FlixChatter Review: Netflix’s VELVET BUZZSAW (2019)

Netflix has truly become a force to be reckoned with in terms of original content, the fact that they apparently planned on making 90 original movies this year alone… with budgets up to $200mil! In the Winter time, streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon are a staple for me, as weather can wreck havoc on your moviegoing plans (esp when we’re plagued with Polar Vortex!). Thankfully, many of Netflix original programming are pretty high-quality, and they attract high-quality filmmakers and talents.

In Velvet Buzzsaw, Dan Gilroy re-teamed with Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, who were both excellent in Nightcrawler. It’s a satire thriller with a rather whimsical tone, offering a tongue-in-cheek commentary about the relationship between art and commerce. Right from the first trailer, I was hooked by the premise of a thriller set in the L.A. art world AND the outstanding cast.

The main players of the movie are art critic Morf Vandewalt (Gyllenhaal), gallery owner Rhodora Haze, and an ambitious agent Josephina (Zawe Ashton). One fateful day, Josephina found her neighbor Vetril Dease dead in her apartment complex. As it turns out, Dease was a painter and a plethora of his unseen work are stored in his apartment. Josephina stole a bunch of them, and upon showing them to Morf and Rhodora, they’re convinced they’ve stumbled into something truly lucrative and decide to profit from Dease’s work. So voilà! Rhodora showcased Dease’s paintings in her posh gallery along with some over the top pieces like a talking [creepy-looking] robot and a giant interactive sphere. Everyone was mesmerized. Everyone from curator assistant Gretchen (Toni Collette) and another artist who’s kind of in a funk Piers (John Malkovich), Rhodora’s rival Jon Dondon (Tom Sturridge), are all equally enamored. Dease’s work becomes a social media hit and the paintings can net 8-figure sum. But of course it’s all too good to be true. There’s evil lurking behind those paintings, ready to exact vengeance upon whoever tries to profit from them.

Strange things start to happen, as people begin to notice that the paintings actually move. I’m glad I don’t have many paintings in my home as those scenes are really quite eerie. I don’t know who the actual artists are who created the paintings for the movie but some are really amazing. Predictably, people who stand to profit from Dease’s work are starting to get killed one by one. It kind of lessens the suspense of it all but I don’t think Gilroy intends to make a ‘twist-y’ movie a la M. Night Shyamalan. I started to play a guessing game with my hubby as who’s gonna be offed next. It didn’t quite descend into the Final Destination franchise banality where the writers just have to figure out a ‘creative’ way to kill their characters. That said, some of the death scenes are pretty creative. It seems Gilroy decidedly made Velvet Buzzsaw a kitschy satire, as if he didn’t really take this story too seriously.

Toni Collette & the giant interactive sphere

Performance-wise, I think most of the actors are solid. Gyllenhaal seemed to relish playing a neurotic, flamboyant, ‘sexually-fluid’ art critic, delivering an over-the-top performance with such glee it was amusing to watch. Glad to see Russo in a meatier role here and she looked absolutely convincing as a gallery owner. Collette doesn’t have much screen time but she’s always memorable in any role and here she plays the pretentious museum curator with aplomb. I’ve never seen the British actress Zawe Ashton portraying the loathsome snob Josephina, well she definitely made quite an impression here.

Overall Velvet Buzzsaw didn’t have quite the shock value as Nightcrawler, which is still the better Gilroy-Gyllenhaal collaboration. This one feels shallow, one might even say frivolous, which is ironic as the outside world often views the art community that way. It’s also lacking a deep emotional resonance as most of the characters are so unsympathetic. In fact, I got so annoyed by Josephina and her greedy, duplicitous ways that I can’t say I was sorry to see her go. As a non-horror fan though, I was pretty entertained by it and thankfully it’s not as gory as I had been led to believe. (if you haven’t seen the trailer yet, I suggest you avoid it as some of the ‘deaths’ actually happen in the trailer!)

I read later that apparently Gilroy was inspired to write the script because of the whole Superman Lives debacle. He was the writer of that project that was supposed to be directed by Tim Burton starring Nicholas Cage. He was dismayed that Warner Bros pulled the plug, he’s quoted as saying ‘Wow, I just spent a year and a half. Nothing I wrote is gonna ever be seen…I was looking at the waves and I was like, ‘I might as well come down and write words in the sand and have the waves just wash them away.’” (per The Playlist) Interestingly, he wrote a scene with one of his character on a beach. So I guess if there’s one takeaway from this movie, at least the way I think Gilroy envisioned it, is that, an art is more than just a piece of commodity and the level of success shouldn’t define it.

Despite its flaws though, props to Gilroy for his creativity and taking us to a world rarely depicted on screen. Heck, the character names alone is ingenious… Morf Vandewalt, Vetril Dease could be such fun band names! One thing for sure, I probably won’t be able to see an art gallery/museum the same way again after this.


Have you seen Velvet Buzzsaw yet? I’d love to hear what YOU think!

FlixChatter Review – THOR : The Dark World

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Marvel Studios continues its box office winning streak with an $86 mil US domestic earnings, up about $20 mil from the previous film. It’s made nearly a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide already as it’s opened internationally a week ago. The filmmakers are well aware that most moviegoers are already familiar w/ the character, especially given the behemoth box office success of The Avengers last year. So there’s no character development needed here, and the story picks up where it left off with Loki now going to the dungeon as punishment for being a naughty boy.

