Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

by David Mirkin
1997 / 92m - USA
Comedy
2.0*/5.0*
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion poster

A pretty silly 90s comedy. It's a film with some cult appeal, though I have to admit that I never heard about it before. It's certainly very 90s, so it's no surprise at all that talk about a possible sequel is doing the rounds. Not sure if that's such a good idea, as the core appeal of the film is really tied to its era of release.

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Romy and Michele are best friends. They had a pretty good childhood, and they're having lots of fun together. When they hear there's a school reunion, they start reminiscing about their past, and they wonder if other people really liked them back then. Their lives aren't all that special either, and they never accomplished much, so they make up a background story to appear more successful.

Sorvino is fun, Kudrow has a rather hard time detaching Michele from her character in Friends. The jokes are pretty hit-and-miss and the US 90s pop scene isn't really worth revisiting, but the comedy offers lighthearted fun throughout and the pacing is pleasant. Not great, not terrible.

Lightyear

by Angus MacLane
2022 / 100m - USA
Sci-fi, Adventure, Animation
3.0*/5.0*
Lightyear poster

It's nice to see Pixar finally taking some risks, even when most people's reaction is clearly not all that positive. It's just another indicator that people generally deserve all the sequels and reboots thrown at them. Not only is Lightyear only tangentially related to the Toy Story series, it's also a much more straight-forward animated sci-fi flick. A fun surprise.

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Lightyear is the film that inspired the Buzz toy production from Toy Story. It's a film about a group of Space Rangers who get stranded on an alien planet fraught with dangers. Buzz becomes the test pilot for an experimental type of fuel that should get them off the planet, but each test propels Buzz four years into the future, and progress is slow.

There's still some typical Pixar comedy present, but much less so compared to their other films. Their signature baseline contradiction is also absent, which is a big relief. Not that Lightyear is hardcore sci-fi, but it has the basic genre beats down and the film delivers a fun space-based adventure. A pleasant surprise. Oh, and if you're wondering about that "kiss", grown up people should be ashamed of themselves to even make an issue out of such a minor, throwaway moment.

Thunder Road

by Jim Cummings
2018 / 92m - USA
Comedy, Drama
3.0*/5.0*
Thunder Road poster

Jim Cummings' breakthrough film. Credited as director, writer and lead actor, you're getting the full Cummings experience here, but that seems to be the case with all of his film. He's a pretty divisive character, somehow I seem to appreciate his commitment though, so it's no surprise I ended up liking Thunder Road.

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Jim's mother just died, his wife is filing for divorce and his daughter doesn't really like to spend time with him. He tries to escape in his job, but after some irregularities Jim's thrown off the force. His life is in shambles, and he has no real support system to keep him stable. Still, he wants to fight for his daughter.

The balance between drama and comedy is a little off and Jim's character could've use a few more layers, but there are some lovely scenes (like the funeral at the very beginning) and the drama does work pretty well. It's certainly not my favorite Cummings film, but fans of his persona won't be disappointed.

Crossfire

by Edward Dmytryk
1947 / 86m - USA
Thriller, Crime
1.0*/5.0*
Crossfire poster

A murder mystery with a more noirish feel and an "important theme". The film isn't too subtle about it (then again, very few classics seem to be) and it does regularly get in the way of the genre elements, on the other hand it did create a nice diversion from what otherwise would've been a very basic noir film.

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Finlay is a homicide detective who is assigned the case of Joseph Samuels, a Jewish man murdered after a night out in town. A group of army friends are the primary suspects. Monty is a bit of a loose canon, his friends are too drunk to remember anything. Finlay seeks the help of their sergeant, hoping he might crack the case.

This is another noir with a lot (and I mean a lot!) of conversation. It's a very simple narrative, that regularly makes way to delve into the possible anti-Semitic nature of the case. I say "delve", but it's almost like watching school TV, with people delivering very flat and explanatory monologues. Not very good.

Flux Gourmet

by Peter Strickland
2022 / 111m - UK
Comedy, Mystery
Flux Gourmet poster

Strickland latest is his maddest yet, and that's exactly what makes it a step up from his previous films. Flux Gourmet is weird, ambitious and pretentious, but it's also very funny, kooky and self-aware. It's nigh impossible to pin a single genre on it, and horror fans should probably think twice before having a go at it, but if you like to submerge yourself in a surreal and absurd universe, complete with sensory overload, then this is a film worth seeking out. Hopefully Strickland continues on this trajectory.

