Tag: reshad strik

Newcastle


Newcastle (2008)
★★ / ★★★★

Jesse (Lachlan Buchanan) lives in the shadow of his older brother, Victor (Reshad Strik), a former surfing champion, and in his determination to step outside of it, his passion for surfing has turned into an obsession to win. His latest opportunity takes place in a local contest in which the two participants with the highest scores will get a chance to compete on a bigger venue. Jesse places third. In order to help Jesse forget about the loss, his friends suggest that they go on a trip to a lesser-known beach spot during the weekend, hang out, surf, and have fun with girls.

Written and directed by Dan Castle, although “Newcastle” does a decent job juggling its subplots, there is no denying that its protagonist is as bland as a plank. The editing does not do the lead actor any favor. It made me wonder if Buchanan was miscast. Each time a scene involving Jesse is about to reach an emotional peak, one of three things occurs: the film quickly jumps to another scene, an actor with more personality walks into the frame, or the mood shifts so suddenly as to avoid an emotional payoff. This proves frustrating because I wished to understand Jesse’s anger on a deeper level.

I liked that Jesse is not very likable. He is bullied by Victor. But since Victor has a larger physique, Jesse feels the need to retaliate on an easier target. There is no other target more easily accessible than Fergus (Xavier Samuel), the youngest of the brothers, given his purple hair, manicured fingernails, and a reputation for being a homosexual. Each time Jesse calls his brother a “fag” or “faggot,” I could not help but get angry at him for being so unnecessarily cruel. Yet at the same time we feel sorry for Jesse because one can conclude that he houses the most insecurities out of all his friends and brothers. Other than Victor, no one sees or treats him as a target.

No effort is put into exploring Jesse’s self-pitying and so the later scenes where we are supposed to root for him to win hold very little to no impact. The surfing scenes are repetitive but quite beautiful so they are never completely dull. The film holds the most tension when a character gets knocked around a wave and struggles to swim to the surface. I remembered a friend of mine, a surfer, telling me a story about his near-death experience, how the ocean seemed to pull him downward more powerfully the harder he struggled to get to the top and get some air.

The picture makes an efficient use of slow motion to put us into the mindset of someone who is drowning. I know this from personal experience. When I was five or six, my dad had to pull me out of the ocean. The waves somehow managed to sweep me away from the shallow area. The three things I remember include the panic, the burning in my lungs as I struggled for air, and how slow it all felt.

However, the story boils down to Jesse. Since the material does not invite us into his perspective often enough and allow us to understand him beyond what is on the surface, his turning point feels bogus. It probably would have been more involving if the picture had been about Fergus and his relationship with Andy (Kirk Jenkins), one of Jesse’s friends, because what they have is more interesting and the answers to their situation are likely to be far more complex.

Don’t Look Up


Don’t Look Up (2009)
★ / ★★★★

I can withstand a lot of bad movies but the really memorable ones are the movies that make me angry during and after I watch them. “Don’t Look Up,” directed by Fruit Chan, is a prime example. Marcus (Reshad Strik) was an aspiring filmmaker with psychic abilities. When he visited places with bad histories, which often involved a grizzly murder, he would receive visions and he would incorporate what he saw onto his script. While shooting a movie in Transylvania, his crew discovered an old footage of a prior film shot in their set. Soon “accidents” started to happen which led to a series of deaths until the film crew finally called it quits and left Marcus to deal with his demons. Everything about this picture was exaggerated. The acting was shockingly bad, the gore was gratuitous and unconvincing and the CGI was completely unnecessary. It was so bad, the movie tried to scare us with CGI flies. The last time I checked, CGI flies are not scary. It might have worked in Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell” because that particular film had a nice balance of cheekiness and horror but “Don’t Look Up” desperately wanted to be taken seriously. Its desperate attempt to be liked left a bitter taste in my mouth. I did not appreciate its references to movies like the Takashi Shimizu’s “Ju-on” and Hideo Nakata’s “Ringu;” instead of paying homage, I felt like the movie was parasite and was an extremely unsatisfactory leftover. The horror did not work because it acted like it was above trying to tell a story that was interesting, involving and, most importantly, a story that made sense. I didn’t understand the connection between Marcus and his ill ex-girlfriend other than to serve as a stupid twist in the end (something along the lines of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” only lightyears less elegant). Eli Roth playing a director in the 1920s left me scratching my head. And there was no explanation why the girl was murdered back in the day and what the apparitions wanted to accomplish. A “seed” was involved which I thought was metaphorical at first but it turned out to be literal. It was just a mess and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to burn the DVD so the next person interested in watching it can use his or her precious time doing something else (perhaps read a book or volunteer at a homeless shelter). “Don’t Look Up” is a smogasboard of everything bad about modern independent horror movies that heavily rely on special and visual effects. I just don’t believe anyone in the world can actually enjoy it. I am at a loss with why it was released in the first place but I suppose connections can go pretty far. If I can prevent at least one person from watching this, I consider it a triumph.