Keeping Up with the Joneses

by Greg Mottola
Specifics
2016 / 105m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Action
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Keeping Up with the Joneses poster

Simple comedy that doesn't take too many chances. It's a bit of an odd niche (the neighbors-are-spies one), but one that never seems to deviate too much from its set path, even though its premise is pretty absurd. Mottola does a decent job here, but fails to make Keeping Up with the Joneses stand out.

When the Joneses move into their new house, the people in their neighborhood aren't quite sure how to react to this flashy, worldly couple. Karen doesn't trust the two, but her husband, HR manager Jeff, is pretty taken with Tim Jones and does his best to make them feel at home.

The cast does a decent job, with Galifianakis as the obvious stand-out. There are too many jokes that don't fully land, and the action scenes feel somewhat underdeveloped, though the light tone of the film makes it easy to digest. It's certainly not a terrible film, just one that fails to stand out in any way.

Scary Movie 3

by David Zucker
Specifics
2003 / 84m - USA, Canada
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Scary Movie 3 poster

Third part in the infamous Scary Movie franchise. On paper these film should appeal to me. I love a good parody, the barrage of jokes is constant and there's no room for a more dramatic final act. Scary Movie 3 could've been a decent film, if only some of the parodies and jokes would've landed.

There's hardly a plot to speak of. The main aim of the parody is The Ring, but Scary Movie 3 also tackles a lot of other franchise (even ones that aren't horror-related, like 8 Mile). There's also a tepid romance in there, but since this film is just about the comedy, it's hardly worth mentioning.

The problem is simple: none of this is funny. The jokes are predictable, the comedic timing is horrendous, and overall the execution feels cheap. This film feels like a rush job and even though they managed to land some famous actors for this entry, it comes off as a lazy fan project. Not good.

Mandibles

by Quentin Dupieux
Also known as
Mandibules
Specifics
2020 / 77m - France
Genre
Comedy, Fantasy
More info:
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Mandibles poster

After a couple of films where Dupieux seemed to be fine-tuning and every so slightly downplaying the absurdity, Mandibles goes full retard once again. While the elevator pitch of this film sounds pretty insane, I think the real genius lies in the ways Dupieux normalizes the whole idea and tries to draw his laughs from other places. Weird, absurd and a total head scratcher, but it sure made me laugh. Out loud. But be warned, it's somewhat of an acquired taste.

Blue Thunder

by John Badham
Specifics
1983 / 109m - USA
Genre
Action
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Blue Thunder poster

A pretty dim 80s action flick that puts all its eggs in one single basket: its titular helicopter. It's a thing that probably looked quite futuristic in the early 80s, including its "amazing" capabilities, but it's little more than a bit of cheesy hardware nowadays. The same goes for the film itself.

Murphy is a veteran Vietnam pilot who ends up becoming the test pilot of a new type of military surveillance helicopter. Though suspicious at first, he quickly learns to love this new hardware. During one of his surveillance missions he uncovers a covert operation, led by one of his old wartime nemeses.

The performances are weak, the film looks pretty cheap, the action scenes aren't that exciting and the futuristic hardware fails to impress. At nearly 2 hours, it's also way too long. There's just a basic amount of action/genre fun to be mined from this film, unless you're truly starved for action films, I wouldn't really bother.

The Poseidon Adventure

by Ronald Neame
Specifics
1972 / 117m - USA
Genre
Thriller, Adventure
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Poseidon Adventure poster

One of the classic disaster movies. It's a pretty simple film, with a relatively short introduction that quickly introduces the characters. The moment of the disaster isn't all that spectacular either, instead the film focuses on a small group of people and their perilous adventure to safety.

The Poseidon is a big cruise ship. An earthquake and the subsequent wave put the ship upside down in the water. The survivors have only way thing to do: climb up the decks towards safety. Meanwhile, the film is slowly filling up with water and fires are raging everywhere. And so the survivor countdown begins.

Almost all scenes are filmed inside the ship. This could've resulted in a claustrophobic atmosphere, instead, it highlights the stage-like setup and comes off rather fake. There's also a bit too much bickering between the survivors, especially since most of them mistook shouting for acting. A handful of decent scenes make it a passable affair, but if you're after nail-biting suspense, you won't find it here.

