One More

I didn't think I'd be posting again before the year ended, but these deserve entries!


Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life


It took me a while to watch this due to access issues ( many thanks to a good pal for the help! ), and I read a number of unflattering reviews before getting my hands on the show, but my fears were totally unfounded - this is a terrific sequel, and all you nasty critics out there: what the hell is wrong with you?

Staying true to the series' timeline, Rory is now 32 and Lorelai's 48. Both go through their own personal turmoils, but the essential ingredients are still there - witty banter delivered at lightning speeds, pop culture references, quirky characters, even quirkier Stars Hollow events, junk food and, of course, lots and lots of coffee.

Covering 4 different seasons, episodes 1 and 2 were fun but lacked oomph. But once episode 3 kicked in ( the one with the crazy Stars Hollow musical ), things really started cooking. And the final installment was everything I hoped it would be - heartwarming, hilarious, poignant - with the last 4 words promising more adventures in the future.

I was hopelessly addicted to the show when it ran from 2000 to 2007, and couldn't be happier that it hasn't lost its magic. I'm even more pleased to learn that it's attracted a cult following, thanks to reruns on Netflix.

What I looked forward to the most was the return of Rory's guys - Dean, Jesse and Logan. However, Dean appeared in only one brief scene, and Jess didn't share any romantic interludes with Rory ( a real pity since I'm Team Jess argh! ). So Logan gets the most screen time, though their relationship is less than ideal ( both already have serious partners ).

But for all its minor flaws, I love this because it just seems to speak to me so directly. The past year has been tumultuous, to say the least, and I definitely share some of the characters' anxieties. Which is why its messages about embracing change, never giving up on one's dreams, and finding happiness when you least expect it, are so comforting.

Please continue this series, and soon!


La La Land


The rave reviews are true. La La Land is absolutely incredible, and a clear frontrunner this awards season.

It's always a good sign when the opening scene makes me smile. That song-and-dance routine on a jammed up L.A. highway is a huge visual treat!

I saw the film at GV Grand Hall 1, which features a gigantic screen and a seating arrangement that makes any movie-watching experience exhilarating. Previous shows I caught at this theatre include Vertical Limit and the 25th anniversary edition of Phantom Of The Opera. My eyes almost popped out of their sockets!

I'm happy to confirm that La La Land lives up to the hype, and had me reaching for the tissue multiple times. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are perfectly cast, displaying their talents in full glory as they sing and shimmy through 2 hours of pure heaven.

I'm fans of both actors, especially Gosling, whose career I've followed since his big break in Murder By Numbers. The role of jazz pianist Sebastian is unlike anything he's ever played before, and I really marvel at his abilities, from tickling the ivories to effortlessly floating across the floor during the waltz.

Then I realized that he was once part of the Mickey Mouse Club, together with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake. His vocal skills aren't as impressive, but he has a rich tone and the songs aren't too challenging.


Director Damien Chazelle, who's only 31 years old, is the one to watch for the next few years. After blowing everyone's minds with the phenomenal Whiplash ( which earned JK Simmons a well-deserved Oscar ), he follows THAT with THIS.

All I can say is, he makes me feel like a giant failure haha. :)

Chazelle's grasp for drama is a wonder to behold. In Whiplash, a young jazz drummer's interactions with his demanding teacher had me chewing my nails.
Here, Mia and Sebastian's various encounters are all vastly different yet equally compelling.



But Chazelle's execution of the film's most breath-taking sequence - where the couple dance among the stars at the planetarium - is genius.
Everything - the music, the colours, the choreography - fit flawlessly. OMG, I get goosebumps just thinking about it. :)

I can't find an exact picture of the waltz itself, so this is the closest I can get. Just go to the theatre - this segment alone is worth the ticket price!

Special mention goes to Justin Hurwitz, who penned the score, and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the lyrics.

One of the final scenes has Mia ( Emma Stone ) singing The Fools Who Dream at an audition. This was the biggest tissue moment for me, and here's a sample of the lyrics:

She told me: a bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that's why they need us
So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles
The painters, and poets, and plays

And here's to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here's to the hearts that break
Here's to the mess we make


There's an arc to the story which I won't spoil for those who haven't seen La La Land yet. It involves a suggestion Sebastian makes, regarding a very difficult task that Mia later completes, though she regrets it severely. It causes a rift in their relationship, but in the end, it's this very task which turns Mia's life around.

That's the message I took home with me, and I will always remember it when times get rough. We all have inner voices that tell us not to do certain things, mostly because we fear change, failure or ridicule. But once in a while, taking that leap of faith alters everything, and you'll wonder why you ever wavered in the first place.

This has happened to me a few times in the past, but I admit that certain aspects of my life are still governed by apprehension, even though they shouldn't be.

Perhaps it's a directive of a divine nature. I've already taken one recent leap, with a very positive outcome. I will strive to do better in the future.

DO NOT MISS LA LA LAND. I expect it to win the Best Picture Oscar come February. :)

The Year In Review

It's that time of year once again, and interestingly, almost everyone I know has had a really crappy 12 months.

