Happy Feet Two

by George Miller, Gary Eck, David Peers
Specifics
2011 / 100m - Australia
Genre
Comedy, Adventure, Animation
More info:
rating
0.5*/5.0*
Happy Feet Two poster

Apparently, the first Happy Feet film was enough of a success for Miller to grace the world with a sequel. Personally, I remember Happy Feet as one of the worst films ever made, an amalgam of terribly unfunny comedy and ever worse musical bits. Well, the sequel just gives you more of the same.

Erik, son of Mumble the tap dancing penguin, hates dancing. He doesn't fit in with the rest of the penguins and sets out on an adventure with two of his friends. It doesn't take long before the penguin empire is under threat of an iceberg, an impending doom that can only be averted when everyone works together.

Miller pulls open another can of atrocious pop songs and has a bunch of animated animals sing and dance to them. The comedy is still extremely dire, there's no lack of bland life lessons and though the animation is technical proficient, the film's a real eyesore. Not that I'm a Mad Max fan, but I'm glad he ditched Happy Feet to continue that franchise.

Demonic

by Neill Blomkamp
Specifics
2021 / 104m - Canada
Genre
Sci-fi, Horror
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Demonic poster

Blomkamp does horror with a dash of sci-fi. Demonic was shot during COVID, which explains the smaller scale of the film, but that didn't hold Blomkamp back to do some film tech experiments on the side, playing with around "volumetric capture". Not that it has a big impact on the film itself, but it looks like improved versions of the tech are sure to have an impact on cinema's future.

Carly hasn't been in touch with her mom for nearly two decades, until an old friend contacts her and tells Carly he found her mom in a medical facility. The doctors didn't want to disclose what happened to him, but they're eager to talk to Carly. She drives over the next day, hoping to come clean with her past.

The digital scenes look nice enough, but aren't that special. The mix of horror and sci-fi feels a little forced and the horror bits aren't nearly as scary as Blomkamp hoped they'd be. But it's nice to see a familiar concept like demonic possession get a novel twist, even when the execution isn't quite there. A decent horror flick, but you'd expect Blomkamp to do better.

72 Tenants of Prosperity

by Shu-Kai Chung, Patrick Kong, Eric Tsang
Also known as
72 Ga Cho Hak
Specifics
2010 / 99m - Hong Kong
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
72 Tenants of Prosperity poster

A typical Lunar New Year comedy. Take a large ensemble cast, a completely nonsensical plot (though it appears to be a sequel to an old Shaw Bros classic) and a trio of comedy directors to helm the project, and what you end up with is some trademark Hong Kong comedy chaos.

After defeating a group of malicious landlords in the 70s, Kung and Kin grow apart and become sworn enemies. They still live in Hong Kong 40 years later, selling phones in competing stores, but they try to trip up each other's business all the time. When a wealthy businessman tries to buy up all the stores in their quarter, it seems they'll be forced to work together once again.

The quality of these comedies tends to vary, 72 Tenants of Prosperity ends up somewhere in the middle. The constant bustle is quite amusing and there are some decent gags, but the jokes can be pretty childish too and the film's a pretty big mess with lots of ups and downs. Decent filler, but impossible to recommend unless you know what you're getting yourself into.

The Defiant Ones

by Stanley Kramer
Specifics
1958 / 96m - USA
Genre
Thriller
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
The Defiant Ones poster

Kramer's The Defiant One starts off pretty decent, but it's a simple affair that can't quite stretch the intrigue until the finale. What could've a fun genre flick starts dragging once the two leads get stuck in a local village. It's a shame, because the first half showed some actual promise.

Joker and Noah are two criminals who manage to escape prison when their transportation vehicle crashes in a ditch. They're bound together by a chain though, and they're not really the best of friends, but they'll need to work together if they want to remain out of the clutches of the police.

The white man/black man pairing was probably more interesting when it was first released and the conversations between the two are pretty on the nose, but once their trek through the wilderness starts they make for an interesting duo. The second half of the film fails to uphold the tension and by the time the film finished, I'd stopped caring about both leads. Not terrible, but it could've been a lot better.

Couscous

by Abdellatif Kechiche
Also known as
La Graine et le Mulet
Specifics
2007 / 151m - France
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Couscous poster

My second Kechiche wasn't a big success. Blue Is the Warmest Color didn't really do it for me, and I recognized a lot of that film in Couscous. It features many loud, yapping and aggravated characters wrapped up in endless conversations, while a very simple/meager plot develops in the background.

Slimane works in the port of Sète. He's 61 years old when he is fired from his job. He doesn't have much money, but he still wants to realize the one dream he ever had: open up a restaurant. With the help of his family and friends he turns an old boat into a restaurant, hoping that he can persuade the city and the bank to support his project.

