Friday, May 23, 2008

In A Nutshell

Indiana Jones 4

I love it!

Of course, I'm speaking as a diehard fan of the franchise. Indy is a large part of my life, since Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my earliest movie memories ( believe I watched it at Jade cinema when I was 6 or 7 years old ), and I faithfully caught episodes 2 and 3 thereafter ( The Last Crusade is the best of the trilogy, IMHO ).

Without posting spoilers, I'll just say that the cinematography's gorgeous ( look for the mushroom cloud scene ), the cast really great ( Shia LaBeouf looking very very dapper in his leather bomber jacket, with a cool motorcycle to boot ), the camaraderie natural and boisterous, and the action sequences thrilling.

Never mind the rather iffy plotline ( you'll find out in the last 20 minutes ), which erroneously detracts from a tried and tested formula ( Indy has gone hunting for Christianity-related relics twice, with terrific box office results ). I overlooked the boo-boo easily, thanks to all the other positive factors in play.

Special mention goes to Ray Winstone ( who played Beowulf recently ). He's pudgy in real life, but quite a character, with a now unmistakeable voice and accent. I like him a lot.
Cate Blanchett is superbly cold, though not as creepy as early reviews made her out to be. Still, she's drop-dead beautiful, and one of my favourite actresses, so I enjoyed watching her strut her stuff.
Shia is, as always, a pleasure to watch. His eyes alone are worth half the price of my movie ticket! :)

Harrison Ford has aged significantly, but soldiers on admirably. Critics may complain, but no-one can replace this film icon, and I got goosebumps when he first appeared on-screen ( the segment's a bit over-dramatic, but very effective ).
And that famous John Williams theme - pure magic!

The passage of time brings lots of nice touches, from an anti-communist protest on college grounds, to a raucous rock 'n roll opening sequence. Old flame Marion Ravenwood - my favourite Indy Jones heroine by far - is still as feisty as ever. Her return to the franchise ( perhaps only transient ) heralds a far more important development in the storyline ( you'll discover this for yourself somewhere in the middle of the movie, and this is further reinforced in the final scene ).

15 years ago, I mailed a fan letter to Mr. Ford's home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There was no street name or house number, but the amazing American postal service got it to him anyway, and I later received an autographed photo from his agent in Los Angeles.

I just thought it was a really kind gesture on his part. I lost the picture when I moved house, but will remember this forever.

The New American Idol

David Cook won, and although I admit to feeling disappointed when Ryan Seacrest shouted his name, I got over it the second Cook broke down and tried valiantly to hold back his tears.

He's even more talented than Chris Daughtry. He'll definitely do a lot better -- that is, if he makes a good record and connects with the fans.

David Archuleta outsang his competition, but somehow failed to garner the majority vote. AI fans in my department decried the results, and one colleague even suggested the numbers were rigged. I hear refrains from Season 2 ( Ruben vs Clay ) again...

I just hope young David's father doesn't give him too hard a time about this ( rumour has it that he's been terribly tough on the poor boy ).

Tune in to Larry King Live at 9am Saturday morning ( tomororw, Singapore time ) for an interview with both finalists!

Will a local concert organizer bring the AI tour to our shores? Fantasia's batch dropped by a few years ago, but I passed on the show. However, if the Season 7 finalists come here, I'm getting front-row seats!

Chris Botti's Concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall, 20th May 2008

This wasn't reviewed in Life!, for some strange reason.

Having caught him at the Victoria Theatre in 2006, this performance was a lot more enjoyable for 2 reasons -- the beautiful venue, and my 2nd-row-centre seats. :)

Playing songs from past albums and his latest, Italia, Botti gave us chills as his trumpet's rich, velvety tones filled the hall. He opened with Ave Maria, then went on to When I Fall In Love, Caruso, A Thousand Kisses Deep, My Funny Valentine, and Flamingo Sketches ( a tribute to Miles Davis ).

Highlights include a duet with female vocalist LaShanda Rena ( I hope I got the name right, 'cos this is what's written in the programme yet sounds different from what Botti said ) -- they did a sizzling interpretation of The Look Of Love, then topped the evening off with the very lovely What'll I Do ( the latter featured Paula Cole on the album ).
Rena's smoky, pitch-perfect vocals were nicely complemented by the hall's excellent acoustics. I didn't expect any singing at this show, so it was a wonderful surprise indeed. :)

The best parts: the closing encore piece, Cinema Paradiso, which Botti dedicated to a pregnant concertgoer's unborn baby girl ( he jumped off-stage to serenade her, but sadly, stood a few metres away from my seat, darn! ); the other was a spell-binding cover of Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah, which was preceded by a little anecdote about Botti meeting the former once at a recording studio, and hearing firsthand what would become a massive hit album.
I've always heard versions that sound angsty, but Botti elected to do a quiet serenade with minimal backup instead -- and it took my breath away.
Magical moment right there, people.

Being in the centre of the 2nd row has many benefits -- I got a great view of Botti and his band, heard his trumpet up close ( especially when he'd direct the bell my way on and off ), and even made direct eye contact with him quite a few times ( he likes to scan the front rows when playing, though he favours closing his eyes most of the time ). He looked happy and smiled frequently, even laughing helplessly at one point when his drummer, Billy Kilson, disappeared off-stage after a song and failed to return in time for the next piece. Poor Botti had to make small talk, admitting that he was "stalling" and hoped Kilson would come back soon! Haha :D

I got the tickets at great prices - the first 2 rows come at lower rates, and there's a senior citizen discount to boot ( for my mom, who also loves Botti's music ). Considering the small fortune I forked out for his Victoria Theatre gig ( that place needs a major sprucing up, btw ), this show came at a real bargain.

Right then, that's all for now. It's near the end of yet another hectic week, I'm exhausted, but pretty happy, especially about a recent significant pay rise ( in a word, WHOA! ) and a promise from a high-ranking official that something will DEFINITELY be done about the A&E's lodger problems.

Enjoy your weekend.

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