Day 065 : The Lorax Movie

I grew up with 老夫子 and 小叮当 so I had no idea what’s a Lorax. I thought it’s the misspelling of a certain luxury watch bought at Patpong, or the Singlish touch to that watch’s brand.

Then I realised it’s actually Puss-in-Boots after hormone therapy.

If you are clueless like me, Lorax is a sort of furry Captain Planet dreamt up by Dr Suess. This equivalent of Garfield on steroids is a mythical creature that is the voice of the trees.

But I think Lorax represents the voice of conscience that speaks within us because throughout the movie, except for the ability to pinch its ass to fly, the orange furball seem powerless to stop the destruction of nature except to impart guilt. And some wise words. Here’s the movie trailer about what the story premise is in a nutshell…

Basically, the story revolves around a 12yo teen (Ted) trying to impress a girl (Audrey) by planting a tree because they live in a plastic world devoid of any real plants and the missy would pimp herself to see one.

So boy sets out in a quest to find the last seed to grow a tree and meets the Once-Ler, the unintentional villain that killed nature and holder of the last seed.

Well, I shan’t go into the details of the story as the synopsis can be easily Googled. What I didn’t understand was why doesn’t the Once-Ler plant the last seed himself and make good what he destroyed?

And the mention of Donkey Kong? I can identify but do kids of today know what that is?

But those are just minor distractions from this largely entertaining animated movie filled with so many lovable animal characters (luurrrvvve the singing, dancing fish), it made a planeteer out of me. And I’m not the only who’s been Lorax-ed all thanks to Omy.sg for the movie premiere invitation.

This is one feel-good movie great for awakening environmental consciousness in kids and fun for adults to indulge in the whimsical creations of Dr Suess! Click here to visit The Lorax movie website. If you’d like to have the digital file of the moustache for use in this year’s Halloween, let me know and I can email it to you 🙂

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Movie Review : Immortals (2011)

Anything with mythical gods, creatures and beasts never fails to bag my eyeballs. So since I saw the trailer for Immortals, the windows to my soul have been lusting for it. Thanks to United International Pictures Singapore and Omy.sg, I got a chance to preview this fantasy adventure in the vein of 300, Troy, Clash of the Titans, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and the likes.

Before I throw in my 2 cents worth of a review, let me first give you the story synopsis :

Eons after the gods won their mythic struggle against the Titans, a new evil threatens the land.  Mad with power, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) has declared war against humanity.  Amassing a bloodthirsty army of soldiers disfigured by his own hand, Hyperion has scorched Greece in search of the legendary Epirus Bow, a weapon of unimaginable power forged in the heavens by Ares.  

Only he who possesses this bow can unleash the Titans, who have been imprisoned deep within the walls of Mount Tartaros since the dawn of time and thirst for revenge.  In the king’s hands, the bow would rain destruction upon mankind and annihilate the gGods.  But ancient law dictates the gods must not intervene in man’s conflict.  They remain powerless to stop Hyperion…until a peasant named Theseus (Henry Cavill) comes forth as their only hope.

Secretly chosen by Zeus, Theseus must save his people from Hyperion and his hordes.  Rallying a band of fellow outsiders—including visionary priestess Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and cunning slave Stavros (Stephen Dorff)—one hero will lead the uprising, or watch his homeland fall into ruin and his gods vanish into legend. 

Immortals movie stills taken from the web.

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), Immortals is good popcorn entertainment that’s beautifully made. But there are obvious liberties taken with Greek mythologies that gnawed me in this film…

1. The gods are missing. Not that I’m a scholar of Greek myths but I was interested in them for a while and remembered from past readings that there are 12 Olympian gods in the Greek pantheon. Immortals only had 6 and Luke Evans playing Zeus is about as convincing as politics being clean.

2. Gods cannot meddle in human affairs? Erm… if anything, the Greek gods love messing around with humans! Look at the string of mortal women Zeus had seduced. Hercules is fathered by Zeus and a mortal maiden named Alcmene. Besides, why lock the Titans on earth and not in heaven if divinity is not to taint the hands of man?

