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Showing posts from August, 2012

Magic Mike [Dig]

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A typical Soderbergh movie, complete with a snazzy soundtrack and montages, that eschews expectations. Although this film is about a (male) stripper, it is not a movie about stripping. Consequently, surprisingly, it was not very sexual. And a lot of it is due to the way in which Soderbergh directed and edited his film, as well as the dance choreography employed which was less erotic and more athletic  Nonetheless, the usual stripper cliches are all present: a stripper with a heart of gold, the newcomer, the Girl/Boy, the debauchery associated with being a stripper, and of course the climax where protagonist has to decide on his/her future (usually in or out of the stripping biz). But the difference here is that the protagonist is not the newcomer, which provides a refreshing change in POV and  story-telling direction. Channing Tatum has improved as an actor, I will give him his dues. His screen time with Cody Horn was one of his better performances (and really, he should stick to rom…

Sole Pomodoro

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A simple, nondescript, rustic Italian Osteria opposite Rex cinemas with a good old-fashion wood fire pizzeria oven (which to me is the main attraction). Well ventilated surroundings with generous air conditioning and overhead fans that made dinner time al fresco dining a pleasure in Singapore (other than the plentiful vehicular traffic). The meatballs were authentic: soft, slightly chewy minced meat served in a tomato/bolognaise sauce that could have been hotter. The 4 cheese pizza was excellent. Thin and chewy with a subtle hint of burnt wood over the crust. Though not good enough for me to eat all the crust (only Il Montino's pizzas in Pisa was that fantastic!), it is still much better than many other joints in Singapore. Price-wise it was average, but would have expected a tad less based on location and lack of full air-conditioning.

Verdict: Will definitely be back if nothing else but to try their other pizzas.

ParaNorman [Digital] [3D]

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An excellent, intelligent, satirical allegory on humanity wrapped in kid-friendly stop-motion and a horror-comedic premise from the creators of "Coraline". It lacked the quirkiness and originality of the latter, but made up for its subtle intelligence and even more amazing animation. Children will like it for its superficiality; adults will get bored of they cannot appreciate the dark satire and social commentary that Chris Butler wove into the plot, dialogues and throwaways. The first act started promising with the first scene but then slowed and dragged; it seemed confused on what it really wanted to be. Fortunately, it found its footing in the second act and became thoroughly enjoyable by the midway point accumulating in an exciting climax. This is more than just a "cartoon" or a zombie flick. Then again, smart writers/authors have always used zombies (and the undeads) as a an allegory to human nature and behaviour. Possibly one of the best Zombie-comedies on pa…

To The Arctic [IMAX@Omni-Theatre]

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Throwback to the past watching a movie at the Omni Theatre. Nonetheless this Meryl Streep narrated documentary is anything but not modern. Amazing technology yielded stunning close-up footages of the polar bears. But that was all to it to this 40mins docu. A series of gorgeous landscapes, panoramas and ultra-cute polar bears (with cameos by Walruses and Caribous) to sell the simple environmental message of Global Warming. Oh, and together with Meryl Streep's soothing narration and Pail MacCarthy's whimsical songs. There was one genuinely tension filled sequence at the end that was quite brilliant. Sadly, only shown in the Omni-Theatre so expect a lot of young children and the consequential persistent chatter throughout.

Penang Kitchen

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Situated at the corner of relatively quite King's Arcade along Coronation Road, this humble Penang kitchen serves up some delicious and affordable Penang food. Their char kway teow (extra spicy) and char bee hoon were standouts. Though the former loses out in authenticity with the lack of pig skin and lard. The rojak was very authentic with a very strong prawn based sauce. The herbal duck soup was good too but the meat itself was too tough. The prawn mee was alright but not wow. No comments on the Assam laksa because I never really liked it in the first place, but the dining party agreed that it was alright. The chicken wings and orh hiang were both great starters, though the orh hiang was a tad skinny (but at least it was flavourful). Can skip desserts, IMO.

Jaan

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The last time I ate at Jaan, André Chiang was the chef. Julian Royer has now taken over and his cooking is quite promising. Standouts from the 10-course surprise menu includes the mushroom tea with sabayon, organic egg with iberico ham, trumpet mushrooms and peas, black truffle ice cream (a side though), and the main strawberry and cardamon sorbet dessert. Many of the dishes had too many parts in them and it's disjointing to the palate. However, overall it was quite good and impressive but the menu itself lacked a common theme which would have raised the standard, and so ended up a tad schizophrenic. The service here could be better. Food should be served at the same time and held off if not all the guests are at the table; water should be topped up regularly and the type of water (Châteldon, my favourite sparkling water) is expected to be known; the wine menu should be re-offered after the first glass; serving tempo should be regular and equally paced; bread should be offered reg…

Brave [Digital] [3D]

