Life

For F*** Magazine

LIFE

Director : Anton Corbijn
Cast : Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Ben Kingsley, Joel Edgerton, Alessandra Mastronardi
Run Time : 1 hr 52 mins
Opens : 31 December 2015
Rating : M18 (Sexual Scene and Some Nudity)

It can be said that a photo of someone is a sliver of a life frozen in time. It is 1955 and photographer Dennis Stock (Pattinson) of the Magnum Photos Agency is out to create art, tired of the same old set visit and red carpet assignments he has been given by his boss at the agency John G. Morris (Edgerton). At a Hollywood party thrown by director Nicholas Ray (Peter J. Lucas), Stock meets young actor James Dean (DeHaan). Stock quickly identifies Dean as a fascinating potential subject and pitches a photo essay for LifeMagazine to Morris. Stock eventually convinces Dean to let him tag along, taking candid un-staged photos around L.A., New York and the farm in Indiana where Dean was raised. Warner Bros. studio head Jack Warner (Kingsley) is intent on pushing Dean as the next big thing, but Dean rejects the pageantry involved with presenting himself as a new matinee idol. Stock and Dean gradually go from being photographer and subject to true friends, all while Dean’s status as an icon for the ages is being moulded.

            It seems that garden variety “cradle to the grave” biopics just won’t cut it anymore, and a movie about a real person has to have some kind of hook to stand out from the crowd. Steve Jobs takes place behind the scenes of three key Apple/NeXT product launches, and Life focuses on the relationship between James Dean and Dennis Stock, the photographer who took some of the most iconic photos of the star. Screenwriter Luke Davies had originally intended to pen a traditional biopic about James Dean, but was struck by the photos that Stock took of Dean walking in Times Square and looked into the background of said photos. Director Anton Corbijn is himself a photographer, famed for being U2’s official photographer and the director of many of the band’s music videos. As such, it is easy to see why he was drawn to material, perhaps feeling an affinity with Stock.

            Life proves incredibly frustrating because for a film about a figure who lived fast and died (very) young, it ambles along at the most leisurely of paces. In order to capture the rising star in his most unguarded moments, Stock hung out with Dean and this movie could be titled “Hanging Out with James Dean”. When we hang out with friends, noteworthy occurrences are usually infrequent. In the film, Dean attends an acting class conducted by legendary teacher Lee Strasberg (Nicholas Rice), then goes for drinks with a few classmates and dances. It just so happens that he’s dancing with Eartha Kitt (Kelly McCreary). We glimpse a who’s who of 50s Hollywood luminaries including Elia Kazan (Michael Thierrault), Raymond Massey (John Blackwood) and Natalie Wood (Lauren Gallagher), but all the glitz and glamour is intended to be secondary to the central friendship of Stock and Dean. It’s akin to a kid at Disney World being dragged past Star Tours by his parents and forced to sit through the Hall of Presidents.


            James Dean is hailed as something of a mythic figure idolised by many and casting someone to play a personality whose look and attitude has been influential far after his death must have been an immense challenge. DeHaan might only resemble Dean on a foggy night from 30 feet away but he does make a conscious effort to convey Dean’s brooding intensity. There are moments when the performance comes across as whiny and others when it feels like someone playing dress-up, but one can tell DeHaan’s done his homework. Fellow Harry Osborn James Franco has also played Dean, in a 2001 made-for-TV biopic.

Pattinson has spent most of his post-Twilightcareer trying to distance himself from the vampire romance franchise and while he’s not a terrible actor, he’s not great either – at least not yet. Pattinson does develop a chemistry with DeHaan and the relationship progresses believably. The film depicts the dissolution of Dean’s romance with Italian starlet Pier Angeli (Mastronardi), though it seems like the film is eager to get her out of the way so the bromance may commence. Kingsley shows up to do some very delicious scene-chewing as Warner, less head honcho and more terrifying overlord of tinsel town.


Lifeviews James Dean through a photographer’s lens, pushing the glitz and glamour out of frame as much as possible. Perhaps through observing Dean, Stock changed and impacted the actor in some way as well. The approach is hit and miss – sometimes, Life’s quiet approach distinguishes it from melodramatic broad strokes biopics but at others, this feels like a boring movie about a fascinating subject, never digging quite deep enough.



Summary:While thoughtfully crafted, there are considerable stretches where Life seems to come to a standstill, the low-key approach working both for and against it.

RATING: 3out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 
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Ip Man 3 (叶问 3)

For F*** Magazine

IP MAN 3  (叶问 3)

Director : Wilson Yip
Cast : Donnie Yen, Zhang Jin, Lynn Hung, Patrick Tam, Mike Tyson, Karena Ng
Genre : Martial-Arts/Drama
Run Time : 1 hr 44 mins
Opens : 24 December 2015
Rating : PG13 (Some Violence)
After a five year leave of absence from the role, Donnie Yen is back as legendary martial artist Ip Man. It is 1950 and things are going well for Ip Man, who is respected throughout the land, continuing to run his Wing Chunacademy. Ip Chun, the son of Ip Man and his wife Cheung Wing-sing (Hung), gets into a schoolyard fight with Cheung Fong. It turns out that Cheung Fong is the son of rickshaw puller Cheung Tin-chi (Zhang), also a Wing Chun practitioner who is making money on the side in illegal fighting matches. Said matches are organised by American property developer Frank (Tyson), a crooked businessman who has the British Hong Kong police captain in his pocket. Local gangster Ma King-sang, working for Frank, terrorises the town, threatening the school that Ip Chun and Cheung Fong attend. As Ip Man’s disciples protect the innocent town folk, he must take on Frank and Cheung Tin-chi to prove his supremacy and safeguard his loved ones.

            Yen was initially reluctant to portray Ip Man a third time, saying of the second film “I believe it’s best to end something when it’s at perfection, and leave behind a good memory.” “Perfection” is a very strong word, Donnie. The sheer number of Ip Man-centric projects that cropped up after the success of the first film were also a factor in turning Yen off returning. Somehow, Ip Man 3 happened anyway, with Yen saying this will close out the series for good. This is a mess, with the feeling that a great deal was changed from what director Wilson Yip intended to shoot. The screenplay by Edmond Wong, Lai-yin Leung and Chan Tai-Li comes across as incredibly choppy and lacking in focus. Sure, the action choreography by Yen, Yuen Shun-Yee and Yuen Woo-Ping is expectedly splendid, but it ultimately needs to be in service of a solid story, which just isn’t the case here.

