1997 / 194m - USA
Romance, Adventure
Titanic poster

It's been at least 2 decades since I watched this one. I caught it right when I was turning my back on Hollywood cinema, so this 3+ hour kitsch-fest really wasn't something I was craving back then. There were some things I appreciated more this time around, but it's still way too saccharine for me.

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A crew is trying to locate a precious gem that reportedly sunk together with the Titanic. They fail to find it, but an old woman who recognizes herself in a recovered drawing contacts the divers and is willing to share her tale with them. It's a story of romance and disaster, set amidst one of the most famous boating accidents of all time.

DiCaprio is solid and Bates is a delight (with some nice quips, one of them surprisingly saucy), the rest of the cast is a bit doubtier. The romance in the first half beats the epic disaster bits that make up most of the second half, but it's really Cameron's cheesy direction and the excessive runtime that make this film pretty tough to sit through.

Kenya Boy

Shounen Keniya
1984 / 109m - Japan
Fantasy, Adventure - Animation
Kenya Boy poster

Obayashi's first and only foray into anime. That alone makes Kenya Boy worth watching, even though the film itself is pretty messy and not up to par with other big productions of its time. Obayashi does manage to put his stamp on the film, so it's definitely not a generic or throwaway anime feature.

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Wataru is a young boy who is visiting Africa with his family. On a trip, he gets separated from his dad, and he ends ups with Zega, a proud Masai warrior who roams the country. Together they begin a big adventure that will lead them to Kate, a young goddess who was also separated from her family.

The quality of the animation is a little wonky, but the art style is interesting and Obayashi has some nice tricks up his sleeve. What starts as a pretty straightforward adventure spirals into an epic, madcap fantasy that made the final a lot easier to stomach. Not a great film, but surely an oddity that deserves a little extra attention.

Scrap Heaven

Sukurappu Hebun
2005 / 117m - Japan
Scrap Heaven poster

A breakthrough film for Sang-il Lee. Scrap Heaven is his first film that combines an all-star cult cast with an inspiring level of grit, which would become Lee's signature. With an amazing selection of actors (Joe Odagiri, Ryo Kase, and Chiaki Kuriyama), solid cinematography and remarkable editing, a notable score, and an interesting mix of genres, Lee concocts an intriguing film that can't be easily compared to others. Scrap Heaven renewed my faith in Lee's oeuvre and the film hasn't lost much of its appeal since its original release.


2005 / 83m - Japan
Analife poster

Analife certainly is something. I watched it at the IFFR years ago and never really revisited it since. I can't quite recall if it was a subtitled version, but sadly that doesn't seem to exist anymore. The director is so hell-bent on making this a visual experience that he made a Japanese and English dub, but went against adding subs (as it would detract too much from the visuals). A choice I heavily disagree with.

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Three people find themselves in a proctologist's waiting room. They all feel numb inside and they all had some very strange ways to get rid of the numbness, which ultimately leads to them having to visit a proctologist. Person A rapes women, person B photographs corpses, and person C like to rummage through other people's trash.

The visuals are indeed quite intense (though there is a somewhat disappointing cheapness to them), sadly, the dub is pretty bland and it lessens the audiovisual impact of the film. The subject matter is pretty disturbing, but the matter-of-factly presentation makes it somewhat easier to stomach. A fun and interesting experiment that won't be for everybody, but it's definitely worth seeking out if you like oddball cinema.


2022 / 100m - Canada
Horror, Experimental
Skinamarink poster

The latest horror sensation is a cinephile's wet dream. It's 2023, but the film looks like an experimental Michael Snow film from the 60s, based on the infamous TV scene from Poltergeist. The idea itself is quite interesting, the execution was simply abysmal for a film made in 2022.

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There isn't much in the way of a plot, and whatever there is hardly features in the film. Two kids wake up in the middle of the night. Their parents are gone, outside doors and windows have vanished and a creepy voice is calling them. Which is nice, but you'll be watching ceilings and walls most of the time.

The film can be classified as experimental, at the same time it's a film that could've been made 60 years ago. A grainy look, a bad sound filter, and a camera that never captures any real action. This is non-commercial cinema for sure, but calling it experimental is hollowing out the meaning of the word. I didn't care for any of it. It's a film that could've been either 15 or 300 minutes long and it wouldn't have made a single difference. It's one note, and the note is just very bland and ineffective.

Experimental Film

Jikken Eiga
1999 / 40m - Japan
Romance, Mystery
Experimental Film poster

What a nice little surprise. Tezuka is a pretty interesting director, so I kind of expected Experimental Film to be worth a watch, I just didn't expect it would've been this good. If only it had been a bit longer, this could've been a strong personal favorite. For once, the (very) short runtime works against the film, but it's definitely worth seeking out.

