Confetti

by Debbie Isitt
Specifics
2006 / 100m - UK
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Confetti poster

A film that was made in the wake of the success of The Office. Confetti's a mockumentary that thrives on awkward reactions and the tension between raw emotions and the knowledge that there's a camera present recording everything. And, maybe somewhat surprisingly, Confetti pulls it off quite well.

Hoping to increase the readership of their magazine, Confetti writes out a competition for the most original wedding. The entries are pretty dire, but the editors manage to pick three couples that they'll follow around in the run-up to what is supposed to be the happiest day of their lives.

The format feels quite familiar by now, but the performances are key to making this work. With Martin Freeman there's at least one Office actor who had prior experience with this kind of material, but the rest of the cast is on point too. There are some solid jokes, there's a pleasant crassness to the comedy and the film doesn't overstay its welcome. Good fun.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

by Chris Columbus
Specifics
2010 / 118m - UK, Canada
Genre
Fantasy, Adventure, Family
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief poster

I'm certainly glad the young adult hype is well behind us, but Percy Jackson isn't the worst of the bunch. I was vaguely aware of this title, but had no clue what it was going to be about. It's obviously aimed at younger audiences, but at least Columbus was smart enough not to overreach.

Percy is a not so bright kid who finds out he is the half-son of a Greek god. The gods suspect him of having stolen a magic lightning rod and give him 10 days to return the trinket to them. Together with two trusted companions, Percy sets out to find who set him up, catapulting him in a realm full of gods and magic.

The lead actors are pretty dim and the plot is a big old mess, but the film isn't too serious and Columbus had plenty of dollars to spend. It's a noisy, not so creative adventure film that drags on a little too long and has no real memorable moments, but rambles on at such a pace that you might not notice while watching.

The Piano

by Jane Campion
Specifics
1993 / 121m - New Zealand, Australia
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
The Piano poster

Quite a bit better than I had expected. I'm generally not a fan of costume dramas, but Campion's film benefits from stylish cinematography and a pleasant score to give this otherwise rather predictable drama/romance a little extra flair. That certainly made the difference for me.

Ada is a mute who lives alone with her daughter, playing the piano is the one thing that brings joy to her life. She marries Stewart, who lives in New Zealand. After she moves there, Stewart sells her piano to George, angering his new wife and ultimately driving her into the arms of George.

Cinematographer Dryburgh did an amazing job capturing the raw beauty of New Zealand, without turning the film into a cheap vacation ad. The soundtrack goes well with the images, performances are solid, and the romance is decent, though not extremely captivating. A fine film.

The Long Good Friday

by John Mackenzie
Specifics
1980 / 114m -
Genre
Crime
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Long Good Friday poster

A pretty basic crime flick, with a dash of British flair to make it a tad more interesting. It's clearly part of that grim 70s crime niche though, which I don't find overly appealing. Mackenzie does a decent job with the material at his disposal, but in the end it's too much of a run-of-the-mill genre flick in a genre that isn't really mine.

Harold Shand is a small-time crook hoping to become a legit businessman. He worked out a pretty good deal that could put him on his way, but soon after things start going awry. Several of his properties are bombed, Shand fears his future partners may think he isn't quite as in control as he made himself out to be.

The cinematography is pretty bland and the plot is rather predictable. But the performances are decent, and the score does its best to make an impact. It doesn't quite get there and Hoskins isn't enough of a charming bastard to carry a film like this, but at least it was a little better than many of its US peers.

Junk Head

by Takahide Hori
Also known as
Janku Heddo
Specifics
2017 / 101m - Japan
Genre
Sci-fi, Adventure, Animation
More info:
rating
4.5*/5.0*
Junk Head poster

What to say about Takahide Tori's Junk Head? It's a passion project seven years in the making, merging the aesthetics of Giger and Nihei's Blame to create one of the most impressive stop-motion projects I've ever come across. My expectations were sky-high going into this film, but Hori delivers. The designs are stupendous, the camera work is amazing, and the setting is right up my ally. It's a sprawling adventure that houses surprises around every corner, an absolute must-see for fans of stop-motion and sci-fi.

Prisoners of the Ghostland

Specifics
2021 / 103m - USA, Japan
Genre
Action, Horror
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Prisoners of the Ghostland poster

The mere idea of Sion Sono and Nicolas Cage making a film together made many cult fan drool uncontrollably. And sure enough, it did sound like a pretty perfect combination. This could very well become Sono's Sukiyaki Western Django, though I'm sure Sono himself would resent the Miike comparison. Sadly for him, Miike also did it better.

