The Lost City

by Aaron Nee, Adam Nee
2022 / 112m - USA
Comedy,Adventure
2.5*/5.0*
The Lost City poster

That film that came out after Jungle Cruise. It's difficult not to compare both films and conclude this one is the lesser of the two. The result is still a somewhat amusing, albeit daft and silly comedy adventure with some famous faces and plenty of money to burn, but that's about it really.

Loretta is a writer of pulpy adventure novels. Her books sell well, but since the death of her husband Loretta hasn't been the same. She plans to quit writing, but then a wealthy Brit kidnaps her and forces her to uncover one of the secrets she wrote about in her book. Loretta's fantasy adventures are about to become real.

Pitt is pretty funny, Tatum is okay, Bullock is out of her element. It's a shame then that she's the lead character and that Pitt isn't around for very long. The film could've been shorter, the comedy a bit snappier and the adventure a little more exciting. It's not terrible, just very basic entertainment.

S.W.A.T.

by Clark Johnson
2003 / 117m - USA
Action,Crime
2.5*/5.0*
S.W.A.T. poster

Popular action flick, though it's a bit difficult to see why exactly this stood out 20 years ago. The action isn't that spectacular, the drama is pretty bland and the intrigue is almost low-key for a blockbuster film. It's not a terrible film either, just that it's nothing particularly memorable.

After being kicked off the SWAT team, Street remains part of the force, hoping he'll get a second chance. That chance arrives when Hondo is reinstated and is allowed to pick his own team. All eyes are on them, and they can't afford to make a mistake, which is not easy when a wanted criminal tries to flee the country.

There's quite a bit of action, though director Johnson isn't particularly gifted in that regard. The actors are familiar faces and there are some big set pieces to help things along, still, it feels like the film is simply going through the motion. Big, expensive genre filler in other words. Not bad, not great.

Dashcam

by Rob Savage
2021 / 77m - UK
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Dashcam poster

Rob Savage returns without another screen-based horror film. It's quite a step up from Host, which ended up being a bit boring and too suggestive. In Dashcam, he makes he turns things around and delivers a manic, constantly thrilling and over-the-top horror flick that should put you on the edge of your seat. If you can stomach found footage that is.

A young American right-wing artist rebels against COVID measures and travels to the UK to meet up with an old friend. He's not what she remembered him to be, and they end up fighting. She steals his car and picks up an old woman, who she promises to drop off for a big chunk of money.

The lead character is absolutely dreadful, but that is clearly by design. The intro is a tad slow too and some of the footage is probably a bit too fuzzy. Once the horror starts though, it doesn't let up and the complete lack of lore adds greatly to the intrigue. I had a lot of fun with this one.

Yaksha: Ruthless Operations

by Hyeon Na
2022 / 125m - South Korea
Action,Crime
3.0*/5.0*
Yaksha: Ruthless Operations poster

A decent but somewhat middle of the road crime/action film. It's not quite as punchy and dynamic as its Hong Kong neighbors, not as elaborate and gritty as its Japanese neighbors, not as overly expensive as its Hollywood neighbors. It's perfectly pleasant filler though, but I was expecting something a bit better.

Kang-in, nickname Yaksha, is a ruthless leader of a team of special agents. Then Ji-hoon gets assigned to his team, to launch an investigation in the workings of his team. It doesn't take long to find out that Yaksha's team involved in a deadly war between spies, Ji-hoon has no choice to join Yaksha in his battle.

The cinematography isn't that great, the characters are a little dull and the action isn't all that spectacular., even though some attempts are made to make it stand out. The film goes through the motions and the pacing is decent, but Yaksha never rises above the level of simple genre filler.

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles

by Neil Jordan
1994 / 123m - USA
Drama,Horror
2.0*/5.0*
Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles poster

A different kind of vampire film. I watched it when I was a lot younger, but it didn't do much for me then. It's not really a film that has improved with age either. The premise is rather interesting, but the safe and Hollywood-appropriate handling of the material makes it somewhat of a bore.

The film tells the story of Louis, a vampire who got turned by Lestat. Faced with a choice to die or to live on as a vampire, Louis chooses to live on, but he can't get used to his new companion and decides to live on animal blood only. Louis feels down, until he finds a different clan of vampires living in Paris.

Interview with the Vampire is a bit more lavish compared to other Hollywood productions, almost twenty years later it's hardly impressive to look at. The performances are mediocre, the runtime excessive and the horror elements underdeveloped. It's not terrible, just plain and unexciting.

