Rebecca

by Ben Wheatley
Specifics
UK [2020] - 121m
Genre
Romance, Mystery
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Rebecca poster

Ben Wheatley remakes Hitchcock's classic (or re-adapts Daphne du Maurier's book). I'm not a fan of Hitchcock and disliked his version of the story, but was willing to give Rebecca another chance as Wheatley is at least an interesting director. The result is a decent and necessary update of de Maurier's creation.

Maxim de Winter is a wealthy Brit who falls in love with a young secretary on a vacation in Monte Carlo. He's still mourning the death of his late wife Rebecca, but for the first time in months he finds a welcome distraction. Soon after they marry, and he takes her with him to his estate in England. Not all the staff is happy to see a new face and Rebecca's memories still loom in every corner of the old house.

The cinematography is quite beautiful and the sound design is subtle but notable. The performances are all-round solid too. The build-up is slow, deliberate but effective. Much like Hitchcock's version though, the final 30 minutes feels rushed and puts too big of a focus on the narrative, which isn't all that interesting. It's a shame, but at least Wheatley offers a more than welcome improvement over Hitchcock's film.

Gun Crazy

by Joseph H. Lewis
Specifics
USA [1950] - 87m
Genre
Crime, Film-Noir
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Gun Crazy poster

A pretty bland noir classic. After watching Detour last week my hope for the genre was slightly restored, the poster for Gun Crazy looked pretty inviting too, sadly the film is a big bore from start to finish. What you get is a cheesy and cheap prelude to Bonnie and Clyde, a film that didn't really do it for me either.

Annie is a gun artist performing at a carnival, Bart a wandering young man who instantly falls for the charms of Annie. It doesn't take long before the two hook up, but when they're both fired from the carnival things take a turn for the worse. Under Annie's influence they become criminals, with the law on their tail.

Peggy Cummins' performance is decent, John Dall on the other hand is a terrible stiff. There's really no chemistry between the two, which sucks as it's really all about them. The plot is pretty bare bones, the action is bland and apart from one or two scenes (the ending in the fog was nice) it's completely without atmosphere. A poor film.

Labyrinth of Cinema

Also known as
Umibe no Eigakan – Kinema no Tamatebako
Specifics
Japan [2019] - 179m
Genre
Fantasy, War
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Labyrinth of Cinema poster

A more than respectable and appropriate swan song for Ôbayashi. A film about cinema, a film that feels like vintage Ôbayashi and ultimately may even be about Ôbayashi himself, though that's a tougher call to make for someone who has only seen about 20% of his entire oeuvre so far.

The story is all over the place, but that was to be expected. The gist of it is that a group of young people travels back into time while visiting a movie theater. They travel along some of the biggest battlefields in Japanese history, (of course) ending up at Hiroshima. Meanwhile, Ôbayashi gives a couple lessons in film history.

Labyrinth of Cinema is way too long and not really of this time, but because this is Ôbayashi's final film and because his style is so iconic, it's exactly the kind of goodbye that befits his legacy. A mad but genius director who will be sorely missed, leaving the world of cinema the way he came in: with an uncompromising bang.

Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood

by Hideshi Hino
Also known as
Ginî Piggu 2: Chiniku no Hana
Specifics
Japan [1985] - 42m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood poster

This is not the kind of movie you recommend to people, this is the kind of movie you warn people about. It became legendary when Charlie Sheen notified the police, apparently thinking this was an actual snuff film (which might just be an urban legend). Fact of the matter is that after watching Flowers of Flesh and Blood, that story sounds a lot more plausible.

The story is notable in its absence. A guy dressed up as a samurai kidnaps a woman, sedates her and cuts her to pieces. Limb by limb, slowly and methodically, with pretty much everything happening on screen. It's numbing, it's graphic, but those with a taste for gore will also be incredibly fascinated by it, because it does look surprisingly lifelike.

Flower of Flesh and Blood isn't a film you can judge on cinematography, performances and/or plot. It's an experiment in visual effects and graphic horror, extremely disturbing but also extremely effective. It's niche/cult material at its most extreme, but it's infinitely more memorable than most of the films I watch. Essential viewing for the true gorehounds.

