The Amazing Spider-Man 2
While I've seen pretty much all the Marvel stuff there is to see, I simply don't care enough about the material to keep track of any coherence between the films. Amazing Spider-Man 2 was one of the few films I've missed and I'm guessing it's probably on some alternative timeline, but in the end that hardly mattered.
From all the Marvel franchises, Spider-Man is probably my least favorite. After having seen this film, I remember why. The films are extremely pulpy, the melodrama is preposterous and the action is bland. Marc Webb is a horrible director who fails to bring any joy or spark into his films, which really shouldn't be that hard with the material at hand.
Garfield is a terrible Spider-Man, Stone is a complete miscast and Foxx is one of the worst villains I've seen. The scenes that are supposed to be fun are drab, the scenes that are supposed to be serious are cheesy and the action scenes look like outdated video game CG (which they pretty much are). Let's hope that in 20 years time we can all have a good laugh at the popularity of these films.
This was only my second Jodorowsky, but I liked it way better than The Holy Mountain. Maybe not all that surprising, seeing it is one of Jodorowsky's more recent projects, even so it felt like a different type of film altogether. It was still completely bonkers, but sporting a lighter and happier atmosphere.
No doubt Christopher Doyle's involvement helped a lot, though I don't think Jodorowsky made the best use of his talents. The film looks very colorful and has a handful of striking scenes, but the camera work and framing were a bit too static for my liking. Ultimately, it's a far cry from Doyle's best work.
It's interesting to see Jodorowsky's son plays the lead (the film is semi-autobiographical), there's plenty of craziness and even though it's two hours long, there's never a dull moment, but I don't think Jodorowsky is really 100% my cup of tea. I guess it's a still a little too classical in its approach, that said this film was pretty enjoyable.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Brandon Cronenberg's Antiviral is a nasty, smart and eerie body horror, mixed with a strong underlying social critique. It's a very deliberate, somewhat slow but extremely atmospheric film that never slips into cheesy pulp territory and left me quite perplexed.
Before the Revolution
One of Bertolucci's earliest films. I must say it's quite impressive to see a film like this made by someone who was only 22 at the time. Bertolucci leaves the Italian neorealism behind (a happy surprise), instead Before the Revolution seems to be taking notes from the French New Wave, a movement much closer to my liking.
When I think classic Italian cinema, I think films that are quite loud, nervous and chaotic. There's almost none of that here. The cinematography is very stylish, the soundtrack is surprisingly beautiful and the performances are relatively subdued, what makes for a pleasant, moody atmosphere.
I will say that the first half is noticeable better than the second one. It gets more overtly political near the end, which is where the film lost some of its appeal for me. By then I was already more than content to have seen a rather calm, breezy and stylish film with a handful of memorable moments. That's more than I expected going in.
The Old Guard
The potential is there, but this film really (really) needed a better director. Companies like Netflix are constantly breaking down the barriers between TV and film, but when you have a flagship fantasy/action feature like The Old Guard that looks like a 2-hour TV episode, something is not right.
The setup is interesting enough. A team of (virtually) immortal guns of hire carries out missions to better humankind. The lore isn't fully developed, no doubt that's intentional (it's clear they have a sequel in mind), but whatever information is given adds to the intrigue and there are some interesting details that set is apart from similar stories.
The direction is dire though. The action scenes look dull, the camera work is extremely poor and the action choreography is rather boring. As a result, the film lacks flair and identity. Performances are at least decent and the pacing is solid too, so let's hope they find someone better to lead the sequel.
City Hunter: Secret Service
A somewhat disappointing City Hunter entry. It's by and large a carbon copy of the other films, except that the action isn't as impressive or excessive. That's a problem, as that's the one thing that kept this franchise away from mediocrity. With more focus on plot and comedy, its shortcomings are that much harder to ignore.
For one, the cheap animation isn't doing this film any favors. Not that the City Hunter series ever excelled in that department, but at least the over-the-top action scenes used to look cool. Without them, it's just very static and lacking in detail. The rather cheesy soundtrack is equally disappointing.
The film itself presents another case for Ryo to handle, with a few predictable twists along the way. On the comedy side of things, Ryo is being his perverted self again (cue obligatory bathroom scene and plenty of bras and panties talk). It's all a bit underwhelming, especially considering the 90-minute runtime. One of the lesser City Hunter films I've seen so far.
The Skin I Live In
Another middling Almodóvar. Not that The Skin I Live In sits within his normal range of films, it's a rather ambitious mix of thriller, mystery, drama and even minor horror elements, but in the end it's still Almodóvar directing, and his old-fashioned style doesn't do justice to the themes here.
