Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: VELVET BUZZSAW (Netflix)

VELVET BUZZSAW just came out on Netflix this past weekend and I watched it in two sittings, so since its technically a movie that came out in 2019, I’m here to review it. And I’m not saying it is technically a movie just because its on Netflix, I’m saying its technically a movie because it has actors, characters, a plot, a beginning, middle, and end, and it is feature length. However, this movie lacks that one thing that I constantly bitch about if you are a constant reader of my reviews: focus. It lacks focus. And the infuriating part of it is that it has two central focal points, however they don’t really mesh together here very well. One of the focal points (we’ll get to what they are in a second) is pretty damn fantastic the first half of the film, then the second focal point doesn’t really deliver at all, and when meshing with the first one, makes a back half that drags and delivers a ho-hum of an ending. I’m actually a bit disappointed, seeing that this was from Dan Gilroy, writer and director of the fantastic film Nightcrawler.

And then he made Roman J. Israel Esq. which I think I enjoyed more than most people (story/plot wise), especially Denzel Washington’s Academy Award nominated performance, even though it never even closely reached the heights of Nightcrawler. Velvet Buzzsaw never reaches the heights of either movie, save for Jake Gyllenhaall’s performance. The film is about a supernatural presence in artworks that kills artists, gallery owners, art critics, etc. after a woman (played by Zawe Ashton) ‘steals’ a bunch of exquisite paintings by an unknown artist. When I say ‘steals’, she actually happens to find his dead body on the stairwell in her apartment complex, find out he has no next of kin, and just goes searching in his apartment after the super says they are going to throw everything out.

Suffice to say that the movie tries to blend art world parody and horror, and while it gets the former correct, the latter is done so lazily and uninteresting that I found myself pausing the movie after every couple of minutes just to see how much I actually had left to watch. The horror isn’t even scary, and if not scary, it needs to be funny in a farce kind of way, and it doesn’t do either. And when the film focuses on the horror, it completely ignores that art world parody that came before it, leading to the scenes in the back half of the film being an unfocused, lazy, boring, terrible mess. Also another problem with the film is that there are absolutely no likable characters, I guess save for one, played by Stranger Thing’s Natalia Dyer, but then her character is just regulated to her spouting off a couple of sentences about needing a job and finding all the dead body’s this supernatural presence is stacking up.

Jake Gyllenhaul is excellent here, and seems to always bring his A game when investing in a role, however his character doesn’t really have an arc until the very end of the film, and it seems rushed and wasted. Plus, I didn’t like his character. Rene Russo seems like she’s bored, Toni Collette as well. Daveed Diggs looks like he is there doing someone a favor, and Zawe Ashton, who should have the most rounded arc of anyone in the cast, is terribly unlikable and the ending to her story was infinite degrees of dumb. John Malkovich is also terribly wasted here too. It seems like the characters motivations and action were traded in for story, which upends the film. When looking back at it, it seems Dan Gilroy had a great half a film, in which it completely parodies the art world and the people involved in it. The other half wasn’t realized and spruced up enough screenplay wise, making a film that goes together like oil and water.

None of the horror or death scenes are inventive or scary. Dan Gilroy doesn’t even do the modern audience a favor and bring in cheap jump scares to just liven the film up a bit. The characters just die in really lazy ways, with either terrible CGI spray blood or even fucking off screen (you don’t do this if you have a R/TV-MA rating). When watching the trailer to this, I was quite intrigued to see the new ride that Gilroy was going to give us. But now that his films clearly having a pattern of being not as good as the last one, I am a little shaken thinking of how his fourth feature could be worse than this. Is he a one-two trick pony going the way of Shyamalan? We’ll see…

Advertisements

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CAPERNAUM and LIFEBOAT (Two Film Review) OSCAR Catch Up Part 6

CAPERNAUM (nominated for Best Foreign Language Film)

Unless Never Look Away or Shoplifters absolutely blows me away when I watch them before the Oscars on Feb 24th, I think I can safely say that CAPERNAUM is my favorite foreign language movie of the ones nominated, that’s right, better than Roma. This film might not have the gorgeous cinematography that Roma or Cold War has, but it has a much better story, much better pace, a perfect run time, better acting, better characters. A really really powerful film. In fact the only complaint I have about it is I maybe wanted the ending a little more clear cut in what happened, how certain characters got back to certain places, but I feel that some of it was supposed to be “just because” or “ambigious” and I really enjoyed the movie so much I let it slide.

