Real Steel

Hugh Jackman...that alone should be a crowd-puller to watch this movie. The man who immortalized Wolverine (for the guys); the one who melted countless women's hearts in "Kate & Leopold" is now a washed up, has-been boxer who does robot boxing in his latest offering "Real Steel".

Watching the trailer, I had anticipated to catch the movie since it had Hugh Jackman, cool-looking robots (ALMOST reminiscent of "Transformers", though not as high-tech of yet) and subsequent bashing of robots in a brawl that's a little like Iron Man beating the pulp out of those clone-bots! Action, grit, cute lead actor...yup, good combination! And it didn't disappoint *grins*

Initially, I had thought of the movie as a full-on, action-packed movie that pulls the punches from the get go and doesn't require a story. Just have robots kill each other via remote controls by the humans! But it surprised me with a very decent storyline (albeit a little Disney-ish if I do say so myself). 

Hugh Jackman is Charlie Kenton, a guy who tries to make some money via his robots doing robot boxing. Unfortunately, his robots are sort of washed up like he was, and needless to say, they got served very badly (as did he!). Enter his estranged son, Max (played by a very adorable Dakota Goyo) who came into his care when his mom passed. The two make a very unassuming find in the form of an old robot while scouring for parts at a metal junkyard, and find that hey, this little robot might just be something else entirely.

Noisy Boy with his 'handlers'...LOL!

Yup, the story is about family, with a little tearjerker towards the end...but don't let that stop you from catching this movie! It offers loads of action, brawn and flair in the form of the robot fights. Yes, you'll get to watch quite a few robots go head to head WWF-style, only with boxing. From underground fights to the big leagues of a world championship match, "Real Steel" delivers the excitement and atmosphere very well with great use of music, intricate camera work and impressive CG!

Like I mentioned before, the robots are pretty amazing. While not as high-tech as "Transformers", they do a pretty decent job as 'fighters' in place of real humans. Watch out for the scenes with a bot called Noisy Boy...when it first came on, there was an audible gasp seeing how cool it was! And yes, even the main robot Atom, is a joy to watch =) Old and unassuming as it may be, Atom will warm your heart as it takes hit after hit from the opponents. It doesn't speak at all, but it says quite a bit through its movements. Kinda reminds me of Wall-E, but this bot sports a mean punch as well as a few slick dance moves too! *wink*

Charlie teaching Atom how to box...awww!

Special mention should be given to the actors as well. Hugh Jackman's performance as a reluctant father and doesn't-think-before-he-acts persona plays off Dakota Goyo's kid-who-lacks-a-father-figure-in-his-life character really well. While Goyo can be a bit annoying at times, their banter with each other is hilarious, especially at a scene where Atom faces off another robot at "The Zoo". Evangeline Lilly is also very cool as Bailey, the love interest of Charlie and nerdy girl-next-door. The chemistry between Jackman and Lilly is palpable, which says a lot given that it's a family-oriented film *wink*

"Real Steel" is quite an enjoyable watch...give this a go if you like robots, boxing or just looking for a feel-good movie that - quite literally - packs a punch =) If you can, watch it in 2D. No, not the 3D one where you wear the glasses...the 2D version as mentioned in some bigger cinemas is actually a high-definition version of the movie! *grins*

In Perfect Harmony

I first heard of "In Perfect Harmony" (IPH) from my friend, Freida, who told me that she will be performing in it as one of the ensemble. Of course, I was delighted for her and told her that I would support her by going to see her performance =) All I know of the Dama Orchestra at the time was that it was an organization that does a lot of Chinese music and musicals. And from what I've read in the promo material for IPH, it's a musical journey from the 70's to the present.  I figured, it MIGHT not be my cup of tea, but meh...I'm there to see my friend perform anyways, so why not? 

And so, I bought a ticket and went in without much thought into how they're going to gel everything together. But boy, was I in for a very pleasant surprise! IPH was AMAZING!

Okay, first things first....due to my 'overestimation' of time, traffic and my own kooky sense of direction, I was late for the show(!!!!! Epic fail) and missed out on the opening number as well as a couple of songs after that. To make it worse, my seat was right smack in the middle...about 4 rows from the stage! LOL! It was seriously hard to get there and I thought my seat was taken by someone else. Didn't want to make a scene since I was late myself, the usher kindly let me sit at an empty seat further up so that I could at least watch the show. During the intermission however, they found out that my seat wasn't actually taken (it's only my blur self who can't see. LOL!), so I went and got my money's worth in the second Act. YAYY!

Patrick Teoh & Douglas Lim! Heart their performances (Photo credit: The Star)

There is no real 'story' in IPH...rather, we were treated to a lovely amalgamation of songs from the 70's up until the present. And instead of just international songs from the West, there are also a mixture of Malay, Chinese, Hindi and even a popular Korean song thrown in! As we go through memory lane, we are guided by a wonderful narration of none other than the legendary Patrick Teoh! Seriously, it's one thing to listen to him on the radio or on television....but to hear him live it's astounding! The flow of words, his diction, intonation....I want to learn English speaking with him! *grins* Anyways, all gushing aside, the narration inserts lovely bits of trivia and facts in the particular well as some well-injected puns and digs at some of the funny things that happen in our country at the time. Big, big kudos to the playwrights for their great sense of humour!

