Sunday, June 08, 2008


I don't want this entry to be a depressing one.

He was 10 years and 9 months old when he passed, but brought us endless joy and was the sweetest soul throughout his entire life.

His last few days were difficult, but it was a choice we had to make, despite our immense reluctance to part with him.

I miss him terribly, but alas, life must go on, and I can only console myself with fond memories -- and numerous photographs -- of him growing up ( then growing old ).

The first 3 days following his departure were the toughest, but I shall not dwell on them, because it forms only a tiny part of an otherwise happy existence.

Farewell, beloved friend and faithful companion. I'm certain we will meet again someday.

And Now, Back To Our Usual Transmission

It's the last stretch of a short leave period -- an annual ritual which coincides with my birthday ( previous attempts to work through this important week resulted in severe depression, hence my decision to take this course of action ).

This year's short holiday, so to speak, has been more memorable than most. Perhaps partly due to my cat's recent passing. Or perhaps those DVDs I rented also had some effect.

Here's a list of what I've watched in the last 5 days alone:

Stardust - recommended highly by a fellow A&E colleague. Started a little shakily, but picked up momentum at the halfway mark, and kept me enthralled till the end. Robert de Niro does an outstanding job as a ferocious captain with a secret -- watch for a scene of him "dressed up" in his private quarters, doing a "dance number". Had me in stitches! :D
Charlie Cox, who plays the male lead, blossoms beautifully from a naive young boy to a full-fledged hero. Doesn't hurt that he's also quite gorgeous, especially with those long locks. :)
The rest of the cast doesn't really make an impression, but I'm sure any viewer will be able to find something enjoyable to latch onto.

Michael Clayton - a tad overrated, based on all the rave reviews I've been reading ( not to mention those Oscar noms and a win for Tilda Swinton ). It's intelligent enough, I suppose, and I do like George Clooney very very much. But it lacks the punch of, say, Erin Brockovich. And it definitely doesn't even come close to another whistleblowing-themed film, i.e. The Insider.
No harm watching this if you've got some time to burn. Otherwise, just wait for cable to air it.

I Am Legend - again, I don't fully comprehend its box-office success on the opening weekend. But hey, it stars Will Smith, so maybe it isn't so crazy after all.
The premise is interesting enough -- apocalyptic incidents usually are -- but the execution fails at the mid-point, and starts deteriorating in the 3rd quarter.
However, I found the scene where Smith's character has to euthanize his pet German Shepherd, Samantha, absolutely heart-wrenching.
I much prefer his other sci-fi work -- I, Robot -- which was much more exciting and thought-provoking. Plus, Shia LaBeouf played his sidekick in that film. Two for one, people. :)

Eastern Promises - I LOVE this film! Reuniting one of my favourite actors, the extremely talented yet underrated Viggo Mortensen, with director David Cronenberg ( who, before his partnership with Mortensen, churned out quite a few disturbing projects ), this quiet yet riveting thriller boasts exceptional performances from Viggo and his leading lady, the lovely and tremulous Naomi Watts.

I thoroughly enjoyed A History Of Violence ( the preceding Cronenberg-Mortensen masterpiece ), and Eastern Promises shares quite a few similarities with the former ( will let you find those out for yourself ). The main difference: the Russian accents, done to perfection by our leading man.

The fight scene in the sauna will have you biting your nails and gaping in awe at Viggo's unbelievably buff physique ( he turns 50 this year ).

I, for one, have always been captivated by his soft-spoken demeanour, whether he's playing a warrior king ( Aragorn in LOTR ), a fortune-hunting con man ( A Perfect Murder ), a sex addict in rehab ( 28 Days ), a horse whisperer ( sort of, in Hidalgo ) or a supposedly ordinary small-town figure with a dark past ( A History Of Violence ). He's an artist where exuding sexuality and menace while standing completely still is concerned. But he flexed some serious romantic chops in LOTR -- wish he'd do more of such roles! :)

In short, watch this movie. You won't regret it.

Silk - I rented this only because of Keira Knightley, who's become one of my favourite actresses in recent months, thanks to my growing appreciation for her spirited portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice.
This period piece boasts lush cinematography and the requisite epic tragic love story elements. Knightley and leading man Michael Pitt also do competent jobs emoting ( Pitt, by the way, looks surprisingly tasty in costume, as opposed to his juvenile aura in Murder By Numbers -- didn't help that he was completely overshadowed by the much more good-looking and cheeky Ryan Gosling ).
Everything starts to unravel in the last half hour, but on the whole, I found the experience rather enlightening.

