The Gunfighter

by Henry King
Specifics
1950 / 85m - USA
Genre
Western
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
The Gunfighter poster

A film that tackles the darker side of the gunslinger hero cliché. It does so through an onslaught of uninteresting dialogues and cardboard characters, luckily, Peck's lead character is a welcome exception here. Peck gives some depth to his role, which at least saves the film from being a complete drag.

Ringo is notorious for being the fastest gunman around. He's done with his gun slinging days and is more interested in trying to win his wife back, but his reputation precedes him everywhere he goes. In a bar in Santa Fe he kills a young guy who draws his gun on him. The boy's brother and father want revenge and Ringo has no option but to flee.

Though Peck breathes some life into his character, the rest of the film is pretty basic western material, only with an excess of dialogue. The cinematography and score are bland, the pacing is tepid and though the ending is supposed to be emotional, I was mostly glad the film had finished. Not great, but at least there was something there.

He's Just Not That Into You

by Ken Kwapis
Specifics
2009 / 129m - USA, Germany
Genre
Romance
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
He's Just Not That Into You poster

Another ensemble romcom. It's not hard to see why these films were so popular. Just sign a couple or recognizable faces, throw in several plot lines, and you got something for everyone. At least, something that could appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Clearly that audience didn't include me.

The film offers several takes on romance. One girl tries to find a guy who sticks around for more than one date, another woman wants to get married. One marriage is about to burst, a girl tries to get her singing career going and finally there's a woman who is getting all in on digital dating.

The film could've just been a simple, pleasant romcom. Just stick with the Goodwin/Long story and make the best of it. Kwapis wants more though and by combining the different stories he seems to be wanting to say something about love and romance. Nothing feels genuine though, all characters are irritating, and the comedy is never as funny as it hopes to be. Just bad.

The Shop Around the Corner

by Ernst Lubitsch
Specifics
1940 / 99m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
The Shop Around the Corner poster

A pretty passable Lubitsch romcom. I'm not a big Stewart fan, but I didn't mind him all that much here. The comedy is a little too dependent on the spitfire dialogues and there isn't much beyond the basic romcom clichés, but at least the film is quite short, and the overall vibe is pretty positive.

Alfred works in Matuschek's shop. His boss appreciates Alfred's work, and he's the only one there who is allowed to give personal input on mister Matuschek's business. But then Klara joins the team and Alfred has a hard time dealing with this confident woman. Things get worse when his boss suspects him from having an affair with his wife.

The chemistry between Sullavan and Stewart is somewhat infectious and the back-and-forths between the two are fun for a while, but there's not much variety here, and it does get old real fast. Other than that, the film is pretty bare bones, with basic cinematography and a forgettable soundtrack. Not too memorable, but certainly not the worst of its kind.

The Thirsty Flower: Four by Four Equals One

by Masatoshi Nagase
Specifics
2004 / 67m - Japan
Genre
Experimental
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Thirsty Flower: Four by Four Equals One poster

When I just got into Japanese cinema, there were two actors I kept an eye on. Masatoshi Nagase and Tadanobu Asano. How interesting to find out that both actors directed an anthology film in 2004. The films are quite similar too, sporting a selection of abstract short films that are quite disconnected from each other.

There's no real plot to speak of. Nagase dishes out four short films, each one centered around a woman. The short feel like dreams, loosely connected scenes that conjure up moods rather than follow strict narratives. It's exactly what you would expect someone like Nagase to come up with.

There's definitely potential here too, but the shorts are just a little too rough to be truly captivating. Nagase plays with the visuals and the soundtrack to create an alienating atmosphere, personally I prefer a bit more polish when watching abstract works like these. Still, it's a lot better than most other films I watch, if you like abstract works, be sure to give this one a shot.

Still Life of Memories

by Hitoshi Yazaki
Also known as
Sutiru Raifu Obu Memorizu
Specifics
2018 / 107m - Japan
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Still Life of Memories poster

I've seen quite a few Japanese dramas, but this one was quite peculiar. It's a surprisingly demure film, certainly considering its premise. It's also probably a bit too artsy for its own good, but after a somewhat rough start, director Yazaki manages to create something quite beautiful and magical.

Haruma is a photographer who specializes in black and white photography. One day Rei visits one of Haruma's exhibitions. She's quite taken with his work and commissions a photoshoot. Haruma somewhat reluctantly agrees and finds himself conflicted when he is asked to photograph Rei's genitalia.

