Diary of a Country Priest

by Robert Bresson
Also known as
Journal d'un Curé de Campagne
Specifics
1951 / 115m - France
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Diary of a Country Priest poster

Previous experiences with Bresson and a title promising two hours of inner monologues of a countryside priest didn't really wet my appetite, the film was pretty much what I expected from it. I'm not a big fan of Bresson's take on minimalism, the themes and characters also didn't speak to me. At all.

A young priest is given a small parish in the north of France. When he arrives there, people don't seem too interested in his work and attempts to reach out to the community are mostly in vain. The priest becomes disillusioned and slowly starts to doubt his faith in God and humankind.

The soundtrack is light, the cinematography rather basic. The film is mostly just the priest talking to people from the village, and writing down his doubts in his diary. Struggles with faith rarely interest me though and the endless musings of a rather uninteresting characters aren't my favorite way of spending two hours. Bresson and I don't really go well together it seems.

Cloudy Mountain

by Li Jun
Also known as
Feng Bao
Specifics
2021 / 114m - China
Genre
Action, Adventure
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Cloudy Mountain poster

Epic Chinese disaster flick. It's really nice to see that they got the basics right. There are some genuinely exciting scenes throughout, the scale may not be as grand as some others in the genre, but the threat is real, and the setting is pretty awesome. It's a shame the film gets a little too heroic during the second half.

A father (Yunbing) and son (Yizhou) reunite in a small mountain village where diggers have been working on a tunnel for almost a decade. Before they are actually reunited, the mountain starts acting up and a sinkhole appears. Yizhou has to rescue his father, but then word arrives that the entire village is about to be buried by the mountain.

I like myself a good disaster film and Cloudy Mountain doesn't disappoint. A nice setting, some impressive CG destruction and some hairy moments generally keep me glued to the screen, but like most other films in the genre there's a bit too much cheesy drama and the film does get a bit too epic at the end, especially when the China chest bumping peeks its head around the corner. Other than that, a fun film.

The Swamp

by Lucrecia Martel
Also known as
La Ciénaga
Specifics
2001 / 103m - Argentina
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
The Swamp poster

A breakthrough film for Lucrecia Martel. After years of making short films and documentaries, she finally got her chance to make a feature film. It's a pretty interesting look at an Argentinian family, in Martel's typical, somewhat detached, but equally captivating style, though still somewhat heavy on the drama.

A family is visiting La Ciénaga, a somewhat treacherous domain in the north of Argentina. The place they're staying at is a dump, and when Mecha, the mother of family, lands herself on some broken glass, it appears the vacation is doomed. Things get even more crowded and chaotic where her niece Tali decides to visit.

Martel's style is rather interesting, as there's a lot of "show, don't tell" going on. The framing is nice, the location is pretty cool too. There's no real goal the film works towards, it feels more like a selection of smaller vignettes bundled in a convenient story, but that does help to keep things interesting. I'm still not entirely on board with Martel's style, but this was pretty solid.

Where Is the Friend's House?

by Abbas Kiarostami
Also known as
Khane-ye Doust Kodjast?
Specifics
1987 / 83m - Iran
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Where Is the Friend's House? poster

My least favorite Kiarostami so far. I generally don't care much about films with very young kids, so I didn't really appreciate the charm this film was obviously gunning for. There isn't really all that much beyond that either, though the film is pretty short it's also quite slow and uneventful.

Ahmed is 8. When he comes home from school, he noticed that he took a classmate's notebook with him. Ahmed feels bad about the situation, but the boy lives in a neighboring village, too far to go by himself. That doesn't stop him from undertaking a journey to get the notebook to his rightful owner.

I didn't care much for the boy's performance, the people he meets on the road aren't very interesting either and Kiarostami's styling has never been something I've cared for. The film is noisy, characters are pretty irritating and the Ahmed's journey is too uneventful. Not my kind of film.

