A disappointment after '94. It all depends on the directors who are participating of course, but with names like Flying Lotus and Johannes Roberts attached, I expected more from this anthology. None of the five shorts made a real impact, and the VHS effects were a bit overdone for a "99" film.

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We get five short this time around. The first is about a punk band going to a burnt-down bar, the second is about sorority hazing, the third film shows a gameshow gone wrong, the fourth one follows some horny teenagers who are about to get the scare of their lives and the fifth one sees two bozos transported to hell.

What this film lacks are entries like Timo Tjahjanto's from '94, something that sticks once the credits start rolling. The horror effects are solid and graphic, but the premises are rather bland, there's no real build-up and the reveals are pretty basic too. It's still decent enough filler, but it's one of the weakest entries in the franchise so far.

Drifting Home

Ame wo Tsugeru Hyôryû Danchi
2022 / 119m - Japan
Fantasy, Adventure, Animation
3.0*/5.0*
Drifting Home poster

Another fantasy anime with kids. I feel I'm losing my interest in these types of films. They've been taking over feature-length anime for more than a decade now and they're really starting to look very samey. Drifting Home fits in a little too snuggly with the rest of them, making for a rather generic project.

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Some kids are investigating a haunted apartment building when suddenly they're transported to an alternative reality. They're still in the building, but it is now floating in a sea of nothingness. The kids will have to survive and try to find their way back to their own world, but to do that, they'll have to face their fears.

The animation is solid and the premise is pretty nice and the lore is intriguing, but they've could've done a lot more with it. The kids get pretty whiney, the runtime is a bit too long and it gets very sentimental in places. I'd love to see anime move away for kids & fantasy again, but I doubt that's going to happen anytime soon. It's not a bad film, just not as great as it could've been.

What to Do with the Dead Kaiju?

Dai Kaijû no Ato Shimatsu
2022 / 115m - Japan
Comedy, Fantasy
What to Do with the Dead Kaiju? poster

Miki returns with a lovely Kaiju parody. Instead of people having to battle one or more huge monsters, they're now trying to get rid of their remains. It's an outrageous premise with a relatively deadpan execution, structured and performed as if it was a real Kaiju flick. It's probably a bit too "complex" to be a broad success, even though Miki clearly had a sizeable budget and A-list cast at his disposal. For those familiar with the tropes of the genre though, there's plenty to love. Great performances, strong cinematography, smart jokes, and sly references make the latest Miki a joy to behold. if you're not up to snuff with the trademark Kaiju clichés, it might be a very different story.

From What Is Before

Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon
2014 / 338m - Philippines
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
From What Is Before poster

Archetypical arthouse, and no doubt a must for fans of minimalist/slow cinema. This was my first feature-length Diaz film, and it turned out quite a bit better than expected. I'm not the biggest fan of those long/slow arthouse films, but the ambient sounds and stark black & white cinematography worked pretty well for me.

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The film zooms in on the zeitgeist of the country during the martial law of 1972. Regular citizens and the government are shown going about their business, often with grim results. It stands in stark contrast with the presentation of the film, but it's exactly that tension that makes it interesting.

I won't defend the runtime (nearly six hours of slow-moving, singular cinema is too much for me) and the arthouse aesthetic isn't the most original, but it is executed very well and after a while, I did get into the groove of the Diaz' film. It's just that it wasn't strong enough to keep me there for the entire runtime.

Suspiria

1977 / 97m - Italy
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Suspiria poster

A pleasant rewatch, but not quite as good as the first time I watched it. It's still infinitely better than the remake, but somehow I had a bit more trouble getting past the overstated performances this time around. Goblin's score wasn't a complete success either, which made it more difficult to get wrapped up in the visual splendor on display.

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A young dancer (Suzy) arrives at a prestigious school. The teachers are tough on the students, but nobody dares to complain too much. When people start disappearing and even end up dead, Suzy suspects something fishy is going on. She wants to solve the mystery, but her own life is at stake too.

