Monday, October 28, 2002

Just a short entry before I log off.

Robbie Williams -- aka my all-time favourite singer, whose concert in Singapore a year ago remains vivid in my mind -- just released a new single called "Feel" last Friday, and it's absolutely terrific. Anyway, his website is featuring full-length samples of this song, together with a daily dose of new singles for visitors to listen to. I just heard "Something Beautiful", another winner. His new album's going to be huge, and I've got my money ready. :)

As for Josh Groban, my second favourite, his star continues to rise, and the latest scoop on his website is that he's slated to sing at the Nobel Prize-giving ceremony and the upcoming World Series, after just performing at the Tribute Concert for America with President Bush and Colin Powell in attendance, and giving a full-length concert for PBS earlier this month. He's also recorded a new song with Barbra Streisand, and in response to numerous requests on the Net, done a cover of "O Holy Night", a lovely carol which will no doubt soar with Josh's breath-taking vocals.

Okay, gushing session over. Goodnight!

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Review of Red Dragon:

This is the prequel to "Silence of the Lambs" and "Hannibal", and like the Star Wars films, and even the Jack Ryan franchise, prequels are quite the rage these days. This can be a good or a bad thing, of course, but from the above examples, my general impression is that of the latter.

"Red Dragon" is the Thomas Harris novel that first introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter, the highly intelligent forensic psychiatrist whose inexplicable propensity for violent cruelty has riveted readers and movie audiences alike. "Silence" was terrifying and swept all the top Oscars the year it was released, while "Hannibal" upped the gore factor but lost out in the awards category. My opinion of the former remains unwavering -- it's an exceptional thriller that still makes my hair stand to this day. But the latter... okay, it's stylishly directed and the cinematography's lovely, but it lacked the essence of its predecessor, and was bogged down by too much action and too little good dialogue.

"Red Dragon" is a cross between the two. Set in the 1980s, there isn't much high-tech gadgetry for crime-solving, but kudos to the set designers for keeping everything very authentic ( look out for the "antique phones", a small but nice detail ).

With all the trailers and publicity campaigns, everyone should know the plot by now. I read the novel eons ago, and wasn't impressed -- Harris' popularity stems more from the shock factor of his storylines rather than his writing skills, and all I recall about the book is its lame ending. The main reason I went to see the movie version is the fine ensemble cast -- Hopkins, Norton, Keitel, Fiennes, Watson -- a film buff's dream come true.

Hopkins nailed his role the first time round in "Silence", so there isn't anything new in this installment, except for the first few scenes where he's pictured as a free man who's later captured by FBI agent Will Graham ( Edward Norton ). But the best thing about Hopkins is that he's never boring, and truly relishes playing Lecter. His sardonic smile is supremely unnerving, and his sarcastic wit almost charming.

Norton is on my list of favourite actors for good reason. I first saw him in "Primal Fear", where he completely overshadowed Richard Gere in his role as an outwardly angelic altar boy who fooled everyone around him into believing he's innocent. After that, he's appeared in a large variety of movies, ranging from "Rounders" ( with Matt Damon ), "American History X" ( as a skinhead ), and most recently, the delightful "Keeping The Faith" ( which Norton also directed ).
As Will Graham, he does an equally good job, but this is definitely not his best performance. Blame it on insufficient screen time and a deficient script. And before I forget, I can't believe the film-makers left him scar-free after being stabbed in the abdomen by Hannibal -- a scene in which Norton takes his shirt off demonstrates a pristine tummy. Major boo-boo there.

