Category Archives: Rating: 1-1.75 stars

Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016)

Think of True Lies, the greatest spy action-comedy every made. Then think of the complete opposite of that. That’s essentially Keeping Up with the Joneses, a film so bland and unfunny that it’s actually baffling.

Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher play the Gaffneys, a couple whose children are away at a camp when an attractive couple (the Joneses) played by Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot move into their close knit neighbourhood. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the Joneses are not who they claim to be, and soon the Gaffneys find themselves thrown into the world of espionage.

Not the most interesting premise, but definitely potential for laughs. And yet, Keeping Up with the Joneses is so low on the humour that I honestly cannot think of another movie I’ve seen this year — not just comedies but any genre — that generated less laughter. I’d probably have to think back to a movie about the holocaust to find anything as unfunny.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying either. I actually like all four of the actors in the film, but none of them could squeeze a drop of decent humour of the movie. The jokes are so lame and uninspiring that I don’t think they even worked on paper. With the exception of one gag about teeth near the end of the second act, I honestly did not chuckle even once. No laughs, no smiles.

Sadly, there are no other redeeming qualities about the film. The action is very tame and uninspiring, and the plot is ridiculously predictable. The only positive things about the movie I can say is that it appears the actors at least tried (well, except for Jon Hamm — he totally mailed it in), and that there’s nothing offensively terrible about it.

So no laughs, crap action and lame plot. No matter how appealing the actors may be, Keeping Up with the Joneses might very well be the worst comedy of the year.

1 star out of 5

The Disappointments Room (2016)

Wentworth Miller, everyone’s favourite escaped convict, penned the script for the 2013 hit Stoker, a surprisingly atmospheric and eerie thriller starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. And so it seemed normal to expect that his sophomore writing effort, The Disappointments Room, wouldn’t be too shabby either.

Hory shet. Talk about a disappointment.

Bad supernatural horror movies are a dime a dozen these days, but The Disappointments Room is shocking because it should not have been this terrible given the names involved. Directed by DJ Caruso, who was at the helm of some pretty decent movies — Disturbia and Eagle Eye (we’ll forget about I Am Number Four) — the film features the archetypal horror premise of a young family moving into a big new house in the middle of nowhere for a “fresh start.”

Kate Beckinsale and Mel Raido play the couple, Dana and David, who have a five-year-old son named Lucas (Duncan Joiner). Shortly after moving in, Dana finds a secret room in the house (guess what it’s called?) and weird stuff starts happening to her. She has deadly visions or hallucinations that seem real and there’s a mystery behind it all she needs to solve. Of course, no one believes her. She’s mental!

When I first found out why the room is called a “disappointments room”, I still thought the film had potential. The concept was intriguing and creepy, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that it was just a cheap gimmick and an excuse to heap loads of horror cliches onto it.

Sadly, the film is almost completely devoid of scares. There’s just no build up of tension or atmosphere, and the characters are all poorly developed. It gets worse as it plods along and introduces a new handyman character played by Lucas Till, though his presence adds nothing to the plot and his part of the story is actually never resolved! In fact, the entire film just loses the plot in the third act and spirals into utter incoherency. By that stage, however, no one gave a shit.

The Disappointments Room has a spectacular rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 0%, and I can’t say I disagree with every critic included in the assessment. Just a real embarrassment for everyone involved.

1 star out of 5

Three (2016)

Several months ago, I was invited to an advanced screening of Three, a hyped Hong Kong thriller directed by the legendary Johnnie To, best known for crime classics such as Election, Exiled and Drug War. The movie features an A-list cast too, led by Zhao Wei, Louis Koo and Wallace Chung, with plenty of other recognisable faces if you are into HK film and television.

I walked out of Three in a complete daze. It was one of the most ridiculous, non-sensical and contrived movies I had seen in a long time. I was seriously asking myself WTF just happened. I knew I wasn’t the only one because my wife thought the same, as well as the several journalists and reviewers I overheard on the way out. One of them even laughed out loud several times during the movie due to unintentional humour.

And yet, Three has gotten rave reviews, with a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (albeit with a relatively small sample size), and even garnered a Golden Horse Award nomination for To for Best Director. I don’t know if I watched a different movie to everyone else, but I’m standing my ground here. Three sucked. I don’t care what anyone else says.

