Friday, May 23, 2008

In A Nutshell

Indiana Jones 4

I love it!

Of course, I'm speaking as a diehard fan of the franchise. Indy is a large part of my life, since Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my earliest movie memories ( believe I watched it at Jade cinema when I was 6 or 7 years old ), and I faithfully caught episodes 2 and 3 thereafter ( The Last Crusade is the best of the trilogy, IMHO ).

Without posting spoilers, I'll just say that the cinematography's gorgeous ( look for the mushroom cloud scene ), the cast really great ( Shia LaBeouf looking very very dapper in his leather bomber jacket, with a cool motorcycle to boot ), the camaraderie natural and boisterous, and the action sequences thrilling.

Never mind the rather iffy plotline ( you'll find out in the last 20 minutes ), which erroneously detracts from a tried and tested formula ( Indy has gone hunting for Christianity-related relics twice, with terrific box office results ). I overlooked the boo-boo easily, thanks to all the other positive factors in play.

Special mention goes to Ray Winstone ( who played Beowulf recently ). He's pudgy in real life, but quite a character, with a now unmistakeable voice and accent. I like him a lot.
Cate Blanchett is superbly cold, though not as creepy as early reviews made her out to be. Still, she's drop-dead beautiful, and one of my favourite actresses, so I enjoyed watching her strut her stuff.
Shia is, as always, a pleasure to watch. His eyes alone are worth half the price of my movie ticket! :)

Harrison Ford has aged significantly, but soldiers on admirably. Critics may complain, but no-one can replace this film icon, and I got goosebumps when he first appeared on-screen ( the segment's a bit over-dramatic, but very effective ).
And that famous John Williams theme - pure magic!

The passage of time brings lots of nice touches, from an anti-communist protest on college grounds, to a raucous rock 'n roll opening sequence. Old flame Marion Ravenwood - my favourite Indy Jones heroine by far - is still as feisty as ever. Her return to the franchise ( perhaps only transient ) heralds a far more important development in the storyline ( you'll discover this for yourself somewhere in the middle of the movie, and this is further reinforced in the final scene ).

15 years ago, I mailed a fan letter to Mr. Ford's home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There was no street name or house number, but the amazing American postal service got it to him anyway, and I later received an autographed photo from his agent in Los Angeles.

I just thought it was a really kind gesture on his part. I lost the picture when I moved house, but will remember this forever.

The New American Idol

David Cook won, and although I admit to feeling disappointed when Ryan Seacrest shouted his name, I got over it the second Cook broke down and tried valiantly to hold back his tears.

He's even more talented than Chris Daughtry. He'll definitely do a lot better -- that is, if he makes a good record and connects with the fans.

David Archuleta outsang his competition, but somehow failed to garner the majority vote. AI fans in my department decried the results, and one colleague even suggested the numbers were rigged. I hear refrains from Season 2 ( Ruben vs Clay ) again...

I just hope young David's father doesn't give him too hard a time about this ( rumour has it that he's been terribly tough on the poor boy ).

Tune in to Larry King Live at 9am Saturday morning ( tomororw, Singapore time ) for an interview with both finalists!

Will a local concert organizer bring the AI tour to our shores? Fantasia's batch dropped by a few years ago, but I passed on the show. However, if the Season 7 finalists come here, I'm getting front-row seats!

Chris Botti's Concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall, 20th May 2008

This wasn't reviewed in Life!, for some strange reason.

Having caught him at the Victoria Theatre in 2006, this performance was a lot more enjoyable for 2 reasons -- the beautiful venue, and my 2nd-row-centre seats. :)

Playing songs from past albums and his latest, Italia, Botti gave us chills as his trumpet's rich, velvety tones filled the hall. He opened with Ave Maria, then went on to When I Fall In Love, Caruso, A Thousand Kisses Deep, My Funny Valentine, and Flamingo Sketches ( a tribute to Miles Davis ).

