Red Desert

Il Deserto Rosso
1964 / 117m - Italy
Red Desert poster

Antonioni is clearly a stylist, but not to a degree where the cinematography can really carry the film. It all comes down to the characters and their problems then, who never seem to gel with me. Spending two hours with the cast of Red Desert is quite the ordeal, not good for a drama.

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Giuliana is suffering from depression. She wants to make a change in her life, so she starts an affair with an employee of her husband's factory. He seems to be the only one who understands what she is going through, while the other people in her life are making light of Giuliana's troubles.

Though the styling is pretty precise, the drab colors and somewhat crude editing do the visuals no favor. The performances are pretty weak, the characters didn't grab me and the pacing is dead slow. It's not all bad and at least Antonioni has a clear point of view, the drama just isn't for me.

Something in the Dirt

2022 / 116m - USA
Something in the Dirt poster

Benson and Moorhead have been straying from the horror genre for a while now, Something in the Dirt takes things one step further and digs into full-blown mystery territory. With hints of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror to balance things out, they made a pretty unique film that defies easy comparisons.

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John and Levi are neighbors. They don't necessarily get along very well, but when they both witness a paranormal phenomenon they decide to make the best of it. They try to document what they saw while trying to figure out what exactly it was they witnessed. Their journey takes them to dangerous places.

It's cute that Benson and Moorhead took on the lead roles here. They're pretty decent actors too. It's a little hard to figure out the direction of the plot at first, but that's exactly what kept the film interesting, making it easier to invest in the plot and characters. And even when things start to take on a more concrete form, the vibe remains quite eerie, fuzzy, and mysterious. Good fun.

The Devils

1971 / 111m - UK
The Devils poster

I never sought out Ken Russell's films specifically, though maybe I should comb through his oeuvre in search of more interesting titles. Not that I'm his biggest fan, but at least his films are something unique and memorable. The Devils is a bit long and can get a tad wordy, but that's not all it is.

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A priest in 17th century France is living the good life. His progressive political and religious ideas are making him many enemies though, and soon he has to fear for his life. When they find out what he's doing with a convent of nuns, they see the time fit to out the priest and get rid of their rival.

The cinematography is interesting, the scenes of madness and debauchery don't miss their target and the finale is pretty animated. I didn't really care for the performances and in between the livelier scenes the film does slow down just a tad too much, but this was quite a bit better than expected. That said, my expectations were pretty low.


2017 / 113m - USA
Wonder poster

Unpleasant Hollywood sentiment. Not that I was expecting something else, but the film had received some decent word-to-mouth, so I hoped for something that would set it apart from similar films. Director Chbosky had proved himself a capable director before, but he clearly wasn't ready to face the Hollywood machine.

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Auggie is a young kid with a deformed face. His parents have homeschooled him, but they believe it's time for him to go to a real school, so he can learn how to deal with the outside world. Auggie needs time to adapt to his new school, but slowly he learns how to get along with the other kids.

As if Auggie's troubles aren't enough, his sister is also dealing with some personal issues, a pet has to die, and the bullies at school come to realize their wrongdoings. And it's all presented in that rather smug and easy Hollywood style. Chbosky is able to salvage a few scenes, but it's not enough to save the entire film.

Moon Man

Du Xing Yue Qiu
2022 / 122m - China
Comedy, Sci-fi
Moon Man poster

Not the worst of the current wave of Chinese blockbusters. Sentimental drama seems to be dominating their charts these days, so I was glad to find a relatively light mix of comedy and sci-fi. Yes, there is some drama, and no, it doesn't work very well, but at least it's pretty easy to overlook.

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A somewhat inconspicuous man is working on a project to save Earth from an impending meteorite crash. The plan fails and while everyone is evacuating the moon base they are stationed, the man is left behind all by himself. The meteorite wrecks Earth, and his misadventures at the base become the sole ray of light mankind has to uplift their spirits.

Moon Man is silly, sometimes to a fault. The sci-fi elements never seem to make too much sense, but at least the comedy works well and the first hour is perfect entertainment. The quality takes a little dip after that, which wasn't entirely unexpected, but it's a shame they couldn't just make a fun comedy for a change. Not too bad though.

A Bullet for the General

Quién Sabe?
1967 / 115m - Italy
A Bullet for the General poster

I'm pretty sure I'll never become a big western fan, but it seems the core spaghetti westerns are a little easier on the mind compared to their US counterparts. They're a bit more kitsch, a little sillier, and not quite as serious. That doesn't make them great, but at least they're a bit easier to get through.

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A band of Mexican thieves hold up a train and rob its weaponry, with the intention of selling them to the revolutionaries. One of the passengers helps them out and joins their little gang. They trust the man, but they are unaware of his real intentions, something they'll find out soon enough.

