19 June 2014

Teppei

There will be no pictures in this post because, simply, NOTHING was worth the effort. 

This place is the dictionary definition of over-rated. I'm only here because a friend could not make it at the last minute and I hijacked his spot.

The nicest thing I can say is that you get what you pay for. $50 gives you a $50 standard. But truth be told, it felt more like $30. 

If I were the one footing the bill - I was just an invited guest - I would have left 30 minutes in. The whole dining experienced stretched from first seating 6.30pm all the way into the second seating (poor folks waiting outside). 

The fishes were atrocious! Every single fish was not fresh. The portions are minuscule (that's okie for the price) but the control of the sauces and taste overwhelmed everything. For a Japanese restaurant you were not tasting the raw ingredients but the sauce. Cheap sauce. Can't even call it pseudo-French! What a waste of fish and beef. 

Chef has no control of his staffs. There was absolutely no control of timing. Slow, uneven serving. Food was left out too long before serving and not even under a heater or on a warmer. There was no skill in sushi making whatsoever. The sushi rice may be from Nigata but it sure does not reflect it.

The open kitchen is an embarrassment. If you want to do an open concept you jolly well be aware that everybody is scrutinising. 

Service was beyond bad. Forgot a portion of soup and just walked off. Did not inform the guest at all but told the sous chef and he begun to prepare another. My neighbour is a non-beef eater but his fried rice came with beef. No recognition by the staff on the faux pas nor an apology. 

I don't really care about the ambience. A hole in the wall concept is fine. Unique too, but the constant movement of staffs behind you and asking to be excused is an interruption to a dining experienced. Your food had better be damn good to compensate.

Verdict: Absolutely never again. 


The Fault In Our Stars


Disclaimer: I read the book about 3 - 4 months before watching the movie, and it made me cry. Despite all its cliché-ness and predictability (other than who dies first...but you know someone is going to die), the tears just kept flowing. Kudos to John Green for capturing the emotions of first love, love and lost, and putting them into words.

A cheesy, romantic film that unabashedly tugs at the heartstrings and milk the tear ducts, but despite its 125 minutes duration, it still falls short of the emotional impact and heave that John Green's novel had. Shailene Woodley anchored the film beautifully and she is the real reason to catch this (other than for the book itself).

Director Josh Boone and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber compacted the storyline to focus only on Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters. Everybody else, except Mrs. Lancaster, became periphery. As such, the focus was more on the romance rather than the Romance (with a capital R).

However, a positive and unexpected outcome of this treatment of the novel was that the relationship between Hazel and her mum felt more authentic then that between Hazel and Gus. We do not really see the ups and downs of Hazel and Gus' relationship, so the emotional impact of the ending was not as powerful as depicted by Green.

Shailene Woodley was spot on as Hazel. The smart alecky girl that is pretty but not in a conventional way. Her line deliveries carried the sarcasm and wit one would expect of her character, as does the way her face just lights up genuinely as she fell in love. Woodley came onto the scene almost at the same time as Jennifer Lawrence and they both got noticed straightaway, but Lawrence is now America's newest sweetheart whereas Woodley is playing catch-up. But, watch out for her.

Ansel Elgort as Augustus was sadly, not the right fit for Woodley. They had their moments of chemistry, and Elgort also had his moments, but he was not consistent. Too often he fell flat, and ended up being smug rather than endearingly goofy. Although he did displayed more talent towards comedy than drama.

Laura Dern was great as Mrs Lancaster, and her chemistry with Woodley was simply the best thing about the movie. That felt real and genuine. Perhaps it arose from her stint on HBO's Enlightened.

The soundtrack was a highlight too if that is any consolation.

15 June 2014

How To Train Your Dragon 2


A feel good, family movie that is more heavily skewed towards the children rather than tweens or above. Less exciting and less dramatic than the first instalment, but still a decent cartoon.

Writer-Director Dean DeBlois did a commendable job but the directing here was rather messy with the action-choreography seemingly too rushed. Many scenes borrowed heavily from other sci-fi geek moments which made this movie seemed less original that it was meant to be.

