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Mar 142012

What can I say except that I thoroughly enjoyed Andrew Stanton’s adaptation of the now century-old A Princess of Mars. At the end of the movie, I felt like a young teenager again in the 70s thrilled by fantasy films like Jason & the Argonauts and the Golden Voyage of Sinbad. In these films, we had swashbuckling heroes, damsels in distress, gigantic monsters and epic battles sequences. The plot was simple (but not simplistic) with the themes of loyalty, sacrifice and love high on the agenda. You might even call the storyline in John Carter, archetypal planetary romance and deep influences on blockbusters such as Star Wars and Avatar.

John Carter has been planned as the first in a trilogy of movies about Edgar Rice Burroughs’ titular character and it is very much framed as an origin story, with the ending setting up for a sequel nicely. Whether we will get to see the sequel will really depend of course on the film’s box office performance. Which at the moment, is not not faring as well as Disney would have hoped. That I believe is partly due to the fact that most movie-goers unfamiliar with John Carter’s place in science fiction may consider the movie to be an inferior facsimile of Avatar or Star Wars.

Which would be a pity because Stanton has fashioned a loving tribute to the original tale that does Burroughs’ vision justice. Whilst the lead actors viz Taylor Kitsch (Carter) and Lynn Collins (Dejah Thoris) are serviceable in their roles, the true appeal lies in the plot idea of a human being transported to Mars (Barsoom to the natives) and becoming embroiled in a conflict that will determine the fate of the planet itself. Director Stanton (best known for helming Pixar’s Finding Nemo and Wall-E) keeps delivering the storyline as his focus and with the aid of top notch digital effects, there is no problem in enjoying the ride.


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Mar 122012

The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live DVD (Eagle Vision)

Nostalgia is a powerful force especially in relation to rock music. Much of 70s classic rock has faded into obscurity and remembered mostly by the young generation of the time. Styx is a band that had massive commercial success in the late 70s and early 80s but its platinum albums are not given much critical merit in the scheme of things nowadays. A shame really.

So how does one approach a live DVD wherein the band reproduces two of these best-selling albums (viz The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight) in their entirety? Especially when the main player (i.e. Dennis De Young) is no longer on board? Purely I suspect only as a well-crafted instance of nostalgic entertainment.

I would confess to being a big fan of Styx’s recorded output of this special era and songs like “The Grand Illusion”, “Superstars”, “Come Sail Away”, “Sing For the Day”, “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” and “Queen of Spades” still resonate with me strongly. So with that in mind, I must say that as an exercise in nostalgia this DVD succeeds wildly.

To his credit, Lawrence Gowan has filled De Young’s shoes (as singer and keyboards player) very well and to such an extent that if you didn’t look at him, you’d never think that De Young was absent. Gowan is an excellent showman and he possesses all the chops to keep anyone from missing De Young. Whether this is a good or bad thing is hard to say actually!

To be fair, the concert overall is top notch with the songs re-produced perfectly. Considering all the work and effort that was obviously put into the show, one cannot fault the professionalism of all involved. The sold-out audience lapped it up eagerly and if this DVD somehow gets new music fans to check out Styx’s discography then at least something more than mere nostalgia would have been achieved.


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Mar 072012

Chronology DVD

Talking Heads. Now what more can one say of this iconic, legendary band? Especially when its legacy continues to seep into the contemporary indie-alternative rock scene. This DVD collects choice videos of the band: -

(a) from its early days as a trio (David Byrne – vocals, guitar/Tina Weymouth – bass/Chris Frantz – drums) in New York City’s famous CGBG where a shy Byrne never makes eye contact with the audience whilst nervously singing “Psycho Killer” and “The Girls Want to be with the Girls” to

(b) the accomplished quartet (with Jerry Harrison) as Byrne transforms into the confident frontman on classic Heads material like “Don’t Worry About the Government” and “Warning Sign” to

(c) morphing into a full-blown live act (embellished with backing singers, percussionists and extra musicians) with “Love –> Building On Fire” and “Burning Down the House”.

As a bonus, the DVD also includes a 35 minute South Bank Show documentary in 1979 and an interview with Byrne circa 1978. Not only that but every band member contributes to an audio commentary as well.

No other way to say this – if you’re a music lover, this DVD is essential.


