The Naked City

1948 / 96m - USA
Thriller, Crime
The Naked City poster

A film famous for not being shot inside a film studio (but in the center of New York City). That might've been interesting 70s years ago, nowadays, it's not really much of a selling point. And so The Naked City turned out to be a very basic noir, with some cops trying very hard to figure out a murder case.

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Jean, an ex-model, is killed in her apartment. Two detectives, one seasoned cop and one rookie) are put on the case. They go around the neighborhood, asking people for information. It doesn't take long before they're on the tail of a group of burglars, who seem to be related to the case.

Though the films boasts (literally, in the intro monologue) about its use of outside locations, there are still many indoor scenes. These are incredibly dull, just static shots of men endlessly discussing the murder case. It isn't until the very end that New York is used to its fullest potential, but I'd stopped caring at least an hour earlier.


2019 / 86m - The Netherlands
Comedy, Horror
Tailgate poster

A fun horror flick sporting a dark comedy twist. It's not the easiest thing to pull off, but writer/director Crijns has a good handle on both genres and combines them wisely. The horror is limited, the comedy isn't too in-your-face, but combined they make for a very amusing, thrilling film.

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Hans is visiting his parents with his family. They're running late and Hans' mom doesn't like to wait, but nobody is cooperating. When they hit the highway, Hans gets stuck behind a van who prefers to keep to the speed limit. In a nearby gas station, there's a confrontation between Hans and the driver, which only escalates the situation.

The family is pretty annoying, so it's easy enough to root for the "bad guy", brilliantly played by Willem de Wolf. There's a coldness to his performance that makes his character really memorable. The pacing is perfect, the horror elements are limited but effective and the film has no excess cruft. A very entertaining bit of genre cinema.

The War of the Roses

1989 / 116m - USA
Comedy, Romance
The War of the Roses poster

Don't expect a funny comedy. The comedy is in the exaggeration, other than that it's just two people fighting and shouting at each other through a particularly mean divorce. I guess cruelty has always been part of DeVito's characters and comedy, but having him at the helm of the film brings it out full steam.

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Oliver and Barbara meet each other at an auction. Barbara outbids Oliver, but the two hit it off, marrying not long after. Life is good to them, but throughout their marriage rut creeps in. When they finally reach the point they worked for all these years (executive job, big house, kids), their marriage is dead. And so, Barbara asks for a divorce.

Turner and Douglas fall short here. Not that it's easy, playing characters who are fundamentally flawed and annoying, but they manage poorly. I did like the more over-the-top scenes (mostly near the ending), the introduction is a bit long in the tooth though. Not dark enough for a black comedy, not funny enough for a plain comedy.


1930 / 92m - USA
Morocco poster

A classic romance. The main appeal is supposed to come from the "exotic" location I guess (at least, that's what the title suggests), but the fuzzy black and white cinematography isn't ideal for that. What remains is a pretty basic and predictable romance, not something I'm particularly fond of.

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Amy is an older cabaret singer who decides to try her luck elsewhere. When she arrives in Morocco, she feels attracted to Tom, a member of the French foreign legion. The two go well together, but Tom feels threatened by Kennington, a wealthy man also gunning for Amy's hand.

There are some nice shots here, and the performances are decent, but not enough to make me care for the characters, nor their romantic problems. I'm sure it's a film that will sit well with fans of classic romances, it's certainly not too long or dragged out, it just wasn't all that interesting.


2020 / 116m - South Korea
Action, Horror
Peninsula poster

Not as good as the first one, but I honestly didn't expect it to be. There's not much you can do with the zombie genre that hasn't already been done countless times before, and so Peninsula is another film about a military community with hordes of zombies roaming outside. And yes, some human characters behave worse than the actual monsters.

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Four years after the zombie outbreak, Jung-seok, together with a small team, has to go back to the place where it all started, retrieving a big load of cash that was left behind. It sounds like an easy job, but they clearly underestimated the amount of zombies still roaming the place. The people who survived the zombie plague aren't too welcoming either.

