28 January 2013

The Sessions

A wry and occasionally sardonic look at love with a great, performance-of-a-lifetime portrayal by John Hawkes, and an Oscar-nominated, natural (in more ways than one) showcase by Helen Hunt...and her breasts (truly, they appear so often they ought to be nominated alongside her!). William H Macy does his usual sardonic character and his banter with Hawkes provide some of the comedic highlights of the movie. Having said that, it really is the banter (and hence, the script), as delivered and expressed by Hawkes, that are the real gems of the show. They save it from an uneven pacing and eventual repetitiveness (there's only that many times seeing Hunt naked and her breasts will titillate). This is "The 40 Year Old Virgin" for the serious adult audience although occasionally Ben Lewin comes across as trying too hard and sometimes loses focus on what he really want to depict.

27 January 2013

The Master

An emotionally complex and conflicting drama by Paul Thomas Anderson exploring the life of a damaged veteran and the charismatic cult leader that comes into his life. With masterful and arresting performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Phoenix is shaping up to be the next Daniel Day-Lewis and goes all Method here losing himself in this role that alternates dramatically between despicable scoundrel, desperate loser and desolate lover. He commands the screen and the eyeballs absolutely. Hoffman gets the showier role as the Scientology-like leader and he too is at the top of his game with a convincing portrayal of someone you want to trust but find it so hard to believe in. Amy Adams has a supporting role as Hoffman's strong willed wife who with minimal scenes established herself as one of the driving forces of the cult and The Woman behind The Master, and her contempt towards Phoenix's character is veiled behind Adams' silken subversive facade. Paul Thomas Anderson has written and directed a complex, and definitely polarising film, that many would immediately label as a study into cults (and a thinly disguised critique of Scientology), but that would be doing the film and Anderson a disservice. Instead this is a very challenging character study of an anti-hero and his attempted journey to self-discovery, destruction and redemption. A challenging, serious film that is deliberately paced with powerful acting and memorable scenes.

The Following

Pilot: This Kevin Bacon/James Purefoy FOX thriller has a very interesting premise. WIth two heavy weights as its lead, it has a lot riding on it. The pilot established the premise and introduced the two leads: Bacon as the profiler, broken but brilliant; Purefoy as the charming intelligent Evil. EP, created, written and directed by Kevin Williamson, it had some good scenes, especially those where Bacon's pacemaker rhythm is heard over the action. Those were tense. Maggie Grace: hello, and goodbye, too bad you could not stay for long. It lacked the punch of a cable show and seemed tame by comparison. Or are we sensitised to violence? It can be darker and more disturbing still, can't it on network tv? I hope they develop the supporting cast more, in particular Iceman aka Shawn Ashmore.

Episode 2, "Chapter Two": We get a new character: FBI Agent Debra Parker (Annie Parisse) thrown into the mix who looks like will be a bug part of the mythology. I find her suspicious and won't be surprise if she turns up to be one of the acolytes, especially her last scene with Joe. But it also looks like she may be poised to be a romantic partner for Ryan, thereby establishing a strange sort of love quadrangle. Admittedly, she does have good chemistry with Bacon. The acolytes are getting interesting, and their backstory will help develop their characterisation and help the audience to understand/relate with them better. The law enforcers sidekicks, on the other hand, are rather bland. Even Iceman needs to be developed more. Some good scares, and unexpected turns, will keep this series interesting. But they will need to develop a larger plot ASAP.

Episode 3, "Chapter Three": I still don't trust this FBI lady, but this gives credit to her performance, although half the time I keep imagining Lisa Edelstein taking on her role. Emma is a psycho and her character lacks layers. The two ex-gay guys are at least more interesting and not so one-dimensional. The new guy didn't last long eh? But we get another female acolyte thrown into the mix. The multiple flashbacks are getting cliche and disruptive, ever since "Lost" this technique is getting repetitive. And in this case, it disrupts the dramatic narrative flow. The highlights are still the Bacon vs. Purefoy scenes.