The film is about a 12 year old Lebanese boy named Zain who is in jail at the start of the film for stabbing a person and is in court suing his parents. It then cuts back to Zain’s journey and what events exactly led him to prison, which includes trying to protect one of his older sisters, running away from home, and staying with a deportee named Rahil, and taking care of her small one year old child. I won’t tell you much more of the journey as that is what made the film so captivating. The film has a nice clear cut message on ones identity and the life that was force upon him.

And again, while the cinematography is a bit lacking in some areas, everything else about it technically is pretty great; the shots, the camera work. But its the story, acting, and characters that plunge the audiences’ deep involvement into the film. Zain, who in real life is played by a complete novice, also named Zain, is phenomenal. Can’t believe he was just a novice by the end of the film. The woman that plays Rahil is mesmerizing as well, and how they got certain great emotional shots with that one year old, boggles my mind. Yes, it’s subtitled, and yes its a foreign film, but if you read this review I highly, highly recommend that you check it out. If it weren’t for Roma, I would stake that this could easily win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. If somehow it does, I will be smiling ear to ear.

LIFEBOAT (nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject)

Lifeboat is a short 34 minute Documentary (available on YouTube) about refugees crowded to the brim on multiple makeshift shaky rafts that are trying to flee the harsh life of Libya and escape to Europe. A non-profit German operation called Sea-Watch brave the dangerous journey and try to intercept these boats and rescue these refugees at all costs. Once they are rescued, these people tell stories of being beaten, raped, being part of sexual trafficking and how poverty in general lead them to flee their homes and risk their lives.

The documentary tells and shows this giant rescue operation and gives some haunting details about these lifeboat trips to flee Libya. This doc let’s us know that 1 in 18 people drown and they find 200 to 300 dead bodies on the coast of Northern Africa each year. They piss and shit in these boats and remark about having to stand in it, how these conditions effect the fleeing children. The documentary is short and precise, not over staying its welcome or repeating any information already given to us. The captain of one of the rescue operations tells us that he lends a hand because he knows how easily he or any of his loved ones could’ve had one of the refugees lives and feels that he is obligated to save as many as he can.

This documentary will make you appreciate the life you have, no matter how shitty you think it may be. The images will make your draw drop, some of it is daunting and hard to watch. It’ll give you some perspective. There are thousands upon thousands of people suffering out there that literally almost can’t do anything about it. When they get this one shot at escape, even if the escape could mean death, they will take it no matter the cost. Definitely see why this was nominated for an Academy Award.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: COLD WAR and OF FATHERS AND SONS (2 Film Review) Oscar Catch Up Part 5

Yes, I know, how many parts is this Oscar catch up? I’m thinking its possible it might get to 8, 9, or 10, so just bare with me. Here is another two quick reviews on movies I needed to watch to cross a couple of more nominees off my list:

COLD WAR (Nominated for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film)

COLD WAR was wayyyyyyy too short. I know right? You thought I was going to say long there for a second, but no, at 90 minutes, this movie is too short and not fleshed out enough. That’s not to say it was bad at all. Far from it. The direction is great, the cinematography (of which it is nominated and I wouldn’t mind it winning) is stunningly gorgeous and beautiful to look at, the acting is good. It’s a very well made film. But with a tacked on WTF really? ending and not enough screen time for the destructive romance to blossom and blow up between the two leads, it’s just short of becoming great or even a masterpiece.

The movie mainly takes place in the 1950s (it goes a little before and a little after), and it is about a music director that casts poverty people that have talent and does a musical roadshow in and around Poland. He casts a younger singer, falls in love with her, and tries to persuade her to run away with him to France, but the love between them is not so simple. With the acting between Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Knot, their romance is actually a little believable and they have good chemistry. But oh man, add 30 to 45 minutes onto this film, show us some of the grittier things that happened to them in between all their get-togethers and delete and re write that ending, wouldn’t been something truly something.

But all you people that love cinematography out there, this one is a must see for that reason alone. Every fucking shot of this movie is gorgeously detailed and beautiful. The film is in black and white, and thankfully so, I don’t think it wouldn’t worked as well in color. The three nominations for this film are well deserved, director Pawel Pawlikowski did a fine job. But it if were longer, it could’ve beaten Roma for me, and I am a little disappointed that it didn’t.

