Tetsujin 28

Tetsujin Niju-Hachigo
2005 / 119m - Japan
Sci-fi, Action
Tetsujin 28 poster

Based on an old manga. That probably gave the maker the idea that they could get away with some ultracheap CG (that retro feel, you know). Well, they were wrong. Tetsujin 28 is a decent enough Kaiju flick, but the monster/mecha battles are absolutely ridiculous for a film made in 2007. And that's the core of the film.

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The Black Ox appears on Earth, and only a young boy can stop him. He has the power to control Tetsujin 28, an old robot that was discontinued after the war ended. Before he can take on Black Ox, he has to learn to control T-28, and that's not an easy feat, especially for a young boy like Shotaro.

Some decent acting talent and a classic Kaiju structure could've made this into an amusing sci-fi romp, but the CG really is unbelievably bad. The robots look dumb and the PS1-like action scenes are an affront. It's a shame, Japan can do a lot better than this, this is just lazy milking of a popular franchise.

Graffiti of Otaku Generation

Otaku no Video
1991 / 96m - Japan
Comedy - Animation
Graffiti of Otaku Generation poster

A unique look into Japanese fandom, set up as a mockumentary. Its biggest feat is that the film still comes off as genuine and heartfelt, even though it doesn't really spare its subjects. It's a very solid introduction to otaku culture, it contains many references to the birth of Gainax (the studio behind the film and best known for Hideaki Anno's involvement) and the comedy is spot on. It's one of those "better experienced than explained" films and even (or maybe especially) to this day, it remains surprisingly accessible. A true anime classic.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves poster

This would have been fun if it had actually been funny. The film takes more than a few cues from Thor: Ragnarok's success, but merely copying a formula isn't enough to make a good film. They did have the right idea though, I find this type of fantasy a lot easier to stomach when done as a comedy.

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Edgin is a small-time thief. One day he is played by a red wizard as he steals a relic for her that grows her power tremendously. Edgin has moral standards and he wants to right his wrongs. Together with a band of friends, he begins his adventure to steal to relic back and save his daughter in the process.

The fantasy bits are pretty boring, and so is the aesthetic. It's a shame the comedy wasn't funnier, Chris Pine isn't a good fit and most of the jokes felt lazy and predictable. Still, the light tone made it quite a bit easier to make it until the end. Next time, get some better writers and a proper director.

The Bridges of Madison County

1995 / 135m - USA
Drama, Romance
The Bridges of Madison County poster

Iegh. I never cared much for Eastwood as an actor, but he's possibly even worse as a director. His films are always so incredibly serious and sentimental while feeling so fake and insincere that they end up becoming utter kitsch. That's pretty much what these 135 minutes (!) felt like to me.

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After their mother died, two siblings find her diary and discover that she had an affair when they were still kids. When a National Geographic photographer visited their town on an assignment to photograph the bridges in the neighborhood, they had a short romance that nobody ever knew about.

Streep is somewhat decent, but Eastwood is a terrible actor and there is zero chemistry between the two. The cinematography is offputting, the score is incredibly sappy and the film drags to get itself over the 2-hour barrier. An unsightly film, it's beyond me where it got its positive reputation from.

Soul Eating Spider

2023 / 69m - China
Fantasy, Adventure
Soul Eating Spider poster

Not the best Chinese streamer flick out there. They've been gradually upping their game, but that doesn't mean that every new film is better than the last. Soul Eating Spider feels like a step back, sporting horrific CG and some very basic comedy that detracts rather than adds.

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After a big battle on Kunlun Mountain, the Long sect comes out victorious and puts measures in place to protect the city down below. Not everyone from the Yi sect is defeated though, and several members infiltrate the ranks of the Long. A decade later, a poisonous spider attack sets their plan in motion.

The costumes and cinematography are pretty damn great, but they are ruined by terrible CG. The spider in particular is cheaply made and looks like a plastic toy rather than a menacing enemy. The silly prosthetics and the lame comedy don't really help either. The film is short and well-paced, so there's that, but I expect more these days.

