I honestly can't recall having seen a good Robin Hood film yet, so my expectation of the '38 version were rather low, regardless of the broad critical acclaim it has received over the years. I don't think I expected it to be quite so childish though. It really feels like a film aimed at younger kids.
The story of Robin Hood should be pretty familiar to most. I never read the original, so I can't really compare it with that, but the plot here didn't really differ from the one I've known since forever. When Prince John starts oppressing the Saxon people, one of their lords stands up and fights back as the leader of the rebels.
Performances are cheesy, the costumes look cheap, the action is tepid and the rather jolly atmosphere doesn't make much sense. It's quite the atrocious film really, but at least it's decently paced and doesn't take itself very serious. The next couple of years I'll be keeping my distance from Robin Hood adaptations.
A beautiful little drama. Kitano's style is already in full effect here. The quirky yet loveable characters, the stark cinematography, the dry comedy, Hisaishi's perfectly complimentary score that gives the film its heart. It may not be able to compete with Kitano's best work, but it's so pleasant that the unexpected ending floored me again.
Sono's latest is a pretty light film. There's none of his usual craziness (or at least, very little), there's no excessive violence, harsh drama or over-the-top absurdities. It's actually a film you can watch with your family around. So instead we get a slightly larger than life comedy that meanders from beginning to end.
Kobayashi is a popular and respected director. For his next film he's looking for a cast of amateur actors, so he spreads his casting call around and accepts all the applications. The film plays like a series of vignettes, detailing the lives of all the people who applied for the audition.
150 minutes is a bit much for a film with no clear endgame. Performances are good (Morgan Mara is a real find - I'm certain we'll be seeing her again), the cinematography is nice and there are some solid smiles, but in the end it lacks something that kept me fully engaged for the entire runtime. Not Sono's best, but even his more pedestrian films are well worth a watch.
A more than decent drama that shows a lot of promise, but can't seem to fully commit to its arthouse aesthetic. There are moments of true beauty here, but then there are also scenes that feel just a little too flimsy. It's the perfect award-winning film in other words, and that it did.
Sheng Nan is only 29 when she is diagnosed with cancer. She doesn't have her life on the rails yet, and she can't pay for the treatment. A friend of hers lands her a well-paid job, a writing gig for an entrepreneur's father. Her mother, not knowing Sheng is ill, joins her on the trip, which becomes somewhat of an existential journey.
The cinematography is beautiful, performances are strong (Chen Yao stands out) and the drama is solid. The pacing is a bit impatient though and there are some lighter moments that don't really fit in with the rest of the film. There's certainly a lot to like here, but it stops just short of being a masterpiece.
Starts off pretty well, but it seems that Carnahan has lost some of his flair. Truth be told, I'm not the biggest fan of the "day repeating" premise, so Boss Level was fighting an uphill battle from the start. But its biggest problem is that it pays way too much attention to the plot, whereas the action is by far its most interesting element.
Roy wakes up every day being assaulted by a variety of hitmen. There's no escaping them, whenever he gets killed his ordeal starts all over again. A good five months in he discovers his wife might be the root of his problem, with infinite time to spend he decides to find out what she got him into, hoping to find a way to stop it.
The action is pretty explosive and over-the-top, the styling is pleasant, characters are larger than life and the pacing of the first quarter is fine. But then the film slows down, we get flashbacks with endless explanations and the pacing drops considerably. I could've done without all that, but at least the film's repetitive nature didn't ruin it completely.
Early King Hu film that wasn't quite what I expected. Don't watch this for the serene/ethereal martial arts vibes, what starts off as a somewhat tepid drama ends up being a precursor of John Woo's heroic bloodshed cinema. That's quite something for a Shaw Bros film from the mid-60s.
Ju Rui and Lao San are two painters who run into Hua, a woman employed by a local brothel. They decide to help her out, but the Japanese occupation of their village isn't making things easy for them. As the oppression of the Japanese invaders grows stronger, Ju and Lao will be forced to make a stand for their country.
Hu's clean style is already clear, but the first hour feels a little basic. There's a strong narrative focus and not much else, which makes it a tad dull. The heavy firearms in the action-packed finale make for a big tonal shift. While entertaining, it turns out that it's not really Hu's strong suit either, so it's no surprise he'd fare better as a martial arts directors in the rest of his career. Sons of the Good Earth is an interesting entry in Hu's oeuvre, but it's far from his best film.
