May 1st, 2015. Nuff said!
In bygone days, it was common for superheroes to be placed in life threatening situations with readers being confident that the hero would somehow escape the clutches of death. But that concept was first challenged in X-Men #137 (1980) when Jean Grey (aka Marvel Girl/Phoenix) took her own life in order to protect the universe from the Phoenix force that possessed her. In an unforgettable sequence, Jean Grey paid the ultimate price in order to save the universe.
Directed by Gary Shore.
Starring Luke Evans, Sarah Gordon, Dominic Cooper & Samantha Banks.
There was a time Dracula was portrayed as a monster. Nothing suave or romantic about him, for sure. But of course, in these modern times, the vampire has become a sex symbol and Dracula is the King of Vampires! Eschewing any reliance on Bram Stoker’s classic storyline, the producers of Untold have opted instead to create an origin story for Dracula set in the 15th century. A good idea that has seldom been examined in the movies but sadly, the execution is an absolute letdown.
Directed by Omori Tatsushi.
Starring Eita, Matsuda Ryuhei, Maki Yoko, Masatoshi Nagase, Kora Kengo, Maro Akaji, Omori Nao, Iwasaki Miku.
Caught this excellent Japanese movie’s world premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Brilliant story telling in a matter of fact style. The plot itself started out slowly enough but once the key factors were introduced, the movie felt like an emotional roller-coaster in slo-mo. Actually, the 2nd movie of a trilogy, Disconcerto revolves around the antics of odd couple Tada (Eita) and Gyoten (Ryuhei) as they try to come to terms with their past and deal with the pressing issues of the present.
Director Tatsushi keeps the sophisticated narrative simple whilst revealing details about the lead characters bit by bit. There is an inherent sadness in both leads that impacts their actions. Significantly, their individual plans are interrupted by little children, a lesbian couple, a cult, protesting old folks and the Yakuza! Despite all that, the duo still manage to plough through life in their inimitable manner.
But ultimately, it is the relationship between Tada and Gyoten that anchors the movie well – in this respect, one can look forward to the next installment of Tada’s Do-it-all House with anticipation.
TIME TRAVEL: in the beginning…
All that discussion about X-Men: Days of Future Past made me think about how much I love time travel in movies. Even though it can be a major pain in the arse somethings (in the wrong hands) but overall, some of my favourite movies have involved time travel in some shape or form.
My very first exposure to this scifi concept was in the 60s when as a child, I watched two seminal time travel films on TV. The first one was of course, The Time Machine. Released in 1960, this loose adaptation of HG Wells’ classic scifi novel by director George Pal is still one of the best time travel movies (forget about that awful remake). The movie ending played on my mind as a child and I remember not being able to sleep as I analyzed the movie over and over again. Brilliant. Here’s a video review of the DVD below.
SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR
Directed by Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller. Starring Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levett, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis and Eva Green.
I loved Sin City. Frank Miller‘s ground-breaking comic book series, that is. Miller stripped down film noir to its bare essentials and presented them in cutting edge fashion, winning several Eisner & Harvey Awards in the 90s as due recognition.
However, when adapted to film, the very noir elements that made the comic book innovative in the 90s look positively banal and farcical now. Granted, this approach seemed fresh (to the average film goer) in 2005 when the first Sin City movie was released but it has certainly worn out its welcome.
The voice-over narration (a staple of film noir, of course) comes off the worst in this sequel when the characters give flowery descriptions of people, objects and events we can see clearly, without the need for embellishment. All irony and contrast is totally lost in this context.
Everybody seems to be over-acting and this becomes unintentionally comical after a while – any scene with Jessica Alba comes across as ridiculous – even while she is cutting up her face! Eva Green titular (emphasis added) characterization is a failure – though she is definitely nude most of the time, her ‘wicked’ demeanor makes her deception of the men around her utterly implausible.
Overall, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a disaster – you might enjoy the movie for its visual style, the unintentional laughs and maybe its star power but that only lasts a very short time before you start hoping for the film to end.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is in the cinemas now with a R21 rating.
Regular PoP visitors will be aware of the fact that I am a huge Bowie fan and was greatly disappointed when I missed the David Bowie Is exhibitions organized by the Victoria & Albert Museum, when I was in London last year with TypeWriter.
So imagine my delight when I learned of a documentary about the exhibition that not only highlighted its various exhibits but also included various experts chiming in with personal experiences and opinions on the influence of Bowie on modern pop culture.
At the same time, it felt me with grave regret at missing the exhibition and hoping for a chance to get a crack at it one day in the future. But in the meantime, this documentary is a splendid way to whet the appetite. In any case, the documentary is essential for all Bowie fans and any serious scholar of art and pop culture.
Tickets are now available for online purchase at over 80 cinemas across the U.S. The film is scheduled to screen on one day, Tuesday, September 23, 2014, with additional cinemas being added to the list on a regular basis. Simultaneously, the V&A exhibition in London will be opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (MCA) on that same Tuesday as well.
