Fever Dream

by Claudia Llosa
Also known as
Distancia de Rescate
Specifics
2021 / 93m - Chile
Genre
Mystery, Thriller
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Fever Dream poster

A neat little mystery with minor drama and folklore elements. Fever Dream doesn't really stick to a simple genre constructs though, which is sure to hamper its broader appeal. If you're looking for a straightforward mystery/thriller (or even horror) film, then you're clearly barking up the wrong tree.

Amanda takes her daughter Nina on a vacation to the countryside. There they meet Carola and her son David. David's a somewhat reclusive boy and after getting to know Amanda a little better, Carola why David turned out the way he did. Amanda has a hard time believing Carola's story, but the more time she spends with David, the more she starts to doubt her beliefs.

Llosa moody and mysterious direction is the main pull of Fever Dream. It also helps that the performances are on point and that the mystery remains largely unexplained until late in the film, but it's the delicate camera work and the atmospheric score that make this a neat little film.

Spy

by Paul Feig
Specifics
2015 / 120m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Action
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Spy poster

Better than expected. I had little hopes for a Melissa McCarthy-led spy flick spoof directed by Paul Feig, but this one turned out to be quite fun. It's certainly not the most original of concepts, gladly plundering the James Bond franchise for ideas, but the cruder comedy and solid casting choices made a big difference.

Susan Cooper work for the CIA, but she's never given any exciting jobs. Her main task is assisting agent Fine, who is constantly chasing bad guys and saving the world from destruction. But then Fine is killed and Cooper is ordered to track down the killer. With the help from some friends at the CIA, she tries to make the most of it.

McCarthy is decent here, but it's the secondary roles that have the best jokes (Jason Statham and Miranda Hart in particular stand out). Feig had a solid to work with and there are some surprisingly fun chase scenes, the only problem is that two hours is a bit much for a simple spoof. A little extra cutting could've made Spy even better.

Tenamonya Voyagers

by Akiyuki Shinbo
Specifics
1999 / 118m - Japan
Genre
Comedy, Sci-fi, Animation
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Tenamonya Voyagers poster

This was a fun surprise. An early Akiyuki Shinbo OAV that doesn't really bring anything new to the table, but ends up pretty entertaining thanks to the splendid animation and the goofy comedy. It's certainly not up there with his very best work, but the baseline quality is well above par.

Three young girls find themselves stranded on a faraway planet. They decide that returning to Earth is the way to go, what they don't know is that one of them is a wanted criminal. Just hours after setting off they are attacked by malicious mechas, though this is only the beginning of their troubles.

Anime stereotypes by the dozens, quite a bit of sci-fi action and over-the-top comedy. Shinbo loves to indulge in these stereotypes, but thanks to his excellent direction, quality animation and unique pacing Tenamonya Voyagers feels different enough from all the other anime series and features I've seen. Good stuff.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

by Richard Fleischer
Specifics
1954 / 127m - USA
Genre
Adventure
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea poster

An adaptation of Jules Verne's famous book. I think I read it in my teens and liked it quite a bit, the film adaptation is a different story. Even though there's a star-studded cast and the film no doubt had a decent budget to work with, Verne's adventure end up a bit too cheesy-looking, not at all what I imagined when I read the book.

A mysterious creature is threatening ships at sea. On land the tales are scoffed at, but the fact remains that quite a few ships are ending up on the bottom of the ocean, so an expedition is sent out to investigate the matter. After months at sea they deem the story false, but then they spot a suspicious-looking machine in the water.

The cheesy decors are certainly charming and the fight with the kraken is a classic, but it's enough to turn this film into a sprawling adventure. There's a bit too much dialogue and a few too many dead moments to keep the momentum going. This would've been a lot better had they cut about 30 minutes of filler material.

Girl on the Third Floor

by Travis Stevens
Specifics
2019 / 93m - USA
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Girl on the Third Floor poster

When people buy a house in a horror film, you can bet your life it's going to be haunted. Girl on the Third Floor has a pretty plain premise, but with a house that oozes slime and spits out marbles there are some novel touches. It's a shame director Stevens never quite manages to tie everything together.

Don and Liz bought a new house, moving from the city to the suburbs. Liz is pregnant, so Don goes ahead to prepare the house for Liz' arrival. Once he starts cleaning up the place, strange things begin to happen. The house seems to harbor a dark presence, but Don is unaware of the danger he's in.