The cinematography is the main attraction here. The sets are extravagant, the colors are insane and each shot has been carefully set up. The soundtrack is just as outrageous but more dated. The horror elements are rather minimal though and the performances are absolutely grating. Still, if you love a colorful horror flick, Argento has you covered.

Just Remembering

Chotto Omoidashita Dake
2021 / 115m - Japan
Drama, Romance
3.5*/5.0*
Just Remembering poster

A pleasant romantic drama from Matsui, but it lacks that little sparkle to make it stand out from the crowd. It reminded me of a few other Japanese dramas I've watched recently (We Couldn't Become Adults and And Your Bird Can Sing most notably), that simply did it better.

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Teruo and his girlfriend split up, but they haven't really forgotten about each other. He still reminisces about the time they spent together. Little by little, we find out how their relationship came to be, and how it shaped them both as a couple and as individuals.

The performances are solid, the cinematography is polished and the drama works well. The soundtrack wasn't entirely to my liking though and there's nothing that really draws attention to itself, but if you're looking for a good and respectable Japanese romantic drama, you can't go wrong with this one.

42nd Street

1933 / 89m - USA
Comedy, Musical
1.5*/5.0*
42nd Street poster

An early musical. 42nd Street doesn't have any of the big musical stars of the era, and that kind of shows. The numbers and dance acts are pretty elementary, so they went with the costume department to add some extra flair to the film. Not the worst choice in history, but it's not the most stylish way to elevate a film.

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The plot is negligible. Showbiz is a tough world, people quarrel and the number one priority is making sure there is a show to perform. When the lead star breaks her ankle, one of the chorus girls has to take over. She isn't really Broadway star material yet, so she gets a crash course before taking on the stage.

The pacing is decent, the film isn't too long, and the performances are pretty jolly and flirty. The acts didn't really do it for me though, and they present a rather large chunk of the film. If you like classic musicals though, you can't really go wrong with this one. It's certainly not the worst I've seen.

The Accursed

2022 / 96m - USA
Horror
3.0*/5.0*
The Accursed poster

Kevin Lewis' latest film is a considerable step back from Willy's Wonderland. It's a much more traditional horror film that offers nothing new. Not that I dislike core genre work, but then everything hinges on the execution. While decent, there's just not enough that stands out here.

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After losing her mother, Elly takes on a new job caring for a comatose old lady. She lives in a remote place and fancies her privacy. What Elly doesn't know is that the woman has a demon living inside of her. Elly is the perfect vessel for the demon, but she gets help from a single mother who had a previous run-in with the demon.

The effects are pretty solid, the build-up of the tension is fine and the finale delivers. It's just that everything feels a bit too derivative and without any surprises, it's not a film that is bound to be all that memorable. Solid horror filler for this time of year, but I expected a little more from Lewis.

Mutant: Ghost War Girl

2022 / 71m - China
Sci-fi, Action
3.5*/5.0*
Mutant: Ghost War Girl poster

Surprisingly capable. It's a shame this was conceived as typical streamer filler, because director Binjie shows a lot of promise. For certain, the film borrows royally from more famous sci-fi classics (Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell being the most obvious ones), but the mix with Chinese lore works really well. For once, I would've appreciated a bit more depth and detail.

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An underground organization in South Korea is kidnapping your girls to turn them into experimental mutants. Wu manages to escape the facility after her treatment has already started. She possesses a special ship that the organization wants to retrieve. With the help of a local cop, she tries to stay out of the hands of the organization.

The sets look absolutely lush, the CG is more than decent (not a given with these films), the camera work is strong and the action is flashy. The plot is basic sci-fi nonsense and sometimes the nods to other sci-fi franchises are a tad too on the nose, but give this man a bigger budget and a bit more creative wiggle room, and something truly spectacular might come out the other way.

Romantic Prelude

Otonari
2009 / 119m - Japan
Romance
3.5*/5.0*
Romantic Prelude poster

A fine romance, but a bit too predictable and by the numbers to really set itself apart. It's one of those perfectly pleasant Japanese dramas, with good actors, proper cinematography, and a fitting soundtrack, it's just that I've seen so many of them already that I need something extra to keep me 100% engaged.

