When news was announced about the cast for Captain America : Civil War, folks starting referring to the sequel as Avengers 2.5. But based on the first trailer, it’s clearly a Cap movie – it’s just that Cap’s quest for justice for his friend Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier) leads him to war with Iron Man and his team.
Which is a clever twist to how the original comic book story played it. It’s about Cap being loyal to his best friend in the face of virtually impossible odds. What a story this is going to be! And we get a first look at Black Panther too! 2016 is going to be an amazing superhero movie year.
I am a pretty emotional person, and am more so when I get older – I guess when you have a greater experience of loss and sadness – these scenes hit home. Sure, some of them are melodramatic and in fantastical settings (and one of them involves an imaginary friend) but death is a fact of life that as human beings, we will always be trying to come to terms with. Until of course, our own time is up! Enjoy (or not, as the case may be).
Yes, like most geeks I can hardly wait to watch Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens when it opens in Singapore on 16th December 2015 (and yes, I have purchased my tickets already!) BUT at the back of my mind I have lingering doubts whether the movie can live up to its enormous hype. So let’s look at SEVEN of them, shall we?
Some background – in September 2015, the parody sketch show Chestnuts was asked to remove the entire sketch called “Amos Yee The Musical” from its programme, in order to be granted the performing arts license by the Media Development Authority.
So, the troupe decided to make a mini-movie based on the sketch and also to get crowdfunding for the production.
Some of the best horror movies ever made involve characters getting caught up in a common misfortune: home invasion. While rampant gore, the undead, and killer clowns are creepy and frightening, nothing is scarier than a horror film which revolves around everyday events. These terrifying home invasion movies will have you triple-checking your door locks at night well after Halloween is over.
One of the best parts of having a new Star Wars movie this year is – apart from the film itself – the creativity demonstrated by hardcore fans. Here’s a heartfelt tribute to the original trilogy set to the score on the latest The Force Awakens trailer by Medley Weaver – it is breathtaking and emotional to witness. Kudos!
This Academy Award nominated 2013 documentary contains an element of ‘what might have been’.
Vivian Maier was an amateur photographer who worked as a nanny & housekeeper. Prior to her death in 2009, nobody had ever seen her work. However, John Maloof (who co-directed the film with Charles Siskel) discovered some of her photographs at an auction and after Maier’s death, uncovered her life through interviews with people who knew her. Maloof subsequently scanned the images and put them on the Internet, where as you might have guessed, the images went viral.
Critical acclaim and interest in Maier’s work quickly followed, and since then, Maier’s photographs have been exhibited in North America, Europe, and Asia, while her life and work have been the subject of books and documentary films.
Maier was an eccentric spinster and a very private person, who took photographs obsessively. The photographs are striking and reveal a gift for capturing moments of emotional and intellectual weight. The documentary recounts Maloof’s efforts to find out as much as possible about the reclusive Maier.
It also examines our own attitudes towards art and artists. When you consider someone like Van Gogh who was unrecognised during his lifetime, at least Van Gogh was an artist intent on being successful, whereas Maier seemingly had no interest in exhibiting her work. Was this evidence of mental illness? Can the artistic impulse only be satisfied by public exposure, acceptance and recognition? Is it at all possible, to make art for yourself and yourself alone?
These are important questions which the film barely addresses – there is an inherent conclusion that because the work is so good, it deserves to be seen, whatever the actual wishes of the artist are/were. If taken out of the context of Maier’s daily life (as a nanny/housekeeper), would the work have lost its resonance and power? Who knows?
When Maier was an unknown, her work had no ‘value’ but once the public recognition came into the picture, so to speak, a value is then attached to the work. But should not the ‘value’ of the work be intrinsic, independent of how ‘popular’ it was? Having learnt a little about who Vivian Maier was through this film, it is fair to argue that given a choice, she probably would not have wanted the whole wide world looking at her work or even finding out who she is/was. Which leaves the viewer with mixed feelings by the time the movie concludes. You decide.
The most anticipated movie of the year has released a new trailer. If I am understanding the implications of what is depicted in this trailer correctly, after the Battle of Endor and the Return of the Jedi, something happened to thwart the actual return of the Jedi because 30 years later, the very idea of the Force is now a myth. Isn’t this the premise of Star Wars: A New Hope? So unlike the numerous books that chronicled post-ROTJ events (which has now been rendered non-Canon by Disney), we are back to square one.