Ralph Fiennes is another enigmatic actor whose career I'm familiar with. He played a sadistic Commandant in "Schindler's List", a gorgeous professor in "Quiz Show", a rich adventurer in "The English Patient", and starred in a few other interesting projects like "Strange Days" and "The End of the Affair". I was quite surprised he was chosen to play the killer in "Red Dragon", and after seeing the film, I have to say it wasn't the best decision.
I'm a firm believer in casting obscure actors in such roles. Just think about "Se7en", which introduced then-unknown Kevin Spacey in a breakthrough performance, as well as Norton in "Primal Fear". And how about Hopkins himself, who became a household name only after he burst onto the big screen hissing the words "chianti" and "fava beans" with a twinkle in his eye in "Silence of the Lambs"? Having a famous name play a killer is distracting, unless of course, you're John Malkovich or Steve Buscemi ( those guys have their weird looks going for them ). Not only is Fiennes well-known, he's also good-looking ( despite the hair and artificial facial scar ). Other examples of handsome guys who failed as murderers include Tony Goldwyn and Cary Elwes in "Kiss The Girls" and Keanu Reeves in the disastrous "The Watcher". I rest my case.

Emily Watson, however, deserves special mention. She hasn't aged a day since "Breaking The Waves", and is well-cast as a blind woman who manages to halt Fiennes' killing spree. The director says she was the first and only choice for this role. A stroke of genius there.

"Red Dragon" has received rave reviews and good box office takings, but I think it's merely average at best. Some say giving the reins to Brett Ratner ( Rush Hour, The Family Man ) was unconventional, and that he's done a good job with a treasured franchise, but if you ask me, someone else could've done a much better job. The rave reviews belong solely to the fantastic cast, which probably didn't even require any form of direction in the first place anyway.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

I'm posting in between changes, so let's see how much I can type in 15 minutes. :)

Okay, it's been a while since I wrote something properly, so forgive me for rambling!

The 2nd episode, surprise, surprise, is a lot better than the pilot. I actually started liking the main character -- but I still can't remember his name, darn it. In fact, I feel for him. I really do. The janitor hates him, the girl he lusts after now puts him in the "friend zone", his best pal is busy with the ICU nurse. Poor fellow. The jokes also improved this time round, with less emphasis on physical humour and more on the verbal. Looks like I'll be tuning in for a longer period then.
Good quote: "Take your blah-blah to the blah-blah-ologist!" -- spoken by an irate resident when repeatedly approached by the intern for advice.

And since I'm on the topic of good quotes, here're 2 more:
1) "Sometimes I'm glad I only deal with dead people." -- medical examiner from "C.S.I."
2) "I think our sister was high on crystal meth the night our father died."
"Oh my God, isn't that a horse tranquilizer?"
-- whispered conversation between Nate and David Fisher from "Six Feet Under"

The Oct 21 issue of Time magazine has a fabulous feature on forensic science, with an application to the investigation of the Beltway killings, aka the Washington/Virginia sniper murders. "C.S.I." fans will recognize much of the technology, and this brain fingerprinting thing has also been mentioned on "Alias" ( a fantastic series which I failed to talk about in my blog, but there's no point anymore 'cos the season's ended ). Cool stuff there.

And as for the last 5 minutes I have to spare, I shall devote them to The Bachelor.
Following in the footsteps of "Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire" and "Who Wants To Be A Princess", this one pits 25 hopeful single females against one another as they jostle for the chosen man's affections.
I like reality shows, so this one's right up my alley. The guy's admittedly not too bad -- tall, hunky, quite pleasant-looking, supposedly smart ( if you take Harvard and Stanford degrees seriously ), and willing to settle down. Perfect.
Then you have the char-bohs ( Hokkien for women ), or as I prefer to call them, "desperados". It's painful to watch them compete and bawl their eyes out when they're kicked out of the first round. Sure, they ALL claim they're great people, with lots of love to give, that the man ( named Alex ) is definitely what they want in a guy, etc. But I just feel they're also awfully superficial. Just take note of how many times they gush, "He's so handsome!" versus "He's sweet and intelligent, with a good heart." and you'll understand what I'm talking about.
However, one woman stands out. Her name's Shannon, and she's the only one among the horde who seems genuinely nice. She gave Alex a gift -- but without flashing it around, which earns her bonus points -- and is very pretty in my opinion, with understated class and elegance. I hope he'll choose her, but such things are so unpredictable, so who knows what'll happen?