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Mar 052012

We Come In Pieces DVD (Eagle Vision)

So if my recommendation for this live DVD is ‘strictly for fans only’ – would you take that positively or negatively? I mean, when you consider that UK trio Placebo has sold ten million records worldwide, then that’s a whole bunch of people who would be interested, right?

But seriously, as a non-fan myself, I found Placebo‘s androgynous image and 90s alternative rock approach enjoyable and interesting enough – especially as a sometimes Smashing Pumpkins listener – but beyond that I do not place much significance on the band in the history of rock music.

So definitely fans will want this excellent live recording of a 2010 gig in Brixton Academy with the highlights being lively renditions of “Nancy Boy”, “Ashtray Heart”, “Infra Red” and “Taste in Men”. Hardly essential but fans of 90s alternative rock will certainly want to check out We Come In Pieces.

Watch the trailer below.


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Feb 092012

Days of Our Lives DVD (Eagle Vision)

This “Definitive Documentary of the World’s Greatest Rock Band” was first aired last year on BBC TV Two in two parts. Now commercially available in DVD, the documentary is well worth repeated viewings especially if you are a Queen fan, which I wager would be quite a lot of you out there.

As a fan myself, it is easy to be caught in the thrill of Queen’s early years as they released one exciting album after another – A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, News of the World, Jazz and The Game – racking out numerous worldwide chart hit singles in the process. Some contemporary insight is provided by guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor and previously unseen footage is also brought to bear in order to flesh the incredible success that Queen obviously was (and still is)

The latter half of the documentary comes to a sad conclusion naturally with the untimely death of singer Freddie Mercury 20 years ago in 1991. It is difficult not to be choked by emotion if like me, you loved Mercury for his incredible talent, showmanship and charisma. The interviews can get almost unbearably personal as May and Taylor share their last memories of Mercury on video.

At the end there is a sense that even in this day and age, Queen’s legacy remains strong and May/Taylor have done a good job to ensure that the music of Queen will never be forgotten. Essential for all Queen fans.



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Jan 242012

Movies are supposed to provide their audiences with an escape from grim realities. Some films however, do the exact opposite.

Steven Soderbergh’s ultra-realistic Contagion chronicles the life-span of a pandemic from ‘Day 1′ to a time where a vaccine is produced to return the planet to ‘normalcy’. Plot-wise it is really as simplistic as that but what keeps Contagion intriguing are the many interweaving stories of characters caught up in the web of the pandemic.

With a stellar ensemble cast including Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, Contagion is never short of star power (Singapore’s Chin Han appears as well) and whilst there are twists and turns along the way (as both Paltrow’s and Winslet’s characters do not survive the movie), the main plot is rather predictable. As mentioned before, Soderbergh’s intention was to represent how the world would react to a pandemic with all its attendant implications.

To such extent, Soderbergh has succeeded. Although it does make for frightening viewing for most part – I mean, who really gets scared by vampires, zombies or ghosts which we know do not exist? A pandemic (remember SARS, H1N1?) is a totally different proposition. Still, there is the underlying hope that despite the new threats the human race will always survive (as history has attested to many times).

Clean and efficient, with the feel of a documentary – Contagion comes across exactly that but ultimately a little cold, stark and humourless.


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Jan 202012

My first impression of this film (based on the title) was that it was a remake of the 1975 film. It’s not.

In fact, Killer Elite is based on the 1991 novel The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes which deals with the SAS involvement during the Dhofar rebellion in Oman in 1972. Set in 1980, Danny Bryce (Jason Statham) and Hunter (De Niro) are mercenaries who get involved in a job to assassinate three former-SAS operatives for a deposed Omani sheikh. This puts Bryce in direct conflict with Spike Logan (Clive Owen) the head enforcer of The Feather Men, a secret society of ex-SAS operatives who protect former SAS members.

And that is the gist of it. Don’t expect anything more than good old-fashioned action as two hard men go toe in toe to achieve their ends. There are no heroes or villains here as both protagonists seem to have ‘valid’ motivations for all the killing that goes on. If that is all possible. The attempts to humanize Bryce and Logan work for the most part but the plot relating to The Feather Men and the British government’s involvement in Oman comes across muddied and confusing. Although the scene where Bryce, Owen and the spook are three-way battling is intriguing.

There is a happy ending of sorts, which is rather convenient, but fairly satisfying. Although there is that nagging suspicion that the producers will wring out a sequel if the box office numbers justify. Hopefully not.


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Jan 112012

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.


