Monday, June 29, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen

It was when driving back after watching the latest Transformers, when it struck me that they cribbed the plot from the Bible. Yeah, I am that slow. But then, tell me which part of the Bible did not become source for story telling in Hollywood. If not God, Satan has helped to make Tinseltown’s cash registers to ring.

It’s all there. The bad guy is The Fallen, who was a Prime (yes, they have races/caste amongst them too) who became bad and went to the dark side. Yes, there’s Star Wars for you. He becomes The Fallen (angel, Lucifer, get it? That’s Michael Bay, the director & his writers attempting something more intelligent than makeshift toys). And then, you get the main character, Optimus Prime dead and then resurrected to beat the ultimate bad guy. In fact, three characters get to come out of from being dead.

If you have seen the first one, then I shall not bother to go on the details. You have the same Autobots (led by the sagely Optimus Prime) and the Decepticon (led by Megatron who look like he was sculpted with razor blades). Then you have shitloads of bots. All kind. There is definitely going to be Transformers 3 and if Bay is going to one-up the number of robots here, he might as well do a film in a planet filled with bots and do away with human.

Shia LeBeouf returns as Sam whatsisname and he tags a long with Autobot again to fight the Decepticon, and he did well. Seems to be good actor, this chap. I was impressed with him here, amidst the bang bang boom boom, Shia delivered good performance.

Then you have Megan Fox who is there for obvious reasons and John Torturro who is there for same obvious reasons (comedy, former unintentional, and sex, as we get to see the latter’s butt).

Okay, first thing I notice was the violence. Granted there were no blood, thousands die in this film, no thanks to the gigantic robots rampaging like Ultraman’s enemies. You see bodies flying, floating, and one being stomped, stuck on a bot’s feet and is dislodged as the Bot lifts its feet. And about 30% of the audience are kids! They were supposed to be part of the target audiences.

As for the bots themselves, if you have seen the original, then there is nothing new. There was one about a bot, begetting a bot, begetting thousands. It gave me a headache. Also, I am still wondering why it takes them, especially Optimus, long to transform. In the cartoon, I recall, it was a matter of seconds. Here it takes longer than a girl dolling up for candlelight dinner. I know, it’s basically to show off the CGI splendour, but frankly I didn’t give a damn.

Frankly, too, I didn’t give a damn during the action sequences. It was a blur. I can’t tell who is pummelling whom, all the bots look alike. Hell, they may even be violently making out, for all I know. I yawned and yawned during those scenes. Particularly the climactic battle, that went on and on and on like that freaking Duracell rabbit. Reminded me of Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, where the entire film is about one ground combat; also a “based on true story” film so detailed that they missed out a crucial rescue effort by Malaysian soldiers. Hollywood.

So, there you. A CGI fest based on some toys they made back in the 80s, given some biblical back story, and with script tied around the so called major battle scenes. The last time I was really impressed with CGI was back in 1993 when Spielberg unleashed some dinosaurs onto poor unsuspecting us. So, the bots didn’t do much to me. The action scenes bored me. The comedy did tickle me. But come on, I was not even interested in those extensive long slow-mo shots of Megan Fox’s bouncing boobs in a lowcut blouse with explosions in the background. Did I say 30% of the audience were kids?

Friday, June 26, 2009

(Another) Day The Music Died.

The career of being a pop or rockstar can be rewarding, but it is also one that is susceptible to short life expectancy. As you know, Michael Jackson died today (our time, Thursday their time) at the age of 50, a young age for these times.

This man, the icon of those who grew up in the 70s and 80s, is perhaps the most influential person in the pop/lifestyle/entertainment scenario. His popularity back in the 80s here in Malaysia was immense. People who usually do not listen to Western/English pop song were suddenly listening to him.

I remember well, that it was the day my grandmother passed away. While the adults were in mourning, we kids were outside discussing the new Thriller album. That’s how big he was at that time.

True, fascination for his music slowly turned into fascination of his personal life, but no matter what crazy thing he does, no matter which court he had to appear, no matter which woman he decided to marry that week, we know that this man gave us, if not more than, three of the most important albums ever, and inspired the entire generation of kids worldwide to, if not picking up, but to gawk at those cool dance moves that were his trademark.

