Velvet Buzzsaw Movie Review

There’s a moment in Dan Gilroy’s Velvet Buzzsaw where one of the vapid SoCal characters walks past a pile of garbage and declares it an inspired work of art. He doesn’t realize it’s just plain garbage. The writer/director has his eye trained on the reviewing class here in this satire fueled with intermittent gore. Items are junk or priceless because critic Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) says so. His opinion matters and his choices influence. When he has his eyes dilated after an eye appointment, someone asks if those flimsy and disposable sunglasses he wears after are the new designer craze.

These small moments provide some well-placed humor as Gilroy dissects his power-hungry characters one by one. The setting is Los Angeles, the same locale from his 2014 effort Nightcrawler (which happened to be my favorite film of that year). Gyllenhaal starred in that as well. His portrayal of Louis Bloom was a desperate figure looking to climb the ladder of his chosen profession. In Buzzsaw, Morf already has made it. The Bloom figure would be Josephina (Zawe Ashton). She works for an art gallery run by Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo) and she’s trying to make her mark. Josephina gets that chance when a tenant in her building dies and leaves behind a vast collection of paintings. No one knows much about the dead man’s background, but his works are immediately deemed masterpieces.

It takes a considerable amount of time for people to discover that the paintings have a mind of their own. A violent mind for anyone who dares to exhibit them. Or perhaps they’re just blinded to it because they see the dollar signs involved. Everyone in this piece judges art by that monetary standard only. Whether it’s an image that could harm you or whether it’s literal garbage, it’s valuation is what counts.

Velvet Buzzsaw is a bizarre and hit or miss concoction filled with stuffy self-important individuals to root against. You may find yourself cheering on the paintings to do their grisly thing. The cast is sprawling with Gyllenhaal adding another peculiar part to his repertoire. Russo (who’s married to Gilroy) is as ruthlessly profit hungry as she was in Nightcrawler (though her part isn’t as memorable). Her background here does provide the title as it’s the name of a punk rock band she was in decades ago. Toni Collette is a curator looking for her best angle to get in on the new craze. Natalia Dyer (of “Stranger Things” fame) is an opportunistic assistant who gains the unfortunate distinction of finding lots of dead bodies.

The artwork comes alive in visually arresting ways from time to time. The main difference between this and Nightcrawler comes down to this – I was constantly enthralled by the disreputable populace of the latter. It’s a more rare occurrence in the former. Velvet Buzzsaw won’t be mistaken for trash, but it shouldn’t be hailed as a sensation either.

**1/2 (out of four)

The House with a Clock in Its Walls Movie Review

Sporting the 1980s Universal Pictures logo followed by the Amblin Entertainment one, The House with a Clock in Its Walls does feel like a Spielberg picture at times. Not one that he would’ve directed, but one that he got executive producer credit on. This is Eli Roth’s homage to that era and he’s working in PG territory, which is two MPAA ratings below his typical bailiwick. Like some eighties titles (think Back to the Future or Night of the Creeps), this is set in the 1950s. It’s a more innocent time for evil spirits to haunt and inanimate objects to become animated and agitated.

Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) is a ten-year-old whose parents perished in an accident. He’s sent to live with estranged uncle Jonathan (Jack Black, reveling in his own brand of spirited antics). Jonathan lives in a large and spooky manor adorned with countless ticking clocks. There’s also furniture and paintings that come to life and strange sounds behind the old walls. Florence (Cate Blanchett) is the platonic friend neighbor who spends plenty of time at the clocked crib.

It turns out Lewis’s new caretakers have some supernatural abilities of the warlock and witching variety. They use their abilities for good, but Jonathan’s late magic show partner (Kyle MacLachlan) might have some evil tricks up his sleeve if he’s summoned back to existence. Jonathan’s only rule to Lewis is not to open a dusty book that could do just that. We know the next chapter.

The Spielberg touches are clear. Parental loss and being an adolescent outsider are explored. They’re coupled with the science fiction elements we also anticipate. There’s some solid makeup work and special effects to behold. And like some 80s era flicks (think Gremlins or Poltergeist), there’s some creepy moments sprinkled in. They are not as scary as those aforementioned titles that caused PG-13 to exist. However, Clock has enough of them to make this fun for kids. As for the older folks who grew up on all this stuff (like its director), it’s lovingly made and passably entertaining. It won’t make your 3D nostalgia glasses mist up like Super 8 or Stranger Things might have, but it’s worth the time spent.

*** (out of four)

Box Office Predictions: October 27-29

Before an onslaught of high-profile November titles hit the market, October should close out rather quietly at the box office in this Halloween weekend. There are three new entries making their wide debuts: continuation of the Saw franchise Jigsaw, the Matt Damon starring/George Clooney directed crime comedy Suburbicon, and Miles Teller war drama Thank You for Your Service. You can peruse my detailed individual predictions posts on each here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/18/jigsaw-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/18/suburbicon-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/18/thank-you-for-your-service-box-office-prediction/

There are numerous factors that may contribute to this weekend being a slow one. The last frame of October is typically pretty ho-hum regardless. There’s also the matter of a little Netflix show called Stranger Things premiering that could divert eyeballs onto the small screen and not the large one.

The seven year lay-off between Saw pictures could cause a muted debut for Jigsaw. Its number should still be enough to nab the #1 spot, however. Boo 2! should slip to second. It’s worth noting that the original Boo dropped just 39% in its sophomore outing last year over the same Halloween weekend. I have this dipping just a bit more.

I’m not expecting much from Suburbicon or Service and they could end up in a close race with the second weekend of Geostorm (which I expect to have a big drop).