The first hour is a mess of different timelines, rest assured that the second hour clears up most of the confusion. The film revolves around a genius plastic surgeon responsible for an important scientific breakthrough. It's revealed early on that his ethics are pretty loose though, which isn't even taking into account the bigger reveal halfway through.
The story is quite disturbing, but performances are poor (Banderas in particular), the cinematography is either too static or not refined enough and the soundtrack is tedious. There are traces of a fun and interesting film here, but they're squandered by a director who is a complete mismatch for the film he tried to make.
A classic, French impressionist film that seems to be somewhat of a hidden treasure. Well regarded and famous among fans of classic cinema, it's not really a title that has traveled far beyond its own niche. That's a real shame I feel, as it's one of the better classics I've seen so far.
I will say that the more contemporary score helped a lot. For a mood piece like this a soundtrack is extremely important and having very thick, demanding and atmospheric music supporting the visuals is a tremendous advantage. But the cinematography too deserves a mention, as the editing, the wild camera work and the framing are really quite spectacular, especially for a film this old.
With no dialogue, no intertitles and a strong impressionistic approach, the story can be a little tough to follow, but the gist of it should be clear enough. Performances are impressive too and the runtime is perfect, so if you're a fan of (slightly) experimental cinema, it's well worth giving Ménilmontant a try.
A film that is often mentioned in the same breath as City of God, and with good reason. While Elite Squad is far from a direct copy, the setting and stylized approach of both films would make for a solid double bill. I think I prefer City of God (though it's been a while), but that doesn't mean Elite Squad doesn't have its merit.
Rather than follow the youngsters in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, this film focuses on Nascimento, the leader of an elite squad that fights both the drug gangs and the corrupt cops in an almost desperate attempt to upset the unhealthy balance of greed and corruption. As the film shows though, that's easier said than done.
While sometimes labeled an action film, it's the crime elements that take center stage. There are some gun fights scattered throughout the film, but I'm pretty sure it won't be enough to please hardcore action fans. Instead, the main appeal comes from the energetic camera work that places the audience in the middle of a bustling and corrupt city, where everyone is stealing from someone else, making the despair and chaos tangible. Pretty good.
Dirty Pair: Project Eden
A wacky 80s sci-fi anime. I knew the Dirty Pair franchise by name, but never got around to seeing anything from it. I've always thought it was some kind of Noir-like cop show, so imagine my surprise when I ran into a pretty outrageous sci-fi flick. You won't hear me complain though, this was a lot better than I expected.
I say sci-fi, but the film comes with a strong injection of action and comedy elements. That's nothing too out of the ordinary, neither is the extreme 80s cheesy that oozes from its every frame. It's an amusing mix that keeps things light, while also allowing for the needed creativity and weirdness.
The animation is pretty decent, but it's the design that stand out the most. Some very neat monster concepts, cool sci-fi designs and a flashy art style make this film pretty appealing, even when the 80s look isn't entirely my thing. Sadly the soundtrack was a bit much, the attempts at US pop music were incredibly bland and unflattering. Apart from that, this was plenty fun.
A film aimed at parents with young(er) children. While not as excessively childish as Spy Kids, there's very little here for adults who aren't forced to watch films when there are young kinds abound. Within that segment The Sleepover isn't the worst I guess, though I don't think I'd have missed much by skipping this one altogether.
Akerman and Marino are a rather dull parents with two kids and a dog. Turns out though that Akerman was living a much wilder life when she was younger, and the remnants of those crazy days are finally catching up with her. While she and her husband are kidnapped, her kids set out on a mission to save her.
There are a handful of decent chuckles, but all the comedy is child-proof. The direction is pretty bland and lifeless, the characters are all simple stereotypes and the action scenes lack spirit. It's just all very middle-of-the-road, though at least it doesn't make you feel like you've just been lobotomized.
A simple but fun sci-fi flick that borrows quite heavily from Alita (and more classic sci-fi, like 1984), though with a seriously reduced scope in order to keep its budget in check. That means that the overt sci-fi elements are kept to a minimum (which is a minor disappointment), on the other hand the film looks more grounded than many of its peers (in the same budget category).
We're looking at a future where corporations have pretty much taken over the world and people have been given more control over their own bodies. While that doesn't sound too bad, it basically means that many are selling their own flesh for human testing purposes. A beat down cage fighter suddenly finds himself in the middle of a fight between activists and the corporations and holds the key to start a revolution.