I'm not a big fan of war cinema and The Eight Hundred really took a page from their Western counterpart. The film focuses on one famous battle, picks a side and tries to make their fight as heroic as possible. This film is all about Chinese honor, dedication and sacrifice, so if you can't stand (foreign) patriotism it's better to skip this one altogether.
Eight hundred Chinese soldiers are shacked up in the Si-Hang building, in the middle of Shanghai. They're surrounded by Japanese troops, their goal is to hold them off until the bulk of the Chinese army reaches Shanghai to help them out. It's a four-day battle that'll cost many lives, but they're doing it for the honor of their people.
Lots of chaos, bodies flying around, bullets whizzing, with some light but loud drama in between the action. It's not really my thing, but the cinematography is so stunning that I almost didn't care. I knew Guan could deliver styling-looking films, but I was surprised he managed to elevate a full-on blockbuster like this. I didn't really care for the soldiers and their plight, but simply kept watching to see what marvels Guan would come up with next. If you like the big Western/US blockbuster war flicks though, this comes well recommended.
I'm not that familiar yet with the Marx Brothers (this is only my second one), but their comedies do show potential. While they mix in other genres, they never lose sight of the humor. It's just that their films are such a tremendous mess that it's hard to keep engaged, even when they're quite short.
When professor Wagstaff takes charge of the university, things are about to get a little weird. Wagstaff is a quirky fella who likes to do things his way. When he needs to make sure his university's football team wins an important match against their rivals, he hires two lunatics to help him win the match.
Four brothers, four very different styles of comedy. It's almost as if they shot one storyline in four different ways, then cut everything up to edited it back to one singular film. The pace of the jokes is tremendous, but too many of them aren't funny at all, which just makes the overall experience very tiring (so many terrible puns). I wish I'd loved this more, but it's just too messy and not funny enough.
A party, a cast of intensely annoying characters, quirks that are supposed to be funny, tons of woke and at the end we're suddenly supposed to care for everyone. It's not impossible to pull off, but you'd need way smarter writing or way better actors to come even close to making this a success.
Molly is spending Thanksgiving alone with Abby. They are both recovering from a broken relationship and don't feel the need to celebrate. But then all kinds of people start inviting themselves over and before they know it they're having a real party on their hands. Realizing they won't be able to send everyone home, they decide to just go along with it.
Performances are mediocre, the comedy feels stale and expected and the comradery that is supposed to give the drama some weight is completely absent. At least the mood is light and the pacing is decent, it's not a complete disaster to sit through, but a very funny and/or enjoyable comedy this is not.
Surprisingly funny. Not so much a wildlife documentary, but an amusing look at humanity and all its quirks. The story of the cane frog is relatively well known - a foreign species brought in to help with battling beetles that ended up overtaking an entire ecosystem - but the different angles found by Lewis make this documentary worth the while.
The cane toads had few natural enemies and those that did try to kill it immediately died by its poison. In no time the frogs swamped large parts of the country. What they didn't do was help with the beetles (oh the irony), but they became so ubiquitous that people started to adopt them as a mascot for the region.
Lewis found some pretty hilarious people to interview. Some of them kept the animals as pets, others cooked them into drugs, even others ran them down with their cars. This could've been an awesome mockumentary, but it's so much better knowing these are real people being interviewed. Also props to Lewis for recognizing the comedy potential of the material and adding to it with the soundtrack and camera work (though some things were staged). Good stuff.
A film that reminded me a lot of Kim Ki-duk's Breath, though rendered as a more traditional Japanese crime drama. It's a film about a woman who falls in love with a ruthless killer after having seen his arrest on television. Strange as this may sound, it's not at all unrealistic (just look at Ted Bundy's popularity).
Kyoko is a mousy woman. Her colleagues take advantage of her, she doesn't have any friends or family and spends her days going through the same routines. When she sees how Sakaguchi is taken into custody, a man who murdered a family of three and then mediatized his arrest, she feels a sudden sense of familiarity.
The presentation is somewhat dry, but good performances of Eiko Koike and Etsushi Toyokawa make all the difference. They give life to two rather unlikable characters and make their actions believable, though no easy answers are offered. Solid drama, an intriguing premise and two fine actors make for a good film.
Films about bullying aren't that uncommon, but this one promised to mix in some thriller/revenge elements, so I was pretty interested to see how Taiwan would handle that. Taiwan isn't really known for its overly edgy cinema and that's exactly what this film ends up missing. Either some extra grit or a bigger commitment to the drama would've made this into a real masterpiece.
