Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, John Malkovich, Mig Macario

Screenplay: Dan Gilroy

113 mins. Rated R for violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and brief drug use.

 

Velvet Buzzsaw surprised everyone when its first trailer aired. I had heard of the project but little more the fact that Writer/Director Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler, Roman J. Israel, Esq.) was working on it. The trailer seemingly presented the film as a satirical look at the art world and its critics before diving off the deep end into straight-up horror, something I did not expect. While the finished film struggles between these two halves, it’s overall a fun and stylized ride.

Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain, The Sisters Brothers) is a scathingly high-brow art critic who, frustrated with his sex life with his current partner, strikes up a romantic entanglement with friend Josephina (Zawe Ashton, Blitz, Guerilla). When Josephina finds a dead artist in her apartment building, she steals his paintings. The artist’s work fascinates the critics and artists of the scene with the sheer quantity of creations he has, and Morf’s inner circle profit from his work, but then people start dying in a myriad of strange ways, all surrounding the artist. As Morf and the others attempt to uncover the mystery of the dead artist, they learn that they are quickly running out of time.

The first half of Velvet Buzzsaw is a critique and satire about the nature of the art world and the critics within it. It’s a strong setup for the film and establishes our characters pretty nicely as people who have murky respect for one another as long as it doesn’t conflict with their own personal goals. The big problem with the narrative is that transition to the second half of the film. Dan Gilroy is an excellent storyteller, but he misses the mark with the horror elements of the film. The satire is strong, the horror is weak and cliché. It’s missing that flavor that I know he is capable of. Nightcrawler has elements of horror but Velvet Buzzsaw trips over itself trying to get there.

The film has some strong performances, particularly from Gyllenhaal and Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine, TV’s Wanderlust). Gyllenhaal plays himself with both likable and unlikable traits. He isn’t afraid to be an asshole. Collette’s Gretchen is someone climbing to where she wants to be who finds quickly the monstrous qualities that she has within her. It’s a good outing for the Academy Award-snubbed actress.

John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich, Bird Box) appears in the film as Piers, an artist worried he has lost his touch. His character is like so many others in the film in that he is great in the satirical sense but doesn’t have much to do in the latter portion of the film.

Overall, the horror in the film is fun when it works, but too often it doesn’t. Velvet Buzzsaw is still worth your time with another great outing for Gyllenhaal and Collette, and horror fans might be willing to overlook some of the problems with the second half. I was able to, and I found that I enjoyed the film altogether, but it’s perhaps Gilroy’s most messy film as a director.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, click here.

Kyle’s Top Ten Films of 2018

 

Hey there everyone!

What a year 2018 has been, both personally and in the world of movies! Now, as the year draws to a close, I’m ready to take a look back and see which films made the cut of my personal Best of 2018.

Now for some stipulations and notes:

-I did not see every film to come out in 2018. I tried my best, but I was very busy this year and some films just flat out were missed. So if you don’t see something on this list, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong. It just means I may have missed it…or it doesn’t belong.

-This is my personal selection of films from the year. These are not predictions for Best Picture at the Oscars or anything like that. Some films may have different placings than they would if I just ordered them by score, and some of them may have been flawed, but I just enjoyed them enough to look past it.

-Lastly, this is one of the first years in a while that my list feels so fluid. Don’t take my rankings too harshly as just about any one of these films could potentially have been a #1 film. It was a good year. Not a great year…a good year.

 

Alright, without further fluff, let’s dive right in…

 

  1. First Man

-Damien Chazelle knocks it out of the park again in this biopic of Neil Armstrong and the NASA Space Program leading up to that fabled first step on the moon’s surface. It’s a long movie covering many of the trials and tribulations of the race to space, but it spends most of its time with Armstrong, played brilliantly by Ryan Gosling. It’s a subtle nuanced performance that isn’t acting larger-than-life but stays true to its subject. The film spends some time asking the questions of value and cost in this race to the moon, and everything is a lens through which to understand our lead. We get great supporting work from Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, and Corey Stoll who plays to Buzz Aldrin’s particular brand of sarcastic wit quite nicely. For those of you that missed this one in IMAX, I feel very sorry for you, because the scenes on the moon’s surface took my damn breath away.