There are some fun ideas here, but the execution isn't on point. The performances are quite poor (Brooks in particular is hard to stomach), the horror elements aren't very effective and films drags, even though the runtime is relatively short. This could've been a pretty solid horror flick, but it needed a better crew.

Sleeper

Specifics
1973 / 89m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Sci-fi
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Sleeper poster

A goofy and ridiculous Woody Allen comedy. I've mostly seen dramatic/romantic comedies from Allen so far, so I was quite curious to see how he would fare making a more straight-forward comedy. The result is a very typical Allen film really, one dominated by his typical cynical and nervous ramblings.

Miles is taken into the hospital after an unfortunate incident, only to awake 200 years later. The future is not quite as rosy as Miles had hoped. Scientists awoke him from his cryostasis to fight an evil dictator. He needs to infiltrate their base, but a romantic fling with a female poet changes his course.

The main attraction of the film is Allen himself. If you don't like him, stay as far away from this as possible. If you love him, there are some good chuckles up ahead. I wasn't a big fan of the cheesy sci-fi elements though, also some of the more slapstick-like scenes didn't really do it for me. A decent laugh, but certainly not his best work.

Home Sweet Home

by Leste Chen
Also known as
Mi Mi Fang Ke
Specifics
2021 / 110m - China
Genre
Mystery, Thriller
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Home Sweet Home poster

Leste Chen's latest is a neat little mystery/thriller. A film with a pretty farfetched story, with enough twists and turns to upheave the entire first half. Certainly not something everyone is going to appreciate, but proper production values and Chen's delicate direction buy Home Sweet Home a lot of credit.

The Wangs are a tight-knit, though somewhat odd family. When Mr. Wang takes in a shook up bus driver, who is related to a fateful car accident that killed all the kids in Wang's son's class, tension rises between the family members. Slowly the driver starts to remember the details of the accident, revealing more secrets than he was prepared for.

While the premise is clear from the start, Chen isn't too eager to reveal where the film will go from there. The mystery is upheld until very late into the film, a big plus in my book, but some might up feeling a little lost. Good performances, clean styling and a fun finale should make up for that. A more than solid mystery.

Destry Rides Again

by George Marshall
Specifics
1939 / 95m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Western
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Destry Rides Again poster

Destry Rides Again is first and foremost a romantic comedy, shoehorned into a western setting. The nice thing is that it lacks the usual western machismo I dislike so dearly, turns out that isn't quite enough to make a film like this enjoyable. It's slightly better than most westerns I've seen, but not much.

The saloon in Bottle Neck, run by a feisty woman called Frenchy, is the place to be. A high-stake poker game marks the start of major trouble, with the town's sheriff ending up dead not much later. Deputy Destry is called in to solve the murder. Without a gun and only his wit, he has his work cut out for him.

Marlene Dietrich has no problem playing a sassy lady, James Stewart on the other hand is his usual stiff self. They don't really work well as a couple, which is pretty crucial for a romcom. There are some pretty pictures and the pacing isn't too awful, but man do I dislike watching Stewart. He ruins the entire film.

Sleepless Beauty

by Pavel Khvaleev
Also known as
Ya ne Splyu
Specifics
2020 / 84m - Russia
Genre
Horror, Crime
More info:
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Sleepless Beauty poster

The first half of Pavel Khvaleev's latest film echoes Saw and Martyrs, it ends up being something entirely different. Saying more would spoil the fun, just make sure you don't go in with the wrong expectations. The first half is solid genre fun, though not quite up to the standard of Khvaleev's previous work. The second half is completely bonkers and elevates the film well beyond standard genre fare. A dark, diabolic and unrelenting descent into madness, well recommended for those who like their horror films a little different.

Doing Time

by Yôichi Sai
Also known as
Keimusho no Naka
Specifics
2002 / 93m - Japan
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Doing Time poster

A different kind of prison drama. There are no fighting inmates here, no smuggling, no rape, no protests. Instead, Sai serves a weird OCD-like prison utopia, where life is pretty good for the prisoners, even though they have to follow a plethora of rules, and they're obviously still robbed of their freedom. The result is a very agreeable drama with light comedy touches.

Hanawa is something of a weapon nut. He isn't exactly dangerous, but he does own a couple of illegal firearms. When he is found out, he's given a three year sentence. Life in prison is different for Hanawa, but as he grows accustomed to the prison rules and his quirky cellmates, Hanawa rediscovers the beauty of the smaller things in life.