3. Theseus-Minotaur inaccuracy. This is a minor detail but since the movie closed with the classic imagery of Theseus over Minotaur, I thought I’d shed light on the actual legend. In the original myth of Theseus’ heroism, Minotaur was a half man-bull monster imprisoned in a labyrinth. Every few years, a group of young girls and boys were offered to the beast. During one of the ritualistic sacrifices, Theseus was amongst those sent to Minotaur. Theseus killed the Minotaur and got out of the labyrinth by a red string he had tied at the entrance. Minotaur was not killed under the circumstances depicted in Immortals.

Other than the mythological inconsistencies, I felt the movie was a tad slow with too many shortcuts taken with its storytelling. Henry Cavill as Theseus also failed to connect with my emotions as his muscles did more acting than his facial expressions. And what’s with an Indian oracle (played by Mumbai model-actress, Freida Pinto)?! She’s supposed to be Greek isn’t it? Not that I’m racist or anything of that sort.

Having said all that, I still found the movie enjoyable especially the eye-popping 3D stagings, cinematography and bold costumes (the stag-beetle-seashell combo helmet for King Hyperion and the virgins’ lampshade costumes tickled me). I also love the innovative ways in which the evil king dished out his cruelty and those slow-mo fight scenes and blood spills. Awesome!

So is this movie worth the ticket price? Definitely!

If all else fails, take it as paid motivation to get back into gym.

Sex and Zen (3D) Came Onto Singapore’s Screens

The world's first 3D softcore porn has cummed to the big screams of Singapore! Is this the license we've all been waiting for to get risque and frisky? I Like!

It has finally happened! Softcore pornography has gone 3D and I’m not talking about the cup sizes of the actresses! Hailed as the first 3D softcore porno in the world, 3D Sex and Zen (玉蒲团) brought eroticism onto a voyeuristic level as audiences get the feeling of being at the scene of the act.

I had the privilege of being invited to the film’s premiere and experienced first-hand what watching an erotic film on a big screen is like. And in THREE-DIMENSIONAL format! But more than smut getting an ‘A’ for adding another ‘D’ (from 2D films to 3D), I was more surprised that such a film genre got mainstream publicity and screenings at branded cinema chains in Singapore. So watching Sex and Zen was somewhat like being part of a historic event.

Singapore is not new to such films, which are known as Category III movies (equivalent to R21-rating in the current Board of Film Censors rating system). In the post-independence formative years of our appetite for cinematic entertainment, Singaporeans were fed drama serials and movies from the Hollywood of the East, Hong Kong. Then came the 1980s, a period where the Hong Kong film industry began to churn out what the audience wants – more graphic representations of sex, violence and gore.

In 1988, Category III was introduced in Hong Kong to classify and regulate such films. Initially, Category III was for all films that were considered sexually explicit or featured excessive violence and gore. But today, this classification is synonymous with those films that are interested to show more titties than than anything else. These films do make their way to our shores, but hush-hush like otah under the wraps of pandan leaves… you can smell them, but you don’t patronise. Over time, Cat 3 movies in Singapore retreated to the obscure Yangtze Cinema in Chinatown where the mostly older gentlemen audience get a chance to workout their biceps. I was sure it’s an urban myth until a friend of mine who worked there as a projectionist and hall steward for a while told me that tissue paper was the best-selling item there.

So you see, films like 3D Sex and Zen belonged to the celluloid underworld, not something that gets a billing in mainstream cinema. I watched the movie at Golden Village Vivocity. I won’t go into details about the storyline because Google will tell you that :

– The movie was shown in its entire 102 minutes without cuts in Singapore! That’s something to pop champagne over except that this version is actually a self-censored edition by the movie’s distributors. The full version is 135 minutes and the Hong Kong version clocked at 129 minutes,

– It is based on an erotic 17th century novel, The Carnal Prayer Mat, by playwright Li Yu,

– This is the 3rd re-make of previous 2 versions, one of which made Amy Yip (remember this bombshell with flesh-textured melons for breasts?) really famous,

– And that the story is about a lusty scholar who has a small *ahem* penis on a foray to increase his sexual prowess while unbeknownst to him, fell into a trap set by his best friend to exact revenge on him for stealing the former’s wife-to-be.

