From Girl Grouper to Solo Act

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In any girl group, there will always be that one girl who stands out in her group. No, not because she’s pretty, has a great body or dances really well, but because of the basics, ie. She sings really well. Like better than her group mates and sometimes, even some existing solo singers.

Which is why that the inevitable soon happens, girl needs to go solo. So she goes solo, does songs that she personally prefers or that producers think she suits; then bam!, becomes an immediate solo singing sensation and then has to decide whether or not she wants to stay with said group or remain solo forevermore.

Sounds simple enough. The truth is not all solo singing attempts end up successful like Beyonce. For every Beyonce, there are cases of some unsuccessful attempts at solo stardom such as Nicole Scherzinger, maybe? You have to have the right ingredients to stand out as a solo artiste and differentiate yourselves from your group’s music according to my non-expert critique.

Girl group member gone solo have been going on for many years now. Off the top of my head, I can cite Diana Ross of the Supremes’ as a good example and of course her modern counterpart, Beyonce. Both women came from R&B based groups and successfully forged ahead with a solo career, leaving their groups in the dust.

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Based on what I’ve seen so far, it seems to me that other than the aforementioned Beyonce, most girl groupers that go solo are usually from British girl groups. This isn’t surprising as America has not actually supplied us with a steady-stream of girl groups. So to the British we go to. I’d like to mention that while all three of the Destiny’s Child members did go solo, not all of them reached Beyonce proportions. Kelly Rowland has had a decent solo career while Michelle Williams is more focused on gospel music. I admit I do like some of new mother Ms Rowland’s tunes with her recent forays into electro-dance, EDM type music with a tinge of sexuality thrown in. Not that’s a bad thing, because Ms Rowland also does it on a grand scale, as her collaboration with David Guetta can testify. Sometimes, she’ll still do R & B. Kelly’s had a stint as a judge on the now cancelled The X-Factor US version. As for Michelle, besides gospel, she also does musicals in her off-time. Recently, she had her Destiny’s Child sisters reunited for her latest single. So, least to say, at least all three Destiny Child’s members careers are secured. I will add here another name I can think of and that is Fergie from Black Eyed Peas and previously from the girl group Wild Orchid who did manage a successful solo career and that was when she was with the Black Eyed Peas. We all know her hit singles, “London Bridge”, “Fergalicious”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” ,  “Clumsy”, “Glamorous”, as well as her recent release “L.A. Love (La La)” from her soon to be released second album.

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Meanwhile, we go back to the British girl group solo explosion. Starting with everybody’s favourite British girl group, the Spice Girls. All of the Spice Girls have gone solo, even Victoria Beckham, before she went all designer on us. All the girls have had some degree of success, with the most successful being Melanie Chisolm (Mel C) followed by maybe Geri Halliwell went she left the Spice Girls. Then of course there are the solo careers of Emma Bunton and Melanie Brown (Mel B). Though Mel C did achieve a degree of success with her solo careers, it wasn’t comparable to her success with her girl group, Spice Girls. Still, she was the most successful, solo-wise with her songs cracking and topping the charts. She’s collaborated with a slew of artistes as diverse as Bryan Adams and the late Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes, proving to be the most versatile Spice Girl. While her earlier solo career was successful, her later efforts were rather lukewarm. Geri Halliwell, since her departing the Spice Girls before reuniting with them, had a decent solo career. I can still recall some of her songs, including her cover of The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men being featured on the soundtrack to The Bridget Jones movie. Her other songs, Lift Me Up, Look at Me, and Mi Chico Latino appeared on the charts too. Emma Bunton had a pretty decent solo career with some of her known songs being “What Took You So Long?” and “Maybe”. She too has had stints on various television shows. Meanwhile, Mel B is best known nowadays as a judge on “America’s Got Talent”. She’s had stints as a judge on the The X-Factor Australia and UK. Since then, many of the Spice Girls’ successors have also had members who’ve gone solo, most notably Girls Aloud Cheryl Cole. The band itself has disbanded so Cheryl Cole is now a full-time solo artiste. Cheryl Cole has had it good, it helps that she’s the most beautiful in Girls Aloud (all the Girls Aloud members are gorgeous BTW), she’s had a stint on The X-Factor UK version and an almost stint on the US version. She was also once married to England and former Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole. She’s done collaborations and is friends with Black Eyed Peas member Will.I.Am. Cheryl Cole, it can be said is the most marketable member in Girls Aloud.

tzed-girls-aloud-7122201-1280-960England itself has also given us other equally good girl groups such as All Saints, Atomic Kitten, and the Sugababes. Just to be clear, no member of Atomic Kitten has gone solo. Several members of those girl groups have gone solo and made somewhat of an impact on the charts. For example, the All Saints sister-duo (not technically a solo, but still) Nicole and Natalie Appleton founded Appleton with limited success. The rest of the other All Saints members,Melanie Blatt and Shaznay Lewis have also gone, all with limited success. All Saints are one of those girl groups who appeal more as a group, lacking charismatic members who have the potential to really go big as a solo artiste, which possibly explains their lack of solo success.


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The Sugababes meanwhile, is the British girl group best remembered for having a string of hits on the charts as well as rotating their group members. Starting off with their original three members, Siobhan Donaghy, Keisha Buchanan, and Muya Buena and later adding in replacement members, Heidi Range, Amelle Berrabah, and Jade Ewen. So far, only the original members who reformed the original line-up of Sugababes have taken on solo careers. Right of the bat, I remember Mutya Buena releasing a solo album Real Girl, to limited success and Siobhan Donaghy released Revolution In Me. Their solo efforts were obviously not very successful.

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So there you have it, the key to actually go solo for a girl grouper is if, preferably, you have the voice, the popularity, the charisma, maybe the looks and body. Other than those factors, you’ve gotta have the right management behind you, the right production team for your solo music, and girl, if you can, write your own music. Writing your own music shows credibility and you taking charge of your own music and image. Ah yes, image. Do look a little different when you go solo so people can differentiate you between your girl group persona and your solo identity. Do promote your music aggressively, maybe a tie-in with a successful commercial, movie or drama. Go on the talk show circuit, the Internet, maybe go viral? Have a song that can appeal to the public without compromising your own artistic integrity. Show yourself more through your solo work. Hopefully, with a little bit of luck, your solo career will flourish and make you even more popular than your group.

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Disney Live Adaptation Reviews – Maleficent & Cinderella

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I recently caught the latest Disney live adaptation films that were released in the years 2014 and 2015. I caught them almost back-to-back with Cinderella first followed by Maleficent (on TV!) but for the purpose of following a chronological order, we will start out by reviewing Maleficent first.

As everyone is well aware, either Disney is running out of ideas for new films or is just plain lazy, they’ve come out with a good business plan; churn out remakes of live-action movies of previously blockbuster making animated movies of the past.

Which is why, you now have the adaptation of Maleficent in 2014, followed by Cinderella in 2015. There was also the star-studded musical Into the Woods, but it doesn’t qualify as it was never a Disney animated movie first. This, on top of the news of the recently announced Emma Watson led Beauty and the Beast and Tim-Burton directed live action Dumbo. So while we already have many other studio-produced live action updated Snow Whites, Disney has to go through their extensive animated filmography for ideas. Now, the latest news is that we’re getting a Mulan live-action remake too. God forbid that one day we’ll be getting Toy Story, the live action versions. Perhaps fifty years from now, someone will see it fit that we’ll get a live-action Frozen too.

Maleficent Review:

Anyhow, let us go to one of the earliest modern live adaptation remakes that Disney made in the 2014-2015 period, which is Maleficent starring Angeline Jolie as the titular character. Angelina has explained that the character of Maleficent had always interested her more than the lead character of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora as a child. In some ways, she’s right. Looking back, Aurora spent most of the movie sleeping (to be fair, she was under a curse) and at the end (spoiler alert!) ends up marrying Prince Phillip when he breaks her curse by kissing her with true love’s kiss after she’s only met him for a day. Alright, she was betrothed to him as a baby. Still, once again, she only knew him for a day.

