Category Archives: Reviews

Reel Review: Seefood

Image Credits

Last Saturday, I woke up strangely feeling a little more patriotic than usual (that, and quite bored too) and decided to take Collin out to watch one of the more highly anticipated local 3D animation films to open in recent times – Seefood.

So off we went to the nearest cinema and checked out the screening times. I was also delighted to see Citibank having this Buy 1-Free-1 promo on Saturdays. Hmmmm…perhaps should go for movies on Saturdays more often. 😛 Anyways, it was either Seafood or The Lorax. I brought Collin to check out both posters – one showed a scary looking cat-like creature and the other featured a cute fish and a shark in a robot-suit. Easy choice. Heh.

Sorry…back to the quick review. In brief, Seefood is a story about two sharks, Julius, a white-tipped shark and Pup, a bamboo shark, that happens to be best friends. One day, some humans dive into the ocean and take home all the egg sacks from Pup’s reef. Angry and determined, Pup journeys onto land to rescue the eggs. When Julius finds out about Pup’s daring mission, he gets some help from Octo (an octopus, obviously) to build him a machine that would enable him to walk on land, so that he can go and help Pup and bring his best friend home.

With some really cute characters, original plot, and a shark walking on land, this should have all the makings of a hit movie, right?

Unfortunately, Seefood turned out to be one of the WORST animated movies I have ever seen – suffering from a very poor script that doesn’t do justice to the very good animations that had been put into this film. It’s like they have a ‘Everything That Could Make a Movie Bad’ checklist and efficiently ticked every box on it.

Perhaps it would be better for me to start with the positives first….hmmm…let’s see….the plot was relatively original, the animation skills were really good – comparable to many international 3D animations, many cute characters – good for toys/plush/marketing campaigns, plenty of Malaysian identity inserted.

So, where did the movie go so wrong? OH, let me count the ways..

1. Complex storyline. Whilst it’s exciting enough to have a shark walk on land, I have no idea why they decided to throw in some sideplot about some factory polluting the sea with some industrial waste and some strange, mean sepent and his creepy looking spider-like goons from the deep? If the stories were well connected, it would have made more sense. Instead I was left baffled as to why these subplots were there. It’s a KIDS movie! Try to keep the plot simple, OK?

2. Poor Film Editing. Many segments throughout the movie seemed to end abruptly, causing me to go “Huh? What just happened?” before they cut to another segment. Sigh.

3. Loose Endings. This probably concerns all those confusing subplots as well. I was totally lost on the conclusions of all subplots. I mean whilst it is good to finish the main story well, we must not lose focus to tie up all endings as well. I felt the subplots were poorly concluded.

4. Humourless Dialogue. One of the weakest points of the movie was its inability to make the audience LAUGH. And for a KID’s movie, that is the LEAST it is expected to do! The dialogue was bland and un-natural. And if the lines didn’t make me laugh, there wasn’t enough slapstick to tickle the kids either. It was not surprising there were only minimal chuckles heard from the full-house cinema. If I was walking past the cinema hall, I would have guessed a thriller movie was screening!

5. Moral Message? Ever since Happy Feet showed the world how effective a moral message embedded into a good film for kids can be, many other films have tried to emulate that. When Seefood introduced a subplot involving a factory spewing industrial waste, I thought it was a good byline that would eventually carry a strong message about the evils of sea pollution, etc. Sadly, the moral message that I think the writers/director wanted to project didn’t quite take off as planned.

6. Draggy Pace. For a film that is selling its promos on a ‘shark walking on land’, it sure took a great deal of time before that actually took place. My advice? The shark on land aka fish out of water (literally) segments should have gotten longer screen time and more humour-based. I mean it’s gonna be the first time a fish is on land. The types of jokes one can play with is almost limitless. Unfortunately, we only got some scene involving a car at the traffic light (as seen in the trailer) and the coconut crabs (boring).

7. Bad Soundtrack. One of the most important component of all good movies is a a good supporting soundtrack…and Seefood sadly lacks this. The accompanying audio was all over the place and lacked the quality to build the tension as required in key scenes. Also missing were some SONGS that could have been used to spice up the film. See how Pixar also incorporates catchy tunes into their movies.

8. Main Message Missing. Usually, one would come out from the cinema with one key message that the film was delivering. For example, Cars 2 stressed on the importance of friendships and Kung Fu Panda 2 highlighted the need to remember who we are in the present moment. Sadly, in Seefood, I didn’t get any key message at all. Was it about friends helping each other? or friends don’t eat friends? I don’t know.

9. Lack Explainations. Much was not explained about the evil looking eel-like fish and the spider-minions, their plot, how they came from, were they mutated products from the industrial waste, etc.

