Thursday, April 24, 2014

Brick Mansions

For F*** Magazine


Director: Camille Delamarre
Cast:  Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA, Gouchy Boy, Catalina Denis, Robert Maillet, Richard Zeman, Carlo Rota
Genre: Action, Thriller
Run Time: 90 mins

Brick Mansions - ReviewIf people who live in glass houses should not throw stones, then people who live in brick mansions should not...leap across rooftops? Okay, so maybe I didn’t think this one all the way through. Anyway, it’s 2018 and a section of a dystopian Detroit has been sealed off from the rest of the city, an open wound left to fester and dubbed “Brick Mansions”. Undercover cop Damien Collier (Walker) is sent into Brick Mansions to re-acquire a stolen neutron device that drug kingpin Tremaine Alexander (RZA) has gotten his hands on. Tremaine has also kidnapped Lola (Denis), the ex-girlfriend of Brick Mansions resident and Parkour expert Lino (Belle). Damien and Lino must forge an alliance as they navigate the mean streets (and rooftops and stairwells and corridors), uncovering a larger, dastardly scheme at play.

Brick Mansions is a remake of District 13, the 2004 French film that has since become a cult action flick favourite. Brick Mansions was made with the participation of many involved with the original, including writer/producer Luc Besson and co-star David Belle. District 13 gained attention for its elaborate Parkour-based action sequences and it was a good move getting Belle to reprise his role in the English-language version. Described as “the art of movement” and with a focus on navigating obstacles as gracefully and efficiently as possible, Parkour definitely looks cool on the screen. Brick Mansions seems to exist solely to cater to movie-goers who would rather not read subtitles while getting their action fix. While it’s largely unnecessary and does stick very closely to the structure, plot beats and look of District 13, Brick Mansions is still half-decent entertainment.

While Brick Mansions doesn’t feel quite as grimy and gritty as District 13 did, it still gives us a hellhole that our heroes use as their jungle gym. The feats of physical prowess on display are impressive, but the overuse of shaky cam and quick editing does somewhat diminish its impact. District 13 had Cyril Raffaelli as Damien, the late Paul Walker playing the same role here. Raffaelli is a traceur, martial artist and stuntman by training, so he could match his onscreen partner move for move, something Walker can’t. Still, through the use of stunt work, editing and Walker’s own training, it doesn’t feel like he’s lagging behind Belle and the film does give a nod to their differing methods. The scene in which both of them cooperate to take on giant bruiser Robert Maillet is a cheer-worthy moment.

We have a feeling that RZA is constantly surrounded by yes-men and enablers telling him he can act. He can’t, but his enthusiasm for the martial arts movie genre (which resulted in The Man with the Iron Fists and a villainous role in Tom Yum Goong 2) probably counts for something. His delivery is constantly flat, when lines like “Sometimes you don’t have to be a rocket scientist, you just got to have a rocket” call for over-the-top scenery chewing. To be fair, he does show a smidgen more range in this role. A smidgen. Ayisha Issa steals his thunder on multiple occasions as psychotic hench-wench Rayzah, this movie’s equivalent of Man of Steel’s Faora.

Brick Mansions is lean and fast-paced, but it offers nothing the original flick didn’t already. The plot is straightforward; the climactic twist not nearly as clever as Besson thinks it is. The action sequences are fun and it’s evident that some craftsmanship went into them, but they fall short of being truly spectacular or breath-taking. We miss Paul Walker, and while he wasn’t the greatest actor around, he definitely had a lot more ahead of him in his career and he does get the job done in Brick Mansions. The onscreen partnership between him and Belle is one we wouldn’t mind seeing more of; it’s a shame that won’t be possible. Still, we’re sure Paul Walker would be pleased if the image of him that stayed in the minds of fans was that of an upstanding guy who leaps through glass windows and kicks ass alongside the co-founder of Parkour.

Summary: While Brick Mansions is not an improvement on the French-language original, there’s still enough slick athleticism on display and it’s an entertaining diversion for relatively undemanding action flick junkies.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Interviews - Jamie Foxx


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 interview - JAMIE FOXX

Oscar-winner, hip hop singer/musician, Tarantino anti-hero, comedian – Jamie Foxx can now add “comic book movie supervillain” to his list of illustrious achievements. 

By Jedd Jong

In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Foxx (born Eric Marlon Bishop) will play Max Dillon/Electro, a lowly, put-upon employee of Oscorp who gains superpowers and becomes crackling electricity incarnate. After grabbing a bite of grilled salmon, Foxx sat down to chat with F***, breaking out into multiple spot-on impressions, reminiscing about his first exposure to Spider-Man through, funnily enough, The Electric Company and explaining why he values a legacy of diverse characters over “chasing the money”.

First off, is it good to be bad?

It’s good to be bad. It’s good to be bad! You gotta think a little like this: what I think is that the badder I am, the better it is for Spider-Man, the more heroic (he’ll be). So basically, there were times when they had lines for me that were funny and I was like “I don’t wanna do that, I wanna stay evil, I wanna stay mean” because if you really feel like I’m angry at him, it makes you squirm a little more. I really wanna hurt him, I really wanna make sure that I wipe Spider-Man off the planet earth because I want that spotlight. We deal with that all the time, you get a gig, you know, doing this and somebody else didn’t get it and you go (sneers) “I can’t stand her!” It’s just like the story of Amadeus, remember the movie?

You were rapping at the press conference, was that part of taking in the limelight?

It all works, even the antics outside of the movie make it bigger so that when it does open, you feel that underlying emotion of what Electro really is. Basically what he is is that he’s bitter of the talents he’s been given. They even talk about it in the Bible, the guy feels like someone got more talent and got blessed with more than he has so he seethes. That basic emotion is what we capitalise on in the film.

Have you ever thought of playing a villain in a blockbuster before this?

No, I’ve never thought (about that) but we know one thing in Hollywood: the villain is always the most exciting person to play. What’s great about Electro is that you can’t kill electricity, it just goes away and it can pop up at any time. We all know that playing the villain is exciting.

From what we’ve seen of Electro in the preview footage, we don’t hate you because it seems like he’s just lost, and you’re portraying a certain vulnerability.

