Here we go again, as 2014 wraps up, let’s take a look at the geek movies coming our way in the first half of 2015 and examine which are the ones we must watch and the ones we might need to avoid.
Alien Outpost (30 Jan)
Typical alien invasion flick with the look and feel of those recent Iraq/Afghanistan war movies. The aliens (heavies?) looked really silly in the trailer though. Not essential whatsoever.
Jupiter Ascending (6 Feb)
The Wachowskis are back with an original screenplay, their first since The Matrix trilogy. With Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis as the leads, this movie will appeal to the young adults set. For the rest of us, it’s hard to tell at this stage but The Wachowskis have still enough goodwill left for geeks to give this film a chance.
Seems appropriate to start this series with Bob Dylan, doesn’t it? Considering that The Beatles are currently not on any streaming service, Dylan deserves top billing. After all, can one imagine talking about singer-songwriters without mentioning Dylan’s massive influence?
The man is the very definition of the modern folk troubadour but more than that, Dylan’s legacy extends to rock as well, of course. For me personally, I remember hearing Dylan on the radio when I was a kid – especially his well known early folk songs but I really got into his work (ironically enough) – with his controversial Christian conversion album Slow Train Comin’ (1979), which explains why I kick off the playlist with “Precious Angel” (which also features incandescent guitar work from Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler). Including “Make You Feel My Love” was necessary to provide Dylan’s continuing relevance as Adele’s cover version proved conclusively. The rest of the playlist focuses mainly on his seminal 60s/70s works. Enjoy!
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In this day and age, when computer-generated imagery (CGI) is able to create the most outrageous special effects for movies, it is ironic that instead of engendering more creativity, CGI has become a crutch for film studios/producers/directors. Thus, CGI has replaced effective story-telling, dazzling audiences with visual gimmicks that provide superficial gratification for the eye without anything left over for the soul.
Whilst CGI has certainly benefitted the super-hero movie genre the most, it has also at times marginalized the strength of super-hero stories to begin with – strong characters and plot. Recent casualties of this trend include Man of Steel and Amazing Spider-Man 2, where the sheer massive scale of the battles begins to wear on the filmgoer and taxing that tenuous suspension of disbelief. And please do not get me started on the Transformer or Hobbit movie franchise.
Invariably, scifi geeks (like yours truly) have had to search for high concept flicks with low budgets where directors & writers have had to resort to creative means to tell an effective story. Thankfully, there have been quite a few in recent years that fit this description. Here’s a handy list for your reference (not necessarily in order of merit).
District 9 (Directed by Neill Blomkamp)
Pride. I guess that was the emotion coursing through my veins as I watched Caracal deliver a set full of passion, dynamism and yes, even fun last Thursday at the launch of the new album, Welcome the Ironists, at the Substation.
The sold out concert attracted many familiar faces from the indie music scene but it was encouraging to see strange new faces, evidence that the scene is also appealing to newcomers, a very good sign.
I first caught sight of the band during Baybeats 2007 and it’s safe to say that Caracal is a totally different proposition as we come to the end of 2014. As they have grown older, the music has become slower and deeper, with tidy references to 90s grunge (Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees et al) cementing the band’s burgeoning reputation.
The prime examples being “God Damn Tree”, “Divergence” and “Entrepreneur” where the band displayed an unprecedented emotional heaviness. But the highlight for me was probably when singer KC Meals dedicated “Given Breath” to all the band members’ parents – a touching moment that resonated.
Another high point – the encore that included crowd favorite “Cheers to Love” when audience and the band truly become one. Yet again, a spine-tingling memory to cherish. All told, a thoroughly satisfying rock experience. Kudos.
Thanks to Kitty Wu Records for making this review possible.
Directed by Peter Jackson.
Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace and Luke Evans.
How did we get here? How did the director responsible for the Best Picture of 2004 (a decade ago) morph into Michael Bay? Was it greed on the part of the studios or Peter Jackson’s hubris?
I have no answers but suffice to say that if you love over-bloated blockbuster spectacles like Transformers: Age of Extinction, then this superfluous final installment of the Hobbit trilogy is highly recommended. However, if like me, you are a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, please avoid this shameless exercise in lining the pockets of all involved.
At least the nightmare has ended.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is in the cinemas now.
Directed by The Spierig Brothers
Starring Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook & Noah Taylor.
Brilliantly conceived, this film adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1960 short story “All You Zombies”, is a delightful ‘mind fuck’ movie that will have viewers rapt in attention to decipher the clues that lead to the twist at the end. Suffice for me to say that the twist involved the concept of time paradoxes and leave it at that.
