The Rainmaker

Specifics
United States, Germany [1997] - 135m
Genre
Drama, Thriller, Crime
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Rainmaker poster

You don't see courtroom dramas being released that often nowadays, and that's probably not a bad thing. By far one of the most narrative-driven, lengthy and sentimental genres in the film industry, I don't think I've ever seen a really good one either. The Rainmaker fits right in with the rest of the bunch.

A young and spirited lawyer is assigned an insurance case. He's really not equipped to battle the legion of lawyers representing the insurance company, but he wants to support the victims and still believes in the juridical system, but he'll be fighting an uphill battle if he wants justice to prevail.

Performances are okay and there are a handful of decent scenes, but the runtime is indefensible, the drama feels forced, and the courtroom scenes are really predictable. You start a film like this pretty much knowing every single story beat that's going to come, which simply isn't that much fun, especially since films like these have little else to offer.

Spectre

by Sam Mendes
Specifics
UK, USA [2015] - 148m
Genre
Action, Thriller
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Spectre poster

Craig's Bond reign has been one big disappointment. Not because Craig's terrible, though I will say he doesn't really fit the profile of the Bond I prefer. Having seen all the films in the main series, it's clear that I thoroughly prefer the sillier side of Bond. Spectre doesn't do silly (well), it's mostly a very serious film.

Though I've seen most of the Craig Bonds in a relatively short span of time, and recognize something of a story arc in there, I really couldn't care less. The plot is just bland, so the time spent on trying to make it look intriguing is just wasted. Spies, airplane chases, evil people, lairs and exploding buildings, it's always the same really.

Mendes isn't a great action director, and it shows. The action feels pretty bland, which is a problem for a film that leans on the action quite heavily. The performances are decent but overly grave, the score is negligible, and the runtime is a joke. One more Craig Bond to go, let's hope they rework the series once more after that.

Your Name Engraved Herein

by Kuang-Hui Liu
Also known as
Ke Zai Wo Xin Di De Ming Zi
Specifics
Taiwan [2020] - 118m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Your Name Engraved Herein poster

A modern Happy Together. Wong Kar-Wai's coming of age drama has become a landmark film for Asian LGBT+ communities, it's a small miracle that it took this long for a film to challenge its status. Kuang-Hui Liu delivers a pretty brave attempt, though his film doesn't really rise above many of its peer.

Jia-han and Birdy are two boys who discover they are attracted to each other. The film is set in late 80s Taiwan, and gay relationships weren't socially acceptable back then. Still, the boys can't deny their love for each other and decide to go for it anyway, facing the social stigma head on.

For a film that's about challenging the status quo, it colors neatly inside the lines. Most of the drama is centered around the two boys discovering their sexuality, mixed with the usual coming of age issues. Performances are decent, the cinematography makes a positive impact in the first hour, but the drama is just a little too by the numbers to make a real impact.

Canary

by Akihiko Shiota
Also known as
Kanaria
Specifics
Japan [2005] - 132m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
Canary poster

A pretty challenging drama about two kids who ran away from home together. Dubious morality, powerhouse performances and strong character drama raise this film above the many Japanese dramas out there. It failed to make a big splash upon its original release, but if you think you can stomach a darker version of Koreeda's films, then you should definitely give this one a go.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

by Tay Garnett
Specifics
United States [1946] - 113m
Genre
Thriller, Crime
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
The Postman Always Rings Twice poster

A very straight-forward noir/romance that's been stretched to a runtime that nears the 2-hour mark. I'm not quite sure why, possibly because they tried to cram in as much as possible from the book this was based on, but with a plot and characters this simple there's really no point to let it drag on this long.

Frank's a wanderer, someone who can't stay in one place for very long. That is, until he walks into a diner and meets Cora. Cora is married to Nick, but their marriage has dulled and it doesn't take long before Frank and Cora hook up. The only problem is that they have to try and get rid of Nick, which proves harder than expected.

The performances are relatively weak, the plot is extremely predictable, the direction is frumpy, and the film really starts to drag during the second half. The courtroom scenes in particular are pretty damning. No doubt fans of noir/classic cinema will find something here, it did absolutely nothing for me.

The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw

by Thomas Robert Lee
Specifics
Canada [2020] - 93m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw poster

Not a bad film, but it's hard to look at Lee's film and not see the inspiration of The VVitch. The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw certainly isn't a bad film, but the formula starts to shine through early on and from that moment the film just follows a pretty strict trajectory, without making too many attempts to add something original.

Agatha has a farm a little outside a very devout commune. While people in the commune are suffering, Agatha seems to be fairing pretty well. As she fears repercussions, she has always kept her daughter Audrey out of sight. Audrey is growing up though and she wants to have a life of her own.

The film is a slowburner, with lost of time spent building up the atmosphere. The explicit horror is limited to just a couple of scenes, but the dread lies hidden underneath the entire film. The performances are solid and score and cinematography are nice, it's just that the film lacks a little punch and/or originality. Good horror filler though.

In Her Shoes

by Curtis Hanson
Specifics
United States, Germany [2005] - 130m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
In Her Shoes poster

Curtis Hanson goes lengthy drama/romcom. I'm not really sure what notes he was trying to hit here exactly, but none of the three genres are very successful. Instead, you get a bit of everything, spread out over 130 minutes of film. I think people making that kind of commitment deserve more.

Maggie and Rose are sisters, but they have opposite characters. Rose is neat, tidy and needs to be in control, Maggie lives her life from one week to the next. When the two get into a huge fight, Maggie flees to her long-lost grandma in Florida, where she'll try to reconnect with a part of her life she missed out on.

