REEL TO REAL | DRAMA : WONDER WHEEL [REVIEW]

By Yong Shu Hoong

While Wonder Wheel bears a lot of writer-director Woody Allen’s finger-smudges – from the plain and simple opening credits, and the use of old songs on the soundtrack, to the featuring of big-name Hollywood actors – it’s unfortunately one of his middling works to be parked under those Woody Allen films that are more cursory than noteworthy.

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REEL TO REAL : BASED ON A TRUE STORY [REVIEW]

By Yong Shu Hoong

First of all, a declaration: I might have been slightly in love with Eva Green ever since she graced the big screen as Bond girl Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale (2006). So despite some bad reviews plaguing Based on a True Story, I decided to watch this latest film of hers, which is billed as a psychological thriller and directed by Roman Polanski (perhaps a name you’d resist, given the current #MeToo climate). Oh, and it’s in French too, so you’ll get the chance to watch Green act in her native tongue.

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REEL TO REAL: THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL

THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL - 2015 FILM STILL - Pictured: Kristen Wiig as Charlotte Goetze, Bel Powley as Minnie Goetze and Alexander Skarsgard as Monroe - Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL – 2015 FILM STILL – Pictured: Kristen Wiig as Charlotte Goetze, Bel Powley as Minnie Goetze and Alexander Skarsgard as Monroe – Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Synopsis
A 2015 American coming-of-age drama written and directed by Marielle Heller, based on the graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures by Phoebe Gloeckner. The film stars Bel Powley as a 15-year-old girl (Minnie) who becomes sexually active by starting a relationship with her mother’s boyfriend (played by Alexander Skarsgård).

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GEEK OUT! ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS

The new TV season is upon us geeks – even as Fear The Walking Dead and The Strain end their respective storylines for the time being (both will definitely be back), The Leftovers returns.

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Considering how popular The Walking Dead is, it’s no surprise that this spin-off did well in terms of viewership. Fear the Walking Dead was a disappointment though and never got near to the intensity, drama and characterisation that its parent series managed in its powerful debut season (which was also only six episodes).

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The Strain‘s second season was rather mixed. Plotlines were left dangling, women characters were killed off & still we are nowhere closer to resolving key issues.

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Now, I enjoyed the polarising quasi-religious HBO series The Leftovers and am glad to report that Season 2 is off to a great start by introducing a new town and a new family into the storyline before more familiar faces turn up. As usual, all the weird elements remain intact – goat sacrifice in a diner, anyone? – with ominous undertones bubbling under the surface wonderfully.

FEAR OF THE WALKING DEAD – BACK TO THE EGG

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The Walking Dead is one of the most successful shows currently on television and with good reason. It is a smart, character-driven drama that has captivated audiences by constantly developing their characters and letting us become invested in their stories as they journey through the zombie apocalypse. It seems that AMC is hoping to make lightning strike twice by creating a companion series for the popular show entitled Fear the Walking Dead.

Instead of in the south, Fear the Walking Dead takes place in Los Angeles in the several-week period that Rick Grimes was in a coma and is unable to witness the slowly descending horror. We are able to watch how things fall apart in a major metropolitan area as it crumbles under the weight of the hordes of the undead.

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FAERYVILLE – A FAIRY TALE OF NIGHTMARISH REAL WORLD CONSEQUENCES

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The problem with Tzang Merwyn Tong’s FAERYVILLE – if one can even call it a problem – is that the movie might be too ambitious for its own good.

FAERYVILLE is a movie with a strong message, in fact there are quite a few to go around. These themes are expressed in the context of a surrealistic satire on modern life. The title refers to an imaginary fairy tale like setting and in particular, a tertiary educational institution.

Within this context, there are two main competing factions/power bases viz. the haves and have nots. Tzang wants us initially to sympathise with the Nobodies, a group of outsiders (ostensibly led by Poe – wonderfully played by Lyon Sim) who spend their time being rebellious by committing illegal albeit harmless pranks. The group is joined by the mysterious Laer (a moody performance from Aaron Samuel Yong) and then the stunts turn dangerous and events spiral out of control.

