Mr. Shome

by Mrinal Sen
Also known as
Bhuvan Shome
Specifics
1969 / 96m - India
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
0.5*/5.0*
Mr. Shome poster

I haven't seen too many classic Indian films, beyond the obvious ones from Satyajit Ray. Mr. Shome seemed like a good film to sample beyond Ray's oeuvre, but it turned out to be a pretty grueling experience. And it's not that my expectation were immense, I just failed to care for any of it.

Bhuvan Shome is a lonely bureaucrat who is hoping to spend his old age in peace. After his retirement, he plans a short vacation to Gujarat, but this trip will change his life. On this vacation he meets a young woman, who teaches him about the joy of little things and the beauty of peasant life.

Mr. Shome is quite the dialogue-driven film, sadly the themes were rather dull and predictable. The cinematography is dreadful, the soundtrack not pretty at all, the performances pretty weak. There were little to no surprises here and the pacing was just excruciating. It'll be awhile before I'll watch another Indian classic, that's for sure.

Home

by Fien Troch
Specifics
2016 / 103m - Belgium
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Home poster

Drama for the fans of Dolan and the Dardenne brothers. While the film chases a strong level of realism, the drama itself is excessive and dominant. Every scene is conflict, every character is suffering, life's a struggle and whatnot. I don't think it's a particularly good match of style and content, but these types of films do tend to have a strong following.

After spending a short time in jail, going home isn't an option for Kevin, so he moves in with his aunt for the time being. He takes on a temp job as part of his reintegration in society and things look up for him. But then he finds out his best friend is having some issues at home, as he faces abuse from his mother.

The performances are decent and the soundtrack's a real plus. The 4:3 aspect ratio on the other hand is cliché and pointless, and the cinematography is pretty poor. And though the film was in my mother tongue, I still needed subs because the actors are simply unintelligible. It's certainly not the worst film of its kind, but this type of drama rarely works for me, and Home is no exception.

Fornacis

by Aurélia Mengin
Specifics
2018 / 81m - France, Reunion
Genre
Fantasy, Mystery
More info:
rating
4.5*/5.0*
Fornacis poster

In a world where so many things are insignificant, forgettable, feeble and interchangeable, Fornacis certainly is "something". It's equal parts cult and arthouse, a moody and mysterious exploration of a mourning woman. It's not a perfect film, it's also very explicitly and selfishly the thing it wants to be, which I'm sure will alienate many people. But if you consider yourself an adventurous movie fan, it's a must-see. A perfect blend of genre and author that was right up my alley.

Superman

Specifics
1978 / 188m - Canada, USA
Genre
Fantasy, Action
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Superman poster

A ridiculous film. Surely, this must've been a landmark for the superhero genre, but it's pretty much unwatchable by modern standards. I didn't make the right choice by going for the extended version, but I'm pretty confident that even cutting 45 minutes of cruft wouldn't have saved this film.

The story reiterates the classic Superman plot. A baby is sent from Krypton to Earth, grows up in a small village, becomes Superman and has to fight off Lex Luthor. If you think his battle with Luthor takes up the biggest part of the film, think again, since it takes Donner almost two hours to even get to that point.

I don't think I've ever seen a film in more dire need of an editor. It's as if they shot every scene five times and just stitched all the material together for the final film. There is so much pointless overhead that it completely kills the pacing. The effects are terrible, performances are weak, the score is laughable and the 3-hour runtime indefensible. Even worse than most contemporary Marvel stuff.

The Girl with the Red Scarf

by Atif Yilmaz
Also known as
Selvi Boylum Al Yazmalim
Specifics
1978 / 90m - Turkey
Genre
Romance
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
The Girl with the Red Scarf poster

Turkish cinema, much like its Bollywood counterpart, has a pretty bad international reputation. There's dedicated local support, but too many cultural barriers to appeal to a broader audience. There's certainly some Western bias there, that said, some of these Turkish classics really are quite terrible. The Girl with the Red Scarf is a perfect example.