The Bastard and the Beautiful World

by Yûichi Kodama, Sion Sono, Kenji Yamauchi, Hikari Ôta
Also known as
Kuso Yarô to Utsukushiki Sekai
Specifics
2018 / 105m - Japan
Genre
Comedy, Crime
More info:
rating
4.0*/5.0*
The Bastard and the Beautiful World poster

A Japanese anthology sporting three oddball stories and a wrap-around segment that doesn't really wrap around the others, but bundles the conclusions of each short and saves them for the finale. It's a bit of an odd concept, it doesn't make too much sense to be honest, then again it's clear the directors were more concerned with creating something fresh and fun. The result is pretty successful too. Each story is cool in its own way, the actors are in on the joke and there are plenty of stand-out scenes, with Sono's segment sticking out as the best of the bunch.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

by Jon M. Chu
Specifics
2013 / 110m -
Genre
Sci-fi, Action
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
G.I. Joe: Retaliation poster

A franchise constructed around action figures, and it shows. There's a kind of emptiness that surrounds these films, more so than with other big franchise titles. There are no recognizable leads, no charismatic bad guys, no deep lore, even though Retaliation tries its best to fake all these things.

The bad guys have found a way to impersonate the American president. His first action is to get rid of the Joe forces, an elite task force that is considered to be one of the best in the world. Only a few of them survive the attack. They go undercover, hoping to find out who targeted them and what their plan is.

It's a good thing the film doesn't seem to be taking itself too serious. Johnson and Tatum are pretty silly, the rest of the cast tries to follow their lead (with varying success). There are some decent action scenes, but it's not really enough to save the film. It's borderline okayish as a basic blockbuster, just don't expect anything more.

Reprise

by Joachim Trier
Specifics
2006 / 105m - Norway
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Reprise poster

Joachim Trier's first feature film is a fun, virile coming-of-age story. Not quite what I was expecting after only having seen Thelma, but it sure was a welcome surprise. While the film isn't too original, the characters are a pretty interesting bunch that kept me engaged from start to finish.

Phillip and Erik are two aspiring writers. They've finished their first manuscripts and are ready to take over the world. Erik's book is turned down, Philip's book on the other hand is picked for publication and enjoys quite a bit of success. Too much for Phillip to handle, soon after he gets stuck in a depression.

While the plot sounds pretty dramatic, there's more than enough room for lighter moments, with the voice-over adding a healthy dose of playfulness. The performances are solid, the pacing is on point and the film isn't too long. A fine debut, it only lacks a bit of extra spunk to really stand out.

What Happens in Vegas

by Tom Vaughan
Specifics
2008 / 99m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
What Happens in Vegas poster

A simple romcom that banks all its appeal on its two leads. This is really just Diaz/Kutcher - The Movie, the rest is simply fluff. It's another comedy based on two characters who can't really stand one another and love to make each other's lives difficult, though this being a romcom, there is an obvious turning point.

Jack is a freeloader, Joy an obsessive planner who can't let go. They meet in Vegas by accident, and after a drunken night they end up married. When they file for an annulment, the judge isn't very cooperative and forces them to spend 6 months to work on their marriage, something they're not really willing to commit to.

Diaz/Kutcher are a bit hit-and-miss here. They do have their moments, but they're also a bit light for their parts (i.e. they can't do mean very well). The plot is very predictable, the secondary characters aren't that funny, but the pacing is solid, and the film was over and done before I knew it. Basic filler.

Raging Fire

Also known as
Nou Fo
Specifics
2021 / 126m - Hong Kong
Genre
Action, Crime
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Raging Fire poster

Benny Chan's swansong. The man left us way too early, but it's nice to know he went out with a bang. Raging Fire is a vintage Chan production, a Hong Kong procedural with the necessary action scenes to keep the adrenaline pumping. Hong Kong could use a few more films like this, which makes Chan's loss all the more painful.

Bong is a model detective, but his loyalty to justice gets him into trouble when he is forced to testify against some fellow officers. His report lands them in jail. When years later they finally get out, revenge is on their mind. After some violent attacks, Bong and his team will have to go all out to stop them.

Donnie Yen and Nicolas Tse are both excellent as the leads, the action scenes are well choreographed and impressive, the pacing is on point too. There may be a bit too much filler drama, certainly not a first for this type of film, but there are plenty of action scenes scattered throughout to make up for it. A fine action flick.

Tragic Jungle

by Yulene Olaizola
Also known as
Selva Trágica
Specifics
2020 / 96m - Mexico
Genre
Drama, Mystery
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Tragic Jungle poster

The jungle is a mysterious and adventurous place, one which directors love to exploit. Tragic Jungle isn't the next Fitzcarraldo, it's not quite as epic or grand, instead Olaizola chases a more ethereal and mystical atmosphere. The result is pretty entrancing, if you don't mind the somewhat sluggish pacing.