So is it worth watching? It was a long time since I’d seen a Cat 3 movie as the low production standards and cheesy dirty jokes that plague such shows don’t turn me on. But 3D Sex and Zen was quite an experience because of the 3D effect even though the human figures don’t seem to pop up as much as the sets (eg. flying daggers, flying shards from smattered objects, an elixir that can sustain an erection for 49 days, etc).

Plus, it’s an erotic comedy so the blatant sex jokes were a refreshing change from insinuated sexual referances of movies for the general population and the movie sparred no graphic death scenes. The segment where the villian (King Ning) was stabbed in the thorax by a sharp lotus ornament with the wound gapping made my skin crawl. The movie also took itself too seriously to preach that love trumps sex to the point where I found the attempt hilarious. And I really liked the abstract and artistic opening credits in the style of a flowing Chinese ink painting.

But I didn’t like the fact that it was censored as there are obvious lapses where I spent quite of bit of mental reasoning for what might have happened to catch up to the continuation of the story. I can’t be sure but I think some scenes containing rape, S&M and sexualising of religion were snipped, thereby causing holes in the emotional arches of the characters (eg. one scene we saw an old monk talking to a woman disguised as a man out to seduce him, and next scene, we saw a knife through his heart. I know what happened, but I’m not given the time and space to feel for the monk’s remorse.)

Yet, those are just small annoyances to the main objective of coming to a movie like this… it was to see how 3D smut looks like. In that aspect, I would say that 3D Sex and Zen gave a pretty good idea of things to come in the realm of human erotica. It’s a far fetch, but may this re-welcome of Cat 3 movies pave the way for a more open attitude towards sex in Singapore and hopefully, gasp!, increase birth rates!

I’ve come across video clips of the censored scenes online. Very graphic and shocking! Now I know why they were cut. I wonder how long the clips will remain on the web…

ScreenSingapore 2011 – Fledgling Asian Cinema

Billed as the Asian equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival, ScreenSingapore is

Had the privilege of being invited to witness the birth of ScreenSingapore at Golden Village Vivocity last Sunday and I’m so glad to see the continued efforts of growing our nation into Singawood. Or Porellywood.

ScreenSingapore 2011 was headlined by actress Zhang Ziyi (章子怡) as the festival's celebrity ambassador.

As I mentioned above, I’m gladdened by this latest development in our film industry. But who am I to feel heartened about it? Why? Well, I dabbled in acting in my younger days and played a stammering schoolboy in the MediaCorp English series, Growing Up. My character’s name was Ah Guan and I won the Best Supporting Actor (Drama) at the 1996 Asian Television Awards for that role.

If I may take this opportunity to reminisce about my brush with filmed entertainment, below is a clip from Growing Up Season 1 Episode 9, the episode I won the award with. I don’t know how I could’ve won it especially since I was up against veteran actor Zhu Houren (朱厚任) and that being my debut in acting for television (I did some stage plays before that. Nothing major, mostly school productions and a couple of stints with The Necessary Stage).

I cringed when I first came across this clip on Youtube. My acting was so over-the-top and contrived at the same time, I would have a field day bit*ching about it if I were my own critic. Hope you had a good laugh watching it. Gosh, my hair was so thick back then!

As acting has always been an interest of mine, greater development in the film industry here means more casting calls. Although I’m no longer active in the acting circle, who knows, I may scout for auditions to go for again and if luck would have me, maybe you’ll see me sweeping the floor at a corner in the next Singaporean blockbuster!

Saw Irene Ang & Adrian Pang on the red carpet promoting an upcoming movie that is a collaboration between Singapore and Australia. It

Am I beginning to sound like some has-been loser trying to borrow this opportunity of a ScreenSingapore-inspired blog post to reclaim some fame? Well, I’m not trying to that. You can’t get a has-been out of someone who’s never been in the first place.

I’m just sharing this unsual experience of having been on both sides and reach the conclusion that film in Singapore is a struggling art because the red carpet isn’t wide or long enough to support so many people. More like a red hand towel. Fresh ideas are hard to come by from a mini pool just as how genetic evolution has little progress within a small population. There’s not enough diversity to cross-pollinate.

