Bloodshot

by Dave Wilson
Specifics
2020 / 109m - USA
Genre
Sci-fi, Action
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Bloodshot poster

I'm not familiar with the comics at all, in fact, for some reason I was expecting to see a horror film. Turns out Bloodshot is a full-on action flick with some sci-fi elements thrown in. And a pretty self-conscious one at that, the film doesn't take itself too serious, which is probably the only decent way to do a silly story like this.

Ray is an elite soldier, but he and his wife are captured and killed by a criminal. His body is donated to RST, who manage to revive him, giving him some upgrades in the process. Ray quickly starts remembering the events before his dead, prompting him to take revenge on the people who murdered him and his wife.

The plot doesn't make a lot of sense and the sci-fi elements are pretty exaggerated, but the film seems gleefully aware. Instead, director Wilson focuses more on delivering over-the-top action scenes and some general badassery, in that context Diesel's a pretty good casting choice. Much better than I expected it to be, good fun.

Margaret

by Kenneth Lonergan
Specifics
2011 / 150m - USA
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Margaret poster

A coming of age drama that adds a little extra spice. Usually films like these are content with just showing the characters and their everyday struggles growing up, I would say Margaret is slightly more ambitious. I don't feel Lonergan was entirely successful, but he at least gets points for trying.

Lisa is a pretty typical teen, her life is turned upside down when she inadvertently causes a traffic accident by distracting a bus driver. The victim dies in her arms, which leaves an indelible impression. At first she tries to protect the driver and herself, but guilt keeps gnawing on her, prompting Lisa to seek out the family of the victim.

It's somewhat interesting to see how a single event can impact the outlook on life of a person, performances are solid and the presentation is decent, but the film's a little long in the tooth and the drama does get a little overbearing. Not a bad film, but it didn't feel all that memorable or special and three hours really was a bit much.

Distant

by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Also known as
Uzak
Specifics
2002 / 110m - Turkey
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Distant poster

My second Ceylan. Distant is a touch better than Winter Sleep, though it's clear that Ceylan's style isn't something I can really warm up to. I don't really mind the quieter parts, nor the lack of narrative, the dreary conversations and the lack of visual panache on the other hand are killing it for me.

Yusuf is one of the many youngsters who move to the big city, hoping to find a better life there. He ends up staying with Mahmut, an older man. His new house guest triggers something deep inside Mahmut, and he starts to question why he didn't chase his dreams. Mahmut wants to get rid of Yusuf, but he can't just put him back on the street.

The performances are decent and the scenes with characters just strolling around are nice enough, but the drama didn't really hit me and there were too much throwaway moments in between. Minimalist films tend to be a bit hit-and-miss for me and Ceylan's work just doesn't appear to be polished or moving enough to wow me.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

by David Leitch
Specifics
2019 / 137m - Japan, USA
Genre
Comedy, Action
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw poster

It's not like there's a lack of Fast & Furious films, so it's probably fair to say few people really needed this spin-off. Still, the idea of The Rock and Jason Statham teaming up for a bit of over-the-top action didn't sound too bad. And sure enough, Hobbs & Shaw turned out to be pretty entertaining, if you like this kind of thing.

A deadly virus, concocted by a group of cybernetically enhanced people, is threatening humankind. Hobbs and Shaw are both put on the case, even though they still can't stand each other. When Shaw's sister becomes involved, the two have no option but to put their past differences aside.

The film is little more than a back and forth between Johnson and Statham banter and a handful of oversized action sequences. It's exactly what you could expect from a film like this, the nice thing is that it actually delivers. And yes, the plot is silly and predictable and the CG isn't always very convincing, but if you want some silly fun, you could do a lot worse.

Reds

by Warren Beatty
Specifics
1981 / 195m - Canada, USA
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Reds poster

Communists! I have to admit that I still haven't fully recovered from 4 years of Trump-dominated political news and online discourse. The prospect of watching some film about the rise of communism in the US a good century ago wasn't very appealing, though I didn't even realize until I started the film.

John Reed is a journalist with radical left ideas. When he meets Louise Bryant, an early feminist, the two fall in love and set out to conquer the world. When they end up in Russia, just in time to witness the October Revolution, they become inspired and want to start a similar revolution in the US.

Part character drama, part political history, Reds is a film for people who care about its themes and subjects. The presentation is rather bland, performances are decent but unremarkable and the runtime is pretty excessive. I didn't really care for any of it, safe some stand-alone moments, but if you dig US history then this film does highlight some rarely talked about figures and events.

