Tomio

by Junji Ito
Specifics
Japan [2011] - 61m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Tomio poster

From the writer of Tomie comes Tomio. There's no relation really, except that this is another Japanese low-budget horror affair that relies on a fun concept to carry the entire film. And Junji Ito gets away with in, in part because the runtime is quite short and the premise is interesting enough.

A man stumbles across the street, into a hospital. There he confronts the doctors with his severed neck. The doctors don't believe the man, as a full beheading wouldn't have left him alive, but the x-ray scan shows a clean cut. According to the man, it's the curse of a fortune-teller that got to him.

It's clearly a low-budget project, so don't expect too much in the way of cinematography and acting. But the concept is pretty cool and the effects are decent enough. The pacing is also fine, the ending is a hoot and there's something pleasantly morbid that kept me glued to the screen. Cheap but fun.

Books of Blood

by Brannon Braga
Specifics
USA [2020] - 107m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Books of Blood poster

A new adaptation of Clive Barker's Book of Blood. The film is set up as an anthology project, but the stories loop back into each other and the whole deal is directed by Brannon Braga, so it's not a mishmash of different stories and styles. Somewhat disappointing, but I'm sure most people will prefer this format.

There's plenty to choose from, but Braga limited himself to three stories. The first one is about a young girl who runs away from home and ends up with a seemingly nice family, the second one deals with a scientist who learns that there may be life after death, the final one is about two guys looking for the book of blood.

The film is relatively light on horror, but it's all quite atmospheric. Performances are good, the cinematography and effects are decent and even though the film is quite long, it never got dull or boring. Braga delivers a solid film, nothing too exceptional but more than solid horror entertainment.

Get the Hell Out

by I.-Fan Wang
Also known as
Tao Chu Li Fa Yuan
Specifics
Taiwan [2020] - 100m
Genre
Comedy, Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Get the Hell Out poster

Hysterical Taiwanese zombie comedy. They enjoyed a short spell of quality/creative films in the early 10s, sadly it didn't really last. Since then some pretty decent films have surfaced, but they are few and far between. Get the Hell Out isn't a future classic, but at least there's a lot of fun to be had with this one.

Parliament is discussing the construction of a chemical plant, when one the members turns into a zombie and starts attacking the other participants. Soon the entire room is teaming with zombies and it's up to a couple of survivors to find a way out of the building. Their quest looks impossible, until one of the survivors discovers his blood repells the undead.

Get the Hell Out is a pretty modern, energetic film. The editing is hyperactive, people are loud, the camera swings all over the place and some game interfaces and 8 bit sounds make their way into the styling. There's a little gore, but in the end this is more comedy than horror and giggles are more important than grossing people out. A lot of fun, but no masterpiece.

Live and Let Die

by Guy Hamilton
Specifics
UK [1973] - 121m
Genre
Action, Thriller, Adventure
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Live and Let Die poster

The first James Bond film with Roger Moore. I needed a little time to get used to Moore, I'm sure Moore also needed some time to grow into his part. Veteran director Guy Hamilton was there to make sure the franchise kept its signature feel and that's pretty much the bottom line of Live and Let Die.

Bond is sent to America to deal with a drug baron. He is kidnapped by a black gang who have roots in voodoo culture, which makes for a rather ominous start to the film. Once the back and forth between Bond and his enemies starts though it turns pretty goofy, which was quite the relief.

The start isn't all that great and Moore needed a little time to settle into his character, but the action scenes are some of the best in the series (the boat chase in particular stands out) and the second half is plenty cheesy (Bond jumping on crocodiles to cross a pond). The US setting isn't that exciting and the Bond girls are rather plain, but in the end this was pretty amusing.

The Fallen

by Cheuk Pan Lee
Specifics
Hong Kong [2019] - 95m
Genre
Thriller, Crime
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Fallen poster

Very nice, but also a bit disappointing. The Fallen could've been a future classic. Hong Kong has been struggling lately, which leaves an opportunity for younger/less mainstream directors to make a break-through and start something new. The Fallen was very close to being that, but stumbles over smaller details.

