Wednesday, April 30, 2014

One Chance

For F*** Magazine


Director: David Frankel
Cast:   James Corden, Alexandra Roach, Mackenzie Crook, Julie Walters, Colm Meaney, Jemima Rooper, Valeria Bilello
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 103 mins
Opens: 1 May 2014
Rating: PG

Before Susan Boyle took the world by storm and was the runner-up of the third season of Britian’s Got Talent, Paul Potts won the first season. Based on his life story, One Chance tracks Potts from his childhood in the Welsh steel town of Port Talbot to his success after winning the televised contest. It was far from a smooth ride – bullied as a child and stuck in a seemingly dead-end job as a mobile phone salesman, all Paul Potts wanted to do was sing opera. He faces teasing and torment, suffers rejection at a prestigious opera academy in Venice, overcomes accidents and illness and clears many other such hurdles in pursuit of his dream, supported by his girlfriend and later wife Julz (Roach), his mother Yvonne (Walters) and his co-worker and friend at the phone shop Braddon (Crook).

James Corden said in an interview with the BBC, “I think my reaction was the same as everyone else’s when they hear there’s a Paul Potts film. I was like ‘Really? Are you sure this is a good idea?’” It’s good to know that Corden was aware of the scepticism a biopic about a reality talent show winner would draw from the get-go. It’s a ripe target for scoffing but One Chance has enough talent behind it to work, and is sufficiently charming and humourous instead of overwrought and self-important. This reviewer was worried that One Chance would come off feeling like a sappy made-for-TV movie, but director David Frankel of The Devil Wears Prada fame has ensured that this doesn’t look cheap, with lots and lots of establishing shots of Venice to show for it.

Sure, a good chunk of the movie does feel embellished, ever so slightly melodramatic and contrived, but it’s also surprisingly funny. Paul Potts seems to have been on the receiving end of a whole string of rather unfortunate incidents, but the movie manages to stay uplifting and not lose that skip in its step. Justin Zackham’s screenplay does have its fair share of clichés and “true underdog stories” are nothing new in cinema, but One Chance is a movie that is easy to enjoy and go along with. All the elements at play here are familiar ones: a hero with a working-class background and an unlikely dream, a supportive mother but a disapproving dad, girlfriend troubles, a best friend on hand to provide comic relief, seemingly insurmountable obstacles and all that jazz (or opera, rather). Corden sums it up as a “sports movie”, except the sport here is opera. However, all this is presented palatably and the audience isn’t being hit over the head with some big stick, so it is a pleasant experience.

A large part of why this works is Corden’s turn as Paul Potts. Donning a set of veneers to capture the sorry state of Potts’ choppers before he got them fixed with his prize money, Corden is endearing and believable as the confidence-deficient phone salesman-turned opera star. He didn’t do his own singing and is dubbed by the real Potts in the movie, but that doesn’t detract from this sweet, loveable performance. Alexandra Roach won this reviewer over just as easily as Julz, the girl Potts met online and eventually married. The two share palpable chemistry and, while there is the inevitable rom-com-style big misunderstanding, Roach is always measured and brings considerable down-to-earth appeal to the part. Her performance makes it clear that Potts wouldn’t have been able to do it had it not been for the love and support of Julz and their love story is as central to the plot as Potts’ passion for singing. Crook is eccentric, funny but thankfully a safe distance from annoying as the designated comic relief and Julie Walters is as warmly maternal as she usually is. She is Molly Weasley, after all.

A particularly grim chapter in Potts’ life during which he was sexually abused by a Sea Cadets leader is omitted from the film and actually didn’t come to light until Potts’ autobiography (also called One Chance) was published after the movie’s release in the UK. That certainly would have made this a lot darker. As a biopic, One Chance is safe, predictable and sometimes cheesy, and one can’t help but feel the cloud of producer Simon Cowell’s gargantuan ego hanging overhead. There's also an annoying Taylor Swift song playing over the end credits. However, this isn’t as bad as it could have been, is pretty entertaining and yes, even actually inspirational.

Summary: The jaded should stay away from this sometimes-treacly biopic, but surprisingly, there is a fair bit here to enjoy, particular James Corden and Alexandra Roach in the leading roles.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

F*** Magazine


Director: Marc Webb
Cast:  Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Chris Cooper, Marton Csokas, B.J. Novak, Denis Leary
Genre: Comics, Action, Fantasy
Run Time: 142 mins
Opens: 1 May 2014
Rating: PG13 (Violence)

Has it really been a whole decade since Spider-Man battled Doc Ock atop that train? The time sure has swung by. In this new Part 2, Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Garfield) sorts out his complicated relationship with Gwen Stacy (Stone), still haunted by the death of Gwen’s dad Captain George Stacy (Leary). Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn (DeHaan) returns from boarding school to see his dying father Norman (Cooper), founder of Oscorp. Lowly Oscorp employee Max Dillon (Foxx), who has an unhealthy infatuation with Spider-Man, is transformed into the villainous, all-powerful Electro during a lab accident. As Harry develops a vendetta on Spider-Man and turns into the Green Goblin, he and Electro unite to bring the web-slinger down once and for all.

