Shi Jian You Ta
2022 / 117m - China
Hero poster

Poor China. For a few years, their budding cinema industry was full of excitement. Now that the dust has settled down, we're seeing a lot of sentimental garbage that gobbles up talented actors and directors. Hero is the latest in a string of films that feel like the creativity was sucked out of it at some stage.

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It's no surprise that a Chinese film dealing with the early days of the COVID pandemic is going to feel a bit ... restrained. We get three interconnected stories, about women in different cities who are facing the troubles of the pandemic in their own unique ways. Of course, it's all about their strength and compassion.

With Sylvia Chang, Joan Chen, and Shaohong Li behind the camera, and Xun Zhou and Sammi Cheng in front of it, this should've been an easy sell, but somehow the drama comes off quite cheesy and unearned. It's all very heavy-handed, quite uncinematic and at two hours long, stretched beyond its breaking point. There's a basic quality present, but at the same time, they can do so much better.

Bullet Train

2022 / 127m - USA
Comedy, Action
Bullet Train poster

A film that reminded me of the joyous crime flicks of the mid-00s (think Smokin' Aces). The problem is that the assembled killers aren't that much fun and that Leitch's direction appears a bit toothless. This could've been a really fun, juicy film, instead, we're getting some PG-13, sanitized version of that.

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Ladybug is replacing Carver on what looks like a very simple job. He is to board a train, grab a briefcase and get off at the next stop. But several killers for hire are also on board of the train, and they're all after the same briefcase. Ladybug will have his work cut out for him if he wants to get out alive.

The action is a little tepid, the characters aren't quite quirky enough and two hours is a bit long for the simple setup. It's still a fun and entertaining film though. The pacing is decent, nothing is ever taken too seriously and the finale is pretty entertaining. It's just that the potential was there to be something way better.

Gun & Rose

Lung Tang Sei Hoi
1992 / 99m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
Gun & Rose poster

Clarence Fok delivers a pretty generic Hong Kong crime/action flick. There are some familiar faces, a few decent action scenes and the runtime and pacing are on point. That's all pretty much expected though, what is lacking is anything particular to set this film apart from a million others that look and feel just like it.

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When a Taiwanese gang boss resigns, he appoints Alan, his adopted son, as his follow-up. His two biological sons aren't too happy with this decision. In order to get what they feel is rightfully theirs, they team up with a police informant in an attempt to get Alan jailed, freeing up the position of crime boss once again.

With people like Andy Lau, Simon Yam, and Leon Lai on board, you know you're in pretty good hands. Fok's direction is decent too, but nothing exceptional. It's a decent enough film if you're content with a bit of HK crime filler, just don't expect the world of it. This is a bog-standard crime/action flick, for better or for worse.

Office Invasion

2022 / 112m - South Africa
Comedy, Sci-fi, Action
Office Invasion poster

Quirky and off-beat South-African genre blender. It's a comedy first and foremost, but the horror and sci-fi elements make it a more interesting package. The running up to the actual action takes a tad too long and not all the jokes land, but there was plenty here that kept me entertained.

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A small mining company is taken over by an Australian firm. Three employees are rightfully fearing for their job, as cutbacks are part of their plans. Defeated by the new management, they start planning a little heist, taking what they feel is rightfully theirs. What they don't know is that the takeover is only a cover-up for a more sinister plot.

The principal actors are funny, the mix of genres works well, quite a few of the jokes do land and the pacing is solid, even though the film's a tad long. It's hardly a masterpiece, but it's proper entertainment that never misses a beat and builds up toward a satisfying finale. A pleasant surprise.

All That Heaven Allows

1955 / 89m - USA
Drama, Romance
All That Heaven Allows poster

Heavy, thick, classic American melodrama. This is only my second Sirk, but it seems to be a pretty good summary of his more famous work. I'm not sure how it has survived the times, these films definitely feel like something out of a distant past that should've been buried a long time ago, but here we are.

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Cary is a rich, older widow who falls for the charms of Ron, a younger man who doesn't belong to the same class she does. Her children aren't happy when they get engaged and her social circle doesn't really approve either. They split up, but their love runs deep and when they aren't together, they feel pretty unhappy.

