Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spread The Word!

Glee is accessible online from Singapore!

Am now watching Episode 1 on this website. No need for a fake IP address or downloading software that could potentially crash my computer, woohoo!

Of course, you do need to pay a small membership fee, which in my opinion is very reasonable.

And hey, my Blogger dashboard page is back to normal! Guess my post in the Help Forum page made a difference.

The Sydney photos are on another site. Will transfer them over this weekend if I have time. Can't believe I narrowly escaped the dust storm. Hope things will return to normal soon. The poor Sydney Opera House...

Back to Glee... :D

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Entertainment Updates

Professional discussions have permanently moved to Singapore MD - check out a debate about the new residency programme being rolled out by MOH.

As the local haze gives me allergic rhinitis and the humidity makes me itch, I seek refuge in my DVDs and television.

Finished Season 1 of Gossip Girl in less than a week, and greatly enjoyed it! Episode 17 stood out with its endless plot twists. I actually went, "WTF?!" when Serena Van der Woodsen made a shocking revelation. Now that hasn't happened in a long time. Thumbs up to the scriptwriters! :)

Was very saddened by Patrick Swayze's passing. He may not have received much news coverage, since he isn't exactly considered part of the A-list anymore, but this actor starred in many films which impacted me significantly during my formative years: The Outsiders, Ghost, and a truly underrated whammy of a thriller called Point Break ( co-starring a super-gorgeous Keanu Reeves ).

Still, Dirty Dancing will always remain a top favourite. His portrayal of Johnny Castle helped make this a cult classic, and watching the DVD the other night transported me back to my pubescent years, when I discovered a whole new world that includes, ahem, hormones. :)

Also bought a discounted DVD for Valkyrie, despite swearing never to pay for anything starring Tom Cruise after reading Andrew Morton's damning biography a few years ago.
I'm trying to convince myself that it's worth it just because of director Bryan Singer, who helmed the first X-Men movie, revived the Superman franchise, and helped catapult the great Kevin Spacey to Oscar-winning fame in The Usual Suspects.
Despite earning bad reviews, I found myself enjoying this action-thriller, which is well-paced and boasts a terrific cast.
Only complaint: the mish-mash of American and British accents, with no attempt by the principal actors to even feign a German twang. It's not as if Cruise can't do a foreign tongue - look at Far And Away. Tsk tsk!

Another WWII film is Defiance, with Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell playing Russian brothers who set up a camp that protected 1200 Jews from annihilation by the Nazis. The outstanding cast is shortchanged by director Edward Zwick, who fails to keep things interesting and loses the viewer ( i.e. me ) somewhere at the halfway mark.
Craig looks amazing though - haunted but very handsome, if that makes any sense.
However, Schindler's List wins hands down. No-one can beat Steven Spielberg at what he does best.

Am beginning to favour British actors over American ones, especially after catching Duplicity on the flight back from Sydney. A very fun romp through the industrial spy landscape with Julia Roberts and a dapper Clive Owen, who hasn't ever looked this good!

Other hot English thespians: Jude Law, Hugh Dancy, Hugh Grant, James McAvoy, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Gossip Girl's Ed Westwick. ( This list isn't exhaustive. )

The Hollywood version of the BBC series State Of Play literally put me to sleep en route to Sydney. Maybe I was already burnt out from work, but it definitely pales in comparison to the TV show, which was a thrilling whodunnit populated by loads of quirky characters and boasted much stronger acting skills.
Russell Crowe is pudgy and grungy, while Ben Affleck is wimpy and whiny. Choosing to focus on the female journalist ( played by pretty but soft Rachel McAdams ) irked me immensely, since the original TV character has a more secondary role. Jason Bateman was a hoot as the flamboyant Dominic Foy though.

Watched Doubt yesterday evening. Good, but didn't live up to the hype, at least in my opinion. Meryl Streep is unbelievably fabulous, as always, and she's expertly supported by Phillip Seymour Hoffman ( whom I've been a fan of since his Scent Of A Woman days ) and Amy Adams ( utilizing her huge eyes to great effect ). Guess I was hoping for an explosive ending after the nail-biting buildup, which failed to materialize. Tough translating a stage play to the big screen.

