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Ready or Not (2019)
READY OR NOT: THE INLAWS!
This film is another collaboration between Gillett and Olpin from their days being part of the VHS franchise. This work begins with the usual tropes of a cat and mouse films (in vein of the newer ones like You're Next).
Although there some interesting plot twists to satisfy some...it comes later. Otherwise, Samara Weaving did a good performance as the bride in a vicious game, grounded as a family tradition.
Amongst the cast, a shocker enlisting the acting talents of Andie McDowell!
The Nightingale (2018)
THE NIGHTINGALE: A CLASSIC.. OF AUSTRALIAN BEGINNINGS?
This showstopper (brilliantly directed and written by Jennifer Kent) tells the early colonial beginnings of Australian race, gender and class divisions. It circles around an Irish family. Their "happy" beginnings, living in a life of labor exploitation by English soldiers. Their family ends up with strategic encounter with the soldiers, leaving Claire to seek revenge .
Then Billy, an aboriginal is enlisted to become her scout in finding those who can inflicted tragedy into her family. Other commonalities ensued upon both of them to go into the wilderness. This film embraces the reality of Australian colonial past, not to enforce "mythic" acceptance of glorified English New World colonies.
This film is not afraid to show the harsh brutality big what happened aboriginal populations and what on grounds early Australian settlers did to find a new country.
LUCK: MODEL CITIZEN OR A PATHOLOGICAL LIAR?
This film based on a play by Asian American writer, J.C. Lee explores the notion of what is true? Luce, the main character played cleverly by Kev lin Harrison, it'sworthy of recognition and praise and supported by the established talents of Octavia Spencer and Naomi Watts. Washington's superb but uncanny cinematic presence, can get underneath one's skin.
Luce, an immigrant high schooler who's an accomplished academic student that serves as a role model not just to an immigrant but to African-American males as implied by the film's narrative. This film has brought forth controversy and stereotypes about the myth of being a perfect immigrant searching the American Dream.
This film is directed by Nigeria-born filmmaker, Julius Onah (known for Sci-fi genre). The film really tries to think outside of the box, which probably "why" many reviews don't know how to react. It about racism? Between polarization of White and Black America? Or is it the stress of being a teenager in Middle America? Or could this be "really" about what mainstream media wants the masses to think in the idea of model citizenship?
Mike Wallace Is Here (2019)
MIKE WALLACE'S BIOPIC: "THERE'S NOTHING TO REFLECT UPON!?"
Avi Belkin 's documentary, "Mike Wallace Is Here" (2019) gives background making history of the investigative journalist, Mike Walkace. It follows in no real order, countless archival footage of interviews with celebrities, artists, poltical figures and even a thirty-something Donald Trump!
As a documentary, there is any real breakthrough, but having behind the scene, shows off a candid Wallace is a treat. It tries to present a timeline from his early days from radio to pioneering TV shows like"Night Beat" and "The Mike Wallace Show" to CBS's "Sixty Minutes" fame.
Wallace aa the subject himself has donemany interviews giving moments of inversion. For example, he responded in one of his interviews: "there's nothing to reflect upon" as asked when is it time to retire from TV. Also when asked in another interview, about what is feels about US and media of today. He stated "its getting worse" due to today's heavy saturation of media news figures, produces a sense of mistrust: who's telling the "truth"?
This 1h and 30min features aside from Mike Wallace, interviewees from Johnny Carson, Mickey Cohen, Bette Davis to Oprah Winfrey! One's of its higlights is when this documentary focuses on the infamous law suit threat from a major tobacco corporation, ironic considering that Wallace, in his early days promoted cigarette products!
TRACY EDWARDS: NAVIGATING THE GLOBE!
Alex Holmes does a great job at showing an evolution of Edward's self transformation. Her endurance in keep the Maiden,all-woman team together going for an adventure, whilst the then media securitized them.
This documentary shows the bias attitudes of the sailing community. The film tries to idea of achieving the impossible. Edwards candid recollections of the 1989-1990 sailing by Maiden's sailing team is quite woven well together with members interviewed.
Edwards was awarded an MBE, highest recognition in Britain for her involvement with being both the Skipper and Navigator on the Whitbread competition.
Werewolf Ninja Philosopher (2018)
A WEREWOLF NINJA: "ABSURD" COMEDY RELIEF
Ekanayake is known for making drama comedy using New York City as it's background. Sri Lanka-born and Brooklyn-based director/writer, Ekanayake recently at a Q/A session with film's actor Art Shrian Tiwari said that he considers this film as an "absurd comedy". Roots of this type of humor has been said by historians as "surreal humor" with famed authors like Lewis Carroll.
