The Regeneration

1915 / 72m - USA
The Regeneration poster

One of the earliest gangster films. I will say that genres had smaller impacts back in the days of silent cinema. It's more about the narratives and characters than it is about typical cinematic elements, which makes it less interesting. But Walsh's film has something to offer for fans of crime cinema.

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Owen Conway is orphaned at a young age and can't escape the world of crime. He finds a home with his neighbors for a short while, but ends up on the streets, and leads a street gang by the age of 25. But then he meets Marie, falls in love, and wants to leave his life of crime behind.

There are some decent action scenes and the cinematography has its moments. The plot is very basic though and the characters are extremely one-dimensional. Luckily the film is pretty short and the pacing is solid, so it never gets too boring, but don't expect the world from this film.


2022 / 111m - USA
Pinocchio poster

A pointless "live-action" remake of Disney's Pinocchio. Most of the film is CG though, even when you have some human actors running across the screen from time to time. Zemeckis remained close to Disney's original cartoon, which means it's a very safe take on the story, with some familiar songs thrown in for good measure.

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The plot should be familiar to most, unless you're either very young or a complete fairy tale hater. Geppetto carves a wooden boy and wishes for it to become human. A fairy grants him his wish, but before Pinocchio can become a true human, he'll have to prove his worth. Together with Jiminy Cricket, he starts his big adventure.

In the end, this felt like a very lazy remake. Zemeckis doesn't even make an effort to create something unique or special. The accents were horrible, the actors did poor jobs, the CG was lackluster and the music was bland. At least we have del Toro's take on Pinocchio to look forward to, no doubt it'll be at least twice as interesting as this one.

Good Time

2017 / 102m - USA
Good Time poster

One of the films that solidified the Safdie brothers' reputation. I'm not the biggest fan of their work, nor am I too impressed with the whole A24 hype, but their influence is hard to ignore, and they rarely make terrible films. Good Time fits in well with their catalogue in other words.

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Two brothers mess up a bank robbery. The police are on their tail, so they have no option but to flee. Connie manages to escape, Nick is apprehended by the cops. But Connie won't leave his brother behind. He goes by his girlfriend, hoping to convince her to help him gather the money to bail his brother out.

My biggest problem with the Safdie brothers is that their sense of anxiety doesn't really translate for me. The cinematography is decent, the score not too bad, and the plot amusing (but predictable), it's just not enough to get me on the edge of my seat. Good Time is okay, but also pretty forgettable.

The Assistant

2019 / 87m - USA
The Assistant poster

A rather dry and singular look at the entertainment industry. I hadn't really heard of the film before, but after seeing it, it was clear where The Assistant got its reputation from. In the wake of the first #metoo wave, and with the revelations of Harvey Weinstein fresh in people's minds, a film like this was always going to do well. It could've been better though.

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Jane is a young and aspiring producer, who lands her dream job as an assistant of a famous media mogul. Less than two months in, her idea of this world has changed completely. Her boss has no respect for her, her colleagues don't give her a second look and she suspects abuse of power from the top down. Only, there is no one she can turn to.

The dry presentation is okay and works well for the most part, but it isn't quite as polished as it could've been. The performances are good and the pacing didn't bother me either, it's just that the message felt a bit simple and poorly presented. A slight disconnect with the main character left me pondering why she put up with the terrible working conditions. Solid, but somewhat forgettable.

The Bridge

Die Brücke
1959 / 103m - West Germany
The Bridge poster

The atrocities of war. The Bridge is a German take on WWII, sadly it offers little beyond a rather static and predictable anti-war message, spread thin over the course of the film. Unless you're someone who somehow glorifies war, it's difficult to imagine this film being an eye-opener. And then it just comes down to the styling.

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Close to the end of WWII, few German troops remain. In a desperate attempt to turn the tables, teens are gathered to join the army and sent on pointless missions. One group is assigned to safeguard a bridge, in the hope to stop the invasion of Germany. A crazy mission with only one possible outcome.