When a Triad boss dies, things are bound to get messy. An adopted son is given control over the organization, which isn't to the liking of the older members. The boss' daughter (presumed lost for years) suddenly returns and an illegitimate daughter also appears out of the wood works. What follows is a classic struggle for dominance.

The cinematography is absolutely stunning. Superb use of color, stark framing, the editing is simply perfection. The film looks stylish from start to finish. The soundtrack isn't quite on the same level and performances could've been better. It's such a shame, as the appeal of this film is tremendous. Hopefully Cheuk Pan Lee gets another chance, the talent is clearly there.

Stranger

by Dmitriy Tomashpolskiy
Also known as
Storonniy
Specifics
Ukraine [2019] - 90m
Genre
Fantasy, Mystery
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Stranger poster

Now this was an interesting one. A Ukrainian genre film that channels Lovecraft, mixing fantasy and mystery with more timid horror elements. If you like confusing narratives, mood pieces and genre benders, this is a film that should be pretty high on your watch list, because Stranger delivers.

A skilled inspector investigates a case where an entire synchronized swimming team disappeared during one of their performances. Before she is able to solve the case, she gets assigned to another disappearance. This time it's a patient from a water treatment clinic. The inspector decides to go for a little treatment herself and quickly finds herself knee-deep in a complex mystery.

Stark visuals, lovely colors, a solid score and stoic performances create a very unreal atmosphere. It's one of those films that raises more questions than it answers, personally I didn't really mind. It lacks just a little stylistic coherence to be a true favorite, apart from that it's an utterly intriguing film.

Shane

by George Stevens
Specifics
USA [1953] - 118m
Genre
Drama, Western
More info on
rating
0.5*/5.0*
Shane poster

This was absolutely dreadful. I'm not a fan of westerns to begin with, but coupled with crude, sentimental drama it truly becomes a new level of awful. I've never watched Little House on the Prairie (so I can't really compare), but Shane was exactly what I faired that series would be.

Shane is a former gunslinger who gets tangled up in a conflict between some poor farmers and a couple of wealthy ranch owners. Shane picks the side of the farmers, a choice that will ultimately lead to a bloody confrontation. Don't expect too much action though, because the drama takes the upper hand in this film.

This is by far one of the ugliest films I've seen. Harsh and unflattering colors, poor cinematography, bland camera work. The soundtrack is feeble, actors appear wooden and feel like lazy caricatures. And the sentiment is so terribly kitsch that it overwhelms everything else. Awful, awful film.

Lost in Thailand

by Zheng Xu
Also known as
Ren Zai Jiong Tu: Tai Jiong
Specifics
China [2012] - 105m
Genre
Comedy, Adventure
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Lost in Thailand poster

A pretty decent Chinese comedy that brings together three of its biggest comedy stars. With Zheng Xu, Baoqiang Wang and Bo Huang headlining the film you should pretty much know what to expect. If not then it's probably best to skip this one for now, until you're a bit more familiar with contemporary Chinese cinema.

Xu and Bo are competing for their jobs. They invented revolutionary fuel technology, but their ideas of where to take this tech don't line up. They're racing to find their CEO in order to convince him their idea is best, the problem is that his exact location is unknown. This leaves them stranded in Bangkok, with no idea where to go.

Lost in Thailand is a pretty jolly, easygoing comedy that sees these three actors do their best to keep it light and entertaining. In that sense it's a pretty successful film, the problem is that it never aspires to be anything more. This is pleasant filler and I'm looking forward to catching the sequel, but it's hardly great cinema.

Where's Officer Tuba?

by Philip Chan, Ricky Lau
Also known as
Pi Li Da La Ba
Specifics
Hong Kong [1986] - 88m
Genre
Comedy, Fantasy, Action
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Where's Officer Tuba? poster

Mediocre Hong Kong genre bender. Ricky Lau and Philip Chan directed this Sammo Hung vehicle that combines comedy, action, fantasy and horror and tries to fit everything into a typical cop buddy format. I'd by lying if I said the film was boring, but the quality is limited and none of the genres stands out.

