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Jul 312014
 

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)).

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Jul 112014
 

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.

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Jun 212014
 

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!

 

 

 

May 302014
 

Photo by Emma Hopkins

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

www.buffalosunn.com
www.twitter.com/BUFFALOSUNN
www.facebook.com/BUFFALOSUNN

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May 282014
 

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.

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May 162014
 

GODZILLA
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.

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May 022014
 

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.

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Apr 162014
 

ASM2Wolvie

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.

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Apr 072014
 

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.

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Apr 032014
 

thezerotheorum

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.

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Mar 282014
 

WinterSoldier01

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.

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Mar 252014
 

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.

PoPINIONS

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Mar 192014
 

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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.

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Mar 062014
 

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.

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Mar 052014
 

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.

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Feb 192014
 

To be honest, I was less than impressed when Marvel Studio first announced its intention to make a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The original concept art that accompanied the press release (above) certainly did not help the cause. The main concern was Rocket Raccoon (an intelligent, anthropomorphic raccoon, who is an expert marksman and master tactician!) and the feeling that if the film-makers got Rocket wrong in making him believable, then that would destroy the movie’s credibility.

Of course, so far Marvel Studios have not failed to deliver with each of its films and in bringing in James Gunn (Slither, Super) to helm the first movie adaptation of Marvel’s outer space characters, it revealed an intention to tap into the director’s distinctive quirky style. And this is clearly evident from the first full trailer which presents a comic tone that works very well. I especially like the way that everyone makes fun of Star-Lord’s name.

And… Rocket looks awesome. Take a look!

Guardians of the Galaxy opens on 1st August. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bastita, Bradley Cooper & Vin Diesel.

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Feb 152014
 

JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR

I suppose I am a bit late to DC’s New 52 concept which rebooted the company’s entire superhero line but the very idea repulsed me back then, so you will forgive me if I decided not to indulge when it all went down in 2011. The direct-to-video animated movie, Justice League: War, represents the first movie adaptation of the New 52 series (in particular, Justice League) and thus, I thought it would be an appropriate time to give my 2cts worth on this latest reboot.

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PoP RECOMMENDS: 12 MONKEYS

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Feb 022014
 

12 MONKEYS (1995)
Dir: Terry Gilliam
Starring Bruce Willis, Madeline Stowe, Brad Pitt & Christopher Plummer.

Synopsis: In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet. (IMDB)

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Jan 302014
 

If you have never watched Paul Verhoeven’s classic RoboCop (1987), then you might find this reboot to be entertaining fare. Nothing special but passable movie entertainment nonetheless. Whilst the original film came across as a visceral satire of the role that powerful corporations play in the USA and worldwide, Brazilian director Jose Padilha’s re-imagination renders any such social-political commentary inert and most of the time, his RoboCop comes across as safe, family-friendly entertainment.

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REEL TO REAL

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Jan 172014
 

her-movie-poster

Is Spike Jonze’s Her a geek film? One could argue that it is a scifi movie but the elements are so marginal that in fact it’s probably more of a romantic comedy-drama with superficial scifi tropes. BUT. This last week, I have been speaking to my students about the purpose of setting in a story and I could not help but be distracted by the setting of Her.

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Jan 112014
 

Suffice to say that The Doors is one of the most important rock bands ever and if you’re a rock lover/scholar then one just cannot get enough of this seminal outfit. This DVD strings together The Doors’ use of the visual medium to convey not only commercial messages but also the core values of the band. From its earliest music with awkward TV appearances (John Densmore has hardly enough time to get behind his drums when “Light My Fire” kicks in on American Bandstand!) and innovative music film, The Doors quickly realize the potential of the visual medium as an additional promotional and creative avenue – Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek were film students after all. Bonus material include outtakes and a documentary recounting how The Doors began to use film to highlight their talents. Essential.

Dec 312013
 

Alright. In the booklet insert, there are claims that Caro Emerald‘s music is some unique hybrid of jazz and hip-hop. But clearly, it isn’t! Which is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to bios and press releases that do not tell the truth! C’mon!! At best, Emerald is a jazz-pop singer, and regular visitors will know that that is one ‘genre’ I find particularly risible. It positively reeks of entitlement, designer clothes and 1 percenters. Of course, these are all gross generalizations but I guess you should not have started this argument with this talk of a jazz/hip-hop hybrid then!?!?! Sorry if this is a negative review (something I personally try to avoid) but this is such pretentious bullshit. Avoid.

 

 

 

Dec 302013
 

There’s little doubt that Cliff Richard is the one true Peter Pan of pop music. Now in his early 70s, he still looks and sounds good enough to belt out his famous hits in his own inimitable way. The set list on this performance video is dominated by his earliest numbers, like “Livin’ Doll”, “Move It”, “Young Ones” and “In the Country” etc but as well as the obligatory 70s songs like “Devil Woman”, “We Don’t Talk Anymore” and “Wired for Sound”. Naturally, unless you are a diehard Richard fan, there is nothing much here for even the most studious of rock scholars. It’s all rather glitzy and entertaining – not necessarily a bad thing but Richard represented the musical establishment that the likes of The Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks et al would soon overturn and by now, it’s appeal is limited at best.