Never mind the mind-boggling international events, especially major political upheavals across the globe. It seems many individuals suffered on a personal level as well, be it illness, family or work-related issues.

I don't know if 2016 counts as the absolute worst in my book, but it's definitely up there in the top 3. And yet, despite all the turmoil, my luck does seem to be changing for the better, and I believe 2017 will bring new and exciting developments in various aspects of my life.

Entertainment-wise, 2016 saw a bumper crop of TV shows. My favourite picks, in descending order:
Narcos season 2
The Crown
The Night Of
Good Behavior



I've reviewed 3 of the above, so I should include a brief mention about Good Behavior.
It stars Michelle Dockery ( Lady Mary from Downton Abbey ), who plays a troubled ex-con, single mother and drug addict. Somehow, she gets caught up in the middle of a hit and soon gets tangled up with a hired killer ( Juan Diego Botto ), who ropes her into his assignments, followed by mutual attraction and gradual bonding.

The reason I like this series is its constantly surprising twists. I attempted to predict the storyline multiple times and often failed, which in turn piqued my interest.
Dockery does a 180-degree turn from her prim and proper Lady Mary role, opting for plunging necklines and vampy wigs. Her American accent is competent, but she still retains her trademark tight-lipped smile, unable to shed Lady Mary entirely.


Another reason I keep watching is Juan Diego Botto, who plays hitman Javier. I think this is the first time I've ever seen him, and whoever selected him for this role deserves a prize, because he's perfect for it. Already in his 40s but lean as a 20-something, with gorgeous wavy dark hair and a velvety voice, he scorches the screen and has great chemistry with Dockery.
If you decide to start watching and reach episode 4 - the one with Lettie's high school reunion - let me know how you feel when Botto appears in the final minutes of the show, after being absent for the first 40. I had a huge smile on my face, 'cos I realized just how much I missed him. :)


As for movies, I haven't seen as many as I'd like, but my top choices are:
Captain America: Civil War
The Secret Life Of Pets
Florence Foster Jenkins
Captain Fantastic
Nocturnal Animals
Indignation


I'll be catching La La Land next week, and am confident it will also make the list. Can't quite find the time for Sing just yet, but the trailers and clips alone are a hoot!

I've already reviewed Captain America, so here're short descriptions of the rest, in case you're curious.

The Secret Life Of Pets is completely insane but in a very grownup way. Unlike Finding Dory, which was equally nuts but bored the crap out of me, Pets had me rolling with laughter the whole time.

Florence Foster Jenkins is also extremely funny, thanks to its flawless cast, a sparkling script, and wonderful direction. A story like this one could've been easily mangled without the right combination. Simon Helberg is spectacular, but Hugh Grant steals the show.

Captain Fantastic, another smart, moving dramedy, features Viggo Mortensen at his kookiest, and a cast of youngsters whose fearless performances deserve award nominations. I love this film because it highlights the deficiencies of so-called "normal society", where kids who go to school know next to nothing, while those who live in the wilderness can quote and explain the Constitution, among many other things.

Indignation stars two actors I'm huge fans of - Logan Lerman and Tracy Letts. A thought-provoking coming-of-age story, with one exceptional, brilliantly executed scene between Lerman and Letts.

Nocturnal Animals is unlike anything I've ever seen. I haven't read the novel but I find Tom Ford's direction most intriguing. Gorgeously shot with truly incredible performances from the entire cast, this film left me hanging at the end but in a good way. It's disturbing, tragic and unpredictable. Definitely an awards contender.


A brief note about Jake Gyllenhaal, who stars in Nocturnal Animals - he's my favourite actor for 2016.
I've been a fan for many many years, from 1999's October Sky and 2005's Brokeback Mountain and Jarhead, to 2007's Zodiac, 2011's Source Code, 2014's Nightcrawler and 2015's Southpaw.
I love actors who make brave and unusual choices, but Jake has an uncanny ability for picking really great roles, especially when you consider how young he is. He'll be 36 in a week's time, and has already worked with Lee Ang, David Fincher and Sam Mendes.
Recently, I also discovered YouTube videos of Jake singing. Flawlessly, might I add. My admiration for him shot up a hundred notches! The one to watch for the next few years. Someone please give him an Oscar soon.


2015 was THE year of starry meet and greets, but in early 2016, I finally got the chance to say hello to Josh Groban after his Sydney Opera House concert, and snap a wefie!
In August, I met Charlie Puth at Sentosa, and he obliged with a hug and an awesome photo.

And although I couldn't snag tickets to Coldplay's National Stadium show in April, I did score seats for Bruno Mars' Paris gig in June. On my birthday, woohoo! It's a VIP package, so let's see what I can do in terms of an autograph. A meet and greet is probably too much to ask, but you never know. :)

Other tentative plans in the pipeline: tickets for The Graham Norton show ( they're known to be very partial to foreign visitors ahem :)), catching Damian Lewis at the West End, the French Open men's singles final, Paris Disneyland, lots of museums, and meeting my Parisian penpal again after 6 long years apart.

To all my readers, may you have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year! And may 2017 be a much happier time for everyone.