So trying to plug into the international circuit by creating a platform for Asian movies to congregate is a good move. Let’s hope it lasts and can grow in acclaim to match Hong Kong’s Golden Horse or Korea’s Pusan Film Festival, or what ScreenSingapore is modelled after, *gasp* Cannes Film Fest.

Attended the Opening Gala Party at the beautiful Capella Hotel at Sentosa.

The other reason I was excited about ScreenSingapore was because I participated in a 2-day screenwriting course conducted by the Singapore Media Academy (SMA) and subsequently, a forum that invited budding screenwriters to participate in a close mentorship program to develop saleable scripts last year.

To be selected for the program, we had to write and submit a script that could be produced with a budget of S$200,000. Wha?! Are we writing a script for CCTV (Close-Circuit TV) a.k.a. security cameras?

The hotel staff at Capella were very friendly, full of smiles & provided a level of service brimming with sincerity.

Pardon my surprise at the film production budget but I thought a movie costs more than that to make. I read last month that the unfunny American sitcom, Two-and-a-Half Man, signed on Ashton Kutcher of That 70s Show fame and reportedly paid him $300,000 per episode as the male lead. In USD. (The former lead, Charlie Sheen, reportedly got paid US$1.25 million per ep, excluding backend fees. I don’t know that backend fees are but I presume it means royalties.)

Of course we can’t compare with Hollywood. Not as yet. But S$200,000 for a movie put a very small cap on imagination and how many variations can we have of the Blair Witch-Paranormal Activity formula?

With Ying Zi (blogger), Kew Sim & Thom (I think that

But it’s still a starting seed to test the soil of the screenwriter’s creativity. I had a horror movie idea that was developed during the 2-day screenwriting introductory course. When I shared my logline with the class, everyone was spooked and comments from the 2 Hollywood-grade screenwriters, one of whom wrote the hit movie, Sweet Home Alabama, were very positive.

Encouraged, I started a Word document and wrote my opening scene and started some research into my subject. Then work and other distractions set in. To this day, I still carry that three-page script in the thumbdrive I use daily. Hopefully, one day I can complete it. Even better, have it made!

May this audience one day be mine! Wahahaha... And pray for good reviews coz audiences have seen it all these days.

Oh wow, I wanted to just write a short post but ScreenSingapore brought up so many past and future interests in me. But to be truthful, I’m at the event solely for the free movies and a chance to get starstruck!

For the movie premieres, I was given tickets to 夺命心跳 (The Devil Inside Me) and Super 8. I’ll share my opinions about the 2 shows but keep in mind that I’m not a qualified movie critic or reviewer. As always, opinions are subjective so don’t let my views undermine your experience.

夺命心跳 The Devil Inside Me

The opening night movie was The Devil Inside Me (夺命心跳), a Chinese thriller about a heart surgeon dying of brain tumour who rigged a heart transplant so that he could live again. This longevity premise is based on the belief that a transplanted organ holds memories of the deceased donor and over time, the memories will take over the recipient and transform the recipient into the donor. So the donor lives again.

Interesting concept. But after watching the show, I’m convinced that brain tumour is contagious for it surely infected the director ZhangQi (张琦) to produce a coma like Devilus Insidi Me-llutus. The Devilus Insidi Me-llutus virus (in short, DIM) infects many horror films from Asia and symptoms include choppy story-telling, inconsistent acting, and a script that drowned while trying to outsmart itself.

DIM is serious because it keeps interrupting the entertainment of the audience by giving them what they don’t want to see. If anything, it showed how very dedicated the film commissioning board was in rooting for an Asian piece to showcase on opening night and their bravery in choosing DIM.

I’m a horror movie aficionado and DIM should really just be a direct to video release. Don’t mean to be a jerk by having such unpleasant things to say about the movie, but I really hope standards can improve. Especially for an opening night screening.

Super 8

The first thing I saw from the trailer of Super 8 was Steven Spielberg’s name. Aiyah, anything he touch sure good one lah. True enough, Super 8 is super gr8! I shan’t reveal the storyline for it is very straightforward but basically, it’s E.T. wanna Lego home.

