Plan 9 from Outer Space

1957 / 79m - USA
Sci-fi, Horror
Plan 9 from Outer Space poster

Often cited to be one of the worst films ever made, but I don't really see it. Sure enough, this is a pretty cheesy affair, the kind of film Ishiro Honda would make if he'd had no budget at all, but one thing it is not is boring. And there are many similarly cheap films that can't even claim to be fun.

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Aliens are planning to take over planet Earth, and they've come up with a slick plan to do so. Rather than come with an army of their own, they invade the cemeteries and start to bring the dead back to life. With their army of undead humans, they plan to overrun the cities and conquer Earth.

These old B-movies are often extremely dialogue-driven (and terribly boring as a result), as a way to disguise their lack of budget. Wood Jr. doesn't cut back on effect shots (or silliness), instead, he makes do with what he's got. Yes, it's a complete cheese fest, but the pacing is slick and there's enough wackiness to prevent boredom from creeping in. Much better than many give it credit for.


1962 / 153m - USA
Romance, Crime
Lolita poster

My final Kubrick. There's no reason why I saved this one for last, I'm just not his biggest fan and this seems to be one of his least-regarded films (though still very popular). It's not quite what I expected (the controversial part of the film is rather weak by modern standards and it's very talky for a Kubrick), which I why I still ended up relatively disappointed with the result.

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Humbert is an author who rents a room in Charlotte Haze's home. He does so because he has a thing for her daughter, who is barely 14 years old. Charlotte has her eye set on Humbert, which further complicates things, and there's another man who has taken an interest in Charlotte's daughter.

The controversy is purely thematic (an older man with a young girl), the film itself is almost all dialogue. Mason and Lyon aren't the best actors though, so their romance never felt very real. The black-and-cinematography is also pretty dull and the runtime is a bit of a hassle, but the film does pick up the pace in the final 30 minutes.


San Geng
2002 / 122m - Hong Kong
Horror - Anthology
Three poster

Horror was hot in Asia two decades ago, and they sure love a good anthology film over there. So a Pan-Asian horror project made perfect sense. The weirdest thing about Three is that Japan wasn't invited to the party, but it gave the less horror-centric countries a fair chance to show their worth. Three respected directors all put in a worthwhile effort, and while none of the shorts is truly extraordinary, they're all very strong, moody, and capable horror films that deliver the goods. If you're looking for two hours of quality horror, go for it.

Shin Kamen Rider

Shin Kamen Raidā
2023 / 121m - Japan
Sci-fi, Action
Shin Kamen Rider poster

Hideaki Anno's Shin Kamen Rider is a rare piece of fandom. It's clearly B-level kitsch, executed with an A-level budget, but without sacrificing that B-grade charm. Most tokusatsu films end up on the cheap and cheesier side, if you're wondering what a blockbuster rendition of the genre would look like, here's your chance.

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When Takeshi wakes up, he finds that he is turning into a monster while wearing a suit that gives him superpowers. It turns out a scientist made him this way, in an attempt to stop similar creatures that are being brought to life with more nefarious intentions. Takeshi accepts his destiny, but his fight will not be easy.

I didn't know much about Kamen Rider, but the lore is quite a bit crazier than most other tokusatsu franchises I know. Anno doesn't hold back either and leans into the action and weirdness of it all. It's still a bit too cheesy for my liking, but I definitely appreciated the dedication and the random twists and turns this film took.

Nostalgia for the Light

Nostalgia de la Luz
2010 / 90m - Chile
Nostalgia for the Light poster

A peculiar documentary that tries to connect various unrelated things found in a centralized place. It sounds like a stretch, and sadly, it is. Guzmán tries very hard to connect astronomy and Chile's dark past by exploring the Atacama Desert, but his poetic associations lack substance.

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It's a shame because the presentation is rather neat. The slow-paced cinematography and the moody score make for an atmospheric documentary. It's the interviews and the poorly connected subject matter that detracts from the experience. The interview with astronomer Gaspar Galaz, in particular, irked me.

An abundance of new age quotes sit badly with the gruesome history of Chile that many are trying to forget. The only tangible link between these themes is the Atacama Desert, but putting everything in a single documentary makes little sense. A failed experiment, but not without its moments.