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Jan 112012

Deep Purple with Orchestra: Live at Montreux 2011 (Eagle)

I’m sorry but for me the spine of Deep Purple has always been Jon Lord and Richie Blackmore. You can take away anybody else but once Lord and Blackmore are not part of the equation, to me it’s not Deep Purple. Of course, the current incarnation of Deep Purple has had Don Airey on keyboards and Steve Morse on guitars for some time now.

Worse still, based on this DVD, it really seems that singer Ian Gillian has lost his legendary vocal chops as well. Not that it matters to the sold-out crowd at this concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival 2011. To compound the problem, the band is backed this time by a full orchestra to provide horns and strings to classics such as Highway Star, Maybe I’m A Leo, Woman from Tokyo, Space Truckin’ and Smoke on the Water. It’s not hard rock anymore I’m afraid. It’s all very soft, wet and flaccid.

So in many ways, this like a Vegas show version of the legendary band and of course, they’re perfectly entitled to continue to tour and bring the classic rock repertoire to willing fans worldwide but I don’t have to like it. Strictly for die hard fans only.


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Jan 092012

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.


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Jan 092012

The Monster Ball Tour At Madison Square Garden (Streamline/Interscope)

There is a moment early in this concert video DVD where Lady Gaga chokes up over the thought of being on stage and still feeling like a freak. It’s easy to be cynical about the whole exercise but it does come across as a sincere expression if that counts for anything.

A Lady Gaga show is a spectacle – elaborate dance routines, eye-catching costume changes, visceral sex appeal, colourful lights and yes, throbbing, infectious music. There’s no denying Lady Gaga’s obvious debt to Madonna but she manages to dominate the entire stage with her presence and personality that the audience will never think of influences and inspirations and be enraptured by the power of Gaga.

All the hits are delivered with glitz, aplomb and utter professionalism – The Fame, Telephone, You and I, Alejandro, Poker Face, Paparazzi and the like. That all said, it’s almost impossible not to watch the Monster Ball show and not think of Alice Cooper! I kid you not…


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Jan 082012

Andrew Nichol is responsible for two of my favourite sci-fi movies. The director-screenwriter from New Zealander scripted the Peter Weir-helmed Truman Show and Gatttaca. Nichol has proven himself deft at using sci-fi narratives to provide allegories for real world themes. Truman Show pre-figured the advent of the reality show (aside from its religious themes) and Gattaca touched on the arguments over eugenics – both delivered their messages through vivid artistic visions.

In Time is set in a dystopian future where everyone stops aging at 25 but is only given one more year of life. However, time is now the currency required for living and this time can be transferred among individuals, its availability being displayed on an implant on a person’s lower arm. When that clock reaches zero, one dies instantly. Society is divided by social class living in specialized towns called, ‘Time Zones’. Clearly, the film concerns itself greatly with the income gap which is becoming more and more prevalent in the modern world.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) lives in the ghetto with his mother (Olivia Wilde). He lives from day to day and barely gets by. One night Salas saves Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) – a rich man obviously from the wealthy Time Zones with a century of life indicated on his arm – from robbery. The next morning, Salas wakes up with 100 years extra and witnesses Hamilton ‘time-out’ and commit suicide. Before Salas can make sense of his situation, his mother ‘times out’ due to a sudden increase in public transport fares (how Singaporean eh?) – in Salas’ arms no less – and Salas vows revenge.

Sala’s anger brings him into New Greenwich (a wealthy timezone) where he meets millionaire Phillipe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser), falls foul of the Timekeepers – this era’s police force, led by Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) and kidnaps Weis’ daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried). Inevitably, the couple fall in love, morph into Bonnie and Clyde and change the world!

All well and good but the film simply does not make enough sense for any coherent message to get through. For one thing, the entire concept of the transfer of time between individuals becomes ludicrous after awhile – imagine a person carrying thousands of dollars on his or her person – as scenes of criminals simply stealing time from people attest.

Also, there are many portions of the film that are simply too convenient – take for example the robbery of the Weis time bank by Salas and Sylvia which the couple achieve without any resistance whatsoever. In a later scene, Weis is shown to have over twenty personal bodyguards but his bank has zero security?

In addition, everybody in the ghetto seems to dress inordinately well despite being steeped in poverty – it’s all too stylized to be a realistic slum. And despite the ploy of diminishing life illuminated on the arms of Salas and Sylvia, one never gets the sense that their lives are ever in danger – Salas (a mere factory worker) comes across incredibly like James Bond for much of the film. At the very end, Salas and Sylvia embark on yet another bank robbery – high heeled and dressed to the nines – it’s almost as if Nichol did not want his audience to treat his film too seriously. If so, and based on the evidence here, he will certainly get his wish.