Yeah, he’s just lost. I think that’s the way it is with all the Spider-Man villains. The villains start off being angry for a reason, there’s something that happens and the world squeezes in on them and they turn into this – “I need help, and no one will help me.” It’s the same thing with Max, he’s like “I just need help” and then when I see Spider-Man, my “friend”, they all just start shooting at me and then (sneers) “why?” He’s not being able to think correctly because he obsessed over Spider-Man, he’s like “I wish I could be like him, it must be so cool!” So a person who obsesses like that, you know, love and hate (makes a dial motion with his thumb and forefinger) it’s almost the same. You always hurt the ones you love.

How does Electro shower?

He showers in a thunderstorm. “I gotta take a shower” (makes crackling sounds).

As a child, did you enjoy the Spider-Man cartoons?

Jamie: Yeah! There was a show when I was a kid called The Electric Company, “Cat. Hat! Morgan Freeman!” They would run Spider-Man clips in between the educational portions of that. That was the first time you were really exposed to a superhero on television who wasn’t animated. So we’d be like “oh man, Spider-Man!” We were running around in the neighbourhood doing that little web thing (does the web-shooting hand sign) and we didn’t think very much about it but now that you’re older, I’m like wow, how great is that to have watched that as a kid in the middle of a small town and now here you are, toe to toe with the biggest character on the planet? Crazy.

It doesn’t seem like Electro is very smart, he’s being used by Harry in this film. You usually portray smart characters, like Django and the president. What was it like to play dumb?

I think what it is is that anytime I watch a movie, or you watch a movie and the character that you’re rooting for has a certain “I know more than anybody in the room”, “I’ll figure it out if I don’t know…” those are the ingredients. When you watch Rocky, Rocky wasn’t smart. But Rocky used everything that he could to overcome whatever it was. He used love, he used brute strength, he used stuff that was almost supernatural like a belief that he could use his will. Any time you see what of those characters, I could be watching Beverly Hills Cop and Eddie Murphy was smarter than everybody, when he was getting the fingerprints off of the aquarium. Any time you see a character who has that kind of intellect, it makes you like them because that’s who you aspire to be.

How do you maintain a dedication to your work and impart it to the younger actors you work with, like Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield?

I tell you what it is: Ellen Barkin, in like 2005, walks up to me after the Ray Charles Oscar (win) and says “if you chase the money, I’ll kick your ass” and I said “what do you mean?” She said “don’t chase the money. Always do great work.” She said “you have a seven year grace period. Once you do something fantastic in this business, you got seven years until you have to do something (again).” By not chasing the money, I mean I wanted to chase the money. I wanted to be the Chris Tucker or the Will Smith, but it didn’t work out that way but I think it helped in that mostly all of the things we did, had a type of integrity to it.
Here’s something incredible: Quentin Tarantino is the best director in the world. When he created Django and I was able to be blessed to play that part, it changes everything. When you do Django,  now the lay of the land opens up to you because Django was, to me, Quentin Tarantino’s best movie and I think all of the movies he had done before that, was getting him ready for something like Django. Once Django happened, roles like this, roles like Annie, now I can sort of pick the stuff that I want to do and allow something like Spider-Man to exist in a space where you’re working with someone who’s a great actor or great actress and we’re learning from each other but you know that it’s fantastic work when without him (Andrew Garfield), without the costume on, he’s still captivating. Emma Stone is still captivating. You can watch the love story between them without worrying about him putting on the costume. So that’s what you want to be, you always want to work with, if you can, great actors, whether they be young or old. I think the integrity of it is what makes it great, and what gives you enthusiasm. Going to work on Django, it was like an all-star game! I mean Leonardo, Samuel L. Jackson, it’s ridiculous! Here’s the thing, within that, quiet is better. In Django, quiet was better. The eyes, the look, the love that he had for his girl. ‘Cos how do you go toe to toe with Samuel L. Jackson every day? That’s tough! They would say action and he’d go (As Samuel L. Jackson) “why’s you feel the need to entertain this n*****?” And cut. “How was that, you like that?”

Do you ever feel scared or insecure?

Of course you’re scared! I did a movie (Law-Abiding Citizen) and I had a scene with Viola Davis and she killed me in the scene. It was so bad that the director walks up and I say “she’s killing me in this scene” and he said “yes, she is.” So I said “what do you think I should do?” He said “why don’t you just do facial expressions?” Some of these people, they can really, really go. So you’re nervous but you try to learn from them.

What do you chase now since you’ve decided not to chase the money and you’ve gotten the recognition in the form of an Oscar? 

You know what you chase? You chase history. This is what it is. God bless you get to 70 or 80 years old, and you look back on your career. And every actor or actress will tell you it’s not the money that they really want, it’s the name of the character that they leave. I did a television show, I played a character called Wanda, everybody remembers Wanda. In Living Colour. I did a football movie (Any Given Sunday and played a character) called Willy Beaman. Go to any sports guy and say “Willy Beaman” and they know who that guy is. Ali I did a guy named Bundini Brown. (As Bundini Brown) “Muhammad Ali is a prophet, how you gonna be god? As soon as you come out to the garage you be number 2.” Bundini Brown.

Does each character stay with you forever?

Yeah, it’s like a file. And then, here comes Ray Charles. (As Ray Charles) “Hey, you know I’m gonna make you do what you do. Hey-o, tell everybody, Ray Charles in town!” Then the next thing you know, here comes Django. All over the world, little kids say “you’re Django.” Electro, Annie, now Daddy Warbucks. So when you look back on your career, you want to be able to say “I stepped into every genre, I stepped into every character and I was able to leave a name for people” and that’s really all you can do. And then hopefully, (as Mike Tyson) Mike Tyson. “I was boxing champ!” Hopefully we’ll do that next. You know what I’m saying?

Do the layers of characters enrich Jamie Foxx as a person?

Yeah, I think what it does is when I think about the characters that I do, there’s a file in the back of my head and I say “go get the Ray Charles file” or “go get the President Obama file” (As Obama) “if there’s…any indication that we’re not the most…credible country in the world and…yes we can” I mean so where it’s all these different files, but what it doesn’t do is…I have a friend, girlfriend of mine named Samantha. She does a million characters, but she can’t sit here and not do a character. Like it’s constant, which is interesting. So I’m happy that my characters don’t always…that I can sit here as a regular guy and just chill. But it does enrich me, and if you let it grow, you lose the feel of stepping into other characters.

How do you keep the balance between making movies, making music and your other endeavours?

