. The music is horrendous, characters are dumb and the plot is just mind-numbing. It lacks the self-awareness that saved the stuff guys like Tenacious D put out and ends up being a complete joke. I'm not surprised this flopped horrendously, even with the involvement of some famous rock stars.

Wife of a Spy

Also known as
Supai no Tsuma
Specifics
Japan [2020] - 115m
Genre
Drama, Thriller
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Wife of a Spy poster

Kurosawa's latest is a big disappointment. My expectation were pretty low going in, as the promo material was pretty clear about what type of film this was going to be, even then it felt lazy, uninspired and obsolete. Kurosawa might want to take a good, long look at his work and try to reinvent himself again.

Wife of a Spy is a rather sluggish and tradition wartime thriller. Yusaku and Satoko are a happy couple, but when Satoko finds out her husband is working against the Japanese government their lives take a big turn. She wants to get involved too, but Yusaku isn't too keen to put his wife in danger.

The performances are decent, Aoi and Takahashi are seasoned actors, but that's not enough to keep this film interesting. The cinematography feels outdated, the plot is predictable and the soundtrack is uninspired. It's yesteryear's cinema, no surprise then it did manage to steal some critical acclaim and festival prizes. Subpar considering all the talented people involved.

Mank

Specifics
USA [2020] - 131m
Genre
Drama, Biography
More info on
rating
0.5*/5.0*
Mank poster

Mank for Mankiewicz, writer of Citizen Kane and subject of this film. Wank for the incredible circle jerk that Fincher created here. Hollywood's wet dream vision of their own industry, a film that gushes over the larger than life caricatures that prance around the screen and deliver spiffy lines as if the last 80 years never happened.

It helps if you've seen Citizen Kane and/or have a little knowledge about Hollywood cinema of the 30s and 40s. What really helps though is if you're the type of person that loves these classics as if they were the best thing that ever happened to cinema. That's the target audience of this film, that's who all the fan service is for.

Oldman's overacting is nothing new, the bland gray and white cinematography can't even compete with Kane's, the soundtrack is very present but adds very little and the endless dialogues are so tiring that I'd pretty much had it with this film 30 minutes in. The worst thing Fincher ever made. Successful though, since the Academy wankers gave it an Oscar nomination. Jerks.

Way Down

by Jaume Balaguero
Specifics
Spain [2021] - 118m
Genre
Thriller, Crime
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Way Down poster

A bit of a suprise, this film. Balagueró is a lauded horror director who has stuck with the genre since the very start of his career. But Way Down, despite the potential of its name, has nothing to do with horror. Instead, we get a modern heist flick, not unlike the first Mission:Impossible film.

The bounty is a set of golden coins that Walter hauled from a sunken chip. After retrieving the coins, they are taken from him by the Spanish government and put in one of the best secured vaults in the world. Walter isn't just going to let this slide though and he assembles a team that'll help him get the coins back.

Way Down is pretty entertaining, but it's clear that Balagueró isn't too familiar with the genre yet. He sticks to what is known to work, but because of that it feels like a pretty basic, predictable film with just a few minor upgrades left and right. The cast is on point, the heist is fun, but there's not enough here that stands out. Decent entertainment.

The Opera House

by Chi Leung 'Jacob' Cheung
Specifics
China [2019] - 119m
Genre
Drama, Action
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Opera House poster

Director Jacob Cheung too made the jump to China, like so many of his Hong Kong compatriots. He comes with a rather classic drama that digs into the history of China's traveling stage troupes, a topic China likes to revisit once in a while. Not my favorite material, but Cheung's attempt isn't all that bad.

We follow a son whose father wants him to follow in his footsteps, promoting the Eight Trigram Palm martial arts. The boy obliges, but when he comes into contact with Peking opera he wants to pursue his dream. His father isn't too happy with his choices, but the boy can't help but follow his dream.

Cheung has an eye for beauty, which is a big asset for a film like this. Add some very nice martial arts scenes and you have a good, solid basis for the drama to thrive on, even when it's all quite predictable. The soundtrack isn't too overbearing and performances are decent, it's no true masterpiece though as there's not enough to set it apart from similar films.

