Thanh Sói
2022 / 109m - Vietnam
Furies poster

Veronica Ngo, the lead of Fury, returns not only as an actor but also takes on this prequel's direction. A bold move, but one that paid off. Furies turned out to be a more striking, more colorful, and more spectacular action/revenge flick. The plot may be pretty basic, but who cares when the film looks this good? If it's flashy action and ass-kicking women you're after, then Furies is sure to deliver on that promise. Vietnam is showing some real promise. And the best thing? It's a Netflix original, so it's just one click away.

The First Slam Dunk

2022 / 124m - Japan
Sport - Animation
The First Slam Dunk poster

I was only vaguely familiar with this franchise, never having seen or read any of it, just knowing it was a basketball-themed sports manga/anime. I figured it couldn't hurt to support Slam Dunk when it hit the local theaters here, and I found myself pleasantly surprised at the quality of this production.

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Ryota is rather small in stature, yet he dreams of becoming a basketball star. When his older brother, a natural basketball talent, is lost at sea, Ryota is even more determined to make his dream come true. His first big test is beating the guys from Sannoh high school, but they are a tough and talented bunch.

The film covers just this one match, but it includes enough flashbacks to give the characters some heart and soul. The film sticks closely to genre conventions but still manages to build up the tension remarkably well. The finale is a real thrill, the detail of the animation is spectacular and the love for the sport is tangible. A neat surprise.


1988 / 95m - Japan
Horror, Thriller
Door poster

A fun, though somewhat limited thriller that morphs into a horror film as it progresses. It reminded me a little of 2LDK, a household battle between two people stuck in a little flat, but it never gets quite as intense or out there. Still, if you want a pleasant 80s horror (or you just want to know how Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Door 3 started out), you won't be disappointed.

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Yasuko lives in a small urban apartment with her family. She is getting more and more calls and house visits from shady salesmen, which starts to scare her a little. When she gets a tad violent toward a particularly pushy guy, the salesman wants revenge and tries to break into Yasuko's house.

The build-up is solid, the film becomes increasingly more tense, and even though the soundtrack is a little cheesy and the horror elements are somewhat toned down compared to modern standards, the ending does feel appropriately grotesque. A fine classic Japanese horror film that won't disappoint fans of the genre.

The Flash

2023 / 144m - USA
Fantasy, Action
The Flash poster

It's a timely appearance for the DC hero. Now that Marvel is all-in on its multiverse, DC made good use of the Flash's abilities to travel back in time to create a similar setup. The film's a big mess though, a desperate attempt to recreate some of that Marvel money-making magic, made extra painful by the fact that Marvel is already on its return. How needy can you be?

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The Flash is fast, even so, he usually gets the menial tasks while the rest of the Justice League is fighting off evil. When he discovers his speed allows him to travel back in time, he can't help himself and he tries to save his family from the malice that messed up their cozy lives. By doing that, he creates an alternate future (he may be fast, smart he is not).

The comedy falls flat, the CG is very disappointing, the plot is a messy patchwork of time travel ideas and superhero clichés and the film drags, which sucks for a superhero whose main power is speed. Oh, and the 80s/rock soundtrack is just baffling, who comes up with that? Even for a superhero flick, it's pretty damn bad.

Faces in the Crowd

Bao Feng
2023 / 103m - China
Faces in the Crowd poster

Like many of his compatriots, Gordon Chan moved to China to make films for sizable budgets, but with only a sliver of their former appeal. Faces in the Crowd is a very generic crime/war flick that has a few decent action scenes but otherwise fails to stand out in any meaningful way.

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In the 30s, there was a growing conflict between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party. A mysterious station becomes the primary focus of Wang Li Wen, who reunites with his sworn brother to find out the secret behind the station. Even though they're working towards a common goal, the trust between both men is fragile.

There are some solid action scenes and the setting is aptly recreated, but that's about the gist of it. The crime elements are poorly realized, the performances aren't that great and there's too much dialogue, which messes up the pacing. It's not bad, but this type of film has been done so much better in the past.

Upcoming Summer

Sheng Xia Wei Lai
2021 / 115m - China
Upcoming Summer poster

A fine Chinese romance by Leste Chen. That's not a big surprise, he has proven before that he can handle the genre. The EDM festival setting is relatively novel and adds a bit of extra flair, but it's not quite enough to set the film apart from so many similar films. If you're craving Asian teen romance, it's certainly not a bad bet though.

