Movie Reviews #6: The Muppets

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The movie starts with growing up snippets of a pair of unlikely brothers in Smalltown, Gary and Walter. While Gary is your typical “normal” American boy, Walter is a puppet stuck at being 3 feet tall. Just as he starts to despair, he discovers The Muppets. The 2 brothers grow up to be ardent Muppet fans.

One day, Gary decides to bring Walter along on a trip to LA to celebrate 10 years of dating his fiancé Mary, much to Mary’s chagrin. Nonetheless, the trio make a much anticipated visit to the now abandoned Muppet Studios. Walter accidentally discovers oil tycoon Tex Richmond’s evil plan to acquire the Muppet Studios, only to tear down the Muppet Theater and dig for oil. Walter and Gary take it upon themselves with the task of saving the Muppets and their theater, and along with a reluctant Mary, they find Kermit and convince him to gather the Muppet family and put up a fund-raising telethon show to raise 10 million dollars to keep their beloved theater, as well as the rights to the Muppets name.

However, the Muppets have been estranged from each other and have not been in contact in a long while. Eventually, the team travels around the globe to pick up all other the members of the Muppet family. They are faced with the reality that their popularity and chemistry have lapsed since their last performance together. Ultimately, they brave all odds to beat the evil villain and keep the Muppet Studios. Meanwhile, Walter discovers the inner Muppet in him and joins the gang as the newest cast member.

 My Thots

I fondly remember spending hours in front of the TV every week watching The Muppet Show, very much like Walter did in the movie. It sure has been a while since they last appeared on screen (big or small), so it was good to see them all again this movie.

My favorite part of the movie had to be when Kermit and the gang sang Rainbow Connection. I was half expecting the cinema audience to burst out in song along with Kermit because I was singing along myself. Ah.. happy memories indeed.

Overall, this is definitely a happy healthy source of entertainment for the entire family!


Movie Reviews #5: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

2 Thoughts

I took leave from work on my birthday. 2 weeks ago, to catch the much-anticipated grand finale of the Harry Potter saga. As I’ve expected, the best seats were already taken by the time I got to the cinema, so I settled for the next best thing available, an off-center seat in one of the back rows. It was the cinema’s 76th anniversary and they were giving away free popcorn and soft drinks for every regular-priced to ticket. Since I’d already taken breakfast, I chose to get a discounted ticket with my credit card instead. I wasn’t a big fan of popcorn anyway.

SPOILER ALERT: The following may contain spoilers, so if you’ve not watched the movie or read the book, you may want to give this post a pass until you’ve done at least one of two.

The final Harry Potter book is probably (IMHO) the one that’s most packed with Christian themes among all the 7 books, particularly the plot leading up to the final face-off the between our main protagonist, Harry Potter, and his arch-enemy, Voldemort. Hence I had high expectations for the movie rendition, especially after watching the trailers on YouTube.

I chose to watch the high-definition version with digital surround sound rather than 3D since it was much cheaper, and also because I didn’t want to end up with a headache after the show. Moreover, I’ve heard that the 3D version wasn’t that much more impressive. Although the Harry Potter themed 3D glasses did look like quite a tempting collectible.

The movie opens with a very downcast Snape, looking like he’s deep in thoughts. The scene immediately switches over to Voldemort, who is standing victoriously at Dumbledore’s grave, after gaining possession of the infamous Elder Wand. The adventures of Harry and his sidekicks ensues as they continue to hunt down and destroy the remaining Horcruxes. Their wild goose chase eventually leads the trio back to Hogwarts. This is also where Harry and Voldemort will have their final showdown.

As I sat in the cinema watching the scenes fly by at break-neck speed, I was grateful that I’d already finished reading the book. Even then, I still find it a little difficult to catch up with fast plot. It was like I was on some sort of high-speed roller coaster ride, exciting and breathtaking. The group of young girls sitting in the row in front of me were squealing towards the end when the bad guys started to die off one by one. We all had a good laugh when the infamous epilogue appeared at the end. And when the movie ended, the entire cinema roared with enthusiastic applause.

