Saturday, June 28, 2008

The person most qualified to lead is the one with the higher test scores. At least, Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) believes so, as do most of the kids undergoing education in sunny S'pore. This, Smart boldly declares to Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), an agent with vastly more field experience than him. But it isn't who leads that counts, it's how they are able to partner up, support each other's weaknesses with their own strengths, and ultimately trust each other despite evidence that seems to indicate that they shouldn't, that make them the on-screen pair to watch this summer.

"Get Smart" is one of the funniest movies I've watched this year. The situation is ridiculously improbable, but the moments that kept me laughing were the numerous lines of deadpan dialogue, and caustic one-liners exchanged between the characters. Smart, an analyst and a meticulous office worker gets to face off against violent terrorists, assassins and nameless henchmen in order to save the President (a bit like a George W gone senile) the target of a nuclear detonation in a major US city, as plotted by Siegfried (Terence Stamp).

But Smart is no bumbling Johnny English. Despite his lack of field experience, he is "not totally incompetent". He has the skills, though not quite the finesse of his partner, Agent 99, and lethality of his role model -- the compromised, sidelined and frustrated Agent 23 (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson"). Smart is smart, able to pick up clues garnered from evesdropped conversations and make informed -- if long-winded -- deductions, but is also quite adept at improvising his way around tight spots in a trial-and-error fashion.

Fortunately, his errors are quite forgiving. If anything, Smart gets into trouble more often with his own secret agent gadgets. His personal nemesis is the Swiss Army Knife with additional attachments created for him by his two geeky lab tech buddies, Bruce and Lloyd. For an inanimate prop, in Smart's hands it almost develops a personality that seems to delight in tormenting him.

Terence Stamp, as the evil Siegfried, is most memorable for his stinging one-line insults that are even more deadly than his genocidal ambitions. At the receiving end is the monstrous, yet vulnerable Dalip "The Great Khali" Singh, Siegfried's personal Swiss Army Knife of sorts.

While there are moments of pure slapstick, "Get Smart" with it's inside look at how ridiculous, improbable and impractical spy flicks are turns out to be as smart as movies of this genre can get.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Edit 01:
A rather dispirited set of recent entries. Mostly half-hearted attempts at getting my brain reacclimatized back to the work routine and social environment I've been rather cut-off from since the summer hols. NBS has a much more interesting take (entitled "Pet') on last night's activities compared to the dry record below.

Celebrated two birthdays with the Batam crew, Sha and Fen making up the full table. We'd heard about the 50% discounted seafood at Ah Yat, Shaw Towers, so that seemed like a great new place to try out.

We opened accounts with a pile of cereal prawns and another of mussels, and a sea-bass steamed in black bean sauce. The mussels were of a freshness I've never experienced before -- the meat sort of burst into mussel juice at the first bite, while I'm more used to the kind that's rubbery and needs a good chewing before it's in any condition to be swallowed.

We also ordered a dish of stir-fried broccoli that turned out to be the most expensive dish of stir-fried broccoli ever, costing more than the even the steamed sea-bass. Did I mention seafood was 50% discounted? Amy thinks they have to make up the difference somewhere.

But the whole point of this jaunt all the way to Beach Road was the crab. We ordered three pairs of crabs in the black pepper, garlic steamed and cream varieties. I dunno. I like my crab steamed, but the steamed crab didn't exactly make me sit up and take notice of it. That didn't stop me from demolishing probably more than my fair share, but if the steamed crab wasn't impressive, I can't say much for the other two varieties either.

Anyway, happy birthday to our two birthday girls!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tired of eating cheaply so often these days. We decided to indulge ourselves at Charco's which offers chix, ribs and schnitzel. I found this place a couple of weeks back when I was actually looking for the Botak Jones AMK outlet. It seems the Botak guy has moved out and Charco's is happily filling the vacancy.

For a kopitiam stall, Charco's offers an extensive and varied menu. What June and I went for was the daily special: quarter chix with three different side salads x 2 for under $14.

While the chix itself is tender and tasty (they'll do it to a traditional Portuguese recipe as an option), I was more taken by the salad bar featuring eight different kinds of salad from which I could pick any three as side dishes. On the plate in the picture, we're looking at Greek, Caesar and potato salads. Not bad at all.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wild animal on the loose

Wanted for causing:
- Collateral damage to kitchen crockery
- Severe contusion to female owner's right 2nd last toe (due to falling kitchen crockery)

Approach with caution!
- Suspect is armed with extraordinary charm
- Able to extract forgiveness easily from his victims and pursuers alike

No reward offered for suspect's capture and punishment.