On Chesil Beach

by Dominic Cooke
Specifics
2017 / 110m - UK
Genre
Romance
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
On Chesil Beach poster

I never read the book, so I don't know how closely the film follows the source material, but it's clear that the second half of the film slowly starts to slip away from director Cooke. Some sappy epilogues and scattered drama tip the balance from romance to sentimental garbage. Quite unnecessary.

Edward and Florence are freshly married and are about to spend their first night together. Both are pretty nervous and reflect on how the two became an item. They are clearly very much in love with each other, but a troublesome first sexual experience is about to put some strain on their marriage.

The first half of the film is a prim and proper British romance, held together by the two leads. The drama that unfolds is pretty decent too, but the finale is just messy and sentimental. The music could've been a bit more subtle too, but I mostly felt bad for Ronan and Howle, who both deserved a better film.

White Snake 2: Green Snake

by Amp Wong
Also known as
Bai She 2: Qing She Jie Qi
Specifics
2021 / 131m - China
Genre
Fantasy, Adventure, Animation
More info:
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
White Snake 2: Green Snake poster

A surprising sequel. The first film served classic Chinese folklore, this sequel mixes in a serious dash of urban fantasy. Visually it's a big step forward, only the character models feel a bit plain compared to the elaborate settings. Ultimately, it's the fast pacing and the creative lore that sets this film apart from the rest. Though the film crosses the two-hour mark, there is no dead weight here, just sprawling action sequences, beautiful fantasy creations and more than enough memorable moments. A landmark for Chinese CG animation.

Forbidden Planet

by Fred M. Wilcox
Specifics
1956 / 98m - USA
Genre
Sci-fi, Adventure
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Forbidden Planet poster

One of the first big sci-fi movies, which became a template for the many films that would follow in its wake. The film certainly has a few inspired moments and designs, but most of it feels like a dreary theater piece on a cheap stage. No doubt fun if you care about historic significance, but it was a bit too kitsch for me.

A starship crew is traveling to a distant planet to check on a group of settlers that left twenty years earlier. When they arrive, only two survivors remain. And a robot who calls himself Robby. The crew are dying to speak to Morbius and his daughter to learn what happened to the settlers.

The crummy sets and costumes make it really difficult to get into the sci-fi vibe, the flat performances also don't help. The plot isn't very interesting either, but some designs (like the robot) are still pretty cool and there's at least some minor appeal to the overall level of kitsch. Not the worst, but far from great.

The Cleanse

by Bobby Miller
Specifics
2016 / 81m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Mystery
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Cleanse poster

A peculiar little film, that mixes several genres to talk about trauma. There's some comedy, fantasy, horror and mystery here, which all contribute to the (admittedly simple) allegory that forms the core of the film. Don't expect a very deep or layered film, but it is pretty fun and different.

Paul isn't too happy with his life. His girlfriend left him at the altar, and he just got fired from his dream job. When he catches a commercial for a special retreat, he is intrigued, and he registers for an introductory session. He gets picked from a small group of people, but he's not entirely prepared for what he is about to face.

The film has a light vibe, despite its rather depressing story. Though the broad outline should be clear halfway through, the film retains an aura of mystery, and it remains tricky to predict where the story will lead exactly. That's a big plus in my book. The ending could've been handled a bit better, other than that, a cute and somewhat quirky surprise.

Colour of the Game

by Ka-Wai Kam
Also known as
Hei Bai Mi Gong
Specifics
2017 / 103m - Hong Kong
Genre
Crime
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Colour of the Game poster

Jing Wong tries to revive his old Colour series (Money and Loyalty were released a good ten years earlier). He didn't direct the film though, he just wrote the story, leaving the direction to Ka-Wai Kam. The result is a mediocre crime flick, that relies a bit too much on its aging leads.

Wah is a Triad enforcer who is given one final assignment before he can quit the game. He is supposed to track Robert, down the son of Brother Nine, a scoundrel known for misbehaving. Wah calls in the help of his old palls, but with Robert's men and the police on their tail, Wah starts to suspect there's a mole in their midst.

It's nice to see people like Jordan Chan and Philip Ng get some time in the spotlight again, next to somewhat more respected actors like Simon Yam and Lam Suet. The film does have its moments, but the plot is rather bland, and the direction isn't consistent enough to make this stand out. With so much competition, this one is probably for genre nuts only.

Solo

by Jean-Pierre Mocky
Specifics
1970 / 83m - France
Genre
Drama, Crime
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Solo poster

I had never heard of Mocky before, even though he was quite prolific. Looking at Solo, it's no real surprise, as this film felt extremely niche. It's almost one of those "so bad it is good" films, though it never quite reaches those terrifying depths. The extremely amateurish and kitsch execution makes it somewhat amusing, but I got tired of the film pretty quickly.

