24 December 2012

Trattoria Lafiandra al Museo

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.



23 December 2012

Les Misérables

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 is so famed for. The opening scenes of the Two Acts alone justify this movie. Stunning! Grand! and only if they could translate it to the stage. The movie also filled up a lot of narrative gaps in the musical and was very welcomed. Similarly, the new song, "Suddenly" filled the emotional gap of Jean Valjean's character arc. A lot had been mentioned about Russell Crowe's singing in the news, but I do not think he is that bad. His interpretation of Javert was refreshing and his singing and timbre reflects the way he and the director chose to portray the inspector. Sure he could not reached the range and was flat at times when he's softer, but Crowe's acting was spot on. That is more than can be said for Hugh Jackman. His Jean Valjean, was to me, the biggest disappointment. He can sing but his voice is such a disparity from the character (as I have known), the way he chose to play him and the songs. His voice itself just could not "act" and lacked the necessary gravitas. His Jean Valjean just seemed weak and too wishy washy to be the central figure. Jackman just couldn't consistently juggle to act, move and sing at the same time; scenes where he was stationary had the best singing. But I think, he chose to focus on his acting more than his singing. His best was his first big song, sadly that was too early in the show. And his rendition of "Suddenly" sadly felt empty as was "Bring Him Home". Anne Hatheway, on the other hand, has secured her Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actress. Her single scene of "I Dreamed a Dream" was a masterclass and Hooper knew it for he framed the song in one gorgeous and emotional long take. Samantha Barks was the best singer of the lot, no surprise there. Her 2 songs have always been the emotional heart of the musical. Sadly, Eponine seemed to be portrayed here as less significant than on the stage. Eddie Redmayne was a pleasant surprise. This boy can sing and his Marius was actually interesting. The Thenardiers were disappointing. Their bit was played for crass laugh and Sasha Baron Cohen really did his character a disservice. Also, Helena Bonhem Carter had no chemistry with Cohen, hence their comedic double act felt flat. Hooper and the film are likely to get their respective nominations, though I don't see the movie winning. Furthermore, I see the rest of the cast as long shots, except for the shoo-in of Hatheway. It's very rare that the audience claps at the end, but clap they did this time. An enjoyable, gorgeous film that is different from the musical, but between them both, I would watch the musical many more times (especially with good musical artistes).

22 December 2012

Jack Reacher [Dig]

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.

20 December 2012

The Intouchables

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 that seemed so comfortable and natural amongst each other. Also rare are the many genuinely laugh out moments that pepper the movie from start to end, and not one was due to physical comedy or slapstick. The jokes parried from one actor to another fluidly. Kudos to the writers/directors and cast for that! The directors too made good choices of music, with selections ranging from Classicals to Ludovico Einaudi's evocative "Fly" and other emotive piano tracks (reminiscence of Michael Nyman's "The Heart Asks Pleasure First" and Sia's "Breathe") to Earth, Wind and Fire's hits, and any movie that used Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" so effectively and appropriately definitely deserves a shout out and recognition (although nothing beats "Six Feet Under" haunting utilisation of this tune). The weakest links were the threads involving Sy's family and Cluzet's daughter, although the latter did try to serve as a reflection of sorts. Thankfully this movie steered clear of the cheesy schmaltzy cliches that tend to plague this genre. A definite winner and crowd pleaser that almost everybody would enjoy.