The premise is pretty simple, which is normal considering this is more or less a Mad Max clone. The governor's daughter has run away, so he straps a jailed criminal into a highly explosive suit, and he gives him five days to find her. The post-apocalyptic wastelands are very hazardous territory though, so finding her and taking her back in one piece won't be a trivial task.

Marrying Japanese and American influences within a film is never easy, and there are moments when Sono stumbles. There's plenty of crazy and the film certainly has its share of memorable ideas, but it never really culminates in the cult cool you'd expect from a project like this. The sets are creative and colorful, the characters are mad and the pacing is perfect, even so the film lacks impact. A minor disappointment.

Toys

by Barry Levinson
Specifics
1992 / 118m - USA
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Toys poster

I think I've seen this film before as a kid, but that was so long ago that I can't remember for sure. I'm not a big Robin Williams fan though, which explains why it took me so long to give this another go. And sure enough, Williams' performance here is exactly why I can't really stand his work.

When Leland, an army general, inherits the toy factory of the Presswells, his cousin Leslie fears that he has different plans for the factory. When Leslie discovers Leland is using factory resources for military R&D, he bands together with the factory employees to brings Leland's plans to the surface.

Levinson has some fun bringing the factory to life, but he's no Burton. Still, the creative sets are the sole reason Toys isn't a complete failure. Williams' performance is irritating, the soundtrack is overly bombastic, and the comedy is simply horrendous. At just over two hours, it's also ridiculously long. Not great.

Blame

by B.J. Rayniak
Specifics
2021 / 89m - USA
Genre
Mystery, Thriller
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Blame poster

Director Rayniak did his best. Blame is an indie production that pretends it's playing in the big leagues, but can't quite pull it off. Because of that, its faults become that more apparent. What could've been a fun little thriller turns out to be an overly mediocre affair that underwhelms at every corner.

Five friends are going on a skiing trip in Wisconsin. Before they can reach their destination they are hit by a snowstorm. Looking for a nearby place to shelter from the storm, they run into an abandoned school building. When one of five ends up dead on the floor, it quickly transpires that their friendship isn't as tight as they'd imagined.

The performances are very mediocre, the reveals are extremely clumsy, and the finale is a complete dud. Rayniak invested in a decent score and the camera work is mostly convincing, but other than that the film fails to make any conceivable impact. It's a charming attempt at making a slick-looking thriller, but also a very obvious failure to do so.

The Warped Forest

by Shunichiro Miki
Also known as
Asatte no Mori
Specifics
2011 / 82m - Japan
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Warped Forest poster

Shunichiro Miki going solo. After joining forces with Katsuhito Ishii on earlier projects, Miki seized full creative control over The Warped Forest. The result is one of the weirdest and most mind-boggling absurd comedies I've ever seen. It's pretty much impossible to explain what this film's about, but for the sake of this capsule review I'll give it a shot anyways.

There's hardly a coherent plot, instead you get a collection of sketches and characters centered around a small rural village where strange things are happening in the surrounding woods. People suckle on strange foods, giants roam among the regular people and a mysterious dream machine has everyone hoping they can find some happiness in their dreams.

Miki's world is filled to the brim with explicitly absurd elements that are to be accepted without any obvious explanation. Things might get a little too repetitive near the end and Miki isn't the most gifted director, but he's certainly a creative force whose particular signature is incomparable to anything I'm familiar with. If you love oddities and you're open to Japanese weirdness, this is a film that must be seen.

Ivan the Terrible, Part II

by Sergei M. Eisenstein
Also known as
Ivan Groznyy. Skaz Vtoroy: Boyarskiy Zagovor
Specifics
1958 / 88m - Soviet Union
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Ivan the Terrible, Part II poster

Almost a year after tackling the first film, I figured it was time to give the second one a chance. Didn't care much for Part I, which explains why it took me so long to get started on Part II. Luckily, it was a slight improvement over the first film, but not enough to make this a particularly pleasant watch.

The plot continues where the first film left off, but leaves things hanging as a planned third part never materialized/survived (both due to Eisenstein dying and this part being banned for almost 12 years). Ivan wants to consolidate his power and establishes a personal army, but the Russian boyars want the Tsar gone and come up with a plan to assassinate Ivan. What follows is a strategic stand-off.

People with an interest in Ivan may find more to like here, the story itself couldn't really compel me. The cinematography at least is pretty decent, the scenes in color in particular stand out. The soundtrack is pretty dire though and the performances are extremely overstated. It's a good thing the film is relatively short, but that's hardly a saving grace.

