Reviews (881)

  • Raiga: The Monster from the Deep Sea is a Japanese monster movie that follows the dreadful Reigo: King of the Sea Monsters released roughy four years earlier. While the latter was disappointing regarding production values, plot and acting performances, this second film is a slight improvement but still suffers from a low budget that makes the movie look like a monster film from the late nineties in the key of the worst Gamera flicks.

    The movie essentially follows an elderly widower who barely makes ends meet. He illegally sells t-shirts and other merchandise to make a living. Along with his drunk friends, he is involved in a festival focusing on traditional Japanese acting, dancing and music performances. He is elected as the treasurer for this organization against his will. When he is not out drinking and eating with his friends and wasting the little money he has, he is trying to get romantically involved with a mid-aged lady who is living next to a shrine. The most interesting element about this strange man are his three quirky teenage daughters. The eldest walks around in skeleton clothing and regularly criticizes her father. The second daughter is quite energetic and dreams of becoming an idol. The youngest daughter is rather childish but always happy and playing with a teddy bear she even brings to restaurants. This set of characters witnesses how a monster from the sea devastates their beloved hometown. At its first attempt, the monster gets chased away after a stressful evacuation and the use of military technology by two aggressive commanders and four clueless politicians. However, the monster soon emerges again and fights a second monster during an explosive showdown.

    Let's stat with the positive elements worth mentioning. First of all, the characters are quite quirky, memorable and charismatic. Most parts of the movie feel like comedic slice-of-life passages. Many viewers didn't think the film was funny and thought several elements were lost in translation. I have to disagree and found some jokes truly entertaining, such as when the widower stupidly insults himself, randomly proposes elephant meat for dinner or clumsily tries to hide his love interest from his daughters. Another positive element is the colourful locations that vary from traditional restaurants over old-fashioned theaters to religious shrines that are intertwined with modern hotels and military headquarters. Up next, the monster looks quite decent even though it obviously rips off Godzilla's characteristics. Its fights against military tanks and planes as well as against the second monster are quite entertaining. The use of electricity and lightning by the monster blends in well but is at times repeated on too many occasions.

    The film is however not without its flaws. The ending of the film is completely botched as it comes to a random conclusion with an even more random moral. It almost seems as if the makers of the movie had run out of money and simply shot a weird five-minute collage to conclude what should have been an extra hour of entertainment. The special effects look dated, especially the fake military planes and tanks that look as if they had been taken from the toy box of a child's bedroom. Explosions are overused in this film to a point that in certain scenes we see so many fireballs that we lose track of the monsters. The light effects could have been better as well since several scenes look either much too dark such as in the hotel or exaggeratedly bright such as on the hill in the conclusion.

    At the end of the day, Raiga: The Monster from the Deep Sea is interesting for its quirky and comedic slice-of-life sections with a weird widower, his quirky daughters and their amusing friends. The monster fights are also decent but nothing to write home about. Despite cheap production values and a plot that is all over the place, this movie manages to entertain from start to finish and to stand out with its off-beat style.
  • Shinkaijû Reigô, also known as Reigo, the Deep-Sea Monster vs. The Battleship Yamato or Reigo: King of the Sea Monsters to cash in on the recent success of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a cheap below average monster film from Japan that is only interesting for the most adamant genre fans and faithful collectors. This is the kind of movie you can watch once you have watched all the films involving Gamera, Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and Varan and are still craving for more. This means that you have roughly a hundred films to watch before this one should even interest you remotely.

    The plot is extremely thin. The movie takes place during the Second World War on Japanese battleship Yamato, the most impressive of its kind. Instead of battling against American ships in the Pacific, the fleet gets attacked by unusually big fish. The crew defends itself, killing the offspring of a sea dragon in the process. The gigantic mother creature is triggered by those events and destroys all ships of the fleet while the final battle occurs between the desperate crew of the Yamato and the legendary monster.

    There aren't too many positive elements to mention, so let's start on a generous note. The film has decent pace and mostly entertains in its eighty miunutes, especially in its swift second half. Most scenes of the film take place on the battleship at night or in small rooms of the crew which give the film a gloomy claustrophobic atmosphere. The few landscape shots serve as a welcome contrast, especially the scenes at the beginning of the film that provide some background information on some of its characters. The soundtrack is serviceable as it blends in very well with the sinister atmosphere of this movie.

    Everything else is however a complete the disaster. The most serious offenders are the horrible special effects that look artificial, blurry, cheap, dark and grainy. Their quality reminds me of video games from the mid-nineties at best. Up next, the misplaced, shaky and unfocused camera work doesn't help improving things. The sound effects are repetitive, simplistic and unimaginative as viewers can hear roughly two different monstrous screams on endless repetition. The acting performances are also dreadful as almost all male characters are overacting since the actors seem to confound loud screams with authentic emotions. Only the side story involving a young soldier and his childish childhood friend and potential love interest is remotely interesting. A special shoutout goes to the terrible Japanese actor who is supposed to play a stranded American soldier who doesn't look like an American, can barely speak two sentences of English, communicates in fluent Japanese and oddly becomes the saviour on battleship Yamato when shooting the sea dragon.

    At the end of the day, Reigo, the Deep-Sea Monster is only interesting for adamant kaiju fans who might watch this below-average production once with their friends and a few beers to approach this flick from a humoristic perspective.
  • Entrails of a Beautiful Woman sounds similar to Entrails of a Virgin but the two movies have some significant differences and you don't need to know one to watch the other. This film is essentially a gangster drama with a few softcore pornographic scenes and some supernatural horror elements in the final third. The movie criticizes and exposes the loss of honour, structures and values among organized crime institutions.

    This film is about a group of gangsters involved in drug dealing and human trafficking. A young woman named Yoshimi is looking for her sister who disappeared some time ago. She starts to suspect that her sister's boyfriend Higashi might have been involved in her disappearance. It turns out that her suspicions were correct as the boyfriend kidnaps her when he realizes that she is about to figure out the truth. He reveals that her sister has been sold to Africa via the Philippines. The gangsters plan on making Yoshimi suffer the same fate but the young woman manages to escape. The traumatized woman has a chance encounter with psychologist Hiromi as she is running for her life. She tells the psychologist everything she knows before having a mental breakdown and committing suicide. Hiromi feels unable to move on with her life and decides to avenge Yoshimi's tragic demise. She starts dating Higashi and hypnotizes him to manipulate him into murdering the clan members he is involved with. However, Hiromi's ambitious plan backfires and the gangsters set up a deadly trap for her. Just as the bad guys seem to be getting away with their evil deeds, a surprising twist of fate changes the tides and leads to a dramatic showdown.

    This movie convinces on several levels. If compared to Entrails of a Virgin, this movie has a more complex plot with a few interesting twists and turns. The locations are once again cleverly chosen and vary from a revolting restaurant over a psychologist's office to gangster headquarters in a stylish apartment complex. The film has some decent atmospheric passages such as the scenes at an elegant bar or the surprising twist that occurs along an empty road on the outskirts of a metropolis. The special effects are quite memorable when the supernatural elements start occuring in the final third as the film turns into a bloody tale of revenge.

    The film is however not without its flaws. The characters are overall less fleshed out than in the preceding Entrails of a Virgin. Lead actress Ozawa Megumi however does a decent job at portraying an empathic psychologist with clever ideas and a resilient mind. She is a strong heroine viewers will empathize and sympathize with. The light effects are once again underwhelming, especially in the opening third that takes place in some warehouse. The camera work is only of an average quality and somewhat unfocused and unsteady at times.

