Together Together

2021 / 90m - USA
Comedy, Drama
3.5*/5.0*
Together Together poster

A cute little dramedy. I'm usually not the biggest fan of the genre, certainly not when more famous comedians use it to try and get some extra acting credits. The nice thing is that Helms remains dedicated to his more comedic side, while Harrison covers the more serious notes.

Read all

Matt is a single father with a birth wish. He seeks out a surrogate mother, his choice lands on Anna, a girl 20 years younger than him. When they first start their journey together they have strict boundaries, but as the pregnancy becomes more real, those quickly drop away, leaving them both vulnerable.

There's a pleasant amount of wit that makes this film very bearable. The plot isn't that interesting and the drama is somewhat predictable, there aren't many laugh-out-loud moments either, but there's plenty to smirk at and the emotional core of the film is pretty solid. Small, sweet, and enjoyable.

The Murmuring

2022 / 64m - USA
Drama, Horror
2.5*/5.0*
The Murmuring poster

Kent's entry in the Cabinet of Curiosities series is the only real disappointment. Where each short found at least something that made them stand out, The Murmuring is a pretty pale and banal haunted house flick where even the ghosts and the haunts aren't very scary, let alone they should offer something extra.

Read all

Nancy is a scientist studying the murmurations of birds. Her project becomes a success and she's allowed to go and study the dunlin birds on a remote island. There's only one house on the island, which holds a secret it soon starts to reveal to Nancy, while her husband becomes increasingly worried about Nancy's mental state.

The build-up is okay, and the birds are a nice addition, but the drama is bland and predictable, the performances are doubty, the horror elements are insufficient and the finale is a complete dud. Ultimately forgettable and a dime a dozen, certainly not the best way to finish this otherwise fine series.

Broker

Beurokeo
2022 / 129m - South Korea
Drama
3.5*/5.0*
Broker poster

Koreeda's first South-Korean film. It's pretty much what you'd expect from a marriage between the two. The cinematography is a tad more polished, the film somewhat more plot-focused, and the performances not quite as gentle. Koreeda does well here, but it's hardly a standout in his oeuvre.

Read all

Two men collect foundlings and sell them off to parents who can't get any children for lots of money. Their latest catch will bring them a lot of headaches when the mother decides to pick up her baby the next day and finds that he is gone. The police are also on their tails, waiting to bring in the two men.

There's a bit more intrigue here compared to most of Koreeda's Japanese films, but it detracts rather than adds to the film. The performances are solid but not great, and the cinematography is nice but can feel a bit forced. It's the lighter and less dramatic moments that save this from mediocrity. A pleasant drama, but I hope Koreeda returns to Japan for his next film.

Welcome to Marwen

2018 / 116m - USA
Drama, War
3.5*/5.0*
Welcome to Marwen poster

I'm not a huge Zemeckis fan, but this film was pretty solid. I was pleasantly surprised by the wit and audacity of the animation sequences, which create a nice contrast with the drama (based on a true story) that forms the heart of the film. It gets pretty sentimental, net never quite crossed the line for me.

Read all

After being beaten by five men and left for dead on the road, Mark lost all his personal memories. He escapes into a fictional world he built himself, a small Belgian town during WWII, inhabited by dolls who reference people in the real world. When a new neighbor moves in across the road, Mark is forced to finally face his fears.

Carell and the rest of the live-action cast are nice enough, but it's the animation sequences that really bring this film to life. The CG isn't flawless but works wonders for the doll-like figures, while the over-the-top action and machismo are cheeky enough to make it works even in this age. A fun film, I even appreciated the little Back to the Future reference.

Memory

2022 / 114m - USA
Thriller, Crime
3.0*/5.0*
Memory poster

The US remake of De Zaak Alzheimer ... or so it said at the end. I did see Van Looy's original but clearly didn't remember enough to spot any similarities, let alone properly compare the two. To add insult to injury, this rather run-of-the-mill remake is actually quite a bit better than the original, though that's not a major accomplishment.

Read all

Lewis is a contract killer with a conscience. When he declines to kill a young girl and forces his client to annul the contract, he gets himself wrapped up in some thorny business. Alzheimer's disease is slowly eating away at his health, so to make sure justice is served, Lewis contacts the FBI and proposes a joint operation.

