Very Bad Things

1998 / 100m - USA
Comedy, Thriller
Very Bad Things poster

An old personal favorite that isn't quite as great anymore. It's still a perfectly serviceable dark comedy, with a hilarious ending. It's just that the way there has lost some of its charm for me. While there's still plenty to like, Berg's direction is a little too flat to leave a strong impression.

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Before Kyle ties the knot, he and his friends will take a short trip to Vegas to celebrate Kyle's final days as a free man. When they're there, they accidentally kill a stripper/prostitute, though that's only the start of their problems. They get out unscathed, but then the guilt starts eating away at them.

There are some very cruel and funny twists here, it's just that there's too much bickering going on. Half of the film is just five men shouting at each other, which gets a little tiring. It's a shame (and also not very funny). The payoff is worth it though, and it's rare to see Hollywood cinema that mean-spirited. Still, not quite the superb film I remembered it to be.

A Far Shore

Tooi Tokoro
2022 / 128m - Japan
A Far Shore poster

A pretty dark and ruthless drama. It's certainly not the easiest watch, and if you're looking for something light then it's better to skip this one altogether. Kudo piles on the misery but also finds beauty in the characters' suffering. The man clearly has potential, with a little extra refinement this could've been a personal favorite.

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Aoi must drop out of high school when she gives birth to her son. She lives with Masaya, her husband, but they struggle to make ends meet. Aoi takes on a job in a nightclub, but more frequent police raids make the owner weary. When Masaya loses his job, Aoi is forced to make some tough choices.

There are moments of sheer beauty here, but there are also scenes where the film finds itself too close to other more generic, everyday dramas. The contrast between the two is just a little too big to ignore. Solid performances, a few very stylish scenes and some harsh moments do make this an easy recommendation.

Blow Out

1981 / 108m - USA
Mystery, Crime
Blow Out poster

Not De Palma's most famous film, though it has a pretty big cult following. It's a political thriller in the same vein as The Conversation, though a tiny bit more stylish in its execution. It's a far cry from De Palma's best work though, and there were quite a few moments where I lost my interest in the plot.

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Jack works as a soundman on B-movies. When he's out in the mountains recording sounds, he witnesses a car crash. The cause of the accident was a blown tire, but Jack's trained ear heard a second bang, right before. When he is interrogated by the police, it's clear they don't want to record his version of the facts.

De Palma's eye for visual splendor breaks through from time to time, but not often enough to save the film. The performances are middling, the plot is pretty dull and the runtime is excessive. I will say that I'm not a big fan of these (slow) political thrillers from the 70s, so Blow Out was fighting an uphill battle from the start.

Asyl: Park and Love Hotel

Pâku ando Rabuhoteru
2007 / 111m - Japan
Asyl: Park and Love Hotel poster

A fine Japanese drama sporting a handful of broken characters. It's not a surprise this one is from the 00s, a time when Japanese dramas weren't afraid to be a bit edgier. I'm a bit surprised I never heard about this film before, as it has everything to be a minor favorite amongst genre fans.

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Tamaki's husband disappeared 20 years ago, and ever since she's been running a love hotel by herself. She opened up the roof and made it into a little park, where people from the neighborhood can come and take a break. Tamaki is a good-hearted person, but she also hides a darker past.

The cinematography is gritty but attractive, the soundtrack is very fitting and the performances are strong. It's an impressive debut from director Kumasaka, though it lacks that little extra that could've helped it stand out from an already overcrowded niche. Still, a very solid recommendation if you like this kind of thing.

Aragne: Sign of Vermillion

2018 / 75m - Japan
Fantasy, Horror - Animation
Aragne: Sign of Vermillion poster

A cool blend of horror and fantasy that reminded me a little of Boogiepop Phantom. This was clearly a passion project, very conceptual and intricate, but also very restrained budget-wise. It's not often you see original anime feature films these days though, so kudos to getting a film like this produced. It makes me yearn for the golden years of anime, some two decades ago.

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Kirika is a young woman who just bought an apartment. Her new home doesn't look exactly as advertised and she feels quite bummed about the purchase. To make things worse, a serial killer is out and about, making it very unsafe to wander around alone. Kirika is about to find out a much darker secret about her old neighborhood.