Agnes flees into the jungle to escape an arranged marriage. There she bumps into some Mexican laborers, who become infatuated with the woman. They take her hostage, but it doesn't take long before the men start quarreling among each other. The Xtabay, a female demon scouring the jungle, has awakened.

The story may sound like a premise for a horror flick, but Olaizola plays it a lot cooler. Mystery and thriller elements are added to make the trip through the jungle more alluring, limited explanation about the essence of the demon keep the mystery alive. The film is probably a bit too long and could've used some visual touch-ups, other than that a very nice discovery.

Paisan

by Roberto Rossellini
Also known as
Paisà
Specifics
1946 / 120m - Italy
Genre
Drama, War
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Paisan poster

A pretty decent film from Roberto Rossellini. WWII films aren't really my thing, I'm not big on Italian classics either, but because of the fragmented nature of this film it did manage to keep my interest for the full two hours. Some pretty pictures in between didn't make things worse either.

The film consists of 6 segments, zooming in on smaller moments and issues faced by the allied forces as they push through Italy to free the country. The film spans 1.5 years and sees the soldiers try their best to work together with the locals, hoping to bring their mission to a good end.

Performances aren't that great and the soundtrack is far too overbearing. It kills the drama and works against the premise, which is a bit of a shame. I did like the structure, which kept things fresh and made the 2 hours much easier to bridge. The cinematography is pretty fine too, especially the outside scenes. Not great, but better than expected.

Spider Lilies

by Zero Chou
Also known as
Ci Qing
Specifics
2007 / 94m - Taiwan
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Spider Lilies poster

The film that introduced me to Zero Chou. I was quite taken with this little drama the first time I watched it, revisiting the film left me slightly disappointed. Not that this is a bad film, far from it, but Spider Lilies had a much harder time distinguishing itself from its peer. No doubt because of the tons of dramas I watched since.

Jade is a young girl trying to make a buck through some online chat rooms. Tattoos are all the rage and to keep herself in fashion, she decides to get one too. That's how she bumps into Takeko, her first crush. Jade is determined to explore her love for Takeko, but she doesn't seem too interested in opening up.

Performances are solid, and the drama is decent enough, but the relationship between the two women is a bit basic and the styling of the film isn't too exceptional either. It's one of those films where there's nothing specifically bad, it just lacks anything that sets is apart from the pack.

One-Eyed Jacks

by Marlon Brando
Specifics
1961 / 141m - USA
Genre
Western
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
One-Eyed Jacks poster

Marlon Brando directs himself in an overly long western. It's always a little tricky when one person has too much creative control over a film, especially when he's not really a born director. It's no surprise then that One-Eyed Jacks often feels like a vanity project that could've used a more decisive editor.

Dad and Rio are two bank robbers. After securing a particularly big loot, Dad betrays Rio and leaves him to be captured by the police. When Rio finally gets out of prison, he wants to take revenge on Dad. He tracks him down to a Californian town, where Dad became a respected sheriff.

One-Eyed Jacks is a very basic western, the kind that really should last any longer than 90 minutes. And yet, Marlon drags it out to well over two hours. Performances are poor and overdone, the setting isn't very appealing and unless you're a hardened western fan, the plot isn't all that interesting either. Not good.

Love, Death + Robots 2

by Meat Dept, Robert Valley, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Dominique Boidin, Léon Bérelle, Rémi Kozyra, Maxime Luère, Simon Otto, Elliot Dear, Alex Beaty, Tim Miller
Specifics
2021 / 105m - USA
Genre
Sci-fi, Animation
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Love, Death + Robots 2 poster

Some people consider it a TV series, others a collection of shorts, I just watch it as any old anthology. Volume 2 offers more of the same, only the amount of shorts has decreased, and the quality has become a bit more consistent throughout. The only thing missing a truly stand-out short.

The concept is quite broad, so the directors could pretty much make whatever they wanted. There's a mix of sci-fi and fantasy that seems to bind the different films, but like any good anthology, variety is key. One thing that seems quite popular though is the idea of rogue robots, then again that's hardly novel (just watch the Animatrix).