    At the end of the day, Entrails of a Beautiful Woman can be seen as a spiritual predecessor to the Japanese V-Cinema throughout the nineties. This brutal gangster thriller isn't a far cry from the works of renowned directors such as Miike Takashi and Mochizuki Rokuro. The brutal stylistics and polarizing characters are quite similar but Entrails of a Beautiful Woman is missing the depth and wit of films like Shinjuku Triad Society and Another Lonely Hitman. This movie here is therefore only recommended to adamant fans of brutal Japanese gangster movies or over-the-top supernatural slashers.
  • Entrails of a Virgin is an audacious, controversial and genre-breaking Japanese movie that combines softcore pornography with.horror elements. The movie has a cult following around the globe as some fans claim that it pushes the limits in a refreshing way. Others loathe the flick and argue that it has been created by an insane mind. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. Calling the movie ground-breaking and unique is quite a stretch since the combination of pornographic elements and explicit violence has already been done in the sixties in Japan in movies such as Orgies of Edo to only name one example. Stating that the film is insane and perverted is however also a bold statement and certainly depends upon the way you have been brought up and what kind of values you have. Most people tend to forget that this is simply a movie and that everyone involved in it is simply acting, so it's important to evaluate this film from an artistic perspective with some distance and objectivity.

    The story itself is unspectacular. It's more interesting than your regular pornographic film but less intriguing than more fleshed-out horror movies. The film revolves around three models and three men involved in fashion photography. After a shooting session in the mountains, they are supposed to drive back to town but get caught up in thick fog. After a chaotic accident, they decide that they can't go on and spend the night in an abandoned hotel complex. However, they are unaware that a strange man was involved in their accident and now observes their every move. As the mysterious man sees how perverted the six strangers at the warehouse are, he decides to punish them with their own weapons and takes them out one by one. By the actions of the mysterious miller, this movie criticizes and exposes misogynistic tendiences in Japanese society.

    The characters in this movie are surprisingly interesting. The movie revolves around a group of six people who are shooting pictures for a magazine in the mountains. Agent Itomura is a filthy man who tries to take advantage of the photo models in the most disrespectful ways. Fashion photographer Asaoka seems to be cleverer and gentler but ultimately tricks one of the models into a sexual relationship before attempting to do the same thing with another woman. Assistant Tachikawa is the voice of reason as he is disgusted by his colleagues and tries to distance himself from their despicable behaiour. As for the three models, Kazuyo might be the oldest model but is also quite naive as she develops unrealistic romantic feelings for the fashion photographer even though she knows that he doesn't care about her but once she is directly confronted with reality, her behaviour spirals off into delusional insanity. Kei is the most popular model and has accepted the way she is being treated by men in the business. She understands that her willingness to accept their advances might give her the greatest job opportunities. However, even this experienced model is disgusted by the ruthless attitude of the agent. Finally, there is Rei, a young, shy and inexperienced model who is too innocent to figure out the vile behaviour of the men and women around her. It doesn't come as a surprise that her fate is different from the others' as her only mistake is to have taken wrong decisions based upon a lack of maturity in the past. She is the character most viewers will sympathize or even empathize with.

    The locations in this movie work quite well. The natural landscapes provide a gloomy feeling. The use of fog on dark abandoned streets might be a horror movie trope but it increases the tension of the film. The abandoned hotel complex features some interesting spots such as a dirty parking lot, an old tennis court and a maze of stairs, rooms and balconies. The nearby forest also provides a menacing vibe.

    Obviously, the movie is not without its flaws. The light effects are suffering from a low budget and it's at times difficult to figure out what's going on in the shots that take place outside at night. The camera work is a little bit shaky, especially in the opening scenes during the photo shoot. The special effects during the murder sequences are quite cheap and look obviously fake. It's obvious that the movie was shot on a shoestring budget and hasn't aged very well.

    At the end of the day, Entrails of a Virgin is entertaining for those who look for daring entertainment combining brutal slasher elements and extended softcore pornographic shots. While the characters and locations are quite interesting, the plot and the production values are of a disastrous quality. From an objective point of view, this film could be described as an above average to decent flick. However, please be aware that this movie is for adult audiences only and should certainly never be watched by children or teenagers. The DVD of this movie also includes a trailer and the first part of a hilarious interview with controversial director Komizu Kazuo who doesn't take himself seriously at all and talks about a global catastrophe that only Japanese and Native American people will survive instead of giving any noteworthy information about this film.
  • Blacksad: Under the Skin is an investigative action-adventure video game based upon the Spanish comic series of the same title. In this video game, you play an anthropomorphized cat who is investigating the suicide of a boxing gym owner and the simultaneous disappearance of a promising young athlete. The game brings to life New York City of the fifties and has an intriguing neo noir atmosphere. Players will be looking for clues, interrogating suspects and witnesses and try to survive numerous assaults.

    On the positive side, this video game convinces with an excellent plot that fleshes out its numerous characters and comes around with several stunning twists. The story is the main reason to purchase this game and play it until the very end. The characters are complex, diversified and intriguing which helps creating a truly stunning reality for this game. The video game has an addictive neo noir atmosphere that gives it a gloomy but not scary tone, especially when investigating fitting locations such as shady bars, sinister crime scenes and hidden laboratories.

    However, this video game also has its massive downsides. The original version features more bugs than GameBoy games from the late eighties. Graphics are blurry, information is revealed in the notes before the associated events even occur in the game, loading times are excessively long, character movements are painfully slow and sound sequences are all over the place. It's unacceptable that the game was published in such poor condition as the release date should have been pushed back in order to fix those enormous mistakes. The game is only playable with its heavy update patch and even that won't correct all its flaws at all times.

    Other than those significant ups and downs, Blacksad: Under the Skin is a decently entertaining investigative action-adeventure video game for genre fans and those familiar with the comic series. If you are really fast, this game can be completed in about eight hours. If you really take your time to discover every single detail, the running time can increase up to fifteen hours. Occasional video game players should be able to complete the game in ten to twelve hours.

    If you want to purchase this game, make sure to buy it for a reduced price of about thirty American dollars or Euros. If you pay more for it, you won't get enough for your hard-earned money. Make sure to grab a physical version of the game however, since its special edition comes along with a beautiful lenticular cover artwork and four character cards that are truly nicely done. It would have been an even better idea to release this game with an associated comic book however to promote this intriguing comic book series in overseas markets in particular.

    Fans of the comic series, neo noir atmosphere and investigative action-adventure games will get a game that can be described as decent to good once its bugs have been fixed but it can't be considered a great game or even a masterpiece. The atmosphere, plot and reality are however unique enough to justify the release of a potential sequel that should however be developed with more care, organization and time. This video game might also inspire newcomers to actually check out the Spanish comic book series that has been around since the early years of the millennium. Five volumes have been released so far as we speak.
  • Face is a dramatic supernatural thriller from South Korea released by legendary Tartan Asia Extreme label.

    The plot revolves around quiet forensic facial reconstructor Lee Hyun-min who had some sinister strokes of fate to endure. His wife died much too soon and his daughter had a complicated heart surgery from which she hasn't fully recovered. Lee Hyu-min decides to quit his job to spend more time with his daughter and he brings her to the countryside to stay with her grandmother in a secluded area. As he returns home to grab some things for his departure, Lee Hyu-min is met by Jung Sun-young who is a new researcher at the institute where Lee Hyun-min worked before. She asks for his help with facial reconstruction of the victim of a serial killer who melts the bodies of his victims with acid. Lee Hyu-min initially refuses to collaborate but Jung Sun-young insists and explains her desire to learn from him. He is further convinced to collaborate when he feels haunted by the spirit of the victim and starts to feel guilty for not helping investigations in an ongoing case against a brutal serial killer. Just as he decides to accept the case, his daughter's medical condition worsens once again. Lee Hyu-min asks Doctor Yoon to give him more information about the organ donor but the doctor refuses due to confidentiality issues. As the desperate Lee Hyun-min barely sleeps as he spends time by his daughter's side at the hospital and tries to complete the facial reconstruction, he starts to discover unexpected connections between the serial killer case and the organ donor issue. Lee Hyun-min starts to collaborate directly with the police and also grows fond of his resilient assistant Jung Sun-young. However, nothing is as it appears as Lee Hyu-min is about to uncover more than one surprising twist.