Dec 272011

I spent most of last night’s waking hours watching Plinkett’s reviews of two of those dreadful Star Wars prequels. These are featured at Red Letter Media, a no-holds barred film reviews site which I have recently discovered. Over at the Plinkett’s reviews section, we have video reviews of the Star Trek and Star Wars movies, which believe me will have you splitting your sides in uncontrollable laughter. But seriously, it is obvious that the maker(s) of these videos has put in considerable effort to come up with such detailed analysis. But be warned once you start, you will be addicted in no time at all! Not convinced, check out the trailer below. You have been warned!


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Dec 202011

Truth be told, I have been sorely disappointed by fantasy movies in 2011. Discounting the superhero films, the likes of Cowboys & Aliens, Conan the Barbarian and Immortals have made me wary of the offerings coming up in 2012. But let’s take a look at them anyways.

Well, of course, there’s little doubt that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is the most eagerly anticipated movie of 2012 and based on the trailer above, there’s no reason to believe that it would fail to meet expectations. Check out that scene in the American football stadium – amazing! It is looking ominous for Batman here and I just cannot wait to see how Nolan wraps up this trilogy.

The Clash of the Titans was a waste of time and money. Now, this is a sequel that seems to actually feature the mythological Titans (shades of Immortals eh?) and whilst the visuals look good, I am not hoping too much from the story if the first movie was anything to go by. And rule of thumb is that anything with Sam Worthington in it tends to suck! Probably best to avoid eh?

Speaking of movies to avoid… it’s Nic Cage. Nuff said!

Finally, Bryan Singer returns to genre film-making with this promising adaptation of the well-known fairy tale. Fee Fi Fo Fum!

Men in Black? Again? With a Back to the Future twist? Sure, why not???

So what geek movies are you looking forward to in 2012???


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Dec 192011

SOME GIRLS Live in Texas ’78 (Eagle Vision)

The self-styled ‘Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World’ seemed to rejuvenate and reinvent itself in 1978 with the release of Some Girls, an album that incorporated elements of disco, punk and new wave into the Stones’ tried and trusted brand of blues-rock.

This DVD covers that special era in rock history – perhaps the Stones’ last great incandescent moment of glory before descending into self-parody since. The main attraction is concert footage from a memorable gig in Texas, where Mick Jagger and company pulled out all the stops to demonstrate that even in their 30s the band was still a potent force.

Aside from the new material (Eg. Miss You, When The Whip Comes Down, Beast of Burden. Far Away Eyes, Shattered and Imagination), the Stones also delivered their ‘greatest hits’ with the usual aplomb – Honky Tonk Women, Tumbling Dice, Happy, Brown Sugar & Jumpin’ Jack Flash.

Bonus features include contemporaneous clips from Saturday Night Live, 20/20 and a 2011 interview with Jagger. For classic rock fans everywhere.

Also worth picking up – the latest reissue of Some Girls which includes an unmatched collections of outtakes that no Stones fans would want to miss.


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Dec 092011

Lindsey Buckingham: Songs from the Small Machine, Live in LA (Eagle)

Producer. Singer-songwriter. Guitarist. Legend.

Whether as part of mega-band Fleetwood Mac or on his own as a well-respected solo artist, Lindsey Buckingham always delivered the goods. This DVD documents a show Buckingham performed in April 2011 in support of his last album, Seeds We Sow.

Consisting of two parts, the show opens with Buckingham literally solo with his acoustic guitar – the highlights being Trouble and Big Love – before Buckingham transforms into full band mode.

This is where the show truly takes off as familiar Fleetwood Mac tracks like Tusk, Go Your Own Way and key solo songs like Seed We Sow and Under the Skin get a solid airing. Spine-tingling moments abound with shimmering vocal harmonies, dynamic guitar work as well as Buckingham’s well worn tunes.

There is an excellent interview with the man himself as he shares about his musical history – from Buckingham/Nicks to Fleetwood Mac and beyond. Buckingham has intriguing insights concerning the success of Rumors, the story behind the making of Tusk and his writing process.

For true scholars of rock n roll, this is an essential one to take note of.