Spider-Man fans greeted 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man with much scepticism and this reviewer found himself surprised by the film, the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone its strongest point. That continues to be true for the sequel. Unfortunately, this follow-up is often a downright cheesy affair when not focusing on Peter Parker’s interpersonal relationships. The scenes between Peter and Gwen and Peter and Harry are great, but when the movie turns its focus to the superheroics and the bad guys, as it must, prepare to cringe a little. One would think that comic-book movies have progressed past the point of cartoony, maniacally cackling supervillains. This movie is wall-to-wall maniacally cackling supervillains.

Now, we aren’t saying all comic-book movies should be grim and depressing, far from it. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is, if nothing else, pretty fun. However, director Marc Webb has repeatedly expressed a desire to keep the new film series grounded in some form of reality, hence the more “realistic” and less outlandish appearances of the costumed villains in this movie. Yet we have Spider-Man yanking down the trousers of Russian mobster Aleksei Sytsevich (Giamatti) to reveal rhino-print boxers. We have a container of volatile capsules that narrates “Warning: Plutonium 238 is a radioactive material and is highly explosive”. We have Spider-Man whistling his own theme song as he fights Aleksei (the theme song is also his ring tone). And all this just in the first Spider-Man-centric action sequence following the prologue featuring Peter’s parents.

Garfield and Stone continue to be a delight when together onscreen. Garfield has embraced the role and does display some pretty impressive physicality; it’s not easy for an actor to make it clear to audiences that it actually is him under a superhero suit and mask, something Garfield achieves. He makes Peter Parker very endearing and it’s impossible not to break into a smile seeing how much he’s enjoying himself. It is during Peter and Gwen’s shared moments that the talent that Webb displayed in (500) Days Of Summer is evident. This is also the best Spider-Man’s outfit has ever looked in the movies.

It’s often said that “sequels are all about the villains” but the rogues that Spidey faces off with in this film are not all that remarkable. Jamie Foxx’s Electro is essentially Jim Carrey’s Riddler from Batman Forever, with shades of Richard Pryor in Superman III. He’s the put-upon dweeb who’s ignored by everyone and makes the world pay when he gains superhuman abilities. We’ve seen this countless times before, and as far as supervillain origin stories go, falling into a vat of electric eels isn’t one of the greats. DeHaan showed a lot of promise in Chronicle and does make a great bratty rich kid here, sharing a good deal of chemistry with Garfield. However, there is far from enough time dedicated to the strained friendship between Peter and Harry, with Harry becoming a full-fledged monster in the same movie in which he’s introduced. Giamatti is completely wasted in his minor role as the Rhino, hamming it up as a beyond-stereotypical Russian mobster. There’s also no real “uniting” of the villains, who tackle Spidey one at a time. To top it all off, Dr. Ashley Kafka, who was female in the comics, is played by Marton Csokas as an eccentric German-accented mad scientist with a silly hairdo.

In terms of the spectacle, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does boast some sizeable action set-pieces, most notably a confrontation in Times Square in which Electro feeds off the electricity coursing through the New York power grid. Webb injects a dynamic style to the sequences but some tricks, most notably a prolonged bullet-time breakdown, do seem a little tired. The penultimate battle at a power plant seems almost completely synthetic and does carry with it a niggling “video game” feel, the CG animation by Sony Pictures Imageworks falling short of photo-realistic. That aside, the 3D here is excellent; there’s just enough stuff hurtling out of the screen to make one feel like the premium ticket price is worth it without jabbing audiences in the eyes, and sequences of Spidey swinging through the air are adequately exhilarating.

There’s half of a good movie here. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not terrible, but we’ve come to expect more out of our comic book films since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. If those movies haven’t aged well, it’s likely that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will also soon be seen as campy and dated. The 9-year-olds in the audience might well have the time of their lives but, for viewers who are experiencing comic book movie fatigue, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be little more than annoying. The Stan Lee cameo is also pretty lacklustre, especially when compared with his appearance as the school librarian in The Amazing Spider-Man. Sony is looking to build their own “Spider-Man movie universe” in an effort to keep up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with supervillain team-up movie The Sinister Six coming soon. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is cause for at least a little worry.

Summary: While Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone continue to be great together, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is mostly cheesy and cartoony, entertaining in some spots but cringe-worthy in others.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Interviews - Andrew Garfield



As the actor currently donning that recognizable costume and swinging through New York, Andrew Garfield is the Spider-Man of the hour and playing the title character, he was probably the biggest draw at the appearances made by the cast and crew while in Singapore - the legions of screaming female fans attest to that. Some have said that at 30, Garfield is too old to portray Peter Parker fresh out of high school, but his effortless, genuine charm and his slightly lanky proportions that seem reminiscent of the Peter Parker of the comics have won him praise. 

By Jedd Jong

Speaking to F***, Garfield shared about his love for the character of Spider-Man, gave his support to future-Lex Luthor Jesse Eisenberg, waxed philosophical on his passion for the craft of acting and his rejection of the typical Hollywood celebrity lifestyle, revealed which Shakespearean protagonist he’d most like to play and fiddled with a Spider-Man action figure while he gave the interview.

You were in the Doctor Who episode “Daleks in Manhattan”. Do you think that Peter and Gwen would be good companions aboard the TARDIS, and do you think you might make a good Doctor someday?

