Day of Wrath

by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Vredens Dag
1943 / 100m - Denmark
Drama
1.5*/5.0*
Day of Wrath poster

I'm certain I'll never be a big Dreyer fan, but it's clear the man has his own way of making films. On paper, a film like Day of Wrath has nothing for me, but thanks to the stark black and white cinematography it becomes a bit easier to stomach. It's still quite the ordeal, but not as bad as some of the other classics.

A young woman is married to a priest, but she is actually in love with his son. One night she feels brave enough to break the news to her husband, which ultimately leads to his death. The mother of the priest gets wind of the story, and she claims the young woman is a witch, hoping she'll be prosecuted.

The conversations are very theatrical, and the settings are minimalistic. While there are whiffs of witchcraft present, the film is a clear drama and never comes close to being a horror film. Not a very riveting film, certainly not one I'll ever revisit, but it's not as bad as I'd feared up front.

8 Minutes Idle

by Mark Simon Hewis
2012 / 86m - UK
Comedy
3.0*/5.0*
8 Minutes Idle poster

A cute little romcom with contemporary British flair. The film doesn't really try to tread new ground, but the characters are not your average romcom fodder, the plot's not quite as rosy as you'd expect, and the finale works. That's always a good sign the film did something right.

When Dan messes up, he's thrown out of his mother's home. With no place to go, he decides to sleep at the office. Dan works in a call center, a simple but easy job that doesn't bring any real responsibilities with it. Until his superior makes him team lead and gives him some nasty business to handle.

The actors do a good job, as the characters are rather pitiful but charming nonetheless. The film isn't overly funny and the ending hardly original, the setting and tomfoolery isn't quite romcom material though, which makes for a nice change of pace. Nothing too spectacular, but solid filler.

Climbers High

Kuraimâzu Hai
2008 / 145m - Japan
Drama,Thriller
2.5*/5.0*
Climbers High poster

Masato Harada is a pretty big name (with an impressive oeuvre), the cast isn't anything to scoff at either. Just to say that I had high hopes for this film, but they never really materialized into something concrete. While this could've been a solid investigative thriller, it's really just an average newspaper drama.

JAL 123 crashes and kills 520 people, the biggest single-plane crash ever recorded. Yuuki is heading the newspaper team that handles the crash, but he finds it difficult to make the right decisions. He struggles with his reporters, doesn't want to jump the gun on any unverified sources and doesn't have an easy time at home.

The actors do a solid job, Harada tries to add a bit of flair to the film, but the crash remains well out of sight and most of the film is set in the offices of the paper. The sentiment doesn't translate that well and at almost two and a half hours long, the film's a bit long in the tooth. Not his best work.

22 July

by Paul Greengrass
2018 / 143m - USA
Thriller,Crime
1.5*/5.0*
22 July poster

Greengrass giving his version of the Utøya massacre. If you want a more gripping, more compact and overall better film, then just watch Poppe's Utøya: July 22. If you prefer an elongated Hollywood version with more in-your-face sentiment, this Paul Greengrass version is the one you want to see.

Anders Breivik is a far right extremist who prepares to shock the nation. After bombing an office building in Oslo, he drives to Utøya where the children of the Norwegian elite are passing their days in summer camp. He wreaks havoc with an arsenal of guns, only to make a political statement.

Greengrass' film focuses way more on the aftermath of the events and the trial that followed it. The massacre itself is pretty minor, instead, we get more personal drama. I can't say I was very impressed with this film, then again, that goes for most of Greengrass' oeuvre. It's topical, just not very good film making.

Hamlet

by Laurence Olivier
1948 / 154m - UK
Drama
0.5*/5.0*
Hamlet poster

Well, it is Hamlet alright. There are many adaptations of Shakespeare's famous play, Olivier's one is often seen as one of the best. Not the most fateful (as the film is considerably shorter than the play), but I'm not one to judge about that, as I'm hardly a fan of this type of theatricality.

Hamlet returns home after his father has died. When he arrives, he finds his mother has already remarried, and his uncle is now the king. Hamlet is requested to marry Ophelia, but then his father appears to him as a ghost and informs Hamlet that his uncle and his mother conspired against him, putting Hamlet in a difficult position.

