Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Happy 2013!

I know this is a bit late, and I haven't been blogging much, both of which are what I look forward to changing.

I guess part of the reason is because I do so much writing in the day, which happens to be what I do for a living, and that I am just too lazy to do the same at home. But it hasn't really taken my passion for blogging or writing.

2012 came and went in a flash. I'm still coming to terms at entering the new year!

Before I present my customary list of "resolutions" (an oft-used word I want to avoid but I haven't thought of a good enough alternative), I think it is always wise to look back and reflect on what went right and what could have gone better for the previous year.

2012 had been absolutely packed with different happenings, involving various emotions. Ups and downs, you name it, I've experienced it.

I guess the following are worth noting:
- I left my previous organisation, a public agency, in May to an industry of my number 1 passion - football!
- In the first half of the year, I truly experienced a series of ups and downs. I got into this huge disagreement with my boss at work early in the year, and I was determined to leave the organisation, having lost confidence in the management under my boss. I was actually part of the management team, which probably made it more difficult for me. However, in the face of an unappreciative boss who lack man-management skills, I wanted to leave a mark before I depart. I worked even harder than before (that is not to say I don't usually work hard, I always do!) to complete 2 big projects before I left. And in the mist of it all, I even managed to find a job that I couldn't say no to (my current job). In the end, to leave my boss surprised at my energy and efficiency at work when I finally quit, was thoroughly satisfying to me. My boss was finally swayed in her opinion of me, and that was what I had intended to do. I'm not a worker who simply quit just because I cannot accept certain things at work as I'm not a quitter. To leave for a much better opportunity in a job that I love is just a bonus.
- I had 2 holidays while I was clearing leave, both with different groups of friends which I enjoyed immensely. I've not had a proper holiday since I started work there and it was a fitting way to say good bye in the end. But I have to say I have no regrets working there, I learnt quite a fair bit and it was good to acquire my first management/supervisory experience. It was just a pity that the boss who chose me for employment was transferred internally due to a promotion, and she was indeed a boss who earned my utmost respect. It was just a pity I couldn't get along with the replacement and I was just too opinionated for her liking, ironically the same trait was what my earlier boss liked about me
- Then I left to join my current employers, and I've managed to fulfill so many of my dreams, it's amazing.

Lessons learnt:
- Be daring, take the leap of faith, you never know what you will find; more often than not, you will be pleasantly surprised
- Be positive, even in the darkest of times
- Keep your faith in God (if you think you made it without God, then why should you blame God if you don't?)
- Don't forget to play hard even as you work hard -  a good break does wonders for your overall happiness and work efficiency
- Catch up with friends often; don't let them grow distant from you before it's too late

Targets for 2013:
- Doubling my savings account by the end of the year
- Achieve my ideal weight of 62kg
- Attempt a marathon
- Enroll in a Masters course in communications
- Blog more

What are yours?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

ParaNorman, a Paranormal movie

I’ve been having a good week, I’ve been to KL and Brunei (a country I’ve never been) over 5 days and returned to a movie preview, thanks to Omy.sg and United International Pictures.

The movie I got to review is a stop-motion animated adventure comedy horror film (a mouthful I know, but hear me out) produced by Laika, the same stop-motion animation studio that brought us Caroline – a film based on a story of the same name by my favourite author Neil Gaiman.

It is also a 3D film, so this is a first 3D stop-motion comedy horror film I’ve ever watched. I wanted to watch this show because I wanted a light-hearted movie to start off another long week ahead. But I got more than I hoped for.
Thousands of facial expressions created for each character

Before the start of the movie, there was a short 10-minute special feature on the making of ParaNorman. They showed how the film-makers spent countless hours making thousands of facial expressions of each character so they can capture the characters talking and expressing different emotions. It also showed us impressive numbers such as the number of technicians used, number of facial expressions made, the massive size of their warehouse and so on. It was a nice way to start the movie.
Norman and his family (including the ghost of his grandmother)

The movie title is a play on the word Paranormal, and the protagonist of the show is named Norman, a boy who was ostracised for his ability to speak with the dead. Most of his townfolk, including his own dad, treats him as some sort of a freak because they didn’t believe Norman was indeed a medium. Funnily enough, he is a big zombie fan, having lots of zombie posters and merchandise in his room, like his alarm clock which is a tomb with an arm sticking out, and his slippers, which is the face of a zombie. Ironically, the town he is living in has a 300-year-old witch legend, which is part of the school syllabus.
Norman (right) with his soon-to-be pal Neil

Here, we find Norman being bullied in school as well, and the school bully is named Alvin (damn, why must it be the same name as mine?). Norman also met a fat boy who was also frequently bullied due to his size named Neil.