Two Stage Sisters

by Jin Xie
Also known as
Wutai Jiemei
Specifics
China [1964] - 112m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Two Stage Sisters poster

A typical classic Chinese stage drama. Throughout the years this type of film has resurfaced several times in Hong Kong, generally helmed by respected directors. I'm not really a fan of the overdone drama, nor of the Chinese musical scenes that films like these tend to thrive on, and it seems Two Stage Sisters is one of the pivotal films in the genre.

Zhu is a poor, rural girl who is sold as a bride. She escapes and joins a theater group, where she meets Yuehong. The two become sworn sisters. When the troupe is disbanded they travel to Shanghai where they become lauded actresses. But then Yuehong marries Tang, a wealthy man and their friendship gets tested.

There are a handful of scenes that still manage to leave an impression, especially because of their bright visuals, but the drama is pretty predictable and the musical scenes were more than a little grating. Add to that the mediocre performances and you have a pretty poor film.

Shadow of a Doubt

Specifics
USA [1943] - 108m
Genre
Thriller, Crime
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Shadow of a Doubt poster

Not the biggest Hitchcock classic, but a very respected film nonetheless. I'm not a big Hitchcock fan and by now I'm pretty confident I'll never become one. This film too has a few typical things I just don't stomach very well, but at least it's not quite as dull and elaborate as some of his other films.

Uncle Charlie comes to visit his niece, also named Charlie. He moves in with them for the time being, but soon enough two other fellas come around asking about Charlie's business. Charlie's niece can't believe her uncle could be wrapped up in some shady business, but when she starts her own investigation she quickly starts doubting his stories.

Stilted acting, an overbearing soundtrack and a mystery that really isn't all that exciting. My main problem with Hitchcock though is that he is so obvious about his mysteries, dropping hints and winks whenever he can. At least the film stay well below the 2-hour mark, but it's far from a great film.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 2: Eternal

by Yukihiro Miyamoto, Akiyuki Shinbo
Also known as
Gekijou-ban Mahou Shoujo Madoka*Magica: [Kouhen] Eien no Monogatari
Specifics
Japan [2012] - 109m
Genre
Fantasy, Animation
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 2: Eternal poster

Second film that covers the second half of the series. It's a big step up from the first one, mostly because it can dive right into the action and forgo the introductions. The combination of moe/kawai stuff and experimental fantasy remains very peculiar, but it's nice to see this film tilt more towards the experimental side.

The plot continues where the first film left off. The relation between the aliens and humans is further explained and the film actually comes with some very interesting dilemmas, way more challenging than you'd expect from a film with chibi school girls. Then again, that's part of Shinbo's style.

The animation is pretty awesome. The mix of different visual styles and techniques is inspired and the battles with the witches are simply stunning. The rest isn't quite on the same level and some of the more timid scenes see a sharp drop in quality. Overall though, this is pretty unique. Looking forward to the final part in this trilogy now.

Map of the Sounds of Tokyo

by Isabel Coixet
Specifics
Spain [2009] - 109m
Genre
Drama, Thriller
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Map of the Sounds of Tokyo poster

This certainly looked a lot more interesting on paper. I haven't seen too many non-Japanese directors fare well in Tokyo (I can only think of Michael Arias), Isabel Coixet is no exception. For a film that refers specifically to the soundscapes of a city, the sound design is simply disappointing.

The plot revolves around David, a Spanish man who owns a wine shop in Tokyo. He comes into contact with Ryu, a solitary girl who lives two separate lives. While Coixet adds some thriller and crime elements, the film focuses on the peculiar relationship between Ryu and David, keeping it well within the drama niche.

Kikuchi is clearly the star of the film, but somewhat of an obvious choice. The rest of the cast is less interesting. The cinematography is nice but not really tuned into the look of the city, the soundtrack is nonsensical and lack atmosphere. A real shame, as the film did have potential, the direction just isn't strong enough.