R.I.P.


I planned to make a blog entry the week Anton Yelchin tragically passed away, but only managed to do so now after a lot of dust finally settled.

When the news first broke, I was in shock and wished it was yet another celebrity death hoax. Unfortunately, it turned out to be real, and I'm extremely saddened by this terrible loss.

I first noticed AY in 2009's Terminator Salvation and JJ Abrams' Star Trek. While the latter was a much bigger hit, Anton's role in the former was significantly more prominent, and I was struck by his mature, layered performance as a teenage Kyle Reese, admirably holding his own with the likes of Christian Bale and Sam Worthington.

Then came Charlie Bartlett - a 2007 film I stumbled upon on cable and watched ONLY because AY was in it. ( Well, there's also Robert Downey, Jr. but even he couldn't outshine Anton. I kid you not! )

Charlie Bartlett is, in my opinion, a classic in the vein of the great John Hughes' Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club - i.e. populated by teens who are old souls, undermining authority in all sorts of creative ways, spewing sagely advice that adults aren't capable of thinking up.

The scene I love most is Charlie's audition for the school play, which made me laugh like Kat Dennings. It was yet another confirmation of Anton's immense talent ( he was 17 at the time ), and he remained a strong presence despite having RDJ to contend with.

The entire movie is available on YouTube. It's my favourite where Anton is concerned, and I highly recommend it to anyone who's interested.

Subsequently, I also saw Like Crazy, Fright Night, Star Trek Into Darkness and Burying The Ex, all of which I enjoyed, but which couldn't match Charlie Bartlett or Terminator Salvation.

However, I recently got my hands on 5 to 7 and Green Room. Will watch them soon, as well as Star Trek Beyond, due for release later this month.

It's comforting to hear personal anecdotes from his co-stars and friends, describing his kind heart, humour and intellectual curiosity. You will be missed by many, including me.




On to Independence Day: Resurgence, the movie I was most excited about this year.

The original Independence Day is one of my all-time faves, and the trailers for the sequel looked phenomenal, so yes, I had high hopes and was fully prepared to embrace and love Resurgence.

Sadly, my reaction was the exact opposite.

I think it was around the 45-minute mark when I started checking my watch to see how long my torture would last. There are just so many things wrong with the film, from the dumb storyline ( a queen and her workers / soldiers; an elderly, frail ex-POTUS effortlessly flying a fighter jet into combat after years of inactivity; key characters conveniently converging in the desert where the final showdown occurred ) to the limp new cast ( Liam Hemsworth is unbelievably dull OMG! ) to the annoying editing ( cutting between scenes every 3-5 minutes isn't cool dammit! ).

One of my major complaints is how the wild-haired scientist from the first movie ends up in a coma for 20 years, miraculously wakes up one day ( presumably "activated" by the second crop of aliens heading to earth ) and suffers zero muscle atrophy. He just hops off the bed and goes running down the hallway. He didn't even have a feeding tube!

So sloppy, ugh.

Anyway, I was happy to see Bill Pullman again. He's aged a lot but also stayed slim. His thick wavy hair is also intact ( I love his hair haha ). Can't stand Jeff Goldblum or Judd Hirsch, but my biggest peeve is Angelababy - a Chinese / Taiwanese ( not sure and don't care ) actress / singer who got completely miscast as a fighter pilot, and pouted her way through the whole production.

Clearly a stunt to drum up box office sales in Asia. Shame on you, Roland Emmerich.

There's talk of a part 3 on the way. I'll be sure to give it a miss. But I still love the first Independence Day. A real class act, that one.




After a loooong absence from local TV, season 20 suddenly appeared, and I'm hooked.

I loathe most reality shows, especially those with lots of melodrama, but something about The Bachelor is just... irresistible.

No, it isn't the guy, because he obviously isn't the star of the show - the ladies are. And they never disappoint.

Every season has its share of bitchy, psychotic and weepy contestants. Again, not something I can usually tolerate, but strangely enough, I find it highly entertaining here.