Allow me to back up a bit. The film starts off with an interesting premise centered around three main characters (hence the title?): A mastermind criminal (Wallace Chung) who has been brought into hospital with a bullet lodged in his head, and yet he’s wide awake and functional; an unstable surgeon (Zhao Wei) with serious emotional issues; and a cop in charge of the investigation (Louis Koo) who may or may not have something to hide.

The film tries to build tension and intrigue with that premise, though I found the complete lack of logic so jarring that it took me right out of the atmosphere it was aiming to create. Not much of the human behaviour, actions, reactions or dialogue made any sense, and it’s all made worse by blatant overacting.

It’s as though the film was made by aliens. For instance, why keep a most-wanted fugitive with a bullet in his head in a chaotic shared room with a bunch of other ordinary people? Why are doctors answering police phone calls? Why do family members ask doctors about future treatment for patients who have literally just died right in front of them? Why is a policeman hanging out in the lobby of a hospital out of the firm belief that a song he once heard someone whistling hours ago will be whistled again? Why is the criminal reciting Wikipedia-esque general knowledge in long monologues for no reason? Well, I guess there was a reason — to create fake intrigue. In fact, so much of the film is about creating artificial intrigue and tension through badly written contrivances.

All of it leads up to a climatic shootout that the trailers keep promoting. It’s one of those stylistic, artistic scenes where the camera uses panoramic multi-camera technology to pan around the room in single long take while speeding up and slowing down the action. Yes, it’s nice to look at and well-executed, showing off To’s spectacular knack for visuals, but it makes zero sense from both a strategic and physics standpoint. Like the rest of the movie, it’s all style over substance.

Despite a great cast and a legendary director, Three stunk like sweaty pigs balls on a hot summer’s day. I have no idea how so many Western critics looked straight past all the plot holes, overacting and contrivances to only focus on the visual flair of the director. Perhaps the saw that it was directed by Johnnie To and decided it had to be good. Or maybe navigating through the cultural differences blinded them to how so much of the film made no sense. Either way, it’s one of the most overrated and disappointing films in Asian cinema in 2016.

1.5 stars out of 5

Assassin’s Creed (2016)

I don’t like to just accept the word of other people when it comes to shit movies. I have to experience it for myself before I can call a movie shit. And so, despite the negative reviews, I decided to throw down some cash to watch Assassin’s Creed, the long awaited adaptation of the popular video game franchise that I have always wanted to but never played. And NOW, I can finally say it: Assassin’s Creed is indeed shit. Very shit.

Like Warcraft before it, Assassin’s Creed was hailed as the possible saviour of the future of game-to-film adaptations. There was certainly every reason to be optimistic: It is directed by Aussie filmmaker Justin Kurzel, who first shot to fame with the harrowing true story Snowtown. Kurzel has a way with gripping storytelling and a flair for visuals, and seems to always manage to bring out the best of his actors, as he did with Michael Fassbender (henceforth “Assbender”) and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard in Macbeth. And guess who also stars in Assassin’s Creed? Yes, Assbender and Cotillard, plus Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, Silver Bear winner Charlotte Rampling, Brendan Gleeson and Omar Little himself from The Wire (ie, Michael K Williams). So you know they had every intention making a great movie.

Sadly, it feels like Assassin’s Creed to was doomed to failure from the start. Sure, the visuals are great — it’s exactly as how I imagined an adaptation would look from the snippets of the game I’ve seen. The action is solid (though not spectacular — I felt it could have been more inventive and there was a lot of killing but not much “assassinating”). The performers do their best to give emotion to their wooden lines of exposition. However, nothing could save Assassin’s Creed from its ridiculously silly and non-sensical premise and convoluted plot.

I haven’t played the game so I don’t really know how much the script is based on the game, but essentially, there is some ancient mystical item called the Apple of Eden (roll eyes), which contains the genetic code for free will. You read that correctly. The Knights Templar want it for world domination, and the Assassin Order (why not just call it Assassin’s Creed?) are a clandestine group sworn to protect it. I could probably work with that premise, except they chose to set the film in the present day and have a scientist (Cotillard) send a descendant of one of the assassins (Assbender) — who, by the way, looks exactly the same as his ancestor — back to the past using some sci-fi machine to access his “gene memory” so they can trace the Apple of Eden back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century. Yeah.