Once more, we have a young adult living on the desert planet looking up to the skies, we have a malevolent force wearing a helmet and we have the threat of the Death Star (see the poster below) – so Star Wars: The Force Awaken is in reality a REBOOT! Sigh. What an alarming and revolting development! Hopefully, I am wrong in my assessment of the trailer. Cuz, even though the visuals are amazing and awe-inspiring, if that is indeed the plot of the new Star Wars movie, then it is going to be a disappointment. Don’t fuck it up, JJ!
Watch the new trailer.
Check out also this amazing clip that combines all the footage so far in the Ultimate Trailer!
Attending the SGIFF 2015 press conference, I was pleasantly surprised to come across many familiar faces and pleased as punch to discover that the Festival would feature a restored version of Eric Khoo’s Mee Pok Man (on its 20th anniversary) and a Singapore premiere of his latest opus, In The Room.
I have always wanted to me more involved in the indie film scene in Singapore and this event was deeply encouraging for me to keep at it. So expect some form of coverage here at Power of Pop.
In the meantime, check out what’s happening at SGIFF2015.
Check out this intriguing film event organised by Objectifs.
Highlighting the voices of women in film, the Women in Film programme aims to showcase and celebrate the diversity and strength of each female individual’s works throughout their careers. In this inaugural edition, films from Kirsten Tan, Sun Koh, Pimpaka Towira and Naoko Ogigami will be screening at Objectifs. Two films, Roxy and Sussane (dir. Kirsten Tan) and Drem of Gerontius (dir. Sun Koh) will be making its debut at Women in Film.
I was invited by my buddy Michael Lim (Singapore Film Society) to a screening of Leonardo Cinieri Lombroso’s When the Rooster Crows, a documentary on diversity and richness of Southeast Asian Cinema. The documentary highlights four indie film-makers viz. Brillante Mendoza (Philippines); Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (Thailand); Eric Khoo (Singapore); and Garin Nugroho (Indonesia).
Ostensibly, I was supposed to contribute to a post-screening panel discussion with Lombroso and Michelle Goh (who acted in Eric’s Mee Pok Man and still looks fresher than the first time I met her 20 years ago!) but really had nothing much relevant to say, except that Eric was a buddy of mine too.
Since I got to watch the movie free of charge, I thought it’d only be fair to share a little review. Conceptually, I loved the way that Lombroso approached the movie not merely as a standard documentary but as a film in its own right. Thus, there was a narrative running through its 88 minutes (that’s a very Eric Khoo number, by the way) that not only featured the subject film-makers and their films but also the context of their muse (their countries of origin).
The manner in which one segment segued into the next seamlessly added to this overall effect and emphasised Lombroso’s observation that even though the four countries highlighted are often differentiated from one other, there were many similarities as well. In particular, in the obstacles that each independent film scene faced in their own countries – whether it be social or political. What was evident was that each scene, as represented by each film-maker, dug deep into the human soul – the belief, the creativity and the fighting spirit – in order to produce works of film art that resonated beyond their respective shores.
One of the obvious takeaways was that each film scene needed to support one another so that South East Asian indie film could be developed and nurtured. Thus, perhaps a more vibrant regional film scene – one that cross-pollinated across boundaries would be a solution to the usual gripes about lack of local support.
For me personally, there was an allegory to be drawn with the music scene here – that we needed to reach out to the music scenes regionally and not be too myopic about confining the building of a fan base to the hard ground that is Singapore. Definitely something to chew on.
More information about the Singapore Film Society may be obtained from its official website.
Based on the book by writer Andy Weir, The Martian is the story of astronaut Mark Watney’s survival on the planet Mars after he is left stranded.In that respect, one might say it’s basically Robinson Crusoe on Mars with better science and no Friday. It’s also similar to Gravity, where Sandra Bullock’s character is stranded in outer space and has to find her way back to Earth. Or even Tom Hanks’ Castaway? Or… what was the name of that movie when I was a child? Lost in the Desert?
As you can tell, the premise is nothing new and there are numerous stories about the lost or stranded protagonist who needs to survive and to find his or her way home. Therefore, there was a sense of trepidation before watching The Martian – mainly because of that familiar storyline. But to the credit of director Ridley Scott, scriptwriter Drew Goddard and the cast, The Martian is executed brilliantly and is ultimately a very emotionally resonant, thought-provoking and entertaining film. And also rather surprisingly, very funny as well.