A group of young leftist revolutionaries guns down some rich, bourgeois men. It doesn't take long before the police are on their tail, but the officers aren't the brightest specimen. Meanwhile, the brother of the group's leader has returned to Paris. He doesn't agree with the goals of the revolutionaries, but gets involved in their plight regardless.

The performances are terrible, the soundtrack nonsensical and repetitive and the editing is simply disastrous. The conversations feel labored, and the plot isn't too interesting either. There is this odd, almost tongue-in-cheek vibe that kept me somewhat interested, though it doesn't really seem to lead anywhere.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow

by Jim Cummings
Specifics
2020 / 83m - USA
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Wolf of Snow Hollow poster

A peculiar little horror film. Jim Cummings is one of those one-man shows, which he illustrated by writing, directing and headlining this film. These projects can go horribly wrong, but when you have someone with a unique vision and the chops to pull it off, these films are a true blessing.

The small town of Snow Hollow is having its holiday season ruined when brutal attacks leave bodies scattered around the town. Word gets out that a giant wolf is killing people, but the new sheriff in town is having none of that. The longer the murders remain unsolved, the more pressure he's facing.

Cummings is an acquired taste, but I had a lot of fun with his performance. The editing is notable, the location is atmospheric and the music and cinematography are on point. The horror elements are a bit limited, but pleasant and effective. A fun, little horror film, nothing too exceptional, but Cummings shows promise here.

Vibrator

Also known as
Vaiburêta
Specifics
2003 / 95m - Japan
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
Vibrator poster

A vintage Hiroki drama. It may not look like much from the outside, with only a sliver of narrative and limited genre influences (it's a road movie, though without the usual traits of the genre), but the characters are intriguing, and the performances are stellar (with Terajima as the absolute standout). Hiroki generally does very well with female characters and Vibrator is one of the films that earned him that reputation. I wasn't quite sure if the film would up after a rewatch, but the film hasn't lost any of its appeal. It had me smitten from beginning to end.

Security Unlimited

by Michael Hui
Also known as
Mo Deng Bao Biao
Specifics
1981 / 90m - Hong Kong
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Security Unlimited poster

The more films I see from Michael Hui, the clearer it becomes that he was one of the pivotal figures in the Hong Kong comedy scene. Security Unlimited looks like a Hui family project, with Michael, Samuel and Ricky all joining forces to deliver what feels like a template Hong Kong comedy/police flick.

Chou is an old and bitter boss, managing a security firm team. His methods are questionable and when his superior sees Chou at work, he immediately demotes him, putting his assistant Sam in charge. Sam isn't the sharpest tool in the shed either, but somehow things always seem to work out for him.

I'm not the biggest fan of Hui's comedy. There are some decent jokes scattered throughout the film, but most of them are quite predictable and reliant on gross overacting. The plot is merely an excuse to cram in some sketches and though I haven't seen too many of his films yet, they do seem quite samey. That said, the pacing and runtime are perfect, and the film isn't exactly boring either. Decent filler.

From Here to Eternity

by Fred Zinnemann
Specifics
1953 / 118m - USA
Genre
Drama, War
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
From Here to Eternity poster

A wartime drama that throws several famous actors together and hopes that's enough to keep people entertained. The characters aren't very nuanced and some bits (like the ending) felt really tacked on, but there were a couple of scenes where there seemed to be actual chemistry between the actors.

When soldier Prewitt arrives at his base in Hawaii, his superiors are clear about the reason for his transfer. They want to see him taking part in their boxing team. Prewitt isn't interested and no matter how much his superiors try to push and blackmail him, he holds true to his principles.

The performances are decent enough, but the characters aren't very interesting, neither are their problems. The romance and explicit drama are forgettable, the personal conversations and interactions are a bit more compelling to follow. The ending's pretty bad though, I wish they'd stopped the film 20 minutes earlier. Not a great film.

Knock Knock

by Xiang Liu
Also known as
Bu Su Lai Ke
Specifics
2021 / 107m - China
Genre
Comedy, Crime
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Knock Knock poster

A fun but somewhat predictable single-location crime comedy. Put various unrelated parties into a single room, add cash, a corpse and confusion, and you have all the ingredients for a fun little crime flick. It's not a film that innovates on the formula, but the execution is certainly on point.

When a petty thief is raiding an apartment, two other people walk in who clearly don't belong there. After a scuffle the thief wakes up in the apartment, with a delivery boy who finds himself in a similar situation. Nobody knows what exactly is going on, but when they discover a load of cash in the freezer it's obvious that not everyone will walk out freely.