(Laughs) Cool, what a cool idea! I love Doctor Who, what an amazing history that program has. One of my friends played the most recent Doctor, Matt Smith, and he was perfect I thought. Who is it now, Peter Capaldi? Do you know his work? He is a genius actor. I think they’re doing pretty good with casting the Doctor. I don’t think I can ask for any more an iconic character than Spider-Man, he was always my superhero, my iconic guy, so I just feel lucky that I get to play this one guy and if that’s the rest of my life, that’s the rest of my life. I’m feeling good.

(Notices the action figure in this writer’s shirt pocket)

What’s that?

That’s you! It’s the old suit.

That’s cool, I haven’t actually seen it! (Proceeds to play with the action figure)

A lot of actors who play superheroes might feel the pressure to reflect the character in their everyday life. Do you feel that in any way?

No. Because the beauty of Spider-Man is that he is imperfect. Peter Parker is imperfect. That is exciting to talk about with young people because this pressure, I think this idea of being this perfect human being, is a killer and it’s not possible and it sets us up for so much suffering and so much pain. With young people, especially with this new culture of selfies and having to look perfect in every single picture, it’s really dangerous. I’d like to do a new version of a selfie where you only look terrible. You only take it from an angle where you look terrible; that should be the new movement, I think. Because right now, it’s like “I can only look exactly right otherwise I’m not going to share (the photos) with anyone.” I think we need to share our imperfections because they are the things that bind us. I think Peter Parker represents that and I think that is really empowering for young people to be reminded that they don’t always have to get it right, they don’t always have to look perfect, they don’t always have to look perfect. They’re allowed to feel sad, they’re allowed to feel down in the dumps, they’re allowed to feel angry, they’re allowed to go through all the true emotions of being a human being and I think we need to remind them that it’s okay, it’s okay.

Peter Parker makes lots of wisecracks and jokes, is that a way in which he hides his troubles?

Hmm (chuckles). He does make a lot of jokes. I think it comes out of many different places: he’s making jokes when he’s in the soup to entertain himself, he uses it as a tool to defeat his opponents, to defeat his enemies…

“Casual danger dialogue”

“Casual danger dialogue.” To frustrate them, to tie them in knots, to get them riled up, to trap them, to provoke them into a trap. He’s like a trickster in that way…he’s like Bugs Bunny, he’s like Charlie Chaplin. As I said in the press conference, if he doesn’t have to throw a punch he won’t, he’d much rather be a pacifist, but obviously if he needs to he has to, thank god, because otherwise nothing would ever get done. So here we are, and he does maybe make jokes because he’s nervous, he’s over-excited and feeling a bit scared, so he’s trying to keep himself calm. When he’s making jokes as Peter Parker, it’s because otherwise he’ll cry because the amount of stuff he goes through as Peter Parker is just impossible, it’s such an unfair thing for any human being to go through. So it’s like “I gotta laugh otherwise I gotta cry,” do you know what I mean?

Is it a challenge to be behind a mask and unable to show your facial expressions when you’re playing Spider-Man?

I think it’s empowering. I think it’s empowering to have no one know who you are because it doesn’t matter who’s in the suit. It doesn’t matter just as long as someone is in the suit who cares about people and wants to do good. 

Was it hard acting-wise?

You don’t have to act. (Laughs) you’re just there. It’s just your body, you don’t have to worry about anything else. I just love putting on the suit, same for Peter. He gets to just hang out, he gets to do what he feels. He doesn’t have to be anything, he doesn’t have to try, he can just do whatever he wants. He has that feeling of anonymity that we all feel when we’re anonymous, when we can post comments and have no consequences of the comments, that’s what Peter’s feeling all the time in that suit. He can do anything he wants; he can fall down and land on a big pile of horse s**t and no one will ever notice. Doesn’t matter!

Andrew, you were a gymnast as a teenager. Did that prepare you for the acrobatics you have to perform as Spider-Man?

Yeah, of course. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I was a gymnast when I was a kid and now I’m playing Spider-Man, I was a Spider-Man fan when I was a kid and now I’m playing Spider-Man…all those things are linked. I think if you’re living your correct path in life, you can find little sign posts along the way, little things that assist you. So gymnastics growing up, it’s a weird thing to do but for some reason my body was very flexible, I was short and I was skinny, I was lean and strong. And it suited me, and now I can use that training, that gift to infuse this character with things that I have naturally. It’s so beautiful when you see the thread of a life when you get a bit older, you can go “wow, that led to this and this led to that, wow!” Maybe there is some kind of grand plan you can follow in order to follow to have the deepest, most exciting life.

Do you feel you’re on the right path?

Yeah, I feel it. You can feel it when you’re in the right zone. And I’m really, really happy, and also it’s about accepting, because there are certain aspects of this job that I immediately responded to and rejected, like any kind of idea of fame or visibility immediately wasn’t interesting to me. I kind of rejected it, but then you realise that you have to incorporate it, otherwise you’re resisting something that’s just a truth, you know? When you do a film like this, people are going to recognise your face more often. I do want to just be an actor, I do want to be a story, but also I realise now that I may not like the whole “being visible” thing but I can make it my own in a way, I can do it in a way that is of me and truthful to me, and I can see it as an opportunity to talk about Earth Hour, to bring awareness, to give advice to young people in representing this character. So there is a real…you move with certain things as well. There are certain things where you feel you’re on the right path and then there’re certain things that you have to incorporate and make the right path.

So, now, we know Facebook was founded by Spider-Man and Lex Luthor. Have you talked to Jesse Eisenberg about being in a comic book movie, and might we see the both of you together in a movie again soon? And, was the “web design” line that we heard in the trailer an intentional reference to The Social Network?