Episode 4, "Chapter Four": The pacing is slowing down and it is turning slightly into a procedural/case/psycho-of-the-week theme. They should focus more on Joe's plot. The threesome are actually turning out to be the most interesting plot point, with the changing and fluxing dynamics. Bacon and Purefoy needs more scenes together, and Ashmore is turning out nicely. Again, the flashbacks, jumping in and out and about time, is rather jarring. Perhaps a different method needs to be employed for us to better understand Ryan. Although Bacon is really an outstanding actor. This year, the actors really outshine the actresses on TV.

Episode 5-6, "Chapter Five" and "Chapter Six": Finally the show got interesting and riveting. Joe's lawyer add an interesting dimension to this as his proxy to the outside world and increases his role. Purefoy is chilling. There are now less flashbacks which is good but do we really care about FBI Agent Parker? She is possibly the least interesting character at the moment. Many WTFs moments in these two episodes, and we are introduced to the mysterious "Roderick", who I am betting is an insider (?Agent Parker). Emma, Paul and Jacob have become interesting again, especially now that they are split up. This is still largely a hero's journey, with an excellent Kevin Bacon in these two episodes, but the villains are at least drawn complicatedly and not so one-dimensional. Even Charlie is a bit interesting, but they really ought to reduce the Lost shadows of backstories for everybody. Just focus on the core group, there is only 13 episodes!

Update (23 March 2013): The show is interesting and different from your usual run of the mill network series. But alas it is not superbly well-rounded. Only Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy are outstanding. The rest of the characters are merely supportive, and as the acolytes expand, so do they get more pedestrian. The core group, Emma, Jacob and Paul (and now, perhaps, Roderick too) are the only ones who seemed more complex. Even the storyline tends to be a variation of the murderer-of-the-week plot, and only the ones that served to drive the A-plot moving is really good. How can this show move beyond one or two seasons?

25 January 2013

The Grandmaster 一代宗师

A beautiful, gorgeous, typically ethereally atmospheric Wong Kar Wai 王家卫 film in the wuxia/revenge flick genre. Stunningly lensed by Phillippe Le Sourd, expertly choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping 元和平 and hauntingly scored by longtime collaborator Shigeru Umebayashi. Tony Leong Chiu Wai 梁朝伟 as per usual is sublime and nuanced: Zhang Ziyi 章子怡 has seldom been better, although there are many moments throughout where I can imagine a young Gong Li 巩俐 (circa "Raise the Red Lantern" 《红灯笼高高挂》) taking on the role and being even more exceptional! These two are the heavy hitters of the film with Zhang Ziyi's character carrying more of the emotional weight and Tony Leung's more of the spiritual essence. The action scenes were amazingly beautiful. It's hard to imagine but Wong Kar Wai managed to retain his signature style but yet infused the fights with a sense of urgency and immediacy. The brilliant use of rain and snow to emphasise the movement and fluidity of kungfu is astounding! As per his past few movies, he retained his penchant for close ups, macros and lingering shots; the intriguing dance between light and smoke, shadow and mirrors. The script is filled with many Chinese sayings (谚语) which the English translation does absolutely no justice. Having said that, it'd have been even better in Cantonese. The plot itself was a tad incoherent, more so than the usual Wong Kar Wai film and I believe that there is an even better movie somewhere inside and on the editing floor, and cannot wait for the Redux or a Director's Cut. Chang Chen's 张震 character remained an enigma, a mysterious thread woven into the narrative but loose at both ends. There are shout outs to his previous films especially 2046 and even, what I believe, which may be wrong, an oblique reference to Leslie Cheung 张国荣. I would watch it again in Cantonese and if, ever, a Redux is released.

