GEEK OUT! ARROW – SAY WHAT?

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Now, I will come right out and say that a lot of Oliver’s motivations on “Narda Parbat” make little sense. I mean, after everything that Malcolm Merlyn has done, why the hell would Oliver risk, not only his own life but that of Diggle’s, to save Merlyn? Kudos to John Barrowman for making Malcolm a deliciously despicable villain that nobody but nobody has any sympathy for. C’mon, at least Slade was utterly messed up in the head by the mirakuru in his system. So what’s Malcolm’s excuse?

Anyways, much of this episode feels like a re-tread of the one where Oliver voluntarily challenged Ra’s Al Ghul despite everybody (but Malcolm!) trying to dissuade him and for that reason it falls rather flat most of the way. It does seem that ever since the mid-season finale, Oliver has been guilty of incredibly stupid decision making! And… did anyone expect Oliver and Diggle to succeed, against the bloody League of Assassins? C’mon! That all said, I did not expect that final scene with Ra’s – alright, you got me there. Well done!

By the way, can someone tell me why Atom comes across as a second rate Iron Man? That is NOT the Atom, CW? WTF

GEEK OUT! THE WALKING DEAD – IN RICK WE TRUST

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Possibly one of the best Walking Dead episodes in recent memory and it was achieved without having to kill a major character! All it did was examine the question of trust in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead. After having suffered at the hands of the Governor and the cannibals of Terminus, it’s easy to understand Rick’s reluctance to trust anybody. But what if someone comes along and tells Rick and group that there is a relative paradise waiting for them? Too good to be true? When does playing safe become dangerous? For Michonne, that time to trust a stranger like Aaron is now, and finally Rick has to decide whether he can do so and put his children potentially at risk.

It’s as simple as that but of course, it isn’t simple at all and the tension and drama flows from the audience asking the same question that Rick does – can we trust these people? Well, can we?

THE BOOB TUBE: SCANDAL – DEUS EX MACHINA, MOI?

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Yes, Scandal fans, if you haven’t seen the latest episode, I’ve just spoilt it if for you! But seriously, this was the solution to the ‘how do we get Olivia back?’ conundrum? Don’t really buy it! Sillier still if you consider that after all the brouhaha to demonstrate how much the enemies of America would want to get hold of Olivia, we are led to believe that a couple of new locks on her apartment door would keep her safe and secure? C’mon, these jokers were willing to pay a billion bucks!?! So, what’s to say some other bright spark would try the same trick? See where I’m going with this – how does the world go back to status quo after this?

Best part is that there was no hint of what the next storyline could even be remotely about after this. Which is rare for Scandal. I mean, how could they possibly top this? Over to you, Shonda…

THE BOOB TUBE: SCANDAL – WHAT ARE YOU PREPARED TO DO?

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Despite its increasingly implausible plot lines – this episode involved a bidding war over Olivia Pope amongst rogue nations, terrorist groups and crime lords (!) – the folks behind Scandal managed to imbue a sense of pathos that would seem ridiculous when one consider the stakes these characters are up against. Olivia herself does not play much of a role but she does what she can to try to influence proceedings but fails miserably – which is a fairly new situation for her. Olivia’s loved ones try their level best to get her back, short of moving heaven and earth, though the odd murder or two are committed in the endeavour.

But that is exactly what Scandal fans are looking for – over the top scenarios in this epic-scoped soap opera. There are strong moments of human emotion that litter the apocalyptic landscape of Olivia’s pursuit as the key players attempt to stay a step ahead of the other. This is political drama, lest anyone forgets, and by the end of the episode Olivia’s predicament takes on global significance. The ride ain’t over yet.

GEEK OUT! HELIX S02E04 – A HOLDING PATTERN

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Remember when I said the strong point about the second season of Helix was the two parallel storylines? (present and future) Well, that only holds true if the storylines keep things interesting. And while more information was given about the disease (something to do with bees), the future scenario was awfully cliched even if it contained a kickass fight between Hatake and Julia.

The whole plot with Hatake seemed irrelevant even if his re-appearance initially suggest exciting possibilities. No answers there whatsoever. The episode ends with a cliffhanger as two characters from both timelines lay dying in a pool of their own blood. Yeah yeah nobody’s going to die but at least there’s incentive to tune in to episode 5. Just about…

THE BOOB TUBE: SCANDAL S04E11 – DEEPER AND DEEPER DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

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Last episode, we learned that Olivia Pope had been kidnapped. This episode, we find out the whole point of Olivia’s snatching – to blackmail President Fitz into declaring war on West Angola (as orchestrated by the Vice-President).

