Shaft

1971 / 100m - USA
Thriller, Crime
2.5*/5.0*
Shaft poster

An African-American cult classic. Shaft is one of those characters/films I knew well before I had any idea what it was about. An abundance of pop references etched an image into my brain that didn't quite match the film I watched. I'd expected it to be a bit pulpier, more overt blaxploitation, but I'm not complaining.

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Shaft is a PI with a reputation. He gets things done, but he's not an easy character. Bumpy Jonas, the leader of an infamous gang, hires Shaft to retrieve his daughter, who has been kidnapped. Shaft takes on the case and quickly finds himself in muddy waters when he learns the Mafia is involved.

The performances are proper, the direction is solid and Shaft is a rather fun character. I didn't really care much for the plot though and there's nothing too exceptional otherwise. It's just a black PI solving a case, including all the clichés that come with such a story. I've been way more disappointed by cult classics though, this one actually held up pretty well.

P. P. Rider

Shonben Raidâ
1983 / 118m - Japan
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
P. P. Rider poster

An early Somai that reminded me quite a bit of Obayashi's 80s work, though without the fantastical spins. It's a quirky little adventure film where a couple of kids are getting messed up in adult affairs. It's not the most exciting or challenging premise, but the film is light and easily digestible.

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Three kids are fed up with the class bully. They make a pact and want to get back at the kid. But out of the blue, he is kidnapped. The police are stumped and aren't too eager to invest too much effort into the kidnapping, so they decide to save their bully, so they can hand him a proper punishment themselves.

Some kids taking on the Yakuza isn't the most believable of plotlines, then again, this film doesn't take itself all that seriously. The performances are decent, the mood is light and pleasant, and even though it's quite a long film, it never bored me. It doesn't really stand out too much, then again, it's hard to stand out next to Obayashi. Cute.

Death Wish

1974 / 93m - USA
Action, Crime
2.0*/5.0*
Death Wish poster

A true essential. Not because this is such a great film, but the first Death Wish does mark the start of a pretty famous franchise, and it's one of Charles Bronson's biggest legacies as an actor. The film itself isn't all that great, it is after all B-film filler, but it's not quite as bad as I expected it to be either.

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Paul has a good life, but all of that changes when his wife and daughter are held captive by some criminals robbing their house. His wife dies during the attack, and the police tell Paul he shouldn't expect the perpetrators to get caught. When Paul gets hold of a gun, he sees his chance to get back at the people who ruined his life.

Bronson is a pretty bad actor and the plot is as generic as they come. The slower pacing and simple but solid direction help to give the film a bit of extra body though. It's easy enough to see how this because the first in a series of films, but if you're only seeing this film for the first time, don't get your hopes up too much.

Spoonful of Sugar

2022 / 94m - USA
Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Spoonful of Sugar poster

Mad kid meets mad nanny. Spoonful of Sugar offers a somewhat peculiar mix of horror elements, but the film's a bit too nice and proper to make the best use of them. I will say that the finale was a real treat, but that wasn't quite enough to turn this into an exceptional film. It's not your basic niche genre filler though.

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Millicent wants to break with her dark past. After a couple of bad experiences with foster families, she aims to be a better parent herself. She becomes the nanny of Johnny, a young kid with special needs. Millicent is the only one who really gets through to him, to the point where his mother becomes a bit jealous of their relationship.

Evil kids and evil nannies aren't too uncommon in a horror film, but it's rare to see a combination of both. The direction is decent (but not too remarkable), the performances are solid and the finale hits home, it's just that the actual horror elements are a tad tame and uneventful. Still, worth a watch.

Parasite in Love

Koi Suru Kiseichu
2021 / 100m - Japan
Romance
Parasite in Love poster

A remarkable mix of romance and wayward genre elements. In essence, Parasite in Love is a somewhat typical Japanese romance, but the original setup, the stylish cinematography, a very good score, and two strong leads make it into something more. Director Kakimoto did well to insert a strong personal signature, as it's a pretty crowded niche. His bold choices paid off, and while there is still some room for improvement, it's one of the better films in the genre I've seen in quite a while. A happy and welcome little surprise.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

2022 / 102m - USA
Comedy, Adventure, Animation
2.5*/5.0*
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish poster

A post-Spiderverse animation. It's nice to see Sony's animation wasn't just a random fluke, but that it managed to create a tangible impact on the American animation scene. After 2 decades of sporting more or less the same plastic look, it's a delight to finally see some (hesitant) experimentation.

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I didn't see any of the other Puss in Boots films, but that's not a problem at all. This is pretty much a stand-alone story, built around a character from the Shrek universe. Puss is living his final life and Death is on his heels. To make sure his future is guaranteed, Puss steals the map that leads to the final wish. A wish that could grant him extra lives.

The comedy is horrible, some of the characters are grating and the dubs are hard on the ears. In many ways, it's still a very obnoxious American animated comedy, but at least it's nice to look at. Human characters are still a little bland, but the heavy brush-painted look applied to animals and backgrounds is pretty damn cool. It's a step in the right direction.

