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Mar 042015
 

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Much anticipated as it was, Season 3 of Netflix original series, House of Cards was a massive disappointment.

Having fought his way from Speaker to Vice-President to President, it was expected that our protagonist Frank Underwood would bring his own vicious brand of politics onto the biggest stage of all, with all the ensuing drama that implies. Instead, House of Cards 3 was somewhat hijacked by the writers to make Clare Underwood the protagonist and cast Frank Underwood as the villain in his own story. From the moment, she is appointed Ambassador to the UN (a preposterous wrong move that the series never quite recovers from), the writers rely too much on this crutch to generate the drama and conflict between the Underwoods.

All the usual obstacles to Frank’s ambitious machinations were nicely set up to create the appropriate tension and the guilty pleasures fans take in watching Frank succeed (by all means necessary) have always been the highlight of this series. But in the last three episodes, the series took an awful tangent with Clare totally acting out of character and somewhat upsetting all the expectations. To be honest, it was difficult to fathom Clare’s reasoning behind all her actions when compared to the character revealed in Season 1 & 2. Sure, Clare is fiercely independent and Machiavellian in her own right but what are the writers trying to say with her about-face? That women cannot be understood by men? That women are illogical and emotional and will act without just cause, if they did not feel right about something? All rather sexist, in my view.

And what about the whole Doug Stamper sub-plot? What the hell was that about? Again, a distraction and a confusing plot device that ultimately served no purpose. Worst thing about House of Cards 3 was that it ended with a whimper unlike the previous 2 seasons. After 13 episodes, one can only look back and conclude that the writers have run out of ideas and are stretching out the goodwill of the series for whatever it is worth.

*Sigh*

Mar 032015
 

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Truth be told, this episode – “Alpine Shepherd Boy” – was a letdown after the highs of the previous episode. Neatly divided into three parts, the opening act finds Jimmy MacGill realising that getting folks calling him might necessarily mean a good thing as his client prospects tend to be disappointing. However, with the second act – of Chuck getting arrested by police and winding up in the hospital – Jimmy gets the hare-brained scheme to mark out a niche in ‘elder law’ and extends his marketing to the old folks home.

And the show would have ended nicely enough there but that final act with Mike Ehrmantraut seemed awkwardly tacked on. That said, the situation Mike finds himself is tailor-made for Jimmy to come in and save the day.

Mar 022015
 

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Our gang of survivors begin to settle in at Alexandria but our favourite characters are waiting for the pin to drop. Who can blame them, after all the trauma that they have been through in the last five seasons? Halfway through this transitional episode Carl tells Rick that he is worried they would get ‘soft’ if they stayed in Alexandria and by the end, Rick is confident that being ‘soft’ is no longer a part of who they are and rather ominously declares that if the inhabitants of Alexandria are not good enough, then they would take over.

There are signs of tensions even in this superficially placid surroundings but one feels that Rick and company are well suited to handle any challenges and ironically, they might prove to be the biggest threat to the well-being and security of Alexandria.  A great turn of events and change of pace that as usual keep the proceedings intriguing. Kudos!

Mar 012015
 

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Regular visitors to Power of Pop will be aware of my obsession with British pop-rock, from The Beatles to the Who to the Kinks to the Stones and on and on and on…  Since the end of the 90s (and the demise of Britpop), I have always been hoping for a revival of British pop-rock (and I do not mean the post-punk revival like The xx! Ugh!!)

Well it’s now 20 years since the heyday of Britpop and surveying the British pop-rock scene in 2015, there appears to be a couple of promising acts that hopefully will make the grade to generate enough buzz for this particular brand of pop-rock to dominate once again. In fact, I have found 20 bands that fit the bill completely – check out my playlist below and do let me know if you have other recommendations?

… still there’s more … 

Mar 012015
 

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Even as I find the leading actors utterly unremarkable (it is obvious they were cast purely for their good looks), I am enjoying Syfy’s re-imagining of 12 Monkeys for its proper exploration of time travel implications. Sure, even that is not perfect but one can appreciate the genuine effort. This episode seems to superficially wrap up the series (it does not of course, in reality) but it was intriguing the manner in which we were led to believe it was. The mechanics of time travel for James Cole (it is all past for him) and Cassandra Raily (living in real time) is that their shared experience may not be linear and that is the beauty of the story-telling. With the various changes in time that Cole is effecting, surely the question must arise is whether there is one timeline or are we witnessing the splintering of various alternate timelines. One suspects that the latter is a tad too sophisticated for a TV audience, even for a scifi drama series but wouldn’t it be nice?

