2019 / 109m - USA
Bombshell poster

While this is no doubt supposed to be a rather serious and grave film, about a subject that is extremely relevant, I often couldn't shake the feeling that I was watching a pastiche, almost a comedy at times. I don't know the characters by heart, but I've seen them around and I had a really hard time taking them seriously.

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When a show host at Fox is fired because she challenges the status quo a little too much, she takes it upon herself to clean house. She charges the CEO of the company for sexual harassment. At first, her lawsuit seems like a drop on a hot plate, but then more and more women join her cause.

The performances are thick, almost comical. The plot is predictable (even without knowing much of the facts upfront) and the film never feels genuine or trustworthy. Bombshell is a typical Hollywood vehicle, not the kind of film that can deliver a message with any kind of authority. Not great.

Cyrano de Bergerac

1990 / 137m - France
Cyrano de Bergerac poster

This feels like one of those films with a hefty budget, that impressed quite a few people when it was first released, but then faded into anonymity soon afterward. And rightfully so. I admit I'm not a big fan of costume dramas, not even when they're more action-oriented, but this was just utterly dull.

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Cyrano de Bergerac is a famed soldier and poet. He is firmly in love with his cousin Roxane. He lacks the confidence to tell her though, as he feels insecure about his enormous nose. Roxane is more interested in Christian, a good-looking man with fewer talents. Christian approaches Cyrano to help him hook up with Roxane.

I've never been a big Depardieu fan, but the rest of the cast is equally weak. The film doesn't take itself too seriously, but it's never funny or very smart either. The cinematography is dull, the soundtrack annoying and the action is far from impressive. What remains is a film that fails to impress, and does that consistently for about 140 minutes straight.

Drifting Detective: Black Wind in Harbor

Fûraibô Tantei: Misaki o Wataru Kuroi Kaze
1961 / 60m - Japan
Thriller, Crime
Drifting Detective: Black Wind in Harbor poster

A surprisingly fun little detective movie. It reminded me a little of Kurosawa's Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself series, which is also made up of shorter films, featuring some quirkier characters and plotlines. Alternatively, think of the Maiku Hama films. Exploring more of Fukasaku's oeuvre, I'm starting to see that he has a knack for fun genre fare.

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Goro is a small-time private investigator. He reluctantly accepts a case after receiving a generous payment, which forces him to investigate some local fishermen. People have gone missing or ended up dead after apparent suicides. There's a lot more going on in the harbor than meets the eye.

The characters are cheeky, a little over-the-top, but charming and fun. The case is pretty basic, but thanks to the short runtime there's no time for the film to slow down. The setting is also nice, though the black-and-white cinematography doesn't really do it justice. A cute little film, much better than I expected it to be.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

1946 / 116m - USA
Romance, Thriller
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers poster

A very talkative thriller, sporting extremely overstated performances and lots of classic drama (which includes the very explicit styling of the film). If you like classic Hollywood there may be something for you here, I struggled from the very first scene and never even really got into the film.

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The young Martha Ivers can't get along with her aunt. When her aunt comes after Martha's cat, she retaliates and her aunt ends up dead at the bottom of the stairs. There are two other witnesses, but Martha flees the premises and starts a new life. 18 years later, they all meet again, and it's clear that there's still a lot of unresolved history between them.

Crooked dialogues and bad acting ruin the opening scene, though it doesn't really improve later on. The cinematography is bland, the score is overly dramatic and the plot isn't all that interesting. At almost two hours long, the film also greatly outstays its welcome. For niche audiences only.

Violent Night

2022 / 112m - USA
Comedy, Action
Violent Night poster

A project that sounded hella fun on paper. Tommy Wirkola, director of some goofy horror flicks, taking on the Christmas vibe. The result is a little more childish than I'd expected though. The film is eager to reference Home Alone, and while it's a slight step up from that one, it feels more like a companion piece to that film.

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Christmas is the one time the members of a wealthy family come together at their estate to spend some time together. This Christmas is going to be a little different, as a group of criminals are planning to steal their fortune. Things get even trickier when a disillusioned Santa Claus (the real one) gets mixed up in the heist.

The film takes a while to get going, leans a bit too much into the typical Christmas nonsense, and when the action hits, it doesn't hit quite hard enough. It's still an enjoyable romp, Wirkola makes sure you won't mistake this for a regular Christmas film, but I'd expected something a bit bigger and bolder.

When You Wish Upon a Star

Hoshi ni Negai wo
2019 / 118m - Japan
Drama, Horror
When You Wish Upon a Star poster

A rather peculiar mix of drama and genre cinema. Because Sasaki is known as a horror director the film has been promoted as such, but this is in essence a character portrait fleshed out with various genre elements (and yes, that includes horror). Solid performances and pointed styling help the film stand out, but there's this very visceral and raw energy that really sets this one apart. It's a film by a director with something to say, and no one to reign in or filter his message. A very strong feature by Sasaki, who delivers on the potential he showed before.