This was barely a film, just a stage play on location. The performances were highly theatrical, the cinematography was dire and purely functional, the soundtrack almost entirely absent. And this goes on for a good 150 minutes, telling a story that's been done countless times before. Not my idea of great cinema.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage

by Andy Serkis
2021 / 97m - USA
Fantasy,Action
2.0*/5.0*
Venom: Let There Be Carnage poster

Venom really is just more superhero nonsense, but there is a little twist that helps to set it apart from most Marvel/DC films. Not enough to make it a good franchise, but at least it doesn't feel like a film that's been rechewed for the past two decades. This sequel is even slightly better than the first one.

Venom and Eddie are still together, even though their relationship is pretty bumpy. When Eddie is contacted by Carnage, a famed serial killer, something goes wrong and part of Venom becomes part of Carnage. He uses his new superpowers to break free from his prison and wreak havoc unto the world.

The comedy is a bit awkward and Harrelson is a mediocre bad guy, but the film is short, well-paced and quite chaotic (in a good way). It's nice to see a film like this commit to a more outspoken and well-defined style, rather than try to be everything at once. It's still not great, but definitely more amusing than most others in the genre.

As Time Goes By

by Ann Hui, Vincent Chui
Qu Ri Ku Duo
1997 / 58m - Hong Kong
Documentary
1.5*/5.0*
As Time Goes By poster

The handover is by far one of the most impactful events in (semi)recent Hong Kong history. The ripples of that moments are getting stronger every day, so I figured it might be interesting to see how the Hong Kong people felt about this historic moment back when it actually took place. That's not really what Hui's documentary is about though.

Instead, Hui takes a trip down memory lane. Interviewing herself and some other people, you get a talking heads doc where the interviewees are mostly digging up old memories. These are mostly personal memories, so unless you've lived in Hong Kong, or you're a big fan of human interest, it's really not that interesting.

The doc is only an hour long, but it still feels a little random and aimless. Hui tries to span the 40 years under British rule, it just doesn't really translate well. Some interviews are more interesting than others and the short runtime makes sure it's not a complete fluke, but I was hoping to see something more insightful.

Absolute Power

1997 / 121m - USA
Action,Crime
1.5*/5.0*
Absolute Power poster

Eastwood putting himself in the spotlight again. The result is a bland 90s thriller with a bunch of old men chasing each other. It's a bit hard to imagine a film like this actually did well back in the 90s (I was around, but not really that big of a film fan back then, certainly not interested in this type of nonsense).

Eastwood plays a master thief who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He witnesses a murder implicating the president of the USA. He hopes he can leave and come out scot-free, but a dedicated detective really digs into the case and picks up Eastwood's trail.

The performances are bland, none of the characters are very interesting, the cinematography and score is crap, and the runtime is way too long. It's just bad genre film making with a bigger Hollywood budget and cast. Not that I'm a big Eastwood fan to begin with, but this is one of his weaker films.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da
2011 / 157m - Turkey
Drama,Crime
2.0*/5.0*
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia poster

My fourth Ceylan, and I'm really starting to see a pattern here. I quite like his more introspective moments, where his film slows down and characters just wander. When narrative and conversations are added, I feel the quality takes a real dip and his films start getting tedious.

A group of people are cruising the Anatolian plains, looking for a corps. The police has two suspects with them, but they have trouble remembering the place where they buried the body, as the Anatolian plains are huge and not too distinctive. As they keep on searching, the conversation shifts between various subjects.

The setting is quite beautiful, and the cinematography adds a level of mystery. If Ceylan had cut out most of the conversation, he could've had a pretty solid 90-minute film, but alas. I didn't really care for the characters, nor the topics brought up, and these moments really pulled me out of the film. Ceylan's just not for me, I guess.

The Adam Project

by Shawn Levy
2022 / 106m - USA
Sci-fi,Adventure
2.0*/5.0*
The Adam Project poster

A bit too childish for my taste. I could do with another excellent sci-fi film, but they seem hard to come by these days. The Adam Project plays more like the 80s adventure films for kids, with a serious dash of Ryan Reynolds throws in. If that's your thing, this is probably a great film.

Adam travels back from the future to stop the time travel machine from ever being invented. He miscalculates and ends up in the wrong timeline, four years from where he should've landed. He seeks out his former self to help him out, but his enemies are on his tail, and they don't want him to interfere with history.

The budget was there, but that's about it. Reynolds plays himself again, the rest of the cast isn't too great either, the time travel mechanics are lazy, and the emotional bits don't work at all. At least the pacing is decent, and the runtime remains below the two-hour mark, Netflix could do a lot better with a budget like that though.