You got to take the time out to do it good. If you do music, you gotta find guys who do real music and not music for Jamie Foxx, because if you allow your ego to get in the way and make them do the “Jamie Foxx music” then you won’t get a hit. I got a guy named Breyon Prescott who finds hits. He found all of these different hits for me, so again, you humble yourself. Anytime you go into anything, you humble yourself. The minute you go into anything (with pride), that’s when you lose. And I noticed that, I said “oh, I’m going to do this and this because this is what I think they want and you lose.” So with everything that you do, after a certain age, you have to rely on someone else’s opinions. Being 46, I’ve got to rely on my friends who are 25, 26 to tell me what type of music is relevant. In movies, yeah, I know where my talent can go, but I’ve got to lean on the director. It seems like you’ve got to have a director who is really alpha male and really, really knows the direction. So I’ve been lucky with Michael Mann, Taylor Hackford, Quentin Tarantino, serious; Oliver Stone, guys who know how to take the talent and make it what it needs to be. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 interviews - Marc Webb


Andrew Garfield, left, and Director Marc Webb on the set of Columbia Pictures' "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"

Much has been made of Marc Webb’s aptronym – just like the guy named “Otto Octavius” ended up with robot arms welded to his person, the guy named “Webb” was handed the directorial reins to the Spider-Man movie franchise. 

By Jedd Jong

A music video director (working with the likes of Incubus, 3 Doors Down, Maroon 5, Green Day and My Chemical Romance) who made his feature film debut with the critically-acclaimed and much beloved romantic comedy-drama (500) Days of Summer, Webb didn’t seem like an obvious choice to helm a tent pole summer blockbuster. According to him though, there are more similarities than differences between making a small indie romance and a big comic book movie. Speaking to us at the Fuse bar in the Marina Bay Sands hotel, Singapore, Webb touched on the dynamics between Peter Parker and his pal-turned-nemesis Harry Osborn, the big names making the music of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the rationale behind the design of the Rhino and the chemistry between his two leads.

Do you feel that it’s difficult to balance the physical and emotional sides of a movie like The Amazing Spider-Man 2?
In terms of the action, my favourite kind of action sequences are the ones that have an emotional core, where you understand and feel what Spider-Man is fighting for. Unless it has that, the action doesn’t really mean anything. The action is fun because there’s spectacle and there’s some technique and there’s physical virtuosity, but you also need to have an emotional layer. So, I like to think of them as working together and I try not to separate them too much. Of course, there are the romantic elements too but sometimes the romance emerges into the action as well.

What was it like maintaining the dynamic between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, when it comes to their chemistry?
Andrew and Emma are so professional and so good at acting – a certain kind of acting which involves an awareness and spontaneity which I really value and I think when people are watching the movie, they can detect an authenticity there. That just comes from…we all pick up on each other’s cues, when you lean forwards or when you laugh, all of these little things so when someone is trying to read lines and is just thinking about lines and not connecting with you, seeing when you laugh and building on those things then it’s not real and people understand that, so Andrew and Emma are able to live in a very real way with each other on screen and that makes it come alive for people. People recognise it as being something familiar and they attach themselves to it so for the movie as a whole, you need to care about it deeply.

What is the most challenging aspect of making The Amazing Spider-Man 2, compared to the first go-round?
You want to keep the stakes up. I think the most challenging thing is in the midst of all the chaos, in the midst of the battles and the fights and the deep, high drama, keeping an emotional core, something that’s small and intimate a part of the spectacle. It is fun, there are times when the kid in me wakes up and it’s a blast but keeping in mind that people are here to have a social experience and to care about the character, to protect the emotional journey of that character is really the trickiest part, I think.

Is the movie more humanistic?
That depends on your definition of that but…of course it’s…“humanistic” can mean so many different things. Is it more emotional? Yes, it’s more emotional but I think we push the characters in really extreme directions. There’s great comedy and humour and a really vibrant, joyful quality at the beginning of the movie. But we also challenge the characters, we provoke them in a way that I think is intensely dramatic and Spider-Man after this movie will never ever, ever be the same. That’s something that’s entirely a human journey, it’s not completely spectacle.

How is the relationship between Peter and Harry in this film different than in the previous trilogy? Is there a concern that Harry is being introduced in this movie and then becomes a full-fledged villain in the same one?
I think there’s a long relationship that’s…to answer the first question first, Harry is smart. He is earning the empire of Oscorp and an incredibly shrewd guy. They’re more like brothers, more like equals, on an even footing. They are bound by two things: one is their understanding of science, their love of science, but also they’re left behind by their fathers. They were abandoned, and they feel a bond because of that, they know what it feels like to be left behind. And that relationship and how much he values Harry is really important in creating the drama in the second part of the movie and I’m not going to reveal what exactly that is, but the fact that he cares about this person is very important.

How do you keep the balance between the hero and the villains? In this movie, you have Spider-Man and you have all these new villains…
You have to think of it in terms of the protagonist at all times, at least I do. There is an operatic quality, meaning we do invest in a lot of different characters as we’re going, but I’m always trying to think of where Spider-Man is emotionally – what’s he feeling, how does this impact him, how does this challenge parts of his personality or parts of his physicality…because it’s a certain kind of movie that we’re making, which is Peter Parker as the emissary for the audience. He’s the vessel for the audience, that means you have to…he’s the everyman. He’s the Greek chorus all rolled into one. Ideally, you’re trying to track and feel everything that he feels and when there’s a villain that’s emerging, you want to understand that villain, understand that character so you feel when they start to compete, when they start to conflict you understand the nature of that conflict and feel the drama that Peter feels. It’s a little bit tricky because you don’t want to get too far ahead of them, but sometimes you have to do a little expository information just to get the depth of emotion, the depth of understanding an audience requires for that villain.

You’ve handled both (500) Days of Summer, a smaller comedy-drama, and The Amazing Spider-Man, a huge movie, very well. How is it different doing these two different genres?
I think what strikes me is that there are more similarities than there are differences. I’m attracted to cinematic romance, it’s just compelling to me. It’s confounding in real life I find it; you’re always looking for answers on the screen. But that is of course one of the reasons I think I got involved with Spider-Man, because it had that at its heart. But I also like action movies, I also like to fly through the air and have that sort of wish-fulfilment, that sort of drama and that sort of storytelling which is so great with Spider-Man. I think in terms of…the difference really is almost a superficial one in that it just takes longer. There’s way more layers, there’s way more scrutiny…this never happened with (500) Days of Summer, we were never in Singapore, people never heard of Tom Hansen from Margate, New Jersey, there were no associations with them. In Spider-Man, there is a public perception and a desire to protect the character, which is I think is at the heart of a lot of the scrutiny that you see and there’s a lot of responsibility, there’s lot of obligation in what you see, in protecting that and in keeping that symbol elevated. The public perception of it is actually the trickiest, newest part of it.

