2023 / 93m - USA
Comedy, Romance
Robots poster

A basic romcom with a slightly more interesting premise. The film never really figures out what it wants to be though, bouncing back between comedy, romance, and sci-fi, with none of the genres being all that effective. It's still a fun exercise and a brave attempt to try something a little different.

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Charles has a robot version of himself that takes care of dating and work, while Elaine lets her robot double handle the physical part of relationships, while she makes sure to receive all the gifts. A mix-up brings the two robots together. They fall in love and decide to leave their human masters behind.

Whitehall and Woodley make a decent onscreen couple, but their chemistry is limited. The sci-fi elements needlessly complicate the plot and the comedy is hit-and-miss, but you can't fault the film for trying to break the mold. It's not a terrible film, it's just that the potential was there to do better.

A Madder Red

Akaneiro ni Yakareru
2021 / 144m - Japan
A Madder Red poster

Yuya Ishii's latest is a solid but overly basic Japanese drama, a film that doesn't really add much to Ishii's oeuvre, nor to the overcrowded niche it was released in. That's not to say it's a bad film, just that there are already too many films like it, making the long runtime somewhat of an unnecessary hurdle.

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Ryoko's life is turned upside down when her husband dies in an unfortunate traffic accident. Seven years later, she's still trying to make ends meet. She works as a prostitute, she has to take care of her father-in-law and her son is going through some rough times at school.

Ishii abandoned his love for dark comedy and edgier drama some years ago, this type of drama feels more like a solicitation for an upscale film festival. The acting is fine, there are some strong scenes, but it's all very much by the numbers and 140 minutes is a bit much for a film that has nothing new on offer.

Murder, My Sweet

1944 / 95m - USA
Thriller, Crime
Murder, My Sweet poster

Another overly talky noir. They sure loved to squeeze every last drop from their writers back in the day, because simple genre fluff like Murder, My Sweet is overflowing with dialogue. It's an easy way to keep the cost down I guess, since most of the film is just people yapping at each other.

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A private detective, both of his eyes bandaged, is being interrogated by the police about two unsolved murders. He tells them he was hired by Malloy to locate the ex-con's girlfriend. It's a simple enough assignment, but one that leads him into a complex web of deceit and betrayal.

There are some nice shots here, but too few and far between to make a real impact. The rest of the film is just flashbacks of how a PI got mixed up in a criminal case. It's a pretty uninteresting setup, told very slowly and deliberately, with some familiar twists along the way. Could be fun if you like the old noirs, unbearable if you don't.

Slumber Party Massacre

2021 / 86m - South Africa
Slumber Party Massacre poster

I never watched the original, but after seeing Esterhazy's Level 16 I was ready to give this film a fair shot. It turned out a lot better than I'd expected. Yes, it's another one of those horror films switching around gender roles, but it is so self-aware (and funny) that it actually worked in the film's favor.

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A group of girls gets together for a weekend away from home. They drive to a remote lake cabin, where one of the girls' mothers was almost murdered by a vicious serial killer. Their plan is to get their revenge on the killer, but when they run into a bunch of boys staying on the other side of the lake, their mission becomes a lot more complicated.

Yes, it's all about the girl power, but the kills are solid, the film isn't above making fun of its gender reversals (that shower scene) and there are a couple of fun (though predictable) twists that keep things interesting. It's a basic slasher, but with a couple of amusing touches that make it rise above its peers. This is how to do a remake.

Go, Go Second Time Virgin

Yuke Yuke Nidome no Shojo
1968 / 65m - Japan
Go, Go Second Time Virgin poster

Koji Wakamatsu's masterpiece. If you want to breach his somewhat daunting oeuvre, this is no doubt one of the best places to start. The film mixes raw and gritty drama with a more poetic vibe, though an easy watch this is not. The stark black-and-white cinematography is fitting, the soundtrack is remarkable and the characters are intriguing yet mystifying. It's certainly not a film for anyone considering its crude handling of themes like rape and suicide, but if you can stomach it, you might just discover one of the most creative films of the 60s.

Level 16

2018 / 102m - Canada
Mystery, Thriller
Level 16 poster

A nifty little genre film. The premise is rather basic and the mystery is stretched to its limit, but the stylish presentation and intriguing setup kept me glued to the screen. The payoff could've been better, and a slightly shorter runtime might've helped, but Esterhazy delivers quite the calling card.

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Vivien is part of a program that wants to create proper, obedient girls. They are trained vigorously, and when they meet expectations they advance to a higher level, after which they'll be placed in new homes. Vivien has nearly finished her training, but then Sophia warns her that the intentions of their guardians aren't quite as idyllic.