My favorite part of the movie had to be Harry’s death in the Forbidden Forest. To me, this was one of the climaxes in the movie. Harry’s brief afterlife moment where he converses with Dumbledore at he deems as King’s Cross Station was particularly witty and thought-provoking. This is also the point in the book where Christian, some even Catholic, references are abundant. Harry sacrificing his life to save Hogwarts very much mimicked Christ’s sacrifice of Himself to save humanity. When Voldemort marches into Hogwarts with the limp, “dead” body of  Harry, pronouncing his “victory” and demanding recognition of his lordship, I was immediately reminded of our Lord’s death on the cross. If the devil had a physical body with which he could speak, I’m sure he would have screamed victory at the top of his voice, just like Voldemort did.

Naturally, when Harry literally sprang back to life. The crowd at Hogwarts were exhilarated, not to mention the bunch of squealing teenage girls seated in the row in front, just like the disciples where when Jesus returned on Easter Sunday. Thankfully, there weren’t any “doubting Thomas-es ” around this time to spoil the mood. :-p

Finally, Harry brings down Voldemort, after an intensive chase and battle of spells. However, the lethal blow which ultimately led to Voldemort’s demise was his refusal to repent of his evil ways. Voldemort attempts to attack Harry with a deadly spell, which our hero deftly deflects in self-defense, inadvertently “redirecting” the evil spell back to the one who mouth it. Another classic example of the golden rule in action: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

As the tagline on the movie states, “It All Ends Here”. I’ll definitely be missing my (almost) annual dosage of Harry Potter movies, unless Ms Rowling decides to go back on her words. I know I didn’t quite do the movie justice with my brief review. Here are a couple of folks who’ve done a much better job than me:

You might also want to check out the Secrets of Harry Potter podcast (website)|(rss) from SQPN, where they explore various Christian themes in the Harry Potter series, and discuss Harry Potter books and movies. I particularly loved their detailed review of the latest movie. Definitely a must-listen if you’re a fan!

1 Down, 2 To Go..

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Whoa! Time sure flies when you’re busy. A third of a century of  my life just flew by like that, before I even realized. So here I am, 33 years old. Single, but definitely not lonely. Poor in the pockets, but rich with the love of family and friends around me. As it is, I’m already into the 3rd day of the 2nd third of a century of my life. So far so good. With a bit of luck (and possibly some hard work), things could get better. :-)

The big day started without any bangs. Just a frantic search for stockings since I accidentally ran a hole in the pair I was wearing. Thankfully that got fixed easily. I wish my program bugs could be fixed as effortlessly. :-p

Next, I headed to fill my hungry little tummy before rushing to purchase tickets for the earliest screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at my favorite cinema (which as coincidences go, happen to share the same birthday as me, only that they’re 43 years older than I am). The movie was great! However, I found it very fast-paced, which was understandable since there was lots to be packed in this grand finale. I’m just glad that I’d read the book before watching the movie, so I more or less knew what to expect. Watch out for my review of the movie coming up soon! 😉

Here are a couple of trailers I watched while waiting for the movie to begin:

Cowboys & Aliens are 2 things that I’d never think of putting together in a movie. A rather interesting mix of genres involving sci-fi, western & suspense. Not something that will draw me spend my time and money to watch in the cinemas though.

Captain America isn’t something I’ve grown up with on my side of the world either, although I’ve heard some of my online friends mention the popular set of comics. Not particularly a comic fan myself, so probably will give this one a miss too.

The remainder of the day was themed “shop-till-you-drop“. Hey, if you’re a shopaholic like me, whose birthday happens to coincide with the annual Great Singapore Sale, you’ll most likely do the same. Finally at around 3pm, I decided to sit down to rest my tired legs and to get some late lunch. Japanese ramen followed by light cheese cake for dessert. Yummy!

