Black Adam

2022 / 125m - USA
Fantasy, Action
Black Adam poster

This was a pretty big mess. I'm not a big fan of these superhero flicks regardless, but I do wonder why it is so difficult for them to make something remotely entertaining. Black Adam is too cheesy, too tone-deaf, too boring, and way too occupied with serving diversity, making it impossible for me to even make the effort to invest in its world.

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Black Adam is the protector of Kahndaq, an ancient city. Centuries after saving the place for the first time, he is awakened again. The city is now under the rule of Intergang, an oppressive organization. Adam has god-like powers, but he's not quite the man that people spoke of in the legends.

There's not a single character here I cared for, the aesthetic of the film is ugly, the CG lacks creativity and the action is chaotic (and not in a good way). It's a very noisy film, and that's about all there is to it. DC should just lay its cinematic universe to rest, these films are becoming really painful to watch.


2004 / 117m - Japan
Antenna poster

Very few people manage grim drama like Kazuyoshi Kumakiri. Antenna is one of his earlier works, but it hasn't lost much of its original appeal. It's not the most explicit film, that said, it's not the easiest to watch either, and people looking for something more accessible should probably reconsider. The solid cinematography, strong performances, and risqué topics make this a treat for fans of dark Japanese dramas. I'm glad people like Kumakiri exist and are allowed to make films, even if he never really got the broader respect he deserves.

Decision to Leave

Haeojil Gyeolsim
2022 / 139m - South Korea
Romance, Thriller
Decision to Leave poster

Park resurfaces with a new film. Not quite as flashy or edgy as some of his earlier ones, instead, you get a more stylish police procedural that slowly makes way for thriller and romance elements. I quite liked this side of Park, but like many South Korean films, it's just a tad too long.

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Hae-joon is a capable detective. When Seo-rae's husband dies during a climbing incident, he looks into her case and finds some very peculiar details. During the investigation, Hae-joon and Seo-rae grow fond of each other, but they never hook up. Fate reunites them again one year later.

The cinematography is on point and the score is rather lovely. The plot is interesting enough too, it's just that the plot reboot halfway through takes away from the momentum and adds unnecessarily to the runtime. The film does recover rather quickly, I just wish it could've been a bit tighter. Still, good film and one of Park's better efforts.

The Retaliators

2021 / 95m - USA
Horror, Thriller
The Retaliators poster

A slightly odd mix of crime and horror elements, with a religious finish and a sprinkle of (nu-)metal influences. If that sounds a bit random, well, it is, and that feeling never really went away while watching. There are some inspired moments here, but a tighter focus could have improved the film considerably.

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When the daughter of a local priest is murdered in cold blood, he struggles with his belief. The priest gets some unexpected support when the detective handling the case makes him an unusual deal. He already caught the killer and he's offering him one minute of "free time" with the murderer.

The drama is somewhat poor, the music choices a tad odd (it's a bit early for a nu-metal revival?) and the investigation holds up the film. But the horror bits in the final third are pretty nifty and there are some memorable moments there. Not an overall success, but not entirely without merit either.

M.D. Geist

Soukihei M.D. Geist
1986 / 47m - Japan
Sci-fi, Action - Animation
M.D. Geist poster

A title I've always wanted to see as a younger anime fan, I just never got around to it. I've been catching up with quite a few of these short OAVs lately, with good success too. I was a little less thrilled about MD Geist. While everything is there to be a superb piece of entertainment, the presentation is just a little too cheesy and lackluster.

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The setting is pretty elaborate, but most of it is communicated through a bit of onscreen text at the beginning, explaining the conflict between old Earth people and newer generations of humans born in space. The film is little more than a specific conflict within a much bigger war, with some well-defined good guys and bad guys.

There's a bit of Fist of the North Star, some Gundam, and a whole range of other famous influences. The problem is that the animation is quite weak and that some of the artwork gets very cheesy, taking away from the cool factor these types of films depend upon. It's still pretty fun, but it's pure filler, nothing more, nothing less.