Had enough? There's more. :)

Another Krisworld film I saw: The Soloist, with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx. Heard great things, but was disappointed. Starts off nicely, then sort of degenerates into melodramatic cliches halfway through. A pity, considering my huge appreciation for all things Downey, Jr., and the fact that it's directed by Joe Wright ( who did such wonderful interpretations of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement ). What happened?

Speaking of happened, I finally sat through M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening on cable, and still can't believe I managed to stay awake. It was soooo bad, from the acting to the dialogue to the execution of the whole film. Started to feel really sorry for Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel after the first half hour. Bet they signed the contracts without reading the script first - you know how secretive Shyamalan can be. This guy is losing his touch, big-time.

The Jay Leno Show began airing on Universal Channel 99 on Tuesday. I've watched a few episodes, and dig both the familiar and newer aspects of the programme. There's the usual opening stand-up routine, celebrity interviews, Jay-walking and Headlines segments. But he's managed to attract huge stars this past week ( Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Robin Williams, etc. ), and did a hilarious bit with Cruise and Diaz, asking them 10 questions each ranging from safe to embarrassing topics. Quite a hoot!

I also watch Conan O'Brien from time to time - started off a bit shakily, but seems to have gained a comfortable momentum. He did a side-splitting spoof of a South American TV soap opera, speaking fluent Spanish and donning a ridiculously bushy moustache. Funny!

A few things to look forward to: Season 3 of Dexter, starting Monday 21 September on FoxCrime Channel 86. More blood - yes!

Ghost Hunters Season ??? returns to StarWorld Wednesday nights after being derailed by I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! these past few months. Lots of cool footage of investigators having their collars yanked by spirits - unnerving!

And yes, I have time left over to read books / magazines, do chores, write reports, play piano for church service, go out with friends and family, among other things.

It helps when you're not in a relationship. :D

Have a few days off this coming week. Hope to take a look at Ion Orchard now that everyone else in Singapore has been there.

Also counting down the days till my next trip overseas, in about a month's time. Dolphins and whales this time round, woohoo!

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Much Needed Break

Wow, has it really been 3 weeks since my last entry?

Just returned from a terrific trip to Sydney for a conference and some touring. Photos haven't been uploaded yet, but I'll try to post them within the next week or so when I have a few days off.

I previously passed through this city in 2000 - stayed a couple of days before hopping over to Melbourne ( my primary destination ). Have a vague memory of a night tour and food poisoning caused by a cold sandwich I ate at Changi Airport during a 6-hour (!) flight delay, thanks to Qantas Airways.

This time round, things were very different. I was in the pink of health, explored the city via public bus, and stayed at a beautiful hotel at Circular Quay, which is close to the Sydney Harbour. I awoke to a spectacular view of the Sydney Opera House surrounded by sparkling turqoise blue water every morning, which was heavenly!

Won't bore you with conference details. I had 4 free days for touring, which were spent at Hunter Valley, on a Sydney Harbour cruise, at the Opera House, shopping in the business district, and at the Star City casino.

Hunter Valley doesn't seem as pretty as Melbourne's Yarra Valley, but maybe the overcast sky marred the landscape a little. My mom and I visited the Hunter Valley Gardens, which are quite lovely, but also rather barren considering the early spring season. Got whipped around by strong winds during our 2-hour trudge through the grounds, but we plucked a couple of oranges from the trees, and ate fantastic scones at the cafe. Highly recommend you drop by during the summer months, especially since that's when the rose garden will be in full bloom.

A guided tour of the Opera House was fun and informative. The highlight though, was watching the resident symphony orchestra rehearse in the main concert hall. They were doing acoustic tests, so special wall panels were opened for this purpose. The effect was amazing despite our location in the last row near the exit. Ahh, I got goosebumps. :)

The interior is a tad ugly, considering the prominent slabs of bare concrete that form the foundations of the unique shell architecture. But the exterior is state-of-the-art, and its tumultuous construction history is fascinating.

The cruise we took around Sydney Harbour and surrounding areas lasted 2.5 hours, with an exhaustive commentary by a guide, and a mouth-watering afternoon tea spread ( more scones! :)). Started off cloudy, then the skies cleared in the 2nd hour, allowing me to take gorgeous photos of the Harbour Bridge and other scenic areas.