A Little Red Flower

by Yan Han
Also known as
Song Ni Yi Duo Xiao Hong Hua
Specifics
2020 / 122m - China
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
A Little Red Flower poster

I've really liked Yan Han's work so far, but I was a bit worried when I heard he was tackling one of my least favorite (drama) genres. And sure enough, the result is pretty much what I expected it to be. Han's talent is hard to miss, but on an emotional level A Little Red Flower fell a bit short.

Yihang Wei is a kid who is faced with the consequences of cancer at a very young age. After a successful operation he tries to pick up his life and things look up when he bumps into Xiaoyuan. After a rocky start, the two quickly become best friends, but tragedy hits when Xiaoyuan also falls ill.

Disease-based romance and tragedy has been quite popular in Asia the past decade and this film merely continues that tradition. Han's knack for beautiful visuals is there, and the actors do a pretty solid job, but the story is just a little too sentimental. It's certainly not a bad film, but I expect more from Han.

Wonderful Paradise

by Masashi Yamamoto
Also known as
Noten Paradise
Specifics
2020 / 97m - Japan
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Wonderful Paradise poster

What if Project X was an absurd Japanese comedy? Well, then you'd get something like Wonderful Paradise. A dry, madcap and completely absurd film that starts off quite tepid, but picks up steam in the middle and never slows down after that. Needless to say, the finale is quite something.

Due to his own mistake, Shuji and his family have to leave their home. His kids aren't too happy with the move and to annoy her father, Akane tweets that everyone is welcome to join their farewell party. The invitation is picked up immediately, and before they know, they have a miniature festival going on in their backyard.

The first half hour is quite slow and uneventful, but that's just part of the slowly building crescendo that wreaks havoc in the final hour. There's not a lot that makes sense here and everything is clearly played for laughs. Directors Yamamoto's execution is solid, though I will say that I've seen this done better. Still, if you're in for a hilarious comedy, this one comes well recommended.

Miss Chic

by Hasse Ekman
Also known as
Fröken Chic
Specifics
1959 / 91m - Sweden
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Miss Chic poster

A very slow and stuffy Swedish comedy from the late 50s. I had no idea what to expect to be honest, though it aligns pretty well with more modern contemporary Scandinavian comedy. It's quite static, somewhat formal and not particularly funny, just with a strong 50s aesthetic.

Isabella is a remarkable TV quiz contender. Buster Carell is a desperate talent scout who sees big bucks in Isabella when he watches her performance on TV. He chases her down like a madman, but Isabella isn't all too willing to lay her future in the hands of Carell. Buster of course won't give up on her that easily.

There are a few slapstick moments that break the mold, but they are even less funny than the rest of the film. Performances are rather poor, the plot isn't all that interesting and though the film itself is relatively short, it felt at least twice as long. It's a comedy I simply didn't find funny, and since that's all there is to Miss Chic, the verdict is quite damning.

Over the Rainbow, Under the Skirt

by Joe Ma
Also known as
Ji De... Xiang Jiao Cheng Shu Shi II: Chu Lian Qing Ren
Specifics
1994 / 100m - Hong Kong
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Over the Rainbow, Under the Skirt poster

A surprisingly decent coming of age film. 90s Hong Kong isn't exactly known as a thriving scene for drama cinema, and Joe Ma doesn't really stand out as someone who excells in the genre. Still, Over the Rainbow, Under the Skirt (mind you, it's a sequel, though you can easily watch it as a stand-alone film) was pretty decent.

Bobby is at the point where he finally has a girlfriend and is ready to lose his virginity. That's easier said than done, with everyone getting in his way all the time. Things get even more complicated when his dad ends up in the hospital, which gets Bobby worrying if he will ever get to make the next step.

Performances are decent, the comedy is light yet amusing and the drama is poignant at times. It's very solid for HK standards, on the other hand this is a pretty standard and expected coming of age flick that goes through the motions without taking any risks. Just a decent film, which is better than I expected it to be.

Ten Tigers of Kwangtung

Also known as
Guangdong Shi Hu Xing Yi Wu Xi
Specifics
1980 / 91m - Hong Kong
Genre
Action
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Ten Tigers of Kwangtung poster

One of the later Cheh Chang films. It shows that he was fully settled into the martial arts genre by then, probably a bit too much. Ten Tigers of Kwangtung is a decent Shaw Brow production, but also one that feels quite haphazard and repetitive, more like a best-of than an actual individual film.

When the Kwangtung Tigers kill one of Tung's family members, Tung gathers all his nephews and vows to take revenge. The Tigers are a fearsome bunch though and the only way to get to them is to separate them, which is easier said than done. To help them out, Tung calls in the help of 5 Shaolin masters.