Asya had a strict upbringing, still she falls for the advances of Ilyas, a real ladies man. The two fall in love and get married, a marriage that grants them a son. It doesn't take long before their relationship starts showing cracks and when Ilyas meets a new woman, he leaves Asya and his son behind.

The film offers little beyond its bland little romance. The cinematography is extremely functional, the soundtracks is a wreck, performances are poor, and the emotional drama is really hard to get into because of the horrible characters. There's very little to like here, beyond the relatively short runtime and semi-decent pacing.

The Old Ways

by Christopher Alender
Specifics
2020 / 90m - USA
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
The Old Ways poster

A horror film that tries to get by on exotic appeal. The film is set in Mexico and, as the title suggests, highlights the old ways of dealing with demons. Those demons are primarily a manifestation of the main character's mental problems, but they do get pretty real to make sure people don't mistake this for a drama.

Cristina is a reporter who returns to her hometown after 20 years, driven away by a traumatic experience when she was a kid. She visits some forbidden ruins and the locals believe she has contracted a demon. The lock Cristina up, and they'll do anything to drive the demon out of her. This involves some pretty gruesome rituals.

Despite all the Mexican couleur locale, Old Ways is a pretty basic film about demonic possession. The horror scenes are very predictable, performances are quite poor, and the location is poorly used. It's not a terrible film, just not a very remarkable one. A pretty plain horror film.

B/B

by Kosuke Nakahama
Specifics
2020 / 77m - Japan
Genre
Thriller
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
B/B poster

Welcome Kosuke Nakahama. B/B is his first feature film, which he wrote, edited and directed. It's an obvious labor of love, a film from a young director who has a vision and tackled that one chance to get himself noticed head on. It's a film with minor flaws, but they're easily compensated by Nakahama's enthusiasm and vigor.

Sana is a young girl suffering from dissociative identity disorder. She has 12 different personas locked inside her head, 6 of them can manifest themselves simultaneously. Sana is also the primary lead in a murder case, a real challenge for the detective who has to try and figure out who killed the victim.

The premise may not be the most original, but the presentation is really nice. The editing is snappy, the camera work inventive and the dialogues, while somewhat fluffy, do contain a lot of wit. The film is short and concise, the pacing is perfect and the ending memorable. It lacks that tiny bit of stylistic polish to make it a true standout, but Nakahama's talent should be plain for all to see. I'm already looking forward to his next film.

The Princess Diaries

by Garry Marshall
Specifics
2001 / 115m - USA, UK
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
The Princess Diaries poster

A slightly more modern take on Disney's classic princess story. Let's be honest, I'm nowhere near the target audience of this film, so if you're looking for something suitable to watch with your kids just skip this review. That said, films for kids can still appeal to adults, this one doesn't.

Mia is a young girl raised by her single mom. On her 16th birthday, Mia's grandmother reveals that she's royalty, poised to take over the throne. Her grandmother gives Mia a crash course in etiquette, but Mia isn't too sure she actually wants to leave her life in San Francisco behind to become genuine royalty.

The performances are pretty dire, the soundtrack is hellish, and the plot is a real bore. I will say that even though the film has few positives, it's still a pretty easy watch. The pacing is decent and while predictable, it never gets excessively dull. Not my kind of movie, but in its genre it isn't the worst.

The Cinderella Addiction

by Ryohei Watanabe
Also known as
Aishuu Shin Dere Ra
Specifics
2021 / 114m - Japan
Genre
Thriller
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Cinderella Addiction poster

It took him almost a decade, but Watanabe finally released a new film. Shady was a little gem that sadly remained under the radar, The Cinderella Addiction looks to be heading for a similar fate. Not quite as good as Watanabe's first, but if anything The Cinderella Addiction is a confirmation of his directorial talent.

Koharu has her life on the rails, modest as it may be. But then her boyfriend cheats on her and everything comes crashing down. Things are looking up again when she meets a rich doctor who just happens to be a widower. He and his daughter Hikari are incredibly fond of Koharu, and not much later they become a family.

