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Showing posts from 2012

Trattoria Lafiandra al Museo

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Another place that does not serve water and yet there's 10% service charge. Food-wise, the bruschetta was unspectacular. Toasted baguette slices topped cubed tomatoes tossed in olive oil and some herbs/garlic. Nothing particularly outstanding. The Lagsana was hearty. A tad salty and heavy on the cream cheese. The restaurant was fully booked on Christmas Eve and walk-ins could only choose the al fresco dining, so somehow a number of people must really like this place. I can't see why, but I can understand how come. But at least the service was fast and polite.

Verdict: Won't come back again mainly cause water is not free and the quality of the food does not justify that.



Les Misérables

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Disclaimer: I have watched the musical three times, and the most recent is in Oct 2012. In preparation for this movie, I had also started listening to the 25th Anniversary recording at O2. Yes, so in other words, a big fan here!

Let one get thing straight: this is a musical dramatisation of the Victor Hugo's novel and not a big screen adaption of the musical. So fans of the musical please do be ready to adapt and shift your expectations. As a movie this is a directorial and visual triumph for Tom Hooper. His style is so distinctive and the use of live recording of the singing is both a bane and boon of the movie. Live singing allows for a gorgeous uninterrupted experience and some seriously fantastic long shots and ace acting from the stars; however, the live singing marred the musical experience because some actors tend to waver and for a musical where the drama and emotion is carried more by the singing, the audience is not brought along the emotional roller coaster that Les Mis…

Jack Reacher [Dig]

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A competent thriller that served as a launching pad for Tom Cruise's new franchise. A good whodunit that keeps one guessing but does not really answer the why. If not for the Newtown massacre, the chances are quite high for a sequel. But overseas takings should be high enough to potentially generate interest in a sequel. Cruise is easily charismatic in this show but his presence is lacking a certain amount of authority and danger. Rosamund Pike is not very convincing in her role and her chemistry with Cruise is barely present. Thankfully there's Robert Duvall to save the day. Also, the first scene was very well done, but sadly the rest of the movie was mediocre only. Having not read the books by Lee Child, I believe this story would have been better as a novel than what was translated on the screen which dragged on a bit longer than needed.

The Intouchables

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A genuinely heartwarming and feel good French dramedy movie by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledanz, the writing and directing duo, that was filled with laughters throughout. François Cluzet and Omar Sy are two wonderfully charismatic leads with excellent chemistry together lit up the screen with their irresistible personalities and infectious smiles. They are the reason this inspired-by-true-events movie worked so well despite the obvious dramatisation and inauthenticity of certain scenes, coupled with a stereotypical look at racial segregation. But leaving all that politics aside, we are left with a startlingly heartwarming crowd pleaser. Starting from the first scene we are hooked. The prologue introduces the leads but paint them vaguely to intrigue the audience and tease about their relationship and how they got there. They and the excellent supporting cast (in particular Audrey Fleurot and Anne Le Ny) really brought the audience into the lives, and it's very rare to see a cast …

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [IMAX HFR 3D]

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Amazing world-building! And in this case, world-expanding. This prequel to the LOTR really expanded on the realms of Middle Earth and although spotted throughout with familiar faces, this is a different Middle Earth from the one that we visited a few years back. The story started off slow, with an introductory first act followed by a deliberate second act that served to establish the roles of the main characters and elucidate their Hero-quest. The movie only got into an exciting and adrenaline-rushing roll in its final act. As the first chapter of a planned trilogy, it lacked the cinematic climax and is clearly building up to something bigger. Making a book into a trilogy obviously has its drawbacks: how to fill the time? My guess, from never having read "The Hobbit" is that Peter Jackson has clearly chosen to include almost every scene from the book and hence neglected cinematic pacing and narrative flow. This is good for the purists who want everything translated to the b…

Balzac Brasserie

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A quick visit to Chef Jean-Charles Dubois (previously of the now defunct The French Kitchen) new restaurant at Rendezvous Hotel. Only had time for starters and coffee. He revamped his lobster bisque: now served with a side of fried Mozambique prawns. But still easily his signature dish and one of the best lobster bisque in the market. The half dozen Fine de Claire oysters were fresh and succulent with a hint of sea saltiness, and goes excellently with a splash of mignonette and lemon. Ambience was great: old-school French/Parisian brasserie with polite service. Price wise, it's comparable to The French Kitchen, ie on the high side of affordability.