Tuba's partner Chow is gunned down when the both of them are trying to apprehend a gang of criminal. Right before he dies Tuba promises Chow to avenge his death. Tuba is assigned a new partner and get romantically entangled, prompting him to forget his promise. Chow then returns from the dead to remind Tuba of the promise he made.

The horror elements are cheap, the acting is pretty hysterical and the comedy is very limited. With a star-studded cast and a seasoned director at the helm, expectations were a lot higher. At least the action scenes are pretty decent, but they're few and far between. This should've been a lot better.

The Red Silk Gambler

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Hijirimen Bakuto
Specifics
Japan [1972] - 86m
Genre
Action, Crime
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
The Red Silk Gambler poster

A rather stylish Teruo Ishii film. Mention gamblers and samurai and people immediately think of Zatoichi, with Ishii in the director chair you can expect something a little edgier. The film feels a little dated, but I'm quite certain that if I'd seen this when it was first released, it could have been a personal favorite.

Okatsu is an ex-con who frequents all the gambling dens in search of her one true love. She surrounds herself with a gang of outcasts to fight off the shady characters that she encounters on the way. Things get complicated Onaka, when one of her crew who is looking to avenge her father, finds the trail of her father's killer.

Plenty of kick-ass women here, but it's the cinematography that's the true star of the film. Colors are a bit murky maybe, but the camera work is energetic, compositions are beautiful and there are quite a few iconic shots. Excellent pacing, pleasantly gritty and never boring. A pretty solid film.

What Scoundrels Men Are!

by Mario Camerini
Also known as
Gli Momini, Che Mascalzoni...
Specifics
Italy [1932] - 64m
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
What Scoundrels Men Are! poster

Never saw an Italian film from before their Neo-Realism period, so when Mario Camerini's films came onto my path I didn't have to think twice. What Scoundrels Men Are was the first one I tried and it really took me by suprise. I expected a grim and dreary drama, what I got was a pleasant, agreeable romcom.

Bruno is a driver who works for a rich family. When he meets the girl of his dreams, he takes out his boss' car to try and impress her, but his date doesn't go as planned. The two keep bumping into each other though, but romance doesn't seem to be in the cards for them, as there's always something standing in between them.

The film feels light and breezy. The pacing is fine, Lia Franca and De Sica (didn't even know he started as an actor) have plenty of chemistry and even though the plot is quite formulaic, the film has plenty of charm and the short runtime makes sure it doesn't overstay its welcome. Not bad at all.

I Am Toxic

by Daniel de la Vega, Pablo Pares
Also known as
Soy Tóxico
Specifics
Argentina [2018] - 81m
Genre
Action, Horror
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
I Am Toxic poster

I absolutely adored Parés' Daemonium, wasn't quite as taken with de la Vega's work. I Am Toxic falls neatly in between both oeuvres, where the hand of Parés stands out, but the film itself isn't quite up to snuff. That makes I Am Toxic an interesting watch, even though it never lives up to its full potential.

A post-apocalyptic world that shows us a South-America riddled with rotten corpses. One of these corpses wakes up, unaware of what happened to him and how he got there. Before he can compose himself, he's attacked by a zombie. A hunter rescues him and takes him to his hideout, where the man's taken captive.

It's a novel premise, though it's really just another zombie flick with humanity turning out to be the true bad guy. The styling is pretty cool, sporting a Max Mad vibe with some original touches, the setting also looks pretty appealing, but I've grown really tired of the direction this film took. Bottom line: Parés is better working on his own.

The Killers

by Robert Siodmak
Specifics
USA [1946] - 103m
Genre
Film-Noir
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
The Killers poster

Disappointing. The Killers started off very promising. Heavily contrasting black & white cinematography, a solid pace, a simple but intriguing premise. Everything was present to turn this into an entertaining film, except the will to keep it going. After the introduction, it gets duller by the minute.