Mar 012015
 

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The 2nd season of Helix has done very well in shifting focus on different characters and casting as protagonists and antagonists in equal measure depending on particular perspectives. Amongst Alan, Peter, Michael and Amy it was never clear who was the actual villain of the piece. But finally, the role has settled on Michael. Yes the placid, seemingly even-tempered cult leader is actually a 400 year old immortal, who has lost touch with his humanity decades ago and despite appearances to the contrary, appears to be aware of every single machination within his community. Enough to be constantly ahead of the game, so to speak. Rather masterful writing, I must say. Discovering the truth, the CDC team now have to thwart Michael as he executes his horrible endgame.

That all said, it is strange that Julia’s story seems to have fall out of the narrative almost completely. What happened in the 30 years later timeline? Will we get back to that? Too many questions in that respect. But definitely worth finding out!

Feb 282015
 

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I grew up in the 60s and thus Star Trek was a massive influence on my love for science fiction and space opera. Leonard Nimoy in his role as Mr. Spock was instrumental in making Star Trek the iconic series it has become almost 50 years later. Nimoy passed away on 27th February at the age of 83. One of his final memorable roles was as Dr William Bell in Fringe, where even in his latter years, he was an imposing presence. He will never be forgotten.

Found this moving tribute at Youtube from The New York Times.

Live long and prosper, Mr Nimoy…

Feb 272015
 

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So… February was largely disappointing for new movies. Kingsman: The Secret Service was alright but Jupiter Ascending was abysmal. Sigh. Pray March will be better.

5th March

CHAPPIE
Directed by Neill Blomkamp.
Starring Hugh Jackman and Dev Patel.

Getting somewhat nervous about this one. Blomkamp did not do too well with Elysium and the idea of sentient robot is not exactly original, is it? Jackman is in it as well, as I generally do not like any movie he’s in. Ah well.

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Feb 272015
 

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What else was worth checking out in February? Here goes…

BLACKBERRY SMOKE – HOLDING ALL THE ROSES

An obvious choice. A real band playing real music. In this case, Southern Rock, country-folk and old time rock n roll make it simple. Recommended.

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Feb 262015
 

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King Henry VIII of England reigned from 1509 to 1547 and certainly is a monarch that has always captured the imagination of modern audiences with his six wives (two of whom were executed) and infamous duplicity. The most recent being The Tudors starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry. Wolf Hall casts Henry VIII in a supporting role (with Damian Lewis), choosing to focus on one of his right hand men, Thomas Cromwell (played by Mark Rylance).

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Feb 262015
 

Well, it’s been slim pickings regarding the Fantastic Four reboot even after the release of the teaser trailer. But Empire has first pictures and here they are!

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It’s Reed Richards (Miles Teller) in some kind of astronaut suit with Tim Blake Nelson (who is playing the Mole Man) in the background.

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Susan Storm (Kate Mara) in a black outfit with bodies on the floor.

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Feb 262015
 

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Now, I will come right out and say that a lot of Oliver’s motivations on “Narda Parbat” make little sense. I mean, after everything that Malcolm Merlyn has done, why the hell would Oliver risk, not only his own life but that of Diggle’s, to save Merlyn? Kudos to John Barrowman for making Malcolm a deliciously despicable villain that nobody but nobody has any sympathy for. C’mon, at least Slade was utterly messed up in the head by the mirakuru in his system. So what’s Malcolm’s excuse?

Anyways, much of this episode feels like a re-tread of the one where Oliver voluntarily challenged Ra’s Al Ghul despite everybody (but Malcolm!) trying to dissuade him and for that reason it falls rather flat most of the way. It does seem that ever since the mid-season finale, Oliver has been guilty of incredibly stupid decision making! And… did anyone expect Oliver and Diggle to succeed, against the bloody League of Assassins? C’mon! That all said, I did not expect that final scene with Ra’s – alright, you got me there. Well done!