    This dramatic supernatural thriller convinces on numerous levels. First of all, the plot is quite clever as every single scene in the movie is meaningful and leads to a whole something that is even greater than its different parts. Up next, Face oozes with atmosphere. Especially the scenes when Lee Hyun-min is haunted by the spirit of the murder victim or when the lair of the criminal is discovered are particularly memorable. The characters are also very intriguing as it's easy for viewers to empathize with the lead characters and his numerous challenges while his colleague is a fascinating, mysterious and unpredictable woman who has more than one secret to hide. The acting performances match the excellent characters and especially child actress Han Ye-rin leaves a stunning impression. The directing effort is also highly commendable as the light and sound effects increase the film's gripping atmosphere. These excellent elements will make you keep watching this film until its surprising ending.

    At the end of the day, Face is a movie that should please fans of romantic dramas, supernatural thrillers and East Asian cinema of the early years of the new millennium. This release by Tartan Asia Extreme includes some interesting featurettes such as the one on facial modeling employed for this film. Fans of this legendary label should certainy try to get their hands on a copy of this underrated dramatic supernatural thriller.
  • The Victim is one of the best Thai horror movies that deserves more attention, recognition and respect. Released by cult label Tartan Asian Extreme, this great movie comes along with several highly intriguing featurettes offering unusual looks behind the scenes. This film deserves to be discovered in depth and to be explored over and over again.

    It convinces with quite a few twists in its meandering plot that should keep viewers intrigued until the very last scene. The locations such as abandoned hospitals, cheap hotel rooms and filthy back alley operating rooms have also been chosen with care and add an ominous atmosphere to the movie. The characters are intriguing as well and the actors and especially actresses really shine in this film. The lead character is a curious but naive young actress with a heart of gold, the movie's most important victim is an enigmatic beauty pageant with a strong sense of justice and the film's nemesis is a malignant, obsessive and twisted character whose dreadful traits are gradually unfolded. Further highlights include decent light and sound effects supported by a moody score. The film also involves an interesting marketing strategy as several looks behind the scenes report that the movie crew actually recorded real ghosts while shooting the movie. That idea might sound humorous to Western cineasts but many people in Thailand actually do believe in supernatural events and might therefore think that this film is indeed haunted. This topic certainly offers some food for thought and intriguing discussions.

    The movie itself revolves around young actress Ting who struggles to make ends meet. As she is describing her difficult decision to a family member, she is coincidentally discovered by a police officer who decides to hire her to impersonate different crime victims. It's actually common in Thailand to re-enact crimes and bring criminals back to the locations of their misdeeds. Ting excels at her new job and even becomes a minor celebrity. Things however take a more sinister turn when she decides to simulate the murder of former Miss Thailand Meen. While police officers believe that she was murdered by her estranged husband whom she wanted to divorce, Ting starts to feel, hear and see supernatural things and believes that the victim is trying to contact her to tell her that the husband is innocent. Ting starts to investigate the murder herself without fully realizing that she is exposing herself to significant dangers. This mysterious case is about to drastically change the lives of Ting and everyone around her.

    At the end of the day, The Victim is a movie that convinces with a twisted plot, features some decent to strong acting performances and oozes with atmosphere. Anyone interested in Asian horror movies and Thai culture should give this underrated movie a fair try. Grab a copy of the Tartan Asia Extreme release and make sure to check out the quirky behind the scenes featurettes as well.
  • All the movies released by legendary label Tartan Asia Extreme are at least average and in most cases great or even brilliant. R-Point is however one of the more ordinary releases and only qualifies as plain average movie. This Korean military drama with supernatural elements is only for the most faithful fans of Asian cinema.

    The story takes places in Vietnam in the early seventies. Several people among the military personnel are preparing themselves for returning home after an arduous tour in hotsile territory. However, the South Korean base then receives a mysterious radio transmission from a platoon that disappearaed without a trace half a year ago. The high-command assigns a decorated lieutenant to lead a squad with eight soldiers to search and rescue the missing soldiers whose last transmissions came from a location described as Romeo Point. Upon arriving at the isolated location, the military personnel is ambushed by a mysterious Vietnamese woman who doesn't speak a single word. Up next, they discover an old temple with mysterious warning signs. Then, they discover a dilapidated mansion in the middle of the fog where they decide to set up camp. The military personnel is then contacted by American military personnel who also warn them and tell them that this location is haunted. While the South Koreans are still unable to find members of the missing platoon, they receive strange radio transmissions by a French soldier who is looking for his twin brother. The different events become more and more mysterious and the rescue mission soon becomes a fight for sanity and survival.

    This military drama with supernatural elements convinces on a few levels. First of all, there aren't too many movies about South Korean involvement in the Vietnam War, so it's interesting to discover such an unusual perspective of that dreadful conflict. Some of the locations are quite diversified, intriguing and unique. Especially the old temple and the dilapidated mansion ooze with atmosphere. The movie includes a few interesting events that keep viewers watching until the very end. Especially the mysterious Vietnamese woman who keeps appearing around the soldiers and the gloomy meeting with the American soldiers are quite memorable in that regard.

    This film however also has several downsides. First of all, the plot is quite thin and especially the outcome of this movie is underwhelming and ends the movie on an unsatisfactorily low note. Up next, the different characters are barely fleshed out. Including nine characters among the rescue mission for a movie of only one hundred seven minutes is too ambitious. It would have been a much better option to focus on five strong characters and develop significant ties between one another. Another issue is that this movie has been marketed as a horror movie. However, the film might be mysterious but certainly not scary. Yelling loud menaces with foul vocabulary doesn't make for an ominous atmosphere.

    At the end of the day, R-Point is an average military drama with decent supernatural elements and a few intriguing locations but weak characters and plot as well as an absence of scary scenes. The movie is only recommended to the most faithful fans of Asian cinema but can be ignored by anyone who isn't an adamant collector of Tartan Asia Extreme releases.
  • The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes is the third entry in the survival horror video game series whose first season is going to conclude next year with The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me. This is also the strongest entry in the series so far and offers much replay value.

    The story revolves around a group of military personnel and resistance fighters who accidentally discover a Mesopotamian temple during the Iraq War. They initially suspect that Saddam Hussein's regime might have hidden weapons of mass destruction here but the truth is actually much more gruesome. The five characters discover some mysterious extraterrestrial monsters who have been trapped in this temple since a gruesome massacre in ancient Akkad more than four thousand years ago.

    This video game convinces on several levels. First of all, the background stories involving an extraterrestrial invasion, elements of ancient Mesopotamian culture and the current backdrop of the terrible Iraq War have been mixed in a perfectly balanced manner.

    The locations are particularly intriguing because players never know what's going to be around the next corner. The game keeps some stunning surprises until the very end that convinces with its epic proportions.

    The length of this entry is also more generous than the running time of its two predecessors. House of Ashes offers roughly around five hours of non-stop entertainment and takes players on an epic survival adventure ride where their choices decide about the outcome of the five profound characters. For a fair price of just below forty Canadian dollars, this game offers gripping entertainment and has also much replay value and can be enjoyed with little groups of friends on a cold autumn or winter night.