Anyway, Maleficent opens with a young child Maleficent (Isabelle Molloy) befriending a young peasant, the future King Stefan (Aurora’s dad, played by Michael Higgins), falling in love with him and then later getting betrayed by him. He cuts off her magical wings, leaving her without the ability to fly. She later has a raven, Diaval (Sam Riley) in human form who acts as her eyes with wings. Maleficent (Angeline Jolie) who loved Stefan (Sharlto Copley), saw him marrying another and having a child with her. Wanting revenge, she shows up uninvited to Aurora’s christening and curses the child to yup, get pricked by a needle of a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday and fall into an eternal sleep. This is when King Stefan begs for mercy, even kneeling, pleading for his daughter’s life, and she relents by softening the curse wherein she will only awaken by true love’s kiss. This after Aurora has been blessed with gifts by her three god-pixies Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Thistlewit (Juno Temple), and Flittle (Lesley Manville). The scene has been painstakingly created in real-life form from the original animated movie. Also, if you’re super hawk-eyed, keep a lookout for Angelina’s real-life children Zahara and Knox making cameos in the scene. But wait, how did peasant Stefan become King you say as a grown-up? Well, watch the movie (or read some spoilers, maybe even skip this review) and you’ll know.

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King Stefan, now panicked and concerned over his daughter’s safety, orders all spinning wheels in the kingdom to be burnt. He also ensures that Aurora is raised by the three pixies (who are extremely unqualified BTW).

This is where the movie takes an extreme shift from what we know from the original movie. Instead of Maleficent (who immediately finds the hideout of Aurora (Elle Fanning) and her three pixie guardians in mere minutes. See how incompetent they are again?) plotting the next step in killing Aurora, as the girl grows up; she becomes fond of Aurora having seen the pixies that are raising her screwing at their job. Aurora, mistakenly thinking that Maleficent is her fairy godmother, is drawn to her. It is also here that Aurora meets with Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaites) and the two are as chummy as any love struck teenagers are.


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Maleficent, ultimately consumed with regret, decides to reverse her curse, but it is easy said than done. So she tries to prevent it by asking Aurora to move in with her on the eve of her 16th birthday. Aurora agrees but just as she gets home, she overhears the truth regarding her royal lineage and ultimately flees to the castle.

Aurora’s biological father, King Stefan reunites with her and immediately has her locked up to protect her from the curse. Alas, the curse cannot be prevented and Aurora still ends up pricking her finger and falling into a deep sleep to be awakened by true love’s kiss. Maleficent rushes to the castle with Diaval and kidnaps Prince Phillip to break the curse even though King Stefan has traps lain out for her capture.

This is where I won’t spoil the movie for you and insist that you watch it yourself because it will lead to the ending. All I can say is, the character of Maleficent redeems herself at the end. As for my viewpoint of the movie, while this was Disney’s first modern live-action adaptation in 2014, I actually think that this movie really shouldn’t have been made. Yes, the character of Maleficent is an interesting character and Angelina Jolie did do justice to her role if only the character had been properly fleshed out. This should have been done with proper writing to the story. While the first half of the movie was good, the second half had the story losing direction. Yes, the movie humanises Maleficent by giving her the ability to love Aurora instead of going all out hating the King and his family as in the original animated version. Granted, the cinematography is exquisite. Alas, good cinematography does not what a good movie makes. The costumes and make-up are fantastic too. Unfortunately, it too does not help with the movie when the story is weak.

The second half was when all hell broke loose and everything was thrown all together. We had the battle with the dragon (an ode to the original?), battle with the King, a highly unnecessary and ineffective Prince Phillip, a hapless Aurora, and why were the pixies not fairies as in the original animated version? They even had different names compared to the animated version. If almost all characters in the animated version retained their names in their real-life incarnations, why couldn’t they do it with the pixies/fairies? What is wrong with the classic Flora, Fauna, & Merryweather names? Are the names offensive? They were super charming in the animated version. Granted, it’s perfectly okay to change certain plotlines to suit the needs of today’s extremely discerning audience, had Maleficent only been done correctly. Having a creative license means updating the story to be adaptable to a modern audience. Maybe, instead of focusing on turning Maleficent “good”, they should just have her made her stick completely as a villain. I believe that the movie would have been an incredible live-action adaptation had there been better writing and all-round better plot cohesion. Perhaps had they focused the movie on Aurora and called it a live-action Sleeping Beauty, it would have made a difference. I give Maleficent half points for a decent effort.


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Meanwhile, there are rumblings of a Maleficent sequel. Oh no, I hope the second time will be done correctly, or how about Disney just scrap the idea entirely?



Cinderella Review:

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As this is a continuing double movie review, I will firstly state that Cinderella is a much better live-action adaptation and an example of how to get a live-action adaptation movie done right. Cinderella, the leading-titled character, is played by Lily James, best known for starring in Downton Abbey and directed by Kenneth Branagh.

The story starts with the origin of a girl named Ella, who is born to a happily married couple who, as a child lives on an estate in a mansion, complete with servants. Her father (Ben Chaplin) works as a merchant and is always working far. Her mother (Haley Atwell) teaches her the value of loving animals and about being kind to others. This is the perfect setting of a family who live happily together and adore each other very much.

Alas, we all know that this happiness won’t last because if it did, there would be no story and would centre on a regular family who live together happily. That would be pretty dull to viewers but would be perfectly acceptable to me.

Anyway, to really follow the (original Disney) fairy tale, Cinderella’s mother has got to go. So Cinderella’s mother gets sick and dies. For a while, her father is fine raising her, though he does still keep working out of state a lot (someone’s got to pay the bills). One day, he announces to his daughter Ella that he has decided to remarry a newly widowed woman called Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) who has her own set of daughters who will be Ella’s new stepsisters. Ella of course is totally fine with that as she is completely kind to all, remember?

So the marriage proceeds. Having moved in the house, Ella’s new mother proceeds to “brighten” up the house by always holding social gatherings, of the poker type. Ella is just forced to watch while her father continues working outside. Ella would rather spend time with her animal friends. Her father, before embarking on another working trip, asks Ella and her stepsisters what to get for them when he comes home. Her new stepsisters immediately ask for materialistic things while Ella asks for a simple branch that brushes against his shoulder on the way to his destination. How very humble of her.

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Cinderella (2015) Movie StillsWith her new husband away, Lady Tremaine has Ella switch her bedroom to the attic, to give way to her new stepsisters Anastasia and Drisella (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera). The stepsisters aren’t necessarily evil; they are just rather rotten spoilt. One day, Ella receives news that her father has unfortunately passed away while on his journey. This puts the family in a conundrum as her father was the sole main breadwinner of the family. Lady Tremaine, realising the family’s (or hers?) reversed fortunes immediately see it fit to trim the household budget. She has the servants dismissed and of course replaces them with Ella. Hence, Cinderella is born, christened by her stepsisters after they see her face covered with cinders when she wakes up. Ella discovers the folly of Lady Tremaine’s ways, with her being banned to eat with them. Upset, Ella takes a ride on her horse into the woods.

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In the woods, she crosses paths with a hunting party. She meets one of the hunters, a handsome stranger who introduces himself as Kit (Richard Madden), an apprentice at the palace. Unknown to Ella, Kit is really the kingdom’s Crown Prince who’s father the King is dying. Kit is immediately taken with Ella after she chastises him for hunting the stag and her different outlook on life. She, to him, is just a breath of fresh air and possibly unlike any woman he’s ever met before. He does not get to learn her name as their meeting is brief before both head their separate ways.

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Upon his return to the palace, Kit learns that his father the King is planning to organise a ball and invite all the eligible princesses as potential brides. Kit, who cannot forget the mysterious girl in the woods, persuades his father to invite all the eligible maidens in the kingdom as well in an effort to attract Ella. So the pronouncement is made and soon the entire kingdom knows about the ball.

