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    11 years


The Incredible Shrinking Man

A good movie
I'm not the biggest fan of old sci-fi/horror movies from the 1950s, but this one was pretty entertaining. It does just enough with its simple premise (a guy goes from being tall to very small because he's exposed to some mysterious gas) to be fun for 80 minutes. I think there was potential to make the shrinking process itself more drawn out, but I think the filmmakers just wanted to get to the second half of the story, which is where the titular shrinking man is at his most shrunken, and he's forced to fend for himself - all alone - in his basement, which is now like a giant cavern/hellhole from his perspective.

It's also funny how the main character's name in this is Scott, and that's also the name of Paul Russ's character in Ant Man. Also, if we're comparing this to either of the two Ant Men, it's better (I don't really have the highest of hopes for the third).


Lynch's weirdest?
Even by the standards of a David Lynch film, Rabbits is strange. It runs just over 40 minutes, making it borderline feature-length, though I think the cutoff is usually 45 or 50 minutes. It takes place on what looks like a soundstage. There are just three characters. There's only one camera angle (I think).

It seems to parody a classic sitcom due to how the characters move around and get applauded when they enter the room. There's also a laugh track used at just the most random of moments, and every time, I'll admit part of me wanted to laugh, but I might have just been nervous (or I've been conditioned by laugh-track heavy sitcoms. Maybe it can happen to anyone!)

If you try to analyse it alongside the then-recent Mulholland Drive, maybe you could see it tying in? Both are very creepy, and while Mulholland Drive is about filmmaking, Rabbits is about filming a sitcom. Two sides of the same weird coin that is David Lynch's take on Hollywood?

This short film is boring and repetitive, but it definitely has a unique atmosphere that keeps things a little interesting throughout. It's undeniably a one-of-a-kind movie, and given I think I could sort of scratch the surface as to what it was about, I'm sure there's a lot that I haven't been able to unpack. Unfortunately, unpacking a slow movie where not much happens is sort of like unpacking a suitcase after you've returned from a long holiday: it's kind of boring, you don't want to do it, and sleep is more enticing.

Kokuhakuteki joyûron

Completely lost
Confessions Among Actresses is a hard film to rate, and at the same time, a difficult one to talk about coherently. It's the second film by Yoshishige Yoshida that I've seen, and even though it was shorter by about 90 minutes than that other one (Eros + Massacre), I found it a good deal more challenging.

I mean, I don't think I would've had any idea what was going on if I hadn't the short plot synopsis, stating that it's about three different actresses who all have traumatic events from their past which served as reasons for becoming actresses.

It all feels very deliberate, and I do get the sense it's tackling some heady themes surrounding identity, art, and the exploitation of women within the film industry. But it is just so dense and obscure to me that I can only just barely appreciate it, and from a huge distance away at that. It's a film that went so high over my head it's now orbiting the planet.

Shao Lin san shi liu fang

A very good martial arts movie - amazing training sequences
This was one of the first Shaw Brothers movies I ever watched, and ever since getting really into the studio's output lately, I thought this was worth revisiting. I remain liking it the first time around, but felt like I'd appreciate and enjoy it more if I revisited it, and I'm happy to find that that's what happened.

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin might be the most famous movie from the studio. It's been immortalised in the west thanks to things like the Wu-Tang Clan and Kill Bill Vol. 2, finding more success outside of just Hong Kong as a result.

The plot is simple but also told a little more compelling than usual. It's a revenge movie where the main character has to train a lot before getting revenge. It's a formula that gets used a lot in old martial arts movies, but I feel like you want to see the protagonist succeed more than normal. He goes through a lot (there are 30+ training chambers, after all), and Gordon Liu's performance is great. He's endearing and likeable, and he's amazing at all the physical acting too. I also love how much his character changes throughout.

It feels a tad long, and after the training, the action is good but lacks some suspense, because the main character is just so powerful. But the core of this movie is the training at Shaolin Temple, and that stuff's all fantastic. Overall, this definitely earns its spot as one of the most iconic Shaw Brothers martial arts movies.


Close to being great
The first hour or so of The Funeral is pretty well perfect, or at least close to it. There are some truly striking scenes, and the way it captures the emotion - and mundanity - of a death in the family is extraordinarily well done, because you really do feel it.