On the surface, the plot revolves around a Temporal Agent’s quest to capture a murderous killer (the “Fizzle Bomber”) but of course, it is much more than that. Unlike, most time travel stories, Predestination avoids jaded cliches commonly attached to the ‘genre’ and transcends the standard tropes to deliver a thought-provoking fantastical tale.
A low budget film supported by Screen Australia, Predestination punches well above its weight shaming blockbusters like Transformers: Age of Extinction with story-telling and performances that are amongst the best of 2014. Don’t miss this!
Predestination is in cinemas now!
Secret Sounds Asia presents award-winning indie outfit alt-J live in Singapore on Sunday, 17 May 2015 at The Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa.
“Monophobia” is the fear of being alone. It is an anxiety that I am all too familiar with. Coupled with a slight case of agoraphobia (fear of crowds), it can make going out particularly challenging. Especially when I go for music events, there is always the acute fear that I will be on my own, looking awkward, with my mind screaming for me to get out of there immediately. Add that to the low self-esteem that I have and it is a constant obstacle to overcome. A internal battle that takes place every time I leave home for an event. It’s amazing I haven’t completely lost my marbles yet!
So if you see looking decidedly uncomfortable at an event, please be a kind soul, come up and re-assure me that I am welcome and accepted in that company. Of course, nobody is really thinking that I do not belong but that is certainly what is going on in my head. In that environment, alcohol definitely helps in silencing all those negative voices. So I usually will try to get two bottles of whatever into me to settle down those nerves. So if I suddenly transform into this gregarious character and have too much to say then you know it’s the alcohol successfully calming me down to something closer to normal. Although, over-compensation might be the next issue on the horizon. But that’s another story …
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Written and directed by Dan Gilroy.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed & Bill Paxton
Nightcrawler marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Dan Gilroy. It is an unflinching look at the underbelly of modern-day news reporting where ratings dictate that sensational fear-mongering trumps journalistic integrity.
Thrown into the middle of Los Angeles’ news reporting industry is opportunistic lowlife Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal), who at the beginning of the film is shown stealing from a construction site and resorting to a life of petty larceny to make ends meet.
By chance, he discovers that there is a business opportunity in filming grisly accident and crime scenes for news stations and his journey begins. Gyllenhaal plays Bloom brilliantly as an amoral psychopath – he admits to not liking people to his assistant Rick (Ahmed) – who has absolutely no scruples when it comes to furthering his own interests.
Along the way he comes across a competitor (Paxton) and a collaborator (Russo), who are both deeply impacted by Bloom’s unscrupulous actions with the worst conclusion reserved for the hapless Rick. Through it all, Gyllenhaal plays Bloom with a dangerously emotionless intensity, his dead eyes reflecting a steely determination to achieve his goals at all costs.
A tour de force performance from Gyllenhaal engages from start to finish with first time director Gilroy making an impressive debut as well. One of the movies of the year.
Nightcrawler is playing at the cinemas.
I must confess that when I first heard about Bandwagon‘s intention to feature bands in the bus on the way to Urbanscapes, I was skeptical. But after the actual experience, I must admit that they pulled it off, despite my reservations. The road trip itself had quite a few unnecessary delays but probably expected. And yes, that was my only quibble!
The lovely Aarika Lee was the ‘hostess with the mostess’ on my bus (consisting mainly of media folk) and we had a blast there and back. There was quite bit of banter and fun was had with spontaneous open mics where caution was thrown to the wind to make a long coach journey a whole lot of bearable and some.
I must applaud the selection of artists – Pleasantry (above), iNCH (below), .gif and Gentle Bones – and they did themselves and our awesome indie scene proud with intimate performances that were unique (and well improvised), to say the least.
What about the Urbanscapes festival itself? It was a refreshing time in rarified atmosphere of Genting Highlands with scattered showers for good measure. It was definitely excellent weather for music enjoyment and the likes of our very own Cashew Chemists, reformed Lemonheads (Evan Dando even commented on my Flying Burrito Bros tee), Local Natives and Kimbra (pictured at top) providing primo entertainment!
Thanks to Bandwagon for making this all possible. A parting note – check out the video I shot of iNCH performing “Dear Paramour”.
2014 is coming quickly to a close but there’s still one more excellent #sgindie single out there demanding your attention. And it is “Skin” from Jaime Wong. I have waited quite a few years for this talented singer-songwriter to finally record “Skin” and I am glad to report that it is a shimmering thing of beauty. The music video might be a little mystifying (as they tend to be) but enjoy the visuals with that awesome song and then pre-order Jaime’s upcoming debut EP to download “Skin” now. You know you need to.
Don’t forget to come down to Artistry on Wednesday 10th December to catch Jaime Wong live together with The Little Giant, from 8pm. $10 at the door.
