Three Stories of Love

2015 / 140m - Japan
Three Stories of Love poster

Not one of Hashiguchi's brightest films. The somewhat ironic title is in bad taste and the mix of stories feels a tad random. There are some solid dramatic moments here and Hashiguchi clearly has a knack for drama, it's just that the film felt a bit lazy at times. Fans of his work should definitely seek it out though.

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Atsushi is good at his job but he is somewhat unattractive. The love of his life is taken from him and he struggles to continue living. A wife is neglected by her husband and is mistreated by her mother-in-law, and a gay man picks the wrong lover. All three struggle with the darker side of love.

The performances are decent, but Hashiguchi really delves into the misery here. The presentation is a bit bland and the mix of the stories (they're not told separately, but interwoven without really connecting) is somewhat awkward. A decent drama, I'd just expected a bit more going in.

Yamato (California)

Yamato (Kariforunia)
2016 / 119m - Japan
Yamato (California) poster

Alternative Japanese youth culture. Japan has a pretty decent hip-hop scene, but it rarely features in its cinema. That makes a film like Yamato all the more interesting. It's a very solid drama in a slightly different setting and sporting a handful of interesting protagonists. It made me curious about Miyazaki's other films.

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Sakura is a young girl growing up in Yamato, next to an American air base. She's really into hip-hop and she writes her own lyrics, but she has stage fright and doesn't dare to perform. Then the daughter of her mother's boyfriend comes to live with them. At first, the two don't really get along, but after a while, it turns out they have quite a bit in common.

The music is really cool and well-used (a mix of hip-hop and trip-hop), the characters are fun, the performances are solid and even though the start of the film is a bit slow, Miyazaki makes up for that in the second half. It lacks that little bit of extra polish, but I was pleasantly surprised by this film.


2022 / 139m - Japan
Kite poster

A surprisingly sentimental film from Takahisa Zeze. This isn't the first drama he tackles of course, but he usually brings a bit of grit to the table. Kite seems to be his attempt at delivering a blockbuster drama. I'm not sure if it worked out for Zeze, but it's certainly not the direction I want to see him continue in.

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Yasuo grew up an orphan, when he finally meets the right woman he gets his life on the rails. The two of them have a son together and they are happy, but when Yasuo's wife tries to save her boy at work she pays the ultimate price. Yasuo will have to go on alone while facing some of his old demons.

The cast is solid and the drama has potential, but Zeze forgoes subtlety. A somewhat cheesy and heavy soundtrack sets the tone, and the glossy cinematography and strong focus on the drama do little to hide the film's tear-jerker sensibilities. There are some decent moments, but overall it's a bit disappointing.

Bright Future

Akarui Mirai
2003 / 92m - Japan
Bright Future poster

A pretty peculiar Kurosawa. I've seen most of his films by now and his work's been pretty difficult to coin regardless. Even so, Bright Future might be the one that is the hardest to fit into his oeuvre. It's also his best film if you ask me. There's an interesting level of grit, the performances are superb, the film has a few surprising touches of magic realism and it sports a memorable score. The plot is all over the place, then again this is more of a character portrait anyway. I'd forgotten most details as it's been a long time since I last watched it, but Bright Future has lost none of its initial charm.

Wuthering Heights

1939 / 104m - USA
Drama, Romance
Wuthering Heights poster

Not the first adaptation of the novel, but certainly the most famous of the classic ones. The story should be familiar to most (certainly the people seeking out films like this), and Wyler's adaptation is pretty straightforward and to the point. It's all a bit too melodramatic for my taste, but it wasn't quite as bad as I'd feared.

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A stranger gets lost in the swamps during a pretty hefty storm and ends up at Wuthering Heights. It's the house of Heathcliff, a man torn apart by unrequited love. Heathcliff arrived at the house when he was an orphaned child. He immediately fell in love with Cathy, the daughter of the household.

It's a pretty dramatic tale with some less-than-desirable characters, and Wyler doesn't mind driving the drama straight into sentimentality. The setting and cinematography are quite moody though, more so than other films of its time. The film is also relatively short, certainly when comparing it to the other romantic powerhouse of that time (Gone with the Wind).


2022 / 102m - USA
Sci-fi, Horror
M3gan poster

A basic tech doom story with some horror elements thrown in for good measure. I've read some weird comparisons (Terminator for one), for me, this was just a less effective Child's Play update mixed with Ex Machina influences. It might've been better with a more frightening robot, but even then Johnstone's tepid direction is a letdown.

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When Cady loses both her parents in a car crash, she has to go live with her aunt Gemma. Gemma works for a toy company, where she designs AI-assisted toys. The company is in a race to the bottom, but Gemma is working on her own little side project: a prototype named M3gan that pushes the boundaries of what a toy can do.