Lonely Glory

2022 / 82m - Japan
Lonely Glory poster

A sweet and delicate Japanese drama that fails to cash in on its very strong opening scene. It's a shame that Lonely Glory doesn't keep its sole focus on the lead but opens things up by including her brothers and sister. Fans of the genre will find a confident film from a promising director, though also a film that fails to rise above its peers.

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Haruka is going through a rough period. She is fired from her job for being too straightforward, and soon after her mother dies, leaving the family business without an immediate successor. Haruka wants to close down the shop and sell the house, but her siblings don't want to bury their parents' legacy right away.

Haruka is an interesting character and I would've preferred for the film to focus on her story. Instead, three extra characters are added, each with their own troubles. The cinematography is nice, so is the score and the performances are very good. It's a more than solid film, but there are so many of these and Sakon didn't do enough to set it apart.

Promise of August

Hachigatsu no Yakusoku
1995 / 50m - Japan
Promise of August poster

Katsuhito Ishii's first is a mid-length feature that showcases his promise as a director. It's not quite up there with his best work, but it has a fun vibe and a cast of kooky characters that make this a very easy watch. If you're looking for a short, chill Japanese comedy, look no further.

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Three college girls found a map that shows them a way to a hidden marijuana field. On their way there, they get a lift from a suicidal guy who immediately falls in love with one of the girls. The map leads them nowhere until they see some suspicious bikers who they decide to follow.

The plot is utter nonsense. It's all about the characters, the dialogue, and the silly situations. The setting is pleasant, the tone is light throughout and the short runtime is a blessing. Ishii would improve in his later films, refining his trademark elements, but this was a very good start to his career.

A Muse Never Drowns

2022 / 82m - Japan
A Muse Never Drowns poster

A fine and gentle Japanese coming-of-age drama with a minor twist. It's not a twist really, just a slightly quirky detail that adds a tiny bit of extra flair to the film. It's not trivial though, as there as so many films in this niche that anything that sets a film apart is crucial to make it a more memorable experience.

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Sakuko accidentally falls into the sea, Saibara witnesses the scene and turns it into a painting. Saibara is a gifted artist and people love her painting. She wants Sakuko to model for her next work, but Sakuko, an aspiring artist herself, is annoyed by the attention Saibara gets. The two are more alike than she suspects though.

A pleasant seaside setting, a small town, and some high school drama. Add two girls who are battling their own demons and find strength in each other's company, and you have a bunch of familiar themes and tropes. Sakuko's art project (a funky self-made boat) is the real star piece of the film, the rest is sweet and wholesome, but not quite unique enough to become a true gem. Prime filler though.

Last Days

2005 / 97m - USA
Drama, Music
Last Days poster

A rather disappointing rewatch. I was quite a fan of Van Sant's slow cinema trilogy, and films like Elephant and Gerry were still lovely the second time around. I didn't really manage to get into Last Days though, and then a film like this because quite the struggle. It's certainly not all bad, but far from a personal favorite.

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The film is a fictional account of the last days of Kurt Cobain. We follow a man who struggles with life, who wanders around aimlessly, and feels disconnected from the world around him. Friends and professional relations come to visit him, but they all seem to need something from him.

There are some very poignant scenes, but I didn't care for the ones that were music-led. The problem with this type of minimalism is that when it doesn't grab you, you're just looking at rather dull scenes that drone on endlessly, and there are a few too many of those moments. Not bad, but Van Sant did it better.

Dragon Ball Z: Bio-Broly

Doragon Boru Z: Super Senshi Gekiha!! Katsu No wa Ore da
1994 / 47m - Japan
Sci-fi, Action - Animation
Dragon Ball Z: Bio-Broly poster

The best of the DBZ films so far (though still no match for the original series). I wasn't really looking forward to another Broly revival, but I think this is the first of all the Z movies where there's an actual semblance of a plot, and where the last half hour of the film isn't spent on one tiresome, random fight.

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Broly is revived once more, but this time he's cloned by an evil scientist, who wants to use Bio-Broly and a few other Bio-warriors to uncover Satan's scam. A selection of the Dragon Ball crew is tasked with stopping the scientist and his bioengineered friends, which turns out to be quite the challenge.

