The Devil's Mirror

Feng Lei Mo Jing
1972 / 90m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
The Devil's Mirror poster

Chung Sun isn't quite as well-known as his Shaw Bros contemporaries (Cheh Chang and Yuen Chor), but based on what I've seen so far (which is just 6 films), he's better than both of them. Somewhat conveniently, his films are also a perfect mix of Chang's martial arts extravaganzas and Chor's fantasy elements.

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Two famed martial arts clans combine forces in the hope of ruling the martial arts world together. For that, they need access to two magic mirrors. The mirrors are in the hands of two other clans, who will do everything in their might to keep the trinkets out of the hands of the villains.

The martial arts scenes are quite dynamic, the fantasy elements are a little subdued, but they add a bit of extra flair to the story. The film isn't too long, it's nice to see most scenes were shot on actual location and the pacing is solid. A fun Shaw Bros fantasy brawler and another Chung Sun film worth watching.


1970 / 102m - USA
Wanda poster

Grim and unpleasant drama. It reminded me a little of the films of the Dardennes, though set in small-town USA. It's not my favored niche and Loden didn't show me anything that could change my mind. That said, it's certainly not the worst film in its genre, it just outstayed its welcome.

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Wanda is a tragic human being. She can't really handle life, she's a bad wife and a terrible mother. After her husband finally divorces her she also loses her job. She gets cheated on by several men, only to hook up with a small-time criminal. Together, they plan on robbing a bank.

What you get is very realistic-looking misery porn. I will say that the film and characters felt very natural, especially in the first half. When some minor crime elements are added the mood gets diluted and I started losing interest. The presentation is pretty dire too, but that comes with the territory. I wasn't a fan.

Ghost Book

Ghost Book Obakezukan
2022 / 113m - Japan
Ghost Book poster

Yamazaki's fantasy film is firmly aimed at younger viewers, but there's quite a bit of charm here, and he once again proves himself someone who can properly handle a hefty budget. It might be time to take on some slightly more mature films again, then again, young kids also deserve nice films.

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Trying to surprise Minato for her birthday, her friends bought gifts and planned to jump her on her way home. Right before they do so, a scaffold collapses and puts Minato in the hospital. Her friends feel guilty and wish they could do something for her. That wish grants them a magic book that might help them to make their wish come true.

A Yokai fantasy with three elementary school kids capturing monsters to save their classmate. It's not the most original setup, but the monsters are fun enough, the presentation feels warm and inviting and the pacing is solid. Not Yamazaki's best and squarely geared at younger audiences, but good, light-hearted entertainment.

You've Got Mail

1998 / 119m - USA
Comedy, Romance
You've Got Mail poster

Famous late-90s romcom. I watched this ages ago, no doubt a choice of my parents. I didn't remember too much, the only real big selling point of this film was the fact that email had a prominent role in the plot. Back then, this cinematic nod to technology actually meant there was some social relevance to this phenomenon (oh, how life has changed).

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Joe and Kathleen are both in separate relationships, but they are also online pen pals. Their friendship slowly blossoms, what they don't know is that they are going to be competitors very soon. Joe is opening one of his major bookstores, very close to Kathleen's small, vintage bookshop.

The problem with this film is that both characters are pretty bland and unlikeable. I wasn't rooting for either of them, let alone their relationship. The vibe is pretty light and the pacing is decent, even though the film is too long, but that's hardly a positive when the core of the film is completely broken. Not good.

Room at the Top

1958 / 115m - UK
Drama, Romance
Room at the Top poster

Classic British films are surprisingly talkative. I haven't explored too much of Britain's cinematic past, but where their contemporary cinema is often more atmospheric and cinematic, the films of olden times are very much based around characters and dialogues. And they're quite dull too.

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Joe Lampton has a good job, even though the town he works in is quite dull. To pass the time, he joins the theater, where he meets Susan, the factory boss' daughter. Though Joe has his eye on an older woman, he figures it would do his career good to get married to Susan. Dating both of them won't end well though.

The film is more drama than romance, as Joe's intentions are more of a practical nature. Harvey is a terrible lead, as he puts in a very labored performance. The presentation is meager and the plot quite predictable, and all of that is dragged out to reach the 2-hour mark. Not a good film.

Black Night Parade

2022 / 108m - Japan
Comedy, Fantasy
Black Night Parade poster

Fukuda's latest is an odd film. He's known to tackle strange projects, often films with a lot of comedy, and Black Night Parade falls into this category pretty well. It's just that I don't really know if this was aimed at younger kids or not. Some parts are pretty dark, others are straight-up childish. I would've liked a clearer angle.