Looking at the title and the premise, it's not that difficult to figure out the broad structure of the film. Watanabe sticks to these expectations pretty closely, but stands out with above-average direction. The cinematography and soundtrack are very nice, performances are solid too. There is a bit of a shocker tucked away at the end, which does give the film some extra shine, but it's a case of too little, too late to turn this into a personal favorite. Its prime filler status is fully earned though.

Tokyo Dragon Chef

Also known as
Tokyo Doragon Hanten
Specifics
2020 / 95m - Japan
Genre
Comedy, Crime
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Tokyo Dragon Chef poster

Nishimura is moving more and more away from his horror roots. While there are still traces of his former self to be found in Tokyo Dragon Chef, it's primarily a comedy, with musical, crime and action bits to keep things interesting. Without all the excess though, Nishimura's lacking directorial skills get more in the way of the overall enjoyment.

A huge conflict between different Yakuza clans leaves the city without a viable criminal organization. Ryu and Tatsu decide to leave their old life behind, opening a ramen restaurant instead. They're not the only ones who hope to make a quick buck in the restaurant business, as two other former Yakuza members station their food truck right across Ryu and Tatsu's restaurant.

Nishimura is used to working on a budget, but without his wacky creations it tends to feel a bit too flimsy. The musical numbers aren't very good, performances aren't great, and the comedy isn't all that surprising either. There's still some weirdness and wackiness that keeps things amusing, but it's one of the weaker Nishimura's I've seen so far.

A Woman's Tale

by Paul Cox
Specifics
1991 / 93m - Australia
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
A Woman's Tale poster

Quite the ordeal for me. I like films that are overly and explicitly cinematic, and this film is anything but. A Woman's Tale is a film for people who crave realism, character-based narratives and an almost documentary-like approach to its subjects. Also, people who can turn a blind eye to the barren styling.

Martha is an aging woman who lives by herself. She is quite chipper and with the help of her son and nurse Anna, she manages to get by. When her next door neighbor dies though, Martha finds it hard to keep her spirits up. Her son wants to move her to a nursing home, but Anna isn't quite ready for that.

No doubt director Cox had only a limited budget to his disposal, but he didn't use it wisely. There are a handful of flashbacks that feel woefully misplaced, the soundtrack too is extremely pompous. In contrast, the cinematography is absolutely appalling, and the drama is rather overwrought. I didn't care one bit for this film, but there is a layer of realism present that earns it a measly bonus point.

Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made

by David Amito, Michael Laicini
Specifics
2018 / 95m - Canada
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made poster

A mockumentary about a cursed film that supposedly messes so much with the people watching it that most of them end up dead. The actual mockumentary bits are quite limited though, most of the time is spent on the cursed film itself, which was supposedly recovered not too long ago. Best prepare for some artsy 70s horror in other words.

After Maxine, the family dog, attacks Nathan, she needs to be put down. Together with his sister, Nathan goes to the forest to save Maxine's soul from hell. They dig a hole in the ground, but by doing so they release a far greater evil. Not only that, some shady figures roam the forest.

The mockumentary isn't too convincing, and the premise isn't the most original. The cursed (fake) film on the other hand is quite well-made. The problem there is that things get a bit too repetitive, and it's never quite as dark and/or disturbing as it hopes to be. Fans of 70s horror cinema may get a bigger kick out of this one, I felt it mostly dragged on for too long.

End Game

by Xiaozhi Rao
Also known as
Ren Chao Xiong Yong
Specifics
2021 / 119m - Hong Kong, China
Genre
Comedy, Crime
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
End Game poster

Pleasant Chinese blockbuster, built around the presence of Andy Lau. After 40 years, Lau is still very much on top of the business, and he still looks like he only just crossed into his forties. People familiar with contemporary Chinese blockbusters should have a pretty good idea of what to expect, others will find a solid entry film into this niche.

