Earwig

by Lucile Hadzihalilovic
2021 / 114m - France
Mystery
Earwig poster

One thing should be clear by now, Hadzihalilovic doesn't make enough films. Earwig is her third full-length feature in two decades and they're all equally enthralling. Earwig felt like an arthouse take on a Jeunet fantasy, a mysterious story sprinkled with odd and peculiar details, but few explanations. It's a very slow and deliberate film, prioritizing mood over everything else, that won't reveal all of its secrets the first time around, but is intriguing and peculiar enough to warrant multiple viewings. Superb genre cinema.

Prey

by Dan Trachtenberg
2022 / 99m - USA
Horror, Adventure
2.5*/5.0*
Prey poster

A new Predator film, where the most fearful hunter in the universe takes it up against an Indigenous teen. And loses. As he always does. It's baffling that its species is still somehow holding on to that title because if you can't beat some human teen, you're probably not a very great hunter.

Read all

Naru is a young Comanche girl who wants to be a hunter like the boys. She finally gets her chance when a lion threatens her tribe, but she messes things up. Little do the Comanche know that a more fearsome hunter has landed on Earth, and Naru might be the only one capable of stopping him.

The setting isn't too bad, but the intro is way too long. There are other side stories (like the French hunters) that get into the way of the fun, but the biggest problem is that Naru never presents herself as an actual threat to the Predator. It's not a terrible film, just a little flat and unexciting. This franchise deserves better.

The Leopard Man

by Jacques Tourneur
1943 / 66m - USA
Thriller
1.5*/5.0*
The Leopard Man poster

A typical Tourneur film, meaning most of the horror is found in the poster. The premise has the potential for horror, but the film itself is a rather dialogue-heavy thriller with few scares, let alone any gore. The film's main redeeming quality is its length, which is kept well short. Then again, there's hardly any plot to go through.

Read all

To brighten up her act, Kiki is given a leopard to take with her on stage. A jealous rival messes things up for her and manages to scare the animal away. In the following days, women keep getting attacked at night, but some people suspect it's not the animal that is wreaking havoc.

The animal encounters aren't that exciting, the dialogues feel endless and the performances are inconsequential. There are some moodier scenes, with some decent black and white cinematography, but it's not enough to lift this film above the swamp of forgettable classics. Not a film I'll remember fondly.

Bloody New Year

by Norman J. Warren
1987 / 93m - UK
Horror, Mystery
2.5*/5.0*
Bloody New Year poster

Kitsch, but fun. Bloody New Year is a mystery/horror gone wrong. A typical low-budget production that isn't too bothered by its lack of funding, reaching for the skies regardless. I'm not sure what director Warren hoped to accomplish with this film, but it's so daft that it's hard not to be amused.

Read all

Some kids are left stranded on a remote island after their boat hit a cliff. They find a hotel, but nobody seems to be present. While they get comfortable inside, strange things start happening, and it becomes clear the place is haunted. Escaping the island will prove a lot harder than expected.

The performances are bad and the effects are cheap, but there's a lovely "anything could happen" vibe that makes this worth a watch. The horror and mystery elements are pretty creative, the pacing is high and there's something new and unexpected happening every five minutes or so. Not great, but pretty fun.

Friends and Strangers

by James Vaughan
2021 / 82m - Australia
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
Friends and Strangers poster

A nice but slightly tepid indie road movie. The title is pretty apt in that we follow a guy around who runs into several people on his way, some are friends, some complete strangers. The outcome of these encounters is always the same though, there's a feeling of slight disinterest and lack of commitment that keeps these meetings superficial.

Read all

After Ray's long-term girlfriend cheated on him, he hasn't been feeling all that well. Rather than deal with the grief, he has tried to move on without looking back, but that hasn't been working out for him. Ever since he's been living his life half-assed, and none of the people he talks to seem able to get through to him.

What could have been the premise of a rather dark and sullen drama is actually quite light and breezy. I wouldn't go as far as to call it a comedy, but getting to hang out with Ray is pretty chill. The film does dig a little deeper at times, though I must say nothing much left a big impression on me. Just a pleasant little road trip in a nice setting, with pleasantly quirky characters.

The Stranger

by Satyajit Ray
Agantuk
1991 / 120m - India
Drama
0.5*/5.0*
The Stranger poster

I'm not a big Satyajit Ray fan, but so far I've been exclusively watching his older films. I was curious to see if his (more) recent ones could be closer to my personal taste, but alas. The Stranger is a rather bland and unattractive drama that goes on endlessly. Not a step up from his other work at all.

Read all

A middle-class family gets word that an unfamiliar uncle is planning to visit them. They have never met the man, but his invitation intrigues them and they don't dare to deny him, even when they're not certain he's an actual uncle. When he arrives, they do their best to find out his true identity.