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Hino has been looking for a job ever since he graduated from school. No serious employer wants to hire him, so he's working in a small convenience store. Even his colleagues take advantage of him until one day a strange figure in a Santa suit comes to visit him and offers him a unique job.

Black Night Parade isn't as outright funny as Fukuda's earlier work, but it can get seriously weird and even though it slumps from time to time, there's always some odd nonsense just around the corner to pick up the pace. It's a funny little film, but looking at Fukuda's oeuvre, I just know he can do better than this.

Mad Fate

2023 / 108m - Hong Kong
Mystery, Crime
Mad Fate poster

Cheang's latest film is a tough one. People expecting him to continue his Limbo streak may be disappointed by the outcome, instead, it feels more like an ode to Johnnie To and Ka-Fai Wai (think Mad Detective). It's rooted in Hong Kong folklore, and it's a film that demands the audience to follow the characters into their display of madness. A unique score, slick and colorful cinematography, and a wild plot make this another Cheang classic. I wouldn't be surprised if this makes less of an impact internationally though, as it has these strong Hong Kong signature elements that traditionally don't travel well.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

2022 / 142m - USA
Fantasy, Adventure
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore poster

The third film in the Potter spin-off series. I can't say I'm a big fan, but it's not the worst blockbuster fantasy out there either. There is some creativity in the creature design and settings, and the budget is there, but other than that it remains a pretty generic and somewhat childish endeavor

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Grindelwald has a plan to seize control over the world of wizardry. Dumbledore doesn't want to get involved, but he does bring together a team of skilled individuals with the potential to stop Grindelwald in his tracks. When they struggle to get the upper hand, Dumbledore may have to put in some effort after all.

The effects are proper, there are some rather impressive action scenes and the fantasy world of Fantastic Beasts houses some fun ideas. The films are still very much bound to the Potter legacy though, meaning it can't be too dark or too far off the beaten path. And that's a real shame for a fantasy film.


2022 / 99m - Japan
Hand poster

Nikkatsu's Roman Porno series has been resurrected with great success. They managed to land some very talented directors, who aren't just making random pinku films but are actually using these opportunities to create worthwhile dramas about (female) sexuality. Daigo Matsui didn't disappoint.

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Sawako is a young girl who has always had an interest in older men. She feels very comfortable around them and starts to observe them with the help of her scrapbook. Things change when she meets Mori, an ex-colleague of hers who is about the same age as she is. This finally opens her heart to a different kind of love.

Yes, there is sex and nudity here, but like the better entries in the Roman Porno series, it's not so much the goal as it is just part of the theme of the film. The performances are solid, the styling is polished and Sawako's character is well-developed. If you're a fan of Matsui's work, be sure to catch this.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

2002 / 95m - USA
Comedy, Romance
My Big Fat Greek Wedding poster

Another (US) immigrant comedy, this time with Greek people. I'm a bit confused about why this became such a big success, I don't think there are that many Greek people in the US and the comedy is so generic that it has a rough time standing out from its peers. It's also not that funny, but hey, it sure made a lot of money.

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Toula is a young Greek girl growing up in the US. Her family is still very tied to the old ways though, so when she finds a non-Greek husband, her family isn't too keen on taking him into their family. Toula persists as she really loves the guy, but at the same time, she doesn't want to alienate the people she loves.

You've seen this film a million times before. Sometimes it's with Jews, something it's Italians, Indians, or Chinese folk. The direction is utterly bland, the performances are uninteresting and the comedy is quite lame. At least it's rather short and it's not a complete drag, but hardly recommended when you're in the mood for a romcom.

League of Gods: The Fall of Sheng

Feng Shen Huo Sheng
2003 / 80m - China
Fantasy, Action
League of Gods: The Fall of Sheng poster

While I can't keep track of the story (at all), the League of Gods brand is pretty strong, and if you're looking for some outrageous fantasy/action cinema it's a good series to follow. These streamers are putting out films faster than I can count though, so I'm just watching whatever I can get my hands on.

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Da Ji wants to build a fancy pavilion in order to summon the Devil King, but for that, she needs the Xuan Stones. Ji Chang owns a piece of the stones, but before Ji can get to it he manages to imprison her. Ji remains determined to complete her mission and revive the Devil Clan at all costs.

There are some very cool fantasy designs, some nifty action scenes, and a whole lot of lore to wade through. The film is only 80 minutes long, so the pacing is mad fast just to be able to cram everything in. Good streamer fluff in other words, but it would be nice if they could finally take that next step and crank out a bona fide classic.

