Point Blank

by John Boorman
Specifics
USA [1967] - 92m
Genre
Thriller, Crime
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Point Blank poster

Credit where credit is due, Boorman takes a very basic revenge flick and tries to live it up a little. Point Black is a pretty stylized film that deliberately plays around with sound and cinematography to add an extra layer on top. Sadly, I found Boorman's attempt to be pretty weak, distracting even.

The plot is as basic as can be. When Walker tries to help a friend, he's shot in cold blood and left for dead. To make matters worse, Walker's friend takes off with his wife. After he recovers from his injuries, Walker has only one thing on his mind: revenge. For that, he'll have to infiltrate a crime syndicate.

Lee Marvin is a terrible cast and annoys from start to finish, the other actors aren't that much better. Boorman's playfulness is nice in theory, but the execution isn't very impressive and as a result, the pacing is way too slow. As a simple genre film, it's still relatively amusing, but certainly not the film Boorman wanted it to be.

Army of the Dead

by Zack Snyder
Specifics
USA [2021] - 148m
Genre
Action, Horror
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Army of the Dead poster

Somebody needs to sit Snyder down and tell him he isn't a great filmmaker. He should be fully capable to make an entertaining, 90-minute zombie flick, but Army of the Dead turned out to be a sluggish, 150-minute bore fest that drowns in cheese, horrible dialogues and lame kills.

A Japanese businessman hires Scott Ward to retrieve the money underneath his casino from Las Vegas, a city taken over by violent, intelligent zombies. Ward assembles a crew and enters the city, but the situation is a lot trickier than foreseen, and it doesn't take long before people start dying.

Bautista is a solid cast, the rest of the actors are a lot flakier. Especially since there's quite a bit of drama to plow through, which none of them are equipped to do. There isn't enough zombie action, the kills feel rushed, the lore is a cheesy take on other post-apocalyptic films. And then there's that insane runtime. Snyder really needs to go back to his roots.

Pandemic

Also known as
Kansen Rettô
Specifics
Japan [2009] - 138m
Genre
Thriller
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Pandemic poster

No doubt inspired by the SARS epidemic, but near-post-COVID, this film feels somewhat prophetic. A lethal flu-like virus transmitted by bats takes over Japan, with no known cure in sight. It's not a particularly original film from Takahisa Zeze, who sticks to all the familiar genre conventions, but it's a pretty effective and topical one.

After misdiagnosing a patient, doctor Matsuoka seeks out his former mentor to battle what he believes is a dangerous, unknown virus. Before long, the infection is spreading through Tokyo and Japan, wreaking havoc as nobody is really prepared for a pandemic. Before they can even start thinking about a cure, they have to find out where the virus came from.

Outbreak/pandemic films tend to be quite samey, Zeze doesn't challenge that and simply made a Japanese version. Performances are decent, the drama a little overdone, but the tension is solid and the quest for a cure pretty interesting. Maybe not the right time for some people to watch this one, but I had quite a bit of fun with it.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends

by Keishi Ohtomo
Also known as
Rurôni Kenshin: Densetsu no Saigo-hen
Specifics
Japan [2014] - 134m
Genre
Action, Adventure
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends poster

The third entry in the live action Kenshin series. Shot back to back with the second film, this film benefits from having the same director and cast present to complete Shishio's story arc. Like the other two films, it's a competent adaptation that doesn't take too many risks, but delivers when needed.

Shishio turns up in an impressive war ship and threatens to bring the Meiji government to its knees, hoping to take over Japan. The Meji officials are powerless against Shishio, but Kenshin still has a score to settle with Shishio and takes up his sword once more, hoping to get rid of him once and for all.

The sets look lush, actors are really settled into their characters, and the action scenes are impressive. I'm not sure how faithful this adaptation is to the manga/anime, but I honestly don't care too much about all of that. For non-Kenshin adepts, this is a fun and entertaining series, with The Legend Ends being a perfect finale.

The Tin Drum

by Volker Schlöndorff
Also known as
Die Blechtrommel
Specifics
France, Poland [1979] - 162m
Genre
Drama, Fantasy
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
The Tin Drum poster

A surprisingly fun, quirky and unique film. I generally don't expect too much from Cannes winners, and The Tin Drum does have a couple of predictable flaws, but overall this felt quite fresh and different. It was almost like watching a precursor to the work of Kusturica and/or Jeunet.