Quite a few twists along the way as Olivia, her Gladiators (Huck reveals his monstrous side) and even Mellie (the First Lady) do their best to ensure Olivia’s rescue. Disappointed perhaps that the storyline is still being dragged on beyond two episodes but at least it’s wickedly fun.

GEEK OUT! 12 MONKEYS S01E04 – TIME TRAVEL MONKEY BUSINESS

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A cute installment of 12 Monkeys. In the sense that whilst it dwelt primarily on a sci-fi trope (going back to time to change events), it utilized it as an intelligent plot device to reveal more of Cole’s character.

Focusing mainly on Cole’s present (i.e. 2043), flesh was put on Cole’s bare-boned characterization and the extent of Cole’s relationship with Ramse. Although it deviated from the primarily storyline that involved our present (i.e. 2015) – “Atari” was well worth the ride. A little convenient in parts but overall, a fun episode.

GEEK OUT! ARROW S03E12 – THE MORE THINGS CHANGE…

Arrow-Uprising

The ‘death of Arrow – Brick takeover’ saga comes to a conclusion. But the threat of retribution from Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassin towards Merlyn and Arrow remains very real. A myriad plotlines come together nicely but not without setting off more new ones.

Laurel settles into her role as Canary as the Arrow team plot to take down Brick. Meanwhile, Oliver Queen struggles to return to Starling City, after rising from the dead. There is some back-story for Merlyn to get through, which humanizes him just a little, so that perhaps the audience can accept somehow Arrow’s difficult choice at the end.

Good superhero TV!

THE BOOB TUBE: SCANDAL S04E10 – FROM LUDICROUS TO PLAIN SILLY

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Scandal may be ludicrous for 90% of the time but at least it’s good fun ludicrous. “Run” – the first episode of the new year has Olivia Pope kidnapped from her home and imprisoned in a Muslim country (probably the Middle East?). Shades of Homeland perhaps?

But, it doesn’t take too long to figure out that things aren’t quite as they seem. The big reveal (it’s a twist in the tail) at the end was utterly predictable and that’s why it was ultimately boring. And the reason for all the nonsense on this episode was plain dumb.

So this is where we’re going with Scandal for the remainder of Season 4? Disappointing.

REEL TO REAL – DOES AMERICAN SNIPER GLORIFY WAR OR CONDEMN IT?

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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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REEL TO REAL: BIRDMAN SOARS ABOVE THE COMPETITION & LIVES UP TO THE HYPE

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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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REEL TO REAL: FRANK – A WITHERING COMMENTARY ON CONTEMPORARY POP CULTURE

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Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Written by Jon Ronson & Peter Straughan
Starring  Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scott McNairy and Michael Fassbender. 

What is music? A business? Yes, certainly but what about art? Of course, but sometimes music is life and there’s nothing more. For Jon (Gleeson), music is the ticket out of his mundanity as he dreams of becoming a professional pop songwriter.

Then rather serendipitously Jon ends up playing keyboards in the experimental outfit Soronprfbs, fronted by the enigmatic Frank (Fassbender) who wears a papier-mâché head 24/7. Despite his seemingly best intentions, Jon attempts to use the Soronprfbs – and especially Frank – to further his own agenda to be a successful musician.

Along the way, manager Don (Scott McNairy) and band colleague Clara (Gyllenhaal) try to dissuade Jon from setting Frank down the road to public acceptance but Jon is undaunted, with predictably disastrous consequences.

Taking inspiration from real life quirky musical geniuses like Captain Beefheart, Daniel Johnston and most of all, Chris Sievey’s Frank Sidebottom persona, Frank is a superbly dark comic take on contemporary pop culture’s need to flatten any unique idiosyncrasy into compliant uniformity.

For everyone who believes that pop music needs to remain strange and magical, this one’s for you.

REEL TO REAL: BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP – AN INTERESTING PREMISE THAT FAILS IN EXECUTION

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Written & Directed by Rowan Joffe
Starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth & Mark Strong.

When the film begins, you might be forgiven to think that Before I Go To Sleep is a rip-off of Christopher Nolan’s ground-breaking Memento. After all, the protagonist Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) is an amnesiac and wakes up every morning with no memory of her life from her early twenties onwards.

However, whereas Memento starts at the end and the story is presented backwards, the story telling in Before I Go To Sleep – barring the odd flashback – is mostly linear. Expect numerous twists and turns along the way as Christine attempts to piece together the truth from her shattered memories.