War on Everyone

by John Michael McDonagh
Specifics
2016 / 98m - UK
Genre
Comedy, Crime
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
War on Everyone poster

War on Everyone certainly doesn't have the most original setup, instead this little film about two vigilante cops trying to rid the world of organized crime scores points on execution. It's a film that hinges its success on the delivery of the comedy, and McDonagh (together with his leads) aces that part.

Bob and Terry are two cops with a reputation. Though they get cased solved from time to time, they do it by accepting bribes or applying excessive violence. They've got a decent operation going, but then they bump into James Mangan, a criminal mastermind who is even nastier than they are.

Peña and Skarsgård are a great duo, the writing is funny, and the direction is pretty slick. It's probably not the best recommendation if you don't like boorish cops and crude comedy, and you shouldn't expect the world of this film, but if you're looking for some funny crime business, War on Everything has you covered.

Asher

by Michael Caton-Jones
Specifics
2018 / 104m - USA
Genre
Thriller, Crime
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Asher poster

Ron Perlman is an actor you need to use wisely. He has presence, but he's not the best drama actor. It's no surprise then that he stumbles in a straight-faced crime/thriller about a hitman falling in love and hoping to find redemption. Michael Caton-Jones' heavy-handed direction only makes things worse.

Asher is a former Mossad agent who spends the final days of his career as a contract killer. He lives by a strict set of rules, but when he bumps into Sophie he feels the rules he lived by don't serve him that well anymore. He can't just leave his old life behind though, so he has to kill the man who he has worked for all this time.

Perlman and Janssen are weak and there's no spark between them, the sullen and loaded atmosphere feels somewhat misplaced and the pacing is a little too sluggish. Somehow Caton-Jones convinced himself he was making a really deep, moving film, but the result is basic genre fare that takes itself way too serious.

Titane

by Julia Ducournau
Specifics
2021 / 108m - Belgium, France
Genre
Drama, Horror
More info:
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Titane poster

If Ducourneau's Raw was still somewhat restrained and apprehensive, Titane does away with that first-time timidity and serves a gritty, angry and unrestrained kick in the gut. Well-acted, unrelenting, stylistically polished and bewilderingly creative, Titane is a film that leans on the crutches of genre cinema while propelling it forward with vision, courage and integrity. It's certainly not a ride for everyone, but those who love films that explore the boundaries between genre and auteur cinema better strap in for a memorable experience.

Grand Isle

by Stephen S. Campanelli
Specifics
2019 / 97m - USA
Genre
Thriller
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Grand Isle poster

A basic, somewhat amusing little thriller. It's certainly not a standout in its genre and it's obvious the director relied on Cage and Cage alone to sell his film. Cage isn't at his best, he doesn't have a whole lot to work with either, but if you love yourself some simple thriller filler then there are worse choices you could make.

Buddy is a handyman who takes on a small job for Walter and his wife. Walter's a bit of an oddball and Buddy is certain his wife Fancy is trying to hit on him, but he needs the money as he has a newborn to feed. When a hurricane moves in and prevents Buddy from finishing his job on time, he has no choice but to stay the night.

Grand Isle is typical genre fare. The plot is predictable, the direction is mostly functional and everything is neatly wrapped up within a span of 100 minutes max. If you came here for some vintage Cage rage you're well out luck too, but at least the film has the basics down. Pretty decent genre filler in other words.

Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time

by Mahiro Maeda, Katsuichi Nakayama, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Hideaki Anno
Also known as
Shin Evangelion Gekijôban
Specifics
2021 / 154m - Japan
Genre
Sci-fi, Action, Animation
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time poster

I've seen the old series and films twice, I've watched all the newer features, but still Evangelion is a lot of waffle to me. In a way, I do appreciate the extended lore and dedication that went into this series, but I simply don't care enough about it to sit through the lengthy explanations and excessive melodrama. Luckily, this latest (and supposedly final) film has more to offer than just lore and drama.

Shinji is still a shadow of his former self, blaming himself for not being able to protect humanity. He ends up in a small village, among some old friends, where he learns to appreciate life again. He pulls himself together again, right in time to join Wille in their last attempt to deflect another impact.

This final Evangelion is a film with lots of ups and downs. The animation is exquisite, the action scenes are stupefying and a lot of the imagery is intriguing, but the drama drags the film down and the lore is simply too nerdy for me. I'd prefer Eva as a simple mecha action flick, but I know most people won't agree with me. Not a film that will bring new fans to the franchise, but existing fans will have a lot to chew on. A worthy finale.

