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Apr 012015
 

ultron

Seriously folks, the real movie season begins for film buffs on the 23rd when Avengers: Age of Ultron opens!

And just like the first quarter of the year, it’s slim pickings. But here are a couple of movies to consider this month.

Based on brand recognition alone, the 7th movie in the Fast and Furious franchise – viz. Furious 7 (opening on the 2nd) – is bound to be a big hit.

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Mar 102015
 

chappie

DIRECTED BY NEILL BLOMKAMP
WRITTEN BY NEILL BLOMKAMP AND TERRI TATCHELL
STARRING SHARLTO COPLEY, DEV PATEL, JOSE PABLO CANTILLO, HUGH JACKMAN AND SIGOURNEY WEAVER.

A movie about a sentient robot is nothing new, of course. To the credit of its director, Chappie starts out as a distinctive and unique take on the subject matter. Despite early lapses in logic – why is it so easy for rival engineers Deon Wilson (Patel) and Vincent Moore (Jackman) to mess around with their employer Tetravaal’s assets – there is a certain naive charm about Copley’s Chappie and its relationship with the colourful gangsters (Ninja, Yolandi and America). The sequences where Ninja and America teach Chappie to commit crimes is frankly hilarious.

But the moment Moore activates his diabolical plan, Blomkamp throws logic to the wind and the convenient plot devices stack up in the manner that was too prevalent on Blomkamp’s last movie, Elysium. The movie then no longer makes any sense – again the utter lack of security at Tetravaal is ridiculous – with the added silliness of the whole consciousness transfer being the last straw that reduces this initially promising scifi flick into a steaming pile of crap.

The thought of Blomkamp screwing around with the Aliens franchise next is an extremely disturbing one. Sigh.

Feb 282015
 

Nimoy

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
 

Chappie poster

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 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!

FF-3

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.

FF-1

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

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Feb 212015
 

Marvel_Studios

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)

IronMan-1

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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Feb 172015
 

JupiterJones

Written and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowskis.
Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean & Eddie Redmayne.

Where do I begin? The fact that Jupiter Ascending had two previous release dates in 2014 before settling on February 2015 was already cause of concern. Add to that the dodgy trailer hinted of a ridiculously fantastical plot, lame dialogue and over the top epic sequences did not help comfort the unease.

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Feb 132015
 

kingsman

Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn
Starring Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine.

This movie adaptation of the Mark Millar – Dave Gibbons comic (co-plotted by Vaughn) has a lot going for it. Strong cast, comic timing and fantastical settings. Underpinned by Millar’s stock in trade themes of the unlikely hero being thrust into an unimaginable new world (previously explored in Kick Ass and Wanted).

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Jan 302015
 

Vice_poster

VICE
Directed by Brian A. Miller
Starring Thomas Jane and Bruce Willis.

B-grade scifi of the worst kind. Nothing even makes any sense whatsoever.
Premise – VICE is the ultimate paradise, where patrons can commit any crime they want without fear – as the offenses are perpetuated on androids (or “artificials” as they are called in the movie).

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Jan 292015
 

Jupiter-Ascending

And January is almost over! Time to ponder the coming movies in February 2015.

5th February 

STILL ALICE
Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland
Starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart

Another movie about suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Nothing frightens more than losing one’s memory permanently. Moore is nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this one, so her performance is probably worth the price of admission. Get the hankies out though.

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Jan 292015
 

Inherent_Vice_film_poster

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom.

Life is a convoluted mess. Well, it is for the protagonist of Thomas Pychon’s 2009 novel Inherent Vice. This ambitious film adaptation by Anderson stays relatively faithful to the novel in all its complicated glory. That protagonist, Larry “Doc” Sportello (Phoenix) is captured brilliantly by the performance of Pheonix.

Sportello is a pothead/a private investigator drawn into a complex web of crime and paranoia set in 1970 Los Angeles. Clocking in at 148 minutes, Inherent Vice is not an easy film to follow, with a plot that meanders a great deal and adds new characters almost every other scene, straining the mind to the limit to understand.