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Chen messes up her exam after discovering her parents are close to divorcing each other. She doesn't dare to come clean with them and makes up an excuse about a break-up with her non-existent boyfriend. Things get complicated when the story spreads and the guy is publicly confronted about a relationship he never had.

The performances are solid, the cinematography is slick and atmospheric, but the music is a tad too cheesy and the EDM pretty commercial. The romance is rather predictable too and two hours is a bit much for a film that offers nothing new. That said, as prime genre filler, Upcoming Summer definitely delivers.

Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight)

Campanadas a Medianoche
1965 / 115m - Spain
Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) poster

Orson Welles does Henry IV, bringing his own play to the big screen. It's a pretty straightforward historical drama, with Welles playing what looks like a drunk Santa Claus. Somehow I find it impossible to take him seriously as an actor (or a director for that matter), but he had a decent eye for cinematography at least.

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King Henry IV is trying to unite his country, but he's worried that his successor isn't taking his job seriously. Hal prefers to hang around with hoodlums, led by Falstaff, a lousy knight. To Henry's surprise, Hal finally caves under his father's pressure and starts to feel the urge to prove himself to his father.

The black-and-white cinematography is decent and harbors some pretty shots, though they are few and far between. I didn't care much for the plot, the performances were terrible and the two-hour runtime turned this into a sluggish film. Fans of Shakespeare and Welles might get something out of it, I didn't.

Phases of the Moon

Tsuki no Michikake
2022 / 128m - Japan
Phases of the Moon poster

An interesting drama that gets a bit too sentimental. The premise is fun and this might've been a perfect match for Hiroki if it hadn't been one of his more commercial outings. Phases of the Moon is one of his crowdpleasers, and because of that, it lacks the edge that makes his work stand out.

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Kei is a happy man, living a good life together with his family. That is all turned upside down when his wife and daughter die in a car accident. Kei has a hard time processing what happened, but then one day an unknown man stands on his doorstep. He has an unbelievable story to tell, that involves Kei's daughter.

The performances are a bit uneven, the drama could've been more subtle and the premise isn't used to its fullest. The styling is polished though and there are moments when Hiroki's craft shines through, it's just that he is capable of so much more. Not a bad film, just not good enough considering the talent involved.

A Night of Soul Turning

Hui Hun Zhi Ye
2023 / 78m - China
Horror, Mystery
A Night of Soul Turning poster

A surprisingly capable horror film. I'd expected something a bit cheaper and less involved, thinking this was simple Chinese streamer filler (the output of the directors certainly pointed that way), but this semi-anthology is extremely atmospheric, lovingly shot, and well-acted. An easy recommendation for horror fans.

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On his way home, Du An experiences some car trouble. To escape the pouring rain, he follows an old man inside an abandoned apartment complex. The old man tells Du An three stories that are all related to Du An's past. Du An has no memories of the events until he finally realizes what is going on.

The cinematography is top-notch, the structure of the plot is interesting (with the subplots so rigidly separated that they feel like stand-alone shorts) and the pacing is extremely slick, keeping the film under 80 minutes. This film is a golden standard for Chinese streamer flicks and comes extremely close to being a personal favorite.

Tank Girl

1995 / 104m - USA
Comedy, Sci-fi
Tank Girl poster

Back when comic book adaptations were actually fun. Tank Girl is cult cinema with a capital C. I'm pretty surprised the film never crossed my path because it's the kind of wacky I tend to go for, but the low ratings everywhere probably kept it off my radar. I'm glad I still managed to catch up with it, even if I'm extremely late to the party.

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The future Earth is a wasteland, and water has become the most precious material. It is controlled by some power-hungry men working for a mega-corporation, but Tank Girl loves a good challenge. She wants to overthrow them, which is easier said than done. Together with a band of misfits, she's willing to take the gamble.

The designs are outrageous, the film's comic book roots are embraced rather vigorously and the kitsch levels are high, though everything is handled with a big old wink and smirk. Tank Girl is pure fun, a bit unpolished, and rough around the edges by modern standards, but a real hoot if you like your films a tad weird.

Dragon Ball Z: Broly - Second Coming

Doragon Boru Z: Kiken na Futari! Super Senshi wa Nemurenai
1994 / 52m - Japan
Fantasy, Action - Animation
Dragon Ball Z: Broly - Second Coming poster

Is anyone surprised when I say this is just more of the same (again)? Why change a winning formula, the DBZ series was immensely popular, so these shorter films must've been tasty extras. I do wish they'd tried to be a bit more creative with it, the endless repetition of random intros and drawn-out fights isn't all that exciting.