Norioka Workshop

2022 / 30m - Japan
Norioka Workshop poster

Katsuhito Ishii's most recent work. It's disheartening to see what kind of films he's making these days, but at least he's still out there, making them. Norioka's Workshop is a very small indie project that runs only 30 minutes long. It's a rather fun film, but it's incomparable to the work that made him big.

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Norioka is a middling actor. To get more validation, he organizes a workshop, hoping to attract younger actors to who he can teach what he knows. One day two young women stand on his doorstep, ready for their lesson. Nami is polite and ready to accept him as her teacher, but Maki has her doubts and isn't afraid to express them.

Three actors, a single location, and a basic premise that is explored over the course of 30 minutes. It's a fun enough short film, but it hardly stands out and it lacks the crazy and the kooky that made Ishii's earlier work so special. Here's to hoping he can secure bigger budgets again in the future, he's simply too good to be making these kind of films.

The Bandage Club

Hôtai Kurabu
2007 / 118m - Japan
The Bandage Club poster

A fine drama by Tsutsumi. I was a bit surprised I hadn't seen The Bandage Club before, it's definitely the type of film I would've picked up if I'd had the chance when I was finding my path in Japanese cinema. Still, it's nice that there are still some of these films left to discover. I guess bad distribution has some benefits after all.

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Wara is going through a hard time. When she's up on the roof of a hospital, another kid stops her from harming herself. He ties a bandage around the fence where Wara stood, a symbol that moves her. She decides to form the Bandage Club and reaches out to other youngsters who are also struggling.

The performances are good, the film is subtle, and the drama isn't too overbearing, even though it handles some tougher topics. The film is still one of many though and doesn't do quite enough to stand out from the crowd, but if you're looking for a hidden gem, chances are slim you've already seen this one. A fine discovery.

The Violence Action

2022 / 111m - Japan
Comedy, Action
The Violence Action poster

Silly bubblegum action nonsense, executed rather well. It's a step up from Baby Assassins, The Violence Action has a bit more flair and fun and a few less dull moments. The action scenes are a bit of an acquired taste though, and while I liked them quite a bit, the execution could've been better.

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Kikuno is a student who is also a skilled assassin for hire on the side. She operates her business from a ramen shop with a couple of colleagues and is about to get mixed up in a complex Yakuza case. They hire Kikuno to get rid of their bookkeeper, but she gets an assassin of her own on her tail.

The action scenes are flashy, the cinematography is colorful and the pacing is slick. The comedy falls a little flat though and the film could've been a tad shorter, but I had a pretty good time throughout. It's not the most remarkable film, Japan can do better in this genre, but if you're looking for fun filler, look no further.

Fast X

2023 / 141m - USA
Action, Adventure
Fast X poster

The 10th entry in the Fast & Furious franchise is not without its struggles, then again, you could say that about every film in the franchise. The main thing is that the film delivers on its promise. If you want crazy, over-the-top blockbuster action, this is one of the best series out there. Quite a feat considering it's mostly just stunts/CG with race cars.

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The past comes to bite Dominic in the ass once again. The victim of an old heist they pulled is out for revenge, and he's planning to take everything away from Dom and his crew. When he frames them as terrorists, his plan is set in motion and the Fast crew are about to face their meanest enemy yet.

Momoa is a terrible villain, the family stuff is pretty cringeworthy and there are a few too many lulls in the first half of the film, but that's quickly forgotten once Leterrier goes all in on the action. Some insane stunts and a flashy presentation make the wait worthwhile. Very entertaining nonsense.

Kiss of Death

1947 / 99m - USA
Thriller, Crime
Kiss of Death poster

Noir with a dash of noir. It's not the easiest genre to dig into if the appeal is lacking. It's one of the strictest and most formulaic niches there are, and it's quite restricted in time. I try to limit my intake so that I don't completely overdose, but when these films look and feel so much alike, persevering becomes quite the challenge.

