Something's Gotta Give

2003 / 128m - USA
Comedy, Romance
Something's Gotta Give poster

A rather dreary romcom by Nancy Meyers. I understand the film's supposed to be funny, but it's really rather sad, and the comedy itself isn't very refined either. It's obvious the film relies on its leads to make the best of it, but Keaton and Nicholson are merely running on autopilot here.

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Harry is an infamous bachelor who loves dating younger women. When Marin's mother crashes their little weekend getaway, Harry feels unwelcome, but he is also strangely attracted to Marin's mom. Unequipped to handle a mature relationship, Harry struggles to get his emotions under control.

There are no surprises here, just two somewhat bitter characters who do a little pull & push dance. Meyers' direction is uninspired, the cast doesn't seem very invested either. Nicholson is somewhat amusing, even though he hardly makes an effort, but that's about the only thing that keeps it watchable. Not very good.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Final Transmutation

Hagane no Renkinjutsushi: Kanketsu-hen - Saigo no Rensei
2022 / 142m - Japan
Fantasy, Adventure
Fullmetal Alchemist: Final Transmutation poster

Not the easiest franchise to turn into a live-action film, and the struggle shows. While the film is quite ambitious, certainly the second half, the bland direction and poor use of budget let this fantasy/adventure down. Not that I liked the animation better, but they could've done more with these films.

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Edward and Alphonse are finally able to locate Vader, creator of the homunculi. He has a pretty evil plan that will give him unlimited power, the brothers team up with former adversaries to stop Vader's plan and save all the people in the Kingdom. If they can beat Vader that is.

There are some pretty insane creatures here, which could've been cool if they hadn't looked like they'd run away from a 20-year-old video game. The film gets too sentimental at times and the runtime is excessive, but if the visuals had been on par all that wouldn't have mattered as much. Not great, but at least it had potential.

The August Virgin

La Virgen de Agosto
2019 / 125m - Spain
The August Virgin poster

A pleasant slice-of-life drama, that moved just a little too slow for my taste. The lead character didn't really win me over either, but the laid-back atmosphere was nice and the summary Madrilanian setting surely helped with the appeal. Thirty minutes shorter would've made a real difference though.

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A young thirty-something woman decides to stay put during her summer holiday. While her friends are moving away to cooler areas, she remains in a blistering hot Madrid, reconnecting with old friends and seeking out new connections to make better sense of her life, and ultimately herself.

Itsaso Arana does a great job as the lead, it's just that her character didn't really appeal to me. The meandering camera work is fine, and the soundtrack consists mostly of ambient sounds, but none of it is particularly memorable. It's not a bad film, it just missed something to pull me in.

Thirteen Lives

2022 / 147m - UK
Thirteen Lives poster

Ron Howard doing a low-profile disaster flick. No continents, countries, or cities in danger here, just thirteen lives. The story of the Thai football team stuck in a cave was pretty popular at the time though, so it was inevitable that it would be made into a film. The result is decent enough, but hardly memorable.

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After winning a football game, a young team heads down into a cave to celebrate. An unexpected torrent of rain leaves them stranded, and with the monsoon closing in, there's a real danger of the cave being completely flooded. Expert divers are joining the rescue mission to get the boys and their coach out.

People who remember the news story will know the outcome, even then the Hollywood-like approach (and Howard's involvement) leave little to the imagination. Because of that, it never gets all that tense and while the build-up is solid, the runtime is a bit excessive. I wasn't bored, but that's about all the praise I have.

Celine and Julie Go Boating

Céline et Julie Vont en Bateau
1974 / 193m - France
Drama, Fantasy
Celine and Julie Go Boating poster

My second Rivette was a bit of a disappointment. I quite like the Nouvelle Vague, especially for its playfulness. When that's not there (or fully realized), I struggle to get into these films. It didn't help that this one was more than three hours long, a bit ridiculous for what's on display here.