Zero Dark Thirty

A fantastic, relentlessly tense and sharp tour de force by Kathryn Bigelow. Now I can join in the crowd to say that she was clearly snubbed for the Oscars. This is a bloody brilliant film/historical drama that despite its 157mins showtime is tightly paced and keeps the tension taut throughout. We all know what happens at the end: Geronimo dies. But the how? Many people may not know the details, and this film is definitely not 100% accurate or factual, but the gist of it is presented so clearly that the audience is kept gripped and on their toes and at the edge of their trepidatious seats all through the finale. In this case, other than Bigelow who directed this with fluid ease and translated all that to the screen, the other big star is Jessica Chastain. Her Maya is astonishing to watch. She acts with her whole body and despite minimal dialogue, Chastain was still able to convey the emotions so clearly through her face, her eyes and her posture. She literally carries this film on her shoulders. Her transformation through the years is shown early in the film and one can immediately identify what a tremendously gifted actress Chastain is. And at her final scene, her face goes through a gamut of emotions and Bigelow wisely chose to quietly focused on her and leave us open to interpret. That, and another explosive scene opposite Kyle Chandler (his movie career is really burgeoning no? A possible new Bradley Cooper?) where she lambast him with not-so-veiled threats (and the after-effect scene too) has got to surely be on her Oscar reel. I think this year's Best Actress race is a fight between Emmanuelle Riva and Jessica Chastain (with Naomi Watts third and Jennifer Lawrence now a distant fourth). The supporting cast are mainly there for Chastain to act off, but Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle and the aforementioned Chandler were all standouts in their own right (a bit surprised to see John Barrowman aka Captain Jack Harkness though). Mark Boal's script has its moments, but unfortunately, other than a straight forward chronological narrative, a few outstanding monologues, there is not much there in terms of originality (a very tough fight there with Michael Haneke's "Amour", Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" and the much hyped Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained"). Alexandre Desplat's score here is way better here than his Oscar-nominated one for the other historical drama "Argo" (of all Desplat's prolific output this season, I personally thought Argo's score was the worse of the lot). In this film, Bigelow has wisely chosen to downplay the score and use it more to underscore scenes rather than manipulating it for dramatic reasons or heightening the tension. In this way, I felt that the score was more organic to the film and more appropriate. In addition, it is also partly this choice that made Bigelow such a great (action) director: she choreograph her action scenes so well, that the anxiety feels natural and organic. Though the use of torture and violence is nakedly depicted, from a detached point of view, it is an historical dramatisation of the events and it made narrative sense. A very very brilliant film! Though one part of me just kept waiting for Claire Danes to pop up! (heh)

17 January 2013

The Impossible

The real stars of this melodramatic tearjerker are Tom Holland and the emotionally manipulative score by Fernando Velázquez. Tom Holland (of "Billy Elliot the Musical" fame) , like his big screen counterpart Jamie Bell from "Billy Elliot", will go far. He is actually the emotional core of the whole show and he ably carried the weight of the movie on his young shoulders. Fascinating to watch on screen. Naomi Watts was outstanding as the matriarch of the family but her character was written too simply and flat. Although her portrayal was intense and authentic, and Watts sure as hell acted out of it, she was let down by the uncomplex characterisation. Nonetheless, she definitely deserves the accolades but as the final berth of this year's Best Actress Oscar race, I thought Marion Cotillard from "Rust and Bone" gave a more powerfully nuanced and subtle performance compared to Watts slightly more showy role. Ewan McGregor had a less showy role which he too carried off with panache, and he absolutely nailed his one big emotional cathartic scene. As said earlier, Velázquez score was key to tugging the heartstrings and milking the tears duct, without it, Juan Antonio Bayona's (of the brilliant "The Orphanage" fame) direction will just be dramatic without the mélos. This was a better depiction of the the 2004 Tsunami than Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter". The first 20-30 minutes were one of the most harrowing and frightening cinematic experiences (no thanks to Holland, Watts, Velázquez and Bayona). Which then brings us to the question: Is too soon still?

Cloud Atlas [IMAX]

Disclaimer: I read David Mitchell's sprawling epic about 4 months before watching the movie.