This film has an off-beat charm as the protagonist, "Werewolf Ninja" played by Tiwari who spews philosophy (discusses art house films) as he is trying to solve the recent murders of NY's art house filmmakers.
Although it was shot entirely in black and white, it has minimal sets, but uses NY's street culture as a nice backdrop to visually narrate this Noir-inspired film. It also displays NY's different ethnicities as the Werewolf Ninja wanders outside of a Latino neighborhood "botanica". Other cast members include Kirsten Eileen Dwyer and Alia Lorae.
HER BLUEST EYES: SPECIFYING BLACK GREATNESS!
This stunning documentary, "Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am" (2019) directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Its two hours full of tribute to Morrison by iconic literary figures from Sonia Sanchez to media celebrities like Oprah Winfrey.
It celebrates greatness as a written language about the human experience, illustrated by a selection of Black creativity from artists such as Kara Walker to Kerry James Marshall. It reminds the viewer of America's ties to human slavery through the backdrop stories (historic references to Black slavery) of what inspired Morrison to write great novels from "Bluest Eyes" to "Beloved".
Greenfield-Sanders explores her hometown of Lorain, Ohio; Morrison's childhood experience of an ethnic diverse perception of America. Not using sensational nor romantic devices, Morrison 's story is told as her literary works, as an everyday experience. It topped with a dash of sobriety leaving the viewer to hear and see more.
This production also give a honest telling of Morrison's personal life towards her professional as well as artistic accomplishments. Full of archival interviews with the author from different decades of her life. It creates a myriad, but almost a kaleidoscope effect in viewing her various stages as a single mother, professional editor, literary agent to a visionary!
A DRAMAEDY WITH PHILOSOPHY, CRIMINOLOGY + ACTIVISM?
Denys Arcand's "The Fall of the American Empire (La chute de l'empire américain)" with good intentions tries to explore the blue-collar class within a larger context of political corruption and economy distribution. As a love story it has charm, witty but good romantic dialogue between the main actors: Alexandre Landry as Pierre-Paul Daoust and Maripier Morin (Canada's Reality TV sta) as Aspasie/Camille Lafontaine.
Their good acting and chemistry carried out this 2 hour film, alongside supporting cast portraying corrupted police, thugs and politicians. But what was feels quite uneasy the film's references to oppression, via Montreal's homelessness and "first nations" Inuit people. Although, it making connections to the philosophy spewed by Landry's character (representing the blue-collar heroe, almost the film's consciousness), it falls weak.
At times within the films it shows Intuit people homeless in the streets with close-up facial shots, it displays them as a nameless and voiceless group. One can admire its artistic device, but it feel very patronizing. Then another element is all the maim characters are played by white Canadians, only a few people of color in the supporting cast playing typecast characters.
As a love story it works brilliantly but as a film exploring social themes and it gets muddied
The Biggest Little Farm (2018)
BIGGEST LITTLE TRIBUTE TO ALAN YORK: BEWARE OF THE COYOTE
"The Biggest Little Farm (2018), a documentary by natural animal filmmaker, John Chester and his wife Molly is focused on developing a sustainable farm (outside of LA). It explores their struggles on maintaining a large amount of acres discovering a return to farm lifestyle of "biodynamics" and features Alan York, to help restore dead earth into a robust geographic territory of eco diversity.
It features York visiting and consulting the Chester family with all areas, York has been known famously for helping California's wine industries. During the film, his life is documented which is the strength of the film. Discussing York's views of biodynamic living. A methodology, and theories based years back with other related associations to Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf School, etc..
And yes, the second strength is the eco diversity of varieties of species coexisting with each other. There's drama as the Chesters has to deal with "predatory" entities such coyotes, insects, etc.
All Creatures Here Below (2018)
All Wounded Creatures: Childhood Trauma and Poverty
David Dastmalchian, crafted an enigmatic story about two adults dealing with brutal childhood traumas while living in poverty. At first, viewers who can the film's low production value maybe like ok where's the story? but the joint performance by David Dastmalchian and Karen Gillan, gives the film incredible value.
The film evokes off a strong human feeling to story's end plot twists. Dastmalchian 's acting carries the story through, as Gillan's performance as a disillusioned person. The film also functions as a road trip film; it follows their tragic story.
The Perfection (2018)
Imperfection: High Notes, Low Notes!