The performances and the direction are both very heavy-handed. The plot isn't that interesting, the overpowering music and tortured expressions of the characters don't do it much justice either. At least the film is quite short and properly paced, but other than that, the film has few redeeming qualities.


1980 / 180m - Japan
Drama, War
Kagemusha poster

I'm almost halfway through Kurosawa's oeuvre, but his timeless appeal keeps escaping me. Kagemusha is a 3-hour epic, where the first two hours are almost entirely spent on slow-moving conversations. The final hour brings the action, but neither aspect of the film really did it for me.

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Takeda is one of the most powerful warlords in 16th-century Japan. War is an everyday reality, and when disaster strikes, Takeda's backup plan goes into effect. A doppelganger takes his place and is required to replace him for the next three years, keeping his death hidden from the outside world.

The first two hours are incredibly uneventful, dull, and utterly uncinematic. The film makes a big u-turn in the final hour, but Kurosawa's action work never really impressed me either. The cinematography is a bit better, which is at least something, but 3 hours of this was quite the ordeal.

Strange Days

1995 / 145m - USA
Sci-fi, Crime
Strange Days poster

A typical Bigelow film. An interesting premise and nice (but somewhat modest buzz) raised my expectations, but the film itself is pretty plain and generic. Bigelow just isn't a very good or distinctive director, even after seeing 8 of her films the only thing that sticks out is how much her work blend in with others.

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Lenny is an ex-cop turned rogue. He deals in illegal disks that allow people to share and live through other people's memories. When one day he finds himself in the possession of a murderer's disk, he starts his own private investigation. What he doesn't realize is that he is about the unearth a much bigger conspiracy.

The performances are rather bland, the world-building is generic and the direction is uneventful. What could've been a nice mix of sci-fi and noir elements, turns out to be little more than a bland crime thriller with minor sci-fi elements driving the plot. It's not a terrible film, few Bigelow films are, it's just very forgettable.

Deep Blue Sea

1999 / 105m - USA
Sci-fi, Thriller
Deep Blue Sea poster

A silly premise that results in a few decent thriller/action moments. Don't try to make too much sense out of the plot, while the film makes some statements about science and genetic manipulation, I don't think there's a serious message here. Everything is geared at having a handful of smart, killer sharks hunt a group of weary humans.

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A group of scientists is trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's. They're on the right path, having found a promising substance inside the brains of sharks, but time (i.e. funding) is running out, so they have to take a couple of unethical choices to complete their research. Of course, this is not going to end well.

A group of people is trapped inside a flooding structure, while intelligent sharks are hunting them down. The actors are all B-grade, the plot is pretty dumb and the film is as predictable as can be, but there are some tense scenes scattered throughout. Not the worst of its kind, but hardly worthy of a recommendation.

Flash Gordon

1980 / 111m - USA
Sci-fi, Adventure
Flash Gordon poster

Oh boy. I kind of get how this film acquired its cult status. It is indeed a spectacle, certainly if you are the type of ironic film fan who gets a kick out of horrible, tasteless cinema. In that sense, Flash Gordon is one of the more interesting films out there. In any other sense, it's a complete disaster.

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Ming is an intergalactic ruler who has it out for planet Earth. From Mongo, a faraway planet, he plans his attack to get rid of all the people on Earth. A football player (Flash) and his girlfriend are hellbent on stopping him, and they travel through space to make sure Ming won't be able to execute his plans.

Everything is either incredibly cheap or incredibly kitsch. The costumes are horrendous, the score is maddening, the performances are soul-crushing and the film just keeps on going and going. Everything is just terrible and misguided, which I guess makes it funny to some. Not my kind of cinema. At least it's not boring.

The Dead and the Deadly

by Wu Ma
Ren Xia Ren
1982 / 99m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action, Horror
The Dead and the Deadly poster

Pretty much what you'd expect based on the era, the place, and the people involved. Wu Ma and Sammo Hung add a bit more focus on the action, the horror elements are never scary but more plot-based, and the comedy is cheesy but fun in its own right. It's all pretty amusing, but far from great.

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In order to get this hands on an inheritance, Lucho fakes his own death. His friend can't believe Lucho is gone and starts an investigation, getting a little too close to the truth. Trying to keep him from finding out what really happened, Lucho dies for real and ends up haunting his friend as a ghost.