Chen Xiaomeng's life isn't going too well. His acting career isn't coming off the ground, his love life is nonexistent, and even his suicide attempts are doomed to fail. When he goes to the bathhouse, he causes an unfortunate accident that results in a hitman losing his memory. In a split second decision, Xiaomeng decides to put his acting lessons to good work and take over his career.

Like most Chinese blockbusters, you get a mix of genres here. At the core of End Game lies a crime story, but there's also room for some action, comedy, romance and even minor thriller elements. The cinematography is super polished, performances are solid and the pacing is perfect. It's all a bit too flimsy and slick to be a real masterpiece, but this was fun filler alright.

The Servant

by Joseph Losey
Specifics
1963 / 116m - UK
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
The Servant poster

As British as can be. I'm still not quite sure what the intention of this film was. I'm guessing it's a psychological thriller, possibly with some social critique layered underneath, but it doesn't come across at all. It's a rather ridiculous film that never succeeds in giving any validity to its premise.

Tony is a wealthy man looking for a servant. His eye falls on Barrett, a young man who seems like the perfect candidate. Once hired, Barrett starts to show his true face. He pushes Tony to overspend on his house and starts to take control of the household. Little by little, he undermines Tony's authority.

The premise is interesting enough, but the bland characters don't do it any justice. The mind games aren't exactly subtle, still it's hard to buy the setup between the two leads. The soundtrack is middling, the cinematography nothing too special (though it does pick up during the finale). A very forgettable film.

Terribly Happy

by Henrik Ruben Genz
Also known as
Frygtelig Lykkelig
Specifics
2008 / 99m - Denmark
Genre
Comedy, Crime
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Terribly Happy poster

Scandinavian comedy is pretty dry, Terribly Happy adds a darker edge to it. It sounds like a golden combination on paper, but most of these films fail to take their premise far enough for them to be actually funny, Terribly Happy stumbles into that very pitfall. It's not a bad effort, it just wasn't enough.

Robert is a big-city cop who messed up and gets transferred to a small rural hamlet until the storm blows over. He's not looking forward to his assignment, as the townspeople are pretty peculiar. One family in particular stands out. The brutish Jørgen who hits his wife Ingerlise. Robert gets in the middle of their quarrels, which only makes matters worse.

Performances are solid, and the setting is pleasantly remote. The characters aren't quite weird enough though and the dark comedy twists are pretty predictable. There are traces of Fargo and Calvaire here, but Genz fails to elevate his film to similar heights. Decent filler, nothing more.

School in the Crosshairs

Also known as
Nerawareta Gakuen
Specifics
1981 / 90m - Japan
Genre
Drama, Fantasy
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
School in the Crosshairs poster

Another Ôbayashi that mixes fantasy with coming of age drama. He made quite a few of these films and while none are true masterpieces, they are sure to entertain. The finale in particular is vintage Ôbayashi madness, it's just a shame that the rest of it isn't all that special.

Yuka is a high school student with mysterious powers. While she is trying to figure out the reason behind these powers, a transfer student joins her class and displays similar powers. It's clear from the start that she's willing to use her powers against Yuka, who will need to fight her off if she wants to protect her friends and family.

Performances are decent, and the fantasy elements are interesting enough. It takes a while before the film gets up to steam though, and it isn't until the finale that Ôbayashi goes full out. The visual effects may not be very advanced, but they're very charming. Not Ôbayashi's best, but an entertaining little diversion nonetheless.

Wish

Also known as
Nozomi
Specifics
2020 / 108m - Japan
Genre
Drama, Crime
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Wish poster

A decent enough Tsutsumi, though it does feel like filler to pass the time in between bigger projects. The setup is extremely simple, and while Tsutsumi does his very best to keep things interesting, in the end Wish felt maybe a little too slick and polished to do justice to the film's emotional core.

Kazuto has a wife and two beautiful kids. His life looks perfect, until his son doesn't return after a night out and one of his classmates is found dead not much later. Kazuto's son is either involved as culprit or victim, two polar opposite outcomes that will change the lives of Kazuto's family in very different ways.

