The Eclipse

L'Eclisse
1962 / 126m - Italy
Drama, Romance
2.0*/5.0*
The Eclipse poster

One of Antonioni's better films, but I keep struggling with his somewhat unalluring characters, and the overall noisiness of Italian cinema. There are moments when I managed to get into the flow of the film, usually when everybody was quiet and going about their business.

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Vittoria is a young woman who breaks off the relationship with her longtime boyfriend. When she visits her mother at the stock exchange, she meets Piero. He is interested in Vittoria, but she isn't immediately won over by this slick-looking stock broker. He is so persistent that Vittoria finally caves.

Monica Vitti and Alain Delon are both solid, it's just that I never really cared that much whether they got together or how their relationship would fare. Maybe it was the something dull juxtaposition of their characters that left me cold, but it wasn't until the finale that I actually felt some emotion.

Three Husbands

Sam Foo
2018 / 101m - Hong Kong
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
Three Husbands poster

Hong Kong has a pretty clean and prim film industry, but not all directors conform to the rules. Fruit Chan is one of those people who prefers to do things his own way, which leads to films like Three Husbands. It's a very direct, sometimes baffling drama about a girl with an insatiable thirst for sexual pleasure.

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Mui works as a prostitute. She's a little dim and she already has a bastard kid, but she's fit for her job as she looks for a man who can satisfy her. She has three men taking care of her, but even though they're willing to try pretty much everything, they can't seem to give her the satisfaction she so desperately seeks.

While the premise sounds ideal for an erotic film, Fruit Chan goes for a mix of drama and comedy instead. The performances are solid and the film looks nice enough, but somehow Mui's quest isn't quite as exciting as it sounds, and some moments (like the scene with the eel) are quite questionable. Still, if you want something different from Hong Kong, look no further.

King Arthur

2004 / 126m - USA
Action, Adventure
0.5*/5.0*
King Arthur poster

Fuqua is a decent enough director, but when he ventures outside of his comfort zone it quickly becomes apparent that he is somewhat limited too. I don't really care much for these historic epics, but King Arthur turned out to be particularly boring. A bland and generic blockbuster spectacle that never felt very spectacular.

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The film offers a somewhat grittier and more realistic take on the King Arthur legend, which means that it removed all the fun parts and leaves the story about a boarish man going on a quest to unite Britain and give the land back to its people. Much fighting and battlefields ahead in other words.

The performances are weak, the cinematography is bland and the plot didn't interest me at all. The two-hour runtime isn't that extreme, but it was still way too long for a film where I found nothing to amuse myself with. It's a good thing this was just a one-off for Fuqua because this was pretty terrible.

Carter

2022 / 132m - South Korea
Action
4.5*/5.0*
Carter poster

A sprawling action spectacle. I'm not a big fan of South-Korean cinema, it often lacks focus and dedication, never quite pushing things as far as they should. Well, Carter breaks with that tradition. It's an action film that reminded me of Hardcore Henry. The single-take action is obviously stitched together, but the camera never stalls, the action is constant and the choreography is well over-the-top. The plot's a bit messy and not all performances are equally great, but if you're looking for an adrenaline-fueled action flick, there are few that can match the energy levels of this one. Had an absolute blast watching this.

The Big Parade

1925 / 151m - USA
Romance, War
1.5*/5.0*
The Big Parade poster

An early war epic. Fans of war cinema (and silents) will find a real treat here, as The Big Parade is a blueprint of many a famous war film that followed in its wake. It's certainly overlong, but the build-up is meticulous and the scenes in the trenches bring the usual mix of boredom and terror.

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When World War I commences, the young and eager James joins the army. He is shipped off to France, where he spends his first days in a peaceful village. There he meets Melisande, a lovely young woman. They hit it off, but then his regiment is ordered to fight in the trenches and he has to leave Melisande behind.

I'm not really a big fan of these war epics, but I was surprised to see so many familiar elements in such an old film, executed properly too. The usual gore and massive battles aren't here, of course, the scale is a lot smaller, but the structure and themes are very recognizable. It's a shame the film is so long, otherwise, I might've liked it better.

Meet Cute

2022 / 89m - USA
Romance, Fantasy
3.5*/5.0*
Meet Cute poster

Japan has been doing fantasy/sci-fi-based romance for a while now, it seems Hollywood is catching up. Meet Cute is a more low-profile film that reminded me a little of Sam Esmail's Comet, but with a clearer fantastical touch. I didn't expect much going in, but ended up pleasantly surprised.

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When Sheila walks into a bar, she sees Gary and falls instantly in love with him. They get acquainted and spend the perfect night together. But Sheila is a little quirky and dishes out a weird story about being able to travel through time. Gary is amused but becomes a little worried when he realizes Sheila isn't joking.

The cinematography is colorful and dreamy, there's enough chemistry between Cuoco and Davidson, and the mix of romance, comedy, and drama works pretty well. The fantastical premise is just the icing on the cake. The ending was a tad easy, but it's a charming, sweet little film that shows promise.

