Murder Mystery 2

2023 / 90m - USA
Comedy, Mystery
Murder Mystery 2 poster

Sandler and Aniston return for the sequel to their surprise Netflix hit. It's exactly what you could expect from a film like this: more expensive locations and set pieces, but a very similar structure and a clear attempt to copy/paste the appeal of the first film. And it doesn't do too bad of a job, to be honest.

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The detective couple is invited to their friend's luxurious wedding, which takes place on a remote island. During the rehearsal dinner, the groom is kidnapped and his bodyguard murdered in cold blood, leaving the attendees wondering who is behind the kidnapping. Nick and Audrey once again find themselves in the center of a murder mystery.

The plot is simple, the humor is rather basic and the mystery is never really put front and center, the bigger focus lies with the comedy. And that's okay because this is a standard Sandler vehicle that is meant to entertain, and nothing else. Bonus points for some very lush locations and nice cinematography (making the Eiffel Tower look pretty is no easy feat). Simple fun.

The Colony

2015 / 110m - Germany
The Colony poster

A pretty interesting film that takes a real-life tragedy and plasters a fake narrative on top to guide us through. It sounds a little disrespectful to put it that way, then again it's what films often do when they're based on "true events". Gallenberger does a good job though, which is where this film differs from its peers.

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During the 1973 military coup in Chile, a young couple gets mixed up in the events. Daniel is sent off to a prison camp, while Lena follows him and joins the cult that is part of the same camp. The place is governed by a shady old guy who runs the place like a tyrant, getting out is nigh impossible.

Brühl, Watson, and Nyqvist are solid, the setting combining a prison camp and sect is quite powerful and Gallenberger does a good job raising the tension during the final act. The pacing's a little slow and the structure is too predictable to make it an undisputed gem, but I had a pretty good time with this one.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

2021 / 124m - USA
Fantasy, Adventure
Ghostbusters: Afterlife poster

Good, which is much more than I expected from this film. I'm not a terribly big Ghostbusters fan and the all-female version was just a horrendous franchise update. For Afterlife, they stuck closer to what this series is all about: ghostly fun for younger audiences. And who better to take on this mission than Jason Reitman, son of Ivan, who directed the first two films?

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The daughter of Egor inherits his house when he comes to pass. With no money to spend, she has no choice but to drag her two kids to a remote town and stay there. Phoebe (her nerdy, scientist daughter) bumps into some tech gear left behind by her grandfather, stuff she'll need when ghosts break free and terrorize the town.

The build-up is a tad slow, with some unnecessary winks to the original, but the setting is nice, the kids are actually half-decent and the atmosphere is spot on. Not too childish, but far from serious or explicitly comedic. It's just a fun adventure with ghosts and an appropriate amount of nostalgia attached to it. Reitman did well.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

2023 / 92m - USA
Comedy, Adventure - Animation
The Super Mario Bros. Movie poster

I'm not too big on nostalgia, but Mario has been in the background for pretty much my entire life, so I was willing to make an exception and go along with it. Even for nostalgia fodder, this was pretty terrible though. What I got from this film is an American reimagination of the Mario franchise, complete with a deplorable 80s pop soundtrack. My brain just melted when I heard ELO, a-ha, and AC/DC blaring through the speakers.

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The plot is negligible, but that was to be expected. Mario is transported from Brooklyn to the Mushroom Kingdom, Bowser is on his way to make the princess marry him. Mario and the princess team up to find Luigi (who got lost along the way) and to protect her Kingdom from an evil turtle invasion.

There are some familiar tunes, and a bunch of very basic IP references (tanuki & cat suit, power-ups, and the like), but you don't have to be a big franchise fan to recognize them. The only thing that gave me slight chills was the Kid Icarus bit, not even a Mario reference. They're also very lazy, in that they are just there, plain and simple, nothing about the references was handled with wit or creativity. I hated the Americanized/Illumination treatment, was disappointed they didn't do more with the art style, and disliked the loud/shouty nature of the film. This was just a US CG animation, only with some Mario memorabilia thrown in for good measure. Yuck.

The Dead Don't Die

2019 / 104m - USA
Comedy, Horror
The Dead Don't Die poster

Jim Jarmusch delivers a surprisingly literal horror comedy. I'm used to him digging around in different genres, but never really delivering on the genre elements. That's a little different here. Jarmusch kept his cast and dry signature, but there's no mistake that The Dead Don't Die is a core zombie comedy.

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Polar fracking is causing some serious mayhem. The Earth has shifted on its axis and things are seriously off. Watches stop working, pets disappear, the sun sets at a different time, and the dead rise from their graves. The little town of Centerville is trying to cope with this new reality.