I knew the film was in trouble right from the opening text explaining the above premise on the screen. It’s just too non-sensical and unnecessarily complex for a movie like this. Kudos for making everyone speak Spanish for the 15th century scenes, but apart from that, the decision to have this dual timeline made it virtually impossible for Assassin’s Creed to be any good. Knowing that everything you see from the 15th century has already happened and cannot be changed (it is, after all, just “gene memory”) really saps the excitement and tension out of it. And let’s face it: None of it makes any sense. The modern rock music choices were also quite jarring, kind of like how Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit was blamed for ruining Pan in 2015. Rather than wasting all this time on this split/dual timeline, they could put more effort into character development, of which there was virtually none to speak of.

As I mentioned earlier, Assbender and Cotillard do their best, though all throughout they had this sad look on their faces that screamed, “This isn’t working.” I actually whispered to myself during the movie, “What the f*&% is going on?”, and, I kid you not, only to hear Assbender’s character say the exact same line just seconds later.

Some ideas work well for games but stink for movies. I’m more convinced than ever that Assassin’s Creed is a perfect example of this. The filmmakers were probably afraid of offending the game’s fanbase and tried to mirror the premise as closely as possible. It’s a fatal mistake that crushed any opportunity for the movie to succeed. Instead of a film that gives hope to future video game adaptations, Assassin’s Creed should make film studios very, very afraid. If all this talented cast and crew can produce is an incoherent, ludicrous, lifeless piece of garbage, what chance does everyone else have?

1.5 stars out of 5

PS: I forgot to mention the anti-climatic ending that presumes a sequel is coming. Assassin’s Creed has made around US$150m off a US$125m budget, so that should (with the addition of marketing costs) equate to a loss that will keep everyone safe from a sequel.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Look. I knew there was a 99.99% probability that Resident Evil: The Final Chapter was not going to be any good. But it was December 31, and I had gotten a rare day off from work and family duties for the first and last time of 2016. I just wanted to relax and do something I enjoy—and that’s to watch a movie, no matter how bad it may be. And you know what? It was really, really bad.

Having been a fan of the video game series on which the films are (loosely) based since the very first one on PS1 in 1996, I have stuck with the Resident Evil movies all the way through as well (or at least I think I have, because they all blend together after a while and don’t have any consistent coherency or logic). This “Final Chapter”, or so they say, is more of the same. Milla Jovovich returns as Alice, the ass-kicking warrior waging war against the Umbrella Corporation that unleashed the zombie apocalypse on the world with the T-virus 10 years ago. Ali Larter, in desperate need of a paycheck, also reprises her role as Claire Redfield, basically a shittier version of Alice.  Additional returnees are Shawn Roberts, who plays the wearing-sunglasses-indoors-and-at-all-times villain Wesker, and Game of Thrones alum Iain Glen (Ser Jorah Mormont) is back as Dr Sam Isaacs.

If you’ve watched any of the previous films, I know what you’re thinking: Haven’t some or all of these people died already? Multiple times? Yes and yes. But it doesn’t matter. For the sake of money the plot, everyone can be brought back. Of the new cast members, the only one I know of is Aussie DJ Ruby Rose, who has been in a lot of things lately. I wish she could have done more, but she’s a sorry footnote of a character who doesn’t get anywhere close to living up to her potential.

Actually, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter plays out very much like a bad video game. I thought the film started off well, with Alice basically recapping the entire film series up until now in a way that made the story almost seem coherent, and there’s a couple of early jump scares that had me hopeful of a solid horror action flick. But then, a plot contrivance is created to put the story for this film in motion, and it’s an absolute stinker. It’s so bad and lame and lazy that I literally laughed out loud. And then it was all downhill from there. Like a video game, character actions and motivations are driven by what monster or plot device the movie wants to throw at the audience next. So you get a lot of scenes where Milla just walks into a place for no reason and then encounters enemies she needs to kill—and kill in spectacular fashion.