What I liked about the show is that it has everything… human conflict and reconciliation, cool special effects, intrigue, gripping suspense and some pretty novel ideas. I especially liked how the movie ran in parallel with the story of a bunch of kids shooting a school movie using a Super 8 camera in the late 1970s.

Just to nictpick, I found the ending rather abrupt and rushed, but overall, it is good value for money entertainment. The movie will be supercharging Singapore theaters from 9 June. That’s today!

All Post-Coital Smoke

Good Sex?I’ve always been a fan of Sex And The City for its sharp observations about sex and relationship trends today. But as I sat in the cinema watching the sequel to its first highly successful movie (grossing over US$400 mil worldwide), I wondered if it was not in actual fact, Desperate Housewives on celluloid?

SATC 2 demonstrated the importance of knowing when to quit. The first SATC movie was an orgasm, this sequel was the morning-after-post-sex-bedside-smoke. It’s a slow long drag with a lot of nothing (but good for fashion retailers during this Great Singapore Sale season). It is not wrong to dwell into what happens after juicing the sugarcane, but this is about sex and the city, not raising a family in the city. Pulp should be thrown out, not soaked in water and pretend it’s fresh juice. Perhaps it takes being married to appreciate the themes in the movie better.

Without fail, SATC 2 continued to push the buttons on controversial topics such as gay marriage, open relationships, taking time-off from love, and what degree of flirting will hurt a relationship. And the latter topic was the climax du jour here. Carrie French-kissed Aiden (her ex-boyfriend) while married to Big, a major crisis that called for a dramatic emotional meltdown. Maybe I’ve been taught too well through all 6 seasons of the SATC series, I don’t see what the big drama here is. This whole segment of the movie just looked over-reacted and over-acted. SATC 2 is the equivalent of an emotional castration.

I think the producers knew that diaper woes (Charlotte and Miranda) won’t sustain the movie and no amount of hormone-popping (Samantha) can freshen up the show’s appeal, so they went ballistic on the fashion. Unfortunately, the fashion exaggeration is too much and instead of distracting from the tranquilizing storyline, it sank in the troves of suitcases the girls packed for Abu Dhabi.

But, despite all my grouses with SATC 2, I still loved it. Just like loving someone doesn’t mean seeing all the good and pretend there’re no flaws. In any relationship, we love the general good of that person and let love be our strength to accommodate the flaws. I’m in love with these 4 women and what they represent.

Yet, no amount of love can have me turn a blind eye to the greatest mistake in this movie… Liza Minnelli performing Beyonce’s Single Ladies. It sounded like Liza had the wedding ring on her neck instead of finger. She seemed out of breath throughout the routine and her vocal was intermittent. Put a ring on it? I don’t think so. Liza’s rendition made me want to put a wreath on it!

Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity posterIt is a befitting title. It’s abnormal for a horror movie to be this good. The story is simple… a couple experiences haunting in their apartment and sets out to video the paranormal activities as documentary proof. What’s amazing was that the whole movie never left the house. All 86 minutes told in the bedroom, bathroom, living room, storeroom, porch and toilet.

The film is a slice-of-life look at what happened in the three weeks that the couple was spooked by an unknown entity. It is shot home-video style so those mildly dependent on scopolamine may want to take some before watching. Other than that, the story’s pace doesn’t cause nausea or confusion unless you’re a die-hard left brainer.

I’ve seen quite a lot of horror movies in the cinema (my preferred choice for the sound effect and big screen to up the fright ante) and there’re two categories – those that you watch and think that it is a good movie, and those that you watch and make noises because fright has disabled any other feelings, such as embarrassment. Paranormal Activity is the latter. The whole realism thing just worked really well and the actors were believable everyday folks.

I did a little paranormal activity of my own. I watched the movie alone.

Love or Money?

What is the best way to build and secure a fulfilling life, especially for retirement?

a. Marry someone rich.
b. Let love handle it.
c. Leave it to God / destiny.
d. Take up financial plans.

Love or money? It is an age old question that has no expiry. Dennis asked my opinion two days ago on what would I choose… love or money? His exact words were, “你会选择爱情还是面包?” My kneejerk reaction was to ask him in what context was he asking me to base my choice. His premise to me was that if I had a choice between someone who is my type of a lover and someone who is a financial spectacle and can help me in my career, which one would I choose?