Did you feel the pressure of taking on the Spider-Man brand?
There’s definitely a little pressure, especially the first time around. This time, there’s not quite as much. It’s definitely more fun! Everybody was really on the same page, everybody puts pressure on themselves, but I think that we really believed in the script. We’ve got great writers, we’ve got great actors, great producers, and that team, we were all part of a tribe. We could go out to the world and feel a little bit braver than the first time around.

Speaking of the public perception, there have been some pretty extreme reactions to how Rhino looks in this movie. How did you arrive at that concept and design for the character?
Well, when there’s an illustrated…I want everything to feel real, you know? Or have a realistic foundation. You’re dealing in this kind of absurd, fantasy world of creatures that disappear into electricity, goblins and mechanized rhinoceroses so it’s a little bit crazy. But I needed all this to have a story and for Electro, a green and yellow suit; I just couldn’t understand where that came from whereas I could understand the story of the more Ultimate Electro, the black suit which is more of a thick rubber insulated suit which allows him to channel his energy in a little bit more specific a way. In terms of the Rhino, his suit in the comics it just looks buffoonish and that’s part of the fun of it but I needed him to be a threat. I needed it to be a little bit scarier, when you’re translating an illustrated character, illustrators don’t have the same obligations that I do as a live-action filmmaker. He has to function in space, he has to be able to move, he has to be intimidating. If you look at a lot of those early Rhino things, they’re funny but I don’t understand why he would do that, why that would happen and I needed to come up in my own head with an origin story that made it seem like the Rhino device…my production designers and I we talked about how this “thing” would happen, who would develop this technology. We thought about maybe it was used in mining, maybe it was a weaponised device, but that horn which is that iconic thing is something that we protected and I wanted it to work within our world, within our story and that’s why I changed that.

In terms of music, you’ve had experience directing music videos. Did you apply that skill to this movie?
Oh, absolutely. In (500) Days of Summer, we used a lot of what is called “needle drop”, which is pre-existing music like Regina Spektor and The Smiths and I would orchestrate the sequences in my head before we shot them with the music. For Spider-Man, I was like “I don’t want to do that” – we used James Horner for the score which was completely fantastic, completely brilliant composer, but on this movie, I wanted to mix them up. I wanted to create a pop music texture because Peter Parker is a kid who’s gotten out of high school, he’s going to be listening the radio all the time, he’s gonna be listening to internet music all the time and we wanted something that feels contemporary but I also needed that classic big, huge textural drive that a big score could provide. So Hans Zimmer, I talked to Hans and I was like “we need a collaborator, we need somebody else to come in that feels contemporary.” He knew Pharrell and we worked with Pharrell, so we came in and Pharrell and Hans started to work together and then Johnny Marr who’s the guitarist for The Smiths came in and we developed a score that would float up into contemporary pop music and then go back down into this deep, throbbing, villain cacophony. It was an extraordinary experience with many many layers. I could do a whole interview on just the music in Times Square which I think is really elaborate and Mike Einzinger from Incubus, he was just playing in this part of the world not too long ago, but Hans allowed us to take the music really to the next level.

In the trailer, we see the Vulture’s wings and Doc Ock’s robotic arms. What led to the decision that the Sinister Six seems to originate completely from OsCorp?
When I was thinking about the movie at the beginning of the situation before the first movie, I was fascinated by Oscorp. Oscorp to me was symbolic of such a much deeper…it’s sort of like a Tower of Babel, all crazy things flowed from this tower that is emerging over the horizon when we were shooting the skyline of New York City. It seemed to make sense that Norman Osborn, by virtue of his desperate need to stay alive and his inability to sacrifice himself that there was a rupture in the universe and there was a hubris that emerged from it. There was something mythological in this Oscorp thing and I wanted Oscorp to be central to this whole idea.

Before Spider-Man, we hadn’t really seen Andrew Garfield as a very physical actor, in these two movies has he ever surprised you?
Absolutely. I didn’t know this, but he used to be a gymnast and he is able to give life to the suit in a way that you can’t just sub in a stuntman. He’s so good and so specific with the way he dramatizes it that he’s able to…(Jamie Foxx drops by) ‘Sup Jamie? (Returning to the question) He always can make you laugh by the way he moves his body, he can make you feel things by the way he shrugs his shoulders, you can feel him under the suit, you can feel him under the mask even though you can’t see him. I’m always surprised by him. He’s surprised by himself too.

Will you be directing the third instalment?

I hope so!  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Interviews: Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach

For F*** Magazine


(L-R) Matt Tolmach & Avi Arad

Andrew Garfield may be dressed in the red and blue Spidey suit and have the web-shooters affixed to his wrists, but producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach are the real web-spinners. 

By Jedd Jong 

The former CEO of Toy Biz-turned film producer, Arad was one of the founders of Marvel Studios and his filmography includes the first Spider-Man trilogy, the X-Men trilogy and the Blade trilogy. Tolmach stepped down as production chief at Columbia Pictures to launch his own production company and produce the new Spider-Man film series. These head honchos sat down to talk The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with F*** and other journalists, emphasising that they’ve got the fans in mind, talking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe which the Spidey films are ostensibly competing with, explaining Electro’s cosmetic overhaul and teasing some upcoming videogame-to-film adaptations Arad has in the works.

(Arad is wearing a t-shirt which shows Spider-Man arm wrestling Venom)

So, this is the teaser poster for The Sinister Six, it’s Venom right there arm wrestling!
Arad: A-ha, I gave it away! It’s not a secret anymore.

It’s Over the Top but with Spider-Man characters!
Arad: Yes.

How hard was it to craft The Amazing Spider-Man 2?
Tolmach:  Movies are hard to make, by the way. We were joking that it’s actually harder to make little movies in some ways because there’s so much goodwill around movies like this. Here we are in Singapore and last night, there were so many people that are rooting for these movies so you always feel that you have the wind at your back, but having said that, it’s an enormous undertaking and just physically, the process of making these movies is incredible and on the flip-side, people’s expectations for these movies are so enormous that really our job is to make sure that we’re telling the best story imaginable and doing it with the most talented people, whom we’ve been sitting with today, and making sure that all of that stuff is aligned so that we’re giving people something they really want.  It’s a big deal, we’ve been working on this movie for years…

Arad: Forever! We started 14 years ago. So for us it’s…

Tolmach: …That’s the truth. It’s all part of a larger…

Arad: He used to run the studio, and I used to take his money and make big movies, and now he’s taking their money and we make big movies.
Tolmach: He talked me into leaving.
Arad: I said “come on, you have to try it”. We were sitting at minus-something (degrees) outdoors…

Tolmach: That’s right, cut to a really, really awful location in Long Island and I think I looked at him and I was like “damn you!”