This is the Oscar-bait of the season that caught no fish. A 3-hour epic, and with due credit to the directors - The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer - it never did feel like 3 hours even for someone who had read the book. The main reason is because of the many changes to the book that they have made which kept the story slightly fresher (I recommend reading this website: http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Biggest-Differences-Between-Cloud-Atlas-Book-Movie-33797.html). But like many movies these days that are based on books, the movies tend to be a bit more dumb down, with obvious themes and purposes explained outright to the audience. The audience, unlike the readers, seldom get the chance to ruminate and think about what they had just seen, or given a chance to interpret characters' actions, thoughts or even the author's as they deem fit. Instead, we are asked to think what the directors want us to think. Which can be annoying. Also, these movies tend to be less ambiguous and everything almost always get tied up in a nice knot at the end. For most parts, I do not have anything against the changes the directors have made to Mitchell's book, but I think the romance angles are forced a bit too hard into each storyline (but Robert Frobisher's was actually rather touching and appropriate) and the political background of neo-Seoul is too brief to really let the audience feel the need for a revolution. I applaud the use of the same actors repeatedly throughout the movie (although the use of Caucasians cosmetically-altered to appear "Asians" is rather offensive, and of all places to reflect they use Korea, where more stars there are now looking more Caucasians due to the advent of plastic surgery and aesthetic medicine). That gives the audience an added layer of interconnectiveness which underlies one of the main themes of the book. But, pity, none of the actors were outstandingly brilliant. Perhaps, the standouts were Ben Wishaw, Doona Bae and Jim Broadbent. The directing was quite seamless throughout all six stories and the editing was phenomenon to not make the stories confusing or messy. That bit was very well done, with the cuts and edits, interlocking all the stories. The score was very appropriate, and I truly want to get the "Cloud Atlas Sextet". I can easily watch this movie, or read the book again, but I suspect that some audience may find some difficulty in embracing this ambitious and sprawling movie because essentially it is just six short stories without any overarching plot. They are linked together by common themes, which despite the film-makers many attempts at jamming it down our throats, may still be missed by the viewer leaving them with a sense of loss and frustration. But if one can appreciate the ambition of the story teller then one will be well rewarded with a fascinating experience about human lives, the intertwine of fate and destiny, power and control, and (in this case) love. Although, I can see why it has not been loved by the Oscars, there is a lack of great acting, directing is not perfect, though the movie is coherent, it does not stand out, and it is only good because of Mitchell's original ideas. For once, I do recommend reading the book in conjunction with watching this movie for a more complex emotional journey. Like "Life of Pi", another rather unfilmable book has been filmed, but unlike "Life of Pi" in all its beauty, "Cloud Atlas" is a more emotionally satisfying movie. IMAX not necessary.

Mama

This movie only has two things going for it: Guillermo del Toro and Jessica Chastain (okie...and maybe a bit of Jaime Lannister aka Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). For the former, you can clearly see some of his signatures in the story telling especially with regards to the supernatural aspect; the latter, sadly, is not her best role to date. Sure, she's good but not really a stand out. I sense the studios are just really banking on those two names and Chastain's recent Oscar buzz to roll this movie out. There are some mediocre scares and one or two good ones, but other than a great introduction scene, the rest of the show was draggy. This is a run-of-the-mill storyline and if there is nothing standout from the acting nor the plot than what makes this different? It was good the villain was slowly introduced to us, and by showing glimpses of it throughout does help to tighten the tension. However, the plot was too long drawn, and this may be better as a short story/film rather than a long form cinematic experience. Plot holes are present, as is typical of most horror movies, but at least here was not so gaping. Although threads were picked up but never completed, which can be frustrating.

15 January 2013

Seven Psychopaths

A very dark meta-within-a-meta comedy from Martin McDonagh who somehow always manages to bring out the best in Collin Farrell. Either that or Farrell is better when he's speaking Irish than American. Nonetheless, this is a smart intelligent movie that has four brilliant leads in Farrell (and his hypnotic eyebrows), Christopher Walken (this is deadpan, people), Woody Harrelson (almost a parody of his Natural Born Killers seld) and the always excellent, character actor Sam Rockwell (who is so dependent to play these off-kilter roles). Smart meta-digs and self-mocking irreverence throughout with laughters generously spread out. But definitely only for those who can appreciate a good dark comedy. Even the ending was a macabre genius. Brilliant brilliant script that was well acted and directed!

Dolcetto by Basilico

The pastry and light lunch arm of Basilico at the ground floor of Regent Singapore. Limited seats at the lobby space in front of the shop, airy, naturally lit (on a sunny day) and relaxed hotel lobby atmosphere. Not cheap, but not too ex, as expected of a 5-star hotel lobby cafe. The wagyu beef panini was good: juicy and tender beef in a nice, fresh ciabatta filled with fresh vegetables. The highlight were the desserts/pastries. The lemon tart was well made: tart filling with a crumbly crusts, may be better with a nice meringue cap; the ricotta and vanilla cheesecake was good too, rich, soft cake but kinda lacked the vanilla oomph. The almond cookies were really good with a raspberry filling. The expresso baccio was so-so, unremarkable and the pistachio pastry was not bad, but also not very memorable. They serve decent coffee and Italian retro sodas.