There are quite a few shorts gunning for photorealism, but Love, Death + Robots is at its best when it gets a bit more creative with the art styles. Ice and The Tall Grass both stand out in that regard. On the weaker side of the anthology we find Automated Customer Service (the comedy is way too basic) and Pop Squad (a rather poor Blade Runner clone), even these shorts are somewhat decent. This is a small step up from the first one, it just needs to be a bit more daring if it wants to shine.

Fast & Furious 9

by Justin Lin
Specifics
2021 / 143m - USA
Genre
Action, Adventure
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Fast & Furious 9 poster

The ninth entry in the main series brings nothing new. The franchise has been leaning into its ridiculousness for quite a while now, and frankly, it's what I like about these films. The only problem is the cruft in between, which can get a bit drab and long in the tooth. Part 9 isn't any different.

The crew gets back together when some tech artifact promises to upset power balances around the world. Some old faces return, some new characters are added in, and at the end there's a big old, insanely over-the-top action scene with a predictable outcome. An easy paycheck for the writers I presume.

Previous entries have set quite a benchmark, it's getting harder and harder to take things one step further. While Lin makes a decent effort, the ending doesn't quite live up to the expectations. There are some very solid action scenes here though, the comedy is a welcome surprise and the cast feels really comfortable at this point. If only they'd keep the middle part a bit shorter.

Tin Men

by Barry Levinson
Specifics
1987 / 112m - USA
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Tin Men poster

There's this niche of 80s comedies, about angry middle-aged folk who are downright assholes and have the most fun trying to make each other's lives as miserable as possible. I can't say it's really my kind of comedy, but as they come, Tin Men certainly isn't the worst of the bunch.

When Bill and Ernest get into a little bender fender, a feud of epic proportions begins. Both men are grumpy loudmouths and neither is going to admit he was at fault. And so they start scheming, coming up with plans to make the other party admit his mistake. Neither one is willing to back down though.

Danny DeVito seems to be popping up in many of these comedies, in Richard Dreyfuss he finds a worthy opponent. The bickering often goes on too long and the film never becomes hilarious, but the pacing is decent enough and there are some minor laughs spread throughout. Wouldn't really recommend it, unless you really like this type of thing.

The Match Factory Girl

by Aki Kaurismäki
Also known as
Tulitikkutehtaan Tyttö
Specifics
1990 / 69m - Finland
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
The Match Factory Girl poster

It's been a while since I last watched a Kaurismäki film. I'm not entirely on board with his barren, stark style, but the man has a clear signature and that's worth something. The Match Factory Girl is one of the better films I've seen of him, in part because it's also one of the shortest I've seen of him.

Iris still lives with her parents, two very strict and old-fashioned people. She works in a match factory, hardly the most engaging job in the world. When she gets pregnant after a one-night stand with a man who mistakes her for a prostitute, Iris decides it's time to live her life the way she wants.

There isn't too much emotion here, not in the performances, nor the plot, nor the styling, even so Kaurismäki does manage to insert some humor into his film. I did appreciate his minimalist approach up to a certain point and the ending, though not quite surprising, was well handled. A pretty interesting film.

Wonder Woman 1984

by Patty Jenkins
Specifics
2020 / 151m - USA
Genre
Fantasy, Action
More info:
rating
0.5*/5.0*
Wonder Woman 1984 poster

I wasn't a fan of the first film, somehow Jenkins managed to make this sequel even worse. It is by far one of the weakest superhero disasters I've ever seen, a complete train wreck that has no idea what it wants to be. It's really hard to find anything borderline decent here, which is surprising since they kept on throwing things at the wall to see what would stick. Nothing did.

Wonder Woman is back, and as the title explains, she finds herself bang in the middle of the 80s. A somewhat ludicrous, incapable businessman gets his hand on a mythical wishing stone, but the wishes that are granted come with grave consequences. To make matters worse, Wonder Woman is slowly losing her powers, now that the world needs her the most.

Though this was a pretty expensive film, it never looks or feels expensive. The action scenes are bland, the CG is subpar, the acting is really poor, the comedy completely misses the mark, the tone is wildly inconsistent and the preachy ending is one of the worst I've seen in a long time. Time to bury Wonder Woman, or find a director who can actually handle this kind of material.