Highlights include a duet with female vocalist LaShanda Rena ( I hope I got the name right, 'cos this is what's written in the programme yet sounds different from what Botti said ) -- they did a sizzling interpretation of The Look Of Love, then topped the evening off with the very lovely What'll I Do ( the latter featured Paula Cole on the album ).
Rena's smoky, pitch-perfect vocals were nicely complemented by the hall's excellent acoustics. I didn't expect any singing at this show, so it was a wonderful surprise indeed. :)

The best parts: the closing encore piece, Cinema Paradiso, which Botti dedicated to a pregnant concertgoer's unborn baby girl ( he jumped off-stage to serenade her, but sadly, stood a few metres away from my seat, darn! ); the other was a spell-binding cover of Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah, which was preceded by a little anecdote about Botti meeting the former once at a recording studio, and hearing firsthand what would become a massive hit album.
I've always heard versions that sound angsty, but Botti elected to do a quiet serenade with minimal backup instead -- and it took my breath away.
Magical moment right there, people.

Being in the centre of the 2nd row has many benefits -- I got a great view of Botti and his band, heard his trumpet up close ( especially when he'd direct the bell my way on and off ), and even made direct eye contact with him quite a few times ( he likes to scan the front rows when playing, though he favours closing his eyes most of the time ). He looked happy and smiled frequently, even laughing helplessly at one point when his drummer, Billy Kilson, disappeared off-stage after a song and failed to return in time for the next piece. Poor Botti had to make small talk, admitting that he was "stalling" and hoped Kilson would come back soon! Haha :D

I got the tickets at great prices - the first 2 rows come at lower rates, and there's a senior citizen discount to boot ( for my mom, who also loves Botti's music ). Considering the small fortune I forked out for his Victoria Theatre gig ( that place needs a major sprucing up, btw ), this show came at a real bargain.

Right then, that's all for now. It's near the end of yet another hectic week, I'm exhausted, but pretty happy, especially about a recent significant pay rise ( in a word, WHOA! ) and a promise from a high-ranking official that something will DEFINITELY be done about the A&E's lodger problems.

Enjoy your weekend.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Major Album Alerts!

Most Anticipated ( not to mention the BEST )

His 3rd studio release is AWESOME!

Following the high standards of Mr. A-Z, We Sing... still manages to beat it hands down.

12 tracks, all amazing, spanning reggae, soul, pop, rock and maybe even some Jamiroquai-esque dance riffs.

From the dreamy opening number, Make It Mine, it eases smoothly into a folksy reggae lullaby ( I'm Yours - guaranteed heavy radioplay if the DJs have any brain cells ), before hitting the jackpot with a beautiful duet with Colbie Caillat ( Lucky ).

The adrenaline rush continues with one of my personal faves, the super-hot Butterfly ( no, not a cover of Mariah Carey's original ). This is reminiscent of O. Lover from Mr. A-Z in terms of cheeky yet sexually explicit lyrics which are far from obscene yet conjure pretty interesting images in a listener's head. A good example: Climb into my mouth, child.
You figure that one out. :)

That said, it's got an infectious beat, makes unexpected turns as it alternates between different styles, and is just plain excellent! ( ran out of adjectives haha )

Following the breezy Live High, we come to my absolute fave on the album, the poignant and haunting Love For A Child. It describes the effects of divorce on hapless offspring, but soars on one of the greatest melodies I've ever heard, nicely topped off by Jason's powerful and heartfelt vocal delivery.
How I LOVE this song.

Details In The Fabric, a cool duet with UK upstart James Morrison, has me feeling tempted to buy a Morrison CD the next time I'm at the store. Coyotes and The Dynamo Of Volition isn't for everyone ( some rapping and slightly tuneless runs, but I can tahan anything this guy throws at me ), though the latter has a chorus that strongly resembles what Jamiroquai usually churns out.
Only Human is a nice bluesy-rock piece, while If It Kills Me brings Jason back to his funky pop roots.