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Céline and Julie bump into each other by accident, and they end up becoming good friends. When they go to Julie's home, Céline digs up an unbelievable story, in which she plays a part. Julie is a bit suspicious but gives Céline the benefit of the doubt, and becomes more and more invested in the story as it progresses.

My main issue is with Berto and Labourier, who come off more than a little wooden. Their dialogues and acting feel forced and stage-like, which is the opposite of what it should've been. The light fantasy touches are decent, but they're not strong enough to keep the film afloat for three hours straight.

Bad Lieutenant

1992 / 96m - USA
Thriller, Crime
Bad Lieutenant poster

A pretty grim and relentless film. Keitel is perfect in the role of an unredeemable cop, but it's Ferrera's slow and deliberate direction that makes this film stand out. Maybe if I'd been a bigger fan of the 90s New York setting I might've liked it even better, but this was a pretty pleasant discovery nonetheless.

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LT is a crooked and morally defunct cop. He abuses his position, he loves to gamble and he's addicted to drugs. When a nun is raped and protects the identity of her assailants, he wants to make amends. He starts his own little investigation into her rape and manages to trace down the criminals.

The cinematography can get a little dark, but the gritty visuals help to establish the grim atmosphere. Keitel's character isn't very likable, but his character is intriguing and while the outcome is pretty predictable, it's still a pretty hard pill to swallow. One of the better films of its kind.

The Sinners

2020 / 96m - Canada
The Sinners poster

A fun teen flick with a dark twist. It reminded me a bit of late 90s films like The Craft, though it's not quite as frilly or commercial. It does lose steam in the second half and the big reveal is a bit of a bust, but there's more than enough quality here to keep genre fans entertained for a good 90 minutes.

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In an extremely religious village, 7 girls have formed a little group where each of them represents a different sin. When one of them rats out the others to the local priest, they want to teach her a lesson. They steal her diary and gang up on her, but they take the hazing too far, and a prank leaves the girl dead in the woods.

The styling is nice enough, the pacing is solid and the setup has plenty of potential. The payoff isn't quite as impressive though. The horror elements feel too restrained and the little twist at the end is rather predictable. The Sinners is a nice bit of genre filler though, better than I expected.

Soul of Light

2023 / 75m - China
Fantasy, Action
Soul of Light poster

Yet another Chinese fox-themed fantasy. These Chinese streamer films are pretty samey, but even the themes and plot are becoming very difficult to differentiate. I'm pretty certain that 10 years from now I won't be able to distinguish between many of these films. They're fun and slick filler though, so I don't really mind that much.

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A relic that is keeping demons at bay is split into two separate pieces and given to different clans to protect. When one of the pieces falls into the wrong hands, it is up to the other clan to guard the second piece with their lives. The Pure Fox clan is hidden pretty well from the outside world, even so, evil has its ways to get what it wants.

Soul of Light is nothing special, but these streamer films have reached a level of quality where even the basic ones are still pretty fun to watch. The pacing is slick, the runtime short, the fantasy elements are properly realized and there's a decent mix of genres to keep you entertained throughout. It may be mere "content" or "filler" to these services, but at least these films deliver. Proper fun.

They Look Like People

2015 / 80m - USA
Mystery, Thriller
They Look Like People poster

A low-budget psychological thriller. It's an ideal genre to do on a budget as it thrives on suggestion, but even then some skill is required to keep the tension alive. Blackshear does a decent enough job, except for the finale, which feels a bit too much like a cop-out and didn't deliver on its promise.

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Christian and Wyatt reconnect after spending quite a bit of time apart. Wyatt moves in, for the time being, what Christian doesn't know is that his old pal is getting calls from a stranger, warning him about a race of intruders who are planning to take out the human race. Slowly he loses grip on reality.

The acting is decent, the build-up of the film is nice enough and while it doesn't feel particularly original, I was quite curious to see how things would pan out. The ending wasn't really convincing though, and while an open ending can be powerful, it just didn't fit here. Not bad, but little more than genre filler.