Knowing what I know about the franchise, I didn’t have a huge problem with that per se, or even the terrible dialogue or plot holes galore, or the “borrowing” of visual ideas and designs from The Walking Dead and Mad Max: Fury Road, or the plethora of other things that just defied belief. What I couldn’t stand was how badly the film was shot and edited, especially the action sequences. Writer and director Paul WS Anderson (Milla’s husband in real life) has some average films on his CV, but never have I seen him this lazy. Throughout the entire movie, you only get a vague idea of what is happening in terms of the action that’s taking place on the screen. Perhaps there were budgetary or time constraints, but every action sequence is marred by a ridiculous number of rapid cuts. And when the action’s not unwatchable because of the editing, it’s unwatchable because of the deliberate darkness (and this was in 2D, without the added darkness of 3D). It’s as though Anderson decided it was too much trouble shooting these scenes and just went, “F*%$ it, let’s just cut it or make it too dark to see anything properly.” It’s unfortunate because some of the ideas in the choreography aren’t all that bad. It even brought back possibly the only memorable idea from the entire franchise (Hint: It has something to do with lasers).

What you end up with is a movie that kicks off from a laughable starting point and premise, makes no sense from a plot perspective, has terrible dialogue, and is visually incoherent. Milla Jovovich does her best as she always does, but it’s not enough—and it’s never been enough—to save the movie. Iain Glen also gives it his best shot, making Dr Isaacs one of the better villains I’ve seen in the franchise, though there’s only so much he could do. The scariest thing about the whole thing is that, just when you think the franchise has reached its sad, wretched conclusion, there is a final wink at the possibility of a sequel. All I know is that if there ever is a Resident Evil: The REAL Final Chapter, I’ll be ready to waste my money on it.

1.5 stars out of 5

PS: Perhaps the film was cursed. I read that Olivia Jackson, Milla’s stunt double, was involved in an accident during filming that left her in a medically-induced coma for two weeks and led to a thumb and then an arm amputation. Another crew member, Ricardo Cornelius, was crushed to death by a prop on set.

Mortdecai (2015)

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I was curious as to just how bad Mortdecai is — so, as any idiot would do, I watched it. Well, all I can say is that critics and audiences weren’t lying when they declared it one of the worst movies of 2015, and likely the nadir of Johnny Depp’s career. After this embarrassing performance, the former two-time “Sexiest Man Alive” is now officially just “Man Alive”.

Based on the British novels of the same name that few are familiar with, Mortdecai tells the silly adventures of the eponymous aristocrat (Depp), who runs into financial troubles and strikes a deal with a detective (Ewan McGregor), who is in love with his wife (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) to assist recover a stolen painting in return for 10% of the insurance money. And so begins a bunch of criminally unfunny stunts as Mortdecai and his tough man-servant, literally named Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), set about trying to locate the whereabouts of the painting while saving his marriage and fighting off goons.

The whole feel of Mortdecai is one of a bad sitcom. It’s supposed to be light and tongue-in-cheek, but there is simply no charm or wit to be found. Depp has done the eccentric character thing for so long now, but he’s generally been able to find the right balance between character and caricature. Without anything to cover him up except for a badly glued-on moustache (which is actually one of the running gags in the film because he thinks it looks good, much to the chagrin of his wife), Depp delivers a shockingly pathetic performance that makes his acting in The Tourist seem Oscar-worthy. At times I wondered whether he gave a shit at all about this film.

Throw in Gwyneth generally amplifying her unlikableness, Bettany embarrassing himself with his laughably lame character, and Ewan McGregor not really doing much of anything, Mortdecai struggles to eke out even one funny joke. There  wasn’t a single joke in the film I found funny, and I doubt this was just a mood thing — I don’t think I could have found it funny no matter how I was feeling, which was actually being ready to be pleasantly surprised by this movie. Instead, it was worse than I had feared. From the very beginning I was already like, Oh no, so this is the tone they’re going with? This is going to be the annoying, over-the-top character Depp is going to be playing for the entire movie?

I won’t lie — I lost interest pretty quickly and never got it back, even when Olivia Munn popped up for a little bit as the nympho daughter of a potential buyer of the painting. The film was just flat all the way through, and it was one repetitive gag after another, all with the same cheeky, spoofy tone, but without any punch to the jokes. With no character to root for, silly action sequences and a meandering plot, Mortdecai soon became unbearable.

I wanted to see the film and say it’s not really that bad. But it is. I almost felt bad for these supposedly good actors embarrass themselves by appearing in what is meant to be a comedy, but I felt much worse for myself having sat through this shithouse movie.