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Especially not when they're starting to recycle enemies from previous films. As the title suggests, Broly is back. After 20 minutes of goofing around, Broly reappears and starts his battle with Trunks and Goten. Broly is a fierce enemy and it's only when Gohan returns from the dead that they stand a real chance.

The art style is a tad more detailed and the prolonged intros are by far the most enjoyable part of the film. The battle is quite dull again and takes up about half of the film. There's so much more that could've been done with this, but money rules the world, with yearly cash-ins as the result.

King of New York

1990 / 103m - USA
Thriller, Crime
King of New York poster

One of the more recent (as in, made since I was born) US crime flicks that had escaped me until now. It's not too big of a surprise, I'm not the biggest fan of the genre, but I had some hopes as this one was fronted by Christopher Walken. In combination with Ferrara's direction, it makes for one of the better crime flicks of its time.

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When Frank White is released from prison he isn't ready to better his life, on the contrary. He wants to seize control of the Bronx. He is a hardened criminal who knows how to stand his ground, still, he is respected by the local people as he gives back to the community. More so than the police and politicians.

In essence, King of New York is a pretty basic crime/kingpin flick. But Walken's performance, the edgier hip-hop soundtrack, and Ferrara's subdued direction give the film that extra bit of much-needed flair. It's still not the most notable film, but compared to its direct peers, it's a pretty big stand-out.

Guns Akimbo

2019 / 98m - New Zealand
Comedy, Action
Guns Akimbo poster

Caught this at our company's movie night, so this was more of an accidental rewatch. It's a great movie for a social setting, holding the middle between light entertainment, over-the-top genre fun, and a display of cinematic skill. There's something for most people here unless you can't take the boarish attitude. Subtlety and realism clearly aren't the film's strong suit. Great performances by Weaving and Radcliffe, flashy cinematography, a fun soundtrack, and some sprawling action scenes keep the pace high and the entertainment value constant. This was just as much fun the second time around.


2023 / 114m - USA
Comedy, Fantasy
Barbie poster

Pretty much what you'd expect from a Gerwig-directed Barbie film. The cinematography and design aren't good enough for a 100 million-dollar blockbuster film, the ideology is Instagram-deep and there are plenty of references to real-world Barbie stuff, so blatant that even non-Barbie fans will catch them.

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Barbie is living her perfect life when suddenly cracks in her existence start to appear. In order to find out what is wrong, she has to leave her perfect world and travel to the real world, to mend the problems of the person who is using her as a toy. Ken joins Barbie on her quest, and that's when the problems start.

The film works best as a simple comedy, but even then the styling feels unfinished and lacking in creativity. Things get more embarrassing when Gerwig tries to add meaning to the film, resulting in a rather dull and painful finale. The most impressive thing about Barbie is the hype created with advertising dollars, apart from that, it's a pretty middling and forgettable film.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader poster

The third in the Narnia series is a small step up from the previous films. The films are still way too childish and the fantasy's a little dull considering the possibilities, but at least their trip across the wide open seas is a bit more animated. It's also nice that the film doesn't cross the 2-hour mark.

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Lucy and Edmond are forced to spend the summer with their return cousin Eustace. They are bored until a painting comes to life and transports the three of them to Narnia. They meet up with Caspian on the Dawn Treader, a royal ship that will take them to several mysterious islands to rescue the Seven Lords of Narnia.

The kids are still rather annoying (Poulter in particular), the fantasy is a bit basic by and by the numbers and the adventure is mostly aimed at younger viewers. There are some memorable moments though and the budget seemed a bit more in line with the aspirations of the film.

Mutiny on the Bounty

1935 / 132m - USA
Mutiny on the Bounty poster

The title says it all. There's mutiny abound and to make sure the audience understands why, the ship's captain is one of the more grotesque characters I've seen in quite a while. If you love someone shouting every line for most of the 2-hour runtime, you will certainly dig this film.

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A ship is going to Tahiti for trade. They need a crew, but the only ones willing to board are sailors unaware of Captain Bligh's strict reputation. On their way back, the crew is completely fed up with Bligh's unreasonable behavior and they plan a mutiny, knowing full well they'll have to explain themselves once back on land.

For an adventure flick it's very heavy on dialogues (then again, it's a 30s film), the performances aren't very good and the runtime is excessive. What remains are annoying characters I didn't care for at all. At least the Tahiti segment has some minor exotic appeal, but that's about it I'm afraid.