10. Lacked Tension. I recalled there were several action scenes in the movie that was supposed to be edge-of-the-seat stuff. Unfortunately, I felt none of it. Sigh.

Thankfully (for me, at least), Collin said he enjoyed the show although I did notice he was already getting fidgety and restless by the final third of the show.

In summary, I came to watch Seefood, with strong hopes that it could be something groundbreaking for our local animation industry. Unfortunately, what I saw was how a local animation film should NOT be. It’s rather sad that whilst the film has the standard and quality in terms on animation techniques, its poor script and editing made it a terrible film overall.

Do also check out my personal alternative movie script for Seefood …:-P

 

Plot:

Animation:

Script:

Pace/Flow:

Audience Response:

OVERALL:

A Legacy of Recipes

A Our Legacy Recipe Book

Of all types of books, I must admit I really love to read cook books. Not because I love to cook (coz I can’t!), but simply because they always supplement the recipes with those delicious-looking end-result foods that just screams “Eat Me!”

Interestingly enough, my church, KL Wesley Methodist Church, recently went on a noble drive to collect timeless, tried and tested recipes from its members and friends and compiled all these golden nuggets of recipes into a delightful hard cover cookbook called “Legacy”, with the tagline ‘Recipes to pass on to our children‘….Awwww.

The project is another initiative to raise funds for our church’s new building project. Personally, I thought it was a wonderful way to get many of these cooking sifus to contribute their favourite dishes for generations to come. Apart from the saliva-inducing photos, the language of the recipes is also very ‘homely’, making it very simple to read, understand and follow. I’d bet even I could succeed in trying out some of these recipes. Heh. But, that’s a story for another day. 😛

Here are some sample pictures of the glorious food and sample pages taken from Legacy…

Fishpaste DSC_4295
Fishpaste
Kai Choy Fan
Kai Choy Fan
Nyonya Laksa
Saybahk (Eurasion Salad)
Teochew Duck
Char Yuk (Hakka Stewed Pork)
Sample page from Crispy Roast Pork recipe

Note: All Images courtesy of Nigel A. Skelchy of Just Heavenly

After you have finished wiping off the saliva from your computer or tablet screen, you may wanna consider purchasing the Legacy cook book, perhaps?

At slightly more than 120+ glossy pages of easy to follow recipes and beautiful photos of food, bound together perfectly in hard cover, I’d say the selling price of RM 100 is really a steal!

You can make your purchase directly from the KL Wesley Methodist Church office, or drop me an email and I can certainly try to help to arrange to get a copy (or more) to you.

Now, excuse me whilst I go give my eyes and tongue a feast first…:-p

Sheep

Image Credits

 

Book: Sheep

Genre: Children/Fiction/Humor/Animal

Author: Valerie Hobbs

Thickness: 115 pages

Tagline: “Baa!”

—————————

This book was the last book that I read in 2011, capping off a great year of reading for me, in which I read more books than I thought possible, especially after I challenged myself to not create any word wastages. Hah! The reason why I chose to end the year of 2011 with this “children’s” book  is simply to wind up the year on a happy note, as I gear up for many more books to read and review in 2012.

I picked up Sheep from the last year’s Big Bad Wolf sale at a insanely cut-price of RM3. Sure the back cover had a thin razor cut across it as well but that’s besides the point. I was attracted to the book not because of the price but for its interesting premise of a complete novel entirely written from the perspective of a dog!

Somehow I find myself drawn these kinds of writings. Haha.

Storyline

Sheep tells the heartwarming tale of a Border Collie named Jack as he recalls his life as a puppy on a ranch, and eventually loses his family through a series of events. This sets off an adventure where he travels through numerous different places, getting owned by many individuals who give him their own names like Blackie, Spot, Shep, etc. and growing up to learn how to survive in the world out there. In the midst of all this, Jack also has a dream to pursue, and that is to find his family again, or find some sheep so that he can herd! Seriously!

 

Writing

I loved the way Valerie has written Sheep. Penned from the ‘first-dog’ perspective, she manages to narrate the tale in very simple and believable terms.

From the start of the tale, you’d already know that our dog would eventually end up as Jack. That sets up nicely as I flipped through the pages of Jack’s misadventures of growing up with so many different names, it kept me guessing which name would come next, or would he finally become Jack next?

She manages to write in a way that we’d feel the joy and pain when Jack feels it. Through Jack’s numerous encounters with many different characters, you’d definitely feel his struggles and cheer for him as he continues to relentlessly pursue his dreams!

