20 August 2015

Mr Holmes

An intriguing, mysterious, little film led by a phenomenal Sir Ian McKellen with outstanding support by Larua Linney and newcomer Milo Parker. This film was more about exploring the (fictional) man behind the fictional detective rather than a crime-thriller/whodunit, however it is to director's Bill Condon's credit that he managed to structure the narrative as if it was.

Condon, after the successes of the Twilight saga, definitely must have some clout now to explore more indie exploits. And following Benedict Cumberbatch's rather exciting The Fifth Estate, Condon now gives us a more meditative biography of an equally intriguing person.

Together with screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher, Condon and him adapted Mitch Cullin's novel expertly. Weaving together a tight story about Sherlock Holmes in his twilight years - as a man riddled with a failing body and - most horrifically - a failing memory.

The narrative spanned over 30 years and in three locations, and was tightly framed and neatly paced, such that we never got lost following the story and the crime.

McKellan was brilliant. Suitably curmudgeon and convincingly doddering in his 90s, and bright-eyed and sharp in his 60s, McKellan conveyed the emotions and weighty expectations through subtle changes in his eyes and body language. He could literally conjure up the twinkle in his eyes!

Linney reunites with her Kinsey director and her character was an enigma, but she is one of the few actresses that could really stand her ground opposite the indomitable McKellen.

Parker as the young son of Linney's character, and the supposed protege of Holmes, will be a child-star to watch out for. Just like Tom Holland in The Impossible, hopefully good things will come to him in the future.

Cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler beautifully captured the English countryside and the white cliffs of Dover, and Carter Burwell score was melancholic rich in brass and horns.

A wonderful film to watch and a well-spent 104 mins.

19 August 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation [IMAX]

Like almost any Tom Cruise movies these days, M:I-RN was an entertaining film and Tom Cruise a reliable entertainer. However, there was nothing really spectacular about director's Christopher McQuarrie entry to the franchise - not in terms of action, set-pieces, dialogue, chemistry or narrative. M:I-RN definitely paled in comparison to Ghost Protocol and failed to build up upon it.

The best parts of film were the rare comedic elements which were mainly courtesy of MVP Simon Pegg, with the occasional one-liners from MUP (most under-used player) Jeremy Renner and the patente wide/bugged-eye looks of Cruise.

Pegg and Cruise worked well together and their chemistry definitely made the First Act the most entertaining, of course also no thanks to Pegg's bantering. Even the big action sequence of Act One was the most exciting and riveting of the whole film.

And speaking of action sequences, the one in the prologue really served no purpose other than for Cruise's ego and marketing purpose. Which can be the same for most of the other action sequences throughout, and was partially the fault of McQuarrie. The way he shot and edited those sequences could have made it better and more exciting.

The run time itself of 131 minutes was too bloated. Some scenes/sequences could have been trimmed and tightened. The problem here was that the audience do not really care about what is happening on screen - we all know Cruise will survive, so there is no real danger per se. Therefore, in many of the action sequences, where there are prolonged dialogue-free periods, we just want things to speed up.

This was also contributed by the lack of chemistry between the cast and the lack of group dynamics. The latter of which was what made Ghost Protocol such a fun film.

Rebecca Ferguson played a strong female character - a rarity in a male-centric action movie - that mostly held her own against Cruise, however they lacked chemistry together and their scenes were equal parts painful to watch and laughably admirable.

Poor Renner was reduced to a bit player after his expanded role in Ghost Protocol. It was like the first Avengers all over again for him. Damn contractual agreements.

Ving Rhames is better in small doses.

Alec Baldwin was just being Alec Baldwin.

Simon McBurney stood out amongst all the others as the Chief of British Intelligence.

Sean Harris looked like a Mason Verger with a plastic surgeon. Terrifying, all-knowing, and singularly boring/one-dimensional.

It was fun to watch in IMAX, but none of the action sequences really made it that much more worth it to splurge on the format.

Looks like there will be sixth and seventh entry to this franchise, and hopefully it can reach the highs of Brad Bird's Ghost Protocol again!