The cinematography is nice, sadly Benes' vision of the future is a bit derivative. Performances are decent, the plot is entertaining enough and with only 80 minutes on the clock the runtime and pacing are perfect. It's not a very remarkable film, but sci-fi fans will find plenty here to enjoy here.
Lupin III: Dragon of Doom
A pretty traditional Lupin adventure. A notorious villain is chasing a rare and powerful artifact, asks Lupin's help and the rest is history. While there's some variation in execution and genre balance, the crux of the Lupin films doesn't seem to change all that much. Lupin is a master thief and no matter how cunning his adversaries are, he's always better than them.
The first half of the film is spent on retrieving the artifact (which is stored in the shipwreck of the Titanic), the second half is basically one big carousel of deceit, with Goemon playing a central part in the story. The plot itself isn't all that interesting really, the ending is also incredibly predictable, but as a hook it offers plenty of opportunities.
The animation quality is rather mediocre, though it gets better whenever the action ramps up. The characters are a fun bunch, the sense of adventure is on point and the action scenes are pretty hilarious. These Lupin films aren't real stand-outs, but they sure are a lot of fun and because they're quite short, they're also easily digestible. I guess I'm a fan.
Ana by Day
An intriguing little mystery that did an excellent job keeping me on my toes. It's one of those rare films that seems unbothered to play by its own rules, setting up a mystery only to abandon it for almost half a film, while still making sure the slightly uncanny and uncomfortable feeling lingers throughout.
Ana is living a pretty safe and sheltered life, until one day a doppelgänger infiltrates her world and completely replaces her. Suddenly Ana's old world is no more, though she soon finds this newfound freedom has a liberating effect. She gets a new haircut, starts work as a burlesque dancer and begins a passionate affair with one of her fans.
While Ingrid García Jonsson is a great lead, it's director Jaurrieta who deserves most of the credits. The cinematography is a bit uneven (some scenes look gorgeous, others are a little plain), but the soundtrack easily makes up for that, adding oodles of atmosphere and keeping things tense from start to finish. A very nice surprise and well worth seeking out.
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
A documentary primarily aimed at a US audience. If you're not familiar with Mr. Rogers and his TV show, this film is going to miss some of its impact. On the other hand, director Neville spends plenty of time detailing Fred Rogers' character, his ambitious and methodology, so it's not like it's impossible to follow.
This is essentially a documentary about a very nice and warm soul, who went on television to educate and entertain kids. Traditional values like love, acceptance and kindness are front and center, but Rogers also talks about tougher subjects, like death, divorce and topical ones, like the Kennedy assassination.
As for the takeaway though, I'm not entirely convinced Rogers' program really contributed much to society. It's easy and comforting to think a nice man can make a TV program that inspires the nation, but looking at the US today, I don't think his program got them very far. Sadly the documentary doesn't even come close to touching that subject.
Fashion designer and film director are careers rarely combined, which is no doubt why Tom Ford's films have received a fair bit of attention. But there's a little more to it, as Ford isn't just some rich, untalented fashion mogul buying his way into Hollywood. Nocturnal Animals shows a confident writer/director who knows what he wants to bring to the table.
It's no real surprise that a lot of attention went into the styling. From camera work to lightening and colors, to props, setting and costumes. Everything is very deliberate, very stylish. The only thing that could've used a little extra work was is soundtrack, which felt a bit underwhelming and underused.
The story is interesting enough, though it lacks a little spice to turn this film into a real masterpiece. The underlying drama is a little on the nose and the thriller elements, while effective, feel a bit mellow. Maybe Ford can look into hiring a cowriter for his next film, the direction part he needs no help with.
I went through 2 entire seasons of Twin Peaks just to watch this film. For years, it's been the only Lynch feature I hadn't seen, this Covid-dominated year was the perfect excuse to get that situation rectified. Was it worth it? Nah. But at least Fire Walk with Me wasn't at bad as the series.
Don't watch it unless you've seen the series though. Lynch doesn't bother with introductions and if you don't know the characters, nor the plot of season 1 & 2 then the film isn't going to make any sense. It's pretty much a prequel that reveals the mystery on which the series is built (so big spoilers ahead), though not without introducing some mystery of its own.
The start of the film is pretty poor and it takes a while before it gets up to steam. Lynch is still half-stuck in TV mode, making this one of his lesser looking films. Badalamenti too isn't delivering his best work. But the finale is pretty vintage Lynch and even though it can't quite save the rest of the film, it easily bests the endless seasons that came before.
The Hitman's Bodyguard
A pretty big blockbuster flick I never noticed before, until it turned up on Prime earlier this week. It's a bit strange because I'm usually quite up to date on action/comedies, then again the setup is so generic that I might have confused it with another one and never bothered to check it out. Be warned: originality is not the point here.