Speaking of the cast, apart from Damon’s usual reliable star turn, special mention must be made of the performances of Jeff Daniels (as Teddy Sanders, head of NASA), Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Vincent Kapoor, a NASA mission director), Jessica Chastain (as Melissa Lewis, Ares III commander) and Sean Bean (as Mitch Henderson, a NASA mission director).
The presence of Bean inspired probably the most bizarrely comical segment when a secret project is dubbed “Elrond” with references of The Lord of the Rings being thrown about! Unbelievable! If you don’t quite get this then you need to understand that Bean played Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Most everything worked in The Martian, which is not often the case in recent movies helmed by Scott but it does seem that the veteran director has gotten his mojo back – which bodes well for the Prometheus sequel.
But well before that, make sure you do not miss The Martian – a feel good scifi movie that affirms the ‘never-say-die’ ethos of the human spirit.
If nothing else, the Fantastic Four reboot has gotten us thinking about the worst superhero movies out there – of which there is an abundance, sadly.
Well, first up, of course, the obvious ones from DC’s World’s Finest, no less.
SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987)
How did this franchise go from highly acclaimed (the first two instalments) to an absolute dud?
BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997)
Tim Burton revived the Bat-franchise with two well-received dark movies before Joel Schumacher decided to have some campy fun with the character. George Clooney famously said that he almost single-handedly killed the Caped Crusader! A nadir for the superhero genre.
X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006)
Again, two hit movies in the franchise somehow led to a turkey. Bryan Singer abandoned this 2nd X-Men sequel to helm Superman Returns (more of that later) leaving Bret Ratner to pick up the pieces. What he assemble was a travesty that subsequent X-Men movies have barely acknowledged. Favourite line? “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009)
Now, Fox had a huge hit with The Last Stand (based on the goodwill generated by the first two X-movies) so they probably thought, let’s take the most popular X-Man and make an origin movie that is just as bad. Here’s how awful this was – they sowed up Deadpool’s mouth! Seriously WTF!
SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)
Not content in being an indirect cause for X-Men: The Last Stand sucking so bad, Bryan Singer had to foist on us all this ill-judged sequel to Superman II. C’mon! It was obvious from the beginning that this was the wrong approach for Superman in 2006.
Yes I do realise that there are still many more out there but the ones highlighted above were serious tentpole movies that spent a fair amount of money but failed as creative endeavours (some of them actually made big bucks). Thus, I ignored the likes of Daredevil, Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 3, Green Lantern, Amazing Spider-Man 2 etc. Considering the only superhero characters at risk now are solely in the hands of 20th Century Fox (Daredevil and Punisher have thankfully reverted to Marvel and SONY is working with Marvel on Spider-Man), there is still scope for bad superhero films with the upcoming Deadpool, Gambit and upcoming X-movies. Fingers crossed, everyone!
(Note: This review is filled with spoilers. Mainly because I find it hard to believe that after reading this, you would be insane enough to still want to watch this turkey!)
This Fantastic Four reboot never had a chance. From the get-go, geeks hated it. From director Josh Trank boasting about how his version would be a ‘game-changer’ to the controversial casting, this reboot has had a troubled journey. Sadly, the finished movie justifies the hate and then some.
In an attempt to ‘modernise’ the origins of the Fantastic Four – and borrowing from the Ultimate Fantastic Four series – the movie gutted out everything that made Fantastic Four so special in the first place. That sense of connection. One never got that sense from this movie.
In the comic book origin, scientist Reed Richards and pilot Ben Grimm were best friends; Susan Storm was Richards’ girlfriend and Johnny Storm was Susan’s brother. Without the pre-existing relationship between Reed and Susan, their link is tenuous. Also, in the movie, Susan and Johnny are adopted siblings and of different races as well. This made any connections between them rather hard to swallow.
From that poor foundation, it becomes impossible for Trank to build up an effective story with too many plot holes to fill. For example, Reed is recruited by the Baxter Institute by way of a science fair experiment? Ludicrous. Susan gets her power without even being part of the inter-dimensional jaunt? Illogical. After the accident, Reed disappears for a year – a plot point that fails to serve the story at all!
