Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train

by Haruo Sotozaki
Also known as
Kimetsu no Yaiba: Mugen Ressha-Hen
Specifics
Japan [2020] - 117m
Genre
Fantasy, Action, Animation
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train poster

The film that beat the box office of Spirited Away. I'm not familiar with the franchise, but that's hardly necessary to keep track of what's going on here, nor do I think it is actually worth catching up with the series as it's the bold action sequences that are by far the prime reason for watching this film.

Tanjiro became a demon hunter after his family was murdered. With a couple of fellow hunters he sets out to investigate the Mugen train, where a lot of people have been disappearing. There he meets Rengoku, one of the toughest demon hunters around. He'll need the help of Rengoku to rid the train of its demon, but darker forces are lurking about.

The art style is pretty bold and expressive, the fight choreography is insane, and the animation quality is feature film worthy. The problem is that there's a bit too much filler in between the fights. Some padding is expected, but the characters themselves aren't that interesting and the melodrama takes up too much of the runtime. Still, if you love a good action/fantasy anime, this comes well recommended.

Detective Chinatown 3

by Sicheng Chen
Also known as
Tang Ren Jie Tan An 3
Specifics
China [2021] - 136m
Genre
Comedy, Mystery
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Detective Chinatown 3 poster

With the West not really warming up to the Chinese blockbusters, it seems they're now targeting the other Asian markets around them. One of China's biggest blockbuster hits crosses over to Japan, hoping to find additional sources of income besides the local market. At least they were smart enough to hire plenty of local talent.

Tang Ren and Qin Feng are invited to visit Tokyo in order to crack a brand-new case. They're not the only ones who are looking for the culprit though, other prominent Asian detectives are also joining the hunt. Meanwhile, the police aren't too happy with all these detectives trying to solve the case before them.

An impressive cast, ambitious action scenes, a fun mystery and deep pockets make this an enjoyable blockbuster. The Chinese sense of humor won't be for everybody and the film's a bit too long, with a little too much time spent on explaining everything to the smallest detail, but other than that this was some decent entertainment.

We Can't Change the World. But, We Wanna Build a School in Cambodia.

by Kenta Fukasaku
Also known as
Bokutachi wa Sekai o Kaeru Koto ga Dekinai. But, we wanna build a school in Cambodia.
Specifics
Japan [2011] - 126m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
We Can't Change the World. But, We Wanna Build a School in Cambodia. poster

Not the best work from Kenta Fukasaku. It may have its heart in the right place, but it still comes off as a rather cheesy vanity project that tries to sell its stars as much as it tries to highlight the dire situation in Cambodia. It's not completely terrible, but don't expect to see a quality drama here.

Kota has the feeling something is missing from his life. He's studying to become a doctor, but can't quite commit to his study. Then he learns about a project that helps to build schools in Cambodia. He convinces some friend to join him on a trip, after that they all come together to raise the money needed for building a school there.

Performances are rather weak, and the direction feels a bit cheap. It's clear that Fukasaku wanted this film to be all about the humanitarian aid given in Cambodia, but it's just not subtle nor captivating enough. Drama just isn't really the genre for him, best to keep this for when you're really in need of something sappy and sentimental.

The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity

by Masaki Kobayashi
Also known as
Ningen no Jôken
Specifics
Japan [1959] - 181m
Genre
Drama, War
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity poster

A slight step up from the first installment. Mostly because the balance between pure drama and war cinema is just a little different here, with a bit more attention going to the battlefield. It made the film just that little easier to get through, though in the end the popularity of this film series still escapes me.

In this second film, Kaji, after trying to protect some Chinese prisoners, is forced to join the army. Though he is a model soldier, his reputation precedes him and he is given the toughest tasks of the squad. Luckily, he gets support from his wife Michiko, who pleads his case and tries to get the military off of Kaji's back.

The black and white cinematography doesn't really pop, the dramatic performances are well over the top and at 180 minutes, it's at least half a film too long. The second half is easier to get through though, which makes me somewhat hopeful for the third part, but I really don't see what all the fuss is about.

Kids Return

Also known as
Kizzu Ritân
Specifics
Japan [1996] - 107m
Genre
Crime, Sport
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
Kids Return poster

One of Kitano's more basic dramas, even then he finds ample ways to let it shine. Certainly not his most dashing or distinctive film, but the characters are all lovely, performances are strong, the atmosphere is pleasantly meandering and Hisaishi's soundtrack is once again a big asset. I've seen this film a couple of times now and it has never disappointed me. Quality film making.