The plot isn't too interesting and the setting is still a bit off-putting. The film is also half an hour too long, but at least it never felt as if I was supposed to take the film seriously. There's a bit more joy, a bit more focus on the action, and a little extra color that brightens things up. Not great, far from it really, but better than many other westerns I've seen.

Another micro-shorts anthology. They were relatively popular for a while, but they rarely lived up to their potential. With just a single minute to make an impression, directors were given a tricky challenge. One that proved a bit too daunting for most involved, as too many of the entries failed to make an impact.

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This isn't so much a real film as it was an experience though. There doesn't remain a proper copy of this anthology since it was only screened once, then burned right after. I usually stray from watching low-quality recordings, but with nothing else available, it was either that or not watching it ever.

There are some interesting names here, but few of them stand out. The goals of the project are lofty, but it's all very conceptual and the films themselves never really match or strengthen the project's ideals. It's a good thing that the score is pretty interesting, which at least kept me going. Not all that interesting.

The Revelation

De Openbaring
2022 / 96m - The Netherlands
The Revelation poster

Slowly but surely more COVID-based films are being released, with the horror genre being one of the obvious frontrunners. The Revelation offers a pretty novel take by not focusing on the epidemic specifically. Instead, it explores the fear and mania of an overprotective son who is trying to protect his mother.

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When Jacob hears of a new virus sweeping the world, he quits his job and moves in with his mom. She is forbidden from going outside, and Jacob takes over the household while digging into the news from behind his computer. He gets hooked on a chatroom where wild theories are starting to spread.

I'm a bit surprised they didn't make it about COVID deniers, but the cause and symptoms of Jacob's fanatical behavior are pretty much the same. The performances are decent and the build-up is solid, the presentation is a bit cheap though and the ending, while cool in its own right, felt a bit detached from the rest of the film. Overall, I enjoyed it.

The Tigers

Ng Foo Jeung: Guet Lip
1991 / 100m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
The Tigers poster

A somewhat atypical Hong Kong crime flick. Hong Kong cinema isn't known to be very edgy, and with Eric Tsang directing I was expecting a lighter, more humorous affair. I was quite surprised then to find a pretty grim and gritty police flick with very few redeemable characters. Sadly, the execution never really matches the film's intentions.

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Two cops get themselves into quite a bit of trouble. They don't feel they earn enough for the job they are doing, so when they apprehend a gangster and see a chance to embezzle his money, they jump at the opportunity. Their sudden increase in wealth doesn't go unnoticed by others, and it doesn't take long before they become the target of an investigation.

With Andy Lau and Tony Leung in the lead, I had some expectations, but their performances were quite weak. Tsang doesn't really know how to translate the gritty story to the screen and even though there are some interesting twists and shocking reveals, they never have the necessary impact. An interesting failure, but a failure nonetheless.

See How They Run

2022 / 98m - UK
Comedy, Mystery
See How They Run poster

A pleasant whodunit. Not my favorite genre, but the perks of See How They Run are less related to the plot and reveals, and more so to the presentation and the comedy. It makes a film like this so much easier to digest, though the relatively short runtime definitely had something to do with it too.

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A director is in town to adapt the latest Agatha Christie play to the big screen. He doesn't make himself popular with the rest of his crew, which leaves quite a few suspects when he gets murdered. Stoppard (a seasoned detective) and Stalker (a young constable) are tasked with finding the killer.

Ronan and Rockwell are a delight, the tongue-in-cheek comedy is enjoyable and the presentation feels polished. The plot is still rather basic and George's direction could've used a little extra flair (I know the film is set in the 50s, but it feels just a little too stale and proper), but this easily beat both Knives Out films for me.

Tokyo Revelation

Shin Megami Tensei: Tokyo Mokushiroku
1995 / 55m - Japan
Sci-fi, Horror, Animation
Tokyo Revelation poster

A short and sweet Shin Megami Tensei story. While part of a much broader franchise, Tokyo Revelation is a film that stands well on its own and can be watched without any prior familiarity with the series of games and anime. As long as you feel at ease with some of its most prominent tropes, it's a film that won't hold too many surprises.

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A young boy with a strong affinity for the occult made a deal with a small-time demon to resurrect its master. Things seem to be going to plan until he runs into an old friend. When his personal issues take over his plans begin to falter and humanity is given a fighting chance to get rid of the demons. The fight won't be all that easy though.

The animation isn't all that great, but the art style is pretty detailed and the monster designs are cool enough. The pacing is slick, though that's a given considering the short runtime and the familiarity of the story. It's certainly not the greatest or most remarkable anime out there, but if you love yourself some demon action, it's pleasant filler.