While out in town on errands, Ella chances upon the proclamation of the ball and conveys the message to her “family”. Lady Tremaine immediately has new dresses made for herself and her daughters, ignoring Ella’s request for a dress as a way to cut costs. She orders Ella to return to town again and have the orders made. Lady Tremaine sees the opportunity for her daughters to woo the prince as a way to escape their current dire financial state. Undeterred, Ella fashions a new dress out of her mother’s old dress.

When the day of the ball arrives, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drisella are all ready to go when in bounces Ella with her new dress. The sisters taunt Ella on her apparently old-fashioned dress before, just like the Disney animated version, they tear up all of Ella’s hard work , leaving Ella’s dress in tatters before the three of them leave for the ball. Ella is in tears and rushes off crying to the backyard.

An old woman near the backyard asks the teary Ella for a drink of water. Ella obliges before, the reveal that the old woman is actually her Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter). Naturally, Ella is pretty pleased before good old Fairy Godmother, as the tale goes makes carriages, horses, and footmen out of animals and a pumpkin. Unfortunately, there is no bibbidi bobbidi boo song here. Saving the best for last, the Fairy Godmother gifts Ella an extremely gorgeous ball gown that is just, if not more beautiful than the one in the animated movie version. The Fairy Godmother does warn Ella however, that the spell only lasts till midnight and that she must get home by the time the clock strikes midnight. To this, Ella promptly agrees to do so.

At the palace, Kit is introduced to many eligible ladies but still holds out hope for the girl in the woods to come. The scene at the place where everyone is at the ball is exquisite. The costumes are breathtakingly beautiful and the set is just magnificent. Ella’s sisters try to have their time with the prince but fail. Then Ella arrives, fashionably late. She is a sight for sore eyes indeed. Kit immediately escorts her for a dance before they retreat to the “private” area in the garden where they talk it out to get to know one another a little better. However, it does not last long as Ella has to leave by midnight leaving Kit completely bewildered. He and his guards then set out on a furious chase trying to catch Ella but Ella luckily manages to escape before of course, accidentally leaving her glass slipper behind.
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Thus, the wild goose chase to find the owner of the shoe. It is decreed that every maiden in the kingdom try on the glass slipper for size. The Prince, now King after his father’s death, does not participate in this exercise, instead having his trusted henchmen do the job for him, complete with guards. It is kind of stupendous to believe that every maiden must try on the slipper. Wouldn’t it be easier had the Prince just describe his beloved mystery Ella for them? Again, it is all following the animated Disney version and the original tale by Charles Perrault.

Every maiden gets to try on the slipper without much success, even when it obviously cannot fit them. This is until they get to Ella’s house. Here is where I will leave you to ponder the conclusion until you find out by watching the movie in its entirety. I will say however that the King is revealed to be in the maiden-shoe search party.

Cinderella is a Disney live adaptation movie that works right when you focus on the original material while updating it so as not to make it too “wooden” like the original animated movie. Live-action Cinderella is just as sweet as her animated counterpart, but a little bit too passive. It would have been better had they made her a little bit feisty. Kit or the Prince’s character is more fleshed out here and details a great story of how he fell in love with Ella, unlike the animated version where he’s pretty one-dimensional and somehow we all believe that he gets Cinderella to fall in love with him and marry him. Just what did he do to her at the ball actually (Animated version)? Well, perhaps that’s why it was originally a Disney animated movie.



Oscars 2015 Review


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Another award season has come and go; and now, for the verdict on the most important award in every actors life, the Academy Awards 2015 hosted by hostess with the mostest, Neil Patrick Harris. Or was he the hostess with the mostest ever seen in Oscars history, we will get to that.

The start of the ceremony began with Harris’ tribute to movies throughout the years which was, to put it simply, sweet. It was then that Harris’ hosting credentials were further tested. Let’s face it, succeeding Ellen DeGeneres 2014 hosting gig was always going to be a hard act to follow. In his defence, Harris has previous hosting experience hosting the Emmy and Tony awards. Harris’ musical number had the help of fellow A-Listers Anna Kendrick and Jack Black which helped to jazz up the performance. Of course, Harris had to joke that the musical number was all improvised which just added up to the joke itself.

For one thing, as with most Oscars ceremonies, they hand out awards to the actors’ whom the Academy members believe to be most deserving of the best that year. This all goes to script and this year was no exception. Almost everybody who had swept awards this season took top honours. However, what personally surprised me, though he was tipped as a favourite too, was Eddie Redmayne trumping hot favourite Micheal Keaton as Best Actor. Eddie won for his performance in ‘The Theory of Everything’ portraying prominent physicist, Stephen Hawking.


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The rest, Julianne Moore, J.K Simmons, and Patricia Arquette all deservedly won their Oscars for their performances in their respective films, ‘Still Alice’, ‘Whiplash’, and ‘Boyhood’. Now, enough with the acknowledgement of the actors and their Oscar wins, they’ve got enough of that already. Let’s get down to the ceremony itself. Patricia Arquette had her Oscars winning speech about pay equality for women in the United States which received a positive reception (which of course it should).

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As I have previously stated, Neil Patrick Harris, while looking good on paper, surprisingly just didn’t cut it as an Oscars host. Bear in mind, I am a fan of the man and his body of work, but the Oscars were just ill-suited for his abilities. For one thing, Harris is no comedian (though he did star in a long-running comedy ‘How I Met Your Mother’ which, unfortunately does not make him a comedian). So unlike Ellen, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Bob Hope, etc, Harris just can’t be quick on his feet when it comes to hosting without the aid of a good script.

He had had to rely on a number of “stunts” to sustain his Oscars hosting such as standing in his boxers and the rather annoying Octavia Spencer (poor woman) long-running joke over watching a vault. He had some redeeming moments though with the opening musical number dedicated to the magic of movies, as mentioned earlier, and winning well-written quips about the Oscars. He perfectly touched on the lack of diverse Oscars acting nominees’ issue, the #OscarsSoWhite controversy by beginning his speech with the “Where we celebrate the Best and Whitest, I mean Brightest,” thereby not forgetting to indirectly addressing the issue.

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The rest of the ceremony relied on the presenters and musical performers at the Oscars. Among the highs and lows of the Oscars were the much talked about behaviours of Oscar presenters. Among them were John Travolta and Terrence Howard. John Travolta, after his infamous butchering of Idina Menzel’s name the previous year came back to present with Idina this year. Unfortunately, what transpired later was borderline creepy with his constant touching of Menzel’s face. Travolta however did later clarify that was all rehearsed earlier. Then there was Terrence Howard who took some time to announce three best picture nominees. Howard later explained that he was “star-struck”.

The musical performances at the Oscars deserve a mention too for brightening up the Oscars. Particular standouts were the performances of Lady Gaga singing a medley of ‘The Sound of Music’ songs in conjunction with that movie’s 50th Anniversary. Her performance earned her a standing ovation and received the thumbs-up from the movie’s star, Julie Andrews. For Lady Gaga, this was a chance for the public to see that she actually has singing chops. Granted, while we know that the lady can sing, it was always overshadowed by her antics such as her crazy dress sense and other showbiz gimmicks. Her most recent collaboration jazz album with the legendary Tony Bennett recently signalled a shift in that direction. Another talked about performance at the Oscars was the collaboration between Common and John Lennon performing “Glory” from the movie ‘Selma’. The song later won the Oscar. This was poignant coming from a year with a lack of a minority candidate in the acting Oscar nominee categories. Another highlight I have to add in were Teigen and Sara performing “Everything is Awesome” in a huge grand production from the ‘The Lego Movie’ (an unfairly snubbed movie) and where they handed over Lego Oscars statuettes.