More action than horror this one, with mediocre CG car chases and lots of fire weapon action (the lame kind). The zombies are pretty generic, the horror elements are very limited and there's a bit too much melodrama, but the pacing is decent enough and the film serves a nice enough adventure. Decent filler, but nothing more.

Invisible Alien

2021 / 63m - China
Sci-fi, Horror
Invisible Alien poster

Now this was interesting. After sci-fi hit the Chinese blockbuster and indie productions, it's finally spawning some bona fide genre films. The Chinese hour-long productions have really risen in quality and Invisible Alien does a lot of things right. At just 60 minutes, there's also no time to waste.

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The Deep Space mission was sent out to find alien life. After going off the radar for a couple of decades, the station returns to Earth with just one survivor on board. Through an interview with the survivor, we learn what happened on the spaceship, and what happened to the rest of the crew.

The production values are surprisingly good, the creature designs are fun and creative and the pacing is perfect. There's no cruft here, there's hardly any drama that holds up the plot and the film delivers a fine mix between sci-fi and horror. Fingers crossed this is the first of many, I would really like to see more of this.

Wrath of Desire

2020 / 118m - Taiwan
Romance, Thriller
Wrath of Desire poster

It's been a while since I watched anything by Zero Chou. She made a name for herself with Spider Lilies, but didn't manage to keep the momentum going. After a lot of TV work, Chou is finally back with a theatrical release. And she made it count too. Wrath of Desire isn't perfect, but it's very intense.

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Phoenix kills a thief who broke into her house, but she is convicted for the crime anyway. In court, she meets Jade. Jade is supposed to be the prosecutor, but the two have a sensual night together, complicated the case. Jade had a very strict upbringing though, and she can't just admit she's gay, leaving Phoenix hanging.

Chou struggles with the budget, but she makes the scenes that matter count. The performances are decent, the characters are intriguing, and the plot is full of surprises. Wrath of Desire is a gripping romantic drama with solid mystery and thriller elements to push the intrigue, no doubt knocking down some taboos in the process.


2007 / 123m - UK
Drama, Romance
Atonement poster

Smart. Costumes dramas tend to be targeted at women, so why not throw in some war elements to keep it more balanced. Not that it helped me much, I'm not a big fan of war cinema either. Still, Atonement wasn't all that bad, mostly thanks to the elevated styling and the lavish budget.

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Briony is a young girl living in a big estate. She has a crush on the caretaker's son Robbie, but he is more interested in Briony's sister, Cecilia. Things take a turn for the worse when Briony misinterprets a fight between Cecilia and Robbie, a fluke that sets off a series of events that will change the lives of everyone involved.

The performances are decent, the sets are grand, the cinematography is neat, and the soundtrack is proper. I admit, it's borderline kitsch, but Wright gets away with it. The plot's a bit too sentimental though and the film is quite long, it's also not a very memorable film, but that's probably just because it's really not my type of film.


2005 / 110m - USA
Mystery, Crime
Brick poster

When Rian Johnson released Brick, he was still a young and spirited director eager to prove himself to the world. He was quickly gobbled up by Hollywood, but his first film was at least something to be treasured. It's not quite as good the second time around, even so it's definitely worth a shot if you haven't seen it yet.

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Brendan is looking for Emily, his ex-girlfriend. She disappeared a couple of days ago and Brendan is trying to retrace her steps. With the film of some kids at school he tries to piece together Emily's final days, but when Brendan gets mixed up with some local druggies, his quest suddenly becomes extremely dangerous.

Brick is a simple whodunit, executed with a lot of flair. The camera work is deliberate, the soundtrack is very moody, performances are solid and Johnson manages to keep the mystery alive until the very end. Brick's a good film for sure, it just didn't feel as special anymore. It's probably because I watched a lot of other films since then, but the core quality is hard to miss. Very good.