The art style is lovely, though the mix of hand-drawn and CG can be a little crude, as is the quality of the animation. The film looks moody though and coupled with the stylish soundtrack it makes for a superb atmosphere. The plot and lore are interesting too, a bit overly complex in places, but with so much derivative nonsense out there, that's hardly a negative. An impressive little film.


2017 / 85m - Australia
Horror, Crime
Skinford poster

Well hello. I'm not sure what happened to Skinford, or how it failed to become a cult favorite, but somehow it took me until the release of the third film to learn this little franchise existed. And even then I bumped into it completely by accident. For those who love a good genre flick sporting a unique flavor, be sure to give this one a shot.

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Skinford is a no-good criminal who keeps getting in trouble. When a contract killer puts him in an early grave, he is saved by a mysterious girl whose proximity grants him immunity to injury. Skinford realizes her immense potential, but the criminals who are after him would rather have her for themselves.

Oddball characters, a strange mix of horror, crime, and fantasy, and a story that isn't quite as predictable as you'd imagine it to be. Not everything works, some of the side stories aren't quite as interesting, but at least it dares to be different. And the best thing is, there are two more to explore. Skinford is a real find, watch it if you haven't already.

Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone

Doragon Bôru Z: Ora no Gohan wo Kaese
1989 / 41m - Japan
Fantasy, Action - Animation
Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone poster

And this is where it all went southward. The first three Dragon Ball films were surprisingly fun, but they were all part of the old series. This fourth film is linked to the Z series, which is a very different beast. Gone is the lightness, replaced by more action and a stronger dedication to the plot and characters. Both are incredibly dumb and uninteresting, especially when forced to take them seriously.

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The plot is as basic as can be. Young Gohan is kidnapped because of the dragon ball he wears on his head. Garlic Jr is behind the plot, as he needs all the dragon balls to wish for control over the entire universe. Garlic gets what he wants, but Son Goku and his friends band together to stop him in his tracks. It turns out that Gohan himself isn't exactly powerless either.

The art style is a big step down from the original. The animation isn't quite as good either, but still better than many similar projects of its era. The film itself is little more than a single, big fight, interrupted by uninteresting dialogue. Not my kind of anime, and I'm not sure if I'll get very far with the coming films.


1995 / 30m - Japan
Marehito poster

A short Japanese sci-fi film with cyberpunk-like qualities. It's not very punk though, there's no crazy camera work or gritty black-and-white cinematography to make it a clear member of this particular niche. There is however a strong fetish-like quality that will appeal to its dedicated fans.

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A lone soldier patrols the border of two nations that have separated all ties but aren't formally at war with each other. The soldier has to listen to the speeches of the opposing leader and spends the rest of his time together with a female android that was assigned to him. One day he gets a visit from a superior, telling him his android is due for an upgrade.

This is clearly a no-budget work, but Sato did pretty well to cover it up. The props look cool, the color work is nice, and the camera work is stark. The concept is a little thin though and while 30 minutes is pretty short, I feel more could've been done with it. A cute diversion, but not up to par with other Japanese cyberpunk films.


2022 / 107m - USA
Comedy, Mystery
Vengeance poster

I didn't have high hopes going in. I'm not a big Novak fan and the Texas setting didn't sound too appealing. But Novak delivers a quirky, enjoyable, and slyly funny mystery with light noir touches. Perfectly fine filler, until the ending comes along, and almost out of nowhere Kutcher's monologue cuts way deeper than expected.

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Ben is a respected writer, who wants to get into the podcast business. When he is contacted by the family of Abilene (a random fling), telling him she died of an overdose, Ben finds an ideal subject for his podcast. Her brother believes she was murdered, together they try to figure out the real story behind Abilene's death.

The mix of mystery and gentle dark comedy is pleasant, Novak does pretty well as lead/director (not an easy combination) and the pacing is solid. The structure of the narrative is a little bland and predictable, but the finale is sharp and pointed and makes sure the film ends on a high note. Here's to hoping Novak sticks with making feature films.