A bodyguard fallen from grace needs to team up with a hit man in order to help his girlfriend win a court case. They don't get along at first (or what did you expect), but the longer they act as a couple the better they work together. It's a simple twist on the old cop buddy concept that doesn't make that much of a difference in the end.
The upside is that Reynolds and Jackson are a decent team, which makes for some funny banter. The action is also pretty dynamic and over-the-top, and abundantly present. The result is a simple, predictable but amusing blockbuster that deliver exactly what it promises. Nothing more, nothing less.
Lupin III: Farewell to Nostradamus
As a longtime anime fan, a more serious exploration of the Lupin film catalog was long overdue. I'm not going to do it chronologically, so I ended up with Farewell to Nostradamus as my starting point (of this current push that is, I've already seen some of the more prominent Lupin films throughout the years).
Farewell to Nostradamus is a bit crazier than the other entries I'd seen so far. It's incredibly action packed, with Lupin landing in all sorts of outlandish situations. Lupin isn't a stranger to a bit of weirdness, but the combination of sci-fi, mysticism and over-the-top action in a single film was new to me.
The quality of the animation is decent, definitely not up to par with the best in the series though it gets a bit better near the end. All the craziness makes it feel a bit fragmented too, at the same time it ensures there isn't a dull moment to be found. Not the best Lupin film I've seen, but very amusing, light entertainment.
David Lean certainly isn't the worst classic director I know, though his films are a bit too lofty and rigid to be truly to my liking. Great Expectations is no different. It is a fine companion piece to Lean's Brief Encounter, but ultimately I didn't really care for the characters, nor the story.
The plot spans quite the timeline, starting with a young Pip aiding an escaped prisoner and helping out Miss Havisham, an old spinster. When Pip is older an unknown benefactor is providing for his livelihood, but not knowing where his money comes from seriously complicates Pip's life.
From there on out the story becomes more complicated, but without characters to care for it doesn't really matter. At least the cinematography is nice, with very detailed sets that look their finest in black and white. Performances are too wooden though and the pacing is sluggish, especially for a film that kisses the two hour mark.
A very early Quentin Dupieux (short) film. If you're a fan of the man's work it's definitely worth seeking out, as many of his signature elements are already present here. Still, it's all very rough and it's clear Dupieux was just testing the waters with this film, wondering whether this director business was something he'd like to pursue.
Nonfilm follows a film crew on set. The title is pretty appropriate, because it doesn't take long before the director doesn't have enough people left to shoot an actual film. That doesn't stop him though, even when the camera and sound crew are gone he continues to "shoot" his film. Talk about dedication.
Dupieux is known for his absurd comedies and Nonfilm neatly checks all the boxes. Sadly the camera work feels a bit cheap (documentary-style handycam work doesn't really fit here), the actors are rather poor and the material is too limited, even though Nonfilm only lasts 48 minutes. Still, I had a couple of good chuckles with this one.
Twister was one of the films I really liked when I was younger. A film about a group of tornado chasers presented a real sense of danger and adventure and with some pretty decent special effects for that time, Twister had everything I needed from a good blockbuster disaster flick. Which, admittedly, wasn't all that much.
Watching it back, it's hard not to notice all its faults, but underneath that cheese rests a film that still holds a bit of that oldskool sense of adventure. With our current technology, it's hard to imagine a bunch of scientists jumping in a truck to chase tornadoes and throw sensors at it, but as a premise it's pretty exciting.
The performances are quite weak, the effects aren't as impressive anymore and two hours is a bit long, especially since it's all very repetitive, but the pacing is decent, the destruction is pretty impressive and the chase scenes are still plenty fun. Hasn't really survived that well, but it was still better than I'd expected it to be.
Ford v Ferrari
For people hoping to see a film about the feud between Ford and Ferrari, know that Ford v Ferrari is 99% about Ford. In some countries it was rebranded as Le Mans '66, which is a much more appropriate title, though what you're really getting is simple, unfiltered and uncompromising USA propaganda.
Ford v Ferrari is the poster child of Hollywood cheese. One-dimensional characters, the little guy fighting the big corporations and US technology beating out the rest of the world. There's pointless drama, some artificial tension here and there and a few races that need to cover the action portion of the film.
Bale is the only one who tries to make something of his character, the rest of the cast is bland. So is the cinematography and the soundtrack, so unless you're a major race fan (or you really dig standard Hollywood drama), there's very little here. The film seems to be pretty popular though, so Mangold must be doing something right, only I couldn't find it at all.