7th Heaven

1927 / 110m - USA
Drama, Romance
7th Heaven poster

Silent romance that shares the same lead as Sunrise (Janet Gaynor), no doubt the most infamous romantic film of the silent era. 7th Heaven isn't quite on the same level, the war intermezzo detracts from the core and things get a little too sentimental and religious, but it's still better than many of the talkies that would pop up in the next decade.

Read all

Chico is a poor plumber who only wants two things out of life: a better job and a woman to love dearly. His second wish is granted when he meets Diana, a lovely young girl who is running from the law for a minor mishap. Chico gives her shelter and the two fall in love, but then war breaks out.

The plot isn't too original and the war scenes in the second half feel like conscious filler to pad the runtime. I would've preferred a shorter film with a serious portion of the melodrama cut out, but the romance is pretty solid and there are a few memorable moments scattered throughout. Not too bad.

Slickers vs. Killers

Chi Xian Zhen Bian Ren
1991 / 97m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action
Slickers vs. Killers poster

A middle-of-the-road Sammo Hung production. With Hung behind as well as in front of the camera, my expectations of the film were a tad higher. This didn't look or feel like an early 90s HK film though, more like a throwaway mid-'80s action flick. There's some basic fun to be had, it's just very limited.

Read all

Hung is a salesman, who one day witnesses the murder of a Triad boss. The killers recognize Hung, who now fears for his life. His trauma is so bad that he seeks out a psychiatrist, but there he runs into the killers again. They too are trying to get rid of some less desirable urges, namely killing people.

The setup is pretty funny and the mix of comedy, action, and crime is a staple of Hong Kong cinema. The fights aren't that tightly choreographed though and the film looks quite a bit older than it is. Slickers vs Killers is pretty decent Hong Kong filler, but I know Sammo Hung can do better.

The Mole Song: Final

Mogura no Uta Final
2021 / 129m - Japan
Comedy, Crime
The Mole Song: Final poster

Miike's third and final part in the Mole Song trilogy. I really liked the first two films, this third one is by and large on the same level as the second. Miike isn't quite as edgy as he used to be, but this film is still pretty out there. Silly comedy, over-the-top situations, some vintage Miike wackiness, and a bunch of familiar faces make the two-hour runtime fly by. I don't understand why these films haven't been picked up for a Western release yet, but with the series done and dusted now, it's the ideal moment to release a neat box set. This was a lovely finish to a great series.

The Color Purple

1985 / 154m - USA
The Color Purple poster

A pretty standard Spielberg drama. The Color Purple is well-made, but it's also big, loud, and sentimental. It's not Spielberg's worst film I've seen, but it's typical Hollywood schmaltz that never comes off as genuine or heartfelt. The runtime also doesn't help, but I knew that even before going in.

Read all

Celie is a poor young black woman who is driven into marriage with an older man. The man doesn't treat her right, but Celie is used to coping with very little, and she persists. When she meets the mistress of her husband, a lively blues singer, the two become good friends and Celie finally finds a way to enjoy life.

The cinematography and score are competent, and the performances decent, but the film lacks the subtlety and depth of a good drama. A putrid whiff of sentimentality hangs over every scene and while there is a lot of plot to wade through, 150 minutes is way too long for this film. Not great.

Lear on the Shore

Umibe no Ria
2017 / 105m - Japan
Lear on the Shore poster

Masahiro Kobayashi's final film is a fine goodbye to cinema, though a little too theatrical in nature to be a true personal favorite. In that way, it's a bit like Drive My Car, only Lear on the Shore never really made it outside of Japan. Fans of Hamaguchi (and Kobayashi of course) should do well to seek it out.

Read all

Kuwahata was once a famous actor, but life got the better of him. Old age and growing signs of dementia make it impossible for him to live by himself, so his daughter sends him off to a retirement home. The first chance Kuwahata gets he escapes from the place. The first one to find him is a daughter from another marriage.