Arad: Rain and snow and “damn you” but we love it.

Tolmach: Oh no, it’s the greatest thing in the world.

Arad: Making a big movie is like a military operation. Like being on a battlefield. You have to improvise, deal with weather, deal with crowds…we had a night in which we applauded the extras because we were shooting it for summer, and it was 18 degrees, okay. Pretty cold – not Celsius, Fahrenheit. If I were an extra, I would go home. But they stuck it out, they stayed. They made a whole thing out of it, they were dancing and singing so they can take this.

Tolmach: People don’t realise, but when you watch a movie and see those people in the background, they have been standing there for like 12 hours – more.

Arad: The courage, but it’s all about Spider-Man. You want to be part of something like that because it’s cool, it’s good, it’s heroic, it’s a great role model and for me it’s the biggest character in the world so you can be part of history. It’s like “oh, that’s me over there!” and it’s a wonderful thing, it’s a folklore.

Tolmach: I think we take great comfort in the fact that – we don’t take it for granted, believe me – but we take great comfort in the fact that we’re telling a story about a guy who’s so beloved. I think as producers, the dangerous game is when you take on these enormous budgets and these enormous projects, you just don’t really know if the audience is going to care at all. We’re dealing with a character here who’s so beloved, there’s so much history that you just have a sense that you’re doing something that you really hope the audience cares about.

How do you strike a balance between giving the audience what they want and what you would like to do as producers?
Tolmach: It’s an important balance.

Arad: You know what, we actually think a lot about it and read the boards. Look at the costume in this movie. I mean people applaud this, it’s the best costume ever. The last movie, they told us it was the worst costume ever. (Laughs)

The “basketball suit”.
Tolmach: Alright, alright. (Laughs)

Arad: (These are) basic traits about an intellectual property like Spider-Man that have to be respected beyond anything else. So as long as the movie is about him and from that emanates the villain and the other issues, all in all, I have to say I think people really love what we do with our movies. Yeah, people’s nature is to criticise, it’s what they’re supposed to do I guess, but many of them criticise when they don’t know enough, so they’re nervous, it’s like “I hope they’re doing the right thing”. Our biggest pressure is not the 18 degrees, the snow and the rain, it’s to make sure that everybody’s going to walk away having something which is important to them. It’s important to make Gwen the smartest girl in school, charming and beautiful and strong, and helpful and active because women deserve that. Men love this kind of a girl today. In the 50s when comics were written, it was the Stone Age, but since then you ladies took over the world.

Tolmach: You did, we can see.

What do you think of the films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe, movies like the Captain America movies, the Thor movies, the Iron Man movies and The Avengers, made by Marvel Studios? How does this Spider-Man movie stand apart from the pack?
Arad: Let me tell you, the number one that we had to do when we started at Marvel was to establish the word “Marvel”. Many of the characters were known to people…by the way, people didn’t know much about Spider-Man, they knew we loved the character they didn’t know anything about it. So when we started at Marvel, the thing that made it for all of us is that today, when you go to Barnes and Noble and you buy a book and someone asks you “so, what did you get?” and you say “I got Harry Potter”, you don’t say “I bought a Barnes and Noble book.” Marvel today stands for great story, really good human value, so we want these movies to be very successful. When you walk into a movie house and you see the advertising, the word “Marvel” is part of the advertising, today it’s everybody’s story. In the old days, people say “it’s only for boys”, “it’s only for adults”, “nobody reads comics” – those days are over. Think of the kind of talent you met here and they all want to make our movies. When we started this journey, it was very hard to get great actors. We had to rely on the power of the studio and the power of the director, at the time it had to be someone people wanted to work for. Today, as long as we all make successful movies, this journey is never to stop.

Tolmach: There’s a great camaraderie, honestly, among those of us making these movies in Hollywood. There’s a sense that we’re all part of something…if someone makes a movie that doesn’t live up to fan expectations, it’s not good for any of us and we’re all part of something really special that everybody feels very grateful for. I was skiing this winter – I’m not going to tell you who this person is but it’s somebody who’s a big player in one of the Marvel, more than one of the Marvel movies – and I’d never met him. My wife knew his wife and they were talking and he was like “oh my god, I want to meet your husband because he makes the Spider-Man movies and I do this” and there was like this fraternity that we’re all part of.

Arad: Family.

Tolmach: That’s the real truth, that we’re all in this together. Spider-Man stands out, to answer your question, because in our minds what separates Spider-Man from all the other superheroes in the world is that he’s all of us. He’s an everyman, he’s a boy. He’s not rich and he’s not outwardly seemingly powerful, he’s just a kid who has to get a job and go to school and do all the things that we have to do. He’s struggling with the girl and the girl’s father, all the things that we’ve all dealt with and he’s also tasked with saving New York City against people like Electro and the Goblin and the Rhino.

Arad: He has tough principles, he cannot kill. So his job, because he’s always connected somehow to the villains who are themselves victims of circumstance, is very hard. It’s one thing to knock someone out, get into your car and drive away, but he wants to help these people and he has to stop them first. He’s the only superhero who’ll never break the covenant rule, he can never kill someone. So even as a role model, parents know that Spider-Man will do anything he can to stop, contain. When he doesn’t have a choice, and it’s innocent people (in the balance), not for himself, it’s for innocent people, then he’ll jump in. So we love this guy.

Tolmach: We do, he’s a big part of our lives.

How has filmmaking technology changed things in the last several years? When movies began, there was technology present from the first moments, and now, a lot of people say that movies are all about the technology.
Tolmach: Technology has made it possible to do things visually that we couldn’t do. Technology is great, we love technology. We fully embrace it and a lot of what you’re doing specifically in these kinds of movies has expanded, even if you’re looking at what we’ve done these 14 years.

Arad: A lot of people made it happen.

