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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REEL TO REAL! FILM REVIEW: ANOMALISA – MOVIE OF 2015

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Apart from writer-director Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa being animated from stop-motion puppetry, there is initially nothing too different about the film. But knowing Kaufman’s reputation for weird story-telling (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), that normalcy does not last for too long.

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ROCK HISTORY: LOVE – REEL TO REAL (1974)

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The late Arthur Lee and Love (the band Lee led & fronted) remains one of the most under-rated bands from the 60s/70s. Well, at least compared to their peers. Already well-documented is the fact that the likes of Jim Morrison (The Doors), Jimi Hendrix and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) were massive fans of this ground-breaking iconoclastic band. Certainly, the backward gazing bands of the 90s British indie scene owed a thing or two to Love.

One of the most freewheeling eclectic 60s bands, Love (which also included guitarist-songwriter Bryan Maclean, lead guitarist Johnny Echols, bassist Ken Forssi & drummer Michael Stuart) were never constrained by genres or styles and dabbled in folk, baroque pop, psychedelia, acid rock and even proto-punk (check out “7 and 7 Is” is below).

Not only that but the band can lay claim to producing one of the bona fide rock masterpieces of all time – the magnificent Love Changes.

However, due to drug problems and internal disagreements, the band’s commercial success dissipated in the late 60s, with Lee fronting a new set of musicians, but this incarnation of Love never garnered the widespread acceptance or acclaim of the original group.

Reel to Real was Love’s final official album and until now, has never been issued on CD! By the recording and release of this album, Love was essentially Lee with an assortment of session musicians but despite its marginalisation in rock history, deserves serious re-examination.

Not least for its daring coverage of a multitude of styles, despite its primary focus being on soul, R&B and blues-rock, one could imagine the young Prince, Lenny Kravitz or Terence Trent D’Arby listening to Reel to Real and copping one or two musical ideas.

Whilst modern pop fans would probably find themselves grooving to soulful gems like “Time is Like a River” and “Stop the Music”, alternative rockers might take a shine to off-beat numbers like “Singing Cowboy” and “You Said You Would”, which sound like Hendrix channeling Buck Owens! And that last song – “Everybody’s Gotta Live” – is the Lennonesque anthem Noel Gallagher wished he was smart enough to rip off!

The new reissue has rather illuminating outtakes which on occasion outshine the original tracks with their spontaneity and raw energy. There’s also a sloppy studio rehearsal of that classic Forever Changes outtake “Wonder People” for all your Love completists out there.

A hidden treasure re-discovered. Essential!

Buy now!

REEL TO REAL: COMING MOVIES – APRIL 2015

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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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REEL TO REAL: COMING MOVIES FOR MARCH 2015

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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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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: WHIPLASH POSES THE QUESTION – IS MUSICAL GENIUS A PRODUCT OF OBSESSIVE BEHAVIOR OR CREATIVE INSPIRATION?

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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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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: THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING IS MORE THAN THE TRIUMPH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT, IT IS THE AFFIRMATION OF LIFE ITSELF

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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.

REEL TO REAL: MIKE LEIGH PROVIDES A SLICE OF AN ARTISTIC LIFE IN MR. TURNER

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Written & directed by Mike Leigh.
Starring Timothy Spall.

Premiering at Cannes last year, Leigh’s biopic of famed English painter JMW Turner has already garnered a Best Actor award for Spall’s performance in the lead role and a special jury prize for the film’s cinematography for Dick Pope.

That just about sums it up really. Spall plays Turner as a brutish flawed man who had an unique ability to produce epic, awe-inspiring work which was extremely radical in its day. Pope manages to make virtually every outdoor shot a Turner painting and it is a wonder to behold! Check out the amazing of re-creation of The Fighting Temeraire (1839) below.

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Leigh’s triumph with Mr. Turner is stringing together a loose collection of slice of life vignettes and filling them with all the relevant details to make that time and place come alive. The pacing is a little slow and nothing overtly dramatic happens but that’s the whole point of the exercise.

In the right hands, such evocative cinema is stirring and inspiring – Leigh and his heart-felt tribute deserves recognition as one of the best movies of 2014. Absolutely essential for art lovers everywhere.

Mr. Turner is in the cinemas now.