2022 / 117m - USA
Fantasy - Animation
Pinocchio poster

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio is a loving stop-motion animation, but being the last in a series of recent Pinocchio adaptations, it just isn't differentiating enough to spend another 2 hours fully engaged watching the same story play out again. Still, del Toro's touch is worth the effort, certainly for fans of stop-motion.

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When Geppetto loses his young boy in a war accident, he is inconsolable. He wants to revive his son as a wooden puppet, a fairy grants him his wish and tasks a passing cricket to keep an eye on the little creature. There are some darker touches compared to the more popular adaptations, but the story remains by and large the same.

The animation is very detailed, but it's also a bit unadventurous. The voice acting could've been better too and I'm not sure if the extended runtime was warranted. That said, this was certainly one of the better Pinocchio adaptations I've seen so far. I might've expected just a little more though.


2022 / 187m - India
RRR poster

I'm not a Bollywood fan, but I've been hearing some good things about this film, also from people who I tend to trust more than the usual critics. I just don't see it though. Yes, the action is a little over-the-top, but it only matches the over-the-top cheesiness that brings the rest of the production down.

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Bheem and Ram are good friends and they're both destined to become great revolutionaries, but they take very different paths through life. Bheem joins his people to rise up against the British Empire, while Ram joins the enemy. In a cruel twist of fate, they are pitted against each other.

There are some fun action scenes scattered throughout the film, but it's not enough to keep a 3-hour film interesting. The performances are weak, the songs distracting, and the kitsch levels through the roof. I'm sure films like these have an audience, it's just not my cup of tea. Not the worst of the bunch though, but not something I'd broadly recommend.

Monsieur Verdoux

1947 / 124m - USA
Comedy, Crime
Monsieur Verdoux poster

And so he finally speaks. This is the first time I see Chaplin in a speaking role. No more slapstick, no more Tramp skits. I was glad to see the old Chaplin go, only I can't say I was very charmed by the new one either. Monsieur Verdoux is a pretty tiring and dialogue-heavy comedy, only I didn't even smirk once.

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Chaplin plays Verdoux, an older man who was fired from his job after 30 loyal years. For his new job, he travels a lot. On his travels he courts older ladies, gets chummy with them, plunders their bank accounts, and kills them afterward, moving on to the next. It doesn't take too long before the police are on his tail.

Chaplin's character isn't very fun, the dialogues are plentiful but never witty, and the film is overly long at more than two hours. The cinematography and score aren't much to care for either. It's all very pedestrian, but at least I had a slightly easier time with it compared to his slapstick work. Silver linings I guess.

Westbound Inn

2022 / 85m - China
Westbound Inn poster

The Chinese desert inn, it's almost a little cinematic niche all by itself. If you've ever seen a Dragon Gate Inn-related film, you probably know what I'm talking about. Westbound Inn is a very recent entry in the genre, and while not one of the most accomplished ones of its kind, everything is present for some proper genre fun.

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The plot is pretty much what you should be expecting. A small desert inn is known for hosting ruffians and bandits, only there are clear no-fighting rules inside the inn. Several gangs and interested individuals get together during a sandstorm, hoping to receive a promised bounty. While they are supposed to remain calm, the tension. starts to rise pretty quickly.

I do like a good Chinese desert flick, if only because the color scheme turns to a very pleasant, warm sepia. The intrigues are fun, the limited action was on point and while some of the drama felt a little overdone, the short runtime and stark pacing make sure the film never gets bogged down too much. A very worthy entry in the genre, but not up there with the very best.

Rare Beasts

2019 / 87m - UK
Comedy, Romance
Rare Beasts poster

This was definitely something. I vaguely remember Billie Piper as a generic British pop princess, never would I have imagined she was capable of making a movie with so much quirk and bite. Rare Beasts is a film that comes with no warning or acclimation time, but that just makes it all the more fun.

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Mandy is a single mom looking for romance. She hooks up with Pete, a troubled, angry, and misogynistic man. Her cravings for a relationship win it over her trepidations and the two begin a serious relationship. It's no fairytale romance, but despite outward appearances, they do seem to get along.

The dialogue really stands out, as characters appear to be voicing their innermost feelings directly at each other. There's an edgy crudeness to it that is pretty funny, only in a dark and salty kind of way. The direction is strong too, with lovely cinematography, a good score, and noteworthy performances. Piper proves herself a promising talent, I just hope she gets more chances to make a feature film. With just an extra nudge here and there, this could've been a bona fide masterpiece.

Dragon's Heaven

1988 / 33m - Japan
Sci-fi - Animation
Dragon's Heaven poster

A really nifty OAV. It's a very short, somewhat inconspicuous title, so I'm not surprised it got lost in a sea of noise throughout the years. If it has been twice the length it might've become a certified classic, now it does feel more akin to an outtake episode of an established series. Still, fans of sci-fi animation have quite a lot to look forward to.