Tolmach: You couldn’t do Electro. We talked about Electro in 2000, you couldn’t do it. It required a level of sophistication technologically that now exists, and so the only thing you have to hold on to, the responsibility that we have, is to make it part of the storytelling. Technology for technology’s sake is a big “who cares”. In this case, Electro is a good example because it serves this character whom we love, who’s a really interesting, complicated character who goes from being utterly powerless and vulnerable to utterly powerful and invulnerable. So, the technology is part of that journey and we have to use it for great storytelling. That part of the moviemaking process has never changed.

Arad: You have to look at it as a commodity. Because one of my favourite superhero movies is still Dick Donner’s Superman.

Tolmach: Phenomenal!

Arad: The guy got an Academy Award, Colin Chilvers, for moving him on a wire, okay. That’s all it was. Today, we move people on wires in parks! Everywhere, it’s no big deal. But for us, it’s a joy to be able to make things real. You’ll see in this movie the way he flies, the way the wind does to his costume, this is mind-boggling.

Tolmach: You feel it.

Arad: And the 3D, you have to see it in 3D, because…wow. We actually made the first full 3D movie. We have the first six cameras to make a full 3D movie because it’s Spider-Man. The way he moves, the way the Goblin moves…this movie is born for technology. A lot of movies put in 3D became theatre-owners like it. This is a natural 3D action environment.

Are you worried about Marvel superhero movies possibly placing too much emphasis on the visuals? 
Tolmach: No. I mean, all these movies are different. What Avi said is true, and I’ll tell you personally, when I looked at our movie, and we looked at it every other day, and the movie begins and it says “Marvel”, I smile. Because that’s a brand that says to me something very special. It’s a fantasy, it represents something that I think all of us, whether you admit it or not, aspire to be in this world and be these characters. Spider-Man is a very different character and a different story and people are always going to go to Spider-Man movies to see Spider-Man. The Marvel movies, look, they’ve got great directors making those Marvel movies and I wouldn’t in any way put all of them in the same category. What Favreau was doing vs. what Joss Whedon was doing…they’re aesthetically different movies so I don’t think there’s one feeling for the whole universe. The Spider-Man thing is very unique. Spider-Man is very real.

Arad: In all fairness, the Marvel characters are very unique to themselves. We took great pains not to make the same character again. And therefore when you see Marvel movies, each one comes from a whole other point of view. Some of them will have great influence on us, some of them are just fun to watch. Without going into names, some of the movies are very successful. For a young man, I don’t know what it means, it means “that was fun”. But the politics is more appealing to the adults in the movie house. Spider-Man is the only one that was from day one, was always accessible to everybody. I have a grandson, he has no idea what I do, he’s too young. But all that he wants is Spider-Man clothes, and I look at my daughter and she (says) “I don’t know, he asked for it.” All the stickers and stuff, he’s full of Spider-Man stickers. I remember his (Tolmach’s) boy, very young, used to come to set and as a matter of fact gave me a heart attack. He climbed up the fence! He was very little, I don’t know 4…

Tolmach: He was like 3 or 4, yeah.

Arad: He was climbing up the fence, he was like “I’m Spider-Man!” Phenomena, they’re called “phenomena” because we don’t know what we really did. It will stand the test of time, they affect our lives, they’re graphically attractive, look at this guy (points to this writer). He’s a serious man, he has a Spider-Man (action figure) in his pocket! (Laughs) And today, it’s a mark of geek smarts, okay? When I was his age, if I had a Spider-Man comic book, I had to hide it or get into a fight!

Tolmach: That’s right.

Was there a particular reason why Electro out of all the Spider-Man villains was selected, and why the radical change in the character’s appearance?
Arad: It looks goofy! Can you imagine this goofy guy coming in…like Mardi Gras, exactly!

Tolmach: If you did that, this is what the whole interview would be like: “why did you do it like that?”
Arad: The whole fun with this thing is that we’re moving everything to the next generation. In our movies, Spider-Man has a cell phone. I can tell you if wanted to do cell phones eight years ago, people would say “there’s no way he can afford it.” Today, anybody, you cannot live without it. So we have to move with technology, with science, into the things that are familiar to all of us.

Tolmach: I think fans want us to interpret. You don’t want us really to just give you exactly what was in the comic book, you want us to interpret it in the spirit of the comic book but for it to look cool! I want my kid to want to wear an Electro costume, not to not want to. He’s wearing this one, he might not have worn the one in the comics. Electro’s about power. The metaphor with Spider-Man is all about power, what you do with it and what you don’t do with it and Electro is a character who’s about power and what you don’t do with it. He’s a perfect foil to Spider-Man…

Arad: Hard to fight. His power is such that unless you have his power (he’s undefeatable). So what we had fun with when we were working was how does he (Spider-Man) really stop him (Electro)? So first, again, I don’t want to tell you what will happen because there are fun surprises, but in order to fight Electro, you have to be Peter Parker, you have to be Gwen, because they’re both science geeks. So they have to work it out, if you have so much power, how do you counter it? The solution is really simple if you really listen to your physics teacher!

Tolmach: Most of us were like (makes snoring noises).

Avi, can you talk about some of the videogame movie adaptations you have in the works? Films like Mass Effect, Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid and inFAMOUS?
Tolmach: You want me to take that one? (Laughs)

Arad: He actually bought inFAMOUS when he (Tolmach) was head of the studio and Metal Gear is finally, finally happening. We have these contract stakes sometimes, four years for Metal Gear. Uncharted again we bought and it’s now, we have a great director and it’s all happening, it’s all coming together. He bought inFAMOUS like (snaps fingers) on the spot, in the elevator.

Tolmach: I’m a believer. That was easy, that was easy to see.

Arad: And the new game, it is out of this world.

Will we continue to see stinger scenes during or after the credits of the Spider-Man films?
Tolmach: We’ll only do it when it really matters. I promise you that, when it’s meaningful.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Iceman 3D (冰封: 重生之门)

For F*** Magazine

ICEMAN 3D (冰封: 重生之门)

Director: Law Wing Cheong
Cast:  Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Eva Huang, Wang Baoqiang, Yu Kang, Hoi-Pang Lo, Mark Wu, Gregory Wong, Yang Jian-ping, Jacqueline Chong, Sukie Shek, Ava Liu
Genre: Action
Run Time: 105 mins
Opens: 17 April 2014
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)

Iceman 3D (冰封: 重生之门) - ReviewThe 1989 film The Iceman Cometh gets thawed and re-heated with this goofy remake starring Donnie Yen. Yen plays He Ying, an Imperial Guard from the Ming Dynasty framed for treason, flash-frozen in an avalanche and re-awoken in 2013. He Ying wanders through modern-day Hong Kong, a world utterly alien to him. At a Halloween party, he meets May (Huang), who upon recovering from a drunken stupor offers him shelter and gradually begins to fall in love with the 400+ year old Imperial Guard. Meanwhile, Sao (Wang) and Niehu (Yu), blood brothers-turned enemies of He Ying who were frozen alongside him, have also been defrosted, proceeding to scour Hong Kong for He Ying. Police chief Yuanlong (Yam) is also hot on He Ying’s tail as a mysterious connection he shares with the Iceman comes to light.