AI gone wrong is not a very interesting premise, but in the right hands, it should be enough for a slick horror film. The doll's a little dull though, the kills are boring and the styling is pedestrian. I'm a bit baffled by the hype surrounding this film, it's not the worst sci-fi/horror I've seen, but it's pretty plain and unmemorable. Mostly good marketing I guess.

Riki-Oh: The Wall of Hell

1989 / 48m - Japan
Fantasy, Action - Animation
Riki-Oh: The Wall of Hell poster

An infamous franchise, though I never quite understood its appeal. It seems to be sharing quite some traits with Fist of the North Star, only that one is better in just about every aspect. Riki-oh feels more like a cheap knock-off, but if it's strong violence and burly men you're after, then this is a decent film that won't disappoint.

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After Riki killed a Yakuza boss, he is sent to a private prison. It's not a very pleasant place, nor a very fair one. The prison is run by a depraved warden, but the real threat comes from 4 extravagantly strong fighters who each control part of the prison domain. Riki doesn't fear them, as he himself is as strong as 50 men. A revolt will be inevitable.

The art style is pretty crude (though some of that crude bulkiness is definitely intended) and the quality of the animation is poor. The plot and setting aren't too exciting either, and for a series that is known for its over-the-top violence, it's really quite tame. Still, this film is short and properly paced, with some decent action scenes. I just don't see how it got its reputation.

Bad Day at Black Rock

1955 / 81m - USA
Drama, Western
Bad Day at Black Rock poster

A bona fide classic drama in a western setting. I'm not big on either, but I'm not big on westerns regardless, so I figured some dramatic counterbalance might actually do the film some good. And in some ways it did, though it was hardly enough to make a real impact. At least the film was short.

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Coming back from the war, veteran Macreedy arrives in a little town called Black Rock. He is looking for a Japanese farmer who has a ranch in the neighborhood, but the people in Black Rock don't take kindly to strangers. Certainly not when they are visiting someone who is still considered a public enemy.

I didn't care for the setting, nor for the characters. They are still caricatures to me, trying to survive in what is supposed to be a tense and poignant drama. It's a combination that simply does not work. I'm not a big fan of the technicolor cinematography either, which just leaves the short runtime.


2022 / 100m - Spain
Venus poster

Balagueró latest is a slightly hesitant return to the horror genre. There are a few too many crime elements and the drama is given a bit too much legroom, but once the film reveals its true face it becomes clear why Balagueró was once considered one of the biggest talents in the horror genre.

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Lucia is a dancer in a discotheque. One night she robs the place and flees with a bag of pills. She's badly hurt and she turns to her sister Rocío for help. Rocío lives in a rundown apartment building with her daughter. She wants to move away from the place, but when Lucia arrives on her doorstep, Rocío decides to help her out.

The film builds up towards a lovely finale, only the way there is a little bumpy. The horror setup is cool, but the heist/robbery feels tacked on. I understand it's an attempt at misdirection, and I guess it works, but I'm just not won over by the concept. Other than that, this was another quality film by Balagueró, I just hope he'll be making an all-out, dedicated return to horror in the near future.

Radio City Fantasy

Machikado no Meruhen
1984 / 54m - Japan
Comedy, Romance - Animation
Radio City Fantasy poster

A pretty peculiar short anime. Radio City Fantasy feels more like an animated poem than a classic narrative. It's one of those films that has virtually no plot and some very basic characters, betting everything on atmosphere. The mood is a bit too frilly and light to be entirely in my wheelhouse, but it's always nice to find something that stands out from the crowd.

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Boy meets girl in a modern Japanese city. After bumping into each other, the girl carries home the boy's notebook and reads the story he has written. When they meet again, he takes her with her him into the fantasy world he created, a world that lies waiting behind the cold exterior of the city they both live in.

The art style is pretty interesting, the animation itself isn't quite as elaborate though. It's not a big surprise considering the limited appeal of a project like this, but some extra budget could've made a real difference. The score too was disappointing, a bit too poppy and cheesy for my liking. Still, it was a pretty fun, unique journey, so I'm not complaining too much.


1980 / 98m - USA
Comedy, Sport
Caddyshack poster

Infamous golf comedy. I'm not a big Ramis fan though, certainly not when he's in the director's chair. Caddyshack is just more proof that his style of comedy leaves me completely cold. I see what the jokes are and where the audience is supposed to laugh, I just don't think it's actually close to funny.

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The film follows the happenings around a golf course at a posh country club. Some are trying to win big money, others are trying to score a boyfriend, and the caddies are focused on earning an extra buck. And then there's the groundskeeper, who is chasing a rather malicious gopher.

