WEB : The Best Thing on Oscars 2008

So how was the 2008 Oscars? Not a lot of surprises, (maybe in the sound categories), most of my predictions came true. But the best thing for me about this year's Oscar is when Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard performed and won the Oscar for Original Song for "Falling Slowly" from my favourite film of 2007, Once.

Funny thing.. although Glen gave his speech when they've won, Marketa was ushered off stage before she could even begin to say anything. Thankfully host Jon Stewart brought her back after the commercial break and she delivered her unforgettable speech.

"Hi everyone. I just want to thank you so much. This is such a big deal, not only for us, but for all other independent musicians and artists that spend most of their time struggling, and this, the fact that we're standing here tonight, the fact that we're able to hold this, it's just to prove no matter how far out your dreams are, it's possible. And, you know, fair play to those who dare to dream and don't give up. And this song was written from a perspective of hope, and hope at the end of the day connects us all, no matter how different we are. And so thank you so much, who helped us along the way. Thank you."

Short and simple but very powerful speech from a very shy and cute Marketa Irglova. Congratulations to her and Glen Hansard.

Make Art.. Enjoy their performance below..

FILM : Jumping, Aliens, Roadtrip & Window Washing

Okay, I realized that most of the readers ( .. macam la ramai sangat) used to come in here for movie / music reviews. It's been a while since I reviewed something here... ever since I was so busy with wedding preparations, getting married, the aftermath, the honeymoon bla bla bla.. I do admit, the intentions are there, but I put the blame on no time and uninspiring mojo. Either that or I was so tired and lazy.

So right now, I think I'm settling down. And I guess the mojo is coming back. So, I hope I will rediscover the fire in my belly to write about all the things that we used to share.. and that is entertainment.

To kick-start things off, me and my wife held our own movie marathon last weekend. We were so pissed that because of the wedding (plus work and other family matters) we couldn't really find the time to do the one thing that we loved the most and that is watching movies in the cinema. So realizing that we had no plans for the weekend, we decided to watch CJ7 and Jumper on Saturday, and Dunia Baru : The Movie and Cuci on Sunday, back to back. Here's my take on the films..

Synopsis : David Rice (Hayden Christensen) finds out that he possess the power of teleportation and uses it to set out on his own and live a life of privilege and excitement. Life begins to change when a religious sect of paladin hunters headed by (Samuel Jackson) discover his whereabouts and begin the task of tracking him down. David then uses this difficult time to reunite with his grade school crush Millie (Rachel Bilson). An alliance is made with the more experienced jumper Griffin (Jamie Bell) to fight the paladins so they can live again without worry.

Teleportation; the idea of going to any place that you desire without the hassle of airport customs, airline food and holiday budget is very exciting and exhilarating. So after watching the trailer for this Doug Liman crafted, sci-fi thriller, I admit my expectations was very high for a very solid action adventure a-la The Matrix (or even The Fly). Plus Sam Jackson is in it, so it's got to be badass.. But it failed to deliver on so many levels that it turns out to be very confusing rather than amusing.

First and foremost, the acting. I have nothing against Hayden Christensen but the guy is so wrong for this part. I don't see any charisma at all in his acting. (Are we talking about Anakin Skywalker here?) Plus there is zero chemistry between him and Rachel Bilson. Bilson although very cute, is very annoying as our hero childhood sweetheart. She keeps asking all this questions after questions that sometimes I wish that our hero could teleport her to a cave in Ariege Pyrenees (..google it). Even the always badass Sam Jackson is very limited in his antagonist role as a Paladin. (Paladin = the bad guy who chases Jumpers = the good guy). Jamie Bell, as a vagabond British Jumper is the saving grace but he alone could not carry the movie.