Fifty Shades of Grey

by Sam Taylor-Johnson
Specifics
2015 / 125m - USA
Genre
Romance
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Fifty Shades of Grey poster

First there were the books, then came the films. I never saw or read any of it, but I pretty much knew what to expect. That's how big the cultural impact of the franchise is. I have to admit I expected worse. Not that this was a great film, but I found it slightly less pulpy than many have made it out to be.

Anastasia is young and inexperienced. When she gets the chance to interview Christian Grey, a successful businessman, she is flabbergasted by his presence. Somewhat surprisingly, Christian takes an interest in Anastasia and his wealth and charm are more than a woman with her limited experience are able to withstand.

For a film that is known for its somewhat taboo subject, it's all pretty prim and proper. Sure enough, there is some nudity, but the film can't hide its pulpy origins. The performances are decent though, and it's certainly not as cheap-looking as I'd feared. I'm not really the target audience, but the flak this film received makes me wonder if some may have had ulterior motives.

The Heirloom

by Leste Chen
Also known as
Zhai Bian
Specifics
2005 / 97m - Taiwan
Genre
Horror, Mystery
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Heirloom poster

Leste Chen takes a swing at the horror genre. Not too surprising, considering the Asian horror boom of the 00s, or the fact that horror cinema is an ideal platform for young directors who want to make a new for themselves. I really liked The Heirloom the first time I watched it, almost two decades later though, the film has some trouble setting itself apart from its peers.

James inherits the family house, after a big tragedy happened there 20 years earlier. He moves in with his girlfriend, but soon after strange things start happening to James and his friends. His girlfriend is certain the house is to blame, so they start delving into James' family history.

The muted color palette, snappy editing and stylish score form a solid foundation for a moody horror film. It should be no surprise that Chen mixes in mystery and drama elements too, a staple for Asian horror cinema. There's just not quite enough here to turn it into something unique. Not quite tense enough, not visually distinctive enough, not surprising enough. It's still a very solid film though, just no masterpiece.

Two Lovers

by James Gray
Specifics
2008 / 110m - USA
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Two Lovers poster

Dreary drama. A film that hinges entirely on its central characters, sadly none of them is very interesting. There's not much here beyond a basic love triangle, with 2 out of 3 characters feeling pretty depressed. The setup itself isn't without merit, but the execution feels lazy and lifeless.

Leonard is an aspiring photographer who is dealing with the aftermath of a rough break-up. His parents are trying to set him up with a friend of the family, Leonard on the other hand shows quite a bit of interest in a new neighbor. She's stuck in an unhealthy relationship, so Leonard has his work cut out for him.

I'm not a big Joaquin Phoenix fan, and he's really at his Phoenix-iest here. Paltrow and Shaw aren't much better, none of them seem able to lend their characters the required depth for this type of film. The direction is clean but uninspired and dull, the soundtrack boring and the ending disappointing. Very forgettable.

Hypnotic

by Matt Angel, Suzanne Coote
Specifics
2021 / 88m - USA
Genre
Thriller
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Hypnotic poster

It seems the 90s B-thriller is making a veritable comeback. A perfect genre if you're a streaming service in dire need of quick and simple filler, great films they are not though. Hypnotic is no exception. Whatever intrigue there is comes from a handful of decently executed scene, the rest is rather bland and predictable.

Jenn is having quite a bit of trouble getting over her breakup. Her friend suggests she go see a therapist, which she reluctantly agrees to. Dr. Maede turns out to be pretty talented and after Jenn's first hypnosis session things are finally starting to go her way. Then, completely out of the blue, Jenn doesn't really feel like herself anymore.

It won't take you long to figure out the plot, it all comes down to Coote and Angel's direction, which is pretty mediocre. They do the bare minimum to introduce some tension, and that's it really. Performances are basic, the cinematography is borderline acceptable, the plot simplistic. Not terrible if you're looking for simple filler, but that's about all you can hope for.

By Chance

by Mayumi Komatsu
Also known as
Tamatama
Specifics
2011 / 53m - Japan
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
By Chance poster

A quirky, slightly experimental drama headlining Yu Aoi. Tamatama feels more like a fleeting idea than a fully realized film, but Komatsu did manage to add a lot of charm. It's pretty short and easily digestible, an ideal film for those who want to try something a little different, but don't really want to commit too much time to the experiment.