2023 / 107m - USA
Thanksgiving poster

Eli Roth does classic slasher. It has all the elements of a typical Halloween flick, but we're now dealing with a slightly different holiday (and a different mask). It's a tiny bit more graphic than your usual slasher, and that's about all the novelty you can expect from this film. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I wouldn't call it a future classic.

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In a small American town, Thanksgiving is a big thing. When a local supermarket opens its doors, people flood the place and leave death and destruction in their wake. One year later the town is still dealing with the aftermath of the tragedy. One person isn't happy with how the law handled things, and he is adamant about taking matters into his own hands.

And so a masked killer holds a small town in his grip during one of its most festive days. The kills are fun and the horror is tongue-in-cheek, but it's all a bit too familiar without ever being next level. There were also some typical American elements (like the rocker dude) which felt a bit out of place for a 2023 movie. Simple horror fun, aptly executed, but lacking anything distinctive or memorable.


2002 / 122m - Japan
Drama, Romance
Sabu poster

If you think Miike can only do weird and extravagant, it means you simply haven't seen the right films yet. Sabu is a somewhat inconspicuous entry in Miike's oeuvre, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth seeking out. It's a sweet and genuine samurai drama/romance with some rougher moments spread throughout.

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Sabu and Eiji are childhood friends who are inseparable. One day, Eiji disappears and is nowhere to be found. Sabu can't forget his friend though and he starts asking around about his whereabouts. He finally learns that Eiji was taken to a nearby prisoner island, as he is suspected of stealing a golden handkerchief.

Tatsuya Fujiwara's performance is strong, the pacing is lovely, and the cinematography and score are proper (though they're not quite top-of-the-line, which is where the film does lose some points). I loved the film the first time I watched it, having seen so many other films in between it has lost some of its charm, but it's still a worthy film, even (or maybe especially) when you're not a Miike adept.

Killers of the Flower Moon

2023 / 206m - USA
Drama, Western
Killers of the Flower Moon poster

The latest Martin Scorsese film is very much a hardcore Scorsese film. That's a good thing for Scorsese fans because they're getting a whole lot of Scorsese. If you're like me and the man's style doesn't exactly appeal to you, I hope you have other things on your mind so it can freely drift away. If not, those 200+ minutes are going to sting.

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When oil is found in Oklahoma, it attracts many shady figures. The oil is found on the land of the Osage tribe, and not long after people of the tribe start turning up dead. The FBI was freshly founded around that time and this case is perfect to show off their proficiency. When they start their investigation, they discover one of the biggest crimes the US has ever seen.

DiCaprio and De Niro are starring once again, next to some other familiar faces (if there are cowboy hats in sight, you can be sure Jesse Plemons is around) and a bunch of less familiar actors (mostly the natives). The accents are truly horrendous, the overly dramatic performances feel like something from the past and the styling (editing, cinematography, score) is oldskool dull. The sluggish pacing is just the final nail in the coffin. A terrible film.

Summer Ghost

Samā Gōsuto
2021 / 40m - Japan
Drama, Mystery - Animation
Summer Ghost poster

A sweet little anime. There's a lot of Shinkai here (maybe a bit too much), but the art style is just about unique enough, the film is short and to the point, and while the mood felt pretty familiar to me, the setup of the film is intriguing enough to set it apart from many similar films out there. The perfect filler in other words.

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Three teens get together in order to chase an urban legend. It is said that lighting up fireworks on a nearby landing strip will bring about ghosts. When they're about to give up, a young girl turns up out of nowhere. She's a bona fide ghost looking for her body, which was buried somewhere after a hit-and-run accident.

It's clear that this wasn't made by one of the big anime studios, but the animation looks good and the character designs are interesting. The coloring is lovely, the soothing soundtrack fits the bill, and even though the somewhat melancholic and sullen mood isn't exactly eye-popping original, the short runtime makes sure it never gets too dreary or depressing. A very nice find.

Trial on the Road

Proverka na Dorogakh
1986 / 96m - Soviet Union
Trial on the Road poster

Russian films are always a bit of a gamble. They tend to be rather grim and downtrodden by design, and while that's not always a bad thing, it's certainly not a guarantee for success either. Trial on the Road is a dreary war drama that firmly landed in the second category for me, meaning that the trial part of the title was certainly apt enough.

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Lazarev is a former Red Army sergeant who values his life more than his allies. When the Germans capture him he joins their side, but when he finally ends up into the hands of partisans he is eager enough to fight against the Nazis. Not all the partisans are immediately willing to trust Lazarev though.

The stark black-and-white cinematography could've elevated the barren and snow-covered landscapes, but in the end, it just turns it into a dulled, dire setting. The performances are terrible and overstated, the plot is equally uninviting, and whatever intrigue there is never felt in any way engaging. It's a pretty short film, but to me t it felt like it would never end. Had a horrible time with this one.

Zeki, Florian, and Kelly!

1996 / 78m - Japan
Drama, Experimental
Zeki, Florian, and Kelly! poster

Not vintage (cyber)punk cinema, but close enough. For once, the cyber is completely missing, and it's been replaced by more arthouse-like elements. I'm not sure who the target audience is supposed to be here (the fact that it remained under the radar for so long is a good indication that others didn't either), but if you like your films a bit weird, this is a very promising film.