The story about an artist becoming infatuated and somewhat overwhelmed by a new and rather taboo subject certainly isn't new, but Yazaki's particular blend of cold and warm drama is quite unique. The performances are strong, there are some memorable moments and some pretty emotional scenes. Not everything works, the beginning is a little too tough for its own good, but stick with it, and you might discover a very worthwhile drama.

Tides

by Tim Fehlbaum
Specifics
2021 / 104m - Germany, Switzerland
Genre
Sci-fi, Thriller
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Tides poster

Tides is a film with potential. The intro scenes are grand, and it looked as if Fehlbaum was setting the stage for an adventurous sci-fi flick. Such a bummer that the alternative title for this film is The Colony, which perfectly explains the direction this film was about to take. A real disappointment if you ask me.

A couple of generations after mankind has fled planet Earth, a mission is set up to return to mankind's home planet, hoping that Earth has recovered enough to be habitable again. The first signs look good, but then the members of the mission are overpowered by a group of survivors.

The film looks absolutely stunning. Strong camera work, great use of color, some impressive set pieces. Everything's here to do a great sci-fi, except that the film is greatly lacking in actual sci-fi elements. The human drama is quite dull and there's way too much tepid dialogue for a genre film. This could've been so much better, still, avid sci-fi fans will find quite a bit to like here.

Oolong Courtyard: KungFu School

by Yen-Ping Chu
Specifics
2018 / 103m - China
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Oolong Courtyard: KungFu School poster

A belated sequel. I never watched the first film, but that's hardly a problem. If you're familiar with the type of comedy Chow/Ng did in the 90s, you should feel right at home here. The biggest difference comes from the HK/China switch, with China still struggling to nail the tone and vibe of their comedies.

Two street hustlers get caught in the act, in return to have to steal a divine stone from a monastery. They manage to sweet talk the monks into letting them stay, but the longer they stay with them, the more they start to feel at home. Other parties are also looking for the stone though, and the monastery becomes a real battleground.

The mix of comedy and action feels familiar, but somehow China doesn't really have the talent (yet) to pull off this type of expressive comedy. There are some fun gags, the pacing is solid, and I never got bored or disinterested, but in the end, the film left me longing for the original. Decent filler, but know what you're getting yourself into.

Malignant

Specifics
2021 / 111m - USA, China
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Malignant poster

James Wan's big return to the horror genre. After a disastrous superhero flick, he recharged his batteries and came back to do what he's good at: make freaky horror flicks. Malignant isn't a reinvention of Wan's trademark style, but it's a solid evolution that makes sure he isn't just making the same film over and over again.

Madison is stuck in an abusive marriage, until one night a dark figure enters her house and kills her husband. From that moment on, Madison starts seeing gruesome murders in her dreams. Murder that are carried out in real life too. She notifies the police, but they suspect that Madison herself is involved.

I quite like Wan's extrovert style of film making, so I had a pretty good time with Malignant. The score is really in your face, the horror is graphic, and the atmosphere is tangible. The monster itself is pretty kick-ass too. The police plot and the somewhat lengthy setup were a bit overdone and Wan doesn't make the best use of the underground sets, but other than that this was a pretty great Wan flick. Not his best, but very entertaining.

Rurouni Kenshin: Final Chapter Part II - The Beginning

by Keishi Ohtomo
Also known as
Rurôni Kenshin: Sai shûshô - The Beginning
Specifics
2021 / 137m - Japan
Genre
Drama, Action
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Rurouni Kenshin: Final Chapter Part II - The Beginning poster

As weird as it may sound to have "The Beginning" as the final entry in a 5-film series of films, it's fitting nonetheless. This is the film that tackles Kenshin's darker past and since he's the hero of the story, it's much easier to have his more ambiguous actions at the very end of the films rather than at the start.

Battosai is a ruthless killer who is deployed to fight against the shogunate. He's an enigmatic character that shows little emotion, until he meets the quiet Tomoe. She has no one and starts following Battosai around. She's not just drawn to Battosai's enigmatic aura though, as Tomoe has ulterior motives to stick with him.