(Laughs) No, it was not, but good catch though! You know, I haven’t actually spoken to Jesse since he was cast as Lex Luthor…he’s fine, man! He’s gonna be fine. He knows exactly what he’s doing, he’s such a brilliant artist and a brilliant actor, he’ll make it so unique and his own. I’m so excited in seeing what he does with it, I think it’s gonna be really, really cool. I’m so, so happy that I got to spend time with Jesse and work with him, he’s a real gift.

What was it like playing opposite Jamie Foxx and Emma Stone?

They’re just great actors, you know? It’s amazing that these films can really attract big talent, and across the board, not just Jamie and Emma – Dane DeHaan, Chris Cooper, Sally Field…it’s a real melting pot of talent. So I just feel really excited that I get to play with it all.

Would you count the two Spider-Man films as the brightest moments of your life?

No. I try not to judge things on that kind of scale, I feel that every moment has something to offer whether it’s sitting here with you guys, having a bath, going swimming in the ocean, bungee jumping off a bridge…it doesn’t matter, there’s opportunity everywhere to live. I want to be in life, I just want to be here in life, on life’s terms and figure out the challenge of it, be here for the mystery.

Were there different challenges on this one compared to the first film?

Number One was a lot of challenge because we had to re-tread old ground, we had to re-tell the origin story which none of us really wanted to do but we had an obligation to re-start this chapter. So that was a bummer to get through, it was molasses for us. We were a little bit tied up and chained to a wall in terms of not being able to make it our own quite yet. We did everything we could to make it our own, but I think the liberation we feel in the second one is that we got through all that and now we just get to enjoy it and do what we feel without any consideration for any previous movie, without any consideration for how the audiences feel, we just want to make the best movie we can and hope the audience loves it as much as we did.

At the red carpet and press conference yesterday, there were a number of young fans that you met and said hi to. What are your thoughts on the connection Spider-Man has to kids?

I was three when I first loved Spider-Man, so I know how important it is to create a symbol in Peter and in Spider-Man that young people can feel assured by, protected by and inspired by. So, that whole generation will hopefully find hope in the symbol that we are keeping alive.

Being a Spider-Man fan since childhood, what are your favourite story arcs from the Spider-Man comics?

I really love the Gwen Stacy story, which is what we’re dealing with in this film…

The Night Gwen Stacy Died?

Um…(nervous laughter) Did she die in the story? (Laughs) and I really love the Torment saga, the (Todd) McFarlane Torment saga…I love it when he’s in a team, there’s something really inspiring and exciting in seeing him team up. And I’d love to see him team up with…I don’t know if the Avengers is possible, it doesn’t seem that way, but I’d love to see him team up with one of them, with the Hulk or something, that’d be really really fun. Sinister Six is obviously a really exciting thing that we’re beginning to explore and yeah, I love the spectrum.

Does playing an iconic role make it difficult to move on to other parts?

Not for me, not for me. I love acting, I love telling stories I care about and this is just another one of those stories that I care about. I love Spider-Man, just as much as I love The Social Network, just as much as I love Never Let Me Go and Boy A, I love every single film and theatre project I’ve ever worked on. It’s all one, it’s all one thing.

Are there any specific characters that you really want to play?

Characters? Hamlet. I’d like to play Hamlet, I’ve been meaning to play Hamlet for a while, I’m getting a little bit old for it now (laughs). Because he’s a teenage prince. I am so lucky that I’ve had the opportunities that I’ve had already so it’s hard for me to ask anymore. Whatever comes my way, I will relish. I leave it up to the gods to show me where I should go.

Are you active in pursuing parts?

I am and I’m not, I love being a part of things I care about and if there’s something that comes along that I care about I will fight for it, I will put myself out there for it and also, I’m very specific, I know how much it costs to work. I put all of myself into the work and sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s painful, and you’re a dried husk at the end of the shoot. So I really like being selective in where I want to put my energy, because life is short as well and I only want to do things that I really feel sit right in my own soul.

So you’re affected by the director, the story, the script…

It’s all of it, I get greedy and I kind of want all elements to be to my taste, to my liking. The cast, the story has to have themes that I care about and the character needs to have aspects that I want to explore, and the director needs to be smarter than me and the director needs to be able to tell me how to get better because I want to grow, I want to keep growing into my craft, I want all of it. And it should be that way, there are so many times when people are out there making films and telling stories and I want to be working with those guys, those women.

If you were to play Hamlet, is there a specific director you would want on the project?

Matthew Warchus is a great director that I love. Simon McBurney is another theatre director that I love, Mike Nichols of course (whom) I worked with last year on Death of a Salesman I love, any of those guys would do (laughs).

So your Hamlet would be “the web-slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

(Laughs and claps) Very good, very good. Your references are strong, the references are strong in this one.

Your take on Peter Parker is fun, witty and cheerful. Would you say you’re like that in everyday life?