Neeson is getting a bit too old for these roles (which goes for the rest of the primary cast too, in fact), but the build-up was nice enough and the level of tension needed for a film like this to work was present. It's not at all memorable, special or unique, but it's decent enough genre filler, which accounts for something.

Nightmare Alley

1947 / 110m - USA
Thriller, Crime
1.5*/5.0*
Nightmare Alley poster

After seeing del Toro's remake earlier this year, it was time to give the original film a fair shot. I've been watching quite a few noirs lately, so my expectations were pretty dim, also because del Toro's version wasn't all that interesting (but it got by on atmosphere). It seems my expectations were on the money.

Read all

Stanton works in a traveling circus. There he becomes infatuated with a has-been mindreader. He becomes his apprentice and learns how to con people out of their money. When the man dies, Stanton takes over his job. He has bigger dreams though, and he starts to redirect his attention to the rich and wealthy.

The film is more focused on the plot, though there are a few scenes that get a bit more atmospheric (the ending in particular). But like its remake, the film overstays its welcome as there isn't enough intrigue to fill two hours. It's not the worst noir I've seen, but it's not very memorable or special either.

Capone Cries a Lot

Kapone Oi ni Naku
1985 / 130m - Japan
Comedy, Crime
3.5*/5.0*
Capone Cries a Lot poster

Ah, Seijun Suzuki. Not one of his most famous films, but don't ask me why. This one was a lot of fun, combining Suzuki's most experimental side with lots of winks, gags, and moments of frivolous lightness. It's not quite up there with his best work, but I sure enjoyed it immensely.

Read all

Umiemon is a traditional Japanese singer/narrator. He isn't content to remain in Japan, and so he and his wife move to the US, where Umiemon hopes to make it big. The US isn't quite the land of dreams he had hoped it would be, but he commits to his mission and does everything to make himself known.

Suzuki pulls out all the stops. There's a strong visual playfulness, the plot is surprising and impossible to predict, and Suzuki has no trouble playing with people's expectations. It's not his most traditional narrative, but if you like Suzuki's lighter and more adventurous side, this is definitely worth checking out.

I can see how this is something that speaks to a certain crowd. I can also see how it got its cult status, because who in their right mind is going to sit through this when it doesn't appeal to them? I'm one of those people apparently, and I'm afraid this didn't do much for me at all. Though I did see some potential.

Read all

Mekas introduces his film by explaining how and why it was made. It's essentially a personal document of his life, edited together with little care for consistency and/or chronology. The result is an almost random sequence of snippets from someone's life, shot with a terrible camera. He hopes to find meaning within that randomness, I sure didn't see it.

The footage is pretty raw, the soundtrack is horrible, and Mekas himself provides a couple of voice-overs that don't really add that much. And this goes on and on and on and on. Again, if this is your thing I can understand how this could be one of the greatest films ever, if not, best think twice before you decide to subject yourself to this film.

Taboo

Gohatto
1999 / 100m - Japan
Drama
Taboo poster

Oshima's one-of-a-kind samurai drama. There aren't that many films that feature gay romances among samurai, let alone put their singular focus on the subject. That alone makes this worth a watch. Then there's the stellar performance by Ryu Matsudo, who even outshines Japanese greats like Kitano and Asano here. The cinematography is moody, the soundtrack is very stylish and the intrigue is tangible. Taboo is a film that delivers on all accounts, without ever overreaching or forcing itself.

The Lair

2022 / 96m - UK
Action, Horror
2.0*/5.0*
The Lair poster

Neil Marshall's latest looked as if he would hark back to his earliest successes, but instead of a moody and dark horror film, we get an action flick with some creatures running amok. That still could've been a lot of fun, if only Mashall had been a half-decent action director. Sadly, he is not.

Read all

When Sinclair's jet crashes in enemy territory, she flees to a suspicious-looking bunker. Far below the ground, she finds a secret facility where strange creatures are kept. Her arrival awakes them and though Sinclair manages to escape the bunker, it won't be long before they follow her outside.

The action scenes are loud but uninteresting, most of the actors are pretty terrible and too often the creatures look like men in cheap rubber suits. The film has its moments though. The sequences below the ground are moody and the horror gets quite graphic. It's not enough to save the film, but at least it's something.

The Curse of Kazuo Umezu

Umezu Kazuo no Noroi
1990 / 43m - Japan
Horror, Animation
3.0*/5.0*
The Curse of Kazuo Umezu poster

A fun but limited horror anthology based on the work of Kazuo Umezu. I never read any of his mangas directly, but I'm familiar with other adaptations of his work and this anthology fits right in with the rest of the lot. That means you're getting very basic horror setups, with some over-the-top gore to make things a bit more interesting.