<En français par Google Translate> Un véritable sentiment réconfortant et bon film comédie dramatique française par Olivier Nakache et Éric Toledanz, le duo écriture et la réalisation, qui était remplie de rires tout au long. François Cluzet et Omar Sy sont deux fils merveilleusement charismatiques avec excellente chimie ainsi illuminé l'écran avec leurs personnalités et des sourires irrésistibles infectieuses. Ils sont la raison pour laquelle ce film inspiré par de véritables événements-a si bien fonctionné malgré la dramatisation évidente et l'inauthenticité de certaines scènes, couplé avec un regard stéréotypé à la ségrégation raciale. Mais en laissant de côté tous que la politique, on se retrouve avec un pleaser de foule étonnamment chaud au coeur. A partir de la première scène nous sommes devenus accros. Le prologue introduit les fils, mais les peindre vaguement à intriguer le public et taquiner au sujet de leur relation et comment ils sont arrivés là. Ils et l'excellent casting de soutien (en particulier Audrey Fleurot et Anne Le Ny) a vraiment fait le spectateur dans la vie, et il est très rare de voir un casting qui semblait si confortable et naturelle entre eux. Aussi rares sont les nombreux moments vraiment rire que le poivre le film du début à la fin, et pas un seul était due à la comédie physique ou burlesque. Les blagues paré d'un acteur à un autre fluide. Bravo aux auteurs / réalisateurs et fonte pour ça! Les administrateurs trop fait de bons choix de la musique, avec des sélections allant de Classiques de Ludovico Einaudi évocateur "Fly" et d'autres pistes de piano émotives (réminiscence de Michael Nyman "The Heart Asks Pleasure First" et Sia's "Breathe") de Earth, Wind et frappe Feu, et n'importe quel film celle utilisée Nina Simone "Feeling Good" de manière efficace et appropriée mérite certainement un cri de reconnaissance et d'(bien que rien ne vaut "Six Feet Under" utilisation de cette mélodie obsédante). Les maillons les plus faibles étaient les fils impliquant la famille Sy et la fille de François Cluzet, bien que celui-ci a essayé de servir en tant que reflet de toutes sortes. Heureusement, ce film réussi à éviter les clichés ringards eau de rose qui ont tendance à toucher ce genre. Un vainqueur définitif et pleaser de foule que presque tout le monde apprécierait.

11 December 2012

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

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 big screen, but for the casual movie-goer the pacing and extraneous scenes can be trying. Martin Freeman makes a fine Bilbo, and his comedic timings as well as knack for on-the-spot reaction shots and physical comedy makes him an unlikely hero to root for. We know he survive, but we are intrigue in the how: how did he survive and how has he changed. This differs from the overtly masochistic hero of Richard Armitage's Thorin Oakenshield who we slowly learn to care for and root for his victory. Although his characterisation needs more work as he is prone to outbursts that seemed to contradict his behavior. Lastly, Ian McKellen as Gandalf brings the same character back to our screen. He is still up to his old bag of tricks (which we now see he has been using for the past 60 years at least). McKellen infuses in Gandalf a potent mixture of childish mischief, angry parent, patient teacher and - strangely enough - shy admirer. The rest of the cast do not have much else to shine for, although it does take some time to get to know all the dwarves. In addition, it is always a pleasure to see Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Chistopher Lee back on the screen again reprising their roles, although a part of me was hoping for a cameo by Liv Tyler or even Orlando Bloom. Smeagol is always a delight, but I thought his scene was a bit too drawn out and lacked the necessary tension. Howard Shore had created an iconic theme in the LOTR trilogy and he now re-introduced us to a new theme that is strong, heroic and hopeful theme yet tinged with slight danger and darkness. The music throughout was spot on and really brings the audience into the world in the screen. 3D was excellent here as the movie itself was filmed in 3D so the shots were largely planned out to submerged the audience into Middle Earth. Now, about the big fat elephant in the theatre. I must say, I am a believer in this new theatrical format of 48fps. Everything thing is extremely clear and sharp, and this can be a double-edged sword. The details that pop out of the screen (and in this case literally with 3D) was gorgeous as were all the breathtaking sets that Peter Jackson and crew constructed. Panning shots and sweeping vistas (which Jackson has always shown he was very fond of to show off his home country) were clear and in focus unlike traditional 24fps where it was all a blur. One can really appreciate the grandeur and majesty of these large scenes/sets. However, with all the details stark clear, the CGI became more apparent. Viewing "The Hobbit" in 48fps is akin to watching television in HD; the initial reaction was the glaring starkness and artificiality of the actors and their environment. But as TV evolved with HD, we all got more and more used to watching our favourite shows in all their HD glory. The initial 15 minutes sure took me some time to get used to the higher frame rate, and admittedly it did get a bit nauseous. But after a while, the eyes and brain adjust and one can truly appreciate the wonder of that extra clarity. I believe this and 3D will be the way to go in the future for movies: James Cameron, Martin Scorcese and Ang Lee have all shown what 3D can do to enrich the movie-going experience, so here's hoping Jackson sets the trail ahead for 48fps!