Also amazing was the performance of Douglas Lim who plays a DJ that introduces the songs in the musical through his 'radio shows'....his lines coupled with his perfect comedic timing are superb! Never failed to generate laughs whenever he comes on *grins*

There were also guest artistes that come to perform at the different dates of the show. When I went, Sean Ghazi was the guest artiste, and he did not disappoint with his smooth crooning of "Lagenda" and the ever famous Theresa Teng's song! Yes, he sang in Chinese! And it was with good diction cool is that??! 

The 3 lead singers...loved their voices! (Photo credit: The Star)

As for the songs itself, they were splendidly done! The Dama Orchestra did not disappoint with their world class musicians behind the music, and the lead singers (consisting of Tan Soo Suan, Chang Fang Chyi and Tria Aziz) were AMAZING! Each singer brought their own style and flavor to the songs (Fang Chyi brings a soulful, jazz-y feel; Soo Suan has an AMAZING range and classical tone; while Tria blows me away with her strong and heartfelt voice!), which is pretty impressive seeing that the songs are very well-known songs throughout the decades! Just to name a few, "Lagenda", "I Will Always Love You", "Dancing Queen", "Getaran Jiwa", "YMCA" are some of the timeless classics you will hear in the musical. Popular music now would be like "Bad Romance", "Thriller", "You Raise Me Up" and "Gemilang"! I recognize a lot of Chinese songs too, but I don't know how to write them here...LOL! 

The ensemble is not to be pushed aside as mere backup vocals though! True to their title, everybody worked really in harmony and as a team....and almost everyone had their moments / solo parts to sing, which I think is SO cool since most musicals usually focus on the main cast! I would say the energy radiating from the whole cast is very infectious....if in the beginning, one would be kinda reserved and not feeling the jive, by the end of it all, that same person would have been standing on his / her feet to give a standing ovation or at the very least clapping as hard as one can! It's really, really something to watch =)

The stage sets were quite cool too! Though not as complicated and grand as "The Secret Life of Nora", they also employ the clever use of two curved stairs to suit the scenes that they are portraying, and it's quite fun to watch...especially during a certain Hindi song that will make you giggle and sing along at the same time! 

Me with Tria (far right) and Freida (far left)....YAYY!

In short, IPH is a well worth your money will be taken back in time and forget all your worries for a good 2 hours while the cast entertains you with their cool dance moves, harmonious voices and witty narration! And as it ends, you'll even feel like you don't want it to end because it was SO. MUCH. FUN! *grins* IPH is still running now, and as I hear they are extending their shows to the 24th and 25th as well! So, go grab your tickets now before they are sold out! The show that I went to was a full house, and I've heard that some even went more than once....that's how good it was =) 

The Secret Life of Nora

I managed to catch this new musical production by Enfiniti on the 14th...and I'm glad I did because when it was first announced that they would do a musical based on the '60s era and it's regarding spies, all I could think about was James Bond. And I didn't like the James Bond franchise, no matter how hot the actors are...LOL!

But as time passed by, little bits and pieces of promo materials were published by Enfiniti and it got me interested in catching it, so I bought a ticket and didn't regret it =) "The Secret Life Of Nora" (TSLON) is very grand, to say the expense is spared on the stage sets, props and costumes to make the experience memorable. And while there are misses every now and then, I would say TSLON is quite a cool production....Kudos to Enfiniti for their hard work!

TSLON tells the story of Nora (played by Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina), a showgirl who is being recruited as a female spy to infiltrate a new entertainment company run by a Mr. J (played by Aznil Nawawi). She is trained by a renowned female spy trainer, Roger Foss (played by Ryan Silverman) and as the story goes, she goes into the 'spy scene' in just a matter of 3 weeks. Did she succeed? Well, you'd have to watch it to enjoy the whole experience yourself *wink*

Most of the main cast in TSLON
Loved the cast in TSLON....Tiara Jacquelina is GORGEOUS (as always) and she fits the role  of Nora very well. Watch out for the scene where she undergoes training with Roger...her expressions of being overwhelmed followed by her enthusiasm in the training is awesome to watch! Ryan Silverman as Roger Foss is also spot on! When he first appears on stage, audible gasps can be heard around me as he cuts a really dashing figure in a shiny and glamorous suit *wink*

But, the show won't be a success without the help of the AMAZING supporting cast =) Special mention should be made to Adibah Noor (oh gosh, I love her acting!) for her turn as Khatijah, Nora's best friend / manager...her witty comebacks and one-liners are just hilarious with her fun character!

Amazing stage set!
The other aspect that I love about the musical is the stage sets! As I said before, no expense was spared, so there's the cool, gadget-filled Agent Farouk's(played by Tony Eusoff...also spectacular in his turn!) home, the pretty setting of Nora's changing room, as well as the over-the-top-but-oh-so-amazing set of Mr. J's building...all this put up on their main stage prop thingy which on the outside, looks like the frame that they use in construction sites, but flip it over and you get a different scene. Flip another side over, there's yet another setting! Genius! 