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Nick Bianco is a low-ranking criminal who is taken in after a botched jewelry heist. Because he has a family he is given the chance to reduce his sentence, but only if he rats on his accomplices. He doesn't want to be a snitch but after three years in jail, something happens that changes Nick's mind.

Widmark and Mature are decent, and the drama works relatively well, but other than that I didn't really care for the film. The black-and-white cinematography was rather dull, the gravity of the film doesn't gel with its extreme adherence to genre clichés, and 100 minutes is quite long for a core genre flick. Not the worst in its genre, but that's not saying much.


1999 / 130m - USA
Comedy, Fantasy
Dogma poster

Kevin Smith tackles religion in his signature style. I remembered liking Dogma quite a bit when I first watched it, but that was quite a while ago. The film is still pretty funny and there are several smart and pointed references scattered throughout, but two hours is a bit much and some scenes tend to drag.

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Two fallen angels believe they've found a loophole in God's rules, which would allow them to rejoin heaven. In order to do that they have to destroy the entire universe, but they don't seem to care that much. God is aware of their plan and she sends a few of her disciples in order to stop them from ending everything in existence.

It's fun to see famous actors make a fool of themselves, there are some great gags and the level of absurdity is quite high. Smith leans a bit too much on the dialogues though and the presentation comes off a little cheap and rushed. Dogma is still a hoot, the type of comedy that's sorely lacking these days, but its imperfections kept me from calling it a personal favorite.

Mona Lisa Smile

2003 / 117m - USA
Mona Lisa Smile poster

Dangerous Minds meets Little Women? I'm sure Newell's intentions were good when he decided to make this film, but the result is overly sentimental kitsch. It's a typical Julia Roberts film, and that is not a compliment. She's pretty much the female version of Tom Hanks, a near-guarantee for boring, dull Hollywood dreck.

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Katherine starts teaching at a prestigious school. The girls in her class are smart and come prepared, and Katherine feels intimidated after her first lesson. But she pushes through and decides to challenge the girls in less academic ways. Rather than repeat the opinions of others, she tries to get them to think for themselves.

Roberts is her annoying self, the young women are just as insufferable and the presentation is utterly kitsch. It helps that the film doesn't take itself too seriously, at least not during the first half, which makes it somewhat bearable. Hard to recommend this though, unless you like saccharine cinema with obvious morality.

Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound

Doragon Boru Z: Ginga Giri-Giri!! Butchigiri no Sugoi Yatsu
1993 / 50m - Japan
Fantasy, Action - Animation
Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound poster

A slight step up from previous films. The main reason is the lighter tone and the longer introduction. It takes a while before the main villain is introduced, which means the final fight is shorter and there's mere silliness before the fighting starts. Other than that, this is just more of the same.

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The DBZ folks have entered a fighting tournament. They have little trouble getting through the preliminaries, while Mr Satan waits to take on the remaining fighter. He isn't too keen on participating and tries to flee. Meanwhile, Bojack and his cronies are using the tournament as a guise to conquer the planet.

The first 25 minutes or so are rather funny. The art style is still too basic and angular for my liking, and the animation quality is low for a franchise of this stature, but at least they brought the fun back into the series. This isn't great cinema, but it is one of the better DBZ films so far. It makes a bit more hopeful for what follows.


2008 / 88m - Japan
Comedy, Drama
Sorasoi poster

A mere 4 years after Katsuhito Ishii made Taste of Tea, he was directing low-budget indie films to stay afloat. It's a remarkable downfall for a director who made one of the most charming films of the 00s. Sorasoi is a cute little film, but hardly equipped to stand out in the yearly downpour of Japanese dramas.

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A group of kids is staying in the Sorasoi Hotel, which stands close to the beach. They joined a dance group hoping to participate in a yearly dance event, even though they aren't all that skilled. But their tutor motivates them, and as they get better at dancing, they grow closer as a group.