    Several other elements have also been improved with this entry, most notably the controls that are much more fluid than before. While the predecessors had some frustrating issues with quick-time events, the controls are much easier to handle for players with less experience in this entry, increasing the potential chances of survival for the different characters.

    Another element that stands out positively are the vivid, bright and atmospheric graphics that make players feel as if they were inside a Hollywood movie. This improvement makes the entire experience much more authentic, epic and intense.

    At the end of the day, The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes is a highlight in this video game series and one of the best horror video games created in recent memory. It will not only appeal to fans of old date but also to potential new players. You don't need to be familiar with the two predecessors to enjoy this video game that should make it onto several lists of best games of the year.
  • Let's get straight to the point: Lost Judgment is the best video game of the year 2021! It's the sequel to Judgment, released two years ago, which itself is a spin-off of the popular Yakuza video game series. This action adventure video game combines investigative techniques as a detective, intense martial arts combats and persuasive strategies used as a lawyer. The story follows Yagami Takayuki, a lawyer who has decided to become a detective after winning a trial with unexpected tragic consequences in the past. He is based in Kamurocho, a fictitious suburb of downtown Tokyo, but large parts of the story take place in Isezaki Ijincho, a fictitious suburb of downtown Yokohama. The charismatic protagonist in his late thirties investigates the case of a police officer accused of sexual battery who seems to be somehow connected to the brutal murder of a trainee teacher. Yagami Takayuki investigates among Kamurocho's criminal gangs but also at a school in Isezaki Ijincho to connect the two cases as he soon uncovers an incredible conspiracy of national dimension. He is supported by a set of interesting characters such as reserved lawyer Shirosaki Saori, quirky high school student Amasawa Kyoko and flashy former gangster Kaito Masaharu.

    This game convinces on multiple levels. First of all, the atmosphere is authentic, gripping and variable as the game shifts from sinister stories of murder and suicide to funny and quirky side missions involving distracted elementary school students or clumsy doppelgänger.

    Up next, the challenge level is quite diversified as the game has different degrees of difficulty that can be modified quite fluidly to help you not being stuck with overtly powerful opponents for an extended period of time.

    The controls are fluid as it's easier to move around in this game than in its immediate predecessor since Yagami Takayuki can now use a skateboard to navigate through the two cities.

    The game flow is excellent as I have played the main story and most of the side stories for a total of seventy-three hours in just a few weeks since the game is incredibly immersive and filled with stunning details.

    The graphics are outstanding as the different characters all have unique facial features and the buildings vary from clean apartments to shady casinos hidden under public toilets.

    The game's length offers lots of value for money. Even if you strictly focus on playing the main plot, it will offer you thirty to forty hours of excellent entertainment. If you want to play all the side stories, you might be in for about one hundred hours of entertainment and that still doesn't stop you from revisiting the game to play virtual reality games, motorcycle races or drone challenges.

    The long-term fun factor associated to the game is quite elevated for these very same reasons. However, some players have complained to be stuck at certain points which can lead to some frustration. Especially the side story about the Robotics Club can be quite challenging but is also very rewarding. For each completed side quest, you can earn badges, money and skills.

    The game's sound is intense and realistic without being too flashy or memorable. The excellent voice actors need to be pointed out however. I have played the game in its original Japanese version with German subtitles and would certainly recommend other players to choose the original voice acting over the English one that sounds a little bit stiff at times.

    The soundtrack is decent with a few pop songs that can also be used for dance choreographies in the Dance Club side story but the tunes aren't quite memorable on their own.

    The story is obviously the heart piece of this video game. The main story is an intriguing conspiracy with many twists and turns but overall maybe a little bit too similar to the first game. The numerous quirky side stories are however there to save the day. Especially the ten different school stories are very intriguing, from rivalries between overtly competitive esports groups over an enthusiastic but naive photographer admiring her former club leader to skateboard groups with artistic and territorial conflicts.

    As you can see, Lost Judgment truly offers something for every taste and even though it is slightly less impressive than its immediate predecessor Judgment was two years ago, it easily outperforms the strong releases of the main series Yakuza that share several plots, locations and characters. This game, this series and this whole video game universe deserve much more attention than they have gotten so far. If you have never played any of these video games, start right now and you will have months or even years of splendid entertainment, no matter if you are a newcomer, an occasional player or video game expert.
  • Alan Wake is a Finnish video game that was first released all the way back in 2010. The action-adventure game with horror elements quickly became a favourite, receiving positive reviews and obtaining the first spot in Time magazine's list of the top ten video games of the year. A full stand-alone title called Alan Wake's American Nightmare was released two years later but the franchise was then put on hold. The remastered version that has been released in 2021 might perhaps revive the franchise for the near future.

    This remastered version of the game is both highly recommended to fans of the original version and newcomers who might have missed the game for one reason or another. The plot revolves around author Alan Wake who travels to the small to town of Bright Falls in Washington to deal with his ongoing writer's block. Soon after arriving, his wife gets kidnapped and the author tries to figure out what might have happened. As he travels through the region's vast nature as he gets mysterious instructions from the kidnapper, Alan Wake meets possessed shadowy figures who are attempting to stop him by any means necessary.

    This video game convinces on numerous levels. First and foremost, this is one of the most atmospheric video games I have ever played. It starts with a nightmarish sequence that leads to more questions than it actually answers. The six different episodes develop a mood of confusion, isolation and terror that only gets more intense as the video game progresses.

    The challenge level is captivating but not exaggerated. Some of the shadowy figures will employ dangerous weapons to attack Alan Wake such as a bulldozer while other enemies will unite their forces to attack in three waves of four opponents. Players need to use ammunition, flashlights and light grenades carefully to ward off enemies without running out of resources. At times, running away to the next light source is the best way to get out of this ordeal.

    The controls are simple and efficient. There are a few quick-time events where you have to avoid attacks from enemies. It's also important to always precisely direct light sources onto opponents. Shots have to be fired with much precision as well as the shadowy creatures are quite resilient and resistant.

    The game flow is overall very good. The plot is captivating and makes you want to explore how the story unfolds. The different locations look outstanding and are intriguing to discover. You can collect coffee thermoses and pages from a scrapped manuscript throughout the game. The only slightly negative element is that many locations in the forests are somewhat repetitive and sometimes the sheer mass of opponents can become somewhat overwhelming.

    The graphics are absolutely stunning. The dense forests, falsely idyllic small town buildings and abandoned ruins throughout the game invite players to explore every single detail of this game. Alan Wake is truly immersive and most recommended to players who don't want to rush to finish a game but take the time to let the entire environment sink in.

    Alan Wake's length is quite satisfying for a horror video game. It has six episodes of roughly two to four hours each, depending on how well you are able to ward off your enemies. The remastered version includes two special episodes that might take another three hours to complete each. This remastered version certainly offers value for money.

    The long-term fun factor is given thanks to the intriguing plot. Like a solid psychological horror movie, you want to progress to unveil all the mysteries and understand what's going on throughout the addictive plot.

    Alan Wake's sound is highly efficient, offering some scary moments when enemies attack out of nowhere or when supernatural elements unfold before your eyes. The vintage sounds of radio programs and old television series add a lot of atmosphere as well.

    The soundtrack might be the only average point of this video game. We can hear some songs from an old jukebox and the radio programs but they are rather exchangeable and unspectacular. However, it's exactly the kind of music you would expect people from an isolated small town to listen to. This means that even though the different tunes are somewhat boring and forgettable on their own, they actually fit in the context of the video game.