These are some of the unique and humourous words that Jack uses throughout the book:

I’d had enough of being chased away from the places where food smell was the most enticing: kitchens, restaurants, family picnics. I’d been hanging around people, acting all pitiful. After a while, it wasn’t an act. “Shoo!” the people would say, flapping their arms. “Shoo!” At first I didn’t understand. I thought they meant the things they wore on their feet.

Billy’s Big and Happy Circus looked cheery enough on the outside. But there was only one tent, so it wasn’t very big, and it sure wasn’t happy.

I followed Retardo, who scurried ahead in a low crouch. I guess he thought he’d be smaller that way, invisible. But the crouch is basically an attack position, any half-grown sheep knows that. This kid had a lot to learn.

 

Glue Factor (difficulty of putting the book down!)

With only 115 pages in length and very short chapters, this was indeed a very easy and fun book to read through. The funny and touching tales of Jack’s adventures moves along at quite a brisk pace that I found it difficult to put down.

 

Conclusion

Although Sheep can be easily classified as a children’s book, I found that it can be rather interesting to anyone who wants to read something fun and refreshing for a change. Besides, how many books do you know of that is written from the perspective of an animal?

It’s a great book to read to your children or for older kids to read it themselves!

And to cap it off, Sheep not also provides pages of fun and entertainment, there’s also some lessons of life that can be picked up from within the pages too.

For example, check out this excerpt that Jack learns from one of this owners along his journey of discovering life:

“Truth is, a fellow doesn’t need a whole lot to make him happy. A place to bed down, warm food in his belly, honest work, good company. But he’s gotta have one thing more, doesn’t he, boy?”

What is that ONE thing more? Ahhh…do read Sheep and find out! You won’t be disappointed!

 

Storyline:

Writing:

Glue Factor:

OVERALL:

U Good?

After months of contemplation, I finally decided to ditch Maxis broadband and give U Mobile a try instead. After my nightmare with Celcom a couple of years ago, I signed up for the cheapest Maxis broadband plan available then, mainly because it had a stronger signal connection and it served my sole purpose of blogging and uploading photos at home.

However, the main reason why I terminated my Maxis plan is because of its inconsistency of connection speeds. See the three images below, tested within 30 mins of each other!

Crazy, right?

So, the other day, I decided to stop by the friendly neighbourhood U Mobile shop in a mall I was strolling in and enquired about their service and coverage.

Me: Can you check if U Broadband has coverage in my housing area?

U Girl: (after a few clicks) Yes, we have relatively good coverage there.

Me: What’s the speed of U broadband like?

U Girl: Up to 7.2 Mbps download..

Me: Can I check the download speed from the PC terminal you are using now?

U Girl: Oh, sorry….we are using TM line here…

Me: (Gasp!)

Okayyyy….braving myself to dismiss their usage of TM as a blip, I checked out their promotional packages, which was really attractive:

Image Credits

On paper, it’s definitely CHEAPER than the Maxis plan I was paying. In addition, they had a current promo that says if I take the RM68/month plan with 5GB quota, I will be given a rebate of RM20 for the first five months. There was also the 7-day risk-free guarantee in case I didn’t like the connection speed or service. Problem was I had to make a trip to its main service centre in Berjaya Times Square to get my money back.

Anyway, I wasn’t too worried about that. I  was more intrigued if U Mobile broadband was any FASTER?

Upon sign up, I had to wait for more than 24 hours before my line was officially registered. In my heart, I could only think of the one-day loss in my 7-day risk free guarantee clause. Sigh.

When I logged on, I immediately performed a series of speed tests over the next couple of days, and these were my surprising results:

I must say I was thoroughly impressed with the connection speeds U Mobile gave me. I think I shall definitely stick with this new service provider for some time.

U nak?

For One More Day

Book: For One More Day

Genre: Inspirational/Family

Author: Mitch Albom

Thickness: 208 pages (hardcover)

Tagline: “If you had the chance, just one chance, to go back and fix what you did wrong in life, would you take it?”

—————————

I’ve only read one Mitch Albom book before this one – Tuesdays With Morrie – and it was such a superb and inspirational book. That sort of set my expectations quite high when I picked up For One More Day to read.

Although not as touching and lively as Tuesdays With Morrie, this book sure surprised me in many other ways!

Storyline

“This is a story about a family and, as there is a ghost involved, you might call it a ghost story. But every family is a ghost story. The dead sit at out tables long after they have gone.”

Great starting hook to a great story.

For One More Day is a touching story related to Albom by Chick Benneto, a former baseball player who was struggling from life’s depressions. Often drunk, his wife had left him, he was in a miserable sales job, etc. The breaking point came when his daughter didn’t even invite him to her wedding…

Depressed, Chick decided to take his own life. However, after a series of ‘failures’ of suicide attempts, he ended up in his old house, the one that he grew up in. He was shocked to see his dead mother who was very well alive there, welcoming him to join her in conversation for one day.

