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Showing posts from September, 2013

Rush

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A rousing, exciting historical drama/biopic that was superbly directed, well acted, gorgeously shot and brilliantly scored with a great script. Kudos to the whole team! Ron Howard has not made such a good movie in a long time! The POV switches between the two male leads seamlessly and the audience is brought through their stories effortlessly, allowing us to empathise, and even sympathise, with them through their triumphs, trials and tribulations. Of course, this will also not be possible if without the two lead actors. Sorry, but Daniel Brühl is really more a co-lead than supporting actor here, but he might just submit himself for the Best Supporting Actor as individually they both lack sufficient meat to wing a Best Actor. Chris Hemsworth finally gets to show off his acting chopes, and credit to Howard for not obsessing over his handsome mug. Contrarily, he might have over compensate with the frequent shots of ratty Brühl. Anyways, Hemsworth gave an applaudable performance as the pl…

Hairspray the Musical

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This was definitely one of the best musical productions to hit our local shores in a long, long time. I will be honest and say that the 2007 movie was my first introduction to this musical, so the image of John Travolta in drag is still very memorable, as was Queen Latifah. In this british production, the vocals were outstanding throughout except for Link's portrayer. Strong, powerful voices with great scatting, energetic dancing, high octane performances and hilarious line-readings. Edna Turnbull is again the most popular draw with the crowd, and she is really the emotional core of the show, despite Tracy being the main lead. The standout songs were the same as the movie, but one thing which the movie had the upper hand over was the larger sets and larger background cast, giving the big dance scenes even more energy and vibrancy. Other than the technical snafu in the beginning where the house lights did not dim, the other setbacks were the rather poor lighting, simplistic sets a…

Trophy Wife

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Pilot: A funny family-situational comedy by ABC with a very likable lead in Malin Akerman. She is equally warm and effusive without seeming too flaky or desperate, such that you do want to root for her. But hopefully, after this pilot, the rest of the series will be more about this new family dynamics rather than her trying to fit in/get accepted. Akerman's has a knack for physical comedy and that will play very well against the hilarious straight-woman Marcia Gay Hayden. Michaela Watkins seemed extraneous now, other than for the fact that they need to explain the adopted china boy, who I fear will be an amalgam of Modern Family's Manny and Lily, and who will be milked for senseless comedy. Invariably, this comedy will draw comparisons with "Modern Family", but hopefully it will be as good as the latter was in its first season and carry it through the future (which the latter did not).

Episode #2 - #5: Binged watched all 4 episodes together, and this is a delightful c…

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Pilot: Joss Whedon is back!!! But truth be told, I found this pilot rather underwhelming. Perhaps it was because of all that hype, but I was expecting more. Having said that, it was still loads of awesomeness, with crackling good lines, shout outs to most of the movie-Marvels heroes/moments, and most importantly a solid cast. The trick here is to balance the darkness of this black-ops, secret agents theme, with the lightness and brevity, and dark comic, that Whedon is known for. And I think he did a good job thus far. Pilots are always exposition heavy, and that's their role, but the next few episodes will really determine if this ABC series will take off, or will it end up like "Firefly" and "Dollhouse". Clark Gregg and Chloe Bennet are the clear standouts here; I really liked the tech-and-science team of Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker (they are like the Xander and Willow on steroids, or Topher on adrenaline); Ming-Na Wen is still an enigma, but I…

Hostages

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Pilot: The 2 best thing about this new CBS drama is the premise and Toni Collette. Think of this at a network neutered version of "Homeland", i.e. without the violence, the grit or the subversion. The bad guys who, so far, aren't really that bad, and the good guys (or girl, in both cases) who's a strong, independent bitch. However, count on them to always have annoying children. The premise itself is the hook, but how can this lead to beyond 15 episodes is as good a guess as anybody's. Even "Under The Dome" is going on to Season 2! Collette is amazing to watch, and her eyes are powerful and emotional. She's one of the few actors who can really convey emotions with a look, although not many looks thus far (but, hey!, she was in "United States of Tara"), and it's kind of cute when her Aussie accent slips out. McDermott bores me, as he did in "American Horror Story". He has always been looking/acting the same ever since "Th…