Iceman has had a troubled production process, going over-budget and over-schedule and running into multiple issues with location shooting in Hong Kong. The resulting film was 3.5 hours long and has been split into two parts, with the sequel slated to arrive this October. This probably accounts for the inconclusive ending. Stuffed with over the top, juvenile gags, many bodily function-related, Iceman drowns itself in slapstick, making it difficult to enjoy as a fantasy action epic. After awaking from cryo-sleep, He Ying’s first action is pretty much unleashing a stream of turbo pee which splatters across the windshield of an arriving car. Even the Ghost Rider urinating fire was less of an indignity than this.

Yes, a movie about a Ming Dynasty guard getting unfrozen in 2013 isn’t going to be a beacon of logical storytelling, but Iceman strains the suspension of disbelief well past the breaking point. It’s remarkable how readily May and her pals accept the fact that He Ying is who he says he is, none of them particularly fazed or bewildered by the ancient palace guard just crashing at May’s place. May’s stereotypically camp friend is somehow able to show He Ying actual video of the very avalanche in which he was frozen, and it’s left completely unexplained as to where that footage comes from. Was there someone around filming it 400 years ago? This is but one of the many, many plot holes Iceman is riddled with. Its scattershot storytelling robs the narrative of any drive or stakes. There’s something involving a MacGuffin called the Golden Wheel of Time that is supposedly a time travel device, but there’s so much pratfall-heavy mucking about that the actual plot gets little attention. He Ying only actually meets Sao and Niehu in the present day at around the 50 minute mark.

Donnie Yen, we think you’re a great martial artist and we love seeing you kick ass onscreen, just please stop making such bad movies. Over the last year, the likes of Special I.D. and The Monkey King have been major embarrassments. To put it simply: Donnie Yen leaping through the air, striking an assailant as he lands = good. Donnie Yen drinking out of a toilet, remarking how the “well water is so salty and stinky” = bad. As the female lead, May’s purpose in the narrative is confusing. Huang Shengyi and Donnie Yen share little chemistry, and an inordinate amount of screen time is dedicated to the two characters “bonding” with little plot development actually taking place. There’s even a shamelessly mawkish subplot involving May’s mother, on the brink of being evicted from a nursing home. Wang Baoqiang, Yu Kang and Simon Yam make for forgettable antagonists when the plot thread that binds them and He Ying could have been the source of considerable dramatic tension.

The premise of Iceman has understandably been compared to that of a certain shield-packing Marvel superhero, but it’s really more like Demolition Man, only even sillier than that 1993 Stallone sci-fi flick. We saw the 2D version, but even then it’s easy to tell how utterly gimmicky the 3D version surely is – look out for pieces of curry chicken hurtling out from the screen! The climactic showdown set on the Tsing Ma Bridge is a halfway decent, if flashy and cheesy, action sequence, but it’s far from enough to make up for the preceding mess. There’s some pretty bad CGI, especially during a snowboarding sequence. Guys, xXx was 12 years ago. At the time of this writing, the sequel’s title translates to Iceman 2: Back to the Future. We’ll just roll our eyes now and get over with it.

SUMMARY: Heavy on sophomoric jokes and “stuff flying at the camera” gags but low on fantasy action spectacle and any storytelling coherence, we recommend tossing this Iceman back in deep freeze storage and throwing away the key.

RATING: 1.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


For F*** Magazine


Director: Wally Pfister
Cast:  Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Clifton Collins Jr., Josh Stewart, Cole Hauser, Cory Hardrict
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller
Run Time: 119 mins
Opens: 17 April 2014
Rating: PG (Some Violence)

Transcendence - ReviewIn the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Johnny Depp asked “why is the rum gone?” and in Transcendence, he gets to ask “why is the RAM gone?” Depp plays Dr. Will Caster who, along with his wife Evelyn (Hall), is one of the foremost minds in artificial intelligence research. His work has earned the ire of a radical militant anti-technology activist group called RIFT; their operative fatally wounding him. Before Will’s death, he and Evelyn decide to upload Will’s consciousness to a supercomputer, something Will’s best friend Max (Bettany) warns against. As Will in his transcendent form becomes near-omnipotent, Will and Evelyn’s mentor Joseph Tagger (Freeman) works with FBI agent Donald Buchanan (Murphy) to contain and stop Will before he endangers his wife and the world at large.

Transcendence marks the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, winner of a Best Cinematography Oscar for Inception. Perhaps echoing the film’s themes of a wariness of technology in some small way, Pifster is an outspoken critic of shooting on digital format and insisted on shooting Transcendence on 35 mm film. Jack Paglen’s script earned a spot on the 2012 Black List of unproduced screenplays that had garnered the most positive industry buzz. Transcendence is reminiscent of 90s cyber-punk techno-thrillers, bearing shades of The Lawnmower Man, The Thirteenth Floor, eXistenZ, Johnny Mnemonic and The Matrix; also clearly influenced by the works of sci-fi authors William Gibson and Philip K. Dick, both famous for exploring the dynamic relationship between man and machine. Source Code is a recent genre entry that also comes to mind. There’s a bit of Rise of the Planet of the Apes vibe too, with the well-intentioned scientists playing god. While all the above-mentioned films had their outlandish moments (or were outlandish as a whole), Pfister takes great pains to maintain a po-faced plausibility and he is mostly successful.

Pfister’s style as a cinematographer is marked by a clinical precision which curiously didn’t sacrifice too much personality, and that is carried over to Transcendence. As far as directing debuts go, this is an assured first feature and hopefully a sign of great things to come from Pfister. The story has its predictable moments but it makes turns into surprising territory when it matters the most. At the mid-point of the story, Will and Evelyn buy over a dusty, dilapidated town, transforming it into a futuristic cradle of ground-breaking technology, enriching the lives of its residents akin to the forward-thinking pioneer who revolutionises a backward frontier town in a Western. The way in which Evelyn’s love for her husband clouds her judgement is presented compellingly, though there are perhaps one too many spots in which she goes “oh, now you’ve gone too far!” while the story continues apace.

