Goodbye, Children

by Louis Malle
Au Revoir les Enfants
1987 / 104m - France
Drama
2.0*/5.0*
Goodbye, Children poster

A very personal film from Louis Malle, based on his own experiences during the war. It adds a bit of gravity to the film, even so the drama remains somewhat meandering, and the styling isn't all that remarkable. People who love a good war drama will probably get more out of this one.

During the German occupation of France, a young boy is sent to boarding school. At first, he doesn't want to leave his family, but after a while he finds himself a close friend, Jean. The problem is that Jean is of Jewish descent, though few people are aware of this. The two grow closer, but the threat of the Germans remains.

The performances are decent, the build-up is nice enough and the drama is okay. I need more from a film though and Malle simply didn't seem to care about the rest. The drab cinematography and basic soundtrack don't do the film any favors. Not terrible, but this could've been a lot better.

Virtual Love

2003 / 35m - Japan
Drama,Sci-fi
1.5*/5.0*
Virtual Love poster

An obscure Sono short. I'm not really sure what the idea or concept was here, but this felt considerably more amateurish than its age would suggest. It's probably some special Sono did for TV, but don't expect too much going in. There are slivers of an interesting concept, but Sono does very little with them.

Virtual Love is about a young girl who starts working as a virtual escort. She takes on clients and spends time with them, making their lives a bit more enjoyable. She gets help from a second girl, teaching her how to act and behave, whilst the whole thing is recorded and can be sold later on.

The titular love is romance, not sex, so don't watch it if that's what you're after. The premise is kinda fun, but the performances are pretty weak and the film looks and sounds terribly cheap. There's not enough time to properly explore the plot, at this point I expect way more from Sono, even (or maybe especially) when it's only a short.

Takashi Miike × Sho Aikawa: Zatoichi

Miike Takashi × Aikawa Shô: Zatôichi
2007 / 166m - Japan
Action,Adventure
2.5*/5.0*
Takashi Miike × Sho Aikawa: Zatoichi poster

If you look at his oeuvre, it's clear that Miike has always been a busy man, but in between all his films he still found time to direct a couple of theater plays too. Together with Sho Aikawa he takes on the legendary Zatoichi character and adapts one of his stories to the stage.

Zatoichi has a price on his head after killing a couple of Kappo officials. When he enters a gambling den he quickly notices that the dealers are cheating. He brings their foul play to light, but this raises the suspicion of the Twin Snakes, two brothers who could very well use the money.

Like Demon Pond, Miike makes great use of lightning and sound to create an entire universe on his minimalist set. With Aikawa and Endo, he has some fine actors too. It takes a while for the story to get going and the near 3-hour runtime is way too long, but the final hour is pretty interesting and kept me engaged. It's a real shame it took Miike too long to get there.

Too Cool to Kill

by Wenxiong Xing
Zhe Ge Sha Shou Bu Tai Leng Jing
2022 / 109m - China
Comedy,Crime
3.0*/5.0*
Too Cool to Kill poster

A Chinese remake of Koki Mitani's The Magic Hour. The film was pretty successful in its homeland, which is not too surprising as the Chinese seem to love their comedies. And Chinese comedy is what you'll get. Too Cool to Kill is pretty over-the-top, with lots of winking and nudging and outrageous situations played for laughs.

Wei dreams of becoming a comedy actor, he just isn't very good. He gets lucky when he is hired out of the blue to headline in a new film, what he doesn't know is that he is part of a great scam to fool some local criminals. Wei really gives it his all, which gets him into some very dangerous situations.

The performances aren't that great and the comedy is very hit-and-miss, but the budget was clearly there. The sets look lush and writer/director Xing had quite a bit of fun with the styling, it just never really compares to similar Hong Kong films that were released a decade ago (or Mitani's original). Decent fun.

Magic Mike XXL

by Gregory Jacobs
2015 / 115m - USA
Drama,Music
2.5*/5.0*
Magic Mike XXL poster

The inevitable sequel. While not a critical success, Magic Mike drew enough people to the movie theater, and so franchising is the obvious next step. XXL is more of the same, but made with a bit more glee, which makes it more interesting for those not watching to see near-naked men dance sexy.

A few years after the first film, the men come back together to go on one final tour. Their lives didn't really pan out the way they hoped, and they want to go out with a bang. On their way to a stripper convention they run into trouble, but with the help of old friends they manage to get where they need to be.

The script is a bit meandering and the comedy isn't always very successful, but the actors are visibly having fun and the pacing of the film is fine, even though it's a bit long in the tooth. Not a bad sequel, possibly even a little better than the first one, but it's not all that remarkable.