Secondly, the story. Based on a novel by Steven Gould, Jumper is written by David S Goyer who above all, wrote Batman Begins. I guess he took too much sleeping pills while writing this one because they were so many things unexplained that you could almost sympathize with Rachel Bilson character for asking so many questions. Why do the young Jumpers have the ability to teleport around the world in an instant? Why has there been a centuries-long war between the Jumpers and Paladins, who maintain a private army of executioners with apparently unlimited resources? How is it possible that our hero, David Rice 'jumped' as a child, then completely forgot about it for more than a decade? How has David gotten through years of blissful jumping with no notion that the Paladins (or, for that matter, other jumpers) even exist? Why do jumpers themselves exist? How many are there, and how long have they been around? What's the deal with her mom? What The Fuck? I guess the obvious thing to do next is a prequel answering all these questions. 'Jumper 2 : Mid-Air', anyone?

Best Bit : The 'jumping' effects were cool, I have to admit. And there is one scene where Sam Jackson character preparing for a jump, spritzes a room with some mysterious substance in an aerosol can. The way that he spray, only he could pull it off and makes you think, man, that's some badassed spraying.

Verdict : The idea was good, but the execution was forgettable. I kept imagining if the story had a better treatment or maybe a little touch from, let's say, The Wachowski Brothers, maybe it could be a cutting-edge cult film in the veins of The Matrix. See it only for the cool effects and if you have extra money and time. Otherwise, teleport..

Synopsis : Stephen Chow plays Ti, a poor laborer and widower taking care of his only child, Dicky (Xu Jaio). When his son threw a tantrum over a new toy that every other kids seems to be having, Ti scour the dumpsite and found himself a green orb. When he handed the special orb to his son, it turned itself into some kind of alien pet with some special power.

A Chow Sing Chi movie is an event for me. His movies reminded me of my childhood, my brothers, my friends and my hometown. I remember those days when I used to sneak into cinemas with my friends, the only Malays in a packed theater full of Chinese, laughing at every Chow Sing Chi jokes with a 5 seconds delay than everybody else in the cinema (because we were reading subtitles). I remember those days when my friends and I used to have the Chow Sing Chi movie marathon at my house. I'm proud to say that I own every single DVD of his movies, even those very early supporting-roles-type movies. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of Chow Sing Chi. So, needless to say, I had high hopes for CJ7. But I don't know if my expectations was too high, or maybe Chow Sing Chi has 'developed' as a director and actor, CJ7 falls a bit short for me.

I had this uneasy feeling before, with 'King Of Comedy', which I also think falls a little bit short of my expectation. Both his previous directing duties before that, 'God of Cookery' and 'Forbidden City Cop' were classic Chow Sing Chi (read: nonsensical humor) so when 'King of Comedy' came out, we (read: Chow's old skool fan) all thought; "..hmm, maybe it's a dark comedy". After that of course, we saw 'Shaolin Soccer' and 'Kungfu Hustle' and suddenly, super fans like me, understands that our favourite funny guy is not all jokes. He's becoming a world-class director, crafting his own style of humor. But despite the style over substance, we could still see hints of the 'mo-lei-tau', verbal comedy of him that we always adored.

But in CJ7 however, the no holds-barred verbal comedy I have come to love about Chow is now very much gone. Special effects aside, the responsibility to carry the movie seems to rest purely on the small shoulders of the young girl actress (Xu Jiao, who plays Chow's son) and the alien elements of the movie. She does an amazing job by giving us some classic Chow moments (especially in the dream sequence) but sadly, her talent just about makes the highlight of the film. The trademarks are there (..fat guy as a girl, toilet jokes, kung-fu) but sometimes seems out of place.

The story appears to be mischievously upending the narrative of 'E.T.' and other similar boy-and-his-pet children's films. Seeing Chow as the disciplinarian father is very interesting. However, the story is too short for any real message other than the morality lectures. The tear-jerking moments are forced awkwardly by orchestrating two third-act near-death sequences that frenetically push emotional buttons for a quick response. But the transition from a light comedy to tear-jerking melodrama weren't that smooth and organic.

Best Bit : The cockroaches swatting scene. The very odd (and funny) way of playing games with your son.