Yun-heng transfers to a new school after a rather nasty incident, there she befriends Li-chia. Ke-chien is also trying to butter up to Yun-heng, but her attempts feel shallow and dishonest. Yun-heng and Li-chia quickly become best friends, but when they go to a party together Li-chia ends up having sex with a boy, the next day a video surfaces online.
The cinematography is extremely stylish and performances are great across the board. The soundtrack is pretty atmospheric too, it's just the plot that feels a little toothless. The film's a bit too sweet and polished for the revenge to have a major impact. I think it would've been better if they'd just gone full drama. Director Weica Wang shows a lot of promise though, looking forward to her next film.
A very solid entry in Chang's seemingly endless oeuvre. It's one of his more action-oriented martial arts epics, starting off with a major (and quite violent) battle sequence and never really slowing down after that. It's what Chang does best and it's no surprise then this turned out to be one of his better films.
Chieh is a young recruit who messes up when he kills the boss of his own gang. He is banished from the group and leaves his village. When he returns one year later, he learns that two rivaling gangs have joined forces. Once they're made aware that Chieh is back, he becomes their main target.
It's a bit bloodier compared to most other Shaw Bros releases, apart from that it's a very standard release. The only issue I had is with the runtime, which is a bit excessive for a simple film like this. Otherwise, this is another quality Cheh Chang film that is sure to please his fans, though it won't win him any new ones.
A nice, moody little thriller with a somewhat uncommon premise that takes a little too long to get up to speed. The first hour plays more like a drama, with only minor hints that something is awry. The final 30 minutes make up quite a lot, but not enough to turn this into a sprawling nail biter.
Bob and his crew of builders have taken on a job in the high mountains of Wales. It's a big responsibility with tight deadlines, but Bob and his men really need the money. Their client is a temperamental guy who seems to be hiding something from them, Bob's suspicion only grows when the money he's owned isn't coming.
Performances are good (though the accents are extremely thick), the score is atmospheric and the cinematography is decent. The introduction is overworked though and the added drama doesn't really do anything to make the film better. There's just a little too much padding, otherwise a neat little genre flick.
Archetypical Chinese 6th Generation melodrama. If you love people struggling in poor villages, relationships ripped apart by governmental decisions and bucket loads of social critique then this comes well recommended. If on the other hand you've had your fill of the endless Chinese poverty porn, it's best to avoid at all cost.
Yuyin runs a successful food stand, with the money she saved she afforded her family a decent house. All goes well until the government sends out people looking for rightists and capitalists. Yuyin is branded a "rich peasant" and her wealth gets redistributed among the other villages. From that moment on, Yuyin's life spirals out of control.
Performances are rather weak and overdone, the cinematography is bland, the length is more than a little ridiculous and after having seen so many similar films, it isn't easy to still be moved by the drama. There are a handful of decent scenes that kept me somewhat interested, but overall it felt outdated and redundant. Not a good film.
A pretty average true crime documentary series. Not quite sure why this is considered to be one of the best around, then again I'm not that big on true crime to begin with. These documentaries never feel very genuine, it's almost like seeing the gutter press trying to do a police investigation.
Robert Durst is a bit of an oddball, which I guess is the documentary's main selling point. His proximity to several unsolved murder cases makes him a pretty suspicious person, his disinterested and sullen demeanor don't make him any more likeable. Eager to finally tell his side of the story, Durst agrees to sit down for an interview with Jarecki.
Each episode tackles a different period in Durst's life. It's the usual mix of interviews, accusations, excuses and legal magic you'll find in every other true crime doc, which the added bonus of a big revelation at the end of the series. The first five episodes are way too slow, the final one feels too much like Hollywood and the lacking conclusion makes you wonder whether they shouldn't have waited another couple years to release this film. Not that great.
One of the lesser Bond films I've seen so far. On paper, it looked good. There are plenty of secret lairs, silly evil henchmen, exotic locations and explosive situations, so much in fact that you could fill two films with them. But somehow Gilbert fails to execute it to its full potential.
Two nuclear submarines are stolen, one British, one Russian. Both countries put their best secret agent on the job. The trail leads to Egypt, where agent 007 and Triple X meet up for the first time. Even though they're after the same thing, their collaboration is rather reserved as they can't quite trust each other.