Betty sings her pretty!
What's a musical without us talking about the songs right? For TSLON, there are mostly original songs written for the musical. While some songs are really lovely (my favorite was Betty's solo), it kinda feels like they're not that memorable enough. Probably it's because the songs are too 'diverse' with most musicals I've seen, the songs become memorable because they are often kinda similar in tone / melodies throughout the show. If I had to compare (which I do!), PGLM  follows this musical 'formula' for songs, and they really do work to create memorable songs that stick in your head after the show! With TSLON however, it felt like they were trying to fit in so many things together that the songs don't really gel with each other. Some of the songs' lyrics are also so jam-packed it's hard to pick up what they're trying to sing about in the song!

Another thing that I find that's a little jarring is the singing...while I loved the supporting casts' voices (especially Stephanie van Driesen, who plays Betty...her velvety voice is so soothing and beautiful!), I can't help but say this: me thinks Tiara's voice as the lead leaves much to be desired. While she can sing, her range and depth doesn't seem to measure up to her co-stars, especially since she's the lead and she sings quite a lot through out the show. Pity really =( Also, I feel that Ryan Silverman's voice and range are not utilized as much as they should. The songs which he sang in doesn't really showcase his strong voice =( 

Mr. J and Nora in a scene...quite hilarious!
Character development for some of the characters (like Betty or even Mr. J) did not happen too...which is a little disappointing as I find their characters pretty interesting. Also, I felt that Act 2 was a little too rushed in the pace....the pace was so good for Act 1 where they took the time to introduce the characters and all, but as they moved on to Act 2, it somehow felt like they realized they have run out of time, so let's just patch things up quickly. Throw in some big fireworks, big bangs, and voila! Unfortunately, that didn't quite do it for me...

Yes, I guess I've probably mentioned too many cons compared to pros here, but all in all I DID really enjoy the musical. There were many laughs to be had, especially from Mr. J - the OTT villain who is also adorable with his funny lisp - and Khatijah; many grand scenes that take your breath away; and even a magic trick or two up the actors' sleeves!

For a local production, it is great to see that there are so many talented people and the arts industry in Malaysia is slowly emerging and polishing itself to be the best it can be. As grandiose as it was, there is definitely still room for improvement....=) Good job though to Enfiniti for venturing out and bringing some original stories and flair to the local scene!

They are extending the shows from 20th - 22nd, so if you can still score some tickets, do go catch it! It's quite fun, especially if you've not seen a musical before =)

Photo credits: Enfiniti Vision Media

Temple Grandin

I 'stumbled' upon this movie when I saw my sister watching it the other day and was intrigued when she told me that Claire Danes was in it, and she is portraying a lady who is autistic. Yes, I watched these movies to see how the actors / actresses play a difficult role...don't we all? But, as the movie progresses along, what caught my attention was not just Claire Danes' acting, but the whole story about a woman who is just brilliant at what she does, and yet is always ostracized by society because she is different. 

This movie is based on the real life of Temple Grandin, a high-functioning autistic woman who works in animal science (and has a PhD to prove it!) and her struggles in coping with our 'normal' society, from her school days to eventually her degrees in animal science and how she influenced humane slaughterhouses. It is really fascinating to see the world from her eyes as she really does see things so differently....some are very literal, while her attention to details and visuals are astounding. The film also talks about her 'quirks' like not liking touches or hugs from other people and how she copes with it. Watch out for a scene where she finds an alternative to being soothed and calmed...while a little eccentric, the effect on her just makes you go, 'Wow!'

While at times some of the things portrayed is kind of stereotypical of the autism spectrum, kudos should also be given to the film makers in their interpretation of Temple's thought process. Thoughts can be so abstract at times, not to mention coming from someone who doesn't really get the puns and sayings thrown at them...and the film makers did a great job in not making it look ridiculous. Rather, it's quite artistic with a little sense of humour injected into it. One has to watch it to believe it!

Another thing that I really like is the side story of how Temple designed a system that is more efficient and humane for slaughterhouses to dip and lead the cattle to slaughter. Her insight into animal welfare is amazing, especially so because her autism enables her to view things so differently from a normal human. One of her greatest lines that I respect reads:

"I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we've got to do it right. We've got to give those animals a decent life and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animals respect."

Claire Danes with the realTemple Grandin!

Of course, special mention needs to be given to Claire Danes who portrays Temple so realistically you can't really recognize her until someone mentions to you that it's Claire Danes. Definitely not just a pretty face as she earns award nominations for her portrayal of Temple...and yet it's funny that it takes a movie like this to let people know that she is a serious actress instead of being taken seriously from the get go. All because she was blessed with good genes! Life is as such, isn't it? Anyway, I digress...

All in all, "Temple Grandin" is a must watch. Don't think that it'll be showing in cinemas here, so if you're smart you'll know where to look. *wink* This movie also got me Googling for Temple and the work that she does for animal science and autism. Really liked one of her speeches in TED regarding different kinds of minds...check it out if you can!