She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

1949 / 104m - USA
Western
1.0*/5.0*
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon poster

John Ford and John Wayne, that means you better brace yourself for some oldskool western fun. That is, if you like westerns. If you're like me, and you can't stand the genre, seeing these names together is certainly less thrilling. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is one of their vintage collaborations, so it's no surprise this didn't do anything for me.

Captain Brittles is on the verge of retirement, but the threat of an Indian attack is looming. He is sent out to investigate the situation, but he also has to evacuate some women, which makes his job that much more difficult. When the Indians attack, Brittles will have to sneak back to camp to get reinforcements.

This is little more than just another cowboys and Indians story. Ford's direction is cheesy, Wayne is a dud and the added comedy with the women present is pretty terrible. I simply don't get the appeal of these films, it's a good thing then that their popularity seems to be slowly waning.

Bloody Chainsaw Girl Returns: Giko Awakens

by Hiroki Yamaguchi
Chimamire Sukeban Chênsô Red: Kôhen - Gîko no Kakusei
2019 / 54m - Japan
Comedy,Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Bloody Chainsaw Girl Returns: Giko Awakens poster

Yamaguchi continues his Bloody Chainsaw Girl franchise with another shorter entry. While these films are good fun, they aren't up there with the best in the genre, nor with the best in Yamaguchi's oeuvre, so unless he's doing it to stay afloat (and relevant), I hope he'll abandon this series in the near future.

Giko is held hostage by the school for bad conduct, but soon enough she escapes again. When one of her friends is kidnapped, Giko and her gang vow to get her back. She'll be fighting against some strange enemies, not to mention an old foe who return to take on Giko one final time.

Giko Awakens offers a nice mix of splatter and comedy. The budget is low, but Yamaguchi counters well with some zany ideas and absurd twists. If you like the Japanese splatter films you'll have a good time with this one, I just wish Yamaguchi would honor his true potential, as he's really capable of doing better than this.

Taro the Fool

Tarô no Baka
2019 / 119m - Japan
Drama,Crime
3.5*/5.0*
Taro the Fool poster

Omori further establishes his reputation with one of his impressive but very unpleasant films. Taro the Fool isn't an easy watch. There are no characters you can root for, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, no relief for those who power through. Then again, that's what makes these nihilistic films so worthwhile.

Taro is a young boy who isn't quite like the rest. His mother doesn't care for him, so he tends to ditch school and hangs around with his two friends, Eiji and Sugio. This trio always gets into trouble, but when they rob a young Yakuza and end up with his gun in their possession, things are about to get worse.

The central trio aren't very nice boys, neither are their adversaries. The film is really just an escalation of bad behavior, still Ohmori finds a way to make his audience care for the leads. If the styling had been just a little grittier I probably would've found another personal favorite, but this was very impressive regardless. Just know what you're getting yourself into.

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Sustainable War

by Michihito Fujii
Kôkaku kidôtai SAC_2045 Jizoku Kanô Sensô
2021 / 119m - Japan
Sci-fi,Thriller,Animation
1.5*/5.0*
Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Sustainable War poster

I used to be a huge Ghost in the Shell fan, but an onslaught of subpar series have taken their toll on the good name of the franchise. I'm not bothering with series material anymore, but whenever they release a recap film I just can't seem to help myself. And so I watched Sustainable War, a new low point in the franchise.

After Section 9 was disbanded, Kusanagi and some familiars formed a gang of mercenaries. On one of their missions, they come into contact with a formidable enemy who seems able to predict all their every move. Apparently they're dealing with a posthuman, an evolved form of humankind.

The animation feels cheap, the art style even cheaper. The hardcore sci-fi elements have all but gone from this incarnation, what remains are predictable action scenes and Tachikoma comedy interludes. Not even the soundtrack stands out. It's all just very bland and uninspired, nothing like the manga and films that started off this franchise.