The cinematography is an absolute eyesore, the performances are uninviting and while the premise sounds somewhat intriguing, the film gets completely stuck in it. The pacing is slow and with about 120 minutes on the clock, this became quite a challenge to finish. I think I'd rather go back to Ray's older films.

Hospital

by Chia-Lin Chu
Xing Lin Yi Yuan
2020 / 89m - Taiwan
Horror
2.5*/5.0*
Hospital poster

Basic Taiwanese horror. Horror films don't have to be very complex or elaborate to be successful, but some can be a little too simple. Hospital doesn't really go beyond its titular concept: a haunted hospital. It's a common setup and director Chia-Lin Chu doesn't even attempt to take it anywhere special.

Read all

Two women are paying an exorcist to take them on a tour through a haunted hospital. Both have lost loved ones at the place, the exorcist has promised them an encounter with their ghosts. But then a demon shows up and takes possession of the exorcist, leaving the others stranded inside.

The setting is pretty nice, there are some decent haunts, but it all feels very random and poorly connected. It's just a string of haunted hospital clichés with little in between to tie everything together. The CG isn't too great either, Taiwan can do better when it comes to horror cinema.

Sweetie, You Won't Believe It

by Yernar Nurgaliyev
Zhanym, Ty ne Poverish
2020 / 84m - Kazakhstan
Comedy, Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Sweetie, You Won't Believe It poster

A comedy with crime and horror elements from Kazakhstan. That certainly was a first for me. Sweetie, You Won't Believe Me does a pretty decent job combining various genres into a single film, but it fails to stand out in any discernible way. It's a film I felt I had seen before many times, often better executed too.

Read all

Even though Dastan's wife is about to give birth, he goes away for the weekend with his friends. On their little fishing trip, they run into a group of gangsters, inadvertently witnessing a murder. Dastan and his friends are chased down by the gangsters, but there's a more dangerous man eyeing the two groups of men.

The film looks fine, the performances are okay and the plot is pretty quirky. The biggest problem is that the comedy doesn't quite work as well as it should. The timing is a little off sometimes, and it's just not as edgy as it wants to be. It's still solid filler, from a country that isn't quite known for producing explicit genre films, so it's definitely worth a watch.

Maborosi

Maboroshi no Hikari
1995 / 110m - Japan
Drama
Maborosi poster

Koreeda's first feature film is quite the calling card. A superb example of subtle and subdued Japanese drama, that handles its themes and characters with the proper respect, never once displaying the need to torture them unnecessarily in the name of sentiment. The strict cinematography, the haunting score, and the lovely performances all add to the emotional core of the film, the finale is more than the cherry on the cake. It's a rather slow and challenging film, but the payoff is tremendous.

Madalena

by Emily Chan
Ma Daat Lin Na
2021 / 97m - Hong Kong
Romance
3.5*/5.0*
Madalena poster

A very sweet though tragic romance. It's a film that follows in the footsteps of Isabella, but the title is in fact a reference to two different people. It's not the most original of films and director Emily Chan didn't quite do enough to set it apart from similar works, but if you're looking for a quality, Macau-based drama, this is an excellent choice.

Read all

Lena is a young mother who works in Macau, hoping to support her daughter who remained in Mainland China. She works two jobs, but even that isn't quite enough to provide for her family. A lonely taxi driver takes pity on her and helps her out from time to time. The two grow fond of each other, but a secret from Lena's past is coming back to haunt her.

The cinematography is nice, with lots of colorful nighttime footage, the performances are great and the chemistry between the leads is more than sufficient. The drama is pretty predictable though and a somewhat cheap mid-credits scene does its best to ruin an otherwise fitting ending. It's a good film, Chan just needs to find a way to better differentiate herself from the rest.

Death at a Funeral

by Frank Oz
2007 / 90m - UK
Comedy
3.5*/5.0*
Death at a Funeral poster

Quirky British comedy with a dry and darker edge to it. It's not all that edgy or extreme, but the film builds up towards a pretty grotesque finale and there's plenty to smirk about on the way there. It's a fun little diversion from Frank Oz, that probably didn't need an American remake.

Read all

Daniel is hosting the funeral of his father, but he isn't really prepared for the chaos that is about to ensue. His brother is visiting from the US, some of the guests are doped up, his wife is badgering him for an apartment and a strange man is eyeing him from the corner. He shares a secret with Daniel's father that Daniel doesn't want the rest of the family to find out.

The film remains quite muted and prim, even when the situation really gets out of hand. It's that particular contrast that adds a little spice and pepper to the comedy. The cast is great, the pacing solid, and the finale pleasantly chaotic. Not the greatest comedy I've ever seen, but a pretty delightful film regardless.