The stark black and white cinematography feels dead and empty, the performances are not very natural and the message of the film isn't exactly subtle. If you like minimalist classics with straightforward morality then this could very well be a film for you, I can't say it managed to grab me at any point.


2021 / 100m - Spain
Veneciafrenia poster

Álex de la Iglesia's latest. It's a bit surprising to see him move shop to Italy, but Venice is the perfect location for one of his slightly surreal, maximalist horror films. The premise and structure of the film are relatively simple and don't offer anything particularly new, but de la Iglesia's signature is definitely present.

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Five Spanish tourists have planned a trip to Venice. When they arrive, they find that the locals are tired of tourists destroying their city. They don't really care too much and go out in search of a party. They are invited to an exclusive club, but when they wake up the next morning, one of them is missing.

The settings and costumes are superb, the performances are decent and the villains are pretty badass. The pacing is also on point, but there are few surprises here and even though the film is topical, it's not quite as original as I'd hoped. Veneciafrenia is a good horror flick and a fine addition to de la Iglesia's oeuvre, but not one of his best.


2003 / 78m - Japan
Fantasy, Action, Horror
Aragami poster

Kitamura's entry in the Duel project. Aragami is a tricky film since it isn't inherently suited to the parameters of the project. A lot more weight rests on the shoulders of Kitamura, but that's no doubt what he was gunning for. A project to challenge himself. The build-up is meticulous, the setting kicks ass, and the ending is hilarious, even though it is somewhat of an in-joke. After revisiting both films, I'm still not really sure which one I prefer, but they're both equally strong examples of how to make a great film while working with strict limitations.

Licorice Pizza

2021 / 133m - USA
Drama, Romance
Licorice Pizza poster

So while most of the world is moving on from 80s to 90s nostalgia, Paul Thomas Anderson comes with his ode to the 70s. As someone with little interest in nostalgia, even less so in the 70s, I figured this wasn't really going to be a film for me. What I didn't expect was such a flat and lifeless film.

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When Gary first sees Alana, he's immediately smitten. Gary's a smooth talker, but Alana doesn't really trust him right away. Even so, they become good friends and spend most of their time together. Gary tries to make it as an actor, while Alana is more interested in politics and changing the world.

The 70s vibe is on point, seeing as how I didn't like it all. I also didn't care much for the romance between Gary and Alana, and with that, it became painfully clear that this film has very little to offer. PTA's playfulness is completely absent, the cinematography and score are utterly boring, the plot meandering and stretched thin. One of his worst.

Baby Assassins

Beibî Warukyûre
2021 / 95m - Japan
Comedy, Action
Baby Assassins poster

A fine premise, but the execution is a bit mediocre. I didn't have the highest expectations for this film, but I had hoped for something a tad more exciting. I understand the whole slacker/apathy angle, and the comedy that should come from it, but even that aspect wasn't entirely convincing.

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Chisato and Mahilo are two seemingly normal high school students. They also happen to be two very skilled assassins. They are both very good at their job, but when their boss orders them to live in the same apartment, things quickly go sour and their personal and professional relationship starts to suffer.

The action scenes are merely decent, most of the film is spent on banter between the two girls, contrasted with their crazy "jobs". It's just not extreme or pure enough to make much of an impact. It's a bit too jolly for a true slacker comedy, a bit too tame from a crazy action flick. Still fun, but should've been better.

Blue Ruin

2013 / 90m - USA
Thriller, Crime
Blue Ruin poster

Decent, but somewhat tepid and simple revenge flick. Blue Ruin is very much a film of its time, bringing a slight indie/arthouse aesthetic to an otherwise straightforward genre premise. Sometimes this juxtaposition of styles can strengthen each other, most of the time they just cause unnecessary friction. The latter seems to be the case here.

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Dwight saw his parents brutally murdered. The killer was apprehended and sent to jail, but Dwight never really forgave him. When years later Dwight hears his parents' murderer is released before his sentence is completed, he plans a revenge mission. Dwight will not only have to become a killer himself, but he also has to accept that he'll be continuing the cycle of hate and violence.