As silly as it may be, The Spy Who Loved Me doesn't really radiate the fun and cheekiness of the better Bond films. Maybe it's because there's a bit too much repetition (we've already seen the sharks before, as well as the ski chase), maybe it's because the classic West vs Russia tension makes for a slightly darker tone. There's still some fun to be had, but I expected more.
Pretty interesting to see a film tackle LGBT acceptance head on. Kalanchoe avoids the typical coming out clichés and setup by adding a little mystery twist, though the film is still very much a drama at its core. It offers some nice variation within a niche that tends to be a little too focused on mere identification.
During study hour, a class gets a short lecture on LGBT and how it has become a normal part of our society. When one of the students finds out that they were the only class to get the lecture, it doesn't take long before rumors start flying around. Many people are suspected, but nobody is coming forward.
Performances are very good, the direction is gentle and the novel dynamic really adds something extra. It's a shame the film is rather short, it would've been nice to see this stretched out into a feature-length project. Because of its short length Kalanchoe lacks a little dramatic punch, but well worth watching.
Not the first film about hazing, though I don't think I've ever seen it done as a horror film. That's a bit of surprise, as the topic really is a perfect match for the genre. As far as consensual torture goes, there really isn't much else that comes close. It's a smart pairing by Robbins, who keeps the rest of the film simple and concise.
David, Ethan and Justin are your stereotypical nerds. A trio of socially awkward guys who don't really belong in a fraternity. After several rejections, they get an invitation to go to a special event. Seeing it as their last chance, they oblige and end up at a strange house where a big party is about to get started.
Pledge is a very straightforward film. After a short introduction the film quickly turns dark and before you know it the whole situation is spinning gleefully out of control. Performances are solid, the mood is on point and the ending is pretty gruesome. A lean horror film, but very effective and trimmed of all the unnecessary excess.
The first Mae West film I've seen. I knew her by name only, after just five minutes of seeing her prancing around it is glaringly obvious why she became such a famous actress. Talent probably didn't play a big part in it, instead West put everything on presence and flair and for some reason she got away with it.
West plays Lou, an infamous singer who only cares for one thing: diamonds. She has many suitors, all desperate men who try their best to fulfil her needs, many of them turning to criminal behavior to do so. What Lou doesn't know is that she's being followed by a federal agent, who suspects that the bar where Lou's employed is part of some shady dealings.
This is really just a big Mae West show, so it all comes down to whether you can stand her or not. Personally I disliked her performance a lot. Her strut is ridiculous, her quips don't land and her articulation is overdone. Oh, and her singing isn't all that either. It's a good thing this film was short, but even that couldn't really save it in the end.
I've never really bothered with classic Korean cinema before, a niche broadly overlooked on the international stage. I'm not that big of a fan of contemporary Korean cinema either, which is why I never really sought out its earlier films. Sweet Dream is my first attempt and I can't say I'm blown away.
Ae-soon is vein and lazy, two characteristics her husband isn't too pleased with. After they have a big fallout, Ae-soon packs her bags and leaves her husband and daughter behind to move in with her lover. When she finds out he's a poor criminal, Ae-soon's life slowly starts to crumble.
The camera work is extremely static, the performances are decent but very restrained, the drama is plain and executed too matter-of-factly. It's more like watching a stage play, lacking defining cinematic touches. At least the film is short, the actors are convincing and the pacing is decent, but I'm not very triggered to continue my exploration.
Early but very agreeable Tsutsumi. It's certainly not the first coming of age drama about a small group of friends, but Tsutsumi finds an interesting angle by focusing on a somewhat insular community within Tokyo: the residents of a small man-made island in Tokyo Bay, connected to the mainland with just three bridges.
The district is like a mini-community within the city. Five kids from different backgrounds hang out to kill time, their dream is to go to Harajuku, where all the cool kids gather. The first two trips they undertook failed horribly, so for their third trip they decided to prepare in advance.
Tsutsumi's style feels young, light and frivolous. The actors do a decent job, the balance between drama and comedy is on point and even though 2 hours is quite long it never really drags or becomes uninteresting. Like most of Tsutsumi's work, it isn't quite distinctive enough to be called a true masterpiece, but it sure is very solid and enjoyable filler.
Extensive seasonal horror anthology presented as an advent calendar. It's like the ABC's of Death, only with Christmas-themed shorts. It's a great way to start any movie run-up to Christmas, at least if you're into horror cinema (and all its genre relatives), as it's a lot less jolly than the usual Christmas fare.