This feature tries to be a genre film, blending it with high culture (classical music). In the end it becomes an average revenge/horror film or a long tv episode inspired from an EC comic or "Tales from Crypt". Positive note that it has good, yet gruesome special effects by Megan Nicholson (Dead Rising). The director, Robert Shepard is best for known for television ("Girls", "Ugly Betty", etc.), winning Emmy but with this film falls short for this type of genre.
Greener Grass (2019)
Green Grass on the Otherside: An Influence from Twin Peaks
Actors, writers and directors Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe collaborated with this black comedy set in suburbia where adults has peculiar habits and wear braces over their straight teeth.
During a recent Q/A session, DeBoer and Luebbe explained that the story came from their short film, "Greener Grass" and worked on a low budget. They said that films of David Lynch, John Waters and 1960s and 1970s landscape photography was an influence.
Visually the film is reminiscent of 1980s fashion aesthetics and seems like an infomercials from the 1990s. Both actors initially met in New York with the comedy team, the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
Deep Space Nine: The Only One... Often Imitated, But Never Duplicated!
After 20-25 years, this TV series, DS9 is getting another rebirth with fans around theworld. This documentary really tries to honor its past actors and storylines making connections to the last evolution of TV genre series. Ira Steven Behr is the host and DS9's head writer interviews the cast and crew surmised the inspiration for the show. Many fans will enjoy this documentary, since crowd funding initiatives were made by DS9 fans!
Hagazussa: Delirious and Superstitious in Nature
This debut and thesis film,"Hagazussa" by Lukas Feigelfeld is an exploration of 15th century European "witch" mythology, rural folklore and superstitions. It's a slow burn but it's visuals and sound mixing are astounding, which is why it has received many nominations and awards since 2017.
His style is yet to evolve, since the film's weak point is telling a story unlike Robert Egger's "The Witch" (2015) does well, inspired by U.S. colonial history. Except for the usages of three title cards to break the narrative, the story gets muddled. After the film viewing, I had seen many confused faces, not understanding what has happened as they left the room.
It's strengths of this emerging director to make the natural looks unnatural. The depictions of a bold performance by Aleksandra Cwen as "Alburn" amongst the Austrian landscape is truly visionary. But again for the general viewers it may not be enough to get into the story.
The film as a story explored moral conflicts amongst the villagers, referring to their persecution of Jews and others outside of the Christian spectrum.
Hail Satan? (2019)
HAIL SATAN? JUDGING FREEDOM OF BELIEF?
This interesting documentary by Peggy Lane follows the Satanic Temple, concentrating on their evolution from a small group of practitioners into a network of chapters across the nation. The beginning of the film show past U.S. Satanic groups going back to the 60s founding of Satanic followers, by San Francisco's Anton Szandor LaVey. The film uses archival TV footage showing this bay area followers and interviews with LaVey (Church of Satan).
The director uses a humorous tone in the beginning, introducing the founders like Luciens Greaves, founded a new school of its believers, the Satanic Temple. I feel it was not needed, because of the rest of film really questions the notion of sustaining a freedom of beliefs and speech.
It shows the formation of these chapters working together but critical when, even those amongst the chapters chose to go an extreme way of expressing Satanism. It highlights how these chapters joined forces in challenging the legal system in trying to place their public monument next to a monument of the ten commandments.
Code Geass: An Anime Masterpiece!
It best if you view prior films before viewing this. This film sums up the best anime effects seen in long time and it's backed-up with a solid music soundtrack.
El Chicano (2018)
EL CHICANO: A VIGILANTE IN THE CITY OF EAST LOS!
"El Chicano" has a limited release across the country and directed (and co-written) by Ben Hernandez Bray, distributed by Briarcliff Entertainment and produced by WarParty Films. Hernandez Bray is from the San Fernando Valley and of Irish and Mexican descent. He has been directing TV episodes of DC's Arrow and Super Girl series. Before his directing, he started as a stunt coordinator and his newest film explores a Latino "superhero" or "anti-hero", a vigilante in L.A. against gang and cartel subcultures complete with weapons and face mask adorned with pre-Columbian insignia .
It stars Raul Castillo, Aimee Garcia, Jose Pablo Cantillo, David Castaneda, Marco Rodriguez, Sal Lopez, Marlene Forte, Kate Del Castillo and George Lopez in a non-comic role. There is an interesting angle in the story as an urban war brews between Mexican nationals (cartel syndicates) and Mexican American communities ("El Chicano" is on this side). This film is dark, showing "barrio" culture steeped in violence.
Reviews have been both negative and positive; some feel the story takes too long to develop but it follows an "origin" story. While other reviews feel that when the action begins, it's strong with blood and violence. Considering that Hernandez Bray was a stunt actor and coordinator, this film delivers with fight action scenes and it's part of the AMC independent series.
