Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

Velvet Buzzsaw
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, John Malkovich, Billy Magnussen, Pat Healy
Seen on: 11.4.2021

Plot:
Morf (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an art critic, always looking for something new and good. But currently, he is rather more occupied with Josephina (Zawe Ashton). She works in the gallery run by Rhodora (Rene Russo), hoping to become a successful agent herself, and Morf is deeply in love with her, despite having a boyfriend. When Josephina finds out that a recently deceased tenant in her building was an artist who wanted to have all his art destroyed upon his death, she is convinced that his art is something special. She is not wrong, though she couldn’t have foreseen what kind of special it really is.

Velvet Buzzsaw is visually engaging, and has a great cast who obviously had a lot of fun chewing the scenery in this one. But the metaphor at its heart feels a little flimsy and could have done with a little more work.

The film poster showing a white frame on a white wall with the words Velvet Buzzsaw spraypainted across it, the red paint dripping down and over the frame.
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Vampires vs. the Bronx (2020)

Vampires vs. the Bronx
Director: Oz Rodriguez
Writer: Oz Rodriguez, Blaise Hemingway
Cast: Jaden Michael, Gerald Jones III, Gregory Diaz IV, Sarah Gadon, Method Man, Shea Whigham, Coco Jones, The Kid Mero, Zoe Saldana
Seen on: 9.4.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Miguel (Jaden Michael) loves the Bronx. So he tries to organize a fundraising event for the local bodega run by Tony (The Kid Mero) that is close to shutting down. It’s not just a bodega, it’s also a safe space for Miguel and his best friends Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) and Bobby (Gerald Jones III). Part of the bodega’s problems is the gentrification that is slowly but surely reaching the Bronx, pushed forward by Murnau Real Estate. But Miguel soon realizes that there is more to the company – they aren’t just there for the profit, they actually are vampires. So Miguel gathers Luis and Bobby to fight for the Bronx.

Vampires vs. the Bronx is sweet and fun, but it stumbles a little over its own political metaphors and a little too conventional narrative structure. Still, it is a very entertaining romp.

The film poster showing the four main kids as stylized images. Miguel (Jaden Michael) is at the top, clutching a cross and screaming.
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Pachamama (2018)

Pachamama
Director: Juan Antin
Writer: Juan Antin, Patricia Valeix, Olivier de Bannes, Nathalie Hertzberg
Cast: Andrea Santamaria, India Coenen, Saïd Amadis, Marie-Christine Darah, Vincent Ropion, Jean-Marc Pannetier [I saw the film in English, these are the French voice actors]
Seen on: 23.3.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) colonialism

Plot:
Tepulpai (Andrea Santamaria) wants to become a shaman like Shaman (Saïd Amadis). When its time to prove that he is willing to sacrifice his most treasured possession to Pachamama and thus prove that he is becoming an adult, he can’t do it – unlike Naira (India Coenen) who is ready to sacrifice her small llama Lamita. When a tax collector shows up in their village and takes not only more than the village can afford, but also their Huaca, a sacred idol, Tepulpai hopes he can prove himself after all – by bringing back the Huaca.

Pachamama is a really beautiful film with a political core, but the story and the voice acting didn’t quite work for me.

The film poster showing Tepulpai and Naira flying on a big Condor bird. Lamita is watching them from the ground.
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A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

A Wrinkle in Time
Director: Ava DuVernay
Writer: Jennifer Lee, Jeff Stockwell
Based on: Madeleine L’Engle’s novel
Cast: Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard, Bellamy Young, David Oyelowo
Seen on: 22.3.2021

Plot:
Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is an unusual child from an unusual family. Her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a scientist, as is her father (Chris Pine) – who has been missing for a while. He was working on tesseracts when he just disappeared. Meg’s genius little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) seems to know more about it. And he has made some strange friends who know even more than that: Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey). The three women prompt Meg, Charles Wallace and Meg’s class mate Calvin (Levi Miller) to go looking for her father – all through the universe.

I was rather disappointed when A Wrinkle in Time never got a big cinema release here in Austria, and I still think I would have appreciated seeing it on the big screen – the film is at its best, after all, when it just creates visuals. Other than those, it is very fine, but not great.

The film poster showing the main characters arranged in a circle.
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Dark Phoenix (2019)


Dark Phoenix
Director: Simon Kinberg
Writer: Simon Kinberg
Based on: The Marvel Comics series
Sequel to: X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jessica Chastain, Scott Shepherd, Ato Essandoh, Brian d’Arcy James
Seen on: 13.6.2019

Plot:
It’s 1992 and mutants and humans have found a way to coexist peacefully. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) still runs his school where he trains and educates young mutants. One of his teachers is Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) who has been at the academy since she was a child herself. She is also one of the X-Men. While on a mission, Jean gets exposed to an ancient, alien power, though, and it changes her – giving her much more power but also less control.

