Peony Pavilion

by Yonfan
You Yuan Jing Meng
2001 / 122m - Hong Kong
Peony Pavilion poster

Yonfan delivers his take on Xianzu's traditional story. Yonfan is one of the first directors to represent the LGBTQ+ community in Hong Kong cinema, so it should be no surprise that his version of the story includes a same-sex relationship. It's the stylish and colorful cinematography, the gripping soundtrack, and Rie Miyazawa's utterly enchanting performance that give the film its real power though. It's been ages since I last watched the film, but it managed to win me over for a second time. A little-known gem, by an underrated director.

Deep Red

Profondo Rosso
1975 / 127m - Italy
Horror, Thriller
Deep Red poster

Not a big fan of this Argento. It's not as outrageous or extravagant as Suspiria, which leaves a somewhat tepid mystery with terrible performances, distracting dubs, and a cheesy soundtrack. 90 minutes would've been more than enough, but somehow this film ended up being stretched beyond the 2-hour mark.

Read all

When a jazz pianist witnesses a murder, he wants to find the killer. He teams up with a news reporter, and together they start their little investigation. The closer they get to the real identity of the killer, the more people around end up dead. But they're so far in that turning back simply isn't an option.

The cinematography is somewhat interesting, but it's not very consistent. The actors are terrible, Goblin's soundtrack is ill-fitting and I didn't really care for the giallo elements. I just wasn't invested enough in the investigation, add to that the disappointing stylistic choices, and what's left is an overly long film with too much unrealized potential.


2021 / 103m - Norway
Comedy, Drama
Ninjababy poster

A cute, adorable drama with some clear comedic touches. It's not the most remarkable film, nor the first one to throw in a little animation to liven things up, but the characters are enjoyable, the balance between comedy and drama feels right and the conclusion was very fitting.

Read all

Rakel is a young girl who is ready to begin her adult life. Until she finds out she's already 6 months pregnant, well beyond the accepted period to get an abortion. Suddenly she can't escape the fact that she is going to become a mom, something that was on the very bottom of her list.

The lead actress is strong, the animation is quirky (but not very pretty or technically accomplished) and the frankness of the characters is refreshing. Other than that, the film did feel kind of empty, there wasn't too much urgency and there wasn't much that stuck into my brain. Good, entertaining filler though.

My Heart Belongs to Daddy

Watashi no Kokoro wa Papa no Mono
1988 / 95m - Japan
Comedy, Drama
My Heart Belongs to Daddy poster

A TV project that was restructured into a feature film. The project's roots are very obvious, but thanks to Obayashi's spirited direction it's more than just a shortened TV series. At its core, My Heart Belongs to Daddy is a pretty simple drama, but there were enough quirky ideas to keep me engaged.

Read all

A daughter and her father reconnect after being 15 years apart. He left them when her mother cheated on him, but he never forgot about the family he left behind. It takes some time before they get used to each other, but once they can accept their differences, they finally get their relationship back on the rails.

The image quality is paltry and the drama is rather basic, but Obayashi has some fun tricks up his sleeve. He never takes things too seriously and injects some narrative tricks to keep things interesting. It's far from his best work, but it's easy filler that fits in well with the rest of his oeuvre.

Five Nights at Freddy's

2023 / 109m - USA
Five Nights at Freddy's poster

A poor man's Willy's Wonderland. Five Nights at Freddy's is longer, comes with a cheesy (straight-faced) backstory, and fails at being creepy. The only thing that saves this one is a decent enough budget, but that hardly makes up for its shortcomings. It's a little disappointing that a film like this did so well at the box office.

Read all

Mike has custody of his niece, but he's not really fit to be a father figure, as he's battling his own demons. Still, he wants to be there for her, so he takes the only job that's available for him. He becomes a night guard at an old pizza place that used to be famous for having very lifelike animatronics.

The story about Mike, his niece, and his traumatic past is a real bust and takes up way too much time. I wish they'd spent a bit more effort on making the puppets creepier, but that's Blumhouse for you. It's not a terrible film, it's just hard not to compare it to a much better one that was released just two years ago.