Conversation is slight and the film is more show than tell. That's usually a good thing, but the presentation felt a little too bland and sloppy to pull that off effectively. There are some decent twists and the performances aren't bad either, there just wasn't quite enough here to turn this into a riveting, gritty yet grounded revenge flick, which was clearly the goal.

The Big Clock

1948 / 95m - USA
Thriller, Crime
The Big Clock poster

A somewhat lighter, jollier noir film. If that sounds a little nonsensical, it's because it is. The film seems a little unsure of what direction to take, and ends up a mess of two conflicting halves that never quite come together. In a way, it's a nice diversion on my journey of stereotypical noirs, but it doesn't really make for a better film.

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Earl is the CEO of a big publishing company. When he kills his girlfriend in a jealous fit, he panics. He calls on George, an editor of a crime magazine, and commands him to investigate the case. What George doesn't know is that Earl is planning to shift the blame to him, and make him the scapegoat.

The plot and cinematography are typical noir elements, the soundtrack and performances give it a softer, almost comedic edge. It's still extremely dialogue-heavy though, and the simple plot and sluggish pacing don't do the film any favors. Noir fans probably won't mind, I just don't really care for it.

The Passenger

La Pasajera
2021 / 90m - Spain
Comedy, Horror
The Passenger poster

A fun, little horror/comedy, that delivers its punchlines with a pleasant smirk. The Passenger isn't doing anything new, but it is aware of its limitations and it exploits little details to make the film more distinct. It's a very smart solution to make a core genre film that doesn't immediately blend in with all the others.

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Blasco is a driver who takes people on joint trips. He owns a little minivan and loves a good chat, but the people making use of his services aren't too eager to join in. When Blasco discovers a crash site of a UFO one night, he and his passengers are in for a crazy ride, with a mad alien on the loose.

The Spanish folk soundtrack, Blasco's bullfighter background, the slightly larger-than-life characters and the violent alien all add some spice to the mix. The effects can appear a little cheap and the comedy can't always mask that, but the pacing is solid, there's plenty of fun to be had and there are some pleasantly gory moments. Good fun.

Mr. Zhao

by Yue Lü
Zhao Xiansheng
1998 / 89m - China
Mr. Zhao poster

An extremely simple relationship drama. I kind of get why this might have been considered an important film at the time, as it's a big shift from the cinema China was known for (the Sixth Generation). Then again, there are older, slicker, and more influential films much better fitted to stand the test of time. This one just doesn't have a whole lot going for it.

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Mr. Zhao is your typical male, middle-aged cliche. He has a wife and kid at home, but he also has a mistress who ends up pregnant. His wife finds out about his affair, but Zhao is unsure of what to do next. He doesn't want to leave the comfort of his old relationship but won't ditch the passion he finds with his new fling either. And so he strings the two women along.

The cinematic qualities here are few and far between. Static and sloppy shots dictate the visual language, the soundtrack is completely absent, and the drama is just too primitive and dull to actively care about. The performances are decent though, which is something. Just not enough to give this film the dramatic impact it needed.

True Fiction

2019 / 96m - Canada
Horror, Thriller
True Fiction poster

A basic thriller with minor horror elements. The biggest problem with True Fiction is that it fails to enthrall in any way. The premise is decent enough, but writer/director Croft never takes it anywhere interesting. The lead performances are pretty dim and the mystery is simply too predictable.

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Avery is a young, aspiring writer who lands her dream job. She is chosen to become the new assistant of her favorite writer. The job has some peculiarities though, as she is shipped to a remote house in the mountains where they'll write his latest masterpiece in complete isolation. And that's just the beginning.

The mind games between the writer and Avery are a little simplistic, neither of the characters comes off very cunning, nor are they menacing when they need to be. And Croft's direction feels rather tepid and uninspired. It's decent enough filler, but it's a film that either lacks ambition or talent to make it stand out.