Updated (14 Dec 2012): Came back for a proper lunch today. Chef Jean-Charles is still as affable as ever. Their wine-per-glass selections is actually quite good and reasonably priced. But the bottled list was not impressive. The escargots were outstanding! Served piping hot in a mixture of salt, olive oil and herbs. The mollusk were che…

Rust and Bone (De Rouille et D'Os)

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A raw, honest, and powerful performance by Marion Cotillard together with the broodingly handsome and charismatic Matthias Schoenaerts makes this an engaging little art house flick by Jacques Audiard. The 2 stars have a palpable chemistry that makes that characters believable and arresting. 2 strangely co-dependent damaged/handicapped souls, one physical and one emotional, coming together, supporting each other and discovering that only by letting go of the tethers of shame and pride can they appreciate what life has so much more to offer and give. Sounds cliche, and it could jolly well have devolved into that, but Audiard's directing, couple with the strong committed performance of the two leads, changed this from a conventional love story to one that is complex in its simplicity. Cotillard gives her strongest performance yet since "Le Mome" and is a strong contender for a Best Actress Oscar nomination. She is at her best in her native French movies rather than the big,…

Keisuke Tonkotsu King

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Situated at a corner of the new Orchid Hotel in Tanjong Pagar, this little hole-in-the-wall that sits only 20 has a perpetually long queue snaking outside its doors. And for good reason. The tonkotsu soup base here is clearly one of the best in Singapore. I had the black spicy everything in special with extra chicken oil and the results was outstanding. The broth was thick and fragrant (especially if the sesame seeds were crushed and added). The pork bone taste lingers and one can barely taste the MSG inside, and with the black spice it gave it a tang of peppery, sze chuan like bite to the soup. I had the hard noodles which was very QQ, but perhaps a bit too much for me. The noodles were the traditional Tokyo-thin kind. The everything-in order came with 3 slices of char siew (generic, non-fatty versions), 1 ramen egg (well made, soft, orangey yolk) and 1 large slice of nori; I skipped the spring onions. The size of the portion was adequate, but for a large eater, remember to keep some…

Jersey Boys

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Lucky us to be the out of town tryout venue for this South American company. A nostalgic roadtrip for fans of The Four Seasons and 60s era rock n roll. Initially the South African tinged Jersey/Italiano accent was a tad trying on the ears which made the starting a bit slow and boring. It was not until the group officially formed that the musical hit its stride with all the hits coming on one after the other. The American Band Stand scenes stood out for its innovativeness and choreography. But some scenes' blocking definitely needs more work. As do some of the dialogue and delivery which fell flat. The highlights were surely the hits and in particular "Can't Take My Eyes Off You". Singing wise they do sound like The Four Seasons especially Valli but he did occasionally slipped in and out. An enjoyable night out especially for fans!

La Cantine

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Bruno Menard's new restaurant at Asia Square is solely for the office crowd: it doesn't open on weekends. Pity us non-Shenton people. That can be a turn off. The set lunch was a three course meal priced at $39++ which seemed alright. The amuse bouche was prawns based which I'm allergic to; server 1 says can change to salad but server 2 says cannot then went to check with chef which apparently says it is pre-prepared so also cannot change. First disappointment. First acid test failed two ways: 1) it's basic enough to change starters in a set course due to allergy, even a simple salad is good enough (but I can respect a chef's decision, but that doesn't that mean I approve of it); 2) servers shouldn't have conflicting opinions/instructions. After that incident, I was too miffed to search for a main course so settled on the set lunch's main. And watcha know!, they removed my butter knife even before I was done with the bread or the main course was served (…

Life of Pi [IMAX] [3D]

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disclaimer: I just finished the book the day before the movie

Book: Finally re-read this book 10 years after I gave up on it less than midway through. Back than, I remembered reading it and going "huh?", but now, 10 years older, I kind of better appreciate the storytelling, the structure and the underlying message of faith, belief and life. Part One and Three nicely bookmark the themes that was presented in an allegorical Part Two which Martel described with such cinematic quality that it makes me very excited to watch Ang Lee translate it into 3D on IMAX (for good or bad)!

Movie: Visually stunning! 3D is really an absolute must for this Ang Lee spectacle! There's no doubt that he will get another Best Director nomination and the show will get noms for Best Picture, Best Effects, Best Cinematography (side: my bet still on "Skyfall" actually) and Best Adapted screenplay. Whether it will win is another matter, perhaps in Effects. But Ang Lee's direction was ama…

Rise of The Guardians [3D]

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An entertaining, fun cartoon that will surely appeal to the children. Adults who do not mind escaping into their childhood fantasy will also find it to be a rather good way to spend 90mins or so. 3D definitely is an added bonus and should enhance the enjoyment. With Guillermo del Toro as one of the producers, there is some expectations for this animation. It was short and sharp, well-paced with a root-able hero(es) and a despise-able villain. It seemed a trend these days in animations to have cute, lovable, and memorable bit characters, and this one too does not disappoint. The most memorable characters are actually the ones that have no dialogue and main purpose is to incite sniggers, chuckles and a smile. It may appear slightly too messy and schizophrenic at times, and the cacophony of colours may be over-dazzling, but nonetheless, the animation was still excellent. The plot was simple and starts in media res, with little background provided, but that's not necessary since targ…