Wild Nights with Emily (2018)
EMILY DICKINSON: A SATIRE BEYOND THE MYTH
This film by Madeline Olken is abit of satire on real life events. Poet, Dickinson was said to have bisexuality as a theme in her poetry. The film delves into her lifestyle within a conservative environment, whilst trying to have a love relationship with her sister-in-law, Susan Dickinson.
This film does well with satire in depicting Dickinson's life. The pace of the film works with the witty humor personified by Molly Shannon's portrayal of the poet. Behind the burgeoning setting, it explores Dickinson as poet trying to assert her writing to a male dominated literary scene.
The film brings light to Dickinson's poetry, which seemed always tragic, misunderstood but questions one's existence. It follows a young relationship between two young women until the death of Dickinson, with devoted caring from Susan.
Although this film has a humorous tone, it takes seriously in how women writers weren't taken seriously or equal to era-related white male authors. The film trys to break down via satire, the mythology that lies behind Dickinson's lifework.
High Life (2018)
PRISON IN OUTER SPACE: GOOD CONCEPTS/FAILED IN TRANSLATION
Denis was under a lot of pressure, dealing with her own family matters during the film's production, but many highly criticized this film. In some regards, this film deals with isolation and death within in its jarring storytelling.
Casting could have been off and why it brought criticism. I feel though many viewers may get turn off due of the nudity and suggested sexual violence. I mean it's not 2001: A Space Odessy but it doesn't need to be. Denis was working with interesting topics from reproductive technologies to life imprisonment.
What was some reveals such the what the main reasons for placing these space coaches, and what's up with the abandoned dogs? Visually there was some erotica and obviously body fluids was a theme being explored conceptually.
Imagery of a black hole was done in a provocative manner. Denis in a recent interview stated that this film explores "sexuality" and not sex.
Amazing Grace (2018)
This is a rare experience for those not understanding the power of Gospel music and WHAT Aretha does with it is pure magic. She understands all the vocal traditions in singing it and her perception of spirituality and artistry are both woven together.
In this documentary by Sydney Pollack, one can see noted people like Mick Jagger seated in the church audience. The interaction of professional studio technicians with actual church goers have an unnerving feel, in the end via Aretha's vocals made them come together. There's a short appearance of Aretha's father, Rev. Franklin who gives a small insight to her childhood.
It's just a wonderful time capsule that has been unearthed for a digital generation to appreciate this musical form. Aretha sings from another plane and sits naturally in this church/recording session like her father says in the film that Aretha Franklin NEVER left the church.
The Beach Bum (2019)
BEACH-BUMMED: TRANSGRESSION RESIDUE FROM THE 90S
"The Beach Bum" written and directed by the original, Harmony Korine explores the usual tropes of late 90s independent cinema. This time replacing the essence of amateur acting (and James Franco) with top-billed talents of Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg and Isla Fisher.
Many reviews have criticized that this film is not an innovative film from Korine, but it does reenact what 90s White acts of transgression looked like. Fisher provided a good performance as Moondog's wealthy wife, Minnie if only for a brief time and the Dogg was great as Lingerine, a good friend (?) to them.
Surprisingly, what is fresh comes from the short performance by Martin Lawrence, playing the outrageous character, Capt. Whack! Lawrence plays a good friend of Moondog (MConaughey) and I feel its the best scene of the whole film, its slapstick comedy with much satire and even gore!
The film drags in a way, for only 90s drug generation and Gen Xers would understand: the "slacker". It sprinkled with bits of comedy but in the end if you want to see what happened to the aging 90s generation, according to this film... NOTHING.
Sen Sen (2017)
SEN SEN: WEBCASTING, MOURNING & AGEISM
Sen Sen directed and co-written by upcoming Chinese filmmaker, Bon An stars veteran actor, (Nina) Hee Ching Paw and young actor, Zhi-Xuan Wu played Sen. Hee Ching Paw plays the main protagonist, Granny, who is free-minded taxi driver, who loves webcasting her opinions of being an older person and talks about her daughter, played by Yi-Wen Yen.
Granny befriends Sen, who lost his sibling who lives with his mom dealing with mourning They whose pass the time uploading webcasts and having out. Things change in Granny's life, as she needs to deal with her terminal illness. Her daughter from Taipei gets involved with her mother getting treatments.
At a recent film festival Q/A session, Bon An (co-wrote the screenplay) and Ching Paw explained that the story has the theme of family was important to both of them. An explained the his interactions with his own family serving as inspiration for filmwork and saying that Chinese mothers offer "a motherload" of stories for future ideas.