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Nov 302011


According to the publicity blurb on the DVD jacket, the concerts featured in this DVD have been lost for 50 years and just newly discovered. Which is certainly a boon not only for music fans but also historians. Filmed at the 1961 Antibes Jazz Festival in France, this DVD features the legendary Ray Charles in his prime.

Covering two sets on 18th and 22nd July respectively, Charles is backed by the original Raelets and run the gamut from jazz to gospel, from the blues to rock ‘n’ roll. Charles himself is the consummate musician, equally comfortable with solo piano as well as singing, there is no denying the genius of the man and the tremendous influence over the popular music of the decades that followed.

The visuals are in sparking black and white, with choice audience shots edited together efficiently. The sound is pristine and Charles performs some of his greatest hits viz. Let The Good Times Roll, Georgia On My Mind, Hallelujah, I Love Her So and What I’d Say. On the last track, it isn’t difficult to see the impact that Charles had on the likes of The Beatles, for example.

Of course, this is 1961 so there is none of the flash or the glamour of modern day live spectacles but none of this diminishes the power and soulfulness of the musicianship and showmanship. Utterly essential for all pop scholars.

Buy Ray Charles: Live In France 1961 from Amazon


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Nov 232011

Mention the name “Ozzy Osbourne” and chances are the notorious legend of the rock star biting off the head of a bat thrown on stage in 1982 will rear its ugly head (sorry). Pretty much the reputation of Osbourne is built on being the original singer of Black Sabbath and being the ultimate rock madman (primarily in the 80s, after being sacked by Sabbath).

This documentary attempts to present Osbourne in all his contradictory glory. The satanic figure who kneels in silent prayer before a gig, the drug-addled alcoholic who has been clean and sober for the last five years, the heavy metal pioneer who’s favourite band is The Beatles and so on.

Opening in the present, the documentary follows Osbourne on tour at various locations around the world – his rituals, his preparations and his process. Then, we are presented with a history lesson as Osbourne and various relevant interviewees – Black Sabbath members, his wife Sharon, his five children and even Paul McCartney (!) – share insights into the life and times of Osbourne.

Of course, much screen time is given over to accounts of Osbourne’s crazed antics that even outgross Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee, no slouch in the rabble rousing stakes himself! Osbourne’s self destructive habits continue even as he is reinvented as reality star in the Osbournes, which unfortunately only cements his reputation as the aging rock star drunk.

However, there is a happy ending to the narrative as Osbourne reveals that he managed to pull his life from the abyss of alcoholism and drug addiction due to the example of his youngest son, Jack. A touching resolution to this cautionary tale of rock n roll excess. Ozzy and metal fans in general will no doubt enjoy the intriguing insights into Osbourne’s life.

View the movie trailer below

Buy God Bless Ozzy Osbourne from Amazon


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Nov 122011

You would think that a film about the myriad ghost stories that have circulated about Pulau Tekong Camp over the decades would write itself. Of course, the reality is something else altogether. To the credit of director Gilbert Chan and the production team behind 23:59, they have done a good job in conveying the gist and feel of what those timeworn Tekong ghost stories were all about. In fact, for the first half of the movie – with the numerous ‘flashbacks’ of stories – the narrative is rather compelling. However, when the film has to finally tell the story of the era it is set in (1983), then the narrative somewhat falls apart.

Which is a pity because everybody involved in this film has certainly done their utmost to maintain the suspension of disbelief long enough even for the most cynical viewer to ignore the gaping plot flaws that crop up towards the end of the film. The performances are consistent throughout and even veteran comedian Mark Lee gets to deliver choice lines that will have anyone who has ever served NS rolling in their seats.

Which brings me to the point that the film has been well primed for a bigger audience base that one would have thought. Certainly NS men (past and present) will definitely find the storyline intriguing but at the screening I attended, there were many young girls (probably between 12 – 15 years old) who enjoyed the film for the scares and there was a palpable communal vibe throughout – a shared group experience.

Adult viewers (and horror fans) might have hoped for gorier depictions but that would have affected the PG-13 rating and at NC-16, the filmmakers would have lost a sizable chunk of its audience. However, the film makes up for its lack of serious gore with good utilization of sound design to deliver the shocks to the system. Ultimately, it’s a solid Singaporean film that many will be able to relate to in one way or another. Check out the trailer below.

23:59 is showing at a cinema near you right now.