Ishii's quirkiness surfaces from time to time, but this is more of a lighthearted drama where kids learn about life during a summer holiday. There are traces of Ogigami's Glasses here, but the acting isn't as good and the presentation feels a little cheap. A nice enough film, but hardly a stand-out.

Face to Face

Faccia a Faccia
1967 / 111m - Spain
Face to Face poster

Not that I'm suddenly becoming a big western fan (the appeal of the genre remains a mystery to me), but I do find the spaghetti western a lot easier to stomach compared to its American counterparts. The kitsch levels are much higher, which really helps for a genre that shouldn't take itself too seriously.

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Professor Fletcher is ill and needs a little vacation to recover. When he travels up north, he has a chance encounter with a famous criminal. Fletcher is drawn to his lifestyle and joins the criminal gang. As he begins to regain his strength, he isn't just content with being a simple member of the gang.

The setting and characters still don't do much for me, but at least these films are aware of their core identity. This is all about burly men and bank robberies, the good guys versus the bad guys, pure cinematic nonsense, and the direction reflects that. Not great, but better than many of its peers.

Suicide Circle

Jisatsu Sâkuru
2001 / 99m - Japan
Horror, Mystery
Suicide Circle poster

An odd Sono that made its way to the West based on the popularity of other Japanese horror films. This is something very different though, which is probably why it caught me (and many others) off guard the first time around. Watching it back now I enjoyed it quite a bit more, but it's still not among Sono's best films.

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A mass suicide shocks Japan. More than 50 high school students gather in a station and jump in front of an oncoming train. The police are puzzled, more so when a string of human skin is sent to them and suicides keep multiplying. A mysterious website seems to be the key to unraveling the mystery.

The opening scene is a true classic, but once the investigation gets underway the film slows down too much. The performances are strong (not too surprising if you check the cast) and there are several scenes that jump out. The ending too is an absolute delight for fans of Japanese kookiness, only Sono would hone his work considerably in the following years. Good, but not great.

Let's Have a Baby

Tai Cheung Lo Dau
1985 / 87m - Hong Kong
Let's Have a Baby poster

The Shaw Bros and Yuen Chor, a golden combination. In the 70s they brought the pinnacle of fantasy martial arts cinema, ten years later their reputation was in free fall. Chor doing a typical 80s Hong Kong comedy is a great example of how desperate they were. While not the worst in the genre, it's hardly a standout film.

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When a neighbor drops off his kids, a young childless couple spends one of the best days of their lives with them. When the kids are gone, they decide to have some of their own, but after a few tries and no success, complications arise. One of them proves to be infertile, so they try artificial insemination.

It's one of those comedies based on unlucky coincidences and misunderstandings. The comedy is very traditional, though it gets a bit more exciting in the second half of the film. There are some decent giggles and laughs throughout, but most of it is very basic and predictable. Decent comedy filler, but hardly one of Chor's better films.

The Straight Story

1999 / 112m - USA
The Straight Story poster

No doubt one of Lynch's most accessible films, if you like your cinema slow that is. It's been ages since I last watched the film, and I can't say I was as wowed as I was the first time. I saw this very early in my movie fandom adventure when slow cinema was still something very special (for me at least), not a genre in and of itself.

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Alvin Straight is an old man. He hears that his brother, who he hasn't spoken to for a decade, is ill and so he wants to reconcile. Rather than take the car and drive there, he takes a small tractor and spends the next six weeks on the road. He meets various people along the way, who love to share their stories with him.

The performances are fine, the soundtrack is atmospheric, the film has a lot of heart and even though it's pretty slow, it never gets boring. But it's clear that this isn't really Lynch's forte. It lacks that extra layer of polish that can make a film like this truly special. Still, a worthwhile film, just not quite as special as I remembered it to be.