For the shopping, we concentrated on the George Street stretch. Strolled through The Strand Arcade and detoured to a handicraft store, where my mom bought almost 50 balls of wool at superb prices ( don't ask me how we stuffed them into our luggage, but we succeeded! ), then walked across all 4 floors of the Queen Victoria Building, with its stained glass windows and elegant ceilings, wonderful jewellery shops and exhibition of costumes from the Hollywood film The Young Victoria.

My greatest joy, however, was at the Virgin Megastore. Spent 2 hours browsing its extensive CD and DVD collections. Some of the deals were so unbelievable that I ended up buying a big bagful of discs. The Caucasian guy who processed my purchase was really friendly - he actually spoke to me about one of the films I bought, which I thought was very nice.

The Star City casino is gigantic, easily the same size as the one at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, where I stayed in 2007. Tonnes of slot machines, 3 of which served my mom well. She played for 5 hours and made a small profit - no small feat considering how I lost money at every machine I chose ( not my day I guess, but at least I played small ).

And believe it or not, the lady guarding the entrance thought I was below 18! Had to fish out my passport and get scrutinized before she let me in. Not sure if I should be flattered or insulted, heh.

Our stay was made more pleasant by the marvelous people we met - at the hotel, at restaurants and various shops we patronized. Vehicle drivers stopped for us even when it was their right of way, men opened doors for us though we were metres away from the entrance, and pedestrians apologized when WE accidentally bumped into THEM!

As a result, my mom and I couldn't help complaining upon returning to Singapore and facing reality again - locals who can't seem to walk straight, almost knock us over without even saying sorry, and slam doors in our faces. Sigh.

A big regret - not knowing that Cate Blanchett is performing at the Sydney Wharf Theatre in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcare Named Desire, until it was too late and tickets were completely sold out. Tried my luck calling the box office daily, but to no avail.

Last but not least, my thanks to 2 Singaporean medical colleague friends currently staying in Sydney, one of whom was at the conference and helped me navigate my way to the nearest bus-stop so I could find my way back to the hotel, and another who took my mom and I to dinner with his wife and 2 adorable children, followed by a drive along the coast, and a subsequent separate tour around town with his wife and daughter. They made us feel very welcome and right at home.

Overdosing on Gossip Girl

Season 1 DVD, to be exact. ( Check out its official website. )

From the creators of The O.C., but much less annoying, since airheads Mischa Barton and Rachel Bilson aren't in it.

I've been hearing about this hit series since 2007, and can now understand why it's so popular. The cast is the best-looking one I've ever seen on television, and some of the actors are pretty charismatic.

Favourite character: hands down, Chuck Bass, the crafty yet vulnerable playboy played deliciously by Ed Westwick.

Guilty pleasure: Chace Crawford, the floppy-haired golden boy whom I find more interesting than goody-two-shoes Zac Efron. I keep having to remind myself that he's more than 10 years my junior, but there's no denying that this guy is super-hot! Wonder how he'll fare in the remake of Footloose, which catapulted Kevin Bacon to fame back in the '80s?

Here they are, with Crawford on the left, and Westwick on the right.

Other Guilty Pleasures

True Blood Season 2, which continues to rack up the gore and sex factors, albeit in slightly censored form, on cable's Channel 59.

Alexander Skarsgard ( right )has more screen time as Eric, the 1000-year-old vampire. A friend who's read the Charlaine Harris novels tells me Eric actually features as the main character in the books, but I guess they chose to highlight Bill Compton ( Stephen Moyer ) in Season 1 because of the love story angle. Doesn't matter, since I like both actors. :)

Patrizio Buanne, whom I've been a fan of since his debut in 2005, just released his latest album, Patrizio. Tracks include a samba version of My Fair Lady's On The Street Where You Live, and cool covers of Patsy Kline's Crazy, Bryan Adams' Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?, plus jazz classics Mambo Italiano and Americano ( you may remember Matt Damon and Jude Law performing this in The Talented Mr. Ripley ).

I own his previous 2 CDs, so I know he has a fantastic voice. With this new album, he shifts gear and plays down the vocals a fair bit, which isn't the best approach to take, in my opinion. However, his spirit shines through in Mambo Italiano and Americano, where his smooth and stylish deliveries take centrestage. I've seen him perform, so I know this guy has moves. Also met him backstage in 2005 - hope I'll have another chance to say hello if he comes back for a show here.

Pictures from Sydney to follow in the next entry - hopefully. :)