New Dream Hunter Rem: Dream Knights

New Dream Hunter Rem: Yume no Kishitachi
1990 / 40m - Japan
Comedy, Fantasy
3.0*/5.0*
New Dream Hunter Rem: Dream Knights poster

A cute little anime, with a surprising bite. I didn't quite know what to expect from this one, so when the first five minutes hinted at light fantasy mixed with comedy I was maybe a little disappointed. The film gets way darker in certain scenes though, which provides a fun contrast with the happy-go-lucky vibe elsewhere.

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Dream Hunter Rem is a young girl who battles demons who invade other people's dreams. When a Snow White-like plot develops (a demon wants to kill a girl prettier than her to become the prettiest in all the lands), Rem engages herself to save the girl from the clutches of the demon. She is in for quite the fight, one she won't be able to win just by herself.

The animation and art style are pretty basic, though the demon design is quite nice (not very original, just well executed). The plot is simple but fun, the mix of light and dark is pretty effective and the pacing is perfect. It's maybe a little too obvious this is a franchise extension (with the classroom insert), other than that it was good but simple fun.

Crumb

1994 / 119m - USA
Documentary
1.5*/5.0*
Crumb poster

A pretty basic documentary about a famous American cartoonist. I'm not really sure what makes this doc so special, but it probably has something to do with the reputation of Crumb. Other than that, the doc doesn't offer anything too exciting or original. Unless of course, you expected a typical hype document.

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Instead, the film mixes interviews of Crumb with scenes from his personal life, including his family. It creates a more intimate portrait compared to the classic talking heads affair, but it's not that different from what I've seen from other artists doing similar documentaries. And Crumb's personal life really isn't all that interesting.

It's a decent enough introduction to the man and the man's work, sadly, it just didn't leave me impressed with either. At two hours long, it also contains a bit too much padding and the film does get pretty repetitive after a while. I guess his fandom will love this film, I simply didn't care too much for it.

Turkish Delight

Turks Fruit
1973 / 98m - The Netherlands
Romance
1.5*/5.0*
Turkish Delight poster

A Dutch classic and one of Paul Verhoeven's first feature films. I'd never seen the film before, nor read the book, so I had no idea what to expect. I wasn't all that surprised to get a somewhat raunchier romance, what I didn't expect was the rather crummy and stilted execution of the thing.

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When Olga picks up Eric on the side of the road, it's love at first sight. The two get into a car accident and Olga disappears from Eric's life, but he can't forget about her and looks everywhere until he finally finds her again. They get married and for a while, things go well, but then disaster strikes.

The performances are horrible, the dialogues are hideous, and almost half of the film is made up of nonsensical interludes. The romantic angle works relatively well regardless, but that too gets stunted in the second half. It's a pretty rough start to Verhoeven's career, but at least the film got his name out.

Lord Eagle

2022 / 84m - China
Fantasy, Action
3.5*/5.0*
Lord Eagle poster

Another condensed Chinese fantasy epic. Should you wonder where they keep getting these films, Lord Eagle is an adaptation of a web novel. It's a handy source that helps to set films apart from more pervasive classic Chinese literary influences but broadly offers the same appeal as their predecessors. In other words, it's more of the same, but different.

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Two rivaling clans have it out for each other. Four skilled magicians and warriors are brought together to face off with the rival clan and bring home some captives. They begin their long and arduous journey, picking up a stray girl along the way. It's not much of a plot, then again, that's all a film like this needs really, the rest is just cruft anyway.

The CG is slightly above average, which is quite something for a film of this caliber. That's not to say everything looks slick, just that nothing looks too off. The performances aren't that great and some parts do feel a bit rushed, but the film delivers on its fantasy, action, and adventure appeal and does so in a pleasantly short span of time. Good fun.

The Leech

2022 / 82m - USA
Horror
2.5*/5.0*
The Leech poster

A film that reveals pretty much all of its secrets in the first five minutes. From there on out, it's just seeing it pan out the way you expected it to. That's not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, when done well it can create a lot of extra tension. Pennycoff's direction isn't quite up to the task though.

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David is the priest of a dwindling community. When a homeless guy ends up outside of his church, he decides to help the guy. A few days later his girlfriend arrives, and soon enough they start to take over David's home. Torn between his fate and his patience, he decides firm action is needed to save this couple.

The performances aren't too bad and the film does manage to crawl under your skin from time to time, but the bland cinematography and a disappointing soundtrack are mood killers. There are no real surprises either and the ending isn't quite as mad as the director probably envisioned it to be. Decent filler, but this could've been a lot better.

A reboot that was written into the plot. The concept is pretty funny and Shiraishi makes some funny references, but the result is of course a typical reboot, and that's not something I was hoping for. The fun thing about this series was how it spiraled completely out of control in the latter episodes, to have to go back to square one feels a little disappointing.

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Kudo is back to his old antics, only now he added "super" to the name of his horror series delving into footage of supernatural phenomena sent to him by his viewers. He's tackling a video that shows a Kokkuri session (think the Japanese take on an Ouija board), where the two participants end up being haunted by the Kokkuri spirit.