The quality of bachelors has dropped over the years, after peaking with Andrew Firestone ( indeed, THAT Firestone ) in 2003. The latest, Ben Higgins, is a software sales rep from Denver, and got the gig only because he was so popular on The Bachelorette ( yes, he was chasing another woman together with other men! ).

With this in mind, I find it hard to understand why all the women are so nuts over Ben. Sure, he's tall, athletic and good-looking, with beautiful manners and a gentle demeanour. But he's, well, ORDINARY. Why do the ladies throw themselves at him in such embarrassing ways? Maybe that's another reason the show appeals to me - its sheer inexplicability.

One of the things I like to do is see how many women the bachelor ends up kissing. Some past bachelors were quite discerning while others just went for it. Ben lies somewhere in between. He kisses A LOT of ladies, but is capable of turning a cold shoulder if he senses Fatal Attraction vibes.

I'm at episode 4 right now, and the villain is Olivia - a former news anchor who claims she gave up her job to be on the show. She's glamorous and impressed Ben so much on the introduction night that he gave her the "first impression rose". It's interesting how things go downhill from there, as she becomes consumed by jealousy and paranoia.

BUT - and this is important - past contestants have publicly stated that the Bachelor / Bachelorette series are staged and creatively edited, calling into question the authenticity of the process.



Coincidentally, I recently started binging on UnReal, after a friend's repeated recommendations.

Blatantly based on The Bachelor ( here it's called Everlasting and the bachelor is "the suitor" ), it illustrates all the ugliness we suspect goes on behind the scenes, and ramps it up ten-fold. Everyone's sleeping around, the big boss is constantly high on drugs, the bachelor's in it for all the wrong reasons, and the crew's job is to manipulate the ladies and milk the ratings to the max.

It isn't too bad, but can get tiresome after a while, so I advise small doses.

What I will give them credit for is daring to feature an African-American bachelor in season 2 - something the real show doesn't have the balls to do.


That's it for today. Looking forward to Narcos season 2 on September 2nd! Super awesome, that one. :)

Review – Roots


This History channel mini-series has shot to the top of my list of favourite 2016 TV shows so far, so a blog entry is inevitable.

It was rather unexpected, to be honest. I read Alex Haley's epic novel as a teen ( and did a massive book review for my school holiday assignment, which my English teacher never marked hmph! ) and am familiar with the story. But I wondered if the small screen adaptation would succeed in conveying the key elements of this saga and managing its large number of characters.

3 episodes in, I'm emotionally exhausted and in complete awe. Every episode averages 90 minutes but feels a lot longer - not because it drags or bores, but because of the mind-boggling amount of material packed into each installment. It just doesn't seem possible for so much to happen within such a short duration. ( If only more films could follow this format! )

Since the story spans multiple generations, the writers devote one episode to each protagonist, allowing ample time for key storylines to play out before moving on. And lest you think they start to become repetitive and dull after a while, the complete opposite happens. Slave owners and drivers come in different shapes and sizes, with individual quirks and torture method preferences. Some may be less cruel than others, but pay attention and you'll notice fleeting moments that illustrate the deep-seated hatred simmering beneath even the most benign-looking faces ( clue: Matthew Goode's Dr. William Waller ).

But this production obviously belongs to the African-American cast. I know a few of the actors ( Oscar winner Forest Whitaker being the most prominent ) but the ones I don't are the most impressive. Malachi Kirby ( Kunta Kinte ) and Rege-Jean Page ( Chicken George ) stand out from the pack, infusing their roles with intense, heartbreaking performances which reduced me to tears. Anika Noni Rose also shines as strong-willed Kizzy.

Special mention goes to Jonathan Rhys Meyers ( Tom Lea ), whose career I've followed since 2002's Bend It Like Beckham. Accomplished but underrated, he scorches the screen as a complicated villain, and practically steals everyone else's thunder. If he isn't nominated for an Emmy this year, I'm going to be extremely upset.