No One Gets Out Alive

2021 / 85m - UK
Horror, Mystery
No One Gets Out Alive poster

A very capable haunted house flick that deserves bonus points for an ending that is pretty out there. Not extremely gory or nasty, just ... out there. It also helps that director Menghini looks very much in control from start to finish, meticulously building up the tension before unleashing the finale.

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Ambar sneaks into the USA, hoping she can find work there to pay for her fake passport. She ends up staying in a boarding home, run by a rather odd man. It doesn't take long before Ambar starts hearing sounds and seeing figures in the shadows, it's clear the home is housing a dark secret.

The performances are decent, but it's the mix of the eerie cinematography and the moody soundtrack that makes sure the tension is grounded. Someone around the midpoint I started to wonder whether the film would be able to bring anything new to the table, the ending surely shut me up. Good stuff.

Appleseed XIII: Tartaros

2011 / 85m - Japan
Action, Adventure, Animation
Appleseed XIII: Tartaros poster

The first part of an Appleseed compilation film. Since I don't watch many series anymore, films like these are very convenient to keep up with franchise material I wouldn't otherwise have seen. The flip side of these compilation films is that they never really hit the quality levels of a stand alone feature film. As such, Appleseed XIII isn't quite as good as its peers, but for fans of the Appleseed franchise it's still worth a watch.

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The story is pretty basic for an Appleseed film. Deunan and Briareos are taking on a new mission, where they'll be pitted against a small, secret faction of the Human Liberation Front, a group who doesn't like that bioroids are taking over, believing the world belongs to pure humans. Little is known about this faction, except that they operate from an elusive fortress.

The animation style is pretty interesting, especially for a CG film, but the limited budget doesn't do it justice. The plot on the other hand is rather mediocre, feeling more like filler ep material, though maybe the second film is going to set things straight. As it stands, Tartaros is fun enough, just not really at the level where I expect an Appleseed production to be.

The Simple-Minded Murderer

Den Enfaldige Mördaren
1982 / 108m - Sweden
The Simple-Minded Murderer poster

An odd little film, that does its best to be artsy and stylish, but ends up being very gaudy and kitsch. Alfredson's style certainly stands out, and it's nice to see him try and upgrade what would otherwise have been a very bland drama, but the result doesn't really reflect Alfredson's intentions.

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After his mother dies, Sven is taken in by Höglund, a rich landowner, forced to work in his factory for free. Sven isn't very happy there, but his luck changes when he meets Anna. He moves in with Anna's family and things are finally looking up, but Höglund isn't willing to let Sven go without a fight.

Skarsgård's performance is grossly overstated, the music is overdone, and the light fantasy elements are incredibly kitsch. All that combined made it impossible for me to care about the characters and the drama. I wanted to like this more, Alfredson had some good ideas, but the execution failed on every count.

Dating Amber

2020 / 92m - Ireland
Comedy, Drama
Dating Amber poster

One of the better coming out/coming-of-age dramas I've seen, thanks to a superb central duo and a pleasant mix of snooty comedy and warm drama. Dating Amber is a small, somewhat inconspicuous film, and it's very possible that it will fade into obscurity without making too much of a splash, but if you're looking for a successful dramedy, don't let it slip by.

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The boys in Eddie's class tease him because he's never had a girlfriend. Meanwhile, Eddie's dad, an army man, wouldn't be happier if Eddie joined the army. Eddie himself is worried he might be gay, but as his surroundings aren't very accepting, he prefers to ignore his feelings. That is, until he starts dating Amber, a lesbian girl.

Fionn O'Shea and Lola Petticrew are both hilarious and endearing, the chemistry between them is perfect, and they have no trouble carrying the weight of the film. The comedy is a little crude but perfectly executed, and it's balanced well with the drama. Certainly not the most dashing film, but it's not as needy, and thus a lot better than most of its peers.

Chinese Doctors

Zhong Guo Yi Sheng
2021 / 129m - China
Chinese Doctors poster

Poor Lau. He used to be one of the leading figures in Hong Kong's sprawling blockbuster scene, nowadays, he's putting out unseemly and schmaltzy propaganda that's rivaling even the worst of Hollywood cinema. Chinese Doctors is barely a film, instead you get a ridiculously colored retelling of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.

