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Showing posts from January, 2014

August: Osage County

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Some plays make great movies, and some plays just make good movies. This black comedy falls more into the latter like Roman Polanski's Carnage, John Cameron Mitchell's Rabbit Hole and John Patrick Shanley's Doubt. Tracy Lett's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning story is definitely the strong point here, but like all the previously mentioned plays-turned-movies, the acting are the aces here, and with a large cast like this almost everybody had their moments. Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, besides being the biggest names here, also gave the best performances of the ensemble with Roberts a particular stand out. She definitely has been missed.

John Wells was an able director but perhaps a bit too safe and restrained. That said, not even Polanski could get Carnage to Oscar glory. However, Wells was at times too predictable and mildly overly melodramatic in his scenes.

Tracy Letts adapted his own award-winning play for the big screen and, having not seen the original pl…

Her

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All the hype about Scarlett Johansson is totally justified. Spike Jonze has given us a not-really-that-original-in-concept, post-modern love story that genuinely made me laugh out loud a few times, and smile a couple more, but nonetheless had a depressing undercurrent throughout as a commentary/satire on our current society and the route that it is heading towards.

The script is one of the more original ones this year and is a clear frontrunner for winning the Best Original Screenplay (although I have yet to watch Nebraska). It posits a question: what will happen if the technology that we interact with everyday, interacts back with us? It seems like an idea that Isaac Asmiov would have toyed with, but here we get Jonze's take.

The biggest challenge here will be how to keep the audience engaged when essentially this movie about one man talking to himself? And here was how Jonze scored a coup de grace by casting Johansson as the voice of the AI and Joaquin Phoenix as the lonely man…

Looking

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Disclaimer: I don't watch Girls.

Episode 1, "Looking For Now": A look into the modern day singles in San Francisco filled with pop-culture references and lexicons like "OKCupid", "Facebook" and "Instagram". They being gay is absolutely irrelevant. As a series premiere episode, this was unique in that we just drop straight into their lives. There were no exposition-heavy introductions to load us down. Jonathan Groff is a pleasant character surrogate to this world, and his sweet, innocent baby-face makes us easy to feel for him and his quest for love. The other two leads Frankie J. Alvarez and Murray Bartlett are at the moment not interesting enough yet especially when their narrative threads are so predictable and cliche.

Episode 2, "Looking For Uncut": The instagram filter like look continues as we proceed to be the fly-on-the-wall of these 3 men. Groff swings from irritatingly naive to winsomely innocent. But at the end of it all, n…

Dallas Buyers Club

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Disclaimer: By now, a number of award-shows have already been out and both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto have been sweeping them up. Inadvertently, expectations would be high, especially for McConaughey who is riding high on the McConnaissance.

This movie suffers from what I have now christened as The Iron Lady syndrome: a so-so movie that was bolstered by its star(s). In this case, we have a poor-to-mediocre movie with two great, nominee-worthy performances by its actors, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, but only Leto truly deserves the statue come Oscar night.

Based on a screenplay by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, DBC is a documentary-like presentation of one man's life that was schizophrenic in style, tone and identity. Borrowing from the movie, it felt like a Neanderthal seeing a transgender for the first time and not knowing to call the lady a Fella or call the chap a Miss

The movie cannot decide if it wants to be a dramatic or hi…

Inside Llewyn Davis

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Another typical Coen Brothers production, which as always is usually not everybody's cup of tea. Sadly it got shutout in the Oscars except for a nod for cinematography, despite winning the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival (but, yes, the cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel was really a standout). Nonetheless, this was an intimate character study of one man's week-long journey in understanding and discovering himself. Where characterisation takes a back seat to plot narrative.

Oscar Isaac was a revelation, embodying his character's desperation to get out of his current situation for which he (may or may not) had a part in putting himself there. As he plods through the week and the hand that fate dealt him, one can't help but relate to having a similar kind of week where everything seemed to be just going against you. And that is his journey that we are witnessing. A man, possibly at one of his lowest point, always making the wrong decisions and plagues by the consta…

True Detective

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Episode 1, "The Long Bright Dark": 2014 may be remembered as the year TV landscape changed, although some may argue that the change started in 2013 with Netflix's House of Cards or even 2011 with American Horror Story. Notwithstanding, 2014 may be the year that the mini-series, anthology-format of story-telling really comes to the fore, and it all started with HBO and Nic Pizzolatto's modern-retro gothi-noir. Written solely by Pizzolatto and directed throughout its 8-episodes first season by Cary Joji Fukunaga who gave us one of the best adaptation of Jane Eyre and introduced the world to the fabulous Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, we have a sumptuously gorgeous series, that is written with meticulous care and detail, and acted with the intensity and brilliance that is so rare. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are spell-binding. Their characters could not be more opposite, but yet both actors imbued such complexity and intensity into their roles that i…

Sabah Kuo Man Fish Paste Noodles 沙巴国民鱼滑面

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Disclaimer: I've known Chef Andy since Ikyu opened, and he was my usual omakase chef when I used to go down to Ikyu quite frequently since it was near my place of work. 

This place opened in Bedok in July 2013. The chef, Andy, used to work as a sushi chef at Ikyu but has left to bring in this almost 40-years old Sabah institution to Singapore. It serves good old fashion noodles with a wide variety of simply honest, hearty, old-fashion and delicious sides.

The noodles were generous, either mee kia or mee pok, and served either dry or soup. I had both noodles in the dry version and the sauce was a tasty mushroom-based meaty stock. The mee kia was more Q and would be good for da bao, whereas the mee pok was smoother and better suited for in-house eating. Andy shared that the noodles were from the famous Yong Siak Road which explained the high quality. He could not bring in the original hand-made noodles because of Singapore's restrictions. Pity.