Oskar is a young boy who stops growing after falling from a flight of stairs. People feel sorry for him and tend to underestimate the boy, but as he ages, he learns to makes excellent use of his appearance to get whatever he wants. With World War II developing in the background, Oskar just tries to make the best of his life.

Bennent's performance is truly excellent, his character is also very intriguing. A mix of innocence and cunning that challenges the viewer. The direction is pleasant, with slightly absurd and exaggerated moments that keep you on your toes. The WWII setting feels a bit redundant though and the runtime is a bit too long, other than that this turned out to be a nice discovery.

Häxan

by Benjamin Christensen
Specifics
Denmark, Sweden [1922] - 91m
Genre
Fantasy, Horror, Documentary
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Häxan poster

Interesting classic. A mix of horror and fantasy wrapped in a documentary. The film consists of 7 parts, some are illustrated bits of information, others reenacted scenes and stories, all revolving around witches and witchcraft. For a silent, it's surprisingly well-structured and confidently executed.

The seven segments were shot over the course of two years and can be watched separately if needed. By modern standards, the information density is relatively low, and you probably won't learn too much from this film, but Häxan is more than talking heads and narrated literature.

The cinematography is interesting, and the effects are neat. The structure makes that the film remains intriguing, that said, 7 segments may have been a bit much. There's quite a bit of repetition and while the presentation is nice enough, the second half did start to feel a little redundant. That said, a solid effort for its time.

Fear Street Part 3: 1666

by Leigh Janiak
Specifics
USA [2021] - 112m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Fear Street Part 3: 1666 poster

The third part in the Fear Street series is easily the worst of the bunch. It's also two film crammed into one. The first half travels back to 1666 to reveal the source of all the trouble, the second half wraps everything up in 1994. That's a lot of plot to wade through for a simple horror flick, and Janiak fails to keep it interesting.

Sarah Fier is a young girl who lives in Union with her father. She gets a lot of attention from the boys, but she's secretly in love with the pastor's daughter. When they finally kiss, the village lunatic spots them. Before they realize it, they're branded as witches by the rest of the villagers. The legend of Sarah Fier is born.

After watching the tree films, it still baffles me how they managed to stretch such a thin story into a trilogy. At least the first two films handled it with grace, this third part on the other hand spends way too much time trying to wrap everything up, as if the plot was really all that interesting. The horror is almost completely absent, performances are weak, the pacing is sluggish. I'm afraid this was a pretty bad way to end the series.

The Savages

by Tamara Jenkins
Specifics
USA [2007] - 113m
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
The Savages poster

A pretty archetypical dramedy. The film is light on comedy, doesn't hold back on the drama. It's one of those films that does its best to tackle tough themes and scarred characters, but comes out quite predictable and cliché. In the end, it comes down to Jenkins failing to elevate her film.

Jon and Wendy are a brother and sister who have grown apart over the years, but when their estranged dad requires care, they meet up again. Together they look for a place where they can house their aging father, in the meantime they catch up on each other's lives, facing their old demons.

The performances are decent, but that's about it. Characters are sullen and somewhat boring, there's an excess of drama and the comedy feels too predictable. It's really just a simple drama like there are so many already, with not enough differentiating qualities to stand out from its peers.

A Classic Horror Story

by Roberto De Feo, Paolo Strippoli
Specifics
Italy [2021] - 95m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
A Classic Horror Story poster

With a title like that, you just know the film will do its best to appear cliché, only to try and fool you with a surprise ending. And sure enough, De Feo and Strippoli don't disappoint. Not that it matters really, the execution is on point and that's really all that matters when watching a film like this.

Fabrizio is a driver who shares his RV with other travelers. Things go awry when one of his passengers takes over the wheel and hits a tree. When they wake up, they're in the middle of a meadow, right next to a strange cabin. When they go out looking for the road, they find some strange statues in the middle of the woods, which refer to local folklore.