Slimane's characters is decent, but he's merely a sideshow in this film. His friends and family got on my nerves, unnecessary dramatic twists dragged out the runtime and I didn't care much for Kechiche's aesthetic choices. The middle part of the film is pretty decent, the first and final act didn't really do it for me.

Drunken Master II

Also known as
Jui Kuen II
Specifics
1994 / 102m - Hong Kong
Genre
Comedy, Action
More info:
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
Drunken Master II poster

One of the big martial arts masterpieces of the 90s. Jackie Chan teamed up with Chia-Liang Liu hoping to deliver a worthy sequel to Woo-Ping Yuen Drunken Master. Like Yuen, Liu may not be the most skilled director, but he sure knows how to set up an impressive spectacle. Drunken Master II is not a film without flaws, but whenever Lui and Chan dish out another stupendous action scene those flaws are quickly forgotten. The 20-minute finale is by far one of the best martial arts scenes ever. A must-see for all martial arts fan out there.

Species III

by Brad Turner
Specifics
2004 / 111m - USA
Genre
Sci-fi, Horror
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Species III poster

A somewhat odd and belated sequel. Though the first two films weren't anything to write home about, someone clearly deemed it worthwhile to make a third film. By the time they finally released Species III, the horror scene had evolved well beyond the crappy 90s horror flavor that characterizes these films.

The alien offspring is still wreaking havoc, this time around there's a little added time pressure as this supposedly perfect life form is succumbing to Earthly infections and illnesses. Breeding with humans is its safest best, but alternatives avenues are explored when they seduce a couple of young scientists.

The direction is very bland, the horror bits look cheap, and the performances are weak across the board. Also, at nearly two hours long, the film grossly outstays its welcome. The mix of horror and sci-fi is kind of fun though and there are a couple of decent moments. Sadly, they are few and far between, and hardly worth making the effort of sitting through the entire film.

What We Did on Our Holiday

by Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
Specifics
2014 / 95m - UK
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
What We Did on Our Holiday poster

When looking for lighter fare, I accidentally stumbled upon this film. It didn't look like a winner on paper, but I decided to give it a go anyway. Turns out Hamilton and Jenkin have a knack for combining feel good drama with quirky, slightly darker comedy. The result is a pretty big charmer.

Doug and Abi's marriage is pretty much finished, but not wanting to upset his father any more than necessary, Doug drags his kids and future ex-wife to his 75th birthday party. The kids aren't very good at keeping secrets though and Doug and Abi are prone to get into rowdy arguments, so it's a mission that seems doomed to fail.

Though Connolly has a rather small part, his characters (and performance) are crucial to the film's success. His character supports the somewhat outrageous events of the second half and grounds the kids' lovely sense of humor. The rest of the cast is solid too, the mix of drama and comedy works well and while I never got the idea I was watching a true masterpiece, it's certainly a film I'll fondly remember.

Wrestling with a Memory

by Norihiro Koizumi
Also known as
Gachi Bôi
Specifics
2008 / 120m - Japan
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Wrestling with a Memory poster

Another school club drama, this time about a boy who joins the school's Pro Wrestling club. They're a certainty in Japanese cinema, but they're rarely very good. Wrestling with a Memory is no exception really. It's a decent, passable film that sports the usual combination of comedy and drama, but doesn't really excel at anything particular.

Ryoichi is an extremely smart student, but an unfortunate accident damages his short-term memory. Whenever he wakes up, he only remembers the events from before the accident. On his last day, he went to see a wrestling match organized by the local club, so having lost all his goals in life, Ryoichi decides to join the club himself.

Performances are nothing special, and the direction is very basic. There's a rather crude split between the more dramatic parts and the funny bits, though it has to be said that by the end of the film, the drama did prove to be somewhat effective. It's certainly not the worst film in its genre, but it's not exactly memorable either.

Sons of the Desert

by William A. Seiter
Specifics
1933 / 68m - USA
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
0.5*/5.0*
Sons of the Desert poster

I'm pretty certain this is the first full-length Laurel & Hardy film I've ever seen. I've tried some of their shorts before, but none of them managed to leave an impression, on the contrary. Turns out their feature length films are just more of the same, only longer. Though the film is just over an hour long, it was still quite an ordeal to get to the end.

Laurel and Hardy are part of a fraternity. They're invited to their national convention, but the both of them are having trouble convincing their wives they should go. Hardy pretends to be ill while Laurel calls in the help of a fake doctor to prescribe them a little vacation. It's not hard to imagine how the rest of the film goes.

I'm certainly no fan of straight-up slapstick comedy and Laurel and Hardy are pretty much the primary representatives of the genre. The comedy is repetitive, predictable and simply not funny to me. The story is negligible, performances are overall poor and the plot is merely an excuse for the gags. Terrible stuff.