The performances are bland, the comedy is grating and the plot is negligible. It's a film of a different time, and I can see how it could've been a hit back then, but any critical acclaim this film is getting is completely beyond me. This was the first time I saw the film in full, I'm not surprised I never managed before.

Viking Wolf

2022 / 97m - Norway
Viking Wolf poster

Norwegian werewolf flick. It's funny how this particular niche became synonymous with practical effects (the transformations in particular). Sadly, that's exactly one of the reasons why this film falters. Svendsen did a good job building up the tension, but the wolf itself is a bit of a downer.

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Thale tracks down a prospective boyfriend in the woods where they are attacked by a fearsome wolf. Thale is hurt but survives, the boy's girlfriend isn't so lucky. When her body is found, it becomes clear that the size of her wounds doesn't match that of a regular wolf. Meanwhile, Thale is undergoing some changes.

The first part is pretty cool. A nice setting, a pleasant sense of dread and a few gory moments combine to make a moody horror flick. Once the werewolf makes his full entrance, the quality dips, and the film never fully recovers. It's not a bad attempt, it's just a little disappointing that it's the film's core niche elements that bring the overall quality down.

Our Huff and Puff Journey

Watashitachi no Haa Haa
2016 / 91m - Japan
Our Huff and Puff Journey poster

Cute little road trip drama. The film is sometimes billed as a comedy, because of the lighter atmosphere I guess, but it's really just a traditional Japanese drama following a group of people trying to get from A to B. Matsui does a good job capturing the youthful spirit of his lead characters, but it's not quite enough to set the film apart from its many peers.

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We follow four young island girls as they are trying to make their way to Tokyo. They're all major fans of CreepHyp, a minor J-Rock band, who are doing a rare live concert. It's a spur-of-the-moment decision, but the four decide to attend. They start off their 1000km trip by bike but they quickly realize they won't make their target that way.

The performances are strong, the road trip feels pretty animated and the use of handy cams and text conversations gives the film a more dynamic vibe. As a coming-of-age drama, Our Huff and Puff Journey is a bit light though and while the ending is interesting, it's not quite powerful enough to leave a lasting impression. It's a very pleasant and agreeable film, just no masterpiece.

Winter Light

1963 / 81m - Sweden
Winter Light poster

Ah, that Ingmar Bergman. Sometimes I bump into one of his shorter films, and I mistakingly assume they might be less of a hassle to sit through. Well, at least the man still manages to surprise me, more than 10 films into his oeuvre. Winter Light was a challenge, even at just 80 minutes long.

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Tomas is a small-town priest, who preaches to a small congregation. One cold winter day, he struggles immensely with his faith. He has lost his belief in God and he fails to find a new direction. He talks with a fisherman and a local teacher about his problems, but even though they want to help Tomas, he remains cold to their caring gestures.

If I'm honest, I've had it with the "classic masters" and their struggles with faith. Especially when their characters feel like empty shells draped around this very theme. Tomas isn't so much a person as he is an abstract meant as an excuse to talk about faith. There are some decent shots, but they are wasted on tiring dialogue and uninviting drama. Pretty horrible.

Baby Ruby

2022 / 93m - USA
Horror, Thriller
Baby Ruby poster

Babies are hell. Baby Ruby isn't the first film to turn post-childbirth into horror, but it's certainly one of the more visceral examples in its niche. It's a shame Wohl can't quite keep the tension going, because the first half is quite the experience. It starts to linger after that and the conclusion is a bit of a downer, but it's still worth a watch (unless you're pregnant and riddled with doubt).

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Jo and Spencer are happily married and expecting a baby. Jo's a successful businesswoman, Spencer an artisanal butcher. When the baby finally arrives, their lives are turned upside down. The constant crying, the lack of sleep, and the inability to get work done destabilizes Jo. Things get worse when she suspects her baby might hate her.

The build-up is solid, the arrival of the baby is nerve-racking and the constant crying really gets to you, which makes it easy to sympathize with Jo. But then the film seemingly starts to sway, unsure of where to go next. What remains is a fun and tense little horror film, with the unfulfilled potential to be more than that.

Mojin: Dragon Ridge Shrine

2020 / 91m - China
Action, Adventure
Mojin: Dragon Ridge Shrine poster

A disappointing effort. I'm not even sure if this film is part of the official Mojin franchise or whether it is just shameless streamer filler. Not that it matters all that much, this is just another tomb-raiding adventure, like there are so many already. Dragon Ridge Shrine doesn't even try to add anything original to the genre, sadly, it also falters on budget and execution.

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The plot is completely negligible. Professor Sun was lost during an expedition to the Dragon Ridge Shrine. Old Ho and a couple of friends start up a new expedition to find out what happened to him, while also taking a closer look at the secrets this old tomb may hide. Of course, there are other interested parties who want to get to the riches without doing all the hard work.