There isn't much of a plot here, instead Doing Time is a slice of life about a tightly run prison facility. Performances are great, the mix of drama and comedy is on point, it's just that the presentation is a little dry. Doing Time used to be a personal favorite, a good 15 years later I found the film has a bit more trouble distinguishing itself from its peers. It's still a lovely little drama though.

To Go Ashore

by Tage Danielsson
Also known as
Att Angöra en Brygga
Specifics
1965 / 101m - Sweden
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
To Go Ashore poster

You don't get too many Swedish (or Scandinavian for that matter) comedies, so I was curious to see how To Go Ashore would turn out. The film was advertised as an absurd comedy (and that it is), sadly, the performances are pretty horrendous and the comedy itself is rather one note. Watching this, it's not difficult to understand why there aren't more comedies being produced over there.

A group of friends is having a party on a small island off the coast of Stockholm. One half (carrying all the food) is already on the island, the other half (carrying the alcohol) is stuck on a little boat. Getting the boat ashore is proving a lot harder than expected, and an unfriendly neighbor on the island isn't making things any easier either.

The premise is pretty absurd, director Danielsson isn't afraid to milk it for all it's worth. The actors aren't very funny though, the gags are pretty childish, and it all feels very by the numbers, save maybe one or two inspired moments. A comedy needs more than an intriguing premise, which is all To Go Ashore really has to offer.

Withnail & I

by Bruce Robinson
Specifics
1987 / 107m - UK
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Withnail & I poster

A peculiar little film. I guess you could call it a British stoner comedy, though there isn't too much overlap with its American counterparts. The leads are more punk-inspired, somewhat grittier and cruder. The comedy isn't so obvious either, though their little countryside adventure certainly isn't the most serious of stories.

Withnail and Marwood are two unemployed actors. They live together in London, they get high on drugs, and they goof around all day. Still, they get tired of loafing around in the big city, so they plan a little vacation to Withnail's uncle's countryside home. As it turns out, they aren't really made for rural life.

Slightly goofy characters and endless banter, that's what you can expect from this film. I can't say I found it hilarious, nor did I care too much for the two leads, but the film does have its moments, and it never really dragged or got boring to watch. I'm not quite sure how it got its cult status, but it wasn't as bad as I'd feared.

Jump

by Stephen Fung
Also known as
Tiao Chu Qu
Specifics
2009 / 87m - Hong Kong
Genre
Comedy, Sport
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Jump poster

When the US started making contemporary hip-hop dance flicks, China and Hong Kong were quick to follow. Stephen Fung was a good fit for this type of film, not in the least because China loves to infuse a little martial arts into its dance routines. The result is a pretty basic and predictable genre film, with some nice dance scenes near the end.

Kitty is a true county bumpkin who dreams of making it big as a dancer in the city. Her father trained her in martial arts, but supports her dream and sends her off. Kitty gets lucky and lands a job as a janitor in a dance school. The other members regularly make fun of her, until they find out how skilled she is. They ask her to join their clique, but romantic woes stand in the way of success.

Jump sticks very closely to genre conventions. The country girl in the big city clichés are everywhere, so is the "work hard and you'll make it" message. There's a bit of romance, some drama, though always dominated by a lighter mood, as to make sure you won't doubt for a second everything will turn out okay for Kitty. The dance routines do look pretty cool though, other than that it's decent but very basic filler.

Scarlet Street

by Fritz Lang
Specifics
1945 / 102m - USA
Genre
Thriller, Crime
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Scarlet Street poster

Another Lang noir. There's a bit of a disconnect in my brain between the Lang making silent epics like Metropolis, and the Lang making noirs in the US. A film like Scarlet Street certainly feels a lot less special, it's a typical genre flick that does little to set itself apart from its peers. That said, it's far from the worst noir I've seen.

Chris is trapped in a loveless marriage, his nagging wife drives him up the wall. To escape from his dreary life, Chris like to paint. Through his paintings he meets Kitty, a young woman who loves Chris' work. Their budding romance stirs something in Chris, what he doesn't know is that Kitty is involved with a younger man, planning to scam Chris.

I've been watching quite a few classic noirs and the setup rarely deviates. There's a lot of empty dialogue, slightly too much drama that finds little support from the basic characters, and a more tense ending, usually involving murder in a rainy setting. That's pretty much what you can expect from Scarlet Street.