24 shorts, about 5 minutes each, is quite a lot for an anthology, especially when you also count the two bonus shorts hidden away in the credits. It makes for a good 2.5 hours of cinema where every 5 minutes your mind needs a little reset. While I appreciate the high level of diversity, I think it would've been better if this had been 30 minutes shorter.
Otherwise, there's very little to complain about. There's always going to be shorts that stick out while others fade away in the background, but the broad international selection, the varied mix of styles, genres and topics (while all holiday-related of course) and the many inspired ideas really keep Deathcember interesting and entertaining. I hope they turn this into a yearly tradition.
There's certainly no lack of Hong Kong Triad films. I've seen the most prominent ones already, once in a while I find a lesser known one that has managed to escape my attention. Century of the Dragon is such a film, though considering all the talent involved I'm surprised I never noticed this one before.
Shing is a standout trainee who is sent on an undercover mission. He has to infiltrate the Hung Hing gang and befriend Fei Lung, one of their toughest leaders. Once there he learns that Fei Lung isn't actively participating in the Triad business he tries to inform the cops of the situation, but they won't listen to Shing.
With Louis Koo and Andy Lau in the lead you know performances will be on point. Clarence Fok isn't the most gifted director, but as part of the Hong Kong genre machine he does a pretty decent job. The film's a bit long and it offers nothing you haven't seen elsewhere, but the result is pretty solid Triad filler.
A pretty simple mystery, seemingly constructed to put Leelee Sobieski in the spotlight. She was a rather bankable actress back then, the kind that would draw enough fans to the theater so studios wouldn't have to worry too much about the film they put her in. Don't get your hopes up in other words.
Ruby is a pretty average teenager whose life is turned upside down when her parents die in a car crash. Together with her younger brother she's sent to live with Terry and Erin, best friend of her parents. They seem like a wealthy and friendly couple, but Ruby quickly begins to suspect something weird is going on with their legal guardians.
Sobieski isn't bad, but forgettable, and she fades away next to Skarsgård. The plot is way too transparent and the thriller elements are very basic, but the pacing is decent and even though it's all rather predictable, it's still a pretty entertaining watch. Very run-of-the-mill filler, but not terrible.
The precursor to Sex and the City, only with middle-aged women. Hell, it even has Parker (though in a smaller part). Another one of those men vs women stories that tried to be woke before it was even a thing. At least the writing was slightly better than many of the series and films that followed in its footsteps.
Elise, Brenda and Annie are old school friends who rekindle their bond at the funeral of a mutual friend. They're all divorced, left by their husbands for younger women. The three decide to form a little club and to get revenge of their exes for dumping them, the men won't know what hit them.
Hawn, Keaton and Midler struggle with their parts, the premise is annoying and director Wilson is there only in name. It's a very pedestrian film, but there are a few fun dialogues and at least the film is relatively short and decently paced. Not great, but it could've been worse still.
A pretty solid classic, especially the first hour of the film was quite a surprise. Classic talkies tend to be somewhat slower and very focused on characters and narrative, but I'm a Fugitive from a Chain Gang races through its story. There's quite a lot to chew on, LeRoy made sure things weren't dragged out endlessly.
When Allen returns from the war, he struggles to find his place in society. He's offered a job, but Allen's dream is to go into road construction. He decides to start his life anew, but before he can settle he gets convicted of a crime he didn't commit and ends up in a chain gang. The title explains the rest.
Paul Muni does a great job in the lead. Though his character doesn't have too much depth, it's very easy to sympathize with him. The final 30 minutes are a bit of a downer though. Simple and extremely predictable social critique take some of the fun away, even so this was better than I expected.
Dreams and aspirations aren't all that. We all question our lives and choices sometimes, but the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Goodbye Mr. Loser is a film that explores one of those alternative realities, only to circle back and have the main character realize he's been living his dream life after all.
Xia Luo used to be the class fool. His hopes of becoming a famous star were crushed early on, he settled for a lesser girlfriend and none of his friends really respect him. When his high school crush gets married, he crashes her wedding and makes a big scene. Drunk and humiliated, he crashes down in the restroom. When he wakes up though, he's back in the past and gets to redo his life all over again.
You've probably seen it all before and Goodbye Mr. Loser doesn't go through great lengths to make this is anything special, but the execution is pretty decent. Performances are nice enough, the cinematography looks colorful and adds charm and the film isn't stretched out to hit the 120-minute mark. Solid entertainment.