Tag Archives: review

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

19 Feb

After the searing portrayal of a neurotic video journalist from Nightcrawler, I was ecstatic to see director Dan Gilroy and actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo team up again, this time in a pseudo-horror satire set in the world of exclusive art collecting.

Gyllenhaal plays Morf, a well known critic in the Los Angeles art scene. He has just ended things with his Partner Ed and begins to pursue a romantic relationship with art broker named Josephine (Zawe Ashton) whose boss Rhodora (Rene Russo) is constantly on the lookout for new, fresh exhibits to showcase at her prestigious gallery. Josephine, upon returning home one afternoon, discovers her mysterious neighbor has died and left behind all his paintings (though he ordered the property manger to destroy all his work upon his death). Claiming she found all the paintings herself, Josephine and Rhodora begin exhibiting the paintings and circulating the deceased artist’s work throughout the community – with spooky results.

Boasting an ensemble cast (Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, John Malkovich, Toni Collete, and Billy Magnussen all play minors roles throughout the movie) Gilroy creates a vibrant and colorful vision of art-fueled Los Angeles. In Gilroy’s world, all the major players overflow with such vapid narcissism so that they become caricatures themselves rather than actual characters; every person on screen turns up the gaudiness dial up to 11 but perhaps none more so than Gyllenhaal’s Morf, who acts more as unintentional comedic relief than an audience conduit for Gilroy’s whimsically slimy universe. Watching the conversations and interactions weave in and out of this web is devilishly entertaining – Gilroy’s penchant for writing glib dialogue shines brightly here and is one of the reasons Velvet Buzzsaw remains so damn entertaining even when it ventures off into trope-ridden genre territory.

The editing also deserves special praise. Things start off mid-conversation inside an art gallery where most of the setting is delivered to us through characters hamming off into their phones. A quick pace keeps things tidy though and the layers of the story get slipped in gradually rather than in specific plotting points. This makes the film strangely gripping and near impossible to turn away from, although many individual scenes are relentlessly awkward and cringe-inducing. Above all else, Velvet Buzzsaw manages to be a very playful film – unpredictable and engaging – even when it meanders off with a wild goose chase in the second half.

Bottom Line: Self-indulgent to the point of parody, Velvet Buzzsaw certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those inclined to leave most (or at least some) reservations at the door, the film is a wildly entertaining romp. 

Rating: 7/10 

Film Recipe: Nocturnal Animals + Neon Demon 

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Kung Fury (2015 Short Film)

7 Dec

In December 2013 a little home-made trailer hit the internet. It was part of a Kickstarter campaign for Kung Fury, a 80’s themed passion project of director David Sandberg that promised action, ultra-violence, dinosaurs, time travel, nazis, renegade cops, and of course, lots of synthesizer music. The internet went crazy and donated three times the amount Sandberg was asking his fans for.

I’m not sure if the world was ready for it, but Kung Fury was released into the world wide web earlier this year and short films haven’t been the same since.

Story-wise, Sandberg delivered his promise of a renegade cop (also played by Sandberg) who goes back in time to stop Adolf Hitler, aka “Kung Fuhrer” (Jorma Taccone) from mastering the art of kung fu and taking over the world. Along the way our protagonist gets help from some friends named Triceracop (Erik Hornqvist), Barbarianna (Eleni Young), Hackerman (Leopold Nilsson), and David Hasselhoff.  It’s a borderline insane story premise, but Sandberg’s passion for the ridiculously campy and fun 80’s aesthetic ensures Kung Fury excels in it’s execution.

Kung Fury is all about the excitable, sheer joy one gets while immersed into the action-packed films of the 80’s. By milking each campy moment to the max, Sandberg creates a fast-paced hilarity-fuelled spectacle that’s packed to the brim with nostalgic, unpredictable surprises. Sadly, the story gets thrown out during a hectic and rushed third act, leaving fans with just enough of a tease to demand the possibility of a full-length feature.  In short, all things are possible with Kung Fury. 

Bottom Line: This crowd-funded short delivers campy, self-aware fun, and a kick-ass attitude, well-deserving of its dedicated cult following. 

Rating: 9/10 

Film Recipe: Drive + Turbo Kid  

Crimson Peak (2015)

27 Oct

Crimson Peak, the new film by Guillermo del Toro, (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) feels like it has been lifted straight out of a gothic horror novel. Taking a page from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or Nosferatu, every frame of Crimson Peak overflows with a romantic longing for early 19th century horror.

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain, the film tells the story of writer Edith (Wasikowska) as she moves away from her native home in Buffalo after her father mysteriously passes. Edith grew up believing in ghosts, and has the unique gift to communicate with them on occasion. This gift turns into a curse when these apparitions visit more often in a home inhabited by her new husband Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Chastain). Soon, Edith learns a frightening revelation about her new husband and sister in law, one that might prove deadly.

Del Toro has always been one to impress when it comes to production design. A true escapist director, his films always find a way to immerse viewers into their immaculate and delicately crafted worlds. Crimson Peak is no exception; everything from the costumes to the soundtrack to the carefully-pronounciated english dialogue indulges into a romanticized gothic fantasy (nightmare?) that shows del Toro’s directorial skill and passion about the subject matter. Unfortunately, the pacing is just too sluggish and the plot developments tediously follow a familiar path.

As a film that is both thematically and literally engulfed in darkness, Crimson Peak is surprisingly spook-less, barely registering enough jump scares to call itself a “horror” film. Instead, del Toro opts to build tension out of the mystery rather than terror. But the mystery absolves itself a bit too slowly (and predictably) leaving little behind but the beautiful visuals and an overuse of graphic violence to hold the audience’s attention.

Bottom Line: With a spooky atmosphere and a gorgeous production design, Crimson Peak is a visually stunning mystery that unfortunately arrives a little shy on both scares and suspense. 

Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain. Not looking suspicious at all.

Rating: 6/10 

Film Recipe: Stoker + Only Lovers Left Alive – vampires + ghosts