The dialogues are quite construed and the drama is a little overdone in places, but the performances are strong and the cinematography & setting are surprisingly captivating. With a little extra tweaking, this could've been a film I truly loved, but Kobayashi did well here. A fine film to end a career on.

Apart from You

Kimi to Wakarete
1933 / 64m - Japan
Apart from You poster

My first Mikio Naruse. He's a well-respected name in arthouse circles, but he didn't make it quite as big as some of his peers (people like Kurosawa, Ozu, or Mizuguchi). This was one of his earlier works (a silent too), so it's a little hard to draw any definite conclusions, but I can't say I was a big fan.

Read all

An elderly geisha has lived a pretty tough life already, but more troubles await. Her son is reaching puberty and he's starting to revolt against her. Meanwhile, a young geisha is put under her care. She's been placed there by her family against her will, and she's not looking forward to becoming a prostitute.

The drama is pretty basic, the cinematography is bland and the pacing is relatively slow. For its time it's not a terrible effort, it's just very plain and boring. It's a good thing Apart from You is pretty short, but even that can't really save the film. I didn't really care for any of it, but I'll give Naruse a few more chances.

Three Thousand Years of Longing

2022 / 108m - Australia
Romance, Fantasy
Three Thousand Years of Longing poster

A neat surprise. I'm not the biggest George Miller fan (which is an understatement). Don't care for Mad Max, don't even mention the Happy Feet films to me. This was something else though. Miller comes with an inspired mix of fantasy and romance and even though the finale is a bit disappointing, the rest of the film is well worth exploring.

Read all

On a trip to Istanbul, a literary scholar buys a little bottle that holds a djinn. She's granted three wishes for freeing him, but her background in mythology makes her weary of the outcome. She wants to have a good conversation with the djinn first, so he tells her how he ended up in her hotel room.

The fantasy elements are pretty explicit but stylish, the cinematography is lovely throughout and the premise is fun and quirky. The story does start to wane in the final third, but not so much that it drags the rest of the film down. Miller shows he has talent, I just wish he'd show it more often.

Devotion to Cinema

Kinema Junjou
2016 / 82m - Japan
Devotion to Cinema poster

I'm not sure what exactly Iguchi was trying to accomplish with this film, but it didn't work. At all. Once one of the spear points of Japanese horror and splatter cinema, Iguchi has faded to the background, helming low-grade idol fare. If that's your thing then Devotion to Cinema may have some appeal, if not, it's probably best to simply skip this one.

Read all

A couple of young girls get together after school for drama club, but their efforts feel aimless. When they finally get the opportunity to work on an actual film project, they grab their chance with both hands. The director is pretty ruthless though, and the production is haunted by a ghost. The girls will have to do their best to cope with the situation.

The performances are pretty bad, the film looks cheap and the plot makes no sense at all. It's pretty funny that the director looks a bit like Kawase I guess (considering what surfaced about her), but it's minor tidbits like that which have to make the film somewhat bearable. Devoted Iguchi fans might want to watch this, but I can't see anyone actively liking this film.


Peng You
1974 / 104m - Hong Kong
Friends poster

Cheh Chang action cinema in a more contemporary setting. I've seen a bunch of them now, and they're all quite disappointing. I'm not surprised these films had a harder time making it to Western shores, it's simply not as good as Chang's classic martial arts fare. Friends is no exception.

Read all

The plot is extremely basic, but what did you expect? A young boy runs away from his wealthy family and joins a street gang, hoping to find a better life there. The gang doesn't know the background of the kid, until some slave traders kidnap him, hoping to catch a handsome ransom for their latest catch.

The performances are pretty weak (quite a few famous Shaw Bros faces though), the action is rather lame and the added drama detracts from the film. Chang's work is pretty generic as is, but something vital is missing from his more contemporary films, and it makes them a lot harder to get through.

Boiling Point

2021 / 95m - UK
Boiling Point poster

Stress, that's what this film is all about. And director Barantini does a good job translating that to the audience. The kitchen is a good (but somewhat predictable) setting for a film like this, but the (fake) single take and some spirited performances help this film stand out from the crowd.