I'm finishing up the final episode this weekend, but am likely to rate it at least a 9/10 on IMDB.

Slavery is a horrific part of American history, and even today, racial tensions still permeate the country. The revival of Roots is a timely one, occurring while the United States is being governed by its first black President, and police brutality against African-Americans keeps making headlines. It's hard to imagine how one human being is capable of unspeakable cruelty towards another, but even harder to understand why it still happens today.

Roots expertly illustrates cruelty in its many forms, including a harrowing flogging scene which is not recommended for those with weak constitutions. However, it also shows that the greatest pain isn't inflicted through physical or verbal abuse. Instead, it's through a broken promise - a softly spoken betrayal, moments after giving a man hope of attaining freedom.

This series needs to be seen and its message conveyed. Like the Holocaust, slavery must never be forgotten, and those of us who're blessed with the opportunity to live as free people should cherish this privilege.

( Now awaiting season 2 of Netflix's Narcos, rumoured to be premiering in August! This was my favourite TV series in 2015. One of the most amazing shows I've ever seen. )

It’s A Zoo Out There 2016-05-20 02:00:00


This is my 3rd blog post in 3 weeks. Making up for lost time haha. :)

But I feel compelled to write something about X-Men: Apocalypse - the 3rd movie I've seen at the cineplex this year ( all superhero blockbusters, strangely enough ), and my personal favourite.

There aren't any more scheduled this year right?

Anyway, I doubt X-Men will outdo Captain America: Civil War at the box office, and I also enjoyed Batman vs Superman immensely. But there's just something about X-Men that affects me on a deeper level, especially the newer films which feature younger versions of Professor X and Magneto - these are the ones that make me cry.

One big reason is that Erik Lehnsherr's personal life is much more prominent - from his tormented childhood at Auschwitz and subsequent Nazi-hunting missions, to an attempt at having a normal life by going into hiding and starting a family. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes again, but it adds more layers to his character's complexity. I can definitely understand his motivations and don't define him as a clear cut villain.

Then there's his love-hate relationship with Charles Xavier - another recurring subplot I greatly appreciate. I find it fascinating how it keeps see-sawing in every movie, yet their brotherly bond remains intact.

It definitely helps that the cast is so amazing! James McAvoy is perfect as Charles - warm, kind and eternally optimistic - while Michael Fassbender as Erik is one of the most spot on choices in the history of casting! Both actors were on my list of favourites for years before snagging these roles, and their on-screen chemistry is always a wonder to behold.


This time round, I got a triple dose of ecstasy when Oscar Isaac joined as Apocalypse. Watching all 3 men in the final climactic scene was a dream come true! Playing a character that's blue and looks like a cross between a robot and a rock toes the line between dramatic and downright campy, but Oscar keeps it together and is effectively terrifying.

Special mention goes to Evan Peters, who's back as Quicksilver, with another hilarious slow-mo montage, reminiscent of the Pentagon prison break from Days of Future Past. And yes, there's a cameo by you-know-who.

Sophie Turner as Jean Grey was an unexpected delight. I only know her from Game Of Thrones and thought she looked awkward in the X-Men photos I saw in Empire magazine. She doesn't get to do very much for most of the film, but hang onto your seats in the last 15 minutes, because when Jean finally unleashes her full power, it will make your heart stop!
( Even my usually poker-faced mother gasped. :))


Super highly recommended!


Next on my to watch list: Independence Day: Resurgence, Jason Bourne, Now You See Me 2, The Legend of Tarzan, The Conjuring 2 and Assassin's Creed ( Michael Fassbender's highly anticipated solo action hero outing! ).

2016 is turning out to be an awesome year for movies. :)

Entertainment Updates

Before I start, just a small addition to my previous post about Josh Groban's show in Sydney last month.

Aside from his musical artistry, I forgot to highlight his adorable sense of humour. I mean, I've known about it for many years since I'm a longtime fan, but opening night at the Opera House was a major treat for all of us!