Ultrasound

2021 / 103m - USA
Mystery
3.5*/5.0*
Ultrasound poster

A not all that interesting premise, but the film itself turned out to be pretty solid. Ultrasound is a somewhat hermetic puzzle box, telling different stories that seem almost entirely unrelated. Something one of the main characters literally remarks upon around the halfway point. This is a film for people with a little patience in other words.

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When Glen's car breaks down, he seeks help from a nearby house. There he meets Arthur and Cindy, a rather peculiar couple. Glen ends up spending the night. Weeks later Arthur suddenly turns up on Glen's doorstep, telling him Cindy is pregnant. He isn't angry, but he does want Glen to take responsibility for the baby.

I really liked the fact that the film keeps things obtuse for well past the halfway mark, though the actual explanation isn't all that spectacular. The cinematography is pleasant though, the soundtrack is moody and the performances are solid. Ultrasound is a neat little mystery, a debut that shows lots of potential.

Holy Flame of the Martial World

Wu Lin Sheng Huo Jin
1983 / 86m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
3.5*/5.0*
Holy Flame of the Martial World poster

Pleasantly daft martial arts cinema. It's one of the late Shaw Bros films that is almost a parody of their earlier work. The basics are still there, but instead of going for a more serious revenge story, these films are all about mad stunts and cheesy special effects. The execution might be pretty crummy, but the pacing and energy levels more than make up for that.

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A brother and sister are separated when their parents die. They are placed under different martial arts masters and are both trained separately. Their masters are looking for the Holy Flame, a legendary martial arts weapon that was stashed away in a perilous cave years ago. Getting the weapon back is their main priority.

The plot is pretty messy, the special effects mostly functional and some of the props looked insanely cheap (the titular sword for one). But I love that "the sky is the limit" type of filmmaking that keeps pushing films like these into the increasingly crazier territory. It may not be all-time classic material, but it didn't bore me for a single second. Well recommended for fans of martial arts cinema.

Dogs Don't Wear Pants

Koirat Eivät Käytä Housuja
2019 / 105m - Finland
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
Dogs Don't Wear Pants poster

Finnish cinema takes on BDSM. I'm not quite sure how shocking or eye-opening this film was trying to be, but despite some attempts at being a bit edgier, it's a pretty safe and proper film that leans more into its arthouse aesthetics. And for that, I didn't really find it polished enough.

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When Juha's wife dies in a swimming accident, he is completely heartbroken, but he continues on as his daughter needs him. It isn't until years later when he meets Mona, a dominatrix, that something inside his warms again. Juha's a little hesitant at first, but he can't stay away from Mona.

Some effort went into the styling, but neither the cinematography nor the score really hit the mark. It's not that they're bad, it just didn't feel quite committed or thorough enough. The plot and structure of the film are decent but somewhat predictable, and in the end, this simply wasn't as memorable as it could've been.

Little Joe

2019 / 105m - Austria
Horror, Mystery
3.0*/5.0*
Little Joe poster

A nifty little sci-fi chiller that does its best to stand out, but can't quite hack it. There certainly was a lot of potential here. It's not the first echo-horror out there, but Little Joe comes with an intriguing premise and builds up the dread rather well during the first half of the film. But then it starts to wane and the explicit styling can't really make up for it.

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Alice works in a lab where they try to breed a plant that brings joy to its owners. The pressure to deliver is on and Alice resorts to some unscientific methods to speed up the process. Everything looks to be progressing according to plan and the plant appears to be a success, but then subtle behavioral changes in people who have been exposed to the plant are being recorded.

The use of color is by far the most notable aspect of the film, but the camera work and mis-en-scene let the cinematography down. The soundtrack is just plain atrocious and a complete failure at making the film tenser. The performances aren't too great either and the finale fails to pack a punch. A few too many letdowns to make this a great film, but definitely worth a watch for its novel ideas.

Goodnight Mommy

2022 / 92m - USA
Mystery, Thriller
2.0*/5.0*
Goodnight Mommy poster

Naomi Watts was once the shining star of Mulholland Dr, now she's the front lady for pointless US remakes of foreign horror cinema. Unless you hate subtitles or you just can't be bothered to look beyond US cinema, there's really no reason to watch this. It's just a rehash of the original story, with less atmosphere and worse performances.

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A father drops two twin boys with their mother, who they haven't seen for a while. She just had surgery and is still recovering from the operation. She's a little agitated and the boys don't really feel at home with her. After a while, they begin to suspect that the woman in the house isn't actually their mother.

Even though I didn't remember much from the original, the big plot twist was easy to guess and was spoiled way too early. The original thrived on atmosphere, the remake is more focused on the narrative, which is by far the weakest part of the film. It's not a complete misfire, but if you've seen and like the source material, there's little reason to bother with this one.