Aoi plays... something allegorical. The short interview at the start may not make this very clear, but as the film progresses the odd reactions of people will slowly start to make sense (at least somewhat). In her form she travels through Ireland, trying to reaching her destination, even though she has no idea where that is exactly.

I'm not sure if the film was as deep or meaningful as Komatsu intended it to be, but it did offer a very nice little breather from more serious things. The mood is light and ethereal, Aoi does well, the styling is appropriate and the runtime makes sure the film never outstay its welcome. A sweet, fun and original little diversion, well recommended for fans of Japanese dramas (with a little twist).

A Fish Called Wanda

by Charles Crichton, John Cleese
Specifics
1988 / 108m - UK
Genre
Comedy, Crime
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
A Fish Called Wanda poster

A pretty daft and goofy spoof on the heist genre. The comedy is a bit loud and random at times, don't expect any subtlety or classy humor in other words. But in that chaos does lie a decent amount of fun. Not so much that it becomes a very memorable film, but it's certainly no ordeal to sit through.

Four people are planning a diamond heist, but they all want the diamonds for themselves. Wanda and Otto aim to beat Ken and George by informing the police, but they get played by the duo themselves. The only way to figure out where the loot is, is through their lawyer. Wanda tries everything to seduce him.

Kline and Curtis feel a bit out of place, which is not surprising in a Cleese comedy. Kline in particular can be somewhat annoying. The pacing is pleasant though and while not all jokes are hits, there are quite a few fun scenes to be discovered. Just a bit of random filler, but if you're looking for something light and pleasant you could do far worse.

Dashcam

by Christian Nilsson
Specifics
2021 / 88m - USA
Genre
Thriller
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Dashcam poster

Another computer screen thriller, a thankful niche with the COVID epidemic still raging. Despite being a genre that is naturally suited for low budget/small crew projects, making it tense and intriguing is actually a lot harder than it looks. Nilsson sure did his best, still the film has too many flaws to make a big impression.

A wannabe reporter gets his hands on some classified files. Though he was only meant to be editing a news segment of his boss, he sees this as a chance to get himself noticed. And so he starts digging through the files, slowly uncovering a conspiracy against a former attorney general.

Dashcam is a pretty short film, still there's an awful lot of padding. The actions of the main character are also pretty questionable and too much time is spent on uninteresting computer fiddling. It gets a bit better towards the ending and there is some intrigue scattered throughout the film, just not enough to make it an easy recommend. This is for genre fans only I guess.

The Voice Unseen

by Wu Ya Wen
Also known as
Di San Ren Cheng
Specifics
2019 / 90m - China
Genre
Thriller
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Voice Unseen poster

A Chinese thriller that rolls from one twist into the next. The Voice Unseen feels like an elevated B production. A film that was quickly made to please hungry genre fans, but ended up quite a bit better than it needed to be. I had quite a bit of fun with it, just don't expect the world of it should you decide to watch it.

A couple puts in an insurance claim when a fire wrecks part of their home. An inspector comes by to check on them, but leaves somewhat suspicious. The two seem to be living at odds with each other and their cash flow problems indicate there might have been ulterior motives at play. And sure enough, the two have quite a few secrets they're hiding from each other.

The plot is pretty ridiculous really, but as the film really leans into it, it's quite amusing to see what little twist they'll come up with next. The visuals are pretty slick, with lovely colors and nicely framed shots, the music too is well above par. The weakest parts are no doubt the performances and the fake scar make-up, betraying the film's low budget origins, but they don't really stand in the way of the fun. Better than expected.

K-19: The Widowmaker

by Kathryn Bigelow
Specifics
2002 / 138m - USA
Genre
Thriller
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
K-19: The Widowmaker poster

Hollywood doing a Russian story with English/American actors is never a good idea, K-19 did absolutely nothing to change my mind. Bigelow's film is a simple succession of vintage submarine thriller clichés, with some terrible accents thrown in to make it appear a bit more Russian. Spoiler alert: the accents didn't make it appear more Russian.

The first Russian atomic-fueled submarine is facing some serious troubles on its way through the North-Atlantic ocean. Captain Zateyev has to keep his sub from exploding, not just to save his entire crew from instant dead, but also to keep a new world war from happening.