8 December 2012

Balzac Brasserie

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 chewy yet had a later of crunch with it. I had the beef tartare today, and this is definitely only for those who actually do like raw beef. And if you do, then you would be rewarded with a tasty oral pleasure. Tender with a slight chewiness and crunch brought out by the salt/pepper/herb and celeriac(?) mix and smoothened out with the raw yolk. The tartare was served, uniquely, with a serving of shoestring fries which were strangely addictive. Although it tasted better when just served. Lastly dessert was a superb vanilla creme brûlée although the custard may have been cooked just a tad too long. Nonetheless, the taste was great. Not too sweet nor too bland.

Verdict: Will definitely come back repetitively.













Rust and Bone (De Rouille et D'Os)

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, glitzy Hollywood blockbusters. Her portrayal was nuanced, honest and raw, and although it lacked the dramatics of being Edith Piaf it was nonetheless captivating with the emotions playing across her face without the emotional grandstanding. Schoenaert's exuded masculinity and yet beneath that macho bravado we can glimpse the emotional vulnerability of a lost man. Audiard's directing had a lot of repeating motifs and themes on limbs and life; he also liked to bathe his characters alternatively in sunlight and shadows. I felt that the last third was a bit too truncated and too rush, although it has the most emotionally-baiting scene which works because of Schoenaerts and Alexandre Desplat's score. Speaking of which, the very prolific Desplat has composed a very suitable score that permeates throughout and enriches the scenes, especially those wordless ones.


<en français par Google Translate> Une performance brute, honnête et puissant par Marion Cotillard avec le broodingly beau et charismatique Matthias Schoenaerts en fait un film engageante petite maison d'art de Jacques Audiard. Les 2 étoiles ont une chimie palpable qui fait que les personnages crédibles et saisissant. 2 étrangement co-dépendantes âmes endommagées / handicapés, l'un physique et émotionnelle, se rassembler, se soutenant mutuellement et découvrir que c'est seulement par lâcher les amarres de la honte et la fierté peuvent-ils apprécier ce que la vie a tellement plus à offrir et donner. Sonne cliché, et il pourrait joliment ont dégénéré en cela, mais mise en scène Audiard, en couple avec la forte performance commis des deux fils, a changé ce à partir d'une histoire d'amour classique à celui qui est complexe dans sa simplicité. Cotillard donne sa meilleure performance depuis encore "Le Môme" et est un candidat sérieux pour une nomination meilleure actrice aux Oscars. Elle est à son meilleur dans son pays natal films français plutôt que les grandes superproductions d'Hollywood célébrités. Son interprétation a été nuancée, honnête et de matières premières, et même si elle n'avait pas les dramaturgie d'être Edith Piaf, il a été néanmoins captivant avec les émotions qui jouent sur ​​son visage sans la démagogie émotionnelle. Schoenaert de la masculinité et respirait encore sous cette bravade macho nous pouvons entrevoir la vulnérabilité émotionnelle d'un homme perdu. Mise en scène Audiard a eu beaucoup de répétition des motifs et des thèmes sur les membres et de la vie, il aimait aussi se baigner ses personnages alternativement dans la lumière du soleil et les ombres. J'ai senti que le dernier tiers était un peu trop tronquée et trop se précipiter, même si elle a la scène la plus émotionnellement piège qui fonctionne grâce à Schoenaerts et le score d'Alexandre Desplat. En parlant de cela, le très prolifique Desplat a composé un score très convenable qui se répand dans tout et enrichit les scènes, en particulier ceux ceux sans paroles.