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Other highlights came from other more technical category Oscar winners’ speeches. Winner of the Best Adapted Screenplay Graham Moore had some a little confused when in his acceptance speech, he said, “When I was 16 years old I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and different… Some people misinterpreted it as him coming out at the Oscars but Moore later clarified that he wasn’t a homosexual but that it was a message of tolerance about him being suicidal when he was young. The other memorable moment from the Oscars was from the Short Documentary winners, filmmaker Ellen Goosenberg Kent who said: “This goes to the veterans and their families who are brave enough to ask for help”. Fellow winner Dana Perry then said: “We should talk about suicide out loud.” Her son Evan killed himself.

Unfortunately, this was when host Neil Patrick Harris became a little insensitive upon the conclusion of the speech by instead of highlighting the seriousness of the issue, i.e. suicide; he instead chose to highlight the embellishments of Perry’s dress. He said: “It takes a lot of balls to wear a dress like that.” It was highly inappropriate, especially considering the heaviness of the topic mentioned. In Harris’ defence, in the context of the evening’s proceedings, he probably thought it better to lighten things up a bit. Alas, it was all very poorly timed. The Oscars of course concluded with ‘Birdman’ winning Best Picture but not without another buzz-worthy moment when Sean Penn the announcer, was accused of being racist about the movie’s director, Alexander Inarritu, whom he had worked with previously. Penn had said, “Who gave this son of a b***h his green card?” when presenting the Oscar, later attributing it as a joke. Not everyone was amused though.

All in all, the Oscars in 2015 can be remembered, as in previous Oscars, due to its memorable moments, looking at you John Travolta, but definitely not due to its host’s hosting abilities. Neil Patrick Harris does not a capable Oscars host make. Perhaps he should’ve been given the opportunity to host more Emmy and Tony awards before making it to the big league. Or to the Oscars committee; hire an actual comedian next time; we all remember Seth MacFarlane, and the Anne Hathaway and James Franco duo.

Dracula Untold Bites: A Review


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Dracula, arguably the world’s most famous vampire created by Bram Stoker, gets yet another big screen incarnation, having seen countless adaptations over the years in both movie and television form. But wait, we’re told, this one’s different because, well, because it’s Dracula UNTOLD, thank you very much.

So what is the deal with this latest Dracula incarnation? Just what is this untold part exactly that we just have to know about Count Dracula? In a nutshell, this movie is, as being touted about by Universal, the cast, and press is that it is a prequel, the story of how Count Dracula became the Count Dracula that we all know and love. If you’re going by the book by Stoker, the Count there is a really old vampire fellow but in this movie, he’s the extremely hot and buff Luke Evans. Fair enough. After all, it’s a Hollywood flick, who really wants to see an old guy be an action hero anyway. (I would pay to see that though, even if the stunts were performed by a younger stuntman, and this totally excludes The Expendables gang or any Liam Neeson Taken movies BTW). I would like to a see a sole older man kind of character be the hero and save the world for once, but that is irrelevant for now, instead let’s just focus on Hollywood’s obsession with youth.

For many years now, we’ve been told that Dracula has been inspired by the real life historical figure, Vlad the Impaler. Or as some quarters know him, Vlad III. This piece of information is something that everyone has been fed with consistently, a sort of general trivia if you may. However, recent reports suggest that perhaps Bram Stoker was not exactly inspired by Mr Vlad’s tale, just his family title apparently, Dracula. We now delve into the “Dracula Untold” review.

The movie establishes that Dracula was Vlad Tepes immediately. From his name to title, fancy castle, everything. Young Vlad Tepes was conscripted as a child soldier for the Turks upon the demand by the Sultan that one thousand boys must be given to him in exchange for Vlad’s dad to keep on being king of his kingdom and Vlad’s dad agrees. So young Vlad grows up with the Turks, becoming a killing, fighting machine, and slaughtering villages just, as the narration states, so that other villages can live, impaling them, thus the Vlad the Impaler title.

In exchange for his services, Vlad (Luke Evans) is allowed to be king of his country and the whole practice of giving a thousand boys for war purposes is abolished, at least for ten years. Vlad now has a happy family with a beautiful wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and cute son Ingeras (Art Parkinson). But alas, one day, the Turks make an about-turn and send a delegation on the pretext of collecting their usual tithes from Vlad’s country; they want to resume their thousand boys practice again, which includes Vlad’s son.

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Naturally, Vlad is aghast. After all, its been ten years, and now the Turks are resuming that archaic practice again? Vlad is torn into repeating his father’s practice in exchange for his country’s safety. His wife Mirena begs Vlad to appeal to his childhood BFF, Sultan Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) of the Turks to spare them of this abhorrent practice, especially for their son’s sake. So off Vlad goes; unfortunately no, the Sultan won’t budge and Vlad has no choice but to agree to spare his country from the Turks’ wrath because he has no army of his own.

While handing over his son to the Turks, Vlad makes an about turn and resorts to the only way he can to save his country. To the legendary vampire monster that resides in the mountains, the Master Vampire (Charles Dance). The Master, possibly the best character in this movie, gives Vlad a choice; drink his blood and turn into a vampire complete with vampire powers and all, but he must refrain from drinking blood for three days before he can revert to human form. Easy said than done. I’m sure we all know what becomes of Dracula in the end anyway; so this movie is to see how Vlad manages to struggle to control his new lust for blood while leading his people at war.

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In scenes reminiscent of when superheroes first gain their powers, Vlad discovers his newly acquired vampire abilities and uses it to good effect in the first battle against the Turks. The CGI work in these scenes are amazing and are not really gory as one would expect from a movie titled “Dracula Untold” as one would expect. (No wonder, due to its PG-13 rating). Instead, the battle scenes are exciting,      fast-paced, and make for great viewing on the big screen. Spoiler here: This scene is where Vlad squares off against a thousand men and beats them all. Watch it if you can; it’s amazing.

Of course; Vlad’s trusted advisers are puzzled as to how their king managed to beat a thousand men and come out relatively unscathed. Vlad successfully manages to conceal his powers and blood lust other than to his wife Mirena. Though Sarah Gadon does her job well as Vlad’s wife and Ingeras’s mother, her role is reduced to a merely ineffective female figure. However, she does serve as an important catalyst for Vlad in this movie so look out for that. As for the depiction of the Turks; while I understand that this is Hollywood and you do not rely on Hollywood for accurate depictions of minorities or rather historical facts that involve minorities, etc, the Turks here were reduced to a mere caricature of themselves. I am not saying that Hollywood gets it wrong all the time, obviously there are plenty of great biopics and other depictions have been fine but typically this is what Hollywood is known for. Hollywood gives a little leeway to history. This movie itself is embroiled in a controversy purportedly for its anti-Islamic depictions but, as mentioned previously, it’s a Hollywood movie so watch it with an open mind. Do that and you’ll get a truly entertaining flick that does its job of entertaining you during its an hour and a half run. I for one was thoroughly entertained watching this flick (being a vampire buff does not count) in enhancing my enjoyment of this film.

For historical facts in a quickie, the real Vlad the Impaler had a penchant for killing and impaling his victims. He was later defeated by the Turks, who were assisted by Vlad’s very own brother Radu. To know more and decide on whether he was a villain or hero, do look out for the information yourself by doing a little research. Back to the movie then…

The cast give good performances especially Charles Dance, even in his brief turn here as the Master Vampire. Of course lead actor Luke Evans is charismatic as the humanized Dracula who is trying to protect his country and family. However, the supporting characters don’t really stand out and are rather forgettable. Even the villain Sultan Mehmed is rather one-dimensional. Sarah Gadon’s Mirena is bland but she does her best with the limited material she is given. Credit should be given to the cast for making do with whatever they were thrown at and making the best out of it.

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This movie, though exciting and quite a good movie actually, suffers from a déjà vu syndrome, especially if you’ve been exposed to all the numerous vampire and supernatural television series on television and other vampire movies. It’ll all look rather familiar as it has been done before and you can’t really try to present something new and fresh in vampire movies when it involves blood and biting into victims. Dracula Untold is obviously a historical and literary fusion genre movie unless you want to believe that Vlad III really did obtain his lust for blood by making a deal with a Master Vampire and therefore later acts like a superhero, this is where we are told the Dracula Untold part comes in.