A Classic Horror Story is self-aware and witty, but not without neglecting the actual horror. The camera is just a little afraid to show any actual gore, but the cinematography is great, and the soundtrack is atmospheric. The finale is fun, but not exactly earth-shattering (though props for that final scene). Still, if you're looking for some prime horror filler, this film has you covered.

Ultra Q: The Movie

by Akio Jissoji
Also known as
Urutora Q za Mûbi: Hoshi no Densetsu
Specifics
Japan [1990] - 112m
Genre
Sci-fi, Adventure
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Ultra Q: The Movie poster

Akio Jissoji is no doubt one of the oddest directors to come out of Japan. In the West, he's best known for his Buddhist trilogy (an arthouse staple), in his home country he worked on some of the biggest pulp you can imagine. Ultra Q is one of those films, a fun yet elevated mix of tokusatsu and kaiju.

A newspaper journalist goes to the area near Eternal Island. People have been disappearing and with all the local folklore, it makes for a potentially interesting article. The journalist discovers his own roots lie within the area. He meets up with a mysterious woman, who wants to teach him more about the island.

The film's pulpy origins are abundantly clear, but Jissoji's excellent direction makes this a real hoot. The camera work is great, the effects are impressive, and the fantastical designs look cool. The pacing is solid too, and even though the story isn't all that demanding, it contains all the ingredients to make this an entertaining spectacle.

Crocodile Dundee

by Peter Faiman
Specifics
Australia [1986] - 97m
Genre
Comedy, Adventure
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Crocodile Dundee poster

A real blast from the past. It's been more than half a lifetime since I last watched this film. I remember liking it as a kid, but I figured this would be one of those films that might not have aged all that well. I was only half right. It's certainly not top drawer anymore, but it wasn't quite as bad as I'd feared.

Sue Charlton is an American reporter who travels to Australia to interview the legendary Crocodile Dundee. She spends a magical time with him traveling the wilderness, when she goes back to the US she invites Dundee to visit New York. He accepts Sue's invitation, but the big city isn't a place for a guy like him.

The comedy is pretty crude and based on broad clichés, but it's exactly that crudeness that makes it fun to watch. The romcom elements are basic, the pacing is conflicted, and the performances are rather weak. But all in all it's a relatively entertaining film, not very memorable, but decent enough filler.

Punk Samurai Slash Down

Also known as
Panku-zamurai, Kirarete Sôrô
Specifics
Japan [2018] - 130m
Genre
Fantasy, Action
More info on
rating
4.5*/5.0*
Punk Samurai Slash Down poster

Gakuryu Ishii is a true blessing for cinema. At first, I figured Punk Samurai Slash Down was just a slightly subdued, tongue-in-cheek take on the jidaigeki genre, but don't be fooled. The film gets progressively weirder and builds up towards a finale that escapes description. Ishii delivers a sprawling comedy that piles on surprise after surprise and had me in stitches for most of its half-hour-long finale. This is how you do comedy.

Young Frankenstein

by Mel Brooks
Specifics
USA [1974] - 106m
Genre
Comedy
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Young Frankenstein poster

Brooks' homage to the Frankenstein films of yore. The film is set up as a vintage Brooks comedy, but the jokes are so incredibly predictable and worn out, that this film really only works as a love letter to the horror films of the past. It does a pretty decent job at that too, but then you really have to like those films in the first place.

Frederick is the grandson of Victor von Frankenstein. He's a gifted scientist, but feels hampered by the legacy of his grandfather. When he inherits his grandfather's castle, curiosity gets the best of him, and he sets out to explore the place. There he finds a hidden laboratory and a diary with instructions.

Wilder doesn't do overacting very well, the jokes are moldy and the film well outstays its welcome. I have to say that the cinematographer did a solid job making it look like a vintage horror classic, but it's a style that doesn't do much for me. It's as much a remake as it is a homage, making this film pretty redundant. Not good.

Night of the Devils

by Giorgio Ferroni
Also known as
La Notte dei Diavoli
Specifics
Spain, Italy [1972] - 91m
Genre
Horror, Thriller
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Night of the Devils poster

This film starts out rather well, but once it gets to the meat of the story, Night of the Devils begins to slip away from director Ferroni. It's a little surprising, since he basically screws up the easy part (weird people in mysterious woods), whilst acing an intro that is quite a bit trickier to pull off.