That it also does this while having a unique sense of humour that makes it surprisingly funny in parts just makes it even better. It's the dramedy genre at its best, and I love when films like this successfully walk the line between quietly funny and heavy (The Farewell's a recent example of a film with a similar tone, and an impeccable balancing of emotions).

But at just after the halfway mark of The Funeral, things take a strange turn plot-wise, and I don't know if the film ever fully recovered from it. There are still good scenes later in the second half, but the film as a whole was on such a hot streak, and I'm at a loss why it temporarily went to the place it did.

Ah well. It's still very good. Much of the film is excellent. Probably a hot take, but I liked it more than Tampopo.

Im Westen nichts Neues

A good film let down by ill-fitting music and some immersion-breaking special effects
I wish this Western Front had been a bit more quiet, because I really didn't like the music that was composed for this film. I appreciate it trying to be ambitious and different, but it just did not work for me at all, and was consitently distracting just about every time it was audible. I'm just not sure why it went for the BWAAARM BWARM BWAAARM stuff, like a Hans Zimmer score from 10-15 years ago. This would probably be more like a 7/10 than a 6/10 if it had music that fit better.

Other than that? The movie's fine, but I'm not sure it achieves much that the 1930 version didn't already (apart from being more brutal and having more advanced camerawork/effects of course, and having German dialogue, making it more authentic in that way). That other one might've been the first 1930s movie I ever watched, and whilst I don't remember it being perfect, it was honestly a better adaptation than this, and a more compelling film.

Technically, this movie does most things (besides the music) pretty well, but it's also another "war is bad" movie that's already been adapted before, and to me, there's no unique angle here by anti-war movie standards (when looking at other war films in recent memory that did well at awards shows, 1917 had its unique presentation, and The Hurt Locker boldly suggested that warfare can be a dangerous adrenaline rush for certain extreme personality types).

Actually, some of the special effects here look pretty bad. CGI rats and painfully obvious CGI fire when a character gets set alight? Besides these dodgy effects and the music, the battle sequences manage to be intense and harrowing, but there's just these little things here and there that kept tearing me out of the film.

If 2022's All Quiet on the Western Front sweeps the Oscars and wins Best Picture, at least it won't be an offensively bad win (like Crash or Green Book). But at the same time, I'm really not barracking for it at all, and it's my least favourite of the Best Picture nominees I've seen so far (all of them but Tar and Women Talking).

Taekoesu Yonggary

It's dumb, but it's also honestly kind of fun
As far as stompy boys go, I think Yongary is a little over-hated. This movie's got problems, but I don't think it's significantly worse than your average kaiju movie made in the 1960s/1970s.

If you're most familiar with the Godzilla series, you might find this lacking, but for anyone who enjoys the lesser Gamera films (the rough but charming ones made before the 1990s trilogy), I think this South Korean kaiju flick has some value.

And honestly, it's all worth it for the scene where Yongary picks a person up, looks at him blankly, and then just tosses him aside/drops him out of sheer boredom.


Admittedly, this wasn't really all that great, but at the same time, Gorgo wasn't quite as bad as I was dreading. I feel like few directors outside of Japan can make giant suit monsters on-screen work, but this one does an okay job, especially in the more action-heavy scenes later on (the start of the film is a little rougher).

It's a fun and unique setting for a giant monster movie, which helps distract from the fact that it's a little too similar to King Kong's plot (though the monster itself looks more like Godzilla).

If you love big monsters smashing things and movies that go for less than 80 minutes, Gorgo can certainly be given a cautious recommendation. I can get this to like a 6/10 because I do unabashedly enjoy just about any monster movie I come across, but those who aren't fans of the genre could find much of this to be a snooze.

Kaijû daifunsen: Daigorou tai Goriasu

Must-watch for kaiju fans, and a must-avoid for non-kaiju fans
Another weird monster movie for the list... literally! I'm going to be writing about the most obscure ones I can find tomorrow. This qualified perfectly, as it's really going for the same market the more kid-friendly Godzilla films of the Showa Era went for, but getting significantly sillier and more child-friendly (though not quite so far in a humourous direction that it feels like a parody of Godzilla - there's a degree of sincerity that shines through, albeit dimly).