While the ending of the movie was satisfactory, I’m sure most would have heard that Universal are planning on making a ‘Monster Universe’ franchise ala Marvel and DC with its Superheroes stable. They will be releasing upcoming movies of their iconic monsters such as Frankenstein and the reboot of The Mummy movie. You could definitely tell the reshoot of the ending which sets itself up for a sequel and potential Monster universe franchise movies start-up. Frankly, I thought the obvious original ending was fine without the addition of the unnecessary re-shot ending. This movie may not satisfy Dracula purists but at the end of the day, I would recommend it just for its high entertainment value.

American Idol Top 13 Season 13 VS The Voice Top 12 Season 6 Fan Analysis


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In recent years, the most prominent reality singing show has either been Fox’s American Idol or NBC’s The Voice. Fox’s other singing import; The X-Factor tried to join the party too but was sadly stopped before even entering. So while American Idol is seen as the dominant reality show, over the years since being aired 12 years ago, its appeal has dropped among the general public. This is because of its status as the aging reality singing show, its rotating judges, lack of chemistry between the judges, producers’ hand in contestant selection, and overall quality of contestants.

On the other side of the fence, The Voice meanwhile is seen as the rising new kid on the block. With seven seasons already under its belt (thanks to its twice-a-year schedule), The Voice is seen as a breath of fresh air. Having a slightly different concept than American Idol, with singers auditioning based on their voices (hence the title), not on by their looks. With no age limit, The Voice attracts various contestants with different levels of experience (professionals are allowed on), thus, the quality of the contestants are slightly a head and shoulders above American Idol.

Never has this held true than this season’s crop of contestants on both shows. I will not do a side-by-side comparison of every contestant or the judging panel, but merely a simple analysis on both. The first to be noted would be that even before American Idol Season 13 aired, it underwent some massive changes, starting with the firing of its long-time Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe. Out with Nigel, in comes Per Blankens, all the way from Sweden as his replacement. You can definitely tell with the aesthetic changes made by Per, from the first episode of this season with the split screens and all, and overall, much cleaner editing. There were more changes but enough of that, let’s get with the real analysis. However, to be fair, The Voice slightly altered its format by letting the coaches determine the Top 12 instead of America voting them in. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I also noticed more number of ‘steals’ allowed during the Battle Rounds process and beyond. As usual, there were cases of letting go of some truly talented contestants too early.

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Onto both the judges panel on American Idol or the coaches panel on The Voice. On American Idol, the judges’ panel definitely had more chemistry than the mismatched panel of Season 12 when you could tell that Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj were definitely not BFFs and poor Keith Urban was forced to sit in between, acting as neutraliser between the pair. Though Idol did recycle their judges panel (excluding Harry Connick Jr., even though he was a mentor for last season), me thinks it is the best judges panel since the glory days of Simon, Paula, and Randy. This panel genuinely like each other and the audience can tell and feel that. However, Randy Jackson really needs to be fired as the in-house mentor. Somebody, please speed-dial Jimmy Iovine ASAP (now impossible with him working for Apple) or get someone that is a more effective mentor. Could David Cook be hired on a part-time basis perhaps? Someone other than Randy, please. Now to the coaches’ panel on The Voice. The thing about The Voice’s coaching panel is, since the beginning, they’ve always had chemistry. Whether they rotate between Christina Aguilera, Cee-Lo Green (ex-coach), Shakira, Usher, and soon I’m pretty sure Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani, they’ll always have chemistry. It’s like Executive Producer Mark Burnett managed to find the magic ingredient when it comes to putting together a panel. They all genuinely appear to really like each other and get along well judging by their joint interview appearances. Their lively banter is refreshing to watch and make the audience enjoy their interactions when they are on screen.


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We now come to the quality of the contestants of the current seasons of each show. Let’s compare them all as a group of their respective Top 12/13s or whatever. When you look at both contestant groups, I’d say that the more talented singing group is definitely The Voice’s batch. Can you even recall the Top 13 of American Idol? Granted, there are several contestants who stand out such as Caleb Johnson, Jena Irene, Alex Preston (Yeah, they’re in the Top 3), and several others, but can barely recall any of the others. But over on The Voice side, you’ve got Sisaundra Lewis, Kat Perkins, Christina Grimmie, and Josh Kauffman for example. Both shows did eliminate some good contestants before revealing their top total whatever and if American Idol had actually replaced some of their Top 13 contestants with the eliminated contestants, maybe there’d be a better pool of talent. Same thing goes with The Voice, there were contestants with potential who sadly had to be let go, due to the show’s rules. Now on American Idol, I’m aware that there were contestants who were voted in by the American Idol, but I wonder, after seeing Dexter Roberts, MK Nobilette, and C.J. Harris, why again? Admittedly, the country fan base is strong but, C.J., pitchy, I rest my case. These are just some of the contestants I would like to single out for being slightly below average than other contestants.

Another comparison would be the system of elimination, favouritism, popular voting, and rigged results. Some of the aforementioned points are pretty much the same regurgitated points but there are some differences. On American Idol, it’s a little straightforward with voters calling and texting in the good-old fashioned way for their favourites. Nowadays, they’ve even added in online votes. The Voice is way ahead with its voting system being the traditional text and call, there are also iTunes votes, Facebook votes, and Twitter Instant Save votes (with Twitter being the most controversial). The Voice’s Team Adam’s Christina Grimmie is a YouTube star and has many followers on Twitter so the Instant Save gives her an advantage? But what about those who don’t have Twitter accounts and want to vote for their favourite contestants? Then, there is always the good-old favouritism present on both shows. On American Idol, there’s the obvious sabotaging of Jessica Meuse and the favouring Sam Woolf saga, just some examples. While on The Voice, coach Blake Shelton’s picking of Jake Worthington as a finalist on his team instead of other deserving talents (just my opinion) amounts to favouritism. However, to be fair, Jake did prove himself, just that I thought not at the level of more talented contestants. As mentioned earlier, popular voting does play a part like the previously mentioned Christina Grimmie case and her Twitter votes, as well as the show’s obvious favouritism towards Christina Grimmie herself. The judges on American Idol constantly pimping out Caleb Johnson and Jena Irene (they are good, but still; don’t go all out on showing it). As for rigged results, the ever changing rules by the The Voice producers as I have addressed earlier in the beginning.

As the results would show on both shows, the unexpected happens. The Voice ended up having Team Usher’s Josh Kaufman as the winner but not without controversy after eliminating the iTunes votes when Josh’s song could not be voted on when it never appeared on the chart. The Voice did however insist that didn’t affect the results tally and Josh Kaufman would’ve won regardless. American Idol, seemingly the fairest show now, crowned Caleb Johnson as their winner, which is not unexpected, because we kind of predicted that’d both contestants would be in the finals. Besides, it really doesn’t matter who wins on Idol nowadays, but more who can have a long-lasting musical career AFTER the show.

