Velvet Buzzsaw

Before Velvet Buzzsaw, Dan Gilroy has directed only two movies, and he is the writer of both of those films. The first one was Nightcrawler, a genius film and clearly one of the best of the year. It is haunting, and Jake Gyllenhaal gives one of his best performances of his life.

The second one was Roman J. Israel, Esq., which people like to ignore. I mean, Denzel Washington was nominated for acting from it, but it didn’t have Gyleenhaal so no one cared. It was not was well received as his first film.

This brings us back to Velvet Buzzsaw, which Gilroy again wrote and directed on his own. And because it is more horror based and has Gyllenhaal in it, people were notably excited and declared it would be just as good as Nightcrawler! Being released on Netflix isn’t an issue, because Netflix movies can be good!

People like to hype, I guess I am saying.

Art
Nothing scarier than hearing I would have to analyze and judge pieces of art.

It is really hard to pick a main character to really talk about in this movie, but they want us to focus on Gyllenhaal with advertising, so I will. Morf Vandewalt (Gyllenhaal), probably a fake name, is an art critic in LA, one of the most famous and prestigious. He does fine work, people like him, he knows how to describe things like any elitist art man.

One of the galleries he tends to review at has a young fledgling art dealer, Josephina (Zawe Ashton), who is having a stressful time in life. To top it all off, some man dies in her apartment, she finds the body, it makes her late for work and she is demoted. After finding out that all of his items are to be destroyed per his wishes, she checks on his cat and finds hundreds to thousands of pieces of art, all originals, all haunting and powerful.

This? This could be her chance. You know, to deceive some people, act like it is her client, sell his art, get big in the community. Everyone is instantly amazed by the art, including her boss (Rene Russo), they want in on the action, want a piece of that huge jackpot of money they are about to create.

But as soon as more research goes into the now deceased artist, they find he had a troubled past, and has a good reason to have wanted all of the artwork to be destroyed.

Also starring Billy Magnussen, Daveed Diggs, Toni Collette, John Malkovich, Natalia Dyer, and Tom Sturridge.

STare
Everyone uses the same Gyllenhaal staring picture in their reviews,
I WANT A DIFFERENT ONE OKAY?

Velvet Buzzsaw, both the title, and the premise, is one that is able to draw you in slowly. It is set in a world that most of us are not a part of, dealing, making, selling art and making it a focal point of their lives. The rich, the elite. And that makes it a good film to have people die in.

Too many horror films are killing off our teenagers at record numbers. What about these rich people? The snobby elites? Why not watch them die in creative art fueled ways?

The concept is fine, but it definitely lacks the creep factor. It doesn’t seem to fully embrace the thoughts of horrors, and instead we get a strange drama/horror hybrid, where enough people definitely die, but never in ways that really seem exciting to talk about. The final death was a bit wicked, but other than that, it is mostly generic crazy death things.

It would be more memorable if it just went harder in the genre, but this movie plays it safe. We don’t have enough horrors set in museums, which are clearly some of the creepiest places to be. This adds to the list, but doesn’t top that list.

2 out of 4.

Game Night

The first trailer I saw for Game Night, I sort of knew I was hooked.

If anything, I would love to watch a movie about people who like to just play games. Board games and party games. I knew they wouldn’t get into the nitty gritty of great games, but any positive spin on board games is good in my book.

And yeah, sure, comedy and death. The other two things that go great with a nice game night amongst couples and friends.

Policeman
And puppies. All gamers love puppies.

Max (Jason Bateman) met Annie (Rachel McAdams) on a trivia night at a bar. They were both captains of different teams, kicking ass, and knowing the same questions. It was love at first sight.

Over the years their competitive nature took them many places. Mostly to their living room, hanging out with friends and loved ones, playing games of skill and chance, and eventually getting married! But if there is one game they are not succeeding at, it is the whole pregnancy thing. Max cannot perform on that level.

And the doctors think it could be performance anxiety. It turns out that Max has a more successful older brother (Kyle Chandler). I mean, he looks better, he is richer, he wins all of the games against his brother, and just his life is so fucking awesome. And when the brother shows up, he wants to beat him at hosting duties as well.