The group’s antics are contrasted with the bullying tactics of the Calvary (the frat boys equivalent of the college) who lord their authority over everyone else – seemingly with the acquiesce of its principal  – which often turns very dark without warning. This conflict invariably and inevitably leads to disaster, tied in inexplicably with former anarchist Belle, before panning out into a disturbing conclusion.

Trying to find a delicate balance between art and commerce, Tzang has had to cast his actors carefully (eye candy is in abundance – look out for Tanya Graham and Jade Griffin) and mix up his high concepts with highly charged moments (including several explosions and sexual scenes) but without compromising the underlying message, where possible. Overall, I believe Tzang has succeeded in creating a thought-provoking movie but fear that it might somewhat fly over the heads of most people in his own homeland.

Which is ironic considering that much of FAERYVILLE is inspired by growing up in Singapore but what is the saying about a prophet not being recognised in his own hometown? A brave and remarkable vision that might be a little obscured by technical and budgetary issues but for the true seeker, there is much hidden treasure to discover in FAERYVILLE.


FAERYVILLE will open in Singapore on 26 May 2015, exclusively at Filmgarde Bugis+
Tickets on sale from 7 May, www.fgcineplex.com.sg

For more information, visit www.faeryville.com
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GEEK OUT! THE WALKING DEAD – FROM DESPAIR TO WHERE?

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Am beginning to despair at The Walking Dead. Group characters are dropping like flies in Season 5. A bit of an overkill, I would argue. Yes, I understand the dynamics of this dystopian future reality but it’s still ultimately a TV show. It’s almost dark for the sake of being dark. As more is revealed, we discover that Alexandria is not the paradise we imagined (as expected) and in sharp contrast to our group, the Alexandrians are not willing to sacrifice their lives for their fellow man.

With two episodes left till the end of the season, the series is building up to a climax that will most probably end in tears. Who will be left standing? I shudder to think.

THE BOOB TUBE: SCANDAL – THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

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To be honest, after the intense drama over Olivia’s kidnapping, it was hard to imagine how the series could ramp up again after that high. But this episode hints at a whole new ball game, with the introduction of Susan Ross the new Vice-President and Huck’s wife reporting B613 to the Attorney-General, there’s a whiff of something dark and sinister on the horizon.

That all said, it was rather annoying to see Olivia sulking throughout the entire episode. Yes, I get that she suffered through an awful ordeal but you would think she would be used to all the nonsense by now. Or maybe not.

GEEK OUT! THE WALKING DEAD – SEE NO EVIL

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What’s going on? Why are our intrepid gang of survivors acting like the bad guys? How am I supposed to feel about Carol threatening a young child in order to conceal a secret? Are Rick and company totally unable to adapt to normal life and trust anyone now?

These questions and more will plague you as you try to understand the fundamental changes confronting our favourite characters on The Walking Dead. Despite the apparent peace and calm of Alexandria, Rick, Carol and Daryl are expecting the worst and are acting accordingly.

This will all end in tears. It is guaranteed.

THE BOOB TUBE: SCANDAL – REALITY BITES

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After the stress and the pressure of Olivia’s kidnapping, Scandal is brought down to earth with a hard bump with an episode that reflects the recent controversies in Ferguson and New York regarding the killing of unarmed African-American men by the police. Yes, it’s a relatively simple and un-convoluted plot but highly effective. By the end, the viewer will be brought to tears by the emotion of the message. A very strong episode, that does not need too much elaboration.

THE BOOB TUBE: HOUSE OF CARDS SEASON 3 – SHOOT OUT THE LIGHTS

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Much anticipated as it was, Season 3 of Netflix original series, House of Cards was a massive disappointment.