As much as the premise is interesting (based on the novel of the same name), there is something missing in the execution of this adaptation. Colin Firth is somewhat unconvincing and Kidman herself seems to be in a constant haze. Presumably that is what the script called for but it is difficult to empathize with her character as played.

The plot – without spoiling it for you, dear reader – has quite a few gaps: with the main one being the illogical manner in which the antagonist is allowed to manipulate Christine’s life for such a long time, without anyone being the wiser. But if one is able to ignore these holes, then Before I Go To Sleep is a passable thriller – especially if you are a fan of Ms Kidman.

REEL TO REAL: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY – THEM

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Written and Directed by Ned Benson
Starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy.

The hype over The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby has to do with presenting the story of a couple coping with the loss of a child from differing perspectives. However, it is really only hype. The actual reality of watching this movie is rather tedious. Very arthouse in approach, nothing much happens for long periods of time.

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2014 IN FILM

Favourite movies of 2014. And why.

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1. Guardians of the Galaxy (Directed by James Gunn)

No surprise here. Gunn took an unlikely B-grade space opera comic book story and transformed Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot into a family of heroes fighting for the galaxy. In doing so, Gunn infused comedy and drama brilliantly to convey all the wonder of a ‘real’ comic book experience.

2. Predestination (Directed by the Spierig Brothers)

Sleeper of the year! Low budget scifi at its best. Sterling performances from Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook coupled with a very tightly woven tale makes for an enthralling film. Very faithful to its source material (Heinlein’s -All You Zombies-), Predestination is way up there with all the best ‘mindfuck’ flicks like 12 Monkeys & Inception. Keep a close watch on Michael and Peter Spierig.

3. Nightcrawler (Directed by Dan Gilroy)

An intense study of sociopathic attitudes (as embodied in Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom), debutant director Gilroy presents a scathing commentary on the modern law of the urban jungle. In the mind of Bloom, survival of the fittest takes on ominous tones and Gyllenhaal’s masterful performance is both chilling and impressive. Gilroy is another directorial talent to look out for.

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MICROMANAGE OVERWORK EXAGGERATE

 

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Micromanage Overwork Exaggerate (MOE) is a theatre production about Singaporean education that is set to run from Thursday 31st July to Saturday 2nd August. According to its press release, the play “seeks to explore the unspoken sides of education, from the mouths of those with no recourse to honest dialogue. Using material from interviews with a wide range of teachers – primary to secondary, in-service to retired, elite independent schools to neighbourhood institutions – this semi-docudrama aims to give voice to the true experiences, struggles and successes of some of our nation’s most invisible heroes – our teachers”.

Sound intriguing? Then get your tickets ($20) from Eventbrite.

Details:
Written by Marcia Vanderstraaten
Directed by Christopher Fok
Performed by Lian Sutton, Jasmine Xie Huilin, Christopher Fok and Marcia Vanderstraaten

More information.

REEL TO REAL

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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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TUBEWATCH

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It is universally accepted that some of the best screenwriting can be found on the tube nowadays. The latest episode of BBC’s Sherlock (“The Sign of the Three”), it must be said is probably the best one yet. Using the platform of John and Mary Watson’s wedding, the writers manage to push pointed characterization, complex non-linear plotting and a dramatic whodunit with finesse and aplomb.

Throughout, Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a razor sharp performance that conveys all of Sherlock’s complicated thought processes, his other-worldly demeanour and ultimate sad loneliness, with Martin Freeman’s Watson the perfect foil, as usual. There is of course, a cost to being as brilliant as Sherlock is and the story never ever lets you forget about that. But that’s what makes the character completely relatable to an entire spectrum of misunderstood savants.

One wonders what is in store when the season 3 finale is dropped, very very soon. A mouth watering prospect!

 

REEL TO REAL

The premise of Thanks for Sharing is promising enough as it centers around three people undergoing a 12-step process to recover from their sexual addiction. In addition, the strong cast – which includes Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Gad and Alecia Moore (aka P!nk) – flesh out this intriguing premise well. However, the main problem lies in the third act where the various plotlines descend somewhat into cliche.

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TUBEWATCH

HOUSE OF CARDS SEASON 2 OFFICIAL TRAILER

Netflix is an on-demand video streaming web service – an online version of the video rental store, one might say. In 2011, the service announced that it was venturing into original programming as well and the first series – House of Cards – a political drama adapted from the UK series of the same name & starring Kevin Spacey, was a resounding success.

Well, here comes Season 2 and based on the official trailer, it looks like the series is upping the ante in delivering shady political shenanigans as the Machiavellian politician Frank Underwood is now a heartbeat away from the Presidency of the USA but obviously has to work hard (and smart) to keep all his dirty secrets under wraps.

