2/01/2019

Netflix Movie Review: Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)


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A satirical horror movie set in the modern art world, whether you're looking for a late night thrill or don't mind working a little harder to engage with a film on a deeper level, Velvet Buzzsaw will surely do.

Filled with witty wordplay and morbid metaphors brought vividly to life, in the weird and wonderful multi-layered third work from writer-director Dan Gilroy, even the character names are entertaining.


From Jake Gyllenhaal's taste-making art critic Morf Vandewalt, whose body language, voice, and taste morphs from one scene to the next to Rene Russo's gallery owner Rhodora Haze, whose Lolita-esque last name alludes as much to her younger days as a sexy, hard-living punk rocker (in the titular band) as it does her hazy business ethics, there's a lot here to savor.

Rather than opt for a traditional first person narrative, Gilroy's film takes a cue from Altman's oeuvre with its approach to storytelling. Set at the intersection of art and commerce where creativity is overshadowed by talk of demand, money, and the market, Buzzsaw revolves around a handful of characters who play very different roles in the industry from assistants and installers to artists and museum curators.


Led by Gyllenhaal and Russo (who co-starred in Gilroy's feature filmmaking debut Nightcrawler), Buzzsaw co-stars Toni Colette, John Malkovich, Zawe Ashton, Daveed Diggs, Natalia Dyer, Tom Sturridge, and Billy Magnussen who all seem to delight in Gilroy's mischievous script, which satirizes the commoditization of art in a way that could just as easily apply to film, publishing, or music.

Though undoubtedly anchored by Gyllenhaal's Vanderwalt, who looks like he had the time of his life on this film, Buzzsaw's real breakout turn is Zawe Ashton as Russo's ambitious assistant Josephina, who stumbles onto an apartment filled with art after her elderly neighbor dies with no heirs.


Initially entering the apartment to find and feed his cat, even though the man had left explicit instructions to destroy his art upon his death, Josephina can't resist bringing some to Morf to evaluate.

Fascinated by her discovery, with Morf's ecstatic approval, she teams up with the scheming Rhodora Haze to curate a show, destined to make her a superstar.

Soon after, the deceased Vitril Dease becomes the hottest name in art but as Morf digs into his past for a book and uncovers one disturbing story after another, he realizes a bit too late that the darkness pouring off the canvas and into the lives of those around him, which has resulted in multiple deaths, might be connected to Dease.


Lensed by Robert Elswit, the There Will Be Blood cinematographer makes the most of Gilroy's inventive frames right from the start as we explore a bizarre modern art convention in Miami where certain phrases (either in lights or spoken by an art installation robot) add another layer of foreshadowing and character revelation to the film. Needless to say (and fortunately for Netflix), Velvet Buzzsaw is designed to play even better on repeat viewings when we can take in every element.

Sure to be Netflix's next big post-Bird Box hit, with darkly comedic witticisms, up-to-the-minute satire, and shocking comeuppances performed by its stellar cast, Gilroy replaces the pre-credit shock sequence and familiar jump scares of retro horror fare with something irresistibly, thrillingly new.

Dare I say, I think Morf Vanderwalt would approve.



Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Movie Review: A Breath Away (2018)


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AKA: Just a Breath Away; Toxic; Dans la brume

With so much of the film's budget and overall success dependent upon its special effects, it's become standard operating procedure for disaster movies to move as quickly as possible to get right to the catastrophic event.


Sketching the main characters with the broadest of strokes before placing them in peril, with only the briefest of introductions to guide us, all too often in this genre it's up to the actors and audience to fill in the rest.

And that's precisely what happens in director Daniel Roby's A Breath Away, which flies the viewer and our lead Mathieu (Romain Duris) to Paris and hits the ground running, before that is, the ground strikes back by knocking out the power after an earthquake and filling the city with toxic gas.


Discovering the deadly effect of the mist as bodies drop before his eyes, Mathieu races across the street from his apartment to the one that Olga Kurylenko’s scientist and teacher Anna shares with their beloved daughter Sarah (Fantine Harduin), who suffers from an immunodeficiency disorder and lives in a glass bubble.

While thanks to battery power, she's safe for the time being in her filtered air enclosure, Mathieu and Anna have no choice but to climb as high as they can past the line where the fog stops.

Taking refuge in the top-floor apartment alongside their elderly neighbors (Michel Robin and Anne Gaylor), after discovering that the substance is not only rising but also doesn't affect their skin, Mathieu suddenly turns into Indiana Jones while going on the hunt for supplies and oxygen masks so he and Anna can continue to change Sarah's bubble battery.


Realizing that help is not coming, they risk everything to track down the medical equipment their daughter would need for them all to leave the building together.