I hope so. It’s all me, the way I like to work is the line between the character and the person has to be non-existent, blurred. Because otherwise, you’re performing, you’re playing an idea as opposed to creating a person, and the only way you can create a person is if you bring those aspects of yourself to the character, so I am every single character that I’ve ever played or ever will play. Even if it’s a mass-murderer, I’ll access that mass-murdering part of myself (laughs). Because that’s in us all, it’s a scary fact that we all have the capacity…that’s the beautiful thing about acting, you realise that you have the capacity to do everything, to love, to hate, to destroy, to create. We’re in the world of opposites and we really do have the capacity for the dark and the light, and I think that’s what Jamie’s really enjoying about playing the villain, he gets to go to the dark of humanity a little bit, which is really exciting.

How much energy do you derive from yourself, and how much is from your co-stars?

You feed off energy wherever you can get it. It was great, because when you’re serving something greater, that’s where the energy comes from. The energy comes from Spider-Man, serving Spider-Man, serving something that is powerful and greater than yourself. That’s why even when you have no energy left to give, you can still draw it from needing to serve that symbol.

Is taking on a huge blockbuster different from doing smaller projects?

I approach it in the exact same way. There are certain challenges which are different, but ultimately you just have to come and bring yourself to it in the same way as any other project. And luckily, we have Marc Webb, who’s a really fantastic director who really understands the actors’ process, so you never really feel like you doing a big movie. You feel like you’re just telling another important story and you work hard to create the atmosphere, you have to create an atmosphere on set because it’s very easy for people to be distracted, especially with cell phones now, so to create a sacred space is what you’re trying to do. It’s like the stage in theatre, it’s sacred, it’s a canvas, it’s an artist’s canvas that has to be completely cleared and clean and it’s really important that you get to bring all of your creativity even to a bigger movie.

Out of your filmography, what’s your favourite movie?

I don’t have one. There’s a movie that not many have seen, I don’t think, called I’m Here which is a short film that I did with Spike Jonze. That’s on YouTube, you can watch it on YouTube. That may be my favourite movie that I talk about. I play a robot in it, you know Spike Jonze? It’s a half an hour long, it’s a really beautiful film and I’m very proud of that one.

Is it difficult to stay grounded in this business?

Not for me, I came to it, luckily, when I was a bit older. I only started acting when I was 20 and I started in theatre, so I’ve just been working hard and training and trying to hone my craft. I think it can be very difficult for young people who are exposed to it so early and maybe get so much so soon in terms of fame, in terms of attention, in terms of being able to behave in whatever way they want. I think that is what creates a lack of groundedness, especially if they don’t have good, grounding mentors who are around them looking out for their well-being and who are whipping them into shape when they need to be. That’s a really important thing, you need people to tell you when you’re being a dick. You need people to tell you to stop behaving in a way that is inappropriate or is not going to serve you later down the line. It’s okay to get into trouble – young people, we have to get into trouble – but it has to be the right kind of trouble and you have to suffer the consequences of that trouble. There are obviously certain young people who are experiencing a great deal of success and are getting into trouble and are experiencing no consequences of it. They can bail themselves out of jail and no one in their lives is checking them. No one in their lives is going “you know what, this behaviour is not acceptable and you’re going to thank me for this later. This is not how you treat people, this is not how you treat yourself.” The system, and it always has been set up this way – some people are mooching off young people’s success and that’s really inappropriate because the young people don’t know any better, they’re just figuring it out as they go but the older people should know better. The older people should’ve been through enough in their lives to be actual mentors and guides and not be misleading.

Who are the people in your life who keep you in check?

I have great parents. I have a brother who would never ever let me get too big for my boots. Older, he’s three years older and he keeps me down. This is older brother-younger brother stuff, this is just the way it goes. I feel very lucky that I found something that I love doing, I love acting. It’s not that I want to be famous, I just love acting. So many people want to be famous now just for the sake of being famous, without any merit behind it. And I think that is another problem that is endemic to this situation, where people are being driven by the ego, the fear of not being enough, the fear of not being seen, whether I’m not lovable or whether I’m lovable as opposed to just going “I have this thing that I love doing.” It could be acting, it could be journalism, it could be comedy, it could be creating toys, whatever it is. Then, that’s a fulfilling life, it’s from the inside-out, not from the outside-in, because all this fame nonsense has to do with your life being defined from the outside-in. Like “you tell me that I’m okay, applaud for me, scream for me, cheer for me”…danger, danger, danger! We’re all in grave danger of this fame. I don’t know whether it’s (that I’m) “grounded”, it’s just that I see things a certain way, I see things my way. I guess I’m interested in all of it, I’m interested in life and how to live.

How does it feel to have an action figure of yourself?

It’s funny, it doesn’t feel like me, it’s Spider-Man. Kids love Spider-Man, they don’t care about who the actor playing him is. They love Peter Parker, it’s about the character, it’s not about me. I get to represent characters that I love, that’s all.

So your characters don’t define your worth as a person?

No, it’s all about serving the thing, what I get value from, what I get joy from and energy from is doing what I love, which is performing, acting, telling a story that is meaningful to me. That’s what gives me a good sleep at night, not whether or not people are applauding or knowing my name or telling me that I’m handsome or whatever. All of that dies as soon as it’s…I won a BAFTA award once for a film I did and I was high for about 15 minutes, then I got home and I had a panic attack because it was so much energy, and I think I really understood and realise that it was meaningless, and I felt so inflated for however long. And I felt “oh my god, I’m a king, I am worth something, I have this thing to prove that I’m someone.” And then I got home and I started hyperventilating because I realised that it makes no difference. It doesn’t have any bearing on who I am, it doesn’t fill that existential hole that we all have. What I’m finding fills that hole is just doing what I love, the journey as opposed to any kind of result. That’s what I’m discovering about myself.