Read all

Chef Andy's restaurant is relatively new and he's doing his best to establish himself as a worthy artisan and entrepreneur. His restaurant is stacked for Christmas, but troubles at home, a somewhat unruly team, and a visit from his former mentor will turn the place into a real pressure cooker.

The cast is amazing, the cinematography stands out (though it's not as in your face as other films pulling similar tricks) and the tension levels are appropriately high. The finale could've been a little sharper and some of the weaker narrative side stories could've been cut for a slightly shorter runtime, but this was a strong film.

Hanappe Bazooka

1992 / 55m - Japan
Comedy, Horror - Animation
Hanappe Bazooka poster

The kind of anime that gave its peers a bad reputation, though it's certainly not as depraved or grotesque as something like Legend of the Overfiend. Hanappe Bazooka is a product of its time, but it is made with a level of enthusiasm that is quite infectious. The keywords are fun and entertainment, and this short anime certainly delivers.

Read all

Hanappe is a young boy who is madly in love with one of his classmates. One night he has a little fun with himself, but he inadvertently summons two raunchy demons who see in him the next ruler of the planet. Hanappe isn't too interested in their ramblings, but the special powers he's been granted make it difficult to focus on his high school crush.

The characters are light and fun, the animation is surprisingly decent and the mix of silly comedy, harem antics, and demon horror is pretty outrageous. Clearly, this film isn't the greatest thing ever and if you're a bit prudish about nudity and/or horror (though the latter isn't that outspoken) you shouldn't even bother, but I had had good fun watching this.

Pépé le Moko

1937 / 94m - France
Romance, Crime
Pépé le Moko poster

Early French crime/noir flick. I wish I could say the French hadn't fallen for the same trap when switching to talkies, but endless dialogue slows the film down unnecessarily. It's nice that they spent a lot of time cleaning up the visuals, it sure looks polished for a film from the 30s, but what good is it when the cinematography isn't all that special?

Read all

The plot and characters aren't that interesting, but that goes for most crime films. Pépé le Moko is a well-known criminal, someone the police have been chasing for ages. They can't get their hands on the man, charming women are his only known weakness. And so that's what they try to exploit.

The characters are pretty bland, and so are the dialogues and the plot. Stylistically it's also pretty basic, but that's quite common for films from the '30s. Unless you're a big fan of classic criminal stories it's hard to imagine the appeal of something like this, I can't say I w was very impressed.


Karada Sagashi
2022 / 102m - Japan
Horror, Mystery
Re/Member poster

Japan loves a good haunted school building horror. Re/Member offers a variation on the popular theme, a subgenre of Japanese horror cinema that has been doing quite well lately (though few of these films have made it beyond their borders). Re/Member is a fun but overly slick introduction to the niche.

Read all

Six high school students find themselves back on school premises when the clock hits 00:00. They are there to play Body Search, a game where they have to find the limbs of a victim while they are being chased by a murderous ghost. Until they've found all the body parts, their day keeps repeating ad infinitum.

The budget was there and the scares are pretty cool. The drama on the other hand feels flimsy and the actors are a tad too glossy (read core pop idol material). A stronger focus on the horror would've improved the film (and cut down the runtime to a more acceptable 90 minutes), but if you're looking for a fun Japanese horror film, this one fits the bill.

The Assassin

Sha Ren Zhe Tang Zhan
1993 / 83m -
The Assassin poster

A bit surprised to find there are still '93 Hong Kong action/martial arts films I haven't seen yet, certainly ones by directors with sizeable commercial appeal. Not that The Assassin is a hidden gem, it's clear why this film didn't make as big of a splash as some of the more prominent examples, but it was good fun regardless.

Read all

Tangzhan is a simple farmer, who is taken by an evil warlord and re-schooled to become his top assassin. Tangzhan fairs well in his new job and he takes on an apprentice of his own. On one of his missions, Tangzhan bumps into his old love, an encounter that triggers some painful memories. He defects, leaving his apprentice as the one sent out to kill him.