The initial announcements that Mike Tyson had signed on to play the villain and that Bruce Lee would be resurrected via digital trickery both reeked of unabashed gimmickry. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and Lee is played instead by Danny Chan, who does a fun, if over-the-top impression of the pioneering action star. Chan’s movements are appropriately swift, though his attempt at Lee’s signature cocky grin borders on caricature. Chan previously played Lee in the 2008 biographical TV series The Legend of Bruce Lee. Chan bears an uncanny resemblance to Lee and this reviewer is relieved that this is what we got instead of a disconcerting floating CGI head. While it was originally suggested that director Yip’s objective was for Ip Man 3 to follow the master-disciple relationship between Ip Man and Lee, that’s more a B-plot than anything else.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, Tyson is in very little of the film and his is a C-plot. Those looking forward to a showdown along the lines of Rocky vs. Ivan Drago in Rocky IV will come away sorely disappointed. Ip Man doesn’t even meet Frank until more than an hour into the film. Tyson is no actor and looks extremely out of place in Ip Man 3, unable to beat the snatches of Cantonese dialogue he is given into submission. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Ip Man film without a serving of anti-Western sentiment, with a supercilious British police captain also showing up. At one point, Kent Cheng’s Sgt. Po says the line “the two foreign devils are in cahoots!” with nary a sense of irony.

Yen has considerable experience playing Ip Man and his is often considered the definitive portrayal of the master. Ip Man is a combination warrior-sage-saint with no shortcomings to speak of and therefore not terribly interesting, because the filmmakers are too preoccupied with respecting his status to take any risks with the characterisation. Any and all scenes involving Ip Man’s wife Cheung Wing-sing and his son Ip Chun are treacly and cloying. Ip Man also had two sons in real life, but only one shows up. The real-life Ip Chun, now 91, served as the martial arts consultant on this film, as with the two earlier instalments. It is a massive missed opportunity not to have the actual Ip Chun interact with the child version of him in the film in a cameo. Like Yen, Zhang Jin actually is an accomplished martial artist and as such genre aficionados should enjoy seeing the two duke it out. There is a degree of complexity to Zhang’s character, who is an antagonist but not an out-and-out villain, which is appreciated in a film lacking in subtlety.



Audiences have waited a while for the conclusion to Yen’s Ip Mantrilogy and this is far from a truly satisfying final chapter. The stunt casting of Tyson isn’t exploited to its full potential and Ip Man taking Bruce Lee under his wing (chun), something which these films have been building up to, is treated like a side-plot. There are superbly-staged kungfu skirmishes aplenty, but it is difficult to recommend the film solely on that basis. Should’ve left it at two, Donnie.

Summary: Dynamic fights cannot rescue this scattershot threequel which closes out the Ip Man trilogy on an underwhelming note.

RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

For F*** Magazine

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

Director : J.J. Abrams
Cast : Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Gwendoline Christie. Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Max von Sydow
Genre : Sci-Fi/Action
Run Time : 2 hrs 16 mins
Opens : 17 December 2015
Rating : PG (Some Violence)

We’re well aware that this is one of the most pointless reviews we’ll ever publish. You’re all going to see this movie, you want to stay spoiler-free, you don’t want to read on regardless of how much we promise to consciously omit crucial plot details. It doesn’t matter; we’ll be okay. We love you; you know, yadda yadda.

            Still here? Awesome! Okay, so it’s 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi and an evil regime following in the footsteps of the Empire named The First Order has arisen. The astromech droid BB-8 is carrying vital information that Kylo Ren (Driver), a dark warrior who is the tip of the First Order’s spear, is in pursuit of. Scavenger Rey (Ridley), defecting Stormtrooper Finn (Boyega) and ace pilot Poe Dameron (Isaac) are all drawn into the conflict. Our heroes meet up with Han Solo (Ford), Chewbacca (Mayhew), General Leia Organa (Fisher), C-3PO (Daniels) and R2-D2. Leia is the leader of the Resistance against the First Order, who are developing a deadly superweapon in the form of Starkiller Base. General Hux (Gleeson), the leader of the base, is itching to unleash its power. Secrets will be uncovered and destinies will be fulfilled as good rises against evil in the grand Star Wars tradition. 

            The very microsecond this new Star Wars film was announced, expectations and hype began building, reaching critical mass over the last few months. Even in this age of mega-blockbusters, few movies have arrived bearing such an enormous burden, with so much to live up to and so much to atone for. Ideally, The Force Awakens should sweep the audience up, taking them along for the ride, making them look beyond the labour that has gone into its conception and execution. In this regard, the film is largely successful. Director J.J. Abrams has strived to recapture the magic of the original trilogy, and its essence has been preserved. Where the prequel films belied a preoccupation with gee-whiz technology over compelling storytelling or genuine thrills, The Force Awakens possesses a crucial forward momentum, a genuine emotional core and a welcome humanity.

Abrams is fully cognisant of the honour bestowed upon him, yet this doesn’t feel like a film made by a director who is scared. The Force Awakens is very respectful of the venerated original trilogy and if anything, sometimes echoes A New Hope and bits of The Empire Strikes Back too strongly. There are many scenes that mirror ones from those earlier films almost beat for beat, but the exuberant energy that permeates The Force Awakens helps to keep it from feeling too slavish. Where the prequels were criticised for often jarringly stilted dialogue, the screenplay by Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt absolutely works. Han and Leia sound like we remember them, the nods to iconic lines are just obvious enough and there’s a wit and tonal assurance with the humour that comfortably eases the audience back into that wonderful original trilogy mode. Hearing those John Williams motifs again, plus new music from the master composer, brought the chills on big time for this reviewer.   



Just as it is with the story, there must have been multiple considerations to bear in mind with regards to the design. It’s got to be close to what we remember, what we love, but not too close. There is a satisfying tactility to The Force Awakensand Abrams’ decision to favour practical in-camera approaches to the effects work whenever possible does pay off. Elaborate animatronics, guys in suits, special effects makeup, that’s the good stuff. The digitally-rendered characters portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o and Andy Serkis via performance capture do not stick out as jar(jar)ringly as some of the characters in the prequels did.

The spherical astromech droid BB-8 is a true triumph of design, becoming an iconic character even before the film’s release because of how cleverly it’s been conceived. BB-8 was an actual physical prop on set, and the dynamism in its movement and how much expression the droid can convey via beeps and whistles and a slight tilt of its head does feel authentically Star Wars-y. Since most of the ships riff on established designs, we don’t get any particularly inventive spacecraft, but that’s fine because everything just looks so good. The action sequences are kinetic but easy to follow and a chase scene between the Millennium Falcon and a TIE Fighter squadron in the planet Jakku’s atmosphere is one of the most gripping of the entire series.