The Sound of Summer

by Guy
2022 / 75m - Japan
The Sound of Summer poster

At times, this felt like a modern-day Tetsuo. The Sound of Summer could've been a perfect title for a small rural drama, but it's actually Japanese body horror supreme. The title references the ever-present cicada, this time though the sound is anything but soothing and pleasant.

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The summer is hot and people have a tough time escaping the heat. The warmth draws out the cicadas, who make a real racket. Everyone is extremely irritable, except a strange figure people refer to as the Cicada Man. He walks around with a box of living cicadas, but nobody knows what he's planning to do with them.

The film looks pretty cheap, but this is obviously a low-budget work of passion. The body horror is impressive though and the soundtrack is very aggressive, creating a very dark and oppressive atmosphere. It's a very promising film. it just doesn't quite do enough to balance out its lesser points, but it completely aces its strengths.


1959 / 94m - Mexico
Nazarin poster

Like many of his respected counterparts, Buñuel is someone who liked to include religion in his films. Sometimes in more abstract or philosophical ways, sometimes very directly, as is the case here. It's a topic I'm not particularly interested in, though there's more than just religion to bite into.

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Nazarín is a priest who lives in a very poor community. He tries to live his best life, sticking to his beliefs as much as possible, while doing good for the people around him. Those people don't really respect his efforts though, and many of his good deeds seem to backfire on him. With every setback, Nazarín just seems more determined to continue his mission.

So religion, a mix of poverty and misery porn, and a bit of misanthropy. It's a tired cocktail of dramatic elements, not helped by poor performances and bland direction. It might be interesting if you care for Buñuel's worries, ponderings, and/or world view, for me it was just a drag to get through.

Love Never Ends

by Yan Han
Wo Ai Ni!
2023 / 116m - China
Drama, Romance
Love Never Ends poster

Yan Han used to be one of China's more gifted directors, but he's defaulted to making schmaltzy Chinese blockbuster dramas. The quality is still there, in some ways at least, but now it's packaged in rather mediocre films geared at making as much money at the box office as possible, more so than anything else.

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An old widower hears that his life is slowly coming to an end, with nobody to care for he is quickly losing his will to right. At that time he meets Li Huiru, he woman his age who also lives by herself. Their first encounter is thorny, but once they get to know each other love begins to blossom between the two.

Han's direction is pleasant. He has a knack for nice cinematography and with a proper cast at his disposal he creates some loveable characters, but the drama and romance feel a bit overwrought and a simpler setup might've helped to make it feel less like a deliberate tearjerker. Not bad, but Yan Han can do so much better than this.

Dragon Ball: The Path to Power

Doragon Bôru: Saikyô E no Michi
1996 / 80m - Japan
Comedy, Action - Animation
Dragon Ball: The Path to Power poster

Back to basic. We're losing the Z and we're going all the way back to the beginning of Dragon Ball, with the first scene showing how Son Goku and Bulma met up. It's not too weird for a 10th-anniversary flick to look back at the past, but it does require a mental shift, as the gap with the Z series is quite big.

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Bulma is looking for the legendary dragon balls, after having found two in an old storage room. She bumps into Son Goku, whose grandfather also has one hidden away. They decide to journey together, but the Red Ribbon Army is also trailing the seven balls, and they want to take them with force.

The animation style is a lot nicer compared to Z. The animation itself is also better and the mix of comedy and adventure is way better suited to the material. I just prefer the original Dragon Ball material I guess, even though 80 minutes is a bit long for a rather flimsy plot. Solid entertainment though, which is more than I could say about most of the Z films.

Red Beard

1965 / 185m - Japan
Red Beard poster

One of the last "big" Kurosawa classics still on my list. Not surprisingly, one of his longer films too. It may be smaller in scope (no big battle scenes here), but the film is still epic in every imaginable way. I didn't think it very fitting for what is basically just a long, spun-out melodrama.

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Noboru is a young doctor who thinks he is ready to take on his job. He finds a place to work, under the supervision of Akahige, an old and stern doctor who likes to run operations by his own, particular rules. The two don't see eye to eye, but the longer Noboru works there, the more he begins to understand what it means to be a doctor.

The performances are overly theatrical, the soundtrack was distracting, and the plot stretched far beyond its breaking point. I did like the framing somewhat, but that was hardly enough to get me through three hours of extreme melodrama. A pretty bad Kurosawa flick and another one unworthy of his reputation.

Meg 2: The Trench

2023 / 116m - USA
Action, Horror
Meg 2: The Trench poster

It wasn't a big surprise when they announced a Meg sequel, but who could've guessed Ben Wheatley was going to pick this franchise to try his hand at blockbuster cinema? Just one more reason to go and watch the film, as I quite liked the first one and was interested to see what Wheatley would make of it.

