Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Finished Dexter In The Dark in record time - the ending was a little anti-climactic, but paved the way for some serious character development where young Cody is concerned.
The main focus of this entry, though, is Evan Kasprzak from So You Think You Can Dance Season 5.
Spotted him during the audition round for Season 6, which just aired this Monday, when his older brother, Ryan, performed a tap routine for the judges. A flashback clip of the 2 siblings from S5 came on, and I immediately recognized Evan, who auditioned first back in S4 but never made it to the Top 20.
Evan returned in S5, got through to the Top 20, and eventually finished in 3rd place, while Ryan didn't get through to Vegas and thus, waited another year to re-audition for S6.
Confused? I apologize. :)
The point is, Evan's beautiful jazz performance in S4 was so memorable that I was thrilled beyond belief upon finding out that he showed up again in S5. And since Starhub cable has skipped S5 for now - argh! - I've had to satisfy my cravings with YouTube videos, before a friend can pass me his downloaded version sometime in the near future. Thanks, J!
My favourite piece at the moment is choreographed by Ryan. It's a little grainy, but features the full routine. Have already watched this countless times, and I still can't stop smiling! It's just so... perfect!
I never picked up dance myself, but love watching the pros doing what they do best. Fred Astaire ranks right up there at #1 for me, and Anne Miller is a close 2nd.
The Kasprzak brothers have, through SYTYCD, revived a dance style that many still associate exclusively with Hollywood films of yore. But it's just too much of a good thing to be kept under wraps!
Check out this cool montage of Evan's solos. Light as a feather, and all those crazy leaps, whoa!
Don't miss this sexy performance to a Jamie Cullum song. Very nice indeed.
Then there's this kooky-gorgeous Mia Michaels piece.
Why the heck can't I find Evan and Randi's spectacular jive?!
Last but not least, Ryan's got a website, so be sure to pay him a visit!
Pretty big news in the local paper today - The Chippendales are coming to Singapore for a gig at Resorts World Sentosa in March.
I agree that timing it with International Women's Day is one of the dumbest excuses ever.
Singaporean women want to see male revue shows, full-stop. There's no shame in that!
I watched The Chippendales in Las Vegas back in 2007. Uncensored, but relax, there was no full monty, though they came very close to it. Brought my mom, and we both enjoyed it immensely. Cost much less as well, so I'm not prepared to fork out $138 for a possibly PG-rated local version.
Plus, the dancers in the photo are different from the guys I saw in LV. No Juan DeAngelo or Steve Kim, who are much better-looking. That look DeAngelo gave me at the photo-taking session still gives me goosebumps, man. :)
Just wondering if the guys will be allowed to greet audience members at the end of the show, like they did in Sin City? If anyone who reads this intends to go to the Sentosa performance, make sure you get aisle or front row seats. I was in the front row in LV and hugged 4 of the Chippendales. So did my mom! They're soooo friendly.
I'm going back to Vegas for my 40th birthday, no question about it. :)
And this video should be renamed: OMG!
How I miss Broadway... a scene from one of my favourite musicals ever... maybe I can persuade my mom to go to New York next year. ;)
And Neil Patrick Harris is the new Billy Crystal. Will he host the Oscars soon? ( A great clip of Hugh Jackman's stellar effort last year. )
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
...comes in many forms.
For me, a lot of it is associated with TV shows, movies, food and travel.
But reading - it has become a luxury I can ill afford, given my work schedule and other commitments. But when I get bitten by the bug, the need must be satisfied.
So as my People and Time magazines pile up, and my sleep cycle gets turned upside down, I draw immense pleasure from the fact that I've found yet another fabulous author to whom I can declare my undying loyalty. :)
I'm talking about Jeff Lindsay.
After watching the excellent Dexter series for the last couple of years, I finally decided to read Dexter In The Dark because it's the only novel that features a storyline which was not covered in the TV adaptation.
But Lindsay's proven to be such an amazing writer that I'm game to backtrack and read his earlier works despite knowing how they end, just so I can savour more of his exceptional prose.
He's really that good. Believe me.
"Although it was slightly dimmer here, the parking lot was still far too bright for me, almost too bright even to see the moon, although I could feel it there in the sky, smirking down on our tiny squirming fragile life, festooned as it was with monsters who lived only to take that life away in large, pain-filled mouthfuls."
This is taken from Chapter 4, and just one of many other memorable lines scattered throughout Lindsay's prose.
As you can see, the general tone is a cynical one. And what I love about the novel is the rich detail it provides, especially where the inner workings of Dexter's mind are concerned.
Watching 3 entire seasons of the TV series doesn't even measure up to reading a mere few chapters of the book. This is because a viewer naturally gets caught up in the criminal investigation, with only the occasional voiceover to describe Dexter's stream of thought.
