Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review - Jurassic World

Right, so this entry is slightly delayed, and the movie's already grossed half a billion dollars worldwide since it opened less than a week ago. But a review is definitely warranted, because not only do I consider this a momentous event, I also gave it a 10/10 rating on IMDB. Because I love it that much!

I realize there're similarities to the previous 3 Jurassic Park films - messing around with dinosaurs, well laid plans going awry, children in peril, mayhem and a significant body count. But every franchise has its own successful formula, so why change it when it clearly works?

Rest assured that I asked the same exasperating questions:

1) Why are you playing with dinosaur DNA - AGAIN?

2) Don't you know electric fences and high walls never work?

*spoiler alert*

*spoiler alert*

*spoiler alert*

Despite the obvious human stupidity, I really could care less because I'm mainly interested in the dinos. Perennial favourites like the T-Rex and velociraptors are back, with the addition of a hybrid - the Indominus Rex - which proves to be a nightmare to manage. As predicted, the monster escapes and various manoeuvres are utilized to recapture it, with disastrous results.

It all sounds very rote, but the execution itself is anything but. Believe me when I say that watching Jurassic World took me right back to 1993, when I was 18 and cowering in a dark theatre for 2 hours during Jurassic Park. The sequels never reached that peak, until now.

The screenwriters tweaked the plot here and there, my personal favourite being the 4 pseudo-domesticated raptors, which later become the humans' allies in their hunt for the I-Rex. Bred in captivity and trained from infancy by raptor wrangler, Owen, they're markedly different from their Jurassic Park counterparts yet retain key traits - exceptional intelligence, a capacity for bloodthirsty violence - that keep things grounded in reality. These are my favourites among the entire dinosaur population, so heed my advice when I tell you to stay alert during every raptor scene, so you can fully appreciate the complex relationship they share with Owen. It's definitely one of the highlights of the movie!

The action sequences are also terrific, especially since they now take place on a much larger scale - i.e. the park is officially open to the public, so we have 20,000 tasty morsels for the hungry creatures to feast on. The animatronic and visual effects are spectacular, though I'm also much more appreciative of how advanced these already were 2 decades ago in the original classic.

Many kudos to director Colin Trevorrow, who's helming his first blockbuster after catching Steven Spielberg's attention with his indie flick, Safety Not Guaranteed ( which I intend to watch one of these days when I have time ). In his interview with Empire magazine, Trevorrow explained that Spielberg selected him for this important task because of his ability to handle multiple genres ( adventure, comedy, romance ). In recent years, I've noticed a trend in Hollywood where directors of low-budget movies or those with relatively short CVs are given opportunities to take on massive projects, often based on a powerful studio chief / movie star / big shot producer's gut feeling. This change in mindset has proved to be a game changer in the film industry, particularly in the blockbuster franchise department. Prime examples include Mission: Impossible 3 ( JJ Abrams ), Iron Man ( Jon Favreau ) and Thor ( Kenneth Branagh ). And the trend has continued with Captain America: The Winter Soldier ( Anthony and Joe Russo ) and The Avengers ( Joss Whedon ).

These directors bring fresh ideas to the table and invigorate the blockbuster genre. Mr. Trevorrow, welcome to the club. :)

Last but not least, the cast. For me, this is perhaps the most vital ingredient in any action-adventure film, and the selection of actors here is perfect.
The 2 boys - Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins - are extremely likable and convincing. I always marvel at how these talented children and teenagers manage to look so petrified when there isn't any real danger - it heightens the moviegoer's experience tremendously!

Bryce Dallas Howard, who excels at playing stern, standoffish women ( watch her bitchy character in 50-50 ) starts off effectively prissy then transforms into a true-blue heroine.

But this movie's biggest asset is none other than Chris Pratt. I'm not familiar with his work on TV and in earlier flicks ( when he was super chubby ), but came to know of him through The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy. I didn't enjoy Guardians very much, but Owen is an absolutely perfect fit for him! Lean and muscular, with a manly swagger and handling dinosaurs like a pro, Pratt finally wins my approval. He still can't match the intensity of Kevin Spacey, Michael Fassbender and Oscar Isaac, but I fully agree that he's the closest we'll ever get to Harrison Ford, so PLEASE have an Indiana Jones remake / reboot / sequel / prequel or what-have-you, and make sure he's the lead!

I predict a box office gross of $1 billion within the next fortnight, if not sooner.

A rousing revival of a beloved tale! Make sure you catch it. :)

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The Big 4-0

I've been neglecting my blog this past year, but of course, this milestone event cannot be ignored. :)

I guess this means I've officially hit "middle age" status, but unlike many women out there who view this stage of their lives with trepidation, I welcome it with open arms and a happy heart.