4 December 2012

Keisuke Tonkotsu King

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 soup and ask for a top up of noodles: kaedama.

Verdict:  Will definitely come back and try their various combinations of soup bases and noodles QQ-ness.







30 November 2012

Jersey Boys

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!

29 November 2012

La Cantine

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 (!). The main was a polenta dish served with ham, cheese and sweet meat (like those you find in bacang). It was quite tasty, very filling but veered towards being too filling (because of the polenta) and jelat. Quite a modern/local twist to a French dish. The main was coupled with a crisp house Chablis which I ordered after 3 servers/managers asked me separately whether I wanted wine with my lunch. They did not ask me whether I want dessert my meal!!! Sacrilegious! They just served my partner's who ordered the set lunch! And when dessert came (3 pieces: lemon creme brûlée, chocolate macaron and cream with ?raspberry coulis jelly), 2 servers asked to clear the plate before we were done!! Poor service!! The lemon creme brûlée was good, tart but creamy, but another point of contention: no one really told us what we are eating I'm just guessing the dishes here. Bistro rather than proper dining I guess. The decor was warm and woody and inviting. Cappuccino was from Nespresso and the foam fell flat in bout 2 minutes.

Verdict: Will come back again to try their dinner or a la carte menu purely out of residual goodwill towards Bruno Menard (and his awesome L'Osier).









28 November 2012

Life of Pi [IMAX] [3D]


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 amazing and some scenes really stood out! Beautiful and poetic. 3D was really used effectively here. From the opening montage to the Pacific adventures, the 3D gave the events a depth and realism that is both effective and immersive. Some shots are a tad gimmicky but they are not redundant. After Scorcese's "Hugo" last year, this really shows how 3D can be used brilliantly! The tiger was astounding especially in 3D. The acting was acceptable for first timer Suraj Sharma. The score by Mychael Danna was suitable but sometimes it lacked the sweeping grandeur that befit an epic fantasy adventure such as this. As for the plot, it was very straightforward. Some of the best lines were actually Yann Martel's own words from the book. <from here on, discussions may involve the inevitable comparison with the book which I had reviewed above> Unfortunately I think it lacked "something" from the book. Ang Lee made the incredible story more credible and plausible, and explained some inner thoughts via visual translation which suits the big screen. But all were in context with Part 2. The most cinematic part of the book. However, what was lost in translation was the heart and soul of the book. Part 1 was condensed and diluted and we lose out on Pi's religious growth which sustained the backbone of his survival in the Pacific. One new scene added by David Magee and Lee was totally irrelevant and added nothing to the story. If it did, it would have been acceptable, but nothing (*spoiler* the dancer). Part 2 was cinematic in the book and it was gorgeous on the big screen, but we are missing Pi's desperation and despondence. Without the increasing feeling of lost, and isolation abandon-ness, we cannot root for Pi to overcome his situation nor connect on a deeper emotional level with him. This was what was essentially missing from the movie. A lead character that the audience only have a superficial connection with. In addition, in my opinion, the book is not about "making you believe in God", but instead it makes you believe in Faith. The filmmakers tried too hard to jam the "God" bit in and missed out on the theme of Faith and the power of storytelling. The ending in the movie could have been more open and ambiguous like in the book, which would have made it more satisfying. Also, by censoring the violent, gruesome and bloody details of survival in the book, the movie sugar-coats the story and simplifies suffering. Granted, this book is difficult to translate to the screen, and Ang Lee has done a very commendable job. By itself, it is visually stunning with a simple, yet effective story about survival (and God if you so choose to believe). However, in comparison with the book, it loses depth and forgets about the power of a story to move, to instill faith and belief in the human soul.