Mother India

by Mehboob Khan
Bharat Mata
1957 / 172m - India
Comedy,Drama
0.5*/5.0*
Mother India poster

I'm not surprised this film is considered by name to be the mother of popular Bollywood cinema. I'm not an expert, not on the films nor the timeline, but I've seen a few modern ones and this film seems a pretty clear template for the later successes of popular Indian cinema.

A young couple struggles to keep their family going, to ease the burden they lend some money from a local loan shark. He keeps upping the interest, when Shyamu loses both of his arms things get really dicey. Shyamu feels ashamed that he's such a burden on his family, so he leaves them behind to fend for themselves.

It's really what you expect from a Bollywood film, but older. Which means, not quite as lush, somewhat slower and possibly even more melodramatic. And long, very long. It's not really the kind of cinema I like to begin with, to just get a more classical version of that made it quite the burden to sit through. I don't doubt the film's status, but it wasn't a very pleasant watch for me.

Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko

by Ayumu Watanabe
Gyokou no Nikuko-chan
2021 / 97m - Japan
Drama,Animation
Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko poster

Watanabe's latest film is more limited in scope and ambition, but his core qualities are still there. In a small seaside town, Nikuko and her daughter Kikuko are trying to get by. Nikuko is quite the character, but a happy and caring mother, Kikuko is hitting puberty and is starting to deal with the weight of adulthood. The beautiful animation, the lovely setting and pleasant soundtrack all add to the sweet and wholesome atmosphere that make this film an easy favorite. It's a pretty safe film for Studio 4°C, but one of the better ones in its genre.

Devil in a Blue Dress

by Carl Franklin
1995 / 102m - USA
Thriller,Crime
1.5*/5.0*
Devil in a Blue Dress poster

A revisit of the noir genre that doesn't add much, apart from some racial intrigue. For a 90s film it isn't particularly well-made either, it felt like a low-budget, low-effort, low-on-atmosphere TV film that only made the minimum effort to catch that 40s/noir mood many cinephiles love so much.

Easy is looking for work, but a job is hard to find. When he is approached to track a lady who likes to frequent jazz clubs in the black neighborhood, he jumps at the opportunity. What he doesn't know is that he's been suckered into a ploy that involves some high-ranking politicians.

Washington isn't bad, Cheadle is solid too, but the plot is a downright bore, the cinematography is dead poor and the pacing is sluggish. Big noir fans will probably find more to like here, but this is really just a retake is the basic genre fair that was released five decades prior. Not good.

Boys from County Hell

by Chris Baugh
2020 / 88m - Ireland
Comedy,Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Boys from County Hell poster

Ireland claims vampire origins. Stoker is portrayed as a common thief in this film, someone who visited the pleasant town of Six Mile Hill, heard the bloodsucking demon folklore and returned home to write a book about it. A good premise for a film, certainly when it contains a slice of dry Irish comedy.

A pile of stones marks the grave of the old bloodsucker, the problem is that it is in the way of a new road. The grave has to go, but when they start digging it out all hell breaks loose. It turns out there was some truth to the old legend, and the town is ill-equipped to fight its newest resident.

The low-key humor is a blessing, the slow build-up works well, and the finale actually delivers. Bounty from County Hell offers a fresh new take on the vampire lore, though as a horror film it's not exactly original. Good genre work though, with perfect pacing, a short runtime and plenty of genre fun along the way.

Rise of the Machine Girls

by Yûki Kobayashi
Bakuretsu Mashin Shôjo - Bâsuto Mashin Gâru
2019 / 75m - Japan
Comedy,Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Rise of the Machine Girls poster

Some 15 years ago, Iguchi's Machine Girl kicked off the whole Sushi Typhoon craze. It's not a film that needed a sequel and Rise of the Machine Girls is mostly one in name only, but since Japanese splatter comedy releases are few and far between these days, I can't say I really mind. This new one isn't up there with the best of them, but it's well entertaining.

Ami and Yoshie are two young girls putting up action shows in order to support their parents. They work in a slummy neighborhood ruled by Dharma, the leader of an organ trafficking organization. She regularly kidnaps people and harvests them for their organs and limbs. When Yoshie is taken, Ami teams up with a legendary hitman to get her sister back.

The biggest problem I have with this film is that very little has changed since the first one. Yes, the ideas are weird and insane, there is plenty to laugh, and this niche truly is one of a kind. But the performances are still pretty crap, so is the CG. You'd think they'd put a bit more effort into the execution to try and up their game, but alas. Great fun though.

Central Station

by Walter Salles
Central do Brasil
1998 / 110m - Brazil
Drama
2.5*/5.0*
Central Station poster

Salles' breakthrough film. I was familiar with the title, but that was about it. That's not too uncommon for arthouse cinema, it's not my number one priority, though there are plenty of films that have enough appeal to warrant my attention. I can't say I was completely won over by this one, but don't let that hold you back from giving it a go.