Getting past the casting choices was quite a hurdle, but even then this film doesn't have all that much to offer, besides the usual submarine hoopla. There are lots of "tense" moments with people waiting for something to happen/not happen, and since WWIII never happened, it's difficult to make this film truly tense. Not great.

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin

by William Eubank
Specifics
2021 / 98m - USA
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin poster

Eubank's take on found footage horror. The link with Paranormal Activity is pretty weak, to the point where it feels more like an excuse to recycle the name. Once you get past that, this wasn't all that bad (one of the better films in the series actually). As long as you fancy yourself a bit of found footage horror of course.

Margot decides to make a documentary when she discovers her natural parents are Amish. She gets into contact with her brother, and he agrees to let her stay on their farm for a while. Margot and her team are excited to make their film, but it soon dawns on them that the people on the farm aren't telling the entire truth.

The intro is a bit long and the twist isn't exactly original, but Eubank does a good job cranking up the tension. He makes the most of the eerie setting, has some neat new camera tricks to show off and deliver a cracking finale. It's not his best work, but found footage horror fans are sure to have a good time with Next of Kin.

Last Night in Soho

by Edgar Wright
Specifics
2021 / 116m - UK
Genre
Horror, Mystery
More info:
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Last Night in Soho poster

Wright's a bit hit-and-miss for me, but when he fully commits to mood and atmosphere, he can be a formidable director. I'm not a 60s fan (at all), still I loved everything he conjured up in Last Night in Soho. The styling is absolutely wonderful, the cast was great and the plot, though not particularly surprising, kept me glued to my seat. Don't go in expecting a full-blown horror flick, the film isn't all that scary and tense really, it just oozes and bleeds atmosphere from start to finish. Edgar Wright did good with this one.

A Place in the Sun

by George Stevens
Specifics
1951 / 122m - USA
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info:
rating
0.5*/5.0*
A Place in the Sun poster

A classic, sentimental drama. Drab, black and white cinematography, highly expressive performances and a worn out, dragged out plot make this quite an ordeal to sit through. The characters left me completely cold, and since that's pretty much all what the film was betting its marbles on, this was a pretty big failure.

George is a young man looking for a purpose in life. Uncertain of what to do with his life, he goes to work for his uncle. There he meets Alice, a colleague, who he has an affair with. He forgets all about her when he bumps into Angela, a rich girl who immediately falls for the charms of George.

Scripted romances, simplistic drama and some courtroom intrigue. I didn't care for any of it. This was one of those films where nothing felt particularly special or noteworthy, a long succession of predictable scenes that didn't inspire any emotion at all. At two hours long, it really tested my patience, sadly, I got nothing in return.

S-94

by Shozin Fukui
Specifics
2009 / 30m - Japan
Genre
Sci-fi, Horror
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
S-94 poster

Japanese cyberpunk is pretty much dead as a genre, this Shozin Fukui film is probably one of the last of its kind. It's a brave attempt, sporting some pretty cool ideas, but it's clear that the budget simply wasn't there to do justice to the concept. So all we get is this mad little short film.

A terrible disease has wiped out mankind. Only a few survivors are left, holed up in underground bunkers. Two women are stuck together, one desperate to survive, the other suicidal and manic. When they suddenly get into contact with a man over the radio, there's hope that they'll survive after all.

The gritty black and white cinematography is cool, the industrial soundtrack is pretty out there too. The two never quite come together though, as the whole short feels a bit rushed, even a little unfinished. But the raw quality is there and if you love yourself some hardcore cyberpunk cinema, S-94 won't disappoint.

Me Before You

by Thea Sharrock
Specifics
2016 / 106m - UK
Genre
Romance
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Me Before You poster

A pretty mushy romcom, that is in part saved by its British charm. All the clichés are here though, so if you can't stand these types of films, it's better to avoid Me Before You altogether. The poor girl meets rich guy setup isn't exactly the most original either, then again, what did you expect from a film like this?

Louisa is a clumsy girl who needs a job. She applies to take care of William Traynor, a wealthy family's son who ended up in a wheelchair after being involved in a traffic incident. At first the two don't really appreciate each other's presence, but Louisa needs the money, and she persists. Slowly, William starts warming up to Louisa.

