Wednesday, 17 February 2016



Starring: Édgar Ramírez, Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone
Writer: Kurt Wimmer
Director: Ericson Core

In 1991, director Kathryn Bigelow took an unrelentingly dumb story of surfers pulling bank jobs and spun it into action thiller gold, pushing Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze's bromance to the forefront and somehow making a virtue of the laughable dialogue to create something of a minor classic. A lot of people out there remember Point Break with a great deal of fondness and now they have a new, shiny and expanded take on the original to enjoy or grumble about.

Expanded? Well, this time out, surfing is only part of the story. Yes, there's still a young FBI agent called Johnny Utah, only this time he's a tattooed ex-motocross rider (played by Bracey) who joined the Bureau after a tragic accident killed a friend and fellow rider. Yes, there's still a spiritual thrill-seeker called Bodhi (played by 
Ramírez), only this time he's chasing the ultimate rush on land and air in addition to sea. Yes, Utah still has a partner, yes he's still called Pappas only this time it's not the barely-controlled, endlessly entertaining lunacy of Gary Busey, it's the grizzled, growling Brit stylings of Ray Winstone.

In the 2016 version it's not just banks being robbed either. Aircraft and convoys travelling mountain roads are also targets, providing a ready-made excuse for skydiving sequences and car/bike/truck chases. There's so much action crammed into Point Break, how could it possibly be boring?

That's what I'm asking. How could it possibly be boring? Because it is.

Even without making comparisons to the original, this has so many problems it's difficult to know where to begin. Chiefly, I didn't give a toss about any of the characters in the movie. Utah is a sulky, uninteresting dolt and has about as much of a dangerous edge as a tennis ball. Bodhi straightfacedly spouts the sort of mystical-tinged bollocks you'd happily cross the street in fast-moving traffic to avoid. Pappas is....actually, what function does Pappas have other than show up every twenty minutes to criticise Utah's handling of the case and to tell us the odds on Wayne Rooney scoring the next goal? Sorry, that joke won't travel outside the UK but I was compelled to make it.

The rest of Bodhi's crew fares no better. They're a charisma-free bunch of extreme sports bores, one of whom doesn't even manage to shock the audience by snowboarding off a cliff and plunging thousands of feet to his doom. When that happens and you're thinking "What an idiot" rather than mourning his tragic demise then you know you're not sufficiently wrapped up in the characters to think it's anything other than uninvolving fiction.

As the 2016 iteration of Lori Petty, Teresa Palmer initially looked like she was going to strike a blow for Point Break in terms of a new feminist angle, her introduction signalled by means of some righteous surfing action. Unfortunately, it's not long before she's making dinner for the other blokes and giving Utah a potential love interest.

Oh, in a move that will surprise almost no one, she gets summarily bumped off in the movie's second half trying to escape from a sub-Heat heist on a Euro bank which features some surprisingly obliging cops who lean out from cover just far enough to get shot. Again, rather than be taken aback by the reveal that the deceased robber is in fact Samsara (she has a hippy name, she grew up off the grid and she wants to stick it to The Man! Yeah!) there's more of a feeling that it's karmic payback for the endless drippy nonsense she craps on about whenever she's on screen.

The film is so forehead-slappingly inept that it even manages to flub its "Point Break" reference. No more is it about long-lasting waves, it's now a reference to the point at which someone breaks. Er, not really wanting to point (break) this out, guys, but isn't that "breaking point"? Have you ever heard someone say "I've just about reached my point break"? Only if you're talking arse of your out, I'm thinking.

Even as a mindless action movie, this doesn't cut the mustard as it's seriously lacking excitement save for a decent, moderately suspenseful free climbing sequence towards the end. Comparing this to the original makes things so much worse and the only thing this underpowered flick will probably succeed in doing is driving most of its viewers to savour the superior 90s vintage.

Thursday, 11 February 2016


Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz
Writers: Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg
Director: Ben Stiller

The sequel to Ben Stiller's 2001 original begins in Rome, where Justin Bieber is shot to pieces by an unknown assassin but still has the time to take a decent selfie before breathing his last. Turns out he's the sixth pop star to be killed of late and every one of them had posted the same facial expression to social media before expiring. Interpol Fashion Division Agent Valentina (Cruz) is on the case and believes that the key to the whole mystery is ex-World's greatest male model Derek Zoolander, who is now "out of fashion" and in hiding.