That's it for the moment. Have to go catheterize someone, so adios.

Monday, October 21, 2002

I am post-call, and let me tell you, it was a terrible one. :( Non-stop from 8am to midnight, but thankfully everything ground to a halt after that, or I wouldn't be able to sit here typing this today.

Anyway, the 2nd episode of Scrubs is on tonight on Channel 5, so here's my review of last week's show.
General opinion -- it's funny, in a slapstick, Ally McBeal sort of way, but I don't have any respect for it. Basically tracing the lives of 3 fresh interns in a US hospital, the writers make fun of the medical profession ad nauseum, and make doctors look really really bad. Sure, I give them some credit for showcasing the usual stereotypes -- the nasty attending/resident, the smart aleck / flirt / backstabber / blur toad. But everything's done in a very cartoonish fashion, and never really goes below the surface like in Chicago Hope or ER.
Some of you may enjoy this comedy of errors, and there were a few good moments last week when one intern DC shocked a patient who was actually sleeping but mistaken for a collapse because the cardiac monitoring leads were faulty. But in the long run, this sort of humour can only hold our attention for so long before we tire of them.
I'll continue to watch Scrubs, but don't be surprised if I decide to stop following the series after a couple of weeks.

Friday, October 18, 2002

It's 7:30am on Saturday morning, and just taking a slow breather before starting rounds.
Just wanted to bring your attention to this wonderful blog I got off the list, titled Life In The Freezer, and posted on regularly by its founder, Gillian Hadley. I haven't read through it in great detail, but was captivated by the beautiful photos he's uploaded, featuring breath-taking shots of Antarctica. From what I can gather from the skimming I've done, this is an expedition of sorts, comprising a group of people from various US states, coming together to observe the wildlife there. However, scroll down for an attention-grabbing pic of 4 of the expedition members -- one of whom, named Darren, is a veritable hunk. :) I was browsing this in the hospital ward, and suffice to say, this photo had all the nurses ooh-ing and aah-ing in admiration, haha! Something to perk up your day.

Don't have that much time to write more, so maybe next week then. Will be on call tomorrow, urgh, but who knows, if it's quiet, I may be able to post my review of Scrubs after all.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Full review of Six Feet Under

My new quick fix. :) It kept me wide awake for 120 minutes yesterday afternoon, despite my being post-call. What a knockout of a TV series! I don't really like that other HBO production -- ie. The Sopranos -- but this one is right up my alley ( I love American Beauty, after all. )
Basically revolving around a super-dysfunctional family after the death of the patriach and the return of the prodigal son, it's an absolute riot also because of its setting -- a funeral home, where death is taken very very seriously, almost revered even. Plus, there are regular snippets of outrageous advertisements plugging everything from the new stylish hearse to embalming fluid, complete with energetic dance choreography and slinky models. Dying never looked more appealing. :)
However, I think the scripts are the main draw. Sarcasm reigns, and reading between the lines is a must. "Racquetball partner" is a euphemism for "gay lover", by the way.
My favourite characters? Easy. Brenda the masseuse, played by Rachel Griffiths. A free spirit who may just end up as Nate's soul-mate, she is, in my opinion, the most watchable cast member. Although I think all the actors who portray the family are reasonably good, I like Brenda the most. My second favourite guy is the mortician -- I can't recall his name at the moment, but he's the cute, short one. :)
Here're a few pearls from the debut episode, to whet your appetite for more. ( The 3rd installment airs tonight on HBO at 10pm, and I'm definitely staying up for it! )

1. "There's been an accident. The car is totalled, your father's dead, and my pot roast is ruined."
-- Ruth Fisher, the deceased's grieving widow
2. "If there's any justice in the universe, she's shovelling s**t in hell."
-- family member's comment while viewing his relative's dead body at the wake

I heard good reviews from friends who saw Scrubs last night. Shall watch my recording today and post something later this week.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Okay, I'm on call but it's quiet and my fingers are getting very fidgety, so I'm just gonna post something. :)
Here's my list of good horror films -- Halloween's coming up, so this is a prime opportunity.