Two killers for hire murder a gas station clerk. An insurance claims specialist is interested in the case and starts an investigation. Through a series of flashbacks we learn that the clerk is an ex-boxer whose glory has faded over the years. The deeper they dig, the more it looks like there's a hidden angle to the murder.

The intro is moody, the rest of the film is just people talking and narratives unfolding. Endless conversations between rather bland characters that reveal the true nature of the murder, which isn't interesting in the least. It's a shame to see the potential go to waste, looking at the first 10 minutes this could've been a decent classic.

Haunted Tales

by Yuen Chor, Tun Fei Mou
Also known as
Die Xian
Specifics
Hong Kong [1980] - 61m
Genre
Horror, Thriller
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Haunted Tales poster

A horror anthology from the Shaw Bros studios. If you can call it that, as it's really just two middle-length films back to back. Hong Kong has a pretty meager track record when it comes to horror cinema, but with Chor Yuen involved as director of the first film, I was willing to give this one a shot.

Chor is pretty good with atmosphere, so on paper he should be a great fit for horror. Some of his martial arts work had promising horror elements too, but it seems straight up horror isn't really his thing. Performances are poor, effects look shabby and the ghost story isn't scary at all.

The second film comes from Tun Fei Mou, who fares even worse. The story has supernatural elements, and that's about it really. It isn't until the very last minute that we finally see some blood (read red paint), the rest is just cheep and disappointing. Not a very good Shaw Bros film, it's rare to see them do well outside the martial arts genre.

Bite

by Chad Archibald
Specifics
Canada [2015] - 88m
Genre
Horror
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Bite poster

Tasty body horror. A genre that isn't quite as common nowadays, maybe that's why Bite hasn't built up the reputation it deserves. I'd seen the poster before, but hadn't really heard anything else about it. It's a shame if you ask me, as it's one of the better films I've seen in the genre, even though it's not without faults.

Three women go on a trip to Costa Rica for a bachelorette party. There, one of them gets bitten by a strange bug. They think nothing of it and return home, but after a while the wound begins to infect and a strange liquid oozes out. What follows is pretty gross and slimy, exactly what you want from a good body horror.

Performances are quite bad, apart from Begovic whose monster is pretty creepy. The film is a little slow to start, but once the infection sets in the film become increasingly gruesome and repulsive. Effects and make-up are great and the finale is spot on. A pretty lovely genre film, Archibald's best so far.

Looking for Langston

by Isaac Julien
Specifics
UK [1989] - 45m
Genre
Experimental
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Looking for Langston poster

An experimental film about the Harlem Renaissance, an intellectual/artistic movement of black people in Harlem, New York that rekindled the interest in the African-American arts. The film takes a strong homo-erotic focus and tries to offer a little insight into the vibe of that era/community.

Looking for Langston is a mix of archive footage, narrative cinema and more abstract/experimental influences. Director Isaac Julien doesn't explicitly differentiate between these elements and leaves it up to the audience to figure everything out, no doubt hoping everything together would form a new, cohesive whole.

There are some moody black & white shots, but that's where the appeal for me ended I'm afraid. The music is bland, the poetry is downright terrible and the film is so kitsch that I found it difficult to keep a straight face while watching. I think I would've just preferred a straight up documentary.

Point Break

by Kathryn Bigelow
Specifics
Japan, USA [1991] - 122m
Genre
Action, Thriller
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Point Break poster

The one with the presidents. Point Break is somewhat of a cult film nowadays, though not one that is often talked about. It's really just the mask-wearing criminals that have turned into an iconic image (referenced by To it in Fulltime Killer), the rest of the film is pretty mediocre and forgettable.

Reeves plays a young, promising cop who immediately gets assigned one of the most important cases in the district. A gang has been robbing banks without leaving any traces and the cops are stumped. Reeves' partner believes they're dealing with a gang of surfers, so Reeves goes undercover.