This episode plays a lot like the very first three of the original series, which is somewhat of a bummer. The Kokkuri isn't that great of a demon, the hauntings are rather basic and there's no grander scheme or bigger concept behind all of it. It's still nice horror filler for those with an unquenchable thirst for Japanese suspense, but that's about it.

Best Sellers

2021 / 102m - Canada
Comedy, Drama
3.0*/5.0*
Best Sellers poster

A film that relies quite heavily on its two leads for leaving its mark. It's a good thing then that Plaza and Caine work well together as a duo, otherwise this would've been a pretty big fiasco. Not that Best Sellers is great or memorable by any means, but at least it was a passable dramedy.

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Lucy has inherited her father's publishing firm, but the company isn't doing too well. In a desperate attempt to keep herself afloat, she seeks out a revered writer who disappeared from the face of the Earth years ago. She gets him to dig up an old script, but actually selling it will prove to be quite a challenge.

Like most dramedies, Best Sellers isn't very funny. There are some lighter moments and quirky bits, but it's mostly a drama with some feel-good tacked on. The lead performances are strong, but the rest of it is pretty middling. A bland score, uninteresting cinematography, and a complete lack of defining perks drag the film down. Decent filler, nothing more.

2.5*/5.0*
Minna! Esper Dayo!: Bangai Hen Esper Miyako e Iku poster

A TV movie/special based on Sono's Virgin Psychics series. That year he'd also make a real feature film adaptation, it's no surprise that one was quite a bit better compared to this attempt. Not that I didn't have some fun here, it's just that the production quality is pretty poor, which makes this little more than an elongated TV series episode.

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Yoshiro and his team of espers are going to Tokyo. They got a worrisome text message from one of their friends, and they've been unable to reach her since. When they arrive at her school, they find that her class has been taken over by three different gangs. Word is also out that their virginity is key to keeping their esper powers, which is pretty tricky at Yoshiro's age.

High class this is not, but I knew that going into it. Sono does commit to the material though, silly as it is, and that's what makes it funny. The cast is also pretty solid for this type of thing, with Shota Sometani in the lead and a nice secondary part for Yuki Sakurai. Far from great, but if you like ultra-daft comedies with a raunchy edge, it's pretty decent.

The White Reindeer

Valkoinen Peura
1952 / 74m - Finland
Fantasy
1.5*/5.0*
The White Reindeer poster

A Finnish classic. The film is listed as a horror film, but don't be fooled. The premise works well enough for a horror flick, but what you get is a folk fantasy with some darker elements (which happen mostly off-screen anyway). That's not a bad thing, just get your expectations straight going in.

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A newly-wed woman goes to a local shaman to help her with her love life. He agrees to help her, but instead, she turns into a white reindeer with a hunger for blood. The townspeople are quickly onto her and they organize a hunting expedition to get rid of the bloodthirsty creature.

The most exciting thing here is the snowy landscapes, which make for a nice setting. The soundtrack is overused and distracting, the story is pretty repetitive (especially for a relatively short film like this) and the ending is extremely predictable. With an interesting premise like this, the film should've been a lot better.

The Long Night

2022 / 91m - USA
Horror
3.0*/5.0*
The Long Night poster

Not the most original horror film you'll ever see, but with a limited budget, director Ragsdale accomplishes quite a lot. The middle part is where things get a bit too slow and repetitive (the 90-minute mark is too much of a goal for some directors), still, people who love a good cult/demon horror have plenty to look forward to.

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Grace has had little luck locating her biological family until she finds a house that seems tied to her past. Together with her fiancé, she agrees to meet the owner, but when they arrive nobody's there to greet them. When they decide to stay the night a mysterious cult shows up on their doorstep.

The intro is a tad long, but once the cult arrives on the scene things start to heat up quickly. The styling and cinematography work well together to create a feeling of dread, only, the effect lessens when the cult stalls its actions. Luckily, the finale delivers, but with some tighter editing, this could've been a lot better still.

The Protégé

2021 / 109m - USA
Action, Thriller
2.5*/5.0*
The Protégé poster

A rather generic action/thriller, then again, what did you expect from Martin Campbell? The script is a simple copy/paste job, the direction is unremarkable and the cast is made up of actors who are worrying more about their pension rather than making it to the top. If you're okay with that, The Protégé holds some decent genre fun.

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Anna is rescued by Moody, one of the most infamous contract killers money can buy. She becomes his protégé and Moody trains her to be his successor. Together they are unstoppable, but as is always the case in these types of situations, the past will come back to haunt them. When Moody is murdered, Anna sets out to find out who was behind the hit.

Maggie Q is decent, Keaton and Jackson do exactly what is expected of them. The action is pretty bland, the plot is predictable and the bad guys are rather dull. The pacing is okay, and even though the film is a bit long, I never really tired of the film. Simply genre filler, but don't ask me about the film never week, because I'll have forgotten about most of it already.