The Full Monty

by Peter Cattaneo
Specifics
UK, USA [1997] - 91m
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
The Full Monty poster

I remember seeing this film close to its original release, but back then this wasn't the kind of cinema I could appreciate. It's still not up there with my favorites, but this was a pretty fun rewatch nonetheless. What could've been a dreary social drama turned about to be a pretty amusing comedy.

Gaz and Dave are two former steel mill workers who fail to land another job. Gaz is close to losing his son, out of desperation he starts up a strippers ensemble with Dave and some other mates. They may not have the body and the moves, but Gaz and Dave hope they will manage to get by on novelty value alone.

Carlyle and Addy are tons of fun, the comedy is pretty decent and the pacing is solid. The story is predictable though, and the film doesn't really tread any new ground. It's a basic feel-good comedy with some unlikely losers overcoming many adversities to come out winners at the end. Decent fun.

Black Girl

by Ousmane Sembene
Also known as
La Noire de...
Specifics
Senegal, France [1966] - 65m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Black Girl poster

Ousmane Sembene is one of the most prestigious African directors out there, to my shame I have to admit this is only the first film I watched of him. I can't say I was too impressed. Black Girl is a pretty typical drama/arthouse film, the only thing that sets it apart is the African perspective.

Diouana is a young girl who dreams of leaving Senegal. Her dream comes true when she finds a job as a governess for a French family, but when she arrives in France, they treat her like an ordinary slave. All Diouana is good for is cleaning and cooking, without being given proper respect for her job.

The cinematography is rather plain, the soundtrack even somewhat distracting. Performances are decent, but the drama is predictable and even though Diouana's character offers a fresh perspective, the actual impact is quite limited. At least the film is short, on the other hand that probably limited the impact even more. Not for me.

Censor

by Prano Bailey-Bond
Specifics
UK [2021] - 84m
Genre
Mystery, Thriller
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Censor poster

It's not often that you see one of cinema's biggest enemies featured in a lead role. The 80s saw the rise of VHS tapes, which helped to kick-start the boom in excessive horror cinema. The UK wasn't prepared, until they finally passed a law in the mid-80s that allowed censors to rate home videos.

Enid is such a censor, and she does her job with conviction. She is determined to save the world from malicious horror cinema, until a man mimics a murder in a film she gave a pass. This event shakes Enid to her core, and past trauma suddenly starts rearing its ugly head. Enid starts losing her mind, thinking back of her sister, who disappeared when she was 7 years old.

While Censor is a tribute to the video nasties of the 80s, it's not quite a horror film itself. Instead, it plays more like a psychological thriller with strong mystery elements. The performances are solid, and the setting is intriguing. The finale is pretty on point too, but the first hour feels a little tame, even somewhat underdeveloped. A stronger visual signature and a more demanding score would've worked wonders. Not a bad film though.

Let's-Make-the-Teacher-Have-a-Miscarriage Club

by Eisuke Naito
Also known as
Sensei wo Ryûzan Saseru-kai
Specifics
Japan [2011] - 62m
Genre
Thriller
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Let's-Make-the-Teacher-Have-a-Miscarriage Club poster

No doubt an intriguing title for a film, but keep your expectations low, as director Naitô seems a little too confident that the premise alone is strong enough to carry this entire film. The film itself is a pretty tepid and rushed low-budget thriller that isn't half as shocking as its title may suggest.

Sawako is a high school teacher who is about to become a single mom. Some of her student aren't too happy with Sawako's pregnancy and consider her a dirty woman. They form a little club with the intent of stopping her pregnancy. Sawako is on to them though and challenges the kids directly.

This could've been a lot of fun, if Naitô had made a real effort to turn this into a quality film. But the cinematography is cheap, the soundtrack is bland, the cast is dire and the pacing has some serious issues. The finale is slightly better than the rest of the film, but it's hardly worth the bother. Not worth my time.

A Quiet Place Part II

by John Krasinski
Specifics
USA [2020] - 97m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
A Quiet Place Part II poster

A worthy sequel. I couldn't remember much from the first film beyond its premise, but since we're dealing with a pretty basic horror flick, that's hardly an issue. Part II is a direct sequel that presents a logical continuation of plot. Bigger and bolder than the first one, but it also comes with slightly different focal points.

Now that humanity finally found a way to strike back against the creatures that invaded our planet, it's time to do some real damage. That's easier said than done, as our runaway family will have to find a working broadcast station to air the soundwaves that deter the creatures.

