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Velvet Buzzsaw review : expertly crafted, tackling the true meaning behind art

Check out Emily’s thoughts on Gyllenhaal’s latest Netflix offering

Emily

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Director:

Dan Gilroy

Cast:

Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, John Malkovich

Run time:

113 mins

Rating:

“Velvet Buzzsaw” is the latest film from Dan Gilroy, reuniting him with “Nightcrawler” stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. Gilroy, known for his satirical storylines, centers Buzzsaw around the transactional nature of the fine art world and showcases how monetary value can hinder true artistic expression.

The film opens in Florida at an art convention. Here we meet all our key characters in their true, overly competitive, habitat. Gyllenhaal plays Morf Vandewalt, a top art critic, who can make or break an artist’s career and financial worth with a single review. He is joined by a cast of characters who are major contributors to the business of art; a cut-throat art dealer (Russo), her former employee turned competitor (Sturridge), a museum curator (Collette) and Josephina, an ambitious assistant (Ashton). Caught in their web are two artists: one who is rich but has lost his artistic voice in a sea of reprints and dollar signs (Malkovich) and the other a fresh face on the scene who can’t quite decide if leaving his artist collective for the fine art world is worth it (Diggs).

Looking for new artists to exploit is what this crew does best and when Ashton stumbles upon a trove of art created by her dead neighbor, Ventril Dease, she sees an opportunity and takes it. Sensing the paintings are valuable, she decides to sell them for a massive eight figure profit, blatantly ignoring their creator’s request to have the art destroyed immediately upon his death. Her friends also decide to join in on the action with Russo providing the backing to get paintings out to the crème de la crème of buyers and Gyllenhaal offering to write an exclusive book on the artist.

The group is so caught up in their profit making scheme that they fail to see the literal blood, sweat and tears that Dease put into his art. The pieces were never meant for mass consumption or financial gain, but instead were created by an individual working out his psychotic inner demons. This is where Gilroy decides to turn the fine art world into a gore and paint-filled death match, as the art decides to fight back and protect the sanctity of the artist.

The film tackles the true meaning behind art with Josephina delivering lines like, “What’s the purpose of art if no one sees it?” These are concepts that every creative type struggles with: to sell out or not to sell out? Selling out, often referred to as selling one’s soul to the devil, is the antithesis of true artist expression. As our characters quickly learn, the best art is never made with dollar signs in mind.

“Buzzsaw’s” real star is the theme. It is so expertly crafted that many viewers will find themselves thinking that the characters ended up taking a backseat, but they will probably be missing Gilroy’s point, the shallow financially-inclined world of fine art is, not surprisingly, full of shallow people. The audience isn’t meant to connect with these soulless purveyors on a deep level. Instead we are meant to feel their lack of artistic heart throughout the piece to learn the lesson: create art for no one but yourself.

Film Reviews

Aladdin review : a gorgeous family film

Check out what we thought of the live-action adaptation of the ’92 classic

K.T Simpson

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In a world of remakes, reboots and live-action adaptations, it’s pretty difficult to get excited about Disney merely turning a cartoon into a big screen production – especially with Guy Ritchie at the helm. It’s no secret that there’s been a cloud of negativity circling “Aladdin”, but put those doubts aside, because unlike Ritchie’s “King Arthur”, “Aladdin” is impressive in so many ways.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the story of Aladdin, the ‘street-rat’ living in Agrabah and stealing to survive life in the village with pet monkey Abu. The 1992 film was an instant classic and a timeless Disney tale with a particularly iconic performance from Robin Williams as Genie. It’s big shoes for Ritchie, who has adapted the animation into a musical fantasy film, with Will Smith as the wisecracking Genie, Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. Upon meeting Jasmine on the streets of Agrabah, Aladdin is instantly smitten and vows to win her heart, despite the castle’s highly secured walls in his way.

After Aladdin is caught by guards in the castle, Jafar, the Royal Vizier of Agrabah (Marwan Kenzari) promises to set Aladdin free if he retrieves a lamp from the Cave of Wonders. Of course the plan fails and Aladdin and Apu are trapped underground with the Magic Carpet, the lamp – and the Genie that emerges from the lamp, who then promises Aladdin 3 wishes.

The beauty in Ritchie’s “Aladdin” is firmly in the cinematography and big screen production, creating a gorgeous visual of Aladdin’s world and everyone within it. The songs hit all the high notes – excuse the pun – and Scott as Princess Jasmine is the particular standout. Her performance of “Speechless” is the next “Let it Go”, and will give you goosebumps in the beautifully choreographed scene. Massoud is a great choice to play Aladdin; the handsome young actor has a charming smile that reminds us all why Jasmine feels such a connection with the boy who on paper, is not the right choice for her.

Smith as Genie is a surprise knockout, bringing his own style of humour and entertainment to the role that Williams was so famous for. Smith never tries to emulate the ’92 animated genie, but rather introduces himself as his own genre of Genie – for which we should all appreciate. His chemistry with Massoud’s Aladdin is completely on point, and the duo bring some of the biggest laughs of the film. Aladdin’s monkey Apu is a character in himself, a cute little sidekick and says a lot without saying anything – thanks to fantastic CGI.

Jafar was always such a menacing and terrifying villain, and the hunger of his desire to be the most powerful in Agrabah is quite obvious throughout the film. He has the ability to be innocently charming, while plotting domination underneath – the mark of a true villain.