The Cat Returns

Neko no Ongaeshi
2002 / 75m - Japan
Fantasy, Adventure - Animation
The Cat Returns poster

One of the weaker Ghibli films, but still worth a watch. It's a spin-off that gives us a little background about the Baron, the famed cat statue from Whisper of the Heart. The plot's a little thin and the art style is a tad disappointing. Other than that you'll find the classic Ghibli quality on display, just not quite as refined as you might be used to from them.

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One day, on her walk back from school, Haru rescues a cat that is about to get hit by a truck. What she doesn't know is that he is the prince of the Cat Kingdom. To thank Haru, the king kidnaps her and wants her to marry his son. Luckily Haru gets help from the baron and his friends, who will do their best to save Haru from this dire fate.

The animation is solid, and the background art is beautiful, but something is off with the character designs. The people look too thin and the upright-walking cats are a little awkward. The film isn't quite as magical and fantastical as it should be. It's not bad and there's actually plenty to like here, it's just that I expect more from a Ghibli film.

The Butcher

Le Boucher
1970 / 93m - France
Drama, Thriller
The Butcher poster

My first real Chabrol (the other one I've seen was a late-career film). I can't say I was very impressed, though the film has a clear signature, which counts for something. The blend of stiff drama and thriller elements never really came together for me, with the drama dragging things down unnecessarily.

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An uptight and emotionally repressed teacher befriends a simple, grim butcher when they meet at a wedding. They form an unlikely duo, but while the butcher wouldn't mind if their relationship grew into something more, the teacher keeps her distance. Meanwhile, a serial killer is on the loose in the village where they both reside.

The soundtrack creates a strong mood and the thriller elements are pretty effective, the drama, on the other hand, is lifeless and the performances are stiff and theatrical. As a result, the film comes off rather forced and unnatural. The finale is by far the best part, with the thriller elements finally taking center stage. Promising, not overall not that good.

Motion Detected

2023 / 80m - USA
Motion Detected poster

Technology gone haywire. It's never quite clear why or how we're dealing with an alarm system that has it out for the inhabitants of its home, but that's the premise of this simple horror flick. The tech-doom meets horror setup is hardly original, the execution on the other hand is decent enough for easily digestible genre filler.

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After being attacked by a serial killer in her old home, Eva and her husband move to an upscale, quiet neighborhood in Los Angeles. As soon as they arrive, Eva's husband has to leave again on business. While he is away, the alarm system that is supposed to protect Eva is starting to act up.

Suspension of disbelief is the keyword here. The story doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but if you're willing to go along with it, Motion Detected is a pretty atmospheric horror flick. Nothing stands out, but there are no clear negatives either. It's just slick, short and pleasant genre filler.

Fox Legend

by Wu Ma
Ling Hu
1990 / 80m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
Fox Legend poster

Fox lore is crazy popular in Chinese cinema right now, so it's no surprise older films that fit the criteria are seeing some newfound attention. Wu Ma made this little shelf filler more than 30 years ago, and while it's not as good as some of its more notorious peers, it's well worth checking out for people who love a dose of 90s martial arts/fantasy.

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A young boy rescues a young fox from its cage. The fox was caught by the Hunt King, who tracks down mythical creatures and keeps them separated from humans. The fox is grateful, but she loses track of the boy, it's only years later that they will meet up again. The fox's mother isn't too happy when she finds out one of her cubs has developed a fondness for a human.

The forbidden love between humans and demons is a common theme in these fantastical films, it's also the perfect excuse to mix, fantasy, action, and romance, so who am I to complain? The execution is solid, not up there with the best, but still way better than could be expected from mere filler like this. A pretty cool find, certainly if you've already seen all the big films in the genre.

Bad Match

2017 / 90m - USA
Horror, Thriller
Bad Match poster

Tinder dates gone wrong. Bad Match is a pretty basic thriller that turns horror in the final third. Don't expect too much in the way of gore or suspense though, the film plays a swift game of "who's the bad guy" and keeps it up until the very end. It exploits the genre clichés rather well, except that the finale is too predictable.