Dora is a former teacher who earns an extra buck writing letters for those who are illiterate. One of her clients has a young boy with her, soon after the woman gets hit by a bus and the boy has nowhere to go. At first Dora neglects the kid, but after a while she can't help but feel responsible for his well-being.

The cinematography is very pleasant and gives the film lots of extra flair, the drama on the other hand feels a bit simple and I never really cared enough about either of the leads to make this a success. The pacing is good though, and there are some memorable moments here, so it certainly wasn't a waste of time.

Looks That Kill

by Kellen Moore
2020 / 92m - USA
Comedy,Romance
3.5*/5.0*
Looks That Kill poster

A pretty interesting film. What could've been a rather basic and familiar coming of age drama, is turned upside down by a kooky premise. This adds a lot of comedy (and goodwill), making the more dramatic second half that much easier to stomach. Though I was slightly bummed the comedy is almost completely gone towards the finale.

Max suffers from a unique condition: his face is lethally beautiful. Whoever sees his face, dies on the spot. And so he walks around with bandages wrapped around his face. His social life is crap, his parents don't really know how to help Max and his only friends is a real player. Max' life changes when he meets Alex, a girl with a special heart condition.

The actors do a solid job, the premise is explored beautifully, and the score is surprisingly stylish. The cinematography could've used a little extra work and the drama felt a tiny bit pedestrian in comparison, but the romance works well, and I left the film feeling like I'd seen something unique. Good stuff.

Dark Cloud

by Jay Ness
2022 / 81m - USA
Sci-fi,Horror
2.5*/5.0*
Dark Cloud poster

A decent sci-fi, that lacks an interesting premise to make it stand out from its peers. I think we're probably past the point where it suffices to do a story about an out of control A.I. At least, the more serious explorations of the subject. Though the presentation is fine here, the setup and plot are so chewed out that it gets a bit hard to appreciate.

Chloe is a young woman who went through a traumatic experience. She has trouble picking up her life again, so she goes into therapy. She becomes one of the test subjects of a project that uses A.I. to heal patients. While the start of the experiment is promising, the computer starts to exhibit strange behavior and before Chloe realizes what is going on, she is under the computer's control.

It's a pretty bland Black Mirror-like premise, director Ness doesn't take it any interesting places either. The presentation is decent, with some pleasant paranoia-driven styling, but it's nothing you haven't seen before. Dark Clouds is just a run-of-the-mill sci-fi, copying most of the films that came before, without adding anything substantial of its own.

Dead End

Si Jiao
1969 / 105m - Hong Kong
Romance,Action
1.5*/5.0*
Dead End poster

Cheh Chang directed a good 6 films back in 1969, so it's not too surprising he found some room for experimentation. I say experimentation, but what I really mean is "non-martial arts films", as Dead End is a pretty bog-standard movie, apart from being directed by a martial arts legend.

The plot is a simple romance with minor action elements thrown in. It follows Zhang Chun, a youngster enjoying his life, who bumps into Wen Rou, a wealthy girl who enjoyed a proper upbringing. The two fall in love and start dating, but they're from different worlds and not everyone appreciates their romance.

My expectations going in were low, sadly, there were also met. Chang isn't very good at anything but martial arts, and Dead End is no exception. The romance doesn't really work, the pacing is too slow, and the action feels out of place. There are some good moments, but they're too few and far between.

Rose

by Jennifer Sheridan
2020 / 86m - UK
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Rose poster

A nice, original take on a famous horror niche. I'm not going to spoil which one, that would be ruining some of the fun, though pay a little attention, and you should be able to guess soon enough. It's Sheridan's stylish direction that makes the difference here, and turns this into a pointed and beautiful little horror film.

Rose and Sam live in a secluded hut in the middle of the woods. Rose suffers from a dangerous condition, Sam does his very best to keep her safe. From herself, and from the outside world. But when one of their usual delivery guys doesn't show up, things begin to spiral out of control.

The setting is lovely, the cinematography strong, the score very atmospheric and the mix of horror and drama just right. Rose is a pretty simple film and the way this particular horror niche is being reimagined isn't all that novel, but it does feel pretty fresh and everything works as it should. A pleasant surprise.

Taipei Suicide Story

by KEFF
2020 / 45m - Taiwan
Drama
3.5*/5.0*
Taipei Suicide Story poster

A pleasant but rather basic arthouse drama. Taipei Suicide Story is a mid-length feature that hinges on a single conceptual idea. The film is nicely executed and effective, it's also very predictable, and it doesn't really take its premise to exciting places. The result is certainly nice enough, especially for people who like subdued drama, but the potential was there to do more.