Now, Voyager

by Irving Rapper
1942 / 117m - USA
Drama,Romance
1.5*/5.0*
Now, Voyager poster

A classic drama/romance about a girl who blossoms into a real woman once she gets out of the grip of her overbearing mother. There's no subtlety here and the characters are paper thin, but decent performances do manage to save a little of what is a pretty basic and generic story.

A young girl once found love, but her mother didn't approve of the relationship. They live separated from the rest of the world and the girl gets into her own head, which leads to a nervous breakdown. Her doctor prescribes a long vacation to South-America, where she meets a wonderful man.

Films like these aren't really for me. They're built around easy drama and are very plot-driven, which a sentimental score and plain black and white cinematography pushing things along. But Bette Davis does manage to make something of her characters, which saves it from complete disaster.

Why Me, Sweetie?!

Sat Yee Gai Lui Wong
2003 / 97m - Hong Kong
Comedy,Romance
1.5*/5.0*
Why Me, Sweetie?! poster

One of Jingle Ma's ill-advised romcoms. I'm not quite sure what exactly Ma was going for here, but the result is one big mess. The romance is overly cheesy, the comedy is almost slapstick-like, nothing really goes together and for some reason there is some awful singing that keeps making comebacks throughout the film.

Ding Ding is an Asian-American who moves back to Beijing to complete her studies. There she bumps into Dong. The two are clearly made for each other, but when Dong wakes up the next morning he doesn't remember Ding Ding. Dong suffers from memory loss, which greatly complicates their relationship.

Koo is a pretty solid actor, but he's just terrible here. Ma's direction is all over the place, the comedy is more miss than hit, the romance doesn't really work, and the film has some serious pacing issues, even when the runtime is relatively short. Not Jingle Ma's finest work, which makes it pretty difficult to recommend.

X

by Ti West
2022 / 105m - USA
Horror
2.0*/5.0*
X poster

Ti West returns with a new horror film. After directing a slew of TV series he found a home at A24 to once again pay homage to the past. This time around West goes for the 70s, borrowing royally from slashers and revenge flicks of the era. The result is flawed, with West getting stuck pandering to fans of said era, rather than delivering an actual good horror flick.

A team of filmmakers wants to make it big. Preempting the boom of the home video market, they set off to shoot an X-rated film in an old man's barn. When they arrive they get to work, but the old man behaves oddly, and once they meet his wife things get truly weird and awkward.

The make-up is pretty distracting, the horror elements are tame, the introduction is way too long and the performances are mediocre. It takes West a long time to get to the good part, but when it finally arrives the film feels unfocused and random. Apart from a handful of decent moments (the croc scare in the first half is cool), this turned out to be a very unmemorable film.

Cyclops

by Jôji Iida
Kikuropusu
1987 / 52m - Japan
Sci-fi,Horror
2.5*/5.0*
Cyclops poster

When the budget isn't there, one easy way to deal is by simply decreasing the runtime. But even that can't really save Cyclops. It's just 52 minutes long, still the first half drags quite a bit, to the point where it was just boring to sit through. That's not what you want from a 50-minute film.

A group of mad scientists are doing immoral experiments on humans, growing odd, mutated creatures inside them. When their test subject kills herself before giving birth, they scour the streets to find a new victim. They find a good candidate, but the experiment itself isn't without danger either.

Get past the dull first half, and some zany splatter horror awaits. The practical effects are insane the and the film does go into complete overdrive, it's just a shame it took director Iida so long to get there. The final 15 minutes are lots of fun, stick around to see it, or just skip ahead if you're very impatient.

Butt Boy

by Tyler Cornack
2019 / 99m - USA
Comedy,Crime
3.5*/5.0*
Butt Boy poster

I went in not really knowing what to expect (I figured this was going to be another quirky indie trying to grab some extra attention with its title), I guess I was proven wrong. Writer/director Cornack isn't afraid to commit to all the uncomfortable moments that stem from the odd story being told here.

Chip lives a boring life. He doesn't like his job, his wife doesn't really love him, and he has no real hobbies. When he gets his first prostate exam, he finally finds something he truly loves. He slowly gets addicted to putting odd objects up his butt, which becomes problematic as they keep growing in size.

The performances are straight-faced, the soundtrack is atmospheric, and the films looks pretty good (though it was clearly made on a budget). But the key asset of Butt Boy is its commitment to surprise, and to go where you never expected it to go. Not for everyone, certainly not perfect, but if you love an odd film, it comes warmly recommended.

Pygmalion

by Anthony Asquith, Leslie Howard
1938 / 89m - UK
Comedy,Romance
1.0*/5.0*
Pygmalion poster

An early version of My Fair Lady, one that is mostly focused on the story and simply trots through the narrative. I watched the musical not too long ago, so the story was still quite fresh. That made Pygmalion pretty dull, even though it's quite a bit shorter and doesn't come with musical interludes.