His music videos became the prototype for future artistes to tell story while hawking their music-wares. They were big budgeted affair with elaborate script and extended moments and were mostly very, very entertaining. In fact, it was so important that Jackson roped in one of the greatest film directors in US, Martin Scorsese to direct the single, Bad, from the album of same name.

More than anything his stage shows were stuff that legends are made of, except that they were real. True, rockers, in particular the likes of Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd and Kiss (among others) took stadium performance into one step higher in terms of sheer spectacle, but Michael, just one man, one star, rather than a band, took it further. To have been to his concert is to have witnessed miracle too difficult to be detailed. I was unfortunate to have not been any single one. But watching them on TV, I can feel, perhaps, 10% of what it’s like over there.

As for the albums, Dangerous, released in 1991, took a tumble in quality and sales as well. There were few good tracks. Then 2001’s invincible triggered the question: Is the King of Pop now a burnout case? Not the right moment to answer that.

As saddened I was to hear of his death, I was not that shocked. He has been in and out of the hospital several times and he already looked like he was staring at the grim reapers face. The clock was ticking. As I said, the higher you are in the stardom pedestal, the possibilities of shorter lifespan abounds. You know what happened to all those great stars in the past.

He was going to do a series of concert, mainly to pay back the mounting debt he had amassed over the years. Ironically, now, it is his death, with ongoing surge of album sales, future compilations that the recording company would milk dry, and royalties from other merchandises that will help to settle the debt and take care of his kids.

As a forum member (mi6.co.uk) said, Michael the human being is gone, Michael Jackson the artist will rock on. Goodbye Michael. We will miss you.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Attention Please

When I saw this headline in The News Straits Times Newspaper today, I didn’t know whether I should giggle, cry, shout in rage or stab myself for living in the same world like the moron in the subject. Here’s the headline:

Cycling in diaper to set a record

And the lead (opening para):

By tomorrow, a personal instructor wearing a diaper could become the first person in Malaysia to cycle nonstop on a gym bike for 48 hours.

I am thinking about the process the reporter would have to go through writing that. Did he (say he is a dude) struggle to find an angle? Did he had problem writing the lead trying to put too many information into one sentence as I used to ponder on during my newspaper days? Or did he just slit his wrists for getting shit assignment like this.

Moving on, here’s more delightful stuff:

Wong Wai Hoong, 31, is only allowed a 15-minute break every three hours. Therefore, he requires the added support of a diaper in case he needs to relieve himself during his attempt to cycle into the Malaysia Book of Records.

So why not the record read first person in Malaysia to cycle nonstop and pee on a gym bike for 48 hours. Why can’t he relieve himself during the 15 minute break? What is he drinking, beer? Plus if you calculate, he gets about 240 minutes of free time, that’s like four hours, meaning he is only riding the bike 44 hours. Shouldn’t that be the right record, you ding dong!

Here comes the part where I bet the journalist wiped his tear before typing:

The freelancer is eager to prove his mettle to inspire Malaysian youth.

"They must pursue their dreams," he said before starting on his feat at the SynarGym at Kuala Lumpur Sentral at 10am yesterday.

I take it that Wong’s dream, I mean, all he wanted to do in his life, even it takes tremendous amount of humiliation, extreme effort and hard work, was to cycle for 48 hours in diaper.

Interesting dream. What a way to inspire Malaysian youth, which is currently exchanging ringtones, comparing iPhone features or sharing tips on the latest thing on their Xbox. Come to think of it, they can do all that in a diaper.

Moving on, if you read the report, you will understand why. Here’s the catch:

The event is organised by SynarGym Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad.

The entire thing is a promotional exercise by the company to promote its product, which I suppose is the use of the gym, its equipments and possibly SynarGym Diapers (Slogan: It Leaves You High and Dry).

If you think the social networking culture online is basically folks crying attention to themselves, then this is a big budgeted cry to seek attention and this is not new. That is if you are not aware of the imbecilic publication called The Malaysian Book of Record.