Expect a slew of familiar Shaw Bros actors doing their usual thing. There's a lot of kicking, punching, hurling weapons at each other and some brutal murders. What there isn't much of is coherence or creativity. I'd probably like this film better if I'd seen it a bit earlier in my exploration of Chang's oeuvre, but as a 60th+ plus film it's just a bit too expected.

Stigmatized Properties

Also known as
Jiko Bukken: Kowai Madori
Specifics
2020 / 111m - Japan
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Stigmatized Properties poster

I think Nakata has reached the point where he needs to ask himself if he feels he still has something to add to the horror genre. Stigmatized Properties felt like a 25-year-old film that just happened to be made last year. It is so insanely derivative and uninspired that you have to wonder why Nakata even bothered.

After a comical duo disbands their act, one of them lands a job as a TV host, with the other on board as a screenwriter. His job is to seek out haunted houses and spend the night there. He gets lucky on his first job as his camera registers a spirit. He becomes an overnight sensation and before he knows it, he is on his way to his second haunted house.

There is a lot of padding here, which isn't very interesting at all. Generic characters and Nakata's tepid direction simply don't support a dramatic narrative. The bigger problem though is that none of the haunts are scary. It's just the same old ghosts and apparitions doing the same old things. The ending gives the film a small boost, other than that this is for the most hardened J-Horror fans only.

First Kill

by Steven C. Miller
Specifics
2017 / 97m - UK, Canada
Genre
Action, Thriller
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
First Kill poster

Simple but amusing genre work from Miller. First Kill is one of those film that doesn't even try to do anything out of the ordinary. From the casting to the setting and plot, you've probably seen it all before. First Kill is genre filler in its purest form, the positive here is that Miller did a pretty decent job.

A dad takes out his son to spend some time in the wilderness. He's going to learn his boy how to hunt, but after a short hike they run into a scuffle between two guys. One of them shoots the other in cold blood. Though they try to keep out of it, the kid betrays their hiding place, which marks the start of a complicated stand-off.

The cast does a decent job (with a somewhat surprising role for Willis), the setting is appealing, and the camera work is nice enough. Miller simply goes through the motions and doesn't do much beyond keeping the plot on the rails, but if you're looking for a decent action/thriller flick, this isn't such a bad choice.

Flubber

by Les Mayfield
Specifics
1997 / 93m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Sci-fi
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Flubber poster

Robin Williams is somewhat of an acquired taste, his films aimed at children in particular are a tough sell for adults. Flubber is probably one of the most childish things he did, so unless you're a big Williams fans and/or you're a manic completist, there's no good reason to submit yourself to this one.

Professor Brainard and his little robot pall are working hard to find a new source of energy. So hard in fact that he's been missing out on his own wedding. The day of his final attempt, he invents flubber, a squishy substance that has strange and magical powers. The question is: will it be magical enough to save his relationship.

The special effects are quite terrible, Williams is grating, the plot is really simplistic and the bad guy ... well, I actually felt bad for him as the film went along. It could be that little kids gets something out of a film like this, then again it'll probably just make their ADD worse than it already is. Pretty horrible.

Cruella

by Craig Gillespie
Specifics
2021 / 134m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Crime
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Cruella poster

Disney continues to milk it's stable of villains. The success of Maleficent surely had something to do with it, looking at Cruella it seems we'll see a bunch more in the future. It's not the Disney version of Jokes as some weird souls have suggested, but it's a vibrant, slightly devious take on Cruella DeVil's origin.

Estella is a bit different from other girls. Her mom tries to raise her well, but her personality can't be toned down. She gets kicked out of school, messes up a fancy party, inadvertently kills her mom and ends up with two little hoodlums in the middle of London. Trying to make good of her life, she hopes to become big as a fashion designer.

The plot is decent but somewhat predictable and it's a bit of a cop-out that Cruella isn't really the villain here, but Stone thrives as Estella/Cruella, Hauser is pretty funny and cinematographer Karakatsanis really knows how to add a little extra flair to the film. The film is much better than it has any right to be, Disney did really well here.

Godzilla vs. Kong

Specifics
2021 / 113m - USA, Australia
Genre
Sci-fi, Action
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Godzilla vs. Kong poster

The recent Kong reboots were surprisingly fun, the Godzilla reboot on the other hand was a big fluke. It's not the first time these two franchises crossed each other, but the old Kaiju films are hardly a reference for this blockbuster CG fest. Wingard in the director chair was a big question mark too.