    Finally, the story of Alan Wake is quite mysterious and intriguing. It's one of the reasons why players have cherished the game in the first place and why newcomers want to explore this classic in all its details to get to the stunning conclusion. However, fans of horror movies, novels and video games might predict quite a few elements as Alan Wake pays tribute to the horror genre without innovating it.

    At the end of the day, fans of old date and new players alike should give Alan Wake Remastered a try and will explore an atmospheric, detailed and gripping action-adventure game with strong horror elements. If you appreciate this kind of video game, you should also try out Silent Hill: Shattered Memories that is even slightly better than the already excellent Alan Wake and that was released around the same time. Here's hope that the latter game will also be remastered, so it can be enjoyed on contemporary video game platforms by a new generation of video game enthusiasts.
  • One Take Only, also knows as Som and Bank: Bangkok for Sale, is a gangster drama from Thailand. Directed by renowned Oxide Chun Pang who would later on direct movies such as action films The Storm Warriors and Out of Inferno, horror films like The Eye and The Messengers and even thrillers such as The Detective and Conspirators, features Pawarith Monkolpisit as quirky lead actor and Wanatchada Siwapornchai as authentic lead actress who sadly wouldn't be featured in any other movie until today.

    The story revolves around lowly drug dealer Bank who lives in a small apartment with his distant mother who is more interested in her gambling issues than her son while the father has left the family many years ago. He meets young prostitue Som who shares her salary with her mother in the country and several friends who are facing rough challenges in life. The two youngsters realize that they live in the same decrepit apartment complex and share the dream of getting rich and starting a new life. One day comes an opportunity for them to get one step closer to changing their lives as Bank gets involved into a drug deal with a dangerous but rich criminal living in the country. The first deal works as planned but a second deal involving much more drugs and money goes horribly wrong and sends the young couple on a fateful downward spiral.

    This gangster drama convinces on several levels. It honestly shows the negative sides of life in Bangkok by dealing with topics such as drugs, poverty and prostitution. One scene is particularly haunting in that regard when a friend of Som becomes a prostitute due to financial issues, only to break down crying in a tiny restroom of some filthy hotel. The locations blend in perfectly as they show little children attempting to sell items to drivers on busy and dirty streets, filthy hotel rooms where young prostitues meet bored businessmen and decrepit apartments in rundown complexes in a noisy downtown area. The movie has at times the vibes of a documentary or a slice-of-life that portrays the lives of disillusioned young adults in Bangkok. The two lead characters are quite interesting as well. Som actually cares for her mother who doesn't know about her job and tries to help her friends and even her boyfriend as much as she can. Bank on the other side is an arrogant, naive and perverted outsider who constantly drags his lover into dangerous situations while oddly criticizing her life choices. The acting performances are authentic and grounded as the two leads manage to carry the movie almost on their own.

    The movie is however not without its flaws. Its pace is quite slow and for two thirds of the film, viewers might wonder where this is going as it simply follows the everyday life of a young couple. Only the final third quickens up the pace and evolves from a romance into a gangster drama. The story itself is quite predictable and plods on without much interest for prolonged periods of time. This film is missing some courageous, exciting and surprising turns that could make it more memorable.

    At the end of the day, One Take Only, also knows as Som and Bank: Bangkok for Sale, is certainly interesting for anyone who is fascinated with Thai cinema and culture. Other than that, it's a decent to good gangster drama that convinces mostly with its authentic documentary style, fitting locations and interesting characters portrayed by two gifted leads. However, the film's pace is slow and the story is thin as the movie fails to leave a mark and doesn't offer much replay value.
  • Sorum is a South Korean movie that walks off the beaten path as it combines drama, mystery and thriller elements in a profoundly atmospheric way. This is the first feature film of director Yun Jong-chan and features renowned actor Kim Myung-min in his very first movie as well as lead actress Jang Jin-young who had already received critical acclaim for her performances in sports comedy The Foul King and firefighters drama Siren.

    The film revolves around a mysterious taxi driver in his early thirties who moves into a decrepit apartment complex. He is only visited once in a while by a friend obsessed with sexual innuendo who brings back negative memories. The lonesome man however gets to know the only remaining residents of the creepy complex. There is an unsuccessful author who has lost his business and dreams of becoming relevant again with a script he has stolen from a former resident of the complex. The former resident's former girlfriend is a piano teacher who gradually isolates herself and doesn't trust anyone around her. Finally, there is a young woman who is in a terrible relationship with an abusive husband who has gambling debts and alcohol problems. One fateful night, the young woman kills her husband in self-defense and asks the lonesome taxi driver for help. They decide to bury the corpse of the deceased in a nearby forest and get involved into an extreme and volatile relationship from there on. Things gradually spiral out of control as the couple faces its past decisions, current issues and strange supernatural events in the creepy complex.

    This movie convinces on many levels. The highlights are the excellent locations in form of the decrepit apartment complex, abandoned natural landscapes and dirty roads that establish a gloomy atmosphere from start to finish. Most of the scenes take place on rainy nights which enhances the film's mysterious vibes. The characters also have much depth as we discover completely new sides throughout the movie that end up changing the viewers' perspectives as the film progresses. This film rather utilizes body language and facial expressions than witty dialogues or surprising twists to convey emotions and relationships. The movie has a mysterious vibe that makes it quite tense as it's hard to predict what might be coming next. It will keep you on the edge of your seats until the final scene. The film's pace is slow but quickens up the pace in the final eventful quarter. Sorum is an intellectual exercise as it leaves several questions unanswered and expects the viewers to put the different pieces of the puzzle together or imagine what could still happen once the movie has concluded.

    Several reviewers have complained about the fact that they expected Sorum to be a horror movie but that it turned out to be a psychological drama. Once you have accepted that genre categorization, you will however discover a unique movie with much depth that is worth being revisited and analyzed from different perspectives. This underrated atmospheric mystery movie develops an ominous atmosphere right from the very first scene when the lead character first enters the apartment complex and keeps this tense vibe until the very last scene when the lead characters last exits the apartment complex. Anyone who likes atmospheric dramas with an experimental touch that walk off the beaten path should certainly check out this underappreciated timeless gem.
  • Vital is a profound Japanese psychological drama that oozes with atmosphere. Directed by veteran Tsukamoto Shinya, the man behind cult movies such as science-fiction horror movie Tetsuo: The Iron Man, dramatic action thriller Tokyo Fist and dramatic mystery movie A Snake of June, this film stars charismatic Asano Tadanobu, known for his involvement in critically acclaimed films such as Ichi the Killer and The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, as well as two strong female lead actresses with actress, architect and model Kiki and professional ballet dancer Tsukamoto Nami.

    The story revolves around a young man who has had a car accident and awakens in a hospital without remembering what has happened and who he is. His family gradually nurses him back to health when the young man decides to join a medical school. He becomes one of the very best students along with an ambitious female student who develops an obsessive love interest in him. Things however take a sinister turn when the students perform autopsies on recently deceased people as the young man recognizes his corpse as his former girlfriend. Painful memories soon come back haunting the unstable student as he realizes that the woman died in that fateful car accident. With the help of his parents, the mourning family of his former girlfriend and the female student who observes his every move, the young student will have to be strong to remember the most sinister memories of his life, grieve his lover's passing and ultimately overcome her tragic demise.

    This movie has at times been advertised as a thriller or even as a horror movie but that's certainly not what it is. The only creepy elements in this film are the constantly gloomy atmosphere that however also shows that there is always hope in despair and the dissection scenes of the corpses that are slightly graphic but never exaggerated. This film convinces with difficult topics such as grief, guilt and obsession that are treated with care, empathy and intellect. This movie is essentially a wonderful romance that shows that love can even survive death. The film has several artistic and surreal scenes involving wonderful drawings and haunting dream sequences. The acting performances are absolutely stellar because they avoid lengthy dialogues and rather focus on body language, dance choreographies and facial expressions. The movie's soundtrack blends in perfectly and the title song Blue Bird by renowned Japanese pop and folk singer Cocco is a timeless masterpiece.