1 star out of 5

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016)

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I was not one of those people who enjoyed Snow White and the Huntsman. Visually, it had some positives, and Charlize Theron really nailed her role as the wicked Queen, but I just found the whole thing pretty moronic. However, the movie was a financial success (nearly US$400 million on a US$170 million budget), so of course they had to make an unnecessary sequel/prequel: The Huntsman: Winter’s War. And boy does it suck.

This is a movie that had no shame. With Kristen Stewart refusing to return to reprise her role as Snow White, they decide instead to focus on Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), whom you might recall in the first film was a widower and drunkard who made a deal with Queen Ravenna to track down Snow White in return for bringing back his dead wife.

Well as it turns out, contrary to everything the first film suggests, Eric the Huntsman is actually some kind of super warrior trained since he was a child by none other than the Queen Ravenna’s younger sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), who happens to be a real life version of Elsa from Frozen. What’s even crazier is that there’s actually a whole army of Huntsmen just like Eric, including Sara (Jessica Chastain), a redhead adept with a bow and arrow who has alarming similarities to Merida from Brave. There’s a lot more ridiculous stuff that this film pulls out of its anus just to make the contrived story work, but I can’t divulge them without spoilers.

What is fascinating is that the film is both a prequel and a sequel in that it begins before Snow White and the Huntsman and ends after it. Kristen Stewart’s Snow White is referenced several times but you kind of forget she’s even part of the same world. And it ignore the fact that the first film totally alluded to a romantic future between her and the Huntsman. Basically, it just completely distorts the events and characters from the first film so that a new story can be concocted. It’s as though the writers just sat around a table and just brainstormed a bunch of ideas — like stealing from Frozen and Brave — and then made up ways to fit them into the same universe. It wasn’t supposed to fit and didn’t fit, but they forced it in anyway.

And look, it’s not like Snow White and the Huntsman made any sense either, but it made a lot more sense than this one because at least that was written as a standalone film. Winter’s War, on the other hand, was an obvious and contrived money grab that pillaged any scraps it could find from its predecessor to cobble together a barely coherent mishmash of blatantly rip-off ideas and cliches. This wasn’t a “Oh, it’s clever how they created a sequel by expanding on the existing universe” situation. This was more of a “WTF is going on?”-type situation.

It felt like the all-star cast had a lot more fun making the movie than audiences had watching it. Whether it was the lure of playing crazy fantasy characters with magical powers or a paycheck that got them on board is anyone’s guess. In all fairness, however, the acting wasn’t too bad considering the material they had to work with. The special effects and costume teams, both of which picked up Oscar nominations for Snow White and the Huntsman, do a solid job again here, so at least visually, the film isn’t too bad.

Sadly that’s about the extent of the praise I can twist myself into giving Winter’s War.   It is by no means the worst film of 2016 thus far, but it certainly is the most irritating.

1.75 stars out of 5

The Boss (2016)

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Melissa McCarthy was beginning to grow on me after the surprisingly funny Spy last year. Unfortunately, she’s unable the keep the momentum rolling with The Boss, a labour of love she co-wrote with her real-life husband and director of the film, Ben Falcone.

It has again McCarthy playing foul-mouthed, abrasive woman who we will discover, surprise surprise, actually has a heart of gold. This time, she embodies Michelle Darnell, an orphan-turned-millionaire-businesswoman who loses everything and must seek the help of a former employee, single mother Claire Rawlings (Kristen Bell). The “villain” is played by none other than Peter Dinklage, aka Tyrion Lannister.

There are problems galore with The Boss. First of all, McCarthy is playing the exact same character we’ve seen a zillion times already. She’s crass, she’s rude, and she doesn’t take any prisoners. In Spy, we got to see a different side of her as she stretched out perceptions of what she’s capable of. In The Boss, she takes a huge step back by resorting to her stale bag of tricks.

Secondly, the film doesn’t seem like it knows what it wants to be. It’s all over the place. Part of it is the weak plot that basically pieces together a bunch of familiar tropes. At times the movie feels like it’s going for the gross and outrageous, other times it’s going for the cute and sweet. Occasionally it just resorts to cookie-cutter stuff like predictable slapstick or try-hard melodrama. It tries a bunch of different things but nothing sticks.