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The plot is a bit tricky. The dialogue and monologues are rather poetic and disjointed, and the story about five outcasts who team up to deliver a "cake" at an undisclosed location in Tokyo is not exactly coherent. It could be symbolic, it could just be a hook for the characters and stylistic elements, but it's definitely not the main selling point of the film.

The cinematography is gritty, and the performances are pretty raw. And yet, it isn't as frantic as its typical punk peers. There's a poetic layer under all that grit which gives the film its very own vibe. It took me a while to warm up to it, but once I understood what it was going for, it won me over pretty quickly. A very interesting find.


2023 / 109m - Spain
Nowhere poster

Pintó's latest is a fun little survival thriller. It's a little over-the-top and it would be smart to prepare yourself for a film that isn't all that realistic, but it's this cheeky larger-than-life edge that makes the film stand out. It's certainly not the first film about someone stranded at sea, so to get something slightly different is a big plus.

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Mia and her husband try to escape from a war zone, but their attempt is troubled. They get separated and Mia ends up alone at sea. She's locked up in a container and ready to give birth. That's when her survival instinct kicks in, and even though the conditions are terrible, she's determined to power through.

Mia's transformation from feeble victim to primal power woman is a bit sudden and her craftiness is a little extraordinary, but certain events at the end underline the semi-symbolic nature of the events. The lead performance is strong, Pintó makes great use of the limited location and there are more than enough tense moments scattered throughout. Very entertaining.

800 Two Lap Runners

1994 / 110m - Japan
Romance, Sport
800 Two Lap Runners poster

An essential Hiroki, but one that's been unavailable to us mere Westerns until very recently. It's one of the first films where he shifts his focus from pinku to purer drama. There are still some pinku influences left, but 800 Two Lap Runners is very much a typical and capable early 90s sports romance.

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When Ryuji is caught with a female student, his principal forces him to join the track team. He sees a great athlete in Ryuji, but so far he's been a bit lazy and frivolous. He joins the 800m runners and quickly establishes himself as one of the top runners on the team. He only has one big rival, and they're both eyeing the same girl.

The performances are solid, Hiroki's eye for drama is already present and the pacing is fine. Other than that though, it's a pretty basic Japanese affair. It's not comparable to the amazing films he would direct at a later stage in his career, but if you're looking for a solid drama and you're a completionist like me, this is a superb film.

El Sur

1983 / 95m - Spain
Drama, Romance
El Sur poster

There's something there in Erice's work, but it never really grips me completely. El Sur is often praised for its cinematography and while I can appreciate some of the shots and the delicate framing, the colors are often dreary and it's just not what I'd consider to be an overwhelming visual experience.

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Estrella is a young girl who lives in a northern town in Spain. She is entranced by her father, an enigmatic but mysterious man who came all the way from the south. As she learns more about her father, she finds that he was never able to fully cut the ties with his heimat and that he left behind his biggest love when he moved to the north.

El Sur definitely has its moments, it's not a stuffy drama and the mix of romance and mystery elements creates a unique atmosphere. I was somewhat bothered by the slow pacing and Estrella's somewhat uninteresting quest. I zoned out a couple of times, but there was just enough there to keep pulling me back.

Little Big Women

Gu wei
2020 / 123m - Taiwan
Little Big Women poster

A pretty decent Taiwanese drama, though it lacked that typical finish. The film often felt closer to a US indie drama than its Taiwanese peers, which isn't a positive in my book. The performances were good and the cinematography polished enough, but the family intrigue and the relatively poor use of the setting were a little disappointing.

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When the family gets together to celebrate Shoying's 70th birthday, she is notified that her former husband died. He left her years ago and never looked back. He ended up with another woman, and Shoying wants to meet her to understand how her husband spent the last part of his life.

It's always nice to see Vivian Hsu, but she's underused here. The pacing is relatively slow and the drama takes its time to unfold, but those aren't necessarily negative points. It's just that Taiwanese films tend to be a bit classier and refined, whereas the conversations and dramatic exchanges here came off a little too blunt. Still a decent film, but it's far from the best Taiwan has on offer.

Step Up

2006 / 104m - USA
Romance, Sport
Step Up poster

Not as bad as I'd feared it would be. Sure enough, it's a very standard riches-to-rags story, there's not an ounce of surprise. But the execution is quite on point, and if they'd slimmed it down a bit further, I might've even given it a slightly higher score. Too much pointless drama in the final act ruined it though.

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Tyler is a little thug who hangs out on the streets and steals cars. When he breaks into an art school, makes a mess, and gets caught, he is sentenced to do community service. At the school, he meets Lucy, an aspiring dancer whose partner just got injured. Tyler has a couple of dance moves and offers to help her out.

Again, the plot is as basic as it can get, apart from a little side story that doesn't belong there anyway. The dance scenes are fun (but not too spectacular by modern standards), the energy between Tatum and Dewan is where it should be and the pace is fine. I wasn't bored while watching, which is a lot more than I could've hoped for.