So there's a giant ugly walrus monster, but he also seems cool, and he's Daigoro. He's the good guy. There's a cheery theme song early on that details his backstory, even if the lyrics are sad and entirely at odds with the instrumental (they mention his mother being dead, and him living on an island all by himself and stuff).

There are budgetary restrictions on what Daigoro can be fed, just like there were clear budgetary restrictions on the film's crew (I'm hoping this was intentional meta-commentary. If so, that rocks). The lack of food's one problem. But things get worse when the fairly generic enemy "Goliath" shows up, and then we get a couple of fun scenes of monster fights. They are so schlocky, but also so much fun, and I think the suit actors and the filmmakers behind the camera knew exactly what they were doing.

Still, I don't know if it's a whole lot better than a 6/10. It's a lot of stuff I've seen before, and besides an interesting tone, there's very little else here that makes it stand out or feel in any way ambitious. So it works for light entertainment for giant monster movie fans who have progressed through all the Godzillas, the Gameras, the Mothra movies, even the more recent Reigo trilogy, the Daimajin series, the Ultraman shows (if you're truly dedicated), and even obscure (now sort of cult) kaiju movies like Pulgasari.

I only have a finite amount of memory in my brain, and look how much of it goes to remembering monster names and monster series! #priorities.

Death Kappa

So I'm going to be writing a list article about weird monster movies in a couple of days. I've already seen a bunch, but for "research," I feel compelled to watch more (these are the kind of movies I'd probably watch either way, to be honest).

Death Kappa was at the top of my shortlist. This is mainly due to it being called "Death Kappa." I can't really resist a movie when it's called "Death Kappa."

It basically feels like a homage/parody of old-school giant monster movies, though the titular monster is the only monster in it for a while, and so there aren't even any giant monsters for like the first 2/3s of the movie. But that's okay. It means he can get in hand-to-hand fights with the human bad guys in the first half, some of whom wield samurai swords. It's that kind of movie.

The plot? Uh... there's a young woman who has some sort of connection to a kappa monster, who lives in a lake, and is super ugly, but he also has a good heart and wants to protect her. He saves her from some bad guys. Then another more evil monster (who's big) starts attacking a city. From there, it feels like a more comedic take on a giant monster movie.

I don't know if this is even good, but I had fun throughout. I was trying to do some push-ups while watching it (exercise and movie-watching: killing two birds with one stone), and for the most part, I couldn't, because I was laughing too hard at many of the scenes. There's a song that gets played a couple of times, and the ridiculous lyrics (at least from the translated English subtitles) are amazing.

Death Kappa is absolutely an acquired taste, but I think I'm the target audience, so I liked it. I don't know who else I could recommend it to, though.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

First time a shell made me tear up
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On took until January 2023 to finally come to Australian cinemas, but it was worth the wait. Finally got a chance to see it and it's the rare instance where a film's buzz ended up living up to the hype. Maybe it's not a movie where everyone was talking about it, but it was getting a lot of love from film circles online. Now, I can see why.

It combines stop motion and live-action in a charming way, and plays out as a mockumentary, following the titular shell: Marcel (he does indeed have shoes on). He's only one inch tall and lives in an Airbnb house with his grandmother. His other family and friends have gone missing, so part of the movie follows him trying to track them down (with other chunks of the film more concerned with just showing him living his day to day life).

It's hard to put into words why this worked so well, but it just did. I quickly came to appreciate the unique style of the movie, its sense of humour, and found myself quite surprised by how emotional it was as well. It's good-natured and probably family friendly, but it's very sad at points, and does a great job at making you care about two little shells who are alone in a dauntingly huge world.

Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio (admittedly a very good film) is basically a shoo-in for best animated feature at the Oscars, but I'm going to be quietly rooting for Marcel. But still, in any event, this is definitely my favourite (mostly) animated movie that got a wide release in 2022, and I think it's genuinely great, with next to nothing to complain about.

Da jue dou

AKA: The Cough of Death
The plot in The Duel is fairly complex, with non-stop double crosses and no one trusting anyone much at all by the end of it, but the brutal action scenes are frequent and quite exciting. This makes it an above average Shaw Brothers martial arts movie, but still a step or two below the studios' greatest efforts.