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Unless you've been living in a cave for the past two years, you're probably already familiar with the plot, even when this film isn't very interested in giving a proper, historically correct recount of the events. Early 2020 the corona virus suddenly hits Wuhan, a state of emergency is declared, and the hospitals do their very best to get a grip on the pandemic.

There's hardly a coherent plot, characters merely exist to symbolize the Chinese spirit, the way China handled the beginning of the pandemic is described as some kind of incredible success story and there's not a single ounce of critique or self-reflection. A film like this is really in bad taste, I generally don't care too much about a little extra heroism in films, but this was just utterly insane and completely tone-deaf.


1982 / 64m - France
Fantasy, Experimental
L'Ange poster

Experimental cinema is a bit hit-and-miss for me, especially when the films are more conceptual and/or lack technical proficiency. L'Ange turned out to be a welcome exception. While I think Bokanowski could've done better with the soundtrack, the visuals are pretty mesmerizing and as an audiovisual experience, L'Ange delivers.

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Though there might be a plot and underlying themes, it's not something that really transpired while watching. I'm sure repeat watches might help, then again it's not something I felt was missing. The common thread seem to be that most characters are stuck in some Sisyphus-like punishment or folly, other than that it's too abstract for me to care about.

Even though I wasn't the biggest fan of the soundtrack, it does combine well with the visuals. The cinematography is interesting, especially the editing of still images resulting in a semblance of motion is something that stood out. While certain parts are certainly better than others, it never got dull and the film does work up towards a pretty impressive finale. An interesting find for sure.

Coming Home in the Dark

2021 / 93m - New Zealand
Horror, Thriller
Coming Home in the Dark poster

Ashcroft delivers a film that balances on the very edge of thriller and horror, a film that has no good guys, only victims. Coming Home in the Dark is a pretty ominous and gritty thriller that isn't quite as shocking as it tries to be, but has its fair share of uneasy moments that are sure to please the fans of morally ambiguous horror films.

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Alan and Jill are on a hike with their two sons. When they arrive at their destination, two scrappy figures show up, immediately taking them hostage. While it looks like a random act of violence, it slowly transpires that the two know Alan from a former life, and are looking for some kind of redemption.

The cinematography is dark and grainy, the performances are solid (with Daniel Gillies as the obvious standout), the moral ambiguity pretty interesting. It's nothing particularly new and/or original, but Ashcroft does a fine job and delivers a very good genre flick. Prime filler, especially with Halloween drawing closer.

Clans of Intrigue

Chu Liu Xiang
1977 / 102m - Hong Kong
Action, Adventure
Clans of Intrigue poster

Vintage Yuen Chor. Though maybe one of the Shaw Bros directors who tried out working in the most different genres, he is best known for his particular blend of martial arts and fantasy, focusing more on mood and mystique than action and acrobatics. Clans of Intrigue is a perfect example, making this a prime entry film for people wanting to explore Chor's oeuvre.

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Hsiang is known in the world of martial artists as a master thief. When three prominent men are found dead, poisoned, people suspect Hsiang is the killer. He claims he is being set up, but the only way to prove his Innocence is by unmasking the real killers. He sets off on a perilous journey, guided only by a handful of clues.

After seeing oodles of Shaw Bros films, something like Clans of Intrigue does have trouble standing out. The characters, the plot, the trademark sets, it's everything you'd expect from a 70s Shaw Bros production. But Chor's set designs and eye for visual detail do stand out. Not as much as with some of his best films, but it makes that Clan of Intrigue is a worthwhile genre flick.

Ivan's Childhood

Ivanovo Detstvo
1962 / 95m - Soviet Union
Drama, War
Ivan's Childhood poster

An early Tarkovksy that is surprisingly accessible. There are some dreams and flashbacks, other than that this was a pretty straightforward story about a young boy during wartime. The story and characters aren't that interesting, but the cinematography certainly helped to make the film stand out.