Thirdly, the central characters are either unlikable (McCarthy) or devoid of personality (Bell). The movie simply assumes we’ll like them because of the actresses who play them, but actually give us no reason to give a shit about their predicaments. And Peter Dinklage…I don’t even know what to say. He totally phoned this one in. I’ve seen him in other comedies like Pixels and Knights of Badassdom, where he’s actually not too bad. Here, he’s more like a Dingleberry than the Dinklage we know and love.

Above all, the movie simply isn’t funny. It was actually quite a surreal experience, because I knew exactly what each gag was aiming for and where it was going, sometimes even prior to it happening or before the punchline hit. But I got no laughs out of any of them. Not a laugh, not a cackle, not even a tee-hee. I wasn’t really frustrated or annoyed, just puzzled as to why I wasn’t laughing. The phrase that best encapsulates my sentiments about the whole movie can be found in that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer starts working for a place he’s not employed at, and when his boss is trying to fire him he references Kramer’s reports, saying, “I don’t know what this is supposed to be!”

I didn’t expect much from The Boss, and even then it still underperformed. It’s rare to see a film filled with so many jokes — and so many types of jokes — but zero laughs. Even the ad libbed jokes and outtakes at the end couldn’t deliver. I don’t know what else to say, because all McCarthy, Bell and Dinklage all have positive track records with comedy. I guess this was just a perfect storm of unfunniness.

1.25 stars out of 5

Zoolander 2 (2016)

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There’s no to sugarcoat this: Zoolander 2 is gaaaaaabage. Of all the sequels that should never have been made, this one’s right near the top of the list.

I’m sure it seemed like a good idea when Ben Stiller had nothing to do one day and decided to bring back his iconic character, the dim-witted supermodel who made “Blue Steel” the look everyone was imitating back in 2001. But like when Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels returned for Dumb and Dumber To 20 years after the original, it’s just as funny after so much time has passed. And sadly, Dumb and Dumber To is the far superior sequel. Minus a bit of nostalgia and a couple of decent laughs on the rare occasion, everything else about Zoolander 2 just feels stale, contrived, lame, and worst of all, unfunny.

The story is also set about 15 years after the original, with Zoolander and his former sidekick Hansel (Owen Wilson) living very different lives after another stupid tragedy. A new character, an Interpol agent played by Penelope Cruz, gets the ball rolling when celebrities are being killed all around the world. And of course, Will Ferrell returns as villain Mugatu.

So yeah, there’s essentially no story, just a bunch of idiots doing idiotic things. That’s not to say idiocy can’t be funny, because obviously enough people thought it was hilarious in the first film. But it’s simply just not funny here. I’d say a good 95-99% of gags fell entirely flat. It’s not even the delivery — the jokes themselves just had no wit, creativity or element of surprise. After a while, it will make you start to wonder whether you may have been overrating the first Zoolander for all these years. Personally, I started zoning out a little.

It’s unfortunate because the film starts with so much promise. The Justin Bieber gag that kicks off the show is pretty satisfying, though of course it would have been much funnier had the punchline not been tossed entirely into the trailer. In fact, almost all the good jokes have been spoiled by the trailer, which is sad considering the trailer is only about 2 minutes long.

As for the other 100 minutes…well, at least there’s a lot of celebrity cameos for people into those sorts of things. The list is far too long to even bother trying to name them (apparently there’s 39), though those who have seen the trailers won’t be surprised to see the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch or Kiefer Sutherland. Most play caricatures of themselves, and it makes you wonder whether they were just doing Ben Stiller a  favour or if they genuinely thought it was a good idea.

Back in 2001, Zoolander was a sharp satire on the fashion industry. In 2016 — though I’m sure it was made with the best of intensions, — Zoolander 2 feels like nothing more than a stale, feeble cash-grab when the ideas well has run completely dry.

1,5 stars out of 5

Point Break (2015)

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I swear, I was all pumped to hop on the Point Break remake bandwagon. The 1991 original with Keanu and Swayze was a guilty pleasure of mine growing up. It was cool, exciting and extremely rewatchable. I must have seen it at least half a dozen times, mostly on TV reruns. And I didn’t even know until a few years ago that it was directed by future Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), though in hindsight her trademark intensity was indeed all over the movie.