OF FATHERS AND SONS (Nominated for Best Documentary Feature)

Damn, if you ever want to see how truly hatful, awful, and shitty it is in the radical parts of Syria, watch OF FATHERS AND SONS. It is a documentary feature made by Talal Derki, and he goes back to his homeland of when he was a small child, and realized it has changed into a nightmare. The filmmaker gains the trust of this Islamic family and stays with them for two years it’s about radical jihadism and has terrorist training in the documentary. How this guy escaped from there alive and not once being suspected of not being someone like them, I have no clue how he pulled off.

It really is terrible over there, a very harrowing documentary that capture my attention for the entire short 98 minute run time. The radical Islamists are just awful human beings. They beat and yell at their wives, for which they have multiple. They let their kids to mean things to the other little girls around their area, make dangerous bombs that could seriously hurt them. And one of them even goes off to terrorist training for several years. Some of it is really hard to watch. The father of the family gets his foot blown off mine tracking (it doesn’t show this), and sacrificing a ram because their religious dictates it (it doesn’t show the actual neck slicing, but it shows blood going everywhere and the father chopping off its feet).

There is little narration but at the beginning and the end from the director, which was very appropriate. All the images and shots spoke for themselves, I didn’t need to be explained what was going on (its subtitled BTW). If people ever tell me their live is absolute shit, I am going to tell them to watch this documentary, to see how much of an actual living nightmare over there. I get the shivers just thinking about this documentary. Definitely deserves its nomination.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: Three of the Five Documentary Short Subject Academy Award Nominees (Oscar Catch Up Part 4)

Alright, here are three quick reviews of the two Documentary Short Subject Academy Award Nominees that were available to watch

BLACK SHEEP

This one is available for free if you have Amazon Prime. A mother of Nigerian descent moves her children from London to Essex after a killing of a 10 year old boy also of Nigerian descent (but unrelated to the family). The story is told from a point of view of one of the boys grown up. He talks up close to the camera and it goes from his face to a re enactment of events of what happened when they moved to Essex. You will realize why it is called BLACK SHEEP by the end of the short 26 minute run time.

Basically this man describes how racist Essex was when he moved there. He got beaten up badly by white teenagers that would call him the C and N word. After he got beaten up, he saved up his money to buy more expensive clothes, got blue fake cataracts for his eyes, and tries to bleach his skin white. The white people end up accepting him, but then still terrorizes other black teenagers and such. It’s a pretty harrowing documentary of the man describing why he did the things that he did and didn’t try to go into another direction. I’ll ruin anything else in the short run time but, basically, I definitely see why it was nominated.

END GAME

END GAME is a short 40 something minute doc that is available on Netflix if you have it. Like Black Sheep, this one is hard to watch without getting a little depressed. It’s about sick people in a hospital and/or hospice where social workers and counselors work with the families of those sick to make sure that their end of life care is comfortable to the best of their abilities. It has about 5 to 6 patients that it focuses on, and goes extensively into one or two of them, specifically with an Arabic women in her 40s that is dying of cancer who will leave behind a husband and child.

*Spoiler alert* There are no happy endings in this short documentary. If you are hoping for a miracle, don’t. End Game means End Game. But the doc does show you that a place of people that deal with this can be very compassionate and helpful till the end. So combining that with these people dying of their illnesses makes sort of a bittersweet affair by the end of the documentary. I can see why this one was nominated as well, but don’t recommend it to those that get very upset easily. I’ll leave that choice up to you.

A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN

How an individual is nominated for an Oscar for the 7 minute bit (that’s available for free on YouTube, I will never understand. There is no narrator dialogue, and just ominous music, and old footage restored and edited. It’s footage of an American Nazi rally of 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden in 1939, shortly before the beginning of World War II. If 15 – 20 minutes would’ve been added on to this thing and gave us a little insight into the event or the events surrounding it, instead of just an end title card describing what was going on, they may have had something. Other than that, I really hope this doesn’t win, because there is no way it deserve an Oscar. Sure the footage is haunting, but he didn’t shoot the God damn haunting footage…

If I happen to find a place to watch the other two for free I will update this blog.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: 4 of 5 Nominated Animated Short Films (Oscar Catch Up Part 3)

Hello again! Below I very quickly review 4 out of the 5 Animated Short Films nominated for an Academy Award. ‘Weekends’ was not available for me to review, if you find it, send me a link, and if I watch it, I’ll update this with a review of it as well!!!

Animal Behaviour

This one is available on YouTube right now. It is basically animals that talk and do certain things like humans but still with their animal instincts. There is an ape, a praying mantis, a leech, a pig, and a bird all in this therapy group session led by a dog. The animation reminded me of Adventure Time for some reason, and a lot of the jokes had me laughing at loud. While definitely not the sweetest of the four I saw, it was very humorous and well written. Definitely not in the theme of the other following three…

Bao

You’ve probably seen this one if you saw Incredibles 2 in the theater and weren’t late or if you own the Incredibles 2 Blu-Ray/DVD (it’s on there). This is that Pixar short about the Chinese woman taking care of the dumpling that had turned alive. A very sweet take on children growing up, resenting their parents at times, and leaving the nest with great animation. This one almost brought me to tears as well. Most of these have the same theme this year, parents and their children aging.

Late Afternoon

This one is available on YouTube right now. It’s about an elderly woman with severe dementia and Alzheimer’s disease being taken care of by a care giver one afternoon. The animation style is that of Madeleine, if you’ve ever seen the books or have watched the short cartoons. The elderly lady goes back in the past and then back to the confusing present in her mind. This one almost brought me to tears as well. Brilliant

One Small Step

This one is available on YouTube as well and literally brought me to tears. It’s about a girl and her father and the girl’s dreams of astronomy and trying to make it her career in life. I was in tears halfway through this thing and bawling by the end. The animation is nice, sleek, and unique, brought to you by Taiko Animation. I won’t give anything else away. I would pick this one to win, but to tell you the truth, if any of these win it is well deserved.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MINDING THE GAP and CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (2 Film Review) Oscar Catch Up Part 2

Another two quick reviews of 2018 movies I needed to cross off my Oscar viewing list before the telecast.

MINDING THE GAP (Nominated For Best Documentary)

Not wanting to only see RBG as a documentary nominee, I decided to check out MINDING THE GAP, which is actually a Hulu original, and you can watch for free if you have a Hulu subscription. If RBG doesn’t win for Best Documentary, I nominate this as a very close second. The film is about three young men that bond together after having escaped their violent home life in Rockford, Illinois. We follow Zack, a young 20 something year old who is about to have a child with his girlfriend; Kiere Johnson a later teens African-American who loves to skate (they all skate, hence some of the meaning of the title), and can’t get over his abusive father’s deah, and Bing (actually the director of the doc), who interviews his mom about the abusive relationship they all had with his deceased step father. They are all trying to figure out their way in the world.

The film is quite heartbreaking, some of the paths and stories these young men take will make your jaw drop to the ground and maybe even shed a tear. They all want a better life and all of them try to go down that path, even if they veer off of it time and time again. This movie was made with footage over (and I’m estimating here) around 5 years (I can tell from the growth of Zack’s child) and eventually the young men’s paths veer apart and they don’t have as much contact with each other very much. It is up to you to wonder if the ending is hopeful or bittersweet.

It’s really a simple documentary into the lives of less privileged individuals and the effects of violent home life, and all of the messages are clear even though the doc doesn’t outright tell you what they are. I am usually bored by documentaries and completely ignore the category each year for the Oscars. Seeing this and RBG in a row (and seeing Won’t You Be My Neighbor earlier this year), it is beginning to change my mind and I think I will start seeking them out more regularly in the future. I was expecting to possibly be bored by this one, pausing and taking a break a billion times before finishing it. But I watched it in basically one sitting, and that is saying something.

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (Nominated For Best Visual Effects)

I was supposed to see CHRISTOPHER ROBIN with my wife in the theater, but then she got sick, we cancelled and never had time to make it before it hit home video. I really like Winnie The Pooh and his friends, and enjoyed the older movies and stories I had read growing up. I had really wanted to see it at first, but then Rotten Tomatoes and some audience reviews told me other wise, and I kind of kept this one at the back burner. It being nominated for Visual Effects and needing to cross it off my Oscar viewing list, I decided to check it out. It absolutely deserves to be nominated for Best Visual Effects. Pooh and his friends look completely real, as real as you can get without being a puppet or muppet. At times, I couldn’t even tell there was even CGI. And some of the CGI imagery to represent an older world was quite breathtaking as well.

The story was a bit…uh…the word I’m looking for is repetitive. It’s been done a million times before the same way. Look at Steven Spielberg’s Hook for instance, it asked us what if Peter Pan grew up? In the movie he ends up being consumed with work and ignoring his kids. Then he gets drawn back to Neverland, where he discovers his inner child again and the importance of the life he now has an adult. This movie is the exact same thing, but instead of Peter Pan, it’s Christopher Robin, and instead of Neverland, it’s the Hundred Acre Woods. But since this is a KIDS film, you have to keep that in mind. And if I’m thinking about that, then the plot is service-able enough for its target audience.

The movie is a moderately short 1hr and 40 minutes, and the time does fly relatively fast enough. I did though think that Christopher Robin’s reunion with all the other animals was a bit short and I would’ve loved to see Ewan McGregor (who is good as always) play with his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood a bit more before continuing with the actual predictable plot. And there were a couple of scenes that I thought might be a little to frightening for some younger children, like images of war, and a possible scary real ‘heffalump.’ But it doesn’t get too scary, basically has the same tone as hook with scary scenes as scary for children when Peter’s kids are initially taken by Captain Hook. All in all it was a fine film, could’ve been much better, but good for its target audience. And it definitely deserved to be nominated for Visual Effects.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE WIFE and RBG (two film review) Oscar Catch Up Part 1

So when Oscar nominations came out last Tuesday, because of some surprise foreign film nominations, I have a little catching up to do. So in my Oscar Catch Up Review series, I’m going to do two short summaries on films that I didn’t quite catch while they were in theaters, but got to before the Oscars:

THE WIFE (Glenn Close is nominated for Best Actress)

I had the chance to see THE WIFE in theaters, but I knew it was going to be available to watch about one month before the Oscars telecast went live, so I figured why waste the theater dollars and redeem a free rental? Glenn Close is sweeping up the awards that many feel (not me) should be going to Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born. Well, since I finally watched this little movie I can tell you that, in my opinion, those people that feel that the award should go to Lady Gaga, not to put it mildly, are morons. Glenn Close has been nominated for 6 Academy Awards and never has won. This is Lady Gaga’s first big acting awards recognition role. Glenn Close can acts circles around Lady Gaga and it isn’t even funny.

I guess you can chalk up my opinion to that I don’t think Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper have one lick of chemistry in A Star Is Born. Glenn Close in this plays the wife of a prestigious author that was just told he is going to be receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature that year. The movie is about the two of them, along with their son, attending the ceremony. Through all this, Close’s character begins to question the choices she made in life. If this movie sounds familiar, it is (see: Colette and 45 Years), but its the performances that make it captivating. Both Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce (plays the husband) are like ticking time bombs of emotion in this movie, and everything relies on their facial expressions to convey to the audience how they are feeling. Glenn Close is a master at this, and I think Jonathan Pryce should be getting a little more recognition for his performance as well.

The film is a short 99 minutes and it just breezes by, it’s a very good watch. My only complaint about it is that I think it would’ve been tighter without the flashbacks to Close and Pryce being played by younger people. I think that the movie could’ve told us through the good dialogue it had and inferred to what happened, rather to show everything with going back in time. I have a feeling it that was the screenwriters intention, and that the flashbacks might’ve been studio interference. Other than that, everything about the movie is a little time bomb, even Christian Slater has a minor juicy role as the match trying to ignite that explosion. If you have the chance to watch it before The Oscars, I highly recommend it, as this is Glenn Close’s Oscar. Plain and Simple.

RBG (nominated for Best Documentary)

RBG, is about none other than Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who is currently 85 years old, still kicking, and still an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. I am probably more shocked than you that, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? did not get nominated for an Academy Award, and since it isn’t, I sure do hope that this wins.

This is a short 1 hr 38 minute documentary, which fortunately doesn’t shoot itself down itself by trying to be a chronologically, information overload, chronologically bound slow ride of a biography. This feature keeps it short, sweet, to the point, with some great highlights. It doesn’t go birth to death, and it doesn’t try to explain and study every single aspect of her life. We go back and forth with her during present day and how she has become this cultural phenomenon, that even she can’t see why she has become this huge thing, back to her college days with some landmark cases you might not even know about in between.

Like I said in my review of On The Basis of Sex, if you watch this film, and then that film, it makes quite a great double feature. Filmmakers that make documentaries now know that you can’t just bog a viewer down with the facts, you have to make it interesting. And this film sure does win your interest pretty easily. They even show her watching Kate McKinnon doing an impression of her on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ laughing along, and then when the interviewer asks, “do you see yourself in that impression?” she laughs it off and says, “not one bit.” That moment, along with a bunch of other really interesting other tidbits, make this a worthy documentary to watch.