There was a simplicity and purity about Star Wars that made it so easy to get into, before the cinematic universe expanded to a daunting, intricate extent. The new characters introduced are archetypes through and through, but that doesn’t mean they’re boring ciphers. Ridley’s Rey is a resourceful, capable female lead and it’s to the relative newcomer’s credit that her performance doesn’t yell “look at me, I’m a resourceful, capable female lead!” every other second. Her hardscrabble existence and dusty home planet remind us of Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, but she comes into her own at a quicker pace. As the Stormtrooper who decides he no longer wants to be in service of the bad guys, Boyega has a likeability about him and displays some excellent comic timing. Isaac has often been cast in villainous roles, but he wears the part of the old-fashioned swashbuckling hero well, relishing the chance to yell “woo-hoo!” as his X-Wing swoops out of the sky.

Seeing Ford reprise the role of that loveable scoundrel and seeing him do so with such willingness and conviction is an almost unspeakable joy. This is exactly the same Han Solo we know and love, with all the smirking and wisecracks feeling entirely appropriate. At the same time, there is a sweetness, sincerity and maturity in his interactions with Leia that is actually touching. Fisher brings a dignity and a quietly commanding presence to General Leia and seeing the pair back on the screen does feel like a big warm hug. Chewbacca is on hand to provide actual big warm hugs, too. Where is Luke Skywalker (Hamill)? We’re not going to answer that!


            In the villains’ camp, Driver’s Kylo Ren has been shrouded in mystery, his true nature a closely guarded secret. There is the danger that he comes off as an ersatz Darth Vader, but this is somewhat justified in that Ren feels it is his duty to fulfil Vader’s legacy. There is a petulance to Driver’s portrayal of the character that sometimes veers dangerously close to Hayden Christensen’s pouty temper tantrums, but one can tell that there’s more going on beneath the surface with Ren. As General Hux, Gleeson does a lot of supercilious sneering and it harks back to Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin in the most wonderful way. Christie’s Captain Phasma is a visually striking right-hand woman, but the character doesn’t have too much to do. Similarly, Indonesian martial artists/actors Yayan Ruhian, Iko Uwais and Cecep Arif Rahman make only the briefest appearance as members of the criminal Kanjiklub Gang. There are many characters to juggle as it is, but the film’s woeful underuse of Max von Sydow in particular is a shame.

            This is Star Wars in the same great original flavour we know and love. While there’s some rehashing going on, there are just enough new moves to keep audiences on their toes, while reminding them of what made those original three movies so spellbinding. This being the starting point for a new trilogy, there are plot threads that remain unresolved and there are tantalising hints of what’s to come in the sequel. While perhaps not 100% satisfying, Abrams has crafted a movie that is truly worthy of the name “Star Wars”. There are bound to be audiences this won’t please, but for this reviewer at least, The Force Awakens is quality entertainment.



Summary: The story beats and character types are familiar, but in embodying the soaring adventure and heartfelt simplicity that made the original trilogy so great, The Force Awakens is worth the agonising wait.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Jedi Jedi Abrams

For Issue #71/72 of F*** Magazine

Text:
J(EDI) J(EDI) ABRAMS
F*** tracks the career of the man chosen to reawaken the Force
By Jedd Jong

Getting the gig to direct the first Star Wars film in ten years is at once an incredible honour and a daunting, Herculean task. After all, we’re talking about one of the most beloved, iconic film franchises in history, and one with a massive, passionate fanbase. Said fans have been burned before – once bitten, twice shy and all that. The man taking the Starfighter controls behind the scenes of Episode VII just so happens to be a huge self-confessed Star Warsfan himself. This is the voyage that the writer/director/producer embarked on which led him to that fabled galaxy far, far away.

Jeffrey Jacob “J.J.” Abrams was born in 1966 to TV producers Gerald W. Abrams and Carol Ann Abrams. This would make him 11 when the original Star Wars film was released. “11 is a great age to have your mind blown,” Abrams said at the Star Wars Celebration convention in Anaheim earlier this year. “I will never forget that feeling of seeing ‘Long time ago, in a galaxy, far, far away’ fade out. It was the first time a movie made me believe in another world that way.” He recalled that the title ‘Star Wars’ struck him as an odd one when he first came across it in the classic sci-fi culture magazine Starlog. He saw the movie on opening day, and left the theatre “never being the same again”.



At age 13, Abrams’ grandfather gave him a Super 8 camera which he used to create his own homemade movies. “I would take anyone who was available — my sister, my mother, any friends — and I would kill them in crazy ways,” he told NPR’s Fresh Air program. As a teenager, Abrams entered a short film of his into a festival showcasing Super 8mm movies made by kids. Other contestants included Matt Reeves, who would go on to direct Cloverfield and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, as well as Larry Fong, who would become the cinematographer for 300and Watchmen. Steven Spielberg read an article titled The Beardless Wonders of Film Making in the Los Angeles Times and hired Abrams and Reeves to restore and edit his own childhood 8 mm films. A couple of years later, a 16-year-old Abrams composed the music for Don Dohler’s low-budget sci-fi horror movie Nightbeast. This was the beginning of a very promising career.

Abrams had planned to enrol in a film school, but attended Sarah Lawrence college instead. The advice given to him by his father was that “it’s more important you learn what to make movies about, than how to make movies.” In his senior year, Abrams co-wrote a feature film treatment with Jill Mazursky that became the 1990 movie Taking Care of Business, starring Charles Grodin and Jim Belushi. Abrams and Mazursky also wrote the comedy Gone Fishin’, starring Danny Glover and Joe Pesci. In between those two films, Abrams wrote the amnesia drama Regarding Henry, starring none other than Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford, and the sci-fi romance Forever Young, starring Mel Gibson. Abrams was one of four credited writers on Michael Bay’s sci-fi action film Armageddon.

In 1998, Abrams and Reeves created the TV series Felicity, starring Keri Russell and set at a fictional New York university. “I miss writing for a show that doesn’t have any sort of odd, almost sci-fi bend to it,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012, noting the difficulty inherent in devising stories for a show without a villain or high-stakes intrigue. Abrams co-founded the production company Bad Robot with Bryan Burk, and created the spy action show Alias in 2001. Now, here was a show that was wall-to-wall high-stakes intrigue. On Sydney Bristow, portrayed by Jennifer Garner, Abrams said “She was a character with a secret, and that is always a fun place to start. But she wasn’t a superhero; she was terrified at almost every step. But still, she would do the right thing. I think we would all like to believe we would behave like that when the going gets rough.”