The cast feels familiar for a Jarmusch film and the dry, understated comedy is right in his wheelhouse. The horror bits are less accomplished and I genuinely hope the societal critique was part of the joke (which it very well could be - Romero was known to dabble). A pretty decent film, with a couple of good chuckles, but only half a success if you ask me.

Volcano High

2001 / 120m - South Korea
Fantasy, Action
Volcano High poster

It's weird to see South Korea doing an archetypical Japanese high school brawler, not in the least because their cinema usually lacks the dedication and focus to pull off such a specialized genre. But here we are. Tae-gyun Kim's film is completely bonkers and over-the-top, sporting the usual school gang brawls, with some pretty capable teachers thrown into the mix. The action is all over the place, the styling is very explicit and there's only one goal: to entertain from start to finish. Not quite as good as more recent franchises, but the two hours fly by, and that's not something I often say about South Korean cinema.

Blast from the Past

1999 / 112m - USA
Comedy, Romance
Blast from the Past poster

A romcom that does its best to honor its title. There's a thick "everything used to be better" vibe that runs underneath the film, which is used for comedic effect for sure, but the clear love for bygone eras (namely the late 50s/early 60s) betrays a deeper belief in the film's premise. It's not something that gelled with me.

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Adam is born in a fallout shelter, his parents locked themselves in there after mistakenly believing a nuclear bomb had fallen on the US. A good 35 years later they emerge from their shelter, unsure of what the world will look like. What they find is quite distressing, only their son has the guts to explore this new world.

It's not an unfamiliar setup, and with Fraser in the lead, you know the comedy will be overly PG and goofy. He makes a nice onscreen couple with Silverstone, but both the comedy and romance are a bit too predictable to fill out the 110-minute runtime. It's certainly not the worst of its kind, just a tad too generic.

Burst City

Bakuretsu Toshi
1982 / 115m - Japan
Sci-fi, Action, Music
Burst City poster

A pivotal release in Sogo (currently Gakuryu) Ishii's career. It's the mother of all Japanese punk films, a feature that would go on to inspire a small but impactful niche. It's not quite as cyber as many of its offspring though, more rooted in punk rock culture, which is exactly why I didn't quite love it as much the second time around.

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In a futuristic Tokyo, chaos reigns. Underground anti-establishment groups clash with punk bands and their admirers. Meanwhile, the police are trying to get a grip on the conflicts sprouting up left and right, but their involvement only seems to make matters worse. There's only one possible outcome for this insane pressure cooker.

The cinematography is lively, the plot is chaotic but works wonders for the type of material we're dealing with here, and the performances are extremely energetic. It's just the score that wasn't quite harsh enough and left me wanting a little. The ending does go full-out, it just takes the film a little too long to get there.

The Pale Blue Eye

2022 / 128m - USA
The Pale Blue Eye poster

An odd little Edgar Allen Poe-adjacent whodunit. I'm not quite sure why or how Poe was made a supporting character in this story, it didn't make a whole lot of sense as it could've been anybody else. Then again, it's not a negative either, and lurking behind that odd choice lies a pretty moody whodunit.

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Landor is a respected detective, whose methods and behavior are a little eccentric. He is summoned when a cadet is found dead, and murder is suspected. Landor takes on the case and runs into Edgar Allen Poe, a young student with a penchant for poetry, who joins Landor in his quest to solve the case.

The cinematography is proper and moody, the performances are strong and the plot is pretty meticulous, with a nice (though not very unexpected) twist to boot. It's a pretty standard whodunit though, so you can just sit back while everything is served on a silver platter. Not my favored type of cinema, but pretty good regardless.


2023 / 123m - USA
Comedy, Sport
Champions poster

The Farrelly brothers have split ways. While Peter is trying to become an Oscar regular, Bobby is sticking to lighter fare. Champions is a pretty run-of-the-mill feel-good sports flick, adapted from a Spanish film. It's not something that will put Bobby's career back on the rails, but it might buy him some time to properly rebrand himself.

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Marcus is a basketball coach who cares about nothing but winning. He has an eye for the game, but not for the players. A DIU offense forces him to do community service, teaching basketball to people who are intellectually challenged. Marcus doesn't look forward to the job, but slowly he learns to enjoy his newfound career.

It's all very much by the numbers. The plot feels too familiar, the comedy is more feel-good drama than actual jokes or funny business and the ending is as cheesy as it gets. There are some decent moments, but they're mostly related to the small romantic side story. Not a great film, but it could've been worse still.