Shoot the Piano Player

by François Truffaut
Tirez sur le Pianiste
1960 / 92m - France
Drama, Crime
2.0*/5.0*
Shoot the Piano Player poster

I was fully expecting to see a French Noir, I got a Nouvelle Vague film with minor crime elements instead. I'm not complaining, mind, my affinity with the French New Wave is much bigger than with its noir scene, though I don't think Truffaut is the best the Nouvelle Vague has to offer.

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Charlie Kohler once was a famous pianist, after his wife committed suicide Charlie couldn't continue his public life and his fame quickly faded. Things get worse when he gets a visit from his little brother. He has two criminals on his tail, Charlie gets involved in their business when he inadvertently lies to them.

While there are some clear crime elements present, the direction is a lot lighter and less constrained than you'd get from an actual noir. Aznavour isn't great though and Truffaut isn't quite as frivolous as some of his contemporaries. The film has its moments, but not enough to put it up there with the best Nouvelle Vague films.

A Long Way Down

by Pascal Chaumeil
2014 / 96m - UK
Comedy, Drama
3.0*/5.0*
A Long Way Down poster

A quirky British comedy with a hefty portion of drama. Or a proper drama with some typical British wit. The film is pretty well-balanced and floats between both genres with deceptive ease, though it lacks a certain edge to excel at either one of them. It's still a pretty fun ride though.

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A former TV show host plans to commit suicide on New Year's Eve. When he arrives at his hand-picked spot, it turns out he's not the only one with the idea to kill himself. After an awkward conversation, the four decide to make a pact, promising each other not to kill themselves until Valentine's day.

Though the theme is quite heavy, the presentation is pretty light. Brosnan is solid, Poots is cheeky, and even Collette doesn't overdo it. The structure of the film is a bit messy and neither the drama nor the comedy is too captivating, but it's a pretty pleasant watch throughout. Decent filler.

Class Action Park

by Seth Porges, Chris Charles Scott III
2020 / 89m - USA
Documentary
2.5*/5.0*
Class Action Park poster

80s nostalgia caught in documentary form. With a documentary like this, where not much video material survived of the subject, and interviews form the core of the film, you're bound to get a feeling of exaggeration. The makers embrace it, but in the end, it felt like I was mostly watching a collection of wild tales of an era gone by. Not quite that interesting.

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Action Park was a summer park for young people who liked thrills. The rides in the park didn't just look dangerous, they actually were, resulting in many injuries (and court cases, even some deaths). The doc paints a picture of what it was like to visit the park, of its owners, and the things that went on behind closed curtains.

In this current day and age it's difficult to believe a place like that existed, at the same time I don't necessarily dislike the idea of having these less-controlled environments around. The conclusion of the doc seems to be pointing in the same direction, I'm just not sure if the footage of a mother visiting the grave of the son she lost there fitted in with that sentiment. An amusing doc, but nothing too memorable.

The Bridge Curse

by Lester Hsi
2020 / 88m - Taiwan
Horror
3.0*/5.0*
The Bridge Curse poster

A simple Taiwanese horror film. There's a bit of extra complexity in the plot, with several timelines and repeating events that are woven together, but few people will watch this film hoping to find an intricate mystery. The Bridge Curse is familiar horror fodder, primarily produced to scare and haunt.

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Five students examine a local campus legend, not much later all of them have died under mysterious circumstances. Four years later, a reporter returns to the haunted place, hoping to find out what exactly happened to the kids. The deeper she digs into the story, the more cover-ups she finds.

The performances aren't that great, the urban legend is basic and the scares aren't all that original. The execution of the horror elements is pretty decent though, and the pacing is slick. The Bridge Curse is simple horror fodder done well, which is more than enough when looking for proper horror filler.

Dosuemon

by Shingo Kanemoto
2020 / 61m - Japan
Comedy
2.0*/5.0*
Dosuemon poster

I wasn't really sure what to expect, I'm still not quite sure what I just witnessed. Dosuemon is a very crude, amateurish sex parody based on Doraemon. I wasn't aware there was a market for this type of thing, then again, the film looked so cheap that there probably isn't much of a market needed to break even. Best know what you're getting yourself into when you decide to watch this one.

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Dosuemon travels back from the future to help out Kasuta. He is in danger of dying from a genital disease, Dosuemon comes to hang with him and help him with his daily troubles, so he grows up into a more responsible boy. It quickly transpires that Dosuemon isn't the ideal guide for the young Kasuta, as he has no qualms murdering people who get in his way.

The performances are grossly overstated, the comedy is quite vulgar, and it's no surprise this film looks dirt cheap. At the same time, there's a dedication to the material that does result in a couple of chuckles along the way. Not enough to call it a successful comedy, but with a little refinement this director might just make it.

Red River, Black Sheep

by Lütfi Akad
Kizilirmak-Karakoyun
1967 / 79m - Turkey
Drama, Romance
1.0*/5.0*
Red River, Black Sheep poster

A Turkish classic that looks at least 3 decades older than its actual release date. I've been slowly trying out some of these older Turkish films, as they're often backed by an avid fan base, but I can't say I find much to my liking there. Red River, Black Sheep felt extremely dated and slow, failing to make me care about the lead characters and their romance.

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A poor herdsman falls in love with the chief's daughter. Age-old traditions forbid their marriage, but it's clear that's not going to stop the two from seeking out each other's company. So the village elders come up with a plan. They give the herdsman an impossible challenge and promise him the village daughter when he succeeds.

