“From Up on Poppy Hill” (2011)

There’s definitely a lot to like here. In particular, the characters of Umi and Shun are very likable, very relatable characters, and they make for compelling and cute leads. And the plot about the clubhouse that deals with the merits of tradition vs. progress is certainly interesting, especially considering the time period the story takes place in; post-war Japan. The film unfortunately does indulge in melodrama and convenient storytelling clichés. Still, thanks to its incredible mood and atmosphere that you would expect from a Ghibli film, as well the well written main characters, it helps forgive a lot, and the end result is a cute movie that, while not reaching Ghibli’s top-tier material, is just fine and definitely worth watching.

Rating: 3.5/5

“Searching” (2018)

It’s like a slightly better version of Unfriended, albeit with some of the same problems. This is an intriguing and high-concept thriller with a unique presentation, and in some instances, a lot of attention to detail and effort was clearly put into the presentation. Most of the issues come with the film’s script, which occasionally relies on logical gaps that can be difficult to swallow. But the rest of the film from its composition, to a great lead performance by John Cho, as well as being a genuinely solid mystery, is simply too good to ignore.

Rating: 4/5

“You Were Never Really Here” (2017)

Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of a lifetime in this dark, brutal, bone-chilling vigilante drama. Director/Writer Lynne Ramsay manages to construct a film that feels both like an arthouse film, and a more familiar and conventional film simultaneously. She keeps the film’s focus as it should on the main lead, diving very deep into his character, often with little or no dialogue, and does a masterful job of telling the story visually, using the medium of film to her fullest advantage. There’s not a second wasted in this taut, brisk thriller, and it easily ranks as one of the very best films of the year and one that was severely overlooked in 2018.

Rating: 5/5