Jumaat, 30 Disember 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Keep in view

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 10:50 PM PST

2012 is a year chock-full of remakes, re-releases, familiar stories, superheroes and fairy tales. Isn't recycling great?

21 Jump Street – From Johnny Depp to, erm, Jonah Hill? Okay, it'll probably be Channing Tatum who'll try to step into the "pretty boy" shoes first occupied by Depp in the 1987 TV series. (By the way, Depp will make a cameo appearance.) Good looks come in handy when one has to arrest teens, no?

47 Ronin – Keanu Reeves headlines this film which features a predominantly Japanese cast. The movie is set in the 18th century when 47 samurai warriors plan to avenge their master's death and reclaim their honour. Keanu, can you say Chûshingura with us, please?

29 Februari – KRU's first foray into the 3D realm revolves around the love story between Budi (Remy Ishak) and Lily (Jojo Goh), revisiting along the way such important historical events as the Japanese Occupation, May 13 and the country's independence. The title refers to Budi's birth date.

3x Trouble – A night market is about to be replaced by a mall. Hai, Tian and San who work at the pasar malam decide to do something to stop it. Dai Yang Tian, Rynn Lim and Jack Lim star.

The Avengers – What else is there to know here other than that the film is directed by Joss Whedon and is about how Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye and Hulk flex some serious macho muscles to save the world? Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo star.

The Amazing Spider-Man – No doubt Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire did a wonderful job with the much-loved web-slinger. Still, we are very curious to see how Marc Webb (500 Days Of Summer) and Andrew Garfield will interpret old Spidey.

Abraham Lincoln: The Vampire Hunter – The conceit here is that the 16th president of the United States is really a vampire hunter. And get this, his crazy wife – Mary Todd Lincoln – is played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (the kick-a** protagonist of The Thing). The movie is not to be mistaken with Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, a serious biography.

Brave – Pixar tackles the Scottish accent and gives us a female hero. We like it already. Voices of Kelly McDonald, Emma Thompson and Kevin McKidd.

The Bourne Legacy – Matt Damon is out of the picture but we have Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton stepping in as the Bourne adventure continues. Please don't suck; please, please don't suck.

Beauty And The Beast 3D – The first of the old films returning to the cinema circuit in 2012, with an extra dimension. This Disney film involves a girl, a cursed prince and more than a few talking and dancing household items.

Big Miracle – Drew Barrymore and Kristen Bell are huge animal lovers. The film revolves around a Greenpeace volunteer who must save a family of gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle. Buy tissues now.

Battleship – A whole movie based on the board game? Before you turn up your noses, know that it's directed by Peter Berg and stars Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgård and Taylor Kitsch.

The Cabin In The Woods – The synopsis is real simple: five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods and bad things happen. Winning factor? One of the writers is Whedon, and it features Chris Hemsworth. So this might not be such a typical B-grade film, eh?

Cinta Kura-Kura – This film starring Tiz Zaqyah, Aeril Zarel and Fara Fauzana features a talking turtle. It's a rom-com written and directed by Nizam Zakaria, and centres around young Nani, who has a pet turtle.

Chinese Zodiac – Jackie Chan's 101 movie along the lines of Armour Of God and Indiana Jones. Chan's character embarks on a treasure hunt to locate 12 lost Chinese national treasures which were scattered across the world after the sacking of the Imperial Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860. Shooting locations include Paris, Vienna, Kazakhstan, Beijing, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The Dark Knight Rises – Catwoman, Scarecrow and Bane! Gotham City sure gets a lot of visitors. Or maybe they heard that director Christopher Nolan has been doing such a smashing job that they want to have their 15 minutes, too.

The Descendants – Alexander Payne writes and directs this George Clooney vehicle about a man who tries to reconnect with his two daughters. There's a lot of Oscar buzz for this already.

Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino recruits Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to tell the story of Django, a slave turned bounty hunter. Violence ensues, no?

The Expendables 2 – The retirees are at it again, with a little help from Jason Statham and Liam Hemsworth. Chuck Norris, too. Creak.

Frankenweenie – Victor brings his beloved dog back from the dead only to face a horrific consequence. An animated horror-fantasy directed by Tim Burton.

Finding Nemo 3D – Look who's back and in peril in the great wide ocean. Nemo's dad.

The Five-Year Engagement – A comedy that follows a couple between the time "the question" is popped and walking down the aisle. Jason Segel and Emily Blunt play the couple in for the long haul.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – David Fincher enters the world of grunge and serial killers once again. His subject this time is a fascinating punk named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara).

Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance – Does the title refer to all the bad mojo conjured up after watching the 2007 dud? Nic, do something worthy again, please.

The Hunger Games – Jennifer Lawrence plays 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, the heroine in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy. It's the future, and people's pastimes consist of watching teens fight to death on live TV. Yeah.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – After much delay, director Peter Jackson is finally doing a film on the Hobbits – Bilbo Baggins, specifically (played by Martin Freeman and Ian Holm, the young and old Bilbo).

Haywire – A black ops super soldier seeks payback after she is betrayed during a mission. She is Gina Carano. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, this film features Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonia Banderas and Bill Paxton.

The Hunter – About a film crew from China shooting the exotic flora and fauna of Borneo. The filmmakers' journey begins happily enough but they soon get more than they bargained for. Features local talents including Carmen Soo and Sharifah Amani.

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift – You'd think they'd be extinct by now.

John Carter – A tale by Edgar Rice Burroughs (A Princess Of Mar), about a civil war veteran who is transplanted to Mars. Taylor Kitsch plays the titular role.

Jack The Giant Killer – Bryan Singer takes on a fairy tale in which a long-standing peace between men and giants comes to an end, no thanks to Jack.

Life Of Pi – Ang Lee directs this movie based on the novel by Yann Martel. It focuses on a magical adventure of one Pi Patel. Features the talents of Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Tobey Maguire.

The Lorax – Lorax may be grumpy but he is a creature who fights the good fight to protect his world. Will we finally see what Once-ler looks like? Looks like it.

Men In Black III – Agent J has to take a leap of faith and time-jumps to save a young man – one Agent K. Director Barry Sonnenfeld recruits Josh Brolin to play the younger Tommy Lee Jones. It's uncanny.

Mirror, Mirror – The first of two Snow White films this year. This one directed by Tarsem Singh is a tad comedic, featuring Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen.

Neighborhood Watch – Co-written by Seth Rogen and stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill. Safe to say, there will be some toilet humour.

The Odd Life Of Timothy Green – Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton play a childless couple who bury a box, with earnest wishes for a child, in their backyard. Later, Timothy Green (Cameron Adams) appears.

Of Men And Mavericks – Gerard Butler and Jonny Weston play the leads in a film based on the true story of surfing wonderboy, Jay Moriarity.

Prometheus – Ridley Scott revisits his Alien universe for an origins story. Whether it's a good idea or not, we are just loving the cast – Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce and Patrick Wilson.

Rock Of Ages – It's 1987, and Tom Cruise is a rock star. Obviously this is a comedy with some singing.

Resident Evil: Retribution – Anyone keeping count on how many times Alice has to fight the zombies? To state the obvious, she's at it again.

Snow White And The Huntsman – This version features angry dwarves, a Snow White who can fight, a handsome Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and a scary Evil Queen played by Charlize Theron.

Skyfall – This is the title for the 23rd James Bond film. Directed by Sam Mendes, it features Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris and Helen McCrory, besides regulars like Daniel Craig and Judi Dench. French actress and model Bérénice Marlohe is the new Bond girl.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 3D – The biggest question here is, are we keen to see Jar Jar Binks in 3D? Thankfully, Darth Maul is in this film too.

Titanic 3D – Looks like Celine Dion's and James Cameron's hearts will go on and on, and on.

Total Recall – Colin Farrell had a successful outing in the remake of the 1985 Fright Night, and now he's looking to do it again with the 1990's Total Recall, in Arnold Schwarzenegger's role. There are loads of memorable things in the first version – we can remember it wholesale, but let's just wait and see what director Len Wiseman has planned.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II – Everyone lives happily ever after? The birth of Renesmee has the Cullens super worried about what the Volturi will do.

Underworld: Awakening – Selene (Kate Beckinsale), the vampire, leads a fight against humans. Here's how to win the war, people – fight during the day.