Prey

by Thomas Sieben
Specifics
2021 / 87m - Germany
Genre
Thriller
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Prey poster

Written and directed by Thomas Sieben, but I can't help but wonder how much actual writing had to be done for this film. Prey is one of the most basic genre flicks imaginable, a film I've seen countless times before, only with a slightly different cast. The direction is fine though, making this amusing genre filler.

A group of five guys is trekking through the woods to celebrate Roman's upcoming wedding. When they finally get back to the car, a shooter takes aim at them. Uncertain of what's going on, they retreat back into the woods, but they don't really stand a chance against the skilled gunman.

Remote woods, five guys, one shooter. Prey isn't out to revolutionize the genre, but the atmospheric location, some very minor twists and the solid presentation make sure that genre fans won't have much to complain about. It's welcome filler in a genre that hasn't seen all that much action lately.

The World is Mine

by Nicolae Constantin Tanase
Also known as
Lumea e a Mea
Specifics
2015 / 104m - Romania
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
The World is Mine poster

A coming of age drama that fails to surprise. Director Tanase does his very best to add some bells and whistles, but can't hide the fact that this is a story that's been told countless times before. That doesn't make The World Is Mine a bad film, but it does make it a somewhat uneventful one, where it's hard to become fully invested in the characters.

Larisa is a young girl whose home situation isn't exactly ideal. When she hooks up with one of the popular girls' boyfriends, she gets trapped in a negative spiral. Larisa is suspended from school, she falls out of grace with her friends and whatever she does to try and fix her current ordeal only seems to be making things worse.

There used to be a time when these pubescent girl dramas fared better with me, but unless the characters are really on point or the film tries to at least shift some boundaries, they've become tougher to care about. Performances are decent though, the cinematography certainly isn't the worst and the soundtrack feels contemporary, other than that the drama left me rather cold.

Dear Diary

by Nanni Moretti
Also known as
Caro Diario
Specifics
1993 / 100m - Italy
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Dear Diary poster

Nanni Moretti doing Nanni Moretti. Three shorter vignettes presented as a diary, though you could just as well consider it a regular anthology, as the three parts don't actually overlap. Moretti hinges his entire film on a light, slightly peculiar sense of humor, which didn't do anything for me, I'm afraid.

In the first short, Moretti drives around Rome on a Vespa, commenting on what he sees, while also indulging in random thoughts. In the second short he travels to the Aeolian Islands, hoping to find some peace and quiet (but not finding it at all), in the final short he has to deal with a nasty itch that won't leave him alone.

The direction is extremely bland, the comedy is an acquired taste and Moretti's performance wasn't very appealing. I can see how some people would find this film amusing, but it left me cold all the way through. At least it was split up in three different parts, which saved it from complete and utter dullness.

Don't Breathe 2

by Rodo Sayagues
Specifics
2021 / 98m - USA
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Don't Breathe 2 poster

A sequel that takes some bold choices along the way, but seems afraid to carry them all the way through, ultimately taking the easy way out. It's nice that they tried something slightly different, instead of making a simple carbon copy of the first film, but in the end the quality isn't entirely there.

Eight years after the first film, the blind man lives together with a young girl. While he doesn't have her locked up, he keeps her on a short leash. On a rare trip into town, a shady man shadows the girl, following her home afterwards. Once night falls, the man and his cronies plan to kidnap the girl.

The plot's a little farfetched and the action isn't all that convincing, but the film's biggest problem is that it just isn't as tense as the first one. Performances are solid, the cinematography on point, the score is decent, and the plot twists interesting, but in the end it doesn't really amount to much. A decent but forgettable sequel.

The Day We Lit Up the Sky

by Yibai Zhang, Yan Han
Also known as
Ran Ye Shao Nian De Tian Kong
Specifics
2021 / 108m - China
Genre
Comedy, Music
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Day We Lit Up the Sky poster

Disappointing. (Modern) dance flicks are hot property right now and it's clear China is in no position to let a fad like that pass. I don't belong to the target audience of films like this, but with Yibai Zhang and Yan Han helming the film I did have certain hopes and expectations going in. It's a change this turned out to be a low point for both directors.

A group of young failures are tired of being laughed at all the time. When they hear about a local dance festival, they want to enter the competition, for once committing to a goal. The problem is that they can't dance. They find a tutor, a young girl growing up believing she is the daughter of Sammi Cheng. With her help, they quickly improve, but time is running out and drama hides around every corner.

I'm not a dance expert, but even I could see the level of execution isn't very high here. Zhang and Han try to make up for it with light comedy, but that's a pretty poor solution. The music is also atrocious, the CG is subpar and though the ending of the film isn't quite as expected, it's still pretty cheesy. At least the two manage to shoot some pretty pictures and the performances aren't too bad, but that's not enough to salvage this film.