You’re British, do you like football?

I like playing it. I’m not into the whole “tribalism” of it. All of my English friends are crazy about it and I’ve never connected with it. I like playing, I’ve just never really gotten into the hooliganism of beating each other up over who wins or loses.

When you were at Comic-Con for the first film, you popped up from the audience in the guise of a fan with a store-bought costume, and then you pulled off the mask and joined the panel on stage. For the second film, you were on the panel in costume and in character as Spider-Man. Were those appearances your own decision?

I just saw an opportunity to do something fun and to do something meaningful. The first time it was like I wanted to be in the crowd, I didn’t want to be in the panel. So how do I do that, how do I…and I’d never been to Comic-Con, I’ve always wanted to go to Comic-Con, I always wanted to go as Spider-Man, so how do I do it? Then I figured out, this is the way to do it. You just do it, and then you destroy the barrier between those on the panel and those in the audience. Suddenly, there’s no wall between the performers and the audience, we’re all the same.

You’ve come to embody the “promoted fanboy”, all of us hope that if we love something so much as kids, one day we may get to live that dream. So, do you have any stories about interactions with fans, or people who’ve come up to you to tell you about how Spider-Man has affected them?

Yeah, a little bit, a little bit. It does happen and it’s really really cool. There was a guy here last night, one of the fans in the crowd (at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands). He had re-created Peter Parker’s skateboard from the first movie, with all the equations and the work on it, which I designed on a white background, I like the idea that that’s his notebook, that’s kind of like his science notebook that he’s just on the subway writing on the skateboard and he had re-created it exactly, with all the different scratches and everything, and it was just so moving and humbling and I can tell that he was really, really affected by the character, that he really loves the character. It’s really, really cool when someone is touched by the story, that’s the whole point of doing it, it’s to make us all feel connected.

What’s next for you Andrew, are you doing the Scorsese movie?

Yeah, the end of the year I think that’s going to happen. I’m very exciting about that. We’re shooting in Taiwan, but it’s set in Japan. It’s as deep as it gets, it’s crazy. It’s all about meaning and meaninglessness, spirituality and religion, gosh, it’s hard to even sum up. It’s a very existential film and I’m very excited to explore that with him.

Have you ever wanted to play a villain?

Andrew: Oh yeah, I’m also a bad guy, somewhere inside me and I’m excited to explore that eventually, definitely. There’s some darkness, there’s some real darkness in there.

Did Stan Lee sit down and talk with you about Spider-Man?

What’s awesome about Stan is that he lets go of all of it. He just loves that the stories are still being told and that the characters are still being honoured and created and he’s this infinitely iconic dude that’s just there going “Have a great time, I hope you enjoy it, I’m just going over here now!”

What’s he like on the set, doing his cameos?

He’s hilarious. He’s just a complete performer, he’s a storyteller and performer. He’s so iconic it’s insane, he’s so funny. He’s brilliant, lovely lovely man.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens on 1 May 2014.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Grease - musical review

F*** Magazine


25 April – 18 May 2014
Grand Theatre, Mastercard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands Singapore

GREASE - Musical Review            It’s automatic, it’s systematic, it’s hydromatic and now Greased Lightning has pulled up to the Grand Theatre at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. The musical Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, which debuted in Chicago in 1971, has remained in the public consciousness for over 40 years. This is thanks in part to its hugely popular 1978 film adaptation that starred John Travolta long before he was swapping visages with Nicolas Cage or mangling the names of Broadway stars/Disney movie voice actors. Co-starring Olivia Newton-John, the film was a smashing success, and is still the top-grossing musical film in the United States to date.

            Set in 1959 at Rydell High School, Grease tells the story of Danny Zuko’s romance with Australian lass Sandy Dumbrowski, with whom he shared a summer fling. Much to both their surprise, Sandy stays on and attends Rydell High. Danny is a greaser of the T-Birds gang, while Sandy hangs out with the popular clique of girls known as the Pink Ladies. A coming-of-age tale featuring such familiar themes as adolescent rebellion, friendship and young love set against a particularly nostalgic backdrop, it’s easy to see why so many hold Grease so dear.

            Above anything else, Grease is a lot of fun. It’s an idealised view of the ‘50s, offering up caricatures of the different types of students populating any given American high school at the time and, of course, featuring actors who all look way too old to be high schoolers but who give it their all anyway. The humour is more slapstick and pantomime than in the movie, but it works on stage and there’s an earnest silliness that’s not obnoxious or self-conscious. The show’s definitely better when it’s in comedy mode than during its dramatic moments. Following a sold-out Australian tour, this David Gilmore-directed production will return down under after its Singapore leg.

Featuring enjoyable number after enjoyable number, those memorable Jacobs/Casey tunes (with additional songs by John Farrar, Louis St. Louis, Scott Simon and Barry Gibb) are enhanced by Terry Parsons’ set design and Andreane Neofitou’s costumes. The interior of the Burger Palace is period-accurate and authentic while Marty’s room is stylised, with something of a Dr. Suess flavour to it, neon hearts descending from the rafters during “Freddy My Love”. Of course, there’s also the transformation of a beat-up jalopy into the glittering Greased Lightning, during the song of the same name.

