2006 / 121m - Spain
Volver poster

Not the best Almodóvar. While it sounds pretty wild on paper, the film itself isn't as vibrant and original as I'd hoped it would be. That's an issue I have with most of his post-2000 films though, he's one of those rare directors whose older films are actually more appealing to me, so I came in prepared.

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When Raimunda's partner dies, she tries to keep this fact hidden from the outside world. It's not easy and it requires her to make up some wild stories, her life gets even more complicated when she hears stories about her mother coming back from the dead and appearing to familiars.

For a drama the film is quite colorful and light, but it lacks the energy of Almodóvar's older work. It also gets quite sentimental in the second half, whereas I was hoping for a more livelier finale. It's not a terrible film, just not all that memorable either, and considering the premise, that's a missed opportunity.

The Sparring Partner

Jing Yi Wui Long
2022 / 138m - Hong Kong
Thriller, Crime
The Sparring Partner poster

Based on an actual murder case. The Sparring Partner could've been an amazing neo-noir (like Limbo), but it mixes in a lot of courtroom drama, which messes up the pacing of the film (and adds to the runtime unnecessarily). My hopes were a little higher going in, but Ho Cheuk-Tin shows he has potential.

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Henry murders and dismembers his parents, with the help of his friend Angus. He concocts a story to clear his name, but the police find evidence to bring him to court. Henry and Angus plead not guilty, and it's up to the jury to find out who is lying. Ony, with every new witness that comes to the stand, the case becomes more confusing.

The murders are gruesome, the two lead characters are terrific and the way the case unravels is pretty interesting. It's just the "12 Angry Men"-like interludes that drag the film down. A more refined genre mix and a little more bravery on the cutting floor might've turned this into a future classic.


1939 / 94m - USA
Comedy, Romance
Midnight poster

A light comedy from the 30s. That means you expect lots of spitfire dialogues, some confusion and coincidences, and a fickle romance. I'm not a big fan of the screwball comedies of that era, but this one wasn't the worst of the bunch, in part thanks to Colbert's spirited performance.

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Eve is a young girl who ends up in Paris. She's on the run but she gets into trouble almost right away. Her cab driver falls in love with her, and a wealthy man sees Eve as the perfect companion to get his wife to abandon her affair. That's not all, because Eve's past will come back to haunt her.

Colbert is cheery and amusing, the rest of the cast less so, but at least none of them is overly wooden. The plot isn't that interesting and the dialogue is flaccid rather than witty, but that's something that bothers me whenever I'm watching comedies from that era. Not my kind of funny.


2023 / 86m - USA
Pollen poster

Horror with an odd twist. I wouldn't go as far as to call it a comedy, but there are some dark comedy streaks here that help liven things up. Not everything works and the film could've used a little extra polish (and be a little less obvious), but for a first feature, there's more than enough potential.

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Hera has just started her job. She is good at what she does, but she works in a cut-throat firm and her colleagues don't cut her any slack. When her boss maltreats her on a date and ditches her when Hera isn't willing enough to do as he pleases, her mind starts to slip and she latches on to the only present she got from her boss: a plant.

The characters are a tad cliché, the performances aren't great and the first half needs some time to get going, but things get better as the film becomes increasingly weird. Pollen is definitely a memorable one, sporting a weird mix of horror and comedy, with some mystery and fantasy elements thrown in for good measure. Fun, but imperfect.


1990 / 72m - USA
Horror, Experimental
Begotten poster

One of the darkest and most uncomfortable films I know. Begotten is an experimental film with a strong cult feel. The high-contrast cinematography is extreme (to the point where scenes become very hard to follow), the plot is very muddy (best to do some reading up afterward), and without dialogue or discernible performances, it really comes down to the atmosphere. Luckily, the film is dripping in mood, though it's undoubtedly divisive. Films like this are very singular and because of that, they are very much hit-or-miss. For me, Begotten was definitely the latter: a unique and worthwhile experience.


2017 / 82m - Turkey
Horror, Mystery
Housewife poster

Well, this sure was something. Evrenol already made a statement with Baskin, he repeats that with Housewife. It may not be the most coherent or properly structured horror film, but it oozes atmosphere and it doesn't hold back when it's time to deliver. That's what good genre cinema is all about.

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Holly survives a family drama, but the events leave a mental scare. Years later a friend of hers returns after joining a weird cult. She invites Holly to one of their seminars. Speaking to their leader, Holly's old traumas resurface and she ends up in a dream world, with only the cult leader as her guide.