Take a look – the entire series drops at Netflix on 14th February next year!

ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY: RUSH

To be honest, I was rather clueless about this movie beforehand – partly because, based on the poster, it appeared to be revolving around F1 – a subject that leaves me rather disinterested. However, the moment I realized that the movie was actually based on the true life story of 70s F1 drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt – I knew that I was going to enjoy Rush.

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PANTANG: A DOCU-PLAY [NEWS]

(Press release)

Do   you   go   home   early   during   the   seventh   month   to   avoid   bumping   into…   things?   Have   you   ever   heard   a   voice   in   your   ear   and   turned   around   to   find   there’s   no   one   there?  Do  you  believe  in  the  unseen?  Are  you  pantang?

This   Halloween,   join   the   cast   and   crew   of   Pantang   as   they   bring   you   on   a   journey   into   the   realm   of   spirits   and   other   unseen   things,   based   on   first-­‐hand   accounts   and   interviews.   You’ll   find   the   locale   of   our   stories   somewhat   familiar,   but   because   the   stories  happened  to  people  we  know  and  aren’t  from  a  book,  they’ll  make  you  lao  jio   (wet  your  pants)  in  fresh  and  surprising  ways…

Here  are  some  of  the  strange  and  spooky  stories  from  the  show:

• A   young   couple   moves   into   a   flat   built   on   the   location   of   a   fatal   plane   crash   and  encounters  a  tragedy  of  their  own.

• A   soldier   on   guard   duty   finds   a   photograph   of   a   beautiful   young   girl   on   the   ground  and  falls  into  a  baffling  trance.

• We   interview   a   man   born   with   the   “third   eye”   who   tells   us   all   about   the   invisible  world  of  spirits  around  us.     Pantang   presents   these   stories   using   narratives,   shadow-­‐play,   multimedia   projections,  puppetry  and  re-­‐enactments.  But  most  of  all,  Pantang  is  about  good  old-­‐ fashioned   story   telling.   If   you   would   like   to   have   a   good   scare   this   Halloween   and   celebrate   our   rich   local   tradition   of   ghost   stories   at   the   same   time,   come   watch   Pantang.     Some  people,  they  don’t  believe…  but  Pantang  will  make  believers  of  us  all.

Details

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I SAW THE DEVIL

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

I must admit that I am a relative latecomer to Korean film. In fact, the first Korean film I ever saw was Oldboy. Seriously, that movie blew my mind and remains in my opinion one of the best movies ever made. So when I saw that I Saw the Devil also starred Oldboy actor Choi Min-sik, I just had to take a look and I was not disappointed.

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GEEK OUT! COSMOPOLIS

Back to the Future!

Bring together the talents of top writer Don DeLillo, acclaimed director David Cronenberg and urm Twilight actor Robert Pattinson and the result is Cosmopolis. The narrative follows a billionaire (Pattinson) as he takes a stretch limousine ride across Manhattan and the film chronicles his misadventures all in the course of a single day. Selected for competition at this years’ Cannes Film Festival – and based on its trailers so far – Cosmopolis looks like a highly sexed, socially charged study into our modern times, billing itself as “finally, the first film about our new millennium”. Also starring Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton and Kevin Durand.

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TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

I had mistakenly assumed that this film adaptation of John Le Carre’s classic spy novel was a remake when actually the only other adaptation was a TV mini-series (with the late Sir Alec Guinness). Directed by Swede Tomas Alfredson (of Let the Right One In fame) and featuring a stellar British cast, this film adaptation contains the right mood and tone of a 70s spy novel written at the height of the Cold War. This is no action movie with the emphasis placed instead on narrative and nuance. Granted one needs to pay careful attention to the plot to make sense of everything and Alfredson never hits you on the head in this respect, thereby showing tremendous respect for the audience.

In a nutshell, our protagonist is former Deputy Head of British Intelligence George Smiley (Gary Oldman) who has been tasked by the undersecretary in charge of intelligence to investigate accusations by disgraced operative Ricky Tar (Tom Hardy) one of the leaders amongst the top echelon of the British Intelligence viz. Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Bill Hayden (Colin Firth) and Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds) is a Soviet mole.

The story is told in numerous flashbacks, often in innovative stylized fashion and the unfolding of the tale leads us inevitably to the traitor in the midst of British intelligence. Enthralling throughout but my primary reservation is that the film lacks tension, there is no single time when one felt that any of the characters were in serious danger. But I guess it’s not really that kind of story. In any case, a wonderful respite from the inane blockbuster action flick.