An's explanation the experience of accepting death as telling Granny's story, as an experience for the viewer tp just be a negative theme. He hops that viewers could helped with the story in accepting what families do to care for family members who are terminally sick.
US, THEM, THE MULTITUDE... WHO CARES?
The only thing that keeps my score from going any lower is the great performance by Lupita Nyongo. She plays a mother (and the doppelganger) on a weekend trip with her husband (Winston Duke), father of her kids (played by Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex). Things go seriously wrong when she reunites with a past childhood trauma experience along Santa Cruz's beachlines.
Nyongo shows a great range of what acting should project; I hope she pursues more "genre" or horror scripts. But what a waste of her talent, imagine her working with David Cronenberg, Alfred Hitchcock or even Stanley Kubrick, or at this point even Tim Story could do better. Again, my only recommendation is to see this film with an actor (Nyongo) who serious about the craft because this film would of been a complete disaster without her.
I felt there it could been a truly innovative film here if Jordan Peele had only took control of the story writing and let another director visualize the horror, suspense, etc. (maybe the directorial talents of Boots Riley -- who did "Sorry to Bother You"). There are lot of pointless "artsy" visual references (minimal interior sets with rabbits) inlaid with predictable socio-political "MAGA" themes (and 80s "Reaganomics" as well -- and I love political satire) thus it's just trying way too hard.
The film's interesting soundtrack, combination of 90s hip hop/drum & bass plus R&B tunes with classically-inspired tracks help to give the story's "twilight zone" vibe but that's about it. It's been said that Peele gave Nyongo a viewing list of genre cinema like Asian horror films, she learnt very well and obviously he didn't.
CLIMAX OR DANSE MACABRE: "RAVING" UP THE VIOLENCE!
This Gaspar Noe film is purely an artistic attempt, nonetheless not original, maybe completely unintentional its reminiscence of an old story from the classic 70s exploitative film, "I Drink Your Blood". Another film that explores a group of free-spirited (and drug-induced) people but are fed rabid-infested food. They end up going mad and doing violent acts toward each other.
The film is supposed to be set in the mid 90s but the French slang, dance moves and DJ music tracks is completely off. Maybe it was a 90s "Rave" party in a multiverse location? Its definitely the "Party Monster" film reinvented but if you love dancing, this film delivers.
It rivals the recent "Suspiria" remake's attempt to re-imagined its original filmmaker Dario Argento's planned 1978 dance scene that was never filmed. That being said it borrows Argento's upside-down camera shots from his 1996 film, "Stendahl Syndrome". Another Argento reference is that the one of the DJ tracks sounded like a song from Argento's 80s "Phenomena" film.
It takes awhile for the "climax" to fully happen as a notable attempt to deconstruct "dancing" and experimental drug culture (acid, bathsalts, LSD, etc.) but falls weak. It definitely delivers on the emotion of tension, Argento should be proud!
Lords of Chaos (2018)
LORD OF CHAOS OR LORD OF MOCKUMENTARIES!
This genre film inspired by the book, "Lord of Chaos" as a retelling or reworking on "true" events of the Norwegian "Black Metal" band, "Mayhem". Whenever a film of cult figures is dramatized, it always brings up a critical debate amongst die-hard fanatics with others (to borrow a word from Rory Cuklin's portrayal of Mayhem's leader, Euronymous, "posers").
This film adaptation works for some viewers as an intense gory or "ultraviolent" arthouse film (think of Tarantino's early works). In which this one has playing at arthouse-styled cinemas, and of course at some horror-thematic film festivals. It's fairly reminiscent of those Italian "Mondo" and "shockumentary" movies (but really feels like a "mockumentary" on Death Metal) with off-kilter editing to make particular scenes unnerving.
Its dialogue and scenes are delivered with awkwardness and "tongue-in-cheek" references to 70s-80s "dubbing" voice technology, 80s/90s horror cliques and subcultures: Deathmetal heads (with "corpse paint"), 70s/80s Euro-exploitation cinema, etc.. The director does intensify the onscreen violence that has sent some viewers out of the cinema.
But that's about it... it didn't really need to directly reference Mayhem (even though it missed a chance to showcase the actual music); it could have pull it off by making characters and situations fictional. But the film does have a certain headbanger "charm" (like 2018 hit, "Mandy") that will probably take its seat amongst a piling grave of cult flicks (with a sales pitch... "Coming soon on blu-ray with collector's edition features") for cult fans to buy.