Jian Bing Man

by Chengpeng Dong
Jian Bing Cia
2015 / 113m - China
Comedy
3.0*/5.0*
Jian Bing Man poster

A pretty typical Chinese blockbuster comedy. Jian Bing Man is glossy, high-energy and sporting a wealth of cameos. There aren't too many explicit jokes, instead a somewhat wacky plot and light-hearted characters are meant to provide some giggles throughout. It's doing a pretty decent job too, but the lack of risk taking makes it difficult to stand out from the crowd.

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Da Peng is a popular TV personality, who manages to ruin his entire reputation in a single night. He is left with nothing and decides it is time to chase an old dream: direct a superhero flick with himself in the lead. With almost no money to spend, he has to resort to some underhanded tactics to get his film finished.

The film looks pretty slick for a comedy, there are some rather big names in the cast (who don't mind poking some fun at their own persona) and the pacing is solid, even though the runtime is a bit excessive. It's very easy filler and there isn't a lot to actively dislike, it's just that it's all a bit too formulaic and predictable, and thus not very memorable.

A Serial Killer's Guide to Life

by Staten Cousins Roe
2019 / 81m - UK
Comedy, Horror
3.0*/5.0*
A Serial Killer's Guide to Life poster

A really, really dry comedy. And therefor, maybe not quite crazy or out there enough to create the contrast needed for it to work seamlessly. I wanted to laugh more, I recognized the comedy and appreciated the idea behind it, but the execution felt a little underdeveloped.

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Louise wants a change in her life, but her life coaches aren't really helping that much. Until she meets Val, a strong and powerful woman who takes Louise on a journey of enlightenment. They visit several types of life improvement programs, but something odd is going on with Val.

It's a bit odd the film tries to hide Val's true intentions ... as it is literally there in the title. The performances are decent, the comedy is dark and pretty bitchy, the pacing is perfect and the runtime short. I'm not entirely certain why I didn't like this film more, but somehow it just wasn't as funny as it should've been.

A very basic faux doc exercise from Shiraishi. Set up like an actual TV show, this film takes on the legend of the slit-mouthed woman. There are quite a few films about the subject already. Shiraishi's version doesn't really add too much to what's already out there, but if you're looking for decent horror filler this film definitely fits the bill.

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Some kids shoot footage from a mysterious woman stalking their neighborhood. They send over the video material to a documentary crew, who decide to further investigate the story. Some preliminary tests suggest the footage is untampered with, soon enough they're on the trail of the infamous legend, who is turning her attention to the crew.

You'll find the usual faux doc/found footage scares here, but the slit-mouthed woman isn't really all that scary, neither is the added lore about the amulets. Shiraishi delivers a short and fast-paced film, which is good enough if you're starved for Asian horror cinema, but it's a film that will only please the most hardened fans of the genre.

The Jerk

by Carl Reiner
1979 / 94m - USA
Comedy
1.5*/5.0*
The Jerk poster

One of Steve Martin's first feature film successes. I'm not a big fan of his work, it tends to be a little whiney and/or loud, and it's clear that's been there since the very start of his career. While the premise was rather silly, the rest of the film doesn't live up to it, and you're left with Martin being his jerky self.

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Navin grows up in a black family, wondering why he doesn't have the same skin color. When his mom tells him he is adopted, he decides to take a long trip, hoping to discover his true self. Navin isn't really ready to face the world just yet, but with a little luck and determination he manages to cope.

Martin is pretty annoying and lacks the physical comedy this part needed so badly. The puns are horrible, the plot predictable and the obligatory dramatic turn during the pre-finale is annoying. Apparently this film was pretty big when it was first released, can't say it's very deserving of its reputation.

Click & Collect

by Ben Palmer
2018 / 53m - UK
Comedy
3.0*/5.0*
Click & Collect poster

A short Christmas special that's quite a bit better than it has any right to be. Thanks to the comedic timing of Stephen Merchant no doubt, though he also found a perfect partner in Asim Chaudhry. There's plenty of funny chemistry between the two leads, which is all this comedy really needed to succeed.

