2003 / 97m - USA
Elf poster

Christmas cult in the making. Favreau's Elf is quickly becoming a Christmas staple, and it's easy to see why. It's a rather simple film that broadly sticks to conventions, except for the spirited performance by Will Ferrell which never quite fits the Christmas theme, yet is all the funnier because of it.

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Ferrell plays buddy, a human baby who ended up in an elf world and is brought up as if he was a regular elf. When he's all grown up, his foster dad informs him of his past and Buddy travels to New York to seek out his biological dad. He is a pretty big grump and cares little about Christmas.

Deschanel and Newhart are nice, but it's really Ferrell's show. Without him, the film wouldn't have been half as fun. Favreau's direction isn't too bad either, but he can't hide that Elf is little more than a corny Christmas flick. I will say that the film has grown on me. Not that I think it's great, but I like it considerably better compared to the first time I watched it.

Warriors of Future

Ming Yat Zin Gei
2022 / 101m - Hong Kong
Sci-fi, Action
Warriors of Future poster

A messy Hong Kong sci-fi. It's nice to see they're trying something new, I'm just not sure whether jumping face-first into an expensive genre like this was the right way to go about it, certainly not when the HK movie industry is still struggling. There's definitely some appeal here, but China did it better with The Wandering Earth.

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Our planet is collapsing under the weight of human destruction when a meteor hits and unleashes an alien plant. The plant has the power to purify our air, but exposure to water causes it to wreak mayhem. A team is assembled to adjust the genetic code of the plant, in order to save our planet.

The CG isn't that great, too many scenes look like they were made for a game console rather than a film. The camera work is also a bit too chaotic, making it impossible to enjoy the sci-fi designs. The action is pretty non-stop though and it was nice to see some familiar faces again. A pretty decent film, but not the insane blockbuster Louis Koo no doubt hoped this would be.

Nr. 10

2021 / 100m - The Netherlands
Comedy, Mystery
Nr. 10 poster

Alex van Warmerdam's 10th film comes with an appropriate title. It's another head-scratcher that starts off like any other normal film but takes a sharp turn halfway through and leaves you behind more than a little puzzled. This is perfectly fine of course, as long as you're not hoping to get any definite answers.

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Günter is working on a new play, while on the side, he has an affair with the director's wife. The director finds out and starts to demote Günter's part in the play. Defeated, Günter slowly loses grip on his life, but then a strange figure introduces himself and tells him he has information about his long-lost mother.

The structure of the film reminded me a little of Adaptation, but the finish is vintage van Warmerdam. It does take some time for the stronger absurdist elements to enter, but the third and final part doesn't disappoint. The styling could've been a little better, that's still my main gripe with van Warmerdam's work, but other than that, it's a pretty fun and intriguing flick.

The Legend of Zu

Shu Shan Zheng Zhuan
2001 / 104m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
The Legend of Zu poster

Hark remakes his own fantastical martial arts brawler two decades later. It's a pretty successful remake, capturing the spirit of the first film, only updated to the standard of its time. That doesn't make it a great film, in fact, there's quite a lot that doesn't work, but the sheer energy and boldness of the production is what made this a worthwhile watch.

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The Zu mountains are located between Heaven and Earth. It's a place where mythical figures live, the Omei kingdom being the strongest of Zu. Their world is under attack when Amnesia, an ambitious earthling, finds a way to drain Zu's powers and use them for his own betterment. The people of Zu will have to band together to get rid of this threat.

The 2001 Zu is an unapologetic CGI fest. The quality is pretty hit-and-miss and it looks gaudy as fuck, but there's a level of dedication that gives the film its unique vibe. The cast is pretty cool too, the pacing is insane and Hark goes full out on the plot. It's not a film that made a whole lot of sense (though people versed in Chinese folklore and literature may have a different experience), but I sure had a good time with it.

The Unicorn

2018 / 88m - USA
The Unicorn poster

A quirky comedy about a couple that wonders if their relationship isn't too dull. It's a little fragmented (almost structured like a road movie) and there aren't too many excessively funny moments, but the comedy is consistent and the lighthearted mood carries through from start to finish.

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When Malory and Caleb are visiting Malory's parents for their 25th wedding anniversary, they feel like their relationship isn't quite as exciting anymore. They decide to spice things up a little, but during their night out they run into some very odd people that don't necessarily push them in the right direction.

Lapkus and Rutherford are nice, they meet some pretty kooky people along the way and there's some solid cringe-based comedy scattered around. The pacing and runtime are perfect too, it's just not quite mad and/or zany enough to really stand out from the crowd. Solid comedy filler though.