The performances are nice, the retro sci-fi look fits the film well, the presentation is clean, and the mystery is kept alive until the very end. It might've been smarter to go with an open ending and the pacing could've been a tad slicker, but if you're looking for a stylish and well-executed genre film, give this one a go.

Call Me Chihiro

2023 / 131m - Japan
Call Me Chihiro poster

A pleasant and wholesome Japanese drama. If you're looking for feel-good with a little tinge of drama then this is a pretty ideal film, but having seen so many Japanese dramas already, the film lacks a few standout elements that help to set it apart from its peers, which left me wanting.

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Chihiro works in a local bento shop, a job she took on after being a successful sex worker. She is an honest and cheerful person that looks out for the people around her, but the love she gives doesn't help to fill the loneliness she feels inside. Even so, she enjoys the connections she makes with others.

The performances are strong and Chihiro's character is lovely, but the rest of the film feels a little too laid-back. The cinematography is polished but predictable, so is the score and 130 minutes is a tad long for a film that offers no real surprises. It's a solid drama that doesn't disappoint, but it lacks something extra.


2020 / 87m - UK
Playhouse poster

A basic haunted house story, sporting padding that is at least a tad more original than usually the case. The problem is that it doesn't really affect the film much, worse is that the horror elements are relatively ineffective and leave the film stranded in a limbo that makes you wonder what its target audience was.

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Famous horror playwriter Jack Travis buys a remote castle and hopes to use it as a live stage for his next project. There's a dark legend attached to the house and Travis is planning to exploit it. The townsfolk aren't too happy to see this old bit of folklore revived and they try to stop Travis in his tracks.

The setting and characters add a bit of flair to an otherwise very simple premise, but the film never takes it anywhere. The hauntings are bland, the styling could've been better and the film lacks a proper payoff. It's never boring and quite short, but the potential was there to do more with it.


2022 / 96m - Japan
Popran poster

Ueda's latest is an oddball mix of wacky Japanese comedy and a self-reflective road movie. It's the comedy that takes center stage though, so don't expect a very deep or heavy film. The plot is incredibly ridiculous and the drama is pretty by the numbers. At the same time, the journey of the lead character is one that takes him through all his past mistakes and forces him to reflect on his life choices.

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Tagami is the CEO of a successful manga publishing company. His life goes well until he wakes up one morning with his penis gone. The doctors are stumped, but an underground organization knows more about his affliction. They tell him his penis detached itself and flew away. He has only six days to retrieve his old friend before he is lost forever.

The outrageous premise is fun, but the tone of the film is surprisingly serious (for this type of thing that is). Ueda certainly improved on the technical side, the actors do a decent job all things considered and the road trip elements add to the intrigue of the film. It's not exactly a masterpiece, but it's quite a bit better than I expected upfront.


2020 / 80m - Canada
Hall poster

A simple but fun little take on the infected niche. Mixing zombie elements with the current COVID craze, Hall is a film that tries to make the most of a single location (the title is a dead giveaway). It does a pretty good job too, though the build-up is a tad slow and the payoff could've been a bit more exciting.

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A terrible new variation of the flu is raging through the country. A family is on the run and arrives at a hotel, where they'll stay the night, before moving on the next day. When others on their floor are starting to show symptoms of infection, they'll have to be vigilant if they want to escape from the hotel alive.

There's nothing original here, and the limited scope of the film doesn't leave much room for originality either. But the execution is pretty solid. The build-up is smart, the second half is quite tense and the runtime is economic, so the film doesn't overstay its welcome. Proper genre cinema.

Buddha Palm Technique

2020 / 87m - China
Fantasy, Action
Buddha Palm Technique poster

A neat surprise. With a title sporting the words Buddha Palm, I'd expected some pretty traditional martial arts streamer filler. Instead, I got a fancy urban fantasy flick that transports the classic martial arts elements to a more futuristic/fantastical setting. It's a level of creativity and boldness rarely seen in Chinese streamer land, but I sure welcome the diversification.

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Jian Bei, a debt collector, works hard to support himself and his sister. She is terminally ill, but there is a chance she might survive. She can be given an experimental treatment, but in order to get it, Bei will need to pitch in. He'll be given the Buddha Palm skill, which he'll need to complete three arduous tasks. If he can manage that, his sister will be saved.

The setting is cool and the fantastical elements feel pretty novel. The CG can still be a little iffy, but it is mostly functional and the film does a good job of bringing its fantastical sci-fi world to life. Other than that it's a slick but relatively generic action flick. We already know China can crank these out with the dozens, so to see some new elements introduced is definitely a big plus. Good fun.