Read all

The film adapts two different Umezu stories, though neither of them has any standout qualities. The first short is about a transfer student who captivates her new classmates. One of the girls begins to suspect she might be a vampire. The second short is about a group of friends who go to visit a haunted mansion before it is torn down. As I said, nothing special there.

The animation is pretty basic, I expected more from a short OAV like this, but the creature designs are lovely and the horror bits don't disappoint in the least. Ultimately, that's what counts. And 45 minutes for two separate stories means there is no time to get bored by any of it. This is fine horror filler, exactly what I wanted and needed from The Curse of Kazuo Umezu.

Local Hero

1983 / 111m - UK
Comedy, Drama
2.0*/5.0*
Local Hero poster

Not the worst drama, but it is very predictable and more than a little slow-moving. There are some quirky characters that liven things up, but the lead is pretty dull and it takes way too long before the film reaches its foregone conclusion. Ultimately, I didn't really care too much about how it all ended.

Read all

Mac works for an oil company. He is sent to a small seaside town in Scotland, where he has to convince the local residents to sell him a piece of land. The longer he stays in the village and the better he gets to know the people there, the more he starts to doubt the moral implications of his job.

The local townsfolk are nice enough, performances are decent and the cinematography clearly received some attention, but there's nothing that really stands out here. It's all so very safe, by the numbers, and unadventurous. Certainly not the worst, but forgettable in just about every way imaginable.

Matriarch

2022 / 85m - UK
Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Matriarch poster

A nice little UK horror. The performances leave something to be desired and it's not what you'd call original, but Steiner does a decent job building up the tension and tacks on an ending that becomes gleefully strange and isn't afraid to mix a little fantasy in with the horror. Proper filler in other words.

Read all

Laura is a successful marketeer, but she can't find happiness in her personal life. After overdosing, she gets a call from her mother. The two separated more than 20 years ago, but Laura decides to give their relationship a second chance and returns to her hometown. What she finds there isn't what she hoped for though.

Expect some pagan horror in a little UK country village, if you're fine with that then Matriarch will deliver the goods. The reveal isn't too shocking, but some of the imagery is very direct and while the film is a little slow to start, the finale is pretty bonkers. Not the most memorable of films, but I had fun watching it.

Mr. Vampire 1992

1992 / 88m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Mr. Vampire 1992 poster

A goofy, funny but utterly nonsensical fifth part in the Mr. Vampire franchise. If you liked the earlier entries you will have no trouble at all getting something out of this one, if you're looking for a film with a bit more meat to it, it's probably best to skip this. Mr. Vampire 1992 is pure entertainment filler, and should really be appreciated as such.

Read all

Ying is up to his usual antics. He is summoned together with his trusted disciples by a general to cure him of a strange affliction. They need vampire teeth powder to finish the job, but that's not so easy to find. Meanwhile, the general's wife is pregnant. Her midwife is trying to take over the baby, so Ying has his work cut out for him.

The various plot lines feel very much like filler and make very little sense together, but that's what you get five films into a popular franchise. There are hopping vampires, haunted babies, lion dances, cheesy comedy, and some well-choreographed action scenes. It all may feel quite disjointed, but I sure had a good time watching it.

Santiago

2007 / 80m - Brazil
Documentary
1.5*/5.0*
Santiago poster

Some documentaries are out to change the world, while others only aim to document a short period in the life of a single person. In this case, we're talking about Santiago. He's not even a very peculiar or interesting figure, but the butler that vigilantly served the family of the director.

Read all

The documentary was filmed 15 years prior to the release of the film and was released after the butler had already died. It adds just a tinge of intrigue, but since we're mostly watching footage of the man talking about his interests, it's little more than a faits divers that didn't really affect the film all that much.

The presentation is stylish, though there's also a lot of still footage with just Santiago doing nothing much at all. Salles actually tries to defend this approach at the end, but his explanation felt a little faint. Ultimately, I just didn't care enough for Santiago as a person, which made this a pretty forgettable and pointless doc.