Trench 11

by Leo Scherman
Specifics
2017 / 90m - Canada
Genre
Horror, War
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Trench 11 poster

A film with a very tight, limited focus. That probably sounds worse than it is, in the case of low-budget genre flicks it's usually a pretty good sign. But even though the film is set in a single location (underground even), director Scherman never quite managed to take away the feeling I was watching a cast perform on a set.

A small group of soldiers is sent on a reconnaissance mission. The Germans left behind a suspicious-looking bunker after their retreat, the allied forces want to know what they were doing in there. When they arrive at the spot, they find a door locked from the outside, suggesting that someone tried to make sure that what's inside wouldn't be able to come out ever again.

The premise may be simple, it offers more than enough intrigue for a fun horror flick. The film is let down by somewhat lackluster direction, mediocre performances and unconvincing sets. The gore is pretty decent and there are some memorable moments, I just wish this had been handled by a better director. Decent filler, but I expected more.

The Occupant

Also known as
Ling Hei Bik Yan
Specifics
1984 / 96m - Hong Kong
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Occupant poster

Early Ronny Yu, early Yun-Fat Chow. The Occupant is a very basic 80s Hong Kong comedy. Sure enough, Yu tries to add some trademark supernatural elements, but at no point in this film do you get the feeling things are actually supposed to be scary. It's much safer to approach this film with the idea you'll be watching a core comedy, if you want to keep your expectations in check.

Angie is a young writer who returns to Hong Kong after spending her childhood in Canada. She comes back to write a book about Chinese superstition and hits the jackpot when a guy lands her a haunted flat. At first, Angie tries to rationalise the strange events happening in and around her flat, but soon enough it's clear the ghosts are trying to tell her something.

Raymond Wong and Yun-Fat Chow aren't the greatest comedy geniuses, the plot is very predictable and Yu's signature style isn't there yet. It's really just a simple comedy with a supernatural edge. The pacing is decent, the runtime short and the overall vibe is pleasant enough, other than that The Occupant has no real selling points. Basic filler.

Trilogy of Swordsmanship

by Cheh Chang, Kang Cheng, Feng Yueh
Also known as
Qun Ying Hui
Specifics
1972 / 108m - Hong Kong
Genre
Action
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Trilogy of Swordsmanship poster

This was somewhat of an oddity. A Shaw Bros anthology, featuring three martial arts stories. In some ways, it makes a lot of sense, since the directors don't need to drag out a simplistic story to make it a feature length film. On the other hand, do we really need three similar Shaw Bros films for the price of one?

The first film has a local general vying for the hand of an innkeeper, she is more interested in the mysterious stranger visiting her inn. The second film tells the story of a soldier and courtesan who can only be together when they catch a criminal, the third film is about a hero who fights a corrupt government. Nothing out of the ordinary in other words.

Anthologies are an ideal format to try out some new things, Trilogy of Swordsmanship isn't the least bit interesting in exploring that avenue. The film is little more than a trio of shortened Shaw Bros productions. It's no better or worse than a run-of-the-mill Shaw Bros production, so this one is for fans only.

Rent-a-Pal

by Jon Stevenson
Specifics
2020 / 108m - USA
Genre
Drama, Horror
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Rent-a-Pal poster

A rather strange specimen. Stevenson made a full-blood drama, but directed it as if he was making a core genre film. The result is something that is pretty hard to categorize. Despite deserving props for originality, I don't think Stevenson found quite the right balance to make this a truly successful film.

David is 40, single and takes care of his dementing mother. He subscribes to a videotape service, hoping to find a companion. One day, he buys a videotape called Rent-a-Pal. The tape features a recording of Andy, a somewhat creepy dude who offers his friendship through a set of recorded answers and reactions.

Rent-a-Pal is a film that thrives on unease, but I don't think Stevenson took it quite far enough. David is a tragic case, but the drama and genre elements don't always go well together, the finale also doesn't do it any favors. The performances are fine, and the presentation is solid, but in the end I didn't quite care enough for David's plight, nor was the film uneasy enough to work as a fully-fledged genre flick. Stevenson surely a second chance though, as the film shows real potential.

Kate

by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Specifics
2021 / 106m - USA
Genre
Action, Crime
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Kate poster

A contract killer in Japan gets a little help from a local kid. Sounds a lot like Wasabi, which is probably a pretty good orientation flick if you want to know what Kate's about without watching any trailers. Director Nicolas-Troyan has a somewhat rough time keeping his film on the rails, but action fans are sure to find some things to like here.

