Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

2023 / 99m - USA
Fantasy, Action - Animation
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem poster

The Turtles are back. Again. But this time, I was actually excited to watch their latest incarnation, as the animation style looked to be something else. It didn't disappoint in that regard, it's a shame the rest of the film was a little lagging. Not that it was terrible, just underdeveloped and a little lazy.

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The Turles are in their teen years and they're tired of living in the sewers. They want to go out into the real world and mingle with people, but Splinter has forbidden them to get involved with any humans. When Superfly is wreaking havoc on the city, they decide to become heroes, hoping they'll be accepted by humankind if they help them get rid of the villains.

The art style is stunning, and it's amazing to see it in motion. The 90s score is a bummer though and the voice acting is pretty bad, as is the juvenile comedy. It kinda comes with the territory, but it still annoyed me (just like the endless name-dropping). The Ghostbusters-like finale was pretty spectacular though. Onto the next part (which brings back Shredder).

Beau Is Afraid

2023 / 179m - USA
Comedy, Drama
Beau Is Afraid poster

Ari Aster, a man with interesting ideas, which rarely translate to great cinema. There's a lot of potential here, and some scenes were definitely fun, but overall the film lost me one too many times. The combination of Phoenix's cringy overacting and his overly pathetic character made it difficult to keep myself invested in this 3-hour film.

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Beau is afraid. He's afraid of the people he meets, of the world he lives in, of his past and his future. His anxiety controls his life, but it's also steering him in a direction that will ultimately force him to confront his fears. Whether that will lead him to his salvation is an entirely different matter.

Beau sees his fears materialized in the world around him, which makes for a very promising premise. Aster gets carte blanche for what is basically a fantasy thriller with strong dramatic notes and a bit of absurdist comedy thrown in for good measure. It makes for a wild trip, but one that is pretty slow and can get a bit too grating. For me, Phoenix was the personification of the Western zeitgeist, a person paralyzed by the potential of fear, but that may be taking it a step too far.

Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon

Doragon Boru Z: Ryûken Bakuhatsu!! Gokû ga Yaraneba Dare ga Yaru
1995 / 52m - Japan
Fantasy, Action - Animation
Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon poster

And we're back to square one. After the jolly madness that was Fusion Reborn, Wrath of the Dragon is once again a more traditional Dragon Ball Z film, with a strong focus on a single enemy and a fight that lasts more than half the film. It's a good thing these films are pretty short.

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The DBZ crew is approached by an old man who wants to revive an old hero. They collect the dragon balls to make his wish come true, not realizing that they're about to unleash a terrible evil. Tapion is a Kaiju-like monster with incredible powers who can easily avoid their strongest attacks.

The art style remains a bit crummy, and the animation is not quite as good as you'd expect from a popular franchise like this. Tapion is an amusing monster, but that's about all there is here. Too serious for its own good, and hardly any memorable moments for a film that lasts only 50 minutes.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

2022 / 122m - USA
Comedy, Adventure
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 poster

The first Sonic was pretty horrible, the second one is just more of the same. It's a misguided mix of bad US CG animation, superhero nonsense, and a comedy that feels like it was written for Ryan Reynolds (but I guess he didn't have time for this). But hey, it's clearly making money, so I wouldn't be surprised if more films followed.

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Sonic believes he's a true superhero, but his actions mess up the otherwise so quiet city. Meanwhile, Dr. Robotnik has found a way to return to Earth, and he's bringing a new villain with him. Together they seek out Sonic, hoping to get rid of the pesky little blue hero once and for all.

The animation is ugly, the comedy is truly cringeworthy, and two hours for a very simple plot like this is indefensible. I wish Japan would just handle these game adaptations themselves, on the other hand, this way it's earning them way more money, so let's just hope they're going to spend it on other things worth watching (or playing).

Two Witches

2021 / 98m - USA
Two Witches poster

A rather generic horror hampered by poor performances and uneven cinematography. I'm going to assume because they didn't have the budget to do it well, but that's when talent is supposed to really shine through. I couldn't find much of that here, so I had a hard time enjoying this.

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An old crone is targeting two separate women. Sarah is having a quiet dinner with her partner when she notices an old woman staring at her. Soon after weird things start happening. Meanwhile, Masha believes her grandmother has malicious powers, and she's hoping to inherit them when her grandmother dies.

Director Tsigaridis does his best to make do with a limited budget, but instead of getting the basics right, the film is all over the place. The horror bits aren't scary, the gore is a little unimpressive, the performances aren't good enough and the cinematography isn't consistent, ranging from okay to cheap-looking.