Thus begins this extraordinary, yet supernatural tale of how Chick spent one day with his mother. During this day, he would learn a lot about his mother, why she did the things for him, and most importantly some lessons of life that would change Chick’s life.

Writing

Listening to someone telling a story is one thing. Putting it down on paper in an interesting and structured flow is another art altogether.

I was truly amazed by how Albom pieced together all the information and story told to him by Chick and presented them in a simple, straightforward manner that strikes at the reader’s heart.

Just like in Tuesdays With Morrie, there are plenty of little gems of life’s lessons that can be found from the writings of this book. Check out some of them here:

“When someone is in your heart, they’re never truly gone. They can come back to you, even at unlikely times.”

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”

“Sticking with your family is what makes it a family.”

“Sharing tales of those we’ve lost is how we keep from really losing them.”

“In college, I had a course in Latin, and one day the word “divorce” came up. I always figured it came from some root that meant “divide.” In truth, it comes from “divertere,” which means “to divert.”

“It’s funny. I met a man once who did a lot of mountain climbing. I asked him which was harder, ascending or descending? He said without a doubt descending, because ascending you were so focused on reaching the top, you avoided mistakes.

The backside of a mountain is a fight against human nature,” he said. “You have to care as much about yourself on the way down as you did on the way up.”

“You can find something truly important in an ordinary minute.”

“A child embarrassed by his mother,” she said, “is just a child who hasn’t lived long enough.”

Truly inspirational stuff!

Another thing I liked about Albom’s writing is how he manages to smoothly flash back and forth through Chick’s life as he reminisces about his childhood life to teen and eventually adult life. In between the pages, there are some ‘mini breaks’ or pauses where Albom inserts some original writings of Chick that enhances the mood of the story and adds more colour to Chick’s mother, how he treated her and vice versa throughout the years. Good stuff.

 

Glue Factor

For a story that spans a lifetime filled with tears, joy and lessons, I was quite surprised it was actually a very short book! The pacing is very easy to follow and the story is expertly written with plenty of humour and dialogue that makes it very easy to understand and read.

Needless to say, I finished this book quite fast. Definitely high on the glue factor!

 

Conclusion

An entertaining, simple and truly inspirational story. What’s more, it’s based on true story…that is, if you believe in the ‘ghost’ bit. Haha.

Still, there are so many gems of lessons of life that can be gleaned from the contents makes this a definite must read. If you are a parent, you will definitely pick up some lessons on bringing up your children; and for children, this book will surely make you appreciate your parents more!

Storyline:

Writing:

Glue Factor:

OVERALL:

Star Trek Archives Vol 2: Best of The Borg

Image Credits

Book: Star Trek Archives Vol 2: Best of The Borg

Genre: Graphic Novel/Science Fiction/Comic

Writers/Artists: Michael Jan Friedman/Peter Krause (Worse of Both Worlds – Collecting ST:TNG #47-#50); Paul Jenkins/Terry Pallot (Star Trek: Operation Assimilation)

Thickness: 160 pages

Tagline: “We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships…”

—————————

In my ongoing vigil to avoid wastage of words, I took a mini break from regular novels and dived into one of the many graphic novels I plundered in this year’s Big Bad Wolf Sale. RM5 for a graphic novel? Unheard of! :-)

Anyway, coming back to the review… one of the most appealing villains in the Star Trek Universe would be The Borg, so it’s no surprise that they managed to get a 4 issue arc that is collected in this volume. In addition, the volume also throws in a bonus story about the Borg’s invasion into Romulan space as well.

The Borg are a collective race of cybernetic organisms, with one intent of assimilating other organisms to become like them – perfection. They can adapt very quickly to all situations, heal and repair themselves and is linked in a neural manner across the collective. The favourite phrase that is most associated with the Borg is “Resistance is Futile”.

I have to admit that most of the ST storylines containing the Borg are pretty good and because of that, I had high expectations of this graphic novel. In addition, I thought it was fantastic that Friedman (who has written countless ST novels) agreed to write for the “Worst of Both Worlds” episode. It’s always a great credibility to a graphic novel or comic when a popular author is penning the script.

Storyline

The “Worst of Both Worlds” story is a wicked spin off the excellent “Best of Both Worlds” two-parter from ST: The Next Generation TV series. The Best of Both Worlds saw the Borg abducting and assimilating Picard as ‘Locutus of Borg’ as they carried out their invasion plans of Earth. In the end, the enterprise barely but succeeds in rescuing Picard and stopping the invasion by issuing the correct command across the neural link via Picard.