Die Nibelungen: Siegfried

by Fritz Lang
1924 / 143m - Germany
Fantasy,Adventure
3.0*/5.0*
Die Nibelungen: Siegfried poster

Fritz Lang's German period is by far his best and most artistic. I've seen a fair few German films from that era, but I still get amazed whenever I notice how stylish and fantastical these films are, especially for their age (Die Nibelungen is almost a century old now). Siegfried is no exception.

Die Nibelungen is a classic fantasy story/fairy tale, with dragons, kings and quite a bit of backstabbing. Siegfried is a fearless knight who kills a dragon and the dwarf king on his way to the castle of King Gunther. There he is allowed to marry Gunther's sister, but only if Siegfried promises to hand over the treasures he earned.

The golden/sepia cinematography is lovely, the fantastical elements look pretty solid, and the story isn't too serious. The length and somewhat slower and more repetitive middle part is the only thing keeping me from giving a higher score. I'm looking forward to catching Long's other part now.

Love, Life and Goldfish

by Yukinori Makabe
Sukutte Goran
2020 / 92m - Japan
Romance,Musical
Love, Life and Goldfish poster

A very, very sweet film. The plot isn't too original, sporting a Tokyo banker who is sent to a backwards village as punishment. But the film has something magical and charming that makes it stand out, even beyond its musical roots. The styling is colorful and bright, the characters are fun and loveable, the setting idyllic. It's a cute little goldfish-based fantasy/musical blend that doesn't seem to have exceptionally high aspirations, but hits the sweet spot between charm and originality.

Bloody Chainsaw Girl Returns: Revenge of Nero

by Hiroki Yamaguchi
Chimamire Sukeban Chênsô Red: Zenpen - Nero no Fukushû
2019 / 52m - Japan
Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Bloody Chainsaw Girl Returns: Revenge of Nero poster

Yamaguchi continues his Bloody Chainsaw Girl franchise. The first one was decent enough entertainment, though nowhere close to the now decade-old Sushi Typhoon films. Revenge of Nero is a short and sweet sequel that combines gore and absurd comedy to deliver some prime fun.

Giko and her chainsaw are no match for the zombies prowling the school premises. But there are more dangerous enemies who are trying to trap her. When Giko defeats two girls assaulting her in a public bath, she discovers that Nero is the mastermind behind the attacks. Giko is puzzled, as she has no idea why Nero would be after her.

Outrageous gore, odd characters, absurd narrative twists and some random jokes make this a pretty easy film to enjoy. That is, if you can look past some lesser performances and low-budget, functional CG. This isn't a future classic, but it's easy and fun filler, with a promise that there is more to come in the future.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

by Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
2022 / 139m - USA
Comedy,Fantasy
3.0*/5.0*
Everything Everywhere All at Once poster

Not a bad film, but a tremendous disappointment nonetheless. I really liked the Daniels' previous work, I sure love myself a bit of Michelle Yeoh and the rumors about this being batshit crazy were encouraging. Maybe a bit too much, in a time when truly odd and strange films are regularly slashed and discarded, one would get a little suspicious about so much praise. And one would be right.

Evelyn struggles to keep her head above water. Her marriage isn't going too well, her father flew in from Hong Kong and the tax bureau is on her case. Right when things get too much for her, she is contacted by a man from a parallel universe. He tells Evelyn she is the savior of the multiverse, the only one who can stop an evil power from destroying all the possible worlds.

There were too many pop culture references (and many not doing justice to the original, like the Gozu gag or the Kar-Wai/Doyle moments), the execution was a little lacking and the secondary cast wasn't that great. It's still a fun film, one that deserves credit for trying out something different, just don't expect to see top tier weirdness. No matter how hard the Daniels tried, the film ended up feeling a little underwhelming.

Caught in the Net

by Barbora Chalupová, Vít Klusák
V Síti
2020 / 100m - Czech Republic
Documentary
3.5*/5.0*
Caught in the Net poster

Not the most original documentary, certainly one of the boldest I've seen about this subject. The grooming of young girls online is something that is well-documented, but to see it play out for real is quite something else. For that reason alone, this documentary is worth a look, especially for kids or adults dealing with teens.