Bedlam

by Chew Barker
Specifics
Australia [2015] - 102m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Bedlam poster

Unpleasant and disturbing. The past years there have been plenty of films that use horror to talk about mental illness, Bedlam takes the less classy route and uses mental illness for horror purposes. Maybe not very PC nowadays, but it sure is a lot more effective on the actual horror side of things.

George suffers from schizophrenia, an illness he inherited from his mother. George's doctor convinces him to get himself admitted into his clinic, where he uses experimental treatments to try and cure his patients. He complies, but ends up a prisoner in a facility where patients are tortured and abused rather than cured.

The cinematography cannot hide the fact that the budget was pretty low-budget, neither can the mediocre performances, but Barker's talent shines through. Even more so in the soundtrack, which is by far the most impressive part of the film. The cruelty is pretty graphic and depressing, short bursts of comedy (the commercials) feel a little out of place, but overall this was a pretty nasty and disturbing horror flick. Entertaining, but only for niche audiences.

The Fallen Astronaut

by Frank Herrebout, Leo van Maaren
Specifics
Netherlands [2020] - 55m
Genre
Documentary
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
The Fallen Astronaut poster

A documentary about the first piece of art on the moon. This is a slice of Belgian history I wasn't personally aware of, after watching this film it's pretty clear why. For the longest time Van Hoeydonck was denied credits for his work by NASA, a mishap that gravely affected the rest of his career.

Van Hoeydonck is an amusing man. Pretty humble and down-to-earth, but still very spirited for his age. Some of his art looks pretty interesting too, though the statue that forms the core of this doc isn't really his brightest moment. Its value is mostly symbolic, personally not something I'm very impressed by.

The documentary is quite simple, starting with a little background on Van Hoeydonck, then quickly moving to what happened between NASA and him. While the story is interesting enough, the form's a little dull, some interviewees have little to add and it can feel a little school-like. Interesting story, loveable artist, mediocre documentary.

Cadaver

by Jarand Herdal
Also known as
Kadaver
Specifics
Norway [2020] - 86m
Genre
Horror, Mystery
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Cadaver poster

It's rare to find genre films with an original premise, Cadaver delivers. A dark, brooding and mysterious film that adds minor horror elements to make things even more disturbing. The cinematography is lush, the soundtrack very atmospheric, the performances on point. Herdal hasn't missed his debut, a very impressive film.

Shoulder Arms

by Charles Chaplin
Specifics
USA [1918] - 36m
Genre
Comedy, War
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Shoulder Arms poster

It took me a while, but I finally found my first Charlie Chaplin film I didn't 100% hate. Maybe it has to do something with the fact that his famous Tramp character seems a bit further away, maybe because it's not just a silly romance (though there is still that of course), but I didn't feel all that irritated watching this film.

Chaplin plays a soldier in WWI who dreams of becoming a true hero. He's a bit of a screw up, still he's sent on an important undercover mission that takes him behind enemy lines. While his skills are severely lacking, it's his rash and uncontrolled behavior that seems to be keeping him out of harm's way.

For the most part, it's exactly the kind of slapstick I dislike. Expressive acting and silly physical comedy I don't find funny at all. The difference here is that the pacing feels slightly toned down and that there are some decent visual gags (like the scene where Chaplin dresses up as tree). It's not much, but at least it's something.

Sailor Suit and Machine Gun

by Shinji Sômai
Also known as
Sêrâ-fuku to Kikanjû
Specifics
Japan [1981] - 131m
Genre
Crime
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Sailor Suit and Machine Gun poster

Not the crazy genre fest you may expect from the title (or even the premise of the film), but a rather stylish and well-made coming of age drama set against a Yakuza background. This is only my second Somai film so far, but it seems I should be paying a bit more attention to his oeuvre in the future.

When a Yakuza boss dies, he carries over his gang to his nephew. What he doesn't know at that time is that his nephew isn't alive anymore. In that case the responsibility is carried over to the next of kind, but that turns out to be Izumi Hoshi, a young school girl who has never seen a Yakuza member up close.

Sailor Suit and Machine Gun has its share of genre elements (yes, at one point Izumi empties a machine gun in a room full of gangsters), but most of the film is a lot slower, reminding me a bit of Kitano's crime oeuvre, with people just hanging around. The cinematography is pretty nice too, the only thing that bothered me was the mediocre performance of Hiroko Yakushimaru as Izumi. An interesting film though, well recommended.