Norman also has an eccentric uncle who turned out to be a medium himself, and has been doing something the death anniversary of the town witch every year to keep the witch’s curse buried. Before he died, he passed on this practice to Norman, who is the only one in town to be able to speak with spirits other than himself.

It turned out that zombies, essentially corpses, cannot speak properly due to their rotted body but Norman is able to communicate with them as well.

I shall not spoil the story for you here, but I must say that I’m not sure if this is a good show to bring children to, as the core of the story, which involves the witch, is very tragic and horrid. I heard a mother explaining to her 10 year old daughter on the way out of the cinema but seriously I’m not sure if the kid understands. Although the movie has a lot of funny moments, the one involving the witch is really very sad.

This film touches on several topics, peer pressure, bullying, adapting to school life, the best friend, family, sibling rivalry, betrayal, acceptance into society and so on.

Do I enjoy the movie? I love it, really. It is funny, it is moving, and I’m sure everyone can identify a part of ourselves in Norman. Watch it in 3D, it’s well worth the money. Just make sure your kids are old enough though.

Movie rating: Must watch, and in 3D! Movie opens this Thursday 30 August.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Under the weather

I've always hated rainy weather.  Whenever it rains, my own mood will become as gloomy as the skies.

You see, there's nothing nice about rain.  When it rains, visibility becomes bad on the roads, you look for shelter, you get wet even if you use a brolly, you feel cold, you can't do any outdoor activities, and the list goes on.

Some people loves it because it is the perfect weather to sleep in, but I beg to differ.  If I need a nice cool room to sleep in, I'll adjust the temperature on the air-conditioner.

And most times, when it rains, I will begin to feel unhappy, and think about real nasty stuff.

Today, it rained almost the whole day.  Granted, I was in my office room most of the time but whenever I look out the window, I feel really down.  It's Friday, but the work seemed endless.  In my line and industry, I have to work at the weirdest times.

Some issues have been bugging me in recent weeks.  And tonight, on my way home in the rain-drenched roads, I was feeling really miserable, and those same issues resurfaced in my thoughts.

A friend told me recently that a lot of people would envy me to be where I am in my career, but certainly not my private life.  I'm 31, I'm working in a job where I can showcase my strengths and experience in an industry that I love, on top of that, I'm part of the management team.

But I'm single, amidst friends who are mostly married or planning to marry.

The same friend said I should be looking to settle down.  Fact of the matter is, I'm not sure if I'm ready. Sure, eventually I really do want to, with the right person.  I want my own family.  I want my own children.  But I feel like there are too many things I have yet to do, yet to experience.  At the same time, every time I attend a friend's wedding, which is becoming all too frequent, I would feel left behind.

As I lose more single friends, I become more lonely than before.  Sure, most times I don't feel it as I would be busy at work, doing something I love; and other times I'm too stoned or brain-fried from work to think about anything else but rest.

But when days like tonight, when I leave office late (considered early today actually) and when it is raining, I would feel really down.

Should I actively look to settle down, just because of peer pressure?  Or should I settle down simply because I'm the right age?

Or simply because I want no more of such miserable moments?  Because I don't want to feel under the weather no more.

I'm not sure.  I'll pray more, and I hope I find my answer.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Movie Review - Contraband

First, I want to say a very big thank you to omy.sg for another opportunity to review the latest show in town – Contraband – on Tuesday night.

I got to review the movie in lushly renovated Shaw Lido theatre, fast becoming one of my favorite cinemas on the island. Synopsis of Contraband
Mark Wahlberg (Shooter) and Kate Beckinsale (Underworld) leads the cast of Contraband, a fast-paced thriller about a man trying to stay out of a world he worked so hard to leave behind and the family he’ll do anything to protect. Set in New Orleans, the film explores the cutthroat underground world of international smuggling—full of desperate criminals and corrupt officials, high-stakes and big payoffs—where loyalty rarely exists and death is one wrong turn away.

Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) long ago abandoned his life of crime, but after his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris is forced back into doing what he does best—running contraband—to settle Andy’s debt. Chris is a legendary smuggler and quickly assembles a crew with the help of his best friend, Sebastian (Ben Foster), to head to Panama and return with millions in counterfeit bills.

Things quickly fall apart and with only hours to reach the cash, Chris must use his rusty skills to successfully navigate a treacherous criminal network of brutal drug lords, cops and hit men before his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and sons become their target.

Movie Review
There are a few reasons why I really enjoyed and love this show:

Chris Farraday runs into his first problem in Panama

1) The pace of the movie – The wordings “fast-paced thriller” is totally apt. From the moment Chris’ brother-in-law got into trouble at the start of the show, the pace was relentless. There is no moment wasted as there was a lot going on.
Chris and his gang is unaware of the many potholes ahead of their adventure in Panama

2) Plot twists – There are numerous plot twists and new problems arising from almost every solution or plan well thought out by the main character Chris. Initially he did a lot of things which we, as laymen and as clueless and law-abiding Singapore citizens, would not know what for. But it would be revealed in due time. In other words, if you doze off for just a moment, you might very likely have missed an important clue to the end of the show.
3) The characters – Wahlberg’s character Chris, a “world-class smuggler” according to the show’s villain Tim Briggs, was a three-dimensional character. It is quite amazing to develop a character so much in a action-packed fast-paced movie, but they did. Chris was a man who had settled into a comfortable American life with a beautiful wife and two sons but secretly missed his law-breaking days as a contraband smuggler. But he is also fiercely protective of his family and at the same time, has the moral not to ship any drugs. The contraband in question was “super notes” fake currency. I especially like the way he lost his cool with Tim after he threatened to hurt his family, he ended up heavily bruising Tim and was caught doing so by Tim’s daughter. Instead of hurting Tim further, he pulled Tim up and told the girl that they were just horsing around – showing that he would never want to traumatize children, even if they were the children of a jerk.

Tim Briggs, played by Giovanni Ribisi, was the typical villain but he really gets on your nerves with his trash talking and ruthless ways to get his way. However, the viewers would soon know that this character isn’t as smart as portrayed earlier in the show, as there is another mastermind. Chris’ best friend Sebastian, plays a big part in all this as he still has contacts to contraband goods and is the link man back to the industry for Chris when Andy got into trouble with Tim. At the same time, he needs to help Chris take care of his family from Tim while he is away doing what he does best. As the show goes on, we soon learnt that Sebastian is also a recovering alcoholic, who would return to alcohol some part during the show. More havoc unravels! I shall not spoil the story for you by revealing more, just watch the show! Finally, Beckinsale’s character Kate (also her real-life first name) was perhaps the least developed character in the movie. I didn’t mind one bit because she was totally hot, even with blond hair! 4) The ending of the show – I mentioned earlier that Chris did a lot of preparatory work at the beginning of his return to the smuggling world, some of which would be immensely important to the ending of the show. Towards the end, Chris and his crew on the ship were almost caught but no one found any of the contraband money he brought to the ship, even at the very spot where they had initially stored it in. No one knew where it had gone until the end of the show. Also, as if that isn’t enough, they ended up with more than what they bargained for right at the end too – making them rich beyond their wildest dreams. Just how did that happen and what happened to the villains? Watch the show in the cinemas and find out, you won’t regret it!

Final rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 – a must watch!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Movie Review: Immortals

Thanks to omy.sg, I went to the movie preview of Immortals two nights ago and I was blown away by the action sequences and special effects, which were enhanced by the 3D glasses.

Being a fan of 300, Troy, and all Greek mythology, I really looked forward to this show (which was produced by the same people who gave us the unforgettable 300).

The story behind the visually exciting Immortals are as follow:

When the world was still young, immortals walked the earth. There were peace until thees immortals realised that they can inflict great damages to one another and a war erupted. The winners call themselves Gods, and the vanquished were labelled Titans.