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Set during WWII, the film follows Ivan, a young boy who works for the Russians. When he is captured in Germany by a Russian regiment, they don't believe his story, but after checking in with the people back home it becomes clear Ivan has vital information for them. Through flashbacks, we find out more about Ivan's past.

The cinematography is the clear winner here, the scenes in the swamp in particular are very beautiful (and reminiscent of similar scenes in Come and See). The film could've used a better soundtrack and a little less dialogue, the story itself isn't too special either, but at least Tarkovksy makes sure there's plenty of pretty images to look forward to.

We Summon the Darkness

2019 / 91m - USA
Comedy, Horror
We Summon the Darkness poster

Director Marc Meyers seemed to be gunning for a dark comedy here, but delivers a film that isn't quite a slasher, nor a satanic horror. The build-up of setbacks is messy at best and the performances are a bit too silly and over-the-top to lend the film that exact balance of lightness and nastiness that makes a good dark comedy work.

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Three girls are on their way to a heavy metal concert. On the way there, a speeding van hits their car with a milkshake. When they arrive at the concert, they recognize the van, and they decide to take revenge on the boys. After some horsing around, the six of them enter the concert together.

Daddario and Hasson aren't really suited for their parts, the film is neither funny nor gory enough and the final act doesn't deliver. Even so, Meyers does keep you guessing what direction the film will go in next. Though the destination itself may be somewhat disappointing, the trip there was at least interesting enough.

Kung Fu Stuntmen

Long Hu Wu Shi
2020 / 92m - China
Action, Documentary
Kung Fu Stuntmen poster

For Western fans of Asian cinema, it can be quite challenging to learn more about the people making these films, which is why documentaries like this one are a real treasure trove. As someone who likes to watch the occasional Hong Kong action flick, Kung Fu Stuntmen offers a peak behind a curtain that usually remains closed. It's not a perfect doc, but still very much worth seeing.

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The focus here lies on the 80s and early 90s, dominated by people like Jackie Chan, Hark Tsui, Sammo Hung and several other prominent figures. You get a little history lessons first, but the doc quickly zooms in on the stunt teams that would dominate the 80s. I would've liked a more comprehensive look at Hong Kong action cinema, but the past 25 years don't get much attention.

Still, it's nice to see these familiar faces talk about some of the biggest action classics of the 80s. These were golden times for Hong Kong, though also somewhat of a wild west, which makes for some interesting stories. At the end it felt a bit too close to a promo video for a certain age/group of film crews, but it's a must-see if you fancy yourself some Hong Kong martial arts.

National Class Category Up to 785 ccm

Nacionalna Klasa
1979 / 105m - Yugoslavia
Drama, Sport
National Class Category Up to 785 ccm poster

An exceptionally high rating on IMDb suggests this film was probably quite big in its home country back when it was first released. It's difficult to come up with any other reason for its popularity, as the film itself is very basic, an inconspicuous genre flick that rigidly goes through the motions.

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Branko, aka Floyd, is a young kid whose life revolves around racing and women. He lives with his parents and doesn't look ahead, his only worries are making sure he doesn't have to join the army and winning the next car race, which would mean he could be promoted to a higher series.

The performances are pretty dim, the direction is lifeless, and the film is as predictable as they come. I didn't find any characters to care about, neither did I see anything to suggest the director had a real vision for this film. It's just a tale about a young racer that lacks the proper flair and pacing to keep things interesting.

The Starling

2021 / 102m - USA
The Starling poster

A drama with some very minor comedy touches and subtle absurdities, but not even enough to call it a bona fide dramedy. The Starling is a core drama that handles its subject with a welcome lightness, but still goes a little overboard when it comes to sentiment, making it a somewhat uneven film.