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A classic, Disney Princess cartoon that skews more to the younger and female crowd than the classic Pixar animations. Nonetheless, it was, as expected, gorgeously landscaped and designed to mimic the Scottish highlands. Merida's fiery red curls were amazing! Typical plot about growing up and youth vs. wisdom. Right amount of cuteness to endear to the young ones, but not too childish to alienate the adults. Started out a tad slow but found its footing and rhythm in the second act, and ended with an exhilarating third act. Some genuinely funny and touching scenes that's not too strained. Voice acting was excellent from Andie McDowell and Emma Thompson, although the Scottish accent might take some getting used to. The Scottish score by Patrick Doyle was appropriate but not highly memorable. The short in the beginning was very good. A simple fairy tale that echoes a similar morality as the main feature and accompanied musically by the always excellent Michael Giacchino. Stay till…

Chui Huay Lim (醉花林)

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Authentic teochew restaurant helmed by a head chef that hails from swatow. Fine teochew cuisine and technique. The cold crab and lobster was well done. Light and refreshing, and served with a tangy dip. The braised goose was tender and the fats/skin peels off nicely. The accompanying tau kwa was flavourful and soft inside and yet the outside was nice and firm. The abalone with fish maw had a distinctive teochew taste to it. The bee goon was a bit of a let down. It was cooked in a seafood broth, so flavour was there, but the prawns and scallops were not as tasty or fresh as the crustaceans. The orh-ni (芋泥) with pumpkin and ginkgo nuts was smooth and fine. Good for those who love it this way, but I prefer mine a bit chunkier with more yam taste. This one was also a bit too sweet. The other dessert was the fried yam sticks coated with sugar. A traditional teochew dessert that is seldom found in restaurants these days. Simple dish. The sweetness of the refined sugar nicely balances the ea…

Melancholia [DVD]

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This is a story of two sisters. An utterly depressing apocalyptic story of two sisters that are more similar than they care to admit. A showcase for Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, particularly the former who gave the performance of her career. Finally a glimpse of the good actress that we all thought she could be since playing Claudia in "Interview with a Vampire". Dunst portrayed the emotional frailty of her savant bride with sincerity and intensity; Gainsbourg unraveled beautifully. Both characters were written so well and acted so beautifully. Lars von Trier's shaky handicam directing takes a bit getting used to, but the images that he puts on screen are at once visceral and unique. Minimal soundtrack that allows for the silence to echo the suppressiveness of the end of days. But imagine if a suitable score was created, how more amazing this movie would have been! The supporting actors were outstanding with their little screen time, particularly Charlotte Ra…

Sandaime Bunji 三代目 文治

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Delicious but expensive Sendai (仙台) food. Mainly 2 specialties: gyotan and oden. The gyotan steak, skewers and kakuni (cubes) were excellent!! Well grilled and well stewed, yet maintaining the distinctive flavour and texture of ox tongue. The oden was authentic, 7 pieces floating in a refillable soup base. They even replace the solid fuel promptly when it burns out. The white cold noodles was fantastic and came with a good dipping sauce that had a tinge of yuzu in it. The vegetable fish cake was perhaps the blah-est of the lot. Dessert was the house special mochi: sweet and interesting in texture but perhaps not to everybody's liking. Friendly, polite and prompt service.

Ikyu

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The newest kid on the block at the burgeoning hipster area of Yeong Seik Road (and Tiong Bahru in general). A titillating slogan like "Ikyu is the new sexy" clearly states the direction the restaurant is aiming towards and the first experience re-enforced the expected departure from traditional Japanese restaurants. Decor was modern with exposed pipings and ducts (a lot like its neighbour ODP, so won't be surprised if they are with the same group). The mixed sushi set lunch was slightly pricier than your usual restaurants' but at least the fish was fresh though small; 5 pieces of sushi plus maki. The set came with a small salad, cold chawanmushi (a tad fishy, likely from the roe), fresh tofu skin, miso soup and ice-cream. Note: hot tea is payable and the set does not come with coffee/tea. The yuzu umeshu was good but way overpriced for the minute amount that was served. Service was barely acceptable and they need to brush up on their awareness of the menu. 2 waitress…

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

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Sushi food porn. Visual umami. Fascinating documentary about a master chef dedicated to his craft. His passion and beliefs translates clearly to the audience. But the cynical audience may suspect how much of the documentary was made to introduce the world to Jiro, and how much of it was a selfish publicity to pave the future for his sons because you do get the feeling throughout that the restaurant's future is perpetually in doubt. The producers have also conveniently left out certain facts in their depiction of the godfather of sushi: if you don't speak Japanese you can rarely get a reservation to the main branch (you'll be relegated to the less-starred Roppongi branch); if you don't have a local to bring you in, Jiro won't serve you (though latest news have mentioned it is now more lax). Nonetheless, Jiro's wisdom and dedication is the true star of the docu. It's true that one needs a sensitive palate to create delicious food. Without being able to disti…

The Bourne Legacy [Digital]