The choreography by Arlene Phillips is also entertaining, featuring several spots of dirty dancing and a trio of towel-clad jocks swaying their hips to “Those Magic Changes” in a scene set in the locker room. The orchestra, led by music director/keyboardist Luke Hunter, is positioned in an elevated alcove, spending most of the show hidden by backdrops but revealed during several numbers. The orchestra has costume changes too – starting the show in polyester pink shirts, then sporting leather jackets and then bejewelled blazers.

            Stephen Mahy stars as Danny, promoted to the male lead after having played Kenickie during the Australian tour. Bearing a passing resemblance to Johnny Knoxville, he’s sufficiently charismatic and has good comic timing even if his vocals aren’t quite as strong as Gretel Scarlett’s. As Sandy, Scarlett gets to keep her Australian accent and is sweet and charming, utterly nailing the show-stopper “Hopelessly Devoted to You”. Of the T-Birds, Scott McConnell as Doody is the stand-out, effortlessly crooning “Those Magic Changes”. Lucy Maunder is a commanding presence as Rizzo if not completely tough-as-nails and Jason Capewell threatens to steal the show in his dual roles as DJ Vince Fontaine and the Teen Angel, hitting those super-high notes in a most fabulous fashion.

            The opening night performance featured a cameo appearance from local DJ Vernetta Lopez of oldies station Gold 90.5. While she was clearly having fun, her comic improv skills did leave much to be desired. If you’re a fan of the film, seeing Grease live will certainly be a thrill, but do be advised that many iconic images from the movie are absent (this reviewer was looking forward to Sally and Danny riding off into the sunset in Greased Lightning, but that didn’t happen) and the story structure is somewhat different from how it’s presented in the movie. At the end of the night, it was clear that “Grease” pretty much still is the word. If you’re in the mood for some fun, glossy nostalgia, break out the pomade, slick back your hair and make a date with the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies!

Jedd Jong

Batfans - Jedd Jong, action figure customiser

On 27 April 2014, The New Paper On Sunday ran profiles on three Singaporean Batman fans to commemorate the character's 75th anniversary. These three included Jacen Khoo, a policeman who performs charitable acts such as children's hospital visits dressed as Batman, Eric Chong, owner of over 5000 issues of Batman comics from 1947 to today, and myself, an action figure customiser. The article was written by Rei Kurohi with photographs by Arrifin Jamar. You can have a look at my work on FigureRealm here.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Interviews - Emma Stone


The effervescent, energetic Emma Stone, both feisty and sweet, is certainly a hit with moviegoers, her breakout roles in Zombieland, Superbad and Easy A ensuring she would become an A-lister in no time. Her on and off-screen romance with Andrew Garfield has also captured the imagination of many fans, and that the pair have never been trashy tabloid targets probably adds to their appeal as a couple.

By Jedd Jong

Sipping on an iced coffee, Stone spoke to F*** about Gwen Stacy’s pivotal role in this instalment and the trials in her relationship with Peter, what it was like working with Shailene Woodley (who was ultimately cut from the film) and how she’s not chomping at the bit to jump into an action-driven role.

Do we get to see Gwen think her way out of situations like that scene where she’s stalked by the Lizard in the first film?

Yes, very much. She definitely makes her opinion known and gets herself very involved in what is happening.

Are there similarities between Gwen and the real Emma Stone?

I would say so, yeah, I think there have to be in some ways, to find a window into the character you have to find parts of yourself that are like them. I would say there are quite a few similarities, but I don’t have her mind for science. (Referring to a reporter who surprised her with a biochemistry question at the press conference the previous night) Rude! That’s what Google is for, amen. We have some similarities but I would say she’s a little more logical than I am, I’m a very emotional person and she doesn’t let emotion rule her as much. But that’s why she’s a scientist and I’m an actor!

Does being an emotional person help you in your acting?

I think being too emotional in life can sometimes be a hindrance for me but I would not trade it, ever, I would never trade the stuff I feel from being a sensitive person, but it can be hard when you’re sensitive sometimes. But it’s alright, I’m happy that I’ve gotten to find a job that works that is a productive outlet. It’s great, it’s a gift.

It seems like Gwen is more emotional in this film than in the last, we see her leaving Peter.

Yeah, I think it is hard for her, to be making a decision to leave that relationship behind, obviously it’s not working and the timing is all wrong. I relate to those emotional aspects of Gwen but again, she’s got a mind for science. She’s a bit more Type-A.

When you were first picked to play Gwen, did you feel any pressure from the character not being as well-known as Mary Jane?

Well that actually alleviated the pressure because I wasn’t playing Mary Jane, so it didn’t feel like people had a pre-conceived version of the story. I think for Andrew, Tobey (Maguire) had just played the character and for me, Kirsten (Dunst) played a different character. Bryce Dallas Howard played Gwen Stacy in the third movie, but it wasn’t really Gwen’s arc as it is in the comic book and we knew we were telling a different story, so I was lucky, it took the pressure off.

This is your first sequel. What was it like making a sequel to a big blockbuster?

I like it more than the first part, actually. We all were really on the same page, we all knew what story we were going to tell and I think there was less “how are we going to do this from scratch? How are we going to re-tell the story?” We had told it, and now we were going to explore all the different avenues of these characters and these new villains and Gwen’s story, which is a hugely important story to Spider-Man history, so there was a different feeling on set. We were all kind of really happy and looking forward to being that every day. We knew what we were telling.