Gilda

by Charles Vidor
Specifics
USA [1946] - 110m
Genre
Romance, Crime
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Gilda poster

Gilda, a film built around Rita Hayworth. It's a pretty basic film-noir that doesn't really try too hard to set itself apart from its peer, instead director Vidor relies on the charm of Hayworth to carry the film. And I guess it worked, at least for people who are smitten by Hayworth's performance.

Johnny is a gambling trickster who gets caught by Mundson, owner of an illegal casino. Johnny convinces Mundson to hire him, what he doesn't know is that Mundson is about to marry Rita, an old acquaintance of Johnny. The two can't stand each other, but well ... we all know how that tends to end.

Though Hayworth tries, I didn't care much for her somewhat trampy character. She wasn't really the vamp she needed to be, and with the rest of the film not trying too hard either, the 110-minute runtime is pretty excessive. The typical noir clichés keep it somewhat interesting, but this was hardly worth its reputation.

Nezha Reborn

by Ji Zhao
Also known as
Xin Shen Bang: Ne Zha Chongsheng
Specifics
China [2021] - 118m
Genre
Fantasy, Action, Animation
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Nezha Reborn poster

China's big cinema boom has launched a frantic search for stories to adapt. It's no surprise then that Nezha is seeing a big spike in popularity lately. Nezha Reborn is a more sci-fi/fantasy interpretation of the character, with some of his old friends (like the Monkey King) receiving notable updates too.

Li Yunxiang is a young guy living in a slum. He partakes in bike races and does a little smuggling on the side, trying to provide the people in the slum with extra water (a valuable property in his world). When he gets targeted by the son of Boss, an arrogant rich prick, he gets the help of Nezha to plan his revenge.

While technically not quite up to par with its US counterparts, the film sure is ambitious. A sprawling fantasy world, big action scenes and bold designs make Nezha Reborn a film that stands out. I wasn't quite on board with the "cool" rock vibe and the flashback scene in the middle shows there are more interesting art styles to work with, but all in all this was a pretty fun flick.

September Dawn

by Christopher Cain
Specifics
Canada, USA [2007] - 111m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
September Dawn poster

A dark page in US history. This film is supposed to be quite controversial (it being based on a true story), but the cheesy, overly sentimental direction and the poor delivery take much of the venom out of it. Unless you're heavily invested in whatever this film is trying to critique, it's hard to see anyone being too upset watching this.

Settlers and Mormons butt heads in this film. Rather than peacefully live together, they seem unable to put their differences aside. Against this backdrop a tepid romance between a boy and girl develops. It's a good old Romeo and Julia story, one of the biggest tearjerkers I've seen in quite a while.

The direction is really weak, performances are incredibly overstated, and the drama never feels genuine. The film's criticisms on religion and human nature are quite crude, and the romance just wasn't that convincing. I didn't care one bit for this film, then again I didn't expect much with Cain helming this film.

What's Up, Doc?

by Peter Bogdanovich
Specifics
USA [1972] - 94m
Genre
Comedy
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
What's Up, Doc? poster

Bogdanovich revives the screwball comedy. Which was nice for those who love(d) this type of humor I guess, personally I'm not a big fan. It's a style that seems to mistake ruckus and nervousness for actual comedy. To be submitted to that for 90 minutes can be quite grating, which describes this film pretty well for me.

Banister and Burns are a loveless couple who are about to get married. Until Judy shows up into their lives. She takes a liking to Banister and doesn't take no for an answer. Add a couple of identical-looking bags into the mix and you have all the ingredients for an hour and a half of hysterical confusion.

The performances are actually quite decent here, it's just a bummer that the actors have little to work with. The dialogues are bland, the jokes are dim, and the plot isn't interesting in the least. It's a good thing the film is relatively short, even then it grossly overstays its welcome. Not great.

Saw III

Specifics
Canada, USA [2006] - 108m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Saw III poster

This one didn't quite hold up on revision. I was somehow expecting it, after noticing that the first one too had lost some of its former shine. The nice thing about Saw III is that there are more traps and they're even more brutal, the bad thing is that there's too much uninteresting filler in between them.