    At the end of the day, Vital is a slow-paced drama with artistic expressions, philosophical depth and excellent acting performances. This timeless movie has aged very well and deserves more attention and recognition. The slow-paced movie entices you with its mysterious atmosphere from start to finish and won't let you go. Its unique trademarks will even make you want to revisit this brilliant movie. Anyone interested in gloomy dramas with depth should give this overlooked gem a fair try.
  • Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a reboot and prequel to the movie series based upon the Japanese video game franchise. This seventh instalment is closely inspired by the first two video games and should certainly please genre fans. For those unfamiliar with the video game and movie franchise, this new movie is however of a rather average quality and they should certainly discover the franchise chronologically.

    The plot revolves around Claire Redfield who grew up in an orphanage in Raccoon City with her brother after her parents died in an accident. As a child, she met a strange woman who claimed to live below the city where scientists from the Umbrella Corporation that had founded the city were conducting secret experiments on human beings. When the young girl realized that she was going to be chosen for such odd procedures as well, she decided to escape and never come back. As an adult, she has decided to change her mind when she heard about a potential virus that might menace the entire population, including her estranged brother who has become a police officer. Claire Redfield takes a ride from a perverted truck driver to get back to town in order to save her suspicious brother. As soon as she arrives however, she doesn't only have to confront the demons of her past but must also fight for her survival through a deadly night that will change the lives of the resident of Raccoon City forever.

    This movie convinces on quite a few levels. First of all, the movie is closer to the original video games than any predecessor which makes it a highlight for faithful fans. The movie has a perfect running time of one hour and forty-seven minutes without any lengths. The locations are well chosen and vary from desolate houses over an abandoned police station to a mysterious mansion on a hill in the middle of the forest. This film has a few efficient action scenes, such as the confrontations in the orphanage, the duels in the catacombs and the final train ride that ends the movie on a high note.

    On the other side, the film also has its flaws. Even though it was advertised as a truly scary movie, the film might ooze with atmosphere but never ever really gets tense or even terrifying. The few jump scares are quite predictable. The special effects are also rather underwhelming and would rather fit into a vintage video game than on a big screen. Especially the monsters don't look impressive at all. The story itself is also by the numbers and mostly feels like a mixture of a documentary about Chernobyl and some zombie apocalypse b-movie.

    At the end of the day, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City should please fans of the movie and video game franchise and is entertaining from start to finish. However, it's neither among the franchise's best nor its worst movies and might not bring in new fans. Anyone unfamiliar with the franchise should simply discover it in chronological order as the very first movie is still the best by a mile.
  • Be Somebody is a quirky Chinese mystery movie that fluidly shifts between humorous and serious moments. The story takes place in the mid-twentieth century and revolves around a group of filmmakers who are invited to a luxurious mansion by an entitled producer. They learn that the producer wants to create a movie based upon a triple murder that targeted Shanghai's most influential businessmen. What starts as a discussion turns out to be much more serious when the producer reveals that he has not only invited the murderer but that the mansion itself is the crime scene. As the filmmakers try to analyze what has truly been happening, they uncover a shocking conspiracy that governmental forces try to hide by any means necessary.

    This movie convinces on numerous levels. First of all, the fluid genre shifts are truly interesting as viewers never know what to expect next and are kept on the edges of their seats until the very last scene. The movie sometimes evolves from slapstick situation comedy over dramatic discussions to creepy thriller sequences within a few minutes. This rollercoaster ride might be unconventional but is certainly very entertaining. It's great to see that directors, producers and scriptwriters are still willing to think outside the box and experiment with unusual genre combinations.

    Another strong element of this film is its location. Except for the opening and the closing scene, the entire movie takes place in a lush building that has an elegant yet gloomy atmosphere. Investigative discussions in the living room, emotionally charged dancing sequences in the ballroom, heated arguments in the staircase, tense conflicts in the private quarters and claustrophobic discoveries in air ducts ensue.

    The plot itself is a mixed bag. It asks for a complete suspension of disbelief since it expects us to believe that a movie producer is able to get a criminal on death row involved in a film project and is also able to walk around freely at a recent crime scene without any surveillance. The twists and turns that the story takes are certainly intriguing but also quite far-fetched. The entertainment is certainly present but the numerous ideas are often over the top.

    The acting performances and character developments are also a mixed bag. Aggressive, energetic and negative scriptwriter and former journalist Li Jiahui who is incarnated by a brilliant Zheng Yin is a complex, intriguing and unusual protagonist that blends in perfectly in this quirky movie with its exaggerated plot. Qi Leshan who is played by Zhang Benyu impresses as mysterious criminal with a flexible, intellectual and spontaneous side that becomes more profound with every single scene. On the other side, arrogant, eccentric and moody producer Zheng Qianli who is incarnated by Yu Entai is particularly annoying with his repetitive narcissistic swagger. Su Mengdie is played by Deng Jiajia and turns out to be a shallow character who either feels arrogant or insulted in the movie and only seems to be present to show some elegant feminine looks that don't add anything at all to the movie.

    Let's finish on a positive note however. As producer Zheng Qianli remarks in this film, it's recommended not to mix arts and politics unless there is a reasonable purpose. This movie avoids to praise or insult any political agenda which is a refreshing change from many other Chinese movies that often add weird twists and turns to praise specific ideologies, parties and politicians. There is some social commentary here that criticizes how the rich and famous exploit the poor and ambitious. The fact that governmental forces try to hide a conspiracy might be seen as a minor political element but the movie avoids pointing fingers and lecturing the viewers. To be honest, these minor political and social comments are actually the most realistic elements in this experimental movie and have an honourable purpose.

    At the end of the day, Be Somebody is a good Chinese mystery film with quirkily humorous and grippingly tense elements. The film has a few very good aspects such as some characters, parts of the plot and the settings. However, there are also a few inconsistencies such as some wooden acting performances, a few unimpressive characters and a few too many exaggerated twists. Fans of Chinese dramas and thrillers with historic contexts should give this film a try.
  • Kolobos is an independent horror slasher made on a shoestring budget that is nowadays sold for thirty bucks as an apparently visionary genre masterpiece. The latter statement is obviously exaggerated and a ridiculous attempt at making money in this day and age but it's true that Kolobos is indeed among the more decent horror movies from the United States of America throughout the nineties.

    The story revolves around a group of five people who have to live in a house during winter for three months as their every moves are filmed for a reality television show. The protagonist is Kyra, a mentally unstable young artist who draws gruesome paintings and has attempted to commit suicide in the past. Her roommate is Tina, a quirky and naive young woman with stylish looks but little depth who works at a fast food restaurant. The third lady in the group is Erica who has been working as an actress in cheap horror movies and dreams of a breakthrough with better roles coming her way. Among the male participants, we have intellectual college student Tom who wants to organize some changes in his life. The last candidate is Gary, a controversial comedian with much self-esteem but little success. These five interesting characters arrive at a mansion with a vintage touch of the seventies and get to know their director and each other on the first day of shooting. Gary tries to impress Tina with his weird sense of humour while Tom tries to flatter Erica by praising her acting chops. Kyra is quickly considered the odd one out, especially when the other contestants see her weird drawings. Things however take a much more sinister turn when the first candidate is killed at night which sets off a gruesome killing spree. The surviving candidates have to understand what's going on to find a way out of their misery.