Whether the jet lag was wreaking havoc with his mind or whether he was high from something else, I hadn't seen him that exuberant for quite a while, and it was absolutely delightful!

I especially love the stories from his childhood - about how his parents nurtured his love for music, how a school bully praised him for having "the voice of an angel, dude", and a rather nutty bit he had on Anything Goes.

He's a masterful storyteller, but had us all in stitches when he suddenly expressed a "wish to see your restrooms". He also referenced a "dick joke" together with You Raise Me Up, lol!

There's a reason I can remember everything so vividly, of course. But I can't reveal it here. :)

Anyway, I enjoyed your jokes immensely, Josh! Stay funny always.


On to some movie news...


I'm not one of those diehard comic book fans, and with all the DC / Marvel flicks flying around in recent years, I was beginning to suffer from fatigue. But Captain America: Civil War turned out to be one of the most awesome superhero films I have EVER seen, I kid you not!

It certainly helps that the same team behind Captain America: Winter Soldier took the reins on this one, in particular, the Russo brothers, who are raising the bar significantly.

I admit to expecting the worst, but instead, I was thrilled beyond words! The running time is 2.5 hours but felt an hour shorter. There was never a dull moment, and like Winter Soldier, the chase scenes are creative, adrenaline-pumping spectacles.

And that showdown at the hangar in Berlin! OMG my jaw hit the ground and just stayed there for 15 minutes!

Special mention goes to Paul Rudd, whose Ant-Man is so much more fun here compared to the mediocre standalone movie. Chadwick Boseman is perfect as the super-cool Black Panther, and Tom Holland melts hearts as an adolescent Peter Parker. Looking forward to the latter two's solo outings!



Another film I really want to discuss is The Danish Girl. Didn't manage to watch this when it was at the cineplex, and I'm guessing the DVD is banned in Singapore, so thank goodness it was available on KrisWorld.

It's an understatement to say that it blew me away. It's comparable to Whiplash in terms of the degree of awe it induced. But while Whiplash is brash and moves at a dizzy pace, The Danish Girl luxuriates in a leisurely tempo. Beautifully directed by Tom Hooper ( The King's Speech, Les Miserables ), the lead performances from Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander are breath-taking and truly deserving of their Oscar nominations ( and Vikander's win ).

I was never a huge fan of Redmayne's but this role has converted me. He was incredible in The Theory Of Everything, but exceeds even that here - no mean feat, I assure you! His portrayal of a previously heterosexual man's gradual transition is riveting, simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting. The last half hour of the film reduced me to tears, and I'd also like to point out that Alexandre Desplat's score is phenomenal! Check out his other amazing work on the soundtrack for The Painted Veil, which features Lang Lang ( the movie's another personal favourite of mine but was sadly overlooked by critics ).


A standout scene involves Redmayne and Ben Whishaw, whom I mostly know from the latest James Bond films. It takes place at a ball, and is just INTOXICATING. Again, the music adds tonnes to the overall atmosphere, but Whishaw also looks like a million bucks ( not scruffy and bespectacled like Q ) and demonstrates earth-shattering chemistry with Redmayne. I ended up pressing the rewind button multiple times. Wonder if any other passengers around me noticed haha.



As for TV updates, currently I have one - Netflix's second season of Daredevil.

Season 1 was good but faltered in quite a few places. However, season 2 is really terrific, especially from episode 5 onwards.

I think a major factor is the addition of Jon Bernthal as the Punisher. A comic book fanboy assures me that Bernthal looks exactly like the character, but I remember him from The Walking Dead and an assortment of movie roles, and consider him one of the finest yet grossly underrated actors of our generation.

Bernthal definitely changes the series' momentum and tone. He's unbelievably intense and handles the violent scenes like a pro. He also has great chemistry with Charlie Cox, who finally loses his boyish charm and turns completely dark.