The Matrimony

by Hua-Tao Teng
Also known as
Xin Zhong You Gui
Specifics
2007 / 91m - China
Genre
Romance, Horror
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Matrimony poster

Solid Chinese genre fare. The Matrimony was an old favorite of mine. When I first watched it, it felt like a welcome change of pace for Asian horror, with a stronger focus on romance/drama, less so on horror. It certainly wasn't a disappointing rewatch, but almost 15 years later the film simply doesn't feel so special anymore.

When Junchu asks Manli to marry him in a letter, she is killed in a traffic accident right before they can meet up. Junchu is heartbroken, but his mother forces him to marry another woman. She tries her best to take care of Junchu, but he keeps pushing her away, until he starts seeing shimmers of Manli in his new wife.

The cinematography is on point (though some special effects haven't aged too well), the performances are solid, and the plot is actually well-developed. The pacing is perfect too, the only problem is that nothing in the film stands out enough. It's a perfectly fine horror/romance cross-over, but nothing more.

Bright: Samurai Soul

by Kyohei Ishiguro
Specifics
2021 / 80m - Japan, USA
Genre
Action, Adventure, Animation
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Bright: Samurai Soul poster

Netflix is very eager to get a slice of the anime pie and isn't afraid to throw its own IP in the mix. Sometimes it turns out pretty well (think Altered Carbon), but it's certainly no guarantee for success. Bright reminded me a bit of Kai Doh Maru, only it lacks the artistic vision, and it gets trapped in some tried and tested Feudal Japan alteration of a world that wasn't all that interesting to begin with.

Izo (a ronin) and Raiden (an orc) get stuck defending Sonya (a young elf). Several people seem to be targeting the young girl, who supposedly knows more about a mystic wand that can identify people with special powers. As the trio travels through Japan to learn more about this wand, it slowly dawns on them that Sonya isn't just any regular elf.

The setup is very basic, the link with the live action Bright is there in the characters and broader lore, yet it still feels like some kind of awkwardly tacked on anime extra. The art style isn't entirely successful either, but at least the camera work and shot compositions are quite interesting. It's decent (and relatively short) filler, but Netflix needs to do better than this.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

by Garry Marshall
Specifics
2004 / 113m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement poster

The first film became somewhat on an unlikely hit, so it's no surprise a follow-up would eventually materialize. Such a sequel doesn't even have to be good to make its money back, and so it's no surprise that part 2 feels like something that was penned down in a day. This is truly fan-only material.

With the first film set in America, it's only natural that the sequel sees princess Mia return to her home country. She moves in with her grandma, but she soon becomes the target of political tomfoolery. In order to inherit the throne, the princess has to be married, and so starts her quest for the perfect man.

If you like the idea of an American girl not fitting in with coquettish overseas royalty, this film might be for you, but even then you'd have to get past the poor performances, lame jokes and lazy writing. That said, I'm clearly not the target audience for a film like this, so your mileage may vary.

Dear Dictator

by Lisa Addario, Joe Syracuse
Specifics
2017 / 90m - USA, Mexico
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Dear Dictator poster

A quirky little comedy that hinges its success on a ridiculous premise, which is then played relatively straight for the remainder of the film. It makes for the kind of dry and slightly absurd comedy that not everyone will appreciate, but I'm quite partial to it, especially when the casting is on point.

Tatiana is a rebellious spirit, who gets into quite a bit of trouble when she starts a pen relationship with a faraway dictator for a high school project. When the dictator is driven out of his country, he ends up on Tatiana's doorstep, asking her for help and shelter while he tries to contact his comrades.

Caine and Rush are a lovely pair and both commit to their roles, which keeping things cheeky enough, so the film doesn't get too serious. There are a couple of fun jokes, the pacing is solid, and the film finds a nice balance between comedy and light drama. Not the greatest comedy ever, but amusing filler for sure.

Eko Eko Azarak: Wizard of Darkness

by Shimako Sato
Also known as
Eko Eko Azaraku
Specifics
1995 / 84m - Japan
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Eko Eko Azarak: Wizard of Darkness poster

I wasn't really familiar with this franchise, but apparently there are quite a few Eko Eko Azarak films, next to a TV series and a manga. The latter should be no surprise, as it really feels more like a live action manga adaptation, rather than a Ringu-like horror flick, which was becoming the norm at that time. For that reason alone, Wizard of Darkness is an interesting title worth seeking out.

Misa Kuroi is a transfer student who finds herself in a class obsessed with magic. Reports of ritual killings in the neighborhood have surfaced, when connected they form a pentagram with Misa's new school bang in the middle. Musa herself dabbles in white magic, together with her classmates she tries to figure out who is trying to lure them into their spell.