Eons after the this mythic battle between the Gods and the Titans, a new evil threatens the land. Bloodthirsty with power, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke, above) has declared war against humanity. Amassing a fearsome army of soldiers, Hyperion has scorched Greece in search of the legendary Epirus Bow, a weapon of unimaginable power forged in the heavens by Ares, the Greek God of War. Along the way, his army unleashed fear and deaths throughout the land.

Anyone who found this mystical bow can unleash the Titans, who have been imprisoned deep within the walls of Mount Tartaros since the end of the war between immortals and were waiting for revenge. In Hyperion's hands, the bow would rain destruction upon mankind and annihilate the Gods. But ancient law dictates the Gods must not intervene in man’s conflict unless the Titans are released.

In the midst of all these, a peasant named Theseus (Henry Cavill above) comes forth as the hero. Chosen and trained by Zeus himself, Theseus soon caught the attention of his local army through his fighting skills. When Hyperion finally unleashed the Titans upon the people, Theseus must stop Hyperion and his army while the Gods attempt to stop the Titans once more.

As mentioned in my opening paragraph, I was truly blown away by the action and special effects, and the 3D effects came across as classy and with a lot of depth difference.

When the Gods (dressed in gold above) appeared in their true form, they look gorgeous (Ok I meant Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and Warfare played by Isabel Lucas - she is really hot - see picture below). I love the action sequences of the Gods against the Titans the most - gory, detailed and fantastical, really fantabulous!

However, the best parts of the movie remains the special 3D effects and the action sequences. The story is pretty flawed and that was a real pity, as it could have been a real classic epic. Being a geek in greek mythology, I realised that Ares was being defeated far too easily by Zeus. And Poisedon was seen as being below, or in this case, hinted to be just another child of Zeus - which is wrong as Poseidon and Zeus, together with Hades, are brothers and were actually children of Cronos/Kronos, a titan. They should be of equal standing with command over different realms (the earth and the sky by Zeus, the sea by Poseidon and hell by Hades). However, Hades was never mentioned here and Poseidon seem to fear Zeus. Zeus' weapon of a whip in the show also don't seem to be right.

Also, Theseus is the child of Poseidon, according to the mythology but it is certainly not protrayed as such in this show. But the did show Theseus slaying a Minotaur, which is what the mythical Theseus is famous for. Oh well, I'm just being too specific because I am a big fan of Greek mythology and a big fan of the game God of War.

The story also left many questions unanswered, such as the origins of the Oracles, why the Epirus Bow was forged, why Zeus only seemed to care about Athena and not the other Gods...

For me, if you are looking to enjoy a show with awesome special effects and just to have a ride of a time, then Immortals is certainly for you. It isn't a show for the intellectuals though, but that is why it is mainstream.

3 outta 5 stars for me. You need to watch this in 3D to fully enjoy the show. Don't wait for the DVD because the experience would be totally different.

The 3-D epic adventure Immortals is directed by revolutionary visualist Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) and produced by Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton, the producers of 300, as well as Ryan Kavanaugh (Dear John, The Dark Fields).

Thursday, November 03, 2011

No tips @ the Tower!

Again thanks to omy.sg, I got to a chance to review the latest comedy to hit the cinemas - Tower Heist. With Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy in a comedy, what can go wrong? Nothing much actually... I think it's actually one of the better comedies I've watched this year!
Arthur Shaw swimming in his private pool with a 100-dollar bill design at the top level penthouse

The show is about how a businessman tenant of the top floor penthouse of a luxury apartment building called the "Tower", named Arthur Shaw (played by Alan Alda, the guy from M*A*S*H) turned out to be a swindler who cheated the pension money of the Tower staff and was caught by the FBI. Stiller plays Josh, the building manager who had to break the news to his staff. The Tower's doorman Lester had told Josh he planned to retire at the end of the year but his plans had to be shelved. Lester attempted suicide soon after but was rescued. Josh later found out from Lester that he had given his whole life's savings to Shaw for investing, and had thus had nothing left for his twilight years.

Angered by this, Josh confronted Shaw, who was back at his penthouse under house arrest by the FBI. Josh smashed Shaw's Ferrari and lost his job together with his brother-in-law and the new elevator staff who were with him during the confrontation.