Verdict : Viewers who knew Chow Sing Chi (or Stephen Chow for that matter) only for 'Kungfu Hustle' and 'Shaolin Soccer' may like it. But for the rest of us, we wish that Ng Man Tat would come back! Not his best; CJ7 does has it's moments, but only watchable.

Dunia Baru : The Movie
Synopsis : Anizah is about to leave for UK to study but is kidnapped by her psychotic ex-boyfriend Fazley. He forces her to write a note saying she wants to leave all her hopes and dreams to marry him in Thailand but in that note she also secretly leaves a message for her friends to try and save her. As they travel north they encounter so many challenges and funny incidences to the point that they want to give up, turn back to KL and forsake their friend. Will they give up on Anizah and leave her helpless?

If I could describe the movie in just one word it would be - fun! I've been an avid follower of the Dunia Baru TV episodes since episode one and as a huge fan I certainly had a wonderful time watching it on the big screen. Fadz said it first, but I'll say it again, Dunia Baru is Malaysia's first tv-series with a cult status!

Dunia Baru has many followers. The followers - people who are tired of the stereotype local tv-series involving teenagers, are very loyal indeed. We discuss the characters (not the actors) as if they were real and we embrace them as if they were are own friends. All of this simply because the characters are believable. We understand their actions and words even when sometimes they were wrong. To better understand what I'm saying, go read what Vovin wrote here.

As a self-confessed follower of this little cult, I had no problem with the introduction (or lack thereof) of the characters. The director, Yeop Hitler Zami waste no time in proceeding with the main story - gather our gang, go on the road, save Aniza. But I kept thinking, how did a non-follower, someone who never watches an episode of the series, react to this? Go read Ajami's response to know the answer.

As usual the chemistry between the actors are dynamite, mainly because they are comfortable with their characters after playing them for so many years. The script certainly binds them together very well as we could see them exchanging words and banter very smoothly. Although with it's flaws, I thought that the script was well-written. Kudos to Wan Hasliza. I do wish there were more screen time for Sariah and Madihah (Anne Ngasri was born to play her!), because I think that their characters are important (and funny) as any other character. Maybe in Part 2? Hmm..

I don't want to spoil the fun but Dunia Baru: The Movie does have it flaws. The audio was below par, and the editing was very choppy. Maybe Yeop sometimes forget that he is making a feature film instead of a TV series. There are scenes which could work very well in TV land but certainly not on the big screen. There were also some problems with continuity (the cradle chair in the gas station suddenly vanishes, etc.) that were a little bit distracting but forgivable. Maybe given some time, Yeop should perfected his skills as a successful young Malay film-maker.

Best Bit : The Bangla. He steals every scenes. And the opening credit, that reminded me of Heroes.

Verdict : Good storytelling, great cast and witty dialogue, Dunia Baru : The Movie is a breath of fresh air in Malaysia's modern cinema. Go watch it for pure fun and entertainment.

Synopsis : Four adopted brothers - Jojo (Awie), Fairil (Afdlin Shauki), C'tan (AC Mizal) and Khai (Hans Isaac) - leave their kampung and head to Kuala Lumpur to make it big in the cleaning business. Fairil, the most ambitious of the four, inspires them to enter the Window Washing Olympics for the most coveted contract of all - cleaning the windows of KLCC. But the brothers would have to survive the allure of organiser CJ (Erra Fazira) as well as stiff competition from current champion and contract holder Wira (Khir Rahman) to win the title.

All hail our very own Frat Pack (Fat Pack?) - the team of Awie, AC, Afdlin and Hans has done it again, creating yet another comedy with a Malaysian flavor with articulate storytelling and wonderful chemistry between the actors, this time with Hans in the director's chair. What I always love about their movies is the strength of their story, always representing life as an ordinary Malaysian, staying true to character with their own style of dry humour. The comedy was appropriate and never seems to overshadow the story that they are trying to tell.