So there, my 33rd birthday well spent; tired legs, empty pocket and all. Nothing extravagant or grand, just a simple itinerary to satisfy my simple needs. :cake:

Tech Reviews #4: Slide It, Shape It, Swype It

3 Thoughts

As mentioned in my previous post, I recently bought a new Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini that’s powered by Google’s Android OS. I’ve had it a little over a week now, and I’ve been discovering more and more new stuff to play with! :nerd:

Like Apple iPhone’s iTunes App Store, there’s also an Android Market available on the phone, where I can search for and download apps. Currently, only selected free apps are supported in the Singapore version, which is fine since I’m a bit of a cheap-skate who prefers free than paid. But certain premium apps that I’d like to own permanently is only available as time-limited free trials in the Android Market, which gets frustrating sometimes. Luckily, with the sudden surge in manufacturers putting out new Android phones, and more and more people taking notice of the Android OS, more and more developers are producing fun and cool apps for this relatively new mobile platform. Here’s some of the apps I have on my phone right now. :nerd: :nerd:

I’ll like to highlight some of my favorite apps here, but I’ll probably have to do it in parts since, as you can see, I’ve got quite a few. :-p

Today’s main focus will be on touchscreen keyboards for Android. We’re all used to the traditional T9 and QWERTY keyboard layouts on the phone, but typing on the phone is still quite a challenge when you’re using the touchscreen instead of a physical keyboard, particularly on the QWERTY layout, where the keys are much more cramped. Recently, there has been a new trend of keyboards where all you have to do is to slide or swipe your finger from one letter to another without lifting it up to form a complete word. The more common and popular ones which I’ll list here are the SlideIT keyboard, the ShapeWriter keyboard and the Swype keyboard. Something to note here is that these keyboards are not exclusive to the Android platform alone, most if not all of them are available for the iPhone and Windows Mobile as well.

SlideIT keyboard

This is the first “slide” keyboard I’ve tried and I took to it like fish to water. I loved it! It’s snappy and smart enough to figure out words from the doodles that I draw on the screen, even very long and complicated words. I found myself typing much faster with this than on the default T9 keyboard. There’s even a Graffiti feature that let’s you draw numbers and special symbols. Pretty cool! Here’s a video of the SlideIT keyboard in action.

The only couple of gripes I have with it is that the capitalization isn’t too smart. It also a bit of a hassle to input numbers and special characters as I’ll have to touch one of the shortcut keys to switch to the numeric/special character layout.

The free version available on the Android Market is time-limited to 30 days, and like I’m unable to get the paid version anywhere. The guys from Dasur, the company behind the SlideIT product have said in reply to my query, that the Android paid version will be available for sale on the website soon.

ShapeWriter keyboard

Since I couldn’t get a paid version of SlideIT, I decided to search for other options out there. I discovered ShapeWriter, which is a free alternative. The look and feel is similar, but ShapeWriter has smarter capitalization, and the number pad is much cuter. Entering special characters on ShapeWriter is also much easier as all you need to do is to long touch the key to access the special character behind. I’ve read about some complains about ShapeWriter’s accuracy on some forums, but I have no issues with it so far. Here’s a video of ShapeWriter in action.

ShapeWriter has announced that they plan to take the ShapeWriter keyboard off the Android Market on June 20th 2010 for an indefinite period of time. Users are strongly urged to download the latest Version 3.0.9, which does not expire. So if you have an Android device and are thinking of finding a free alternative to replace your current touchscreen keyboard, now is the time!

Swype keyboard

This 3rd and last keyboard that I’m featuring here is a little special, because it is the only which I’ve not had a chance to try hands-on. I signed up for the close beta on their website, and was  invited. However, I was unable to install the keyboard ultimately as it says that the screen size of my X10 Mini is not supported. How disappointing. :weep:

Nonetheless, this is by far the most popular slide/swipe keyboard out in the market today. Here’s a video of Swype in action.

I hope you’ve found this short review helpful. More next time! :waving:

My Latest Desire

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At a press conference at the 2010 Mobile World Conference held in Barcelona, Spain, HTC unveiled their latest creations, which included this babe, the HTC Desire. WOW! The Desire looks GORGEOUS and absolutely desirable! According to various news sources, Singaporeans can expect to behold the Desire some time in the Q2 of 2010. I’m waiting with hyped anticipation. :nerd:

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Meanwhile, I’ve updated the Podcasts page with some of my “new” findings. Yes, I noticed it’s been a while, but always better late than never.