Sayounara

by Yûho Ishibashi
2018 / 86m - Japan
Drama
3.5*/5.0*
Sayounara poster

A fine, though somewhat inconspicuous Japanese high school drama. There's nothing really wrong with this film, in fact, it scores well in just about every department. It's just that there's nothing truly extraordinary about Sayounara, nothing that sets it apart from dozens of similar films. Fans should definitely give it a go though.

Read all

In a small seaside village, Aya and Yuki are two good friends. Their friendship is rudely interrupted when Aya breaks the news that she will be moving away. The next day, Yuki receives the news that Aya died in an accident. Aya's death causes ripples through Yuki's class, with rumors of an apparent suicide doing the rounds.

The rural setting is magnificent, the performances are strong and the drama is handled with precision and respect. The high school problems aren't that original though, neither is the way the film explores the loss of a classmate. Ishibashi does show a lot of promise and I'll be sure to look for future films because the talent is clearly there. A quality drama, but no masterpiece.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

by Karel Reisz
1960 / 89m - UK
Drama, Romance
1.5*/5.0*
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning poster

A British social/working-class drama. They seemed to be pretty popular back in the days, I can't say they do very much for me. I've seen a few of them now, and they resemble the Neo-Realist films of other countries quite a bit. The impact of the trademark British flair is pretty minimal.

Read all

Arthur is a young, rebellious guy who wants to live life without too much remorse. He ends up dating two women at the same time. One is a married woman who becomes pregnant with his child, the other a young, decent girl who aims to live a proper life. Arthur will have to make some choices, whether he wants to or not.

The black and white cinematography feels a bit lazy, the drama is basic and it takes quite a while before the film finally finds its footing. The lead character is somewhat more interesting compared to similar films, but it isn't enough to make me care about the challenges he faces. Pretty tepid and forgettable, but not the worst of its kind.

Rebels @ School

by Ilse Warringa, Jan Albert de Weerd
Luizenmoeder - De Film
2021 / 108m - The Netherlands
Comedy
3.0*/5.0*
Rebels @ School poster

The series was pretty fun, but that doesn't mean it always translates well into a feature-length film. The main accomplishment of Rebels @ School is that it keeps the charm of the series intact, while not coming off as an extended TV episode. In that sense, this is a very easy recommendation for fans of the series.

Read all

After Anton dies, the school is in disarray. Ank has taken over his duties, but she still has to teach classes, and COVID-19 has all the parents on edge. The call for modernization grows stronger and when a new manager takes over, the old teacher will have no choice but to follow suit.

Most of the familiar characters make a return, the themes are actually somewhat interesting (the fearmongering that seems to have taken over Western society is heavily critiqued) and the cringe comedy is still present. The drama felt a little off and the film could've been a little snappier, but other than that very amusing.

One of the best ones so far. Shiraishi doesn't change the concept for this fourth entry, but it is by far one of the most ambitious stories of the bunch. Even though the toilet ghost premise sounds a little daft at first, it eventually takes the film places where I didn't expect it to go, which is a big step up compared to the first three films.

Read all

Once again, a video is submitted to the TV crew now famous for exploring the supernatural. Some girls are breaking into their old school, trying to find out if the legend of Hanako has any truth to it. They find more than they bargained for, and with a video showing a clear apparition, they turn to the crew for help.

The ghost videos are pretty familiar territory, but the setting is cool and the second half of the film is quite different from what I expected it to be. Don't go in hoping for anything too original of course, but at this point, anything that deviates from the norm is a welcome diversion. It's solid horror entertainment, short and to the point, perfect filler in other words.

You Are Forever Younger Than Them

by Ryûhei Yoshino
Kimi wa Eien ni Soitsura Yori Wakai
2021 / 118m - Japan
Drama
3.5*/5.0*
You Are Forever Younger Than Them poster

A fine drama. You Are Forever Younger Than Them takes a while to get going, mostly because it needs time to properly introduce its main characters, but once those are established a subtle web of relations and friendships develops itself, with each personal revelation adding to the intrigue.

Read all

Horigai is on the verge of graduating. She already has a job lined up, but she doesn't feel ready to face the adult world. She lacks confidence, she's still a virgin and when she finally hooks up with a boy, he commits suicide soon after. But then she becomes friends with Inogi, a younger girl with a troubled past.

The performances are strong, the pacing is slow but deliberate and the onscreen chemistry between the actors is excellent. It's really nice to see how Horigai and Inogi find comfort in each other's company, especially when they open up to each other. The presentation is a little flat, other than that a very worthwhile drama.

