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Showing posts from March, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier [3D]

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First off a gripe: I cannot believe that they are not showing this in IMAX in Singapore! Unbelievable! Shame on you Shaw!!!

A worthy sequel and entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with ramifications throughout the existing cinema and TV franchises. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have given us a political thriller that was tense, suspenseful and has broad appeal to both fans and the casual moviegoer. However, the film does not stand up very well both narratively and logically upon closer scrutiny and that, ultimately, was distracting to the overall enjoyment of this decidedly not-very-super superhero story (the "Honest Trailers" guys would have a field day!).
The Russos started the movie with the right tone: slightly serious with a touch of comedy and a hint of sentimentality. But that was also a problem. None of these aspects were fully realised. Partially this could be the fault of writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The fish-out-of-the-waters jokes …

Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra 100th Anniversary World Tour 2014

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A fantastic performance by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra led by conductor Eiji Oue featuring soloist Kyoko Takezawa. A refreshing change away from the usual classical repertoire.

The night started off with the hauntingly lush and majestically epic Bugaku by Toshiro Mayuzumi. The soundscape was gorgeous and I could totally see this as a ballet or a modern dance interpretation, and even a short film. Closing your eyes and listening to TPO, one's inner eye easily conjures up images rich in Japanese history. I can imagine Hayao Miyazaki incorporating it into one of his animations and it would not be out of place.

Miss Takezawa was sublime in Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35. I got goosebumps just from the her first few bars. Her interpretation of this popular classic was filled with soul and spirit, infusing the notes with her emotion. The orchestra backing her did not fail in leading her in and out of her amazing solos, always present and never overshadowing t…

Crisis

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Disclaimer: Huge The X-Files fan here and an even bigger fan of Gillian Anderson! She's been on a roll recently coming back onto our small screens with The Fall and Hannibal.

Pilot: Very intrigued as to why would Gillian Anderson sign on to this gig, so that was a big driving factor to check this out. As suspiciously similar as the plot sounds to the very disappointingHostages. Unfortunately, the whole pilot had a been that, done that feel throughout. Even the "twists" were all expected. Anderson's acting is definitely heads and shoulders above the rest of the cast, and poor Rachel Nichols is as unspectacular here as she was in666 Park Avenue and acting primarily opposite Scully is a daunting task. Mads Mikkelsen was a worthy adversary for her. Dermot Mulroney is as unconvincing as Dylan McDermott as similar sounding as their names are as the conflicted mastermind. Then we have the annoying teenagers! How hard is it to have good un-angsty teens? Sigh. I might just wat…

Believe

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Pilot: Recent Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón's sci-fi thriller is a big yawn, mediocre at best. The only reason NBC greenlighted it was probably because of him and J.J. Abrams, the latter has barely produced a television series in recent years that was above mediocrity. Seriously, this whole show felt a lot like that Kiefer Sutherland fronted short-lived series Touch (I had to google that!). The only aspect of the series that was good was the directing. The plot was boring and absurdly ham-fisted. The lead child actor has potential, but she really is more annoying than endearing. Series lead Jake McLaughlin needs to dig deeper for a personality...and a hair cut! He is trying too hard to be the in anti-hero and is losing all warmth and heart. Interestingly, the henchwomen are more interesting: Jamie Chung and whatever-her-name-is (both character and actress, Wikipedia is not very helpful here, and I really cannot be bothered to search beyond that). Then we have the 2 boss-ma…

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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A typical Wes Anderson film that daftly balanced the drama and comedy but never forgetting the emotional core. Possibly his best work yet. The 5 brightest stars in this marvellous cinematic piece are are undoubtedly: Wes Anderson - The Director and co-Writer; Hugo Guinness - the other co-Writer; Ralph Fiennes - The Lead Actor; Robert Yeoman - The Director of Photography; and Alexandre Desplat - The Composer. All 5 of them contributed immeasurably to the total, overall enjoyment of the movie.

Anderson has given us one of his best films to date. The directing was sharp, speedy and innovative. With his chapter of the story, he employs a slightly different technique to tell the story, and the pace changes from the slow, deliberate prologue to the increased energy of a young bustling, right-at-its-prime, hotel, and then the frantic race to the end. He is a master of winding up the tension and throwing of curveballs. A crafty storyteller that keeps you at the edge of your seat with the une…

Dee Dee Bridgewater (Mosaic Festival, Singapore)

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An amazing, live performance by the consummate Ms. Bridgewater. She has never disappointed in terms of live, on-stage performances. This was a night of real, New Orleans Jazz, none of that contemporary pop-jazz that most people seemed to like.

My first show of hers was when back in 2005, in a smoky little jazz bar in NYC. Very intimate setting, just a couple of tables, and Dee Dee on stage with her band serenading the audience with new and old classics. I was smitten.

I then caught her again back in 2008 in Japan's famous Blue Note Tokyo over dinner and drinks. A bigger venue, but she was no less charismatic and enchanting. But perhaps the language barrier reduced the flow of conversation between her and the audience.

Anyways, this was an amazing night! It took a while - bout 3 songs in - before the audience warmed up. "Them Brown Eyes" was the one that really broke the ice. Dee Dee was an engaging performer, with the right amount of banter and self-deprecation and salt…

300: Rise of An Empire

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Mindless entertainment that is inferior to the first instalment, not because of the lack of starpower (most of the stars then were not really stars yet, e.g. Gerard Butler and Michael Fassbender), but because the plot dragged and the narrative was predictably straightforward.

New director Noam Murro did a competent job and his action choreography was visually interesting albeit a bit on the safe side. However, as the story proceed from point A to B to C to D...the transiting scenes really dragged and slowed the pace down. I watched in 2D, however, Murro clearly filmed this movie with 3D in mind with many of the battle scenes employing moments that really made full use of the 3D effects. The screenplay itself is basically 300: The Navy Edition, and those sea battles were visually impressive. However, characters were weakly written and even the main ones had only a skeletal background that did not really offered much meat or marrow.

Sullivan Stapleton takes over the rein from Butler an…

Saving Mr. Banks

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Emma Thompson was robbed of her Oscar nomination for her complex portrayal of Mary Poppins' author PL Travers in this slightly schmaltzy and mildly draggy, but ultimately feel good movie. With a notable performance by Colin Farrell, the always reliable everyday-man Tom Hanks, a mostly smart/witty script and an upliftingly melancholic score by John Williams. For fans of the 1964 Julie Andrew's movie, some scenes will surely bring smile to the face.

John Lee Hancock directed a 2 hours long movie that took almost 1 hour to finally find its legs. The set up of the mystery as to why Mrs Travers was so reluctant to let go of the rights took too much screen time. That first half spent too much time making her to be a tough cookie, and the backstory took a bit too long to bring to the crux of the matter. Luckily, in the present we had Thompson, and in the past we had Farrell to anchor the stories and kept us engrossed as the plot meandered and wavered. Walt Disney was obviously scrub…