The motley crew in Tower Heist

Josh then came up with a way to get the money back from Shaw, by robbing his penthouse! He then began to round up a motley crew of his ex-colleagues and a childhood friend who grew up to be a criminal (played by Eddie Murphy).

Ben Stiller is at his natural funny-without-trying best while Eddie Murphy is in a character much different from the roles audience are used to, but funny nonetheless.
First Lesson: How to be a criminal

I love the part where Murphy's character Slide needed to be convinced of the motley crew's criminal ways before joining them in their quest. They were supposed to each steal something that is worth at least $50. The scenes that followed were hilarious! You must see it!

I shall not ruin the ending, but my title has some bearing as the rebuttal line at the end. Watch it to find out for yourself!

I enjoyed it. If you had to choose between Footloose or Tower Heist, hey it's an obvious choice.

Definitely worth 4 outta 5 stars for me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Movie Review: Footloose

I was invited to the movie preview of Footloose (2011) by omy.sg on Monday night, and I was fortunate enough to bring Val, who had watched the original Footloose starring Kevin Bacon (Strange how she managed to watch the original film in 1984 when she was only 4 years old).

I have never watched the original, and so I am able to offer a rather neutral view of the new show. But at the same time, I had the opportunity to ask Val how it compares to the original. Before the show, I had expected more dance scenes, which is what got me interested in the first place. What I can say for dance fans is, if you are looking for extensive dance sequences, then you won't be getting much.
The dance sequences were good, just not enough of them

There are some impressive dance moves from the main actor Kenny Wormald, who plays Ren McCormack. It turns out that Kenny is a prolific professional dancer which impressive credentials, having toured with Justin Timberlake and the Pussycat Dolls. The main actress Julienne Hough, who plays Ariel Moore, is also a professional ballroom dancer. But I don't feel there are enough dance sequences to exploit the talents of both actors.

The plot itself,;which according to Val is exactly the same as the original Footloose, with the same opening scene as well; was rather thin and gives a real retro feel. One won't have thought the movie to be set in modern times, at least I didn't, until Ren whips out his iPod playing music.
Julienne Hough (in green) looking hot as Ariel. The girl to the right is Rusty, played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the original Footloose. Great casting - they both look the same kind of ugly

The movie begins innocently enough, with the song Footloose being played and youngsters dancing. Then a group left and got into a nasty accident, and were killed on the spot. It turned out that the driver of the group was the brother of Ariel Moore, the daughter of the town's preacher Shaw Moore. The deaths of the 5 youngsters rocked the small town, and as a result, the town council, at the recommendation of Shaw, passed ridiculous laws such as a curfew on teenagers to be home before 10pm, the banning of public dancing for all teenagers and playing of certain songs (yeah, how believable was that?). It would have been more believable in the original movie because it was set in the 80s, but today? The only thing that probably saved them was the fact it was set in a small town, and I've heard of pretty strange laws in small communities in certain countries (I've heard how it is illegal to slam car doors in a certain country, can't remember where though).

Ren was a new orphan having lost his mum to leukemia, and moved to a small town called Bomont (fake town I suppose) with his uncle's family. Ren appeared aloof when he first appeared and looked like trouble. It turned out Ren was a pretty decent chap who is also a gymnast, thus his ability to move to the groove. Ren's nonchalant attitude as well as his crush on Ariel got him into some trouble at school and with Chuck, the good-for-nothing car racer air-head boyfriend of Ariel.

As the story unfolds with his tangling with Chuck and Ariel, Ren finds out from his friends at school that dancing was forbidden by law and was in disbelief for a while. He then decided to start a petition against this law to bring dance back to their high school prom. I shall not ruin the ending for you here but if you have seen the original movie, then you already know.

The best part of the movie for me was when Ren was so fed up with his school principal he went to an abandoned warehouse and started venting his frustrations with some rather violent dance moves, which were quite impressive. Oh, and of course Julienne Hough being so incredibly hot helps too.

I find Kenny really resembles a young Alan Tam - what do you think?

Overall: 3 out of 5 stars, watchable but you can wait for the DVD.