Performances are solid, the cinematography is nice enough and the intrigue is kept alive while the plot slowly unwraps. The conclusion is entertaining too. It's all good fun and there's nothing really wrong with Knock Knock, the only thing lacking is something that sets it apart from similar films.

Ride Lonesome

by Budd Boetticher
Specifics
1959 / 73m - USA
Genre
Western
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Ride Lonesome poster

A short western, but not a very sweet one. Ride Lonesome is pure and simple genre work, but after a slightly more action-packed start I was tentatively positive. That didn't last for very long, as the film grinds to a halt after that, focusing more on shallow conversations and unappealing characters.

Ben is a bounty hunter who manages to capture Billy, a man wanted for murder. Billy gets word out to his brother Frank and to make matters worse, Ben and Billy run into a group of Indians on their way to pick up the bounty. With a little help from Carrie, caretaker of a nearby way station, Ben will do his best to fend off his enemies.

This is a film for true western fans. The story is very basic, the characters are typical macho men and the setting is as brown as it gets. Apart from the more action-packed introduction, it's a film that leans heavily on dialogues and intrigue, though I can't say I cared for any of it. At least it was short, so it never got the chance to become too boring or long-winded.

Picture Perfect

by Glenn Gordon Caron
Specifics
1997 / 101m - USA
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Picture Perfect poster

It's remarkable how many romcoms are centered around annoying leads. Picture Perfect is no exception, following a workaholic who goes through all kinds of trouble to get ahead in her job, at the same time missing out on the love of her life. Aniston is a weird casting choice and Caron goes easy on both the rom and the com, which results in a rather tepid film.

Kate works for an ad agency and is good at her job, but her scruffy appearance keeps her from getting a well-deserved promotion. She makes up a fiancé, which finally gets her a better position in the firm. But then her bosses want to meet with the guy and Kate has to convince him to play along with her lies.

The performances are mediocre, there's little chemistry between the actors and apart from some worn out situational comedy there isn't much to laugh at. It's basic genre fare that makes no effort to set itself apart. The execution of its genre clichés is pretty stale too, while leaves only a predictable shell of a movie.

The Vengeance

by Liu Chun
Specifics
2021 / 80m - China
Genre
Fantasy, Action
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Vengeance poster

I've seen a bunch of these mid-long Chinese martial arts flicks over the past two years, and it still one big lottery for me. The Vengeance turned out to be one of more accomplished ones, though its attempts to tell a more elaborate and intricate story come with their own set of challenges.

Yuan Rui is about to get married, but what should become a happy day turns into a massacre. Her entire family is murdered, everyone except Rui, who is saved by a masked man. All she can think of is revenge, but she isn't skilled enough to take on her assailants. Luckily, she gets help from a friend.

The presentation is neat, the martial arts scenes are polished, the sets look somewhat more expensive and the slightly longer runtime (still well below 90 minutes though) gives the director more time to flesh out the plot. It's not quite as dynamic as the shorter efforts, but martial arts/fantasy fans will find plenty to like here.

An Impossibly Small Object

by David Verbeek
Specifics
2018 / 100m - The Netherlands
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
An Impossibly Small Object poster

This was only my first Verbeek. Though I've been aware of his work for some time now, I've never really gotten around to watching his films. An Impossibly Small Object gave me pretty much what I expected from it, it's a film with potential and some lovely moments, but a bit too contrived to be truly mesmerizing.

Verbeek plays himself, a photographer who travels to Taiwan and becomes fascinated by a photograph of a young girl with a kite. He has trouble putting his attraction to the picture in words. When he travels back to The Netherlands, his family, friends and fund donors aren't really on the same page about his art either.

Verbeek's style is somewhat fleeting and drifting, which in itself isn't a problem. I don't think the soundtrack and visuals are quite there to make it work though. It probably wasn't the best choice to cast himself as the lead either, but at its best the film is atmospheric and mysterious. It's a shame these moments are just a bit too sparse.

Kung Fury

by David Sandberg
Specifics
2015 / 31m - Sweden
Genre
Comedy, Action
More info:
rating
0.5*/5.0*
Kung Fury poster

Somewhat of an internet cult hit, which is no surprise, since Kung Fury is drenched in internet humor. Quality isn't a goal here, it's just an endless string of basic references on top of some cheap cut-and-paste work. The film is a 30-minute-long meme that riffs on the 80s and all its kitsch.

The existence of a plot is debatable. There's some kind of story that takes the film from a to b, but it's really just a summary of nonsensical plot points that allow Sandberg to take on whatever cheesy nonsense he can think of. The core story is about a martial arts cop who travels back in time to killer kung fu Hitler, just don't expect it to make any sense.