Last Tango in Paris

by Bernardo Bertolucci
Also known as
Ultimo Tango a Parigi
Specifics
France, Italy [1972] - 129m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Last Tango in Paris poster

I didn't know much about Last Tango in Paris going in, which is probably the best way to tackle a film like this. It's not one of Bertolucci's most famous films, but certainly one of his most revered ones. I assume the impact on release played a big part in that, by modern standards it's a bit tame I'm afraid.

A middle-aged man whose wife just killed herself and a young girl ready to start her life hook up with each other. Both aren't looking for a romantic relationship, instead they need each other to escape from reality. It's a decent setup, but there isn't much more to it than that. Bertolucci simply explores the relationship between these two.

Schneider and Brando aren't really fit for their parts. Schneider feels ill at easy, Brando's emotional outbursts are borderline embarrassing. That immediately kills the film, as a lot hinges on the appeal and/or intrigue of their characters, which never materializes. The cinematography and score aren't that interesting either and the pacing is slow, but at least the Parisian atmosphere gave the film a little flair.

Anticipation of the Night

by Stan Brakhage
Specifics
USA [1958] - 42m
Genre
Experimental
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Anticipation of the Night poster

A relatively long Brakhage film, which (somewhat surprisingly) works better for the type of films he makes. This is another madly edited series of almost-abstract images that make little narrative sense, but over a longer period of time do manage to create some sort of trance.

There's a concept here (a young child trying to overthink the events of the day, if I'm not mistaken), but I can't say I really got that from the film (I had to read up about it afterwards). All I get from this film is a visual onslaught that explores what one can accomplish with images and editing.

Which is quite a lot in fact, though I do still miss a soundtrack here. Without music, it's only half the experience for me. That said, I did get into it, though it took me at least 15 minutes (which no doubt explains why I care little about his shorts). One of the better Brakhage films I've seen, but it's a shame he never got to befriend a composer.

Godzilla: Final Wars

Also known as
Gojira: Fainaru Uôzu
Specifics
Japan, China [2004] - 125m
Genre
Sci-fi, Fantasy, Action
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
Godzilla: Final Wars poster

The ultimate Godzilla film, though maybe not if you're a hardened fan of the series. Kitamura brings all the different Godzilla flavors together, floods it with his signature style and molds it into an insane, action-packed film that pulls out all the stops. A film that embraces the cheese, but it still pretty damn cool to watch.

Guinea Pig: Devil's Experiment

by Satoru Ogura
Also known as
Ginî Piggu - Akuma no Jikken
Specifics
Japan [1985] - 43m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Guinea Pig: Devil's Experiment poster

Nasty. I saw the entire series a long (long) time ago, but failed to review all the episodes back then. A good excuse to rewatch the missing ones, as these films did leave quite an impression. Not that I thought they were excellent pieces of film making, but they sure are memorable horror shorts.

The films are little more than an excuse to put some realistic gore on screen. The guys behind the Guinea Pig series were effects people, and they simply needed projects to put their skills to practice. That explains why these films look quite cheap (and were in fact mistaken for snuff movies, by none other than Charlie Sheen), but the gore is pretty damn effective.

Devil's Experiment offers nothing more than a woman being tortured. It starts quite tame, with some slaps and kicks, but before long they're pouring maggots into her wounds and needles are pierced through her eyes. There's really nothing beyond that here, so unless you're a fan of grim and dreadful horror cinema I wouldn't advise watching this. I do have to say it's still surprisingly convincing for a 35-year-old film.

Freaks

by Zach Lipovsky, Adam B. Stein
Specifics
Canada, USA [2018] - 105m
Genre
Fantasy, Mystery
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Freaks poster

Freaks offers a remarkable mix of genres. Not a film you can neatly assign a single niche, instead it borrows from different genres to create something unique. There are bits of fantasy, mystery, horror, action, sci-fi and thriller in here, while still feeling like a very coherent and singular story.

The plot revolves a young girl who has to stay locked up inside her house. Her dad takes care of her and prepares her for the moment she is allowed to go outside. Whether the father is suffering from paranoia is unclear, but it's obvious that something weird is going on outside their home.