Time

Sha Chu Ge Huangun
2021 / 99m - Hong Kong
Drama, Crime
3.5*/5.0*
Time poster

An interesting take on the crime genre, with a sweet and stylish drama as a result. Time offers a somewhat odd mix of genres, certainly for a Hong Kong film, but director Po keeps a fine balance and has a trio of seasoned actors to fall back on. What the film lacks in truly standout moments, it makes up for in overall quality.

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Chau was once a fearsome assassin, after his retirement, he feels a bit lost. Together with two others, he starts a little service to assist senior citizens who want to end their lives. His life is turned upside down when a young girl approaches him and demands he kills her. Chau doesn't want to have anything to do with minors, but slowly a bond develops between the two.

The performances are pretty good (Patrick Tse is on fire and I'm always happy to see Lam Suet in a meatier role), the cinematography is very polished and the pacing is perfect. The story isn't too original and there are few surprises here, but this film is a nice reminder that Hong Kong cinema isn't entirely dead yet.

The Flowers of St. Francis

Francesco, Giullare di Dio
1950 / 85m - Italy
Drama
0.5*/5.0*
The Flowers of St. Francis poster

An Italian classic that takes the religious route. I'm not the biggest fan of Italian classic cinema, I'm even less of a fan of religion-themed cinema. Combine the two and you have a film that has little chance of succeeding, especially when it doesn't even bother with an actual plot.

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Rather than a coherent story, we get several vignettes depicting the lives of the original Franciscan monks. Morality lies at the basis of each segment, through which we learn about the order and its history. I will say that I had a hard time focusing during the second half, as this is a subject I really don't care much about.

The cinematography is bland, the performances are poor and the soundtrack doesn't really help the film forward. If you care two cents about religion and religion-infused morality there may something here for you, it just didn't interest me at all, and i'd had it with this film before reaching the halfway mark.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

2021 / 90m - USA
Comedy, Animation
3.0*/5.0*
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On poster

An A24 animation. Though revered by some as a beacon of originality, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On was exactly the film I expected it to be. It's quirky, charming, and somewhat novel, but also very predictable, lacking punch, and rather daft in its messaging. Think Apple and coffee shops, that should give you a good idea of the vibe the film is going for.

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Marcel is a lonely shell. After his humans had a big fight, they left the house behind and one of them took Marcel's family with them. Now he lives alone with his grandmother. When a documentary maker moves in and discovers Marcel, he decides to shoot a film about him. In no time, Marcel becomes an overnight internet sensation.

The animation is decent, the character designs are cute, and the integration with the live-action shots is seamless. The voice acting is horrendous though, the plot rather dull and the glossy feel a tad too sentimental. There are lots of smart ideas and cute moments, but I never really cared for Marcel and his adventures.

Deus

2022 / 90m - UK
Sci-fi
3.0*/5.0*
Deus poster

A pretty decent sci-fi, with a fun premise and solid special effects in support. Director Stone could've taken things a little further, certainly with the ending. The film asks some interesting (though not very original) questions but then comes up with a lame solution that felt very much like a cop-out.

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A spaceship crew is woken up from their sleep for a special mission. A mysterious black sphere has appeared in Earth's vicinity, and nobody knows what the thing is doing there. The crew is briefed and tasked with the investigation of the object. The only thing they know is that the sphere is sending out signals that translate to the word God.

The effects team did a pretty great job, as I suspect Deus was made on a rather limited budget. The religious premise is also fun, but it never feels fully explored. The performances are pretty weak and some directorial/aesthetic choices are a little questionable, but all in all, this was a pretty pleasant sci-fi flick. The potential was there to be something more though.

The Invitation

2022 / 105m - USA
Romance, Horror
2.5*/5.0*
The Invitation poster

A somewhat tepid mix of romance and horror. Sure enough, that should tell you what kind of horror niche we're dealing with here. The budget was clearly there, but it takes a very long time before the film gets up to speed and the finale wasn't half as exciting as it should and could've been.

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Evie is a struggling artist who tries to get by. She has no family to rely on, just a close friend. Out of the blue, she is contacted by an English cousin, who asks to meet up. He convinces her that she has a family in England who are dying to meet her. Evie accepts his invitation and goes on a trip to England.

The setting is lush and the production design clearly shows there was a proper budget. Nathalie Emmanuel is a rather poor lead though, the rest of the cast isn't much better. The film gets pretty cheesy, the pacing is a tad too slow and the finale lacks punch. It's not the worst horror film around, just a bit too mediocre.

American Psycho

2000 / 101m - USA
Comedy, Thriller
4.0*/5.0*
American Psycho poster

After all these years, American Psycho is still pretty hilarious. A cynical take on our society, that heckles conformism, the pointless desire to fit it, and the drive to outshine others, even when it's just about futile details. Christian Bale is perfect for his part and delivers one of his all-time best performances. The light tone adds quite a bit of comedy and the contrast with the violence is stark. It's a film that hasn't lost any of its original appeal, so well worth a try for those who never got around to watching it.