Tag Archives: Teresa Palmer

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but the alcoholic antisemite nutjob sure knows how to make awesome movies!

I was somewhat wary about his latest film, Hacksaw Ridge, the remarkable true story about a Christian conscientious objector who became a hero during World War II. Given Gibson’s religious leanings, I was concerned that he was going to push that aspect of the movie down my throat, but I guess I didn’t give him enough credit because Hacksaw Ridge is one of the most epic and inspiring war movies ever made. And it’s technically an Aussie film!

Former Spider-Man Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a young man who felt obligated like so many in his hometown to join the US military and fight the Japanese during WWII. The problem is, he’s a devout Christian who not only refuses to kill but even refuses to carry a weapon. Obviously, if he were simply sent home at this point, Hacksaw Ridge wouldn’t be much of a movie. So you can kind of guess what happens next. And yet, the battle sequences, when they finally hit, are so impactful and devastating that I became totally immersed in the film, such that it didn’t matter if I knew what the story was about or what the outcome would be.

We all know Mel loves violence, and Hacksaw Ridge doesn’t hold back one bit. Bullets shredding bodies, exploding heads, flying limbs — the carnage actually wasn’t too far off from the over-the-top massacres in Rambo (2008), except here it felt terrifyingly real. Well-developed characters you care about and good acting can make all the difference.

Garfield is really, really good as Doss, and I wouldn’t be upset if he snags one of the five Best Actor spots at the Oscars this year (he also could for Silence, though I haven’t seen it yet). It could have been easy for Doss to come across as too self-righteous and obtuse, but Garfield’s performance makes him a protagonist you want to root for. The rest of the cast is fantastic too, including Doss’s abuse, alcoholic father played by Hugo Weaving and mother played by Rachel Griffiths. Teresa Palmer puts in one of her better performances as the love interest, while Luke Bracey and Sam Worthington — two guys who haven’t been great leading men but have been solid supporting actors — are as good as they have ever been as soldiers in Doss’s unit. Vince Vaughn rounds off the stellar cast with also one of his best performances in years as their wise-cracking sergeant, providing the bulk of the film’s humour without at all coming across as jarring or out of place.

Hacksaw Ridge a brutal, harrowing film about the horrors of war, but also an uplifting one about faith and sticking to what you believe in and who you are. You really don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy this movie or be moved by it. You can actually even hate Christianity but love this movie because the themes are universal. Inspiring is inspiring, and a great movie is a great movie.

4.5 stars out of 5

PS: Apparently the film is pretty accurate too. Some timelines are shifted or stretched, but the core facts are verifiable.

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

Recent Movie Reviews: Part I

My furious rally continues. Here are a bunch of 2013 movies I have yet to review, four at a time. Here is the first wave.

The Call (2013)

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Ever since Catwoman I have been wary of anything Halle Berry does. The Call, about a woman at an emergency call center, did not sound very appealing to me, but positive word of mouth got me to change my mind.

I’m glad I watched it in the end because The Call is a thrill ride that manages to keep up the suspense for the majority of its 94-minute running time. Berry, the call center worker, is haunted by a previous call which resulted in the death of a young girl. Months later, she takes another call, this time from another teenager played by Abrigail Breslin (she’s growing up real fast), who has been abducted by possibly the same guy.

Much of the film follows Berry on the phone as she tries to figure out how to keep the girl alive and how to track down her kidnapper. I was impressed with how director Brad Anderson (The Machinist) kept coming up with different ways to keep the ball rolling without making it seem repetitive or too ridiculous.

That said, I was really irritated by the stupidity of Breslin’s character and her incessant screaming and whining (all to her detriment) — and a part of me really wanted her to get killed — though to be fair if she wasn’t so stupid she probably would have been rescued in about 20 minutes and there would be nothing left to film.

On the whole I really enjoyed The Call, which was on its way to being a huge surprise hit for me until the moronic ending that made absolutely no sense whatsoever and downgraded my rating by at least half a star.

3.5 stars out of 5

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

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I was one of those kids who loved magic growing up and bought magic kits and had dreams of becoming a magician some day (like David Copperfield). So while The Incredible Wonderstone looked pretty awful from the posters and trailer I was willing to give it a go. Besides, it has Steve Buscemi, the greatest actor of all time.

Well, it wasn’t very good, but it wasn’t disastrous either. Steve Carrell and Buscemi are best buds and old school magicians performing in Vegas, but their act is getting old and their thunder is being stolen by new “street” magicians such as Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) — an obvious caricature of douches like Criss Angel and David Blaine.

There are a few decent jokes in Burt Wonderstone, but most of them come courtesy of the crazy antics of Carrey, who is the best he has been in a very long time (considering his last few live action films were Mr Poppers Penguins, I Love You Philip Morris, Yes Man and The Number 23 — yikes). The late great James Gandolfini and Alan Arkin are also excellent in supporting roles, but Carrell is just not very likable and Buscemi’s talents are completely wasted. And Olivia Wilde is painfully miscast as the love interest who is just too young for Carrell.