The cinematography is dire, the soundtrack horrible, the performances forced. The plot is pretty predictable and even though the film is pretty short, it ended up feeling almost twice as long. There were a few tepid attempts to elevate the film, which was at least something, but not what I call riveting cinema.

Open 24 Hours

by Padraig Reynolds
2018 / 102m - Canada
Horror
2.5*/5.0*
Open 24 Hours poster

A very basic horror flick. Open 24 Hours isn't too bad, there are moments that show potential, and with some extra fine-tuning this could've been prime horror filler. It's just a little too sloppy and lazy for that. Relying on genre clichés is fine, but the execution must be perfect, and that wasn't always the case here.

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A young girl applies for a night shift job in a local gas station. She's just been released from prison and is mentally unstable, with only one friend and a boarish parole officer to help her out she needs all the help she can get. Her first night doesn't really go as planned, as she keeps seeing her ex-boyfriend, an infamous serial killer.

The paranoia elements are pretty poor, the plot is incredibly simple and the background drama is overdone. The gore is decent though, the setting is moody and there are some brutal scenes, though none so extreme to make this stand out from the crowd. It's a decent enough horror film, just not all that remarkable.

Troublesome Night 7

by Yin Nam
Yam Yeung Lo 7: Chong Dou Zing
2000 / 93m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Horror
1.5*/5.0*
Troublesome Night 7 poster

The seventh film in the series finally ditches Herman Yau. Not that it changes much, except that Yau finally had time to move on to better things. I'm not a big fan of the Troublesome Night series, the mix of tepid horror and bland comedy doesn't really work for me, but clearly, the series enjoyed some success (or was at least cheap enough to make, to recoup the investment).

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This seventh part doesn't feature the usual anthology setup, instead, we get a more consistent plot. A TV crew from Hong Kong travels to a more rural seaside village to shoot a music video. The locals aren't too happy about the arrival of the city folk, certainly not when they start spreading rumors about the place being haunted.

Troublesome Night is never scary, the effects are minimal, and the narrative trumps the atmosphere. The performances are pretty weak (even though there are some very familiar faces - Louis Koo is still around) and the finale leans more toward drama than actual horror. These films are short and simple, but they lack the proper genre qualities to make them work.

The Reef: Stalked

by Andrew Traucki
2022 / 92m - Australia
Horror
2.5*/5.0*
The Reef: Stalked poster

Shark flicks. It's been years since they were popular, yet some directors keep putting them out. Andrew Traucki loves a good animal scare, so it's no surprise to see him make a sequel to The Reef. Stalked is a pretty generic shark flick that could've been put out under any other name, but if you love a pretty beach, pristine waters and a frightening animal, this one won't disappoint.

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To honor Cath, Nic's deceased sister, she and her former diving friends plan a journey that used to be Cath's big dream. They're peddling to a remote island, but halfway there they run into a shark. The animal seems hellbent on following the women around, and it isn't afraid to attack when they least expect it.

The setting is lovely, and the shark scares are effective, if nothing you haven't seen before. There's a bit too much bland drama scattered throughout the film and the ending comes off a little simple, but The Reef: Stalked is decent enough genre fun. As long as you know what you're getting yourself into.

Evil kappas. The problem with this particular yokai is that it is often portrayed as a friendly spirit. I just might have seen too many films with cute and cuddly kappa to be truly terrified by these creatures. Of course, the kappa featured here looks more horrific than many of its counterparts, but a menacing creature of horror it is not.

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The concept of this film series is simple. A TV crew gets sent a video by one of their fans, after which they decide to investigate. This time around we're looking at a young couple who bump into a kappa when they're going fishing. The TV crew is intrigued and together with the couple they decide to explore the place of the sighting.

Fuzzy images, jaggy camera work and some of the more gruesome folklore surrounding the kappa (apparently they rip your balls out through your rectum) are supposed to make you shiver, it just didn't quite work for me. It's still pretty decent genre fun and the short runtime is a blessing, I just liked the others better so far.

Moloch

by Nico van den Brink
2022 / 99m - The Netherlands
Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Moloch poster

Proper Dutch horror. Moloch isn't a film that aims to be different or unique, instead, it tries its best to be a moody, tense occult horror. And it does that pretty well, it's just that nothing really jumps out. It's perfect horror filler that is sure to please genre fans, others might wonder what the fuzz is about.

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When an ancient corpse is dug up in a bog near Drenthe, a group of scientists comes over to investigate. Betriek lives in a house nearby, where she grew up hearing the many stories related to the bogs. Her family has a pretty dark history, and she begins to suspect something dark is lurking in the shadows.

The setting is perfect for a horror film and the build-up is pretty solid. The background story is eerie too, the effects and designs could've been better though, and the finale is a bit too by the numbers. Still, if you're looking for a fun and accomplished Dutch horror film, look no further.

H4Z4RD

by Jonas Govaerts
2022 / 88m - Belgium
Comedy, Action
H4Z4RD poster

Jonas Govaerts proves he's more than just a talented genre nut. Cub was a great first film that showed his love for horror cinema, with H4Z4RD he delivers a stronger personal signature. It's a film that breathes 90s Antwerp, delivers a mix of dark comedy, weird crime and crazy action, and sports a set of characters that is just beyond. I'm not sure how well this film will travel beyond Belgian borders, but the comedy is spot on, the soundtrack is killer and the pacing is perfect. H4Z4RD is a film that does everything at 200%, exactly the kind of cinema I live for.