Performances are solid, with Shin'ichi Tsutsumi in a stand-out role as Kazuto. The cinematography is polished, the soundtrack is adequate and the emotional cues are timed perfectly. It's just that it all feels a bit overdone. It's certainly not the first film to handle these themes and I think a more subtle approach would've worked better here. Not bad though.

Noche de Vino Tinto

by José María Nunes
Specifics
1966 / 98m - Spain
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Noche de Vino Tinto poster

A film that feels like Spain's answer to the Nouvelle Vague, though it comes from the hands of a Portuguese director. You don't have to expect much in the way of a plot in other words, instead the film spends time with two people who meet in a bar and float through the night, enjoying each other's company.

Ella and Chico are both disappointed in life, a feeling that connects them. Though they never met before, there's a spark, and they're willing to get to know each other a little better. As they explore the nightlife of Barcelona, their bond grows deeper, but is this little adventure strong enough to survive the night?

I'm quite partial to these freer narratives, the slick black and white cinematography and free-flowing camera work certainly help too. The biggest flaws for me were the soundtrack and the dialogues, both of which are ever-present and not very appealing. Performances are decent, and the limited runtime is a blessing, but it can't quite match the best of its French peers.

Annette

by Leos Carax
Specifics
2021 / 139m - Japan, Belgium
Genre
Musical
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Annette poster

I'm not the biggest Leos Carax fan, but when I heard he was making a musical even I was intrigued. The result was pretty much what I expected it would be though. Quite a few interesting ideas, but rather poor execution and a failure to go that extra mile make this a rather uneventful, washed out musical.

Henry and Ann are two popular performers who fall in love. Their lives are lived by the media and their fans, but away from all the cameras they manage to get married and have a kid: Annette. When Henry's success starts to wane, their relationship is put under a lot of pressure, especially when the press gets wind of their troubles.

It's not very unusual for me to be left cold by the songs and music in a musical, the problem is that the sets, performances and cinematography simply weren't bold and strong enough to compensate. The rather bare-bones plot, the long runtime and Chucky-level animatronics didn't really help either. I just hope Carax got the musical bug out of his system now.

Reminiscence

by Lisa Joy
Specifics
2021 / 116m - USA
Genre
Sci-fi, Romance
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Reminiscence poster

Sci-fi with one foot in the past. It's a surprisingly popular combination since they would appear to be popular opposites, but nostalgia sells, even when looking to the future. Reminiscence certainly isn't the worst of these films, but a promising setup finds itself hampered by a rather uninspiring finale.

Rampant floods have increased the gap between the rich and the poor. With little to look forward to, the poor use machines that allow them to relive memories from the past. Nick Bannister operates such a facility. When the love of his life stands him up, the memories of their time together threaten to drag him down.

The sci-fi premise is just there to give a new spin to a core romance plot with strong thriller elements. Performances are solid, the budget was there to do justice to the sci-fi and the near-future world of Reminiscence is fun to explore, but once the film has settled in and the plot takes over, Joy starts to show her weakness. The second hour is a bit dim, just a string of cookie cutter reveals that do little beyond dragging out the runtime.

Hong Kong 73

Also known as
Heung Gong Chat Sup Sam
Specifics
1974 / 95m - Hong Kong
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Hong Kong 73 poster

Yuen Chor directs a full-blown comedy. Compared to other Shaw Bros directors, Chor seems to be more versatile. Or at least more willing to try out different genres, as his talent for comedy turns out to be very limited. There's no lack of loud, nervous banter here, but actual jokes are few and far between.

Hong Kong is doing very well in the 70s. The Hang Seng Index is soaring and Hong Kong citizens are eager to play the stock market, even though they have little to no experience. A security guard and his landlord get lucky and hit it big, but their sudden wealth comes with its own set of problems.

The most notable element of this film is the soundtrack, which almost sounds like it was made for a video game, only video games didn't really exist back then. Performances are mediocre, and the comedy is limited, luckily the pacing is solid, and the runtime is pretty short. Chor feels a bit lost with this material, but it's interesting to see him take on all these different genres.