Point Break is a rather basic 90s action flick. The pacing is decent, there are some solid action scenes, but it never goes beyond. It's just simple genre fare that feels a bit outdated. Performances are weak, the editing is insufficient and apart from the masks, there's nothing memorable here. Not terrible, but unworthy of its cult status.

Chariots of Fire

by Hugh Hudson
Specifics
UK [1981] - 125m
Genre
Drama, Sport
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Chariots of Fire poster

I was blissfully unaware of this film until today. The name didn't ring a bell at all (even though it was made the year I was born), the plot didn't sound familiar either. I guess Chariots of Fire is one of those films that was big when it was first release, but quickly fell into obscurity after that. I honestly can't say I'm very surprised.

The film follows two British athletes who fought their way into the Olympic Games of 1924. One is a devout Scot, the other a Jew. The British establishment seems to be having little faith in their capabilities, which made them even more eager to succeed. No doubt you can fill in the rest.

Chariots of Fire feels outdated. Drab cinematography, mediocre performances, incredibly formulaic. The only thing that stands out is the Vangelis score, a synthesizer-based soundtrack that feels terribly out of place. The first hour is pure garbage, the second half slightly more entertaining. Overall though, not worth the trouble.

The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner

Also known as
Die Große Ekstase des Bildschnitzers Steiner
Specifics
West Germany [1974] - 45m
Genre
Documentary, Sport
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner poster

Herzog has always alternated between narrative films and documentaries. So far, I hadn't seen much of his older docs, The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner is the first I've seen and heralded by Herzog himself as one of his most important films. Can't say I understand why though.

Steiner is a famed sky flyer (pretty much the same as ski jumping, only they go a lot further still) who broke several records in his time by crossing the farthest posts on the slopes. Herzog follows him around, detailing the dangers and appeal of the sport while underlying the often amateurish organization of the events.

While the close-ups and slo-mo footage of the jumps are quite nice, in the end it's still a pretty basic documentary about an athlete. One whose records have long since been beaten. Herzog makes the best of it and his enthusiasm makes sure that even people who don't care for the sport get something out of it, but in the end it's really not that special.

Family of Strangers

by Hideyuki Hirayama
Also known as
Heisa Byôtô: Sorezore no Asa
Specifics
Japan [2019] - 117m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Family of Strangers poster

A solid but somewhat innocuous drama. It's not quite sentimental enough to be described as Oscar-bait, but on paper it certainly looks that way. I think it would've been nicer if Hirayama had just picked a side, but there's still enough quality present to give this one a fair shot.

The film follows a ward in a clinic for the mentally ill. Not the toughest cases, most people there are allowed to venture outside, but all the patients are dealing with deep-rooted traumas. The film zooms in on three patients: an old man who killed his adulterous wife, a young boy who suffers bursts of rage and a young girl who isn't speaking anymore.

Performances are well above average and the drama is fine. Cinematography and score are on point too, it's just that the film lacks anything that sets it apart. The setting, the dramatic events, the struggles of the characters, it feels like so many films have done it before and Family of Strangers isn't really adding anything new to it. Not bad though, just a little on the safe side.

L'Ilya

by Tomoya Sato
Specifics
Japan [2001] - 39m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
L'Ilya poster

If you don't keep a close eye on short films, the name Tomoya Sato probably won't ring a bell. Sato isn't very prolific and hasn't directed a feature film yet, but with L'Ilya he did manage to build up a small cult reputation. It's not an easy film though, so it's no real surprise Sato found it difficult to force a breakthrough.

Ilya is a young video artist who documents suicides and reworks them as background footage for dance clubs. It's a rather morbid setup, which is handled with surprising subtlety. The film focuses more on the stories of the people wanting to commit suicide rather than its disturbing premise.

The cinematography is rather basic, performances are solid though and the score is decent. Sato handles the subject matter with the proper respect and creates a film that is both light-hearted and sullen, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. Not bad at all, but a bit too short to make a big impression.