The character I felt most for was Patrick. A simple bloke who isn't the best boyfriend in the world, but doesn't deserve to be lied to. The romance is pretty basic and the added drama isn't very effective, but the setting is nice, and the characters do have a certain charm about them. Not the worst of its kind.

Hold Me Back

by Akiko Ôku
Also known as
Watashi wo Kuitomete
Specifics
2020 / 133m - Japan
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Hold Me Back poster

A quirky little drama that tackles rather tricky themes in a very light and amusing manner. The balance may be a little off at times, which is why the drama doesn't fully register, but it is pretty impressive how Ohku manages to effortlessly switch between dark and quirky moments.

Mitsuko likes her life as a single. She keeps her distance from people and created a persona called 'A' that lives in her brain. When she meets Tada, she instantly likes the guy, but Mitsuko has lost the ability to socialize. Tada clearly likes Mitsuko too, but he's a bit younger and quite shy.

A nice film about how someone who has learned to cope with loneliness can find it difficult to connect with others, even when the opportunity presents itself. Ohku's direction is rather safe, but there are some stand-out moments, the performances are fine and even though the runtime's a bit excessive, the film never gets boring. A fine film.

Dune

by Denis Villeneuve
Specifics
2021 / 155m - USA
Genre
Sci-fi, Fantasy
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Dune poster

Villeneuve really wants you to see this film in cinemas, I am pretty glad I didn't. While I'm sure there are marginal gains, Villeneuve just isn't the best director to tackle epic sci-fi/fantasy films like this one. His adaptation of Herbert's book is so damn serious that it becomes silly, even laughable.

Paul is the son of an influential family, together with them, he travels to Arrakis, their new home. Arrakis is where "the spice" is mined, a precious resource needed to travel through space. Arrakis is a dangerous place, with sand worms ruling the dunes and tribal fighters holing up in the desert.

Dune is sci-fi pulp, but Villeneuve seems to be taking the material extremely serious. The slow pacing is quite unnecessary, the dialogues are trite, and the visual splendor really isn't all the splendid. Villeneuve also needs a trained action choreographer by his side, if the sequel will truly be more action-based then this blah Hollywood screen-fighting won't cut it. The worms are cool, and it's nice that someone is finally getting heaps of cash to make sci-fi epics again, but this should've been so much better.

No. 1 Chung Ying Street

by Sung Kee Chiu
Also known as
Zhong Ying Jie 1 Hao
Specifics
2018 / 120m - Hong Kong
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
No. 1 Chung Ying Street poster

Derek Chiu gets serious. The stark black and white cinematography is a dead giveaway, but the theme of the film also leaves little to the imagination. Hong Kong is going through some tough times, it's not surprise then that filmmakers are suddenly very eager to talk about its rebellious past.

No. 1 Chung Ying Street tells two stories that looks quite alike. The first one is set in 1967 and involves four young people who get wrapped up in the Leftist Riot. A good 50 years later a similar tale develops when a group of youngsters protects the land of their elderly, during the Mainland-Hong Kong conflict.

The black and white cinematography truly is beautiful, it's the real eye-catcher of the film. The story about people standing up against oppression and its parallels through time is less engaging. While the drama has its moments, you have to wonder how much of a difference a film like this can really make, and whether it's worth going over the same points again and again.

The Last Emperor

by Bernardo Bertolucci
Specifics
1987 / 218m - Italy
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Last Emperor poster

Leave it to the Italians to make an English-language film about the last Chinese emperor. I'm not sure what Bertolucci was thinking, but it puts a serious damper on the fun. Worse than that still is the looming shadow of Yimou Zhang that hangs above this film. It's difficult to enjoy its visual beauty when it doesn't really compare to what Zhang might've done with it.

The film details the life of the last emperor of China, from the day he rose to power, to his involvement in the Japanese takeover of Manchuria and his imprisonment afterwards. It's not the most historically correct adaptation of his life, then again there's a reason why Bertolucci had so much freedom shooting his film on location.

This feels like a Hollywood production in almost every way. It's an epic tale for sure, but the not-quite-there cinematography, the ill-fitting soundtrack and the English language all increase the disconnect with what is supposed to be a film about China. It's certainly not all bad, but not at all what it should've been.