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A research team is mapping out the new-found underseas territory where the megs live. The missions are dangerous, but they find something down there they never would've expected: another human-built base. A landslide crashes their pods, their only way to survive is to make it to the base.

The first hour is cool, as I have a soft spot for underwater adventure/horror films. The second hour brings all the meg action (and throws in a giant squid for good measure), but that part's not quite as exciting. It's pretty decent blockbuster entertainment and I hope Wheatley had fun making this, couldn't really see his hand in this film though, so he's probably better off doing his own thing.


La Haine
1995 / 98m - France
Drama, Crime
Hate poster

It's been a while since I last watched Kassovitz's breakthrough film, and I was happy to see that it had lost almost none of its original appeal. And it's not just because the banlieue issues are still relevant to this day, it's the way Kassovitz managed to capture a snapshot of the young people living in those neighborhoods, about how the violence around them escalates and how they are pulled in, without ever feeling the need to cover up their less favorable sides. Superb performances, lovely black-and-white cinematography, and a fitting score all help to set the mood for this riveting drama.

The Seventh Curse

Yuen Chun Hap Yu Wai See Lee
1986 / 83m - Hong Kong
Action, Horror
The Seventh Curse poster

A pretty crazy Hong Kong flick, but with Ngai Choi Lam in the director chair, that's not too big of a surprise. He has a knack for wacky genre-benders, and The Seventh Curse didn't disappoint. There are some big names involved in this production, but it's the monsters that are the real draw.

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When Doctor Yung is in the Thai jungle looking for some rare ingredients, he comes into contact with a local tribe. They practice magic and when the encounter doesn't go as planned, the tribe curses Yung. He has only a year to live if he can't find an antidote, so he returns to Thailand with his best friend to find a way to get rid of the curse.

There's action, horror, a little comedy, spoofs, and rip-offs, and that's not even half of it. It's not a very consistent or well-structured film, but that's all part of the fun. It's nice to see cameos of Fat and Wong, Maggie Cheung makes a welcome appearance, but all I cared about was the next crazy setup Lam would come up with, and he kept the weirdness going until the very end. Good fun.


2005 / 95m - USA
Comedy, Horror
Feast poster

Still fun and gory, but just not quite as slick as it used to be. The first time I watched Feast it caught me by surprise. I wasn't expecting much, and suddenly there was this over-the-top graphic horror flick that whizzed by in no time. Twenty years later the joy is still there, but the cheap finish makes it a bit tougher to appreciate.

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A few random people in a small town bar are heading toward their worst nightmare. Monsters are on the prowl and they're following a couple that's about to barge into the bar. When the man is torn to shreds just after his arrival, panic strikes, and the people in the bar board the place up, hoping that will keep the monsters at bay.

The effects are pretty graphic and the camera work is energetic, but it's not quite enough to forgive the film's lesser points. The character introductions are neat but the presentation is cheap, some of the actors are subpar and whenever blood isn't gushing down the camera, the quality of the film takes a nosedive. I had a good time revisiting this one, but it's not a personal favorite anymore.

Bon-Uta, A Song from Home

2019 / 134m - Japan
Bon-Uta, A Song from Home poster

A documentary about a piece of local Japanese culture thought to be on the brink of extinction due to the Fukushima disaster. The song and dance known as Bon-Uta was mainly performed by people in the area, but as they scattered, it became difficult to keep the tradition alive.

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The documentary sought out a few die-hards and went with whatever popped up. There's a trip to Hawaii, where the tradition lives on, some bits about the return to Fukushima, and some segments about the drums, the dance, and the songs. It's all over the place though, which also explains the length of this film.

There are some nice moments, mostly when the interviewees go about their daily business. The Bon-Uta part I found less thrilling, in part because the plain docu-style does it little justice. Just seek out Toyoda's Shiver if you want a way more impressive rendition of these types of local traditions.

The Bodyguard

1992 / 129m - USA
Romance, Thriller
The Bodyguard poster

Finally watched this again. I still remember how this was a pretty big deal when it was first released, so much in fact that even my parents wanted to watch it (and they're not really into cinema). I guess Houston's popularity played a big part in the film's success, as the rest is pretty basic and formulaic.

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Frank is a personal bodyguard who never stays on the job for too long and doesn't want to deal with celebrities. Still, he is suckered into taking a job for Marron, a famous actress. The two don't really get along at first, but someone is after Marron and Frank is one of the best in his field.

Costner is a pretty bland guy and not fit for the part, Houston on the other hand is pretty much playing herself. There are some famous songs attached to this film and some of the are quite tense, but the runtime is excessive and the direction is very mediocre. Not really worth all the fuss.