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Andrew is a little stingy when he goes to pick up his daughter's Christmas present. When he tries to bluff his way out of it, he ends up with nothing to give. Andrew's neighbor finds one store that still has the preferred toy left, but they have to face a 4.5-hour drive to get there. And Andrew can't really stand his neighbor.

The setup is pretty simple and with a 50-minute runtime, the film can't really go anywhere special with it. But Merchant and Chaudhry are a blast, the comedy is funny and season-appropriate, and the pacing is perfect. The film can't really escape its TV roots, but if you're looking for a pleasant comedy, Click & Collect delivers.

7 Man Army

Ba Dao Lou Zi
1976 / 119m - Hong Kong
Action, War
2.0*/5.0*
7 Man Army poster

Chinese war propaganda from the hands of one of Shaw Bros most respected and prolific directors. It's interesting comparing this film with the current wave of Chinese war epics. Apart from the obvious budgetary differences, they're surprisingly similar, highlighting the dedication and pride of soldiers sacrificing themselves for the greater good.

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The title is pretty self-explanatory. A Chinese regiment is nearly annihilated. Only seven men remain, facing a Japanese army of over 20000 soldiers (and a fair few tanks). The seven men are tasked with defending a strategic stronghold, hoping to slow down the Japanese invasion. To do so, they'll have to be pretty crafty and resort to guerilla techniques.

You can't take the Shaw Bros out of Shaw Bros films, meaning this never truly feels like an actual war flick. The fight is never even remotely realistic and the 7 vs 20000 premise feels more like cinematic claptrap, but the action scenes are pretty amusing and the pacing isn't too bad for a 2-hour film. Far from Chang's best, yet passable, if you can stomach the patriotism that is.

Men

by Alex Garland
2022 / 100m - UK
Fantasy, Horror
2.0*/5.0*
Men poster

Alex Garland's latest reads like a very expensive tweet. It feels as if every other horror film I watch these days is some flaccid social critique, not something I find very engaging. The A24 glazing is getting pretty stale too, either that or Garland isn't really suited to do this type of dark mystery/surrealism.

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Harper rents a luxurious house in the countryside, hoping to get away from some traumatic events in her past. After a walk in the woods she bumps into a strange, naked man, who ends up in front of her doorstep the next day. It's the start of increasingly distressing situations that slowly put Harper over the edge.

I usually appreciate a film that goes completely off the rails in the final act, but stylistically Men is rather poor, even though it's visibly straining to be as atmospheric as possible. The effect simply isn't there. The underlying themes are equally bland and disappointing, which makes for a pretty grotesque failure. At least the ambition was there though.

Ghost Zombie

Yƻrei Zonbi
2007 / 71m - Japan
Horror
2.0*/5.0*
Ghost Zombie poster

This isn't Shiraishi's greatest film, not by a long shot. And it's not that I had any real expectations based on the title, it's as basic as you can get. Still, Shiraishi is a pretty decent horror director, but this film falls into the category of quick and cheap filler. There is some fun to be had for sure, but it's purely and strictly for genre fans only.

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A young scholar treks up the mountain, looking for a secluded village. With a couple of local punks he discovers an ancient stone. The punks desecrate the landmark and soon after, the village is dealing with a zombie plague. The scholar is killed on his way out and returns as a ghost, helping a local taxi driver to save the remaining villagers.

So you get ghosts and zombies, with some minor demon activity at the very end. The tone of the film is very light, the effects are pretty cheap and the performances not that great. The film is short though, and it's pretty fast-paced, so all in all it's pretty amusing. Just don't go in expecting a vintage Shiraishi chiller, and you should be okay.

The Foul King

Banchikwang
2000 / 112m - South Korea
Comedy, Sport
2.0*/5.0*
The Foul King poster

One of Jee-woon Kim's earliest films. It was the last of his feature films I still had to watch, it seems I made the right call to keep this one until the very end. It's a pretty basic sports comedy with few of Kim's usual touches, which means there really isn't much there to get excited about.