Thankfully, Anderson lightens the mood considerably with numerous sight gags amongst the sometimes prolonged conversation pieces. It might take a little time to absorb everything (who is this again and how is he/she crucial to the plot?) but it’s worth the time and effort. Just about.

In the cinemas now.

Jan 272015
 

Screen shot 2015-01-27 at PM 10.43.23

Finally, the first teaser trailer for the new Fantastic Four movie arrives and frankly, it’s looks fine to me. After all the trepidation of the supposedly ‘un-superheroic’ approach of the reboot, the movie comes across like a Warren Ellis comic book, specifically Ultimate Fantastic Four!

Of course, the movie could still suck but at this point of time, I am looking forward to see what Josh Trank has come up with. Check it out!

Jan 262015
 

The_Imitation_Game_poster

Directed by Morten Tyldum.
Written by Graham Moore.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Matthew Goode and Keira Knightley. 

Before discussing the merits of the film, it was ironic to discover that the movie was rated NC-16 for “homosexual references” in Singapore. Thus, despite receiving a royal pardon for his criminal conviction for gross indecency, Turing is judged again in this risible manner. Ah well.

Apart from that, there is nothing notably negative about The Imitation Game. The actors are all on their game – Cumberbatch delivers a stunning performance. The narrative jumps around from time to time in a satisfying non-linear fashion. And the grand injustice meted out to Turing before his death is given its due as a horrifying third act.

The message behind The Imitation Game is clear enough – prejudice is inhuman and those that stand out as different should be treasured not vilified. Of course, much of the human drama is glamorized for effect – Turing’s role in breaking the Enigma code and the relationship with Joan Clarke (Knightley) – but necessary to design an effective plot.

An enjoyable ‘message’ film that really should be seen by everyone from 12 upwards.

Jan 222015
 

american_sniper2

Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Written by Jason Hall. 
Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller.

So will the real American Sniper please stand up? The film, a biographical account of Navy SEALs sharpshooter Chris Kyle –  deadliest marksman in U.S. military history – has split US audiences down the middle. From liberals decrying it as jingoistic propaganda to conservatives hailing it as a tribute to a deserving war hero.

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Jan 182015
 

Whiplash_poster

Written & directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons & Paul Reiser.

Whiplash – the story of Andrew Neiman (Teller), a young jazz drummer who attends one of the best music schools in the country under the tutelage of Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), the school’s fearsome maestro of jazz – has been the surprise package for the Academy Awards, garnering Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Simmons.

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Jan 172015
 

Blackhat_poster

Directed by Michael Mann.
Written by Morgan Davis Foehl & Michael Mann.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Viola Davis, Wang Leehom. 

When watching Blackhat, one gets the strong sense that this was a lost opportunity. Twenty years ago, Mann confirmed his credentials as master of the crime thriller with Heat.

Blackhat – with its international cast, cybercrime subject matter and diverse Asian locations – had the potential to define a new form for a new global generation. Unfortunately, instead it turns out merely to be a cash grab by Legendary Pictures and Mann himself.

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Jan 162015
 

Birdman_poster

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr & Armando Bo.
Starring  Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts.

Nominated for a total of nine Oscars, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is surrealist black comedy at its best. Mocking the artifice of celebrity and the entertainment industry, Birdman is a fascinating inside look into the absurd insanity of entertainment world as perceived by its protagonist, Riggan Thomson.

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Jan 152015
 

FF-pic

For a scifi-superhero movie that is slated for release later this year (August), virtually no advance information of the new Fantastic Four movie is available online except a couple of interviews, a plot summary and this fuzzy photograph (above) of the cast when shooting wrapped last year!

Yes, this reboot of the comic book that launched the Marvel Universe itself is only seven months away and the silence over at Fox is deafening. And can anyone blame Fox? After all, the initial buzz of having Chronicle’s Josh Trank helm the movie dissipated quickly when the cast was announced (Miles Teller as Reed Richards, Kate Mara as Sue Storm, Michael B Jordan as Johnny Storm and Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm).