The movie takes ridiculous short-cuts throughout, without any explanation. We never see how the characters develop their powers – we are given the finished product instead. The battle scenes are incredibly lame and do not get me started how Fox utterly fucked up Doctor Doom yet again!
Firstly, how did Victor Von Doom survive for a year in Planet Zero (not the Negative Zone, as it should have been). Secondly, why are there no security precautions to deal with Doom when everyone who returned from Planet Zero has some incredible powers. Finally, why is it so easy for the Fantastic Four to dispatch Doom when earlier he was shown to kill people by merely looking at them?
Suffice to say that this is one of the worst superhero movies in recent memory and will take its rightful place alongside X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Superman Returns and Spider-Man 3.
DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE AND HOPEFULLY IT WILL BE ENOUGH OF A FAILURE SO THAT FOX WILL GIVE UP AND RETURN THE FANTASTIC FOUR TO MARVEL.
The Merc with the Mouth gets his own movie! And it certainly looks like Ryan Reynolds was born to play Deadpool – though am not sure if that’s much of a compliment. And judging from the red band trailer, it’s everything you expected a Deadpool movie to be. Not quite sure if that’s a good thing though.
The spy movie genre still remains popular amongst film goers even in this age of superhero dominance. To demonstrate that, here are three upcoming spy movies that fans should pay attention to.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION
Tom Cruise and company are back to save the world and this time, they face their most formidable challenge ever – a nation of enemy spies (!) and Cruise himself has to up the ante (performing some very dangerous stunts) to provide that box office spark! Opens on 31st July.
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
Now, the original TV series meant quite a bit to me when I was a kid in the 60s – though to be honest I can’t remember a thing about the show – so I suppose I have a certain stake in wanting this to be a success. That said, the trailer looks quite silly but am hoping that the charisma of Henry Cavill (as Napoleon Solo) will carry the movie through. Opens on 14th August.
The grandaddy of all spy movies is still going strong. The James Bond franchise has outlasted all pretenders and this time round the Daniel Craig-Bond finally encounters his arch-nemesis SPECTRE. Opens on 6th November.
I suppose it’s something we somewhat take for granted but it’s hard to believe that Ant-Man is the 12th Marvel Studios superhero movie! The mere fact that I can write the words “superhero movie” is already a minor miracle considering that these were rare once upon a time. So I enjoy the superhero movie phenomenon as long as I can.
But seriously folks, compared to other action-adventure blockbusters franchises, superhero movies have generally been good entertainment, value for money and relatively well written to boot! Sure, there have been a couple of exceptions but overall, it has been a good run since the first Iron Man.
And that’s the movie that Ant-Man most feels like – it’s the origin story of a man in a suit which grants him super powers – and for most part, director Peyton Reed (who took over from Edgar Wright) has done a commendable job in keeping the movie well afloat despite its problems in pre-production.
The difference between Iron Man and Ant-Man is that with the latter, there is now a vast backstory to contextualise the tale. This applies especially to this Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Ant-Man, where we now discover that Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne had been working with SHIELD (as Ant-Man & Wasp) in the 80s. Also, instead of Yellowjacket being one of the manifestations of Pym’s insanity, it is a separate (villainous character, altogether). All this serves to give greater depth to the MCU.
In addition, there is a marked lighter tone to Ant-Man that is similar to that encountered on Guardians of the Galaxy, which puts Paul Rudd (Scott Lang) right in his element. The means by which Pym (Michael Douglas) recruits Lang as the new Ant-Man is cleverly handled with the first sequence where Lang shrinks down, a wonder to behold! Evangeline Lilly provides Lang with an apt foil – as Hope Van Dyne (Pym’s estranged daughter) and the possibility of another female Marvel superhero (stay for the post-credits scene!).
There is an unevenness about how the film ends, which is not helped by the two post-credits scenes but perhaps that’s the idea – to make us geeks feel like the MCU is one ever continuing story. For what its worth, Ant-Man has earned its right to be part of the tale’s unfolding.
Last time out, Fox botched its characterisation of Dr Doom – one of the most iconic of super-villains – and that, and it’s rather campy approach marked its first attempt at adapting Marvel’s Fantastic Four as a failure. Watching this final trailer for this FF reboot, it is clear that the critical point of acceptance will once again hinge on the handling of Doom.