The production values of this film are first class, the actors feel comfortable in their roles and the film offers a very solid mix of action and drama. It's a strong remake of the Trust and Betrayal OAV, at the same time it means the film is rehashing familiar territory for me, which did make it slightly less special than it could've been. But this was no doubt a worthy finale to Ohtomo's series of Kenshin films.

Forty Guns

by Samuel Fuller
Specifics
1957 / 80m - USA
Genre
Western
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Forty Guns poster

A western. It's a genre I used to avoid, and even though I've seen more of them these past couple of years, the appeal of the genre still escapes me. Forty Guns certainly isn't the worst I've seen, mostly due to the decent pacing and short runtime, but other than the fact that it wasn't a very long and/or slow film, there wasn't much here for me.

Jessica is a rancher in Arizona. She controls the area with the help of 40 hired gunmen. Griff, a marshal, is sent out to clean up the place, but when he meets Jessica he falls madly in love. Relatives of Griff and Jessica are all too eager to get the conflict started, but the two are more interested in exploring the feelings they have for each other.

The black and white cinematography is relatively polished and Fuller doesn't needlessly stretch out the story. The characters didn't do much for me though, the story was very basic, and the typical western action wasn't very appealing. One of those films I'll have forgotten about tomorrow, but not the worst western I've sat through.

Splash

Specifics
1984 / 111m - USA
Genre
Romance, Fantasy
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Splash poster

This certainly wasn't the worst Ron Howard film out there. That's not saying a lot, but since Howard's films can be pretty damn awful, it's at least somewhat comforting to know this isn't one of his ulterior slogs. There's a pleasant goofiness that makes it an easy watch, even when the rest of the film isn't all that great.

As a young boy, Allan was saved from drowning by a mysterious woman. Years later, they find each other again, though Allan has forgotten all about her. What Allan also doesn't know is that the woman is actually a mermaid. The two start a relationship, which leads to some predictable problems.

Hanks and Hannah are pretty decent, the film is quite cheesy but at the same time doesn't take itself too seriously, the pacing is solid, and it chooses its moments wisely to go just a little over-the-top. The rest of it is pretty basic romcom kitsch, very safe and somewhat bland, but you can certainly find a lot worse.

Fatal Attraction

by Adrian Lyne
Specifics
1987 / 119m - USA
Genre
Thriller
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Fatal Attraction poster

A very basic thriller. Don't expect any big plot twists, cool surprises or even nifty genre angles. Fatal Attraction is a film that sets up a familiar premise and then takes about 90 minutes to work through it. I guess it might've caused some ripples in the 80s, but watching it now, it's hard to see what that original appeal was.

When his wife is out of town, Dan runs into Alex. The two hit it off and spend a romantic weekend together. Dan goes back to his normal life when his wife returns, but Alex isn't willing to give up on Dan that easily. She starts stalking him and threatens to ruin his family is he doesn't pay her attention.

Lyne's direction isn't terrible, but that's pretty much all there is. The performances are basic, the plot is a snooze, there's no real tension to speak of and 120 minutes is at least 30 minutes too long. Fatal Attraction may not be that old, but it's already a relic. It certainly doesn't deserve its reputation.

A Chinese Ghost Story III

Also known as
Sien Lui Yau Wan III: Do Do Do
Specifics
1991 / 109m - Hong Kong
Genre
Comedy, Fantasy, Action
More info:
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
A Chinese Ghost Story III poster

Few will agree, but I always favored the third film in the Chinese Ghost Story trilogy. It's the least serious and structured of the three films, but it's exactly this purer dedication to wacky entertainment that makes it stand out. The story is paper thin, instead you get prime fantasy martial arts, lots of silliness, a superb setting, lovely costumes, hyper dynamic camera work, breakneck pacing and lots of comedy and action. It's probably not as fun if you want a polished plot, I couldn't care less to be honest. 200% genre fun.

Runaway Bride

by Garry Marshall
Specifics
1999 / 116m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Runaway Bride poster

A film built around Gere and Roberts. They were a pretty hot couple in the 90s and just having them fronting a romcom would draw audiences to the theater without them even looking at the trailer. This being a late-90s flick, it's easy to see how the complacency was starting to set it, signaling the eventual demise of the duo.

When Ike writes a damning column about Maggie, a woman known for leaving guys at the altar, he gets fired from his job for not properly investigating his article. While Ike admits to his faults, he stands behind the premise of his column and seeks out Maggie, who is about to get married once again.