Three actresses of age are scouted for the job. They're styled and prepped to look as if they were only 12 years old, they are given online profiles, then the waiting starts. Not for long though, almost immediately after creating their profiles older men begin to contact them, many of them with malicious intentions. Things don't get better when the girls actually engage with these men.

The doc has a pretty strict focus, which is a shame, as it touches upon some very interesting things that could've used a bit more explaining. At the same time, this narrow focus makes for a more harrowing experience, where no punches are pulled by the documentary team. Not a very pleasant watch, but definitely an impressive one.

Love Story

by Arthur Hiller
1970 / 100m - USA
Drama,Romance
1.0*/5.0*
Love Story poster

An American classic (apparently, even though I hadn't heard about this film before). Not all that hard to see why that is, Love Story is a piece of schmaltz that didn't really stand the test of time. I'm not a big fan of the film's setup regardless, but when the execution feels so terribly forced, it's pretty much impossible to make a romance/drama like this work.

Jenny and Oliver meet each other at college. They come from very different backgrounds, still they fall in love with each other and decide to get married. Oliver's parents aren't really on board with their marriage, but the two go through with it anyway. When they finally get their shot at happiness, Jenny finds out she is very ill.

There's very little chemistry between the leads and the relationship between them never feels genuine. The music is a bit kitsch, the drama is rather cheap, and the finale is overly sentimental. It's just not a very good film, and I've seen this story done much better since. Undeserving of its status.

Hatching

by Hanna Bergholm
Pahanhautoja
2022 / 86m - Finland
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Hatching poster

A fine mix of fantasy and horror. We're obviously getting symbolical horror here, I'd gather the film deals with growing up and losing one's innocence, with an extra focus on the mother/daughter relationship. Films like these are always in danger of neglecting their genre roots, but Bergholm doesn't fall in this all too common trap.

Tinja's mother is very demanding, Tinja tries to oblige as much as she can. When a bird flies into their home and her mother kills it with a smile on her face, Tinja feels something has changed between them. When she finds an abandoned egg in the forest she decides to hatch it, but she couldn't have imagined what's inside the egg.

The creature design is cool and well-executed, so are the body horror elements. Tinja's creepy fake-perfect parents are fun and there are some very memorable moments. Hatching is quite the debut, the only thing missing is a slightly more prominent directorial style. I don't think Bergholm pushed things far enough, but she sure deserves another shot. This was pretty great.

Image

by Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
2014 / 87m - Belgium
Thriller
3.5*/5.0*
Image poster

EL Arbi and Fallah's first. These two young talents made their dream a reality when they moved to Hollywood to shoot the latest Bad Boys sequel, but they started out with considerably fewer means to their disposal. With Image, they showcased what they could do on a budget, and I will say the result is pretty impressive.

The plot revolves around a young girl working in a newsroom. She has found a perfect subject for a documentary in a Moroccan man who agrees to guide her through the quarters of Molenbeek. She gets pressured from above to complete her documentary as quickly as possible, but she believes her doc can bring much-needed nuance to a heavily polarized story.

The performances are strong, the thorny subject is handled with the proper care, and the dramatization of the plot is successful. The pacing and runtime are pretty much perfect, too. Image isn't a whiny plea for respect, nor a simple excuse, nor a dry political pamphlet, instead it's a well-made film that doesn't sugarcoat its message. A very nice feature film debut.

The Ladykillers

by Alexander Mackendrick
1955 / 91m - UK
Comedy,Crime
2.0*/5.0*
The Ladykillers poster

I'd watched the adaptation of the Coens ages ago. Clearly not their best film, hardly their worst. It did make me quite curious about the original, and so I finally got around to giving that one a go. It's an amusing little comedy that feels a little stuffier than needed, but still contains some enlightened moments.

A gang of five is planning a bank heist. To bring their plan to fruition, they rent a room from an old lady and pretend to be a classical music band. The lady is fooled by their ploy, the leader of the gang comes with a grand idea to involve the old lady in their heist plans. Not everyone is board, but they go through with it anyway.