In order of preference:

1) The Turn of the Screw -- This was shown over local TV a couple of years back ( Channel 12 or Central, I believe ), and scared the life out of me. Utterly creepy from beginning to end, this is based on a novel by Henry James ( which I bought, but haven't had the time to read yet ), and revolves around a haunted old house during the Victorian era ( a very popular theme, I notice ). It stars unknowns, and looks pretty low-budget, but the director really knows how to create an atmosphere of terror, and my hair was standing on end throughout the 2 harrowing hours of the movie. The closing scene featured one of the vicious ghosts gliding down a long staircase, and the makeup artist deserves an Oscar for his/her rendering of the spirits' faces. I'm getting goose pimples just writing about it. Maybe I should stop here. :)

2) What Lies Beneath -- I've seen it close to 10 times already, but haven't tired of it at all. I first caught it at Lido during a midnight screening, and almost lost it during the bathroom scene ( those of you who have seen it will know what I mean ). I next saw this film on a plane to Sydney, but it wasn't the same with the bright lights and people walking around. I suggest you rent the DVD/VCD, get rid of anything or anyone that has a potential for making noise, turn down the lights, and make yourself really comfortable, in order to fully experience this terrific movie. Michelle Pfeiffer shines in her role, and Harrison Ford plays against type for once. There aren't any eye-popping visual effects like those in The Haunting or other scream fests, so director Robert Zemeckis banks on our fear of the unknown, setting up scenes beautifully to enhance the scare factor tremendously. The ghost here is both gorgeous and malicious. Definitely worth the time and money.

3) The Sixth Sense -- Yet another film I've watched countless times, and my first introduction to the immensely talented Haley Joel Osment and M. Night Shyamalan. A sleeper hit that also relaunched Bruce Willis' flagging career, it is one of the most intelligent films in recent history, and made extremely touching through Osment's heart-wrenching portrayal of an innocent child tormented by his special gift. But my love for the film hinges on the relationship between Osment's and Willis' characters. The scene where the former breaks down in tears when the latter refuses to help him anymore is surely guaranteed to reduce even the toughest of people to jelly. But my personal favourite sequence is the one where the boy's mother notices his sweaty handprints on the kitchen table after he leaves -- in retrospect, an indication of the constant fear he felt, even in his own home, where the ghosts visited often. Truly a masterpiece.

4) The Others -- Rather similar to The Turn of the Screw in terms of period and plot, but also very frightening, especially if viewed under the right conditions. Nicole Kidman once again proves she's an actress to be reckoned with, and the house almost has a life of its own. Unnerving, to say the least.

5) Stir of Echoes -- Not exactly that terrifying, but it's well-made and very underrated. Kevin Bacon plays a man who suddenly attains the ability to see ghosts after a hypnosis session, and becomes the only link between a restless soul seeking revenge and the killers who prematurely ended her life. The scariest part comes within the first 20 minutes, so get yourself psyched.

6) The Devil's Backbone -- I hardly watch foreign films, so this appealed to me only because of its content. And I have never regretted seeing it. Featuring Spanish dialogue, it tells a tale of an "orphanage" situated in the middle of what looks like a desert, and is set during World War II. The spirit in question is that of a young child, and I shall not reveal too much lest I let the all-important cat out of the bag. :) It's a lovely little movie, so rent it if you can.

Others worth mentioning:
Old movies are quite good as well. Though none of them compares to the first 3 on my list, some which I think are pretty enjoyable include The Exorcist ( a little slow, however ), The Changeling, The Omen, and Amityville.