It's certainly a worthwhile watch for action fans, but part of me wishes it had either spent a bit more time making its story clearer, or just given an even bigger middle finger to the idea of story, cut 15 minutes of chit-chat from the film, and had 90 minutes of even more frequent, bloody fight scenes.

Jacquot de Nantes

Great when judged as a personal tribute, but a little dull as a film/narrative
Agnes Varda and Jacques Demy were two well-known French directors who both pushed boundaries and consistently put out personal, stylistic films. They also happened to be married for about 30 years.

In 1990, Demy was tragically dying from HIV/AIDS. This film appears to have been made at least in part right before his death, as it features some documentary footage/interviews with him, but the bulk of the film isn't a documentary, and presents a somewhat fictionalised depiction of Demy's life as a boy, teenager, and then a young man. It aims to explore the important periods of his life that inspired his films, and serves as a love letter from a filmmaker wife to her filmmaker husband.

In telling a coming of age story about a young boy interested with making movies, this reminded me quite a bit of both Cinema Paradiso and the recent Steven Spielberg film The Fabelmans. I don't think it's quite as good as the latter, and it's definitely nowhere near as good as the former... but in the case of Cinema Paradiso, that honestly might just be the Ennio Morricone difference - his music sort of makes that film, and adds to the emotional impact of it all.

However, when considering the backstory behind Jacquot de Nantes, it becomes a good deal more touching and bittersweet, and at least some of that backstory is made clear in the text itself. It doesn't give you everything like a full-on documentary might, but you get enough context for things to be quite moving by the end. It's certainly a personal film and I can appreciate some of its emotional weight, but I think structurally and narratively, it can be kind of repetitive and even a little tedious in places.

Paris brûle-t-il?

A decent WW2 epic
I tend to enjoy the epic World War Two movies from this era that go for approximately three hours, and have crazy good casts, and make use of what looks like old war equipment and costumes (they either are or they're replicated incredibly well).

I don't think Is Paris Burning matches up to The Longest Day, Tora Tora Tora, or even A Bridge Too Far quality-wise, but it's still pretty decent. I think the dry, docudrama approach hurt the film in some ways, by making it more difficult to get engaged, but I sort of appreciate the effort at realism (even if that approach isn't done perfectly either).

Still, even if all else fails, it's fun to see how many recognisable stars pop up in minor roles throughout this film's extensive runtime.

Straight Time

A well-made crime-drama
This is just about one of the most 1970s crime-dramas of all the 1970s crime-drama movies. It's very gritty, aims to be down-to-earth and realistic, and isn't afraid to take its time when it comes to pacing. For example, it feels like the real inciting incident happens about 50 minutes into the movie, with the preceding scenes all serving to be make the viewer immersed in the world, and understand the film's characters.

The approach works, because we see the main character struggle with all the disadvantages that come with trying to go straight after a prison sentence, and things build and build until he's pushed too far, and reverts to a life of crime. It's sad but feels very real, and in that way, it reminded me of Blue Collar, which I think came out the same year and struck a similar tone with its grounded crime-related story.

Everything about the movie is good. It moves fairly well, it looks good, it's got a solid screenplay, and there are no weak links in the cast. But I didn't feel like there was anything amazing about it, and part of me hoped there'd just be a little more to it.

Yet admittedly, for what it is, it works very well, and there really isn't anything in it that can be pointed to as bad. It feels like the definition of a strong, sturdy 7/10 to me, but if it had just hit or resonated even harder, I'd be more glowing in singing its praises.

Matrimonio all'italiana

It's fine
Pretty much exactly what I expected it to be, for better or worse. Judging by this and how I felt about Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, I don't think these Vittorio De Sica + Sophia Loren movies are really my kind of thing.

But at the same time, this certainly isn't terrible, and I do think I found it more engaging than Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. It certainly felt more heavy on drama than comedy to me, but there were a few brief moments of humour here and there that worked, and the dramatic side of the story was okay.

I found the music distracting, because I swear the main theme sounded a lot like Moon River from Breakfast At Tiffany's (1960). But I couldn't find anyone else who made that connection, so I might just be crazy.

Shao Lin si

Feels too bloated, but there's still good stuff here
I feel like Shaolin Temple is unfortunately a film that bites off a little more than it can chew. It introduces many characters early on, many of whom want to train at the prestigious titular temple. While they're training, there seems to be an undercover figure inside, giving away weaknesses in the temple to its outside enemies, who want to destroy the heavily guarded temple - and take out its well-trained personnel - at any cost.