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Nanao is a talented florist who wants to move to France, Nojima is a successful photographer whose dream it is to go to Canada and shoot landscapes. They live next to each other and the thin wall that separates them creates a bond, even when they've never actually seen one another.

Kumiko Aso is great as always, Jun'ichi Okada isn't quite up to par, but his performance suffices. The lighting and color work help to elevate the cinematography, the soundtrack is appropriate but forgettable. There's nothing really bad about Romantic Prelude, but with a predictable conclusion and no real stand-out elements, it's difficult to fall wholeheartedly in love with the film.

Monster SeaFood Wars

2020 / 84m - Japan
Comedy, Fantasy
2.5*/5.0*
Monster SeaFood Wars poster

A new Kaiju film from Kawasaki. Lately, his films seem to have lost some of their weird edge. That's not to say this is a regular Kaiju film, there's a whole nonsensical subplot about turning these monsters into gourmet dishes after all. It's just not as crazy or out there compared to his earlier work, and that's not a good evolution if you ask me.

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Some special fish offerings don't reach the temple and end up in the river, a couple of months later three Kaiju appear, ravaging the nearby city. A special supplement has turned the seafood into giant monsters, but people's perception of them changes when they find out their meat is actually quite delicious.

The effects are pretty crummy and the performances aren't great either. Then again, that's what you get when sitting down for a low-budget Kawasaki film. There are some fun ideas here and the Kaiju parody is cute enough, it's just becoming a bit predictable. I still had fun with it, but I think it's time for Kawasaki to leave the Kaiju genre alone for a while.

Queen of Triads 3

2022 / 79m - China
Crime
2.5*/5.0*
Queen of Triads 3 poster

Jing Wong continues his streamer streak. In a way it's a fitting way for the man to finish his career, he never really was the biggest talent. Even so, it is a little disheartening to see him make no-budget genre films with paltry casts. He has always been one of the most committed Hong Kong directors and he always brought something fresh to blockbuster films. Alas, we now have Queen of Triads 3, a basic Chinese crime filler.

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Rose grew up in the underworld but escaped by joining the ICAC, a division that deals with the biggest criminals. She goes undercover and becomes the right hand of Hao, a smart and charming Triad boss who is wrapped up in a power struggle with Kun. With Rose on his side, Hao has the upper hand, but Kun won't yield that easily.

This film was built around Michael Tse, but he's not the brightest actor and he can only do so much. The story is very plain, like many other of these streamer projects, pacing and runtime save the film. It is short and delivers on its genre promises, just don't expect anything more from it. At least Wong remains in the game, maybe he has one more final comeback in him.

Old Man

2022 / 97m - USA
Mystery, Thriller
3.5*/5.0*
Old Man poster

McKee's latest is a peculiar little film. He built his reputation upon some gruesome and uncomfortable horror films, Old Man is more of a mystery/thriller with minor mindfuck elements. It's a single-location film that is incredibly slow and uneventful but thrives on tension and mystery, which kept me glued to my seat.

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When a hiker gets lost in the woods, he spots a cabin that looks to be inhabited. The moment the door opens a shotgun is pushed underneath his nose. An old man stands on the other side of the barrel, ushering him inside. The old man appears to be a little unhinged, so the hiker does his best to remain polite.

The film is little more than a conversation between the old man and the hiker, still, McKee creates a tangible atmosphere, and the wayward conversations slowly reveal a darker truth. Lang and Senter are both great, McKee makes good use of the location and I never once looked at the clock. Good film.

Monster Hunters

2020 / 76m - China
Fantasy, Adventure
3.5*/5.0*
Monster Hunters poster

Dai Yilin strikes again. After having seen countless of these Chinese streamer films, I'm still struggling to make sense of the scope and magnitude of this niche. The only director who stands out for now is Dai. Not only is he extremely prolific, but he is also one of the most consistent directors of the bunch. Monster Hunters is just more proof that he can deliver fun and fast-paced entertainment.