    On the positive side, Kolobos features five diversified characters that complement one another very well. It would have been great if the movie had been a little bit longer to flesh out these characters and their relationships even further. The acting performances aren't spectacular but overall decent and especially lead actress Amy Weber transmits a mysterious aura that suits her character very well.

    The locations have been nicely chosen for this movie. The mansion in the snow looks stylish. The basement with its pool table and disco lights, the first floor with its comfortable living room and big dining room, the second floor with its charming bedrooms and little bathrooms and even the creepy attic with its numerous mysterious items offer many details to discover.

    The plot isn't half bad either. The idea to combine a reality television show with a mysterious slasher was relatively fresh back in the late nineties. The first death scene is easily the best as it comes as a surprise while the others are at times a little bit lacklustre. The movie's conclusion offers some room for interpretation. However, it isn't confusing or even nonsensical as some reviewers claim as it simply invites viewers to open up their minds and think about what they have just watched.

    Kolobos however isn't without its flaws. The opening scene as well as the flash-forwards show right from the start which candidate is going to survive which considerably decreases the tension in this film. It also takes more than half of the running time for the first death scene to occur which is a little bit too long for such a short movie. The other death scenes however occur at a rather frantic pace and it would have been better to stretch the movie a little bit with some character development to let the different events sink in as the film's second half unfolds.

    At the end of the day, Kolobos is a decent horror film that genre fans should appreciate. The plot is rather creative and the conclusion leaves some room for interpretation. The flash-forwards and mistimed placements of the death scenes are the film's most considerable flaws. The similar horror movie My Little Eye was released three years after this film but has an overall better execution, so if you appreciated Kolobos but haven't watched My Little Eye yet, you should certainly give it a try.
  • Colour me surprised! For years, movies have been inspired by witty scripts, intriguing novels or even great video games but this is the first time I know of that a film has been inspired by a riverboat amusement ride. While the idea might sound puzzling on paper, the final result is actually a decent adventure film for the entire family.

    Jungle Cruise manages to work for different reasons. First of all, the locations look absolutely astonishing. It's obvious that most of these locations have been produced in a studio but instead of looking fake, they transmit a magical atmosphere recalling fantasy milestones such as Avatar. The special effects in this film would even deserve an Academy Award.

    Up next, the story is simple but comes around with a few interesting twists and turns, involving the son of a German emperor, a mysterious indigenous tribe and a horde of undead conquistadores. These elements make the film entertaining from start to finish and provide a pace that will even keep viewers intrigued who have a short attention span.

    The acting performances are decent and quite sympathetic as well. Emily Blunt for instance shines as independent, resilient and strong woman who knows exactly what she wants and is willing to take enormous risks to make her ambitions come true. Her brother is played by Jack Whitehall who seems a little bit arrogant, naive and fearful at the beginning but who ends up becoming more complex and profound as he turns out to be courageous, loyal and supportive. Jesse Plemons finds an excellent balance between danger and satire when incarnating the son of a German emperor with megalomaniac eccentricities. Every single actress and actor does a very convincing job and manages to make a good movie great.

    Jungle Cruise is an interesting adventure film for the entire family. The movie is intense but not brutal. The story is creative but not too complex. The length is neither too short nor too long. It's the kind of movie that could equally please a grand-father who fondly remembers the Indiana Jones movies, a young mother who has grown up playing Tomb Raider video games and a young daughter who admires acting super star Dwayne Johnson. It might not be the most experimental, groundbreaking or intellectual movie but it offers two hours of welcome escapism to the whole family.
  • Free Guy is an imaginative science-fiction adventure movie in the key of Ready Player One that should appeal to kids, teenagers and young adults who enjoy playing video games.

    The movie revolves around two parallel stories. In our real world, developers Walter McKey and his estranged partner Millie Rusk try to prove that selfish head developer Antwan Hovachelik has illegally used their source code to create a highly successful open-world video game. In said game, a non-player character named Guy develops an artificial intelligence when encountering a character named Molotov Girl who is actually Millie Rusk's game character. The two characters start working together in the game to find traces of the hidden source code that could benefit Millie Rusk and Walter McKey in real life.

    This film convinces on many levels. First of all, the movie has a vibrant mixture of multiple genres such as action, adventure, comedy, drama, romance and science-fiction. The special effects are outstanding and bring a video game to life in an imaginative way with numerous creative details and breathtaking settings. The two story lines are cleverly interwoven and deliver poignant messages against greed and for love. The acting performances are solid and especially Ryan Reynolds manages to give the lead character a sympathetic, quirky and funny personality.

    At the end of the day, Free Guy is an entertaining action-adventure movie on the pulse of time that can be enjoyed by children, teenagers and young adults as it teaches valuable life lessons. If you don't appreciate video games or if you were looking for a movie with more thrilling twists, you might however end up finding the movie too modern or too childish. There are also too many similarities between this film and Ready Player One in my opinion. While this film is certainly entertaining and memorable as there aren't too many of its kind yet, the under-appreciated Serenity is even more creative, mature and profound in the same genre.
  • The Ice Road is yet another action-thriller starring Liam Neeson in a typecast role he has played over and over again throughout the past two decades and counting. And this is perfectly fine.

    In this particular film, Liam Neeson plays a tough, resilient and generous truck driver who accepts the nearly impossible mission to deliver wellheads to a collapsed mine in northern Manitoba where workers are trapped and fighting for their lives. In addition to inclement weather and rapidly melting ice, parts of the mining company intend to sabotage the rescue mission by any means necessary. The truck driver needs to cooperate with his brother suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a rebellious indigenous woman in constant conflict with the law and his severe but fair boss to save the workers under the most challenging circumstances.

    Even though the movie offers nothing new, it has been executed with great care which makes it one of the greatest genre entries in recent memory. It's very positive that an indigenous character is portrayed by an actual actress with indigenous heritage in form of the very convincing youngster Amber Midthunder. The idea to include a character suffering from multiple mental disorders adds a psychological depth that spreads the positive message that even people who are suffering from such illnesses are able to be clever, empathic and reliable heroes. The settings are excellent for this movie as it was shot in Manitoba and actually takes place in the Canadian province itself. Nothing is worse than movies that are shot in Toronto for monetary reasons but make you believe that the plot takes place in New York City. The movie convinces with excellent pace from start to finish without feeling rushed. The special effects are employed with care and feature truck chases, fist fights and explosions among many other elements. The light and sound effects blend in very well and are best enjoyed at your local cinema.

    Action-thriller genre fans should certainly appreciate The Ice Road for its characters, pace and settings. The movie is great at what it is without trying to add anything new to the genre. Grab some drinks and snacks, sit down with a few friends and enjoy this entertaining escapism on a slow evening.
  • Cry Macho is an emotional road movie and western drama that is much better than its lukewarm reception might suggest.

    The film revolves around old rodeo star Mike Milo who has lost his family in a terrible accident and had to fight addiction and loneliness in order to stabilize his life on an isolated farm. One day, the man who has given him purpose and supported him throughout the years forces Mike Milo to bring his estranged teenage son from Mexico to the United States of America. However, the job turns out to be much more complicated than initially revealed since the teenage son is a rebellious runaway who has already been in conflict with the law on multiple occasions. Things take an even more complicated turn when it becomes evident that the boy's mother is a selfish femme fatale with ties to criminal organizations who doesn't hesitate to use violence to keep her teenage son under control. Tracked down by the police and hired guns, Mike Milo and the rebellious teenager must put their differences aside to make it to the border.