The Blacklist

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Pilot: NBC's newest crime drama (?procedural...still hard to tell with this first episode) has gotten me hooked onto it within the opening minute. An enigmatic and intriguing start, which got weighed down by too much exposition over the course of the pilot. James Spader has got the creepy vibe emanating throughout (echoes of James Purefoy's Joe Carroll from "The Following") and director Joe Carnahan's penchant for close ups is definitely not helping. Although Spader should cut down on the over-acting. Megan Boone on the other hand, well, let's hope she turns out like Anna Torv from "Fringe" but don't take too long to thaw. As for that whole family angle, without spoiling too much, at first I thought they were going to go all first season "Alias" on us, but then, they spin it around in the second Act with a second/third season "Alias" scenario, but in the end, I was just hoping, please just don't let it be final season &qu…

The World's End

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The last chapter in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy is a delightful, fun, subversive romp through the genre of the "Buddy Road Trip" and Alien Invasion/Independence Day, and even a dash of Western and Apocalypse. However, unlike the prior two entries, "Shaun of the Dead" (a modern zombie/horror-comedy classic) and "Hot Fuzz" (hilarious crime thriller/whodunit), the laughs were not consistent throughout its 100-minutes run, and neither were there many genuinely laugh-out-loud, choke on your snot kind of moments this time round. It could be that expectations were too high for this last hurrah, but nonetheless, this was still a great comedy! Miles ahead of the usual Hollywood tropes and pure money-grabbing schticks (looking at you: "Hangover"!). The cast has a great chemistry, even the usual dead fish-esque Rosamund Pike (still cannot imagine her in "Gone Girl", she and Ben Affleck?!!..what was David Fincher thinking?). Martin Freema…

Lolla

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They call themselves a small-plates dining experience, but in other words, tapas-like. Thankfully, the pretentiousness ends there, as the food at this small Ang Siang Hill establishment was really good. Fresh, interesting pairings which taste as good as they are presented. Price is slightly more expensive for the size of the portion but quality is undeniable. At least it's more worth it than the many other tapas/restaurants that keep springing up these days. The toasted baguette with an olive oil and tomato purée dip came with a half a roasted garlic (that itself is seldom done locally...) and was a tasty opener. The specials of the day was outstanding in particular the candied foie gras with cranberries and spanish onions and squash which was a generous portion with the sweetness complementing the savoury, generous liver although would have been better if the onions were caramelised longer; the iberico pork collar was served on a bed of crushed almonds with figs and that was perf…

Prisoners

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A riveting, engaging 153 minutes crime drama with career best performances by both Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Director Denis Villeneuve and writer Aaron Guzikowski have given us a very well and tightly written crime drama (not thriller, per se, as this is very much a drama) that weaves red herrings, drops seemingly unimportant plot points and stretch the unwavering tension throughout in a well-paced (slow to some, no doubt, who prefers the usual Hollywood fare) and intelligent manner. Of course, all this is for nought, if there was not the very strong cast that Villeneuve has assembled. Jackman, in a role that is more deserving of an Academy Award nomination than Jean Valjean, has the more showy role and he was brilliant. He is the character that you hate yourself for sympathising with, an anti-hero due to circumstances; his choices conflict with his morality and Jackman aptly displayed the emotions and pain that such decisions has caused him. For a while, you can finally lose…

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

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Pilot: FOX's newest comedy is a curious thing. The concept of a 30 minutes crime procedural is intriguing, but to make it a comedy? The cast and the writers have to be exceptionally strong! By the end of the pilot, I am reminded of "Scrubs": a 30 minutes comedy set in a hospital but was not "ER" or "Chicago Hope" (and now "Gray's Anatomy"). However, unlike "Scrubs", "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"' has Andy Samberg who lacked Zach Braff's naive self-depreciating humour, and Melissa Fumero who lacked Sarah Chalke's gift for physical comedy and comedic timing. But, instead, we got Andre Braugher in a decidedly uncharacteristic role. Outwardly, he may be similar to his many previous characters especially in "Last Resort" where he was also in uniform, but as the episode progress, his deadpanned line reading belies some hilarious comedic moments. The rest of the cast had their moments but perhaps over time, &quo…