Two somewhat irritating characters who can't stand each other. It's not hard to figure out how that story goes. The performances aren't great, the plot is a disaster and the payoff isn't strong enough. It's just simple fluff that will only appeal to the most hardened romcom fans out there. Not the worst in the genre, just extremely bare bones.

Tolkien

by Dome Karukoski
Specifics
2019 / 112m - USA
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Tolkien poster

I was surprised to see this movie pop up out of the blue, since Tolkien is a pretty big name. I would've expected quite a bit of buzz when this was released, but somehow it didn't make a big splash. It's not a very remarkable biography and LOTR fans hoping to find out much more about the book might be disappointed, but this was actually a pretty capable film.

Tolkien focuses on the early years of the writer, pretty much his life's story up to the point when he started writing his famous fantasy novels. There are the typical adversities of an orphan boy, first love, his student years and WWI, all events that somehow inspired him to write his famous epic.

Performances are solid, the direction is stylish and the links between Tolkien's life and the books that would make him famous are both subtle yet easy to grasp (even for someone who never read the books and disliked all the films). It's a very traditional biopic, nothing spectacular, but well executed and a decent watch.

People Places Things

by Jim Strouse
Specifics
2015 / 85m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
People Places Things poster

A very basic mix of drama, comedy and romance. It's a typical dramedy, a niche that's currently eclipsing most other types of comedy. Director Strouse sticks a bit too closely to the genre conventions and should be grateful that he could rely on Jemaine Clement to raise the quality of the film.

Will is a comic book artist whose life falls to pieces when his wife leaves him for another man. A year later, she tells him she's going to marry the guy she left him for. Will is doing his best to move on too. He goes on dates and tries to spend more time with his daughters, but it's clear he hasn't really moved on yet.

Clement is by far the best thing about this film. His timing is what makes the comedy work. The rest of the cast is decent, but not that remarkable. The same can be said about the drama and the romance too, which is all a bit perfunctory. Decent filler in other words, especially when you're looking for something light, just don't expect a full-blown comedy.

Difficulty Breathing

by Guy
Specifics
2017 / 40m - Japan
Genre
Horror, Experimental
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Difficulty Breathing poster

A film that comes recommended by Shozin Fukui is definitely something I'd want to see. While it's not hard to see why Fukui would react positively to Difficulty Breathing, for me, it was just a little too amateurish. There's potential here, but the bland videocam footage just doesn't cut it for this type of film.

After a woman is assaulted on the street, she finds it difficult to get out of the house. Staying all alone at home doesn't really solve her problems either, as she gets into her head and starts seeing things. Strange shadows visit her at night and a raging stomach ache slowly turns her mad.

Japanese cyberpunk is never expensive, but it's up to the directors to rise above that limitation. Guys like Tsukamoto and Fukui managed to do that through excessive visuals and music, Difficulty Breathing only has a soundtrack to fall back on. The rest is just too cheap and simplistic. Disappointing.

Shock Corridor

by Samuel Fuller
Specifics
1963 / 101m - USA
Genre
Thriller
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Shock Corridor poster

Mental illness through the B-film lens. Possibly triggering for some, since the film isn't very subtle, nor does it try to be realistic. That's besides the point of course, this isn't exactly a serious drama, instead Fuller serves a nightmare with a lead who ends up in a downward spiral of angst and confusion.

Johnny is a journalist who wants to win a Pulitzer and is willing to go the extra mile to get one. He gets himself committed into a psychic ward where the sole witness of a murder was placed. The longer he remains in the ward, the more Johnny starts to believe something is actually wrong with him.

The performances are exaggerated, the plot is pretty unsubtle and the sequences where Johnny slips into insanity are more than a little crummy. The pacing is decent though and Fuller does commit to the insanity, but it's not quite enough to turn this into a great and worthwhile film. This type of film has been done a lot better since.

The Blood of Wolves II

by Kazuya Shiraishi
Also known as
Korô no Chi: Level 2
Specifics
2021 / 149m - Japan
Genre
Crime
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Blood of Wolves II poster

Kazuya Shiraishi delivers a worthy sequel to his first Yakuza epic, further establishing himself as a strong crime director. This second film offers more of the same, so I'd suggest not watching them too closely together, but when you're in the mood for some gritty crime drama, this film delivers.