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The plot is extremely minimal. A director is hired to shoot an experimental film. He has to shoot a young woman who lives in a remote house. He can't shoot anything else, not even the rooms of the house. Without uttering a word to each other, the two begin their strange assignment. The longer they stay together, the more awkward the situation becomes.

The setting is lush and stylish, Nagase and Hashimoto have superb screen presence and Tezuka makes very good use of the score to add to the atmosphere. The tension between the characters is tangible too, sadly, the film is over and done when things start to get really interesting. It's rare for me to be let down by a short runtime, but that just hints at the quality of the film. Very cool.

The Grifters

1990 / 110m - USA
Thriller, Crime
The Grifters poster

Stephen Frears has yet to impress me. The Grifters sees his tackling a more crime-based story, but the film fails to stand out in any way. It doesn't help that Cusack is there again, it's one of the few actors I really can't stand, but it's really Frears's saltless direction that lets the film down.

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Roy is a small-time hustler who ends up in the hospital after a failed con. His mother works at the race tracks and meddles with the results, Roy's new girlfriend is also a con artist who makes good use of her body to trick men. Roy's mother and girlfriend don't get along too well, which is a real pain in the ass for Roy.

The performances aren't great, the cinematography and the score are dim and the plot isn't all that interesting. It doesn't help that the film is almost two hours long either. It's pretty generic genre fluff, I'm not entirely sure where the film got its reputation from, but it sure didn't stand the test of time.

I Used to Be Famous

2022 / 104m - UK
Drama, Music
I Used to Be Famous poster

The UK has really embraced the musical feel-good drama, quite a few films have been added to this niche in the past decade. I Used to Be Famous is another one that fits the bill rather nicely, meaning it's a pretty prim and proper feature that hits all the right notes but lacks a decent punch.

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Vince used to be part of one of the biggest UK boy bands, but his solo career never materialized. Not for lack of trying, it's just that he can't seem to get a break. His luck changes when he meets Stevie, an autistic boy who is very good with the drums. An unlikely friendship blossoms between the two.

The performances are pretty good and the feelgood scenes work well enough, but the drama is a little easy and overdone, and the film really plays like a million others, without adding anything original. I also wasn't too taken with the music, but that's no big surprise. Not the worst, but not very notable either.

A Fairy Tale 2

2021 / 82m - China
Fantasy, Action
A Fairy Tale 2 poster

Wang Cong's sequel. Though like with most of these films, you have to question the real meaning of a sequel. It could've been released under any other name and most people probably wouldn't have made the connection. A Fairy Tale 2 is the umpteenth human vs demons realms fantasy/action streamer flick, the kind that's been swamping Chinese streaming services for a few years now.

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The Purple Heaven clan (humans) is at war with the Black Mountain clan (demons). The Purple Heavens managed to capture the bride of the leader of the Black Mountains and plan to use her to stop the war between the two worlds. Not everyone in the Purple Heavens clan agrees with this and their leader has his work cut out for him.

What more is there to say about films like these at this point? The costumes and sets are pretty cool, the pacing and runtime are perfect and the action is solid. The stories are simple cut-and-paste jobs though and the CG is pretty atrocious. It's decent genre fun for those who love Chinese fantasy films, but that's where the appeal of this film ends.

And Life Goes On

Zendegi va Digar Hich
1992 / 95m - Iran
And Life Goes On poster

Kiarostami packages fiction in documentary form. I'll be honest and admit I don't really get the idea or appeal of these films, but I'm not surprised there's an audience for them (and I do like Jia's 24 City, which is more or less the same concept). And Life Goes On did very little for me though.

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After an earthquake hits Guilan, the region is suffering. A director who shot a film there a couple of years ago goes on a little field trip with his son, to visit the actors that came from the area. When they meet with the people there they learn that life doesn't just revolve around material possessions.

The actors do a decent job and the film does feel like watching a real documentary, but that's not really positive in my book. The cinematography is bland, the score is lacking and the topic didn't interest me in the slightest. Kiarostami just isn't for me it seems, but I can respect what he accomplished here.

Bed Rest

2022 / 90m - USA
Bed Rest poster

A bog-standard haunted house flick. Bed Rest adds a little extra fluff and some personal trauma, but all of that is purely padding. It all boils down to a vengeful ghost who roams the premises, targeting a soon-to-be-mother. It's an incredibly generic setup, so it all comes down to execution.

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A young couple bought a new house, the woman is pregnant, and not long after they move in they get a pregnancy scare. Julie has to remain in bed to make sure her unborn child remains healthy, but she starts seeing things around the house. Others don't and if you need even more clichés then you'll just have to watch this film for yourself.