The Tokyo Project

1988 / 53m - Japan
Sci-fi, Action - Animation
The Tokyo Project poster

A decent but somewhat standard action/sci-fi OAV. The first half leans more into its crime/noir elements, but the film gradually becomes more action-oriented and the finale offers some pretty bad-ass mecha mayhem. With just 50 minutes on the counter though, there's not a lot of time to do justice to it all.

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While Junpei is attending a pop concert, an injured man bumps into him and hands him a floppy disk. Junpei accepts the disk, but the contents are highly sensitive and it doesn't take long before some pretty shady people figure out that Junpei now has the disk in his possession. And they want it back.

The animation is a little limited, but the 80s anime style does have its charm. The start is hesitant and the political overtones fell flat for me, once the action kicks in things start looking up and I did really enjoy the finale. Not a stand-out OAV, but there's some solid fun to be had if you like this kind of thing.


1954 / 123m - Italy
Senso poster

Visconti isn't the worst of the classic Italian directors, but he's not a real stand-out either. Senso is the weakest of his films I've seen so far, so drenched in melodrama and kitsch that the 2-hour runtime felt at least twice as long. Quite a difficult film to sit through if you don't care about the drama and the romance.

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An Italian countess is married to a Venetian nobleman but during the final days of the Austrian occupation she hooks up with an Austrian officer. The two have a passionate affair, though the countess suspects that the love might be a little one-sided, as the officer seems more interested in her money and reputation.

The colors are gruesome and the score is rather unpleasant, the performances are extremely over-the-top and the drama (let's call it sentimentality) is well beyond acceptable. I didn't care for any of the characters, I found the film terrible to look at and two hours was just way too long. One of the lesser Italian classics I've seen.

Adult Swim Yule Log

2022 / 91m - USA
Comedy, Horror
Adult Swim Yule Log poster

An elongated TV special. There are some good and fun ideas tucked away in here, but the execution is a tad dim. It's a little too obvious this film originated from the bowels of a TV channel, it all just looks a bit too amateurish and DIY. If you're looking for a festive horror/comedy, you could do a lot worse though.

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A couple has planned a weekend retreat up the mountain. Their alone time is wildly interrupted when the sheriff comes knocking and warns them there's a killer on the loose. Things are about to get a lot worse when another party arrives, a hillbilly assaults the cabin and a haunted log goes on a rampage.

Most of the effects are pretty crummy and the performances are pretty weak. The comedy is nice, but not all the jokes land and there are some barren parts that could've used a little extra love. The film does get pretty insane in the final third, I just wish the horror/sci-fi bits were a bit more convincing.

Red Nights

Les Nuits Rouges du Bourreau de Jade
2010 / 98m - France
Horror, Crime
Red Nights poster

An odd little France/Hong Kong collaboration. Red Nights is a film that scores with its cinematography but loses it on score and editing. The potential was there to be a bona fide modern genre bender cult classic, only it never feels like the directors have full control over their film. Still, if you're looking for something a little different, it's a solid choice.

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The white jade is a treasured memento, but it houses an even bigger secret. Inside there is a vial that contains a mythical poison that is said to numb the body while heightening the senses a thousandfold. Carrie has a taste for the dangerous and she wants to try out the poison herself. She's not the only one who wants to get her hands on the jade though.

The sets are lovely, the use of color is striking and the camera work is on point. The film looks great, but the cheap-sounding score really ruins the effect. I'm not really sure what happened there, but the music is truly second-rate. The performances aren't all that great either and the plot's a little uneven, but two torture-like scenes and some pretty pictures manage to redeem this film. Solid, but it could and should've been better.

The Wandering Moon

Ruro no Tsuki
2022 / 150m - Japan
Drama, Mystery
The Wandering Moon poster

Sang-il Lee returns with another heartwrenching drama. Never one to let his audiences off easy, Lee adapts a story where a (seemingly) pedophilic relationship is begging for the audience's sympathy. People who believe ethics are clear-cut and are unwilling to explore beyond the socially acceptable would do well to skip this film, others will find a beautifully shot, superbly acted, and well-constructed film that doesn't shy away from broad gestures, but ultimately poses some very delicate and smart questions. The Wandering Moon is a challenging film, but that's hardly a negative.


2015 / 93m - Japan
Comedy, Crime
Rolling poster

A funny little crime comedy. In the beginning, you may be forgiven for thinking Rolling follows a more dramatic route, but it quickly dawns that we're dealing with a drier form of comedy here, hiding behind a light crime story. I really appreciated the film's quirkiness, but it was just a little too fleeting to make a big impression.