The Vow – Channing Tatum steps up his game with a romantic film. He plays a man who must woo his wife (Rachel McAdams) all over again after a car accident causes her to lose her memory. Didn't Adam Sandler do this movie already?

The Viral Factor – An elite counter-terrorist unit based in Hong Kong heads to the Middle East to find a deadly virus. When one of its members (Nicholas Tse) betrays the team, the leader (Jay Chou) must stop him from unleashing the virus. About 80% of the movie was shot in Kuala Lumpur.

What To Expect When You Are Expecting – Parenthood is not intentionally funny, but five couples show the comic side here. The female cast members include Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Cameron Diaz, Brooklyn Decker and Jennifer Lopez.

Wrath Of The Titans – If you thought you had seen the last of Clash Of The Titans, you were wrong. Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes make a return, unfortunately.

Young Adult – Charlize Theron plays a fiction writer who returns to her home in small-town Minnesota, looking to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, who is now married with kids.

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Ben Kingsley on the art of 'under-acting' in 'Hugo'

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 05:59 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - Sir Ben Kingsley plays silent film pioneer Georges Melies in Martin Scorsese's ''Hugo.''

The film has proven to be a tricky sell commercially, and it's unlikely to be a moneymaker - but the film is a marvelous and magical journey that fully justifies Scorsese's decision to adapt Brian Selznick's book ''The Invention of Hugo Cabret,'' and to shoot it in 3D. And Kingsley is sly, sad and commanding as a man desperate to bury his glorious past.

Were you familiar with the book, or with Georges Melies' work?

Neither. Neither the book nor Georges' work. My starting point was the script by John Logan, which was a wonderful read. The arc of everyone's character is so extraordinary it jumps off the page.

And also, I loved to see that Georges would be filmed by Marty at the height of his powers, in his glass palace where he was a king with so many domains: writer, director, designer, set decorator, editor, leading man, magician, special effects creator...Probably because he didn't know what the limits were, he was breaking boundaries all the time. Because he was the first of the great auteurs, nobody told him, ''Georges, you can't do that,'' as I'm afraid they would today. He just had no boundaries whatsoever. I watch those early films of his, and his joie de vivre was completely contagious. It must have affected his audiences.

But when we first meet him, that feeling is long gone.

Yes. What I loved was to have that sequence filmed by Marty in which I'm deeply happy, at the peak of my creative powers, and then to film the sequence where I'm standing by an enormous conflagration as Georges burns all his things.

That was a very real day for me. The bonfire was extremely hot, and quite painful. I was burning things that our company had made, and they were beautiful. The moon's face, the spheres, the swords, the costumes, the helmets, the drawings of my wife, they were all perfect. And I was able to inhabit Georges' sense of utter defeat, and probably anger.

It's a very violent act, a kind of little suicide. He was the king in his palace, then the suicide, then the toy shop. For me, that was an arc that I could fully appreciate and fully inhabit.

Did you film it in that sequence?

As a matter of fact, I didn't. But I have a way of approaching a script rather like a symphony, in that if I know each movement well in my heart, then I can inhabit it, even if I haven't played that sequence yet. Knowing that I would be in that glass palace gave me an appreciation of Georges' imprisonment in that toy shop.

There's actually a drawing that Georges made himself, where he has a dog collar around his neck and is chained to the back of the wall of his shop. As I saw in his early films, Georges had a very straight dancer's back. But in this drawing, he drew his back completely round and collapsed. And so when I talked to Sandy Powell, our costume designer, I asked for a padded back and tummy to wear.

It took me about two hours to get completely ready for Georges in terms of makeup and costume, and then I was stuck in defeated Georges all day. And I also realized that Georges did all his own stunts, and I've noticed this on a film set when I am involved in a stunt: In the evening, once the adrenaline has dropped, I'm lying in the hot tub, and there's a bloody great bruise on my thigh, and it hurts. You're not aware of it when you're working, so he was probably living on adrenaline for about seven years. And I know a little bit about that withdrawal. When they say ''It's a wrap,'' those are the worst words in my vocabulary.

In many ways, we think of 3D as just another special effect. But ''Hugo'' doesn't treat it like that at all. It uses 3D to say, ''Come into this space where our story is happening.''

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Marty does bring you into the world, and he uses 3D to surround you with that world: the railway station and the toy shop and the apartment and the little hole in the wall where Asa lives. He pushed 3D round a very important corner, I think. He's done it.

Did shooting in 3D change how you did your work? Yes. Every gesture you make has to be linked directly to the narrative. Nothing can be arbitrary. Nothing can be explained. I learnt a long time ago, you must never explain anything to the camera, because it doesn't need it. All it needs is to see the behavior of the character.

It doesn't want to see any acting. The camera is allergic to acting, it hates it. But the 3D camera has such X-ray capacity that you almost have to modify your acting to a terrifying degree.

Fortunately, my first 3D experience was with Martin Scorsese. And between action and cut, he sees everything.

He sees every single gesture, nuance, shift in emphasis that you offer him on every take. So if you take the 3D camera, plus working with Asa, who has no filters and works from the heart, plus Marty, it forces you into a corner out of which there's only one way. And that's your version of the absolute, honest truth. Anything else will interfere, and the 3D camera will see it, and the audience will say ''Oops, bit of acting there!'' You daren't act. You daren't act.

I'm sure I'll coin the right phrase for it sooner or later, but it's an exercise in under-acting. That's the only way I can put it, rather crudely right now. It's under-acting.

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Priyanka Chopra plays tough cop in Don 2

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 03:46 PM PST

Acting in extreme conditions was just as tough for Priyanka Chopra as enduring Shah Rukh Khan's teasing in Don 2.

BOLLYWOOD actress Priyanka Chopra drove a car at 100kmph down narrow Berlin alleys and wore a backless gown in sub-zero temperatures for her latest movie Don 2: The Chase Continues.

Just as hard was surviving co-star Shah Rukh Khan's teasing during shoots, she reveals during an interview to promote the thriller.

Speaking on the telephone from India, the 28-year-old says it was not easy to learn fist-fighting and fight choreography for her role as a police officer, and Shah Rukh was of little help.

"I'm a girl and I had to learn to fight like a guy so I could look like a cop. When I was rehearsing for fight sequences, he and (director) Farhan (Akhtar) would sit down and just laugh at me – 'Oh you punch like a girl, you punch like a girl' – and I would feel so conscious."

And every time she thought she had a handle on her no-nonsense character, Shah Rukh would turn around and say: "So sweet, it's so cute how you're trying to be so tough," causing her to deflate.

However, she adds: "It was really funny and we would laugh about it afterwards."

Shah Rukh, 46, keeps Priyanka off-balance on screen as well, and their love-hate chemistry is the crux of Don 2. The 145-minute movie shot in Europe is a sequel to the 2006 box-office hit, Don - The Chase Begins Again. Shot in Malaysia, the action-movie about gangsters and the criminal underworld was a remake of a 1978 film starring the iconic Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan.

In the first movie, Priyanka played Roma, a woman out to avenge her dead brother, who falls in love with the gangster responsible for destroying her family.

Her love interest and antagonist Don is played by Shah Rukh.

The sequel begins four years later, after Roma has become a police officer to bring Don to justice. So this is not the typical boy-meets-girl Bollywood romance, even if it plays out with a song or two.

"She hates his guts," Priyanka says of her character's relationship with Don. "She hates him because he betrayed her, yet he was the man she fell in love with. It's a love-hate relationship for both of them, a really confused state of being and the chemistry is extremely palpable."

Stressing that this is not from personal experience, she adds: "Sensible girls always go for the bad guy. That's the only time sensible girls lose their mind."

The actress, who is single, has long moved beyond the backseat role normally offered to Bollywood heroines. In 2008, she gained and lost dozens of pounds for the movie Fashion, about a top model. The role won her India's prestigious National Award.

In February this year, she pulled off roles from a teenage beauty to an ageing auntie in Saat Khoon Maaf (Seven Murders Forgiven), an art-house film about a woman whose lovers and spouses die in mysterious circumstances. Critics lauded her acting chops, but she says she is equally happy playing a role in more populist fare.