The animation is slightly better, the plot doesn't stop dead in its tracks halfway through and the fight sequences are a bit more exciting. I still don't see the greatness of this franchise, but I do think it's at its best when it leans into the crazy and the weird, rather than the action. Decent.

Latitude Zero

Ido Zero Daisakusen
1969 / 105m - Japan
Sci-fi, Adventure
Latitude Zero poster

An Ishiro Honda film with a more international setup, but that doesn't really change a whole lot. I'm watching his films for the cheese and the cute model work, and both are available in spades here. It's a pretty decent adventure too, with a tad more happening than is usually the case.

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Scientists accompanied by a journalist are diving in a small submarine to unexplored places. An underground volcano goes off and the submarine is hurled off course. The men are saved by another sub, led by a captain who claims he is part of an underwater paradise. While he shows them his world, they are attacked by the captain's arch-nemesis.

There's a bit of everything here, from lost/hidden worlds to laser fights and mutant animals. It makes little sense, but it allows Honda to play around like the giant kidult he is. It also makes sure there are few dull moments. It's not the most glorious or fancy cinema, but there's an undeniable charm that makes these films quite easy to watch.

Techno Brothers

Tekuno Burazâzu
2023 / 97m - Japan
Comedy, Music
Techno Brothers poster

Hirobumi Watanabe is a bit of a cult director. His previous films were pretty interesting, though not exactly great. Techno Brothers is a big step down, though I will say a personal hang-up prevented me from liking the film more. It's just that for a 2023 film called Techno Brothers, I find it unacceptable to come out with a Kraftwerk-inspired synth-group comedy. Either get with the times or change the title of the film.

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Three brothers are in a synth band, their manager tries to get them gigs but nobody in Japan seems to be into their style of music. She won't back down and keeps pushing for work, the brothers don't utter a word and simply follow her wherever she goes. With each attempt, the manager becomes more desperate.

The music is horrendous, the indie look isn't effective in hiding the lack of budget, and while some of the jokes are nice, too many of them are predictable and lazy. Japan is really bad at music-based films, even the indie ones can't save face. Maybe if they'd tried it with some actual techno ...

Black Clover: Sword of the Wizard King

2023 / 110m - Japan
Fantasy, Action - Animation
Black Clover: Sword of the Wizard King poster

Hardcore fantasy anime. I'm unsure whether watching this without having seen the series beforehand is a good idea. I did manage to catch up halfway through the film, but this anime comes with some pretty heavy fantasy lore and it takes itself very seriously, so you better be ready to wade through long conversations explaining the finer details of the magic capabilities of the leads.

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Asta is a young boy who was born without magic powers. He is the only one in his world, still, he is determined to make it as a magic knight. When former Wizard Kings reappear to turn the country into disarray, Asta and his friends will need all their strength and wits to keep them at bay.

The character designs don't match the backgrounds, the animation is awkward and the dub feels flat and lifeless. The film is also way too long and some of the lore is tedious, but I will say that things pick up in the second half, when the film works toward a truly epic finale. It's not enough to save the whole thing though. This is just TV anime posing as a feature film.

Dead of Night

1945 / 103m - UK
Mystery - Anthology
Dead of Night poster

An early horror anthology. I say horror, but the film is mostly a mystery, with lots and lots of dialogue, sometimes regarding supernatural phenomena. I can see how this setup could've been quite influential, but by modern standards, it's a pretty dull collection of supernatural stories.

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An architect drives out to the countryside to work on a home. Once there, he recognizes the place and the people present as part of a recurring dream he has had. He tells them about his dream, but not everyone is willing to believe him. The others have some mysterious stories of their own to share though.

Dialogue-driven, like so many other films of its time. It's the opposite of what I look for in a film, so it's no surprise this didn't really do it for me. The performances weren't great either, and the stories were pretty underwhelming. The anthology-like setup did mean there was enough happening to keep me occupied at least.

League of Gods: God of Trident

Feng Shen Yang Jian
2022 / 78m - China
Fantasy, Action
League of Gods: God of Trident poster

More League of Gods fun. Not the fancy blockbuster kind of course, but the cheaper streamer stuff. Still, these films are pretty amusing nowadays and God of Trident is no exception. It's certainly not without faults, but the slick pacing and the short runtime made this an entertaining ride.

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Yang Jian is born with a third eye. The villagers don't take kindly to him and tease him with his mutation until Jian has had enough and summons a dragon. His mother dies protecting him from the creature, the only way for Jian to continue is to accept his fate and remove the seal that protects his third eye.

And so another fantasy adventure starts. The film offers a mix of fantasy, action, and comedy (with comedy being the most questionable part of the film). The CG is passable, the action is amusing, and the fantastical elements are lush. Solid streamer fun in other words, exactly what I expected from it.

My Father's Dragon

2022 / 99m - Ireland
Fantasy, Adventure - Animation
My Father's Dragon poster

Twomey's latest is another fine animation that stands in shrill contrast with its American counterparts. Like most of Cartoon Saloon's films though, the creativity and tone may be there, but the quality of the animation and the detail in the art style is a bit of a letdown. My Father's Dragon is no exception.

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Elmer is a young boy who moves to the city with his mom to set up shop there. They are hit with adversities and Elmer has a falling out with his mother. He runs away from home and gets tangled up in a mission to save a dragon from captivity. The dragon is forced to carry an island that is close to sinking, Elmer's task is to free the dragon.

The music is nice, the adventure is exciting and there are some lovely moments between Elmer and the dragon, but the whole feels a tad childish and visually underdeveloped. It would be nice to see Twomey and cohorts make a film for a slightly more mature audience, I'm certain it could be amazing.

The Black Stallion

1979 / 118m - USA
Adventure, Sport
The Black Stallion poster

Quite a bit better than I expected, but I'm afraid I went in with extremely low expectations. Horse films are rarely any good and The Black Stallion suffers from some of their classic downfalls. But the first part of the film was a real surprise, not enough to make it a great film overall, but it helped sitting through the second part quite a bit easier.

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A young boy befriends a black stallion on a ship, but then disaster strikes. A storm hits the ship and the two are thrown overboard. The horse rescues the boy from drowning and the both of them get stranded on a deserted island. They grow closer together, but staying together will be difficult once they return to society.

Most of the first half is silent, which was a great relief. The cinematography is nice and the bond between the boy and the animal is properly developed. Once they return to society the quality takes a big dip, but there are still a few moments that stand out. It's a shame the film is so sharply divided into two parts, especially with the best part coming first. Still, this could've been a lot worse.

King of Clones

2023 / 85m - UK
King of Clones poster

A documentary about one of South Korea's most notorious scientists. Hwang Woo-suk became famous for his work on stem cell research (and cloning), but it would also become his downfall. The big pull of this documentary is that the subject was actually willing to give a proper interview.

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Hwang Woo-suk's ethics are at the center of the film, but the makers don't really do much with it. We get a voice-over that is eager to sensationalize his fall from grace, and we get two tangentially related stories (one about camels, the other about a cloned dog), but there's little cohesion, and many topics are never explored in depth.

Still, it's nice to see Woo-suk given a proper, openhearted interview, not looking to blame others or ignoring his own responsibility in the matter. His take on science is just a little different from the Western one. Making a good doc is not easy, but I feel the quality baseline should be higher than it was here.

No Hard Feelings

2023 / 103m - USA
Comedy, Romance
No Hard Feelings poster

A pretty basic romcom. The whole movie seems like an excuse for Lawrence to play an edgier part, where she's "the bad guy" for a change. It just didn't work that well. Feldman on the other hand felt like a weaker version of Michael Cera, fading away into the background rather quickly.

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Maddie is short on cash, so when she sees an ad looking for a person to date the awkward son of a rich couple, she feels like she might be the ideal candidate for the job. She is to teach him about sex, alcohol, and partying, but as they spend more time together, she starts to develop a liking for him.

The plot is pretty basic, the jokes are rather predictable and there's little cinematic appeal here. It's just a very average romcom, with Lawrence being the main attraction of the film. That's not quite enough to make it stand out, but it's not the worst 100 minutes you can spend with a film either.