Don't Come Back Alive

Mete Miedo
2022 / 85m - Argentina
Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Don't Come Back Alive poster

Argentinian horror film, that starts with a bang, but fails to add a real crescendo. There's a lot of potential here and director Sotelo does well, for the most part, but the finale doesn't really deliver and the film loses quite a bit of steam toward the end. He deserves another go though.

Read all

During a police raid, Camila falls down a shack and ends up in the middle of a satanic ritual. The people of the sect set themselves on fire, and Camila ends up in the hospital with heavy burn wounds. Six months later she wakes up from a coma, but something has followed her from the beyond.

The supernatural elements are great but repetitive, and after a while, they lose impact. The reveal at the end isn't too special, performances are somewhat mediocre and apart from the main haunt, there isn't anything too memorable. Not a terrible horror film, it's just that the potential was there to do more with it.

Legend of Lemnear

Kyokuguro no Tsubasa Barukisasu
1989 / 44m - Japan
Fantasy, Adventure, Animation
3.0*/5.0*
Legend of Lemnear poster

A classic fantasy anime OAV. In less than 45 minutes all the usual tropes are featured, so don't expect anything too subtle or well-developed. Lemnear is genre filler of the purest kind, but once you get past that it's actually not that bad and the film does deliver on its premise. If you like a bit of fantasy anime, you can't really go wrong with this one.

Read all

Lemnear is a high-ranking warrior looking for the evil power that ravaged her village and destroyed her family. The first chapter sees her locating her target, the second chapter is one big final showdown where good fights evil. Storywise there is a bit of extra lore, but none of it is properly developed.

The character designs are pretty intricate, the animation suffers a little because of it but some smart fakery takes care of most of that. The pacing is stark, the plot is simple but sufficient. This isn't a big masterpiece, but it clearly was never intended to be. What it does is serve you over-the-top action in a proper fantasy setting. Short and sweet.

Babette's Feast

Babettes Gæstebud
1987 / 103m - Denmark
Drama
0.5*/5.0*
Babette's Feast poster

Hollywood has no exclusivity on sentimental crap, that's why they invented the Oscar for best international film. Babette's Feast is one such winner and boy, does it deliver. I think I can live another hundred years and still feel too young for this film. At least I can be happy I never have to watch this thing again.

Read all

Two sisters live with their father in a very religious Danish community. Their lives change when Babette, a French refugee, arrives in the village and becomes their maid. When their father dies, a memorial service is announced, but instead of keeping things demure and simple, Babette is preparing a large feast.

The film looks incredibly dreary, the soundtrack (whatever there is of it) is horrific, the characters are dull and there's hardly any plot to speak of. It just drags on for 100 minutes straight without ever offering something remotely interesting. Not my kind of cinema, let's just keep it at that.

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

2022 / 108m - USA
Comedy
3.5*/5.0*
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story poster

Now this is what I call a fun biography. Maybe it's because there's a veritable dearth of comedy films nowadays, but this is a lovely genre parody that still manages to catch the essence of its main character. I'm not a big fan of Yankovic's music or comedy, but this just clicked for me.

Read all

The young Yankovic wants nothing more than to make parody songs. His parents don't consider this a good career path, and they forbid him from chasing his dreams. But once in college Al can't be stopped, and within no time he becomes an international sensation, the biggest pop idol the world has ever seen.

Radcliffe is great, the complete reversal of reality is a smart take on the genre and the supporting roles are solid. It's nice to see the film go full-on over-the-top during the second half too, right when things were getting just a little too predictable. A funny comedy, you don't see those around too often nowadays.

The Viewing

2022 / 56m - USA
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
The Viewing poster

The nice thing about Cabinet of Curiosities is that the shorts are pretty varied, but the quality is consistent. For an anthology, that's also a slight weakness though, as it means there isn't that much risk-taking going on. I expected a little more from Cosmatos based on his earlier work, but once I let that go I still had a lot of fun with The Viewing.

Read all

Four people are gathered for a mysterious event. They are driven to a unique mansion, where they meet the peculiar (and filthy rich) owner of the house. He brought them there because he considers his guests at the top of their respective fields, and he wants to show them something special. Before they get a glimpse of the item, they need to do some bonding over good alcohol and top-grade drugs.

Cosmatos' love for the 70s is on full display here, but it takes a while before things get going. The first half is all talk, and while he does a good job building up the tension, it means there's a stronger focus on dialogues, not so much on atmosphere. The finale is pretty awesome though. Far from his best work, but a good film for people unfamiliar with Cosmatos' other films.