The crowning glory is A Beautiful Mess - another exquisite love song complemented by an equally fabulous vocal performance. Almost as perfect as Absolutely Zero ( from Waiting For My Rocket To Come ), but hasn't quite surpassed it just yet. :)

The album cover art is cute, though I much prefer him in person. He's sporting a tan these days, which is miles away from his usual pasty-skinned self.

You can sample full-length versions of Make It Mine, Butterfly and I'm Yours on his MySpace page. Try sending him a message if you're a fan.

Buy this album today! Now!

Pretty Average, But He Still Sounds Good

I'm a big fan of Clay's voice, but the material on this CD leaves something to be desired. I mean, you can have powerful pipes, but they don't really matter if the songs don't showcase the vocals to full effect.

Still, it makes for easy listening in the car or on an iPod when you need some background music to ease your nerves or keep you awake. Can't really identify any standout tracks, but Grace Of God is the most palatable so far, though it probably won't garner much airplay considering its subject matter.

Buy it if you're a diehard fan, but stick to online samplings if you're undecided.

I Want This One - ASAP!

Will buy this the next time I get to That CD Shop, but you can see a wonderful video clip on his MySpace page.

He's absolutely terrific in a 'live' setting. Can't understand why he keeps bypassing Singapore during his numerous world tours. He could've dropped by en route to Australia, but chose not to. What's up with our local concert organizers and recording company?

If this continues, I may have to fly to Australia to catch him in action one of these days.

TV Updates

The Practice Reruns - Season 1 just started last week, and it brings back great memories from creator David E. Kelley's glory days ( remember Chicago Hope and Ally McBeal? ). Started off a bit shakily, but picked up speed quickly thanks to a battle with a tobacco giant and a high-profile murder case reeling into total chaos. The script is top-notch, the acting impeccable, and the cases riveting. I believe the show peaked in its 2nd and 3rd seasons, when it won Emmys for Best Drama and Best Actor, before slowly deteriorating in the ratings game.
Catch it while you can. ( Foxcrime Channel 86, 11pm from Mondays - Fridays )

Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? - Kind of a slow burner, this one. After watching it on and off for a few weeks, it's grown on me and now provides endless entertainment twice a week. Yet another ingenious offering from reality show guru Mark Burnett ( Survivor, The Apprentice ), it features 5 cherubic 11-year-olds, numerous enthusiastic contestants, and a terrific host. I admit to not knowing the answers to some of the questions posed, heh heh!
( airs every Monday and Thursday at 10pm on StarWorld Channel 18 )

Monk ( A New Season ) - will be returning soon to StarWorld soon ( I think June ). One of the best comedies around, IMHO.

American Idol 7 Finals - airs this Wednesday ( earliest telecast is a delayed satellite recording at 6pm on StarWorld ). I'm working afternoon, argh! But at least I'll be off on Thursday, when the results show will be beamed 'live' from Los Angeles at 8am.

My mom's rooting for young David. :)

More next time...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I'm Right!

Congratulations to the 2 Davids, who've made it to the finals, woohoo!

I saw this coming some time back, but hey, you can never be sure with this show and its fickle-minded voters.

Really well-deserved, guys. Syesha put up a courageous fight, but lacked sufficient fan support to beat the competition.

The showdown is going to be a tough call. David Cook's talent is massive, but David Archuleta has tonnes of young female groupies behind him. Either way, I'd be happy no matter who wins. First time ever for me, haha. :)

Right then, time to start my shift...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Quick Update

It's been almost a month since my last entry, and I can't believe how crazy the past few weeks have been. Never mind the crazy shifts - I didn't have time to blog even when I took 4 days of leave! Just seems every moment of my life is spent running around. Either that, or I'm sitting / lying down somewhere, exhausted.

Anyhow, let's get started. I've got about 30 minutes before I need to get up and leave again.

Bravo, David Archuleta!

