Parasyte: Part 1
Takashi Yamazaki is one of a handful Japanese directors who can make a proper blockbuster. While his films fall short of being true masterpieces, they offer solid entertainment while staying clear from being too generic. Parasyte fits right in with the rest of his work, making it perfect filler.
The film is clearly based on a manga/anime, though you don't need any prior knowledge to watch it. The setup is very simple, with a weird species of parasites on a mission to dominate mankind. One of the creatures fails to take over his host's brain and ends up as his right hand (literally). The two of them learn to live together and become the unlikely heroes of the story.
The monster design is pretty outrageous, but hilarious. The film is also quite gruesome for a blockbuster, but nothing a regular horror fan can't handle. Performances are solid, with Shôta Sometani as the charismatic lead, the cinematography is slick and the visual effects on point. I really had a lot of fun with this one, it won't be long before I give part 2 a whirl.
A short OAV from Kôichi Ôhata, the director behind Genocyber. If you're familiar with Japanese sci-fi/horror anime, then I'm sure the name Genocyber rings a bell. It's a somewhat mythical 90s anime that only cares about being as badass as possible. Cybernetics Guardian is quite similar, but more compact (and a little older).
While nothing too original, the mishmash of influences does give this film its own, unique identity. The dystopian, futuristic setting, the mecha and pseudoscience mixed with a bit of demonology and the raw action are nothing new, but thrown together it makes for a pretty explosive combination.
Because of the limited runtime Ôhata doesn't have much time to do proper world building, at the same time the no frills approach and extreme pacing add to the charm of this production. The animation is limited, but the designs are pretty cool and if you like excessive violence there's plenty of that here. Short and entertaining.
Selfie from Hell
Horror and modern tech are a convenient combination. There's so much tech doom already, and so few people knowing the ins and outs of their devices that it's extremely easy to conjure up a little dread with tech going wrong. It's no surprise then that there's an entire niche of smartphone/streaming horror films.
That said, the lore behind Selfie from Hell feels a little flaky. There's a bit of everything, with stalking ghosts, the dark web and asylum videos, but it never really comes together and some of it feels downright random. Maybe it's because the film is only 70s minutes long, then again this isn't the most serious of horror films, so it didn't really bother me.
Luckily Ceylan does a pretty decent job at building up the atmosphere. The whole may not make too much sense, individual scenes are quite moody and effective. It's a shame the ending is a little too bold and stumbles had when the ghost makes its full appearance, but overall I had a decent amount of fun.
Like many Hong Kong directors in the late 80s/early 90s, Ronny Yu traded in the Hong Kong backdrop for a European one. For China White, he landed on Amsterdam (also Paris and Rotterdam) to unfold his little crime/action epic. The result is pretty poor though, with only a few above average action scenes to save it from complete disaster.
Expect a plethora of horrible accents, some misplaced drama and romance and a very generic plot that deals with several gangs wrapped up in a bloody turf wars. Yu brought in some famous actors (Andy Lau among others), but they only show up in smaller secondary parts, so their impact is limited.
The rest of the cast is pretty terrible, including cult icon Billy Drago. I'm not quite sure what Yu was trying to do with this film, but his talents lie elsewhere (fantasy and horror are his thing) and this weak attempt to follow in the footsteps of John Woo and Ringo Lam feels like a big misstep.
The 8-Year Engagement
Not what I expected from Zeze. The 8-Year Engagement is the kind of film that got very popular in the second half of the 00s. Suddenly every Japanese drama was about a romance tripped up by disease. While these films proved to be solid crowd pleasers, the cinematic quality of this niche was rather limited.
Zeze does his best, but he too gets stuck in some of the genre's pitfalls. While performances are solid and the cinematography is decent, the film ends up being a bit too sappy and there's very little to balance out the sentimentality of the story. It's also quite long for a film that spoils its entire plot in the title.
That's not to say it's a terrible film. Takeru Satoh has some nice scenes and the easy-going pace of the film allows for a few nice breathers in between. The story itself (based on a true story, with credit-pics to prove it) is sweet too, but I've seen too many of these films to be truly touched by them.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
A Ford western that tries to break out of its typical genre mold. Instead of focusing on tough guys, gun fights and robberies, Ford adds a more historical/political angle to the film. At least that's what he tries to do, because many of the typical western elements are still present, and they don't mix very well with the more serious subject.
Everyone is a walking cliché, down to the most insignificant character. From the upright, studious and stiff James Stewart and boorish, macho John Wayne, to the villainous and crude Lee Marvin, none of them manage to bring any kind of humanity to their performance. The whole cast is just terrible across the board.
The first hour it's almost like watching a farce, with simplistic comedy and crummy banter. The second hour tries to squeeze in the shift from the Wild West to a more democratic society, but everything is so unsubtle and on the nose that you have to wonder why Ford even bothered. Hopelessly outdated.