MARVEL STUDIOS: PHASE ONE & TWO RETROSPECTIVE
Ten films that re-defined the super-hero movies. Next – The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Can hardly wait!
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Directed by James Gunn. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper.
I must confess that when Marvel first announced a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I was incredulous. How could they possibly make an obscure team operating in outer space work? However, from the moment I saw the first proper trailer, I just knew that GOTG might well be the best comic book movie ever. I loved the way James Gunn approached the movie – as a fun, light-hearted romp of epic proportions. Using classic pop songs also did not hurt its appeal as its soundtrack (eg. 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love”, The Raspberries’ “Go All the Way” and Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)).
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Directed by Matt Reeves. Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldham & Keri Russell.
The original Planet of the Apes film might well have been the first scifi movie I had ever seen back when I was abut seven. I quickly became a fan and watched every single sequel and even the TV series obsessively. PotA was a cautionary tale about man’s self-destruction and the rise of the intelligent apes to replace man as the dominant species on Earth. The franchise lost steam around 1975 but was revived in a risible remake helmed by Tim Burton.
Back in 2011, the franchise was rebooted with director Rupert Wyatt taking a different narrative starting point, in effect re-writing the origin story of the entire premise. Personally, I thought that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was competent but nothing spectacular, although the motion capture work (especially by Serkis – as ape leader Caesar) was ground-breaking, to say the least.
Apart from his somewhat diminutive stature, the late great Ronnie James Dio was the quintessential metal frontman, even laying claim to pioneering the use of the ‘horns-up’ gesture (though a certain Gene Simmons would quibble with that claim). Little doubt though that Dio, with bands like Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio, was responsible for some of the most iconic hard rock songs ever. And this is clearly evident on this previously unreleased concert film from two decades ago, which documented a reformed Dio performing in support of its Strange Highways album.
The quality of the concert film might not grainy but it is exciting to watch Dio not only play its best known numbers like “Stand Up and Shout”, “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and “Holy Divers” but throw in a couple of Black Sabbath (“The Mob Rules” and “Heaven and Hell”) and Rainbow (“The Man on the Silver Mountain”) tunes as well. There’s a bonus of behind the scenes the footage which is perfunctory at best.
Absolutely essential for hard rock lovers!
It’s a small world, after all!
When I saw Dublin sextet Buffalo Sunn play at Beer Market for Music Matters Live ’14, I was entranced by their wondrous approximation of country-folk-rock and post-punk styles into a pleasing whole. Having four brothers in the lineup – the musical Paxton men (Daniel the songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist, Neil on keys, guitar and backing vocals, Conor on keys and guitar and Ruairi on bass) – sure helps in producing those heavenly harmonies. Together with Donagh O’Brien on drums and Patrick McHugh on vocals and guitar, the Paxton brothers as Buffalo Sunn made for a formidable band, as many in the audience at Music Matters Live found out.
On a personal note, I had the chance to talk to the band’s management team (Elvera and James Butler) and discovered that the band are mates with members of Pugwash, whom I had met last year in London! In that light, I felt it appropriate to make available the recording of my conversations with the band last week in the Green Room at Music Matters Live.
First off, we talked about Sweet Jane and similarities with The Beach Boys…
Next, the band discussed why it was important for them to play in Asia…
Is it a good time to be a musician? The band weigh in with their thoughts on how technological developments have impacted their music…
We wrapped up with a discussion on the Buffalo Sunn music videos on YouTube and the master plan for world domination…
Well, that’s it!
Look out for Buffalo Sunn’s debut album coming soon. In the meantime, check out the music video of the latest single, “By Your Side” below.
Buy on iTunes http://tinyurl.com/m2croya
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
Directed by Bryan Singer. Starring Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and many more.
Well, for once, the hype was justified. X-Men: Days of Future Past is no doubt one of the biggest comic book movie adaptations ever, not only for its epic scope but also for its large cast of characters. Essentially a sequel to X-Men: First Class with the younger (1973) versions of Professor X, Magneto, Mystique and the Beast joined by the original X-Men movie characters i.e. Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Storm, Colossus and older versions of Professor X and Magneto.
Despite the potential challenges that such a large cast provides and rather distasteful previous outing for the original X-Men movie characters (i.e. X-Men: The Last Stand), director Singer not only averts disaster but delivers a widescreen heartfelt superhero film that erases the atrocity that was X-Men: The Last Stand and quite like the Star Trek reboots, wipes the slate clean so that the X-franchise can begin anew. No mean feat.
One gets the sense that Singer wanted to make things right after abandoning these characters for Superman Returns and allowing X-Men: The Last Stand to tarnish the reputation of our merry band of mutants. There are action sequences of awe and humor that need to be seen more than once (Quicksilver anyone?) but there are also intimate character moments where hearts are touched and tough decisions are made in the name of the greater good. Seen together with X-Men: First Class, there is a powerful emotional resonance amongst the characters that shines through.
