Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jersey Boys Is Coming To Singapore!

Check out my entry on Just Watch Lah.

Very tempted to go. Need to double-check my cousin's daughters' schedules first. Taking major exams this year...

And for the purpose of happy reminiscing, my blog review of the Broadway show, posted in October 2007.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reviews - The Bourne Legacy & Peter Cincotti's Metropolis

Just got back from a screening of The Bourne Legacy, and feel compelled to post a review.

This hasn't happened since X-Men: First Class last June. I guess it also helps that I'm not working today. :)

As I've already indicated on Twitter and Facebook, the verdict comes in multiple parts:

Movie - 9.5/10

Cast ( overall ) - 10/10

Leading man Jeremy Renner - 100!

Reviews are mixed, and Legacy's domestic opening weekend box office haul of US$40 million is far behind The Bourne Ultimatum's $70 million, but here's hoping the fans will be pleased enough to spread good word-of-mouth and keep theatres packed.

**spoilers alert**

**spoilers alert**

**spoilers alert**

First, a few things to point out:

1) I have not read Robert Ludlum's novels.

2) I have seen all 3 Bourne films. Multiple times.

3) I am a huge fan of Matt Damon and Jeremy Renner.

4) I'm also very fond of Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz.

5) Legacy has been at the top of my personal Most Anticipated Movies Of 2012 list for at least the past 9 months.

Did I expect a lot from first-time director Tony Gilroy? You bet.

Did I want Gilroy and his team to succeed or perhaps surpass those who made the Bourne trilogy such a classic? Of course.

As you know, it isn't my habit to go into the details of the storyline. The Bourne franchise combined cerebral spy thriller with visceral action sequences to deliver 3 of the genre's best products. Naturally, Gilroy - writer for the entire series thus far - and the producers fully intended to capitalize on a formula that's been proven to work magic.

So did they deliver?

If you believe the critics, then the answer is apparently no. My response - I prefer to form my own opinions, thank you very much. :)

Obvious Fact #1: This is NOT about Jason Bourne.

Obvious Fact #2: Legacy finally explains what actually goes on in these top-secret medical experimentation programmes.

Obvious Fact #3: Matt Damon is not in this movie!

If you can get past these obstacles, I guarantee you'll enjoy the film as much as I did.

What's the deal with the reviewers grouching about too many medical / scientific terms? Are they bothered because such scenes slow things down? Because they can't understand what's being said? Or because they just don't care?

Yes, the first half moves at a rather leisurely pace, but I thoroughly appreciated every single minute, from Aaron Cross' ( Renner ) lonely trek through Alaska, to the CIA and the military's restrained meltdown in the control room. Things start picking up when Cross rescues Dr. Shearing ( Weisz ) at her home, then really hit top gear after they land in Manila.

The Bourne trilogy is famous for assembling casts of extremely high calibre, which is a huge advantage given the dramatic heft of the material.

Legacy does not disappoint in this area. Weisz, an Oscar winner for her role in The Constant Gardener, has been on my radar for 13 years now, since her appearance in 1999's blockbuster, The Mummy. Since then, she has starred in many wonderful productions, from Enemy At The Gates and Runaway Jury, to Constantine and The Lovely Bones.

Although her character, Shearing, doesn't have as much to do, Weisz shines in a few key sequences, such as the one in the car with Renner after her house goes up in flames, and a nail-biting massacre in the U.S. lab.

An actress with less ability could've messed up badly, but she manages to be hysterical without going over the edge.

Take that, Franka Potente! ( Don't know who that is? Shame on you. :))

Another actor whose work I'm very familiar with is Oscar nominee Norton.

I first saw him in 1996's Primal Fear ( 16 years ago, wow! ), then Rounders, American History X, Fight Club, Keeping The Faith, Death To Smoochy, Red Dragon, 25th Hour, The Italian Job, The Illusionist, The Painted Veil, and The Incredible Hulk.

Yes indeed, I am a devotee. :)

As Retd. Col. Ric Byer, his scenes are limited and he shares only a few minutes with Renner himself. He's excellent, of course, but I wish his role had been a little more well-developed. You get a sense of Byer's cold-hearted ruthlessness when he calmly stares at a monitor as a drone blasts what he thinks is a human being into smithereens, but I've seen him portray cruel / evil in American History X, Fight Club and The Italian Job. This does not come close.

Oh well, maybe in Bourne #5?

Next, the action scenes.