Haunted School

by Hideyuki Hirayama
Gakkô no Kaidan
1995 / 101m - Japan
Horror
2.5*/5.0*
Haunted School poster

Japan loves a good haunted school story. The Haunted School series is quite popular, but similar franchises exist that offer pretty much the exact same thrills. Mind you, this film is mostly aimed at a younger audience. There is no extravagant gore or no real edge-of-your-seat thrills.

A young student ventures off into a closed-off wing of her school, after which she's never seen again. Another group of kids finds the courage to enter the wing, they too get trapped inside. As the rumors of hauntings turn out to be true, they have to rush to find their way out of the school.

There are some fun creature effects and the boyish, adventurous vibe of the film is fun enough, but the horror is really shallow and limited and there's not quite enough meat to the story to fill the 100-minute runtime. Not bad if you see it with the right expectations, just don't expect a fully fledged J-horror.

The Valet

by Richard Wong
2022 / 124m - USA
Comedy,Romance
3.5*/5.0*
The Valet poster

Straight to streamer remake of a French film. Expectations were pretty limited for this one, maybe that's why I was happily surprised to find a more than decent film. There are no surprises here, The Valet is incredibly formulaic, but the characters are extremely charming and the tone of the film is just right.

A simple valet gets implicated in the secret relationship between a star actress and a real estate mogul. To keep the press out of their hair, he accepts to date the actress in front of the public. The two come from very different worlds, but as they spend some time together, they begin to appreciate each other's company.

Eugenio Derbez is the clear star of the film, though the rest of the cast is good too. Weaving is the biggest name here, and while she isn't bad, I don't think these types of roles are really for her. The film is probably a bit too long, but the pleasant characters, the light comedy and the feelgood atmosphere make this a very easy watch.

Crimes of the Future

2022 / 107m - Canada
Sci-fi,Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Crimes of the Future poster

Cronenberg's return to the body horror genre has been getting quite a lot of attention, not too odd considering he's one of the founders of the genre. I'm not the biggest Cronenberg fan, but I was curious to see how his latest would stack up against the work of his son (who I like a lot better).

In a future where mankind is evolving and many has lost their sense of pain, there's a performance art couple (Saul & Caprice) who host public surgeries, where they remove freshly grown organs from Saul's body. These performances skirt the boundaries of legality, but there are other groups who like things just that little further.

There are some interesting ideas and concepts here, but the film lacks a well-paced plot, the cinematography could've been better, and the score isn't all that either. Cronenberg's musings about art, humanity and evolution feel a bit old and tired, and they are forced into the film rather crudely. The film certainly stands out and there are some memorable scenes, it just doesn't really flow that well.

Child of the Stars

2020 / 110m - Japan
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
Child of the Stars poster

A rather subdued drama by Ohmori. That's a bit surprising to be honest, as he is best known for his edgy and gritty films. The topic of the film certainly could've gone a lot darker, and it could've fit right in with the rest of his work. That said, going with this softer approach might actually be the most shocking way to portray the story.

The young Chihiro suffers from eczema. Nothing helps, until a colleague from Chihiro's father suggests a special kind of water. The water instantly clears Chihiro's condition, her parents are delighted. It drives them to an odd cult. Chihiro's brothers moves out of the house once he is old enough, Chihiro prefers to stay with her parents.

It's interesting to see that Ohmori doesn't blindly condemn the cult and Chihiro's parents, not a very common angle. The performances are solid and there are some strong scenes, but it's probably a bit too complacent in its styling to really stand out. A nice film, I just wish it could've made a more lasting impact.

Happiness

by Todd Solondz
1998 / 134m - USA
Comedy
Happiness poster

A true benchmark for uncomfortable comedy. Solondz treads a very line between comedy and tragedy, but never trips up. The characters are terrible, intolerable people, but they all draw sympathy from the audience, even though they rarely deserve it. The cinematography and score are pretty bland, the structure a little simple, but almost every other scene is a comedy highlight and the film is filled with memorable confrontations. They sure don't make 'em like this anymore.

The Iron Coffin of Western Xia

by Wang Lifeng
2022 / 73m - China
Mystery
3.0*/5.0*
The Iron Coffin of Western Xia poster

Another Chinese Sherlock Holmes. There are so many Chinese genre films appearing these days, that it is nigh impossible to keep track of how everything fits together. So much in fact that I had no idea whether the intro of this film was a recap of previous entries in a franchise, or just a rushed introduction. Not that it matters a lot.