La Pizzaiola

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Cheap pizza place somewhere in Serangoon area. From the same couple who owns Pietrasantra at Portsdown. Crowded place where reservation is necessary, but unfortunately I think it is over-rated. The best thing was the Chablis wine that I brought over myself (corkage $15) and the low price. However, this place validates the adage you pay for what you get. The garlic bread was in a pizza dough with garlic slices, salt and parsley strewn over. First intro to their pizza dough and it was plainly bland. The rucola and Parma ham pizza was so-so. The dough again was bland and uninteresting. Not thin nor chewy, and the tomato/cheese base was too stingy. The pizzas are baked in an electric oven, hence the lack of wood taste. The Parma ham was overly cured. Service was fast. The house/chef speciality pasta was too bland for my liking. It did not tantalise and felt gimmicky. Just because something is "healthy" does not mean it cannot taste good. The panna cotta was passable, topped with…

Frankenweenie [3D]

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A fun little black & white stop-motion animation twist of the classic Frankenstein tale from the darkly macabre mind of Tim Burton. Updated with some interesting modern and classic horror sight gags and in jokes: Dracula, Gozilla, Mummy, Super 8, Bride of Frankenstein, etc. An interesting first third and a fun, exciting, darkly funny last third, but pity the middle was too slow and draggy. Partly also because it was in B&W, so the slowness in story and pace was not negated by any visual excitement. Even Danny Elfman's score also seemed to take a snooze in the middle portion. 3D was definitely a fun experience in this case without the colour element. The animation is very similar to "Corpse Bride", so perhaps with the same colour palette it may have been even better. Occasionally I was reminded of that classic X-Files episode "Post Modern Prometheus", particularly during the slow moments.

We Need to Talk About Kevin [Blu-Ray]

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A totally dark drama that was a showcase for the finely nuanced and intense acting of the very under-rated Tilda Swinton. It was a story that was excellently told. The non-chronological storyline revealed glimpses of the end-game and although the viewer can guess what will/had happened, they never really know if it was true till the end. There was minimal dialogue in this show, and it all relied on the abilities of Swinton and the reliable John C Reily to tell the audience this story. Although it has many cliches throughout in trying to explain the motives of Kevin, we can see it as Eva trying to rationalise within herself why he had done what he did through what society has always been blaming bad/sociopathic behavior on. Similarly, it also falls upon us, the audience, to reflect whether the sins of the child should be repaid by the parent(s); or even whether the sins of the parent(s) should be repaid by the child. We experience Eva's anguish on trying to re-council whether her …

Carnage [DVD]

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Disclaimer: I have never watched the play.

The first thing that greet the audience is Alexandre Desplat's wonderful score, and if you listen carefully it and watch as what unfolds on screen silently, it does kind of sets the mood for the rest of the show. Firstly, this whole movie is directed brilliantly by Polanski and it looks and feels like I am watching a play, rather  than a movie. The excellent cast is of course the other reason that makes this dialogue driven drama so compelling. Looking at these 4 adults devolve from civilised adults to child-like pettiness is riveting. Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet are both amazing! John C Riley was a late bloomer in this show but so much better to underlie his character. Christophe Waltz's character surprisingly was the one that stayed the truest throughout so Waltz was slightly more underplayed. Because it was directed like a play, a lot of elements that Polanski. used was more subtle. He played with camera angles, the characters p…

Argo

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A definite crowd pleaser. It may get some critical love but I do not see it getting much Oscar love in the end. Although we have got to wait for the rest of the movies this year to decide on that. It may make it to the top ten movies. A great intro that supplied background and bring the audience into the situation, but the one big problem for this movie (especially for a non-American audience) is that we do not care about the hostages. The first act was good (how to rescue the hostages?); the second act was a drag (no empathy for the hostages); in the third act, Affleck and Terrio tuned up the tension with cheap (and meaninglessly dramatic) scenes, quick cuts, and Desplat's score. Ben Affleck sure has improved as a director in his third outing, but he tend to over-indulge in showy shots which do not really serve any purpose. However, his attention to historical details was laudable. Unfortunately, I do not think he is Oscar-nominating calibre yet. Furthermore, he should stop casti…