Guilty as Sin

by Sidney Lumet
Specifics
1993 / 107m - USA
Genre
Thriller
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Guilty as Sin poster

Sidney Lumet is a pretty big name in cinema, apparently that hasn't kept him from directing some truly mediocre thrillers. Guilty as Sin feels like a bland, dispirited straight-to-video release in every single way possible. It's the kind of shelf filler that would disgrace video stores in the 90s, genre fare that was meant to be consumed and forgotten.

Jennifer is a young, female lawyer looking to build a career. When she takes on David's case it looks like an ideal opportunity to rise in the ranks, but soon enough Jennifer finds herself battling an unruly client. David is a scumbag who keeps taunting Jennifer, but she has no choice but to defend him in court.

Poor performances, bland cinematography, a non-score and a very basic plot make this an extremely forgettable film. No doubt De Mornay and Johnson were big enough to draw some unsuspecting souls to watch the film, just as Lumet's name may have convinced a confused shopper, but this is little more than a bland 90s thriller.

Seance

by Simon Barrett
Specifics
2021 / 92m - USA
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Seance poster

Simple but amusing slasher flick, mixed with light haunted house elements. Simon Barrett has been part of Wingard's troupe for a long time now, this is only the first time he got to direct a feature-length film. It's a surprisingly basic project, that puts everything on execution to make an impact.

Camille is a young girl who lands a seat into a prestigious school after one of the students kills herself. She immediately gets into a fight with the popular girls. During detention, the group organizes a little séance. While meant as a joke, the kids inadvertently call the spirit of the deceased student, kick-starting a new wave of deaths.

The plot is pretty simple, also very predictable, but the direction is solid. Nice camera work, a pretty great score and pleasant performances make this a fun little horror flick. It's not that memorable and certainly not the type of film that will thrive beyond its original release, but if you're looking for solid horror filler, it's a very safe bet.

Daddy, Father and Papa

Also known as
Lao Dou Wu Pa Duo
Specifics
1991 / 98m - Hong Kong
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Daddy, Father and Papa poster

A pretty typical, messy Clifton Ko comedy. The plot is pretty nonsensical and there's a very real chance that if you blink, you may lose track of what exactly is going on. Since we're dealing with a core comedy though, that's hardly a problem. What is a problem is the broader lack of originality and surprise, needed to make a film like this work.

When Benny doesn't come home from school one day, his mom is worried something might have happened to him. Benny' s dad isn't a big help, so his mom turns to two ex boyfriends to help her locate her son. She tells both the guys they are Benny's father, hoping this will convince them to join her quest.

Ko delivers a somewhat kooky comedy that is never quite a fun as its premise suggests. The performances are overstated but not really funny, the crime elements feel out of place, the functional look isn't charming at all and few jokes land. Like most Hong Kong comedies, pacing and runtime are redeeming factors, but Ko made better films than this one.

Closely Watched Trains

by Jirí Menzel
Also known as
Ostre Sledované Vlaky
Specifics
1966 / 92m - Czechoslovakia
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Closely Watched Trains poster

A peculiar little film about a young trainee in a local train station. The station is a small micro cosmos with lots of room for drama, romance and lust, but it isn't quite cut off from the outside world. I'm still not quite sure what to make of it, can't say I really liked the film, but it does have its moments.

Milos is a young boy who starts his training at the local train station. He asks his chef for romantic advice, but the first romantic encounter ends up a complete disaster. Sex isn't the only way to become a man though, and when Milos hears about a plan to blow up a German train, he can't back down.

There's a rather understated but quirky sense of humor that adds a little spark to the film, but it isn't quite enough to make up for the slow pace. The occasional nice composition isn't enough to give the film much visual flair and the ending wasn't quite as heroic as it was supposed to be. Not the first film, but it did feel pretty unmemorable.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

by Donald Petrie
Specifics
2003 / 116m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days poster

A simple romcom that makes it too hard on itself by having the audience root for two pretty annoying characters portrayed by two pretty annoying actors. It's not so bad that you can predict how everything is going to pan out 15 minutes in, but when the journey there isn't all that fun, then you're probably doing something wrong.

Andie is writing a column about all the things women do to push guys away. To test her theories, she starts dating Benjamin. What she doesn't know is that Benjamin just made a bet that he can make any girl fall in love with him. While Andie tries her best to get rid of him, Benjamin has to endure everything, so they stay together.

Hudson and McConaughey are a rather bland couple, the constant pestering gets old very quickly and the drama in the third act doesn't really work when you don't care for the characters. Some secondary characters are fun and there are a couple of scenes that stick out, but there are much better romcoms out there.