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Acceptable action thriller that's sadly does not reach the greatness of the first Damon's Bourne outing. Renner is a decent action star and has his own magnetism, but his character was written too flat and uninspiring; Aaron Cross lacks Jason Bourne's everyday man's charm. Tony Gilroy's directing needs a lot of work. He favours close shots and tight framings too much, hence it ended up too vertiginous in certain scenes and loses perspectives in others. Also, some scenes ended too abruptly and were clearly truncated (Director's cut?). The first act had way too much exposition. It was trying too damn hard to dovetail this movie into the narrative of the previous franchise. Unfortunately, it started veering too much into science fiction territory, namely *spoiler alert* Dark Angel meets Captain America. The ending was too abrupt and clearly built up for a new franchise. The highlight was definitely the final police chase scene. Excellent action choreography but w…

Moonrise Kingdom

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Another brilliant, quirky and slightly whimsical family drama by Wes Anderson that has that rare cinematic quality of genuine laugh out loud moments from the heart and belly. Brilliant, sublime comedic turns by the adult cast: Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton; earnest and sincere performances by the young actors (particularly the 2 young leads). Also, one of Alexandre Desplat's best score (to appreciate it fullest, stay for the whole credits)! One of the best gems of the year and I wouldn't be surprised if it gets some love during Oscar season. Well directed, well scripted, well acted and well scored! An excellent example of the power of of (exquisite) storytelling.

Caveau Wines & Bar

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Popped in during lunch time searching for coffee and a light bite, and not really looking for a glass of wine. Intimate, cozy interiors, with a working office at one end of the room. Some people might be impressed by the Enomatic wine dispenser. *shrugs* Light bites (tapas-ish) were only available for dinner, so only a couple of pastries were available for lunch. Unfortunately the chocolate croissant was bad: warm on the outside, cold and hard inside; the almond croissant fared better. The drip (Panama) coffee was actually quite good and reasonably priced as compared to most of the newer "coffee-shops". Sneaked a peek at their wine list, and the wines on offer were "mainly French" (as one sales person quipped to another customer's enquiry). Definitely not the top range, Grand Crus, Premire Crus, Super Tuscanies, but more affordable wine labels and 2nd-label wines.


Verdict: Can come again for coffee, and maybe the tapas at night. But for the top quality wine, loo…

Total Recall [Digital]

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This is NOT a remake of the brilliant, classic 1990 Arnie's Total Recall. It is instead based vaguely on the same concept (the Philip K Dick short story) and that's where the similarities end. Colin Farrell makes a decent action hero but sadly the story and plot were unable to support him and his efforts to resurrect his career. The extremely wooden Jessica Biel did not help things, and they both had absolutely zero chemistry. At least he sparked better with Kate Beckinsale who was at least a watchable component of this debacle. The big bad was so ridiculous, poor Bryan Cranston! Bill Nighy practically slept-read through his lines, and poor John Cho was a joke. Len Wiseman needs a lot more practice, word of advice: light flares do not make you brilliant or Spielberg-ish (or even Abrams-esque), and it is very annoying! Also, spend more effort on world-building and logic/continuity, which was so much better done on the Underworld series he helmed, although the incoherence could…

&made by Benard Menard

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Attaching an ex-three Michelin star chef's name to any restaurant definitely raises expectations. Especially so if one had eaten at previous establishment (L'Osier, Tokyo) and actually enjoyed it. Good welcoming by the energetic maitre'D. Lots of staffs milling about. Short, simple menu, but no recommendations by staffs nor any specials. The 'b' burger was excellent. Medium rare and juicy beef patty (though my preference for the meat was not asked). Excellent cheese and lightly caramelised onions. All between soft, buttered buns. The fries, on the other hand, were underwhelming. Perhaps because I just got back from France/Italy where the potatoes were literally to-die-for! Didn't care much for the ?tomato/pesto sauce. Desserts wise the lollipop waffle is a total gimmick: waffle on a wooden chopsticks with 3 sauces to drizzle or dip in. The sundae was terrific though! The caramel version, as recommended, was excellent. Particularly the Chantilly cream. The pearl…

The Dark Knight Rises [IMAX]

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The best thing about this movie was the score. Followed by the plot.  However, the plot narrative itself was horrendous: plot holes, logic leaps and continuation errors. Also, badly written dialogue and clumsy characterisations. In other words, almost like any other Christopher Nolan movies after Memento (and even Insomnia): big ideas,  big sets, no finesse. One difference though is the lack of outstanding acting. Kudos to some of the cast members who shone: Anne Hathaway was stellar, a refreshing take on a familiar character; Tom Hardy, too, was perfect as Bane, embodying the character's complexities through speech and eyes (man, those back muscles are terrifying!). The oldies were goodies, and always an onscreen pleasure without even doing much: Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a rising star but got to stay out of action for a bit (see: Jeremy Renner). Sadly, Christian Bale and Marion Cottilard both appear to be sleepwalking through the who…