That main premise is an engaging one, but it spends almost no time on it until the final act. The rest of the movie feels a little like a collection of fairly random scenes. They're all good on their own (plenty of training for those who like scenes with characters mastering certain skills), but they don't always feel like they add up to much. It's the martial arts movie equivalent of listening to a compilation album rather than a properly planned and structured studio album.

But when it comes to action, it's still pretty solid. There are fun scenes, things pick up more in the second half, and it's nice seeing a Shaw Brothers movie with a slightly beefier budget (I'm guessing) than usual, but I can't help but feel a little bit disappointed in Shaolin Temple when assessing it as a whole.

Yagyû bugeichô

It's just okay
Honestly, this is one of the most middle of the road samurai movies I've ever seen, which makes it hard to review and talk about it any detail. I was attracted to it because it the cast (led by the always great Toshiro Mifune), but found myself let down by the story and the way it unfolded, and which really failed to grab or engage me the way I'd hope a good to great movie would.

Nothing about it is spectacularly bad, but it's one of those lesser known movies that finished and thought to myself, "Okay, I guess I kind of know why this movie isn't particularly well known." It feels bad to say that about a film that's not terrible, but at the same time, Yagyu Secret Scrolls isn't particularly good either.

Wu guan

Definitely not bad, but also definitely not my kind of martial arts movie
This is a very low stakes martial arts movie. They usually feature stories with life or death stakes, but here, the characters don't often feel like they're in danger. It's a different kind of story and tone in that regard, and it's entirely subjective, but the martial arts movies with a little more danger do tend to get my heart pumping more than the ones that aren't so concerned with people fighting to the death. Call me bloodthirsty and/or shallow, but it's just something I've found from watching classic martial arts movies.

That's not to say Martial Club is bad at all, not to say I didn't get any enjoyment out of it. The fights are still well-choreographed (even if the stakes mean they're not quite as exciting), and I always like seeing Gordon Liu in a lead role like this, because he's got a very likeable presence on screen.

But while I can recognise the story as being at the very least not bad, I also just wasn't feeling super into this. But hey, it contains decent fights and a serviceable plot, and for those who enjoy martial arts movies regardless of the severity of the stakes, I think there's a lot to like about Martial Club.

Daddy Long Legs

The dancing's good, but not much else works
Apparently this was one of Akira Kurosawa's top 100 movies? I wasn't crazy about it, but got a kick out of imagining Kurosawa grinning during the music numbers; an unexpectedly wholesome mental image.

It's also reminded me I still need to watch the similarly titled Safdie Brothers movie, made some years before their breakout movies Good Time and Uncut Jahms.

As for the movie itself? It's a fairly generic old Hollywood musical. There are some cool dance numbers, but even then, they're not amazing, and the story itself (involving a guy in his 50s who pays for the scholarship of a young woman who's like 20 - if that - who end up crossing paths and uncomfortably falling in love, without knowing who the other actually is) is very bad.

It's probably easy to guess that the values and narrative would be icky from the title itself, but Daddy Long Legs - while not the worst thing in the world - can be added to the list of 1950s movie that don't exactly hold up the best today (and even values aside, I don't think the story is very interesting, and the film only really shines when there's dancing).

Huang jia shi jie

Flawed but enjoyable showcase for the great Michelle Yeoh
Ever since Everything Everywhere All At Once blew many minds last year (mine included), I've thought I should check out some of Michelle Yeoh's older films. I've seen a couple of the big ones, but not as many as I should have, because she's had a very prolific career since the 1980s. Of her earlier films, Yes, Madam (1985) seemed to be one of the most well-known, so I thought it would be a good starting point.

Yeoh plays a cool, hypercompetent young police officer who's on the trail of a bunch of doofus criminals (thieves and gangsters). She's not quite in the movie as much as you'd expect - maybe because if she had more screentime early on, she'd solve the case well before the 90-minute mark, and the movie wouldn't be feature-length.

Now, I'm not saying this inspired Fargo (it's very different) but the idea of a smart, charismatic female detective tackling a complex case with many (stupid) men behind it is a little comparable to the Coen Brothers' classic... Maybe?