The performances aren't that great (but passable) and the plot's a little messy, but the cinematography is great, and the mishmash of horror references makes for an exciting film. The gore is also pretty fine, the pacing and short runtime seal the deal. A pretty nice find, but not for everybody.

Princess Principal Crown Handler: Chapter 2

2021 / 56m - Japan
Action, Thriller - Animation
Princess Principal Crown Handler: Chapter 2 poster

This second film in the series offers more of the same. It's a peculiar mix of elements that don't quite fit together, at the same time it's what gives this film its unique identity. If the idea of watching a band of underage girls solving big spy mysteries in an alternative take on Victorian England appeals to you, this is definitely the anime you should be watching.

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A failed assassination attempt on the third prince has the kingdom in an uproar, but secret intelligence suggests this is merely a diversion to mask a bigger plot. Three experimental bombs have been stolen and word is that the bombs were smuggled into the kingdom. The girls will have to figure out who is behind these evil plans and what their end goal is.

The animation is pretty decent, and the slight steampunk elements are fun, but the style is a bit flat and too polished for my liking. The premise really makes no sense, but the films are properly paced and there's little time to get bored. It is far from the greatest anime I've seen, but it's easily digestible, distinct enough, and smart enough not to overstay its welcome.


1969 / 88m - West Germany
Katzelmacher poster

Early Fassbinder. I'm not really familiar with his work yet, but I liked this one slightly better than Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, the other film of his I've seen. It's rather slow and uneventful, but the stark cinematography and restrained performances create an almost trance-like atmosphere. Not great, but quite unique.

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Giorgos is a Greek immigrant. He tries to find his place in Munich, but the people there aren't too happy to see him. They try to drive him out, and when that doesn't seem to work, they molest him. The only person who is nice to him is Maria, a young woman who has fallen in love with Giorgos.

The film looks overwhelmingly white, the camera work is stark and restrained, and the actors are stoic but not wooden. The plot and characters appealed less to me, not ideal for a film that is little more than conversations between loitering people. The stylistic choices saved it for me, though only barely.

Buddy Games: Spring Awakening

2023 / 95m - USA
Buddy Games: Spring Awakening poster

A loose sequel. The Buddy Games themselves (what's in a name) are pretty much gone this time around, instead, the film offers a new adventure for the same group of friends (minus one, the plot killed him off). It's not the best premise and the film is wildly uneven, but there's still some fun to be had.

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Durfy died trying to become an actor, his best friends kidnap his urn and take it to the place where he had the best time of his life. When they arrive there, spring break is in full swing. The place brings back old memories and they remember Durfy had a vacation crush. A local bar owner tells them she's still in the neighborhood, so they decide to pay her a visit.

The plot is all over the place and the comedy is a bit cheap. Endless woke jokes and a childish focus on drugs and alcohol get tired pretty quickly, but the light and breezy mood makes it somewhat bearable. A step down from the first film (which wasn't all that great, to begin with), but at least it's another core comedy. A rare breed indeed.

Twilight Syndrome: Dead Go Round

Towairaito Shindorômu: Deddo Gôrando
2008 / 71m - Japan
Twilight Syndrome: Dead Go Round poster

A short and cheap Japanese horror film. The premise is pretty fun, but Mari Asato didn't have much in the way of budget and time to turn this into something of significant worth. It's not too bad if you're looking for generic horror filler, or if you're a fan of the video game series this was based upon, as long as you keep your expectations in check.

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Seven people are invited to try out the latest game by a legendary underground game developer. They meet up at an amusement park, where an eerie clown welcomes them and introduces them to the game. Soon enough they find out that the game is not without risk and that the clown has some deadly games in store for them.

The performances are pretty bad, the film looks dead cheap and the horror elements are rather bland (apart from the clown's mask I guess). The idea behind the film is pretty interesting though, which adds some much-needed intrigue to the second half of the film. It's not quite enough to save it, but it's hardly the worst Japanese horror I've seen.

Follow Her

2022 / 92m - USA
Horror, Mystery
Follow Her poster

A fun little meta-horror. The societal critique is only skin-deep, the performances are borderline and some parts are a bit too heavy on the wink-wink-nudge-nudge, but there are some fun little twists here, and fame-whoring social media poses are thankful victims when there's a layer of dark comedy present.

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Jess uses her social account to highlight people using sketchy ads for luring others into their perversions. She keeps her victims anonymous, but an error reveals the identity of her latest find, triggering the video to go viral. Sometime later she agrees to co-write an erotic thriller, which seems like easy money.