By the way, can someone tell me why Atom comes across as a second rate Iron Man? That is NOT the Atom, CW? WTF

Feb 252015
 

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In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve Rogers speaks to an aged Peggy Carter and tells her “knowing you helped found S.H.I.E.L.D. is half the reason I stayed”.

When Agent Carter was first announced, perhaps many thought that the story of how Carter “helped found S.H.I.E.L.D.” would be told. Instead, what we got was how Carter was marginalised at the SSR but still ultimately played a major role in stopping Leviathan from executing a diabolical plot to kill thousands of innocent people and take revenge on Howard Stark.

This final episode of the mini-series does what one expects it to, and with much aplomb. Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper and James D’Arcy provide the star power as Carter, Stark and Jarvis as required, whereas Chad Michael Murray (Agent Thompson) and Enver Gjokaj (Agent Sousa) are functionary at best. So while Agent Carter was a fun ride into the post-war MCU, hopefully subsequent mini-series will explore more seriously the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Carter’s role in the same.

Agent Carter has done well to make connections with MCU films (unlike say, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and has exploited well the strengths of having a shared universe. Let’s hope there’s more to come.

Feb 252015
 

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By now, it’s plainly apparent that Better Call Saul as a series is going to be a proper examination of James M. McGill aka Saul Goodman. Vince Gilligan and company are in no hurry to rush through these opening episodes and instead letting the story of McGill play out naturally. It’s fascinating to see how McGill goes from struggling public defender and the perpetual loser to an opportunist seeing the possibilities in every situation. Sure, he is still a little awkward and a bit of a buffoon but this episode – “Hero” lays out the genesis of Saul Goodman for all to see. The straight and narrow seems to be a path rightly forsaken in exchange for success. For the audience, it is intriguing to witness McGill’s metamorphosis and to attempt to second guess each one of McGill’s moves as he manoeuvres himself into positions of favour.

Definitely in no hurry to go from this prequel sequence of events into the post-Breaking Bad continuity – hoping the series will stay with this timeline for awhile.

Feb 252015
 

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The Campbell Apartment, named after a bar hidden inside New York’s Grand Central Station, is the brainchild of Russian born singer-songwriter and oil painter Ari Vais. Ari’s new Sundogs EP is the proverbial breath of fresh air in a modern rock scene obsessed with superficialities. No such issues with Vais and his straightforward musical agenda. The songs take top priority – memorable melodies and relatable lyrics – clothed in classic pop-rock arrangements and instrumentation. Tracks like “Something in the Way” and “Heroic Audio Display” hearken back to a kinder & gentler times (the 90s), the last hurrah of the Pop Underground, where thought and effort are put into communicating a genuine emotional resonance through words and tunes. By the time one gets to the music hall jauntiness of final number “What Do You Think Of That”, it’s easy to feel a sense of regret that there isn’t more. But that’s the harsh reality of releasing marginalised forms of music in 2014. So if you love songs that balances intelligence with musicality, support The Campbell Apartment and the Sundogs EP! Find out below how and why Ari Vais does what he does!

How did you start writing songs?

I must have learned how to play guitar well enough as a 10 year old to learn a bunch of Beatles songs by the time I was in high school, and then Floyd, Zeppelin, finally some REM and Lou Reed songs, and then around 16, a slew of my own songs where the burst of writing didn’t cease until recent years. I still write but not as prolifically. I guess when I started as a teen, the tunes were based on traditional chords, as well as chords that I had no idea what they were, where my fingers were just doing some formation that happened to sound cool and go with the song, because I still didn’t know my way around a guitar that well, and trying for clever words or earnest poetic ones, hopefully with a tiny dash of humor, and a strong melody. The last bit was the most important, and very much still is.

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Feb 252015
 

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Possibly one of the best Walking Dead episodes in recent memory and it was achieved without having to kill a major character! All it did was examine the question of trust in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead. After having suffered at the hands of the Governor and the cannibals of Terminus, it’s easy to understand Rick’s reluctance to trust anybody. But what if someone comes along and tells Rick and group that there is a relative paradise waiting for them? Too good to be true? When does playing safe become dangerous? For Michonne, that time to trust a stranger like Aaron is now, and finally Rick has to decide whether he can do so and put his children potentially at risk.