Song Ci is a legendary detective who solves every case he gets assigned. The case he is currently handling is a tad trickier, as it involves royalty. The death of a king has the potential to disrupt a brittle peace between nations, so Song Ci has to be extra careful not to step on any toes. Some supernatural elements are making things even harder for him.

This is another basic streamer film, though with a tighter focus on crime solving. The performances are a bit all over the place, production design is decent but clearly on the lower end of the budget spectrum, the plot is rather convoluted, yet everything is neatly explained at the end. Nothing out of the ordinary, just some decent entertainment.

The Battle of Chile: Part I

by Patricio Guzmán
La Batalla de Chile: La Lucha de un Pueblo Sin Armas - Primera Parte: La Insurrección de la Burguesía
1975 / 191m - Chile
Documentary
2.0*/5.0*
The Battle of Chile: Part I poster

The first part in a trilogy of films documenting the revolution against the government of Allende. I can't say I was aware of the events in this documentary, South-America is not a continent often covered here in Belgium, so from that angle the documentary was certainly pretty informative.

When Allende seizes power, he does so with a minority vote. His efforts to reform the country are met with great resistance, so much in fact that foreign countries mingle in the Chilean affairs when he tries to nationalize industries. This first part documents the rising unrest and the tilt to violence.

There are a few too many street interviews, other than that it's a pretty dry but clear and factual documentary, that relies on actual footage rather than talking heads. I wasn't bored, but it is little more than a history lesson with a shocker ending. I'm not too sure how it earned its status, but it's decent.

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers

by Akiva Schaffer
2022 / 97m - USA
Comedy,Adventure,Animation
3.0*/5.0*
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers poster

Disney resurrecting Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers doesn't sound all that exciting, but they made a real effort with this one. In the hands of the Lonely Island gang the result is a film full of gags and references that reach well beyond the Disney stable, keeping the pace high from start to finish.

After the success of Rescue Rangers, Chip and Dale split up when they try to go solo. Years later they meet up when Monterey Jack contacts them. He's being chased by a gang who wants to bootleg him. Chip and Dale don't immediately believe him, but when they get the message that Monterey is kidnapped, they decide to work together one last time.

The mix of animation styles is pretty cool, there are some fun gags (about as many hits as misses, but when the jokes come this fast, it doesn't matter that much) and the film keeps up the mad pace. It could've been a little edgier and the plot's a bit lazy, but I had a pretty good time, certainly better than expected.

Hit Team

2022 / 71m - China
Action,Crime
2.5*/5.0*
Hit Team poster

Jing Wong trying to reinvent himself as a streamer king. I have no clue what his goals or plans are, it feels almost surreal to see a guy with his stature throw himself at the streamer market. But alas, here we are. Hit Team is a generic action flick that perfectly embodies the streaming platform filler requirements, and clearly Wong is there for it.

The Long family has been running their crime syndicate for quite some time, though they made sure to never get involved with drug trafficking. The Japanese are trying to enter the Hong Kong drug market and Jason, next in line to run the syndicate, made a deal with them. The police are on Jason's tail, but he has more targets on his back.

It's good to see that Jordan Chan is still around, the finale is decent and the pacing/runtime are perfect. That's probably the biggest selling point of these films, as they tend to be short and to the point. The action scenes are mediocre though and the plot is extremely generic. It's difficult to imagine Wong will be able to make his mark here, but at least it keeps him busy.

Father of the Bride Part II

by Charles Shyer
1995 / 106m - USA
Comedy
1.5*/5.0*
Father of the Bride Part II poster

Some sequels don't deserve a sequel, but popularity may decide otherwise. I could've lived without a second Father of the Bride film, apparently enough people liked the first one though, so more had to follow. Rarely do these sequels amount to much, this film is obviously no exception to the rule.

Steve Martin got mental about his daughter marrying in the first film, this time around she's getting a baby. Martin is not happy with becoming a grandfather, which makes him feel old and useless. As he's going through a little midlife crisis, he has no idea what life has in store for him.

If your idea of funny is watching Martin getting upset about nothing, this might be a comedy for you. It's more annoying than it is funny though. Very few jokes land, the performances are bland and the runtime is a little excessive for such a simple comedy. I'm just glad they didn't make a third one.