25 November 2012

Rise of The Guardians [3D]

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 target audience are the young 'uns. Sure, objectively and logically there are some gaps, but for a fantasy animation like this, reality is meant to be checked at the entrance and the audience just got to let go and enjoy the ride. A very excellent score by Alexandre Desplat and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra which added layers to the ambience and elevated the scenes. Stay back for the credits for a short epilogue.







24 November 2012

La Pizzaiola

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 slightly burnt and salty caramel. Cappuccino barely had any foam.

Verdict: Cheap food and value for money. Will only come back if I stay around this area but not something I will actively seek out.







17 November 2012

Frankenweenie [3D]

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.

13 November 2012

We Need to Talk About Kevin [Blu-Ray]

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 son's actions are her fault. Was she a bad mother? It aimed to deliberate on the age old question of: Nature vs Nurture. And throughout,  Swinton was amazing in translating on the complex emotions and turmoil onto the big screen. The ending was a tad too "Hollywood" but it did give her closure. This is clearly a Mother's journey but it would have been interesting if other POV's were given: the father's? Kevin's? But I guess her view is the strongest and most important because she is the one that is left behind.

Carnage [DVD]

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 posture (from straight and stiff in the beginning to slack and lazy in the end) and long takes. But the real champion here is the words, the script by Yamina Reza. It explored so many issues from gender roles and stereotypes, morality and impulses, personal values vs community, local vs foreign idealogies, misogyny and bigotry. And the tension in that house simply mounts with every interspersed dark comedy and interrupted conversation. None of these four individuals are likable but none of them are downright despicable because they all speak a certain amount of truth. The characters' dynamics are also very interesting with emotions and alliances ding-donging and shifting constantly, from couples vs couples, to husbands vs wives, men vs women, people who are who they are vs people who pretend to be who they are. Everybody did an excellent job here! But I can see that this may not be acceptable entertainment for a lot of people. Should go watch the play one day

10 November 2012

Argo

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 casting himself in his shows if he wants to excel more. Besides he is one of the weaker actors of the ensemble. I said it before, and I'll say it again, John Goodman's agent need a raise. He and Alan Arkin were easily the best moments of the show. Cranston and Garber are always reliable. The other big names were too briefly on screen for much impact. As aforesaid, the hostages were not sympathetic, not too hard to insert a scene tugging at the heartstrings. Sadly, I think this was also one of Desplat's poorest/least memorable score. Ultimately, a crowd pleaser that unabashedly turned a real life implausible event into Hollywood entertainment. Affleck is running the risk of turning into Eastwood, "The Town" could just be his "Iwo Jima".

9 November 2012

Pitch Perfect

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 better captured the zeitgeist. Jason Moore and Kay Cannon should have trimmed the movie by 10 to 15 mins.

6 November 2012

Kith Cafe@Park Mall

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.

3 November 2012

Trouble with the Curve

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.

2 November 2012

Arrow

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 "Everwood", is a bit annoying here, and disrupts the pace of the show. As is the clunky dialogue.

Episode 2, "Honor Thy Father": Stylised show, but the VO got to go unless they really work harder on the dialogue. I understand it's supposed to imitate a comic and this is on CW where the target audience is younger, but seriously, the dialogue needs work. Diggle is turning out to be the most likeable character of the show. As a Hero, Green Arrow is sure killing a lot of people. And, by gosh, the mandarin in this show sucks (even Kelly Hu's!). Not much to say about the plot, typical Robin Hood-esque stuff. The conspiracy slowly inching forward. The island past gets interesting. The VO should really just be used to bookend the the episode.

Episode 3, "Lone Gunmen": Seriously, Oliver Queen's morality has gone apeshit. Character development arc! Not too bad and we are only in the third episode. Again, the damn VOs are killing it. I think I know what is irking me about them. The discordant between the tone of the VOs and Amell's face/"acting". Thea is getting annoying. She needs something more to do than just the bratty sister. Finally someone on the show that speaks better Mandarin. Interestingly, the hero-reveal is a bit sooner than expected. But at least these two have some chemistry.