The beginning of the story, a flashback to the boys younger days, I thought was brilliantly done. The 4 main characters traits and manners was properly introduced to the viewers so that we could understand and be comfortable with later, with their actions as an adult. The backbone of the story follows a less than traveled path, but fluidly allows both humour and drama to co-exist. The indisputable choice of cast are coherent enough for the brothers to look like they've actually lived their lives together.

Comedy aside, the movie also probes into common Malaysian issues but is careful to never cross political boundaries. The 'Malaysian mentality' that Fairel always talked about, the Chinese speaking Indian man, the Window Washing Olympics with a bunch of Bangladeshi workers, the kampung boys with big dreams - all of this are Malaysian issues that us Malaysian can relate to. It is safe to say that patriotism runs deep within this film.

The supporting cast and the various cameos also strengthens the story as it progress. I thought the character of CJ, played by Erra was very good in portraying a very typical strong independent Malaysian women, successful in their career but hopeless with household work (..as we witness with the scene at Farah's house). I also like the not-so-typical antagonist role of Wira (played flawlessly by Khir Rahman), who is a very successful businessman with bad intentions. His not your typical Malay movie bad guy, (dark clothes, always laugh uncontrollably, ugly, usually with scars or facial hair, etc) he is merely a business-minded, optimistic prick.

Best Bit : Ida Nerina's cameo. Very funny.

Verdict : A good debut by Hans Isaac. Wonderful storytelling and narrative with a solid cast and great comedy with Malaysian flavour. It's a winner.

SPORTS : Smiling Devils

Man United 4 Arsenal 0

It was simple. Arsenal was roundly embarrassed by an unquestionably superior Manchester United today. Exhibiting absolutely none of the qualities that have placed them atop the Premier League table and all of the qualities that make them such a despicable, loathsome club, Arsenal may not have fielded their first choice side, but their performance was anything but first class.

From William Gallas being forced to eat his words, to Emmanuel Eboue's straight red, to Cesc Fabregas' disappearing act, to Emmanuel Adebayor's laughable dive, Arsenal were not simply defeated, they humiliated themselves.

And we don't even have Ronaldo, Giggs, Scholes and Tevez in the starting eleven.

I rarely start my Monday with a smile... and here I am smiling like a clown.


JOURNAL : Honeymoon In Bali


Just got back from my honeymoon in Bali. I love the amazing art, sculpture and architecture (..and of course, the spa) in Bali. Certainly one of a kind, unique and beautiful. Go visit if you have the chance. Here's some pics..

Touchdown in Denpasar Ngurah Rai airport, just by the sea.

Seafood dinner on the beach in Jinbaran.

Our view while having dinner in Jinbaran. Breathtaking sunset.

Jagung bakar seller in Jinbaran.

Beautiful Barong dancer. 2nd day in Bali, went to see Barong Dance in Catur Eka Budi Kesiman.

Silver craftsmen in Celuk craft village.

Check out the architecture in Celuk craft village.

Balinese women painting batik in Batuan.

Wood carver in Mas craft village. The carvings are frighteningly real..

I told u they look real.. This is actually a coffee table. The shop owner told me that it's a best seller. I kid u not.

Balinese man frying coffee beans in a botanical garden in Kintamani. Must visit to try some good Balinese coffee, coco, tea and tobacco.

3rd day in Bali. Check out this huge, beautiful sculpture on a roundabout in Kuta.

No, that's not me. That's the boat driver that drove us from Nusa Dua beach to Pulau Penyu. The boat has a glass bottom so that we could see the corals and fishes under the sea. Beautiful.

No, that's not me topless either. It's a view from the infamous Kuta Beach, where foreigners mostly resides, surf and hang out. This is just in front of the Hard Rock Cafe Hotel.

Monkeys, monkeys and more monkeys. Monkeys are everywhere in Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest.

My favourite spot in Bali, Tanah Lot. The view was breathtaking. Nature at it's best. The one place that you must visit in Bali.

Another view of Tanah Lot. Stunning.

Balinese villagers on their way to the temple or pura for their prayers.

That's me in my Rantai shirt.
My honeymoon in Bali - sweet memories with my loved one.
Until next time..