Growing older has never been a major problem for me - well, aside from the aching bones and faltering stamina. Why should it be, when over the past 2 decades, so many of my dreams have come true, and my life has improved immeasurably?

Granted, it wasn't always a bed of roses, but with age comes ( hopefully ) a little bit of wisdom, and with wisdom comes understanding and acceptance. Not all of my dreams have been realized, and a few probably never will be, but others remain possibilities, and those are the ones I fully intend to pursue for as long as I'm able to.

Another yardstick I use for gauging my level of contentment is asking myself whether I'm happier now compared to 10 or 20 years ago. The answer is a resounding yes.

Although there've been betrayals and regrets along the way - people who were cruel, ungrateful and reckless; bad decisions, etc. - and my life took a number of sharp detours as a result, I learned many important lessons, gained valuable insight, stopped trusting so easily, and lost interest in vying for popularity votes.

I've also developed a knack for wreaking vengeance on those who wrong me. If I don't manage to do it myself, divine intervention usually does the honour, for which I am extremely grateful. :)

But enough about the bad stuff - there's so much more worth celebrating! Family, friends, good health, financial security, the opportunity to travel and meet great people everywhere.

My original plan was to return to France this year, after falling in love with the country back in 2010. But a series of events led me to a tour of Greece, and while the trip left me mentally and physically exhausted, it turned out to be one of the most entertaining and memorable experiences I've ever had, which is rather appropriate for my milestone birthday.

Another greatly anticipated journey awaits in October, when I return to the U.S. for a conference, exploring Boston before visiting New York for the 4th time in 7 years. Broadway musicals on my must-watch list include The King And I, Gigi and An American In Paris, and star-studded plays I intend to catch have Al Pacino, Clive Owen, Keira Knightley and Sam Rockwell as headliners.

And let's not forget momentous film events! From Jurassic World and Terminator: Genisys to Mission: Impossible 5 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I mean, STAR FREAKING WARS! Turning 40 couldn't get any sweeter than this! :D

Career-wise, I have mixed feelings. 10 years ago, choosing emergency medicine was a no-brainer and I was convinced that it was the best path for me. Now, there're days where my heart sinks before a shift, and I can't move for 2 days after working overnight. My temper is short, and I often wonder why the hell I subject myself to such torture.
The practice of emergency medicine has changed so drastically this past decade, in a good way because many of the implemented measures improve patient care and safety. On the flip side, however, the well-being of the senior ED physicians is being severely compromised. And in case the powers that be are uncomfortable with my views, I'm voicing them in a purely personal capacity so you're off the hook. :)

I've spoken to many medical friends from different specialties, and like me, they all lament the quality of medical students and young doctors these days. We do encounter a few who exceed expectations, but many lack even basic clinical knowledge and skills considered appropriate for their level, or worse, display lack of insight and/or arrogance when reprimanded or counselled ( i.e. the Gen Y syndrome ).
Coupled with the huge patient loads that swamp the ED, the constant overcrowding problem, plus an increasingly elderly and sickly population, holding every junior doctor's hand and worrying about a patient dying on us takes a major toll. My worst nightmare is losing my practising certificate because an underling's oversight drags me into the fiasco just because I happened to be on duty when the incident occurred.

I fully empathize with colleagues who've left for the private sector. I wish I could follow suit, but every time a frail old man or woman grips my hand and weeps, telling me s/he has no money, no family support, and that s/he wishes s/he could die, my anger and frustration with the system dissipates, and the reason I first chose this route becomes clear again.

It takes a person with a very unusual disposition to endure the suffering of a public hospital ED physician in this country. It is quite possibly the most thankless specialty in the medical profession, but we all persevere. We complain a lot, but we stay put. If only the big shots and patients understood this!

So the final question is: what comes next?
Considering the local population's average life span, this could be the halfway mark of my existence. Don't worry, I contemplated my own mortality years ago when my lawyer submitted my first will, and the risk of croaking hits me each time I get into my car, cross the road or board a plane. I'm not the type to think about "my legacy". I'm not an adrenaline junkie chasing the next high. I just do my best to stay healthy, take care of my parents, invest in relationships with good people, use money wisely, and never lose faith in God. Despite all the amazing places I've visited and the celebrities I've met, I never tire of simple pleasures - a delicious bowl of laksa, an excellent book, time spent with my best friend, laughing so hard I shed tears, marveling at the beauty of nature, finding peace in prayer and feeling God's presence beside me.

I am so grateful for everything, and will endeavour to stay grateful in the years to come.

A big thank you to everyone who sent birthday wishes. You made my year. :)
To another 4 awesome decades!