He throws his own game night, with alcohol, and a game where people will come and abduct one of the guests! They have to follow the clues to find the kidnapped victim first, and the winning pair will win a goddamn car. Yeah, his game night is way cooler. Unfortunately, the brother was into some hardcore bad stuff. And the kidnappers this night are real, just the rest of the party won’t realize it until things are too deep.

Also starring Chelsea Peretti, Danny Huston, Michael C. Hall, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemens, Sharon Horgan, and Billy Magnussen.

Gun
“I throw my hands and guns in the air, like wayooooo!”

Bateman and McAdams play a delightful couple, who really care about each other and generally want each other to succeed. They aren’t perfect and they have disagreements, especially in the family department, but they work through it, they communicate, and they have a good time in the face of adversary.

In many ways, their coupling in this film is one of the best couples I have seen lately, outside of TV. TV usually has a lot more happy couples. Movie couples tend to have divorces. And that is a lot of words on just how great of a couple they are.

The film ended up disappointing me on the levels of shenanigans that were promised by the trailer. Honestly, everyone found out the truth of the situation way too early. If they could have had the characters think it was a game and really realistic for longer periods, there could have have been some much longer and happier jokers. But the jokes were too few and far in between.

Sure the overall movie is still amusing, or even cute. There are intense scenarios, surprise cameos, and twists you might not see coming. But these twists are more done for twist reasons, and don’t really end up making a lot of sense.

Game Night if anything has a lot of heart and can be a good time for those who watch it. It just doesn’t have any sort of repeatability factor and cannot live up to its plot potential.

2 out of 4.

Ingrid Goes West

Way back a long time ago, when I saw the movie Colossal, I had just learned about Neon Films, a distribution company run by Alamo Drafthouse. Colossal was amazing and everyone should see it. I believe Colossal was their first big release.

They had trailers for two other films specifically from them as well, Buster’s Mal Heart, and Ingrid Goes West. Both trailers were really well done, and I knew I wanted to see both of this films. I thought Neon was starting off really strong.

Well, Buster’s Mal Heart was indeed weird, but not something I could get behind. And Ingrid Goes West I decided to wait until it could be rented, because my wife was also really interested in it, especially since we were watching Parks and Rec at the time. Again, another delay, but that is okay, still hit it in 2017.

BFF
Did they both just conquer some natievs? Whats with the victory signs?

Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) just loves her friends, like, a lot. I mean, mostly she stays in her room, eating junk food, but thanks to social media she can keep up with their posts and going ons. She is one like away from joining in on the fun. But fun time is over, because Charlotte (Meredith Hagner) had the gall to get married, not invite Ingrid, and also imply all of her friends were with her on that special night. That bitch. So Ingrid heads over to the wedding to crash it and give her a piece of her name, putting her in a mental institution for awhile and giving her a restraining order.

Once Ingrid gets better, she heads home to an empty home, her mom now dead and gone. With Charlotte’s Instagram now set to private, Ingrid has to find a new BFF. And that is how she found Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). A social media pseudo celebrity, the type with a ton of followers so she can make money by posting images of products. She lived a perfect life, one that Ingrid would like to become.

And since she has all this inheritance money, she upends her life, flies to California and hopes to find Taylor to become real life BFFs with her, not just internet pals. She can become popular and awesome too. She rents a small apartment owned by the neighbor, Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and sets off to be friends with Taylor at any cost. At. Any. Cost.

Also featuring Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, and Pom Klementieff.

bf
Ice Cube’s son gets real warm with Aubrey Plaza.

Films that are about mental illnesses have a lot of weight to them. For example, a few years ago I watched the movie Young Adult, when my reviews were still poorly written but frequent. I used words like crazy to describe her and eventually realized that what I was doing was not okay to do. I didn’t get that movie.

Now, old (and as an intellectual~~), I understand more the right way and wrong way to speak about certain things, and other times I still don’t fucking care (hooray swearing in reviews). I just also know that if you are going to make a film about someone with a mental illness and their illness shouldn’t be the brunt of the jokes. Jokes can happen, but if you are just making fun of illnesses, that is bad. And honestly, at this point, I really can’t tell if it goes too far in Ingrid Goes West.

Ingrid is a tragic character, who gets obsessed with what she feels is perfection, until things go to ruin. We get to see her in an institution, and who knows why she is like that, or when her mom died and if it is related. Characters getting pissed off at Ingrid over her actions? Totally justifiable in the movie. But the movie makers made a choice and chose to not make their movie in a way that seems to understand that they can’t just call a character mentally unstable and run with it. There needs to be justification, a reason, some sort of closure, and not just a gag.