Then there's Elodie Yung, who plays Elektra. I confess that I initially loathed her because of her posh accent and rather slutty performance, but she gradually grew on me and thankfully stopped playing the bimbo. She also kicks major ass in episode 10! Going head to head with French hottie Gilles Marini, no less! I almost got a heart attack haha.

Vincent D'Onofrio makes a welcome return as Wilson Fisk, but Debora Ann Woll and Rosario Dawson are even more irritating than ever, overdoing everything and just getting on my nerves. I just try to ignore them until their scenes are over.

Oh, and for the record, this show makes me have a strong urge to take up kickboxing lessons. But I'm currently preoccupied with Pilates, so maybe next time. :)


No chance to discuss Batman vs Superman, but I loved it even though the critics weren't impressed. Will be catching X-Men: Apocalypse next week, in spite of Empire's 2-star review. These are the people who thought Star Wars VII deserved 5 stars. WTF!?

2016!

My first blog entry of the year comes after a 5-month hiatus.

I do regret not being able to write more regularly these days, but returning to full-time work, plus a series of personal issues, pushed blogging way down my list of priorities.

However, I still want to keep this site alive and kicking, so this post - though short - offers a brief summary of one of the more significant events that occurred recently.


I flew to Sydney to see Josh Groban in concert for the second time in 3 years, and FINALLY met him face to face!

Featuring songs from his wonderful new album, Stages, the show was breath-taking from start to finish, with Josh hitting every note perfectly and demonstrating amazing vocal strength I'd never witnessed before.

I've been a fan for 15 years and couldn't be happier about him scaling new heights. At 35, his voice has fully matured and sounds incredible! This was especially evident during Bring Him Home - an extremely difficult piece for even the most accomplished tenors. Josh nailed it 100% and made my mother cry. How's that for skill? :)

My personal favourite was the encore - Over The Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz. That's the song that brought tears to my eyes, not just because of Josh's poignant delivery, but because of its message of hope in the midst of sadness and despair.

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Way above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.


Together with Charlie Chaplin's Smile, this is in the top 3 of my all-time personal favourite songs list.

3 years ago, I went to the stage door after the concert but arrived late and ended up quite a distance away. Josh only signed autographs for a handful of fans closest to him before leaving in his car, probably because he was tired.

This time, I had an aisle seat in the theatre and was very near the exit, so I managed to secure a great spot near the stage door. Josh appeared about 20 minutes later and was so friendly, chatting with fans and signing everything they gave him. However, his bodyguard gently said, "No hugging please." to someone.

When my turn came, Josh signed my concert programme then got distracted by a group of Filipino fans next to me. He'd already spoken to them earlier before coming over, but they were quite selfish and wanted to continue the conversation. Josh being Josh, he talked to them some more, which left me no opportunity to say anything, like the fact that I was a longtime fan and had flown to Sydney twice just to see him argh!

So when his attention was finally on me, I quickly asked for a photo, and he obliged. But it wasn't just a quickie sort of thing - he looked at my phone's screen intently and positioned himself while I pressed a button to focus. My Samsung took a few seconds to do this but Josh was very patient, never once asking me to hurry up or moving off before the photo could be taken.

After the camera snapped the wefie, he even asked if it was okay and whether I got the shot, which I thought was very very sweet. I said, "Yes, thank you!" then he smiled and replied, "Thank you for coming!" before going down the line of excited fans.

I stayed for another 5 minutes and noticed that Josh didn't take photos with anyone else, which made our wefie very precious! He isn't the touchy feely sort either, standing a short distance away while signing items, and yes, the no hugging rule was enforced.

En route to the hotel, I checked the picture and realized Josh had a gorgeous smile when he posed, and looked positively ecstatic for some reason! That was the icing on the cake!

He'll still be on tour for the next few months before making his Broadway debut this fall. Really wish I could see that, but I won't be heading to the U.S. for a while. Especially when Donald Trump is running for president ugh. ( Don't let him win, please! )

That's it for this entry. Will post again another day if I have time.