You Only Live Once

1937 / 86m - USA
Thriller, Crime
You Only Live Once poster

One of Fritz Lang's early USA films. His move to the US drove him to the noir genre, a disappointing switch that made the latter half of his career a lot less appealing. You Only Live Once falls prey to the pitfalls most 30s films faced: exaggerated performances mixed with an overabundance of dialogue.

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After sitting out three convictions in jail, Taylor decides to better his life. When he gets together with Joan he makes a real effort, but an unlucky coincidence turns him into the lead suspect of a bank robbery. He is jailed once again, and apart from Joan nobody believes in his innocence. All Taylor cares about is to be reunited with the woman he loves.

The performances are overstated, the plot is pretty simplistic and the endless chatter is distracting. The final third gets a bit more visual, with some moodier moments, but the black-and-white cinematography isn't distinguished enough to make a real difference. It's all just very generic.


2020 / 90m - New Zealand
Comedy, Crime
Dead poster

A cute little comedy that tacks on a bunch of other genres to make things a bit more interesting. Horror, fantasy, and crime elements were added, but in the end, everything is played for laughs. There was a touch too much drama for my taste though, which messed with the pacing of the film.

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Marbles isn't doing much with his life, his only claim to fame is that he came up with a cocktail of drugs that allows him to see ghosts. One day he is visited by a police officer who was just murdered. He wants Marbles to help him catch the culprit. It's a dangerous mission, but Marbles could use the money that's on offer.

The dry comedy (pretty typical for New Zealand) is fun and the mix of genres is interesting, but the film never pushes things beyond the expected, and there is a little excess drama that doesn't really fit with the rest of the film. It's pleasant filler that doesn't outstay its welcome, but it could've been a bit more daring to really stand out from the rest.

Dragon Ball: Sleeping Beauty in Devil Castle

Doragon Bôru: Majinjô no Nemuri Hime
1987 / 45m - Japan
Action, Adventure - Animation
Dragon Ball: Sleeping Beauty in Devil Castle poster

The second of the Dragon Ball films pretty much delivered what I expected from it. It has that cute retro 80s anime charm, making it a rather simplistic but entertaining mid-length feature. My expectations were pretty limited when I started my recent Dragon Ball journey, but these older films at least turn out to be pretty light and fun.

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Goku and Krillin want Roshi as their sensei, but before he accepts them as apprentices, he has a little mission they need to complete. They are to retrieve the Sleeping Princess and bring her to Roshi. The princess is locked up in a rather perilous castle, and the two will have to learn to work together if they want to get out of there alive.

The art style is basic (but recognizable), and the animation is above-average. There's plenty of comedy and action to keep you distracted from the rudimentary plot, and with only 45 minutes to wrap everything up, you can be sure the pacing is nothing but slick. It's far from an absolute classic, but more than capable filler.

Guardians of the Galaxy 3

2023 / 150m - USA
Sci-fi, Adventure
Guardians of the Galaxy 3 poster

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of Marvel's most colorful properties and Gunn has proven himself to be a fun director before, but this series never really finds its footing. This is exemplified by the coolest action scene of the third film, set to an oldfarty Beastie Boys track that drains it from half of its power.

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When Rocket is gravely hurt, they need to trace his roots to save his life. This is how they come across the High Evolutionary, a madman who is trying to build and perfect his own societies. When he hears Rocket is still alive, he wants him back under his control, something the Guardians cannot allow.

There are some cool action scenes, the budget is put to good use and though the film is at least 30 minutes too long, the pacing is pretty slick. The score is horrible though and the comedy is pretty cringe-worthy. I think Gunn fares better at DC, where he is allowed to be a little more daring and edgy, but I just wish he'd go back to directing smaller films.

Law of Desire

La Ley del Deseo
1987 / 102m - Spain
Drama, Thriller
Law of Desire poster

An earlier Almodóvar, which in Almodóvar's case, is not a bad thing. His earlier films are a bit more vibrant and dynamic compared to his later work. Law of Desire is no exception. While not a film that is typically in my wheelhouse, there was enough here to keep me entertained throughout.

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Pablo is a respected director, but his love for Juan, a younger man who doesn't love him back, makes it hard for him to focus on his job. He tries to forget Juan by hooking up with Antonio, but he turns out to be a rather jealous lover, and when he learns about Pablo's fascination with Juan, things get hairy.

The performances are fun, the cinematography is colorful and there are scenes that don't do all that much to advance the plot, but they are amusing and memorable. The film does get a bit too talkative at times and I didn't care too much for its artistic setting, other than that a solid Almodóvar.