Pitch Perfect

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Passable Glee meets Step-Up mash-up with some mild laughs. A potentially strong first act that turned weak, a mediocre second and a third act that lacked the underdog triumphant climax. all bundled in a contrived excuse for a plot. A waste of the strong, young comediennes ensembled. It's sad when the funniest people are not the top billed ones, but the always reliable Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins. Anna Camp and Brittany Snow were the best actresses of the bunch, but such a waste! Rebel Wilson had some good lines but her best were sadly after the end credits! As for Anna Kendrick, she's saddled with playing the straight girl. Sure, she's charming and cute and has cleavage, but her character is so boring. What a waste of an Oscar nominee! Her romance with Skylar Astin needs more work. It was strange, inorganic and rather unbelievable. As much as they like to diss "Glee", Ryan Murphy's gang had better songs, choreography and chemistry; Glee also bett…

Kith Cafe@Park Mall

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A new breakfast available in town at the corner of Park Mall where Dome used to be. Nice ambience with a chill out al fresco area. Sadly, the food was much to be desired. The fruit brioche with fresh strawberry and yogurt was pathetic. 2 thin slices of brioche which was not really the melt-in-your-month kind; the yogurt and strawberry was a small serving and should have been served with a spoon. The bratwurst at the side was a saving grace. And thankfully one can't go that wrong with a green apple, beetroot and carrot juice. Service was acceptable, although they forgot about my cappuccino. But most unforgiveably, my friend's bowl of grapes has mould!! and there was a baby cockroach roaming around the magazine stands behind the seats. Unfortunately, for the price, neither quality nor quantity is justified.

Verdict: Won't be coming back again. No pull factors at all.

Trouble with the Curve

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Tries to be this year's "Moneyball", but it lacked that certain spark of cohesion and brilliance. In the end, it's just another feel good movie that occasionally veered towards made-for-tv schmaltzy. Clint Eastwood replays his curmudgeon old man but unfortunately it does not break any new ground. Same for Amy Adams. They both will likely get overlooked by the Oscars this year. Justin Timberlake definitely has charm but this role is not really as outstanding as his role in "Tje Social Network". The whole movie could be trimmed a bit shorter and should decide whether its focus is on baseball or family. Robert Patrick and John Goodman should give their agents a raise. Ultimately, a watchable movie that failed in its Oscars ambition.

Arrow

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Episode 1, "Pilot":One thing you can surely depend on for any CW show is the cast are definitely good lookers. Arrow does not disappoint in this aspect, with the handsome and charismatic, if still a bit stiff, Stephen Amell, and the pretty Katie Cassidy in the lead. They are supported by a cast of good looking young and slightly older adults including Susanna Thompson (from the oldie, but goodie "Once and Again") and Paul Blackthorne (Harry Dresden from "The Dresden Files"). Of course, with creators/EP Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim at the helm, this series has a lot of potential. As expected in a Pilot, the exposition was heavy, but at least it laid the threads for a larger conspiracy, some interesting potential character developments, and an interesting visual style. The Pilot was well executed and definitely hooks you in for more. For comic book fans, this has a potential for continual viewing. Although, the voice-over, though excellent in "Eve…

Wizards vs Aliens

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Episode 1 & 2, "Dawn of the Nekross":What an interesting concept from the fertile mind of Russell T. Davis (and Phil Ford). I always wondered why there's no magic in the Whoinverse, but here comes along a CBBC programme that tries to marry these two disparate entities. Sure it is a children telly, but hey, so was (and is) "Doctor Who". These first two episodes were a bit chunky on the exposition and served mainly to introduce us to the characters. Our protagonist is a young Channing Tatum lookalike who is a wizard and his "friend" (that relationship needs more definition) is the Scully to his Mulder, who like Scully tried his best to explain magic in terms of scientific concepts. Davis did a great job of introducing the aliens to this storyline, and how aliens and magic can clash. The Nekross were sufficiently scary, especially the king - voiced by the very evil sounding Brian Blessed. Surprisingly, it was Brienne from "Games of Throne" …

SkyFall [IMAX]

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Bravo Sam Mendes! Bravo!! Bloody good Bond outing with an extremely strong performance by the 3 leads! Yes, even Daniel Craig who had re-defined Bond to make it his role! He oozed charisma and sex appeal, and made Intelligence sexy (again). Craig is definitely giving Connery a run for his money as the best Bond ever. Javier Bardem was brilliant to watch as the flamboyant Bond villain. He got the best lines and really nailed them all; not evil, per se, but oh so deliciously insane! And he had a bloody good entrance! That entrance and opening monologue was simply brilliant and memorable! Well done Bardem and Mendes! Judi Dench gets her meatiest Bond role and sold it with such gravitas and luminosity, the way only a Dame like her could. She is easily the best Bond girl of the show. Sam Mendes directing was superb and he infused his own style throughout, and as expected the dramatic scenes stood out. Riveting, tense and nuanced. His action scenes were brilliant in their simplicity and se…