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm

by Jason Woliner
Specifics
USA, UK [2020] - 97m
Genre
Comedy
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm poster

It was a bit of a surprise when Cohen announced his new Borat film, not in the least because its release on Amazon Prime was right around the corner. After watching the sequel it feels as if Cohen had to meet a pre-election deadline, since a lot of the jokes are at the expense of conservative/right-wing Americans.

After spending 14 years in prison, Borat is released and sent on a new mission to America. With Trump in charge, Kazakhstan sees an opportunity to renew the bond between both countries. Borat has to deliver a gift to Pence as a sign of good faith, but ends up trying to pawn his daughter to the prime minister.

Not much has changed compared to the first film, but that's hardly a surprise. A mix of scripted scenes and hidden camera jokes take the piss out of USA's underbelly, with Cohen pushing for sexist, racist and other vile material wherever he can. There are some decent laughs here, but I couldn't help but feel that some of the material was just a tad too easy.

Diamonds Are Forever

by Guy Hamilton
Specifics
UK [1971] - 120m
Genre
Action, Adventure
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Diamonds Are Forever poster

I expected a little more from this one. It was good to see Connery return to the Bond franchise and Hamilton had directed my favorite entry so far, so the signs were good. But the first 70s Bond felt a bit lifeless and uninspired, as if they were simply rehashing past successes without too much conviction.

With Bond's archenemy gone, he is assigned a simpler job. Bond has to take care of a shipment of diamonds, which he needs to keep out of the hands of notorious smugglers. With a little help from his crew (and his token female companions), Bond travels around the world to keep the diamonds safe.

Maybe it's me who's getting a little tired of the formula, maybe the actors and directors felt like they'd all done it before. Amsterdam and Las Vegas aren't the most inspiring locations either. There's a little fun to be had here, but overall I think a film like Goldfinger was a lot kookier and crazier. Let's hope Moore can reinvigorate the series.

Greener Grass

by Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe
Specifics
USA [2019] - 95m
Genre
Comedy
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Greener Grass poster

An absurd, madcap comedy that echoes the work of Jim Hosking. Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe wrote, directed and headlined their feature debut, which is quite a risk. On the other hand, looking at the result I feel this is the kind of film that can only be made by people who are totally in control over every aspect of their film. With so few (good) comedies being released nowadays, this was a true blessing.

Teaching Sucks

Also known as
Ng Yan Ji Dai
Specifics
Hong Kong [1997] - 93m
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Teaching Sucks poster

A very early Wilson Yip romcom. Not really the genre you'd expect from Yip, but like most Hong Kong directors he found his calling by trying out whatever genre he could get his hands on. '97 was a bad year for Hong Kong cinema though and Yip wasn't really skilled enough yet to rise to the challenge.

Lam and Wong are two teacher who have lost their passion to teach. They keep each other occupied, but their students show little respect for them. Until Cathy joins the teacher squad, a young teacher full of drive and will to make a difference. Lam and Wong are both captivated by Cathy's vigor, but it's obvious they want more than just be friends.

Performances are a little lifeless, the cinematography is dim and the comedy is rarely funny. The story is anything but original, but at least the atmosphere is quite light and the pacing is decent. It's not that the film is terrible or doesn't work, it's just that there's hardly anything here that jumps out. Very basic filler.

The Lady Eve

by Preston Sturges
Specifics
USA [1941] - 94m
Genre
Comedy, Romance
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
The Lady Eve poster

Early romcom that isn't very funny and isn't all that romantic either. The biggest problem for me is that these classic romances never feel very passionate. The acting is too on the nose, there is no real chemistry between the actors, as they go from hot to cold and back again in just a single scene.

Charles is a rich kid looking for companionship. When taking a trip by boat he runs into Jean, one third of a trio of scammers. They see in Charles the ideal chump, but Jean falls for the charms of Charles and decides to better her life. When Charles finds out she tried to play him though, he calls off their relationship.