2021 / 61m - Japan
Drama, Documentary
Bachiranun poster

A mix of documentary and fiction that celebrates Japanese island life, specifically the island of Yonaguni. People familiar with Japanese cinema know that Japan likes a good island drama and that it has some specific characteristics, related to the vibe of the people who inhabit these islands. And so the idea of a documentary was pretty appealing.

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Director Higashimori comes from Yonaguni Island and also features in the film, so this is her way to try and capture the unique spirit of her home turf. The problem is that it never feels quite as unique or particular. The local culture is by and large very similar to the rest of Japan, which defeats the urgency that lies at the basis of this documentary.

The setting is lovely and there are some nice moments, though mostly the ones where Higashimori focuses on the island itself, rather than the cultural legacy of its inhabitants. Old song and dance, industries, and traditional skill sets are bound to disappear, and while some might feel nostalgic and/or melancholic about it, it's just the most natural thing. Not a bad doc, but I'd rather just watch an island drama.

A Story from Chikamatsu

Chikamatsu Monogatari
1954 / 102m - Japan
Drama, Romance
A Story from Chikamatsu poster

Kenji Mizoguchi is by far one of the most disappointing (classic) Japanese directors for me. I find his film tedious and theatrical, and A Story of Chikamatsu is the worst I've seen so far. I never cared for any of the characters, let alone their romantic and dramatic woes. As for the styling, it's simply disastrous.

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Ishun owns a successful printing company, but that doesn't mean he leads a comfortable life. He is wary and believes his second in command is having an affair with his wife. In fear that others will believe these accusations, they both flee, but that only makes the situation worse.

Stark camerawork, bland decors, and a mix of restrained emotions and theatrical performances make this a difficult film to appreciate. Though the film isn't too long, the lack of any true intrigue and the unappealing stylistic choices make this a downright chore to sit through. I'm clearly not a Mizoguchi fan.

Cross the Line

No Matarás
2020 / 92m - Spain
Cross the Line poster

A nice, tense thriller that keeps the camera close to its protagonist, taking the audience on a nerve-racking trip that spans a single evening. The protagonist makes some odd, even baffling choices along the way, but they always make the film better in some way. I didn't mind, but your mileage may vary.

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When Dani's father dies, his sister forces him to take some time for himself. A strange encounter with a woman that same evening leads Dani on a destructive path. As he gives in to life and tries to live in the moment, he keeps making the wrong choices, which eventually turn against him.

The cinematography is visceral, with a shaky cam that trails Dani. Lovely lighting and neon color work lend the film some extra flair. The soundtrack is a mixed bag and not all the performances are equally great, but if you're looking for a tense and nervous little thriller, Cross the Line won't disappoint.

Mother Joan of the Angels

Matka Joanna od Aniolów
1961 / 110m - Poland
Mother Joan of the Angels poster

Don't let any genre indications fool you, this is not a horror film. I was prepared (country of origin, release date, plus the poster gave it away) when I started watching, so no real disappointment there, but unless you only care about plot points it's hard to defend calling this a horror film.

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A priest is sent to a small town to investigate a case of possession after a local priest took advantage of the situation. Once there he meets Mother Joan, who is possessed by the devil. As he tries to deal with the situation as best as possible, the priest starts to struggle with his own faith and convictions.

Ultrastark camera work, empty frames (the decor is literally walls), and an absent soundtrack turn this into a very minimalist experience. The story nor the characters appealed to me, the styling was grim and unpleasant and the runtime excessive. Dreyer meets Bresson, with a tinge of Bergman and Tarkovsky. Take the worst aspect of these four, mix them together and you get Mother Joan of the Angels.

Safe Word

2022 / 94m - Japan
Safe Word poster

Shiraishi joins the Nikkatsu revival and he kills it. Safe Word is a pretty modest and demure film compared to some of the others in the Roman Porno series, at least in the amount of skin it decides to show. The BDSM theme of the film is very present though, so be aware of that before watching this.

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Misa is a wrestler turned idol, but her career isn't taking off the way she hoped it would. She is scouted by a different kind of club, one where men come to be dominated. Though reluctant at first, Misa discovers she is quite attracted to this world. She becomes a dominatrix in training.

The fake documentary style is interesting but a little superfluous, kudos to Shiraishi for delivering a very warm and colorful film though. The performances are solid, Misa's journey is captivating and the film never feels exploitative. I didn't know Shiraishi had this in him, a cool film if you can handle this type of thing.

Dragon Ball Z: Revival Fusion

Doragon Boru Z: Fukkatsu no Fusion!! Gokuu to Vegeta
1995 / 51m - Japan
Fantasy, Action - Animation
Dragon Ball Z: Revival Fusion poster

I'm happy to say this is another (minor) step up from the previous film. While the art style is surprisingly dodgy, they've taken the DBZ franchise to a much weirder place, almost to the point of self-parody. This franchise is at its best when it's not taking itself too seriously, and this film is random as fuck.