    Clint Eastwood's movie convinces on numerous levels. The acting performances are great and especially Clint Eastwood himself convinces as tough, resilient and grumpy man with a sinister past but a true heart of gold. The relationships between the characters are very profound and especially the rebellious teenager portrayed by Eduardo Minett and the widowed restaurant owner played by Natalia Traven are easy to empathize with. The latter character also shows that you can develop a wonderful relationship with a person of a foreign culture whose language you barely understand since emotions break down barriers. Another strength of this film is the settings varying from lush mansions in Mexico City over impoverished villages in the country to isolated farms in Texas. The use of accessories, cars and clothes bring the seventies to life in authentic fashion and add a healthy dose of nostalgic atmosphere. While this movie is first and foremost a very human drama, it also includes thrilling elements such as sinister bullying, realistic car chases and even occasional fights with fists and guns. These brief and efficiently used thrilling moments keep the movie entertaining from start to finish. Let's not forget about the amazing rooster that gives the movie its name and that offers some comic relief in many tongue-in-cheek moments throughout the film.

    At the end of the day, Cry Macho is a profound drama in a positively nostalgic road movie meets western style. Its characters are unique, its settings are authentic and the brief moments of thrills make the film entertaining from start to finish. Cry Macho is one of Clint Eastwood's greatest movies in recent memory and would represent an excellent conclusion to his impressive career that has left its mark on three generations and counting.
  • Premika, better known as Killer Karaoke in North America, is a Thai movie that mixes atmospheric horror elements with a few slapstick comedy passages.

    The movie revolves around a resort in the country that is visited by some celebrities such as musicians and producers for a weekend of concerts, karaoke and parties. Soon enough, strange things start to occur in and around the resort as visitors disappear and are haunted by mysterious appearances. The events seem to be related to the gruesome murder of a female teenager whose dismembered body was found nearby but never identified. Things take a sinister turn as investigators, perpetrators, tourists and victims meet at the sinister resort.

    The film can be described as an average flick throughout its exposure, rising action, climax and falling action as it mixes very well shot atmospheric horror elements that are however slowed down by distractingly awkward slapstick comedy elements that just don't blend in. The settings and special effects are employed with care. The acting performances and the plot are however shallow and thin.

    What makes the movie stand out is its conclusion in the final twenty minutes as the different characters meet and the background story is revealed. This little twist is emotional and profound and actually deals with a problem that is recurring in Thai culture. The difficult topic is treated with respect and gives viewers some unexpected food for thought. Seventy entertaining but superficial minutes are therefore followed by twenty authentic and poignant minutes that end the movie on a high note.

    At the end of the day, Killer Karaoke or Premika is worth to be watched if you are interested in Thai culture and don't mind a combination of atmospheric horror elements with quirky slapstick comedy. This movie is certainly not everybody's cup of tea but it manages to stand out and is quite memorable. The final twenty minutes elevate it above an average flick and offer some welcome food for thought. This might be a creative film to watch on a movie night with some friends on Halloween.
  • Morgue is a supernatural horror movie made on a shoestring budget in Paraguay that is much better than its average to abysmal ratings.

    The movie revolves around Diego Martinez, a lowly paid security guard who lives in a cheap apartment and drives a decrepit car that is about to fall apart. One night, he hits a man on the road and decides to run and hide. Plagued by guilt, he is relieved to get a call from his employer that informs him that he has a night shift at a hospital that might get him some welcome distraction. However, that shift is everything but a routine job as strange things are going on that will change Diego Martinez' life forever.

    This horror movie convinces on numerous levels. The film is short, gets to the point, has excellent pace, entertains from start to finish and never overstays its welcome. The atmosphere is excellent in decrepit apartments, on abandoned roads in dirty suburbs and particularly in the creepy hospital with its terrifying morgue. Pablo Martinez' realistic acting in his very first film carries the movie with few dialogues and a limited number of characters very well. The special effects aren't overused and give the movie an authentic touch that will send shivers down your spine. The light and sound effects as well as the gloomy soundtrack enhance the atmosphere splendidly. Director and writer Hugo Cardozo has been inspired by atmospheric horror movies of the seventies and employs their classic trademarks in a refreshing way as if he were an experienced veteran.

    If you are sick and tired of predictable sequels flooding North American cinemas, Paraguay's independent atmospheric horror movie Morgue is a very interesting alternative for a great movie night with friends for Halloween. The film is now available digitally and physically in North America and certainly worth the money and time of curious genre fans.
  • No Time to Die is the twenty-fifth movie in the James Bond series created by Eon Productions. This is also the longest of these movies. It's the fifth and final movie with Daniel Craig and concludes the more emotional and personal sequence of films on a very high note.

    This film convinces on several levels. Without revealing too much, this movie brings the person James Bond to life more authentically than most other films except for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Casino Royale and Skyfall. The movie has a dramatic depth that might make quite a few viewers shed a few tears towards the end.

    The movie introduces several interesting side characters. Lashana Lynch convinces as new agent with cool, resilient and tough charisma. Ana de Armas has an impressive cameo as bubbly agent who seems nervous at first contact but focused when put in danger.

    The locations have been chosen with care before the madness of the pandemic occurred. The film moves from the snow-covered landscapes of Norway over isolated islands in the Pacific to heated soils of Italy. In this regard, the film certainly offers something for every taste.

    The plot is a spy thriller by the numbers which means that those who don't like the genre won't change their minds with this movie while genre enthusiasts get exactly what they could expect which is a relief in troubled times like these.

    There are few negative things to mention. Even though Rami Malek is doing a decent job at portraying a tormented villain, his character could have benefitted from some additional background information and further scenes.

    Another thing that hasn't impacted the rating but that needs to be pointed out is that the release strategy of this movie has been absolutely dreadful which cannot just be excused by the pandemic. It's great that a movie that was so difficult to make turned out to be so amazing but it should have already been released more than two years ago as I'm writing these lines. I hope that the next entry in the series will come around much faster.

    At the end of the day, No Time to Die is in the top section of James Bond movies and a rewarding conclusion to the sequence of films starring Daniel Craig that have featured a more emotional, personal and vulnerable agent. The mixture of action, crime and drama is balanced, captivating and entertaining. So far, in a year that hasn't had many cinematic highlights, No Time to Die qualifies as the greatest movie of the year.
  • The Many Saints of Newark is a crime drama serving as a prequel to the series The Sopranos. Even if you aren't familiar with the series, this film is certainly worth a try for genre fans.

    The movie revolves around the childhood and adolescence of Tony Soprano, the child of an American-Italian crime family. He explores betrayal and loyalty, doubts and trust, joy and sorrow, embitterment and reconciliation, life and death among family members and friends.

    This film convinces on many levels. First of all, the soundtrack, settings and clothings bring the sixties and seventies back to life in authentic fashion and provide atmospheric depth.

    Up next, the different characters are very distinctive and profound. We observe innocent children looking up to their family members, frustrated mobsters who are attempting to gain freedom, influence and reputation and old-fashioned gangsters who don't make any compromises and don't take any prisoners.

    The movie features several subplots which add much diversity. It follows the complicated relationship of an Italian immigrant with her violent husband, a mobster who has to go to prison and leave his family behind for four years and a family man who makes many enemies while trying to become the leader of the mobsters.

    However, there are also a few elements that could have been improved. Some characters could have been given some additional background information in form of flashbacks.

    Up next, the movie mostly focuses on dialogues but a few more explosive scenes might have added some action and tension at appropriate times.

    Still, The Many Saints of Newark is a good to very good gangster movie that can compete with other recent releases such as The Irishman. The atmosphere, characters and subplots are certainly the highlights and leave room for potential sequels. Newcomers might be interested in watching the television series as well after discovering this film while fans of the series might think that the movie is at times lacking depth and precision. If you like this kind of movie, let me warmly recommend you the similar Mafia Inc. Released two years ago in Quebec.
An error has occured. Please try again.