Dragon Ball: Curse of the Blood Rubies

Doragon Bôru: Shenron no Densetsu
1986 / 50m - Japan
Action, Adventure - Animation
Dragon Ball: Curse of the Blood Rubies poster

I'm not a very big Dragon Ball fan. Not that I've watched or read a lot, it's just that it never really appealed to me, and what I've seen never pushed me enough to dig deeper. It is one of anime's biggest franchises ever though, so I figured I might as well watch the films. They are pretty short too, so there's that at least. Turns out this first one was actually pretty amusing.

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The plot isn't anything special. Apparently, it's an alternative retelling of the series, but being blissfully unaware of how everything is supposed to fit together, I can't really comment on that. What you get is several remarkable characters chasing the 7 dragon balls, as collecting them all will grant them a wish. There's nothing more to it I'm afraid.

The nice thing about this first film is that it still has that cute 80s comedy art style. The animation is actually quite good too. The action and comedy are pretty generic, but the short runtime, the slick pacing, and the quirky characters make up for that. Hardly the most notable anime I've ever seen, but not the crap I was expecting (mostly based on my experience with DBZ I guess). Onto the next!


1945 / 111m - USA
Thriller, Crime
Spellbound poster

An early post-war Hitchcock. The promise of Dali's involvement sounded somewhat promising, the reality wasn't quite as rosy. While these scenes are by far the highlight, they only represent a small part of the film. The rest is just endless talking on top of an overly sentimental score.

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Dr. Petersen, a psychoanalyst, falls in love with her now boss, Dr. Edwardes. One day she discovers he suffers from a strange phobia, and upon investigating further, she discovers he is an imposter. Petersen has reason to believe he may be a murderer, and so she continues her investigation to find out the truth.

As is often the case with Hitchcock, the film drowns in endless dialogue, and it isn't exactly subtle about its mystery. Blatant visual cues and an overbearing soundtrack turn this into quite the ordeal, the runtime just adds insult to injury. I really don't care for Hitchcock's mysteries and characters, and that's all there is to Spellbound.


2023 / 96m - USA
Paint poster

A rather quaint comedy based on the infamous Bobb Ross character, even though he is never called by name. It's a bit of an odd but intriguing setup that sadly doesn't go anywhere meaningful. Once the basic joke is laid out, it's repeated ad infinitum, masquerading as a simple rom-com.

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Carl is a famous Vermont painter who has his own TV show. When a new painter is brought in to improve the ratings, Carl feels like his best years are behind him. He never got back together with the love of his life and his art feels lifeless and derivative. But sometimes, hitting rock bottom is needed to get back on top of things.

Owen is fine and there are some decent laughs in the first half hour. The joke gets stale quickly and apart from the hilarious ending (the best joke of the film really), the film becomes very predictable and formulaic. It's not a terrible comedy, just one that does very little with a funny, promising premise.

District B13

Banlieue 13
2004 / 84m - France
District B13 poster

Luc Besson wasn't just a pivotal director for French genre cinema, he was also one of its most influential producers. District B13 is the film that popularised parcours (or free running), seeing the potential of its aesthetics and fluidity as a perfect addition to the spectrum of cinematic action. The result is a slick, superbly paced, and explosive little action flick that still stands proud today. It's a master class in how to do genre cinema well, while also pushing its boundaries. And it's nice to see Besson giving that opportunity to young and talented directors like Morel.

The Post-Truth World

by If Chen
Zui Hou Zhen Xiang
2022 / 120m - Taiwan
Mystery, Thriller
The Post-Truth World poster

A proper Taiwanese thriller, but I can't help but wonder what happened to the wave of promising and challenging films that made Taiwan one of the most exciting film industries of the past decade. The Post-Truth World is simple genre fare, fairly executed, but safe and by the numbers every step of the way.

