The Walk

For F*** Magazine

THE WALK

Director : Robert Zemeckis
Cast : Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale, Clément Sibony, César Domboy, Ben Schwartz, Steve Valentine
Genre : Drama
Run Time : 123 mins
Opens : 22 October 2015
Rating : PG (Some Intense Sequences)
Keep those Dramamine pills handy, because director Robert Zemeckis and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt are taking us on a particularly dizzying walk. In this biopic, Gordon-Levitt plays Philippe Petit, the French high-wire artist with, quite literally, a lofty ambition: to walk a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. The moment he first glimpses the structures in a magazine, Petit cannot take his mind off conquering the void between them. He seeks the tutelage of Papa Rudy (Kingsley), the patriarch of a famous clan of high-wire circus performers, and goes about assembling a team of accomplices who will help him break into the South Tower. Street musician Annie (Le Bon), who becomes Petit’s girlfriend, is the first. She is soon joined by photographer Jean-Louis (Sibony), math teacher Jeff (Domboy) and in New York itself, electronics salesman J.P. (Dale) and insurance agent Barry (Valentine), whose office. in the World Trade Centre. Battling doubts, their better judgement and logistical difficulties all the while evading the authorities, Petit and his crew go about preparing for this illegal, dangerous but ultimately breath-taking feat of derring-do. 
The Walk is based on Petit’s autobiography To Reach the Clouds, which earlier served as the basis for the 2008 Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire. After making his acceptance speech, Petit famously balanced the Oscar statuette on his chin. Awards contender biopics, branded as “important movies”, can sometimes be inaccessible and a bit of a chore for the average moviegoer to sit through. The Walk is very far away from that, a straightforward, heartfelt account of one guy’s crazy quest and the lengths he and his friends went to in order to make his dream a reality. There’s an undeniable appeal to the simplicity of the premise which papers over the slightly phony Hollywood sheen the film sometimes has. There are moments that can be twee and cloying, particularly during the nostalgia-heavy scenes set in Paris, but perhaps it adds to the film’s old-school charm in its own way. 
Typically, awards movie season biopics don’t exactly seem like they must be witnessed on the big screen. The Walk’s primary selling point is its spectacle, and the exhilarating sequences of Petit doing his thing 110 storeys up in the air are what Zemeckis and co. hope will convince those who watched the documentary to experience the story again. There have been reports of audiences at screenings actually throwing up from vertigo. We don’t mean to sound insensitive to those viewers, but incidents like that are great publicity indeed, indicating that the film has achieved a sense of immersion for the audience. It’s a little like when horror movies like Last House on the Left proudly proclaimed on their posters that audience members fainted from fright. 
Known for helming effects-heavy films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Back to the Future and Forrest Gump, in addition to motion capture movies like The Polar Express and Beowulf, Zemeckis has never been one to shy away from gimmicks. Surprisingly, 3D hasn’t been used to accomplish the effect of vertigo as often as one would think. The twin towers themselves and the surrounding New York cityscape circa 1974 are faithfully, stunningly realised by visual effects supervisor Kevin Baillie and the artists from effects houses Atomic Fiction, UPP, Rodeo FX and Legend 3D. This is a “based on a true story” affair that isn’t afraid to have lots of fun, and the theme park thrill ride aspect is complementary rather than distracting. 
Gordon-Levitt turns up the charm, bringing lithe athleticism and a mischievous twinkle in his eye to the part of Petit. Yes, his French accent is pretty cringe-inducing and is even more jarring given that Gordon-Levitt is acting opposite actual French actors, but it’s relatively easy to overlook after a while. It’s no mean feat to make obsession endearing, and while there are the expected dramatic beats where we see the toll that Petit’s unceasing drive takes on him and his friends, the film is largely upbeat and free-spirited. His stunt double is former Cirque du Soleil high-wire walker Jade Kindar-Martin. Gordon-Levitt’s take on Petit is almost an imp from another dimension who has materialised on this plane to simply live his dream. Sure, his exploits may seem crazy to the man in the street, but high above that street, Petit seems perfectly at home, and in his projection of this, Gordon-Levitt is irresistible. 
French-Canadian actress Le Bon shares palpable chemistry with Gordon-Levitt. While her introductory scene in which Annie gets upset with Petit for stealing her thunder with his tightrope juggling routine is corny, we do come to buy these two as a couple. Annie definitely has ideas and goals of her own, so her support of Petit is all the more endearing. As the mentor figure Papa Rudy, Kingsley does seem like he’s lived his whole life in a circus, bringing enough personality to the “paternal/authoritarian” archetype. Sibony, Domboy, Dale and Valentine are a likeable bunch and the camaraderie that Petit’s team shares is heart-warming and rousing. Jeff willingly assists Petit on the roof of the South Tower in spite of his own crippling fear of heights. “Squad goals,” as the kids say these days. There is a stoner character who comes off more as inauthentic, unnecessary comic relief than anything else, though. 
The Walk isn’t about a troubled chess champion, a schizophrenic mathematician, a code-breaking genius or women fighting for their right to vote. It’s not particularly weighty, but especially during awards movie season, this reviewer is fine with that. The twin towers stand no more and the film acknowledges this tastefully with a final frame that is wont to give many New Yorkers a lump in their throats. It is occasionally overly schmaltzy, and as Alan Silvestri’s score swells and characters give impassioned speeches about chasing their dreams, one might roll one’s eyes and say “I see what you’re trying to do, movie”. However, the earnestness with which Zemeckis and crew go about things overrides that feeling. A celebration of passion, conviction and artistic expression, The Walk is a thrilling, entertaining and moving journey.  
Summary: While it might give acrophobics pause, The Walk is a heartfelt tale that is easy to get into thanks to its star’s innate likeability and its thrilling spectacle is something to behold. 

