2004 / 62m - Japan
Fantasy, Experimental - Anthology
Tori poster

Not many people seem to know this, but Tadanobu Asano (everybody's favorite Japanese actor of the 00s) also directed a film. It's an experimental anthology project based on some of his own dreams. Most of the shorts don't have dialogue (apart from one segment - a bit of manzai comedy), so even when you don't speak Japanese there's no real reason not to watch it. The shorts don't have a clear narrative and there's no real point to any of it, but as a mood piece, it's a lovely bit of cinema that shows Asano is more than just an enigmatic actor.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

2023 / 37m - USA
Comedy, Adventure
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar poster

The best (and longest) of the four new Wes Anderson shorts that are based on the work of Roald Dahl. These are cute little stories, executed in a very peculiar (and similar way), pretty much in line with Anderson's other films. They do feel like a bit like filler though, which is why they can't really compete with his feature-length films.

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Henry Sugar is a passionate gambler. When he hears of a man who can see without using his eyes, he decides to follow in his footsteps. He masters the skill and applies it to his gambling addiction. While it makes him a ton of money, the result isn't quite what he had expected when he started his quest for glory.

The thing with short films is that they present a unique kind of freedom. There's more potential for experimentation, for doing things differently, without burning through the budget of a full-length feature. In the end, Henry Sugar (and the other three shorts) are just regular Wes Anderson films, which is why they feel a little underwhelming. Good fun, but he should've done more with them.


2019 / 97m - Belgium
Cleo poster

A fine Belgian drama. The setup of the story is rather convoluted, but it creates an interesting tension that works as a solid foundation and helps the characters thrive. It's nothing too unique or exceptional, there are plenty of other dramas like it, but slightly more contemporary touches helped it stand out.

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When Cleo is bothered by a drunk in a local disco, Leos comes to her aid. He's a lot older than Cleo, but the two get along rather well. Cleo's parents died in a car accident some years ago, what she doesn't know is that Leos is in fact the one who caused the accident. He is looking for redemption but doesn't know how to confess to Cleo.

The performances are fine, the cinematography is pleasant, the characters feel lived in. Once you accept the setup of the film, the drama and relationships feel genuine too. It could've used something extra to set it apart from other dramas, but I was pleasantly surprised by Cools' first feature film.

The Holy Girl

La NiƱa Santa
2004 / 106m - Argentina
The Holy Girl poster

I've been checking out some of Lucrecia Martel's most lauded films these past few years, and while she isn't even close to a favorite of mine, her films do have a clear and unique style and rhythm to them, which isn't without merit. I will say though that I feel her older work is slightly more interesting.

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Helena runs a slightly rundown hotel, which is home to a large group of doctors for their yearly congress. She fancies Jano, but he already has his mind set on Helena's daughter Amelia. Amelia is a decent young girl though, and she takes it upon herself to try and save Jano's soul.

The Holy Girls is a relatively basic arthouse drama. The performances are decent and the editing and camera work give the film its own flow, but the cinematography is pretty basic and the characters weren't all that interesting, neither was the drama set up between them. Decent, but not that notable.

The Nun II

2023 / 110m - USA
The Nun II poster

Much like the superhero films, James Wan's cinematic universe is on its last legs. The films still draw crowds, but they've become very stale and generic and the hype is mostly gone. The Nun II is simple horror fodder, a sequel with no real purpose beyond serving familiar scares and horror concepts.

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After surviving the attack of the demon Valak, sister Irene retreats to an Italian convent, where she tries to live a sober and quiet life. Valak manages to escape and he is able to track down Irene's good friend Maurice. Knowing Maurice is in mortal danger, Irene comes back out of hiding to face the demon once again.

The finale is pretty cool and there are some decent build-ups throughout, but the titular character isn't too scary and the jump scares are pretty boring. The plot isn't all that interesting, and so you have to wonder why this film takes almost two hours to finish. Passable horror fodder, but not all that great.

White Fox Love Affaire

Bai Hu Qing Yuan
2023 / 68m - China
White Fox Love Affaire poster

Another entry in the endless string of Chinese fox spirit fantasy films. It's impossible to keep track of them, they all look alike too. The good thing is that most are pretty short and are still enjoyable little fantasy films. They make good filler, if you can handle their obvious shortcomings that is.

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Xiao Bai is a girl suffering from memory loss. He Ansheng is a kind healer who decides to help her. They set off on a journey to uncover her true identity. As they spend time together they gradually fall in love, but Bai is in fact a fox spirit, and spirits aren't supposed to mingle with humans.

So yeah, nothing too out of the ordinary, plotwise. The CG is not great, the cinematography and costumes on the other hand are lovely, which is par for the course. With less than 70 minutes on the clock, the pacing is slick, and even though the film isn't all that memorable, it was fun spending some time with the fox spirits again.