Pictures of the Old World

Obrazy Starého Sveta
1972 / 70m - Czechoslovakia
Pictures of the Old World poster

Films like these are pretty easy to assess. Either you care for what they're trying to do, and they end up bona fide masterpieces. Or you don't, and they're hell to sit through. At least Pictures of the World was quite short, but even that didn't save it from getting on my nerves just a few minutes in.

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Director Hanak shoots a documentary about elderly people living in the Liptov and Orava areas, letting himself be inspired by the photography of Martin Martincek. This results in several portraits of peculiar people, which is pretty much what this entire niche of documentaries is all about.

I didn't care for any of these people, nor their struggles, nor their outlooks on life. The black-and-white cinematography was a minor plus, yet it wasn't strong enough to stand on its own. The soundtrack on the other hand was excruciating. Not very memorable, but then again I'm so far removed from the target audience that it's hardly surprising.

The Menu

2022 / 107m - USA
Comedy, Mystery
The Menu poster

We've seen plenty of films attacking the rich and the privileged. We've also seen more than enough films heckling the art world and its pretentious ilk. The Menu combines the two, and it's all the better for it. What could've been a mere old whine is suddenly a battle of the insane, fighting it out amongst one another.

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Tyler and Margot are taking part in an exclusive dinner on a remote island. Chef Slowik is one of the most renowned chefs in the world, and the seats at his restaurant come at a considerable cost. Little do they know that this particular night, they and the other guest will play an essential part in the creation of the menu.

The actors do a solid job, the build-up of the mystery is enjoyable and the middle part of the film is pleasantly bonkers. There are no nice characters here, everybody is as mad and guilty as the next. The only downer is that the finale is too cheesy (pun intended), where I would've preferred a climax with a bit more snark and bite.

The Stranger from Afar

2004 / 92m - Japan
Horror, Mystery
The Stranger from Afar poster

One of those films that rose to fame as part of the Asian suspense wave washing over us a good two decades ago. But Shimizu's film never really fitted in with the rest of the movement. It's an outlier horror, mixing existing lore with fantastical elements and chasing feelings of discomfort and unease rather than scares and straight-up terror. I was pleasantly surprised by my rewatch, hadn't expected to like it just as much as the first time I watched it. This is one of Shimizu's absolute best.

Scary True Stories: Summer Special 2018

Honto ni Atta Kowai Hanashi: Natsu no Tokubetsu Hen 2018
2018 / 105m - Japan
Scary True Stories: Summer Special 2018 poster

Well before Ringu and Ju-on turned the Japanese horror genre on its head, the front-runners of the genre were honing their skills working on the Honto ni Atta Kowai anthologies. Not that they were great films, but historically it's a series with considerable significance. Hence why I didn't mind checking out this 2018 TV special.

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The plot isn't anything special. You get 6 unrelated short films, held together by a host and a bunch of kids reacting to the various horror stories. If you're familiar with the Japanese horror wave of the past two decades there won't be any big surprises here, this 2018 summer special offers the usual array of ghosts and haunted house stories.

Films like these are decent enough horror filler, but they aren't half as scary as they used to be. The anthology setup makes certain there's enough variety and some of the shorts do manage to create a bit of tension, but it's mostly just familiar territory that's being rehashed. Not terrible, but not very scary either.

Mountain Porter

2022 / 77m - China
Fantasy, Mystery
Mountain Porter poster

It's 2023 and the onslaught of Chinese straight-to-streaming genre cinema continues. Mountain Porter brings more tomb-raiding fun (again). Stanley Tong is attached to this production, but that seems to have had little impact on the final product. What you get is a pleasantly condensed, fantastical adventure that leads a group of people down some ancient tombs.

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Zhe Gushao's father got lost on an expedition looking for a mystical artifact. Zhe survived but finds it difficult to process the disappearance of his dad. The artifact is needed to lift the curse of a nearby village, fifteen years later Zhe joins a new expedition, hoping to unearth the artifact and learn more about the fate of his father.

The production values are slightly higher than usual, but that's about the only real difference. The CG is still a little shoddy, the plot is extremely derivative and basic and the performances are sufficient but nothing more. Where the film excels is in the fantasy and adventure elements, which is what these films are all about. Very fun genre filler in other words, just keep em coming.

The Color of Pomegranates

Sayat Nova
1969 / 79m - Soviet Union
The Color of Pomegranates poster

A visual poem. I definitely appreciated the idea and concept of the film, but the slightly dated cinematography and the unpleasant score held it back quite a bit. That's entirely due to personal aesthetic preferences though, people who love a good classic and don't mind that a film is quite abstract should definitely seek this one out.

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The film follows the life of Sayat Nova, an Armenian poet. Rather than offer a straightforward biography, director Parajanov sketches his life through imagery derived from Nova's poetry. The result is something that makes little factual sense but does give you a solid idea of what the man was about in an artistic sense.