Episode 4, "An Innocent Man": How does Oliver Queen even know the strange man is speaking Mandarin?? Actually, this ditching of bodyguards and constant rotation could be made into a rather amusing running gag. Also, they should really stop making Detective Lance appear so incompetent, though his storyline seemed to be getting interesting. Will he be Green Arrow's inside man? 4 episodes in and I am now more interested in the family conspiracy and Walter is starting to be intriguing. And finally, John Barrowman appears (pity no more Captain Jack Harkness) with cryptic warnings of "the list".

Episode 5, "Damaged": This episodes throws more questions than answers. Minor character development for Oliver, but major reveal for Moira. Who is she? What other secrets does she have? Also, hopefully Barrowman gets more to do than just making threats. Hopefully Walter stays around more, I am just getting warmed up to his character. One good thing is the VO is only in the start, and at the end we have Diggle - as the voice of reason/conscience - talking to Oliver instead over a montage.

Episode 6, "Legacies": 6 episodes in and we have yet to glimpsed the "Big Bad". There needs to be an overarching mythology to make it more interesting. The familial conspiracy died down. No Big Bad. This is becoming a regular superhero outing. At least the supporting characters got a bit of development, but otherwise, not much happening here this round.

Update (20 Dec 2012): I kinda stop caring about this show. Not much impetus to actually follow the exploits of Oliver Green, regardless of how rip his body is. Even the introduction of the Huntress did nothing to excite me, although the news of Seth Gable joining the cast is truly exciting, the producers should have introduced him earlier. Instead, now he seemed like a last minute attempt to get the fanboys (and girls) to watch the show. News of John Barrowman being the second archer is intriguing, but Jack Harkness he is not.

31 October 2012

Wizards vs Aliens

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" who was the most entertaining to watch (under all that prosthetics). It'd be interesting to see how the series continues: 6 2-parters and a second season already green-lighted. A fun break from the more serious, grown-up fare.

SkyFall [IMAX]


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 served their purposes without being overly complicated or confusing. There were many outstanding set pieces and so many visually stunning images! Kudos to the cinematographer, Roger Deakins! Sumptuous looking images on the IMAX! In the end, this was a good old fashion spy-on-spy flick, with a simple, straightforward yarn and not the silly, nonsensical, action pumping ones churned out from Hollywood. It was well-paced and gripping throughout, but not exactly adrenaline-pumping palpitations inducing. Thankfully exotic locales were kept to a minimum and basing much of it in London kept the show grounded. Great job by scribes Purvis, Wade and Logan, although Bardem's character's motivation lacked the necessary backstory to give it more credibility, and there were some (forgiveable) plot holes. The opening scene was wonderfully shot and choreographed, and makes the similar scene in "Taken 2" seemed amateurish at best! Even Adele's theme and the opening song montage was ace! The montage had so much foreshadowing on hindsight. The leads were supported by a competent supporting cast of Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Wishaw and Rory Kinnear. Bond girl Bérénice Lim Marlohe was sexy and served her purpose of being just that! Unfortunately, girls, no Craig in trunks this outing. One noticeable thing in this Bond entry was that Mendes seemed to have deliberately kept the sex a notch down compared to the usual Bond flicks. Instead, the sex appeal here was essentially just of Craig exuding it from his suave portrayal of Bond. Of course, those fine suits made a whole lot of different! Sartorially, it is hard not to give a shout out and love to the drool worthy Tom Ford O'Connor suit. The suits sure does maketh the Bond. And lastly, although Thomas Newman's score was sparingly light on the iconic Bond theme, but as it was sprinkled throughout and only in key scenes, they greatly enhance the effect of urgency and underscored the scene! Once again, bravo Sam Mendes! Can't wait for the next Bond! This should really be seen in IMAX!


Stephen King's Doctor Sleep

This was unexpectedly good. It was not Oscar-winning good, but it was a thoroughly entertaining horror-thriller. Kudos to writer/director...