The Illusionist

2006 / 110m - USA
Romance, Mystery
The Illusionist poster

A solid Hollywood romance. Thanks to its nice setting, some decent performances, enjoyable cinematography, and a touch of mysticism, this film rises above the rest. There's a layer of cheese that's laid on a little too thick. It kept me from fully enjoying it this time around, but it's still a pretty warm and cozy flick.

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Edward is a young boy who possesses an impressive sleight of hand. Sophie is impressed by his skills, but she comes from a wealthy background, whereas Edward is just a poor kid. The two are torn apart but will meet each other years later in Vienna. By then Edward is a famous illusionist, and Sophie is about to get married to the prince of Vienna.

Norton and Biel are fine, Giamatti is the best addition to the cast. The sepia coloring gives the film some extra flair, the illusions sprinkle some extra mystery on top of the romance, and even though the runtime gets close to the 2-hour mark, the film never loses steam. Good stuff.


2023 / 94m - USA
Appendage poster

A fairly typical horror film, where the monster has more psychological significance than it is actually scary or creepy. Appendage is nice enough for what it is, but these horror films never quite seem to get it right. The balance between drama and horror is difficult to maintain, and one or the other ends up suffering as a result.

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Hannah, a young, aspiring fashion designer has a tough time dealing with the stress of her job. The self-doubt and harsh critiques of her boss manifest themselves as a grueling creature that pops up from her side. It feeds off of her negativity, but Hannah discovers she's not the only one with this condition.

The monster looks cheesy and the horror half of the film could've used a little extra bite. The performances aren't too bad though and the cinematography is decent too. It's just that the film is never more than the sum of its parts, and because neither drama nor horror manages to stand out, it feels a little lacking. Still, decent horror filler for this time of year.

Bangkok Dangerous

2008 / 99m - USA
Action, Thriller, Crime
Bangkok Dangerous poster

The Pangs remaking their own breakout hit with Hollywood money. The result is a film with Nicolas Cage in the lead, while still set in Bangkok (with a title like that, what did you expect). It's a film I liked a lot when it was first released, but watching it now, it clearly lost some of its original appeal.

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A contract killer moves to Bangkok for his final hit. He wants out of the business, he just needs to finish one last job before he can peacefully retire. Things don't quite go as planned and when he starts to go against his own rules, he is forced to make some tough decisions along the way.

The film has plenty of flair and Cage is a pretty decent lead, but the remake misses the heart of the original and the plot is more action-oriented. There are still some cool action scenes scattered throughout and it's a good film in its own right, but between the two, the original is by far the better version.

The Big Chill

1983 / 105m - USA
Comedy, Drama
The Big Chill poster

A pedestrian drama about growing up. The themes are somewhat interesting, but the lack of cinematic qualities is hard to overlook. The Big Chill looks and feels like a TV project. It's a drab and dreary film with very little appeal beyond its characters and the drama they are facing.

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Seven friends reconnect at the funeral of one of their old pals. Seeing each other again, they reminisce about the days they spent in school, full of hope and lofty ideals. Now they've all become part of the establishment and little is left of the life they hoped to lead. The confrontation with their past is painful.

Looking back at where your life disappeared to, is a subject worthy of exploration, but you need more than that to make a good film. The performances are a little bland, the presentation is droopy and the mix of comedy and drama doesn't work too well. There are way better films about this subject.

Love Me Tonight

1932 / 104m - USA
Romance, Musical
Love Me Tonight poster

A frilly musical. The musical genre remains somewhat awkward, but after 30 years of silent cinema, it's maybe not that strange that directors saw a lot of potential in films featuring song and dance. Love Me Tonight isn't the worst of its kind, as long as you're willing to accept the rather cheesy execution.

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When Maurice, a generous tailor, helps out a nobleman down on his luck, he is gifted a visit to the royal palace as payment for his services. Maurice obliges and when he arrives he immediately falls in love with the princess. Maurice is determined, but their relationship is doomed from the beginning.

The opening scene is pretty fun, but the songs are cheesy, the accents are terrible and the plot is light as a feather. There's little here for people who aren't taken by songs and basic comedy, but at least the light mood makes it an easy film to stomach. Not a bad musical and actually better than most talkies of its era, but it's not really my genre.

The End of the Pale Hour

Akegata no Wakamonotachi
2021 / 116m - Japan
Drama, Romance
The End of the Pale Hour poster

A pretty sweet romance that packs quite the twist. The End of the Pale Hour is a comfortable, well-executed, quality Japanese drama, only about halfway through the story makes a full 180. It's quite mean-spirited if I'm totally honest, but it gives the film that little extra edge that sets it apart from many similar films. The performances are great, the cinematography is delicate and the drama/romance is poignant. An easy recommendation for fans of Japanese cinema.