Verdict: Will come back for a chillax lunch/tea especially if I'm in the area.







Banshee

Pilot: Cinemax's latest offering by Executive Producers Alan Ball and Greg Yaitanes (amongst others) and created by Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler is an adrenaline-pumping, re-imagination of an old concept that has the potential to be an intriguing serialised crime drama. Based on the pilot, it could be the next anti-hero driven drama that these cable-TVs are currently so fond of ("Dexter", "Breaking Bad", etc). The prologue already established the notoriousness of lead Anthony Starr's character: Sheriff Lucas Hood/?unknown real name, but I doubt they can seriously keep up with the expensive CGI and action scenes here. Premise is effectively setup within this Pilot, supporting casts are quickly established: the sidekick, the ex/fellow con, the villains (2 of them here which is good), the potential love rival, the potential love interest, the paternity issues, the workplace conflict and the colourful tech-man (an Alan Ball signature a la True Blood's Lafayette. It will be interesting to see how this will develop. I like the idea of the 2 villains. One in town, played menacingly and depravedly by Ulrich Thomsen, and the overarching Big Bad, briefly glimpsed at the end as portrayed by Ben Cross. Will be keeping an eye on this one.

Episode 2, "The Rave": A decent second episode which as typical focused more on solidifying the characters rather than narrative/plot development. We see more glimpses of Hood being inherently a criminal shoehorned into a lawman (oh the irony!...I get it!!!), so perhaps one arc in this season would be his road to full on hero? Or is he going to remain an anti-hero? Carrie/Anne still does some secret training. Why? What is she waiting for? Rabbit? Speaking of whom, where is he this episode? Kai is still deliciously evil, but he is bordering on ridiculous. Although his relationship with Sugar is sorta interesting. The latter calls him by his first name rather than his last like all the other characters on the show. The daughter is boring. She is the typical cliche rebellious daughter who is actually not that bad; a lot like Dana from "Homeland". Who is Job? Why is he still on this show? What is his purpose other than throwing out sassy one-liners? At just 10 episodes, it may be quite easy to watch through. Low brain input entertainment.

Episode 3, "Meet The New Boss": A filler episode that re-iterates how the new Sheriff is unlike the old ones, and re-established the power dynamics in the town. The most interesting bit was the opening sequence with the reveal of Carrie's relationship with the "White Rabbit". Her motivations are the ones that are currently most interesting. No Job this episode, slightly missed for his comedic levity to break the seriousness. Otherwise a boring, violent episode.

Episode 4, "Half Deaf is Better Than All Dead": Good after-credits opening. Shows Lucas' vulnerability and his over-reliance on Carrie. But why is he still straddling a life of crime? Great action sequence and tension. Character development wise, Carrie is kind of taking a step back. Why must the girl always pine after the guy despite a period of token resistance? And Lucas is turning into too much of a douchebag to root for. He may be becoming too much of an anti-hero. The problem with this show is that the supporting characters are not exciting enough for us to root for them or keep us interested in the rest of the show. At least Job moving in may add some colour.

12 January 2013

Gangster Squad

An occasionally fun but mainly narratively incoherent mess that grossly under utilises the stars attached to it. A mish-mash mess of genres from neo-noir to crime heist to romance; at times it felt like 2 to 3 separate stories running together. The ridiculously suave Ryan Gosling and incredibly gorgeous Emma Stone are both wasted here with roles that are thankless and flat. Sean Penn basically chews every scene he is in, and Josh Brolin is a one-note hero. A lot of the blame can be pinpointed to the messy, incoherent script by Will Beall. Reuben Flesicher did a competent job directing with some good shots and effective use of slow-mo, but his pacing and framing can use more work. I don't think the Chinatown reshoot can be blamed for this but the gratuitous use of violence is really unnecessary. Classic case of great stars, poor script. LA Confidential was a way better depiction p Mickey Cohen and 40s LA Mob.