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Chang was once a promising athlete, whose career was cut short when he was sentenced to prison for murdering his girlfriend. He manages to escape from prison and takes Liu, an over-the-hill sports commentator, hostage. Liu recognizes the potential and makes the most of the situation to breathe new life into his career.

The Post-Truth World is a very plot-driven film, with a central mystery that is slowly unraveled. There are some comedic touches that feel out of place, other than that there's nothing explicitly bad or annoying, it's just that the film doesn't excel at anything in particular. Simple genre filler.

Any Crybabies Around?

Naku Ko wa Ineega
2020 / 106m - Japan
Any Crybabies Around? poster

A decent but rather middle-of-the-road Japanese drama. Sato is a tad lazy and relies too much on basic drama, with so many similar films around though there's simply not enough here to make the film stand out from the crowd. Makes you wonder why this film was chosen for international distribution over a slew of better options.

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The Namahage festival is a festival held in a small, rural village. It's their single claim to fame, but when a local man appears naked on television during coverage of the festival their reputation is tarnished. Unable to continue his life in the town, the man flees to Tokyo, leaving his wife and newborn daughter behind.

The performances are decent but not spectacular, the cinematography basic, and the soundtrack too generic to make an impact. The drama itself is proper and there are some touching moments, but it's nothing I hadn't seen before. Not a bad film, just not memorable or notable in a sea of Japanese dramas.

SPEC: Life

SPEC ~Keishichou Kouanbu Kouan Daigoka Mishou Jiken Tokubetsu Taisakugakari Jikenbo~ Shou
2012 / 92m - Japan
Fantasy, Crime
SPEC: Life poster

SPEC is one of those franchises that went everywhere, trying to fit all the pieces together is nigh impossible. Life is a made-for-TV feature-length film that is set in the SPEC universe, though I have no clue how it fits into the bigger picture. Availability in the West is pretty random (and largely dependent on fandom), so you take what you can get. It's easy enough to follow once you get the basics down though.

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The Black Man is wreaking havoc among SPEC holders. It's a mysterious figure who is able to teleport, other SPEC holders appear to be powerless against him. The specialized crime unit is on his tail, but the criminal is elusive and time is running out. Things turn in their favor when they realize the Black Man is only a front, hiding a much stronger opponent.

The film's TV origin doesn't work in its favor, though it does allow Tsutsumi to go mad with weirder details (like the Vuvuzela trio). The lore and plot are interesting enough, but the lack of polish simply highlights all the unrealized potential. Not a bad film, just a tad too cheap to be truly enjoyable.

The Gentlemen

2019 / 113m - UK
Comedy, Crime
The Gentlemen poster

Ritchie's attempt to relive his former glory. The Gentlemen is a quintessential 90s Ritchie flick, only with some modern touches. That means it's an old man's film trying to pose as something hip and current, not a vibrant contemporary film trying to push the boundaries. Two very different things.

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An American weed producer is trying to sell his business in the UK. He has a potential buyer, but things don't go as smoothly as he'd hoped. One of his facilities gets raided by a bunch of youngsters, which sets in motion a series of events that are going to affect everyone involved in his dirty schemes.

British (lowlife) gangsters battle it out once again. The comedy is there, the flashy presentation and spiffy dialogue included, but we've seen all that before, done better too. It's still a fun film. The pacing is slick, there are more than enough laughs and there is some neat over-the-top violence, but it's really just a 30-year-old film with a somewhat fresh lick of paint.

Infernal Affairs III: End Inferno

Mou Gaan Dou III: Jung Gik Mou Gaan
2003 / 118m - Hong Kong
Thriller, Crime
Infernal Affairs III: End Inferno poster

The third and final part in the infamous Hong Kong Triad/spy trilogy. I liked this one the best, and upon watching it again I still think it's the best of the three. It's just not quite as slick and cunning as I remembered it to be. It's a rare example of a third film beating out its predecessors though.

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The story is both a sequel and prequel to the first film. Part of the film sees how Ming picks up his job again, suspecting another promising superintendent to be a mole for the Triads, while the other half harks back to the past, following Yan on his first undercover mission.