The performances are pretty decent, but the characters are rather shallow. The plot is extremely predictable, the comedy isn't very funny and the drama is way too simplistic to make a real impact. It might've been better if the film only lasted 90 minutes, the 40 minutes excess really killed it for me.

The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It

by Michael Chaves
Specifics
USA [2021] - 112m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It poster

I wasn't expecting too much from this third part, looking at the previous Wan-verse films it seems the formula is running on its last legs. I didn't really like Chaves' earlier film either, so maybe that's part of the reason why this turned out to be a pretty solid entry in the Conjuring franchise.

This third film has Ed and Loraine solving another case. After the exorcism of David Glatzel, the demon jumps into the body of Arne Johnson. Things settle down, but only for a short while. It doesn't take long before the demon starts manifesting himself through Arne, killing a local dog pound owner.

Chaves jumps right into the action and doesn't really slow down. It's nice to see a film that forgoes the slow build-up, it's equally nice to see Chaves play around with the timing of the scares, making them actually somewhat scary and unpredictable again. The film looks pretty nice, performances are solid and the pacing is on point. It's nothing you haven't seen before, but if you love the Wan horrors, this one is pretty good.

Miss Bala

by Catherine Hardwicke
Specifics
Mexico, United States [2019] - 104m
Genre
Action, Crime
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Miss Bala poster

I never watched the original film, but I still wondered why they bothered with a remake. The plot is so basic and has been done some many times before, you could probably just copy/paste the entire film, slap a different title on it and nobody would even notice this was an actual remake.

Gloria is a make-up artist who goes to Mexico to help a friend win a pageant. Once there, they are witness to a violent murder in a nightclub. Gloria loses track of her friend and gets into serious trouble when she tries to warn the police about what she saw, but ends up in the hands of the killers.

Miss Bala is a decent action flick, nothing more, nothing less. The cast does a decent job, the action scenes are pretty dirty and the pacing is pleasant. The plot and characters are extremely unrealistic, but that just comes with the territory. Decent fun, might check out the original to see how much was borrowed here.

Dark Water

by Walter Salles
Specifics
United States [2005] - 105m
Genre
Drama, Horror
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Dark Water poster

A rather tepid remake of Nakata's film. Salles tries to enhance the drama, but by doing so he takes all the creep and scares out of Dark Water. The result is a sluggish intro that drags well into the second half, with a more spectacular finale that lacks impact. Not what you want from a film like this.

The plot has remained virtually unchanged. After her divorce, Dahlia moves with her daughter Cecelia into a new apartment. The place is a dump, but they don't have a lot of money, so they have to make do. While they manage, Cecelia develops an imaginary friend who forces her to do things.

The performances are solid and they rainy atmosphere (there's not a single scene where it isn't raining) is almost oppressive. The drama isn't all that interesting though and the horror bits are pretty lame. It's one of those films that's got its balance all wrong, better stick with Nakata's film.

The Columnist

by Ivo van Aart
Also known as
De Kuthoer
Specifics
Netherlands [2019] - 86m
Genre
Comedy, Crime
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
The Columnist poster

Works pretty well as a dark comedy, not quite sure about the rest of the film. It seems there is some kind of underlying message here about social media and freedom of speech, but various narratives seem to contradict each other, making it quite difficult to see what the film was actually gunning for (if anything really).

Femke is a columnist for a big paper. One specific column has put her into the spotlight of Twitter's troll sphere, something she has quite a hard time dealing with. When she finds out her neighbor is one of the trolls harassing her, she flips and kills the guy. An event that proves to be surprisingly cathartic.

There's a lightness to the murders that gives the film an amusing edge. You will get frustrated if you're looking for realism here, but that's besides the point. Performances are decent, the cinematography is solid, yet it feels like they could've done more with this concept. Maybe the film is just a bit too nice and proper still for a film that wants to be edgy and cynical.

6 Souls

by Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Specifics
USA [2010] - 112m
Genre
Mystery, Thriller
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
6 Souls poster

A slow burn thriller with relatively strong religious/fantastical elements. That came as a bit of a surprise after a pretty straightforward first hour, but Mårlind and Stein switch to a different gear after the halfway mark and take the film in a much less scientific direction. It's a nice diversion, though not quite sure if it made the film better.

Cara is a single mom and dedicated psychiatrist, just like her dad. He likes to challenge her with cases that go against her firm professional beliefs, so when he finds a man with split personality disorder, he can't wait to get Cara on board. She is reluctant to join in, but can't help but be intrigued by his case.

Moore and Meyers do a decent job and the build-up is nice enough. The film never feels all that remarkable or special, but at least the quality is there. The second part is a little flakier and the finale could've been a ballsier, but some well-executed genre elements do add a bit of extra fun. Certainly not the worst film in its genre.

Raya and the Last Dragon

by Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Paul Briggs
Specifics
United States [2021] - 107m
Genre
Fantasy, Adventure, Animation
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Raya and the Last Dragon poster

Disney's latest animation goes shopping for cultural inspiration in Asia. Don't expect too much of it though, in the end it's still an undeniably obvious American production, but at least it makes for a nice change of setting. Other than that, Disney is just repeating its same old formula.

The land of Kumandra has been split into five different pieces. Raya's father tries to reunite the different clans, but his attempt fails and only makes things worse. His daughter sets out to find Sisu, the last remaining dragon and the only one with the power to bring everyone back together.

Technically it's impressive, aesthetically there are few moments that truly awe. The voice acting is pretty poor, the finale is rather cringeworthy and the comedy never hits the mark. It's nice to see Disney try to do something a little different, but unless they really commit it's not going to make much of a difference quality wise.