I chose love. That’s like some airy-fairy, ‘oooh… you are so noble and romantic’ kind of answer, but here’s my rationale : If someone was to be in my consideration as a lover, that person would’ve satisfied a checklist of requisites, financial abilities and possibilities being one of them, so it’s not that I think love is the answer to all the world’s problems or will fill my stomach, but simply because my partner would have all the attributes that attract me in the first place. And pecuniary competency is a big consideration. I am not a kept boy, but I don’t want to play sugar daddy either.

My wealth comes from being richly loved, and loving back with my all. When we tap into our all and give it freely, how can the person receiving not feel like a Donald Trump? Or Bill Gates? Or Steve Jobs (may he be blessed with good health even though I don’t own a single Apple item)? Or the families benefiting from our Temasek Holdings investments?

My motto is to never cheat my heart. Because I only have this one lifetime, this one chance to let it live in full honesty. I’m sure a lot of movies, books, songs, poems, paintings, buildings and theatrics had celebrated the triumphs of love, but because I’ve just watched Slumdog Millionaire last night, I thought it was exemplary of love. Love seems to always bring about the most beautiful of stories or outcomes. I can’t recall any movie which celebrated the prosperity of no love? Then again, if we treat love not as a person-to-person emotion but a driving force of our existence, then love could be applied to many areas… the love of money, the love of status, the love of beauty, the love of food, the love of self. How is that different from passion?

To me, love is something I cannot do without, but passion is something I can give up. Passion is somehow a moniker of love. With each passion, there’s a deep-seated devotion, and very often, it is the love of ourselves that motivates our actions. We may peg it to family or destiny, but ultimately, it’s because we’re obsessed with keeping status quo, we want the good things that make us comfortable last as long as possible.

But nothing stays the same forever. Time has the habit of eroding the quality of our lives. So we find pleasure in what we’ve accomplished or the hope of what we can become.

Dennis was anxious about the future, about not making enough money now to fund his retirement. The financial planner in me spoke of making financial plans for the future but I could feel the fear in Dennis that I was going to sell him something. I was a little disappointed because we’ve been gym buddies for some time and I’ve never prospected him to be my client. I’m speaking purely from a sense of professional exposure to answer his anxiety about funding the later age. He could have a financial agent who’s serving him right now and my intention was to get him to explore financial products that can help him realize we cannot FULLY rely on another person. Do you depend on another to fortune-tell your future? I think the prudent way is to look at what we have and put a plan in place. Anything that happens due to our attachment with another, on whatever level, is a bonus. I realized how far a friendship can go is determined by the fear, or trust they have in you.

When I watched Slumdog Millionaire, I kept thinking, “There, it’s an illumination to Dennis’ question.” Love is ours to decide. We can choose to let what we love decide our course of actions, and we have to bear the outcomes. But more often than not, it is my belief, that the love for people, usually brings about the most fulfilling of life’s experiences. When we love someone truly and deeply, we will have the fuel to make plans and take on responsibilities that fulfill our aspirations. Perhaps it is unfair for me to make this statement at this juncture where the person I love rewards me plentifully. What if, apart from my family, I couldn’t find another who consoles my vulnerabilities and insecurities? Will my focus then be on the functionalities of life, money being the sole part of it, and a successful life defined by the legacy I left behind?

I thought Slumdog was a great movie. It is a hard candy. While it is dissolving sweetly, I knew what I have in my mouth is something that could break my teeth. I used to think that being street-smart is an advantage. But through the movie, I felt that pure love is the denominator for all equations. As documented by my faith, Jesus went through the most painful death out of pure love for humanity to redeem our souls for eternity.

I am born and bred in Singapore. I had my time of doing doodies in iron buckets where coolies came daily to shoulder out the load and stench. Slumdog showed me what it’s like to not even have that luxury.

Today I live with a silver handle that flush my excrements. I ask myself, and Dennis… Does it matter if that handle is made out of gold? Or if I have the ability to shit?

b. Let love handle it.

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