Masters of Sex

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Pilot: And now it's Showtime's turn to dip its toes into the Period Drama. With "Broadwalk Empire" losing steam and "Mad Men" nearing its end, perhaps it is indeed a good time to launch this new project, and based on the pilot, this show has a very good chance of succeeding. Even with a titillating premise, the pilot was surprisingly sterile (reminds me a lot of "Magic Mike" where the sex was rather clinical rather than erotic). A stellar cast led by the brilliant and sensational Michael Sheen and the amazingly revelation that is Lizzy Caplan, and created by Michelle Ashford, brings this engaging 50s era drama to life. Undoubtedly, the directing by John Madden, the sumptuous score by Michael Penn, and the gorgeous, beautiful set/production design, all played an essential part in transporting the audience to this time, place and moment in American history. Michael Sheen is amazing to watch, as he brings about a complexity to the character through s…

Sleepy Hollow

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Pilot: Fall 2013 has finally started for television, and one of the first out is this new FOX supernatural, drama series based on the "Headless Horseman" legend. Admittedly, to a non-American audience, the most I know about the legend of Sleepy Hollow comes from the Johnny Depp-Christina Ricci movie back in 1999. Anyways, this pilot has got a few things going for it, but it is relying quite strongly on the supernatural hook which may turn off some audience members who are not that into the occult; however, if, like me, supernatural stories are up your alley, then this show may be quite promising. In particular, the two leads: Tom Mison and Nichole Beharie have a good, comfortable chemistry on screen which makes their exchanges pleasant to watch. It was something similar between Lucy Liu and Johnny Lee Miller that made "Elementary" enjoyable despite it being a procedural. Perhaps it is that combination of British and American accent? The one big issue I have with &q…

Jamie's Italian (Singapore)

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I had tried the one in London about a year ago, and left without a very good impression of the food. Therefore, I came in with rather low expectations. Service was alright, but I could barely understood what the wait staff was rambling on about the specials. Also, if the mobile credit card machine does not work, wouldn't it be better to just take the customer's card and proceed to the cashier to make payment rather than look for another machine? Anyways, I ordered the same thing that I had in London: the squid ink pasta with scallop, chilli and scallops. The food came quite fast, however, the sure were not kidding when they say "small". I could have eaten up that bowl in 2 bites! It was a lot smaller than the one in London. Taste wise, it was equally pedestrian. The pathetic scallops were not the freshest and the pasta, although al dente, did not blend in with the sauce/broth that it was sitting in. For the price that it is charged, this, like its London's branch…

Fruitvale Station

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A beautifully tragic character study, heartbreakingly portrayed by Michael B. Jordan in a star turn, of a son, father, husband, lover, brother, friend, victim and martyr. In over a course of a day, interspersed with occasional flashbacks, writer/director Ryan Coogler, introduced us to the many facets and complexities of Oscar Grant, bringing us into his world, his life, his story. With simple vignettes we get a rather complete picture of what kind of guy Oscar was, or cynically, what kind of guy Coogler wants us to believe Oscar was in order to illicit the maximum emotional impact from the ending (which if one follows current affairs, is not much of a spoiler). And lucky for Coogler, and the audience, Jordan was more than competent in bringing this complicated character alive, delivering an emotionally charged performance that revealed the multiple layers beneath that famous name. It was heartbreaking as we followed him through this one day, this one fateful day, where through we get…

The Bling Ring

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Superficially this is a simple show with a simple, straightforward plot, and cookie-cutter like characters. However, on deeper inspection, Sofia Coppola has actually created a rather piercing and satirical black comedic commentary on American Youth and the American (Modern) obsession with celebrity, fame and decadent hedonism. Unfortunately, she had to hit us with a sledgehammer at the final 10 minutes to drive this point into the audience! Such audacity to insult the people (unless, you see it as a further layer of social commentary on its audience...then, that might just be slightly brilliant). That being said, sadly in the end, this was a 90 minutes movie that is essentially 2/3 fillers. Sure, we had some interesting shots from Coppola here and there as she tried to capture the decadent lifestyle of the characters, but where she really excelled in were the quieter moments, the wide angled shots, and the framing of the characters, but she should really lay off the handheld cameras …