The years since the first movie haven't been particularly kind to Mr Z. First, the building which housed The Derek Zoolander Centre For Kids Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too collapsed, killing his wife and disfiguring fellow model Hansel (Wilson) in the process.

Failing to come to terms with his newfound responsibility as a single parent, his son was taken from him and now he lives alone in the wilderness. At this point in the proceedings Billy Zane (played by, er, Billy Zane) shows up with an invitation for Zoolander to model for everyone's new favourite designer Don Atari at a show in, where else, Rome...

This sequel employs the "if ain't broke, don't fix it" strategy of so many follow-ups and so once again most of the humour is focused on just how jaw-droppingly stupid Derek Zoolander is. It's a fairly safe target for laughs and to be fair there are a few inspired moments or lines of dialogue but this does feel like a sequel that was made because it was time to make one, taking the story and its characters in no new directions whatsoever.

The subplot involving D-Zo (as Hansel refers to him at one juncture) and his attempts to be a proper father to his son is hardly the stuff of breathtaking originality although I will concede that it did provide the biggest laugh in my case - if you want to know it's the bit with the sports car and yes, I know it's the third most unsubtle moment in the film, only eclipsed by Zoolander's reaction to seeing Valentina's boobs and Zoolander's reaction to he?/she? supermodel All (brilliantly played by Benedict Cumberbatch).

Even though the jokes are far from the greatest, they're given at least some polish and even occasional pizazz by the cast. Stiller and Wilson are enjoyable as the modelling world's dumbest double act and Cruz keeps up with them admirably, displaying a fine sense of comic timing.

A difficult to recognise Kristen Wiig will either amuse or annoy as botox-frozen and collagen-plumped fashion mogul Alexanya Atoz, mangling every word in an accent indescribable other than it's Eastern European (which part of Eastern Europe it's supposed to be is a mystery to me - and everyone else, I suspect). And of course there's Will Ferrell, returning as Zoolander's nemesis Mugatu, raising chuckles where there would be none in other hands.

As comedy sequels go, Zoolander 2 isn't the worst example of its type but it's a long way from the best. It's fitfully amusing but real belly laughs are in very short supply and the plot is guilty of throwing way too many elements in, hoping to see what sticks. The plentiful celebrity cameos are generally fun - or, in the case of Kiefer Sutherland, utterly bizarre - but the lampooning of the fashion industry was carried off with far more panache in the original and this follow-up will probably be forgotten next season.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016


Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch
Writer: John Phillips
Director: Dan Mazer

At the funeral of his wife, Dick Kelly (De Niro) asks grandson - and corporate lawyer - Jason (Efron) to drive him to Florida as a favour. Jason's none too keen on the idea because he's wrapped up not only in his work but also in last-minute preparations for his wedding to Meredith (Julianne Hough). Meredith is spoiled, materialistic, bossy and annoying so it's obvious why Jason would be falling over himself to marry such a woman. I wonder if he'll have second thoughts during the movie? Hmm.

I digress. Dick can't drive himself as he's recently lost his licence and he also sees it as a chance for some grandpa/grandson bonding time so Jason agrees reluctantly to help out his grieving grandad, a decision he soon regrets as Dick's true motives for the Florida trip become abundantly clear...

Right, let's get Dirty Grandpa's only useful message out of the way - men and women of advancing years don't stop wanting to have fun and, yes, that includes wanting to have sex. I'm fine with that. It's a great thing for a movie to say. Society shouldn't ignore someone just because they're deemed to be "old".

Okay, now let's deal with the rest of it.

It's horrible.

On the face of it, Dirty Grandpa's dirty sense of humour should have been right up my street and the concept of uptight youngster Efron being given valuable life lessons from freewheeling pensioner De Niro had more than a little comedy potential but there's nothing smart or snappy here, just a relentlessly tiresome series of depressingly crude and tasteless gags whose opening gambit is the thoroughly unedifying sight of De Niro knocking one out. Yes, that's Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro right there, strangling the Womble in glorious widescreen.

Efron is called upon to look embarrassed for most of the movie which can't have been much of a stretch considering the various indignities the plot piles on him for hopefully comic effect. During the proceedings, his character accidentallly smokes crack, accidentally ends up in jail and is accidentally mistaken for a paedophile. You may accidentally laugh. I did not.

Yes, you read that correctly - there's a scene in which a nearly-naked (then totally naked) Efron is mistaken for a paedophile. There is no depth to which this film will not stoop. At that point it had already made me not laugh about such subjects as cancer, drug abuse and homosexuality so the bar was being set lower with each passing minute. Actually, come to think of it, when one moment involves De Niro resting his tackle next to Efron's face you realise there was never a bar in the first place.