Slaxx

by Elza Kephart
Specifics
2020 / 77m - Canada
Genre
Comedy, Horror
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Slaxx poster

Horror cinema has dealt with some weird and outrageous murderous objects throughout the years, but a pair of jeans is certainly a novel one. The premise of Slaxx is quite intriguing, Kephart has the comedy part down too, but the horror bits are clearly a lot harder to navigate.

Libby starts working for CCC, a clothing shop that preaches ethical clothing. On her first day there, a new pair of auto-fitting jeans is introduced, said to revolutionize the clothing business. It turns out that the jeans does more than adapt to body shapes though, the first girl trying them out ends up dead not long after.

As a comedy Slaxx is pretty decent, even if some characters feel a little flat and overdone. Sadly, the horror elements are pretty subpar. The murderous jeans fail to look scary, too many of the kills happen entirely off-screen, and the effects are too basic. Slaxx is short and decently paced, sporting some solid laughs and a fun premise, but as a horror/comedy it's just a bit too flimsy.

The Oily Maniac

by Meng-Hua Ho
Also known as
You Gui Zi
Specifics
1976 / 84m - Hong Kong
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
The Oily Maniac poster

The Shaw Bros are best known for their martial arts output, from time to time they also dabbled in other genres. Since a couple of years their horror films are gaining cult notoriety, though I can't say they're on the same level as the more infamous Shaw productions. The Oily Maniac is probably the most famous one of the bunch, so it was time to give this one a whirl.

Sheng Yung is a young lawyer who wants to make a difference. His boss treats him like shit though, it also doesn't help Yung's a cripple. Desperate to help the people around him, Yung uses a spell that turns him into a fierce monster, as long as there is some oil around. As this oily creature, he finally has the strength to play vigilante, but it doesn't take long before others are onto him.

The whole appeal of the film hinges on the appearance of the oily monster, sadly it looks like a rubbery reject suit from a Toho Kaiju shoot. His special powers are pretty drab too, the action scenes are dull and there's absolutely nothing horrific about the film. At least there's tons of cheese, just not enough to turn this into an enjoyable feature. Not really worthy of its status.

The Manor

by Axelle Carolyn
Specifics
2021 / 81m - USA
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Manor poster

Another film from the Amazon/Blumhouse deal. And another tepid horror film. I haven't been following their output too closely, but random sampling hasn't resulted in anything good so far. These films are all very basic genre flicks, lacking the love and attention needed to elevate them.

Judith is still young at heart, but her health isn't what it used to be. She admits herself into an elderly home, where she hopes she can live a comfortable life without bothering her family too much. It quickly dawns on her that something is off in the home, but when she tries to warn others, nobody believes her.

Director Carolyn makes no attempt whatsoever to do anything original, nor to add some necessary flair to the direction. It's one of those films that safely colors inside the lines, never oversteps its boundaries and just goes through the motions. Never very thrilling, never creepy or eerie, typical assembly line cinema.

Breaking Away

by Peter Yates
Specifics
1979 / 101m - USA
Genre
Drama, Sport
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Breaking Away poster

Now that the pro cycling seasoned is official over, I figured it would be nice to give this film a go. Turns out this isn't really a film about cycling, I even wonder if director Yates ever watched an entire cycling classic/stage. Breaking Away is really a coming-of-age drama about a boy who loves to cycle.

Dave is a young kid who excelled at school. After winning a bike, Dave dreams of becoming a professional cyclist. He's a big fan of the Italian team, so when they're coming to his hometown he trains like mad to beat them. His dad isn't too happy with the cycling business though, he'd rather see his son make better use of his diploma.

It's a decent enough coming-of-age drama, with likeable characters, but it's also pretty forgettable. The drama is expected, the cycling bits are poorly executed, and the styling is negligible. Throw in some basic romance and a cookie cutter sports finale, and you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Anatomy

by Stefan Ruzowitzky
Also known as
Anatomie
Specifics
2000 / 103m - Germany
Genre
Horror, Thriller
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Anatomy poster

Booked as a horror film, but it's more of a core thriller with very slight horror touches. It's probably the topic (anatomical research) and the setting (dissecting tables and cold medical facilities) that give off some horror-like vibes, just don't expect anything too gross or horrific. In that sense, it would make a pretty solid double bill with Tsukamoto's Vital.