Hung and Ma are funny, the martial arts scenes are decent enough (but nothing out of the ordinary) and the horror is pretty bland though it gets pretty over-the-top as the plot continues. If you've seen a couple of these films you should know what to expect, it's not a stand-out, but good fun regardless.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

2022 / 140m - USA
Comedy, Crime
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery poster

Rian Johnson just isn't a very good director. This film replicates the structure of the first Knives Out film, only in a more contemporary setting. It suffers the exact same problems as the first one. What you get is 60 minutes of plot and 90 minutes of dry explanation, which drains out all the entertainment value.

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Blanc is invited to a wealthy tech giant's little murder mystery weekend. He is quick to decipher the plot, but then a real murder happens on the premises, and Blanc is stumped. All the invitees have a reason to kill their host, it's up to Blanc to figure out who is behind this elaborate setup.

Craig's character is still painful to watch (that accent is terrible), and the rest of the cast isn't all that great either. The plot is pretty dull (or rather, I just don't care for these types of whodunit films), the direction is bland and the finale is just a snoozefest. The setup of the film was somewhat decent, it all goes downhill after that.

White Noise

2022 / 136m - USA
White Noise poster

Sometimes it's nice to see a director and actors having fun while making a movie, but when the movie itself isn't to your liking, it quickly becomes an extra nuisance. I didn't think White Noise was a big success, Baumbach and his two principal actors clearly felt differently when shooting it.

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A family of colorful figures faces the mundane challenges of everyday life while being overwhelmed by whatever the world throws at them. Jack is the most knowledgeable professor when it comes to Hitler, his wife is secretly partaking in an odd scientific experiment and when his family has to flee from a toxic disaster, shit hits the fan.

Driver and Gerwig are pretty cringe-worthy, Baumbach is no Wes Anderson and the bland comedy doesn't properly hide the skin-deep social critique. I also don't understand why this was stretched way beyond the 2-hour mark. A pretty disappointing film, in the hands of a more capable crew this could've been fun though.


2022 / 89m - USA
Lullaby poster

Leonetti is trying to replicate the Wan-verse on a budget. It's not all bad and the film certainly makes an effort to do well, but the scares are pretty poor and in the end, that's about all a film like this has to offer. If more effort had gone into the creatures and haunts this could've been something.

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Rachel and John are happy as can be with their newborn, but six months later the constant crying is starting to weigh them down. Rachel received an old book with a Hebrew nursery rhyme inside, when she sings it to the baby he goes to sleep instantly. Little does she know that she invited the evil Lilith inside her house.

The performances are decent and the cinematography is appropriate. The special effects are shoddy though and the makeup work isn't very convincing either. It pretty much kills the entire finale, which is the moment the entire film has been working towards. Very mediocre horror filler.

Hell Dogs

2022 / 138m - Japan
Action, Crime
Hell Dogs poster

It's been quite a long time since I watched a Yakuza flick with a little extra, I'm not surprised Harada is the one to make it happen. He's the type of director who can take any genre and infuse it with a sprinkle of originality, without necessarily deviating from core genre clichés. Hell Dogs is a very typical Yakuza film (complex, littered with characters, honor codes, and backstabbing), but the presentation is just a tad slicker, the score a little more distinctive and the action has that extra dash of energy. The performances are solid too, and while the film is a tad long, it never lost my attention.


2020 / 88m - France
Comedy, Horror
Teddy poster

Amusing French horror comedy, that is neither dry/funny nor horrific/gory enough to make a lasting impact. It's a solid film, with a commendable lead performance of Bajon and some quirky moments, but I wish the Boukhermas would've taken things just a little further.

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Teddy is an outcast who doesn't fit in with the rest of his town. When he chases down a wolf in the forest, he gets bitten. Soon after Teddy starts to notice some odd changes in his body, next to a sudden craving for human meat. He suspects he is turning into a werewolf, but he doesn't want to alarm the villagers.

There are some kooky/tragic characters, the mood is pretty light and the dialogues are rather funny, but the comedy is neither dry nor sharp enough to carry the film by itself. The horror elements are timid in comparison and are there to advance the story rather than stand on their own. Good fun, just nothing exceptional.