Kate is a hardened professional, but when one of her hits goes awry she finds herself in an impossible situation. She is poisoned and has only 1 more day to live. She won't go down without a fight though and vows to take revenge. With the help of the mark's niece, she tries to find his location before time runs out for her.

The set design is by far the most remarkable part of Kate. The action looks a bit stiff, because both Winstead and the cinematographer/choreographer appear to be ill at ease with the material. Asano and Kunimura are underused, the rest of the cast isn't that memorable. So yeah, you get a killer running around in neon-lit Tokyo. It's a good thing they didn't drag things out unnecessarily, making sure it works as action filler. It had the potential to be a lot better though.

Midnight Traveler

by Hassan Fazili
Specifics
2019 / 88m - Qatar, UK
Genre
Documentary, War
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Midnight Traveler poster

A very pure documentary. Rather than a director seeking out a subject and documenting someone else's story, this is the subject himself deciding to document his own journey. It's a promising premise alright, but the result is lacking, mostly because the trip is somewhat underwhelming.

After fruitless attempts to be accepted as political refugees, Hassan and his family are forced to flee Afghanistan. The Taliban put a price on Hassan's head and staying there is simply too dangerous. It prompts him to shoot his own trip to Europe, a first-hand account of the hurdles that illegal refugees have to overcome.

There's a lot of waiting and quite a bit of bureaucratic hassle to go though. The documentary feels genuine and Hassan's family are a pleasant bunch, but the trip itself isn't that interesting and 90 minutes feels like a stretch. Might be instructive for people who care more about the subject, I didn't get much from this film though.

Whispering Corridors 6: The Humming

by Mi Young Lee
Also known as
Yeogogoedam Yeoseotbunjjae Yiyagi: Mogyo
Specifics
2020 / 108m - South Korea
Genre
Horror, Mystery
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Whispering Corridors 6: The Humming poster

The Humming is the 6th entry in the Whispering Corridors franchise, a long-running South-Korean horror series that started a good 20 years ago. I watched the second film ages ago, but never really bothered with the rest. I'd heard good things about this 6th film, so I figured I'd give it another go.

Eun-Hee returns to her old school as vice principal. One of the students comes to Eun-Hee and tells her that her teacher made sexual advances. Around the same time, Eun-Hee starts seeing a strange girl roaming the school grounds. She looks exactly like a girl that Eun-Hee went to school with when she was younger.

The first half of the film is pretty decent. It's a typical South-Korean horror flick that sticks to the genre conventions, but the execution is on point. The second half is too plot-heavy though, a 45-minute succession of possible endings that drags down the film. Not bad, but needed some trimming and a stricter genre focus.

First Love

Also known as
F√Ęsuto Ravu
Specifics
2021 / 119m - Japan
Genre
Mystery
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
First Love poster

The type of film Tsutsumi can direct with his eyes closed. It's basic movie theater fare, a courtroom drama with mystery and thriller elements, stretched out to hit that 2 hour mark. It's a perfectly fine and entertaining story, but it's not a film you're bound to remember once the end credits start rolling.

A young girl murders her father in cold blood and admits to her crime. Her trial becomes a media sensation, which attracts a psychologist who wants to write a book about the case. She visits the young girl in prison and slowly but surely, the true nature of the crime reveals itself.

The cinematography is polished, performances are decent and the pacing is on point. First Love is a decent flick, but also a film that never surprises, never colors outside the lines. Tsutsumi has made quite a few of these films in his career, and they're perfectly fine filler, but I wish he'd challenge himself a bit more.

The Gospel According to Matthew

by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Also known as
Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo
Specifics
1964 / 137m - Italy, France
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
The Gospel According to Matthew poster

I had no idea what to expect from Pasolini adapting the story of Jesus, especially since Salo was the only other film I'd seen of him. With that in mind, The Gospel According to Matthew is a pretty basic, even somewhat boring adaptation of a story that's been told countless times before.

The plot sticks closely to what you can read in the bible, at least what I remember of it. Though I've been raised a Catholic, the details are kind of foggy. There's no time for details here though, since Pasolini has to cover the entire story in a mere 140 minutes, which makes this a kind of "best of Jesus' life".

Pasolini's audiovisual signature stands out here, with stark close-ups and a more naturalistic vibe, but it wasn't enough to keep me entertained for more than 2 hours. The film is a succession of simplistic and moralistic lessons, delivered by a rather angry and self-assured man. Too religious for my liking.