The high school setting and demonic resurrection themes offer some nice variation for those who have tired of tragic ghosts and vengeful curses. Performances are somewhat mediocre, but the visual effects are decent enough and there are some pretty cool kills here. Eko Eko Azarak isn't a genre classic, but solid filler with a slightly atypical vibe.

Riding Bean

by Yasuo Hasegawa
Specifics
1989 / 46m - Japan
Genre
Comedy, Action, Animation
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Riding Bean poster

A quintessential 80s anime, so much in fact that it has quite a bit of trouble standing out. The franchise has a troubled history, with only 4 manga volumes and one OAV episode ever appearing, leaving the story very much unfinished and taking away the characters' potential to become loved stereotypes.

Bean Bandit and Rally Vincent are framed for the kidnapping of Chelsea, the daughter of the wealthy and influential president of the Grimwood Conglomerate. While the police are hot on their tail, the real kidnapper is planning to get to Mr Grimwood, using Bean and Rally as a welcome diversion.

High octane car chases, some lewd comedy and a simple kidnapping plot, that's what you're getting here. It's also what a lot of other anime series of that time were offering (think City Hunter, though it's not quite as cheeky), so a single 45-minute film isn't going to make much of an impression. Pretty solid and fun filler, but I'm not too heartbroken they never expanded the franchise.

Borley Rectory

by Ashley Thorpe
Specifics
2017 / 73m - UK
Genre
Horror, Animation
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Borley Rectory poster

It's quite rare to find a documentary that excels in the visual department, but fails to offer anything else of note. Borley Rectory is a partially animated doc about the history of Borley Rectory, presumed to be the most haunted house in the UK, even though I don't think a haunted house has ever been this boring.

Thorpe simply recounts the history of the rectory, listing the paranormal phenomena experienced by each inhabitant of the house, ending his tale with Harry Price, a famed British paranormal researcher who ended up leasing the house for an entire year. Don't expect anything too otherworldly though.

The interesting thing about Borley Rectory is that the doc is made to look like a classic horror film, though sporting a more contemporary mixed-media animated vibe. It's a pretty successful experiment, the only problem is that the result is anything but scary or tense, which kind of goes against the setup of this film.

Umberto D.

by Vittorio De Sica
Specifics
1952 / 89m - Italy
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Umberto D. poster

A film made famous by a cute little dog. Not quite as special anymore, in an age where pet videos dominate the internet, but watching an old man and the loving bond with his pet is certainly something that ages pretty well. Sadly, that's about all I got out of this film, which isn't a lot for 90 minutes of drama.

Umberto lives in a very small room, together with his dog. When he stops working, the rent becomes too much, and his landlord is looking for a way to kick Umberto out. He gets to the end of the month, but then Umberto falls ill and needs to get himself checked into the hospital. When he returns to his home, workmen are refurbishing his apartment.

The film looks better than most other Italian Neorealism dramas of that time, but not spectacularly so. Performances are decent and the bond between the man and his dog is nice enough, but it's also pretty sentimental and the finale is well overdone. Not the worst in its genre, but nothing memorable either.

Mystery of Muye: The Guardian of the Mountain

by Liu Xuandi
Specifics
2021 / 75m - China
Genre
Fantasy, Adventure
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Mystery of Muye: The Guardian of the Mountain poster

Another one made to fill China's insatiable hunger for tomb raider adventures. The base quality of these types of films has risen considerably the past couple of years, though subpar CG and a very strict adherence to genre clichés keep them from becoming anything more than easily consumable genre filler. The Mystery of Muye is no exception.

During a mining expedition, an evil warlord hits a hidden tomb by accident. Drawn by the hunger for treasure, he goes inside, but soon finds himself and his men trapped. One of the relics finds its way out of the tomb though, triggering a new expedition that leads up a treacherous mountain. More tombs hunting and traps await.

Having watched a couple of these films before, it becomes pretty difficult to separate them. This one sure felt like it was part of some franchise, but it's hard to tell without so much of the context hidden for Western audiences. Apart from some shoddy CG monsters, it was a pretty fun and amusing adventure, helped by slick pacing and a short runtime. Good genre filler.

All Men Are Brothers

by Cheh Chang, Wu Ma
Also known as
Dong Kai Ji
Specifics
1975 / 101m - Hong Kong
Genre
Action
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
All Men Are Brothers poster

A direct sequel to The Water Margin, a film I haven't seen yet. While I do my best to watch film franchises in the correct order, availability is somewhat of an issue with Chang's Shaw Bros output. And since most of his films are pretty basic martial arts stories anyway, I figured it wouldn't hurt much to go ahead and watch All Men Are Brothers. Turns out I was right.