Jackass 4.5

by Jeff Tremaine
2022 / 90m - USA
Comedy,Documentary
3.5*/5.0*
Jackass 4.5 poster

The .5 concept of Jackass should feel familiar by now. A bunch of outtakes and scenes that didn't make the official movie, some behind the scenes footage and a couple of interviews. If you just want more stunts these movies aren't for you, if you want to feel a little closer to the cast and crew, this is a perfect alternative to the main series.

Because the 4th film had some unique cinematic moments, the behind the scene stuff was especially fascinating to watch. It was fun to see how they managed to shoot the opening and what craziness they went through to get it just right. The interviews were pretty fun too, though they didn't add a lot.

I never watched the series, just the films. Jackass isn't nostalgia for me, but it is a simple, uncomplicated good time, and that's something I can appreciate. The pacing is solid, the jokes are fun, the camaraderie pleasant. They don't need to wait another decade to make a fifth.

Black Garden

by Shaun Wilson
2019 / 90m - Australia
Sci-fi,Mystery
1.5*/5.0*
Black Garden poster

Sci-fi on the cheap. This small-scale Australian post-apocalyptic thriller makes a decent effort, but director Wilson can't really overcome his budgetary limitations. The result is a film that obviously tried to be a little different from the norm, but ultimately fails at everything it sets out to do. It's nothing a little extra cash couldn't fix.

World War III happened and left very few survivors. Kate is one of them, she is holed up inside her house, scared to go outside. Until she gets a radio signal that tells her everything is fine. She has no reason to trust the man on the other side, but with nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, Kate decides to trust him and go to the proposed rendezvous point.

The soundtrack is pretty much the only thing that works. Brooding ambient and menacing background rumbles create oodles of atmosphere. The cinematography (basically just a desaturation filter that makes thing look grimmer) is rather poor, the performances are downright bad. The pacing is a tad slow, but that's probably because the rest of the film doesn't work. Not great, but not entirely without potential.

Criss Cross

by Robert Siodmak
1949 / 84m - USA
Thriller,Crime
1.0*/5.0*
Criss Cross poster

One of the endless number of noirs that was made in the 40s. The more I watch, the more boring they get. Criss Cross doesn't stand out in any way, which is perfectly fine when you're a genre aficionado, personally I'm a bit surprised these very basic genre films have such a dedicated following.

Steve is a bit of a sucker. When he returns to Los Angeles to get his ex-wife back, she talks him into a pretty devious scheme. Steve is a truck driver, with the help of some shady figures he is about to rob his own vehicle. This sounds like a good plan, but the people he is dealing with are not to be trusted.

Like most of these films, the plot sounds interesting enough, but the film is basically a lot (and I mean a lot) of talking, with maybe a short, crummy action scene at the beginning or end (the latter applies here). The performances are bland, the pacing is slow, crime elements dull and badly developed. Not a fan.

Senior Year

by Alex Hardcastle
2022 / 111m - USA
Comedy
2.0*/5.0*
Senior Year poster

Mediocre American high school comedy, that wants to be contemporary and pay homage to the 90s at the same time. That means you're getting some woke jokes, a ton of 90s/early 00s teen pop references and some mediocre drama that doesn't make much sense and misses the mark completely.

Stephanie looks up to the popular kids, being considered a freak herself. She commits to becoming the most popular girl in school, right when she's about to succeed she gets into a cheerleading accident and slips into a 20-year coma. When she wakes up, the world is a very different place.

Rebel Wilson is decent, but she's had funnier parts. Some of the secondary characters are nice, but they generally don't get enough screen time. The jokes are a bit bland, the pop references tired, the runtime too long for a simple high school comedy. Not the most terrible film in the genre, but hardly worth the trouble.

The Vancouver Asahi

Bankûbâ no Asahi
2014 / 132m -
Drama,Sport
2.5*/5.0*
The Vancouver Asahi poster

A tiny slice of little-known Canadian-Japanese (baseball) history. Yuya Ishii is a very capable director, but here he takes things just a little too easy. The result is a decent but unadventurous sports drama that is very predictable and doesn't really warrant it's 2+ hours running time.

A small community of Japanese people living in Canada struggles to integrate. The looming war and their poor relations with the Canadians makes their lives quite tough. The only hope they have is their local baseball team, but they can't win a single match. Until Reggie takes over the team and dreams up a new strategy.

The focus on the narrative is heavy, and the production design is pretty slick, so this should appeal to a rather broad group of people. The cast/performances are pretty great too, but for me, it was all a bit too classical and predictable. It's not a bad film, and it shows an interesting bit of history, but it's Ishii's worst so far.