13 August 2015

La Tapería

Les Amis' newest mid-range restaurant is a tapas affair and one of the better ones in Singapore. Mind you, that although Les Amis is moving away from the fine-dining scene and trying to establish itself in the mid-range market, it still veered towards the high-end of mid-range.

That being said, the quality of food at La Tapería did impress. In particular if you consider how, in Singapore, tapas are usually over-priced ang moh dim sums. At least here, the price may generally be north of $10 but at least the quantity and quality mostly justifies it. Bearing in mind that you are also paying for ambiance and service.

So, let us talk about the food now.

Off the bat, $4 for 4 slices of baguettes may seem excessive, but it was a worthy investment as the bread could be used to wipe up all the sauces provided.

The prawns in sizzling olive oil and garlic with chili was fresh, (Gambas Al Ajillo) and the oil was delicious to eat with the above-mentioned bread.

The gaelic style octopus (Pulpo a la Gallega) was one of the disappointments. It was soft and tender but did not wow the taste buds. There was a distinct lack of taste that not even the chili powder could compensate. Although, again, the oil was delish!

The fried manchego with Spanish Iberian salami (Crujiente de Manchego y Salchichon) was a children's (and adult's) favourite. The salty tanginess of the salami complemented the aged chewy cheese, and the fried pastry skin added some crunch.

The two squid dishes were a delight. The crispy baby squid cooking in squid ink (Chipirones Fritos en su Tinta) was a well done calamari-dish and frying it with the squid ink gave just the right amount of saltiness to complement the squid (which went well with a dash of lemon and the garlic mayonaise). 

The squid wrapped with jamon iberico (Rollito de Jamon Relleno de Calamar) was one of the best dishes. The squid was fresh and simply boiled and lightly grilled with a thin piece of jamon iberico wrapped around it which infused the seafood with a salty meat crisp.

Then came the meat dishes.

The charcoal grilled iberian pork (Pasa Iberica a la Parrilla) was a piece of ultra-tender pork chop - which I have been told "did not taste like pork!" (which would be good for all those people who have an adversity towards the elusive "taste of pork"). However, having said that, without that "porky taste" there seemed to be something lacking in the overall experience of such a tender piece of meat.

The off-the-menu wagyu beef came in 3 size: 150g, 300g or 500g and was served with a sides of potatoes and greens. The beef was done medium to medium-rare, and was tender and flavourful with a rich smell of charcoal and salt on the outsides. But they were too generous with the sauce which over-powered the natural flavour of the beef (which in all honesty, did not really need to be a wagyu).

The suckling pig (Super-Conchinllo confit) was average. You get to choose which quarter-part of the pig you preferred and I had the belly. It was fatty, the skin was crisp (veering more towards fried rather than roasted), but the meat was on the dry side, and not roasted enough to fall off the bone smoothly. The peach sauce and caramelised onions complemented the pork but was too little.

Lastly, the lobster pallea (Paella de Bogavante). A delicious, albeit slightly expensive, lobster and rice dish. The lobster was generously proportioned but dwarfed the portion of the rice - which in this case, with all the other food we had ordered, was appropriate. The lobster was fresh and succulent, and the rice, fragrant with saffron, was well cooked in lobster-broth and one of the better seafood paellas in Singapore.

The wine list was mainly Spanish, and the dry and mineral, with a hint of sweet, 2013 Laxas, Albariño went very well the dishes after breathing for a bit. 

Desserts was the churros and the crema catalana. Both were adequate although the mango bits in the latter was interesting and made it less boring than just a plain creme brulee.

At just slightly above S$500 for everything above, this was a good children/infant-friendly place that would be great for big group of friends and/or family. Dinner for one, two or three may be slightly less worth it.

La Tapería 

1 Scotts Road #02-10/11 Singapore 228208
Tel: 6737 8336, e-mail: lataperia@lesamis,com.sg

Opening Hours:
Lunch: 12pm to 3pm, Dinner: 6.30pm to 10pm

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...