In 2002, Abrams wrote the screenplay for Superman: Flyby, a project that eventually failed to materialise. Abrams’ script contained many deviations from established Superman lore, including a Kryptonian civil war between Jor-El and his evil brother Katar-Zor, Krypton remaining intact and Lex Luthor as a UFO-obsessed CIA operative who is revealed to be have been a Kryptonian sleeper agent all along. The leaking of this script played a large part in Abrams’ desire to keep as tight a lid as possible on later projects. “To have a script that is nowhere near the latest draft, let alone the final draft, being reviewed online, it frankly made me a little bit paranoid,” Abrams told NPR. “There are certain things that are, I think, important to keep quiet.” He further explained that “it’s not a Machiavellian sort of thing”, but that the secrecy stems from a desire for “people to have a good time and to have a little bit of a surprising time.”

2004 saw the premiere of Lost, which Abrams co-created with Jeffrey Lieber and Damon Lindelof for ABC. The network thought that Alias was too serialised in its storytelling, and Lindelof and Abrams promised the network that the show would be self-contained, with no ‘ultimate mystery’ to be solved. This might well be one of the great ruses in TV development history, as Lost was all about ‘ultimate mystery’, the show and its complex mythology soon becoming a pop culture phenomenon. Busy with other projects, Abrams left the show in the hands of Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, though it is a common misconception that he was involved throughout Lost’s six season run.

To return to the topic of secrecy, Abrams explained the appeal he finds in this practice in a TED Talk in 2007. During the presentation, he brought out a “magic mystery box” that he bought 35 years ago from a magic shop and which he refused to open. “It represents infinite possibility. It represents hope. It represents potential,” he declared. “What I love about this box — and what I realized I sort of do, in whatever it is that I do — is I find myself drawn to infinite possibility and that sense of potential. And I realise that mystery is the catalyst for imagination…What are stories besides mystery boxes?”

Abrams’ first feature film directing job was 2006’s Mission: Impossible III, starring Tom Cruise. In an interview with IGN, Abrams said he was able to create elaborate set-pieces, the likes of which he would love to have done on Alias but “we could never in a million years afford.” Mission: Impossible III proved that Abrams could handle explosive spectacle with sequences like an ambush on a bridge, a helicopter chase, the IMF team breaking into the Vatican and a heart-stopping leap off a Shanghai skyscraper. Abrams also set out to “see who these characters were as people not just as spies,” showing Ethan Hunt’s home life and his relationship with his wife. Abrams would take a stab at the spy genre again with the 2010 show Undercovers, which was cancelled after a season.

In 2008, Cloverfield, which was produced by Abrams and directed by Reeves, was released. The found-footage monster movie was promoted using a viral marketing campaign that captured the curiousity of many moviegoers. Abrams said the seeds of the project were sown when he was in Japan to promote Mission: Impossible III and was visiting toy stores there with his son. “We saw all these Godzilla toys, and I thought, we need our own American monster, and not like King Kong,” Abrams said at Comic-Con in 2007. “I love King Kong. King Kong is adorable. And Godzilla is a charming monster. We love Godzilla. But I wanted something that was just insane and intense.”

Later in 2008, the sci-fi procedural television series Fringe premiered. Abrams co-created Fringe with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, citing The X-Filesand The Twilight Zone as inspirations. Abram’s favourite TV series is The X-Files, and there is a large collection of memorabilia from the show on display at his Bad Robot offices. The show’s overarching mythology involves the presence of a parallel universe, similar in some respects to the “mirror universe” of Star Trek.



Speaking of which, Abrams directed the 2009 Star Trek reboot in what is likely his most high-profile feature film directing gig prior to The Force Awakens. Co-writer Kurtzman said “I always think of it as, Star Trek is beautiful classical music and Star Wars is rock ‘n’ roll, and it felt like Star Trekneeded a little more rock ‘n’ roll to connect to a modern audience.” Abrams certainly brought the rock ‘n’ roll with a kinetic, exciting and action-packed take on Star Trek, which alienated some stalwarts of the original series but which opened what had become a slightly stodgy franchise to audiences at large.

Abrams has been upfront about being far more of a Star Wars fan than a Star Trek one. “I was never really a fan of Star Trek to begin with but the idea of working on something that is not necessarily your favourite thing can actually help, because it forces you to engage with it in a way an outsider can appreciate,” Abrams told The Sunday Times. “My love of Star Wars, the energy of it and sort of the comedy and rhythm of it I think affected Star Trek,” he said in a separate interview with PBS. Naturally, there were many ardent Trekkers who weren’t on board with this new take on the material and they felt further maligned with the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, but both films received an overall positive critical reception. While Justin Lin is taking over the director’s seat for Star Trek Beyond, Abrams is remaining as a producer.

Beyond his early screenplays, Abrams has dabbled in comedy, directing an episode of The Office and starring in the musical sketch Cool Guys Don’t Look At Explosions alongside Will Ferrell and Andy Samberg. Abrams also got to perform a rockin’ keyboard solo in the video which spoofed the “unflinching walk” cliché seen in many an action movie.

Abrams was contemplating two ideas for an original movie: a coming-of-age movie about a group of kids making their own movie, drawing on his childhood love of film, and a thriller about the Air Force transporting an alien creature to a secret facility, with said creature naturally escaping. He combined both these ideas into Super 8, which was an unabashed love letter to his childhood idol Spielberg. Things came full circle in a way, from Abrams editing Spielberg’s Super 8 home movies to having Spielberg produce a film about the Super 8 movement in the late 70s-early 80s. Abrams told The Guardian that he loved how Spielberg’s films carried “a sense of unlimited possibility,” but that way lay around the corner “could be terrifying, it could be confusing, it could be disturbing, or it could be wonderful and funny and transportive.”

Interestingly enough, it was super-producer Kathleen Kennedy, now the head of Lucasfilm, who suggested to Spielberg that he should hire the then-teenaged Abrams and Reeves to restore and edit his home movies. “We followed J.J.’s career, so when he committed to Star Wars, it was this kind of fantastic coincidence of fate, I guess—preordained destiny or something,” she said. Abrams was handpicked by Star Wars creator George Lucas over directors including David Fincher, Brad Bird and Guillermo del Toro.

In 2008, Lucas told Total Film that he’s “left pretty explicit instructions for there not to be any more features. There will definitely be no Episodes VIIIX.” In 2012, after the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney, Lucas said “I always said I wasn’t going to do any more, and that’s true, because I’m not going to do any more. But that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to turn it over to Kathy [Kennedy] to do more.”