Krasinski makes great use of the bigger budget to his disposal. The creatures look (and sound) great, the complexity of some of the scenes is pretty high, and the cast is well above par for a horror film. There's nothing too original or surprising here, but if you're looking for prime horror filler, you can't really go wrong with this one.

Twin Warriors

Also known as
Tai Ji Zhang San Feng
Specifics
Hong Kong [1993] - 96m
Genre
Comedy, Action
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
Twin Warriors poster

An action-packed collaboration between Jet Li and Woo-ping Yuen, released in '93, the magical year for Hong Kong martial arts cinema. Twin Warriors doesn't disappoint, though it isn't until the moment that Yuen starts developing the Tai Chi martial arts that it really rises above itself. Crazy action scenes, daft comedy, wild cinematography and inventive fight choreographies make this film a real treat for martial arts fans.

The Last Message

by Michael Hui
Also known as
Tian Cai Yu Bai Chi
Specifics
Hong Kong [1975] - 98m
Genre
Comedy
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Last Message poster

Early Michael Hui comedy. Hui is probably the most famous Hong Kong director I've yet to truly discover, somehow his particular style of comedy doesn't really do it for me. The Last Message is a much-lauded film in Hong Kong, personally I prefer John Woo's comedy films from that same era.

Tim and Lee both work in a mental hospital. When Cheng Ming is brought in, they discover he carries a stash of old Ming Dynasty artifacts with him. The artifacts are broken and can't be sold, but the two manage to find out the source and they set out to pick up the rest of them.

Performances aren't spectacular, the comedy isn't that funny, the styling is bland and uninspired. There are a handful of memorable moments and the pacing is decent, making sure it never becomes too dull, but overall the film fails to leave an impression and I'm quite puzzled by its reputation.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw

Specifics
Canada, USA [2021] - 93m
Genre
Horror, Crime
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Spiral: From the Book of Saw poster

The Saw spin-off I didn't need. Not that my expectations were extremely high, the series has been going downhill for ages, but with Bousman back on the project there was at least some hope. Sadly, they took the worst aspect of the series (the police investigation) and turned that into the main focus.

Zeke Banks is a lone cop, despised by his colleagues after he ratted out one of them. When a Jigsaw copycat starts murdering cops in his precinct, he is put on the case together with his rookie cop buddy. Zeke has to act fast, as the Jigsaw copycat has a short temper and dead bodies are turning up at breakneck speed.

Spiral is an overly serious cop flick, brought further down by a terrible performance of Chris Rock. The typical Saw contraptions are still there, but they're given relatively little attention, and the twist at the end is bland. Bousman's direction is not too bad, but the material is simply too poor. Bring back the torture porn please.

The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window

by Yukihiro Morigaki
Also known as
Sankaku Mado no Sotogawa wa Yoru
Specifics
Japan [2021] - 102m
Genre
Mystery, Thriller
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window poster

A mystery with strong supernatural elements. It will come as no surprise that this film is based on a manga series, with a live action series in the works. It's perfect case-based material that works well in serialized form, slightly less fitted for a feature film, but the padding never felt too superfluous.

Kosuke works in a book store, what makes him special is that he can see ghosts. He has learned to deal with this special ability, until one day an exorcist walks into the store and recruits Kosuke to work together with him. Kosuke reluctantly agrees, but isn't really prepared for what he's about to learn.

The premise of the film is quite interesting, though Morigaki never really takes it to unexpected places. There are some stand-out scenes, certainly near the finale, but it's probably nothing you haven't seen before. Still, the film is well-acted, sports some nice visuals and easily kept me entertained from start to finish. Pleasant.

Wet Dice

Also known as
Nureta Sai no Me
Specifics
Japan [1974] - 72m
Genre
Crime, Erotica
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Wet Dice poster

Wakamatsu's films changed a lot during the 70s. His 60s work is overtly experimental and very political, his 70s films are simpler, more typical pinku films mixed with simple genre elements. Wet Dice is a good example. Not a terrible film, but the mix of crime and pinku doesn't make all that much sense.

Kayo is a gifted bar owner who works in the port district. She is very popular with her clients, who don't miss a chance to try and woo her. Kayo likes the attention, but she's already in a relationship with a city councilman. Things get a little hairier when she gets caught up in some criminal business.

Wet Dice is not a bad crime flick, with some proper drama and decent performances. The "wet dice" gimmick is also kinda fun, but the pinku scenes mess up the pacing and are anything but sexy. The film is only 70 minutes long, still it feels like there's too much cruft. Wakamatsu could do so much better.