The film is a little rough around the edges, but there are a lot of things that work and it's always nice to see a film try to do something new. I also appreciated the open ending, which works as a perfect conversation starter for people wanting to discuss the film. There's room for improvement, but I had a lot of fun with this one.

The Apostles

Gui Zhen
2013 / 91m - Hong Kong
Sci-fi, Fantasy, Horror
The Apostles poster

A Western-style horror seen through an Asian lens. You don't find those too often. While Hollywood has been eager enough to remake the more lauded Asian horror films, Asia has been mostly doing its own thing. The Apostles is a pretty fun diversion, but it's a little messy and unfocused. A cocktail of familiar elements that lacks cohesion.

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A writer fears her husband might be cheating on her. One night she gets a phone call to tell her he died in a plane crash. His cell phone is found in the bag of another woman, who also died in the crash. She launches an investigation to find out what her spouse hid from her. It's a journey that takes her to a remote, mysterious hotel.

Weird hillbillies, a mindfuck plot with more twists than a person has fingers, underground conspiracies, and more. It all flashes by and the separate parts hardly connect, but the film is still pretty moody and the execution is solid, apart from some shoddy CG. The Apostles isn't the most accomplished film, but it's still a lot of fun and certainly doesn't deserve the critical trashing it received.

Fantasy Magician 2

Qi Men Dun Jia 2
2023 / 92m - China
Fantasy, Action
Fantasy Magician 2 poster

A film that raises the question: what's the meaning of a sequel in the age of Chinese streamers? The same directorial duo tackles a new story set in the same world as the first film, which sounds like the usual sequel fare. But there are so (so) many similar films out there these days, that you need to have a good look at the title and credits to even notice the similarities.

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The son of Zhou has had a harsh life. When he finally has a son, his boy is born blind. Remembering the special power of his father, he digs up his grave, hoping that this power can act as a cure for his son. By doing so, he unleashes an evil he has no control over, endangering his own offspring's life.

The special effects are pretty decent (they still stand out, but the designs are pretty cool and the craft is getting better), the action is nice, the pacing is scorching and the film is short and snappy (though a little longer than most of its peers). It's good genre fluff, but still far removed from a personal favorite.

Cat Soup

2001 / 34m - Japan
Fantasy, Adventure - Animation
Cat Soup poster

A by now legendary cult anime. Cat Soup used to be one of those in-crowd titles that were passed around on obscure anime forums. You had to be quite entrenched in the genre (or extremely lucky) to have heard of the film, though throughout the years its reputation has grown significantly. Solid animation, a high dose of absurdity mixed with surrealism, and high pacing make this film a real treat. And every time you feel you start to get a grip on the film, Sato introduces something completely new to pull the rug from under you. An absolute delight.

Skinford: Chapter Two

2018 / 86m - Australia
Comedy, Horror, Crime
Skinford: Chapter Two poster

A very solid sequel. It's not just a bigger and bolder redo of the original, instead, Kacevski uses this film to expand and grow the Skinford universe. The madness of the original is still present, most of the characters make a (welcome) return, and the lore remains fresh and original. This is how you do a sequel.

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Together with Jimmy, Zophia tries to find out how to break her curse. That's easier said than done when the two biggest crime syndicates are doing their best to discover her location. There are still some people left who are willing to help them. All the clues lead to Helen's mansion, the former boss of Zophia.

The characters are wacky and larger-than-life, the cinematography is polished, the plot takes some interesting twists and turns and the mix of comedy, action, and horror is exhilarating. It's a series that is very close to being a personal favorite of mine, all it needs are a few more stand-out moments. Bring on the third one!

Full River Red

Man Jiang Hong
2023 / 159m - China
Mystery, Thriller
Full River Red poster

Yimou Zhang's latest feels like a reimagining of Hero with all the fight scenes removed. If you didn't like Hero's focus on fantastical martial arts that may sound like a wet dream. And sure enough, there's plenty of intrigue here, it's just that people talking about conspiracies for almost three hours straight isn't the most invigorating way to construct a film.

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There's a bit of a mystery involving a missing letter, two chosen soldiers are tasked to find the letter and reveal its message. They set off on their mission, but it quickly dawns on them that their mission won't be all that simple. With each discovery they make, they get one step closer to a massive conspiracy.

Without the action bits, Yimou struggles to keep things interesting throughout. He certainly tried, with a clear focus on people walking from point A to B (I know that sounds weird, but watching the film, it'll make sense) and a strangely modernized score, but it's not quite enough. The mystery is nice and the twists and reveals are properly realized, but nothing justifies the excessive runtime. Good by any standard, but not great.