Performances are mediocre, the slapstick feels pretty out of place and the plot couldn't really draw me in. It's a good thing the pacing is decent, the runtime is rather short and the atmosphere remains light from start to finish. These things make the film a little easier to sit through, but that's about it.

Brave Blue World

by Tim Neeves
Specifics
UK [2019] - 50m
Genre
Documentary
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Brave Blue World poster

An inspirational documentary. I've noticed that in recent years there seems to be a change in approach there. After years of endless doom & gloom docs, directors seems to be trying something different. Rather than telling people the world is turning to shit, these more recent docs offer creativity ways to deal and fix the problems at hand, hoping to inspire the people watching.

Brave Blue World deals with our planet's water issues. Shortages and pollution are becoming increasingly problematic, as it turns out there are quite a few creative minds out there who already have promising solutions tried and tested. This documentary cycles through a couple of them, looking at the different approaches people from around the world came up with.

Many of these solutions are small-scale though, with little assurance that they would also work on a larger scale (or wouldn't have any negative consequences), but they are inspirational and even though regular people like me don't have many actionables after watching this film, it does give a solid overview of our current situation.

Love You Forever

by Tingting Yao
Specifics
China [2019] - 115m
Genre
Romance, Fantasy
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Love You Forever poster

It seems that romance laced with a little fantasy is doing well in Asia nowadays. It's a genre that's been on the rise for a while now and more and more countries are including it in their blockbuster line-ups. Love You Forever is China's latest entry in the genre, a capable but slightly saccharine attempt.

Qui is an aspiring dancer, Lin a young boy madly in love with her. The two are best friends, but when fate destroys their future, an old watch grants Lin the power to travel back into time. There he can change Qui's fate, the downside is that Lin's presence is erased from the world, so Qui won't recognize him anymore.

It's not the most original setup, but the lead actors do an excellent job, the cinematography is on point and the pacing is solid. The soundtrack's a bit overdone and it does get a little too cheesy in place, but overall it's a pretty successful film that doesn't quite match the best films in the genre, but isn't lagging that far behind either.

Guinea Pig: He Never Dies

by Masayuki Kusumi
Also known as
Ginî Piggu 3: Senritsu! Shinanai Otoko
Specifics
Japan [1986] - 39m
Genre
Comedy, Horror
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Guinea Pig: He Never Dies poster

After some extremely grim and revolting films, He Never Dies brings some comedy to the Guinea Pig series. There's still plenty of gore here, after all that is the primary reason for this series' existence, but this time around there's also room for some giggles, dark as the comedy may be.

When a guy gets dumped by his girlfriend, he prepares to kill himself. When he finally cuts his wrists, it turns out he can't feel any pain. Somewhat surprised he starts to experiment on his own body, but whatever he tries, he doesn't seem able to be able to kill himself. Unsure of what to do next, he decides to take revenge on his ex.

The gore is decent and the comedy is good for some laughs, but the film's simply too cheap to be effective. Poor performances, ugly cinematography and some big pacing issues (like the lengthy introduction) take the fun out of it. It does get better as the film progresses, but it falls short compared to the other films in the series.

The Witches

Specifics
USA, Mexico [2020] - 106m
Genre
Fantasy, Family
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Witches poster

Zemeckis remaking Roald Dahl's The Witches did sound like a pretty nice idea. Zemeckis has a decent track record of modernizing old classics and with proper backing of guys like Del Toro and Cuarón this was a project with quite a bit of potential. The budget was there too, sadly the results isn't all that.

The film doesn't change too much about the original story except the setting. A young boy gets mixed up in the affairs of a coven of witches, who are planning to get rid of all the children by giving them poisoned candy. Together with his grandmother and two friends the boy devises a counter plan to stop the witches in their tracks.

The CG is quite poor, Hathaway's performance is absolutely dreadful, Chris Rock's voice-over should've been scrapped and the film simply lacks that juicy, slightly overstated atmosphere that is so typical for Dahl's work. The film at least looks nice and colorful, but this should've been so much better. Disappointing.