One False Move

1992 / 105m - USA
Thriller, Crime
One False Move poster

Carl Franklin. It's the second film I see from the man, it's the second time the broader appeal of his film puzzles me. One False Move is an incredibly generic 90s crime/thriller, the kind that has lost almost all of its appeal since its release. It's bland, tasteless narrative cinema that leaves me completely cold.

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When a drug deal goes bust, three criminals band together and plan to move to a little town where they hope to find shelter until the whole thing blows over. The FBI is on to their plan, but they get an overeager local sheriff on their hands, who will do anything to prove he can be of value to them.

The performances aren't too bad, and that's about it for One False Move. The plot is plain and basic, the cinematography is offensively uninteresting, and the score is not even a thing. It might have been passable genre filler back when it was first released, but I have no clue why or where it got its praise from. Bleh.

Girl at the Window

2022 / 85m - Australia
Girl at the Window poster

A very simple thriller. There's a little halfway twist in an attempt to spice things up, but I'm not sure if it actually made the film better or worse. Though the direction seems hellbent on convincing the audience they're watching a very tense and spirited film that is sure to push everyone to the edge of their seat.

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Amy is recovering from personal trauma. She thinks her mother is dating a local serial killer, but the people around her have trouble believing her story and put it all down to stress. People are actually dying though and her neighbor does behave strangely, so Amy begins her own investigation.

The story is rudimentary and the plot twist feels a little desperate, but it's the direction that lets the film down. The suspense is mostly absent and Hartley's often blunt choices don't work in favor of the film. The performances are a tad weak too, the killer in particular is thoroughly unimpressive. It's short and slick, but other than that, nothing much to see here.

Another Round

2020 / 117m - Denmark
Another Round poster

A tepid Vinterberg. I'm not at all sure what was particularly comedic about this film, apart from its somewhat silly premise maybe. As someone who likes a drop of alcohol but has never been drunk, it was pretty difficult to relate to any of the characters, but I never felt the movie made a decent effort to explain their actions either. It all left me quite cold.

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Four teachers come together once in a while to let off some steam. Their conversation shifts to the consumption of alcohol, and after a short brainstorm, they decide to conduct a small social experiment. They gradually begin to increase their alcohol consumption during the day to monitor the effects on their social behavior.

The performances are decent, but that's about all there is. Vinterberg's direction is a little bland, he has little interesting to say about the consumption of alcohol and the drama is pretty predictable (guess what, the experiment slowly runs out of hand). It's not a terrible film, just not in any way memorable or notable. Maybe I just dislike drunk people too much.

Prey for the Devil

2022 / 93m - USA
Prey for the Devil poster

A basic exorcism film with a little feminism thrown in for good measure. It had no impact on the film whatsoever, except that for once we get a female lead, abolishing demons. The rest of the film is pretty standard fare. It's not my favorite niche and Prey for the Devil didn't do much to change that, but I've seen a lot worse.

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Ann is recovering from a traumatized childhood, as her mother was possessed by a demon. Ann believes she is a vessel of God against evil forces, but the Church doesn't allow women to carry out exorcisms. For the time being, Ann takes care of possessed patients in a special facility, until she convinces one of her teachers to give her special privileges to attend his classes.

The build-up is pretty decent, performances are solid and there are some proper horror moments. It's all very cookie-cutter though and it sticks a little too close to genre clichés. The ending lacks punch and nothing of worth is done with the concept of the female exorcist, making you wonder why they even bothered. Solid horror filler, nothing more.

Encounter of the Spooky Kind II

Gui Yao Gui
1989 / 100m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action, Horror
Encounter of the Spooky Kind II poster

A classic Ricky Lau flick. His mix of action, comedy, and supernatural horror is instantly recognizable, add Sammo Hung into the mix and you have a film that is sure to entertain. It's not one of his best films though, for that it is just a little too formulaic, with not enough scenes that stand out. But as oeuvre filler, it's very easy to recommend.

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Abao is a poor teahouse worker who is engaged to the boss' daughter. A rich lecher also wants her hand and he turns to the dark side to get what he craves. He hires a black magician to get rid of Abao. In turn, Abao gets help from a female ghost and a priest. There's no playing fair in war and love, so the battle between the two camps gets pretty heated.