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The film is set in a distant future. Of course, the Earth is a wasteland, but it is slowly recovering from its earlier destruction. A lone warrior is traveling through the desert when she discovers an old, abandoned base. A sentient AI mech wakes up when she gets nearer, and having no more master to serve, the robot and the warrior decide to continue their travels together.

Most of the setting is communicated through onscreen text and the intro, while very cool, takes up quite a bit of time and adds nothing substantial. The animation is lovely though and the art style is unique (very comic-like). The mech designs are pretty damn cool too. The plot on the other hand is flimsy and the characters are a little forgettable, but nothing I couldn't live with. Dragon's Heaven was a very cool find.

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek

1944 / 98m - USA
Comedy, Romance
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek poster

A classic screwball comedy. It's only 100 minutes long, but because it's so hectic and long it feels like it's twice the length. That's not a good thing when the characters are unbearable and the comedy is plain and unfunny. The result is a film that is pretty grating, instead of hilarious or joyous.

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Trudy works in a record store when she gets invited to a party with some soldiers. She isn't allowed to go, but she goes anyway. When she returns the next morning, she is married and pregnant, but she has no idea who her husband and the father of her child is. An old friend will have to cover for Trudy's indiscretions.

I'm not a fan of these old screwball comedies. While they share some similarities with Hong Kong comedy, they aren't quite as weird or zany. The plot is pretty bland, none of the characters is any fun and the delivery of the comedy is more geared at making noise than actually being witty. Not good.

The Last Hero in China

Wong Fei Hung: Chi Tit Gai Dau Neung Gung
1993 / 111m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action
The Last Hero in China poster

Jing Wong finally gets it right, with the help of Jet Li and Woo-ping Yuen. The Last Hero of China feels like a 90s Hong Kong martial arts compilation. A mad mix of action, comedy, and some horror, romance, and musical bits on the side. There are lion dances, drunken kung fu, horny monks, crazy weaponry, and whatever else you can think of. The madcap pacing takes care of whatever technical imperfections plague the film and if you think the plot is a little dim, the action scenes and weird comedy quirks will make sure you'll quickly forget all about it. I had a blast revisiting this one.


2021 / 83m - Argentina
PussyCake poster

Pares' latest film is pretty much what I expected from it. It's not your regular zombie film, there are strong sci-fi and Japanese splatter (Meatball Machine comes to mind) influences that liven up an otherwise boring niche. It's not quite as zany or outrageous as his best film, but if you're looking for a short and sweet horror flick, there is plenty to like here.

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A local tinkerer opens a portal to an alternate dimension. He isn't really prepared for the chaos that he is about to unleash. The portal works both ways and something slips through into our world. A mind-controlling parasite and a cloaked hunter ravage a small Argentinian town, while an all-female band gets stuck in the middle of this violent stand-off.

The intro could've been a little shorter, but once the group arrives in the overrun town all hell breaks loose. The horror is sufficiently bloody, the sci-fi elements add a neat twist to the zombie cliches and the second half of the film is one big gory ride. I kind of lost sight of Pares, I guess this might have been the push I needed to delve back into the rest of his oeuvre. Fun.

Your Christmas or Mine?

2022 / 95m - UK
Comedy, Romance
Your Christmas or Mine? poster

Finding a proper (not even good, just proper) Christmas film nowadays is hell. There's a slew of cheaply produced Hallmark-like nonsense that is flooding the market, making it much harder than needed to watch something moderately decent. For those with similar issues, rest assured that Your Christmas or Mine is a pretty safe bet.

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Hayley and James are both spending Christmas at their respective homes. They both get the same romantic idea to spend Christmas with the other person, so James ends up with Hayley's family, and Hayley ends up at James'. They find out they haven't been entirely honest with each other, but they also learn a lot about each other by spending time with each other's families.

This film isn't anything special or out of the ordinary, but Butterfield and Kirk are adorable, the snowy Christmas setting is appropriate and the secondary characters provide some welcome chuckles. Basic Christmas filler, but in a sea of bottom-of-the-barrel crap, it's actually somewhat of a gem.

Ghost Stories of Extreme Taoist

by Li Chen
2020 / 77m - China
Fantasy, Action
Ghost Stories of Extreme Taoist poster

One of the weaker Chinese streamer films I've seen so far. It is not without merit, but it fails at some key points, which is deadly for a simple genre film that aims to deliver on a few core strengths. The action in particular is subpar, held back by very poor editing and lacking execution of the martial arts. It's not all bad though.