After he faces car trouble, Nicolas wanders around the woods until he hits a cabin. There, he finds a family who lives in fear of what's lurking out there. Nicolas assumes it's merely local superstition and folklore, but when he stays the night, the woods get under his skin and his fears take a hold of him.

Performances are quite poor, the soundtrack is cheesy instead of atmospheric, the cinematography is pretty dull and the horror looks incredibly cheap. I'm not a big fan of classic Italian horror cinema, so your mileage may definitely vary, but even the often lauded ending failed to impress. A poor showing.

Gaia

by Jaco Bouwer
Specifics
South Africa [2021] - 96m
Genre
Fantasy, Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Gaia poster

South-African eco horror with strong fantasy impulses. It may not be the most original or creative horror flick ever made, but it's one of those films that puts its director on the map. Bouwer takes a solid premise, executes it flawlessly, and sprinkles it with a personal signature that makes Gaia stand out from its peers.

Deep inside the South-African jungle, two park rangers are checking the cameras they planted. After their drone crashes, they split up and one of them lands her foot in the trap of two local hunters. She makes it to their cabin, unaware of the strange dangers that lurk underneath the jungle.

The practical effects and (creature) designs look great, the exaggerated sound effects and moody soundtrack are a big asset, and the performances are on point. It's a shame the film focuses just a little too much on human friction and doesn't dare to go in overdrive during the finale, but it's a superbly dark trip that makes the most of its fantastical premise.

Tonkatsu DJ Age-Taro

by Ken Ninomiya
Specifics
Japan [2020] - 100m
Genre
Comedy
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Tonkatsu DJ Age-Taro poster

A decidedly more commercial effort from Ninomiya. His first two films were absolute personal favorites, even though they failed to make an international splash. It seems Ninomiya is trying something different this time around, going for a more agreeable, easy to stomach comedy. I'm not sure that this film is going to do much for his career.

Agetaro is a young kid who is forced to work in his dad's tonkatsu restaurant. When he is sent out to make a delivery to a nightclub, he enters a dream world. It there and then that Agetaro decides he wants to become a DJ, even though he has no clue what that entails. Together with some friends, he tries to kick-start his DJ career.

It's nice to see Ninomiya at least stayed true to the club setting, but don't expect anything too realistic here. The DJ stuff feels incredibly staged, the atmosphere is pretty light and mellow, stylistically the film is on the safe side. It's still a decent enough comedy, with some fun moments and a pleasant vibe, it's just not on the level of his previous work. Let's hope this was just a little filler project for Ninomiya.

They Live by Night

by Nicholas Ray
Specifics
USA [1948] - 95m
Genre
Romance, Crime
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
They Live by Night poster

Nicholas Ray's first film is a tepid mix of film-noir and romantic drama, with a stronger focus on the latter. For its time, it appears to be a film that strived for a more realistic approach to the relationship between the two leads, but Ray was clearly still looking for ways to properly accomplish this.

Bowie escapes prison with two other detainees. Once out, he hopes to settle down with Cathy, a young girl who falls for his charms. It doesn't take long before Bowie's former mates drag him back into a life of crime. The police is right on Bowie's tail, only he isn't willing to go back to prison.

If you're hoping for hardened criminals and exciting heists or chases, this won't be for you. Ray skips most of the classic film noir elements and instead aims his camera at the two leads. Their performances are too basic to support the drama and Ray's styling falls short, making this a pretty dull and uneventful drama. Not a good start.

Till Death

by S.K. Dale
Specifics
USA [2021] - 89m
Genre
Horror, Thriller
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Till Death poster

Simplicity is king in Till Death. A short introduction sets the stage, then the films carves a relatively straight line towards an expected finale. If you're hoping to be blown away or thoroughly surprised by this film, you've clearly made the wrong choice. If, on the other hand, you don't mind settling for a very slick and fun genre flick, go right ahead.

Emma and Mark's marriage is in a rut, but on their 11th anniversary, Mark decides to make a final play. Even though they've grown apart over the years, Mark has arranged a romantic getaway to their lake house. The evening is perfect, but when Emma wakes up the next morning, she finds herself chained to her husband.

