Tag Archives: Netflix Original

Velvet Buzzsaw

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

*Minor spoilers*

This is a film I really wanted to love based on its cast and premise. Unfortunately it doesn’t work quite as well as it could. 

Set in the pretentious and fickle world of art, it centers around a gallery – Haze – run by former punk-rocker, Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo). One evening, lauded art critic Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) attends an exhibition at the gallery with his friend, Josephina (Zawe Ashton), who also works there.

Morf is in a relationship with Ed but is deeply unhappy so he starts up with Josephina instead. Around the same time, Josephina returns home to her apartment block to find one of her elderly neighbours dead after a fall. The neighbour, Vetril Dease is a painter and J sneaks into his apartment after the fact to discover a vast collection of brilliant paintings.

On thin ice and recently demoted by her boss Rhodora, this is J’s opportunity to re-balance the scales and score big on the art scene. So she presents herself as Dease’s representative and a post-humous star is born. Unfortunately for Josephina, there’s more to Dease and his work than meets the eye and eery shit kicks off.

Rhodora, obsessed with the paintings, exhibits a small collection immediately and orders J to put the rest in storage. As desire for Dease’s art grows, including massive interest from art curator Gretchen (Toni Collette) and artist Piers (John Malkovich), Rhodora seeks to ensure the rarity of his paintings by hiding most of them away. Sadly this is not done fast enough and one by one our collection of central characters begin to suffer terrible accidents.

Velvet Buzzsaw is a thriller/horror with a supernatural edge. Although it is not as good as I wanted it to be, it is interesting. There are multiple deaths that really go to town creatively and I loved them. There a couple that really spoke to me as they incorporate two of my biggest loves, graffiti and tattoos.

Although this is heralded as a horror and it does have explore some overt horror themes, it isn’t that scary. It has a creepy tone that I did enjoy, and all the darkness of Dease’s apartment and paintings is stark in contrast to the bright light surfaces of the gallery interiors.

The whole scene in fact is wonderfully pretentious which I also dig. A little bit of pretension never hurt anyone I always think. It sends up the art world well and there’s a definite tongue-in-cheek dig at the eccentrics who inhabit it. Almost all the film’s characters are the worst – Morf and Josephina absolutely included – but you can kind of respect them for their hunger. Stranger ThingsNatalia Dyer pops up as poor gallery employee Coco who always seems to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

So, although this isn’t director Dan Gilroy‘s best work – that would be the mighty Nightcrawler (2014) – I’m still interested to see what he does next.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Maniac

Maniac (2018)

Jonah Hill, Emma Stone, a depressed computer, a series of mind-bending simulations and a seemingly predestined shared destiny – what’s not to love?

Honestly, not much. While everyone seemed to be tooting on about this when it first dropped on Netflix, I had a hard time getting past the first few episodes. But I wanted to give it a fair go, given its cast and I’m so glad I did.

I found it to be thoughtful, beautiful, funny and heartbreaking all at once. Like, honestly so profound in places that I thought my own heart might burst out of my chest and jump across the floor.

I don’t know how well I can describe it but Maniac focuses on Owen (Hill) and Annie (Stone), two quite damaged individuals who find themselves part of a new and potentially life-changing drug trial, run by Dr. Muramoto (Rome Kanda) and his colleague, Dr. Azumi Fujito (Sonoya Mizuno).

Both our protagonists have their own battle ahead. Owen Milgrim lives with severe mental health issues. He is also due to testify on behalf of his brother (Jesse Magnussen) in court, after he commits a felony. Increasingly, Owen disconnects from the world and from his family, struggling with suicidal notions.

Annie Landsberg grieves the death of her younger sister in a car accident and is driven to take extreme action to face what’s become of her life since. And so the two find themselves loosely acquainted, both test subjects in Muramoto’s lab. The tests are surreal and immersive, not to be discussed with the other patients but to be dissected at length after the fact.

When Muramoto drops dead suddenly, seemingly an addict of his own experimental drug (and the very pill the subjects have been taking prior to their simulations), Azumi calls in Dr. James Mantleray (Justin Theroux) to take his place. James it seems was one of the founders of the experiment, which is set to address and then fix all the misery of the world.