Damon was astounding as Bourne, be it close one-on-one combat ( remember the pen-as-a-weapon bit in Paris, in The Bourne Identity? ), wielding lethal weapons ( handguns, shotguns, knives, rolled up magazines ), or handling an assortment of vehicles through rush-hour traffic while evading entire armies of law enforcement officers.

Legacy starts small and builds up as the movie progresses. The pre-appetizers: an exploding mountain cabin, a pack of hungry wolves, the lab shooting.

Appetizers: a SUPERB whack-and-shoot fest at Shearing's country home. Do not miss the continuous shot of Cross scaling 20 feet of wall before running through a room and killing a rogue agent from the top of the stairs.

Stunt double, you sniff? I watched a Bourne Legacy movie special a few days ago, which shows Renner climbing the wall while attached to a harness. Okay, he had help. But it's him!

The main course is served when the protagonists arrive in Manila. The last 30-40 minutes of the film are pure adrenaline, beginning with a tense trip to the lab facility, followed by an UNBELIEVABLE rooftop sprint ( very reminiscent of the Tangiers sequence in Bourne Ultimatum ) and an AWESOME motorcycle chase.

Again, that's Renner jumping and running on the roofs ( tumble included ), and there're many clear shots of him and Weisz as they zoom through traffic.

Most impressive indeed!

Audience-pleasing tactics aside, Renner still has to carry the movie, and he does it with great style. Already a double Oscar nominee ( The Hurt Locker and The Town ), he blossomed further upon hitting 40, and boasts an amazing degree of athleticism.

He demonstrated skills in Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, but has A LOT more to do in Legacy, which pleases me immensely. :)

There're Damon / Bourne fans who feel that Renner / Cross can't measure up. Are they insane?! Are they disappointed because the latter has much more dialogue? Bourne was always aloof and inscrutable. Cross is, by comparison, practically dripping with warmth.

By the way, I greatly appreciate the humour during the car scene with Weisz, where Cross expresses shock that Shearing doesn't even know his name.

Renner has quite an affinity for comedy. This became apparent in MI4, but is present in abundance in The Unusuals, a hilarious detective TV series I'm currently watching on DVD. Thank you, Amazon. :)

With Legacy's success at the box office, the Bourne franchise is alive and kicking, and Renner has joined the exclusive ranks of Hollywood leading men capable of carrying big-budget releases.

No word on when Bourne #5 will materialize, but rumours are circulating that Damon is game to team up with Renner. Music to my ears. :D

I highly recommend this terrific movie! But if you don't enjoy it, don't blame me. :)

Before I sign off, a special mention about Peter Cincotti's latest album, Metropolis.

I've been listening to this non-stop in the car for the past fortnight, and consider it Peter's best work yet.

Previously known for his adventurous interpretations of jazz classics and fabulous piano-playing skills ( he trained at the illustrious Manhattan School Of Music ), he decided to branch out into the pop / rock genre a few years ago, recording East Of Angel Town.

It was a laudable effort, but an awkward transition which wasn't very well-received.

With Metropolis, however, Peter has definitely found his mojo. Congratulations! :)

Blending pop, rock, funk, jazz and techno, this is a heady mixture that showcases his writing talent, and also features much stronger vocals.

Every track is fantastic, but standouts include Do Or Die, Take A Good Look, Graffiti Wall, World Gone Crazy and Before I Go.

I've seen him in concert 3 times, the last being 2008's Singapore Sun Festival.

All were extremely different gigs - lucky me! - and I was fortunate enough to meet him twice as well.

Both encounters were wonderful to say the least, and I hope to watch him perform again in the near future. Would be great to hear him sing these songs live.

Time for dinner. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


Man, my blog entry frequency this year is dismal. Here's one for August, in case I don't post again till September.

The last time I mentioned this AWESOME series was in May, and thankfully, I have been keeping up with season 2 via Internet.

Like The Good Wife and Dexter - 2 excellent shows which have not lost their momentum - Suits' follow-up season is delightful. I love programmes that are smart, challenging and funny. Suits has all 3 in spades!

Another quality I really appreciate: shifting the focus away from the usual high-profile criminal cases. Most legal dramas like to drum up the adrenaline factor by featuring serial killers or bizarre murders. The Practice excelled at this, but after a while, the tricks get old.

Which is why I find Suits so refreshing. It discusses a wide range of subjects - will disputes, copyright infringement, class action, wrongful death, sexual harrassment - but somehow makes every single episode utterly fascinating.