Paula is an extremely gifted medical student. She gets accepted into a very prestigious summer program, where she'll learn everything there is to know about human anatomy. The students like to play pranks on each other, but it quickly dawns on Paula that something is off on campus. Some of the bodies that turn up appear to be murdered.

Anatomy has a pretty decent vibe. The film doesn't take itself too serious, the pacing is nice and there are some memorable sight (mostly the deconstructed corpses on display). The thriller elements are rather predictable though and the final is a bit underwhelming. Still, it's a pretty amusing film and a decent option for those who crave a bit of 90s horror.

Three Men and a Little Lady

by Emile Ardolino
Specifics
1990 / 104m - USA
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Three Men and a Little Lady poster

Three Men and a Baby is a film that really didn't need a sequel, but since the first one turned out to be quite successful, a follow-up was inevitable. And so the baby became a young toddler, which gives the makers an excuse to revisit the same premise. The result is even worse than the first one.

Sylvia is still raising her daughter with the three bachelors. Work is taking a lot of her time, to make matters worse Sylvia decides to move to the UK, where she'll marry a rich English gentleman. At first the men are glad they can finally reclaim their freedom, but it soon dawns on them that they miss Sylvia and Mary.

The comedy is terrible (with the three "rapping men" scene being a true insult to good taste), the plot is bland and the performances don't save the film either. It's one of those family-friendly rom-coms that isn't really aimed at anyone in particular. A film best forgotten, though I'm pretty sure that won't be too difficult.

V/H/S/94

by Timo Tjahjanto, Simon Barrett, Chloe Okuno, Ryan Prows, Steven Kostanski, Jennifer Reeder
Specifics
2021 / 100m - USA
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
V/H/S/94 poster

After a relatively long hiatus, the V/H/S series is back, reincarnated by Shudder. Not much has changed since the last time, several found footage shorts are loosely tied together by a central segment. Each director was given carte blanche, the only unifying factor is the found footage approach.

I'm not the biggest fan of the series (with only the second entry being really worth a watch), that probably explains why my expectations were pretty low. The time off seems to have breathed some new life in the concept, since there were some pretty inspired entries this time around.

Tjahjanto's short in particular is a real stand-out. Superb effects, great designs and lots of nasty gore. The Empty Wake and Storm Drain are simple but effective, Terror and Holy Hell (the wrap-around segment) are decent but clearly not up to par with the others. All in all, a jolly good time for fans of the found footage niche.

Blood Red Sky

by Peter Thorwarth
Specifics
2021 / 121m - Germany
Genre
Action, Horror
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Blood Red Sky poster

An odd mix of genres and elements. Blood Red Sky is a plane hijacking flick that mixes in vampires. To make things even weirder, the vampires act more like zombies, so what you really get is a zombie flick in a plane. Not sure how director Thorwarth managed to sell the concept, but he seemingly did get a decent enough budget to turn his script into a film.

Nadja and her son Elias are taking a flight to New York. Midway the plane is hijacked and ordered to turn around. This isn't really an option for Nadja, who can't stand daylight, and so she stands up against the hijackers. The situation escalates and not long after the plane is filled with bloodthirsty vampires thirsting for blood.

Vampires and zombies aren't my favorite zombie creatures, Thorwarth isn't adding much to their lore either. It's a decent enough film though, combining action and horror elements to create a pretty tense and bloody spectacle. Not quite as gruesome as I'd hoped, a bit too long maybe, but if you're looking for decent horror filler, this film will do.

Eagle of the Pacific

Also known as
Taiheiyô no Washi
Specifics
1953 / 119m - Japan
Genre
War
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Eagle of the Pacific poster

A pre-Godzilla, and so pre-Kaiju film from Honda. Honda's main draw has always been his miniature work, which still comes in handy when doing a war flick. Without the Kaiju cheese though, it's not really the same thing. Eagle of the Pacific is a more serious take on the Pearl Harbor attack.

Yamamoto is a tactical genius and loyal to the emperor of Japan. That puts him in an awkward position, as he is ordered to lead the attack on Pearl Harbor, a mission he opposes. Yamamoto is overruled, so even though he feels the mission should be aborted, he'll do his best to make it work.

The first hour is pretty slow, it isn't until the second half that the war scenes introduce some much-needed action. With people like Mifune and Shimura on board this was certainly not an inconspicuous project, though it's not a film that really stands out as majestic nowadays. I'm not surprised Honda took a different path after this.