The Lego Movie: Building Blocks to Movie Success

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Lego, those toy building blocks that almost every child has heard of and played with. Legos have become synonymous with childhood toys. That’s not to say that adults haven’t actually retained their love for Legos that there are now occupations for Lego builders or die-hard Lego connoisseurs who collect Legos and develop Lego models as a hobby.
This brings us to the gist of the Lego movie. Seriously, why hasn’t anyone thought of an actual Lego movie before? Other than video games based on certain models of Lego that were actually based on existing movie franchises, such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, or the Lord of the Rings? I know that there are many other Lego-based on movie games and such movies but let’s just take those three as prime examples. What I mean is a true standalone Lego movie until of course, this movie arrived.
Hearing the name, The Lego Movie, the title is just so…generic. But then again so is Disney & Pixars’s Toy Story and we all know how great those movies are. Then again, there are also plenty of other generic-sounding movies, but we lap them up, whether good or bad. But rethinking it, The Lego Movie is also a great title because it does its job in telling us, that hey, this movie is about Legos and it’s a damn movie. And besides, the prospect of a Lego movie is just so cool that if anyone asked if I were willing to be a part of a Lego movie, I would’ve done it for free.
The Lego movie starts with Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) trying to protect the Kragle, a super weapon with powers to decide the fate of the Lego Universe from President Business (Will Ferrell). We then move forward to eight and a half years later where we meet a normal Lego figurine guy named Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt). Now, we know the Lego world encompasses many different worlds and many more Lego sets. It’s amazing that somehow, this movie manages to incorporate almost all the occupants of the Lego universe and still make it work. Back to Emmet, this Lego dude is just so ordinary. He is as ordinary as you can get, pretty much how ordinary all of us would think that life is. That is, work, eat, watch television, and sleep. Every single day of his life. He is, by definition, your average; regular guy. There is absolutely nothing special about Emmet. He, together with the rest of his city, are pretty much living such ordinary lives that they do everything their leader President Business tells them to do. From watching the same television programme, having the same hobbies, and liking the same song (“Everything is Awesome” is super catchy and all, but it’s EVERYONE’S favourite song). Imagine having to share that honour?


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One day, Emmet spots an intruder at his workplace just as he’s about to head home. This leads him to stumble upon the secret of the Lego universe that can bring about change, The Piece of Resistance. However, before he can even touch it, he is caught by Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) but is rescued by the intruder. This said intruder, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) believes that regular Emmet is actually The Special, the one who is the key to a revolution in the Lego Universe. So she takes him to the head of her team, Vitruvius where Emmet is made to understand the roles of “Master Builder”. It turns out that President Business has hatched a plan to, other than already controlling the citizens of Emmet’s city, now wants to freeze the entire Lego universe using the Kragle. The Kragle is actually a tube of super glue, that, when applied to Lego figurines, renders them stuck permanently.

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A “Master Builder” is basically a Lego figure (which all the characters are) that can well; build Lego structures without any instructions unlike Emmet and his cohorts who have been brainwashed into relying on instructions for everything in life. President Business discovers that The Special has been found and sends his henchmen to capture him. Thus, Emmet and company attempt to escape and alas, much to Vitruvius and Wyldstyle’s dismay, Emmet displays absolutely no special “Master Builder” skills. They manage to escape after being rescued by Batman (Will Arnett), Wyldstyle’s boyfriend. The company soon head off to Cloud Cuckoo Land, Middle Zealand where other “Master Builders” have gathered. These Master Builders range from many recognisable and iconic figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Superman, Gandalf, and Wonder Woman, among many others. There, Emmet is told the story of how various attempts have been made to retrieve the Kragle, to no avail and how President Business has cracked down on this movement by imprisoning many “Master Builders”. Emmet then, while giving a speech, explains that there is absolutely nothing remotely special that he can do but promises to help. This infuriates several segments of the “Master Builders” who were expecting a miraculous solution but before they can react, President Business has already invaded the place and have the “Master Builders” arrested.


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Our heroes manage to escape. They hatch a plan to break into President Business’s headquarters and take hold of the Kragle as well as rescue all the “Master Builders” to foil President Business’s plans. How they manage to sneak into headquarters, tune in and see. Once in headquarters, they manage to execute the plan but Emmet and Wyldstyle still gets caught by President Business. This is when the movie moves to a live-action part. It is at this point that I found the movie slightly bewildering. Like, why is there a live-action part of the movie and why is Will Ferrell in it? Granted, Will Ferrell does voice President Business but what in the world…? I found this part incredibly jarring and disjointing to the movie. However, there is a reason why the live action part is included and to understand, you’ll just need to watch the movie. It all ties brilliantly in the end and when we eventually return to the Lego universe and we’ll get to see whether Emmet and company prevail. The ending works well because the movie is targeted mainly towards children but adults will enjoy it just as much. Overall, a great beginning for the Lego movie franchise to start on.
In other good news is; it has been announced that there will indeed be a sequel. So for those who enjoy watching talking Lego figures and the Lego world (should be everybody), do keep a lookout for its sequel coming soon in 2017.


The Fan Appeal of Jared Leto


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Jared Leto, the man known as a mash-up of an actor and a singer. A man who is good looking, and excels in both areas equally. He isn’t exactly new as he’s in the game for quite some time now and has a few respectable releases, both in music and movies. His works that have given him public recognition are the 90s TV series My So-Called Life, movies such as Requiem for a Dream, Panic Room, American Psycho, and as frontman for the platinum-selling band, 30 Seconds to Mars. Other than that, he’s also known for his interesting dating life with past flames ranging from actresses Cameron Diaz and Scarlett Johansson.

But it is his recent role in Dallas Buyers Club that’s been getting him a whole new kind of attention lately. For one thing, the role marked his onscreen comeback after six years away promoting and touring with 30 Seconds to Mars. Jared did it big, playing the role of Rayon, a transgender in the film and was rewarded with multiple nominations during this year’s awards season. Awards season in Hollywood, as everyone knows, is when all the actors and musicians get together earlier in the year, mostly earlier with exceptions, some are held mid-year or end of the year (majority earlier). They then get rewarded with awards given out by the press, fans or industry peers on a job well done on whatever it is that they were working on previously that warranted an award nomination in the first place.


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So anyway, Jared Leto gets nominated this year for his Rayon portrayal and only now do people realise that all this while Jared Leto is actually a damn, good actor. However, this truth has been known to many for quite some time now, the guy just never had the opportunity to show off his acting chops off. Without a doubt, he was in some good flicks in the past, it was just that it was in a few obscure movies and some duds (Alexander anyone?). There were roles such as Chapter 27 where he gained weight to play John Lennon’s killer. Committed to his role? Absolutely. Committed to his music? That too as seen by the dedication to his band with him writing and composing the music. And not to mention him directing and conceptualising the band’s music videos under the name of Bartholomew Cubbins, among them the songs “From Yesterday” and “A Beautiful Lie”.

Jared is indeed a talented fellow. The fact that he won The Best Supporting Oscar for a Supporting Actor, things are really changing for the better. Having that and ‘Academy Award Winner’ tagline next to his name, it would really bring him the respect needed to further cement his status as a true star. After all, we’ve all given him the respect that he needs all this while. In public, he is seen as a true gentleman, always respectful and polite. He is seen as humble and grateful for the success that he’s had, either when at an awards show or a 30 Seconds to Mars concert. Having seen him perform live at a 30 Seconds to Mars performance, I deduce that Jared seems kind and respectful to his fans. He seemed to enjoy performing wherever he is and is sensitive to his surroundings. Of course, one can argue that it is all a public image and the likes but his conduct tells otherwise.


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The public is aware that Jared is supposedly single so the fact that he brought his mother and brother cum band mate Shannon is just touching. Him dedicating a part of his Oscars acceptance speech to his mother just makes him the absolute loyal son. It is a known fact that he acknowledged that he was raised in a single-parent family.  It seems that his mother did well in raising him.

So beyond the glitz and glamour, the rumours linking him to everybody from Lupita Nyong’o and Miley Cyrus, let’s just openly acknowledge this: That Jared Leto is first of all, is an artiste beyond the labels of musician and actor. He is a creative being and letting him be an artiste is the only way we can all enjoy the display of his artistic talents.

Jared will only go on to do bigger and better things. His latest project is a joint tour with the band Linkin Park so it looks like he’ll be focused on the music for a while. As for potential film projects, it might be a while before we see him on the big screen again. Whatever future projects that Jared Leto gets himself involved in, it’ll surely be worth the wait.