The cinematography is quite something, with lots of abstract and fantastical tableaus. I'm sure that people familiar with Armenian culture will catch more of the references and symbolism (I am utterly clueless in that regard), but I liked the creativity of it all. The soundtrack wasn't to my liking, but the runtime is pleasant and I was always curious about what the next scene would bring. Interesting film.

Somebody's Flowers

Dareka no Hana
2021 / 115m - Japan
Somebody's Flowers poster

A solid little indie drama. Somebody's Flowers is a nice attempt to do minimal drama, but it lacks the visual finesse and/or the emotional impact to make a big dent in a genre that's already too crowded. It's a fine film for fans of Japanese drama who are looking for some proper filler.

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When a young man visits his aging parents, he is witness to a tragic accident. A flower pot accidentally lands on a neighbor's head and ultimately kills the man, leaving behind a young mother and her child. The man befriends the woman but finds it difficult to relieve her of her grief.

The performances are solid and the plot provides the necessary drama, without being too forceful or convoluted. The cinematography is very barren though and the soundtrack is quite generic if present at all. It makes for a decent film that lacks anything unique or distinct to set it apart from its peers.

Guyver: Out of Control

Kyôshoku sôkô Guyver: Kikaku Gaihin
1986 / 55m - Japan
Sci-fi, Horror, Animation
Guyver: Out of Control poster

Another classic horror/sci-fi anime OAV. The Guyver was pretty big at the time, and it's not difficult to see why. It reads like a checkbox list of signature anime elements that were popular back then. In that sense, it's certainly not the most remarkable film, but it is good fun if you like a dash of sci-fi and horror on top of a thin layer of high school drama.

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Sho is a pretty regular kid, who gets himself into a lot of trouble walking home from school one night. He bumps into the wrong people, and before he knows it, his girlfriend is kidnapped, while he has become The Guyver, the wearer of a biomechanical suit that has latched itself onto him. Sho will have to learn to control his new abilities if he ever wants to see his girlfriend again.

The animation is a bit basic, but the art style is quite over the top and the level of brutality is appropriate for this type of film. It's the latter that is often missing from contemporary entertainment, and it's one of the bigger perks of digging up these older anime films. Nothing spectacular in other words, but good fun nonetheless.

Tokyo Heaven

Tôkyô Jôkû Irasshaimase
1990 / 109m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy
Tokyo Heaven poster

I'm slowly catching up with Shinji Somai's films, and I'm not complaining. Tokyo Heaven reminded me a little of an Obayashi project. There's a decent dramatic basis here, but it's the fantasy elements that make the film interesting. It's not an ultimate classic, but certainly an underappreciated gem.

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Yuu is a young pop talent who wants to make it big in the entertainment business. When she is forced to suck up to a wealthy mogul, she gets involved in a traffic accident and dies on the spot. In heaven, she negotiates another chance and is sent back to Earth, where she finds herself with the man who needs to cover up her death.

It's a fun setup (not entirely unlike Kon's Perfect Blue, there's even some imagery that matches) which allows Somai to work in some dreamy, fantastical scenes. These are the moments when the film shines and it becomes a little more than a simple, amusing narrative. A very pleasant surprise.

The Worst Person in the World

Verdens Verste Menneske
2021 / 128m - Norway
Drama, Romance
The Worst Person in the World poster

A decent film that never quite gets its main character right. It's not that she's unpleasant (or, as the title suggests, the worst person in the world), nor that her troubles aren't relatable. It's just that joining her on her emotional rollercoaster didn't have much of an impact, which is not a great sign for a romantic drama.

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Julie is getting close to her 30s, but she hasn't been able to settle down yet. She's in a relationship with a famous comic artist looking to start a family, and her career isn't really going places she'd hoped it would go. She decides to uproot her life and hooks up with Eivind, but it takes more than changing boyfriends to find happiness.

The performances are decent and there are a handful of scenes that manage to stand out (cinematically). For most of the film though, I just didn't really care what the main character felt, thought, or decided. She's a rather dull person to hang around with, which isn't exactly ideal for a 2-hour-long drama.

Clerks III

2022 / 100m - USA
Clerks III poster

Slightly disappointed in this third part. I'm not the biggest Smith/Clerks fan, but I did appreciate the two earlier films. The balance between comedy and drama never feels quite right here, with the comedy being a little outdated and the drama coming off as convoluted and out of place.

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When Randal has a heart attack, he considers his past life and concludes he wasted most of it. When he's back on his feet, he plans to turn his life working in the convenience store into a movie. He writes a script and invites all his friends and palls to play themselves, which leads to more reminiscing about the past.

This is probably a film that works better for people more invested in Smith's Clerks universe. I only have a passing interest in the Clerks films, which is why the drama elements didn't really work for me. It still passes the time quite easily and it certainly didn't bore me, I just would've preferred it to be a more dedicated comedy.