It’s here – the official music video for the title track off Caracal‘s amazing new album. The unconventional music video breaks up the song a little at the beginning but delivers a strong narrative and includes a little twist at the end for good measure. Kudos to all concerned.
Check out also my 5-star review at TODAY.
Another summer, another franchise reboot. This time it’s the turn of the Terminator movie franchise to be refreshed for a new audience, with the last movie Terminator Salvation appearing in 2009. Based on the recently released teaser trailer below, Terminator: Genisys is combining ideas from the first two movies with certain twists along the way. Interestingly, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the titular character (albeit as an aging robot!) while Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Jai Courtney take on the roles of Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese respectively. All in, this sounds like a bad idea but the trailer at least does a good job in making the concept appealing. For now, anyways.
The film is scheduled to be released by Paramount Pictures on July 1, 2015.
Fuck nostalgia! For me, it’s always about the here and now – the singer and the song. Sure, you could describe singer-songwriter Glenn Tilbrook in those terms but that barely does any justice to the talent and wit that this man possesses. As the frontman of 80s ‘new wave’ band Squeeze, Tilbrook certainly had his time in the sun but the passing of thirty years have not diminished the artist’s ability to connect with an audience in a manner that escapes many younger musicians.
By Nikita Wong
One hit wonders Hoobastank (remember “The Reason”?) gave us a deeper insight of their journey during the press conference held at Hard Rock Hotel. Commemorating their success as a band for the past 10 years, Hoobastank revealed the struggles they had to overcome as they parted from their record label.
According to the band, record labels were only concerned with producing the “The Reason” Mark II and were not genuinely interested in the well being of the band or their music. Being independent now, the band is able to allow their creative juices to flow.
On Saturday, I was asked the vexed question about whether a person in Singapore could make a living from music making. Lately, it has been an issue that has been occupying my thoughts and I think I have arrived at a conclusion. Fact is, it’s the WRONG question. Music making should never ever be about the money. That’s putting the cart in front of the horse, so to speak. Money is just one factor towards making the best music possible along with developing your talents i.e. songwriting, performance, marketing etc.
If you want to make a whole lot of money – be a banker, lawyer, doctor, politician – please don’t make music cuz you are in the WRONG place. Once you are in music for the money, your priorities get all fucked up and you begin to compromise your artistic principles and your soul will die, bit by bit until your creativity has been completely drained from you.
So get your head straight about this issue! Don’t beat yourself up about how difficult it is to make a living out of your music – that’s not what music making is about. Making music is about the act of creation, connection, sharing and the touching of the hearts, mind and souls of the people who are exposed to your art. Nothing more, nothing less. Everything else is a bonus.
Debra Khng launches her debut EP Wolves In The Night – a 5-track chronicle of love, loss, and youth – 6th December, 8pm, Hood Bar. Also featuring up and coming alternative rock singer-songwriter Wei Chiang and his band, as well as indie-folk darling Vanessa Faith, entry is free and physical copies of Debra’s debut EP will be available for sale.
Forget about how small Singapore is or how you need to sing in the native tongue in order to play overseas, singer-songwriter Nicholas Chim has broken all these rules to find acceptance in Germany! Well, don’t just take my word for it, check out his Tour Diaries below.
Yeah I know it’s only a teaser but this is seriously under-whelming. *Sigh*
Directed by Don Hall & Chris Williams
With all the super-hero properties available to Disney Animation upon the acquisition of Marvel Comics, Disney opted for an obscure book titled Sunfire and Big Hero 6. The subsequent film adaptation is only loosely based on the comic, severing all links to the Marvel Universe – except for the utterly pointless Stan Lee cameo.
When you consider that the sequel to the vastly superior The Incredibles remains in limbo, one would have thought that Disney should have left super-heroes well alone. The result is predictable – very poor superhero tale that is high on sentimentality but light on plot.
That said, one cannot fault the character designs, the top notch animation and likeability of Baymax. However, the clunky narrative, the one-dimensional supporting characters and Baymax-size plot holes prevent Big Hero 6 from being taken seriously. Obviously aimed at young children, that is the only reasonable way of approaching this dumb flick.
“If you build it, they will come”
How to improve the local music scene? By building fan base. Once the numbers are there, then the promoters will come to you. Case in point: Gentle Bones (aka Joel Tan). Ever-increasing fan support has now had promoters looking to add to their audience numbers by having the popular artist open for foreign acts.
Thus, on 10th December, Gentle Bones will open for Us the Duo at Kallang Theatre and on 27th February 2015, Joel will support Christina Perri at The Coliseum. This is exciting news and signs of a developing local music scene.
Get your tickets from SISTIC.
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