"I don't choose movies depending on whether it is a commercial film or art house flick," she says. "Indian audiences are ready for entertainment more than anything else. Nothing else matters but being entertained for those three hours." – The Singapore Times/Asia News Network

Don 2: The Chase Continues is playing in Malaysian cinemas.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Hard to make a connection

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 05:50 AM PST

A Stolen Life
Author: Jaycee Dugard
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 273 pages

LET me be honest. Abduction stories are not high on my list of must-read books. In fact, the reason I chose to review this non-fiction book in the first place was because it promised, to some extent, to reveal more about the author herself and her encounters with people.

In other words, before reading it, I imagined it to be a daily journal of some kind that the author, Jaycee Dugard, had kept before, during and after being abducted. But that is not the case, and I found that the negative overtones of the book, not counting the abduction itself, can either put the reader off or draw her more deeply into the story, whichever way one is inclined.

Another thing is that Dugard assumes that her situation can be compared with all families in trouble when, actually, her predicament is unique and the same standards cannot be applied.

She sees that abduction can be likened to other problems in families when actually it is in a category by itself.

It seems that the author's voice would be truly heard – and heard clearer – if she didn't hold back her emotions and told it like it was without being repetitious.

It is a surprise that the abduction itself happens so suddenly and so early in the book. The author could do well by providing more details about her life before the abduction as there would then be more impact when the incident takes place.

Although the reflections by the author at the end of almost every chapter may lead to a better understanding of what the author went through, it somewhat takes away from the story too.

To give more excitement to the reading, perhaps the abduction need not have been mentioned at the start. It could have been incorporated into the story as and when it occurred and thus would have given the reader the element of surprise.

The rather slow narrative focuses mainly on her loneliness during the abduction more than anything else. While this may be what the author was primarily feeling, for readers it may be rather monotonous. To prove my point, the author herself recognises that she is reiterating the fact that she is lonely – which probably should be the last thing on her mind given her situation!

It might occur in the reader's mind, even though this is a true story, whether it is remotely possible to actually befriend the author's abductors no matter how bad the situation is. Obviously, this is the case for Dugard although one has to question how realistic it all is. Coming back to the nature of the storyline itself, we are so bombarded with news of murder, rape, abduction and abuse every day that we have to wonder if this is any different or whether we are affected by these stories at all. Or whether we need another dark story such as this to add to the list....

The fact that Dugard, in her memoir, seems to become accustomed to her abduction is another mystery. It is hard enough for the reader to make a connection with the author throughout her abduction, more so when she seems to be unresisting of her situation even as time goes by. Generally, the story takes on a submissive tone which was somewhat hard for me to grasp.

The final release of Dugard also comes as a surprise and is recounted rather quickly – almost too quickly to register. It is brief and one would have thought there would be more to include seeing that more time was given to the author's abduction and so the reunion should have been greater.

While Dugard's story is an eye-opener, I was left with the question of how I could actually connect with her; her writing as well as her life story.

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Coming of age

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 05:48 AM PST

Wandering Son: Vol 1
Author/Artist: Shimura Takako
Publisher: Fantagraphics

PUBERTY can be a tough time as one develops into a young woman, especially when that someone happens to be a boy.

Wandering Son is a manga by Shimura Takako that examines the lives of kids on the cusp of adolescence who face issues with their gender identity. Nitori Shuichi is a delicate, girlish-looking young boy who likes wearing dresses, while Takatsuki Yoshino is a handsome, boyish-looking girl who enjoys travelling to neighbouring towns disguised as a man.

Both attend the same fifth grade class and, over the course of the first volume, discover each other's secret yearning to be a member of the opposite sex.

Now, before you either go "Eww, this manga must feature some really weird sexual stuff," or, alternatively, "Yaoi/yuri, woo hoo!", allow us to stop you right there.

Yes, there's cross-dressing, but Wandering Son isn't about sexual hanky panky. The manga is a coming-of-age story that explores the personal issue of gender identity and, to a lesser extent, the social issue of sexuality.

Throughout the first volume, we see Shuichi slowly - and somewhat reluctantly - coming to terms with his desire to dress up like a girl, while Yoshino rebels rather futilely against her gradual transformation into a woman.

They both have intense inner struggles, and their personal tales unfold against the familiar backdrop of an average school life and a somewhat normal family life, complete with teasing classmates and acerbic siblings.

The manga has a very well-thought, carefully paced narrative that allows us to explore what goes on inside each character's head and to watch them develop as people. It's much more a quiet slice of life affair than it is an over-the-top comedy and/or drama, which might be something you'd expect from a manga featuring cross-dressing (thanks for helping us develop that peculiar bias, Ranma 1/2).

Released by renowned American publisher Fantagraphics, this hardcover book (with 206 mostly B&W pages) represents a sophisticated side of literary manga. Translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn, much of the story's original flavour remains intact.

Shimura Takako's gender-bending story has a very quiet, introspective touch to it, and her artwork – with its clean lines, minimal backgrounds and sparse dialogue – beautifully reflects this. The art is simple yet expressive, and this is particularly evident in the many scenes where not a single word is uttered – you can practically hear what the characters are thinking just from their looks alone.

While we thoroughly enjoyed the strong character development and deeply personal tales in Wandering Son (even if the characters act a little more mature than most fifth graders that we know), we really need to say something about the pacing of the story.

If we're generous – and we are – we'd say that the thoughtful pace of the story helps portray the protagonists as believable, relatable characters without needlessly making the narrative drawn-out.

If we're not, we'd say that the pace of the story is somewhere close to glacial; it takes the narrative almost the entire first volume and the protagonists' graduation from the fifth grade before any sort of story-driving conflict crops up.

Again, this is related to what we mentioned earlier; if you pick up Wandering Son thinking it's going to be full of dramatic high school moments with kids being cast out for their queerness, or non-stop hilarious shenanigans revolving around cross-dressing, then you're going to miss the point of the manga by a mile.

Heck, even if you're just expecting a story with a familiar set-up-conflict-resolution structure, you won't be able to fully enjoy this manga. If there is some sort of dramatic climax in Wandering Son, it's certainly not in the first volume.

Consider Wandering Son a manga that you'd read on a quiet Sunday afternoon, and one that you'd continue reading not because it has some dramatic hullabaloo that keeps you at the edge of your seat, but because you can empathise with the protagonists and want to see how things work out for them.

The second volume of Wandering Son, recently released by Fantagraphics, sees our conflicted young souls, Shuichi and Yoshino, entering the sixth grade.

All in all, Wandering Son is a very interesting manga to pick up: it has a strong, character-driven story that explores a very mature topic. If the manga has piqued your interest, do keep in mind that it's up to 11 or 12 volumes already in Japan, so if you're committed to the story, then there's still quite a long road to wander down.

Suggested reading for older teens and young adults, Wandering Son Vols 1 & 2 are available at Kinokuniya KLCC.

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Holiday horror

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 01:22 AM PST

The holiday season brings some pretty scary moments for a young protagonist.

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
Author: Jeff Kinney
Publisher: Puffin, 220 pages

PRE-TEEN Greg Heffley finds himself entangled in all sorts of scrapes in the latest book in Jeff Kinney's bestselling Wimpy Kid series.

Poor Greg – no matter what he does, he can't seem to win. A lot of his troubles seem to stem from him being the middle child caught between an elder brother (Rodrick) who takes pleasure in playing tricks on him, and a younger brother (Manny) who is spoilt rotten and always wants things his way.

Greg is an intelligent boy who brims with creative ideas yet they tend not to work out most of the time. Somehow, once Greg embarks on a certain project, things slowly but surely spin out of control and land him in hot water. One can't help but feel his frustration.

The diary entries begin in November, and Greg is experiencing pre-Christmas anxiety. He feels the pressure to perform, to be on his best behaviour, during the month leading up to Christmas. If he does anything wrong during the holiday season, he may not get any presents!

He is also nervous about Santa: "The fact that he can see you when you're sleeping and knows when you're awake really creeps me out. So I've started wearing sweatpants to bed because I really don't need Santa seeing me in my underwear". Not only that, Greg wonders – and worries – if he's on Santa's Naughty or Nice list, a list that people talk about but never actually see. To add to his tension, there's Santa's Scout, a homemade doll which belonged to Greg's mum and which she uncovers from some old boxes at home. Santa's Scout has the task of watching how kids behave and then reporting back to Santa at the North Pole.

Somehow, no matter which part of the house Greg is in, Santa's Scout is always in a corner somewhere, watching him like a hawk. Poor Greg is constantly kept on his toes, desperately trying to be a good boy. After a few scares, however, Greg starts to suspect Rodrick of moving the doll to strategic spots around the house, just to make life hell for him.

