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

Scandal_S4E12_

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

Helix204

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

Scandal411

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

12M104

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

scandal-run

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?

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.

Continue reading “REEL TO REAL – DOES AMERICAN SNIPER GLORIFY WAR OR CONDEMN IT?”

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

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.

Continue reading “REEL TO REAL: BIRDMAN SOARS ABOVE THE COMPETITION & LIVES UP TO THE HYPE”

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

Frank_movie_poster

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

BeforeIGoToSleep

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

RIgby

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.

Continue reading “REEL TO REAL: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY – THEM”

2014 IN FILM

Favourite movies of 2014. And why.

GotG-poster

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.

Continue reading “2014 IN FILM”

MICROMANAGE OVERWORK EXAGGERATE

 

MOE Poster

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

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.

Continue reading “REEL TO REAL”

TUBEWATCH

Sherlock302

 

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.

Continue reading “REEL TO REAL”

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.

Continue reading “ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY: RUSH”

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

Continue reading “PANTANG: A DOCU-PLAY [NEWS]”

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.

Continue reading “I SAW THE DEVIL”

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.

Continue reading “GEEK OUT! COSMOPOLIS”

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.

REAL STEEL

Simply put, the Shawn Levy-helmed Real Steel is a mash-up of the plots of two Sly Stallone vehicles, Rocky and Over the Top. Which is basically the underdog fighter who has to deal with his relationship with his estranged son. Only difference is instead of boxing or arm wrestling, it’s robot boxing.

Let’s pause for a while. Robot boxing? Why would that even become popular? I mean who really cares about two robots duking it out – there’s no pain and no blood – which is the usual attraction of physical contests, dating back to the age of the gladiator – so I had a hard time swallowing the main premise of Real Steel, that robot boxing is a popular sport in the time the movie is set in – the near future (as usual).

Ignoring that critical flaw, this movie is really a top notch sob-fest, an emotional manipulation from start to finish. The plot is simple enough.

Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a former boxer now working in robot boxing and is basically down on his luck. His various robots lose fight after fight and he is heavily in debt. His main source of comfort is his late coach’s daughter Bailey (Evangeline Lilly) and even her support is waning. Then out of the blue, Kenton is informed that his former girlfriend has died and he needs to sign over custody of his 11 year-old son Max (Dakota Goyo) to Max’s Aunt Debra (Hope Davis) and her wealthy hubby Marvin (James Rebhorn). Naturally, Kenton is only concerned about one thing (money) and agrees to do so for the sum of $100,000. However, in the meantime, Kenton has to ‘babysit’ Max for the summer holidays whilst Marvin and Aunt Debra vacation in Europe.

Of course, you already know what will happen next. By sheer coincidence, Max is a massive robot boxing fan and through a series of more coincidences, Max acquires a robot called Atom which together with Kenton, somehow becomes a contender in the major robot boxing league! Thus, over the course of this time, the father and son begin to bond. Cue a dramatic setback – Kenton is beaten up by creditors in front of Max – and Kenton decides he cannot maintain a relationship with Max anymore. This does not last long so the duo are reunited just in time for Atom to face Zeus, the robot boxing world champion in the final fight sequence.

It’s every fight movie cliche played out over the course of the final 30 minutes but director Levy squeezes out numerous tear-jerking moments which ultimately do not amount to a hill of beans. Don’t get me wrong, if you park you intellect to one side for the duration of the movie, Real Steel can be an emotionally satisfying experience.

And with the film coping the ending of Rocky completely, can we expect Real Steel II to be far behind for the rematch of Atom v Zeus? Pure rhetorical question, I must stress.

SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK

If you’ve seen and loved the movies, Human Nature, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation, because of their delightfully written stories then like me, you are a Charlie Kaufman fan. Kaufman was the screenwriter for all these films and Synecdoche, New York marks his debut also as director.

Perhaps that is why Synecdoche, New York is the most un-commerical of all Kaufman’s movies thus far (and that is saying something). Truth is, depending on your perspective, the two hour long film will probably be the best or the worst you’ve ever seen. Me? I am trying to stay on the fence of that particular argument.

Continue reading “SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK”

GEEK OUT!

HANNA

The title character of this adventure thriller, filmed in Europe, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a teenage girl. Uniquely, she has the strength, the stamina, and the smarts of a soldier; these come from being raised by her father (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of Finland. Living a life unlike any other teenager, her upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one; sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe while eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own (Cate Blanchett). As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and unexpected questions about her humanity. (from Wikipedia)

Continue reading “GEEK OUT!”