As you may recall, the film is about a young FBI agent named Johnny Utah who investigates a bank robbery case and ends up infiltrating a surf gang led by a mysterious and charismatic leader called Bodhi. Of course, Utah grows close to Bodhi over time and begins to question where his loyalties lie.

I don’t know how the film holds up today, but I agree that a remake was completely unnecessary. That said, the trailer for Point Break 2015 didn’t look all that bad, upping the ante from regular surfing to extreme sports all around the world. I had just seen Edgar Ramirez in Joy and thought he had the charisma to pull off Bodhi, and while no one would ever be “dude” enough to replace Keanu, I’m always up for supporting Aussie actors like Luke Bracey, who plays Johnny Utah. Bracey hasn’t wowed me with his past performances like November Man with Pierce Brosnan and Nicholas Sparks’ The Best of Me, but at least he’s still better than Jai Courtney.

Point Break 2015 turned out to be one of the biggest flops of the year, both critically and commercially, scoring a paltry 9% on Rotten Tomatoes and making just US$100 million worldwide against a mammoth US$130 million production budget. In all honesty, I went into this one hoping to play devil’s advocate. I wanted to be the guy to tell everyone that Point Break 2015 isn’t as bad as it has been made out to be.

Unfortunately, I can’t. For once, the critics and audiences got it right. The film sucks sweaty balls on a hot summer’s day. There are just so many things wrong with it, starting from the fact that it didn’t even need to be called Point Break. And it shouldn’t have been because there are substantial differences. Change the characters’ names and make a few more tweaks around the edges and you could have called this something else altogether. It wouldn’t have made everybody who didn’t want a remake roll their eyes, and it wouldn’t have been doomed with expectations it can’t possibly live up to. So that’s mistake number one.

Secondly, the script is really, really bad. In short, it tries way to hard. In trying to be a cool new take on the original story or even an homage, screenwriter Kurt Wimmer (whose other winning writing efforts include the 2012 Total Recall remake and the shitty Law Abiding Citizen from 2009) arbitrarily takes bits from the 1991 script and actually makes them lamer. Apart from all the contrivances and stuff that makes little sense, the dialogue is atrocious and occasionally laughable, and there’s just no cohesive narrative thread. It’s like a bunch of set pieces that has been forcibly stringed together, with a few key plot points from the original thrown in there to guide the plot. On top of that there’s this spiritual journey BS and silly mystical quest business that I didn’t buy at all. The more seriously the characters took it the less I believed in it.

Thirdly, the film is surprisingly dull. You would think with all these extreme sport scenes it would be one adrenaline rush after another. Instead, what we got was a lot of CGI-heavy sequences that looked quite fake. And instead of getting your blood pumping all it does is make you wonder why people would do such stupid things. I remember there were some wonderfully executed action sequences in the original, but they were nowhere to be found here. Rather, they filmed at all these amazingly beautiful places around the world and chose a greyish colour tone that just made it look bleak and unattractive.

At the end of the day, the biggest problem is that the film doesn’t make you care about the characters. They aren’t developed at all, so you don’t really give a crap if they live or die. At least with Swayze’s Bodhi I kind of liked him while being wary of what he’s capable of. With Ramirez’s Bodhi I was just indifferent. And while Bracey does his best as Utah, I think we can all agree that he’s no Keanu. It never felt like he was torn between two sides. There was simply no emotional connection to anything he was doing. It’s as though the film takes for granted that audiences know Bodhi and Utah will bond, that Utah will have a love interest, and puts zero effort into actually creating organic relationships and characters that we can believe in.

As for the supporting cast, both Delroy Lindo and Ray Winstone (is he the Gary Busey character?!) look liked they phoned it in. And Aussie Teresa Palmer, who plays the Lori Petty love-interest character but renamed to Samsara (seriously, WTF?), was barely passable in a completely thankless token role.

I didn’t want to dislike Point Break 2015 this much. Sadly, it’s a complete mess, a spastic remake that takes a massive dump on everything that was good about the original. Inexplicably boring for an action thriller, contrived and predictable drama; this is one of those films that make you go what were they thinking? US$130 million for this? Some remakes didn’t need to be made. Point Break 2015 unequivocally should not have been made at all.

1.5 stars out of 5