Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The New Year

And the year of the Ox begins. Happy Lunar New Year to all those who are celebrating.

The celebrations are finally in full swing. People are travelling, visiting, laughing and dining together. But for me and my family, it's a rather quiet affair. We're not the social kind, nor do we spend time with relatives much. However we celebrate in our own way, sticking to tradition still, albeit on a smaller scale.

For the past two weeks, everywhere I went I'd see stuff associated with the new year. Red lanterns, red decorations, new things, lion dances, mall performances, and the one thing I dread the most: new year songs! Why? Because it's all in Mandarin, and I'm not well versed in that language. On top of that, it's always the same songs playing again and again, and I'm sick of it. It's there everywhere I go.

But the idea of getting ang pow and welcoming some good fortune for the new year is still appealing in some way, so I do like this time of year. And the most important thing for me this time is to get some well deserved rest. It's my opportunity to get some extra sleep, since I usually don't get more than six hours per day.

I read my Chinese horoscope for this year, and it's rather mixed. I try not to put too much faith in these things, because I don't want to hope for too much. But I did say a prayer to God last night for what I hoped for the new year, and bottom line is, I want things to get better. I also prayed for those that I cared about, including those whom I am no longer close to.

I'll see you guys later, I have a date with tomorrow.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009


I'm not going to say much about the past year from a personal standpoint. Why? Because there's really not much to say. Some things changed, some didn't. Overall it wasn't too memorable. It's a slight improvement from 2007 though.

So what I'll do is sum up 2008 in a way I best know how: movies. Here are my top 10 favourite films of last year, in the order that I watched them.

1. Rambo
Now most people may not like this choice, perhaps because there's just too much violence in it. Women would most probably not like it, though I have heard of female audiences who absolutely enjoyed this film. But despite the fact that Sylvester Stallone is over 60 years old, he still shines as Rambo, the one man killing machine who has to go into Burma to save some missionaries from the military junta. There's blood, guts and limbs flying all over the place, and tons of action to feast on. And this fourth instalment has a neat ending to tie up the whole journey of the character.

2. Cloverfield
It's a monster movie from a first person POV. You know, like The Blair Witch Project. New York City is attacked by a mysterious monster, and we get to watch from the viewpoint of a group of youngsters having a farewell party. The camera movements may be too shaky for some (I hear it gives viewers motion sickness), but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was scary and realistic. Awesome stuff.

3. The Mist
Stephen King is the most well-known horror writer in the world, which is why many of his great works have been adapted for screen. There have been hits and misses, but the one person who has never failed to score with King's work is Frank Darabont. After succeeding with The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, he does it again with The Mist. The people of a small town take refuge in a supermarket when a mysterious mist surrounds them, and lots of horrifying creatures emerge to pick them off one by one. However, the real terror comes from the fear amongst themselves, provoked by a demented zealot in the form of a twisted God fearing lady trying to convince everyone that it's the work of the Lord. Great cast and dialogue, with an ending that you won't forget.

4. Iron Man
Finally Marvel comes up with something that will make us forget the excruciating Spider-Man 3. Robert Downey Jr shines as Tony Stark, a genius inventor who designs weapons for the military. He has a change of heart after being nearly killed by enemies using his own weapons, and invents a super suit that allows him to become a hero to defend the weak. It's smart, sleek and very charming. No over brooding Peter Parker type characters here, so it's totally entertaining indeed.

5. Kung Fu Panda
Most people would say WALL-E is the best animated film of the year, but not me. I prefer this, a story of a flabby panda who yearns to become a kungfu hero like his idols, and gets his chance when he is selected to become the chosen one to save the land from an evil tiger. Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman and many others provide the voices to a tale that is both action-packed and hilarious at the same time. It's so good that people in China wondered why their filmmakers couldn't come up with a film like this.

6. The Incredible Hulk
Who's Ang Lee again? That's the answer you should give to anyone who mentions his version of the not-so-jolly green giant. This version, a reboot by Louis Letterier has enough punch and drama to surpass the lengthy and overworked Ang Lee film. Edward Norton brings the right amount of pain and conflict to Bruce Banner, the scientist who struggles to find the cure to his condition: turning into a destructive green hulk when he's agitated. Tim Roth is perfect as the villain. Great movie.

7. The Dark Knight
Too many comic book films, right? Yeah well, I'm a comic book geek. But this film would be on everyone's list, for many good reasons. The best reason is, it's just that damn good. Batman Begins was great, but this is off the charts. Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale bring to us a Batman who struggles to fight crime and not cross the line of vigilantism. The late Heath Ledger is the force of nature of TDK, as he makes The Joker the ultimate personification of anarchy and drives the caped crusader to his limits. Let's not forget the supporting cast who help bring the best Batman film to life: Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman. If you haven't watched this, shame on you.

8. Eagle Eye
I know most critics hated this film, because it was far-fetched and not very original. But I had fun, and was on the edge of my seat throughout the film. Shia Labeouf and Michelle Monaghan play two strangers thrown together by a mysterious female voice on a phone that seems to be able to control their every move. They are forced to do the voice's bidding, or bad things happen. It's a film where you don't have to think too much, and just ride with it.

9. Tropic Thunder
This is THE comedy of the year. And I never thought I'd give Ben Stiller this much credit, but he truly outdid himself this time around. Stiller directs and stars alongside Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr about a group of actors filming an expensive war film in Vietnam, but run into a dangerous group of heroin traffickers instead. Downey steals the show as an Australian method actor who continuosly stays in character of a black man, complete with dark skin, speech and mannerisms. Oh, and there's Tom Cruise in a fat suit. What's not to like?

10. Twilight
I'd call this the surprise of the year, for me at least. Not that this film was so great and without flaws, but the fact is, I was entertained. The story isn't that appealing, and the acting wasn't all great. But I loved the atmosphere, the pacing and the way everything played out. Kristen Stewart plays a young girl who falls in love with a vampire, played by Robert Pattinson, and how their unlikely romance leads to tension and danger. It's based on a book by Stephenie Meyer, and it's mostly for teen girls who love good looking guys like Pattinson. I know how some people expected the usual vampire flick and hated Twilight for getting otherwise, but try viewing this with an open mind, and you just might find something about it to like.

Oh sorry, I should have said this before I started this post. Happy New Year;)