Like most children his age, Greg is obsessed with online games, and when he needs money to keep playing his favourite one (and mum, like any sensible mum would, refuses to give him any), he decides to earn his own. And so, with best friend Rowley, Greg sets up a holiday bazaar stall, selling snacks and Christmas ornaments, with interesting games thrown in.

To tell people about their stall, the boys start their own newspaper so that they can advertise, brainstorming ideas for sections they can add, and even looking for advertisers to cover the cost of their first printing. Isn't that enterprising of them?

Unfortunately, their venture hits a brick wall when the vice principal confiscates their newspaper. Not to be deterred, the boys come up with yet another method to advertise their stall. One thing leads to another, and before they know it, the boys find themselves in trouble and Greg becomes the prime suspect when his school property is damaged.

As the principal and the police close in on him, a surprise blizzard hits, and the Heffley family is trapped in their own home! To make matters worse, there is a blackout. With food running out and temperatures dropping, how will they survive?

But just as conditions hit rock bottom, Greg makes a startling discovery.

Author Kinney packs the book with insights into Greg's life, family and friendships, the myriad issues he grapples with at school and at home; how his thinking develops as time goes by; his dreams, fears and hopes. The action is fast-paced and events unfold very quickly as the days go by, so much so that you have to put the book down at times to let the sequence of events sink in.

This is an interesting book which realistically depicts the issues and frustration faced by pre-teens as well as the challenges faced by parents, especially if they have an older teen, a pre-teen and a toddler under one roof.

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

MAS unveils new management structure

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 05:51 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: MAS has unveiled a management structure effective Jan 1, 2012 to rally its staff and steer the national carrier into a new era.

Customer Experience, Operations, Human Capital, Network, Alliance, Strategy and Planning will now report directly to Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ahmad Jauhari, who also takes on the role as CEO of Long-Haul.

Deputy Group CEO and CEO of Short-Haul, Mohammed Rashdan, will lead the charge for the operations of Short-Haul, Group Finance, Aircraft Finance and Management, and in the interim, helm Commercial.

"The organisation structure signals a new era for the Malaysia Airlines group that will further build pride among our employees and confidence for our customers and stakeholders.

"It involves the setting up of several new business units and the re-naming of existing functions as well as the introduction of new leaders to take over from familiar faces who have decided to pursue other career opportunities," Ahmad Jauhari said in a statement Friday.

He added that this will ensure both the smooth transfer of responsibilities and the successful execution of the business plan to enhance the Group's reputation and significance for its eventual entry into the one-world alliance by the end of 2012.

Among the new and re-named business units are: Network, Alliance, Strategy and Planning, Programme Management Office, Communications, renamed Strategic Communications, Corporate Finance, renamed Aircraft Finance and Management; and Audit and Business Advisory which has been renamed Internal Audit.

MAS said the new organisation structure proceeds with the departure of several leaders of the MAS team, including Datuk Dr Amin Khan (from Commercial Strategy), Mohd Roslan Ismail (from MAS Aerospace Engineering), Shahari Tan Sri Sulaiman (from MASkargo) and Datin Sharifah Salwa Syed Kamaruddin (from Revenue Management).

"Moving forward, the group's leadership team will be strengthened with the entry of highly experienced talent, namely Hugh Dunleavy, to lead Network, Alliance, Strategy and Planning and Shihaj Kutty to lead Revenue Management," Ahmad Jauhari said.

Hugh Dunleavy, with more than 30 years experience in the aviation industry, joins MAS with a solid reputation to deliver results in his assigned areas, including strategy and planning, revenue/yield management, airline alliances, decision support systems, operations research and regulatory affairs.

Meanwhile, Shihaj Kutty has over 15 years experience in aviation, specifically in sales and revenue management, as well as managing reservations and ticketing offices for major European and Gulf carriers while based in the Gulf region.

Both Hugh and Shihaj will report for duty at Malaysia Airlines by mid-January 2012. BERNAMA

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Special police team to probe dumping of pig heads at mosque

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 04:32 AM PST

JOHOR BARU: A special team has been set up by Johor police to investigate the dumping of several severed pig heads in plastic bags near the Al-Falah Mosque in Taman Desa Jaya here.

State police chief Datuk Mokhtar Mohd Shariff said the pig heads were found by the mosque's congregation early Friday when they turned up for the dawn prayers.

"The team, which is headed by Johor deputy police chief Datuk Ismail Yatim, will seek the culprits until they are found," he said.

Mokhtar, who visited the scene of the incident, urged all parties to be patient, refrain from speculating about the incident and not to take the law into their own hands.

The mosque's committee chairman, Kassim Darim, 62, said residents in the area initially found a plastic bag believed to contain pig parts near the rear fence of the mosque at 5pm Thursday.

He said it was the first time such an incident had occurred in the area.

A police report was lodged at the Desa Cemerlang Police Station, he said.

Meanwhile, about 100 people, including from non-government organisations, held a peaceful gathering in front of the mosque to protest against the act. BERNAMA

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New Mykad with anti-forgery "ghost image"

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 04:09 AM PST

PUTRAJAYA: The National Registration Department (NRD) will be issuing the new MyKad with the latest security features in stages from Jan 3.

NRD director-general Datuk Jariah Mohd Said said the process would start at the NRD offices in Putrajaya and Shah Alam on Tuesday and extended to other branch offices throughout country after Feb 15.

"The new MyKad is more durable as it is made of tougher polycarbonate material as well as a new and longer lasting chip.

'Apart from that, the MyKad has a "ghost image" which uses a new laser technology on the surface to prevent forgery," she told reporters.

Jariah said NRD was confident the new MyKad would meet international standards as it had improvements over the existing version.

"Members of the public are encouraged to change to the new MyKad but it is not compulsory," she said.

Jariah said NRD branches in other states such as Kluang and Ipoh would be issuing the new MyKad on Jan 10, Johor Baru (Jan 14), Kuantan (Jan 15), Melaka (Jan 17), Kuching and Kota Baru (Jan 20), Kuala Terengganu and Penang (Jan 29).

Apart from that, she said the NRD office in Alor Setar would also issue the new MyKad on Feb 2, Miri (Feb 6), Kota Kinabalu and other branches on Feb 7 and branches in the Federal Territory on Feb 15.

"NRD will take one day to issue the latest MyKad in the NRD branches stated.

"Other NRD branches will take 10 working days in the Peninsula and a maximum of 30 days in Sabah and Sarawak," she said. BERNAMA

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Merry-making in the Klang Valley

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 04:15 AM PST


The Concorde Hotel's culinary team has prepared a New Year's Eve buffet dinner (Dec 31-Jan 1) you simply must try. Fresh seafood, hot main courses, favourite foods from Italy and Mexico are combined to make jolly good meal. Among dishes recommended are Roast Prime of Beef, Salmon Wellington, Chimichangas, Squid Ink Pasta and Ravioli. The dinner menu is priced at RM110++ per person. Children below six years old enjoy a 50% discount. The buffet supper on Dec 31 is RM90++ per person while buffet brunch on Jan 1 will be priced at RM85++ per person. The Crossroads restaurant at The Concorde is serving a New Year's Eve dinner at a price of RM190++ per person. Dinner comes with a complimentary glass of sparkling juice, party pack and standard drinks. For reservations, call 03-2144 2200 ext 2337.


Enjoy a lovely New Year's Eve buffet dinner at Aseana Coffee House featuring regional favourites and western delights all prepared using the freshest ingredients, at the price of RM68++ per person and RM34++ per child (four to 12 years old) from 6.30pm to 10pm. The outlet also offers a New Year's Day buffet brunch with a variety of Malaysian and Western favourites. For those with a sweet tooth, there are desserts such as Creme Brulee, Sherry Truffle and Ice Kacang to savour. The buffet will be priced at RM39++ per person and RM19.50++ per child (4-12 years old), from 11.30am to 4pm. Those who fancy an oriental New Year's Eve feast can go to the Tang Palace Chinese Restaurant to try dishes such as the Pineapple Four Season Combination, Deep Fried Boneless Chicken with Almond Flakes Ball, Fried Garoupa Fish in Two Styles, Braised Jade Abalone with Black Mushroom and Sweet Pumpkin with Glutinous Rice Ball. It will be priced at RM688++ per table of 10 persons, from 6.30pm to 9.30pm. For reservations, call 03-4043 7777.