Leung and Lau are both splendid, the film ties together some remaining strands in interesting ways and the switch between both timelines is interesting. The presentation is a tad basic though, with too strong of a focus on the narrative. A fun film and a worthy finale, but not impressive enough to be a personal favorite.

Princess Principal Crown Handler: Chapter 1

2021 / 54m - Japan
Action, Thriller - Animation
Princess Principal Crown Handler: Chapter 1 poster

The first part in a short film trilogy, following a TV series. It's a pretty basic anime full of familiar tropes, though sporting a rather peculiar setting. That means it might take some time to get the hang of the characters and their particular function and skills, but if you've seen some anime series before, it shouldn't take you too long to catch up.

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In an alternate Britain, the country is divided into two different parts, separated by a wall (think Germany 50 years ago). While there is no outright war between the two nations, they love to spy on each other, and spy activity is ramping up. Dove, a collective of young female spies, is assigned a case where a double agent is suspected of having infiltrated the royal entourage.

The art style is a bit too slick for my taste, but the animation is decent and the film looks pretty colorful and detailed. Once you get used to the unique setup the rest of it is pretty by the numbers, even so, it never gets boring or too generic. Not the greatest anime out there, but I'll be certain to catch the remaining films, as it's far from the worst too.

Dry Summer

Susuz Yaz
1963 / 92m - Turkey
Dry Summer poster

The poster may look colorful and somewhat exciting, but the actual film is a barren and dreary drama that did very little to change my perception of classic Turkish cinema. It's stylistically poor poverty porn that thrives on misery and unpleasant characters. Not really my kind of cinema really.

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The coming summer promises to be warm and dry. Osman plans to dam the spring that originates on his property, so he is assured enough water to get him through the summer. The other farmers in the neighborhood are furious, because their crops will suffer, and they need a good harvest to support their families.

The cinematography is half-decent, but the black-and-white doesn't do the film any favors and it's far from refined enough to carry the film. The soundtrack is terrible, the plot depressing and the characters are horrible. Not the slowest film of its kind, but hard to recommend unless you're a hardcore fan of rural drama.


2018 / 97m - USA
Horror, Thriller
Bloodline poster

An amusing thriller that gets pretty graphic in places. Bloodline is pretty cold and relentless and goes against conventions (the ending in particular was pretty gratifying), but there's still a bit too much restraint for it to be truly great. Not the first Blumhouse film that struggles with this.

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Evan is a school counselor who had a pretty rough past himself. Now that he has a newborn son, he needs to let off some steam to keep everything together. He seeks out the people who mistreat the kids he counsels at school and kills them off one by one. Then a dog discovers the bodies, which puts the police on his tail.

Scott is solid but not entirely convincing, the murders are pretty gruesome but a tad repetitive, and the structure is quite predictable, though the film deserves extra credit for the interesting ending. It's an amusing and slightly off-kilter thriller, just not quite distinct enough to really set itself apart.

A Flawless Concierge

Sutekina Kakushi Dori -Kanzen Muketsu no Concierge-
2011 / 106m - Japan
A Flawless Concierge poster

An amusing TV project from Koki Mitani. It's not so much a film as a combination of sketches that draw inspiration from the same premise. It's not that different from his regular film work, except that the polish is lacking. That's not too damning for a comedy though, which is why I enjoyed this quite a bit.

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Emi is a young woman who just started working as a concierge in a fancy hotel. She is a little insecure, but her boss reassures her that all she has to do is listen to the wishes of the visitors. The people staying in the hotel are a bunch of oddballs, and it doesn't take long before Emi feels completely overwhelmed.

The film is nothing more than Emi servicing different clients. There's no real plot, none of the visitors return later on, it's all about the comedy. The styling is a bit bland and the sketches aren't the most original, but the stand-out cast and some memorable moments make this an enjoyable ride. Mitani fans won't be disappointed.