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The story of Monster Hunters is nothing special. A talented Monster Hunter arrives in a town where he finds a master possessed by the Demon King and a young girl who can't control her Soul Power. They band together to exorcise some local demons terrorizing the town, a fight that will lead to a face-off with the Demon King himself.

The CG in these films is mostly functional, the nice thing about Dai's work is that he at least has the rest of the styling down. Settings, costumes, and props look good, and so do the camerawork and other practical effects. The pacing and length of the film are perfect. Good fun if you love the mix of fantasy and martial arts.

Abbas in Flower

Çiçek Abbas
1982 / 87m - Turkey
Drama, Romance
1.0*/5.0*
Abbas in Flower poster

The discovery of Turkish cinema is a rite of passage for every blossoming cinephile. There's a very avid fanbase that advertises these films like crazy, then there's the rest of the world that seems to hate them. Abbas in Flower isn't the most notorious of the bunch, but it sure isn't anything close to acceptable.

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Abbas is a nice guy who works on a minibus. Sakir is the owner of the bus and a really selfish guy. He has a relationship with a young girl, who he strings along. She finally understands that Sakir won't ever marry her, so she redirects her attention to Abbas, who welcomes the romance into his life.

The performances are absolutely dire, the little comedy that is there is negligible, the romance felt flat and the film looks atrocious. There aren't many redeemable elements, except that the film is quite short and decently paced. That's hardly a positive when all the rest is horrible, but it's something.

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Revenge of Scar

Hagane no Renkinjutsushi: Kanketsu-hen - Fukushusha Scar
2022 / 125m - Japan
Fantasy, Adventure
2.0*/5.0*
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Revenge of Scar poster

It's obvious that Sori wanted to repeat the success of the Kenshin live-action trilogy, but he doesn't even come close. This second entry in the live-action Fullmetal Alchemist trilogy is a clear step back, and it's not as if the first one was such a great film. Sori lacks the talent to make a film like this work.

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Edward and Alphonse are on their way to Central, when they are attacked by a scarred assassin. He wants revenge for what he suffered through during the war, and his main targets are the Alchemists. He is a formidable foe and he nearly kills the brothers when they first come across each other.

The performances are pretty overstated, the styling looks rather fake (not great for an anime adaption) and the special effects aren't up to par. I also didn't care much for the melodrama, luckily things get a bit crazier during the second half of the film, so there's at least some fun to be had.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

Angst Essen Seele Auf
1974 / 92m - West Germany
Romance
1.5*/5.0*
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul poster

This was only my first Fassbinder, it only seemed appropriate to pick his most lauded film to get acquainted with one of Germany's biggest directors. I can't say I really dug Fassbinder's style, then again my expectations were rather limited so this wasn't really a big disappointment either.

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A widow gets to know a young Arab worker when taking shelter from a storm in a small cafe. The two have a connection and not long after they share a house. The relationship grows stronger and eventually they marry. The widow's children aren't happy to see their mother remarry though.

The characters are well-developed and get ample room to grow on the audience, but the presentation of the film is pretty dire and lifeless. The main theme was probably a bit more relevant when the film was originally released, yet it feels dated now. In the end, there wasn't much here for me, but it wasn't the worst classic I've seen.

The Canyons

2013 / 99m - USA
Thriller
1.5*/5.0*
The Canyons poster

What a strange project. There are quite a few names with reputable status attached to this film (and I'm not talking about Lohan), but the result is oddly amateurish. From the bland script to the horrible performances and the repetitive message, this poorly realized steamy thriller is one big failure.

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A pompous movie producer is living a luxurious life, mostly thanks to the trust fund of his father. He doesn't mind spending his money to attach people to him, but money can't solve everything. His relationships keep failing, and his current girlfriend Tara also has a few secrets she doesn't want him to know.

Lohan is probably the best actor in the cast, but that's not exactly complimenting her. The characters are very one-dimensional, the performances are trash, and the plot is aimless. Some minor cinematographic touches make sure this isn't a complete disaster, but they're hardly enough to save the film.