Zhi-hao works as a receptionist in the world's only suicide hotel. Guests can check in, they get all the tools they require, and the bodies are properly taken care of in the morning. The only rule is that they can only stay one night. Jun-Ring is a young woman who has managed to dodge the hotel's rule, when Zhi-hao finds out and goes to talk to her, something clicks between the two.

The cinematography is nice but not too remarkable, the same goes for the score. The premise is interesting but somewhat poorly developed, it's really the superb performances that make this film work. The finale is a little tough, not in the least because it is very predictable, but overall a nice and short film. I think it's time for the director to try a full-length feature next.

The Weird Man

Shen Tong Shu Yu Xiao Ba Wang
1983 / 87m - Hong Kong
Fantasy,Action
3.0*/5.0*
The Weird Man poster

Cheh Chang treading on Yuen Chor territory. I don't think Chang is the best man to handle martial arts/fantasy crossovers, but The Weird Man delivers what the title promises. The fantastical elements are goofy, there's a level of oddness that is pleasant and there sure are some memorable moments.

The plot is based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms. A power struggle between magistrate Gong and general Sun leads to the death of Yu Ji, a Taoist priest. Yu Ji may be dead, but his body is being protected by five of his disciples and his spirit returns to take revenge on the ones who wanted him dead.

The soundtrack is goofy, the material is slightly more fantastical than usual and there's a bit more comedy tucked away. The fights are decent, the pacing is solid and even though I've seen plenty of similar films already, I wasn't bored. It's a perfectly fine Cheh Chang film, but not amongst his best work.

3 Ring Circus

by Joseph Pevney
1954 / 103m - USA
Comedy
2.0*/5.0*
3 Ring Circus poster

A Martin/Lewis collaboration that had somehow escaped me until now. While I'm not a hardcore fan of their work, they are a pretty fun duo and this circus-based film is a pretty good (albeit logical and easy) fit for the duo. Though a bit too long, there are some fun moments that illustrate why they became so famous together.

Jerry and Pete are done with the army, for their new career they chose the circus. They're given odd jobs to start, but Jerry's big dream is to become a clown. Pete on the other hand feels more for running the circus, the two of them quickly make an impression and start working towards their goals.

Jerry Lewis as Jerrico the clown and Dean Martin as the women-hungry Pete, no doubt these roles weren't very hard to write. The duo is in good form and there are enough laughs scattered throughout the film, though it wouldn't have hurt to cut 15 minutes, and the ending is quite sudden and extremely convenient. Decent.

Golden Spider City

by Dai Yilin
2022 / 86m - China
Adventure
3.0*/5.0*
Golden Spider City poster

More tomb raiding fun, though this time we're going even more fantastical, with even some minor sci-fi elements thrown in. And a Lara Croft lookalike, so you won't be mistaken where this film got its inspiration from. The result is pretty amusing, though, as is often the case with these films, let down by some pretty poor CG.

Sima Cong and Lisa form a strong expedition team. An evil businessman forces them to raid a tomb, as he is looking for the Golden City. Then Cong's dad turns up out of nowhere, claiming he knows the location of the city, and he's willing to take his son there. The three of them set out on an adventure to the depths of the Earth.

It's nice to see a bit more variation in plot and genre elements, but in the end their impact is rather minimal. The film feels a bit too fluffy for a bona fide adventure, and the CG can really get below acceptable quality levels. Still, thanks to the solid pacing and short runtimes, films like these are hardly ever boring. I just wish they paid a little more attention to the details.

Take the Money and Run

1969 / 85m - USA
Comedy,Crime
3.5*/5.0*
Take the Money and Run poster

Allen's second film is a full-on comedy, stacked with absurd and cheesy gags. It's probably a bit of a surprise for those only familiar with his later films, but his earlier work was a lot more straight-forward in that sense. No endless monologues or artsy references, just laugh after laugh.

Virgil is quite the criminal, he's just not very good at what he does. From a young age, things have been going wrong for him. He finally tries to rob a bank, but that lands him in prison. His girlfriend is willing to wait for him, but when he gets out their lives don't get any better. And so his tragic life continues.

The pseudo-documentary style is perfect, Allen fits the lead like a glove, most of the jokes hit and there's practically no downtime at all. Add the frantic pacing and a short runtime, and you have a fun and entertaining comedy. Most importantly, it never tries to add drama, which is the biggest win of all. Good stuff.