Despite being a hard-cover edition with only 300 pages, the amount of information crammed into this relatively slim volume is mind-boggling. Not only do you learn about Dexter's Method, you also get cozy with those around him, especially his foster sister, Deborah ( a Miami PD detective ), his fiancee, Rita, and her 2 young children, Astor and Cody.
Deborah ( or Debs ) is one of the best female characters I've ever encountered in written form. She's extremely foul-mouthed and short-tempered, but Lindsay manages to use her mannerisms to great comic effect. Her interactions with Dexter are side-splitting, and made me realize how casting Jennifer Carpenter was a stroke of genius ( as was putting Michael C. Hall in the lead role ).
Astor and Cody also receive lots of attention compared to their fleeting appearances on the small screen. I just love their quirky personality traits and dark, revealing moments. Little wonder Dexter is already planning a training programme so they can follow in his footsteps!
"I looked down at S____, taped to the table with his unlovely face hanging open, and I thought, as I never had before, this is what we all are. This it what it comes to. A bag of meat that breathes, and when that stops, nothing but rotting garbage."
Another memorable quote, chosen because I was so struck by this observation which has crossed my mind numerous times ever since my own cynicism peaked about a decade ago.
There're many others worth mentioning, but this is by far my favourite of the lot.
Dexter's sardonic brand of humour is infectious, and he effortlessly dissects ( mentally and physically, heh ) every person he meets, picking up little verbal and visual cues that point to his/her insecurities, before exploiting them to his own advantage.
He describes himself as an "artificial human" devoid of any genuine emotion, but well-trained by his late foster father, a Miami PD veteran, on how to disguise himself as a normal human being. Oddly enough, I still find him very appealing. Perhaps his frequently hilarious comments have something to do with it. They're laugh-out-loud funny. :D
Of course, the beautiful characterizations take nothing away from the core content - a serial killer who targets college students, offing them in a ritualistic manner reminiscent of demon worship during King Solomon's era.
And I haven't even elaborated on the Dark Passenger - an inner voice which guides Dexter in his criminal investigations and, more importantly, murderous vigilantism.
I still have another 60 pages to go. Will try to post another entry once I reach the finale.
I just HAD to stick the exclamation point right in there. :)
This wonderful show finally began its run on local cable last Wednesday, and I am absolutely ecstatic.
Far from being labelled another High School Musical, this hugely enjoyable series sprang from the delightfully twisted mind of Ryan Murphy, who's best known for Nip/Tuck.
The pilot episode moved a little too swiftly, but I'll probably get used to the frenetic pace. What I most look forward to is the music!
Already compiled into 2 soundtrack albums - yet omitting a few choice songs, like a rollicking cover of Duffy's Mercy ( available on free MP3 sites, thankfully ) - the best things about the Glee cast's cover versions are the arrangements and vocal delivery.
These aren't actors who sing. They're singers who act. Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison, in particular, hail from Broadway ( Michele was the female lead in the Tony Award-winning Spring Awakening, which I missed when I was in New York in 2007 and still kick myself over to this day, argh! ). I loved the Spring album recording from the opening number, which happens to feature Michele belting her heart out. And she continues to dazzle with her soaring performances of everything from Les Miserables' On My Own, to Celine Dion'sTaking Chances, and R&B hits No Air and Take A Bow.
I downloaded Glee's digital soundtrack albums over the weekend, and have been hitting repeat on a few songs, namely the Don't Stand So Close To Me / Young Girl mash-up, Lean On Me, Smile, and Endless Love.
The studio recording of Endless Love is tonnes better than the Lionel Richie / Diana Ross original. And turns out Matthew Morrison ( who plays the Glee club coach ) has the most exquisite voice. Even my mom asked about him when I played this on the car stereo.
There's a short video clip here, but it ruins the beauty of the song, so be prepared.
What I love most, though, is the unabashed, exuberant celebration of music, and its application to life's myriad situations. We all have sentimental attachments to songs that hold special meaning, whether to a certain person or event. Glee's repertoire spans generations and is presented with so much heartfelt emotion you'd have to be made of stone not to feel something when you listen.
I also like to sing along when driving alone in my car. It's very cathartic. :)
Well-deserved wins at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Next, the Emmys!
( And please get Jersey Boys star, John Lloyd Young, to guest star in a recurring role. He's phenomenal! )
Another show keeping me glued to the TV screen: The World's Greatest Musical Prodigies, airing every Saturday night on Biography.
Showcasing some of the globe's most talented young musicians, it is a fascinating documentary which also provides dramatic twists, notably in Episode 2, where a tough fight between 4 astounding pianists produces a frontrunner, yet culminates in a victory for the underdog.
