I was not looking forward to 2020’s “The Grudge”. In the interest of transparency, I will admit that I have seen Takashi Shimizu’s original 2002 film, and I utterly hated it. It was a sluggish, overlong piece of work that, I feel, was incapable of overcoming its low-budget roots. There was very little that co-writer (Jeff Buhgler) and director Nicolas Pesce brought to my excitement. The only hope to be had had come from the fact that I recall loving Pesce’s previous film, the ultra-dark, black and white exercise in bleak cinematic macabre, “The Eyes of my Mother”. And for the first 20 or so minutes of this, I was worried. In the year 2004 (the year that the American remake of “The Grudge” was released, also directed by Shimizu--I wish he could say be pulled a Micahel Haneke; but nothing in both the remake or the original deserve that compliment), Fiona, a live-in nurse is seen visibly disturbed by events she had witnessed in a house she has just left.
With “The Gentleman” (2020), Guy Ritchie attempts to prove that he’s still the king of British gangster films, but he falls a bit short. It's certainly an entertaining romp as a myriad of charming and talented actors get into all sorts of scrapes while trying to pass a booming marijuana business into different hands. Despite the film’s strong points, it lacks cohesion and the treatment of its only central female character is abysmal.
"Mucho Mucho Amor" is a documentary following the life of the iconic Puerto Rican astrologer, Walter Mercado. When I first heard that this documentary would be screened at Sundance, it immediately became my most anticipated film because I grew up watching him. I can recall seeing him on television Monday through Friday on Primer Impacto at approximately 5:45 pm to give the horoscope of the day. As this documentary accurately depicts, everybody at the house had to be quiet while he was on. We will all sit quietly and pay close attention to see what our horoscope will say, but then that was it, and we will continue with our day. I never knew anything outside of the celebrity, and this documentary navigates through Walter’s life, all leading to a special 50-year commemoration.
He’s done it, he’s finally done it! Writer/director Tyler Perry has brought into existence, this demonic spawn of a film, this thing--this living, breathing creature from the depths of darkness where no light penetrates. Given what I’ve seen from Perry, I was expecting awful, but this far exceeds anything my mind could’ve conjured up. This spectacularly misogynistic monstrosity is one of the most inept films I’ve ever seen. Cheaply made, phoney, stilted, insultingly asinine...and all I can say is: Watch. It. Now.
Numa Perrier’s feature debut “Jezebel” (2019) is a deeply personal film that makes viewers feel like they’re a part of the action. Perrier, the writer director, and co-star of the film, based the film on her experiences as a cam girl. The film is an important step in humanizing sex workers, a group of people who are often looked down on and disrespected. At its heart, “Jezebel” is about sisterhood and grief through the lens of two sex workers struggling financially and emotionally.
Poker often appears in film as an analogy to some other plot point to heighten the tension of the action. In “Quezon’s Game” (2019) poker is not just a typical cinematic cliché. Through a series of seemingly innocuous nights of cigar smoke and friendly card dealing, the lives of hundreds of desperate people were saved. This is an uplifting and heartrending true story of hope and crushing loss, framed in Manuel Quezon (Raymond Bagatsing) viewing newsreel footage with his wife, Aurora (Rachel Alejandro).
This provocative yet cheeky documentary by director Penny Lane follows the Satanic Temple through an incredible rise in popularity and details their aim of challenging the dominance of conservative Christianity. I can understand why some would be put off by the title and subject matter of this film but it might help to know that the question mark is important. So please stay with me on this.
“When you’re underwater for months at a time, you lose all sense of day and night.” Kristen Stewart laments in voice-over as the film opens up; a hint at the potentially Lovecraftian elements to follow. Lovecraftian horror, (a subgenre of fictional horror which *checks notes* places an emphasis of cosmic horror of the unknown or unknowable--with big, giant creatures!), certainly puts the vampires and werewolves Stewart faced in “Twilight” to shame. Admittedly, the thought of Stewart going face-to-face with an enormous aquatic monster--while ruminating on loneliness, the unknowable, the concept of nature getting revenge on man--is ripe for potential. However, all this potential is completely wasted.
“The Hottest August” is a complicated and insightful examination of a few communities in New York City. While it doesn’t follow the temperament of “Humans of New York”, it still asks its subjects about things like climate change and race inequality. The film gives off an impending feeling of hopelessness or dread when it comes to the future. There are people who are gravely mistaken by what is happening with our world’s climate and also some Americans that aren’t in the know when it comes to privilege and how they benefit from it. These answers make the viewer uncomfortable and possibly even guilty based on their alignments.