Disney’s Frozen: Warms Hearts

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Disney, the mega-juggernaut entertainment company has unleashed their latest animated movie, Frozen. This is their 53rd animated feature stretching back from the very first Disney animated movie release, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves way back in 1937. An impressive feat considering the 67 year age gap, with 53 animated films not counting all the Disney cartoons made prior or after the release of Snow White.

As an avid Disney fan and growing up on a staple of Disney animated movies (as most kids are), I, an adult woman in her 20s was as very eager and anticipating this new Disney release as much as had I still been a child. You gotta admit, Disney’s got some magic hold on us that even in adulthood; we still yearn for some good Disney movies. For most girls, that means Disney Princess movies. Having been impressed with the recent animated Disney movies that were produced such as The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Brave (not so much) so two out of three isn’t bad, and comparable to classic Disney animated movies such as Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin among many others. I had heard great early reviews about Frozen coupled with the buzz surrounding the excitement of having TWO Disney Princesses in one movie. Sweet.


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Frozen introduces us to the tale of Anna (Kristen Bell) and her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel), two princesses who live specifically in a kingdom called Arendelle. Early on in their life, the two Princesses are cared for by their parents and as adults Elsa is crowned queen. Elsa, as a child possesses magical powers to control the frozen elements around her and while playing with her sister Anna, accidentally injures her. Thus, leading to damage control by her worried parents involving some form of Disney magic and a breakdown in the relationship between the two sisters. Go see the movie to see what I mean. In the midst of the girls growing up, we are treated to some traditional Disney musical performances. Surprise everyone, Kristen Bell has a fantastic singing voice which doesn’t come as a surprise when you realise she was discovered on Broadway before embarking on a screen acting career. These musical numbers, “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” and “For the First Time in Forever”, while good don’t seem to match the oomph exhibited  by previous Disney numbers such as say, “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast or “Colours of the Wind” from Pocahontas. Of course Idina Menzel is excellent in her singing considering her Broadway pedigree as is most of the supporting voice talent cast actually who are all Broadway vets.

A few years later, upon Elsa’s ascension to the throne, several misunderstandings lead Elsa to revealing her true abilities to the people of her kingdom. This of course shocks the kingdom who just can’t believe that their newly crowned queen is literally, an Ice Queen. Elsa flees into the mountains with her ice powers, away from the glare of her subjects, sister and repercussions. Of course, she gets to perform a rocking ballad while building her new ice castle, arguably the best song of the film, “Let It Go”. Meanwhile, Anna, who just as the entire kingdom is shell-shocked that big sis has icy powers, starts to piece together her childhood memories. Still equally protective and as any sister, concerned and worried about the whereabouts and state of her sister, decides to go out into the cold and bring her sister back. She does this while still dressed in the ball gown donned for her sister’s coronation. Atta girl. It should be noted that on Coronation Day, Anna has met Prince Hans from the Southern Isles and in the span of a day upon knowing him, agrees to his proposal of marriage. Therefore, she leaves her kingdom in the care of her fiancé while she looks for her sister.

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On her journey to finding her sister, girl obviously needs some help in the search-and-rescue department. While all for girl power, imagine searching for your loved ones in cold and frozen temperatures with absolutely no clue as to how exactly where or when to get there? While exchanging her ballroom kit for more appropriate safety gear at a lodge, Anna stumbles into mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer Sven. Realising that he’s a seasoned mountaineer, she hires him as a guide to help her in the search for her sister. Reluctant at first (it is night time and the man’s got to sleep) he finally agrees after Anna tempts him with some big, fat money and the promise of a brand new sleigh.

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Now, as in any good Disney movie, you have to have some form of a Disney sidekick. Watching Anna, Kristoff, and Sven go off to search for Elsa is all intriguing, and VERY SERIOUS. There has to be some funny moments thrown in and this is the part where Olaf comes in. Olaf (Josh Gad) is a snowman somehow accidentally created by Elsa while on the run. Olaf is a remnant from both Elsa and Anna’s childhood as he was the snowman that they used to make as children. Olaf is the classic epitome of a Disney sidekick joining the likes of previous Disney sidekicks such as Sebastian in The Little Mermaid, Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, and Iago from Aladdin among many others. I cite classic Disney sidekicks as they’re more memorable unlike recent modern Disney flicks where I just can’t recall any. He’s there to be the comic relief in the movie otherwise the movie would be extremely drag-gy and very serious in tone. Josh Gad is extremely entertaining voicing Olaf making his character extremely likeable as well as appealing, especially to children. It is a Disney flick after all.

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The best part about this new Disney offering is that there are no clear-cut villains. Well, maybe there is but, no spoilers, he is quite a predictable baddie if you really watch the movie and is less of a threat than the traditional Disney villain. Basically, the villains that have to be battled are the challengers faced by the two Princess Sisters themselves in order for them to rediscover their sisterly love.

The two lead actresses, Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel do a fantastic job voicing their characters as are the supporting cast in the form of Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad. The songs, though not as memorable as past Disney songs, are good especially the aforementioned standout, “Let It Go”. Overall, Frozen is a perfect addition to the Disney stables, a very modern Disney animated flick that will be enjoyed through the ages.

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Once Upon a Time and Why it’s One of the Best Shows EVER, Well, on Network TV


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Fairy tales. As children, we were enthralled by them. From the tales of princesses being rescued by princes fighting fire-breathing dragons, fairies, goblins to all sorts of talking animals, they represent the innate innocence of childhood. They were sometimes used to teach a moral lesson or passing down tales that may or may not have occurred yonder by.

The fact that there is still a fascination for fairy tales even in adulthood tells us that these stories are relevant even in our now grown life. Observe the many adaptations of fairy tales told in a more modern adaptation or presented just as it is. Movies such as the Disney animated movies represent a retelling of these tales to a more contemporary audience. Musicals and stage performances are constantly staging these timeless tales as material for their repertoire so guess what, it’s still relevant. Observe the newly released Disney’s Frozen, a retelling of, surprise, a fairy tale, The Snow Queen.

Nowadays, TV dramas have also got in on the act. TV series such as Game of Thrones (not a fairytale but based on a book series, so similar, no?), Grimm and the subject of discussion, Once Upon a Time.

ABC’s Once Upon a Time (OUAT) debuted on TV screens in 2011. As the title suggests, yeah everyone, it’s about fairy tales as almost every fairy tale starts with, well, Once Upon a Time. Look closer and you’ll realise it’s not all focused on Princess meets her Prince, falls madly in love and ride horseback into the sunset. Let’s face it, this is reality and nothing like that ever happens and ends well. In reality, after riding off into the sunset, said Princess will probably have fights with her Prince and go through trials and tribulations in her marriage. Oh, and raising their future children.

That’s what I like about Once Upon a Time. At the core of it, it’s very much steeped in reality. Yeah sure, you have your merry band of characters from various fairy tales such Snow White, Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood (used to until she moved shows), Red Riding Hood’s Granny, the Seven Dwarfs and the Evil Queen. This being from ABC (Disney), of course core Disney characters are a part of it such as Mulan (May or may not be a real person?), Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Prince Phillip (Sleeping Beauty), Ariel (The Little Mermaid) and many more.

In contrast, Grimm’s premise is such that the main character discovers that he’s descended from hunters who fight supernatural/fairytale characters. I admit, haven’t caught it yet but that’s kinda reality based being like a cop show featuring fairy tale characters.

Once Upon a Time is centered on the premise of Snow White and Prince Charming’s only daughter, Emma Swan being the savior of the fairy tale world who have been under a curse put on by the Evil Queen to forget their true selves as fairy tale characters and instead live their lives as their real-life alter egos in the real world.

Three seasons already in the States, but only concluding its second season here in Asia, a new episode every weekday by the way, I may be a little behind but thank you Internet for getting us up to speed on the going-ons in the third season. I prefer waiting it out for the third season to air here in its entirety instead of agonizing over waiting for a new episode per week and that dreaded half season break in the States.