Although I did not watch it in 3D, I believed that there were a few scenes which would have definitely showed-off the technology. However, they were a lot less frequent than in the first movie.

Even from a story point of view, DeBlois' foreshadowings were way too heavy-handed. Perhaps it would be suited for the target audience of under-10s, but the adults in the audience would surely be groaning inwardly. Even the emotional centre was dealt simply and too casually, such that where there should be emotional fallout in the audience just fell kind of flat.

The best relationship depicted was between boy and pet.

I love Cate Blanchett, but her voice-acting here was extremely distracting. She affected a strange Aussie tilted, pseudo-Viking-that-sounds-Scottish accent that was not constant. It just kept jumping around.

The best aspect of the movie was Roger Deakins' cinematography (Visual Consultant). Some scenes were just so gorgeously depicted.

12 June 2014

Coming Home 归来

 

Zhang Yimou and Gong Li reunite after many years to bring us another love story that is simple and cliche in its narrative but emotionally challenging for its stars and audience.

Zhang's directing is secure and steady, bringing the story along at a comfortable pace. Brilliantly setting the backbone of the protagonists' love that would establish the heartache that follows. But, this film also explored the complexity of the love between parent(s) and child, state and self, country and family.

Thankfully, the political overtures faded to the background from the Second Act. Although it was interesting to see that slice of Chinese history. Kudos to Zhang for bringing that onto the big screen.

Gong Li is as usual mesmerising. Even in the drab clothes that she was dressed in, her eyes shone through with every flickering emotions that Zhang wrought her through.  One particular scene stood out for without words, a whole gamut of emotions raced through Gong's eyes and face. From fear to trepidation, anticipation to denial, love to disgust.

Chen Daoming played the male lead, and although his role was less showy, he still managed to convincingly showcased the undeniable love that he had for the woman that he loved.

The story by Yan Geling is a familiar one. Cliche but heartbreakingly so. Unfortunately, some of that cliche-ness was not handled as well by Zhang which led to some unintentional (?) comedic moments. Light-hearted, but jarring.

That final scene was such a bittersweet moment. Especially if you understood the meaning of the Chinese name: "焉識" litterally means "how to reconise". 

5 June 2014

Edge of Tomorrow [IMAX/3D]


This is Source Code on a summer blockbuster/Tom Cruise budget but without the smarts nor the heart mainly because its scope is too wide and its stake too grand.

The problem with time-looping sci-fi features is that they tend to be too repetitive and that weighs down the pacing. Directing and editing then becomes crucial in keeping the pacing and the audience's attention, but that unfortunately is not as consistent.

Furthermore, time-looping is a double-edged sword. In Source Code it was used effectively in essentially a linear manner; but Edge of Tomorrow pushes the realistic boundaries more and explored the branches of time, however, that led to redundancy of all the other failed routes which then really gave the audience nothing to be invested in.

Similarly, once Edge started exploring the branches, all intelligence and logic just flew out of the window. The screenplay became confused, schizophrenic and illogical. Contrivances are the norm and characters make decisions willy nilly. You know you are in trouble with logic once a glaring contrivance appear within 10 minutes of the opening credit. Some of them are just too glaring and stupid to be ignored totally while trying to enjoy the movie.

Director Doug Liman did a good job in the first Act. His choreography for the beach battle was excellent: intense without being messy. However, as the show progressed, he got as lazy as his screenwriters, and that final battle scene was just so bizarre and rushed.

Cruise was actually rather good here. It cannot be denied that Cruise is a good actor, and in here, both his boyish charisma and manly determination gets their fair showing. And his metamorphosis was believable. Unfortunately, it was his lack of chemistry with Blunt that stood out more.

Emily Blunt too is a great actress, but in Edge she only had one facet: cold-hard bitch. The brief moments of emotional depth was written so tackily and out of place that it just did not feel in character. She was mainly utilised as a plot device from the start to the very end. Pity.

There were some moments when 3D was used effectively, however by and large, neither 3D or IMAX really enhanced the movie. Although praise must go to the design of the aliens. It was a smart move by Liman to keep them hidden initially.


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...