As a mega-fan taking the reins of a storied, long-lived franchise, there is the danger of being self-indulgent. Abrams addressed this in a Vanity Fair interview, saying he resisted the temptation to make The Force Awakens “meta-Star Wars” as that would be “an ironic approach, which feels anti–Star Wars,” saying he was focused instead on “inheriting and embracing the elements of Star Wars that are the tenets of what is so powerful.”

Like all Star Wars fans, Abrams was enamoured of the iconic John Williams score. In the era before home video was readily available, the biggest piece of the movie Abrams could take home was the soundtrack, which he would often buy before the movie was even released. “I would lie on the floor in my room with my headphones on listening to the soundtracks which would essentially tell me the story of the movie that I didn’t know,” he said. For Abrams, the most surreal moment in the making of the film was getting to meet the legendary composer. “I can’t describe the feeling. All I will say is, just to state the facts of it: I am about to show John Williams 30 minutes of a Star Wars movie that he has not seen that I directed.”

While Abrams won’t be sticking around to direct Episodes VIII and IX, which are being helmed by Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow respectively, there is no doubt that The Force Awakens will shape the franchise in a monumental way. “I do feel like there’s a little bit more of a burden on [co-writer] Larry [Kasdan] and me to come up with a story that could at least be the beginning of what transpires over three films,” Abrams told Wired. The framework has already been planned, the foundation for the new trilogy been laid, and, according to Abrams, Episode VIII has already been written.

As Yoda said in Empire Strikes Back, “always in motion is the future.” Abrams has set a course for the future of the Star Wars franchise and there’s no stopping the jump to hyperspace now. 

The Peanuts Movie

For F*** Magazine

THE PEANUTS MOVIE

Director : Steve Martino
Cast : Noah Schnapp, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, Alex Garfin, Noah Johnston, Francesca Angelucci Capaldi, Venus Omega Schultheis, Mariel Sheets, Kristin Chenoweth
Genre : Animation
Run Time : 93 mins
Opens : 10 December 2015
Rating : G

            It’s the great comeback movie, Charlie Brown! The Peanuts gang last graced the big screen in 1980’s Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!), and in defiance of that title, Charlie Brown and friends are back indeed. Charlie Brown (Schnapp) has had a streak of bad luck, which he hopes to turn around when a new girl arrives in town. The Little Red-Haired Girl (Capaldi) quickly becomes the object of Charlie Brown’s affections, and he goes about attempting to win her heart. In the meantime, Charlie Brown’s dog Snoopy (Melendez) finds a typewriter in a dumpster and begins writing a novel about his alter-ego, the World War I Flying Ace, who battles the Red Baron and falls for the poodle pilot Fifi (Chenoweth).

            The long-running Peanuts comic strip, created by Charles M. Schulz and running from 1950 to 2000, has occupied a beloved place in the American pop culture consciousness. Naturally, many were nervous as to how a computer-animated feature film would fare, given the resolute old-fashioned nature of the strips and related media. Schulz’s son Craig and grandson Bryan co-wrote the screenplay with Cornelius Uliano, ensuring that the film honours the family legacy. Director Steve Martino, who helmed earlier Blue Sky Animation projects Horton Hears a Who! and Ice Age: Continental Drift, retains the mood of the classic animated TV specials by sticking closely to the established designs of the characters. Their herky-jerky movement is an effective way of keeping the film from feeling too slick and modern, while little touches such as the subtle felt-like texture of Snoopy’s fur add just enough detail.



            The aesthetics and wholesome feel of the strip have been preserved, with the film carrying nary and hint of big studio interference about it beyond the inclusion of a Meghan Trainor song. However, there’s very little here that’s capable of sustaining a feature film, even one that’s 93 minutes long. The Peanuts strips were never really rife with incident, but even then, the plot often feels too insubstantial. The most exciting moments of the film are the fantasy sequences in which Snoopy is a fighter pilot during World War I, harking back to the comic strip. These scenes feel superfluous and come off as little more than an attempt to pad things out. The personalities of all the characters do stick very close to those as established in the comic strip, but it seems like there’s a lot more room for a greater breadth of interaction between the various members of the Peanuts gang. As it stands, the movie possesses insufficient narrative drive.



            Another way in which the film sets itself apart from the bulk of Hollywood animated movies is that it doesn’t boast a cast packed with marquee names. All the kids are actually voiced by child actors, Schnapp in particular capturing the underdog melancholy so crucial to Charlie Brown’s enduring appeal. The late Bill Melendez, an animation icon who directed multiple Peanuts TV specials and films in addition to voicing Woodstock and Snoopy, voices the characters posthumously via archival recordings. Kristin Chenoweth is arguably the biggest name in the cast, providing the high-pitched yelps of Snoopy’s fantasy love interest Fifi. The film also preserves the tradition of having the voices of any adult characters, none of whom appear onscreen, be rendered as indistinct “wah-wah” sounds, created by jazz trombonist Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.

            The animation in The Peanuts Movie hits the sweet spot and the film as a whole earnestly echoes a simpler, bygone era, which might be enough for some kids and their nostalgic parents or grandparents. However, this reviewer was left wanting more from the film. “Hollow” isn’t the right word, since it sounds so mean, and the film’s simplicity can be very charming indeed, but there’s just too little here to carry a feature film. If Vince Guaraldi’s classic piano piece Linus and Lucy, wonderfully incorporated into Christophe Beck’s socre, instantly gives you the warm and fuzzies, then The Peanuts Movie should pass muster.

Summary:While it’s an adequate way to introduce the Peanutsgang to a whole new generation of kids, the story is too flimsy a foundation on which to build a feature film.  

RATING: 3out of 5 Stars

Love the Coopers

For F*** Magazine

LOVE THE COOPERS

Director : Jessie Nelson
Cast : Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Ed Helms, Anthony Mackie, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Jake Lacy, Steve Martin
Genre : Comedy
Run Time : 107 mins
Opens : 10 December 2015
Rating : PG13 (Some Sexual References)

Family reunions are often where grinning and bearing it is the order of the day. This Christmas comedy-drama follows four generations of the Cooper clan as they reunite to celebrate Christmas as one big, not-so-happy family. Sam (Goodman) and Charlotte (Keaton) have been married for 40 years but on the brink of calling it quits, both reluctantly agreeing to put on a brave front for everyone coming over. Their son Hank (Helms) is recently divorced from Angie (Borstein) and is looking for a job, having to provide for his kids Charlie (Timothée Chalamet), Madison (Blake Baumgartner) and Bo (Maxwell Simkins). Hank’s sister Eleanor (Wilde), a struggling playwright, meets military man Joe (Lacy) at an airport bar and they kind of hit it off. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s sister Emma (Tomei) gets arrested for shoplifting by Officer Percy Williams (Mackie). Grandpa Bucky (Arkin) befriends diner waitress Ruby (Seyfried). Christmas dinner doesn’t go according to plan as a series of events unfolds, events that could drive the family further apart or bring them together in the spirit of the holiday.