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Dae-ho is a shy and socially awkward guy who works a boring job in a bank. He can't stand up for himself, which makes him an easy target for others to take advantage of. Dae-ho is tired of him own failures and wants to make a positive change. He turns his life around when he commits to becoming a WWF fighter.

The performances aren't great, the film looks pretty bland, the story is not very notable and the runtime is a little excessive. There are a handful of scenes that preempt Kim's later films, and it never gets too dull or uninspired, it's just not enough to keep things interesting for nearly 2 hours.

Revealer

by Luke Boyce
2022 / 86m - USA
Horror
2.5*/5.0*
Revealer poster

A high-energy horror flick with strong 80s influences. Director Boyce seems to be going all-in too, which is pretty cool, until he starts peppering his film with lazy American (identity) politics. It feels so incredibly out of place that it was hard not to roll my eyes during some of the more nonsensical moments.

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Angie is a stripper trying to make an honest buck. When she goes to work, she runs into some religious protesters who are making a big fuzz in front of her club. Little does Angie know that the protesters are onto something, as soon after she starts her shift, the Apocalypse begins.

Revealer is flashy and colorful, but it's held back by budgetary limitations and some cringeworthy dialogues. Religion, LGBTQ+ and liberal/conservative nonsense invade the film and break up the horror for no good reason at all. It's a pretty big shame, this could've been a lot better.

Never Say Die

by Yang Song, Chiyu Zhang
Xiu Xiu De Tie Quan
2017 / 100m - China
Comedy, Sport
2.5*/5.0*
Never Say Die poster

Mainstream Chinese comedy. These films tend to do pretty well locally, there isn't too much international appeal though. Maybe it is because they are extremely formulaic, maybe because the star power isn't there yet, or maybe this is just lazy cinema that Hollywood can provide on its own. You're not missing much by just skipping this.

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Edison is a washed-up MMA fighter who makes an extra buck throwing fights, Xiao is a reporter who is on to his little scheme. After a mysterious incident they switch bodies. Through Edison's life, Xiao discovers more than she ever would have in her own body, but to reach her goal she'll have to win an MMA tournament.

So this is just a very basic body-switching comedy with some sports elements thrown in. The cinematography is well above average for this type of film, but that's just about all that stands out. The performances are rather weak, the plot is dull, and the comedy lacks anything distinctive. Just bid budget fluff, not the worst of its kind, but hardly great.

The Thief of Bagdad

by Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell, Tim Whelan
1940 / 106m - USA
Fantasy, Adventure
1.0*/5.0*
The Thief of Bagdad poster

The '24 adaptation of this story was a lot better than expected, sadly, the '40 version is every bit as bad as I'd feared. Color and dialogue don't do the film any good. Instead of being mystical and mysterious, it's just terrible cheesy and kitsch. At least, they were smart enough to cut down the length of the film.

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The plot is once again a simple retake of One Thousand and One Nights. After being tricked by the evil Jaffar, King Ahmad teams up with a thief called Abu to sneak back into the city and save the princess from the clutches of the magician. If you've seen Aladdin, you should know what to expect.

The special effects are truly horrendous, and there is no monochrome fuzziness to hide them here. The only appeal comes from how cheesy it all looks, which is nice when the film is in full fantasy mode. The rest is even worse. Just watch the '24 adaptation instead. Longer, but better.

Watcher

by Chloe Okuno
2022 / 96m - USA
Horror, Thriller
2.5*/5.0*
Watcher poster

A somewhat disappointing horror/thriller. The premise is tricky, with an American expat having the biggest trouble getting used to a foreign country. It doesn't make for the most sympathetic lead character, which in turn makes it pretty hard to believer and root for her when things are going sideways.

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Julia follows her husband to Bucharest after his promotion. He is swamped with work, while Julia fills her days with doing not much in particular. When she hears about a serial killer on the loose in the city, she begins to suspect the strange man who is constantly keeping an eye on her from his window.

Monroe is very unlikable, the mystery is too simple, the finale pretty disappointing. It's a shame, as the cinematography is quite remarkable, and the score very moody. All the elements were there for a tense little horror film, but the result felt rather flat and uninspired. This was too much "Lost in Translation - The Horror Movie".