Hotel Equatorial Kuala Lumpur is offering a spread of lunches, dinners and parties to help you usher 2012 in style. Join the New Year's Eve countdown party at Flo Lobby Lounge. At the stroke of midnight, catch spectacular fireworks display at KLCC from the hotel. Swiss restaurant Chalet will be offering a New Year's Eve set dinner that comes with a masquerade party pack, digital photo and a stalk of rose for ladies priced at RM315++ per person from 6.30pm to 10.30pm. The New Year's Day set dinner is priced at RM198++ per person. Kampachi is offering a selection of traditional Japanese New Year delicacies served in special jubako boxes. It is available from Dec 31 to Jan 2 and priced at RM360++ for takeaway. For dine-in, the set is priced at RM280++ (set A) and RM168++ (set B). The New Year's Eve kaiseki set dinner will feature a seven-course set menu priced at RM220++ per person inclusive of a glass of wine. The New Year's Eve buffet dinner at Nipah Coffee Shop is offered at RM110++ per adult and RM55++ per child, available from 6.30pm to 10.30pm. The New Year's Day high tea is from noon to 5pm, priced at RM60++ per adult and RM30++ per child.

Etoile Bistro's festive lunch is available throughout December and is priced at RM45++ per person. The five-course New Year's Eve dinner is priced at RM118++ per person. For reservations, call 03-2161 7777.



The Federal Hotel Kuala Lumpur celebrates the festive season with a month-long activities. Don your cowboy boots and hats to usher the New Year, wild, wild West style. The Bintang Revolving Restaurant invites you to enjoy a New Year's Eve set dinner for RM120+ per person. Over at the Verandah, the dedicated team is dishing out the New Year's Eve buffet dinner at RM88+ per person and RM44+ per child, as well as New Year's Day high tea RM52+ per person and RM26+ per child. For reservations, call 03-2148 9166 or email f&b@federal.com.my


Spices@Furama Brasserie at Furama Bukit Bintang hotel is offering a choice of delightful buffet meals for the New Year festivities. Spices@Furama's year-end buffets highlight the "Pay for One and Get One Free" offer which is applicable for its Executive Buffet Lunch priced at RM48++ (weekdays), Buffet High Tea at RM 55++ (weekends), Spices Buffet Dinner at RM60++ (Sundays to Thursdays), Barbecue Buffet Dinner at RM70++ (Fridays and Saturdays), and New Year Jamboree Buffet High Tea at RM55++ (Jan 1). Alongside the year-end buffet offers is the "New Year's Eve Fiesta De Spices Buffet Dinner" priced at RM98++. The festive buffet is inclusive of a band performance, a glass of soft drink, beer or wine and special beer price on call after 10:30pm until countdown. The "Pay for One and Get One Free" offer is applicable for adult price only. Children who are aged three to 12 years are entitled to 50% discount off the full adult price. For reservations, call 03-2788 8983.


Grand Seasons Hotel, Kuala Lumpur brings you celebration treats at the all-day dining Seasons Cafe. Among the specialities are appetisers — Smoked Salmon with Horse Radish; Barbecue Quails; Duck Gelatins; Fresh Sashimi and Seafood Terrine. Also on the appetiser menu are salads with different dressings, Wild Mushroom Cream served with Crispy Parsley Garlic Toast and Double-Boiled Superior Shark's Fin Soup with Five Jewels. On top of that, look out for the specially flown-in seafood on ice comprising fresh oysters, tiger prawns, mussels and scallops. Other highlights include international stalls offering Japanese sushis, makis and soba noodles, Italian Pasta with Vongole, and Chicken Bolognaise and Margarita Sauce. In addition, there are Western, Chinese, Malay and Indian dishes to leave diners wanting more. For reservations, call 03-2697 8888 or email fb@grandseasons.com


Welcome the New Year in style at Hakka Republic! Enjoy a decadent Western/Japanese fusion dinner for RM250++ per person. Enhance the experience with wines paired perfectly to the three courses for just RM100++ extra.

For reservations, call 03-2078 9908.


Share the joy and festive cheer with your loved ones at Hilton Kuala Lumpur. Countdown to a brand new start at the Boardwalk New Year's Eve international buffet at a price of RM320++ per person (including beverage package). Witness fireworks display at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve and be entertained by various entertainers. Make your bookings online at www.life.hiltonkl.com and stand a chance to win getaways at Hilton Kuala Lumpur. Also, diners who made reservations can enjoy a carefree countdown party as a complimentary pick-up and drop-off service is available. For details, visit www.life.hiltonkl.com or call 03-2264 2592/96.


Hilton Petaling Jaya is offering various exciting celebration options to suit all kinds of merry-making. Uncle Chilli's Restaurant will whip up the elegant New Year's Eve five-course set dinner priced at RM130++ per person with a glass of champagne. The dishes include Amuse Bouche of Pan-fried Scallops with Pumpkin and Truffle Jus, Duck Pate with Star Anis Jus and French Artichokes with Pan-fried Prawn Tails. Change into your party gear to attend Uncle Chilli's New Year Countdown Red Hot Party at 9pm after a hearty meal. Resident DJ and live band are ready to usher the festivities and get the crowd going into the wee hours of the morning with their blood-pumping beats. Admission is free for diners from other restaurants. The party's cover charge for non-diners is at RM100nett inclusive of a glass of champagne. Paya Serai provides the perfect venue for a heart-warming celebration, spiced up with a delectable buffet spread to usher 2012. New Year's Eve seafood buffet dinner is priced at RM110++ (adult) and RM45++ (child below 12 years old). On New Year's Day, wake up to a fresh new year with the scrumptious seafood buffet brunch priced at RM99++ (adult) and RM45++ (child below 12 years old). Toh Yuen Chinese Restaurant dishes out New Year's Eve and New Year's Day buffet lunch and dinner at RM176 nett (adult) and RM88 nett (child below 12 years old), inclusive of a glass of sparkling mocktail. Master Chef Lee conjures palatable buffet offerings such as Peking Duck and Stir Fried Lamb Slice with Mongolia Sauce, among others. Alternatively, enjoy a Japanese New Year at Genji. Inclusive a glass of sparkling mocktail or champagne, the New Year's Eve Japanese buffet dinner are priced at RM128++ (adult) and RM55++ (child below 12 years old). For reservations, call 03-7955 9122.


Join in the New Year cheer at Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie. Kites Restaurant is offering a New Year's Eve dinner buffet at RM95++ for adults and RM41++ for children. On Jan 1, the dinner buffer is priced from RM65++ for adults and RM32++ for children. Go for Japanese cuisine at the award-winning Fu-Rin Japanese Restaurant. The New Year Eve's Japanese dinner buffet is priced at RM85+ (adult) and RM43+ (child), while the New Year Day's Japanese lunch buffet is priced at RM60++ (adult) and RM32++ (child). Glen Lounge is offering a free flow of soft drinks, juices, house pouring labels and snacks at RM120+ per person at their New Year countdown party on Dec 31. Enjoy the festive season with your friends and family at The Mix and choose from the various packages, starting at RM90nett for single entry. For enquiries, call 03-7802 5200.


New Year's Eve dinner at Hotel Maluri this year is an exciting affair with a twist of Arabian culture and an array of Arabic cuisine. Treat your taste buds to Lebanese Potato Salads and Eggplant Salsa, Moroccan Beef Triangles, Mediterranean Lamb Soup and many more on this special day. Alsa look out for a special bread counter serving Arabian soft bread, Kraftkorn, Lebanese bread, tortilla bread and tandoori bread, among others, or indulge in the dessert spread featuring Arabic Fried Macaroons, Almond Sesame Balls, Coconut Basbousa and Baklava. The New Year's dinner will be held at the hotel's Teratai Ballroom. D'Charma Akustika, an eight-piece band will keep guests entertained till the New Year. "The Hall of Fame" Paper Dolls are set to perform their special Arabic dance and musical performances. The dinner is priced at RM85 nett for adults and RM60 nett for children (aged 6 to 12 years old). Hotel Maluri Kuala Lumpur is located at No 1, Jalan Permaisuri, Taman Maluri, Kuala Lumpur. For reservations, call 03-9287 8833.