I know it well, because I worked for them briefly as a scriptwriter. In the entire six months time I was covering events like the longest sausage, the biggest dodol and the Biggest Pineapple Rice was the final straw. It was built in UE3 shopping complex, right in the middle. They stuck lots of pineapple onto a wire mesh built to shape like a pineapple. By evening the whole place stunk of rotten pineapple. I think I got sick

For the next job, in my resume, I added this as reason for leaving that place: “If those are records, then my dying grandfather is Ricky Martin”. It actually got me the next job.

Oh, let me add final para of that report:

Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Razali Ibrahim, who flagged off the cyclist, urged the media to cover positive aspects of Malaysian sports like Wong's trail-blazing attempt.

I leave it to you to make up your cynical remark for that.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Cha’ah In USJ.

It finally happened. In fact, it was 20 years in the making. Sprinkling of schoolmates (only a fragment, unfortunately) from the high school my brothers and I went to, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Cha’ah, finally got together last weekend.

First and foremost, for the benefit of non-Cha’ahrians (as we call ourself for now) Cha’ah is a tiny town, which if you are travelling from Yong Peng to Segamat on trunk road, you can see only if you are driving at around 30kmph. Yeah, it’s one of those sleepy blink and you miss town. Here’s more detail. Don’t know who loaded it, and I didn’t know Cha’ah is well known for frog dish.

Thanks to online social portal Facebook, suddenly folks I have not met for twenty years appeared; most of who are puzzled that I no longer looked like a nerd that I used to look (just the look, intellectually I was still the dimwit I am today).

Getting there

Anyway, my brother and I planned to go together, in his car, discuss through email about the time to leave from our homes, etc, and then came an email from him that send chill down my spine, “Do you know how to get there?”

You see, the meetup was to take place in a place called Country Barn Pub & Grill in an area, and my fingers are shaking as I type this, called USJ (UEP Subang Jaya as I learned later).  

The township of USJ - and I strongly believe in this - is most likely has been designed by disgruntled ex-NASA engineers. The place is so complex that getting lost there is as frequent and regular as sunrise and sunset. The areas are arranged in such manner, that you can find USJ 2/19 next to USJ300/0.44. And while you are peering at the signboard, you might even find a lost Bigfoot whimpering by the junction.

We took meagre direction from the pal organising the event, Jeremy De Silva, who only highlighted the Majlis Perbandaran Subang Jaya (MPSJ) building and how to go to the pub from there.

Never mind, I thought, it’s a challenge we have to face. But the trouble is, good sense of road direction is never our forte. My brother, Balan, is a brilliant man, an intelligent conversationalist, a provocative blogger, and is successful as the Head of Operations in a leading bank, but when it comes to direction, let me put it kindly, his 7 year old daughter is better than him.

I used to travel around with Balan and his family, and two of the favourite words to come out of him would be, “How now?” which is a translation from “I am lost, how do we get there?” His wife, Nisha, would be the guide who would always get us to our destinations with very little hassle. She’s so good in direction that I strongly recommend her services to the search and rescue missions as resident orang asli guide.

I have been to USJ Summit, a shopping complex, quite a bit so we managed to get there within 15 times from Selayang (where both of us live). Then, the adventure began. We took the first turn in the right and assured ourselves that we are still in USJ and all we have to do is look out for the road sign.

About ten minutes later, we sighted our first major landmark, the unmistakably magnificent Stadium Shah Alam. Balan made a very helpful comment, “Yeah, we are in Shah Alam”. I don’t how, but throughout the journey, while I was frantic and cursing myself for even poorer sense of direction, he was as cool as cucumber slices in a dish of fiery Nasi Lemak.

So, we had to turn back, and I made the first distress call to a pal. “Bro, I can direct you to USJ, but not USJ 11 (where the pub is),” he said. At least he brought us to Subang Jaya, a good start.