Jigsaw is still around and doing his thing, though he's clearly on his last legs here. That doesn't mean he hasn't got some final tricks up his sleeves. He targets a few more people who end up in his famous traps, this time though we see more of his accomplices and how they are tied into his big master plan.

The traps are absolutely nasty here, which is a big plus. Sadly, some of them are overshadowed by a plot that didn't really engage the second time around. Performances are middling too and Bousman is a bit too busy trying to copy Wan's visual flair, rather than give the film a spin of his own. Saw III is still pretty solid and a clear recommend for horror fans, but it should've kept to its strengths.

Garo Special: Beast of the Demon Night

by Keita Amemiya
Also known as
Garo Special: Byakuya no Maju
Specifics
Japan [2006] - 105m
Genre
Fantasy
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Garo Special: Beast of the Demon Night poster

A disappointing Amemiya film. He's a director known for handling silly kitsch rather well, but this feature-length TV special is really too cheap to do the material any justice. Unless you're really invested in the Garo franchise, I can't see any reason why anyone would want to see this film.

Kouga teams up with Rin, a young priestess, to save Jabi. Meanwhile, Legules (a dark lord) is resurrected and is planning to destroy the world. I'm sure I missed quite a few intricacies in the plot, but all things said and done, it's a pretty basic "good guys vs bad guys" affair that shouldn't be too hard to follow, even if you've never seen the series.

Performances are weak, the effect are dirt cheap and the look of the film comes off quite lazy. 105 minutes is also way too long for this type of cheese. Amemiya shows a lot of ambition making this film, but when means are limited it's often better to tone things down a bit. It's an interesting train wreck, but a train wreck nonetheless.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

by Mel Stuart
Specifics
USA, UK [1971] - 100m
Genre
Fantasy, Musical
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory poster

I didn't expect too much from this film, but since Wilder's meme has become so prevalent, there was no way I could avoid this film forever. The start of the film is a little bumpy, but once the kids arrive at the chocolate factory and Wilder himself takes the stage, this was pretty amusing.

Charlie is poor and doesn't even have any aspirations to dream big. Until Wonka launches a campaign with five golden tickets. Charlie wants to visit to chocolate factory more than anything in the world and even though chances are slim, he and his grandpa never stop believing they can win a ticket.

The first half hour is a little slow and the effects are pretty cheesy, but there's a streak of dark comedy that I liked a lot and Wilder's performance really is spot on, especially when he comments on the unfortunate fate of his visitors. A quirky and joyous little film, its reputation is well deserved.

Stowaway

by Joe Penna
Specifics
USA, Germany [2021] - 116m
Genre
Sci-fi
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Stowaway poster

A decent space mission flick, though one that doesn't offer too much in the way of originality. The title of the film pretty much gives it all away, if you've seen a couple of these films you can pretty much imagine where Penna will take it. That said, I'm always in the mood for some nice space drama.

Hyperion is sending three people into space to conduct experiments on and around Mars. After some initial hiccups, the real trouble starts when they discover a stowaway. The guy got there by accident, but him being there compromises the mission. Oxygen is sparse, and the math suggest there isn't enough to support 4 people.

Colette and Kendrick overdo it with the drama, the plot is quite shaky and it would've been nice if Penna could've shortened the film to 90 minutes, but the second half is quite thrilling and there are some truly beautiful shots here. Pretty solid sci-fi space filler, not a film I'd actively recommend but nice for fans of the genre.

All U Need is Love

by Vincent Kok
Also known as
Zung Jau Ngoi Zoi Gaak Lei
Specifics
Hong Kong [2021] - 95m
Genre
Comedy
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
All U Need is Love poster

Trademark Hong Kong. To lift the spirits of its citizens, 10 prominent Hong Kong production companies banded together, put all their stars into a single film and tasked Vincent Kok with creating a light, fun and COVID-themed comedy. And knowing Kok, he's truly the perfect man for the job.

Various couples and friends end up in a hotel that is suddenly closed down for quarantine. They'll have to remain into the hotel for the next two weeks, even though everyone there has other plans. Old guys trying to cheat their wives, rivaling Triad bosses, a couple about to get married and the hotel boss trying to flee his sinking ship, they are all trying to make the best of these trying times.

The comedy is light but fun (if you appreciate the HK brand of comedy), the actors do a solid job and the film cycles through different genres (a little romance, some action, a touch of drama), though keeping things breezy at all times. This is pretty much a typical lunar comedy, only prepped for a different occasion. Amusing, but forgettable.