Fox isn't the greatest actress, but she pulls off the grit and determination that her character is built on with ease. The rest of the cast is pretty decent too. The cinematography is well above par and Dale does a solid job building up the tension. If you take the genre clichés (read stupid decisions the characters make) for granted, there's a lot of fun to be had with this one.

Infernal Storm

by Huang Yi
Specifics
China [2021] - 88m
Genre
Action, Crime
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Infernal Storm poster

Tagging along on the popularity of Z Storm and Infernal Affairs. Infernal Storm is a very typical Hong Kong crime flick (though backed with Chinese money) that doesn't really attempt to do anything different. Instead, it revives a genre that's been slowly bleeding to death this past couple of years. Its biggest problem is that it can't quite match the quality of the original Hong Kong films.

This is yet another tale of a mole who has infiltrated a Triad organization. He is one of two guys who are up for promotion, but the organization is aware there's a mole in their midst. And so the usual cat and mouse game starts, including the added trouble that his contact at the police is facing some problems of his own.

With guys like Jordan Chan and Lam Suet, you have some real veterans. The cinematography is also pretty slick, even the soundtrack has some stand-out moments. But when putting everything together, it never quite gels. Something in the editing throws off the pacing of the action and makes it look cheaper than it should. It's certainly not a bad attempt, but not the return to form I hoped this would be.

The Amazing Transparent Man

by Edgar G. Ulmer
Specifics
USA [1960] - 58m
Genre
Sci-fi, Horror
More info on
rating
0.5*/5.0*
The Amazing Transparent Man poster

Not quite sure what the exact difference between "transparent" and "invisible" is, but it's no doubt a legal thing. I'm also not entirely sure what makes this transparent man amazing, that probably just a bit of advertising magic. I guess nobody is surprised to hear this is little more than a cheap knock-off.

Krenner, a former major, is forcing a scientist to develop a machine that can make people invisible. It's part of his big master plan to create an entire army of invisible soldiers, which he'll use to make him rich. While the scientists makes good on his promise, Krenner's plan isn't going all that well.

Like most of these films, there just way (way!) too much boring dialogue. The effects are crap and the story is extremely basic, so apparently all that's left are some mediocre actors who have to talk for most of the film's runtime. This one is only 1 hour long, but even then it fails to be interesting for 2-3 minutes at the most. Cheap.

The 8th Night

by Kim Tae-hyung
Also known as
Je8ileui Bam
Specifics
South Korea [2021] - 115m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
The 8th Night poster

A rather basic South-Korean horror film. Lately, South-Korea has been churning out some decent genre films, but somehow they lack the punch, flair and vitality to really rise above themselves. The 8th Night is a solid film, decent horror filler, but not very memorable or distinctive.

Buddha rids the world of a serious evil and separates his left and right eyes. Only when they get back together, the evil will rise again. And sure enough, some historian bumps into the left eye and kick-starts the process that may lead to the destruction of humankind. Luckily, some monks are willing to lay their lives on the line.

The horror is decent but expected, performances are solid, and the finale works well enough, but there's just too much drama in between, which hampers the pacing of the film. The film ends up with a runtime just under two hours, where 90 minutes would've been more than enough. Decent horror filler.

Fear Street Part 2: 1978

by Leigh Janiak
Specifics
USA [2021] - 109m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Fear Street Part 2: 1978 poster

It's quite telling that I could remember surprisingly little from the recap of the first film, this second part doesn't really up the stakes I'm afraid. We're going back to the 70s in this second part, for what is basically just another camp slasher with a bit of witch lore thrown in for good measure.

There's only one person who ever survived the curse of Fier, and desperate for help, the survivors from the first film try to seek her out. She's not very willing, but she caves and tells them the story of Camp Nightwing, where she and her sister experienced the most traumatizing night of their lives.

The horror is pretty basic, the camp slasher clichés are a bit dull, and the performances of the kids are pretty basic. Also, just like the first film, director Janiak has trouble capturing the 70s atmosphere, which makes you wonder why they even bothered. Hopefully the third and final part can redeem the first two mediocre entries.