Apart from that, based on the trailers so far, this reboot looks like a serviceable origin story, using the Ultimate Fantastic Four series as a strong inspiration. In a year of mega-blockbusters like Fast and Furious 7, Jurassic World and Terminator: Genisys letting us down on the basic story front, hopefully Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four will surprise us all with a solid plot and characters, even as Marvel Studios itself roots for it to fail.
There have been doubts about Warner Bros throwing in a Suicide Squad movie adaptation so quickly in the mix but they wanted to different themselves from Marvel Studios, then this is certainly one way to do it! A super-villain team-up? How more contrasting to The Avengers can you get? From the trailer, it is clear who will getting the most fan attention – Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and of course, Jared Leto’s Joker. Looks like an interesting ride, if nothing else.
Zack Snyder has well and truly thrown down the gauntlet for DC superheroes with this new Batman v Superman trailer!
The trailer explains the background behind why the Dark Knight would want to take down the Man of Tomorrow and in doing so gives a solid middle finger to all the trolls who have been bitching about the third act of Man of Steel all this time!
There are great shots of Wonder Woman to savour as well and it does look like B v S is going to give Captain America: Civil War a good fight for superhero movie of 2016.
The Terminator (1984) was a game-changer in scifi genre movies, stringing together themes that have inspired countless other movies. Every succeeding sequel has failed to match the brilliance of the original, even if the first sequel (Judgment Day) is still rated very highly. But since director James Cameron left the franchise, the quality of the work has been shoddy and Genisys might be the worst. Primarily because it is such an obviously cynical attempt to appeal to the franchise faithful.
In that light, perhaps it’s no surprise that Genisys fails artistically and creatively, to justify its existence whatsoever. At least one might argue that the third (Rise of the Machines) and the fourth (Salvation) instalments were genuine attempts to continue the narrative. Genisys, however, is a complete mess – functioning as some kind of misguided collage where time travel is utilised as a device to mangle the original storyline beyond recognition.
It is not cleverly done at all – it’s just a convenient excuse to get killing machines into battle and throw issues of continuity out of the window AND above all, exploit a very recognisable brand name! The producers have indicated their confidence in the new retcon with subsequent sequels to be released in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Ant-Man opens on 16th July and might be a good indicator of where Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is headed. This new international trailer (from Japan) highlights a little bit of our protagonist Scott Lang’s back story and also some history regarding Hank Pym and the Ant-Man suit.
By all accounts, it appears that Ant-Man is set up to take over from Iron Man in certain ways even as Robert Downey Jr winds down his MCU involvement. This movie is looking funny, exciting and a key MCU jumping point. Expecting the post-credits scenes to be epic!
You see that image above? That’s really what modern day blockbusters have done with plot, characterisation and narrative logic. Gobbled it all up in the name of box office green. Special effects rather than good writing create ‘tension’ and ‘drama’. This visual feast has audiences going ga-ga over the empty spectacle while ignoring plot holes & shallow one-dimensional characters. But it’s all okay, it’s only a movie so relax, why don’t you?
Well, remember that you reap what you sow. All the box office millions earned by movies like Jurassic World and less we forget, the Transformers franchise only leads to more similar movies. As it is, movie studios are terrified about releasing ‘genre’ films unless it’s a sequel, reboot or book/comic/TV adaptation and the mega-success of Jurassic World simply cements that opinion.
There’s little point in going into these issues in detail but suffice to say that: –
1. Bryce Dallas Howard’s character spends the entire film in high heels whilst running and battling dinosaurs.
2. The manner in which the ‘evil’ dinosaur is defeated by the ‘good’ dinosaurs is preposterous.
But why bother about making sense when you can make US$500 million in a weekend instead?
If you know nothing about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, I suggest that you swot up before watching Love & Mercy. Cuz it will get bewildering. Or maybe that’s the point of it all!
This biopic of Wilson elects to focus on two very specific periods in the singer-songwriter’s life. First, from about 1964 – 1967, where Wilson had suffered an anxiety attack and ‘retired’ from live performances to concentrate on recording and producing resulting in the masterpiece Pet Sounds LP and the failed attempt to delivered the radical Smile album (whereupon Wilson basically withdrew from the world). Second, in the 80s regarding his guardianship under dubiously abusive therapist Eugene Landy and his budding romance with Melinda Ledbetter (whom he would later marry).