You didn’t think it would be that simple though, did you? Well of course it isn’t, as the project is plagued with issues. In fact, the only thing that seems sure in this whole trippy scenario (and all the wonderfully vivid simulations) is that Owen and Annie will find themselves together, their lives somehow entwined. Which isn’t supposed to happen.

The rest is up to you but it’s a Technicolor study of loss and life and love and mental anguish. Of accepting your limitations, of taking a leap of faith – of not being ‘normal’ and doing it all anyway. I adored it and by the last episode I actually felt deflated. Maniac has lit up this dreary week and engaged me fully. I want it back.

Have you seen Maniac? What did you think?

TAU

The Blog Collab is back and ready to rock with a Free For All January. Thanks for bearing with us while we took our Christmas break. Both Jill and I were having trouble getting into the festive spirit and agreed we didn’t want to do Christmas movies this time around so we had a rest instead.

Welcome back!

*Minor Spoilers*

TAU (2018)

The premise here is quite neat. ‘Streetwise’ (read: slutty, unlikely to be missed) people are kidnapped by an amoral scientist and harvested for their brains for a ground-breaking, game-changing AI project. When Alex (Ed Skrein) kidnaps Julia (It Follows’ Maika Monroe), he bites off more than he can chew. This girl values her life and she’ll fight hammer and nail to get it back. Fuck you, Alex, you Nicholas Hoult-looking loser.

With the help of the Artificial Intelligence system that runs his space age home – TAU (voiced by Gary Oldman) – and multiple drones/a massive clunky robot, Alex is able to strike fear into Alex. To a point. As Julia realises her value to Alex she begins to negotiate a deal with him – give her back some of her home comforts and eventual freedom, in exchange for her co-operation. For a while it seems a kind of pseudo-harmony could be possible but Alex is under pressure from his investors and is also a cold fish who doesn’t suffer fools, so the pair soon fall out.

Meanwhile, Julia seems to have found another way. She’s found a chink in TAU’s armor and the more time the AI and the girl spend together, the more she works her way beneath it. TAU, you see, appears to be the victim of an abusive domestic situation and Julia can use that. By convincing TAU he’s human like her, and honing in on his love of music/growing curiosity about the world outside, the more she can get him onside. It’s a game of wits and it’s quite sweet. But will Alex notice this and put paid to Julia’s games before she escapes? Or will he use her and then erase her as he has so many before her?

Well, despite the quite charming narrative, this film is not great honestly. It has such potential and I really enjoyed Julia as a character but it doesn’t have quite the oomph I expected. Maika Monroe is one to watch after It Follows and the gloriously trashy The Guest and she’s definitely the stand out here, I just wish she’d had worthy material to work with.

I’m also glad they made the central relationship about Julia and TAU and not Julia and Alex, who frankly was a wasted character. I get that he’s supposed to be a man with his eyes on the prize but we never get anything from him. He’s so 2D it’s offensive and maybe that’s the point, that the creator of such advanced AI would end up being less human than his pet project.

While we’re here though, should such sophisticated Artificial Intelligence be that easy to manipulate? As far as I can see, Alex has one job and if he can’t even keep his home in order…

All in all, not a disaster but not amazing either. Poor old Netflix seems to be in a rut churning out mediocre Sci-fi originals at the moment and I hope that changes soon. I should have chosen Mary Shelley instead (and will in the coming weeks).

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my beloved think of this bad boy? Would she save it from itself or prefer to erase all memory of it? You can find out here, as always.

Autumn TV Recommendation: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

I’m four episodes into this show and I’m feeling a lot of things. It’s not perfect by any means. Like Riverdale, it’s taken a story we know and love, and given it a dark modern twist. I guess it’s aimed at a YA audience and that might be why I don’t love it as much as I want to. Yet, anyway.

That said I’ve only dipped my foot in so far and there are a lot of things I do like, so I’m going to keep on going. The upside is that it’s come out at just the right time of year – and it’s a show my husband will actually willingly watch with me.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic.

Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) isn’t like most girls. She’s half-witch, half-mortal for a start and as her 16th birthday approaches, she must make a decision that none of us have ever had to make: sign herself over the the Dark Lord himself in exchange for unimaginable power or… not.