Now, in the Worst of Both Worlds, the plot takes place several years later from the BOBW stardate. The action starts almost immediately when the Enterprise encounters a rift that hurtles them into another universe – one which the Borg’s invasion of Earth was a success and Picard remains as Locutus. They then run into the battle section of this universe’s Enterprise, with the saucer section apparently all but destroyed.

Reluctantly, Picard’s Enterprise agrees to help Captain Riker to rescue Picard/Locutus and stop the Borg in this universe, since they were able to succeed in our universe. There is also the element of time thrown into the fray as they need to stop the Borg and return to their universe before the rift closes…

Good stuff, excellent storyline and potential continuity plot following BOBW.

The second story, simply called Star Trek: Operation Assimilation tells the story through the eyes of a female Romulan leader as her crew encounters the Borg for the very first time. The story is short and simple – detailing how the Borg takes over an entire ship and the assimilation process.

Not much of a plot, but I’d like to think of this story as an added bonus to the superb WOBW story earlier catalogue in this volume.

Writing

Friedman doesn’t disappoint with the writing in WOBW. For those of you who still remember the BOBW storyline from the TV series, you’d enjoy the writing here even more because of the creative relational titbits and references it makes. For example, you could feel a sense of dejavu as the Enterprise tries out the same tactics they used in their own universe on the Borg of this new universe, with a few twists and surprises thrown in.

The action and flow is kept neat and crisp – something not easy to do in the limited pages of a comic book!

Unfortunately, ST:OA disappoints in terms of writing. It tries to be creative with the first person narrative, but eventually falls flat as the plot is simply flat and boring. The only thing that excited me was reading an encounter between the Romulans and the Borg for the first time!

Artwork

It is sad to note that the artwork of the Star Trek comics failed to match up to the excellent script. It almost feels amateurish at times, but I guess it is not easy to find a regular artist for comics that appear on a monthly basis.

Which leaves me wondering what happened with ST:OA, since it was a one-off and the publishers could have put in more effort to make the art in this story better….unfortunately not.

Glue Factor (difficulty of putting the book down!)

It’s a comic book! And personally most, if not all comic books are made of glue! Not easy to put down as panels and panels of graphic moves the action along fast and furiously!

Conclusion

WOBW – Excellent story that could easily form the basis of a movie or screen episode.

ST:OA – Poor storyline featuring a Romulan’s encounter with the Borg. Only made the entire graphic novel feel thicker. :-) Best part of this story? It’s short!

 

Plot:

Writing:

Artwork:

Glue Factor:

OVERALL:

Airframe

Image Credits

Book: Airframe

Genre: Fiction/Thriller

Author: Michael Crichton

Thickness: 441 pages

Tagline: “There’s Danger in the Skies”

—————————

In my futile effort to read and review all books in my collection to avoid wastage of words, I scoured through my bookshelves and found this novel which I remember buying from the Big Bad Wolf Sale two years ago!

There is always something appealing about Michael Crichton’s novels. Perhaps it’s the way he puts in so much research into his work; or the way he explicitly writes on a theme that parallels the realities of our world. Whatever it is, it is of no surprise that countless novels of Crichton has been adapted into movies, such as Jurassic Park, Congo, Eaters of the Dead (13th Warrior), Timeline, State of Fear, Disclosure, Sphere, and The Lost World. His range of novels covers almost every genre imaginable is a testament to what a great writer Crichton was.

Strangely though, I don’t think Airframe has been made into a movie yet. Its premise sucked me in and gave me much promise that it had all the ingredients of making it to the silver screen one day. However, as I read on, I figured it may be a better idea to keep the novel as it is…

Storyline

The story starts off promisingly like an episode taken off the pages of the X-Files or Fringe.

A Trans Pacific Airlines (TPA) Flight 545 passenger jet is flying from Hong Kong to Denver when it experiences some turbulence in airspace. The pilot then requests for an emergency landing in Los Angeles, requesting for 40 ambulances to be on standby… When the plane lands, the ground rescue crew is shocked to see the carnage left inside the aircraft that resulted in three deaths and more than 50 passengers injured. What happened onboard the TPA 545?

The story then introduces us to the protagonist, Casey Singleton, who is the Vice President of the QA at Norton, the company that makes the ill-fated N-22 widebody aircraft, and also the rest of the team in Norton who begin their investigation to solve the mystery of the incident. Their investigation is put on additional pressure against the backdrop of a pending major sale of the similar Norton N-22 to China.

As Casey begins putting pieces of the puzzle together, she realises that her investigation could jeopardise much more than just the sale. It could cost her her life as well! There seems to be something else more sinister at work behind the scenes….but are they also connected to the TPA 545 incident?