Eyes Wide Shut

1999 / 159m - USA
Mystery, Thriller
Eyes Wide Shut poster

Stanley Kubrick's final film is also his best one, but it's not quite the masterpiece I remembered it to be. The mystery isn't as entrancing, some of the scenes could've used a bit of editing and Cruise isn't as good an actor compared to Kidman, which creates a somewhat awkward imbalance.

Read all

Bill and Alice are a happily married couple, but then Alice confesses to Bill there was a time she thought about being unfaithful and Bill caves. He visits an old friend and sneaks into an exclusive party, one where everyone is masked and sex is omnipresent. When he is found out, things start to go south.

The film could've been at least 45 minutes shorter, without losing much. The cinematography is nice but nothing overwhelming, the soundtrack a little grating and while the performances are strong, Cruise isn't at the top of his game. It's a quality film, with some memorable scenes, but not one of the all-time greats.

The Catch

Gyoei no Mure
1983 / 140m - Japan
The Catch poster

Early Somai, which sees him exploring more straightforward drama territory. The film isn't quite as distinctive as some of his other work, but it shows that Somai is a capable director, even when he can't rely on a more flashy premise. More proof that my resolution to further explore Somai's oeuvre was warranted.

Read all

Shunichi is a young kid who falls in love with the daughter of a fisherman. He wants to marry her and learn the trade, as he loves the ocean, but her father is against the idea. He knows how dangerous the sea can be and he's afraid Shunichi won't be able to give his daughter the life she deserves. But Shunichi won't give up that easily.

The pacing is deliberate, the setting quite grim and Somai's choice to register rather than narrate is a solid one. The performances are good too, but the drama is pretty basic and predictable, and the runtime is pretty hefty for a film that holds few surprises. It's a good drama, but it lacks that little extra to distinguish itself.

Winchester '73

1950 / 92m - USA
Winchester '73 poster

A bog-standard western, and to make things worse, it has James Stewart in the lead. It's a pretty lethal combination already, made even worse by Anthony Mann's tepid direction. I'm clueless as to why this film became a bona fide classic, but that's not exactly a new feeling for me.

Read all

Lin is looking for the killer of his father when he arrives in a small town and enters a shooting competition. At stake is a formidable gun. Lin wins the competition, but his closest competitor steals his prize and runs off with it in the desert. Lin doesn't want to give up so easily, and he begins his pursuit.

Stewart is a wooden actor, completely unfit to play a tough cowboy. The plot is pretty boring, the setting is dreary and I really didn't care much for Lyn's quest. The cinematography and soundtrack are worthless too. I think must rank as one of the worst Westerns I've seen so far.

The Given Word

O Pagador de Promessas
1962 / 98m - Brazil
The Given Word poster

A film with neo-realistic tendencies, and some hefty Brazilian temperament mixed in. Oh, and there's also a strong religious base, which detracted from the experience for me. The notable cinematography and a few lively scenes prevent the film from being a complete dud, but I simply wasn't too taken with the lead's struggle.

Read all

Zé is a simple farmer. When his donkey falls ill, he prays to St Barbara to save his animal. In return, he carries a cross all the way to the big city. Once he arrives at his destination, the people there aren't too impressed with Zé's story and despite his good intentions, the priest of the local church paints him as the bad guy.

The church and its many steps make for an interesting, the stark black-and-white cinematography is above-average and the Capoeira adds a fun touch to the film. The struggles of the poor farmer were a lot less interesting and the more films like this I see, the more this somewhat simplistic rendition of poor vs wealthy starts to bother me. Not great, but it's certainly not all bad.

Annular Eclipse

Ji Yi Qiu Long
2021 / 98m - China
Sci-fi, Mystery
Annular Eclipse poster

Annular Eclipse is an ambitious film. It's a small-scale genre effort, so don't expect anything too epic or blockbuster-worthy. Instead, the limited budget went to some functional CG and eye-popping cinematography to create an alluring future. The plot is quite conceptual and somewhat obfuscated to strengthen the mystery aspects of the film, but if you pay attention it shouldn't be too hard to follow. The performances are solid, there are many memorable moments and the build-up towards the conclusion was extremely effective. A neat little gem.