Actually, if there's one person that looks more embarrassed than Efron it's Dermot Mulroney, lumbered with the thankless role of Efron's dad, whose main purpose is to look disapprovingly at De Niro's septuagenarian shenanigans. Oh, and to have several dicks drawn on his face too. It's making me miserable typing this so I'm not even going to start on the decision to cast Aubrey Plaza and then waste her talent in the most criminal manner possible.

Well, okay, I'm going to have to talk about Aubrey Plaza. Aubrey Plaza is great in everything she appears in. Or rather she was until she appeared in this. It's not even Ms Plaza's fault. She gives her role the best shot she could have done but her character's one of many duds. Not as much of a dud as Jason's wacky cousin - I was hoping for him to be kidnapped early on in the proceedings and never rescued - but a dud nonetheless.

Plaza's character, for want of a better expression, likes to do old guys. The clever subtext here though is....oh, come on, there is no clever subtext here, she just likes to do old guys. And talk about doing old guys in the same grubby way De Niro talks about things such, I can't carry on with this. Even the attempt to add a little sweetness into the mix with a subplot charting the burgeoning friendship between Jason and eco-minded Shadia (Deutch) is obliterated by the script's drive to be cheerfully offensive at every turn. It isn't cheerful, it certainly isn't anywhere near offensive, it's stunningly dull and unforgivably unfunny.

What is with you, Zac Efron? You've managed to follow up We Are Your Friends with something equally horrid. How? As for Robert De Niro, I'm kind of hoping that the film makers cast someone who looks and sounds exactly like him but isn't actually him. For me, the low spot of 2016 so far. And that's including Point Break. You have been warned.

Saturday, 6 February 2016


Starring: James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Max Martini
Writer: Chuck Hogan
Director: Michael Bay

Transformers and Bad Boys director Michael Bay steers away from his usual blockbuster fare to give us the very serious true story of the 2012 storming of a US diplomatic outpost in Libya which then led to a subsequent prolonged and bloody attack on a nearby CIA intelligence station. Tasked with keeping the enemies at bay is GRS - a group of six elite ex-military security contractors led by Tyrone "Rone" Woods (Dale), whose men are generally referred to by nicknames such as Oz and Tig. In fact the only contractor without a nickname is Krasinski's Jack Silva, a recent addition to the group who has returned to the field, somewhat reluctantly, in order to earn the money which will ease his family's financial worries back home. 

I'm not going to argue that the name of Michael Bay brings a lot of baggage when approaching any movie with his name on it but, fair play to the bloke, at least he's attempted to make something with more dramatic weight and serious intent than would normally be expected. It isn't totally successful, but it isn't the second Transformers movie either (which was robots thumping each other for the last hour and a bit - MAKE IT STOP!).

First and foremost, Bay gets some impressive work out of his cast, with all of the actors playing the contractors giving convincing portrayals of ordinary guys doing an anything-but-ordinary job. One moment they're talking about FaceTime with their families thousands of miles away, then next they're on security detail with the new American ambassador, wondering if someone in the crowd has a suicide vest on.

It's the mundane mixed with the terrifying, especially in the early stages, that works well and allows us to spend some time with the main characters, even if their arcs are no more complex than mentioning how much they miss home or making sure they have a photo of their recently-born son with them. It's possible to disagree with why those guys are there but they're still likeable.

It's when the shit really hits the fan that certain elements of the movie miss the mark. The confusion as to exactly who is on their side, with Benghazi's many factions constantly criss-crossing the city, is sporadically well-handled but there were many times - especially in the middle section - where I was at a complete loss as to who was shooting at who and which side had the upper hand. At one point I had absolutely no idea if the GRS guys were even on-screen.

Not knowing who's who aside, the chaos of the firefights in the city streets is well-filmed in a digital blur and the temptation to fill the screen with huge explosions is reigned in. It's a pity then that Bay punctures the realism by throwing in the odd beautifully framed slow-mo sequence of an antagonist being raked with gunfire or a perfectly backlit shot of four GRS guys silhouetted attractively against a road they're jogging along. The cinematic touches might look good but they're completely out of place in this kind of movie.

The movie's clearly on the side of the ex-military guys and whilst I have no specific issue with that the intelligence personnel are generally portrayed as pen pushing college types with no real life experience who spend most of the running time unaware of exactly how much danger they're in, which gives Rone and his guys plenty of work saving them. Are intelligence types so lacking in intelligence?