A bunch of rebels are holed up in a fortified base. The emperor has sent his best men to break through their defenses, but this turns out to be quite a bit harder than expected. The rebels even manage to capture some heroes, the others devise a plan to attack the base from the inside.

There's a bunch of familiar Shaw Bros faces here, the film is pretty action-packed, and it's nice to see Chang shot quite a bit on location. In the end though, it's just another typical Shaw Bros/Chang production that doesn't do quite enough to set itself apart from the rest. Not a bad film, but not really a standout either.

Free Guy

by Shawn Levy
Specifics
2021 / 115m - Canada, USA
Genre
Comedy, Sci-fi
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Free Guy poster

I knew absolutely nothing about Free Guy going in, apart from the fact it was some big blockbuster gaming film. Generally, those are better left alone, but at least this one wasn't directed by Spielberg. The result isn't that much better though, Free Guy is a pretty bland and childish take on video games/gaming culture.

Guy is a happy man who lives in a violent city. He works in a bank, every day is filled with robberies and gunfights, while outside tanks and helicopters ravaging his city. Still, he gets up every morning with a smile on his face. Until one day, when he runs into Millie, a girl that will change his life forever.

There are some cute gaming references, but most of them are very phoned in. Performances are quite poor (not even Waititi lands his part), the action is somewhat uninspired, and the plot is a bore. What remains is noise and expensive set pieces. A pretty typical Hollywood blockbuster in other words. Big budget, no creativity.

Robinson's Garden

by Masashi Yamamoto
Also known as
Robinson no Niwa
Specifics
1987 / 119m - Japan
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Robinson's Garden poster

A film with ups and down, but it's certainly a lot better than Yamamoto's Carnival in the Night. I'm still not convinced by Yamamoto's particular mix of drama and punk influences, but at least there were some very nice scenes that made it a lot easier to get to the end of Robinson's Garden.

A Tokyo girl finds an abandoned terrain in the outskirts of the big city. It's an old industrial site that hasn't been maintained for years, so obviously nature took over. She plans to turn the site into a beautiful garden of Eden, but despite all her hard work and commitment, the project is getting the better of her.

I liked the quieter moments here. There are some truly beautiful scenes, helped by the unique setting, a very nice soundtrack and some inspired set designs, but they're mixed with some louder and more hectic moments, that took me out of the film time and time again. Still, a film worth seeking out.

Mortal Kombat

by Simon McQuoid
Specifics
2021 / 110m - USA
Genre
Action, Horror
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Mortal Kombat poster

The Mortal Kombat films have to combat the same shortcomings as the games: shallow characters and cheesy lore make it difficult to get truly invested in the franchise. The 2021 Mortal Kombat reboot isn't any different. Bland characters (and poor casting) get in the way of some fun and over-the-top fights.

Earth is on the verge of defeat for the 10th time straight. That would mean the Outworld would seize control. Rather than wait for the results of the 10th Mortal Kombat tournament, Shang Tsung devises a plan to kill Earth's fighters before they can even enter the tournament. Cole Young, with a little help of Raiden, has to prevent this from happening.

The fights are pretty brutal, including a couple of juicy fatalities. So much in fact that the horror tag isn't entirely out of place. The problem lies with the scenes in between. Second-rate actors (and/or miscasts), dumb characters and some truly boring lore take up way too much time. A lot of the actual fights ends up in a pre-finale montage, which is a real shame. Not great, but there are some memorable scenes here.

The Shop on Main Street

by Ján Kadár, Elmar Klos
Also known as
Obchod na Korze
Specifics
1965 / 128m - Czechoslovakia
Genre
Drama, War
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
The Shop on Main Street poster

A Czechoslovakian war classic reiterating the Nazi atrocities. There's no lack of films handling this subject and even though The Shop on Main Street takes a more local approach, the result isn't that much different from other films handling the same subject. More so, I found the presentation here rather lacking.

Anton Brtko is a carpenter, but because of the Aryanization efforts he's asked to take over the sewing shop of a Jewish widow. Anton complies, but makes a deal with the widow that she can still run her own shop, with Anton helping her do the more menial tasks. The two develop a trusting relationship, but outside pressure mounts.

There's some moral ambiguity to work through, while the Czech focus adds a unique angle. The performances are rather poor though, the pacing is sluggish, and the cinematography is pretty dull. I was pretty much done with the film after 30 minutes, so the 120-minute runtime surely didn't help either. Not my cup of tea.