The plot is basic, the film lacks big names and the action is by the numbers. Back then the Hong Kong film industry was such a well-oiled machine though, that even simple genre filler like this was done pretty competently, without even having to make a real effort. The Assassin is a film in line with Chung's other work. Not particularly notable, but solid entertainment nonetheless.

The Endless Film

La Película Infinita
2018 / 54m - Argentina
The Endless Film poster

An experimental film that saw the light after director Listorti started digging into the Argentinian film archive. By stitching together footage from incomplete and/or unreleased films he created his own work, though one has to wonder whether there was much skill involved, or whether the result adds anything to the original footage.

Read all

The film comes with a somewhat haughty explanation of creating something new from the old. While that sounds nice on paper, it's a description that would fit whatever collage of footage one could come up with, including me spending 45 minutes on YouTube and editing completely random stuff together.

Maybe the film is interesting to people who are drawn to the concept, but I couldn't find much intention or meaning behind this film. It's just a bunch of never-before-seen scenes that now found their way to the public. Some of the individual scenes are somewhat nice, but I never got the feeling we'd have lost something significant if this film hadn't been made.

The Price We Pay

2022 / 86m - USA
Horror, Crime
The Price We Pay poster

Kitamura's latest attempt to keep the late '00s horror vibe alive. Admittedly, the build-up is a little slow, and halfway through I was a bit disappointed, but the finale really makes up for lost ground. Once the crime elements fade into the background and the film's TCM DNA starts to surface, there's a lot of fun to be had.

Read all

Some criminals rob a pawn shop, where they take a young woman hostage. They drive off into the sunset, at least until their car breaks down. They end up staying at a remote farm, but little do they know the inconspicuous setting houses a pretty dark and violent secret. When grandpa finally comes home, all will be revealed.

The robbery and the aftermath aren't that exciting, mostly because the performances are a bit middling. The horror twist isn't exactly novel either, but Kitamura's camera doesn't flinch or look away, and things get increasingly weirder and bloodier, with a twisted (pun intended) finale as the cherry on top. Not the most exceptional film, but plain good horror fun regardless.

A Fairy Tale

2020 / 82m - China
Fantasy, Action
A Fairy Tale poster

The Chinese streamers' take on A Chinese Ghost Story. This late-80s classic film series stands as a milestone in fantasy/martial arts Hong Kong cinema, so it's really no surprise we're getting a Mainland China update. The streamers are thirsty for anything fantasy-related, an existing franchise comes with a built-in audience, so there's really no risk involved.

Read all

A virtuous warrior once separated the human from the demon kingdom. He reincarnates as a young teacher, who takes up his job in a small temple. When he runs into a female demon one day, he falls for her charms, and unaware of his past, he wants to protect her from harm. This way, he puts himself in the spotlight again, and pretty soon other demons are out to get him.

If they'd really make an effort, these films could probably match the quality of their Hong Kong counterparts. But the reliance on shoddy CG and cringe comedy make it hard to fully appreciate them. The sets and cinematography are plenty nice and the pacing is perfect, it's just that extra level of polish that is missing. Good filler though.


Uchû Daikaijû Dogora
1964 / 83m - Japan
Sci-fi, Crime
Dogora poster

One of Honda's lesser-known kaiju films. It's not that different from his other work, apart from some minor details. Too much time is spent on human squabbles, and not enough attention goes to the kaiju. The effects are cheesy but fun, but seeing how they only feature in a small part of the film, the cheese doesn't quite work.

Read all

A huge alien is threatening Earth, and this time the creature is coming from outer space. A big, squid-like animal is sucking up Earth's carbon, hoping to turn it into diamonds. His technique creates devastating tornados that ravage cities and countryside alike. Mankind will have to be crafty if they want to stop this extraterrestrial threat.

The alien concept is pretty cool, but the effects are way too obvious and the monster scenes are way too scarce for a film of this caliber. The performance and the human drama are horrible. I do understand the budgetary and technical limitations, but the balance is just off. Not the best Honda, but the kaiju bits are still fun.