Woe

by Matthew Goodhue
Specifics
USA [2020] - 84m
Genre
Horror, Mystery
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Woe poster

A somewhat frustrating film. Goodhue is quite gifted when it comes to building up tension and the delivery of the scares is superb. It's just that there's so little of it, and the drama that is used as filler is of a much lower quality. So while the potential is here, Goodhue needs to learn to play to his strengths.

A year after their dad died, Jessie's brother isn't doing too well. He doesn't leave the house, he acts weird, and he is seeing and hearing things. Jessie and her soon-to-be husband worry about him, but when they try to offer to help him out, there might be more than just grief haunting Jessie's brother.

The atmosphere is great, the rest of the film just isn't up to par. Performances are somewhat flaky, the drama is pretty tepid and mystery never truly reaches its full potential. Though short, the pacing isn't perfect either and Woe does drag in places. That said, Goodhue deserves another chance, as there's clearly something there.

A Girl Missing

by Kôji Fukada
Also known as
Yokogao
Specifics
Japan, France [2019] - 111m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
A Girl Missing poster

Fukada's latest is a somewhat expected drama. He's been bombarded as a Koreeda alternative this past decade, but it seems Fukada settled a little too much in this role. A Girl Missing isn't a bad film and touches upon some interesting topics, but overall it's too plain and pedestrian to make a real impact.

Ichiko is a nurse who is living a comfortable life. She takes care of an older woman and fits in very well with the family. But then one of the family members is kidnapped and Ichiko suddenly finds herself in a delicate situation. Beyond her control, the life she has built for herself is falling apart, and all she can do it witness her own downfall.

Performances are decent and the concept of someone's life crumbling before her eyes, outside her control, is intriguing enough, but the cinematography is basic, the soundtrack is forgettable and the pacing is a little too slow. It's a very basic, average Japanese drama. Not bad, but nothing special.

American Made

by Doug Liman
Specifics
USA, Japan [2017] - 115m
Genre
Comedy, Crime
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
American Made poster

American Made is a pretty basic but enjoyable crime comedy. The kind you feel Liman would make as filler between the bigger projects. Not sure if that's the case, as there's clearly a hefty budget behind this project, it's just that pretty much everything in the film feels like it was directly lifted from another film.

American Made tells the story of Barry Seal, a simple airline pilot who runs a little smuggling business on the side. He gets recruited by the CIA to perform some spy missions for his country. Seal accepts the job, but can't help himself when the Pablo Escobar's cartel approaches him to get into the drug business.

Tom Cruise does a decent job as Seal, turning him into a friendly loaf who gets caught up in a world that really isn't his. The tone of the film is quite light, Liman gives the film a proper amount of flair and there were enough plot twists that kept me from getting bored, just don't expect anything too special.

Black Lizard

by Kinji Fukasaku
Also known as
Kurotokage
Specifics
Japan [1968] - 86m
Genre
Comedy, Crime
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Black Lizard poster

A film from the start of Kinji Fukasaku's career. Like most of his contemporaries, he made an insane amount of movies during the 60s, so it's not exactly a freshman effort. Black Lizard is based on a Rampo story, the oddness of Rampo's original work certainly shines through. The film is quirky, fun and plenty weird.

Black Lizard is a famous thief who want to steal the "Star of Egypt" diamond. She concocts a plan where she'll kidnap the daughter of the jeweler who possesses the diamond, using her as ransom for the treasure. The jeweler finds out about Black Lizard trick and hires Akechi to protect his daughter.

A cast of quirky characters, lovely decors, a fun cat and mouse game between two cunning tricksters and some random weirdness all help to make this a pretty entertaining film. Fukasaku keeps things light and the short runtime is a big plus, even so the film does have some slight pacing issues halfway through. Better than expected though.

Luca

by Enrico Casarosa
Specifics
USA [2021] - 101m
Genre
Fantasy, Adventure, Animation
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Luca poster

Children of the Sea by way of Pixar. It's nice to see them finally switching things up a little. Director Enrico Casarosa goes for a more subdued, calmer atmosphere, citing directors like Miyazaki as a direct influence. The characters and themes are still very much Pixar, but at least it's progress.

Luca is a young sea creature who lives his life away from humans. He dreams of exploring the world, but his parents are very protective of him and fear the fishermen. Luca's life changes when one day he meets Roberto, another sea creature who lives his life on land. The two set off to the nearest village.

The characters, themes and comedy are still very typical (read not for me), the voice actors too are subpar, but it's nice to see a different setting and more toned down mood. The slightly more cartoonish art style is a plus (but they could've pushed it a lot further) and the summery rural Italian countryside is appropriately appealing. A real improvement over their other films.