            Every Chinese New Year, we get star-studded comedies like All’s Well that Ends Well, with posters that have Andy Lau, Chow Yun Fatt, Cecilia Cheung or Carina Lau grinning and holding their chopsticks up in the air. Well, Hollywood has movies like Love the Coopers. This is the kind of film which one can bring grandpa and grandma to during the holidays and it’s meant to please everyone, naturally pleasing nobody in the process. The goings-on are at once mundane and over the top, with the Coopers depicted as dysfunctional in a relatively pedestrian manner. Before everyone gets together a little after the halfway mark, the film flits from character to character, stringing the vignettes together. Every line of screenwriter Steven Rogers’ dialogue sounds like stock romantic comedy-drama drivel and it’s altogether very cloying and syrupy. There are attempts to temper this with some cynicism, but it seems like Rogers and director Jessie Nelson are constantly asking themselves “we can be a little bitter here without alienating all the grandparents, right?”

            We’re going to dust off that old chestnut one hears whenever there’s a movie that entirely wastes the collective talents of its cast: “imagine what Robert Altman could do with these actors.” Indeed, the collective wattage of the star power could eclipse even the Star of Bethlehem itself. Love the Coopers manages to be tolerable in the slightest because many of the actors are innately watchable, Goodman in particular. While he and Keaton are believable as a squabbling elderly married couple, the material is still very rote. At one point, Sam even asks Charlotte “what happened to us?” Excuse us if we can’t gather up the sympathy. There are flashbacks to every single character when they were kids and it feels more like a cheap heartstring pull than a worthwhile storytelling device.

Wilde and Lacy have decent chemistry and there is a degree of development to their relationship, even though it is heavy on the “oh, he’s a Republican and she’s a Democrat!” jokes. Tomei is shrill and casting the usually-engaging Mackie as a stoic police officer and the token black guy is a crying shame. Arkin mopes about and looks sad a bunch with Seyfried playing opposite him as the diner waitress anyone would have a crush on. There are hints of romance in their interaction, which given the 52 year age difference, is creepy in spite of both actors’ best efforts. Helms is pretty much a non-entity and Squibb is the doddering senile aunt whose dementia is played for laughs. While nobody is sleepwalking through the movie per se, it’s obvious that Love the Coopersdemands precious little from its cast, literally half of whom have won or been nominated for Oscars.

While Love the Coopers isn’t an insufferable gag-heavy Christmas comedy in the Deck the Halls mould, it still provides plenty of cringe-worthy moments. All of this is tied together by painfully on-the-nose narration by Steve Martin, with an end reveal as to the mystery narrator’s true identity that is worthy of an almighty eye-roll. This isn’t one of those films that’s joy and cheer from start to finish and it does take stabs at drama, albeit very ham-fisted ones. Make no mistake, with the fluffy St. Bernard and the adorable moppet granddaughter, this is still engineered for maximum “aww” factor and that’s going to make a significant portion of the audience throw up in their mouths a little. It’s not even cheesy and corny in an endearing, old-fashioned manner. Love the Coopers oozes insincerity and sitting through it ends up being quite like being forced to spend the holidays with relatives you’re not entirely fond of.



Summary:A monumentally talented cast by any standards is entirely squandered in this schmaltzy holiday flick which repeatedly attempts to trick us into thinking it’s making wise observations about family.

RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

Bone Tomahawk

For F*** Magazine

BONE TOMAHAWK

Director : S. Craig Zahler
Cast : Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, David Arquette, Sid Haig
Genre : Horror/Western
Run Time : 133 mins
Opens : 10 December 2015
Rating : R21 (Violence)

Gun-slinging outlaws are far from the only terrors a small town sheriff needs to fend off in this horror western. Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Russell) of the frontier town Bright Hope leads a party in search of Samantha O’Dwyer (Simmons) and young Deputy Nick (Evan Jonigkeit). Samantha and Nick have been kidnapped by savage troglodytes, cave-dwelling humanoid creatures who feed on people. The party comprises Arthur O’Dwyer (Wilson), Samantha’s husband who is nursing a broken leg, the dapper sharpshooter John Brooder (Fox) and elderly “back-up Deputy” Chicory (Jenkins). It turns out that bandits Purvis (Arquette) and Buddy (Haig) have incurred the wrath of the brutal troglodytes by desecrating their burial grounds. With one member of their group already wounded and two of them elderly men, it seems the odds are stacked against Sheriff Hunt and his gang.

            Bone Tomahawkis the directorial debut of multi-hyphenate S. Craig Zahler, a novelist, screenwriter, musician and cinematographer. Zahler’s noir western novels have garnered him considerable acclaim, and it is clear from Bone Tomahawk that he has an affinity for the genre. The film is an old-fashioned western that segues into graphic, gory horror and it’s quite clear that this is intended to become a cult classic, to be screened mostly at film festivals to discerning audiences. As such, its appeal is very limited and this is obviously intended for a niche market, at the risk of alienating anyone else. The film has been described as a “slow burn”, but one man’s slow burn is another man’s slog. Indeed, Bone Tomahawkmeanders and dawdles, with not very much happening until its final half hour. We get non-sequitur conversations about how one would read a book in the bath without getting the pages wet and the minutiae of flea circuses, which are intended to provide texture but come off as pointless instead.

            Thankfully, Zahler has wrangled an excellent cast and the characters embody familiar genre tropes without being one-note caricatures, which is difficult to do in a genre piece. Russell, as expected, seems perfectly at home in the setting and brings an authority to his sheriff role without overplaying the macho man aspect. He gets to kick ass, but the film wisely avoids indulging in cheeky references to Russell’s iconic past roles. For an actor of his iconic status, this is quite a small project to headline and Russell was drawn to the part as an early supporter of Zahler’s novels. We’ll next see Russell in a western again really soon, in the form of Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight.



            Wilson can sometimes be bland, but he fits the everyman O’Dwyer and while the character seems set up as a bit of a milksop, he comes into his own and has us rooting for him to rescue his wife and survive this ordeal. Jenkins is on hand to provide most of the comic relief as the doddering old Chicory, but he is careful not to play the part too broad. Fox rocks a beautifully-tailored turn-of-the-century suit as the dashing, boastful rogue, though there are times when he doesn’t convincingly seem like someone from that time period. The same goes for Simmons, who comes off as a little too modern for a frontierswoman. She gets to perform a somewhat gratuitous sex scene with Wilson but is ultimately little more than the stock damsel in distress whom the valiant men have to venture into the unknown to rescue. She’s a doctor, so that counts for something, we suppose.