Gold Diggers of 1933

1933 / 97m - USA
Romance, Musical
Gold Diggers of 1933 poster

A classic musical. I've seen so many of them already that it's hard to imagine why this particular one stood out, though the release year is probably part of the film's legacy. No doubt this is one of the films that helped to define the template for many others that would come in its wake.

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A new theater show destined for Broadway is ready to be launched, but the night before all the costumes and sets are confiscated. The cast finds themselves without work. Luckily, they find someone willing to bank the show. He's also a great performer, but for some reason, he doesn't want to join the production on stage.

A meager plot, interrupted by a bunch of musical numbers, that's the formula. The numbers are well staged and it's clear that, in contrast to the plot, this production wasn't shy for money and talent. The mood is light (only interrupted by some pointless drama near the finale, but what did you expect), it's just a bit too long for this type of film. Decent for what it is.


2022 / 117m - Spain
Drama, Fantasy
Rainbow poster

What a neat little surprise. The problem with Netflix is that it is a big player, hence it reaches a wide audience. And Joe Average isn't looking for any unique or challenging films, so whenever there's a film trying to do something different, it is immediately put down. It ends up buried with truly mediocre films, which is depressing.

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On her 16th birthday, Dora finds out that her father kept information behind about her mother, who left them when she was younger. She goes on a trip to find her mom and meets some peculiar people along the way. Meanwhile, a mean old crone is trying to frame Dora for the death of her husband.

Rainbow is a fun and contemporary take on The Wizard of Oz. The references are obvious, but also smart and original, making sure this isn't just a carbon copy of the old story. The cinematography is bold and colorful, the soundtrack is fun and the performances are strong. A tad long maybe, and not everything works equally well, but Paco León is a promising director.

Border Line

2002 / 118m - Japan
Drama, Crime
Border Line poster

Sang-il Lee's first full-length feature film shows he is capable of more than topical dramas. Border Line is a typical early 21st Century Japanese drama, quite grim and monochrome, pretty gritty around the edges, but with a strong and impressive heart. People who like Lee's later films would do well to seek it out.

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The film follows three unrelated people: a father, a mother, and a son. They are all struggling and trying to deal with their problems their way, but things don't quite go as they expected. The three narratives cross each other's path and their encounters will change their lives forever.

Intriguing characters, moody cinematography, a solid score, and some memorable moments. If I'd seen this film 20 years earlier, it might've become a favorite of mine. I've seen so many similar films now that it wasn't quite as impressive as it would've been back then, but if you're looking for an undiscovered gem, be sure to give this one a shot.

Even better than the first one. The Spider-Man animated films are so far ahead of the competition it's not even funny anymore. Sure enough, Across the Spider-verse has issues. The film relies too much on dialogue to get its emotional core across, and the two-part setup is lame (resulting in a rather dull and disappointing ending). Not all the jokes work out and voice actors like Jake Johnson aren't fit for the job. But unless you're watching this with your eyes closed, it doesn't matter that much. The visual overload, the insane detail and the near-constant attempts to challenge the boundaries of the medium make this one of the boldest and brightest animated films to come out of the USA. An absolute delight.

Knights of the Zodiac

2023 / 112m - USA
Fantasy, Adventure
Knights of the Zodiac poster

A Western adaptation of the famous manga by Kurumada. I never actually watched or read any of the Saint Seiya material, but I remember it being quite popular in France. Some recent reboots have led to a big blockbuster adaptation, and while far from perfect, it offers a nice break from the usual Marvel stuff.

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When the goddess Athena is born again as a human, she is cast to Earth with her protector. He doesn't survive the trip, but Athena is given a chance to survive. Some people want her dead as they fear she'll turn into the goddess of war, others want to protect her, by the means of a mythical knight.

The lore is a bit more colorful than your average American comic book nonsense and the film takes a few more chances than its peers. Ultimately though, this is little more than a bombastic blockbuster hoping to recoup its money. Amusing while it lasted (and thank God it didn't last longer than 2 hours).