Performances are pretty solid, the effects are decent and the way information is released gradually really helps to keep the tension alive. The ending is a little too ambitious, then again it's always good to see ambition in genre film making. A very interesting project, though it's maybe not the easiest film to recommend. Definitely worth a gamble though.

Blackpink: Light Up the Sky

by Caroline Suh
Specifics
USA [2020] - 79m
Genre
Documentary, Music
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Blackpink: Light Up the Sky poster

Not so much a documentary about the group, but at introduction into the Blackpink brand. I was aware of the hype, I've also run into a video or two of them, but was otherwise completely unaware of who they were. This documentary didn't do much to change that.

Blackpink is a Korean girl group. That means their music, looks, videos and shows are hyper produced, the girls are just the face of the brand. Rather than show the whole story, the documentary simply focuses on the four girls (and the music producer), detailing where they came from and how they experienced their rise to fame.

You could do this doc with 10 different K-Pop groups and the result would always be the same. The personal stories are cookie cutter, the music is bland, the nitty-gritty behind their success well hidden from view. This is simply promo material for people who are already fans, or an introductory video for those who have never heard of Blackpink.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

by Peter R. Hunt
Specifics
UK [1969] - 142m
Genre
Action, Thriller
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
On Her Majesty's Secret Service poster

This 6th film in the Bond franchise sees several big changes, none of which made the film any better. It's the first Bond where Connery was replaced in the lead (though he would return for the next one), it was the first (and final) Bond film helmed by Hunt, it was also the longest Bond film at the time. All signs of a franchise struggling with its identity.

The plot is a typical Bond affair. After saving a woman from committing suicide, Bond is asked to marry her by her father. In return, he gets vital information that will lead him to Blofeld, his arch enemy. A timely deal, as Blofeld is ready to unleash a deadly virus on humanity. And of course, only Bond can stop him.

The film is a little less goofy compared to the earlier entries, coupled with the longer runtime it makes for a less enjoyable film. Lazenby doesn't really have the necessary flair either and there's a bit too much focus on the romance. At least there are a few fun and memorable action scenes, but still one of the lesser ones so far.

Sanatorium

by Brant Sersen
Specifics
USA [2013] - 90m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Sanatorium poster

A film released in the wake of Grave Encounters (and a large string of similar ones). Sanatorium is a found footage horror pretending to be a TV horror show. It's one of the easiest setups imaginable and director Sersen didn't bother to add anything to the familiar formula. This is 200% genre film making.

A TV crew is on their way to a remote sanatorium, where they're going to shoot their 100th episode. After a short recon, the caretaker lets them into the building, gives them a quick tour and leaves them there for the night. What happens next isn't really a surprise, considering you're watching a horror flick.

I generally like these types of films, but Sanatorium really is quite lazy. There's not an ounce of originality here, meaning the setup feels a little tired and predictable. The second half is better though and once the haunting start it's fun enough, but I doubt if this a film that'll stay with me.

Flatliners

by Niels Arden Oplev
Specifics
Canada, USA [2017] - 109m
Genre
Mystery, Thriller
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Flatliners poster

A mediocre and somewhat disappointing remake. I'm quite fond of Schumacher's original, a film with lots of visual flair and a couple of memorable scenes. Director Oplev does his best to recreate that mysterious atmosphere, but falls shorts and gets stuck in the cheesier bits of the story.

A talented medicine student is obsessed by the afterlife. So much in fact that she drums up some of her fellow students and plans an illegal experiment. She induces death on herself and tells the others to revive her after a set amount of time. Meanwhile, a scanner is monitoring everything that's going on inside her brain, in the hope of mapping out what happens after a person dies.

The Flatliners remake has trouble finding the right tone. It constantly alternates between drama, mystery and thriller, but fails to find a solid middle ground. Some scenes are nice, but they're often directly followed by scenes that don't land and come off a little cheap. Performances are decent but noting special, so is the pacing. Not bad, but I prefer the original by a large margin.

Reassemblage: From the Firelight to the Screen

by T. Minh-ha Trinh
Specifics
USA [1983] - 40m
Genre
Documentary
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Reassemblage: From the Firelight to the Screen poster

Part documentary, part reflection, part experimental feature. That sounds a lot more interesting that the resulting film turned out to be. Director Trinh T. Minh-ha spent three years following a small tribe in rural Senegal collecting the footage, back home she turned it into the film we can see today.