Johnny Depp’s popularity has waned in recent years, moviegoers growing tired of his eccentric shtick and the big-budget bomb The Lone Ranger doing him no favours. You know an actor has played some weird roles when “human consciousness in a supercomputer” is considered relatively normal by his standards. Depp is on good form here, his Will Caster beginning as a loveable just-mad-enough scientist and then progressing into a non-corporeal force of technology without going “the full Skynet”. That’s not particularly easy to play and it is a better career move for Depp than running around with a dead bird on his head.

It might be Depp’s face on the poster (the one that looks like it hasn’t completely loaded) but this is as much Rebecca Hall’s film as it is his. While Evelyn’s characterisation does at times lean towards “female lead being defined by the male character”, she moves the plot forward as much as anyone else does and just like in Iron Man 3, Hall is believable as a scientist and effectively essays a woman struggling with some complex ethical conundrums. Freeman and Murphy’s characters fall squarely into the categories of “mentor figure” and “cop assigned to the case” respectively, but they are as competent as they typically are. Paul Bettany’s part is meatier, as he goes from being Will’s confidant and supporter to being possibly swayed by RIFT’s ideology. As the shady RIFT operative Bree, Kate Mara’s performance brings the likes of The East and The Company You Keep to mind. She’s not the greatest actress but she does lend a degree of sympathetic humanity to what could have been a generic band of bad guys.

Audiences flock to big-budget, spectacle-driven sci-fi blockbusters, but there’s definitely room in the market for techno-thrillers that are smaller in scale but also more thought-provoking, intelligent and carefully-crafted. There are parts of the film that are genuinely chills-inducing – suffice it to say that Cyber-Will doesn’t become a charming, affable Him. Transcendence falls short of brilliance, not digging as deep into its premise as it could have, but it is still engrossing, boasts a top-drawer cast and is satisfyingly cerebral if not mental gymnastics-inducing.

Summary: It’s not quite mind-blowing, but Transcendence is still a well-made, clever and entertaining post-cyber-punk thriller (and the least annoying Johnny Depp has been in a while). Jack in and boot up!

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


For F*** Magazine


Director: David Ayer
Cast:         Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Mireille Enos, Olivia Williams, Joe Manganiello, Terrence Howard, Josh Holloway, Harold Perrineau, Max Martini, Gary Grubbs
Genre: Action, Thriller
Run Time: 109 mins
Opens: 10 April 2014
Rating: TBA

Sabotage - ReviewAs per his oft-quoted promise, the Governator is back from politics and on the silver screen, in a film that promises to be tougher and grimier than either The Last Stand or Escape Plan. In this film based very loosely on Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None, Schwarzenegger plays John “Breacher” Wharton, the grizzled leader of an elite DEA squad. The motley crew includes Monster (Worthington), Grinder (Manganiello), Sugar (Howard), Neck (Holloway) and Pyro (Martini) – nobody has an un-silly nickname, except perhaps Lizzy (Enos), who’s also Monster’s wife. After a bust goes awry, the team members are picked off one by one in gruesome fashion. FBI agents Caroline Brentwood (Williams) and Darius Jackson (Perrineau) are sent in to investigate, all signs pointing to the mastermind being someone in Breacher’s circle.

Action movie junkies have bemoaned the lack of truly great American action movies as of late, citing the homogenisation that results from every film having to be rated PG-13 to pull in the crowds, having less bite to them because of it. Sabotage pulls no punches when it comes to the violence – it seems like somebody was having a 2-for-1 sale on blood packs. The action is visceral and bereft of noticeable digital enhancement. But make no mistake: Sabotage is far from a “great American action movie”. Chaotic, mean-spirited, dumb and deafening, it pummels the audience into submission. Director David Ayer, who has carved a niche making gritty cop thrillers, gives Sabotage some of the documentary-like style he’s become known for, but the script that he co-wrote with Skip Woods is heavy on the insipid tough guy dialogue and light on wit and invention. This should be no surprise, seeing as Woods had a hand in penning the likes of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, A Good Day to Die Hard and Swordfish.

Watching the team in this film at work just really made this reviewer miss the guys who followed Dutch into the jungle in Predator. Practically everyone in Breacher’s squad is a jerk, chugging beers, hanging out at strip clubs - they’re just not really interesting, let alone endearing. It’s impossible to buy the group as a well-oiled machine who have been operating as a unit for some time, since they’re always at each other’s throats, and not in an amusingly dysfunctional way either. Now, of course it would be boring if everyone just got along, but if it seems like nobody has anyone else’s back, the audience is hard-pressed to give a damn when each team member starts biting it. As a result, this whodunit soon gets increasingly tiresome, instead of increasingly absorbing.

Schwarzenegger does make for a convincing team leader, worn, grizzled and serious. Thankfully, he doesn’t do a whole lot of referencing his status as a pop culture icon. It seems contemporary moviegoers regard Schwarzenegger as not much more than a punch-line, a fount of cheesy one-liners and a relic of the over-the-top 80s. It’s a bit of pity as his acting is not bad at all here.

The supporting cast isn’t remarkable but for what it’s worth, it’s cool that there are two Terminators on the same team (the other being Sam Worthington). Worthington has a reputation as a wooden, cookie-cutter action hero, but he’s competent as the only guy in the team with his head screwed on right. The distracting “ponytail beard” hanging from his chin does snatch a good deal of the credibility away, though. Mireille Enos spends most of the film being quite annoying, though it’s probably more the script’s fault than it is hers. She’s the lone girl on the crew has to constantly prove she can stand among the boys. How original and empowering. Olivia Williams fares only slightly better, her no-nonsense investigator being a character we’ve also seen a million times.

The film’s attempts at humour are cringe-worthy and oddly scatological. The team squirms as they wade through a sewer, and there are two random agents tasked with monitoring Breacher who have an extended conversation about peeing into a bottle. Yes, of course there are shootouts and car chases, and while the action scenes don’t feel overly staged, they also lack creativity and style, little more than flurries of bullet hits and gratuitous blood spatter (that poor cyclist on the windscreen). Pointlessly cruel instead of shocking or impactful, Sabotage has even less substance than your average spectacle-filled summer blockbuster, Schwarzenegger’s stoic turn its sole saving grace.

SUMMARY: We used to have at least a few brain cells. We watched Sabotage, and then there were none.

RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong