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!


Nashville

Episode 1, "Pilot": Now, this is an ace show! Possibly the best new series of the season. Hopefully this ABC drama can keep up the rhythm and energy throughout. Excellent acting by Connie Britton, who has a shot at joining Juliana Marguiles to represent network TV's women in the Emmys next year. Even Hayden Panettiere, who was more annoying than anything else in "Hero", was actually well cast in her role. The tension between both ladies felt real and intense, and makes for an interesting combination. Then of course are the supporting actors. I do not really know them well but thus far they all  seemed to have identified well with their characters and none of them appeared too stiff or unnatural. Power Booths as the patriarche of the family simply oozed evilness on the screen, but his scenes regarding the political aspects of the show with his son-in-law played by Eric Close (reminds me of an older James Wolk) were the dullest part of the episode. Let's hope it gets better. Lastly, of course, like any other shows, you need the young romantic subplot. Which in this case, gave us possibly the best song of the night. But otherwise, Scarlett, Gunnar and Avery, hope you guys do not take up too much screen time per episode. Britton is an under-rated gem!

Episode 2, "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You): Excellent chemistry between Connie Britton and Charles Esten. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the younger couple they are trying to sell to us. Gosh, that triangle is so uninteresting. Hayden Panettiere is really shining in this role, but sadly, it does not say much about her ability to act, since her last scene is not very convincing. The politics still feel a bit tacked onto the country music side, although Power Boothes simply exudes evilness. I get chills just looking at him. Really intrigue! I am sold on this show, and this is only the second episode!

Episode 3, "Some Day You'll Call My Name": Now this show knows about character development. From Evil Daddy to Juliette to Teddy, these characters are showing a different side to them. Juliette's mother gives her some depth which Panettiere can sometime sell it, but at least, although the character is a bitch, she is more tolerable here than in "Hero". And it looks like more meaty scenes are upcoming for Panettiere. On the other side, unfortunately, as good an actor Britton and Esten are, their characters need to move forward more instead of just talking around and hovering around the same spot. The young lovers are annoying. That love triangle needs to be resolved ASAP. Only 1 new song tonight not too bad, but sounds similar-ish to their previous duet.

Episode 4, "We Live in Two Different Worlds": A Juliette-centric episode, with a rather realistic portrayal of celebrity crime, ego, and the truth behind the facade. Panettiere managed to translate some of the complexity of her character which makes Juliette not such a big a bitch as previously. Thankfully, the young lovers have more of a development and break off the triangle for the time being. Looks like Teddy had been a bad, bad boy with some skeletons in his closet. However, the political storyline still does not flow as smoothly with the rest of the plot. Rayna and Deacon are still dancing round and round to the same tune with inscrutable, vague dialogue exchange.

Episode 5, "Move It On Over": Teddy's affair and/or corruption case is getting boring, so thankfully it is more or less resolved for now, but it sure as hell is going to come back and bite his arse. But, man! Power Boothes sure is evil! He and Robert Patrick of "Last Resort" are gunning for Supporting Actors nods. Juliette's storyline is actually the most interesting one now, Rayna's on the other hand is stagnating. For the young lovers, boring and annoying still.

Episode 6, "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)": Rayna has the most boring storyline. What a pity for Britton who is supposedly the headliner. Juliette's new direction with the choirboy-quarterback is actually quite cute, and they two have chemistry which I would love to see more of. And hopefully a new side to Juliette. The political storyline takes up the bulk in this episode, and it really isn't that interesting. Why did Coleman not throw out the pills? Is there even 7 pills left (which was so heavily emphasised on the last episode)? His wife reminds me of Sherry Palmer from the first two seasons of "24". Scarlett finally dumped Avery which I hope it lasts. But I must say, Avery's song was strangely addictive in a country-rock sorta way. Perhaps laying the foundation for Rayna's sound.

Episode 7: Gosh! The political storyline is so boring! Britton needs a meatier role in her own headlined show. Though now that Rayna's and Juliette's threads have collided spectacularly it's getting more interesting. And Juliette's romance with the footballer is actually quite sweet. That last duet was a killer!!

Season 2, Episode 1, "I Fall to Pieces": Hopefully the political lines falls apart, and now that Power Boothes is a recurring actor, maybe so will the family business intrigue. But, from the ending, it looks like the family personal intrigues will continue. Ted and Peggy are still just as annoying. At least it looks like Juliette has grown up a bit, or not. Please end the whole Gunnar-Avery-Scarlett triangle. Let one of them grow up.

27 October 2012

Looper

A tedious, pseudo-intellectual flick that tried to integrate two genres into single film. The time-travelling bit can give you a damn headache if you think too much about it; the second bit was so heavily foreshadowed it was a roll-eyed moment. I kept hoping it'd "better" than that. The make-up for Joseph Gordon-Lewitt was amazing. He really looked and affected Bruce Willis almost to a T. But sadly neither himself or the usually brilliant Emily Blunt could save Rian Johnson from ruining an interesting premise. Pity though, simce Johnson brought us two brilliant gems in the past: "Brick" and "The Brothets Bloom". This movie touched on so many promising themes (redemption, nature vs nurture, choices, family vs self, self vs others, etc) but most of it were just soft caresses rather than a full blown body assaults. Granted, at least Johnson was not overtly explicit about any of them. However, just pick one or two and run with it! Also partly to blame was the casting director: both leads had no chemistry at all. They were good on their own but together it felt flat. Gordon-Lewitt spent more time emulating Bruce Willis' expressions than actually emoting and realising his character. Willis on the other hand just re-inhabited his John McClane persona throughout. And poor Blunt, with her fleeting British accent, did the best she could of her thankless role. A waste of an interesting concept.

End of Watch

An intense, gritty, pseudo-docu/drama about LA cops in the south central with a powerful, arresting performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. Shot almost entirely in handicam, David Ayer has written and directed another intense, complex showing of the LAPD (after "Training Day"), placing the audience right smack in the action. Could be nauseating but always intense. Ultimate action/bromance movie with brilliant chemistry between the charismatic Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. Their characters were complex and the actors developed them fully and honestly. Gyllenhaal has a shot to be long listed for a Best Actor Oscar and Peña for a Best Supporting Actor, but whether they get recognised in the end will depend on the upcoming competition ovet the next few months. Same thing for Ayer. Also stars an unrecognisable America Ferrera and the sweet Anna Kendrick.

26 October 2012

RS Deli

Disclaimer: owners are friends of friends.

New Indon-themed cafe/deli that opened up along the busy stretch of Upper Thompson Road. Young, breezy and cheerful, open design. Simple menu with a fast food ordering concept, but delivered to your table (a la Mos Burger). Unfortunately, the menu lacked fish and vegetable (vegetarian) options. The rice sets portions were on the small side, but is in accordance with the price. Like a typical Indonesian food, the curry and sauces tend to be on the sweet side which I found to be a tad too sweet. Both the beef rendang and chicken gulai need to be stewed longer and served hotter. As said, I'd prefer it to be less sweet and more spicy. The nasi lemak's chicken wing was on the dry side; the otak was really good but pity too thin and too small. All the rice sets were served with eggplants, excellent home-made sambal and potato-dried shrimps keropok thingy and rice. Each set has a different rice: plain rice, yellow rice and coconut rice. I felt that they should make it an option for the diner to choose, for which I would pick the yellow rice, but as explained by the chef-owner, each rice was chosen to specifically complement the main dish. The satay burger came in a bigger portion than the rice set and was also price-size appropriate. The chicken was juicy, but the satay sauce again lacked heat (both figuratively and literally) and veered towards being too sweet. Free iced water (self-serve) always a plus! Coffee's from Highlander which is also another plus.

Verdict: Good place for a casual Indonesian dining but do not expect to be easily filled; will come back if in the area and looking for Malay food.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Brilliant. Emotional. Raw. Authentic, earnest teenage angst not seen since I can't remember when. And definitely excellent taste in (indie) music! Having the author be the screenwriter and director of the show is a double-edged sword. The good thing is Stephen Chbosky definitely understands the material and knows exactly what he wants to translate onto the big screen; the bad thing is that he gets too over indulgent at times and some scenes dragged out longer than necessary while some scenes are extraneous. The movie could have been trimmed down by at least 15 minutes. The three leads were perfect for their roles. Logan Lerman portrayed the emotional frailty and fractured innocence very well. Emma Watson will be a big star one day. She's on the cusp of a breakthrough and if she hones her skills more, stays aways from cheesy flicks, I see a great future for her. Ezra Miller is the quirky strange one but his performance was also spot on: a sensitive soul within the outrageous personality. Other outstanding supporting actors include Mae Whitman (always a delight!) and Paul Rudd (underrated, but delightful and reminds me of my own English teacher). This show will surely be re-watched, re-quoted and re-critiqued by the teens of this generation and be as cult as "Heathers" or "16 Candles" of my time. Depressing/Angsty movie with a positive message: bad things happen to any people, good or bad, and we always think we deserve the love we have. Really makes me want to go out and read the book! Do you feel infinite? Have you felt infinite?

25 October 2012

Catalunya

Fancy new Español restaurant with a fantastic location and view! Lots of pedigree here, with the head chef himself previously at work at El Bulli, so expectations were high. Welcome reception was excellent and polite. I arrived first and was placed at the bar to wait. Out came the bar menu and a glass of water. That glass of water was a clincher; a distinguishing factor between good and very good. Menu was simple: a mix of starters, tapas, meats and fish. The sangria was good. Sweet but not masking or watering down the red wine. The bread with salted tomato was a good appetiser. Nothing special about it but good to open the palate with. The fried aubergines was interesting. Served with a miso and yuzu/citrus sauce. You definitely need a liking for all the separate ingredients to like it. Main course was their suckling pig. Half of a 2 week old Spanish piglet. Very good. Soft, succulent with just the right amount of fats left on the skin. The skin itself was crispy but very unlike the Chinese version. The meat was well roasted, easily stripped off (as evident by the server dismembering the piglet using just a plate). Meant for 2-3 persons, but unless both parties are big pork eaters, 3-4 people to share will be better. It can get a tad too boring after a while. The roasted pineapples were great. Not many places do it other than the Brazilians and traditional Spanish places. Served with cinnamon and raw pepper, it as a great complement to the suckling pig. Dessert was uninteresting. Had the bread pudding with milk ice-cream which surely is an acquired taste to love it. Coffee was not good at all. Overall, a bar like ambience with poor acoustics but prompt and polite service and reasonable pricing.

Verdict: Will be back to try something different.

9 October 2012

Magosaburou

Tucked away in a nondescript corner of the top floor of Ion is a Japanese-pseudoKorean BBQ place. Supposedly famed for their beef. Going through the entrance, climb up a flight of stairs, and you arrived at the fifth floor (so you could actually get in via the carpark instead) with a view that over looks Orchard Road. +Plus One for view and ambience. We had the premium beef set lunch that was $95/pax. Firstly, it came with about 2 servings each of Ox tongue, shank, tenderloin cubes and sukiyaki slices, squid and scallops. Secondly, the marbling was divine. You can choose to BBQ yourself or have the staff do it for you. We did the work ourselves which was half the fun, especially hearing the fats melt and sizzle in the fire. Worth the price if you love wagyu beef...it is hard to find such gems in Singapore. The portion is not going to be very filling, but for these kind of food, it is best to be just right rather than stuffed. Besides, the set came with a 5-item appetiser (which was disappointing), a raw salad, a steamed salad, rice, soup, coffee, 3 sides of kimchi (not great!) and 3 sauces (soy, salt & peanut; most of the meat were great unadulterated or with a touch of salt/peanut). Importantly, dessert was provided, and interestingly, they served us 3 different desserts for the 3 diners. I had the creme brulee and tiramisu: the former was not bad, with vanilla beans and ?pistachio or chestnut, but the custard was too warm with the sugar glaze too thick; the tiramisu was alright with a slight hint of alcohol and coffee but too much sponge.

Verdict: Can come again for lunch sets if I ever have premium wagyu craving. Did not look at the full a la carte menu properly, but looked expensive. Good view!

Note: Apologies no photographs for this makan session...next time!

6 October 2012

Arteastiq Lite

Cozy, chill place at Mandarin Gallery. Nice comfy furniture designed by Marxx with lotsa glass, but that may be too warm if sunny. The last two decades saw the advent of coffee culture in Singapore and it looks like premium tea culture is creeping into our shores. Keyword being premium. A wide range of tea-based menu with hot, cold, dessert and alcohol drinks. But honestly nothing special about it. Tea presentation is where most of the money goes to. Had the ginger ginseng tea which comes in a pot and with some biscuits and tea-pastry. At least there's free water refill for the tea and friendly service. Acceptable quality, but nothing to wow about. The tea set for 2 comes with a pastry tower with bite size hors d'Oeuvres that tasted basic. The food menu was also minimal and many items were unavailable.

Verdict: Definitely just a place to chill with friends, and nothing else.

5 October 2012

Taken 2 [Dig]

A competent sequel that is watchable but lacked the high octane energy of the first one. The stakes just seemed lower even though the whole family is involved. Perhaps because the plot was more straightforward this time round. Liam Neeson was commanding again, sadly no meme-worthy soundbites this outing. Hard to imagine Famke Janssen as a damsel in distress, she just can't lose the femme fatale image after X-Men and Nip/Tuck. Maggie Grace = pretty, acting improving, but no Milla Jovovich (you hear that, Luc Besson?). Directing by Olivier Megaton was similar to the first outing: lots of quick cuts, but some of the action appeared too messy this time. One good fight scene in the hamam,, but nothing tops the one by Viggo Mortenson in "Eastern Promises"

4 October 2012

666 Park Avenue

Pilot: This is ABC's latest offering trying to emulate the success of "American Horror Story" after the failure of "The River" last season. "666 Park Avenue" is a soapy crossover between "Rosemary's Baby", "Doctor Faustus" and "Desperate Housewife". Firstly, almost a perfect cast. Terry O'Quin and Vanessa Williams are perfect as the Mephistophelean Gavin and his partner Olivia, Dave Annable has the solid, dependable guy down pat, but it is Rachel Taylor as the main protagonist that is a bit of a mystery. So far she is more annoying than convincing. Secondly, there are some good scares: 2 to be precise, and one "OMG, OMG, OMG!!" moment. But sadly, they did not push it further which would have been what a cable network would had done. Pity. The music was generic horror/scary and looks like Alexander McQueen is a sponsor of the show. Again, another problem with this and most of the new series this season is that I cannot see them sustaining a 20-plus episode order. Much less more than one season. The concept of this may make a good movie (although run of the mill) or a better mini-series. WIll just have to stay tune, but at least there's Terry and Vanessa!

Episode 2, "Murmurations": This episode is brought to you with shades of "The Birds" and "Shining". Overall, it's getting boring. Tertiary characters that are not that interesting. Hot writer with hot photographer wife with hot assistant who may or may not be psychotic/supernatural ("American Horror Story did it better with The Maid"). They need to clearly define why Jane is "special" to The Drake; also, what is the role of Vanessa William's character? Or even Nona...It gotta pick up the pace. Let's see what November Sweeps brings and whether this show is worth committing to for a whole season.

Episode 3, "The Dead Don't Stay Dead": This show is weird. Scary but not scary enough; campy but not campy enough. I am really intrigued with what is the deal with Gavin's and Olivia's relationship in the show. Perhaps, it is time to show a bit more, rather than plodding through slowly. Who is their daughter Sasha? The resident-in-trouble plot was boring and predictable and cliche. As was the whole Bryan sub-plot. More interestingly is Jane's visions. They got to have some payback soon! And, what's so special about Henry that has Gavin so interested in him?

Episode 4, "Hero Complex": Trust Whedon's alumni Elizabeth Craft & Sarah Fain to deliver the best episode thus far. Character development with minimal mumbo-jumbo magic. Rachel Taylor is easing into her role, but the hour belongs to David Annable's Henry. Although, again, why is he "special"? At least the writers managed to ask the questions that the audience has been thinking about. Unfortunately, Gavin's reply is just as cryptic. Smokey is back! Now, Nona is getting interesting.

Episode 5, "A Crowd of Demons": A Halloween episode in this show is kind of redundant, but at least it introduced us to Gavin's antagonist! Finally, some conflict for him! But what is the point of abducting Olivia? A red herring? And this whole smokey man from the luggage thingy is such a sell-out. What's the point? The birds love Jane? And also, the whole Louise/Bryan subplot...gagh!

Episode 6, "Diabolic": Strongest episode to date. This show has finally gotten interesting with a development of an overarching plot to replace the tenant-of-the-week stories. Losing the other boring storyline of the playwright, photographer and assistant was also a good move. The producers really got to define Gavin's power. Not necessarily his character - the ambiguity here is actually good - but what he can or cannot do. Which then bring us to Victor Shaw, the new man in his life. Is he good? Bad? Supernatural or human? WHAT IS IN THAT BOX??!? (so much better than "Revolution"'s mystery of "Why is there no electricity?"). Olivia and Gavin continues to be the most interesting couple, and I am actually curious to find out more about Olivia (with Vanessa William's Botox fading, her acting as improved). The new additions of Detective Cooper (?Mulder) and PR Laurel will perhaps give Rachel and Henry more to do. In particular, there is a definite chemistry between Cooper and Rachel. Lastly, good to see Rachel has finally admitted out loud her abilities and attached the dots regarding her relationship to The Drake.

Episode 7, "Downward Spiral": I hope the producers at least get to tell finish the story. I am intrigued by the ending. By Olivia's and Gavin's relationship. Who is Victor Shaw? Are Nona and family the good guys? Or is Gavin indirectly manipulating the grandmother to keep Jane here? There is so much potential for twists, turns and double-crossings. The weakest link is the annoying Louise-Robert-Alexis triangle.

Note: ABC has cancelled this series. I thought it had finally found its footing, but let's hope they can finish up the story at least. As a series, it will be hard to keep this going and keep it fresh every season, unless they can come up with an excellent reason for Gavin's character.

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...