Børning

by Hallvard Bræin
2014 / 89m - Norway
Comedy, Sport
3.0*/5.0*
Børning poster

A cute little sports comedy. Børning isn't the most original film and I doubt I'll watch the sequels any time soon, but this was pleasant enough. Don't go in expecting to see Fast & Furious-level race action, instead, you're getting a fun and quirky road movie where people just happen to be driving around in race cars.

Read all

Roy is a car mechanic with a passion for fast cars. When he has his daughter over, she sabotages his car during the finale of a street race. He is taunted by the winner of the race and accepts a 2000km challenge. He has no other choice than to take his daughter with him, a journey that is sure to strengthen their bond.

The characters are pretty funny, the film doesn't take itself too seriously and the racing scenes, though few, are pretty decent. The pacing and runtime are perfect too, but the film feels a bit safe and unadventurous. It's pretty decent filler, but not really all that memorable.

Love Like the Falling Petals

by Yoshihiro Fukagawa
Sakura no Yōna Boku no Koibito
2022 / 128m - Japan
Romance
2.5*/5.0*
Love Like the Falling Petals poster

Japan can't get enough of tragic romances, especially when diseases are involved. This niche has been going strong for more than a decade now, and it seems there's still no end in sight. Love Like the Falling Petals is next in line, and simply delivers what people want from the genre.

Read all

Haruto is a wannabe photographer, but he doesn't have the confidence to chase his dream. He falls in love with Misaki, a hairdresser, who only wants to date him if he takes his passion seriously. The two become an item, but then Misaki is diagnosed with a terrible illness. Ashamed, she breaks off the relationship.

What starts off as a sweet romance quickly turns into a hefty drama with no chance of a happy ending in sight. Performances are okay, the cinematography is slick and the soundtrack is passable, it's just that I don't really care much for these types of films. It's all a bit too sentimental to be truly powerful. Not the worst of its kind though.

Kiba: The Fangs of Fiction

by Daihachi Yoshida
Damashie No Kiba
2020 / 113m - Japan
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
Kiba: The Fangs of Fiction poster

Japan loves a good corporate drama (with minor thriller elements). Not something I'd expect Daihachi Yoshida to direct, but here we are. The film is solid, pretty much what you'd expect from a film like this, but it doesn't do much to set itself apart from a slew of similar features. In that sense, it's a minor waste of potential, as Yoshida can do better.

Read all

Trinity is a minor magazine of a publisher that is poised to become the victim of a power struggle. That is until Hayami is hired to take over the magazine. With his wit, charm, and novel ideas, he adds a new flair to the workplace. He isn't well-liked by the other higher-ups in the company, but he's a pro at navigating corporate pitfalls.

A subject like this is always going to be a little dry, even when the lead walks around with a sly smirk on his face for half the film. Hayami's character is fun and it's pleasant to see him barge through Japan's rigid corporate structures, but it doesn't really make for riveting cinema. It's a solid film, just not at the level of other Yoshida projects.

Molester's Train

Chikan Densha: Rie no Fundoshi
1990 / 62m - Japan
Crime, Sport
0.5*/5.0*
Molester's Train poster

Pinku cinema has a unique place in Japanese cinema, as it was a perfect school for many a famous director. Ironically, its rigid rules also allowed for quite a bit of creativity, but the crux of the matter is that most of these films are hardly worth a second glance. As much as I appreciate Zeze's later work, his pinku work is pretty terrible.

Read all

Train harassment is a pretty big issue in Japan, so it's no surprise to see some pinku films dedicated to the phenomenon. Somewhat surprisingly though, this film is actually about female show wrestling, with a bigger focus on the girls in the ring getting undressed. Why? I'm not entirely sure.

The plot is negligible, the performances are weak, and the pinku scenes are extremely unsexy. There's really no reason to bother with films like these unless you're a completist and you're interested in getting the full Zeze experience. I plead guilty, others can safely ignore this film.

The Heat

by Paul Feig
2013 / 117m - USA
Comedy, Crime
2.0*/5.0*
The Heat poster

A simple buddy cop flick, with the token male leads replaced by two women. That's about all the originality you're getting here, the tone and structure of the film are exactly the same as a billion others, only the jokes are a bit more female-oriented. The result is expected, but not entirely terrible.

Read all

Two loner cops, with opposite values, are assigned to each other to solve a case. Ashburn loves to follow the rules and relies on her IQ to solve cases, Mullins does whatever to crack a case open and uses her street smarts to get by. The two hate each other at first, but as they get close to the drug lord they're supposed to catch, they begin to appreciate each other's qualities.

Most of the comedy comes from McCarthy, with Bullock being pretty apt at playing the boring cop. The jokes are never really that funny, and two hours is a bit much for the basic setup. The decent pacing and the commitment to the comedy make it a passable film, just keep your expectations to a minimum.