Never clarifying just what Mathieu's current relationship is with Anna and most pressingly, how he acquired his particular set of Liam Neeson worthy skills, while the logic challenged film asks you to overlook a lot (including how he suddenly seems to know the rules of surviving in the mist), the actors are game and Breath's cinematography and visual effects are first rate.


Shot by Pierre-Yves Bastard and boasting effects by Bruno Mallard and a gifted team, visually of course, A Breath Away pays tribute to thematically similar works such as The Fog and The Mist.

However, in pulse quick quickening action sequences which find Mathieu and Anna wandering the foggy streets of Paris with only a flashlight to guide them before Mathieu must race back to the apartment through a rooftop obstacle course, Roby's film is also reminiscent of apocalyptic disaster movies like I Am Legend and World War Z.

A far cry from his more contemplative roles in highbrow fare, it's here where we realize just how much A Breath Away is augmented by character actor Romain Duris' commitment — even to the ridiculous — in an impressive turn as our surprisingly action oriented lead.


Desperately in need of a stronger script, although Breath generates its fair share of excitement, it's a shame that, despite the talented cast and what should have been a naturally touching storyline, we just don't feel that connected to characters we know so extraordinarily little about.

Couple that with the film's inconsistency, including introducing Mathieu as a motorcycle rider and then forgetting he has a motorcycle until the end of the movie which — awesome action scenes aside — sure would have made more sense than wasting time and oxygen running around Paris by foot and we're left with a film that changes from scene to scene, kind of like the mist.


Infused with a pro-environmental message, while about halfway through the movie we start to get an inkling as to where this will all be heading, it still makes for an intriguingly Shyamalanesque turn of events, even if we wish that the work overall would've been worthier of the plot twist.

Striving to give its viewers a little of everything from action to horror to family drama, Roby's film loses its footing thanks to a weak foundation. And although it has its moments, like most disaster movies, A Breath Away will most likely be remembered for its big catastrophic event, a running Romain Duris, and foggy special effects.

Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Netflix Movie Review: High Flying Bird (2019)


Arriving on Netflix: 
Feb. 8

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The way Bill Duke's community basketball coach sees it, "you either care all the way or you don't care at all, man," and it only takes a few minutes of screen time for us to realize that, when it comes to looking out for his clients during an NBA lockout, André Holland's basketball agent Ray is a man who cares all the way.


Trying to save his lottery pick player Erick (Melvin Gregg) from bankruptcy and himself from unemployment, Ray spends a majority of Steven Soderbergh's ninety minute movie in motion. Talking at the speed of a playoffs game, over the course of a few fateful days, Ray maneuvers between the labor dispute's offense and defense.

A subversive look at "the game on top of the game" of basketball but without any court action in sight, the film, written by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight) and modeled on Sweet Smell of Success, raises valid, urgent questions about the commoditization of predominantly black athletes by white owners.


Making moves to redistribute the balance of power, money, and control back into the hands of the players alongside his brainy, ambitious assistant Sam (a terrific Zazie Beetz), in High Flying Bird, we get the chance to go behind the curtain of what Ray dubs "the sexiest sport."

Using an outsider's perspective to explore new terrain in an unexpected way, Soderbergh's bold decision to take basketball itself out of the equation gives us a closer look at what we're really seeing when we watch a game on TV.


One of our most curious filmmakers, especially given the scope and objectivity of his character driven films, it's safe to say that had he not entered the film industry, Steven Soderbergh would have made one hell of an investigative reporter.

A unique mix of vintage and modern Soderbergh filmmaking techniques, although Bird was shot on an iPhone (like his recent underrated thriller Unsane), Bird's frames are sharper and more polished, perhaps owing as much to advances in technology as the film's smoother, less frantic tone and approach.


Comprised of the same set-up of two people in a room talking that he says made his name thirty years ago in Sex, Lies, and Videotape, the end result is a fascinating blend of theater, journalism, and cinéma vérité brought to life with verve and skill by its top-notch cast in just three weeks.

Best appreciated the second time around when we're better able to digest McCraney's gorgeously penned, theatrical monologues which are so full of meaning that they occasionally feel too big for the screen, Bird also makes for an ideal double feature with the 1957 classic Sweet Smell of Success.


Used by Soderbergh as a template for the film when he was first developing it on the set of The Knick alongside Holland, even without Success, Bird is sure to inspire its fair share of think pieces and make for engaging post-film discussion regardless.

Although those looking for a traditional sports movie will be disappointed by its lack of well, sports, those willing to keep an open mind might be surprised to discover that, whether it’s about sports or film, much like Ray (or McCraney or Soderbergh for that matter), they too "care all the way."


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.