Writing

Reading a Michael Crichton novel is like sitting in a classroom. He doesn’t just give you a thrilling ride…he lectures you. Seriously. With zero knowledge about aviation, I had expected to struggle through the numerous airline jargon in the book. Surprisingly, Crichton manages to write in a way as though he is ‘educating’ the readers in the world of aviation! At the end of the story, I felt rather pleased to know more about some terminology like FAA, slats deployment, QAR, thrust sensors, etc.

The main hook of the novel was keeping the readers guessing as to what happened onboard the TPA545. Although Crichton managed to satisfactorily build the suspense towards the climax, I felt a little underwhelmed when the truth was revealed. Perhaps it was the subdued pace of their investigation, or the drag of some of the non-action scenes, or perhaps the lack of more action scenes.

Glue Factor (difficulty of putting the book down!)

With the pace a little too slow for my liking, Airframe definitely didn’t have the extra thrust to make me finish the book faster. Fortunately, the book was made up of short chapters, which certainly helped me to get through some of the slow parts.

Although I must admit the book had me thinking about the TPA 545 riddle right till the end, I personally felt the pace didn’t match the hook of the book. Most readers would want to find out what happened on the plane, but getting there is quite tiresome and the truth may not be entirely pleasing either.

Conclusion

Great premise, great characters…unfortunately slowed down by the pace of the investigation and under-climatic reveal.

Of course, it is always a pleasure to read Crichton’s handiwork of intricate research and homework. The other lesson in parallel reality we can glean from Airframe is how sleazy media can be in sensationalising news – so we better do not believe everything we read!

Plot:

Writing:

Glue Factor:

OVERALL:

Fireproof

Image Credits

Book: Fireproof

Genre: Fiction/Novelization/Christian/Inspirational/Love

Author: Eric Wilson (based on screenplay by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick)

Thickness: 284 pages

Tagline: “Never Leave Your Partner”

—————————

Novelizations are always tricky books to review. If you enjoyed the movie, you could be making unfair comparisons – almost always able to find those little details to critic the book. If you didn’t like the movie, you could be reading it to find obvious points not featured in the movie that made it so bad. Thankfully, I was able to escape from this double trap when I read Fireproof because I kept missing the all the screenings when Astro was showing it quite a while back.

All I heard about Fireproof was that the movie was created by the same people who brought us the inspirational movie Facing the Giants, which was quite a sleeper hit, considering the budget they used to produced it. So honestly, I never knew what quite to expect when I bought the book, except that it would be something inspirational.

Storyline

Fireproof is a simple and inspirational story about love, marriage and what Caleb Holt did to fight for them. Caleb, a captain of a fire brigade, spends most of his time fighting fires and saving lives of strangers. Unknown to most people, his marriage of seven years to Catherine is also on fire – of a different kind. The anger and resentment they have for each other eventually reached its breaking point and put their marriage on the brink of divorce.

However, before the divorce papers were filed, Caleb’s father confronts his son and challenges him to perform a 40-day challenge called ‘The Love Dare’. It essentially requires Caleb to perform one task for one day for his wife for the next 40 days.

For the next forty days, Caleb commits himself to the challenge and tries to rescue the heart of the woman he loves and also save his marriage and making it…fireproof!

Quite an interesting premise, if you asked me. 😀

 

Writing

Novelizations have always been quite fun to read, simply because there is plenty of dialogue in those pages. It may seem pretty easy to rip those dialogues from the screen and compile them into a book. However, I would like to believe that the main challenge of novelizations is in creating the back story so that it fills the gaps that is not found in the movie version. And that portion is done pretty well by Eric Wilson.

The other challenge of novelizations are the descriptive bits, which is important as the writer tries to tie the story back to its original screenplay. Whilst sounding mundane sometimes (especially when you read about the colours of the shirt, type of hair, body build, skin colour, etc.), Eric manages to bring out all the characters from the screen to the pages pretty well. The writing has good humour and the action bits are very well described to heighten the tension.

The portions about the relationship between Caleb and Catherine and their characters were very believable to the point that I found myself  wanting to knock some senses into Caleb’s head in the first portion of the book. As the book wore on, I then found myself rooting for Caleb as he tried to fight for the love of his wife. Pretty good stuff.

The other highlight about the book is ‘The Love Dare’. Whilst the book (sadly) does not detail out all 40 challenges, it does provide a glimpse into some of these challenges which I feel is really relevant and helpful in making all relationships fireproof. Some examples of these invaluable and inspirational relationship insights is extracted below:

Day 1: Love is Patient  (based on Ephesians 4:2)


The first part of this dare is fairly simple. Although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often reflect the condition of our heart. For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It’s better to hold your tongue than to say something you’ll regret.