Anyway, back up to speed here and why the show is just awesome. What initially attracted me to Once Upon a Time was, fairy tales being presented in a relevant modern way; ie. The 21st Century. How would fairy tale characters behave in our world? Would they be just like us or be a little bit more special because all they’re all fairy-tale-ly or something? Well, turns out that our poor Emma Swan is an orphan by word as she wasn’t raised by her fairy tale parents having been sent away as a baby to save her from the impending curse.

28 years passes by before she meets her real parents again, breaks the curse and reunites with her long-lost son whom she gave up in her teens. Wait, what? Snow White’s kid had a kid? Without marrying her Prince? To add to that, her parents and the residents of Storybrooke, the fictional town where the series is set haven’t aged a day? So Emma and her parents could totally pass off as buddies instead of parents and child. And they’ve got a grandson, so that makes it look like one really bizarre family reunion. Emma knows it and she’s the most real character on the show, as is her son Henry too. When I say ‘real’, I meant that they’re not actually creations of a fairy tale. So you could say, the series is real but just ignore the age gap mathematically and all the magic stuff and you’ll do just fine. It is still based in fairytale-dom after all.

Being a new character introduced to the fairytale, Emma Swan’s character is given leeway to be developed as there’s no template for Emma Swan in books. So I could say that Emma Swan is an awesome warrior princess who will somehow save the day and restore peace to Fairytale Land or something close.  This is quite true as she is the destined savior of the show.

To make things simpler; I will run through why OUAT is awesome by season and for Season 3 just give simple commentary based on recaps. So here goes:

Season 1

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1.       The season introduced us to Emma Swan & company and their respective real-life counterparts in Storybrooke. Due to being under a curse for 28 years, they don’t age. So, stay young forever!

2.       The flashbacks in Fairytale Land. Could be confusing for some, as one minute they’re all modern and stuff and next, dressed in really cool Fairytale costumes which are eons better than modern day clothes.

3.       Recognizing who’s who in Fairytale Land and if they resemble anything like their Disney cartoon counterparts is always fun. Snow White/Mary Margaret looks so much better with longer hair; take note Ginny Goodwin.

4.       Henry’s extremely cool storybook that tells the story of the tale of the inhabitants of Storybrooke.

5.       Realizing the complete awesomeness of the characters that stand out e.g. being Emma, Regina, Snow, Charming, and Rumplestiltskin. Other supporting characters like Ruby and Archie deserve mention too. Sorry Henry, you’re way too annoying to be credited.Credited to

 Season 2

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1.       The curse is broken. Hail Emma Swan! Now everyone remembers their true Fairy Tale selves again and can act like it.

2.       Emma and her mom Snow White landing in Fairytale Land and meeting up with Mom’s old pals like Lancelot. The introduction of Aurora, Prince Phillip, Mulan, Jack and the Beanstalk and the Giant.

3.       The rediscovery of Rumplestiltskin’s son, Baelfire/Neal, Henry’s dad and Emma’s baby daddy.

And of course;

4.       The introduction of Captain Hook/Killian Jones

5.       HOOK. Need I say more?

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Premature awesomeness of Season 3 (Through recaps as the season ain’t over.)

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1.       Neverland. Granted, it’s to save Henry but it’s Neverland OMFG.

2.       Who else lives in Neverland but Peter Pan? So in with the introduction of Peter Pan. Yes, the Lost Boys too.

3.       Ariel and Eric from the Little Mermaid finally make an appearance.

4.       Captain Hook’s growing affection for Miss Swan.

5.       The twisted love triangle of said Captain Hook, Emma, and Neal/Baelfire.

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Malaysian Double Standards Towards Visiting Female Performers

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Recently,Robin Thicke had a performance in a joint concert organized by MTV here in Malaysia.

Which led me to think, that for the guy who crooned ‘Blurred Lines’ while cavorting with topless models in his uncensored version of the video, there was hardly a ripple about him performing here in Malaysia. His arrival was also after the infamous Miley Cyrus MTV VMAs twerking performance. Again, not even a squeak was heard.


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Don’t get me wrong,I am a huge fan of Robin Thicke,way before he went, “I know you want it”, and Hey Hey Hey!” aka Blurred Lines. The guy is super talented what with his ability to write and produce songs, and of course as a live performer.

But how is it that when it came time for the ladies to perform here in Malaysia, there is always a big brouhaha. From the likes of the Pussycat Dolls (understandable in this country) as well as Beyonce and Rihanna, these women have all got the backlash treatment usually from religious authorities and the higher-ups. For the record, Beyonce had wanted to perform in Malaysia before twice but was always followed by protests leading to her cancelling and opting to perform in neighboring Indonesia instead. Rihanna was supposed to come to Malaysia for a concert until the Chris Brown incident happened.

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The two singers and group mentioned above do represent performers who push the limits when it comes to performance and the showcase of their blatant sexuality on stage but there is a problem here when the likes of Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne get a similar reaction to them coming here.


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Like seriously, Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne? Those two are considered tame when it comes to being super sexy compared to their peers.

Not that male performers haven’t been welcomed without a fuss, these are usually met by openly gay singers such as Adam Lambert and Elton John and occasionally metal bands such as Lamb of God, but this posting is about the ladies. And it usually is the ladies who are put under a different microscope than the men. The men will probably be mentioned some other time.

It’s become expected and ridiculous that when a female performer shows up, you can expect two things. A protest over her arrival in the country and a demand that she comply with local regulations ie. dress up decently.

Decently meaning only one thing; covered up. Oh hey, how about covering her with a sheet while she’s performing with only her eyes showing? Now that’s something worth to see at a performance, eh?


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Precisely, and that’s exactly how Mariah Carey performed when she was in Malaysia. One outfit throughout the entire performance with not a single costume change! The same with Pixie Lott at her first performance in Malaysia as well as Katy Perry. While these women didn’t exactly dress up as a ghost at their respective performances, they wore only one outfit throughout. Though they can just wear trash bags and still rock it, or as the aforementioned one outfit, it is a loss when they are not allowed to parade their stage outfits onstage or their incredible fashion sense all because of some ‘decent’ ruling.      Credited to                                                              Credited to


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How about when Erykah Badu was scheduled to perform here and then banned for inciting religious sensitivities. If that is the case, then they shouldn’t have approved for her performing in the first place or even announce her arrival. A thorough background check would have sufficed.

Apparently Malaysians can’t think for themselves about choosing who or what they want to watch. Are we so gullible that watching a homosexual singer perform means that we will all turn gay the minute we exit the concert venue? Or have our morals corrupted as soon the singer ends the song? There are things that are even worse out there, people.

Still, there have been some improvements seen. Miss Jenny on the Block Jennifer Lopez performed not too long ago and seemed to have gotten off scot-free. Then again, she did make alterations to her outfit.

It seems that ‘safe’ performers like Celine Dion are allowed to perform here without any hassle as they have an image of being conservative and are known more for their vocals. There are probably examples of many performers I have not mentioned but you get the idea for the kind of performers that are allowed here.

I long for the day when performers such as Lady Gaga and Madonna can perform here in Malaysia without anyone batting an eyelid or demanding that some conditions be met. To let performers do what they do best; perform with no restrictions and repercussions.


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I am however worried about the reception for Ke$ha what with her concert scheduled later this month. Everyone knows the kind of shows that she puts up. Of course, expected protests here and there. In an update; with Ke$ha due to arrive in a week, it’s been relatively quiet on the front. Perhaps a sign of things to come? Hopefully so, maybe we are changing. Still, I’m not really concerned about the imminent arrival of Alicia Keys’ concert. She is after all, a ‘safe’ performer. At least for this country.

Improvements have to be made. Perhaps just be a little lenient when it comes to letting performers in. Standardize the conditions set for allowed performers with no discrimination concerning gender whatsoever. Let the people decide and judge for themselves who they want to see perform.


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Quick update: Ke$ha’s concert was a no go as it was said to be “undermining religious and cultural sensibilities”. Some things never change. Point taken. Need we say more?