Lau's usual perks are all here. The lighting is moody, the effects a little crummy but charming, the comedy is proper silly and the martial arts scenes are solid. There's nothing he didn't do better in his other films and if you're new to Ricky Lau it's maybe not the best way into his work, but fans of his films are sure to have a good time with this one.

Christmas Bloody Christmas

2022 / 85m - USA
Christmas Bloody Christmas poster

After watching Begos' Bliss, I didn't have too much hope for the rest of his work. But lo and behold, Christmas Bloody Christmas is an entirely different beast. Yes, it's dripping in neon (which isn't a bad thing, just a similarity to Bliss), but this crude, over-the-top robot-Santa slasher is all the right kinds of fun.

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Army-grade robots are being refurbished as mall Santas when their software suddenly reverts to the old army settings. No, the plot isn't great, but it does the job. You get a murderous robot Santa running around a small town on Christmas Eve, killing people with an axe. That's all a film like this really needs.

The intro is a tad long, but once the killing starts it's just one big crescendo. And several more, as the robot turns out very hard to kill. The performances are decent, the lighting is great and the finale is absolutely mental. Short, extremely entertaining, and 100% seasonal. This has everything to become a future cult classic.

Grappler Baki: The Ultimate Fighter

Gurappurâ Baki
1994 / 45m - Japan
Action, Sport - Animation
Grappler Baki: The Ultimate Fighter poster

Another one of those infamous titles I never got around to watching when I was younger. Not that I missed out on an awful lot. Grappler Baki is solid entertainment, but it's also incredibly rudimentary. That's not necessarily a bad thing for a simple sports/action anime, as long as you manage to get your expectations straight.

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There is hardly any plot. We quickly learn that Baki is a formidable fighter who excels in karate. He wants to be the best, and so he is prepared to fight the strongest in order to prove his worth. His first fight is against a reigning karate champ. His victory opens the doors to a more exclusive venue, where he'll be fighting no holds barred.

This OAV only has two fights and that's that. No padding, no additional drama, or lengthy motivations. With those limitations in mind, the film does a good job of building up the tension. The animation is pretty fun and over-the-top, the pacing is perfect and the finale is spectacular. Hardly a classic, but good fun if you can get into the silliness of it all.

The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail

Tora no O wo Fumu Otokotachi
1945 / 59m - Japan
Thriller, Adventure
The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail poster

One of Kurosawa's earliest films, shot right after the war. The film is based on a Noh play and it kind of shows. The setting and plot are very limited, so it's good the runtime was kept short too. Even so, Kurosawa struggles to keep things interesting, and the addition of some almost slapstick-like comedy wasn't the solution.

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A general and his troops have fled into the woods. There they move on disguised as monks. They want to cross the border, but to do so they'll have to get past an enemy border patrol, who have been ordered to let nobody pass. They quickly suspect something's off, and a cunning fight between the two groups begins.

Enomoto's part is way over the top, the songs don't add much and even though the simple setup could've been fun, Kurosawa doesn't really do all that much with it. There are a few decent moments and it's a blessing the film doesn't cross the 60-minute mark, but it's mostly just for Kurosawa enthusiasts and completists.

Ox-Head Village

2022 / 115m - Japan
Ox-Head Village poster

Better than Shimizu's previous "Village" films, though in the end, it suffers from similar defects. The investigation part takes up a tad too much time, which cranks up the runtime beyond the necessary. The horror bits are significantly better though and the production values are solid.

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When a ghost video reaches Kanon, she suddenly recognizes herself in one of the shots. The girl in the video disappears, which only scares her more. Together with a friend from school, she travels to the place where the video was shot. She isn't really prepared to face what she's about to learn about herself though.

Shimizu does well building up the tension, but once Kanon discovers what lies hidden in her past the film grinds to a halt and spends too much time on non-horror stuff. It picks up again in the end and the finale is pretty memorable, it just would've worked better as a more concise, 90-minute film.