The footage Minh-ha brought home is pretty basic, especially considering she had such a long time there. If you've seen docs about African communities before, there's little here to pique your interest. People living in poor conditions, going about their daily lives, while Minh-ha registers without intervening too much.

The voice over doesn't really add a lot either, unless you can really connect with the subjects Minh-ha talks about. The sound editing is what makes this film a little different, with strange repetitions and a very unique flow, though even there I have to say the effect isn't all that impressive. At least it was short.

Thelma & Louise

Specifics
USA, France [1991] - 130m
Genre
Crime, Adventure
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Thelma & Louise poster

One of the few remaining Scott films I'd still had to see. Or revisit, as I'd already watched this one as a kid. The ending is by far the most memorable part of Thelma & Louise, not in the least because it's been referenced so often since the film was released. It's probably also the single reason why it's considered a classic, as the rest isn't all that special.

Louise is in a loose relationship, Thelma is stuck in an unhappy marriage. The two friends plan a weekend out of town, but after their first stop in a bar, things take a turn for the worse. The rest of the film sees the two women on the road, trying to remain out of the clutches of the police.

The Sarandon/David tandem isn't that great, the soundtrack is terrible and the film's a bit long-winded. Certain scenes stand out and showcase Scott's skill as a director, sadly it's not enough to actually save the film. The ending still stands though, I just don't think it's enough to sit through the rest of the film.

The Deadly Duo

Also known as
Shuang Xia
Specifics
Hong Kong [1971] - 94m
Genre
Action, Adventure
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
The Deadly Duo poster

Run-of-the-mill Cheh Chang. One of his earlier works that mixes memorable scenes with unremarkable filler. No doubt the biggest Shaw Brow/Cheh Chang fans will find exactly what they're looking for in this film, but after seeing so many Shaw Bros films already it was tough to get really excited by it.

After some back and forth at the start of the film, a group of heroes tries to infiltrate an impregnable fortress. They have a map that shows them a secret route at the backside of the fortress, but to get there there they have to cross a dangerous bridge first. Not the most elaborate plot ever, but it does the job.

It's nice that Chang shot on location, the bridge scenes in particular stand out. Performances are mediocre though and the battles aren't all that exciting. The film is quite short, still the pacing feels a little sluggish at times. There simply isn't much plot and with the action being slightly subpar, the film fails to set itself apart.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

by Peter Weir
Specifics
Australia [1975] - 115m
Genre
Drama, Mystery
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Picnic at Hanging Rock poster

A film I've actively avoided for a long time, for the many comparisons with Hadzihalilovic's Innocence. I'm quite fond of that one, but expecting something similar from a film made 30 years earlier would've been quite unfair. Can't avoid the film forever though, so I figured it was time to give one of Weir's most iconic films a shot.

The story revolves around the mysterious disappearance of three girls after they went to explore Hanging Rock. The film itself isn't all that myserious though, apart from a handful of scenes it's mostly just a drama that deals with the disappearance and the search for the missing girls.

I get the comparison with Innocence, but Weir struggles to get the atmosphere on point. He aims for a mix of dreamy, mysterious and sinister, but too often it's just cheesy and inane. The drama surrounding the disappearance isn't too exciting either and the performances are mediocre. Weir gets points for trying, but the execution is inadequate.

Bento Harassment

by Renpei Tsukamoto
Also known as
Kyô Mo Iyagarase Bentô
Specifics
Japan [2019] - 106m
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Bento Harassment poster

Cute little coming of age comedy that stages an underhanded battle between a single mom and her teenage daughter. After directing some less than notable horror films at the beginning of his career, Renpei Tsukamoto has rebranded himself a comedy director, and he's done a pretty decent job.

After her husband died, Kaori tried her best raising her daughters by herself. When her youngest finally hits puberty, Kaori struggles to get a grip. Failing to come up with a better solution, she takes the passive aggressive route and prepares her daughter the cutest lunches she can muster, embarrassing her in front of her classmates.

Though set on a small Japanese island, the film doesn't have that typical island feel. Tsukamoto goes for a quirkier and lighter sense of humor, but can't quite keep it up. The inevitable switch to drama feels a bit forced, luckily the ending is quite alright. A film that leans on fun and well executed premise, but struggles with the balance between comedy and drama.