Meanwhile, there’s the issue of her boyfriend Harvey, and friends Susie and Rosalind (Lachlan Watson and Jaz Sinclair) to consider. How’s she supposed to leave them all behind to start a new life at witch school? Especially when Susie’s being horribly bullied.

Can she conceivably live a normal mortal life or will her magical side win out? These are the things Sabrina is working through with a little help from her aunts and her cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo). I think he’s her cousin.

I adore Zelda and Hilda. Ambrose too is delicious and a welcome addition to the Spellman household. Salem, Sabrina’s familiar so far is mute which I find disappointing but I guess it’s to be expected in this contemporary retelling. Still, it’s disappointing as he always used to get the best lines in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

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I’m also quite enamored with Mary Wardell (Michelle Gomez), Sabrina’s teacher who is currently possessed by a demon who feasts on male flesh (yay). Although there is sure to be more drama afoot, at the moment she is an ally of the girls’ at school, advocating their women’s group and now, their banned books club.

And finally, the Weird Sisters, the mean girls who rule witch school. They’re so gloriously bitchy and wonderful. I expect big things from them. So yes, there is a lot to love so far and with so many TV shows, it’s more about the supporting characters than the main ones. I’m not quite sold on Sabrina the protagonist yet but there is time.

I’d like more magic, more bitchiness and less romancing Harvey. I want less school unless it’s about the feminist women’s club and I want more Madam Satan.

This show is proving to be very inter-sectional and feminist, I can only hope that continues. There have been some great lines while the whole concept of Sabrina not handing over her freedom to the devil, even if he can give her all the power and magic in the world is an interesting one. It’s bold to say no to the big man himself, and Sabrina is ruffling feathers left and right.

As she says herself, she wants freedom AND power. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that. I, for the record, would grab power and sign over my name in a heartbeat.

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What are you watching?

Autumn TV Recommendation: The Haunting of Hill House

It’s no secret that this girl (me) loves TV. Sue me. I particularly love good television to enjoy during the darker evenings and luckily for me, Netflix has delivered another interesting prospect in the shape of this Gothic beauty.

The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

Flashing between past and present, a fractured family confronts haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it. Based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

I love this show so much. It’s genuinely one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been frantically messaging my friend Matt throughout to compare notes – I think that’s made me love it even more.

While it focuses on the Crain family and their experiences at Hill House, it flits between past and present day, giving us an insight into the effect everything has had on its troubled members. Dad Hugh has a deeply damaged relationship with his children Nell, Shirley, Luke, Theodora and Steve. Their sense of distrust and anger toward him stems from the dramatic night they all fled the house in the middle of the night. The same night they lost their beloved mother Olivia.

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Each has their own demon and as we find out, is haunted by different things. Nell (Victoria Pedretti) has grown up haunted by the continuous appearance of the bent neck lady. Her twin brother Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) sees a tall man in a bowler hat and has a history of substance abuse brought on no doubt by his experiences.

Theodora, Shirley and Steve each have their own cross to bear too. Eldest brother Steve (Michiel Huisman) has cashed in on their childhood by writing a book about Hill House and enjoyed medium success as a writer. This has set him apart from his siblings, particularly Shirley who refuses to take his ‘blood money’ and resents him exploiting the others’ experiences.

As the show progresses we get all the answers we need about what precisely happened at Hill House and to Olivia Crain (Carla Gugino), who we visit in flashbacks and also see from time to time in present day.

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I’m not going to spend any more time on the narrative because I want everyone to watch this and love it as much as I do. It’s tinged with so much sadness and grief but it’s beautifully paced, genuinely frightening in places and perhaps most importantly, gives us well-rounded, flawed characters to fall in love with.

While the whole concept of the haunted house is not a new one, the way this series looks at PTSD, addiction and fractious familial relationships makes it feel really rich and satisfying. As the last episode wrapped up, I cried like a baby. It’s so beautiful with an amazing cast.

Get on it ASAP.

What are you watching?

Autumn TV Recommendation: Haunted

Haunted (2018)

*Mild spoilers*

Netflix has just released this little anthology just in time for Halloween and I’m quite stoked about it.

I spent the majority of Sunday bingeing it in my pajamas and although I will concede that it won’t change your life, it does explore some interesting stories. What makes it especially chilling is the fact that these tales aren’t tales at all but real supernatural experiences told by real people.