Relax in the cosy ambience of Maya Brasserie and share the season's greetings among your loved ones with an abundance of good food, bubbly champagne and great company. The New Year's Eve buffet promises to be a gastronomical adventure, which will start off with a variety of appetisers, salad and cold cuts before commencing to hot servings of Seafood Risotto, Grilled Lamb Chop, Baked Crispy Parmesan Romano Chicken, Grilled Salmon with Citrus Almond Butter Sauce and Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sage and Pecans. Not to be missed are the Asian dishes which include Lotus Steamed Seafood Yam Rice, Tok Beef Rendang, Chinese Crispy Seabass with Pineapple Sauce and Butter Squid with Salted Egg Yolk. For a sweet end to a meal, indulge in the variety of cakes, pastries, ice-creams, fruits and delicious crepe suzettes. New Year's Eve buffet dinner at Maya Brasserie is priced at RM118 per person and RM65 per child between five and 12 years old. New Year's Eve supper is served from 11pm to 3am at RM55 per person. New Year's Day high tea is served from noon to 4pm at RM75 per person and RM40 per child. At Still Waters, share an intimate evening counting down to the finale of 2011 with a menu that includes Anago Gobo Maki (sea eel with burdock), Tuna Cocktail and Yaki Basu (grilled eggplant). An Oriental-inspired Scallop Soup with Melon Puree will be served after. Meat lovers can opt for the chilled Australian Lamb Roll served with Shoga Balsamic Sauce as the main course. For those who prefer fish, the menu offers Baked Cod with Honey Maltose and served with Wasabi Mayo for that extra zing. Delicious ee fu noodles topped with seafood curry sauce rounds up the dinner perfectly, before heading on to desserts — Banana Caramel Mousse and Pineapple Bavaroise. The New Year's dinner is priced at RM 198 per person. For reservations, call 03-2711 8866.


Bid farewell to 2011 and welcome 2012 with style at Impiana KLCC Hotel at Tonka Bean Cafe where buffet is served at RM148++ per adult. Be entertained by Harmony & Rhythm, belly dancers, guest performers and a DJ spinning tunes while you witness fireworks from the restaurant's own Beer Garden. Diners are entitled to free parking at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Children aged six to 12 years old get 50% discount and those below six years old eat for free. For reservations, call 03-2147 1111.


The unique restaurant welcomes the New Year with a special menu that starts off with Mesclun Salad Topped with Smoked Chicken Breast and Seafood Bouillabaisse — a seafood soup simmered in light tomato broth. For main course, diners are given a choice of Blackened Snow Fish Fillet or Australian Grain-Fed Rib-Eye. The evening is marked with a sweet ending with the restaurant's famous chocolate pie. The New Year meal is priced at RM89++ and is served at all outlets. For reservations, call 03-4257 1668 (Ampang), 03-5637 3058 (Subang), 03-2093 0380 (Damansara) or email to reservations@lascarretas.com


Millesime Restaurant in Solaris Dutamas is offering a special New Year 's Eve menu for RM320++ with interesting choices for mains such as Master Kobe Beef Tenderloin, Bone Marrow Toast Barolo Braised Oxtail and Crushed Macadamia Crown with White Truffle Oil.For reservations, call 03-6211 0648 or email rsvp@millesime.my


Celebrate New Year at Pacific Regency Hotel Suites and go ga-ga over the festive specials this holiday season. Luna Chill Out Bar offers a New Year's Eve buffet dinner at RM168++ per adult and RM88++ per child. Soi23 is offering a New Year's Eve buffet dinner for RM148++ per adult and RM78++ per child. After that, the New Year's Eve P-P-Parrrty at Luna Chill Out goes for RM110nett per entry for non-buffet diners. The party continues at Luna Chill Out Bar at RM60 nett per entry from 7pm onwards. Soi23 offers a New Year's Day buffet brunch at RM58++ per adult and RM28++ per child, in addition to festive packages starting at RM888++. For reservations, call 03-2332 7777 or email fnbadmin@pacific-regency.com


Spend New Year's Eve a la the resort style this year at the Palm Garden Hotel and revel in the joyous mood of the festivities. With a location 25 minutes from KL, the Palm Garden Hotel is a nice option to enjoy a cosy party with family, friends and colleagues. For New Year's Eve, there will be an international buffet at Palms Café featuring Traditional Roast Turkey, Roast Beef Striploin, Pasta station, oysters and more; a barbecue at the poolside with fresh meats, seafood and vegetables for grilling and tantalising selections at the Thai Mini Buffet at Aroi Dee Thai Restaurant. As you explore the hotel, you will find stalls serving burgers and hot dogs, roti jala and lempeng, dim sum and more. The Band and Countdown party will be held at the poolside. The New Year's Eve party is priced at RM150nett per adult and RM90nett per child below 12 years old which includes party favours. For reservations, call 03-8943 2233.


Chatz Brasserie is offering a gastronomical New Year's Eve buffet dinner at RM 105++ per adult (with one glass of mojito/mocktail) and RM52.50++ per child from 7pm to 10.30pm. For New Year's Day, the restaurant dishes out a brunch called Local Connection Meets International for RM68++ per adult and RM34++ per child from noon to 4pm. For reservations, call 03-2782 8378.


Celebrate the festivals with a variety of flavours at Première Hotel's dinner with all the trimmings this New Year. The Buzz is offering a New Year's Eve bounteous buffet dinner served from 6.30pm to 10pm and is priced at RM90 per adult, RM45 for those above 55 years old and RM45 per child with party pack and a glass of non-alcoholic festive punch. ICHI Poolbar is having a New Year's Eve celebration with seating. The bar is open till 1am and guests can enjoy an appetiser buffet with two drinks for RM110 per person. Child prices are valid for those aged seven to 12 years old. For reservations, call The Buzz at 03-3325 6828, ICHI Poolbar at 03-3325 6968 or email fnb@premiere-hotels.com


Renaissance Kuala Lumpur offers various exciting options to usher in the New Year. Sagano Restaurant is whipping up a myriad of flavours for the New Year's Eve dinner priced at RM148++ or RM188++ per person. Alternatively, try Cantonese cuisine at Dynasty Restaurant (non-halal) this New Year's Eve that serves two six-course gourmet Cantonese set menus priced at RM148++ and RM188++ per person. TEMPTationS is the place to succumb to local and Asian inspired flavours as well as Western cuisine during the festive period. Look out for the chef's specialities such as Lamb Fillet Wrapped with Nori and Filo, and Herb and Spice Crusted Chicken Breast with Olive-Scented Risotto. The New Year's Eve dinner buffet is priced at RM138++ per person. Over at Vogue Café, a bountiful buffet of Eastern and Western delights is served at only RM138++ per person. And, party buffs who want to dance their way into 2012 can join the hotel's New Year's Eve Party at RM100nett inclusive of one standard drink. For reservations, call 03 2162 2233 or email rhi.kulrn.fb@renaissancehotels.com


Resorts World Genting is kicking off its "Coolest Countdown Celebration" including fireworks, shows and many more to usher the New Year. Come to the Genting Outdoor Theme Park where engaging stage activities will be held at the Merdeka Stage from 7pm onwards, followed by fireworks. At First World Café, a delicious festive buffet spread will be available Dec 31 to Jan 1. On Dec 31, the festive buffet available from 5.30pm to 9.30pm is priced at RM48++ (adult) and RM24++ (child). On Jan 1, the festive buffet available from 12.00pm to 2.30pm is priced at RM41++ (adult) and RM20.50++ (child). At Awana Genting Highlands, Rajawali Restaurant is offering a festive buffet dinner spread from 6pm to 10pm on Dec 31 at RM68++ for adult and RM34.++ for children. At Flavours, tantalising festive treats and international culinary delights will be featured in the special New Year's Eve menu priced at RM55++, served from 6pm to 10pm. For reservations, call 03-6101 1118.


Arthur's Bar and Grill at Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur offers a sumptuous New Year's Eve buffet dinner and countdown party to welcome 2012. The fresh live seafood station offers Hokkaido live scallops, caviar, Atlantic salmon and many more while the Asian and Western salad stations offer Spicy Thai Seafood Salad, Confit Chicken Roulade with Prunes, Sarawak Pepper-Seared Duck Breast with Honey Pineapple, among others. The carving station offers Slow-Cooked Tomahawk of Beef and Roasted Stuffed Lamb, there is also an abundant spread of desserts such as Surprise Arthur's Mud Cake 2012, Strawberry Tower, Dark Chocolate Fountain with Condiments and many more. A live band and DJ will entertain guests during the countdown and party packs will also be given out. For reservations, call 03-2074 3900 or the Festive Desk at 03-2074 3560.