Last, I just want to mention that I caught 15 minutes of Six Feet Under last night -- couldn't stay up 'cos I'm on call today -- and couldn't stop laughing. It's so unbelievably fantastic, from the opening sequence and catchy Thomas Newman score, to the witty dialogue which drips with dark humour, and the stellar performances from all the actors. I'm gonna forgo my post-call sleep and watch the rest of the 2-hour pilot tomorrow when I get home. And if it's really really good, this may be the first TV series I record and keep on tape. :)

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Note to those who would like to catch episodes from the 2nd season of C.S.I. Cable is showing reruns every Monday at 2pm and 10pm on AXN Channel 19. Sure beats the midnight screening of the pilot season on Channel 5. But what can you expect in a country that values the WWF above, say, an intelligent medical/criminal drama...

Caught The Amazing Race 3 -- didn't have to time to write about it till now though. Busy busy busy :( However, this lot of participants rocks! I think all of them have done their homework, probably from tuning in to previous seasons, so almost everyone runs for the more difficult tasks ( e.g. sky-diving vs donkey carts ). They're also more aggressive, younger, and the obstacles are getting a lot scarier. Get a load of the twin brothers cum models named Drew and Derek. Eye candy, but obviously brainless. Still, it's better than nothing. :)

More on Survivor: Thailand. As I predicted, the lone Chinese is being picked on. Shi Ann has already garnered 3 votes during the last tribal council, and no doubt this will increase with upcoming episodes. She is one person who will NOT win this, at least with her arch nemesis Robb the punk bartender around. And what about Ghandia's little tantrum? Here's a married woman who goes around hugging a married man, and blames it on her missing her own husband. Then when the guy gets a little inappropriate in the night, she gets all huffed up and accuses him of treating her like a slut. Hello? You asked for it, woman. Kick her off. Fast.

There was a review of Six Feet Under in the papers yesterday. Sounds good. But the bit about the gay storyline being heavily censored is annoying. Is the Censorship Board still being prudish? This is the 21st century, for pete's sake.

Scrubs will premiere on Channel 5 14 October. Haven't looked up much on this yet, but it's basically about 3 interns coping with life in the hospital, and promises to be a dramedy, a la Ally McBeal.

The upcoming issue of SMA News is jam-packed with articles, so mine on working hours for junior doctors hasn't been fully approved yet. Anyhow, I'll be collaborating with the founders of the website on starting a discussion thread there once the piece is published. Hopefully we'll get a nice debate going, 'cos the site is an excellent meeting place for docs in Singapore -- if anyone would even bother to post something.

Work beckons. Will post reviews of horror movies as promised later this month, plus a theme on films that feature dancing ( inspired by the screening of Billy Elliot on cable this month -- a very funny movie which I highly recommend, btw ). Stay tuned.

Feel free to email me at, or visit my other website.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Update on the Matt Damon films I mentioned -- got my trusty SCV catalogue beside me right now :)

Okay, The Talented Mr. Ripley is on Star Movies SCV Channel 58 5 Oct at 9pm, and Good Will Hunting is on the same channel a week later on 12 Oct, same time. Try to catch them if you can.
An additional short note about the first film - it's directed by Anthony Minghella, who also directed "The English Patient", and will offer you breath-taking views of Italy. I own the VCD for this, so the scene with Damon ogling Jude Law includes a shot of the latter in the buff ( from behind, that is ). Chances are this will be omitted from the cable version.

And did anyone catch last night's episode of "The Practice" ? What a double whammy of an ending! Hopefully, the subsequent installments will be equally exciting, 'cos this double premiere is certainly one of David E. Kelley's best work.

The 3rd season of "The Amazing Race 3" begins 3 Oct ( tomorrow ) so keep a lookout for it. And "Six Feet Under" pilots on HBO 12 Oct ( Saturday 10:50 pm ) and will be shown weekly thereafter on Tuesdays ( beginning 15 Oct ). Yum :)