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars 
Jedd Jong 

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

For F*** Magazine

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR 

Director : Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
Cast : Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson, Juno Temple, Jaime King, Bruce Willis, Jamie Chung, Lady Gaga, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven
Genre : Action/Thriller
Opens : 8 August 2014
Rating : R21 (Violence, Nudity & Sexual Scenes) 
Running time: 102 mins
SC2_1sh_FINALBasin CITY. A cesspool dripping with BLOODand ALCOHOLand SEXand GRIME. A grimy CESSPOOL. NINE years after the FIRSTmovie, we RETURN. FOUR interlocking stories. “Just ANOTHERSaturday NIGHT” – Marv (Rourke) BEATS up PUNKS and hangs off the side of POLICE CARS. “The Long BAD Night” – Johnny (Gordon-Levitt), a self-assured young gambler, beats Senator Roark (Boothe) in a GAMEof POKER. Big MISTAKE. “A DAMEto Kill For” – Ava Lord (Green), sly WICKEDNESS taken the form of a WOMAN. She CASTSher SPELLupon former flame Dwight (Brolin) once more. Can he ESCAPE this enchantress’ GRASP? “Nancy’s Last DANCE” – stripper Nancy (Alba) is victim no MORE. She seeks to AVENGE the death of Hartigan (Willis), her PROTECTOR. AVENGINGhis DEATH. Her crosshairs are SET on Roark.
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            This reviewer had planned to write the whole thing in the style of Frank Miller but gave up after that paragraph. The first Sin City film broke its share of ground by hewing closely to the stylisation Miller had drawn into his graphic novels, using visual effects and cinematography to replicate the striking aesthetic of the Sin City books. Black and white with occasional violent bursts of selective colour, often lapsing into animated silhouettes. Miller was initially reluctant to allow an adaptation to be filmed, but Robert Rodriguez won him over and they became co-directors on both movies. It’s nine years later and it’s not quite so novel anymore. In-between then and now we’ve had the likes of 300 and the dismal The Spirit, the latter directed by Miller himself. It’s still a great gimmick and we bet this movie is stunning in 3D (we saw the 2D version). However, any gimmick can only carry a film so far.

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            The movie is clearly striving for a noir feel but so much of the Frank Miller dialogue, in reaching for a hard-boiled attitude, comes off as laughably silly. “It’s another hot night. The kind of night that makes people do sweaty, secret things,” Dwight says in voiceover. When he gets kicked in the crotch, he describes it as “an atom bomb go(ing) off between my legs.” The intensity of all the brutal, wince-inducing violence in the film ends up being undercut by the writing. “A Dame to Kill For” has as its central character an evil, manipulative, often-naked seductress. Eva Green vamps it up entertainingly as is her speciality, but there’s not much more to Ava Lord than that – she’s a textbook femme fatale. The character’s speech about the nature of insanity and evil from the graphic novel, which would have added a layer or two, is cut. “Nancy’s Last Dance”, an original story written for this film, also undoes everything the character went through in the first film. Nancy, that narrow beam of light that was able to escape the darkness of Sin City, is now just another avenging angel. “The Long Bad Night”, the other original story, is carried by Gordon-Levitt playing against Boothe but is never wholly compelling.

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            The film’s ensemble cast gets to play it up in ways few other movies would let them, to mostly entertaining results. Josh Brolin, playing Dwight before the character had plastic surgery to look like Clive Owen, is convincingly tough and grizzled. Powers Boothe is a hoot as a “love to hate” villain of the most extreme variety. Gordon-Levitt sinks his teeth into playing Johnny in his transition from cocksure and feeling untouchable to wounded and seething. The afore-mentioned Green, taking the role long-linked to Angelina Jolie, does look like she’s having a ball and seems extremely comfortable with the nigh-gratuitous nudity. Speaking of showing skin, Jessica Alba famously has a no-nudity clause but given Nancy’s get-ups in this film, she might as well be naked. Her attempts at playing an angry Nancy galvanised into taking up arms against Roark are ropey at best. Bruce Willis plays a ghost. Odd sense of déjà vu there.

            In 2005, before the full-on boom of movies based on comic books and graphic novels that we’re experiencing now, Sin Citywas unlike anything else out there. It was striking, bold and impactful. Now, the cool factor of the film being shot on a digital back-lot with everything but the actors and key props computer-generated has subsided. As over the top as A Dame to Kill For is, it falls short of the visceral oomph the first film had. Comic book fans know Frank Miller as a writer and artist who helped define the medium with the likes of The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, but who seems to have lost his mind, judging from the atrocious likes of Holy Terror and All Star Batman and Robin. His misogynistic attitudes and obsession with dark faux-poetry are on full display in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Robert Rodriguez serving as little more than his errand boy.

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Summary: There’s no kill like overkill –Sin City: A Dame to Kill For brims with eye-catching imagery and uncompromising depictions of violence and sex, but there is little beneath its glossy, lurid surface.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Jedd Jong