Begin the countdown to 2012 with an abundance of good food at Sunway Putra Hotel's Coffee House, with the New Year's Eve Buffet Dinner at RM108++. Continue the merry-making on the start of 2012 with the New Year's Day high tea at RM60++ and New Year's Day buffet dinner at RM88++. An array of international and local delicacies will be featured, among them Seared Rare Tuna with Beetroot Carpaccio and Ricotta Cheese, Crisp-Fried Yabbies with Durian Mayonnaise, Hungarian Beef Patties with Portobello Mushroom Cream, Jamaican Beef Meatloaf with Barbecue Sauce as well as a range of fresh seafood. The hotel's Japanese Restaurant will whip up the New Year's Eve buffet dinner (RM98++) and New Year's Day buffet dinner (RM88++) for the special occasion. Indulge in something different this New Year. The spread will feature more than 80 types of dishes from Japan. Seafood lovers will be excited over fresh oysters and succulent tiger prawns while sashimi such as Scallops, Hamachi (Yellowtail), Maguro (Tuna), Sake (Salmon) and Ika (Squid) are served in abundance. Alternatively, dine by the poolside on New Year's Eve, satiate your appetite with a delectable spread of fresh seafood and succulent meats grilled to perfection. The Countdown to 2012 New Year's Eve Buffet Dinner is priced at RM108++ per person. After all the glorious food, it is time to adjourn to the Atrium Lobby for an 'electrifying' countdown party to usher 2012 with pomp and gaiety.

For reservations, call 03-4042 9888 03-4043 8602 or email enquirysph@sunwayhotels.com


The end of the year beckons you to celebrate in style. This holiday, Westin Kuala Lumpur treats you to deliciously wholesome fare and healthful indulgences. On New Years' Eve, Prego stirs up the joy with Rio Fiesta 2011 which offers Sunday Bubbly Brunch at RM228+ or RM328++ per person, RM114++ per child under 12 years old and RM57++ per child under seven years old. A buffet dinner is dished out from 7pm to 11pm with free flow of Mumm Champagne till midnight. The Living Room will have 'The Colours of Rio' promotion at RM148++ per person and RM74++ per child for food only from 6.30pm to 11.00pm. Qba Latin Bar & Grill sizzles up the evening with the Rio Carnivale 2011 promotion while EEST serves up a special a la carte menu themed 'The Magic of Rio' for the occasion. Starwood Privilege card members enjoy 20% discount off on New Year's promotions at EEST, The Living Room and Prego and 10% discount off at Prego only. Qba VIP card members enjoy 20% discount off on Christmas and New Year's promotions in Qba. The Westin's holiday package for New Year's Eve is available from RM650++ per night. The experience includes overnight accommodation, one Westin Heavenly Bathrobe valued at RM212 to take home, buffet breakfast for two, late check-out at 2pm and complimentary self-parking. For hotel reservations, call 03-2731 8333, email twkl.reservations@westin.com or visit westin.com/kualalumpur. For bookings or food enquiries, call 03-2773 8338 or visit westindining.com.my

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Metro Watch

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 03:49 AM PST


As of 10.30am tomorrow, DBKL will implement traffic route changes along Jalan Rahim Kajai 13 and Rahim Kajai 14, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, from two ways to one way. The traffic along Jalan Rahim Kajai 13 will be changed to one way and traffic along Lorong Rahim Kajai 14 will be re-routed towards Jalan Rahim Kajai. The same re-routing from two-way to one-way took effect on Monday and involved parts of Jalan Bintang 2, Taman Sri Bintang, KL.


The Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers are having their educational art programme 'An Impression of Malaysian Art — from Modern to Contemporary' with the focus on Malaysian art on Jan 7 at 11am at White Box, MAP@Publika. Speakers include Ooi Kok Chuen and Iqbal Abdul Rahim. Admission is free. Seats are limited. For details, call Sylvie at 017-433 3298 or Chris at 016-298 0852 to RSVP by Jan 4, 2012. For information, visit www.hbart.com.my


There will be a blood donation drive at the community hall in Jalan Zircon A7/A, Seksyen 7, Shah Alam, Makam Pahlawan Masjid Negara Jalan Perdana, Jalan Perdana, Kuala Lumpur and the meeting room in Masjid Al Ehsan in Jalan Kinrara 5, Bandar Kinrara. For details, visit www.pdn.gov.my


The registration exercise for the Bantuan Rakyat Satu Malaysia RM500 fund will be held on Jan 1, 2012 at the Sri Sakti Karpaga Vinayagar Temple in Jalan Berhala Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur (opposite Palm Court condominium). To register, bring photocopies of MyKad and payslip.


Jalan Raja Chulan will be closed from 7pm until 1am tonight for the New Year celebration rehearsal and from 5pm until 1am tomorrow for the actual celebration. The public are encouraged to use public transport to get to the area to ease congestion and parking problems.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

Back in black

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 01:18 AM PST

As the band's career winds down, Scorpions will make sure fans get what they want, and at this point in time, that's new album Comeblack.

IT was news that rocked the world when it first came out early this year. The band seemed to be going strong, but common sense suggested that German rock band Scorpions would eventually have to call it a day – they're no spring chickens, you know. With the founding members in their 60s, maintaining quality control in an energetic, live setting logically became a point of contention.

So in January, the quintet announced it was going to retire after its final album (which turned out to be one of its best in a long time), Sting In The Tail, and the subsequent world tour. With the outpouring enthusiasm and affection during the tour, the corporate wheels at Sony Music began turning in reaction to the good vibes.

Thus Comeblack came into the picture, vaunting a collection of re-recorded Scorpions gems and cover tunes from disparate sources like T-Rex, The Beatles, The Kinks and Rolling Stones, among others. And strangely, this doesn't even seem like an endeavour that's scraping the bottom of the barrel, either.

Singer Klaus Meine was certainly in the mood to share his thoughts on all that's been going right in the Scorpions world recently during a phone interview from his native Germany, where he and guitarist Rudolf Schenker recently attended the opening of the Hard Rock Cafe in Hamburg. What did they do there? Like any good rockers, smash guitars, but of course.

"This final tour has made us realise that things are winding down to a close, and has made everything extra special and that much more emotional for us. And we know we want to walk into the sunset with class and style. We've played 125 shows in 25 countries and the reception has been fantastic. We want to remain in the memories of our fans as a great live band," Meine enthused, revealing that last year's Sting In The Tail is an album that will allow the band to sign off on a high, given the strong DNA which ties it in with classics like Lovedrive (1979), Blackout (1982) and Love At First Sting (1984).

Comeblack is purely a project by Scorpions' coffers, Sony Music, but the band relished the chance to reach out to a new audience as well. "When the tour turned out great, Sony wanted to support it with a few projects. It's not completely right to call this a new album. The thinking behind it is that, we wanted to hear what some of those old songs would sound like through newer recording technology – we wanted to give them an updated sound," Meine confessed.

And when he describes them as classics, he means that with a "k" – contained in the album are all-time favourites like Rock You Like A Hurricane, Still Loving You, Wind Of Change, Blackout and other gems like The Zoo, No One Like You and Rhythm Of Love. Like Meine professed, they sound heftier and his once-lilting voice is now more of a rasp.

Re-recording them wasn't a drudgerous chore, though. Far from it. And the approach was never about recreating the original vibe of the songs. "We play these songs all the time ... they're so close to our hearts. We just wanted great and strong performances. Of course, even the keys of the songs have been brought down. Come on, I'm not Superman, you know," Meine displayed his humility about his vocal prowess no longer being what it was.

The band put all its experience and feeling into the songs to give it a decidedly new feel, though, throwing in vocal harmonies, too. "The originals are fantastic the way they are, so we never set out to better them. We hope fans like the new treatment we've given to these old songs."