I say "underdog" because this child is clearly the poorest of the lot, living in a tiny apartment with only one breadwinner in the family. He hardly speaks during group interactions, and played a very strange piece during his stage audition. I considered him a long shot, especially when compared to the confident Hong Konger who displayed a natural gift for improvisation. So I was extremely moved when Alex Prior picked him for his ensemble, demonstrating maturity way beyond his tender age. A happy ending indeed!
Before I sign off, a link to Matthew Morrison YouTube vids, in which he shows off his pipes on pieces from Broadway musicals. I LOVE Younger Than Springtime from South Pacific! And I didn't realize he was in the original cast for Hairspray - he played Link Larkin, and I own this album!
And don't miss his fantastic duet with Kristin Chenoweth on Alone - much better than Heart's original solo version! Plus It Takes Two from Hairspray!
Okay, time to return to Earth. :)
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton
Finished this yesterday. Don't like to rate in terms of ABC, 1-10 or number of stars, so I'm just going to say it's good. Reeeaaaally good.
Personal taste, so not everyone will share my opinion.
Reasons I enjoyed this novel:
1) it's extremely fast-paced
2) very exciting
3) lots of fascinating characters ( not an easy feat considering my high threshold for such things )
4) the last couple of chapters are downright chilling
5) Hamilton has a let's-get-down-to-business style of writing which suits the story well, though she does tend to repeat herself on occasion, and thinks a vampire hunter who collects stuffed penguin toys is supposed to be cute. ( Errr, no. )
In short, Anita Blake is a vampire hunter / animator - the second is a term used for those who literally raise the dead.
In Guilty Pleasures, Anita is recruited by the city's vampire clan to investigate a series of gruesome vampire murders which have left the local police flummoxed.
She's an unwilling party, of course, but compelled to agree through various methods, one of which endangers her best friend's life.
Along the way, we meet the rest of the motley crew of colourful characters, from a fellow animator who harbours a shocking secret, to a mercenary vampire hunter nicknamed Death, to a vampire junkie / stripper - it gets better - to the terrifying Nikolaos, and Anita's mysterious love interest, the French bloodsucker Jean-Claude.
Oh, and don't forget the crazy ghouls who remind me of demonic hyenas, and lycanthropes who transform not into wolves but - wait for it - giant rats.
Everybody, say "wooooooo". :)
There was initial word that a U.S. network had picked this up for a TV movie / series, boasting no less than X-Files guru Glen Morgan as an executive producer. Sadly that is not to be. But I can't say I'm disappointed either. The novel is just too amazing for words, and there's a high chance the final product would've disappointed fans severely. Each character is infused with so much personality and physical detail that casting the wrong actor / actress, especially in the most pivotal roles, would result in disaster.
And all those breath-taking sequences - from the erotic stage performances at the Guilty Pleasures nightclub, to the sinful Circus Of The Damned, to the horrifying ghoul chase at the cemetery, and the climactic showdown between Anita and Nikolaos - how could they translate onto the small screen given the budget constraints? No cheesy special effects please!
HBO did a great job with True Blood, but Anita Blake is a much more kick-ass type of woman.
As luck would have it, I found Book 2, The Laughing Corpse, at the library yesterday, so it's sitting on my shelf while I quickly read Dexter In The Dark, hopefully within a week, if I sleep less, haha.
Didn't realize this movie received so many bad reviews. I actually kinda like it. Maybe 'cos I'm wired the right ( or maybe wrong ) way. :)
First, I love Peter Sarsgaard, so renting this DVD was a no-brainer.
Second, I enjoyed it from the get-go. Very atmospheric, builds up the story and tension well, with a terrific cast to complete the whole production.
Young Isabelle Fuhrman, who plays the psychotic Esther, delivers a breakout performance. The creepy costumes and pigtails definitely help!
Tiny Aryana Engineer, who's hearing-impaired in real life, almost steals the show from her older co-stars, with her giant doe eyes and genuinely petrified stares.
The plot twist in the last half hour caused my hair to stand on end. Not merely because the revelation itself was mind-boggling, but because Esther's bizarre behaviour finally made sense, and made your skin crawl big-time.
If you don't care what the critics say, then listen to me and watch this film.
Can't wait for An Education to be released!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I apologize for the expression, but staring at a triage complaint about a patient who came to the ER because he "feels sleepy after taking Tramadol" takes the bloody freaking s***** cake.
How about a referral to us for "depression", even though the patient expressed refusal to see a psychiatrist?
Miracle workers, that's what everyone perceives us to be.
On a happier note, American Idol Season 9 kicked off yesterday, and here's my favourite from episode 1.
I won't spoil things with an intro, but I'm curious about whether anyone who hasn't seen this audition ends up as surprised as I am, and in the best way possible.