Ostatnia Wieczerza
2022 / 91m - Poland
Hellhole poster

One hell of a Polish horror film. The setup is pretty simple and thematically Hellhole has nothing new to offer, but Kowalski puts all his marbles on mood and atmosphere, and that's where this one shines. If the finale had come a bit earlier this could've been a personal favorite, but I was still pretty damn impressed in the end.

Read all

Marek is a police officer who disguises himself as a monk and goes undercover in a remote monastery. Several women have disappeared in the neighborhood and word is that they were all taken there. Marek discovers that the monastery's exorcism work is fake, but the reason behind it is far more sinister than he could've imagined.

The setting is pretty awesome, but it's Kowalski's pointed direction that makes all the difference. A moody score and top-notch cinematography create a tangible feeling of discomfort, the build-up toward the finale is solid (but a tad too long), and the finale itself kicks ass. One of the better horror scenes I've seen in years, it's just a little disappointing the film ends there. Looking forward to Kowalski's next film though, he's definitely one to watch.

Sword for Truth

Shuranosuke Zanmaken: Shikamamon no Otoko
1990 / 51m - Japan
Action, Adventure - Animation
Sword for Truth poster

Ronin/ninja anime that feels a lot like a blueprint for Ninja Scroll. The quality is incomparable and the film felt incredibly rushed, but the core elements are there. A mysterious ronin, ninjas with unique powers, and a princess that needs rescuing. In the hands of Dezaki, it becomes a fun little filler anime, marred by its limited budget.

Read all

When a tiger escapes from a local circus, the police have their hands full trying to kill the creature. While they are chasing the beast around, a band of ninjas is kidnapping the Princess behind their backs. The shogunate calls in the help of Sasaki, a skilled ronin who killed the tiger for them with one single swoop of his blade.

50 minutes clearly wasn't enough to do justice to the story. Some parts could've been cut, but as Ninja Scroll proved, a feature-length runtime would've been the saner option. At least Sword for Trust is never dull. The animation is basic and the art style is OK, the action is decent and the creatures/ninjas are an interesting bunch. Cheap fun.

You People

2023 / 117m - USA
Comedy, Romance
You People poster

A surprisingly fun race-based comedy. It's pretty hard to get these right and I'm sure You People will end up a divisive film. Not everything works, but the parts that do are actually funny. Add the bold styling choices and a somewhat implausible but successful romance, and you have yourself some prime comedy filler.

Read all

Ezra is desperate for a girlfriend, but he can't seem to find the right woman. When he jumps into Amira's car by accident, it seems that life is finally giving him a break. That is until they are introduced to each other's families. Amira's father isn't too happy with the idea of a white son-in-law, and Ezra's mom is treating Amira like she's some kind of cultural project.

Hill and London have good chemistry, there's plenty of awkwardness, a solid mix of comedy and romance, and even the presentation deserves a mention. The setup is a little too obvious and the film does resort to using lots of clichés, but overall I had a pretty good time with You People. A welcome surprise.


2023 / 98m - South Korea
Sci-fi, Action
Jung_E poster

Not as good as I'd hoped it would be. Truly futuristic sci-fi is pretty rare and the cyberpunk tags got my hopes up, but I probably should've known better. Jung_E is a rather slick South Korean blockbuster that lacks focus and fails to deliver on its genre elements. It still works as inconspicuous filler though.

Read all

Earth has become a garbage heap and humankind fled into space. Two factions separated and started a civil war, that has been raging for the past four decades. Jungyi almost finished the conflict but didn't complete her mission. Her daughter is trying to create an AI from the mother's brain that will succeed where her mother failed.

The robot designs are incredibly dull, and the middle part of the film is way too occupied with some dramatic plot points that just detract from the fun. And while there's no lack of cyber, don't expect any punk from this film. The budget is there though and the action is decent, but in the right hands, this could've been a much better film.