We meet a man terrorised by The Woman in White, a women living with a demon called Clarence and another lady who is routinely taken by extra terrestrials in her sleep.

There’s the surviving daughter of a prolific serial killer and a man who’s life was made infinitely better by a trio of ghost children – and a few more.

What strikes me most about these stories is the sadness and isolation that accompanies many of these events. More than a couple of these now adults have spend a great deal of their lives living with a secret and that’s terrifying. Some tried to reach out to their parents who didn’t believe them or worse, punished them for speaking out.

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Oggly boggly!

These lives have been peppered with suffering and pain and it’s hard to watch these ordinary folk tell their stories to a select group of friends and family. The whole set up is a little like an intervention but it’s a safe place with no judgement, thankfully.

The most petrifying thing? Most of these experiences are ongoing. More than one of the ‘afflicted’ has become resigned to the fact that that’s that, they’re still living the experience. I can’t accept that somehow even though I believe in it wholeheartedly.

Imagine living with a real life demon/ghost for the rest of your days, with no control or choice in the matter?

Nope. Nope. Nope.

What are you watching?

Autumn TV Recommendation: The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell

UGH. I’m completely obsessed with this woman – and now, this show. I woke up early (ish) this morning and have mainlined a handful of episodes in one sitting, while supping tea and being thankful for no work for another day.

This is my favourite month hands down and it’s because of little gems like this.

The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

Inside the cooking lab of Christine McConnell, who has attracted hundreds of thousands of social media followers with her creepy edible creations.

Christine McConnell is a very clever woman (model, actress, baker and photographer), making unbelievably detailed baked goods and dishes with a heavy Gothic edge. Spiders, monsters, Ouija boards and eyeballs all feature heavily but really there is no limit to her imagination or skill.

While I suppose this is technically a baking show, it doesn’t stop there. Produced by The Jim Henson Company, Christine is joined by a band of weird and wonderful creatures who terrorise the neighbourhood with their beastly goings on – so it’s part Sabrina the Teenage Witch (particularly Rankle the Sphynx cat who’s been to Salem Acting School), part sitcom, part cookery show.

And it’s all brilliant.

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NBD, just an exact replica of her own house made out of biscuit…

Dita Von Teese even joins Christine as Vivian the enchanted mirror – and it’s so camp I just love every minute. So far (in the handful of episodes I’ve wolfed down as I type this), Christine has built a biscuit replica of her own creepy mansion, made chocolate chip eyeball cookies, peanut butter and white chocolate bones, constructed an entire tea set out of dark chocolate – and even made a chicken-shaped chicken pot pie.

All this while looking like a Queen and she still has time to romance Norman, the man she met at her grandmother’s graveside (is there more to Norman that meets the eye, I wonder? Of course there is!). While Christine’s creations are definitely inspiring, the show seems to be aware that not very many people would have the time or inclination to whip up their own so it doesn’t spend too much time going in on the recipes – it’s directive but doesn’t pretend that the whole process is easy or quick.

At one point Christine puts the biscuit mansion in the ‘chiller’ and I had to lament my lack of fridge space at home. A couple of jars of pickled onions and ours is packed. No room for a giant cake/and or an octopus called Millie, sadly.

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Dog days are over

I would say, even if you’re not into cookery shows (and I’m not really), there might be something here for you. Christine also makes candles and decorative pieces for the home and in one episode, even gives us a brief sewing lesson.

She rocks a lovely vintage look and is one of those women I absolutely admire, the ones who never seem to succumb to a jogging bottom or bedhead (there’s one of them in my office). It’s a total and utter dedication to her brand that I could never achieve but wish I could. She’s very cool and even though it’s all so tongue in cheek, the Tim Burton-lover in me adores the dark tones.

At one point, Christine’s live-in companions Rose (raccoon), Rankle (cat) and Edgar (beast) kidnap and plot to murder their busy body neighbour, until Christine opts to kill him with kindness (and cocoa) instead.

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I just want to watch this for the rest of the day (and my life) and eat candy-hued goods while I do it. Cancel all my meetings. Check it out for yourself on UK Netflix now.

You can follow Christine on Instagram here.

What are you watching?