A couple of years after the first film, crime has settled down in Hiroshima. Things start heating up again when Shigehiro Uebayashi is released from prison. He doesn't care much for the truce of his bosses and starts a rampage of his own. The police are surprisingly lenient, so much that detective Hioka begins to suspect something fishy is going on.

Performances are solid, the action is pretty brutal and the setup is intricate. My only issue with this series is that it doesn't really deliver something new. If you're familiar with the genre then Blood of Wolves won't have any surprises for you. The execution is spot on though, so genre fans can rejoice.

Candyman

by Nia DaCosta
Specifics
2021 / 91m - Canada, USA
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Candyman poster

It's well accepted by now that horror films can be vehicles for pretty much anything. I generally don't have a problem with that, unless it takes away from the horror itself, and that's where this Candyman sequel becomes a complete disaster. The horror is absolute crap, which takes down the rest of the film.

The Candyman legacy lives on. Anthony is a young artist who is struggling to paint, until he bumps into the story of Helen Lyle. He becomes infatuated by the story and decides to pursue it, hoping it might give him some inspiration for his next work. What he doesn't know is that he awoke the Candyman by doing so.

There are some visually inventive moments (like the shadow puppets and the upside down urban photography), but they are overused and don't add much to the overall mood. The murders are boring, the Candyman isn't scary at all, the horror is just drab. Peele's unsubtle messaging is pretty grating too, though that's the least of this film's worries. A disappointment.

Under the Open Sky

by Miwa Nishikawa
Also known as
Subarashiki Sekai
Specifics
2020 / 126m - Japan
Genre
Drama, Crime
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Under the Open Sky poster

Nishikawa's latest felt like she took it a little too easy. It's a decent drama no doubt, resting on the shoulders of a capable cast. The film does little to distinguish itself though, and with a 2-hour runtime it was simply too predictable and safe to make a strong impact. I think it's fair to expect more from someone with her reputation.

Masao Mikami has spent the bigger part of his life in jail, most notably for Yakuza-related crimes. When he gets out after a 13-year sentence, he vows to better his life. There aren't too many opportunities for an ex-con though, and Mikami struggles to find a job to support himself with.

Having a veteran like Kôji Yakusho is a blessing, and he delivers. But the film seems just a little too content to put all the weight on his shoulders. The cinematography's a little plain, the drama is somewhat simplistic and there isn't quite enough meat here to support a 2-hour runtime. There's a base quality here and the film never derails, I just wish there was more to it. Not bad, but somewhat forgettable.

Pain and Glory

by Pedro Almodóvar
Also known as
Dolor y Gloria
Specifics
2019 / 113m - France, Spain
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Pain and Glory poster

I should probably focus more on Almodóvar's older work, his more recent films have never really done it for me. Pain and Glory has moments when Almodóvar's talent shines through, but in the end I didn't really care much for the characters, the drama and their struggles in life.

Salvador Mallo is a director who has reached an age where he simply can't run away from taking a good hard look at his life. He doesn't really like what he sees and through his past, he tries to come to grips with the man he became. When an actor friend introduces him to drugs, Salvador may have found an alternative way out after all.

Banderas' character is a bit of a boring cliché, Almodóvar's signature style isn't half as vibrant as it used to be. I get that the man got a little older, but that's no excuse for his films to get duller. The cinematography and score are decent and because there's quite a bit of plot to wade through, it never gets too slow, but this was far from his best work.

Hustlers

by Lorene Scafaria
Specifics
2019 / 110m - USA
Genre
Crime
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Hustlers poster

Amusing crime flick about a gang of gogo dancers who get creative when business is drying up. The film follows a pretty familiar setup, with Scafaria going for a lighter tone and a flashback structure that keeps the pacing high. Certainly not a bad effort, but it's probably not too distinctive enough to be truly memorable.

Destiny is a young waitress who looks up to the dancers in the club she work at. When she meets Ramona, she promises Destiny to teach her the tricks of the trade. For a while things are great, and they're raking in the cash, but then the financial crisis hits. With the big Wall Street spenders staying away, their main source of income is suddenly gone.

Performances are decent, and the film has plenty of flair thanks to the polished cinematography and poppy soundtrack. There's a bit too much drama at times and the story/setup is more than a little predictable, but it never drags down the film too much. A pretty fun, albeit simple filler crime flick.