The legal jargon is mind-blowing, but actually comprehensible as long as you're fully awake. I always make it a point to avoid watching it when I'm post-call or exhausted for some other reason. Maximum enjoyment is key!

Another element I can't get enough of - the complex dynamics between the characters. Granted, Harvey Specter and Mike Ross are at the forefront, but Louis Litt ( played to perfection by Rick Hoffman ) is gaining a lot of ground in terms of show-stealing!

There's a terrific episode in season 2 ( #4 or #5, I believe ), where Litt gets the defendant in a civil suit to turn on his own company during a tense deposition. It is one of the most ingenious scenes I have ever witnessed on television. Where straightforward legal tactics failed, he found a way to win the case by hitting where it really hurts - the bruised ego. I wish the clip was on YouTube, but it isn't. Trust me, it is UNBELIEVABLE.

The humour has picked up as well, coming at you fast and furious in season 2. I always find myself laughing heartily at the zingy one-liners, mostly from Harvey. They're a mixture of unrestrained narcissism and astute observations of the human condition. Love it! :D

Being overlooked at the Emmys is a massive injustice, but as a fellow fan assured me on Twitter - "NEXT YEAR!"

I hope so too. :)

Looking forward to The Bourne Legacy, starring Jeremy Renner, whom I have become rather obsessed with since his prominent role in last December's immensely entertaining Mission: Impossible 4.

His previous films weren't exactly action blockbusters - okay, he shot a gun and played the bad guy in SWAT - but he has really hit his stride since turning 40, wow!

He looks positively gorgeous, shows off a graceful athleticism ( Bourne Legacy director Tony Gilroy calls him a "machine" ), and handles weapons with style ( handgun, sniper rifle, bow and arrow ).

If you thought MI4 and The Avengers were tough, check out the trailers and clips for Bourne Legacy. I'm surprised he can still walk after all that leaping and tumbling and major whacking. I'm already starting to experience pain in both knees, and I'm only 37!

Another plus now that Renner's in the limelight - interviews.
There're tonnes of clips on YouTube, but this past week, I got my hands on episodes from The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Both discuss his involvement with Bourne Legacy, but the interviews couldn't be more different. I've noticed that Renner makes it a point to vary his conversations, no matter how many he has to go through. I honestly don't know how he keeps track of them all, but it's a huge treat for us fans, and I especially enjoy his wicked sense of humour, lol!

Also, he dresses EXTREMELY well for events. Not just TV appearances, but press conferences, conventions, etc. Either a sweater / shirt combo, or a suit and tie, sometimes with a vest included. I just love guys who dress up. :)

Oh yes, the photos. The first is from Empire magazine's subscriber copy cover, and the second is from the 2009 TV series, The Unusuals, which was unfortunately cancelled after 10 episodes.

The latter, however, has attained a cult-like status on the Net, thanks to a faithful following and word-of-mouth. The YouTube clips are also side-splittingly funny.

Ordered my copy from Amazon recently. Can't wait to watch it!

A few TV shows I'm watching out for...

Dexter season 7 - this is my #1 favourite series at the moment, and is unlikely to be toppled anytime soon, despite a slightly disappointing 6th season.
Michael C. Hall is flawless as Dexter Morgan, and no-one except him can play this dark and twisted character so beautifully.

Premieres in the U.S. September 30. I prefer uncensored versions, so it's back to the Internet for me. :)

Another series I'm highly anticipating - The Following, in which Kevin Bacon plays an FBI agent hunting down a network of serial killers. Wow, I just got goosebumps. :)

Last but not least, Elementary - a modern retelling of the Sherlock Holmes story, now transplanted to New York, with Dr. Watson played by none other than Lucy Liu. Eli Stone's Jonny Lee Miller should make an enigmatic Sherlock, following his memorable, evil turn on Dexter season 5.

So many other Hollywood stars are also turning to television these days - from Glenn Close ( Damages ), Angelica Huston ( Smash ), Sigourney Weaver ( Political Animals ) and Dustin Hoffman ( Luck ), to Ashley Judd ( Missing ), Patrick Wilson ( A Gifted Man ) and Rose Byrne ( Damages ).

A check regarding American Horror Story season 2 ( the show is completely insane but I just adore it :)) mentions James Cromwell, Joseph Fiennes and ( surprise! ) Adam Levine among the new cast.
Jessica Lange will return, creepier and zanier than ever, I'm sure.
My fave is Evan Peters - a young actor who holds his own and mesmerizes with his fiery performances.
Debuts October 2012.

The small screen has never looked more spectacular!