Becoming Jane - I watched this twice in 2 days. Why? Because of James McAvoy, who's the latest addition to my list of Top 10 fave actors ( who include Kevin Spacey, John Cusack and Shia LaBeouf in the #1, #2 and #3 spots respectively, followed by - in no particular order - George Clooney, Keanu Reeves, Johnny Depp, Hugh Grant, Edward Norton and Viggo Mortensen ). Notice how none of them is blonde? :)

Recounting a true romance between Jane Austen and Irish hothead Tom LeFroy, it is a more subdued version of Pride & Prejudice ( nothing can beat that! ), but is just as affecting, thanks in large part to a nuanced performance from female lead Anne Hathaway ( though a bit too pretty for the role ) and a heartbreaking delivery from McAvoy.

While Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy in P&P was tall and intimidating, McAvoy's LeFroy is much more tortured, which more than makes up for his short stature. I first spotted him in The Last King Of Scotland ( which I feel remains his best work to date ), and have also caught him in The Chronicles Of Narnia ( he's the faun ) and Atonement ( forgot to review that months ago, sorry ). His star is definitely rising rapidly, and for good reason.

His performance as LeFroy surpasses everything else I've seen thus far, except for King Of Scotland ( he's really excellent in that one - catch it on cable June 22nd ). Here, he manages to switch effortlessly between callous scoundrel, arrogant snob, lovestruck suitor and tormented lover. An astounding feat for one so young ( he's 28 ).

Watch for: (1) the 2-3 seconds where he exuberantly slides down the staircase railing as he races to receive Jane at the door of his uncle's home,
(2) a BEAUTIFUL blink-or-you'll-miss-it sequence where he catches Jane by surprise at a ball, flashing her a warm yet mischievous smile as they twirl around each other, (3) a scene at the lake at night, where Jane kisses him for the first time and he professes his love for her, (4) an encounter in the woods, where he passionately denounces his uncle's plans for his future, enfolding Jane in an embrace and convincing her to elope with him, and (5) a truly remarkable moment in a tavern, where Jane changes her mind and LeFroy looks as if he will go mad.

Having seen Atonement ( which received high praise despite being a lot more subtle in its pathos ), I personally think Becoming Jane deserves more attention from critics and McAvoy fans.

I CAN'T WAIT to see him shooting guns with Angelina Jolie in the upcoming Wanted! ( I've got my free movie tickets ready and waiting. :))

Check out this wonderful website for more info and photos.

Take That: Beautiful World Live - for the record, I initially hated their studio recording, which was released in late 2006. However, I saw bits of the concert DVD being played at Takashimaya's Gramophone outlet a few months ago, and decided to purchase it a couple of weeks ago on a whim.
I'm happy to report that the Take That guys ( minus original 5th member, Robbie Williams ) have still got it -- the vocal chops, the slick dance moves, the firm bods, the rapport with the crowd, and tonnes of charisma.
Of course, the eye-popping stage sets, visual effects and gorgeous backup dancers help a lot with the aesthetic aspects of the show. Some bits were marvelously well done -- e.g. Could It Be Magic, which featured a rotating central stage and some cool acrobatics; and Never Forget, which superimposed 'live' action with some nifty animation -- while others excelled on musical interpretation alone: Everything Changes, redone in an acoustic adult-contemporary riff; Back For Good, which got the entire stadium roaring karaoke style; Rule The World, the love theme from Stardust, done perfectly.
Their new songs from the Beautiful World album feature prominently as well, from Reach Out, Patience and Beautiful World, to Shine ( my personal fave ), Wooden Boat and I'd Wait For Life. Everything just sounds phenomenal 'live', something I found quite interesting since I thought their comeback CD was bland and weak.

Just goes to show how wrong I was. Highly recommended for TT fans - or anyone who'd like a taste of great British pop at its best.

Josh Groban: Awake 'Live' - this one's not too bad either, mostly because Josh's exquisite voice is back after faltering badly on his sophomore Live At The Greek recording. While he sounded tired and strained on the latter, he's made a complete turnaround on the former, belting out demanding melodies with aplomb, never losing a breath or missing a note. He also does some nifty drum- and piano-playing.

So it's back to the grind tomorrow. While I would've preferred extending my leave a little, I have to save it for September, when I'll be overseas for a couple of weeks ( destination to be revealed after I return ), then using the rest of the month for the F1 race's medical field team training.

No, I am NOT an F1 fan. But I did read a fascinating article in Time magazine recently, which described some cool scientific concepts about how a race car beats it competition. $300 million to build a winner? Such extravagance doesn't sit well with me.

Reviews of The Darjeeling Limited and Pushing Daisies will be posted in my next entry -- in short, they're both fabulous!

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