It’s as simple as that but of course, it isn’t simple at all and the tension and drama flows from the audience asking the same question that Rick does – can we trust these people? Well, can we?

Feb 242015
 

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Another great opportunity for artists to get their originals heard is the SGMUSO Songwriters Night. Now a monthly event, the re-launch kicks off on Saturday, 28th February at The Barbershop by Timbre. Featured artist will be Tim De Cotta X The Warriors with the open mic segment to showcase Fym Summer, JAWN, Hell Low and Ciao Turtle.

See you there!

Feb 242015
 

SEOULSONIK 2014

Last June, we did an interview with Annie Ko, frontperson of Korean indie electro-rock trio Love X Stereo. Well, the group is now a duo consisting of Annie and Toby Hwang and is ready for the new year with a new EP, consisting of new material and re-recorded favourites. Part 1 of the We Love, We Leave album is already out now and indie pop fans will enjoy the new viz. the dynamic synth-pop energy of the sultry title track and the throbbing dance-able “My Anywhere” and the ‘old’ viz. the exciting versions of “Soul City (Seoul City)” and “Chain Reaction”. We caught up with Annie again to get some insights of where the duo is right here, right now.

Five of the songs on the new EP are re-worked versions of previously released tracks, why?

We were selected for government support provided by KOCCA in order to make a new record. Before we go any further, we wanted to take a step back to rearrange/rerecord our previous tracks, because we always wanted to. Originally, we wanted to make a LP with mixtures of old & new, but we had a strict time restraint, and that’s why we ended up splitting into two EPs. First one represents “We Love”, and the next one represents “We Leave”.

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Feb 232015
 

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Definitely the most intense season 2 episode thus far as Amy ramps up her plans to get away from Brother Michael and the island. One cannot blame her considering the outrageous revelations made concerning the relationship between Brother Michael and herself. The most unlikely villainess but kudos to the writers for making it so. The CDC team is not in good shape either as the mistrust bred amongst them threatens to destroy them, even as Alan Farragate plays his role as agent provocateur to perfection.

On Julia’s side, the writers chose to tell her story not from the ’30 years later’ perspective but a background tale on what happened after Julia joined the Ilaria Corporation. Disorientating to say the least. Not sure why the writers decided to make that jump as it does not seem to add anything to the ‘present day’ narrative whatsoever. Am just wondering how long it will take for Brother Michael and/or the CDC team to figure out that Amy is behind everything.

Feb 222015
 

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Yes, I will admit it – I am getting a little jaded with the TV versions of James Cole and Cassandra Raily. They are just too picture perfect for their own good. Also, I am wondering whether this plot device of going back in time to recover the ‘original’ timeline is going to get tiring soon. I mean, it was fun when it was done in Back to the Future 2 as Marty McFly did his best to avoid himself in the past but considering that this is the 2nd time it’s happening in 12 Monkeys? Ho hum.

But as usual, 12 Monkeys introduced a new element in the plot that pique my interest. What was the whole ‘red forest’ acid trip that Raily went through? What was that about? Another mystery – who is the Witness? Will they reveal this mysteries soon or will they end up as unresolved plot lines like Lost? And how does one keep track of the alternate realities Cole is setting up? Wait and see or give up – what do YOU think?

Feb 212015
 

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10 films that have changed the face of the movie industry. 10 films that exist within an unprecedented shared universe. 10 films that have collectively grossed over US$7 billion worldwide. Yes, there’s no doubt that commercially, the MCU films have done fantastically well but what about creatively? Can the films stand up to critical scrutiny or is their popularity a product of marketing hype and nothing more? Let’s investigate.

IRON MAN (2008)

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You know the story. Grossing over $500 million worldwide, Iron Man was an unexpected mega-hit for Marvel Studios’ first venture, marking the comeback of Robert Downey Jr and making the movie industry sit up and take notice. The post-credits scene was used for the first time, to introduce the concept of the MCU to movie audiences as Nick Fury said the words “Avengers Initiative” as a promise of things to come. Putting aside the milestones, it’s worthy to remember that this Jon Favreau-helmed film was very well made with strong performances from Jeff Bridges (Obadiah Stane), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) and Terence Howard (James Rhodes). The age of Marvel (films) had begun. (9/10)

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