So Asgaard and the rest of the planetary universe are now safe right, since the Bifröst‎s (Loki’s kind) have been defeated? Well not quite. Once again we’ve got another megalomaniac creature called Malekith from the Dark Elves race who’s hellbent on taking over the universe. The ‘dark world’ in the title refers to the state of a universe when a weapon known as the Aether is released upon them. But Odin’s father was able to stop Malekith and hid the weapon for thousands of years. That is, until somehow, it got discovered when Jane Foster and her buddies were looking for, who else, his Norse god boyfriend of course.

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Despite the title, there’s nothing dark about this film, in fact, there are never any sense of real danger with any of the characters. Even when Thor is fighting a giant beast three times his size, his loyal Mjölnir always saves the day for him. Chris Hemsworth is much more confident in the title role this time around, and a whole lot more likable as well. There’s still friction between him and his dad Odin (Anthony Hopkins), but obviously it’s a natural father/son relationship. When Heimdal (Idris Elba), Asgaard’s loyal guard who can see into all of the realms, tells him he couldn’t locate Jane (Natalie Portman), Thor visits earth once again. It’s nice to see that Jane is not merely an accessory of Thor, but her character is actually pretty crucial to the plot. But it’s not the reunion between Thor and Jane that I was looking forward to, but it’s Thor and his brother, Loki.

I felt like the time leading up to that is a bit too slow for my liking, but it was well worth the wait! Seems that every time he’s on screen, my interest level just goes up a notch because he’s just so much fun to watch. Though he’s not the main villain here, Loki still gets the best lines, delivered with aplomb by the fantabulous Tom Hiddleston. I think there’s more screen time of Loki, but really, the film could still use more of his presence. The lord of mischief makes the most of his power of illusion, and it makes for some truly hysterical moments both in Asgard and beyond. There’s even a Marvel cameo, I wouldn’t say who it is, that practically brought the house down as the whole theater erupted in laughter.

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The women in Thor’s world are given more to do in this film as well, which is a plus in my book. I’ve mentioned about Jane, but Thor’s mom Frigga (Rene Russo) is also given more screen time here. Clearly Thor gets his bad-ass warrior trait from both parents! Kat Dennings is still a delight as Jane’s research assistant, adding even more comic relief with her irreverent commentaries. But believe it or not, Stellan Skarsgård as Dr. Erik Selvig is actually the goofiest of the ‘Thor comedic troupe’ with his shenanigans and a penchant for stripping in public! Nice to see Idris Elba got a chance to get in on the action a bit more as Heimdal as well, and Zachary Levi apparently replaced Josh Dallas as one of Thor’s buddies, it took me a while to recognize him with blonde hair!

I knew going in that the sense of fun that we’ve come to know and love from The Avengers is going to be carried over in this film, but I didn’t expect it to be a full-on comedy. There are even more laugh out loud moments throughout, and the final battle is just hilarious. The self-referential humor is palpable as a guy witnessing the battle from a library in London quips, ‘Look, it’s Thor fighting down there, with his hammer and everything!’ Some of the subtler comedic moments are a lot of fun as well, my personal favorite is when Thor hangs his mighty hammer on a coat hook when he enters Jane’s apartment!

Whilst the film is robustly entertaining, save for the first twenty minutes or so, there are some flaws that makes this the lesser of the two Thor films. For one, Christopher Eccleston‘s Malekith is a pretty lame and wholly uninteresting villain. It’s not the actor’s fault though, it’s just the character isn’t really given anything worthy to be remembered. He barely even speaks and when he does, he uses some ho-hum Elven language. I also miss Patrick Doyle’s awesome score. No offense to Brian Tyler, who’s a good composer, but Doyle’s gorgeous and rousing theme is so memorable and adds so much to the enjoyment of the movie for me. Overall I also prefer Branagh’s direction to Alan Taylor’s, as the pacing is a bit off and tonally uneven. The visuals and production design are just as superb however, Asgard feels a bit more organic here whilst the first film it looks so majestic and pristine. At times it reminds me of Star Wars though, especially the flying sequence on the Harrow as they’re escaping Asgard. The universe reminds me so much of Naboo, and the moment of Thor and Jane being lovey dovey together also makes me think of Princess Amidala with his Jedi lover, ahah.

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Kudos to Marvel for creating a universe that spans multiple films, somehow it relates to one another whilst still maintaining a unique identity, tone and look & feel. Iron Man has a hi-tech, futuristic actioner,  Captain America is more of a political thriller, whilst Thor has that medieval fantasy feel to it akin to Games of Thrones. Yet everything ties together as one Marvel macrocosm. Just like in Iron Man 3, the Avengers’ battle in New Yorkis never far from the writers’ mind, not that we’d be inclined to forget it anyway. As Loki won’t be on the sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron, I’m very curious if there might be a Loki film down the line. Certainly there are enough fans of Hiddleston and his nothing-short-of-iconic performance as Loki that’d warrant his own film. [Spoiler alert: Seems that the ending of this film suggests that this isn’t the last time we’d see Loki ;)]

I saw this film in 2D which is perfectly adequate. When it’s all said and done, Thor: The Dark World is lacking the depth to be a great film. I mean, it’s decent entry into Marvel’s cannon that’s fun and entertaining, but the hilarious bits are probably going to be more memorable than the film itself as a whole.


Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


So what did you think of THOR 2? Did you like it more or less than I did?