2021 / 98m - Japan
Musical - Animation
Inu-oh poster

I expected more from Yuasa. Sure enough, the animation is lovely and the vibe here is pretty unique, but to riff on 60s rock culture to revolt against classic Japanese music feels wrong? A rock opera in 2022 isn't very punk, it's mostly just oldskool and very kitsch. And it's a shame to see great animation go to waste like that.

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Inu-oh is a great singer, but he's too deformed to be allowed to perform. Tomona is a blind musician with a strong interest in the hidden stories of the Heike, a clan defeated by the Genji, the current rulers. Together they set out to revolutionize the music scene, but the reigning shogunate isn't too happy with their endeavor.

The animation is pretty spectacular, and the plot and characters are interesting too, but the final hour is one big musical performance, and it's just lacking. The music is rather dim and the choreography could've used some extra work. The animation kept me glued to the screen, the music prevented Inu-oh from becoming a new personal favorite. Disappointing.

The Cloud-Capped Star

Meghe Dhaka Tara
1960 / 126m - India
Drama, Musical
The Cloud-Capped Star poster

Indian Neo-Realism mixed with melodrama. It's a combination of identifiers that sends shivers down my spine, and the film doesn't disappoint. It's a sluggish, 2-hour-long social drama (with some horrible musical influences) that never redeems itself, but only gets worse as it progresses.

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A relatively well-off family flees from their home and ends up in the slums of Calcutta. The daughter of the family does her very best to improve the situation for her family, even sacrificing her own life and happiness to do so. For all the sacrifices she makes though, her family doesn't seem very appreciative of her efforts.

A film about self-sacrifice where things just get worse for the lead character. The performances aren't that great, the cinematography is very basic and the drama piles up endlessly. The music was pretty grating too, making the 2-hour runtime a real obstacle. Not my type of film, I really disliked this one.


2022 / 117m - USA
Fantasy, Adventure
Slumberland poster

A pleasant fantasy aimed at somewhat younger viewers, but with enough appeal to keep the rest of the audience entertained. It may have helped that I never read the source material (or watched/played any of its adaptations), which is why it all felt just a little fresher than it might for others more familiar with the original book.

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Nemo grows up with her dad on a small, remote island. When one night he doesn't return from the sea, Nemo is forced to move with her uncle to the big city. When she falls asleep, she ends up in Slumberland, a place where she bumps into an old friend of her father's, who promises Nemo she might find him there.

Momoa doing Johnnie Depp isn't the best idea, but other than that this was a pretty solid fantasy film. The fantastical bits are lush, the pacing is solid even though the runtime is a tad long, and Barkley and O'Dowd deliver good performances. Simple but fun entertainment, which is what I'd hoped to see.

About Fate

2022 / 100m - USA
Comedy, Romance
About Fate poster

A proper rom-com, with a stronger focus on the romantic elements. The title already hints at the strong influence of fate in the plot (in other words, there are some pretty farfetched coincidences that drive the narrative). Keeping the genre in mind though, that's nothing to get too worked up about.

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Margot and Griffin are two romantic souls who have a surprising amount of things in common. Fate brings them together when Griffin ends up in Margot's house after a day out with his friends. Margot convinces him to be her +1 to a wedding as her current boyfriend dumped her the night before. That's when things get truly complicated.

Roberts and Mann are solid, the winter holiday setting is perfect and there are a few cute details that make the story a bit more interesting, even though you don't need to expect any big surprises. About Fate isn't a very remarkable film, but it's perfectly executed filler that is sure to please fans of the genre.

Wait and See

Ah Haru
1998 / 100m - Japan
Wait and See poster

A pretty straightforward drama by Somai, with a strong early 90s vibe. Whereas men like Koreeda were already well on their way to reinventing the Japanese drama, Wait and See is a film that belongs to the previous generation. It's a bit cruder, a little rowdier, and not quite as subtle as I would've preferred it to be.

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Hiroshi's life is turned upside down when his father suddenly arrives on his doorstep. His mother told Hiroshi that his father had died when he was five. To add to the emotional turmoil, Hiroshi's company is about to go bankrupt. He tries to cope with this new situation as best as he can but finds himself way in over his head.

The performances are decent but a little rough, the drama is a tad predictable and while the presentation is nice, it never really stands out. The film is on the shorter side though, which helps. Ultimately, this felt like a safer entry in Somai's oeuvre, but it's definitely not a bad film. Just a bit of oldskool Japanese drama filler.