Day 18: Love Seeks to Understand (based on Proverbs 3:13)

Prepare a special dinner at home, just for the two of you. The dinner can be as nice as you prefer. Focus this time on getting to know your spouse better, perhaps in areas you’ve rarely talked about. Determine to make it an enjoyable evening for you and your mate.

You can read the complete 40-day challenges from the actual book,  The Love Dare!

There are also quite a number of memorable quotes from the book that I will always remember, like:

“Salt and pepper are completely different. Their makeup is different; their taste and their color. But you always see ’em together. When two people get married; it’s for better or for worse, for richer or for poor, in sickness and in health. (after glueing them together)..If you pull them apart now, you’ll break either one or both of them..”

“When a man is trying to win the heart of a woman, he studies her. He learns her likes, dislikes, habits and hobbies. But after he wins her heart and marries her, he often stops learning about her. If the amount he studied her before marriage was equal to a High School Degree, he should continue to learn about her until he gains a College Degree, a Master’s Degree and ultimately a Doctorate Degree. It is a Lifelong Journey that draws his heart ever closer to hers.” 

Nice.

I also think the title of the book/movie was cleverly thought off, as it was written against the backdrop of a main character who is a fire fighter who is also fighting to make his relationship fireproof.

 

Glue Factor (difficulty of putting the book down!)

Personally, I had difficulty putting down the book, mainly because the chapters flew by so fast, thanks to the bulk of the book which is dialogue-based. The curiosity of seeing what’s the next challenge for Caleb also provided the pull factor to continue reading it.

Last but not least, I also enjoyed the humour and other side stories like the friendly banter between all the firemen, the funny encounters with their neighbour, and the gossiping staff at the hospital where Catherine works.

 

Conclusion

I would highly recommend for everyone who is in a relationship, about to embark on a relationship, sustaining a marriage and even for those who want to know more about what real love in a relationship is like.

Okok, I believe it is a wonderful book for everyone.

For the simple reason that the book allows us to reflect on the challenges faced in any relationship, and getting great ideas from the Love Dare on working on the relationship and making it fireproof.

After all, Fireproof is much more than just an inspirational book – it is a book about love, and why it is something worth fighting for.

 

Plot:

Writing:

Glue Factor:

OVERALL:

Enemies & Allies

 Image Credits

Book: Enemies & Allies

Genre: Fiction/Comic-related

Author: Kevin J. Anderson

Thickness: 320 pages

Tagline: “The Dark Knight meets the Man of Steel”

—————————

(Note: This is my first (and hopefully not last!) book review since making the personal pledge of not wasting words and make it a point to read all the books in my collection!)

I must admit I was totally suckered into buying this novel at the recent Big Bad Wolf warehouse sale. The staff had sneakily placed it in the Bestsellers section, and I couldn’t resist picking it up, amateurishly duped by the New York Times Bestseller tagline in front of the cover, which also had a catchy visual of Superman and Batman striding forward heroically. Somehow, I totally forgot how many novels also suckered the New York Times to bestow that ‘bestseller’ tag. There are just too many of such NYT Bestsellers around! Ha.

It was only when I started opening the pages of the novel at home did I realise that the ‘NYT Bestseller’ tag was actually referring to the author, Kevin J. Anderson, and NOT the novel itself! Sigh, I really felt conned at that time. However, after flipping through the first few chapters of this novel, I have to say I am really glad I was suckered into buying it because it is truly a refreshing and entertaining read!

Storyline

The plot is wonderfully set in the background of the post WWII 1950s, where tensions are rising amidst a possible nuclear war between USA and the Soviet Union, and the world were really into UFO sightings, alien invasions, etc.

Both Superman and Batman were introduced into the storyline as heroes in the very early years of their ‘heroing’ careers. Batman was still seen very much like a vigilante, fighting for justice and hunted by the law at the same time; Superman is pictured as a naive young superhero still trying to grasp and adapt to the peculiar world he has come to live in, and protect, of course. The main hook of the novel is Anderson’s depiction of a possible first meeting between Superman and Batman.

With both USA and the Soviet Union anxiously developing  and stockpiling nuclear missles and other weapons in preparation for war, the story introduces us to Lex Luthor as the main villian of the novel, who makes a pact with a Soviet General to create a chaotic situation out of this nuclear crisis which would benefit both of them. When LutherCorp steals some technological designs from Wayne Enterprises, a situation is developed to allow Batman to investigate beyond Gotham City, and eventually into Metropolis and finally resulting in the very first meeting with Superman.

Their first contact is met with much distrust with both Superman and Batman rightfully skeptical about each other’s motives. But as the story moves along, both superheroes slowly starts to earn each other’s respect and trust. Their eventual alliance would be much needed as they work together to battle Luthor and preserve world peace.