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Sep 102011

The usual caveat applies when I review any of Ric’s work. You know the drill, I have known film maker Eric Khoo for more than two decades now. We met in 1990 when we were assigned by BigO magazine to work together on comic strips – Ric was to draw and I was to write. We did do quite a few strips under the ‘Ric and Roach’ byline in the 90s and it was all great fun. Ric would of course go on to be an acclaimed director, a pioneer in his field in Singapore and he was gracious enough to allow me to write music for some of his wonderful films. So take note of our associations as you read this review, if you must.

Tatsumi (the film) is a loving tribute to Yoshihiro Tatsumi, widely recognised as the artist responsible for pioneering gekiga (‘dramatic pictures’) style of alternative comics in Japan from the late 50s onwards. If you can imagine what comic books were like in the Western world in the 60s (mainly juvenile fare), then Tatsumi’s adult-oriented work was surely miles ahead of its time. The film is based on two sources – Tatsumi’s autobiographical Drifting Life and five of his gekiga short stories viz. Hell, Beloved Monkey, Just A Man, Occupied and Good Bye – and both are expertly woven together to form one coherent narrative.

Certainly, any astute member of the audience will note that the tone of Drifting Life and the short stories are very different. The stories are extremely dark and reveal the harsh realities of the human condition. Also, they strip away the artifice of modern living to bare the ugliness that is often buried beneath what most may consider mundane and routine. What this highlights is the critical difference between an artist and his work. It’s clear from Drifting Life that Tatsumi himself is a gentle, humble soul who’s sole ambition was to draw manga but on his own terms. His short stories indicate that he was successful in doing exactly that.

It’s hard not to derive these understandings of Tatsumi even from a superficial viewing of the film – Ric and his talented collaborators have indeed done justice to Tatsumi’s unassuming genius. The animation is tastefully done, based directly on Tatsumi’s artwork and the voice acting by Tetsuya Bessho is often breath-taking (even though I don’t understand a word of Japanese!).

Sound designer (and OP bassist) Kazz stated in his speech at the premiere that Tatsumi was authentic Japanese anime even though it was made outside of Japan. And certainly, nobody watching Tatsumi will ever doubt that strong sense of authencity. So naturally, I highly recommend that you watch Tatsumi when it screens at a cinema near you. For my Singaporean readers, Tatsumi opens on 15th September at GV Vivocity and GV Plaza. Do not miss it!

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Sep 082011


Few years ago, I caught Robin Gibb live in Singapore and was rather bemused that he decided to let a backing singer handle the lead vocals of Bee Gees songs that were originally sung by his brother Barry. Apparently, Robin himself noticed that anomaly as well and from this live recording, it’s clear that he has remedied that completely.

So in this concert (set in the idyllic surroundings of Ledreborg Castle in Denmark), Robin takes care of lead vocals of every song on the setlist. Which in itself is also hit or miss. I mean, well and good if its songs like I Started A Joke, Saved By the Bell or Massachusetts, all of which were originally sung by him but it’s a really off-putting to hear Robin try his hand at To Love Somebody or How Deep Is Your Love, when you’re expecting Barry’s sultry tenor.

Well, I suppose what I am saying is that in ideal circumstances, Bee Gees fans would rather see Barry and Robin sing these timeless tunes together but in the absence of that, this will have to do.

Buy Robin Gibb: In Concert at Amazon


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Sep 052011

SHERYL CROW Miles From Memphis: Live At The Pantages Theatre DVD (Eagle Vision)

This concert video was taken from Crow’s tour in support of her retro-soul project 100 Miles From Memphis. As is often the case where artists undertake a change in musical direction, this also signals a re-interpretation of old material in the ‘new’ sound as well. Therefore, A Change Would Do You Good and Everyday is a Winding Road take on funkier tones. Even Crow’s signature tune – All I Wanna Do – is given the Stax-Motown treatment.

Crow is in splendid voice throughout, backed by a crack band of musicians which provide the necessary soul authenticity to pull off Crow’s soul venture. At the very end, I Shall Believe is delivered in a vintage gospel blues piano ballad style that simply brings the house down.

This DVD is essential viewing for all Crow fans and also lovers of that special soul/R&B era.

Buy Miles From Memphis Live at the Pantages Theatre at Amazon


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Sep 052011

(Press release)

In celebration of their 20th anniversary, legendary alternative rock band Pearl Jam, will make their big screen debut on 20th September worldwide with the release of PEARL JAM TWENTY. The film will open internationally in select theatres for one night only and Golden Village is proud to be the cinema of choice to screen the title in Singapore.

Directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker and music journalist Cameron Crowe, PEARL JAM TWENTY is a captivating documentary which centres around the iconic American grunge band, Pearl Jam. Scheduled to premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival in September, the film chronicles the years leading up to the band’s formation, the chaos that ensued soon after their rise to mega-stardom, their step back from the limelight, and the creation of a trusted circle that would surround them, giving way to a work culture that would sustain them until today.

“We put so much into the film – moments, pieces of footage shot by band members, audio snippets, visual bursts, new and old interviews – many different formats, all meant to present an emotional scrapbook of what it felt like to be a member of the band on this twenty-year journey,” said Crowe. “The richness of the footage made our path very clear – just tell the story of the band and let the music guide us. It was a joy to make this film, and we’re thrilled share it with the fans.”

Told in big themes and bold colours with blistering sound, the film gives fans and audiences an intimate first glimpse into Pearl Jam’s journey culled from more than1,200 hours of rarely and never-before-seen footage over 24 hours of recent interviews with the band, as well as live footage of their spellbinding concert performances.This theatrical release is the definitive portrait of Pearl Jam: part concert film, part intimate insider-hang, part testimonial to the power of music and uncompromising artists.

PEARL JAM TWENTY celebrates the freedom that allows the band to make music without losing themselves, their fans, or the music lovers they have always been. Fans in Singapore should not miss the opportunity to catch the one-night-only theatrical release of this great alternative rock band.

Tickets for PEARL JAM TWENTY are now on sale – priced at S$18 for GV Movie Club Members and S$20 for the public.

For more information, please visit


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Sep 052011

(Press release)

October 2008: Homegrown post-rock band, I Am David Sparkle, becomes Singapore’s third band – and the only one that year – to receive an invitation to the world’s leading music industry event, the SXSW® Music and Media Conference in Austin, Texas.Fast forward to the present: The journey that started from that experience is still continuing, and I Am David Sparkle celebrates it at this year’s Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF) with the debut of “Ignore All Detour Signs”, the only Singapore-made feature-length music documentary to be showcased at SIFF 2011.

The self-funded production is the work of two first-time filmmakers, Helmi Ali and Razin Ramzi, whose passion for music led them to capture the best of the band’s colourful journey to SXSW and back — from the roughest of the raw to the most jubilant heights of revelry.

You are warmly invited to be amongst the first to watch the journey unfold. Please join us at the premiere of “Ignore All Detour Signs”, and share in one band’s passion and belief in their art, which triumphed over the trials and helped to make them one of few who can say they’ve “done it at SXSW”.

24th Singapore International Film Festival | Singapore Panorama: “Ignore All Detour Signs”A music documentary by Helmi Ali & Razin Ramzi | 24th September 2011, 9.30pm, Sinema | Duration: 55 mins

More info at SIFF site. Check out the trailer below.


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Aug 102011

DEEP PURPLE Phoenix Rising DVD (Eagle Vision)

Eagle Rock has been paying attention to the lesser known aspects of legendary British hard rockers, Deep Purple. Having recently re-issued the first three albums of the original lineup, Eagle Rock has now released (through Eagle Vision) Phoenix Rising: The Untold Story of Deep Purple Mark IV. This covers the brief period during which founding member Ritchie Blackmore had left Purple to form Rainbow and guitarist Tommy Bolin was brought in to fill Blackmore’s considerable void.

This DVD basically covers features a 30 minute previously unreleased live concert video filmed at the Budokan Hall in 1975 and a 80 minute documentary basically chronicling the numerous problems that beset this lineup of Deep Purple, including drug problems (bassist Glenn Hughes and Bolin) and especially a disastrous tour of Indonesia.

The live concert video is really purely for historical purposes as the quality (sound and vision) is rather poor, especially when compared to Mark II’s triumphant Made in Japan LP. Equally so is the documentary which feature in-depth interviews with keyboardist Jon Lord and Hughes where the focus is very much on the excesses of 70s rock. Both of these videos will probably only interest diehard Mark IV fans.

I guess Eagle Vision themselves sensed that what was on offer was a little light and so what does make the DVD intriguing are the two collectible booklets reproducing an original Deep Purple 1976 magazine and rare photos as well as original vintage Purple articles. Again, for fans only.

Buy Phoenix Rising at Amazon

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