Bottom line: Thor: Ragnarok and A Bad Moms Christmas should awaken the charts when November comes and here are my top 5 projections for this weekend:

1. Jigsaw

Predicted Gross: $14.8 million

2. Boo 2! A Madea Halloween

Predicted Gross: $12.2 million (representing a drop of 42%)

3. Suburbicon

Predicted Gross: $7.3 million

4. Geostorm

Predicted Gross: $5.4 million (representing a drop of 60%)

5. Thank You for Your Service

Predicted Gross: $5.2 million

Box Office Results (October 20-22)

As expected, Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween topped the charts with $21.2 million, a tad under my $22.6 million prediction. It falls about $7 million short of its predecessor one year ago, but marks the sixth Madea feature to open #1.

Geostorm ranked highest among the five debuts with $13.7 million, above my $11.2M projection. However, with its massive reported $120 million budget, this is a serious flop for Warner Bros.

Happy Death Day dropped to third with $9.3 million, below my $11.8M take to bring its two-week total to $40 million. With only a $5 million budget, this is quite the cash cow for Blumhouse.

Blade Runner 2049 was fourth and I incorrectly had it outside the top 5. In weekend #3, it earned $7.3 million to bring its disappointing tally to $74 million.

Opening in fifth was the firefighter drama Only the Brave with a meager $6 million, which is on the low-end of expectations and well below my generous $10 million projection.

The Snowman with Michael Fassbender got a chilly reception from audiences in 8th place with just $3.3 million, way below my $8 million forecast.

Lastly, Same Kind of Different as Me flopped in 12th place, opening to $2.5 million. I was right on target with my $2.6 million estimate.

And that does it for now! Until next time…

It Movie Review

It’s deeper and more relatable fears that allow It it’s most effective scares. That is the truth emanating from the Stephen King source material. Yes, clowns are creepy. Yet the other items that frighten our kid cast here are creepier – those of loss, innocence, bullying, and even free will to just be a young teen.

Andy Muschietti’s version of the King classic moves the book’s actions from the 1950s (when the author was a boy) to 1989, making those Stranger Things comparisons apt.  It’s summer in Derry, Maine where the rate of missing persons – especially kids – is astronomical. The prologue shows us how poor little seven-year old Georgie earned his milk carton status. It involves a meeting with demented clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), luring the child into the sewer. Eight months later, Georgie’s older brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) is desperately trying to find him. He’s part of a group known as The Losers. They include Beverly (Sophia Lillis), who’s got an undeserved reputation at school for being loose but whose real circumstances are far more terrifying and sad. There’s Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the overweight new kid on the block who coincidentally and humorously is a fan of New Kids on the Block. Richie (Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things) is the nerd who can’t keep his foul mouth shut. Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) is a hypochondriac, Stan (Wyatt Oleff) is the doubter of the bunch, and Mike (Chosen Jacobs) is the homeschooled orphan. All of The Losers soon experience their own visions of Pennywise and come to realize they must defeat him since no one else seems willing to.

Pennywise’s reign of terror seems to occur every 27 years in Derry, but there’s other issues the kids must deal with each day. Sophia with her abusive dad. Eddie with his overprotective mom. A nasty bully named Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) who’s nearly as dangerous as the title character. Ben having to admit his affection for both Sophia and those five crooners from Boston. And so on. Pennywise (with credit to Skarsgard’s performance) does have his moments of heebie jeebie glory, but they usually come with a simple facial expression and most of them are early on. The clown loses a bit of luster when an over reliance on CGI with “It” comes into play. What remains is the genuine creepiness happening with some of the kids daily lives. That trumps the increasingly milder scares involving Pennywise.

It helps tremendously that the performances of the young actors are all first-rate. Sophia Lillis has a young Amy Adams vibe and Lieberher (who already showed his chops in St. Vincent and Midnight Special) is an effective Loser leader. Stephen King was able to subtly write a coming of age story filled with heart that just happened to have a demented circus freak in the mix. Muschietti and his screenwriters pick up on that with this adaptation to mostly satisfying results.

*** (out of four)

It Box Office Prediction

It’s been a rough stretch at the box office in recent weekends and Hollywood’s prescription seems to be… send in the clowns! That happens on September 8th when It unleashes itself into multiplexes. It could set some records along the way.

Based on Stephen King’s acclaimed novel, the Warner Bros pic has been building steady momentum through its creepily effective trailers and TV spots. There’s an entire generation of moviegoers who recall the 1990 miniseries where Tim Curry portrayed demented clown Pennywise. This time around, it’s Swedish actor Bill Skarsgard donning the makeup. Andy Muschietti, who made the well-regarded 2013 horror flick Mama, is behind the camera. The rest of the youthful cast deemed The Losers includes Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Finn Wolfhard (who you may recognize from Netflix’s Stranger Things).

As mentioned, the current rough stretch on the box office charts looks to demolished by this killer clown. Tracking has been rising in recent weeks with It, so much so that the following records could be done away with. The current all-time September best debut is 2015’s Hotel Transylvania with $48 million. When it comes to horror titles in general, that record is held by 2011’s Paranormal Activity 3 at $52 million. If you throw 2001’s Hannibal into that category, that gets you to $58 million.

The current financial slumber in theaters should only help It break out in a major way. Genre enthusiasts should eat this up and crossover appeal based on buzz and solid early word-of-mouth should be significant. I’m predicting It will break all the records mentioned and float north of $60 million for its start.

It opening weekend prediction: $65.4 million

For my Home Again prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/30/home-again-box-office-prediction/