Then, I remembered and called another friend who lives in the main part of Subang Jaya, Subendran Dali (not related to Salvador, but is just as goofy). His immediate response was “Dey, USJ is a (very bad word) maze-lah, dey”. It was disturbing that a man born, bred, fed, studied, played, loved and probably killed (kidding) in Subang should use “dey” twice in the same sentence.

I immediately asked him about the MPSJ building, and after sighing in relief (he probably wanted to disembowel himself, rather than trying to explain USJ roads), he managed to direct us towards the building.

Then, as expected, we got lost there. We were going round and round, and amidst getting lost, Balan was even trying to figure out shortcuts, that’s how innovative he is on the road.  I had to make third distress call, to one of my classmates and relative, Premanand (Prem), who was there already. He managed to direct us to the damned pub. Phew!

The reunion

Right at the entrance we were greeted by Jeremy De Silva, senior, Godfrey Adrian Lazarro, a junior. Gosh it has been years. Inside, there were more folks. Peter Johnson, his brother, Xavier, Annan Nair, Gunalaraj, Steven, Godfrey’s brother Ian, and later joined by Christina Vanathas and her brother, Chris followed by Yvonne Gomez and her husband.  These are the people I have not seen for two decades!

That excludes Prem, as we’ve been in touch regularly. A few words about this him, who also happens to my distant cousin. Prem was L'enfant terrible of Cha’ah, the bad boy who broke rules and regulations and did things that only adult would. You can hear laments about how he thought this feller to do that bad thing, and that feller this bad thing, which is not necessarily the truth because some are pricks anyway. He was so notorious that parents of other students feared him, teachers shook at the sight of him (not really, they were mostly pissed) and the principal knows him on the first name basis simply because their frequent meetings for wrong reasons.

Prem has no problem taking the blame for all the bad things the others picked up. So, if your spouse suddenly found out that you consume particles from your nose, blame it on Prem. Brother Prem, seeing that I am getting married soon, your services will be appreciated.

And so, there we were, not many of us, but was enough for that venue. Oh, a word about that place. It looks like any other pub, except that the band (guys who are related to Jeremy, so bro don’t take offence on the following remarks) played mostly country…a music genre that Balan, Prem and I loathed. I know, we classic rock fans can be real anal and snobbish when it comes to musical taste, but we also know that there are quarters who thinks that rock music has similar artistic quality and ambiguity of a dog poop.

Music was not an issue, as we are there to catch up. But later, Prem pointed out the major grouse he had that he never frequented the place for ten years. The dancing patrons. I was not aware of them, in midst of mingling. Collectively, the patrons are about same age as Planet Earth, and they were doing that folk dancing thiny! And there was even a seemingly organised line dancing! The only consolation is that with them around, we (all in thirties, the oldest being 39) felt relatively young.

The best part about the meet is the memory of some of these people; they seemed to know more about you than you care to know. Ian, for example, asked me if I am still a James Bond fan. I was surprised that he remembered, as he was in primary school then, and me, high school, when we palled in the school bus. I expressed my surprise. “Oh, you used to frequently bring James Bond newspaper clippings to the bus,” he said, with hint of childhood trauma in his voice.

We all exchanged information about what we are doing and how many wives and kids we had. I mean, whether we are married and have kids, phew, sorry guys. Of that group Godfrey is the only one who is single, though it took almost police-like interrogation to get the truth out of him. And of course, I was curious as to who had the biggest belly and least head of hair. Okay, there are contenders for the paunch, but am afraid am still the baldest guy, though Prem is seeking second opinion, pointing out his own little bald patch. Boy, we are getting old.

Alas, the day was coming to an end. After drinking enough beer to induce us to be intimate with inanimate objects like bar stool, and consuming enough chicken wings to start developing a pair ourselves, we decided to call it a day.

Prem volunteered to save us again and said he will lead us straight to NKVE (highway) that will take us faster back to Selayang. So, we followed him, reassured that we will get it right this time. What a guy. A fitfull ending to a terrific time we had. Thanks everyone, we had a fabulous time there, and really looking forward for the next reunion that promises to be bigger like Transformer sequels.

Oh, by the way, on the way back, we missed the NKVE.

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