The last two choices were particularly controversial for obvious reasons as fans opined that physically, both Jordan and Bell did not resemble the characters whatsoever. The situation worsened when actors admitted that the movie would not be faithful to the source material – Mara confirmed that director Trank advised her NOT to read the comic book before shooting began!

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Jan 142015
 

TOA-still

Directed by Ethan Spaulding 
Written by Heath Corson
Starring (voices of) Matt Lanter, Sam Witwer, Jason O’Mara, Shemar Moore, Jerry O’Connell, Christopher Gorham, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Sean Astin, Harry Lennix.

Ostensibly a sequel to Justice League War – the animated movie introduction to the New 52 continuity – Throne of Atlantis is a very loose adaptation of the storyline that ran through the Justice League and Aquaman comics from 2012-2013.

Considering that Aquaman was replaced with Shazam (the original Captain Marvel) in War, it’s clear that Throne was to be used as an introduction to Aquaman. Thus, major changes to the comic book plot were made that greatly weakened the storyline. (AND seriously, why change Mera’s costume?)

Screen shot 2015-01-14 at PM 05.52.57

In that context, it is recommended that you skip this movie completely and go straight to the source material.

However, if you do feel the need to compare and contrast.

Jan 132015
 

Screen shot 2015-01-13 at AM 10.20.44

The 2nd trailer for the much anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron is out now. Although Ultron is set up to the villain of the piece, it does appear – based on this trailer – that internal strife within the Avengers ranks is the real enemy. If so, this plot point would lead us nicely into Captain America: Civil War.

Date of release: 30th April (Singapore)

Jan 122015
 

The-Babadook-Poster

Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent.
Starring Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman.

Who or what is The Babadook? In the context of this horror film, it is the supernatural creature that terrorizes widow Amelia and her young son, Samuel. The monster turns up mysteriously in Samuel’s cupboard as the titular character in a pop-up book entitled Mister Babadook.

From that point in the film, the Babadook slowly imposes its frightening agenda on mother and son, till it’s an open confrontation that does not – to Kent’s credit – resolve in a clichéd manner.

From the psychological angle, perhaps the monster represents unresolved issues that Amelia has failed to address, concerning the untimely death of her husband and Samuel’s father.

Within the virtually one location premise (the residence), Kent delivers genuine scares without having to resort too much violence or gore (or special effects) – the terror is induced very much by pacing, cinematography and music and for the most part, work very well.

Essential viewing for horror movie fans.

Jan 102015
 

Theory_of_Everything

Directed by James Marsh.
Written by Anthony McCarten.
Starring Eddie Redmayne & Felicity Jones. 

The Theory of Everything is a beautiful film. Beautifully shot, beautifully scored but ultimately, it is a story about two beautiful people who had to reinvent themselves and their relationship constantly in the face of challenging life circumstances.

The acclaimed theoretical physicist Stephen J Hawking (Redmayne) is by now quite well-known even in pop culture circles. What is less known perhaps is the journey that both Hawking and his former wife Jane Wilde Hawking (Jones) took to make him the icon that he became despite suffering from debilitating motor neuron disease.

Director Marsh treats both sides of the story diplomatically and sympathetically, although perhaps – especially in the third act – at the expense of narrative clarity. Events are rushed somewhat and real life details are fudged to keep the characters on the good side of the audience.

Whilst Redmayne’s stellar performance is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime distinction, equal credit must go to Jones for portraying Jane’s stoic determination to support her husband. Which is fitting, considering screenwriter McCarten based his screenplay on Jane’s memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen. 

In the final analysis, it is clear that the film is as much about her as it is about him and the message of the movie is summed up in Hawking’s quote – “Where there’s life, there’s hope….”

The Theory of Everything is playing in the cinemas now.

Jan 102015
 

Seduced-poster

Directed by James Toback.
Starring Alec Baldwin.

The premise of Seduced and Abandoned is simple enough. Director James Toback and actor Alec Baldwin try to sell a film concept at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, and basically make a documentary about the experience.

Along the way they interview influential directors like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski & Bernardo Bertolucci to get their takes on Cannes and the movie industry as a whole. The duo also talk to actors Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger and James Caan.

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