11 January 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

Another triumph by David O. Russell. An atypical black rom-com with a really strong core cast to carry and deliver the emotional heft as adapted by Russell from Michael Quick's novel. Dark comedic laughs peppered a heavier subplot of mental illnesses, familial love and support, and how two damaged souls can find redemption between each other. Bradley Cooper gives the performance of his career, but amongst all the other heavyweights he's actually the weakest. His blue eyes played a more effective role here than their usual aesthetic purposes and helped to relay his character's confusion and hopelessness. However, he was not in character at all times, and sometimes he slipped. Other times he seemed more to be just shouting rather than manic. Nonetheless, well done Will Tippin! Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, is amazing. The film really got so much better when she was introduced. Her eyes convey so much more than Cooper's. She acts with her whole body and emotions are translated across her face, her body language, her eyes and her voice. That is what makes her fascinating to watch. But can she break out of this mould that has landed her two Oscar nominations? Lawrence and Cooper's chemistry was also very visceral and palpable. Their mutual attraction was clear and without it this rom-com would have fallen flat. Robert De Niro has finally stopped blind walking through his roles and showed us again why he used to be an Oscar winner; Jacki Weaver also gave an emotionally nuanced performance as the heart and emotional core of this dysfunctional family. Even Chris Tucker in minute amount was refreshing. Russell's directing is ace with its messiness and chaos punctured by moments of calms and long take, except for the over-frequent use of the spin-the-camera-around-the-actors ruse. He takes his time to introduce the characters and brings us into the headspace of these mentally ill characters and let us connect with all them. Allowing the audience the emotional connection that draws them into the relationship(s). But all without slowing the pace or barely any redundancy. Danny Elfman's music was typical and quirky and very apt for the story. This was a fascinating showcase as to how to make a simple storyline interesting: good director with a great cast!

5 January 2013

MAD (Modern Asian Dining)

New dining concept place at The Grandstand. Owned by Tung Lok and in collaboration with Dick Lee. Hence the name "MAD". And truly, the interior is eclectic as is the music (curated by Mr Lee) which I must admit is my kind of mood/60s/retro canto/English tunes (and any place that chooses Sia's "Breathe" has taste!). Downstairs is the cafe and bakery, upstairs is the restaurant and bar, and shop. At the restaurant, black walls and ceilings with disco lights and colourful accessories. The menu is presented on an iPad and orders are done by yourself and transmitted directly to the main server. Even when a dish is out of stock they will prompt you. Innovative. The menu itself is also eclectic. Dim sum (by Tung Lok which I never had a good impression of; standard selections), limited boring Tapas choices, paella and fried rice and hor fun, with back ribs and steaks. Truly something for somebody. The 腐皮卷 was crispy but a big too big to properly appreciate the prawns and beancurd skin; the 叉烧包 is average, too doughy and not enough meat; and the 凤爪 was too heavily/intensely marinated with black bean paste and the taste was just too strong. The squid ink paella had a waiting time of 20-30 minutes and was big enough for 2-3 persons. It was a tad too salty, a bit too generous with the squid ink instead of just coating the rice, and expensive at $55 when there were not much other ingredients/seafood other than squid. At least the rice itself was well done. Even the tapas dishes were a tad expensive. Spoke too soon about the music. It devolved into Pop kitsch in between while eating my paella, but thankfully was short lived. Two things bad about the iPad system is that I cannot call for service/bill nor customise my order, ie ask for more xxx, less ###; case in point, tried to add egg white to my almond cream. Such a chore, when it's usually a simple order of "杏仁茶加蛋白" in a proper Cantonese restaurant. Here was in English and to 2 staffs and even after that I still wondered whether they got what I meant. Service was adequate and polite but needs prompting (water not filled, dishes not cleared, plates not changed). At least the senior ones were better the young boys. One young waiter actually brought a cold dessert to me and said it was my "hot" almond cream...*facepalm*. Anyways, the actual dessert came and the egg white was still gelatinous on the surface. Pity...a Tung Lok chain that cannot do a proper cantonese dessert.

Verdict: Will come back but not really for the food, more for a chillax place with friends for dim sum/light bites and drinks.