Shanghai Grand

by Man Kit Poon
Also known as
Xin Shang Hai Tan
Specifics
Hong Kong [1996] - 96m
Genre
Action, Crime
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Shanghai Grand poster

This was a bit of a surprise. I'd never heard of this film before, the only other Poon film I'd seen was absolutely terrible and '96 was a particularly dreadful year for Hong Kong cinema. In other words, expectations were very low. Turns out this was quite the explosive action/crime spectacle.

Hui is a small-time crook who arrives in Shanghai. There he meets Ting, a low-ranking Triad member who never made it big. They hit it off and in no time they've built themselves a roaring crime empire. They are destined for greatness, until a woman gets in between them. From that moment on, their friendship starts to crumble.

Produced by Tsui Hark and headlined by Andy Lau and Leslie Cheung, Shanghai Grand is a pretty high-profile action/crime film set in a bustling Shanghai of the 30s. The cinematography looks slick and classy, performances are on point, the pacing is perfect and there are some lovely action scenes. Very good genre work, deserves more recognition.

The Last Laugh

by F.W. Murnau
Also known as
Der Letzte Mann
Specifics
Germany [1924] - 90m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
The Last Laugh poster

I'm relatively fond of the German Expressionist of the 1920s, The Last Laugh is a more traditional-looking film though. Didn't really know what to expect, especially since I've been having rather different reactions to other Murnau films I'd seen so far. The Last Laugh ended up somewhere in between.

The film follows a proud hotel doorman who loves his job. He goes out of the way to help the guests, but when one day he helps a client with a particularly heavy suitcase he is caught resting and gets demoted to toilet cleaner. His pride melts away when friends and neighbors make fun of his situation.

Performances are needlessly over the top, the story is a bit basic and repetitive and the ending is a real head scratcher. Apparently commissioned by the studio that way, but it's a real dud. I never really cared for the fate of the doorman, but for a film this old it does feel remarkable well put together.

Goodbye for Tomorrow

Also known as
Ashita
Specifics
Japan [1995] - 141m
Genre
Drama, Fantasy
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Goodbye for Tomorrow poster

Ôbayashi will forever be known for his weird and madcap fantasy/horror cinema, but during the 90s he made a fair few films that are a lot more toned down. There are clear fantasy elements present in Goodbye for Tomorrow, but they're there to support the drama rather than the other way around.

A boat accident casts a dark shadow over a small coastal village. Three months after the accident, friends and families of the deceased get a strange note, asking them to come to a remote island. There they will get one last chance to meet up with the people they lost that fateful day.

Even without all the weirdness lighting up his films, Ôbayashi is still a pretty solid director. The first hour in particular is very moody, offering a nice mix of mystery, fantasy and drama. Once everyone is reunited the drama becomes a bit long-winded and heavy-handed, but solid performances, decent cinematography and a solid ending make this a worthwhile film.

Edward Scissorhands

Specifics
USA [1990] - 105m
Genre
Romance, Fantasy
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Edward Scissorhands poster

Tim Burton mixing urban fantasy and Gothic fairy tales. The result is a lot better than I remembered. I didn't really appreciate that particular combination the last time I watched it (I'm still a bigger fan of Burton's darker side), but at least the lighter elements didn't bother me as much this time around.

Edward is somewhat of a cyberpunk Pinocchio, a man created by an inventor to cure his loneliness. When his creator dies he lives all alone in a mansion, until a family from a rosy suburban community finds him and takes him back with them. While he's slow to adjust, the people in the neighborhood seem to appreciate Edward's special skills.

I still prefer the darker scenes in the mansion, but I couldn't really ignore Burton's all-round creativity here. While still a little cheesy (not in the least because of Elfman's score), the mix of elements is quite unique and the film has plenty of memorable moments. Not my favorite Burton, but a commendable film nonetheless.