Dark Phoenix was preceded by a wave of bad reviews and I’m sorry to say that they were all right. It really is an abysmal film.

The film poster showing the main characters in X-suits and power stances.
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Anna & The Asteroid (2017)

Anna & The Asteroid
Director: Scott Sherman
Writer: Scott Sherman
Cast: Shannon Woodward, Peter Grosz
Seen on: 10.6.2019

Content Note: stalking

Plot:
There’s an asteroid (Peter Grosz) heading towards Earth, because it is in love with Anna (Shannon Woodward), a woman. But its approach spells apocalypse for all of Earth.

Anna & the Asteroid has an interesting concept that could have been an excellent analogy for stalking – because that’s what the asteroid does. Instead it becomes a story about a woman sacrificing herself for the sake of the world (after a life-changing encounter with a human man that cures her of her nihilism). And that is questionable to say the least and ruined the film for me.

The film poster showing the silhouette of a woman in yellow on a black background. She is looking up at a big yellow asteroid above her.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Avengers: Endgame
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writer: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: the comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Sequel to: The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Brie Larson, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana, Evangeline Lilly, Tessa Thompson, Rene Russo, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian StanTom Hiddleston, Danai Gurira, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Letitia Wright, John Slattery, Tilda Swinton, Vin Diesel, Jon Favreau, Hayley Atwell, Natalie Portman, Marisa Tomei, Taika Waititi, Angela Bassett, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Sean Gunn, Winston Duke, Linda Cardellini, Frank Grillo, Hiroyuki Sanada, James D’Arcy, Jacob Batalon, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Redford, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ken Jeong, Ty Simpkins, Stan Lee
Part of: Marvel movies
Seen on: 1.5.2019
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Content Note: fat hate

Plot:
It’s been a while since Thanos (Josh Brolin) changed the entire universe. People are coping, but how well varies from person to person. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), for one, didn’t realize at all what was happening, having spent years trapped in the quantum realm. But now he has finally been able to return to find the world very much changed. He seeks out the remaining Avengers, believing that the quantum realm may just be the very thing to help them undo what Thanos caused.

Avengers: Endgame basically had no choice but be epic (the sheer number of people and characters alone!) and it certainly delivered that. It does feel like a worthy end to the series, even if not everything about it works or is as good as it should be.

The film poster showing the main characters in a montage.
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The Kid Who Would Be King (2019)

The Kid Who Would Be King
Director: Joe Cornish
Writer: Joe Cornish
Cast: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Denise Gough, Dean Chaumoo, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Noma Dumezweni, Rebecca Ferguson, Mark Bonnar, Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart
Seen on: 24.4.2019
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Plot:
When Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) steps in when his best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) is being bullied, the two bullies Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris) don’t take too kindly to it. That night, they chase Alex on his way home, but Alex hides in a construction site where he finds a sword embedded in the stone. He pulls it out – and realizes that it is actually Excalibur. Along with Excalibut comes Merlin (Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart) and a threat in the form of Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson). It is up to Alex and his friends to stop her.

I have rarely seen a film get a cinematic release that was talked about so little as The Kid Who Would Be King. And I honestly don’t get it. It is a cute family film, it has famous people and it is very entertaining. By rights, it should have been easy to advertise and easier still to be a success. So, take it from me and have fun with this one!

The film poster showing Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) in armor, with a big sword strapped to his back.
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Don’t Kill It (2016)

Don’t Kill It
Director: Mike Mendez
Writer: Robert Olsen, Dan Berk
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Kristina Klebe, Elissa Dowling, Michael Aaron Milligan, Billy Slaughter, Aaron McPherson, Jasi Cotton Lanier
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 1.10.2016
[Review by cornholio.]

Plot:
Jebediah Woodley (Dolph Lundgren) is a demon hunter. The best demon hunter. So when a demon hits the small Mississippi town of Chicory Creek, Jebediah is there to take care of it. Also there is FBI agent Evelyn Pierce (Kristina Klebe) who came to investigate the series of murder that the demon caused. While they both have their doubts about the work of the other, it doesn’t take long until they’re forced to team up.

Don’t Kill It knows exactly what it is and what it has to offer – and that is the perfect B-movie experience. So they throw all their weight into presenting the best piece of trash they could possibly offer – and it’s glorious.

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