The House That Never Dies

Also known as
Jing Cheng 81 Hao
Specifics
China [2014] - 90m
Genre
Romance, Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The House That Never Dies poster

A Chinese horror story based on a purportedly real-world haunted house. The film became quite the success in Mainland China, so much in fact that the owners of the property had to guard the house because it attracted tourists from all over the place. And sure enough, Raymond Yip delivered a very capable horror film.

Xu Ruoqing, a writer, moves into her ancestral house together with her husband. It's a beautiful French Baroque-style mansion, but it houses a dark history. It doesn't take long before ghostly apparitions haunt the family, but Xu's husband is so busy trying to save his business that he pays no heed to his wife's suspicions.

The film isn't terribly original or scary, but the lush cinematography and beautiful imagery kept me captivated from start to finish. Performances are good, the score is capable and though predictable, the plot is solid. It's a polished and capable horror film, prime filler if you're thirsty for a good haunted house flick.

Prey

Also known as
Ejiki
Specifics
Japan [1979] - 80m
Genre
Crime
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Prey poster

It's no secret Wakamatsu had trouble finding his way once the 60s were over, which led to quite a few subpar films in the coming decades. There were also more than a handful random attempts to steer his career in a different direction, Prey is one of those films. Sadly, it wasn't very successful.

The plot revolves around a music agent with a strong love for reggae. Troubles at the company he works for (they care more about marketability than the actual music) and problems with his girlfriend (who becomes increasingly more dependent on drugs throughout the film) drive him to a life of crime.

Performances are mediocre, Wakamatsu's direction feels flat and uninspired, the plot is dull, and the reggae angle comes off as random and tacked on. There's almost nothing left of the spirited, vibrant and creative force that Wakamatsu was just a decade earlier, which makes a film like this all the more painful to watch.

Earwig and the Witch

by Gorô Miyazaki
Also known as
Âya to Majo
Specifics
Japan, USA [2020] - 82m
Genre
Fantasy, Animation
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Earwig and the Witch poster

Not quite as bad as its reputation suggests, just don't go in expecting a typical Ghibli production. The switch to 3D CG is quite brutal and Goro Miyazaki's choice to go for a more stylized art style is sure to upset people who are used to the realism of its American counterparts. Even so, at its very core this film still houses the classic Ghibli magic.

Earwig is a young girl who lives an easy life at the orphanage. Her life takes a sudden turn when an odd couple comes to collect her. The woman is a witch who needs a pair of extra hands around the house, Earwig becomes her apprentice, though she feels more like a slave. For the first time in her life, she can't force her will onto others.

The different levels of visual fidelity can be a bit jarring in the beginning, but the art style did grow on me. And while it never comes close to the classic Ghibli films, it's really not that ugly. The lack of annoying sidekicks, dreadful jokes and ADD pacing is what makes this easier to stomach than its American peers, some nifty characters (like Mandrake) turns this into a respectable, but ultimately somewhat mediocre Ghibli production. Not terrible, but that's an extremely low bar for one of the best animation houses in the world.

One Second

Also known as
Yi Miao Zhong
Specifics
China [2020] - 104m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
One Second poster

Yimou Zhang takes his short from Chacun son Cinéma and turns it into a full-length feature. One Second is an ode to the cinema (experience) of yonder, mixed with some textbook political critique. The latter got him into quite some trouble, I couldn't help but wonder why he even bothered to include it though.

A man escapes from a detention camp after he receives a letter stating that his daughter is featured in a newsreel. He travels to the closest village that's about to show the film reel, but an orphan girl has other plans for the celluloid. She desperately wants it to create a lamp shade for her brother.

One Second harks back to Zhang's early rural dramas, though the focus lies more on comedy and the communal feeling of an entire village coming together to watch a film. The cinematography is polished, performances are decent, and the peculiar ending is interesting, but this isn't really Zhang at his best.

The Gods Have a Nervous Breakdown

by Hisayasu Satô
Also known as
Supesharu Ressun: Hentai Sei-kyôiku
Specifics
Japan [1990] - 53m
Genre
Erotica
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
The Gods Have a Nervous Breakdown poster

A fascinating title for a dire pinku film. The pinku genre is often seen as a hotbed for talent and the freedom that comes with the format has yielded some great directors, many of which went on to become lauded arthouse favorites. But that's just the top of the iceberg, sadly the genre also hides a lot of crap.