4 January 2013

Wreck It Ralph

An entertaining kiddie animation that has some laughs for adults, tugs on the tear ducts and a slightly unexpected twist. It was just a tad too long. Other than a fun first third where we are introduced to the video game world and was quite a tickle to see these video game characters interact with each other "socially", the next two thirds was a bright, confectionary explosion of sweet, saccharine fun that was clearly targeted at children. Although some candy-naming laughs and an off kilter romance helped to ease the adult-audience's senses. Jane Lynch absolutely nailed her voice part and so did John C Reily. Reily's totally earnest everyday man's voice really helped to sell to emotional core of the story. I hope this is the future direction John Lasseter is bringing Disney animation towards. Oh don't miss the short animation at the start of the movie. "Paper man" is almost similar to the great Pixar shorts of all. Sweet love story without words but with an added dose of Disney magic. And just a little something at the very end. 3D may actually be quite fun for this...pity.

3 January 2013

Killing Them Softly

A stylish, arty neo-noir film that appears to be about the life of hitmen but is really more an allegorical representation of America and its economy, the economic crisis and Capitalism. And just in case you don't really get it, writer/director Andrew Dominik intersperse the film throughout with snippets of Bush and Obama's speeches and hammered it in with that wonderfully acted final scene. Dominik seemed to be artistically influenced by Wong Kar Wai, Quentin Tarantino and Nicholas Winding Refn, what with the slow-mo, shadowy lightings, wisps of smoke and grass-tinged songs underscoring dramatic scenes. Brad Pitt gave a finely nuanced performance that although not showy was captivating. Richard Jenkins is always nice to watch especially playing the nonchalant and resigned bureaucrat (the people?); James Gandolfini seemed like a washed-up version of his Soprano's Tony and his scenes tended to give a glimpse of normality to these crime men. Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn round up the competent the cast.

2 January 2013

Omakase Burger

A new burger joint at The Grandstand (formerly known as Turf City) that has been getting raves from the general press (never absolutely trustworthy). So the good thing is that this place has free parking. Lots of it. The place itself is spacious and very nicely done up with really chi chi lights, open ceilings and wooden chairs. Burger selections was basic: cheeseburger and its variations (with bacons, onions, etc). You can have it double too if you want. Price was not cheap at about $13.50 for a basic "omakase" cheeseburger (itself a misnomer...nothing "omakase" about it at all). You can add bout $2 more to add fries and a soda. There are french fries, sweet potato fries, the ubiquitous truffles fries, cheese fries and onion rings to choose from. Sodas are served in fancy, pretentious 250ml old-time bottles with a Bodum glass. (note: it is less than a standard can). The wait for the burger was about 10 minutes, which was not too bad given it is made to order (supposedly medium-doneness unless otherwise specified). I had the Omakase Burger which was small. Think MacD's Big Mac size. The beef was tender and juicy but lacked bite and beefiness. The juice was overwhelming such that the bottom bun became soggy. The patty lacked form and crumbled easily, and was definitely not medium-rare. The sweet potato fries was not bad. They had a nice crisp outer layer and was again, served in a Bodum glass. Unfortunately, this fancy way of presentation resulted in the bottom fries being soggy. It seemed to me that the price I pay is not worth the quality of the burger I get and that the consumers are instead paying for the fancy schmancy design and utensils.

Verdict: Will only come back if a) I'm at The Grandstand AND b) Valentino is closed AND c) I don't feel like eating anything else there.




1 January 2013

Amour

Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winner is a fantastic, emotional and hauntingly beautiful depressing triumph. A horrific love story that was so harrowingly and nakedly presented that it touched the soul deep and raw. Utmost kudos and respect to Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant who without them, even with Haneke's superb script and directing, this movie would have been nothing. In particular, Riva was astounding! Her portrayal of Anne is so utterly convincing , I could feel her pain, her shame, her love her pride and her despair. Trintignant was brilliant in his stoic and ultimately desperate role. His paradoxical feelings of love translates through his face and actions (and inactions). Haneke chose no music and every scene was shot long and wide. The audience are forced to be part of the scene and the onscreen action, and not as an independent observer. This was underscored in the first scene and is crucial to the film's experiential success. As was the lack of a score/soundtrack throughout, which just leaves us with haunting images that scars our memories (similarly, Life itself does not have a omnipresent OST). Ultimately, Haneke's simple script was brought to life by his brilliant directing and the two astounding and breath-taking stars.

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...