Sleep

by Michael Venus
Schlaf
2020 / 102m - Germany
Horror,Mystery
3.0*/5.0*
Sleep poster

I'm still looking for that first quintessential German film I absolutely adore, but they seem hard to find. Sleep is a film that looked pretty good on paper, it also has everything to make a superb genre flick, but somehow the execution isn't really there, and it ends up feeling too generic.

Mona's mother is suffering from night terrors. She sees frightful things in her sleep that appear to exist in real life too. When she tells Mona she is going to Budapest, she's really seeking out a hotel she recognized from her dreams. Once there she suffers an attack and Mona is called to the hospital. Mona decides to take a look in the hotel herself.

The mystery is pretty decent, though the film reveals things a bit too soon. Director Venus also tries to add some audiovisual flair, but those attempts are quite haphazard and the rest of the film looks pretty poor in comparison. The potential was there to be a kick-ass genre flick, it just never really materialized.

In The Wake

Mamorarenakatta Mono Tachi E
2021 / 135m - Japan
Drama,Crime
3.5*/5.0*
In The Wake poster

The new Zeze is pretty much what I expected from it. He's been doing these gritty thrillers with strong dramatic foundations for a while now, and In The Wake perfectly fits in with his more recent efforts. Combining the aftermath of the tsunami with a police investigation, it's another worthy addition to Zeze's oeuvre.

After the tsunami hit a small seaside town, three people find comfort in each other's company. Times are tough, and they get separated, but eleven years later fate brings them back together. A police investigation is launched when two corpses are found, tied up and starved to death. The suspect is Yasuhisa, one of the three.

The performances are very solid, Zeze has the gritty look down and the police procedural elements flow well with the drama. Of course there's a little social commentary too (this time focusing on Japan's poor welfare system), but that's just par for the course. Nothing too exceptional, but good, quality film making from one of Japan's more interesting directors.

Turning Point

Onna-zakari
1994 / 118m - Japan
Drama
2.5*/5.0*
Turning Point poster

A somewhat lesser Obayashi, also the second newspaper drama I've seen in two days. Purely coincidental, as I don't really read any plot info up front. What I'm missing here is Obayashi's quirkier and more overtly stylistic elements. There are flashes of that, but not enough to make it a recognizable film.

The plot revolves around Yumiko, a middle-aged woman who has always written for the women's pages of a newspaper, and is being promoted to write editorial articles. She comes into a world where old men reign, and they're clearly not used to having a woman around as one of the gang. Yumiko isn't scared of them and charges right ahead.

Obayashi does make the film a bit more dynamic than the genre requires, and the performances are pretty solid. The plot's a bit all over the place and the theme isn't that exciting, at least not a good three decades later. It's not a bad film, but looking at Obayashi's other work, it could've used a little extra spice.

The Woman in the Window

by Fritz Lang
1944 / 107m - USA
Thriller,Crime
1.0*/5.0*
The Woman in the Window poster

Just last week I watched Lang's first Nibelungen, the contrast couldn't be any bigger. Instead of an imaginative, visual spectacle, The Woman in the Window is a very typical noir, including a crummy murder scene, simplistic characters and lots (and I mean, LOTS) of dialogue. What a waste of talent.

Richard is a somewhat unassuming professor, who has been warned not to mingle with femme fatales. When he does, against his own better judgement, a scuffle leads to a murder and the professor is in deep trouble. He suddenly finds himself in a very different world, one where blackmail is the norm.

The performances are pretty weak, the story is just a copy/paste job from a million other noirs, the film is way too long for what is just a very basic plot. No doubt noir fans will find a lot to love here, as the film doesn't really deviate from the genre norm, but I think I could probably do with a little noir timeout right about now.

The Batman

by Matt Reeves
2022 / 176m - USA
Action,Crime
2.0*/5.0*
The Batman poster

I feel for Matt Reeves. The man made a pretty solid film. The atmosphere is cool, the film looks stylish, the pacing is a bit slow but fits the overall mood. There are only three elements ruining his film: Batman, Catwoman and The Riddler. Because no matter how hard Reeves tries, these superheroes are super silly, and they don't fit a super serious film.

It's election time in Gotham City, but politicians are having a hard time staying alive. They are killed by a mysterious figure, an outlaw who wants to see real change. Batman is working together with the police to apprehend the culprit, but his involvement goes beyond playing detective.

Reeves' rendition of Gotham is one of the best I've seen so far. The plot is a pretty simple police procedural, and three hours is truly too long for a simple film like this, but the mood is thick and the cinematography on point. If Reeves could do a club scene, that would've been even better, but it's the superhero angle that really kills this film. Disappointing.