If rock fans have a crystal clear image of the kind of band the Scorpions is, the quintet's choice of cover tunes for Comeblack reveals a band with surprisingly eclectic music taste. Among the songs covered are Tainted Love (originally recorded by Gloria Jones in 1965, but made popular by 1980s synth pop duo Soft Cell), Children Of The Revolution (T-Rex), Across The Universe (The Beatles), Tin Soldiers (Small Faces), All Day And All Of The Night (The Kinks) and Ruby Tuesday (Rolling Stones).

"The songs we recorded were by artistes who inspired us when we were getting into music ... mostly 60s songs. We love and have a lot of respect for those artistes. I'm a big Beatles fan, so Across The Universe was something I wanted to do. Then Matthias (Jabs, lead guitarist) suggested a (Rolling) Stones song, but I said 'No way'. In the end, he finally convinced me. We love the rock bands from the 1960s and songs like You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night," he revealed.

The strangest cover choice of the lot, though, has to be Tainted Love. "That was Rudolf's idea. He was sure he could arrange it to suit the Scorpions. I mean, it's a powerful song and we had a lot of fun recording it," he said, sounding pleased as punch.

The song's Motown-flavoured arrangement of guitars and horns lent itself to a rock interpretation.

"We want to take our fans from the rolling 60s through to the rocking 80s. This is like us singing a big thank you to them," he added.

Scorpions once contained Schenker's younger brother, Michael, who went on to establish himself as one of the best rock guitarists of his generation with British band UFO and later his own, the Michael Schenker Group (MSG). Scorpions' classic line-up included bassist Francis Buccholz and drummer Herman Rarebell (the line-up responsible for the band's peak years in the 1980s), though these positions are filled up ably today by Pawel Maciwoda and James Kottak, respectively.

Comeblack's title is clearly wordplay and Meine is accepting of this observation. "It's a pun. The title is probably the most asked question regarding the album. I originally meant to call it Diamonds And Pearls but found out that Prince already has an album with that name."

After furiously trying to figure out a title, Meine finally formulated Comeblack in his head. "I came up with it. It's original," said the singer, revealing that the band was coming up with 10 titles a day before settling for his suggestion. Comeblack is basically a "tour" album, a memento of the band's travels in support of its final album, Sting In The Tail.

"The momentum for the farewell tour is picking up and we've sold out for months ahead. We'll continue to be on the road through 2012 ... this is what we do. It's great that we're having fun doing this, but it's still at the back of our minds that this is all coming to an end. Time flies when you're having fun," said the rocker, half cheekily.

According to Meine, Comeblack won't be the final word on Scorpions just yet. As the farewell tour progresses, Sony Music will be releasing more of such projects.

But until then, be prepared to weather the Scorpions storm as it rocks us all like a hurricane through the tour, which will take the band to its final curtain call in 2013.

Comeblack is available from Sony Music.

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Why is this ‘Kolaveri’ all the rage?

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 05:24 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians are so hooked to the addictive Tamil hit song Why this Kolaveri Di which has taken the cyber world by storm.

The song, which has been viewed more than 29 million times on YouTube, was recently awarded a Gold Medal by the video sharing website for receiving a large number of hits within a short time.

It has also gone viral on Facebook, with listeners of all ages, and even other races, sharing the video on the website.

A group performing a flashmob of the song in Auckland has been uploaded on YouTube.

"It is simple and cheeky," said writer Anuradha Raghu, 23, while businessman Phua Eu Jin, 23, admits the song was catchy although he didn't understand the lyrics.

"I see it all over Facebook and just had to listen to it to see what it was all about," he said.

The song which was produced as part of upcoming Tamil movie 3, stars actress Shruti Haassan and actor Dhanush, who also sang the song.

The film is due for release next month on the eve of Ponggal – the harvest festival.

The title of the song, which means "Why this murderous rage?" is a question posed by the film's hero towards his girlfriend who has dumped him.

He laments the girl's decision to leave him and how she had moved on while he was miserable.

Accountant Danisha Saravana Kumar, 26, said the song was extremely addictive.

"The Tamil mixed with English lyrics sung with a drunken stupor gives the song that extra oomph!" she said while senior human re­­source executive Reuben Varughese Philip, 28, said the tune of the song had a very evident "feel good factor" about it.

Besides the original video, a "Malaysian version" of the song is also gaining popularity on the video sharing website.

Having received nearly 12,000 views on YouTube and 500 shares on Facebook, the video titled Why this Kolaveri Di, Malaysian version is sung by a Malay youth who adds his own twist to the song with lyrics in Bahasa Malaysia.

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Tuned in to the cause

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 04:21 PM PST

HAVING never been to Cambodia before, I had no idea what to expect from an MTV EXIT concert there. Of course, I knew about the concert headliners, American power pop band The Click Five and Korean girl group After School, but what was really whetting my appetite was the chance to check out some Khmer acts that are considered big enough, or cool enough, to also get on the bill on something that is as big as an MTV concert.

So when I got to the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on Dec 17, I had my mind set on catching every single song by every single act on the bill.

The concert started around 6pm, with local hip hop crew Eklectic opening the show with some energetic B-boy moves and quite impressive beats and rhymes, the highlight of which was their last song, which cleverly sampled an infectious old Khmer tune that got everybody shouting along and dancing to the music.

As it was an MTV EXIT concert, which aims to raise awareness on the dangers and evil of human trafficking and exploitation, performances alternated between short speeches from figures like the United States Ambassador to Asean, the Australian Ambassador to Cambodia, the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior of Cambodia, right through to the Deputy Secretary-General of Asean Political-Security Committee, all giving empowering messages to the young people in attendance.

The 40,000 strong crowd was always in good spirits throughout the night, as they cheered and clapped for everyone playing and giving speeches. Up next after Eklectic was Thmor Band, who played a sort of Khmer version of rock kapak (Malaysian slang for 80s hair metal, done Malaysian style), complete with the expected guitar heroics. The band ended its three-song set with a cover of Michael Jackson's Black Or White, which drew huge cheers from the crowd.

Strangest, though, was the next band. Calling itself Cartoon Emo, the band opened its set with some pretty nifty metalcore moves, complete with a groovy breakdown for hardcore kids to dance the "two-step" to (alas, I didn't see any of that in the crowd that night), only to have the very next song be a complete 180° turnaround from the first one, with a lead guitar lick that strongly reminded me of the song Fiona by 4U2C. The rest of the song sounded like a mainstream pop-rock tune, not unlike the ones by Sofaz or Sixth Sense.

The band's next song was a combination of both worlds, with metalcore screams and a Sofaz pop-rock chorus. And they look a wee bit like Tokio Hotel, too!

Then came Khmer music of the sort that most of us would expect, with gorgeous songstress Sok Pisey belting out soothing ballads that sounded not unlike the Thai country ballads (or luk-thoong, as the Thais call it) that a lot of Malaysians are familiar with from the 1980s.

The biggest local star of them all though, was Preab Sovath, who confidently swaggered onstage backed by Cartoon Emo (minus their singer), and proceeded to wow the crowd with two rock kapak mid-tempo ballads that would surely have been huge here as well ... if they were sung in Malay. But it was the next two songs in his four-song set that surprised me as he then comfortably went into K-Pop mode, backed by a group of impressive dancers, and showed off some truly fluid moves himself, too. He even rapped on the final song, making me wonder whether there's anything that this guy can't do. The Cambodian equivalent to Michael Jackson? I definitely think so.

American power poppers The Click Five did its thing, returning to Cambodia after its last performance there in 2008, also for MTV EXIT. Opening with the first song from its debut album, Good Day, the band delivered a rockingly exuberant and energetic seven-song set that I wished could have gone on a bit longer. Playing hits like Just The Girl, Jenny and their collaboration with MTV EXIT, Don't Let Me Go, the quintet was probably the most exciting act of the night.

Try telling that to the legions of fans of Korean girl group After School though, who went nuts at the mere mention of the group's name before they came onstage. An up and coming K-Pop group that's making quite a name for itself in Japan now, the group delivered a mesmerising five-song set that was filled with flawlessly-executed dance moves that were as sexy as they were highly impressive. Definite highlights were the fast-paced hit Bang and closing song Diva, which the crowd enthusiastically sang along to at every given opportunity.

It was undoubtedly a hugely interesting and fun concert. And when you add the audience's infectious enthusiasm into the equation, and the worthy message that was being spread all night, it was definitely a night that will live long in my memory. And you can also put me down as a new fan of After School! – Aidil Rusli

Related Story:
Music with a conscience

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