            Bone Tomahawkis somewhat hampered by its limited budget, the town of Bright Hope obviously standing on a backlot that’s been used in countless westerns before. While the film presents us with well-drawn characters portrayed by some talented actors, it lacks a crucial forward momentum and the flabby midsection is almost entirely devoid of urgency. The ending in particular packs in grisly scenes designed for maximum stomach-turning effect, but more impatient viewers are wont to grow restless before then. The smaller production gives Zahler the freedom to try many things which big studios would’ve forbidden him from doing and the most positive thing that can be said about the enterprise is that well, it’s different.


Summary:Kurt Russell’s strong performance gives this hybrid western/slasher flick some weight and gore-hounds might be pleased with the gruesome third act, but Bone Tomahawkis ultimately too slow and too spare to be a truly riveting genre offering.

RATING: 2.5out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

Krampus

For F*** Magazine

KRAMPUS

Director : Michael Dougherty
Cast : Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Allison Tolman, David Koechner, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Conchata Ferrell, Krista Stadler
Genre : Horror/Comedy
Run Time : 98 mins
Opens : 3 December 2015
Rating : PG13 (Frightening Scenes)

This Christmas, the weather outside is far from the only thing that’s frightful. Tommy (Scott) and Sarah (Collette) Engel, along with their children Max (Anthony) and Beth (Owen), are gearing up for the annual torture that is their relatives visiting for Christmas. Sarah’s sister Linda (Tolman) arrives with her husband Howard (Koechner), their four children and Aunt Dorothy (Ferrell) in tow. They’re stuck inside with no electricity due to a ferocious blizzard. Tommy’s mother (Stadler) begins acting strangely, as she usually does around Christmas, and soon the family is terrorised by some particularly nasty uninvited guests. It turns out that Max has inadvertently summoned the Christmas demon Krampus, Santa Claus’ evil counterpart, and good cheer is not on the agenda.


            Krampus, the cloaked, horned figure from Germanic folklore who punishes misbehaving children during Christmas, has only recently entered American popular culture. Krampus seems like a natural antagonist for a film of the holiday horror subgenre and we’re getting two this festive season, the other one being a Canadian anthology movie called A Christmas Horror Story. Michael Dougherty, who helmed the acclaimed cult anthology horror film Trick ‘r Treat, wrote and directed Krampus. While he does ensure the film is tonally consistent and doesn’t stray too far into campiness, Krampus is far from the hearty Christmas meal horror fans have been hoping it would be.  

            The Krampus mythology is one that most American audiences wouldn’t be familiar with, and the inclusion of a slightly creepy German grandmother figure hints that the film will dive headlong into the trove of tales surrounding this dark anti-Santa. We do get a haunting animated flashback sequence, but there is very little that makes Krampus and his minions stand out from being run-of-the-mill horror movie monsters. There are some fantastic creature effects furnished by Weta Workshop, but apart from CGI gingerbread men attacking David Koechner with a nail gun, there aren’t any particularly inventive set-pieces to be had. The justification that is given for Krampus selecting this particular family as his target is quite flimsy, and the moral of treasuring one’s relatives in spite of how annoying they might be comes off as half-hearted. The film’s scathing opening sequence is set to Bing Crosby’s It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas and depicts crowds violently jostling each other in a frenzy while Christmas shopping at a mall. It suggests a bitter satirical edge which is not followed up on.

            Scott and Collette play it straight and their steadfastness in refusing to wink and nod at the audience does help the material. Anthony, memorably loveable as Jon Favreau’s on-screen son in Chef, is a convincingly earnest good kid. While none of the performances are terrible, everyone here is a family comedy cliché: we have the harried mother who has to hold the fort when the relatives descend on her home, the teenage daughter who is never more than a minute away from rolling her eyes, the boorish uncle, and the belligerent, alcoholic grandaunt. Austrian actress Krista Stadler does lend the film some texture, keeping “Omi” from being a full-on “creepy grandma” type ala The Visit.



            The first half of Krampus has dysfunctional family members squabbling, the second half has said family members chased through the house by an assortment of Christmas-themed monsters and the ending is vague at best, a howl-worthy cop-out at worst. The Krampus legend has all the makings of a terrific horror flick, showcasing the dark side of a holiday that’s associated with commercialised cheeriness. There are some effective atmospheric touches, such as the incorporation of the already-kinda creepy Carol of the Bells into the soundtrack. At times, the film almost feels like it could be something in the vein of Gremlins, though it lacks the demented energy to reach that level. Unfortunately, Krampus doesn’t make optimal use of the legend and its PG-13 rating does somewhat hamper the scares it can provide.

Summary: There’s talent behind this horror comedy, but the rich, fascinatingly spooky Krampus legend is left largely unmined.

RATING: 2.5out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

In the Heart of the Sea

For F*** Magazine

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

Cast : Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Tom Holland, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Michelle Fairley
Genre : Action/Adventure/Drama
Run Time : 121 mins
Opens : 3 December 2015
Rating : PG13 (Some Disturbing Scenes)

Pull up a chair, because director Ron Howard’s got a whale of a tale to tell you lads, a whale of a tale or two. Author Herman Melville (Whishaw) travels to Nantucket Island, Massachusetts to interview innkeeper Thomas Nickerson (Gleeson), in order to research the novel Moby-Dick. At age 14, Nickerson (Holland) was a cabin boy aboard the whaleship Essex, sailing with Captain George Pollard, Jr. (Walker), First Mate Owen Chase (Hemsworth) and Second Mate Matthew Joy (Murphy). It is the year 1820 and whale blubber is a valuable commodity for its use as fuel. While off the South American coast, the Essex is rammed by a bull sperm whale and sinks, stranding its crew at sea. Nickerson recounts the harrowing events to Melville, confronting dark memories of starvation, madness and survival, during which the crew drew lots to determine who would be killed and eaten for the others to live.

            In the Heart of the Seais based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 non-fiction book of the same name. The film was originally set for release in March this year, but was pushed back to December presumably for awards season consideration. The true story seems like it has all the makings of a gripping film, but while the end result is competently executed, it fails to be truly thrilling or moving. By now, audiences know what to expect from a survival at sea drama – the elements will be braved, there will be desperate situations, the crew will be at each other’s throats, the survivors will have to band together to stay alive and so on. In the Heart of the Sea hopes to offer something different in the form of the whale, but there is very little of the film in which the crew of the Essex actually face off against their Cetecean nemesis.