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There are several plotlines here, one involving a battle against Hitler and his troops, but the main line follows Goku's fight against Janemba, a weird childish blob containing a whole bunch of evil. Janemba grows stronger when he fuses with Freeza. Goku and Vegeta see no other option than to fuse too, in order to stop this formidable monster.

The animation is fine, but the art style is a bit distorted and angled, not pretty at all. I liked the almost super-deformed rendition of the Hitler battle though. Janemba is also pretty funky, and the plot is completely bonkers. If they keep this up, it might eventually reach the heights of the original Dragon Ball.

No Man of God

2021 / 100m - USA
Thriller, Crime
No Man of God poster

A decent enough biopic, though it falls prey to the genre's most glaring pitfalls. The film is extremely character/narrative-driven, and even though it tries to add a bit of cinematic flair, Sealey's attempts do little more than highlight her inability to do so confidently. Making an appealing biopic isn't easy.

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In the 80s the FBI establishes a new division. Five profilers are appointed, people who try to understand the severely and criminally ill. Bill Hagmaier is a young recruit who gets assigned to Ted Bundy, the infamous serial killer. Nobody can get close to Bundy, but Hagmaier is able to build up a bond with this man.

The conversations between the two are interesting, the performances are solid and the pacing is OK, though the film gets a little repetitive in the second half. The soundtrack is used to try and elevate the overall styling, but it is pretty generic and mostly just loud. Not a bad film, but it's not too memorable.


1970 / 100m - Turkey
Hope poster

Turkey has a proper movie industry with a relatively sizeable commercial output, but when talking about its critically respected films, it's mostly just poverty porn dramas. A barrage of misery and defeat, preferably shot in black and white, with a downward spiral that never seems to end well.

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Cabbar has a horse carriage he uses to drive people around. When a car causes his horse to die, Cabbar soon realizes that justice won't prevail. Without a means to provide for his family, he starts to despair. Then he hears about a treasure buried in the desert. It's his only remaining hope to get his life back on track.

This is not a fun film, nor a well-made one. The cinematography is okay, though technically imperfect. The soundtrack is pretty terrible, the performances lack subtlety and the drama is an absolute bore. There's really nothing here for me. Cheap and unattractive, but if you like 100 minutes of unfiltered misery, this might just be a dream come true.

Follow the Light

Hikari wo Oikakete
2021 / 104m - Japan
Follow the Light poster

What an absolute delight. The core of the film delivers a pretty standard rural drama, spruced up with light genre elements, blissful cinematography, and a score that highlights all the beauty present. The two leads are amazing, the slowly fading glamour of the rural setting is aptly brought to light and the pacing is nigh perfect. If you don't care for Japanese drama it's pretty likely this film won't change your mind, but fans of the genre will find something quite fresh and unique here. Narita proves himself a very promising director, I'm glad this isn't one of those films that slipped through the cracks.

The Man with the Golden Arm

1955 / 119m - USA
Romance, Crime
The Man with the Golden Arm poster

A disappointing Sinatra film, but not too surprising since was directed by Preminger. The crime elements are ruined by badly executed drama, severely limiting the appeal of the film. I tend to struggle with classic drama, which is always very loud and in your face, and The Man with the Golden Arm is no exception.

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After six months in rehab, Frankie returns from prison to pick up the pieces of his old life. His wife is delighted to see him and Frankie promises to better his life, taking up a job as a drummer. When some of his old pals find their way back into Frankie's life, he struggles to stay on the right path.

Sinatra struggles with his role, especially when he relapses. Still, he's by far the best actor of the bunch. The rest is way more expressive still. The cinematography and score are forgettable, the pacing is sluggish and the mix of crime and drama doesn't work. Not a good film at all.

Kingdom II: Far and Away

Kingdom II: Harukanaru Daichi e
2022 / 134m - Japan
Action, Adventure
Kingdom II: Far and Away poster

A blockbuster that didn't need a sequel, but here we are. Sato returns as director and we're off for another two hours of battlefield-set action cinema. It sounds exciting enough, but there's way too much (generic) character drama for a film like this, no doubt the result of its manga roots.

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Shin helped to restore peace to the land of Qin, but this period of calm is only short-lived. The neighboring nation of Wei is starting to invade Qin, Shin forms a band of five warriors and joins the fight. They travel to the Dakan plains, where the decisive battle will be fought, but defeating the enemy won't be easy.

The action isn't very spectacular (I'm not a big fan of massive battlefield action) and there just isn't enough of it. The characters are pretty generic, yet a lot of time is spent on them and the underlying drama between them. I hope Sato leaves it at this and finds a franchise that better suits his skills. Not the worst, but far below his qualities.