His performance was just so... unexpected. :)
Quite a few talented young people out there, but it's going to take a helluva lot to top Adam Lambert.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
Aka in continuation of the Hot Older Men On TV post.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Discovered a new TV series this past week, titled Hung.
Quite surprising that local cable decided to bring this in. I mean, it's about a high school teacher who resorts to prostitution to pay his bills.
And he's got 2 teenage children who are oblivious to his moonlighting.
Risque? You bet!
The fact that the show doesn't sink into a cesspool of bawdy jokes and stereotyping is admirable, and credit goes to the cast and writers, who handle the characters and subject matter deftly.
Lead actor Thomas Jane deserves extra kudos. I'm not familiar with his work, but find him hilarious as hapless Ray Drecker, who stumbles around female clients until he finally finds his mojo and becomes a consummate professional.
His dysfunctional family life is insanely funny, with an ex-wife ( a haggard-looking Anne Heche ) who ditches him to marry a rich but nerdy dermatologist, and offspring who look nothing like either parent - Ray was the school jock, his ex a beauty queen, while their kids are sullen, ugly and pudgy.
The female customers could've been reduced to caricatures ( e.g. the rich but lonely tai-tai's, etc ), but so far, I've seen only one such example, namely Ray's wealthy lawyer neighbour's frustrated wife.
One character really stands out, and qualifies as quite the stroke of genius in my book.
Named Jemma, she forks out piles of cash for the sole purpose of playing out scripted fantasies, complete with re-do's a la Groundhog Day.
Being a pretty and brainy 30-something-year-old, Ray falls for her easily enough, but ends up getting his heart broken when it turns out the entire "relationship" was part of her plan after all.
When the last payment arrives and the truth is revealed, Ray's devastation is palpable, but at the same time, he also experiences relief.
It's a mind-bending, bittersweet few seconds that will be difficult to top!
Anyway, Jane's a lovely addition to a growing crop of sexy older men on television. :)
Another sentimental favourite: Josh Charles ( right ).
He stars in The Good Wife, a new legal drama which airs on Hallmark Channel 17 - pilot episode previewed on Tuesday, but the official run begins Jan 14.
You can read about the series at the link provided.
I first saw JC in 1989's Dead Poets Society, aka my personal all-time favourite movie. He played lovable and lovelorn Knox Overstreet, a hopeless romantic who was inspired by poetry to woo the girl of his dreams, and succeeded in winning her heart.
I adored him in that film, after which he disappeared for more than a decade, before resurfacing in 2003's S.W.A.T. in a peripheral role.
20 years after Dead Poets, he still looks as boyish as ever, exuding cheeky confidence as a swaggering high-profile lawyer who takes an old friend under his wing following her husband's career-wrecking scandal.
The Good Wife's been garnering rave reviews in the U.S., and I enjoyed the pilot episode immensely, not because of the legal plotlines ( too easy for my taste ) but for its stellar cast. Aside from JC, there's Julianna Margulies ( famous for her work on the early seasons of ER ), Christine Baranski ( from Cybill and Bowfinger ), Chris Noth ( Law & Order, Sex And The City ) and another sentimental fave, Matt Czuchry.
If you're a loyal Gilmore Girls fan like myself, you'll remember Matt fondly for his role as filthy rich, arrogant yet soft-hearted Logan Huntzberger. I had no idea he was in The Good Wife, but immediately sat up when I heard his voice amid all the on-screen chatter. He's grown up beautifully, and I'm ecstatic to see him on TV again. :)
A couple of short DVD reviews before I sign off:
Terminator Salvation turned out to be a huge treat. Had been avoiding this movie for months because the trailer made everything look so freaking gloomy, but the actual film got my adrenaline pumping big-time! The visual effects are amazing, the dialogue well done ( nowhere as cheesy as Avatar's melodramatic cliches ), and the cast absolutely perfect.
Christian Bale totally deserves to be John Connor, and Anton Yelchin is terrific as young, hot-headed Kyle Reese. Sam Worthington is so much better here than in Avatar, and Moon Bloodgood beats Megan Fox hands down in the sexy action babe department.
But did we really need a nude Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo - though it's obviously computer-generated? Err, no we didn't.
Public Enemies isn't as bad as everyone says it is, but compared to other films set in that era, it definitely falls short in many ways. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale look fabulous in their suits and fedoras, but suffer from a wobbly script and really bad editing.
Just finished Coraline last night. I've never read Neil Gaiman's novels, but the cartoon version is relatively good. Has that Tim Burton vibe, though I enjoyed Corpse Bride much more.
Anyway, recent animated films which I love dearly include Bolt and Kung Fu Panda. Compared to these, Coraline is so-so at best.
Currently blasting John Mayer's Battle Studies in the car. Not as magnificent as Continuum or Try!, but it's beginning to grow on me. Will write more next time.