“Aladdin” truly kicks the goals of an incredible family film – it looks gorgeous, the performances are incredible and the narrative is truly heartwarming and enjoyable. Add in a healthy dose of humour and you’ve got yourself one of the most memorable films of the year.

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Film Reviews

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum review : one hell of a wild ride!

John Wick is back with a vengeance in Parabellum

K.T Simpson

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If there’s one thing we know for sure, entering the third chapter of the “John Wick” franchise, it’s that Wick wants to live. We’ve had two films preceding “Parabellum”, both showing that Wick is a man that just never gives up on his quest for revenge, and no matter how good he looks in a suit – he’s not a man you can mess with.

“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” picks up directly after “Chapter 2”, where Wick (Reeves), and his dog in tow, is running for his life with 1 hour until he’s declared excommunicado, following him breaking the rules and killing High Table member Santino D’Antonio on the grounds of the Continental Hotel. The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), a representative of the High Table, is on the quest to punish those who helped Wick, including Winston (Ian McShane), the manager of the Continental Hotel, and crime lord Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), who has quite an incredible army of pigeons.

With a $14 million bounty on his head, John Wick is out to survive, and take no mercy on those who dare to fight him. Despite watching their peers get brutally and savagely beaten and murdered around them, they keep going after Wick – presumably thinking that they can be the one to knock him off the perch and go home with a fatter wallet. Meanwhile, Wick seeks out allies from the past, despite their reluctance to help him, in an effort to survive – for reasons we soon find out – and remove the bounty from his head.

The action sequences, while impressive, tend to play out a little like a live-action Call of Duty battle scene after a while, probably lasting a little too long and implementing all those clichés the game-lovers will recognize: enemies descending on you from all angles, setting the dogs to rip-tear-bust, and throwing smoke grenades into empty rooms. It’s slightly reminiscent of “The Matrix” in that action scenes tend to drag and are a little bit of an overkill. That said, the action is addictive as hell and pretty bloody gruesome. Safe to say, “Parabellum” is not for the feint-hearted. If you’re squeamish about knives penetrating an entire human head, this may not be the film for you.

There’s something insanely awkward about the way Keanu Reeves walks – if a little pigeon toed – but still manages to effortlessly defend and attack in awesome style. He flicks his hair like he’s straight out of “Point Break” (or is it more “Bill and Ted”?), but John Wick has a style about him we all just want to imitate – perhaps it’s the way he fights round the world and never takes off his suit and tie. Respect for that kind of commitment, straight up.

As action films go, you’ll get more than your money’s worth with “Parabellum”. It’s a really well done action flick and incredibly directed by Chad Stahelski – his strengths clearly lie in the action choreograph arena. Mark Dacascos as Zero, the head assassin is a true stand out in “Parabellum”, providing some humour amongst the blood, guts and fighting. Fishburne also impresses as the underground crime lord, with his alliances more aligned with his pigeon friends than the people around him.

“Parabellum” is one hell of a wild ride – and one you won’t want to miss on the big screen for the visual (and audio) spectacle you’re about to experience. It’s a completely bonkers and good-time entertaining film, and without a doubt one of the standout feature films in 2019.

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Film Reviews

The Hustle review : uninspiring and unfunny

Bit of a waste of a remake, really

K.T Simpson

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Every now and then, a remake gets made and it kicks all the goals, delivering a fresh take of humour and clever dialogue. This isn’t that movie. It’s hard to understand why Hollywood are mixing up old films, but I imagine the only answer comes in the form of a pay day.

When you’ve got a classic film like “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” with a top cast of Steve Martin and Michael Caine – it begs the question: why bother remaking it? The typical Hollywood twist comes in the gender switch, but apart from that this film is a straight-up copy-and-paste of the 1988 comedy. With a few millennial and female-centric jokes thrown in instead, of course.

Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway are the two main ladies in “The Hustle”, as they scam and thieve their way through the wallets of their chosen victims – and engage in a bit of a turf war when Lonnie (Wilson) encroaches upon France, which happens to be Josephine’s (Hathaway) home town (yes, French accent and all). The ladies set their sights on an American app-developer Thomas (Alex Sharp), and decide to attempt to rob him in their own unique way, making it a wager between the two.

Also confusing, and somewhat vexing, is the tagline used for this film. “Giving dirty rotten men a run for their money” – it’s interesting when literally none of the victims they target could be considered “dirty rotten”. They’re just people going about their lives. Lonnie’s whole game has to do with being rejected…. for catfishing….which she seems to find unfair and tell-all about men these days. I’m sorry, scriptwriters, but this makes no sense.

Wilson is really what “The Hustle” is using for the humourous quips, which unfortunately relies heavily (pun not intended) on fat jokes – I lost count after about 10 of them. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the funny bits – and even those are fairly stock-standard slapstick jokes, which worked better with Steve Martin.

On a whole, “The Hustle” is uninspiring, unfunny and just plain boring. The only thing going for it is a reasonable run time, giving you enough time to fit in a stiff drink following so you can forget it and get a good sleep. Having said that, “The Hustle” is completely forgettable, so don’t stress about lying awake thinking about it all night.

So what’s good about it? Look, you may get a few chuckles out of Wilson. Hathaway wears too much makeup and it’s a little bit distracting, and as a result isn’t as funny. But if you want a great heist film, with twists and turns and genuine humour – watch “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” instead.

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