In the endBurt Wonderstone just isn’t consistently funny enough to make it a good film and completely fizzles as it enters the final act, which is a shame because it started off quite strongly.

2.75 stars out of 5

Now You See Me (2013)

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Another magic movie, but Now You See Me, unlike Burt Wonderstone, actually received good word of mouth despite lukewarm reviews from critics.

As for me, I have mixed feelings about it too. I think it is a fantastic concept — four magicians of diverse skills (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco) are brought together by a mysterious leader who gets them to perform otherworldly but legally questionable acts, while a detective (Mark Ruffalo) is hot on their feels trying to figure out how the stunts were carried out so he can arrest them. It’s an alluring premise for a caper movie and the magic tricks, some of which are explained, are fun to watch and debunk.

On the other hand, the film is kinda rough around the edges and suffers from a lack of precision. There is almost no character development and the dialogue is atrocious, giving the film a B-grade feel and a sense that the talents of the all-star cast are being wasted. All the effort was put into the the style but not enough attention was paid to the substance.

The film relies on its twists and turns to keep audiences intrigued, but for me the big reveal was rather predictable (maybe I’ve seen too many movies). Still, I had a good time with it, though it was so unmemorable that I had totally forgotten to review it until now.

3.25 stars out of 5

Warm Bodies (2013)

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A zombie movie from the perspective of a zombie sounded like it had potential for some great laughs. And the first few moments of Warm Bodies were indeed promising as we watched zombies wander around aimlessly and trying to communicate through a series of hilarious grunts.

But Warm Bodies is really a romantic comedy masquerading as a zombie movie, which is a good thing because the zombie gimmick gets old pretty quickly. It has obvious allusions to Romeo & Juliet, as our protagonist zombie (arguably the best looking zombie in movie history), Nicholas Hoult, is named “R”, while his love interest, Aussie Teresa Palmer, is “Julie”.

To make the film work as a romantic comedy, many fundamental rules we know about zombies are bent, if not broken. I didn’t have a problem with that per se because it was important to look at the zombies as the “good guys”, but I didn’t think it was necessary to create another breed of zombies, known as “Bonies”, so we are clear who the real “bad guys” are.

So Warm Bodies was just OK for me. It had a great premise and a few early laughs, but as a romantic comedy it wasn’t particularly romantic or funny once the zombie gimmick ran its course. It’s not a bad date movie because it is sweet and has charm, but I think it falls way short of the cult classic status it was perhaps aiming for.

3 stars out of 5

PS: That’s four very average movies.

Movie Review: I Am Number Four (2011)

No, I Am Number Four is not a sequel, nor is it the fourth film of a franchise.  It’s a semi-children/adolescent sci-fi film based on the first (and currently only) book of the new hot novel series by Pittacus Lore (pen name of Jobie Hughes and James Frey — yes, that James Frey of A Million Little Pieces infamy) that attempts to cross-appeal to the general population (in the vein of Harry Potter, Twilight, etc).

I can’t speak for the book because I’ve only had a cursory glance of it in a bookstore, but if the movie is any reflection then it can’t possibly be very good. The story feels strangely familiar: aliens destroyed by other evil aliens send 9 gifted children to Earth; the evil aliens chase and start killing the kids off, one by one. Guess which one they are up to?

However, the premise is not the issue here, because any premise has potential — it’s the characters and the development of the story that lacked punch.  Alex Pettyfer, who plays Number Four, is not a bad actor, but his character is not particularly likable or sympathetic.  As of now, the character is just not very interesting.  He needs more charisma, more heart — he needs to be more than just your typical angst-driven teenager.  Maybe we’ll get to see more of that if this film does well and they decide to continue the series.

The love interest, Sarah Hart, is cringeworthy not just because her character is a horrible cliche, but it’s also because the actress playing her, Dianna Agron, has little more in her repertoire other than a flirty smile.  Aussie Teresa Palmer, who plays Number Six, put on the absolute worst American accent I’ve ever heard for a mainstream movie.  Why can’t she just be Australian?  As for Timothy Olyphant — he’s still rather serviceable, but is it just me or was he Hitman not that long ago?  And now he’s already the greying, ageing babysitter for the protagonist?

Anyway, I Am Number Four is adequate in some respects — the action sequences and the special effects are fairly good — but it’s still a somewhat uninspiring film that is more Percy Jackson than Harry Potter (and at least Percy Jackson had that whole Greek mythology thing going for it).  The characters and the way the story unfolds is all very ‘cookie-cutter’, and I longed to see something I didn’t expect.  It didn’t happen.

I could be wrong, but right now I just can’t see this film franchise coming close to replicating the success of Harry Potter or Twilight, or even Narnia.  The second book (and potentially second film) would have to take it to a whole new level for that to be remotely possible.

2 stars out of 5