He gave such a spectacular performance this week, covering Ben E. King's Stand By Me and Elvis Presley's Love Me Tender. He took a big risk but won rave reviews from the judges, and is now in the Big Top 3, woohoo!

Jason Castro crumbled under the pressure, though I still feel he could've done better if he'd only put his heart and soul into it. He started out well initially ( remember his terrific earlier performances? ), but appeared to lose steam along the way, which began to annoy me after a while, since everyone else was fighting tooth and nail to stay in the competition and he just got by with his goofy smile and mediocre vocals.

I've developed a soft spot for Syesha, the lone female survivor within the boys' club. She's come a long way from being in the bottom 3 every single week. I know she probably won't win, but she's earned my respect for hanging on as long as she did ( like Elliot Yamin did 2 seasons ago during Elvis Presley week - you bet I still remember that! :)).

David Cook wasn't too bad, but he was obviously distracted, though he didn't say why exactly.

Here's a nice photo of David A during Love Me Tender, a rendition so beautiful it took my mom's breath away ( and I quote: "OMG, look at his EYES!" ).

Tom Cruise's Unauthorized Biography - completed

I'd write more about this if I could ( maybe next time ), but in a nutshell, I'm genuinely creeped out by what I read, and have decided not to watch any of Cruise's films in the cinema ever again. DVD rental - maybe. If it's on cable and free of charge - no problem. But I'm not going to fork out money or use my movie vouchers for the theatre.

If you're itching to know what the heck Andrew Morton wrote, get a friend to send you the book from the U.S.

Or you can wait another month for my next blog entry, haha.


The Epps brothers are back! Season 4 just began 2 weeks ago, and now airs every Thursday at 10pm on AXN Channel 19.

Plotlines are getting a bit sloppy, and the witty rapport between the main characters is rather lacking. Reviews in the U.S. complained that the show now opts for flashy action instead of substance, and I certainly agree.

Still, I love David Krumholtz - sporting longer hair and some stubble this time round, but still spewing mathematical jargon and making it sound sexy - so I'm hooked. Someone please get rid of Amita, who serves no purpose as his hapless girlfriend.

The New Batch

A fresh group of MOs has just joined us, resulting in the usual mayhem. Whose great idea was it to have the MOPEX changeover on a bloody Monday?! It's bad enough having to contend with the crowds, but the situation becomes intolerable when you add blur MOs, a horrible lodger problem AND endless ambulance diversions from you-know-where to the mix.

For instance, on 5th May, there were 35 patients in the consultation area, and around 10-12 in Critical Care, AT 12 MIDNIGHT. I did the afternoon shift, and voluntarily stayed back till almost 2am to help clear the crowd. By Tuesday morning, there were almost 50 lodgers stuck in the A&E.

Most of us have developed a knack for sizing up new MOs quite quickly, and we've already flagged out a few, which is no fun.

For example, one of them actually expects all blood samples to be drawn by the A&E nurses. So she prints the blood forms, sticks them in the folders, then dumps them in the trays on the counter. Haven't had a chance to ask where she did her housemanship yet, but will hunt her down soon enough.

Another has been highlighted as pretty hopeless. Remember a certain MO I grouched about last posting ( for which I got whacked left, right, centre by various readers )? THAT MO has been flung to -- the irony of it all -- a medical ward ( his 5th choice, having requested medical admin as #1, which of course wasn't granted ), so here we have his replacement. I'm not the one issuing the label this time -- my frustrated registrar brought it up after vetting a few of his cases. Email address indicates an education overseas. Sigh...

3 days into the changeover, I had to send out a naggy email to the MOs, talking about nitty-gritty things like remembering to review xrays / blood results, update relatives, hand over all their cases ( including pesky lodgers who have a habit of dying on us ), clearing sharps, etc.

I didn't have to do this before. Aren't our younger counterparts supposed to be better than their predecessors? Why do I see a consistent decline in the quality of our juniors? Hello, NUS YLLSOM, can you answer my question please?

Right then, time to log off and do more work. More another day.