Once you know the plot the film does lose some of its appeal. Not all performances are equally great either, but the film does have typical British charm and the pacing is decent, especially for an older film. I'd expected worse, what I got was a fairly amusing crime comedy. I do prefer the Coens version, though by a slimmer margin than expected.

Monstrous

by Chris Sivertson
2022 / 89m - USA
Horror,Mystery
3.0*/5.0*
Monstrous poster

A cute little mind bender. Monstrous is a film that combines drama and horror and adds some mystery elements to make it a fine little genre mix. What keeps things together is the rather docile and almost idyllic approach to the material. Don't expect an overly riveting one, Sivertson goes for a more stylish approach.

Laura and her young boy move to a new town, where they're going to start their lives anew. Laura ran from her husband after doing them wrong, but their new house doesn't feel too comfortable. Something is stirring in the pond next to the house, and it's coming for her little boy.

It's nice seeing Ricci again, the film has the slightly exaggerated 50s look down, and the twist is pleasant, though not astounding. Monstrous isn't a film that is going to rewrite cinema history, but if you're looking for a slightly different take on the horror/mystery cross-over, this is a worthwhile film.

Undercover

Ai Him Yan Muk
2007 / 84m - Hong Kong
Thriller,Crime
3.0*/5.0*
Undercover poster

A pretty standard Triad/undercover cop thriller. It's a staple of the Hong Kong film industry, certainly in the decade following the handover. Undercover isn't the most spirited example, it's a film that sticks to conventions and simply aims to deliver some expected genre thrills. And that it does rather well, just don't build it up too much.

Feng is a young police recruit who is immediately assigned an undercover mission. When his mission is finished, Feng finds himself struggling to pick up his old life. He seeks out the company of Fai, his old Triad brother, but when they are found together, one of Feng's fellow officers dies in the scuffle. Fai is blamed for the mishap and suspects Feng might have set him up to climb the ranks.

Sam Lee and Shawn Yue do pretty well, the rest of the cast isn't really on their level. The plot is pretty simple and predictable, the styling is somewhat derivative, but the pacing is solid, and the runtime is short. If you like a decent crime thriller, this film won't disappoint. It's decent enough filler, but not a genre highlight.

Firestarter

by Keith Thomas
2022 / 94m - USA
Horror
2.5*/5.0*
Firestarter poster

An new adaptation of the Steven King book. I wasn't a terribly big fan of the first film (which is quite the understatement), so the bar was set pretty low. It's certainly not worse than the '84 version, but it's still not a particularly good film and I don't think this version of Firestarter is going to bring King many new fans.

Charlie is the daughter of a couple with psychokinetic powers. They've tried to suppress Charlie's powers, but as she grows up it becomes increasingly more difficult to keep her emotions in check. A group of scientists is trying to track the family down, hoping to study Charlie before she is completely out of control.

It's a low-key, non-superhero like X-Men film. The horror elements are basic, the drama doesn't really work, and the styling is functional, but hardly worth a second though (even though John Carpenter helped with the score). Just random filler, much like the older King adaptations. Not terrible, but not very memorable either.

Open the Coffin

by Cheng Siyi
2022 / 92m - China
Mystery,Thriller
3.5*/5.0*
Open the Coffin poster

A pretty successful mix of popular elements. There's a bit of tomb raiding fun at the start of the film, but this is really more of a police procedural with strong mystery and overt supernatural influences. The execution was a bit better than expected, but that's probably because I've seen a few too many Chinese streamer films lately.

A young police detective is given a rather mysterious case. He quickly discovers the body is that of a man who was involved in a tomb raiding incident. But then more people start dying, and they all carry signs of old Chinese folklore rituals. The detectives are forced to delve into the realm of the occult if they hope to solve the case.

Open the Coffin isn't quite horror, as the film doesn't really try to scare or repulse, but if you're extremely squeamish, this might not be the film for you. Performances are decent, the film looks atmospheric, the plot is pretty amusing and the pacing is pleasant. Fun filler, if a little too unambitious to come close to a personal favorite.