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The plot is pretty negligible. A young traveling monk arrives in a village and finds himself in the middle of a dangerous demon den. Luckily there are a group of Taoist monks who are willing to protect him, but when he falls in love with one of the demons things suddenly get a lot more complicated. If you think you've heard this story before, it's probably because half of these films feature more or less the same plot.

The most notable element of the film is the soundtrack. That's a bit of a shocker for a simple streamer flick, but the ambient-based soundtrack makes a real difference here, if only because it is so different from what you're usually getting. It's a shame the rest of the film can't match it. The action is bland (fake slo-mo by slow execution is just the worst), the CG is ugly and the film feels quite cheap overall. It's pretty short and well-paced though, which is probably its biggest saving grace.

The Chaos Class

Hababam Sinifi
1975 / 87m - Turkey
The Chaos Class poster

One of the most unlikely classics I've ever seen. Turkish cinema has a strong following in certain parts of the world (though mostly in Turkey I suspect), which has propelled some local favorites into the international spotlight. The Chaos Class is not a good film by any stretch of the world, but it is adored by many.

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The film follows a class of renegade students. They care nothing about studying and they waste their time pulling pranks, which they plan in their dormitory. When a new headmaster arrives, they look forward to messing around with him. Things won't go as easy as they hoped though.

This is basically a Turkish high school comedy. The film is poorly shot, the jokes are terrible and the actors look like they're in their 40s, but at least the atmosphere is light and the comedy prevails throughout. It's certainly not as dreary as some of the other Turkish films I've watched, but that's about the only good thing I can say about this film. I'll come around to the sequels one day, but I need some time to recover first.


2022 / 101m - Norway
Fantasy, Action
Troll poster

A Norwegian Kaiju film, mixed with a dash of Jurassic Park. Don't expect anything too original in other words, but it was pretty amusing to see a solid and familiar concept applied in a different context. Fans of Gojira will feel right at home, especially with the focus on the fantasy and action bits.

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A team of tunnelers is facing some serious problems after setting off their explosives. Their work awakened a creature deep inside the mountain, which is now free and roaming the countryside. A famed paleontologist is called in to assist a team of military men and scientists, she's the first to realize the kind of creature they're dealing with.

The structure is set in stone and the film packs no surprises, but the effects are solid, the pacing is very pleasant and the film is entertaining from start to finish. This is basically Troll Hunter for a new generation. A little unnecessary maybe, but if one Norway makes one good troll film per decade, you won't hear me complain.

One Piece

Kaisokuou ni Ore wa Naru
2000 / 51m - Japan
Action, Adventure - Animation
One Piece poster

One Piece is one of the biggest and most recognizable anime franchises of the past two decades, and yet, I never watched a single episode or film. Somehow this made-for-TV pirate adventure never really appealed to me, but seeing how the first film was only less than an hour long I figured it wouldn't hurt to give it a try. It was slightly better than expected, but only by a small margin.

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Luffy is a pirate who wants to sail the seas and discover hidden and/or forgotten treasures. He is after the treasure of the infamous Gold Pirate, but so are quite a few other pirate clans. Luffy gets lucky when he runs into an old acquaintance of the Gold Pirate, who directs Luffy to the island where the treasure is buried. Finding his precise hideout won't be easy though.

The art style is rather bland and the animation is quite primitive, it's clear this is a derivative of a TV show. The story isn't all that interesting either, but there's a level of exaggeration that is quite funny and kept me interested throughout. Clearly not a franchise that made it big because of its extraordinary quality, but it works as passable entertainment.


2021 / 87m - USA
Drama, Music
Poser poster

A nifty little drama embedded in the Columbus underground music scene. The fact that real-life artists are playing themselves is an interesting detail, but it's the dreamy and very contemporary direction (it reminded me a little of Drake Doremus) that makes the biggest impact. The performances are strong, the music selection is fun and diverse, minor thriller elements add some extra intrigue and the cinematography is on point. A neat surprise.

New Kung Fu Cult Master 2

Yi Tin To Lung Gei 2
2022 / 113m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
New Kung Fu Cult Master 2 poster

A back-to-back sequel, but not quite as good as the first film. The problem is that Jing Wong's film is competing with a slew of similar straight-to-streaming films that are by-and-by on the same level but are shorter, more action-packed, and slightly better stylized. So those extra 30 minutes are little more than dead weight.

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Zhao is looking for the secret of the Heavenly Sword and the Dragon Saber. She doesn't have the Dragon Sabor in her possession, so she seeks out its owner and makes a deal with him. Together they travel to his master, where they'll try to uncover the secret of the two swords together.

The performances aren't that great (Janice Man excluded, she did remarkably well), the CG is subpar for a big production like this and there's way too much padding. The action scenes are decent and the fantasy lore is nice enough, there's just no reason to spend almost 2 hours of your time when you can get better results in 75 minutes. Genre fans will still find plenty to like here, but Jing Wong can do better.