Eliza Doolittle is a poor but street smart flower seller who bumps into professor Higgins. He sees in her a project and enters a bet with a friend of his. The goal is to turn Eliza into a proper lady, someone who could walk among the member of high society without being found out.

The performances are plain, the story is familiar, the romance doesn't work too well and the film isn't very humorous, nor dramatic. It's just a plain story told over the course of 90 minutes. Not my kind of cinema, certainly not when it's almost a century old. I'll take the musical over this.

The Sadness

by Rob Jabbaz
Ku Bei
2021 / 99m - Taiwan
Horror
The Sadness poster

A film that certainly honors its reputation. Not so much its title though, as The Sadness is pure cinematic horror fun. I don't really care for zombie films anymore, but when they're this graphic and in-your-face it's an easy bias to overcome. The gore is plentiful, there are a slew of iconic scenes (the metro) and characters (the old ledger) and the pacing is perfect. The film does run out of steam just a little towards the finale, Jabbaz isn't able to top himself there, but that's only a minor hiccup in an otherwise delightful horror flick.

Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning

by Yoshitomo Yonetani
Gekijouban Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning
2012 / 88m - Japan
Sci-fi,Action,Animation
2.5*/5.0*
Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning poster

I'm not familiar with the Tiger & Bunny franchise, but I figured it would be easy enough to get a grip on the setting. And sure enough, you don't need to have seen the series to enjoy this film. It's pretty standard anime fare, with a few fun twists, but nothing too special or out of the ordinary.

Wild Tiger is part of a televised superhero team. He's the oldest of the bunch and the TV ratings are quickly dropping. The TV station introduces a new superhero and makes him a companion of Wild Tiger. The two are off to a very bumpy start, but when they join forces to catch a particularly crafty thief, they are forced to work together.

The animation quality is mediocre and the art style a bit basic. The idea of the televised superheroes is pretty fun, and it helps that there isn't too much drama that gets in the way of the action. At just under 90 minutes the film doesn't outstay its welcome either, even though the plot is pretty slim. Decent.

The Bubble

by Judd Apatow
2022 / 126m - USA
Comedy
3.5*/5.0*
The Bubble poster

Judd Apatow making his own Tropic Thunder. I'm not a terribly big fan op Apatow's work, his films tend to be too long and usually contain unnecessary drama, so I was quite happy to see he stuck to simple and pure comedy this time around. 126 minutes is still a bit much, but at least it's 126 minutes of laughs.

A crew is assembled during the pandemic to shoot Cliff Beasts 6, a cheesy blockbuster made to lighten the mood of audiences everywhere. After a strict quarantine the shooting finally starts, but the actors behave like spoiled brats and keep messing up the production of the film.

I generally don't care for films about films, especially not the ones putting feathers in their own asses, but I do appreciate it when they make fun of their perceived importance. The comedy is daft and varied enough, the cast is on point, and at no point in the entire film does it take itself serious. Fun.

The Longest Summer

Hui Nin Yin Fa Dak Bit Doh
1998 / 128m - Hong Kong
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
The Longest Summer poster

The handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China was an extremely important event in the history of Hong Kong, its consequences are still causing ripples to this very day. And yet, the Hong Kong movie industry never paid too much attention to it, safe some outlier directors like Fruit Chan.

As an effect of the handover, soldiers employed by the Brits suddenly find themselves without a proper job. They have no other skills and many of them roam Hong Kong without a clear goal. It's no surprise they end up favoring a life of crime, but even that is easier said than done.

The blueish hues are cold but moody, performances are decent, and the ending is pretty shocking, but the film is also a bit meandering and while the themes do shine through, Chan needs quite a bit of time to get to the point. Not a bad film, but a more pointed and concise effort would've been better.

The Grandmother

by Paco Plaza
La Abuela
2021 / 100m - Spain
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
The Grandmother poster

Paco Plaza's return to the horror genre. Don't expect a full-on chiller though, Plaza's latest has some drama and fantasy elements to make for a more rounded genre film. It's a shame the plot is a bit too generous with hints as to what is going on exactly, as Plaza's direction is pretty stylish.

Susanne is a Spanish model working in Paris. On the day she gets her big break, she gets a call from the hospital telling her that her grandmother has falling ill. Susanne travels back to Madrid to take care of her, but even though they shared a close bond, it's not as easy as she imagined.

Solid performances, a beautiful location (the flat of the grandmother) and some eerie scenes make this a tense and creepy horror film. The ending is pretty cool too, though a bit expected (not because it's a genre cliché, but because the film is a foreshadowing a little too much). Plaza made another great film for genre fans.