Shaolin Conquering Demons

2020 / 87m - China
Fantasy, Action
Shaolin Conquering Demons poster

The Chinese streamer films are slowly but surely getting longer, edging closer to the 90-minute mark. In a way that might give them a bit more validity, on the other hand, they are losing some of their biggest perks. What used to feel very trimmed and to the point, now gets padding that doesn't really add much to the overall quality of the film.

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The stories are still as basic as ever. Through some odd coincidence, a demon is awakened that will come to threaten the whole of humanity. A monk is sent out to fix the problem, looking for an arhat who holds the key to the protection of the human race. He takes his assignment very seriously but might be forgetting about some of the other important things in life, namely the love of an old friend.

The extra comedy bits (mostly at the beginning of the film) are pretty terrible, the added drama isn't all that great either. The fantasy and action scenes on the other hand are on point. The CG too is pretty solid, especially considering the limited means these films are made with. I'm not a fan of the added runtime, but that was always going to be a matter of time. Other than that, amusing filler.

Muriel's Wedding

1994 / 106m - Australia
Muriel's Wedding poster

A pretty solid Australian rom-com. There are some offkey dramatic moments that felt a little out of place, but for the most part, the film is pretty funny, without having to resort to overly simplistic gags and obvious plot twists. That's not to say the film is wildly original, but it's certainly above-average genre fare.

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Muriel is an outcast living in Porpoise Spit. None of her so-called friends like her, her family looks down on her and all she cares about is listening to ABBA and getting married. She turns her life around and elopes, moving to Sydney to start her life anew. But taking on a new identity doesn't change who she is on the inside.

Toni Collette was surprisingly funny, the supporting cast is pretty solid too, the plot isn't too conventional and the pacing was on point. It's not an incredibly memorable film and I'm sure it'll feel like you've seen it all before, but as rom-coms go, it's one of the more palatable ones.

I Know Where I'm Going!

1945 / 92m - UK
Drama, Romance
I Know Where I'm Going! poster

Classic Powell & Pressburger. So far I haven't really cared for their films (even though they seem to be universally praised), I Know Where I'm Going didn't do much to change my mind. It's classic drama/romance cinema, meaning it's about as subtle as a sledgehammer. At least it was rather short.

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Joan Webster is about to marry the wealthy Robert Bellinger, who is quite a bit older than her. Their wedding will be on Kiloran, a little Scottish island. On her way there, she hits a patch of bad weather and ends up stranded on a different island. There, she meets Torquil MacNeil, a young and handsome man.

The performances are overstated, the romance is predictable (and not exactly smoldering), and the British atmosphere is mostly just static and clunky. Towards the end, there were some decent shots, but otherwise, this was a dull and predictable classic, much like the other films I've seen from them.

Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach poster

The fifth in the series, and it's obvious that we've come to a point where it's just cranking out 90 minutes of cinema with familiar characters. The story is ever so slim, the new characters don't really add much to the whole, and the old characters are just repeating their little gimmicks.

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Lassard is set to retire, but before that moment he'll be honored by the academy. Everyone is invited to Miami, where the ceremony will take place. But Lassard finds himself in the middle of a kidnapping, without him realizing what is going on. The policemen will have to do their best to save their boss one last time.

-The comedy is really childish (the crooks, in particular, are indefensible), the actors look a little bored and the plot is just plain terrible. The most surprising thing about part 5 is that they still managed to make two more films after this, meaning back then there was an audience eagerly looking out for new Police Academy films. Not good.

Blazing Famiglia

Bakugyaku Famîria
2012 / 127m - Japan
Blazing Famiglia poster

Kumakiri's take on the Japanese brawler genre. He's a pretty good fit, placing his film somewhere between franchises like Crows Zero and more traditional gangster films. The visuals are pretty dark and gritty, the characters are slightly over-the-top yet remain grounded, and the drama is pleasant, without overpowering the crime and action elements. The start of the film is a little hectic, but once Kumakiri settles into his groove, there's a lot to love.