This might be fun for people who loved the 80s, or who appreciate lack of quality in some kind of ironic way. I found the parodies bland and uninspired, the execution horrendous. Its cheapness feels lazy, the comedy is pure fan service and though it only lasts 30 minutes, I was fed up with Kung Fury 5 minutes in. Ugh.

Jingle All the Way

by Brian Levant
Specifics
1996 / 89m - USA
Genre
Comedy
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Jingle All the Way poster

I didn't expect to see a masterpiece going into this one, and sure enough Jingle All the Way has plenty of flaws. Director Levant didn't seem to care much about creating something elevated though, instead he went all-in on daftness and makes extreme efforts to one-up himself all the way through.

Howard is a businessman who cares more about making money than taking care of his family. When he forgets to buy his son the hottest Christmas present, he goes on a last-day adventure to find the action figure. He's not the only one who is doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, and things are about to get pretty heated.

Schwarzenegger is a complete miscast, but that's part of the fun. The special effects are horrible, yet that doesn't stop Levant from making up crazy stunts, and even though the film is pretty Christmassy at the end, there's also enough weirder and meaner comedy to keep things interesting. More fun than I expected it to be.

The Thing from Another World

by Christian Nyby, Howard Hawks
Specifics
1951 / 87m - USA
Genre
Horror, Thriller
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
The Thing from Another World poster

A surprisingly fun flick. It could be that my expectations were pretty low, as Carpenter's version is often cited as a superior remake (and it is, truly), but that doesn't mean this 50s version is without merit. The "thing" itself may look like a low-budget Frankenstein, but the tension and setting make for a decent enough horror.

An expedition team on the North Pole finds a UFO. The army sends in soldiers and scientists to retrieve a frozen specimen, but once they've brought it back to the base their objectives diverge. The soldiers want to keep the specimen frozen, while the scientists are more than eager to start their study of the extraterrestrial.

It's a plus that the creature doesn't get too much screen time. The inhospitable setting, the unknown dangers and the squabbles between the soldiers and the scientists keep the tension tight. There isn't quite enough meat to keep the film interesting from start to finish, but it's certainly one of the better classic horror films I've seen so far.

Descendant of the Sun

Also known as
Ri Jie
Specifics
1983 / 84m - Hong Kong
Genre
Fantasy, Action
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Descendant of the Sun poster

As the Shaw Bros' prime representative of action/fantasy cinema, Yuen Chor had a reputation to uphold when he directed Descendant of the Sun, especially with newcomers like Hark Tsui releasing films like Zu Mountains. That may explain why all subtlety went out of the window for this one, and kitsch could finally reign supreme.

The titular descendant is some kind of superman that borrows from Eastern and Western folklore/pop culture. It's as if Superman, Christianity, Batman and Star Wars got a Shaw Bros makeover. The plot is negligible, a story of ultimate good fighting evil while trying to protect a princess. Safe to say, there are better reasons to watch this film.

Don't go in expecting great production value, this is a film that embraces cheese to the fullest and won't let its limited budget get in the way of creating something zany and over the top. The pacing is stark, the action scenes are bold, and the tone is pleasantly goofy. Great, transcendent cinema this is not, but it is extremely fun and entertaining.

Broken Blossoms

by D.W. Griffith
Specifics
1919 / 89m - USA
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Broken Blossoms poster

Also known as The Yellow Man and The Girl, which is a more descriptive title. Except that the "yellow man" is a white man really, who doesn't look the slightest bit Asian. The drama has about the same level of subtlety. It's a more general problem with silents I think, but even then I've seen better examples than this one.

Lucy is a young girl who lives with her abusive father, a prize boxer who doesn't mind a drink. Cheng Huan is a Buddhist monk who travels the world, hoping to spread the teachings of Buddha. When he arrives in London Huan quickly becomes discouraged, but he finds meaning again when he runs into Lucy, sheltering her from her father.

I found it really hard to get a feel for the characters when simplistic intertitles take ages to explain a basic story that can be derived pretty easily from the extremely expressive acting. It's definitely not the way I love my dramas. It's also pretty disappointing to see Barthelmess' half-arsed attempt at playing an Asian character. Not good.

The Advent Calendar

by Patrick Ridremont
Also known as
Le Calendrier
Specifics
2021 / 104m - Belgium
Genre
Fantasy, Horror
More info:
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
The Advent Calendar poster

A nifty little film that balances dark fantasy and horror. The title should give you a good idea of what to expect (24 doors need to be opened, each one affect the lead character's life), but the film still holds some nice surprises. The direction is inspired, the film is very atmospheric, performances are more than solid and the finale is perfect. Not quite a core genre flick, not truly an auteur's signature, but a refined film that puts its spin on a series of tired genre clichés.