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Lilly and Jack are a married couple who face tough times when their daughter Katie dies. Jack ends up in a mental hospital, Lilly tries to carry on with her life, but suffers in silence. When she decides to redo her garden, an aggressive starling starts harassing her. It's a seemingly futile event that kick-starts her healing process.

McCarthy and O'Dowd are decent (though clearly gunning for comedians-can-handle drama points), the lighter vibes offer a pleasant twist on the seriousness that generally goes with this subject and the styling is slightly better than the norm, but the drama lacks impact and the rest of the film just isn't memorable enough.

No.7 Cherry Lane

by Yonfan
Ji Yuan Tai Qi Hao
2019 / 125m - Hong Kong
Drama, Romance, Animation
No.7 Cherry Lane poster

It's quite surprising to see Yonfan go the animation route. China is slowly exploring the possibilities of the medium, but so far it has stayed away from the more mature options. Yonfan is someone who likes to break no ground of course, but it's not easy for a live-action director to simply jump in and direct an animated film. That said, Yonfan did pretty well here.

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Ziming is an undergrad in English literature, who is hired by Mrs Yu to tutor her daughter. He is a handsome man and both women develop romantic feelings for him. Ziming certainly doesn't mind, taking them on separate dates to go and see movies that bring out their innermost feelings.

Yonfan is ambitious here. The film reflects on Hong Kong during the 60s, works in a love triangle and tackles a bunch of classic cinema in the process (not unlike Millennium Actress). The animation is a bit limited, but the art style is pleasant and the music very stylish. The film is a bit too meandering at times, but Yonfan never loses grip and delivers a beautiful and complex film.

Boys Don't Cry

1999 / 118m - USA
Boys Don't Cry poster

A decent drama about a young transgender, which sadly lacks a director who can keep the sentimentality in check. Two strong central performances form a solid basis, but the drama itself is a bit much and Peirce's lack of experience is a crucial flaw that lessens the impact considerably.

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Teena is born as a girl, but identifies as a boy, calling herself Brandon. She cuts her hair, tapes down her breasts and tries to fit it with the other boys. She hangs around with John and Tom, who are completely unaware of Brandon's secret. When Brandon starts dating their sister Lana, things get a lot more complicated.

I'm not a big Swank fan, but she performs surprisingly well here. Sevigny is also good and there's some real chemistry between the two, but it's not quite enough to save this film. The second half is pretty heavy-handed, the cinematography and score feel a bit uncontrolled and the finale is not as emotional as intended. A missed opportunity.

Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations

Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der Völker
1938 / 127m - Germany
Documentary, Sport
Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations poster

A famous documentary by Leni Riefenstahl about the Olympic Games in 1936, Berlin. Part of its fame is due to the Nazi propaganda present, though Riefenstahl's artistic style can't just be ignored either. The way she positions her camera and edits everything together is certainly ahead of its time.

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The documentary starts with a rather artistic presentation about the journey of the Olympic torch, then moves on to more typical sport reports. That kind of reporting has evolved a lot since then though and without the proper context, you're just watching some badly shot athletic numbers with nameless athletes competing.

This is only the first part, I don't think I'll be watching the second part in the near future. The sport segments were rather dull and apart from some nice shots left and right there's really not much to enjoy here. A doc that was ahead of its time, but is hopelessly trailing the current norm.

Assault and Battery

1969 / 104m - Sweden
Assault and Battery poster

A film that sounded somewhat appealing on paper, I'm afraid the core idea doesn't translate very well though. The result is pretty annoying, pitting two sides against each other, neither one easy to root for. If you like looking at people complaining and being very stubborn then this might be for you, personally I got bored after a while.

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A spirited socialist won't pass up a chance to tell others how they should live their lives and how society is doing them wrong. When he gets into trouble with the law, they are unable to deal with his ideas and he ends up at the mercy of a system that prefers people who don't deviate from the norm.

While I like some of the concepts that drive the film, the characters are absolutely maddening and the film itself is pretty crude, not doing a very good job at making its point. The performances are weak, the direction isn't very appealing either. I wanted to like this more, but it just didn't really work for me.