The plot is a lot of bollocks, but that isn't necessarily problematic. All this film needed to do was bring these two giants together and let them fight it out. It does that rather efficiently, though there's still a little too much fluffy padding, with some little kids thrown into the mix for no apparent reason.

The problem with Godzilla vs. Kong is that it's not quite goofy or over the top enough to be fun, neither is it cool nor impressive enough to be a kick-ass blockbuster action flick. No matter how hard Wingard tries to make it big and bold, it all feels rather dull and inconsequential. Disappointing.

Quantum of Solace

by Marc Forster
Specifics
2008 / 106m - UK, USA
Genre
Action, Thriller
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Quantum of Solace poster

A surprisingly action-packed Bond film. It's clear that there isn't much place anymore for Bond's goofy side in the modern films, but at least they cut out most of the narrative cruft that made Casino Royale such a tremendous drag. Not that Quantum of Solace is a return to form, but at least it was pretty decent.

After being betrayed in the previous film, Bond his asked to keep his emotions out of his job. There's a bit more padding of course, but in the end the plot is always the same: Bond has to chase an evil guy half across the world, while hooking up with some women along the way. Quantum of Solace is no exception.

The action is a big step up from the previous film and the first half is pretty explosive. The second part slows down a bit too much, which takes away from the fun. But, major props for keeping it well under 2 hours for a change, a film like this really doesn't need to be any longer. There's definitely some good things here, it's just a shame about the less interesting second half.

The Devil Wears Prada

by David Frankel
Specifics
2006 / 109m - USA, France
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Devil Wears Prada poster

Not quite as bad as I'd feared, though once the formula starts to settle the film loses a lot of its steam and shine. It's a bit surprising to see this is such a popular film, then again the fashion scene and the casting probably were a perfect match for the film's target audience. Beyond that's, it's all pretty standard.

Andrea is hoping to make it big as a serious journalist, but her job interviews don't work out and in the end all that's left for her is a secretary job for one of the biggest fashion magazines in the US. She becomes the assistant of Miranda Priestley, a stone-cold bitch who treats her as dirt, slowly Andrea starts to adjust to her new job.

It's a bit of an ugly duckling story with some girl power thrown in at the end. The performances are decent, and the first hour has some rather amusing scenes. The second half is too predictable though and with Frankel playing it safe from start to finish there's really not much here that makes a lasting impression.

Performance

by Donald Cammell, Nicolas Roeg
Specifics
1970 / 105m - UK
Genre
Crime
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Performance poster

Roeg's first film is quite the calling card. I'm certainly not his biggest fan and it's no surprise then that Performance wasn't entirely my kind of thing, but it's hard to ignore the vibrancy and talent on display here. Regardless of how you end up feeling about this one, it's certainly a film worth experiencing.

Chas is a bit of a hothead. When he kills someone he endangers everyone in his little gang of criminals. And so, Chas has no other choice than to flee, both from the cops and his gangster friends. He ends up with Turner, a strange musician who is working hard on making his comeback.

James Fox puts in a pretty solid performance, but it's Roeg's manic visual style that stands out here. It's a little rough around the edges and I don't think it works very well with the score, but the energy is boundless. It's a pretty odd film beyond that, possibly a bit too puzzling for some, but it's certainly worth a shot.

The Valiant Ones

by King Hu
Also known as
Zhong Lie Tu
Specifics
1975 / 102m - Taiwan, Hong Kong
Genre
Action
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
The Valiant Ones poster

A more action-focused King Hu film. It's nice to see him do a straight-up martial arts flick for a change, though it does highlight why directors like Cheh Chang took over the genre. Still, the attractive setting (not filmed in a studio) and some pretty solid action scenes makes sure that boredom never set in.

The Ming dynasty is dealing with a Chinese-Japanese pirate problem on its south coast. They are hard to battle, and regular military attacks are expensive and inefficient, so they send Yu Dayou, a tactical mastermind, to solve their problem. He quickly discovers that one of the Chinese officials is accepting bribes from the pirates.

It's always nice to see a film like this shot on location, Hu is also very capable capturing these lovely settings. Performances aren't too great, luckily there isn't too much drama or narrative. The fight choreography isn't the best either, though the editing is nice and punchy and the short runtime keeps things nice and tight. A solid Hu.