And again, since it seems like it is hard to tell if they really treated it with the appropriate gloves, it probably means they didn’t. I can see elements there, just not enough.

The film on its own wasn’t really that funny though. It took awhile to really get going, maybe they were going for realism. Jackson Jr. was hilarious though, every time he was on screen I ended up laughing, which is maybe the only reason this made it to a 2.

2 out of 4.

Into The Woods

Yay yay musicals! If you are a long time reader, you know I really like musicals. Which is why I am finally having a musical theme week. Yay Musical Week!

Into The Woods decided to be a musical coming out on Christmas Day. The last time that happened was two years prior for Les Miserables which I absolutely loved. It was also my first real attempt at watching it, outside of listening to a few songs ahead of time. I loved the shit out of Les Mis.

But going into Into The Woods, I knew a lot more about it ahead of time. I saw a performance of it from college actors, which I guess is above community theater and high school actors, but still not great professional people. And you know what? I down right hated it. It took a lot of familiar stories, intertwined them, gave us their endings, and that was the halfway point. The second half was all new material, it felt super awkward, it got darker and more metaphysical, and it dragged on an on. So yes, I thought it was too long. I thought there was only four or so unique sounding songs, everything else kind of melded together and by the end, it was as if everyone got a long slow ballad, one right after the other.

I guess you can say I was not at all looking forward to this movie. But hey, the fact that it was only a little bit more than two hours definitely helped ease it in.

Cow
One of the biggest changes is that the cow was played by a real cow. Boooo.

Classic fairy tales go into the dark woods, because the woods were the scariest parts of Germany. This was Pre-Nazis, post Lutherans, I think. So it makes sense.

Like who? Well, Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) needs to bring food to her grandmothers house, in the woods. Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) was told by his mom (Tracey Ullman) to sell their milkless cow in a nearby village, on the other side of the woods. Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) wants to go to the three day ball on the other side of the woods, but she has to get past her step family (Lucy Punch, Christine Baranski, some other chick).

And there is also the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) who cannot bare children. Turns out, a neighboring witch (Meryl Streep) put a curse on them. So now they have to go into the woods to get ingredients over the next few nights to fix that with a potion!

And surprisingly, that is most of the plot you need to know. We’ve got princes (Chris Pine, Billy Magnussen), girls with long hair (Mackenzie Mauzy), and wolves (Johnny Depp)! Shit, I bet the woods even have more secrets than the Library of Alexandria.

Baker's Wife
The biggest secret is what is real name of the baker’s wife? Can she not have an identity outside of her relationship?

So for those big fans of the musical, there were changes made of course. This is a PG movie because Disney is involved, you aren’t going to see everything you saw in the musical. Like most of Rapunzel’s story line. The second Agony song. No sex is had in this movie. And the sexy times are subdued.

But the only thing I really was sad to see missing was the Agony song reprise, because like the college school production, it was my favorite part. In the movie, it is probably even better as the two princes ham it up and I was laughing hard the entire time.

I do feel like the beginning of the was extremely quick and just kind of threw you into all of the plots far too fast. (Some of these complaints would be complaints with the actual broadway version. I am not reviewing how close they are, just how I feel watching the movie). So that was awkward. I thought I saw some sound editing mistakes, which is one of the hardest parts about a musical to make sure to get right. I also have a problem with the ending, that seems to just whimper and finish instead of an awesome musical bang.

But throughout the film it is definitely entertaining. My favorite would be Blunt (who had an excellent year). I didn’t know she had such singing chops, but she played a great character. I have heard Corden sing before, and it was okay. He was better in this movie than his other recent roles. I was also surprised with the singing voice of Chris Pine, so much that I don’t trust it. And Lilla Crawford, a little girl, had a surprisingly powerful voice as well.

Overall though, Into The Woods is a decently good time. Still has its bleak and sad moments and it may be one of the best musicals of the year, but this year was a bit weaker in that genre. At this point, I would say I enjoyed Muppets Most Wanted more, and probably Begin Again had better music. Despite that, the music has now been stuck in my head for several days, so I will most certainly get a soundtrack as soon as I can and listen to half of it over and over again.

3 out of 4.