A young student with no place to stay visits her teacher and asks her if she can stick around. The teacher and her husband see no problem with this request, but it doesn't take long before she gets mixed up in their relationship. There's some fantasy nonsense in the margins, which makes very little sense and is probably best ignored.

The pinku scenes aren't very enticing, the plot is nonsensical, and the film looks terribly cheap. Even so, Sato would end up directing a short for the Rampo Noir anthology, one of my absolute favorites, so I guess it was all worth it in the end. I would skip this film if I were you though, there's really nothing of interest here.

The Burning Buddha Man

by Ujicha
Also known as
Moeru Butsuzô Ningen
Specifics
Japan [2013] - 80m
Genre
Fantasy, Horror, Animation
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
The Burning Buddha Man poster

Uhm. The Burning Buddha Man is as niche as it gets. Puppet animation with paper cutouts that uses plenty of parallax and focal tricks to brings its universe to life. The designs are reminiscent of Junji Ito's work, the plot is absolutely bonkers and the characters are all batshit crazy. This is quite the trip. Definitely not something everyone will appreciate, but I have to say that I came out half in a daze, uncertain of what I just witnessed. That's always a big plus in my book.

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius

by John A. Davis
Specifics
USA, Spain [2001] - 82m
Genre
Comedy, Adventure, Animation
More info on
rating
0.5*/5.0*
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius poster

I'm not really familiar with Jimmy Neutron, so there might be hiding a very popular franchise behind this film. Based on this film alone though, it's hard to imagine it did anything except for the youngest of audiences. It really feels like cheap CG-TV stretched out to a feature length production.

Jimmy is a smart kid, he just isn't very popular. That's about to change when parents around the world are being kidnapped by malicious aliens. Neutron is the only one who can save them, and with his band of outcast friends he sets out to save their parents from the extraterrestrials.

The CG is absolutely dreadful (well below what you'd expect the major US studios to put out), the comedy is terrible (it's just loud and obnoxious) and the plot is bland (but what did you expect). This really is for younger audiences only, though you may wonder if this is the kind of garbage you want kids to watch.

Saturday Fiction

by Ye Lou
Also known as
Lan Xin Da Ju Yuan
Specifics
China [2019] - 126m
Genre
Crime
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Saturday Fiction poster

Ye Lou's take on film-noir. It's a bit of a surprise to see him do an almost straight-up genre film, though his can't quite leave his arthouse aesthetics behind. While that sounds interesting on paper, the result is not as slick as I would've hoped, with the action/crime elements in particular feeling out of place.

Jin is an actress who works as an undercover agent for the people of Shanghai. She discovers Japan's plan to attack Pearl Harbor, but her life gets a lot more complicated when the Japanese try to get Jin on their team. Romance, betrayal, shady figures in dark allies, all the usual noir elements are present here.

The cast is exceptional (with Gong Li and Joe Odagiri leading the pack) and the blue/gray monochrome filter looks attractive enough, but the cinematography feels a little lazy, the action doesn't translate, and the films runs a little too long. One of Lou's weaker efforts, a shame considering how great The Shadow Play was.

My Sons

by Yôji Yamada
Also known as
Musuko
Specifics
Japan [1991] - 121m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
My Sons poster

Though Yôji Yamada made a massive amount of films throughout his career as a director, I've never really gotten around to delving into his older work. My Sons looked like an interesting film to start exploring his back catalog, even though it's still decades removed from Yamada's early work.

The film was pretty much what I expected it to be. A decidedly sentimental and dramatized slice of life about two sons who move off to Tokyo to build a life of their own, leaving their father behind in a small rural town. The usual tension between young and old, urban and rural drives the narrative of this film.

Performances are solid (with a young Masatoshi Nagase as one of the standouts), the Japanese countryside is as beautiful as ever and the deliberate pacing helps to ground the drama. It reminded me a bit of Ôbayashi's 80s/90s dramas, the difference being that Ôbayashi seemed more inspired when directing his films. My Sons feels a little unremarkable by comparison, but it's certainly not a bad film.

The Right Stuff

by Philip Kaufman
Specifics
USA [1983] - 193m
Genre
Drama, Adventure
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
The Right Stuff poster

As space travel is getting more and more common these days, it's always nice to look back to where it all started. The Right Stuff appeared to be a film that would deliver exactly that, and in some ways it does too, but man do you have to be in the mood for some good old American yee-haw if you want to get to the end of it.