Having fought his way from Speaker to Vice-President to President, it was expected that our protagonist Frank Underwood would bring his own vicious brand of politics onto the biggest stage of all, with all the ensuing drama that implies. Instead, House of Cards 3 was somewhat hijacked by the writers to make Clare Underwood the protagonist and cast Frank Underwood as the villain in his own story. From the moment, she is appointed Ambassador to the UN (a preposterous wrong move that the series never quite recovers from), the writers rely too much on this crutch to generate the drama and conflict between the Underwoods.

All the usual obstacles to Frank’s ambitious machinations were nicely set up to create the appropriate tension and the guilty pleasures fans take in watching Frank succeed (by all means necessary) have always been the highlight of this series. But in the last three episodes, the series took an awful tangent with Clare totally acting out of character and somewhat upsetting all the expectations. To be honest, it was difficult to fathom Clare’s reasoning behind all her actions when compared to the character revealed in Season 1 & 2. Sure, Clare is fiercely independent and Machiavellian in her own right but what are the writers trying to say with her about-face? That women cannot be understood by men? That women are illogical and emotional and will act without just cause, if they did not feel right about something? All rather sexist, in my view.

And what about the whole Doug Stamper sub-plot? What the hell was that about? Again, a distraction and a confusing plot device that ultimately served no purpose. Worst thing about House of Cards 3 was that it ended with a whimper unlike the previous 2 seasons. After 13 episodes, one can only look back and conclude that the writers have run out of ideas and are stretching out the goodwill of the series for whatever it is worth.

*Sigh*

GEEK OUT! THE WALKING DEAD – THE TROUBLE WITH NORMAL

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Our gang of survivors begin to settle in at Alexandria but our favourite characters are waiting for the pin to drop. Who can blame them, after all the trauma that they have been through in the last five seasons? Halfway through this transitional episode Carl tells Rick that he is worried they would get ‘soft’ if they stayed in Alexandria and by the end, Rick is confident that being ‘soft’ is no longer a part of who they are and rather ominously declares that if the inhabitants of Alexandria are not good enough, then they would take over.

There are signs of tensions even in this superficially placid surroundings but one feels that Rick and company are well suited to handle any challenges and ironically, they might prove to be the biggest threat to the well-being and security of Alexandria.  A great turn of events and change of pace that as usual keep the proceedings intriguing. Kudos!

GEEK OUT! 12 MONKEYS – IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT (AND I FEEL FINE)

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Even as I find the leading actors utterly unremarkable (it is obvious they were cast purely for their good looks), I am enjoying Syfy’s re-imagining of 12 Monkeys for its proper exploration of time travel implications. Sure, even that is not perfect but one can appreciate the genuine effort. This episode seems to superficially wrap up the series (it does not of course, in reality) but it was intriguing the manner in which we were led to believe it was. The mechanics of time travel for James Cole (it is all past for him) and Cassandra Raily (living in real time) is that their shared experience may not be linear and that is the beauty of the story-telling. With the various changes in time that Cole is effecting, surely the question must arise is whether there is one timeline or are we witnessing the splintering of various alternate timelines. One suspects that the latter is a tad too sophisticated for a TV audience, even for a scifi drama series but wouldn’t it be nice?

GEEK OUT! HELIX – STILL WATERS RUN DEEP

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The 2nd season of Helix has done very well in shifting focus on different characters and casting as protagonists and antagonists in equal measure depending on particular perspectives. Amongst Alan, Peter, Michael and Amy it was never clear who was the actual villain of the piece. But finally, the role has settled on Michael. Yes the placid, seemingly even-tempered cult leader is actually a 400 year old immortal, who has lost touch with his humanity decades ago and despite appearances to the contrary, appears to be aware of every single machination within his community. Enough to be constantly ahead of the game, so to speak. Rather masterful writing, I must say. Discovering the truth, the CDC team now have to thwart Michael as he executes his horrible endgame.

That all said, it is strange that Julia’s story seems to have fall out of the narrative almost completely. What happened in the 30 years later timeline? Will we get back to that? Too many questions in that respect. But definitely worth finding out!