So is 13 Hours worth a watch? Just about, mostly for James Badge Dale and John Krasinski, the latter proving especially excellent in a role that's far removed from The Office. Otherwise it's slightly overlong, sometimes confusing and, unfortunately, fails to have the impact it should save for a couple of tense sequences. Doesn't mean that Michael Bay should give up on the serious stuff and go back to Transformers though.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

THE 33

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche
Writers: Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten, Michael Thomas
Director: Patricia Riggen

The Chilean mining disaster of 2010 which gripped an entire planet is given a feelgood Hollywood makeover as regular guy Mario Sepúlveda (played by Antonio Banderas, trying to look like a regular guy as best he can) suddenly finds himself the de facto leader of a group trapped over 700 metres below ground, running out of food, wondering if a rescue attempt is even possible. On the surface, the families of the men wait and worry while Government aide Laurence Golborne (Santoro) is landed with the unenviable task of getting all 33 miners out alive.

Patricia Riggen's movie certainly looks to tick the box marked "feelgood" and, as a result, you'll be hard-pushed to find much of the grit and grime of what must have been an utterly terrifying situation. Even the subject of the rapidly dwindling food supplies is not particularly dwelt upon and the hideous prospect of slowly starving to death is over-ridden by an emphasis on the triumph of the human spirit and the importance of camaraderie in times of extreme hardship. Whilst this is laudable it also downplays the dire nature of the miners' plight almost to the point where it's an inconvenience rather than a bunch of workers staring death in the face.

The casting veers from spot-on to inconceivable.

Let's take the spot-on first. Banderas is excellent as the man who came to be dubbed "Super Mario" and despite the fact it's impossible to make the guy even ordinary-looking - no, giving him a beard and smearing him in muck doesn't even come close to achieving it - he convinces as the family-loving everyman who believes that he and his "brothers" will be saved.

Lou Diamond Phillips escapes the straight-to-DVD mire he's been wading through of late to score an effective performance as Don Lucho, a veteran of the industry who questions his own worth and his possible complicity in the disaster's occurrence. Santoro bucks the trend of Government aides in movies being self-serving douchebags and we feel his agony and ecstacy as he attempts to move heaven and earth (well, a bloody big rock anyway) in order to reunite the 33 with their loved ones above ground.

Okay, now to the inconceivable. Juliette Binoche as a ballsy, full-on Chilean seller of empanadas? I have read that Ms Binoche was a late replacement for Jennifer Lopez (who, bizarrely enough, I couldn't have seen in the role either, so...) and to be fair she does give it the role her usual level of commitment and craft but it was still difficult for me to see past the fact that she was an odd choice for the part.Those empanadas looked good though.

A similar occurrence of my "huh?" face greeted Gabriel Byrne's appearance as an expert in drilling. A Chilean expert in drilling. Again, his acting's not in question here but I'm not sure his Latin American accent is a hundred per cent convincing and, yes, it's Juliette Binoche Syndrome again only this time they took the guy from The Usual Suspects and said "okay, now you're South American". I know there's some commercial thinking in casting some reasonably well-known faces but surely there are talented and engaging peformers from Chile who could have portrayed drilling experts and empanada sellers without me sitting there thinking "Why?".

Despite the fact that I now think I must have missed the phone call to play one of the Chilean miners ("Yes, call that really white guy, he'll be amazing"), despite the fact that a large proportion of the Disaster Movie Cliché playbook is referenced and despite the fact that the late James Horner's score is utilised in far too nudging and insistent ways - if you see Chilean villagers above ground, get ready for the Andean pipes and acoustic guitar because they're on the way - this film is so good-natured that it feels wrong to bash it completely. It isn't exactly subtle in the way it plays on the emotions but there's a good chance you will be fighting back the tears at certain points and you'll be anticipating the rescue almost as much as Banderas and his colleagues.

At one point in the movie, in between flogging those tasty empanadas, Maria (Binoche) says to Golborne that she aims to please but that she generally misses the target. Not by much, though. This happens to be a very apt description of this movie, there's no question that it aims to please - in fact it's so eager to please that it fumbles its way through a series of could-have-been-better sequences - and in no way does it score a bullseye but it's an entertaining enough miss and The 33's ramshackle charms ultimately prove enchanting even if you get the feeling that there's a far more interesting story that could have been told.