 

  1. If Beale Street Could Talk

-I loved Moonlight when it came out. I was so swept away in the style and simplicity of the story. Director Barry Jenkins has done it again with his character drama If Beale Street Could Talk. While not as strong as his previous outing, this is still top-notch filmmaking and incredible character-driven storytelling. The love story between Fonny and Tish is so emotional, and the performances from Stephan James and newcomer Kiki Layne bring that love out in such a beautiful way. The film is filled with terrific performances from Regina King, Colman Domingo, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis, and so many more. The ending left me frustrated but not with the filmmaker for he did craft an ending meant to make you talk and get the conversation going. It’s a beautiful character piece.

 

  1. Green Book

-If there’s one thing to say about Green Book, it’s that the film from Peter Farrelly is wholly enjoyable throughout. That’s not a normal way to describe the story of two men from different races touring the Deep South in the 1960s, but it works. You can call it surface-level enjoyment if you wish but I call it great character-driven storytelling. Much like If Beale Street Could Talk, the performances are where this film thrives, particularly from its lead actors, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. They are both flawed humans with real fears and desires who come together with great chemistry to create a lasting friendship in this heartwarming tale. This is a movie that will make you think while it entertains you.

 

  1. Ready Player One

-Look, Ready Player One is perhaps more flawed than the previous films on this list, but it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment with the film. It continues to grow on me the more I watch it and I find myself going back to it a lot in 2018. It’s a fun adventure dipped in nostalgia. This film is Steven Spielberg making a sundae and putting all the toppings on. The most important factor in the film is that it is just a damn fun time that captures the spirit of the source novel while going to some wildly different places. I enjoyed both the book and film as two sides of the same coin. Ready Player One leaves me with a big damn smile on my face every time I watch it.

 

  1. A Quiet Place

-I’m starting to see a theme in many of these films for my Top Ten. Character. Yes, there’s some high-concept in some, and A Quiet Place definitely has high-concept, but it’s all there to serve character and story. The family dynamic in A Quiet Place works so well, it would make the film watchable even if the sci-fi/horror aspects of the film did not. Thankfully, this is not the case. This is a tense film with real situations set against an impossible world, but it’s because I care about this family that A Quiet Place brings out just as many tears and shrieks. John Krasinski should be given for his terrific direction in addition to his work as male lead.

 

  1. A Star is Born

-There’s something magical to A Star is Born. We are looking at the fourth official version of this tale, and yet somehow this incarnation has connected with the audience in such a special way. Maybe it’s Bradley Cooper’s strong first outing as a director, or maybe it’s his hauntingly powerful performance as Jackson Mayne, a struggling fading star, or maybe it’s Lady Gaga’s powerhouse work as Ally, a rising star. You can give me all the crap for praising Gaga’s acting in this film, and you can say that she plays herself, but I heard a colleague point out that she gets on the stage to perform her first song and she’s absolutely terrified, something that Gaga would not be or likely hasn’t been in some time. She’s acting her ass off here, and it shows. Yes, the film finds itself in a lot of the same familiar beats we’ve seen before, but it’s been said many times that all stories have been told and what matters is how you tell it. I love how this story is told.

 

  1. Annihilation

-Alex Garland’s follow-up to Ex Machina is a sci-fi/horror masterpiece. It’s a beautiful striking moving painting filled with horrific and dazzling imagery. The story, about a group of scientists exploring a strange area called The Shimmer where biology, chemistry, and physics are unlike anything known to human understanding. This is a thinker of a movie, but it haunted me for days and I couldn’t stop telling people to see this movie. It likely isn’t for everyone, but I would encourage you to seek it out and give it a try. This is a What-The-Fuck movie experience for the ages that I haven’t seen since 2001: A Space Odyssey.

 

  1. Hereditary

-You know something? Screw anyone who says there isn’t enough great horror these days. Horror is on such an incredible ride in recent years, and there’s probably enough good horror for its own Top 10 list for 2018, and Hereditary would be at the top. Led by a career-best performance from Toni Collette, Hereditary is a shocking and disturbing story of loss, grief, and madness, all centered around a family caught in something out of their control. Beyond the shock of some of the film’s more frightening moments, there are some truly horrific moments of character development. This movie’s strengths cannot be understated and it is truly sad that Collette’s more of a long shot to the Best Actress Nomination this year because she without a doubt deserves. The only tiny complaint I have with the film is that it over-explains itself at the end, but it is merely a nitpick and actually saved a friend’s enjoyment of the film, so what do I know?

 

  1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

-As I’ve said before, the movies that will likely be most remembered in 2018 are the Feel-Goods, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is at the top of that list. This documentary about the life of Fred Rogers is stunningly heartfelt and masterfully executed. It is a viewpoint of the man’s life, his beliefs, his goals, and his dreams, and it brought me back to moments in my childhood, memories that I shared with someone through a television set. I welled up with tears at several points in the narrative and connected with the film on so many levels. What makes this film stand out from others this year is that it asks its audience to take part in it near the end, asking us how we can be more like Fred, and I think it connects us with an incredible human being on a personal level, a touching tribute to a beloved neighbor.

 

  1. BlacKkKlansman

-Spike Lee is the best he’s ever been with BlacKkKlansman. You heard me. The best he’s ever been. I loved Do the Right Thing, but this film just barely edges it out for so many reasons. It’s an incredible well-acted film, especially from John David Washington, Adam Driver, and Topher Grace. The screenplay and editing have turned this so-crazy-it’s-true story into something even more timely given the current state of the country. Lee makes it quite known what he wants his film to evoke and the finale of the film left my jaw on the floor. As soon as I left the theater, I wanted to turn back around and see it again. Spike Lee knows his craft so well that he is able to fuse lighthearted comedy into the shocking tale of a black cop infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan, and this film is his masterpiece. It’s the best movie of 2018.

 

So there you have it. These are my favorite films of the year. I’m looking forward to the #2019oscardeathrace to begin, and the list may change a bit once that happens. No one sees everything. What is your Top Ten of 2018? I’d love to hear it! Thanks again for a great 2018, and we will see you in 2019 (which is right now).

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

 

Knives Out Slices Into Theaters November 2019

Deadline is reporting that Knives Out, the new original film from director Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi), is slated for release on November 27, 2019. Lionsgate has popped the film right into Thanksgiving season in a nice, awards-friendly place.

The film was also written by Johnson and the cast is incredible, featuring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, and Don Johnson among others.

Craig’s joining the principal cast was made possible by the Bond 25 switcheroo when Danny Boyle left the project and Cary Fukunaga stepped in.

For me, this news is incredible. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Johnson’s Looper, I admire the original story and the captivating structure. I also love The Last Jedi, and you can hate on it all you want, but he made a damn good Star Wars film. That’s what excites me here. Johnson gets to play in the sandbox with some very talented performers. I know very little about Knives Out but I really don’t feel like I need to.

So what do you think? Are you interested in a new mystery movie from Rian Johnson? What’s your favorite Rian Johnson film? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

The Boxtrolls (2014)

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Director: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi

Cast: Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan

Screenplay: Irena Brignull, Adam Pava

96 mins. Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

Today, I have the pleasure of talking about the seventh-best film featuring Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, The World’s End) and Nick Frost (Paul, Cuban Fury). This is the kindest I’m going to be on this.

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In The Boxtrolls, we get to meet…well, the Boxtrolls, a group of creatures similar to the Borrowers or the Underpants Gnomes in that they sneak up to the surface and steal objects from the humans. Also, they wear boxes. It is also the story of Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright, TV’s Game of Thrones, The Awakening), a boy left in their care as a baby and raised by the creatures. Eggs heads up to where the humans reside in an attempt to keep his family safe from the diabolical Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley, Schindler’s List, Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer’s Curse). In doing so, he meets Winnie (Elle Fanning, Maleficent, We Bought a Zoo) and the two team up to save the Boxtrolls.

I struggled through this film. It was tough. I kept telling myself it must get better; it was nominated for an Oscar. It didn’t get better though. The only scene that blew me away was the end credits in which Mr. Pickles (Richard Ayoade, TV’s The IT Crowd, The Watch) and Mr. Gristle (Tracy Morgan, TV’s 30 Rock, Accidental Love) discuss the meaning of life as the filmmakers construct the scene around them. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication by the animation team, and that part I will agree comes through. The animation is amazing. The technology has improved even upon the impressive ParaNorman.

Beyond the animation and visual look of the film, there really is nothing left in this casket of a movie. The voice work is fine enough to get by, but this story just goes nowhere. It feels like someone threw several plot pieces onto the screenplay just to see if it would come off as quirky. Quirky it is. Good it is not.

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The Boxtrolls is a technical marvel indeed, yet it isn’t an animated film worthy of the statue or even really the nomination. It looks good, but like an aged cheese, it leaves an odd taste in the mouth.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Tammy (2014)

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Director: Ben Falcone

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Nat Faxon, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates

Screenplay: Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone

97 mins. Rated R for language including sexual references.

 

Melissa McCarthy (TV’s Gilmore Girls, St. Vincent) has the acting chops for both comedy and drama, yet she chooses to write comedies that just aren’t very good. Thus is the case with Tammy, her newest effort from husband-director Ben Falcone.

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In Tammy, McCarthy plays a down-on-her-luck food server who has just lost a car and a job and now decides to just leave town with her elderly grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise, The Big Wedding). I know, it doesn’t make much sense. Along the way, she meets Bobby (Mark Duplass, TV’s The League, Mercy) and his father Earl (Gary Cole, Pineapple Express, The Town That Dreaded Sundown) who both take a shine to ladies. Somehow. There isn’t a whole lot of chemistry, but apparently they do. They also meet up with lesbian lovers Lenore (Kathy Bates, TV’s American Horror Story, Titanic) and Susanne (Sandra Oh, TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, Rabbit Hole) who are also related to Tammy but it doesn’t seem that way. Again, I must say that it isn’t a good plot.

Essentially, this story was terrible. These characters were flat and unlikable. Melissa McCarthy isn’t funny. Susan Sarandon is disappointing. Also, the ages kind of mess with you. How is Susan Sarandon the mother of Allison Janney (TV’s The West Wing, Get On Up) who is also the mother of Melissa McCarthy? Seriously, how?

Then there is the terrible chemistry or lack thereof with Mark Duplass. I mean, c’mon, there wasn’t a single moment when I believed these two.

Let’s not forget the misuse of Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, The Boxtrolls). That’s right, she is in this movie, but look fast or you’ll miss it. The same is true with Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return).

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All in all, Ben Falcone’s absent directing of a bad screenplay between himself and wife McCarthy does nothing to make this movie anything more than a turd. Yes, I said it, a turd.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

A Long Way Down (2014)

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Director: Pascal Chaumeil

Cast: Toni Collette, Pierce Brosnan, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul

Screenplay: Jack Thorne

96 mins. Rated R for language.

 

I like Nick Hornby. I saw him at a writer’s conference some time ago and had the opportunity to just sit and listen to him muse about life and writing. I like Nick Hornby.

A LONG WAY DOWN

I did not like A Long Way Down. I’m speaking about the film here, which is a conflicted little tale about suicide for four people. First we have Martin (Pierce Brosnan, GoldenEye, The November Man), a shamed talk show host who has become a social pariah for sleeping with an underage girl. Then there’s Maureen (Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense, The Boxtrolls) who struggles with being a parent for a child with special needs. We get Jess (Imogen Poots, Need for Speed, That Awkward Moment), a young girl with daddy issues and a need to prattle. Finally, there is JJ (Aaron Paul, TV’s Breaking Bad, Exodus: Gods and Kings), who has cancer. These four fail to kill themselves on New Year’s Eve when they accidentally pick the same building to jump off. Then they make a pact to stay with each other until Valentine’s Day, when they would try again.

This story is offensive even on the surface. We get characters that make light of the decision to kill themselves, and even regularly joke about it. I found none of this funny. I can stomach a lot, but it even felt like the actors were having troubles with the line reading, stemming from a bad script  by Jack Thorne (TV’s The Fades, The Scouting Book for Boys) from the novel by Nick Hornby. Poor Nick, he has his name attached to this piece of garbage. Everything after the first scene just falls short of remembrance and the plot meanders from one unimportant event to another.

A Long Way Down

With disappointing work from pretty much everyone involved, especially Imogen Poots, who acts as though she will vomit if she can’t get her line out right now, and an ending that you see coming a mile away, A Long Way Down is a dreadful piece of dreck that belongs in a furnace somewhere. Haven’t read the book, but I can bet it is streets ahead.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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