The drama is a bit much (and the actors aren't strong enough to deliver it properly), the scares are meager and the balance between horror and drama is off. There are a few scenes that show promise and the relatively short runtime works in the film's favor, but unless you're really starved for a haunted house flick, it's a somewhat tough recommend.

Osaka Tough Guys

Naniwa Yuukyôden
1995 / 101m - Japan
Comedy, Action, Crime
Osaka Tough Guys poster

One of the first true Miike films. Osaka Tough Guys is a Yakuza/crime flick littered with vintage Miike weirdness. So much in fact that it reminded me a little of Kitano's Getting Any. After a short introduction, the film switches to a sketch-like setup with very little in the way of an overarching story. It is pretty funny though, so I can't say it bothered me.

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Two young slackers are roaming the streets of Osaka. They're in dire need of money, so much they're even considering taking on work. But then the two are picked up by a Yakuza gang and they're pretty much forced to join the sect. Under the leadership of Daimon, a rogue Yakuza, they learn the tricks of the trade. Making money is tough though, even for a criminal.

The presentation of the film is pretty crude, and so is the comedy for that matter. But Miike shows things no other director would even dare to dream of, and the combination of classic Yakuza elements and zany/borderline absurd comedy makes this a very easy watch. It's not a true Miike classic, but it's an essential step in his career, one that would foreshadow the greatness to come.


2022 / 102m - Australia
Comedy, Horror
Sissy poster

Not an unpleasant attempt to mix horror and comedy, but the film never really succeeds at either thing and the sum of its parts doesn't really rise above its individual qualities either. That's not to say this is a bad film, it just felt like it could've been better with a few tweaks left and right.

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Cecelia is a popular influencer whose content is all about positivity and self-worth. When she runs into Emma, a former friend, old trauma is bound to resurface, but Cecelia is too happy to reconnect to worry about any of that. She's invited to Emma's hen party, where things will inevitably spiral out of control.

Dee is a solid lead, the presentation is proper and there are some decent laughs to be had, but the horror feels a little tacked on and it's not really executed properly. Some scenes are meant to be quite brutal, but they're held back by poor special effects. The film's also a tad long, with the finale being a bit too drawn out. Not bad though.

Ninja Ryu: The Dragon Sword Story

Ninja Ryûkenden
1991 / 50m - Japan
Action, Horror - Animation
Ninja Ryu: The Dragon Sword Story poster

An anime adaptation loosely based on Ninja Gaiden, a popular side-scrolling action game that would grow into a respected stealth/ninja franchise later on. Not that it is all that important, this is a pretty generic action/horror OAV that could've existed under a different title and nobody would've guessed the connection between the two.

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Demons have the power to annihilate the human race with a flick of their wrists, but that power has been locked away. A mad scientist wants to create his own demon army and begins bioengineering his own mutants. They lack true power though, but then he gets hold of a special artifact that could unleash the demons' original powers. Ryu, a shop owner by day, a ninja by night, will have to try his hardest to prevent this from happening.

The animation is a little basic, but the art style is nice enough and the film is well-paced, meaning you get quite a bit of gory action from start to finish, with short bouts of plot exposition in between. If you don't care for these types of action/horror anime Ninja Ryu won't do much to change your mind, I had good fun with it though.

Brute Force

1947 / 98m - USA
Thriller, Crime
Brute Force poster

A "gritty" prison drama (and yes, the quotes are warranted). For its time Brute Force might've been quite dark and rugged, but since then there have been so many rougher and grittier prison dramas that the film has lost quite a bit of its punch. It all comes off a bit too clean and proper by modern standards.

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Joe Collins is one of the prisoners locked up in the Westgate prison. The men are treated like animals and the wardens abuse the power they have. When Collins is put on the toughest duty because a cellmate of his committed suicide, he figures it is time to plan his escape from the wretched place.

Though things do heat up in the second half of the film, the execution of both action and thriller elements remains a little underwhelming. The film does have a few memorable moments and the performances aren't too bad, but it's not enough to make a lasting impression. Brute Force didn't stand the test of time.


2023 / 117m - South Korea
Unlocked poster

A pretty solid South Korean thriller, but a bit too slick and half an hour too long. The setup is pretty interesting, but the film starts to drag a little from the midpoint on. Kim fails to further increase the tension once it's obvious where the film is heading, which makes for a somewhat middling finale.

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One drunken night, Na Mi forgets her phone on the bus. A young guy picks it up and takes it home. He has a knack for hacking into people's phones and he returns the phone to Na Mi with spyware installed. From that moment on, he can track her every move, and he makes good use of that to get closer to her.

Unlocked is an adequate tech doom thriller, but it lacks an enigmatic bad guy and the few twists and turns in the second half of the film aren't strong enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. The styling is nice but a little unremarkable, and the performances are good but never outstanding. Decent filler.