What I liked about the plot is that it is kept really simple and straightforward. At times, it felt as though I was reading through a comic rather than a novel! That really made it easy to follow the storyline.

Writing

I must say I thoroughly enjoyed Anderson’s work in this novel. He has a clever way of contrasting both super-heroes to the extent that makes their ‘meeting’ and eventual alliance even more likeable. For example, whilst Superman is often portrayed as a headline superhero who saves the world boldly in broad daylight, Batman remains the superhero that only prowls on criminals at night.

The dialogue, although pretty cheesy at times, were written in such simple words that made for light and easy reading.Like I mentioned earlier, this novel is as close as you’ll get to reading a comic! I also liked the generous helpings of humour thrown into the pages every now and then. There was certainly a good mixture of fun meshed in with the tension of the plot as it reached its climatic battle scene.

Of course, there was the solid character development and back story for both Superman and Batman. In a novel where there are two main characters, I think Anderson has managed to get a fairly good balance of ‘spotlight sharing’ throughout the book. Of course, I still felt Superman seemed to get more pages. Sigh, but that’s just me. 😛

Glue Factor (difficulty of putting the book down!)

I was happy to see that despite having more than 300 pages, Anderson has expertly split the novel into 60+ chapters, with each chapter comprising of an average of 4-5 pages long. This dissection essentially helps the readers to read the book in small chunks, thus reducing possibility of boredom. With short chapters to carry the story, I found it extremely difficult to put down the book down because the pacing just keeps me want to read on and on to complete the book!

The simple plot and words also reduced the need to think a lot during the reading. Definitely a plus point that helps any reader to finish a book if it is purely reading entertainment! :-)

Conclusion

A fun yet thrilling read. If you love Superman or Batman, you should love this book too. The writer has managed to imagine a believable storyline to bring these two superheroes together for the first time, although in an alternate timeline that is not in either heroes’ comic canon. If you are not a fan of these two superheroes nor comics, I recommend you to pick it up too, simply for a quick escapade. Who knows, after reading it, you may start to love comics too! 😀

I would even further recommend the producers from DC Comics movie studios to seriously consider shooting a movie with a similar storyline. After the recent failures of ‘relaunching’ Superman, the Man of Steel’s franchise could do with a complimentary boost from the very happening Batman movie franchise. :-)

Plot:

Writing:

Glue Factor:

OVERALL:

The Kitchen Musical: A Delicious Drama!

Image Credits

Have you tasted, or seen rather, of the latest musical drama series on TV? Nope, it’s not the latest season of Glee. I’m talking about the new dish on the Asian TV menu – The Kitchen Musical!

It has a simple plot that revolves around a rich young girl by the name of Maddie (Karylle) who has recently graduated from a culinary school in France. She then gets a job as a sous chef at her father’s popular restaurant called The Avilon. This is where she meets Alex (Stephen Rahman Hughes), the executive chef, who is a perfectionist and barks at will at everyone. There is also Daniel (Christian Bautista), the other sous chef, who is a childhood friend of Maddie and apparently has hidden  feelings for her too. The other main characters of the show are Harry (Arthur Acuña), who is Avilon’s general manager, and Selena (Rosemary Vandenbroucke), who is some sort of a wine steward who also has an eye on Alex.

The drama basically has the crew work on various food dishes, which are very tasty looking too, if I may add. in addition, there are also minor character developments and romantic subplots involving the main characters Maddie, Alex, Daniel and Selena.

Now, the uniqueness of the show is the music. Every now and then, the show will shift into its musical gears and the cast will instinctively get into the song and dance mode and belt out cover versions of popular hits like BEP’s Boom, Boom Pow, Matchbox 20’s Unwell, or even classics like Doris Day’s Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps or Diana Ross’ You Can’t Hurry Love!

After watching 3 episodes thus far, I have to say overall I am truly impressed by the show. The song arrangements, in particular were very well done, and I could feel a certain refreshing twang when the cast started singing the songs. The dance routines were also quite well choreographed,complete with plentiful helpings of glitzy, colourful costumes! I can only imagine how much fun the cast had filming each episode. Hah!

The only weak point for me was the acting which was pretty ‘wooden’ for everyone. It just felt like a stage play at times.The dialogue was also seeming scripted in a cheesy or cheeky way to force-lead the flow into the next song. Quite predictable in that sense but I guess the main strength or focus of the show is its music, and that’s where it truly shines, so I am not going to complain much.

Not convinced? Check out the video clip from the first episode below:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hx1z29uTR4Y

Video Credits

The Kitchen Musical! airs a new episode on nTV7 every Tuesday at 8.30pm and on AXN every Saturday at 8.00pm