You get intricate tomb designs, some traps, giant spiders, and competing raiders. At 90 minutes (that's about 15 minutes of extra fluff) the film feels too long, the budget wasn't there to deliver some half-decent CG and the comedy really didn't work. There's still a bit of basic adventuring fun to be had, but there are so many better films doing exactly the same, it's a tough recommend.

Lupin's Daughter

2021 / 110m - Japan
Comedy, Crime
Lupin's Daughter poster

After directing the TV series, Takeuchi also takes on the movie version. It's a loose Lupin spin-off, though apart from the "famous family of thieves" there isn't a whole lot to connect it to its more infamous relative. Sadly, Takeuchi never manages to rise above the TV roots of the source material.

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Hana grows up in the L family, a family of notorious thieves. She'd prefer to have a normal life, but that's not in the cards for her. When a forgotten member of the family resurfaces, secrets from the past are sure to turn some heads. The family has to travel back in time in order to protect their lives.

The performances are quite poor and the direction feels rushed. It's a pretty lively and colorful film though, with some amusing ideas and memorable moments. I wish Takeuchi could've had more time or access to a bigger budget. This could've been a lot more fun if it hadn't felt so cheap.


2020 / 96m - USA
Action, Thriller
Ava poster

Decent but very generic assassin flick, with a slightly stronger focus on the drama parts (why though?) and a female lead rather than a male one. The latter is clearly the supposed trump card of the film, sadly, it doesn't add anything substantial. On the contrary, Chastain's mediocre fight skills bring the film down.

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Ava is a skilled assassin who executes hits on important people. When an operation goes sideways, her former employer wants to eliminate her. Ava escapes and seeks out the family she abandoned years ago. She soon discovers that trying to make amends when a contract killer is on her tail is pretty tiring.

Chastain is somewhat of a miscast, the action scenes are poorly edited and the story is pretty bland. On the other hand, the secondary parts are pretty decent, the pacing is good and the runtime is pretty short. It's not a great film, but it's proper genre filler when you want to give your brain a little rest.


1986 / 51m - Japan
Sci-fi, Adventure - Animation
Outlanders poster

Basic but fun sci-fi anime. Outlanders is another one of those short OAVs that deliver a classic (or generic) anime genre mix. There's not much it can do during its short runtime to set itself apart, not when the art style and plot points feel so familiar. And so the film leans into its cliches, settling to be appreciated as mere amusing genre filler.

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Princess Kahm is trying to invade Earth when she bumps into Tetsuya and falls in love with the boy. She kidnaps him and wants to marry him as quickly as possible. Tetsuya is a little apprehensive at first, but Kahm is a pretty girl and he swiftly adapts to the new situation. The only problem is Kahm's father, who isn't too happy with his daughter's choices.

The art style is decent (with some cool alien/sci-fi designs), the harem comedy (without an actual harem) is passable and while the plot feels generic, it leaves enough room to have some fun with the genre elements. It's not the most memorable film, but if you have a stray hour to bridge and you like this kind of thing, you could do a lot worse.

New Jack City

1991 / 97m - USA
New Jack City poster

A black gangster flick. Its biggest selling point is no doubt the short(er) runtime, Van Peebles doesn't need more than two hours to bring his story to a conclusion, which is a blessing. Other than that, it's a relatively fun take on the genre, but there's not much here that hasn't been done better elsewhere.

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Nino Brown runs a pretty bold gangster outfit. His gang takes flight when they start making and distributing crack, a drug that's quickly taking over the city. The police are on their tail, hoping to shut Nino down as quickly as possible. Scotty, a seasoned cop, will have to infiltrate the gang himself if he wants to get close to Nino.

Snipes and Ice-T are enjoyable, the film has the necessary flair, but Van Peebles's direction is pretty basic and the plot isn't winning any prizes for originality either. It's a rather generic crime effort, decent enough filler, but I'm not too surprised it's a film that has slowly faded from memory.


2022 / 108m - USA
Drama, Horror
Blood poster

Brad Anderson's latest offers a slightly more realistic take on the horror genre. Don't go in expecting too much gore or straight-up tension, Anderson goes for a slow build-up and an increasingly disturbing atmosphere. It's the drama that drives the horror, not the other way around.

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Jess is trying to pick up her life after her husband divorced her. She moves into the house of her late aunt with her two kids, but after only two weeks there her son's dog runs off. The dog returns the next day and immediately attacks them. Jess' son is badly hurt but recovers in the hospital after drinking human blood.

The film is helped by some solid performances and Anderson's direction is on point. The concept is a bit simple though and the drama may be a little much for a genre film. A better balance between the drama and horror elements would've been better, but if you like a more subdued take on horror, you won't be disappointed.