The fish balls were made entirely …

Masa: Steak and Hamburg

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A little Japanese meat place in Robertson Quay that serves a very fine hamburg steak. Possibly one of the better ones in Singapore. Served sizzling hot on a mini hot plate and on a bed of sautéed onions the hamburg steak was soft and juicy with just enough pinkness in the centre to retain the beefiness. Served with a side of chips, 1 small broccoli and a cherry tomato which were mainly after-thoughts. The starter of yukke Masa style was delicious. The sweetness of raw beef with the slight tang of raw egg yolk and the fragrance of mildly roasted sesame seeds was a delight. Similarly the hot bowl garlic beef fried rice was wonderfully fragrant with generous amount of sliced beef and garlic and mixed long/short-grain rice. Not terribly expensive for the hamburg, but the other beef seemed a bit pricey.

Verdict: Good beef hangout that is atypical of the usual steakhouse.




Take Me Out

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Richard Greenberg's Tony Award-winning, Pulitzer-nominated black comedy comes to Singapore. And it is rather surprising considering. Yes, there are homosexual themes and gratuitous male frontal nudity, but there was nothing overtly sexual involved. So, we should be thankful for small things that it even made it to our shores. But then again, the lacked of advertising may also have contributed to the barely half-full theatre on a Friday night. Pity. The other half of the theatre was missing out on a play that is still relevant to our times, even more so in Singapore, despite it being first staged in 2002. 

Superficially, this penis-fest - as the producer, Tim Garner, himself describes it - utilises baseball as a metaphor for Life and Religion, and Homosexuality as a surrogate for all social inequality; but on a deeper layer, it explores themes of bigotry, friendship and society's responsibility for its basest members. With an international cast, this rojak (is it a Singapore-pro…

The Wolf Of Wall Street

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Martin Scorsese's latest epic is a 3-hour long comedic satire on (American) greed that is filled with sex, drugs, profanities, and more sex, but at least we get a fantastic Leonardo diCaprio, and a very adventurous Scorsese. Pity that it's censored (I think) in homophobic Singapore!

However, it also gives us one of Leonardo diCaprio's - Sorcese's muse - best performances since The Aviator and Revolutionary Road, and at times it seems to be an extension of his role in Django Unchained. It looks like diCaprio may have found himself a type for which he could really excel in: the exaggerated, larger-than-life, alpha-male. Although these kind of role is unlikely to give him the Oscar that he so craves.

In addition, in this film, we also get one of Scorcese's most adventurous directing ever. The camera swoops, swirls, swipes and the pacing is actually not too bad for a 179 minutes movie. It only felt draggy towards the end, last 30 minutes, and this is a great complimen…

Intelligence

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Disclaimer: I have never watched Chuck before, although I do know of the similarities between these two shows. The clear draw of Intelligence would be in the main cast that they had assembled: Josh Holloway and Meghan Ory.

Pilot: A fairly interesting new addition by CBS to the multitude of procedurals that are out now, and this is clearly not going in the same comedic vein as Chuck did with a similar concept. Like all pilots, this one was exposition heavy, not only because the creators and producers have created a "new superpower" and now got to clearly define its powers and limits, but also because the setting is unique: US Cyber Command (and yes, it is a real thing). But as with all series these days, even procedurals, there has got to be an over-arching mythology that keeps its core audience reined in, and here we have "What happened to Amelia?". Welcome back to the small screen Sawyer! We have missed your smirks, thankfully this time round Josh Holloway is squar…

Whole Earth

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You know you are in a rather authentic vegetarian restaurant when the table next to you is a whole group of monks. On a weekday lunch, it was quite full with mainly an office crowd. Parking can be quite challenging at Tanjong but there are a number of public car parks in that area. The restaurant itself is pleasant enough and the wait staff were polite and quite responsive. They actually offered you the snacks (preserved vegetables and fried seaweed/tofu skin) before plopping it on the table ($2/plate). The main focus is of course the food. Started off with the Imperial Beauty Soup which was well brewed and very sweet, with the sweetness coming from the papayas and red dates. Although the mock abalone and sharksfin was rather extraneous. The fried olive brown rice was a standout, if only just a tad oily. The olive masked the organic taste of brown rice and actually gives it a rather distinctive flavour. The teriyaki monkeyhead mushroom was a conundrum. The vegetables that came with i…

Frozen

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Disclaimer: Expectations were a bit high for this movie since I am watching it rather later since its premiere, and the movie has been en massing a very respectable box-office receipt since then.

A feel-good, child-friendly, typical Disney animation that is just slightly above average. It does not break any new ground in terms of story line or animation. Actually, the latter was rather bland considering the potential that laid in snow and ice animation. Was not wowed by the ice-castles, perhaps would have been in 3D? A braver and more daring company, think the old Pixar or the old Dreamworks, would have embraced the darker aspect of Hans Christian Andersen's source material and even perhaps give it a more sweeping and epic plot. It also lacked the witticisms that made "Tangled" a standout. Then again, since the primary target audience are children, what we have left here is definitely aimed squarely at them. One day, maybe Hollywood would give us a more adult-friendly ca…

Papasan

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Based in the new Dorsett Residences at the corner of Cantonment and Eu Tong Seng, this new restaurant headed by Chef Han was doing rather good business, especially for its buffet, when I was there on a weekend lunch. Looking through the menu, the a la carte signature western dishes were clearly not cheap. But since Chef Han is known for his chicken rice, that was what I ordered. Sadly, the chicken rice was at best mediocre. The chicken itself was tasteless and the sauce just did not enhance the flavour, and most importantly the rice lacked the fragrance and intensity of good chicken rice. Coupled with a small plate of vegetables and a soup, and at the total cost of $16.50, this meal was not really worth it despite the air-con environment, comfortable chairs and free water. 
Verdict: Won't be coming back again.