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Harris is a Tinder wizard who thinks he has things figured out. He has devised the perfect formula for getting women to sleep with them, after which he dumps them. That is until he meets Riley. She isn't willing to let him go so easily, and when Harris gets mean, she is eager to get her revenge.

The performances are decent, the characters are certifiable assholes (which fits the brief) and Chirchirillo is smart to leave things uncertain until the very end. The ending could've used some work though, and there isn't quite enough here to make it a truly memorable film, but if you're looking for cute filler, it's a pretty solid choice.

Dragon Ball: Mystical Adventure

Doragon Bôru: Makafushigi Dai Bôken
1988 / 48m - Japan
Action, Adventure - Animation
Dragon Ball: Mystical Adventure poster

The third and final one of the classic Dragon Ball movies (after this, it was Z's time to shine). This is just more of the same, but what did you expect? The ever-growing crew is looking to collect all the Dragon Balls, while some villains are trying to d the same. The plot gets a little messy with so many characters and so little, but in the end, everything will be wrapped up neatly.

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The emperor is hosting a special martial arts tournament that brings together all the strongest fighters in the world. The tournament is a secret ploy to complete the emperor's collection of Dragon Balls. Goku and Killin are present, hoping to win the tournament, instead, they'll be putting up a serious fight to protect what is theirs.

The art style and animation are well above par, the entertainment value is high (if you like this type of messy plot) and the short runtime makes absolutely sure there is no time to get bored. It's all very simple and basic, but it's amusing filler regardless. I'm a bit bummed that this is already the last one in the original series.

The Scarlet Empress

1934 / 104m - USA
Drama, Romance
The Scarlet Empress poster

A classic Dietrich film. She may have been a striking actress in her time, but her taste in films hasn't really convinced me yet. The Scarlet Empress is a pretty gaudy, sentimental drama that lives somewhere between silent cinema and the early talkies, failing to find a good balance.

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Catherine, a young German princess, is forced to wed Peter, heir to the Russian throne. She reluctantly accepts her fate, but she vigilantly refuses to bear his child. When Russia finds itself in a conflict with Poland, Catherine sees her chance to get rid of Peter and seize control over the throne.

The cinematography has its moments, but the soundtrack is a real mood killer, and the acting is pretty terrible, relying on expressiveness as if Sternberg was still making silents. The plot isn't too interesting either unless you're interested in Russian history. Not my kind of film.


2017 / 84m - UK
Comedy, Horror
Canaries poster

A horror/comedy that relies heavily on its funny bits to stay afloat. This was clearly a low-budget affair, even so, if you want to do sci-fi and horror you still need to nail the genre elements. The props and costumes looked cheap and homemade, luckily there are enough laughs to compensate.

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Aliens are experimenting on humans, and they're getting cockier with every attempt. When they plan their next attack in Wales, they contact the authorities on Earth and dare them to watch what they have planned. A London DJ finds himself in the middle of the alien strike, together with his friends he'll have to fight to survive.

The film doesn't look dirt cheap, but it doesn't come off too convincing either. The yellow raincoats were a smart choice, the nails and eyes needed some extra work. The juicy accents and quirky characters offset the poor presentation, but can't hind the fact that the skill and talent weren't there to fully pull this off. Middling filler.


2023 / 93m - USA
Comedy, Action, Horror
Renfield poster

Surprisingly fun and over-the-top. Apart from Nicolas Cage portraying Dracula in a horror/comedy, I had no idea what to expect, which is probably the best way to go into this film. Renfield isn't pushing any boundaries, but it is pretty blunt and brutal for a blockbuster production, which is always a neat surprise.

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Renfield is fed up with being Dracula's familiar. While Dracula is recovering from another vicious vampire hunter attack, he attends a support group, which gives him the strength to stand up to his master. Dracula isn't too pleased with Renfield's decision to abandon his duties, so he plans his sweet revenge.

Hoult and Awkwafina are decent (which is more than I could wish for), while Cage is deliciously extreme. It's McKay's frivolous direction that is the real star. Bouncing between silly/goofy and brutal/vicious, the film offers the perfect blend of horror and comedy (at least for a blockbuster production). Good fun and properly trimmed to fit 90 minutes. Exemplary.