There’s a lot that happens to Gwen?

Some stuff happens. Yeah, some things occur, she’s going through a lot and it’s a big, important part of the story.

Shailene Woodley was cut from the film, but can you talk about what it was like working with her on the set? Was a strong MJ-Gwen rivalry being set up?

No, there wasn’t a rivalry being set up. We actually had a really beautiful scene that I’m so sad is not going to be in the movie. There was a scene where MJ and Gwen had a really beautiful moment where they were talking on the porch. I love Shailene so much! She is one of my favourite people. She’s…I’m just…she’s so herself, and I’m so grateful I got to meet her and I cannot wait to do something with her. I really wanna do a Thelma and Louise with Shailene!

Are you looking forward to taking on more action-oriented roles?

No, I mean if there’s like a yoga character…I don’t think you necessarily have to be physically strong to be a strong female. I think being mentally strong and emotionally strong is really important too. A lot of people ask me if I want to play a female superhero, if I was jealous of the guys doing all the stunts and no, I wasn’t! I wasn’t ever into…

In Zombieland?

That was awesome, I had a pump shotgun, that was cool! And I had a great time, but I ran in that movie and on day two I fell and sprained the whole thing and a stunt double had to (take over)…I’m just not physically capable. But I like to dance, I like things like that. I have a different way of exhibiting strength. But I definitely feel like a strong person, maybe not physically the strongest.

You’ve starred in romantic comedies like Easy A and Crazy, Stupid, Love. and have taken on roles in action films like Gangster Squad and the Spider-Man films. What was the transition like?

I don’t know, it doesn’t really matter what the genre is. I think I’m excited for more challenges, there’s lots of things I’m interested in doing that I haven’t really gotten to explore yet even though I’ve been able to play characters in lots of different genres from the outside, there’s lots of things internally in characters that I like to play that I don’t think I’ve really gotten to explore yet so I’m kind of…I feel that’s sort of a turning point in my life, and I think lots of things will happen that will inform my future and I’m excited to try lots of different things no matter what the genre is, I think characters are what I’m really interested in right now and I’d like to play something truly bizarre (laughs).

Do we get to see more of Gwen and her siblings and the impact that Captain Stacy’s death in the first film has on Gwen’s brothers?

No, unfortunately.

Felicity Jones’ role has not been revealed yet, but could her character complicate things between Gwen and Peter?

No. I don’t think so, I think Gwen and Peter’s destiny is pretty clean-cut.

Did the cast bring anything surprising to the process on the set, and did it energise you?

Absolutely, well Jamie, working with Jamie and Dane DeHaan he’s so…fantastic actor. It’s very energising to have new people in the experience and Jamie obviously while was there, because you’ve seen all of these people for such a long time and then to have this new energy is really invigorating. To work with the same people again…I’ve gotten to work with Ryan Gosling twice, I’ve gotten to work with Ruben Fleischer the director of Zombieland again on Gangster Squad, I’ve been able now for the first time to start working with people again and it’s always different, it’s interesting, not better or worse just different, being in a different story, telling a different…it’s cool, it’s interesting.

With Jamie, I didn’t get to do that much…he’s singing right now (at the other press table) (Laughs). It’s the best, I think he’s so great, he’s so much fun, he’s so great. At the press conferences he’s just, like, the king. I didn’t get to do that much with Jamie but just being around him is really energising also.

When it comes to playing different characters, would you like to try playing a character who’s ugly, because you look so good all the time?

Ugly? I don’t that would be that difficult (laughs). I played Skeeter in The Help.

Would you mind undergoing a physical transformation of gaining or losing a lot weight to play a character?

Not really, I mean I wouldn’t really like to lose a ton of weight, I don’t really…I don’t think I need to lose any more weight…

But Skeeter was cute!

Skeeter…ugh (laughs) I don’t think I need to lose any more weight. So no, I would of course be open to doing things for a character but I wouldn’t really want to endanger my health. Some people are willing to really go the distance to endanger their health long-term but it’s not worth it to me to play a part and then mess with the rest of your life so if it were safe, yes, I would do that but starvation does not sound all that safe.

Three adjectives have been used to describe Gwen: smart, loyal and ambitious. If you could just one to describe yourself, which would it be?

Smart, loyal and ambitious…oh god, I have to choose one of those? I wouldn’t want to trade any of them for another one…I would hope loyal. But not to a fault, not to people who don’t deserve it.

You’ve worked and will be working on many different types of movies. What do you think of critics in general not having a very high opinion of blockbusters? Blockbusters aren’t really nominated for Oscars.

Well, Heath Ledger won an Oscar for Dark Knight. I mean I think that there are nominations…I would go with you on comedy too, I always wonder why people aren’t nominated for comedies in the same way. But they sometimes are, and there are certain movies that are nominated for awards…I don’t know, I’ve never really been all that concerned with all this awards stuff, I just did it because it’s what I love so it had never really entered the equation for me. Certain movies tend to appeal more to an awards audience and are marketed towards an awards audience and I don’t know if these movies necessarily are campaigning to be “awards movies” or summer-oriented, so maybe that’s why.

You always look fabulous, any fashion tips?

Hire Petra Flannery as your stylist, and you can too! (Laughs)

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

If 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