I mean, in both Yes, Madam and Fargo, while Yeoh and McDormand are the protagonists, the first half has many scenes focused on the criminals and the mistakes they made, so they can get their comeuppances in the second half. But the comparison is a little silly when you realise one's an action movie and one's a darkly comedic thriller.

Some of the scenes early on in Yes, Madam felt sort of comedic, but the comedy didn't always land for me. I do find that sometimes with Hong Kong films from this era - their style of humour is very different from what I'm used to. With Jackie Chan, for example, I adore his action scenes, but don't always feel as amazing by the comedy scenes in his movie.

Naturally, this means the film gets better as it goes along and gets more action-heavy. And when the film features Yeoh taking down the bad guys, it's really satisfying. It's a shame there are like 50 minutes between the opening action scene and the next time she gets to fight, but oh well.

Her presence in the action scenes and charisma in the non-action scenes has made me want to watch a few more of her older movies, at least before she wins her Oscar in a couple of months for Everything Everywhere all at Once (calling it now - manifesting it, if you will).

Ippatsu daiboken

Vagabond Schemer sort of feels like a Marx Brothers movie if it was just Harpo Marx featured in the lead role, we didn't see the other brothers, and he just caused chaos for pretty much the whole movie. It leads to 90 minutes that are kind of one-note and repetitive, but I can't deny that some of this was really funny. It's loud, messy, crude, ridiculous, and often entertaining.

It's also probably the worst movie to watch if you've never seen a Yoji Yamada film before and are wanting to start watching his filmography. Of course, he made plenty of comedies, but this might be his broadest, silliest, and most chaotic, and most of his comedies balance laughs with drama. I've seen about 90% of his directorial efforts at this point (he's one of the best filmmakers of all time, and barely anyone in the west seems to know about him), so I do feel fairly confident in making that claim.

Ai no Sanka

It's a serviceable dramedy
The comedic first two acts work alright, and the drama in the final act is solid, but they're just not meshed together very well. Balancing comedy with drama is something Yoji Yamada would master with the Tora-san series, but not so much here - maybe it's that the drama is a little too intense, clashing with the very broad, kind of slapstick-heavy comedy.

Speaking of Tora-san, there's a film in that series which has a similar title to this, called Tora-san's Song of Love. I have no commentary on that or anything insightful to add (I don't remember that one specifically) - I guess it's just a neat coincidence and/or observation.

Ren zhe wu di

Another fun Shaw Brothers flick
The message of Five Element Ninjas isn't so much "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." It's more "If you can't beat their style of combat, then learn their style of combat and beat them with it." The message is not a pacifist one, but it's a classic kung-fu movie - what else would you expect?

The plot is fairly minimal, and even though the betrayal that kickstarts the main narrative itself takes a while to happen, there are still plenty of fun fight scenes throughout the first half to keep things engaging. Even the training scenes don't ultimately take up much time - the revenge promised by the film's plot starts happening very quickly, and the action is frequent.

I liked some of the techniques used by the good guys and bad guys alike. People disguising themselves as trees and kind of goofy things like that - it was pretty entertaining.

This is one of the highest-rated of the classic Shaw Brothers martial arts movies, and I didn't quite connect with it the same way I have with most of their other well-established classics. That being said, I have to write a list about 10 of these martial arts films tomorrow, so this was almost (fun) homework in a way. I maybe watched a couple of them too close together to let them breathe. I'm committed to watching all the movies I write about, but it's had the downside of not letting some of them breathe the way they deserve to. At least I can always revisit this, and take a short break from martial arts movies in general before coming back to the genre at a later date; when I'm really itching for them.

Overall: this one's good. It's a satisfying action flick. Personally, it wasn't watched under perfect circumstances, but I can't deny that at the very least, it gets the job done.


A solid drama
Another Mikio Naruse film, which means it's kind of long and very slow throughout... but also features great acting, plenty of technical skill behind the camera, and some quietly affecting emotional scenes.

Part of me wonders whether his films about regret, growing old, and feeling despondent will hit harder when I'm older and am more plagued with wasting time when I was younger; time I'll never get back. Time wasted on watching movies and then spewing out words than form messy opinions on them, for example.

If this app is still a thing in 20-30 years, maybe I'll revisit this and provide an update then lol.

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