The film follows a team of pilots as they are prepped to become America's first astronauts. There's a space race with Russia going on, so even though Yeager is the first to breach the sound barrier, the news is kept quiet. Technicians, pilots and the wives at home all chip in and play their part in the US' big space victory.

The characters are highly unpleasant, performances are rather poor, so spending three full hours with them is quite the chore. There's also way too much padding, I understand that a 3-hour runtime is supposed to underline the epicness of the undertaking, but it doesn't pan out when all you're getting is some bad drama. There's about 90 minutes of borderline decent material here, the rest is sentimental garbage.

Yarn

Also known as
Ito
Specifics
Japan [2020] - 130m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Yarn poster

Takahisa Zeze goes full in on the romance with Yarn, though before he allows his characters the relief they are so desperately yearning for, there's a lot of drama they'll have to wade through first. It's a pretty typical film, elevated by a competent director and a more than capable cast.

Ren an Aoi literally bump into each other when they're still kids. The two hit it off, and it's immediately clear they are meant for each other. But Aoi's home situation is hardly ideal, and before the two can properly hook up, Aoi flees her home, leaving Ren behind. It's the start of a long journey where fate will actively work against the reunion of the two.

Zeze deliver a rather typical romantic drama, but with Komatsu and Suda in the lead it's a lot easier to capture the audience's attention. The plot is decent, the cinematography is clean and the soundtrack, though borderline sappy, does what it's supposed to do. A very good film, there's just nothing that makes it truly great.

Yes, I Do!

by Wei Wang
Also known as
Wo De Nu You Shi Ji Qi Ren
Specifics
China [2020] - 111m
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Yes, I Do! poster

Decent Chinese romcom with some sci-fi elements that add a little twist. Then again, it's probably not much of a twist for people who are familiar with anime, as there are plenty of series that relied on the "robot girl becomes romantic interest" story before. This is simply a Chinese live-action blockbuster version.

Fang Yuan is a lonely tour guide who can't get a break in life. When his latest romantic interest turns him down, another girl hugs him out of the blue and asks him to pretend to be her girlfriend. After this fateful encounter, the two decide to spend the evening together, as they're both celebrating their birthday. At the end of the evening though, the girl disappears in thin air.

The mix of genres works quite well, the cinematography looks polished and the pacing is pretty decent. The problem is that it all feels very derivative. China moved a little too fast from having no blockbuster industry to having a dominant one that relies on formulaic output. Not a terrible film, just not very memorable either.

Orpheus

by Jean Cocteau
Also known as
Orphée
Specifics
France [1950] - 112m
Genre
Drama, Fantasy
More info on
rating
0.5*/5.0*
Orpheus poster

I didn't like this Cocteau at all. Not that I was the biggest fan of the other Cocteau films I've seen so far, but I've always appreciated his attempts to create something otherworldly and different with his films. He tried to do the same with Orpheus, it's just that he failed horribly here.

Orphée is a poet who becomes infatuated with Princess Death. The princess quite likes Orphée too, but she's jealous of his wife, so she sends her cronies to help her on her way to the Underworld. Orphée may have developed feelings for Princess Death, but he is faithful to his wife and travel to the Underworld to get her back.

The performances are weak, conversations are terribly overstated, Cocteau's attempts to create a fantasy world are meager, and the soundtrack is annoying. There's just very little left of the creativity and atmosphere he was able to create in his earlier films, this was just poorly executed and felt terribly misplaced.

Little Forest: Summer/Autumn

by Jun'ichi Mori
Specifics
Japan [2014] - 111m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Little Forest: Summer/Autumn poster

A film split in two parts, each tackling a different season. Little Forest is part drama, part food porn. So much in fact that the drama feels more like filler, while the structure of the film is explicitly set up around the presentation of different dishes. If you ever feel like watching a film to de-stress, this is a perfect candidate.

After the death of her mom, Ichiko returns to the countryside. City life isn't for her, instead she prefers to be surrounded by nature, looking around for edibles and turning them into delicious dishes. With a little help from her neighbors and the townsfolk, Ichiko quickly adapts to her new life.

Beautiful images of the Japanese countryside, a light and breezy soundtrack, loving closeups of pots and pans and a lot of tasty-looking dishes. It's all very soft and idyllic, though I have to say that 120 minutes was a bit much for me, especially since there's virtually no drama to speak of. Just dishes.