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Gondo is an ex-teacher, who got fired after people found out he was making videos in the girls' locker room. Years later he bumps into one of his old students. They hook up, and when they discover that one of his videos features a girl who is now famous, they come up with a plan to make some easy money.

The deliberate pacing, the odd plot twists, and the particular soundtrack give the film a very smooth and enjoyable vibe. The performances are solid, the cinematography on point, and the runtime appropriate. Rolling offers distinct entertainment and does so confidently, but it lack that little extra to make it truly special.

Ghost Blowing Lamp of the Popeye Man (2022)

2022 / 86m - China
Fantasy, Action
Ghost Blowing Lamp of the Popeye Man (2022) poster

China's never-ending stream of tomb-raiding films continues. This oddly titled entry may stand out because of its name, but that's just about it really. It's a very standard, generic entry in the genre that does deliver what you'd expect from it but fails to go the extra mile. Pretty decent streamer filler, in other words, the kind that China has in abundance.

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An expedition deep inside a secret tomb goes horribly wrong. Many of them die, and those who remain behind grow up with a few strong grudges. Years later a new expedition is set up, but in order to make a chance, they need one of the descendants of the original crew, as he possesses special powers. When they finally locate him, he isn't immediately willing to follow in his family's footsteps.

No, the CG is still a bit crummy. While some directors have found a good balance, others still struggle and overplay their hands. Other than that, the story offers little more than an excuse for some tomb-raiding fun. It's all I really ask from a short genre exercise like this and this film didn't disappoint. As long as you keep your expectations in check, of course.

Walking the Streets of Moscow

Ya Shagayu po Moskve
1964 / 78m - Soviet Union
Comedy, Romance
Walking the Streets of Moscow poster

A Russian film with a French (Nouvelle Vague) vibe. It's not the most common combination and doesn't quite work either, but at least it's quite a big step up from other Russian (attempts at) comedy I've seen. There's a cultural looseness missing in order to get that genuine 60s French feel, but at least the cinematography was on point.

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Volodya is visiting Moscow at the request of a respected writer. In the metro, he bumps into Kolya, who helps Volodya out when he gets bitten by a dog. The two visit Kolya's home, but when things get a bit too hectic Volodya escapes and goes on his own adventure, wandering around the city.

The cinematography is pretty stylish, the performances feel a little too stilted though. The lighthearted music isn't really a success either, making it a little awkward. The vibe they were going for was pretty clear, they just never really landed on it. Still, thanks to the short runtime and some pretty pictures, it wasn't as bad as I'd feared.

Ticket to Paradise

2022 / 104m - USA
Comedy, Romance
Ticket to Paradise poster

A pretty generic romcom, entirely in line with my expectations. Clooney is fun (but he's getting really old for this), and Roberts was never really young enough. It's a good thing they found a superb location and two pleasant (though somewhat dull) kids to handle the romantic part of this film.

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When Lily goes off on a vacation to Bali, little do her ambitious parents know that the next time they'll hear from her will be when they get her wedding invitation. They obviously don't agree with Lily's choices, but they'll have to set aside their lifelong feud if they're willing to convince their daughter she's making the mistake of her life.

The banter between Clooney & Roberts is rather tame, and the romance between Dever & Bouttier is too simplistic. Bali is lovely though and the breezy atmosphere makes this a pretty easy watch. It's not the most memorable film, but it's far from the worst in its genre. Decent romcom filler.

M.D. Geist II

1996 / 45m - Japan
Sci-fi, Action - Animation
M.D. Geist II poster

A pretty straightforward sequel. If you liked the first part, this is a very easy recommendation. If you didn't care for it, then it's better to just skip part 2. I'm mostly disappointed that they didn't manage to crank up the animation quality, as that was by far the weakest element of the first episode. Luckily the film does have some other perks.

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After setting loose the Death Force on planet Jerra, the remaining human population went into hiding. They are now led by Krauser, who hopes to become the hero of his people. Geist learns of their existence and he starts working on a new plan to get rid of those pesky humans. What follows is a gritty battle to the death.

M.D. Geist has everything you'd hope to see from a genre anime of the 90s. It is quite brutal and unflinching, there are some cool mecha, the pacing is stark and the lore is pretty elaborate. It's just a shame that the animation often looks like a series of comic stills rather than properly animated sequences. No doubt a simple budget issue, but one that greatly impacts the overall quality. Still, I had some fun with this.