The acting is of the highest order and that is to expected when you consider the calibre of the talent involved. Kudos to the 15,000 involved in this stellar production and one can now only wait with bated breath for the final installment in this particular trilogy – X-Men: Apocalypse. Don’t miss this.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is showing in the cinemas now.
What more can I say? Against all conventional thinking, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy just might be the best comic book movie ever. Well, based on the amazing trailers so far, in any case. Expectations are high for 1st August!
Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen and Bryan Cranston.
Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich re-imagined the legendary Japanese monster as a female creature attacking New York City to nest its young. Based on the trailers, it did seem that Edwards’ Godzilla might follow that same path. But thankfully, Edwards movie takes a totally different tack and by the end, Godzilla is considered the “King of the Monsters” and a “saviour” of sorts.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Andrew Garfield, Jamie Foxx and Emma Stone
Based on the trailers & promotional materials, the producers of Amazing Spider-Man 2 had indulged in misdirection to suggest that Spidey would be fighting THREE villains in this film viz. Electro (Foxx), Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and Rhino (Paul Giamatti). In that respect, there were concerns that the film seemed too similar to Sam Raimi’s flawed Spider-Man 3 which was bogged down by THREE villains as well.
SPIDER-MAN VS X-MEN
Super-heroes are massive. Especially Marvel super-heroes. Both Fox’s X-Men and Sony’s Spider-Man franchises have been incredibly lucrative: X-Men has grossed $1,065,460,187 and Spider-Man, $1,375,853,166. And this May, the two franchises go head to head, who will come out tops? Our bet is on X-Men: Days of Future Past (which opens in Singapore on 22nd May). The star power on the movie will more or less guarantee box office success, and based on the final trailer below, might have a good story behind it as well.
What else can you say about Tommy? Well, if you are a diehard classic rock fan, then this documentary endeavours to be all you really need to know about The Who‘s famous rock opera. And the documentary certainly spares no detail in getting the story right. Interviews with survivors who were instrumental the creation of the album – Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Chris Stamp (ex-manager), Bob Pridden (sound engineer), Mike McInnerney (cover artist) – provide the historical background for how the album came about, the individual tracks themselves and the post-release impact.
THE ZERO THEORUM
Directed by Terry Gilliam. Starring Christoph Waltz, Lucas Hedges, Mélanie Thierry, David Thewlis and Matt Damon
Director Terry Gilliam has called The Zero Theorum the final part of a dystopian satire trilogy or “Orwellian triptych” begun with 1985’s Brazil and continued with 1995’s 12 Monkeys. This time round, the story centres on Qohen Leth (Waltz), a reclusive computer genius working on a formula to determine whether life holds meaning. It’s clear to anyone who has seen these three movies that Gilliam shares the same concerns that Orwell had – the oppression of the individual by totalitarian organizations, the loss of personal liberties due to the role of technology in enabling oppressive governments to monitor and control their citizens.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
(Directed by Anthony & James Russo. Starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford & Sebastian Stan)
Finally, a Phase 2 Marvel movie knocks one out of the park! Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World had not quite hit the heights of Avengers and thus it was left to Captain America: The Winter Soldier to deliver the goods.
Billed as the biggest superhero movie ever produced, Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past packs two generations of X-Men in a loose adaptation of Uncanny X-Men #141-142 (1980). Based on the two trailers already seen and the previous X-movies, it’s obvious that changes to the original stories is a given. The most one can hope for is that director Bryan Singer keeps faith with the core of the original stories, does not include too many lame characters (like X-Men: The Last Stand) and keeps the plot convolution to a bare minimum. Here’s the latest trailer for your viewing pleasure.
Opens 22nd May.
We are coming close to a steady release of anticipated geek flicks as the traditional summer blockbuster season eases itself over the horizon. Here are trailers for four of the movies geeks might want to check out in the coming weeks.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
SAVING THE SINGAPORE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
Copyright piracy is not new. Back in the 60s and 70s, this was rampant in Singapore. We had pirated LPs and cassettes selling at a fraction of what the original releases cost. Also, pirates were able to compile hit songs across various record labels – something the labels could not compete with. Also, many record stores would offer copying services to their customers, providing mixtapes at an affordable cost.
300: Rise Of An Empire (Directed by Noam Murro)
To be honest, I had low expectations for this film. When it was first announced, I felt that there was absolutely no need for a sequel to 300 and this was simply a case of the studio trying to cash in on the original’s success (almost half a billion dollars worldwide). To all intents and purposes, it seemed to me that creator Frank Miller had been coerced into producing a sequel to 300 (viz. Xerxes), which remains unpublished. All of which spelled TROUBLE.
The sequel to 300, Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel opens in Singapore tomorrow. 300: Rise of an Empire is based on Miller’s as yet unpublished graphic novel Xerxes and focuses on the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC. Noam Murro is the director whilst Snyder is involved as co-writer and producer.
Check out the latest trailer below.