Shell and Joint

by Isamu Hirabayashi
Specifics
Japan, Finland [2019] - 154m
Genre
Comedy
More info on
rating
4.5*/5.0*
Shell and Joint poster

A film about life, reproduction and death. Instead of turning it into a grim and serious affair, Hirabayashi churns out a dry, absurd and fragmented comedy that defies categorization. It's a film that reveals its secrets over time, it's certain to test your stamina, but it was like nothing I've seen before and it made me laugh out loud more than once. A superb first feature of Hirabayashi.

Day for Night

by François Truffaut
Also known as
La Nuit Américaine
Specifics
France, Italy [1973] - 116m
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Day for Night poster

François Truffaut, the French film critic turned director, makes a film about making a film and casts himself as the director character. If you love this kind of self-referential navel-gazing, then Day for Night is definitely a film for you. Personally I rarely see the fun in artists turning their craft into the main topic of their work.

Ferrand is a director who is getting ready to turn his latest film: Meet Pamela. Like always, the production has its ups and down, with producers bugging the directors, actors putting themselves in front of the film and complex love triangles forming between cast members. Ferrand wonders if he'll ever be able to finish the film.

Day for Night is a pretty typcial film about film. It's quite hectic, there's some slight comedy that's never too ironic or sarcastic and in the end the audience is always supposed to marvel at the fact that directors can actually deliver a finished product. At almost two hours long, this didn't do much for me. Way too self-indulgent.

Seven Weeks

Also known as
No no Nanananoka
Specifics
Japan [2014] - 171m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Seven Weeks poster

One of Ôbayashi's later undertakings in his career. Seven Weeks is a very ambitious film (clocking in at nearly 3 hours, better make sure you're ready for it), but the mix of serious drama and Ôbayashi's kooky fakeness didn't really work for me this time around. There are some inspired moments here, but as a whole it didn't quite work.

Set in the town of Ashibetsu, the film revolves around the funeral of Suzuki. His family gathers there and stories from the past are dug up, as they generally are during funerals. It gives Ôbayashi the chance to deal with some deeper themes, like death, love and Japan's tragic war history.

There are some pretty shots here, sadly the characters stick out like sore thumbs, often completely breaking the illusion. Ôbayashi has some neat directorial tricks up his sleeve, but they break up the drama and take away from the more serious moments. It doesn't often happen, but it seems I prefer Ôbayashi's older work.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 3: The Rebellion Story

by Yukihiro Miyamoto, Akiyuki Shinbo
Also known as
Gekijouban Mahou Shojo Madoka Magika Shinpen: Hangyaku no Monogatari
Specifics
Japan [2013] - 116m
Genre
Fantasy, Animation
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 3: The Rebellion Story poster

The third Puella film is pretty much on the same level as the second one. Whenever Shinbo shift into a higher gear this is one hell of a creative undertaking. Sadly, there's also quite some pre-teen magical girls stuff here that holds up the film and isn't all that fun to wade through. At least, not for me.

This third film starts off with the introduction of a new girl, who is quickly assembled into the team of magical girls. Together they do a great job getting rid of the witches, until it dawns on them that's something's not quite right. What follows is a lot of conversation, mixed with crazy visuals and cool fights.

Three films in, I'm still not sure who the target audience of this franchise is supposed to be. I'm glad Shinbo left it behind (though I heard he might be returning for a fourth film), because with different material his particular style is a lot easier to appreciate. There's a lot to love here, it's just too often interrupted by some childish nonsense.

Summer of Sam

Specifics
USA [1999] - 142m
Genre
Drama, Crime
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Summer of Sam poster

For those expecting a film about Son of Sam, better adjust your expectation. The serial killer case is little more than wallpaper here, instead we follow a couple of clowns who are trying to deal with their own troubles, with the Son of Sam case merely playing out in the background. I guess that explains the title.

Vinny is a young guy who has made a downright mess of his life. He cheats on his wife, he gets pushed around by some local wannabe mobsters and his best friend just turned into a punk lover. Meanwhile, a serial killer is on the loose in New York and starts killing people in Vinny's neighborhood.

Performances are decent but not good enough to carry the film, the characters are somewhat annoying, the film is too long and the soundtrack is lazy. Lee's direction is a notch above Scorsese's (who I think could've been in the running for this script too), but in the end Summer of Sam is overly long and just not interesting enough.