            This is a film about extremes that often plays it very safe, even with the depiction of cannibalism. There are times when In the Heart of the Sea comes across like it’s trying to emulate a prestigious British costume drama epic and while effort is made to capture the whaleship setting and time period, the film never quite attains the desired level of authenticity. Because of the way the framing device is set up, with the middle-aged Nickerson reluctantly telling Melville about the events he braved in his youth aboard the Essex, there is a significant amount of exposition. It feels like we have to wade through the history to get to the exciting bits, as opposed to being actually invested in these characters and caring about what happens to them.

            The cast take the material very seriously and while this is not a poorly acted film, there isn’t quite enough personality to each of the historical figures. There is conflict between Captain George Pollard, Jr. and First Mate Owen Chase, because Chase was promised the captaincy but Pollard got the position through his family connections. The two men eventually come to an understanding, but given the circumstances, their interaction should be more riveting than this. Hemsworth, reuniting with his Rush director, famously went on a diet of 500 calories a day to portray the starving sailor. Bidding farewell to all that muscle must be like sending a firstborn child off to college. Hemsworth’s Chase is the hero who looks out for his men, a very straight-forward role. Walker is often quite bland opposite him and even though he’s playing the captain, there are moments when this reviewer almost forgot he existed.

            Murphy’s usual magnetism and subtle unpredictability are all but absent from his turn as Second Mate Matthew Joy, and given how the story is told from Nickerson’s point of view, we expected Holland to be given more emotional beats to play. The sequence in which the Essex goes down in flames after it is struck by the enraged whale is excitingly staged, but most of the drama is predictable and the film stops short of being truly immersive. There are also scenes depicting baby whales in the pod, and one can’t help but side with the whales at times. Sure, the whalers are doing their job and we don’t mean to get all Greenpeace, but at the end of the day, this is a movie in which our heroes are killing animals that wouldn’t bother them if they didn’t get all up in their business. This reviewer never really felt like he was stranded alongside the crew of the Essex and the detachedness is what ultimately lets In the Heart of the Sea down.



Summary:What should be an epic adventure is mostly dull and doesn’t offer anything drastically different from other survival at sea films.

RATING: 2.5out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

Point Break (2015)

For F*** Magazine

POINT BREAK

Director : Ericson Core
Cast : Édgar Ramírez, Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone, Teresa Palmer, Delroy Lindo
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 114 mins
Opens : 3 December 2015
Rating : NC-16 (Sexual Scene and Some Violence)

Strap in, buckle up, insert alternate ways of securing oneself here – because things are about to get XTREME! *Guitar riff*. Johnny Utah (Bracey) is an FBI agent-in-training and a former motocross rider who left the sport after a tragic accident in his youth. When a team of elite thrill-seekers pulls off multiple heists around the world, targeting wealthy corporations, Utah proposes to his FBI instructor (Lindo) that he be allowed to investigate. Utah goes undercover, infiltrating the team and befriending its leader Bodhi (Ramírez), who explains that the daredevil exploits are actually about honouring nature. Utah falls in love with one of the team’s members, Samsara (Palmer), and British agent Angelo Pappas (Winstone) begins to doubt where Utah’s loyalties lie. As Bodhi’s gang pursues the ultimate rush, Utah is seduced back into the extreme sports world, but must put a stop to Bodhi’s criminal activities before he reaches the point of no return.

            Point Break is a remake of the 1991 film of the same name, which some would go so far as to call a classic. The original Point Break is by no means flawless and certainly has its goofy moments, but its iconic status is well-deserved and the characters of Johnny Utah and Bodhi, as portrayed by Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze respectively, are certainly memorable. There’s no use beating around the bush: a Point Break remake is unnecessary, and doubly so because we already have The Fast and the Furious, which swapped out surfing for underground street racing. It is a touch ironic that Ericson Core, the cinematographer of the first Fast and Furious movie, is the director and cinematographer of the Point Break remake. It can be argued that if the characters had different names and this movie were called something other than Point Break, there would actually be less furore at it being a rip-off than there is now, given its “official” status.



            The original film revolved around surf culture and the remake ups the ante by throwing everything and the kitchen sink into it, showcasing feats of big-wave surfing, wingsuit flying, free rock climbing, dirt road motorcycling and sheer face snowboarding. The film has roped in top real-life extreme sports athletes to perform the stunts and granted, they do look impressive, but there is something very dated about this approach. It makes the film feel like a relic of the late 90s, when things like the X Games were taking off and everything felt like a Mountain Dew commercial. The daredevil stunts are strung together with a plot device in which Bodhi is looking to complete the “Okami 8”, a series of extreme sports trials. The film has a larger scope than the original, with filming taking place in Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Mexico, Venezuela, French Polynesia and India, but there are times when it feels more like a ginned up Amazing Race than anything else.

            It is interesting that audiences feel so protective over the characters of Johnny Utah and Bodhi given that they’ve only been in one film, but it seems like it’s sacrilege for any actors other than Reeves and Swayze to take on those roles. Gerard Butler was originally cast as Bodhi but was replaced by Ramírez. While Ramírez brings some mystique to the role and tries his best to pull off the philosopher-warrior attitude embodied by Swayze, his interpretation of the character is far from sufficiently magnetic. Reeves isn’t exactly an untouchable paradigm of acting talent and from some angles, Bracey does sort of resemble Reeves. He does bring a heaping helping of whininess to the part. Similarly, Palmer is considerably more boring than Lori Petty was in the original. Gary Busey brought his trademark unhinged unpredictability to Pappas, while Winstone is the usual gruff English street tough he always is. Lindo is the stock authority figure, also doing very little. As a side note, the film features some of the least convincing tattoos we’ve ever seen in a movie. Guess the stunt budget left the makeup department high and dry.

            It’s pretty obvious that the plot exists to string the stunts together, and it all comes across as very perfunctory and half-hearted. This is a movie that should naturally be flowing with adrenaline, but it often feels like it’s just being shoved along. A Point Break remake was a terrible idea to begin with, and even with all the extreme sports bells and whistles in the world, there’s no way this was going to be anything but a let-down. In the hands of screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, it’s even more laughable than in the original film when Bodhi waxes faux-philosophical. Sure, the original Point Break was cheesy, but that was part of its charm. In place of that, we get a whole lot of going through the motions, the end result mediocre rather than radical.



Summary: This remake boasts superbly executed stunts but is fully incapable of justifying its existence and, for a movie about extreme sports, is sorely lacking in energy. It’s pretty blah, brah.

RATING: 2out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong