Jumaat, 8 Mac 2013

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Kelly Osbourne rushed to hospital after seizure

Posted: 07 Mar 2013 11:41 PM PST

The 28-year-old star was filming her E! Show Fashion Police with Joan and Melissa Rivers yesterday when she had a seizure which lasted approximately 30 seconds.

She was then immediately taken to a Los Angeles hospital for treatment, according to Entertainment Tonight.

This is the latest health scare for Kelly after she recently sprained her ankle in a toilet. In that incident, Kelly got her foot stuck in a rest room drain and opted to inflict a serious injury on herself rather than risk "eating the toilet" in the germ-filled public convenience.

She tweeted: "Got my shoe stuck in a bathroom drain. I was faced with spraining my ankle or eating the toilet! Guess what I picked?"

She added: "just could not bare the thought of my face landing in a public toilet! However I'm now questioning my decision due to the pain!!!!! (sic)"

Kelly was also recently given an expensive bottle of champagne after rocks fell on her head at a hotel.

Writing on her twitter page, Kelly revealed: "I love it when rocks fall on my head from construction - just got given a US$1,000 bottle of champagne & flowers from the hotel as an apology!"

She added: "I'm gonna give the champagne to my Mumma as it is her favorite kind! (sic)"

(BANG Showbiz)

Demi Moore seeking alimony from Ashton Kutcher

Posted: 07 Mar 2013 10:30 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress Demi Moore is seeking alimony from estranged husband Ashton Kutcher, according to divorce documents filed in a Los Angeles court on Thursday.

Kutcher, the star of CBS television comedy Two And A Half Men, filed for divorce from the G.I. Jane actress in December 2012 after more than a year of separation.

Requesting financial support from Kutcher, 35, is an unusual move for Moore, 50, who was one of the top female earners in Hollywood during the 1990s. Her court filing did not specify an amount sought.

Kutcher and Moore both cited irreconcilable differences in their divorce papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. In Kutcher's filing, the actor said he would not seek spousal support but would not deny support to Moore.

Forbes magazine has estimated Kutcher earned US$24 million from May 2011 to May 2012, making him the highest-paid TV actor.

Representatives for Moore and Kutcher did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Moore began dating Kutcher a few years after her split from actor-husband Bruce Willis, when Kutcher was a young star on the TV sitcom That '70s Show.

Their relationship became tabloid fodder due to their 16-year age gap, and the couple married in September 2005 in Los Angeles.

Moore and Kutcher separated in November 2011 following six years of marriage, after a San Diego woman said she had a brief affair with Kutcher.

Kutcher is currently dating his former That '70s Show cast-mate Mila Kunis.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Ireland spearheaded growth in the six years in charge

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 04:02 PM PST

CHARLES Ireland, former managing director of Guinness Anchor Bhd (GAB), will forever be etched in the company's history as the man that helped spearhead its growth trajectory during the time he was with the brewery.

Ireland, who has been in charged of GAB for nearly six years, led the company to its 11th consecutive year of revenue, volume and profit growth for the financial year ended June 30, 2012.

When asked how he feels about leaving a company he helped become the leading player in Malaysia's beer industry, Ireland says: "I'll miss working for GAB and I'll definitely miss working in Malaysia.

"It's pride tinged with sadness," says Ireland.

"But I'm ready to do something else," he adds.

Ireland is succeeded by Hans Essaadi, who has been with the Heineken group for over 20 years.

"My leaving is also a good thing for GAB. I do believe a fresh pair of eyes is a good thing for the business," says Ireland.

"Change will be good for our business," he says. Ireland has been appointed as group managing director of East African Breweries Ltd (EABL), effective April 1.

EABL is East Africa's largest alcohol beverage company and the number one on the Nairobi Stock Exchange with a market capitalisation of about US$3bil. The business consists of five breweries and two spirits plants across seven countries in East Africa including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. EABL's total volume is 12 million hectolitres, which is 10 times the volume of GAB. EABL has a total of 1,800 employees.

Ireland joined GAB in May 2006 as the general manager of marketing and was appointed to the board later that month.

He started his career in 1985 as a ρnancial consultant at Young, Claridge and Richmond Ltd, United Kingdom. In 1987, he joined Nestl UK in the Nestl Rowntree Grocery Division. He was promoted to national accounts manager, Nestl Petfood Division in 1990 and later to sales manager national accounts, Nestl Confectionery Division. He served in various capacities within the Nestl Group until October 1997.

In November 1997, Ireland started his career with Diageo Plc as account director on trade, Guinness GB. He became customer marketing director, Guinness GB in 1999 before his promotion to Global Route to consumer director for Diageo Ready to Drink Brands in 2001.

Before joining GAB, from 2003 to 2006, Ireland was the managing director of Diageo Philippines and was given the additional responsibility of commercial director, Diageo Asia, in 2005.

While in Malaysia, Ireland also served as the president of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry and vice-president of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Malaysia.

He was a governing council member of the Confederation of Malaysian Brewers Bhd and a trustee of the GAB Foundation.

Looking back, Ireland says his time with GAB was a "positive one."

"I had a lot of fun with GAB, working with the people. When everyone is happy, it's a great environment. Our track record is also very rare. It's unlike any business for Diageo anywhere around the world.

"All the successes in the past six years was a great experience for me. I took over a business that was in great shape and it had great fundamentals."

Ireland says he placed a lot of emphasis on developing and improving the talent relationship within GAB.

"In the past, the business was a little bit diluted in its focus for many reasons. I looked at prioritising things that were most important. We didn't have great teamwork in certain departments.

"Some departments were isolated and there were even rivalries. So I tried to help create a healthy teamwork environment."

Ireland says GAB hired "great talents" during his tenure with the company.

"But more could have been done, like better succession planning. We also lost people we would've loved to retain and also failed to recruit those that we really wanted on board GAB."

On his appointment to spearhead the business in East Africa, Ireland openly admits that it will be challenging but one that he is definitely eager to take on.

"When I joined GAB as marketing director, I had some time to learn the business before taking over as managing director. With my next position (Africa), I won't have as much time. Africa is a fantastic business with great heritage. So it's going to be big and complicated. But I believe it's going to be a dynamic growth area and has a fantastic future.

"There will be short-term challenges, but the medium to long-term outlook seems good."

Related Story:
Keeping the fine performance going for Guniness Anchor

Keeping the fine performance going for Guniness Anchor

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 04:01 PM PST

HANS Essaadi, who was recently appointed Guinness Anchor Bhd (GAB) new managing director, knows he has a huge task ahead of him.

Not only does he need to ensure that the company maintains its position as the country's leading brewery by market share, Essaadi knows he has to ensure GAB's decade-long-plus earnings continue on its upward trajectory.

For the past 11 years, GAB has been recording consecutive revenue, volume and profit growth over half of which was spearheaded by former managing director, Charles Ireland.

Essaadi, who has been in the country for about two months already, looks calm as he gears up to take over the reigns from Ireland.

"I admit I've taken over a unique business and I know I do have huge shoes to fill," he tells StarBizWeek. Essaadi took over as GAB managing director on March 1.

Essaadi attributes GAB's 11 years of growth to the company having a "winning mentality."

"It's a legacy that I'm taking over!"

Essaadi has been with the Heineken Group for over 20 years and has served in various capacities across several different business units and regions around the world.

He was most recently the general manager of Sirocco, Heineken Region Africa & Middle East a joint venture between Heineken and Emirates in the Gulf region.

On his taking over operations in Malaysia, he is quick to admit that the business will not be without its challenges.

"There will always be challenges, but then that's what makes for a fun working environment. Otherwise it will be a boring marketplace," Essaadi says.

Financial momentum

GAB recorded a 1.6% net profit growth to RM122.99mil for the first six-month period ended Dec 31, 2012. In the corresponding period last year, it recorded RM121.03mil in net profit.

Revenue in the first half of the year slipped to RM821.73mil from RM912.95mil in the previous corresponding period.

For its second quarter, the company recorded a net profit of RM66.16mil compared with RM65.82mil a year earlier. GAB registered 8.3% lower revenue of RM429.4mil from RM468.3mil a year ago in its second quarter.

In its notes accompanying its financial results to Bursa Malaysia last month, the company said it expected the Malaysian economy to remain stable and domestic demand to remain robust.

"Despite increasingly competitive market environment, the group believes it has the right strategies, network and resources to achieve sustainable growth in the current financial year."

It added that the investment in information technology systems, once embedded, would give GAB a strategic competitive advantage.

Analysts covering the stock say the brewery's earnings were within expectations.

Maybank Investment Bank Research in its report following the company's results said GAB's first half 2013 net profit was in line with its earnings forecast.

"Net profit was sustained by better product and channel mix along with improved cost controls, compensating for a 10% year-on-year drop in sales.

"We understand the weaker sales were due to sales only captured in January (GAB's third quarter) due to the later Chinese New Year (February 2013 vs January 2012); as well as a further decline in duty-free volume (10% of volume vs 20% in 2012)."

The research house also said earnings were lower due to overall product sales softness.

CIMB Research, in its report, said it was "scaling back" its sales forecasts but was raising margins for a better product and channel mix.

"We are not perturbed by the 10% year-on-year decline in its first half revenue as it resulted from the timing of CNY, which was three weeks later this year compared with last year.

"GAB indicated that January 2013 sales were 80% higher year-on-year. However, since revenue for the seven months to January 2013 were only up slightly, we have cut our financial year 2013 sales growth forecast from 5% to 4%."

The research house notes that earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation margins jumped from 19.2% in the first half of 2012 to 22.6% in the first half of 2013, reflecting a better product mix due to increased sales of premium beer like Heineken compared with mainstream beer such as Tiger.

"A better channel mix also contributed to higher margins as beer sold in bottles costs less than canned beer," said CIMB.

It adds that it expects the company's premier beer brand, Heineken, to lead GAB's near-term sales growth, especially after changes to its bottle in July 2012.

"This will benefit margins as selling prices for premium beer like Heineken are 15% higher than for mainstream beer like Tiger. Currently, Heineken makes up 10% of sales.

Following a briefing session with GAB recently, CIMB says the beer company still expects to outperform the malt liquor market in its current financial year, even though it is already the market leader with some 60% market share.

"GAB believes any excise tax increase would be moderate. There is not much scope for a big increase since Malaysians already pay the second highest excise duty in the world after Norway. There is no certainty that GAB will raise its selling prices this year as management is taking a wait-and-see approach."

In sync with the economy

Essaadi says he is optimistic about the company's prospects for the remainder of its financial year. For a start, he is thankful the Government has not raised excise duties for the past seven years.

"Our excise duties are quite high and I'm glad there has been no increase in the past seven years. But there are other challenges, like competition we get from grey importers and traders who are giving us unfair competition.

"We're not crying about it but it's a challenge and we need to find ways to remain competitive," he says.

Still, the biggest challenge, says Essaadi, is to continue to grow the business.

"What we need to do is to keep growing. We've already achieved 11 consecutive years of growth. Now the challenge will be to go into a 12th, 13th and more years of growth," he says.

Ireland seems cautiously optimistic about the prospects for GAB for the remainder of its current financial year.

In the near term, he believes that the impending general election has softened the beer market a little.

"The impending general election is making people a little bit more careful with their spending," Ireland says, adding that anticipation of the general election was creating ambiguity in the marketplace.

"The stock market doesn't like ambiguity and people don't like ambiguity," he says.

Ireland believes that consumers are holding back their spending a little bit as they await the outcome of the general election.

"People are keeping their hands in their pockets a little bit," he says.

Ireland feels that the recent bad Malaysian weather has also not helped.

"Other factors that may have contributed to softer sales include the dreadful weather. It has been pouring and there has been flash floods everywhere. Because of this, people are not in pubs drinking when they are stuck in traffic jams. So that has affected the business as well."

On the outlook of the local malt liquor market, Ireland says this segment correlates closely with the performance of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

"It's true that the malt liquor market shadows GDP quite closely and the latest figures have been quite solid."

According to reports, Malaysia's economy recorded a spectacular performance in the last quarter of 2012, growing 6.4%. This is the highest quarterly growth in 2 years and was boosted by the manufacturing and construction sectors.

This supported the overall economic growth for 2012 that expanded to 5.6% compared to 5.1% in 2011.

Based on reports, all sectors registered positive growth with the services, manufacturing and construction sectors continuing to be the key drivers in the supply side.

According to Bank Negara, there are emerging signs of improvements in the global economy where the latest economic indicators also suggest further stabilisation in growth performance in Asia.

"GDP growth in the region is also quite solid," says Ireland, who is optimistic about the local beer market for the rest of this year.

He says the various ongoing Economic Transformation Programme projects currently are goods signs that the Malaysian economy is in good shape.

"All (the projects) that's going on is great and the Malaysian economy is solid. But we do believe things will pick up further after the elections and people will start spending a bit more."

Essaadi is also optimistic, saying that GAB will drive growth and boost earnings through various promotional campaigns.

"Looking at our full promotional calendar, we will be leveraging our brand through various platforms, such as sports and music," he says, without disclosing what the company's various campaigns will comprise.

"There's a lot of anticipation. We're ramping up our activities to make sure we come out of the year in a sustainable and positive way."

Banking on corporate responsibility (CR)

It is no surprise that GAB invests substantially in CR-related activities. The brewery has won multiple accolades for its push for social responsibility.

Ireland says investing in CR has various benefits.

"A few years ago, we looked at how we wanted to move the company forward and looked at CR as one way of doing that. We felt there was both a business and responsibility benefit. Part of the reason our brands are popular with people is because we strive to do the right thing with our brands, to be socially responsible.

"Furthermore, it's also important to be viewed as a socially responsible company. When we interview prospective employees, being socially responsible is on the list of why people want to join organisations these days."

Related Story:
Ireland spearheaded growth in the six years in charge

Nielsen Malaysia is changing the way it does business

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 03:47 PM PST

NIELSEN Malaysia is changing. The country's leading market research company is becoming more proactive and plans to offer more globally-proven products.

This may well be something that the advertising industry has been longing to hear, for the industry relies heavily on Nielsen for media-related data − from newspaper readership figures to TV programme ratings.

Richard Hall, who was appointed Nielsen Malaysia managing director in May last year, says the company needs to be more of a catalyst in some of the new technology/product discussions with industry players.

"In the past, I think we had been more reactive, and that's fine. I see now that we probably have a role to play in terms of being more proactive and getting more feedback from clients," he says in his first interview with StarBizWeek since his current appointment.

Hall took over the helm from Kow Kuan Hua, who has been promoted to marketing effectiveness leader for South-East Asia. Except for a year in Shanghai, the Englishman has been based in Malaysia since 2003, mainly in regional Nielsen roles.

Today he oversees both the "Buy" (customised and retail measurement research) and "Watch" (media measurement research) businesses of Nielsen Malaysia. The Buy business is larger than the Watch business, but it is the Watch business that seems to attract close scrutiny.

Among others, there has been a continuing call to have more accurate data on advertising expenditure (adex). Nielsen Malaysia currently measures the country's adex mainly using official rate cards of media owners, which do not show discounts.

Hall says that in a few markets, Nielsen does cover net ad spending but this requires collaboration across the industry.

"The industry has to be ready to be able to share the different discounts for us to go and track that. The other way of doing this is to agree on, say, the standard discounts for a big client for TV and we can apply that to the rate cards that we have," he says.

It has been "some time" since Nielsen talked to the industry about it, and Hall feels it is time to reopen the discussion.

"Are we now at a stage where the industry is more comfortable sharing that information? Obviously we'll make sure there's a level of confidentiality there so we don't reveal specific companies' discounts.

"I think there's an interest for clients to get a better read. As long as they see the benefits are greater than the risks, they'll be interested. And it's up to us to go to them and say we can actually do this; we can potentially convince them. We need to showcase what we're doing in other markets."

Going McDonald's way

Nielsen Malaysia, which has appointed Ben Ting as the new leader for Watch, will reassess what clients want.

What consumers are doing in terms of media are changing rapidly and Nielsen needs to change with it, says Hall. Fortunately, it has various products that it can lift from the Nielsen global network (Nielsen has presence in some 100 countries) to address the changes.

Over the next few months, he says, the company will build a plan for the next two to five years in terms of what it can do to meet the changing nature of its business.

An example of the changes is the viewership of TV content across different screens. Nielsen Malaysia can, if the clients want, bring here the cross-screen viewership developments that Nielsen is doing in the United States.

Hall says in the last two years, Nielsen has seen a "big change" in how it operates.

"In the past we would have local solutions so each market will have a slightly different solution to the same problem. We now have globally proven products which we can lift and place into different countries, We know exactly how the products work and global clients know what they buy in Country X is the same as what they buy in Country Y."

Doesn't that sound a bit like McDonald's?

"It is, to a certain extent," he replies. "What clients want is consistency in terms of standard, accuracy and what we do as a business, so we're more and more taking on that approach."

However, Hall says it will have to adapt the product to meet the local market, and may never launch some products in the market because they're not suitable or clients are not interested in buying.

"But we will try to get the best products out there in terms of quality, speed, consistency and accuracy by adopting a standard product across markets. And that's across the whole of our business."

Nielsen, which is headquartered in both the United States and the Netherlands, is in the midst of buying radio ratings firm Arbitron for US$1.3bil.

Hall says this is a really positive move, as Arbitron has the technology to track more accurately what people listen to and what screens people watch by.

"Malaysia is a big radio market. We need to consult the clients to say this is what we can do, and go back (to headquarters) to justify the case based on what revenue we can generate, and then we're good to go. It shows quite a different view of what Nielsen is. We are becoming far more innovative in the way we go forward and tackle the changing nature of consumers and use technology to do that."

On the calls to improve its measurement of Internet adex, he says Nielsen does have an Internet product globally but is prioritising markets where it will introduce it in. "At the moment, Malaysia is not one. But it's up to us and our clients to make that case back to the global team," Hall says.

Will it add more websites to represent Internet adex? Hall says he does not think it is feasible to do that at present.

Asked whether it is developing a mobile product, he says it is launching an app that sits in the phone that monitors which applications the owner uses in the phone and the amount of time spent on talking, texting and playing games.

The company is recruiting for the panel of respondents now and the first set of results will be out later this year.

Neuroscience in marketing

On the Buy business, Hall says two new products will contribute much to Nielsen Malaysia's revenue growth this year: Trade Dimensions and NeuroFocus.

Trade Dimensions, which is a revamped product available since last December, allows manufacturers and retailers to look at a digital map of all urban-area retail stores within a certain radius. Nielsen Malaysia geo-coded a map of every retail store in urban Malaysia (100,000 plus stores).

"Manufacturers will know where they should be stocking their products and increase distribution, while retailers can find out where their competition is and where is the best spot to open their future stores," Hall says.

In 2011 Nielsen acquired 100% of California-headquartered neuromarketing firm NeuroFocus Inc, which does neurological testing for consumer research.

In November last year Nielsen's Malaysian office launched the neurological research product, which measures consumers' reactions to different types of input through their self-conscious.

"This is where we put a cap on their head and read their brainwaves. Then, for example, you can flash specific words such as exciting or tradition in front of them words linked to different brand attributes and afterwards play an advert or show a logo. You would then repeat the same words, and see how different the subconscious brain waves have actually reacted to that messaging that has come through," he says.

This allows the agency and marketer to know whether the ad makes people see the brand as more trusted.

Besides TV ads, one can also use it for print ads and new packaging.

"For TV ads, we can reduce the duration of a TV ad from 30 seconds to 15 or 20 seconds, and probably it would have more impact. You can cut out the non-impactful parts. This applies to content of TV shows as well. Are viewers identifying with that particular character, or do they like the new news reader? A news reader can be very engaging from a financial reporting point of view, but if the person does sport, she may not engage at all. So it's very smart and very interesting."

According to Hall, there is a huge amount of client interest in this product.

He cannot comment on financial numbers or projections without the headquarters' approval, but says that last year was a mixed year for the market research industry.

"If you look at the more international clients that we have, especially in the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) and CPG (consumer packaged goods) area, they were having a tough year in Europe and the US, and a lot of them were contracting budgets. We tend to reflect how our clients are doing.

"We stayed level (in FMCG/CPG); we were pretty good. But I'd say the other three big areas we work in − finance, telecom, and technology − we saw pretty strong growth."

Last year Nielsen Malaysia was involved in consolidation and internal reorganisation. "We're now seeing the benefits of that coming through," Hall says.

Hall may not be able to give revenue projections, but it all seems to point to a good year for Nielsen Malaysia.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

RugbyU: Scott handed life ban over Keats controversy

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 05:43 PM PST

LONDON: Former London Welsh team manager Mike Scott has been hit with a lifetime ban from any involvement in rugby union after providing false information over the registration of Kiwi scrum-half Tyson Keats.

Keats appeared in 10 Premiership games this season without holding the correct registration with the Rugby Football Union and, although London Welsh had already been handed a five-point deduction and a 15,000 ($22,534) fine as a result, the RFU on Friday took strong action against Scott as well.

Scott was charged under RFU rule 5.12 with "conduct prejudicial to the interests of the Union or the Game" for providing false and misleading information to the governing body over the registration of New Zealand-born Keats, who joined London Welsh from disbanded club Aironi last July.

An RFU hearing on Tuesday heard Scott had been cautioned by police over his role in the matter as Keats, who knew nothing about the deception, was working in Britain unlawfully for five months after it was fraudulently claimed he had been born in England.

Scott was said to have supplied the RFU with a fake copy of a UK passport to seal Keats's signing after the player's ancestry visa application was turned down on September 3.

An RFU statement read: "Mike Scott was today (Friday) suspended from the management, coaching or playing of rugby union and membership of any club for life following an RFU Misconduct Hearing.

"The former London Welsh team manager may not apply for the order to be lifted for 10 years."

Scott had told Keats' agent and London Welsh that the scrum-half had been granted an ancestry visa by virtue of his paternal grandfather, who was born in England.

This should have meant London Welsh received English Qualified Player payments from the RFU, due to Keats being available for selection to the national squad.

However, Keats had not been granted a visa.

Scott, having asked Keats to sign a blank form, then submitted falsified documents to the RFU.

It claimed Keats had been born in Christchurch, England, as opposed to Christchurch, New Zealand, and held a UK passport.

When the RFU made further inquiries regarding Keats' registration, Scott sent a forged UK passport to the governing body.

Scott went on sick leave in December, after failing to turn up for an Amlin Challenge Cup game against Grenoble, but emailed the club's director of rugby Steve Lewis admitting he had created "one almighty mess" because he had been trying to get Keats' visa "through the back door".

The case was dealt with by Judge Jeff Blackett on papers and without a personal hearing at Scott's request.

Scott, who has 14 days to appeal the judgement, accepted the allegation against him and submitted a written plea of mitigation.

London Welsh, who now sit bottom of the Premiership two points behind Sale Sharks, also had a further five-point deduction suspended until the end of next season as a result of the controversy. - AFP

Cycling: Sagan claims Tirreno-Adriatico 3rd stage

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 05:40 PM PST

ROME: Slovakian star Peter Sagan held off sprint ace Mark Cavendish to win the third stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico over 190km from Indicatore to Narni Scalo on Friday.

With former world champion Cavendish on his wheel, Sagan attacked from well back and reeled in Andre Greipel to claim the victory.

Race leader Cavendish left his attack too late while a fading Greipel took third on the stage.

Sagan praised his team's tactics on the stage.

"We made the stage hard to wear out the sprinters. My teammates were great on the final climb and the contenders paid for their efforts on the final straight," he said.

"I beat the best sprinters of the peloton and this is a great satisfaction. My goal for the 'Tirreno' is reached, now we'll see day by day."

A series of attacks in the final 15km in wet conditions forced up the pace as the sprinters' teams accelerated to control the action.

No-one could get away for very long and as the stage drew to a close Greipel seemed ideally placed while Cavendish found himself a long way back.

Greipel led until the final 50-metres but while Sagan timed his charge to perfection, Cavendish left himself just a little bit too much to do.

Australian Matthew Goss, who won Thursday's second stage, could manage only fifth on the day, behind German Gerald Ciolek in fourth.

Saturday's fourth stage is a lumpy 170km run from Narni Scalo to Prati di Tivo. - AFP

Badminton: Nehwal nearer All-England dream

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 05:32 PM PST

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: Saina Nehwal took a step nearer becoming the first Indian woman ever to win the All-England title when she reached the semi-finals after a long drawn-out battle with a former champion.

Her 23-21, 19-21, 21-16 win over Wang Shixian, the 2011 winner from China, was a long, fluctuating and tense affair, in which mistakes were mixed with well constructed rallies, with Nehwal chiselling out a match-winning lead after the interval in the third game.

Always bearing a heavy burden of expectation from the world's second most populous nation, Nehwal also has extra pressure of expectations from being the highest seed left in her event.

The top-seeded titleholder Li Xuerui was beaten on the first day.

The second-seeded Commonwealth champion also remained wary, right to the last point, of her mobile opponent's capacity to recover, even from a big deficit.

"She has the kind of game which makes it possible to come back, and I've seen her do that before," Nehwal said.

"I tried to make sure I kept my focus right to the end and I think I did that.

"She plays a rallying game, and that make it difficult to play against. I do too, so it was a tough match, and it is important to recover well.

"I have to handle the pressure of expectations from the Indian fans and hopefully I am doing that. I'm just happy to get through this."

It was only when she played the more consistent badminton in the third game, whilst still moving the shuttle around well, that she extended a small lead to 15-8 at its maximum.

Her mistakes were often accompanied by a loud yelp, something which happened more frequently in the first game, in which he came back from 16-19 to snatch it, and in the second, in which she let slip a lead of 18-15.

Wang showed what a fine fighter she was, even nosing ahead at 7-6 in the decider.

But her problems began to grow with two line decisions which annoyed her, first to put her 7-8 down and then to go 7-11 down.

On the first of these she stared and then tilted her head back in frustration; on the second she dropped her racket and glared at the umpire.

She had 60 seconds mid-game interval and her coach's calming words to help her get over these setbacks.

But by then Nehwal had built up some momentum and her capture of four of the next five points created a cushion which was never pulled from under her.

Later, however, China did get a singles player through to a semi-final, and also scored a win over India.

That happened when Chen Long, the second seed in the men's event, overcame Kashyap Parupalli, the world number nine, by 21-16, 21-10, after trailing 11-13 in the first game. - AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Coming soon to cinemas

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 06:24 AM PST

Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino delves into spaghetti western to provide an entertaining and, at the same time, cerebral film that touches on slavery in 19th-century United States. Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Call – Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin lead the cast in this thriller, which sees a 911 operator receiving a call from a kidnapped girl.

Warm Bodies – R is a zombie. But then he starts to have feelings for a girl, which brings forth all sorts of changes in him. Starring Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer.

Bola Kampung – Princess Amanda is sent to Kampung Gong Lechar from the virtual game world of Kingdom Hill to seek help with the crisis in her land. She enlists the aid of Iwan, Sabok and Azizul to destroy the evil Lord Vilus. Featuring the voice talents of Aizat Amdan, Douglas Lim, Deanna Yusoff, Harun Salim Bachik and Harris Alif.

Laugh till you drop in Lawak Ke Der 2

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 06:23 AM PST

Watching a stand-up comedy on the big screen may be serious business.

IMAGINE this: Laughing for a total of 104 minutes, making your jaw stiff, if not hurt. That's what the movie Lawak Ke Der 2 promises fans as it opens in cinemas nationwide this week.

For the uninitiated, Lawak Ke Der was initially a stand-up comedy and sketch show by six of the country's top comedians – Harith Iskander, Nabil Ahmad, Jozan (the duo made up of Johan and Zizan) and Boboi (Afdlin Shauki and Harun Salim Bachik). The idea for the movie came about after the show ran for two sold-out seasons at Kuala Lumpur's Istana Budaya.

"After the sold out performances of Lawak Ker Der 1, I started playing with the idea of filming Lawak Ke Der 2. But I didn't tell the comedians about the idea until we were just about to stage Lawak Ke Der 2. I'm glad that they are fully behind me with this, though. In fact they are all associate producers of this movie," said Hans Isaac, the movie's director and producer.

"I thought that since we had about 30,000 fans turning up for the two seasons of Lawak Ke Der, and the shows received really good feedback, why don't I bring it to those who live outside of KL so they'll get to experience the entertainment?"

If the continuous laughter echoed in all its recent press previews was anything to go by, Lawak Ke Der 2 definitely will tickle your funny bone. But despite the promising start, Hans admitted that he was still anxious to see how fans will react to the movie.

"I'm a bit nervous to see how Malaysians will respond to lawak Ke Der 2 in cinemas. As we are treading into new waters here, everything is up in the air," he said.

Hans, 42, added that the movie aims to help bring stand-up comedy to cinemas, as well as to encourage people to head over to Istana Budaya to watch more shows.

"To be honest, it was really difficult to edit the sketches into a film as a normal comedy movie will always have a storyline. So, what we did was edit the sketches but at the same time ensuring that the storyline flowed continuously in between the sets. We had four sets and we eventually compressed a total of 150 minutes of running time to 104 minutes," Hans explained.

He noted that editing was really tough because they couldn't decide which sketches would be cut. "I didn't get enough sleep for two months as we were struggling with the editing process!"

Perhaps what also contributed (a little) to his lack of sleep was the fact that local cinemas were initially a bit reluctant to accept this new idea of bringing stand-up comedy to the big screen.

"This idea is very new in our industry. All movies screened in cinemas have storylines while Lawak Ke Der 2 is a combination of stand-up comedy acts that were previously staged before," said Hans.

To ensure that the jokes and sketches in the movie are fresh and original, some of the comedians namely Jozan, Boboi and Nabil, were asked not to duplicate or repeat their material while taking part in the recently concluded Maharaja Lawak Mega on Astro.

"I know some may say that those who came for the event at Istana Budaya won't turn up for the movie. But I'd like to think that it's the other way round. This movie features the best out of Lawak Ke Der 2 (that was staged at the theatre). And I'm sure there were many fans who couldn't make it to the show then because the tickets were sold out. So, this is the chance for them to watch it," explained Hans.

Lawak Ke Der 2 was staged for six nights in February last year and many fans have requested that the production company, Tall Order Productions, re-stage it at Istana Budaya.

"Don't get me wrong. Lawak Ke Der 2 (the movie) is in the cinemas now not because we want to compete with other movies out there. Instead, we are just giving an alternative of pure entertainment to moviegoers.

"For the 2.4 million viewers who watched Lawak Ke Der 1 on YouTube, here's the chance for you to watch Lawak Ke Der 2 at a cinema near you. I'm sure it'll be a much better experience," Hans said.

Lawak Ke Der 2 the movie is currently screening in cinemas nationwide.

Free The Call Tickets

Posted: 07 Mar 2013 11:28 PM PST

When veteran 911 operator Jordan Turner receives a call from a girl who has just been abducted, she soon realizes that she must confront a killer from her past in order to save the girl's life.

Catch The Call starring Halle Berry in cinemas this month. Thanks to Nusantara Ederan Filem, we have 50 pairs of tickets to give away.

All you have to do is print this page and bring it along with you to our redemption table at GSC 1 Utama. Please see details below.

Please note that tickets will be given on a first come, first served basis. Each person will be given only one pair of tickets.

Redemption Details

Date: 13 March 2013 (Wednesday)

Time: 8pm

Venue: GSC 1 Utama

Screening Details

Date: 13 March 2013 (Wednesday)

Time: 9pm

Venue: GSC 1 Utama

Rules & Regulations

1.This redemption is open to all eCentral fans.

2.Print out the contest page and redeem it at the venue given in this article.

3.Each page entitles you to two movie tickets only. Each person is allowed to redeem only once.

4.Tickets are given out on a first come, first served basis.

5.Queue-jumping and reserving places in line during the redemption are strictly prohibited. The organizers reserve the right to refuse tickets to anyone found doing so.

6.Tickets are not exchangeable for cash.

7.This movie is not yet rated.. Movie ratings will strictly apply for this movie. The organizers reserve the right to refuse entry to the cinema hall to those not within the permitted age limit. No exceptions will be made at any time for any reason.

8.I hereby expressly consent to the collection, collation, use and/or disclosure of all my personal data by Star Publications (M) Berhad for the purposes of The Call contest.

9.For enquiries, please e-mail ecentralmy@gmail.com

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Life limping back to normalcy

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 03:29 PM PST

SEMPORNA: Like many other eastern Sabah towns gripped by the fear of attacks from armed intruders for the past three weeks, life is limping back to normalcy in this springboard town to the diving havens of Sipadan and Mabul.

Rumours of shootings and sightings of armed Sulu intruders in military fatigue have waned and police have launched Ops Tayang to convince the public that they were in full control of the situation.

Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu and Kinabatangan towns saw large crowds attending Friday prayers although schools and some shops remained closed in certain areas.

Sandbags and roadblocks manned by heavily armed police and General Operations Forces were seen along the road from Lahad Datu to Semporna, about 130km away.

Near a roadblock leading to Sem­porna town at about 10am, three men – one in handcuffs – were detained from a car as they attempted to pass through.

A Semporna police official said they were detained for screening but declined to say if they were sympathisers of the so-called Sulu royal army or had any link to Saturday night's shooting at Simunul water village where six police personnel and six gunmen were killed.

Police have detained scores of suspected local sympathisers of the Sulu gunmen over the past week. Among them were several uniformed personnel, relatives of the self-proclaimed Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and a local politician.

Tour operators in Semporna, who were previously on edge with shops pulling down their shutters at the slightest hint of trouble, said some of them were resuming their trips to Mabul and Sipadan diving havens.

"Don't panic, don't believe in rumours but go to the police for updates," said Semporna OCPD Deputy Supt Mohd Firdaus Francis Abdullah, adding that Ops Tayang was aimed at assuring the people that the situation was under control and they could go about their daily routine.

In Kunak, about 70km away where talk of the presence of Sulu armed men led to the closures of the shops last week, saw coffeeshops filled with the usual crowd although several shops remained closed.

Businesses in Lahad Datu town and Felda townships in several Sahabat schemes outside the red zone where Ops Daulat is centred were also coming back although caution is still in the air.

Malaysian maritime, marine police and naval boats were on alert in Sabah waters to prevent any intrusion by sea.

Fifty schools in Lahad Datu and Semporna, which were temporarily closed following the intrusion of Sulu gunmen, would be reopened on Monday, said Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi.

Any decision to extend the closure would depend on advice and security information issued by the National Security Council (NSC), he said.

"If NSC says it is safe to occupy the schools, we will open them," he said after presenting contributions to the family of Sjn Azis Sarikon who was killed during the intrusion in Semporna on March 2.

"Security personnel will be stationed at the school," he said.

The eight schools still closed in La­had Datu are SK Tambisan, SK Tan­­jung Labian, SK Sahabat 16, SK Lok Buani, SK Sahabat 14, SK Cendera­wasih, SK Fajar Harapan, SMK Desa Kencana.

In Semporna, 40 primary schools and nine secondary schools remain closed.

Lahad Datu: Cops place Azzimudie’s brother on wanted list

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 03:23 PM PST

LAHAD DATU: A brother of the Sulu armed group leader Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram is believed to be high on the police wanted list.

The man, in his 60s, was involved in the fish transportation business and travelled frequently from Lahad Datu to Kunak, Semporna, Sandakan, Tawau and Kota Kinabalu.

According to residents here, the man who moved to Semporna from Lahad Datu recently is believed to have gone missing about a week after the Tanduo standoff.

Sources believe the brother had been roped in to help with negotiations to end the Tanduo standoff between the gunmen and Malaysian security forces.

They said police began searching for him when he could not be reached after moving to Semporna.

Apart from the brother, others linked to Azzimudie were also being sought by police following the arrest of some people including several uniformed personnel, relatives and a local politician.

Police said more than 50 people had been detained to date for having links with the armed group.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar said those detained were arrested under the new Security Offences (Special Measures) Act.

He said the arrests were made across Sabah and were outside the Ops Daulat operations area which centred around Kampung Tanjung Batu and Kampung Tanjung Labian.

"Interrogation of the suspects will be able to verify some information that we have obtained," Ismail said during a joint press conference with Armed Forces chief Jen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin at the media centre in Felda Sahabat Residence resort.

Lahad Datu: Kampung Simunul villagers dread repercussions of Sulu gunmen’s dastardly acts

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 03:23 PM PST

IT'S 11am at Kampung Simunul. The sprawling village on stilts, on the outskirts of Semporna, is the largest of the squatter colonies scattered around the coastline. It is usually a hive of activity but as I meandered through the maze of rickety walkways, I felt like I was walking through a ghost town.

I had taken a one-and-a-half hour journey by road from Lahad Datu to Semporna, a distance of some 140km. We passed by three road blocks manned by security officers along the way and the security presence was obvious as we saw three people being detained at one of the road blocks.

At Kg Simunul, most of its thousands of mainly Suluk settlers have disappeared, with their homes locked up and belongings removed to safer places. It was here that six intruders and six of our policemen were killed last Saturday in a fierce shootout.

A few of the villagers have stubbornly refused to leave, saying they cannot imagine themselves camping out in a school hall or community centre.

Depending on who you talk to, the figures vary as to the actual size of the village. Some say there are between 300 and 500 houses while others claim that the number is closer to a thousand.

This is home to the Suluks, who fled the southern Philippines in the 1970s, during the civil war in Mindanao. They had originally settled in refugee enclaves set up by the UNHCR but many have since become Malaysian citizens while a large number probably had no documents with them.

The water village has a reputation of harbouring bad hats, and the locals avoid entering the area. It is difficult to navigate through the maze of wooden boardwalks and it is likely that in the incident on March 5, our policemen were ambushed when they lost their way in this dangerous territory.

When I walked into Lorong 4 with my two colleagues, we felt like we were being stared at by hidden figures. An elderly man approached us and asked what we were doing there. He seemed a little friendlier when we said we were from the media.

"Do you want to see the bullet holes and the spots where the three gunmen were killed?" he offered, as a few men suddenly appeared to join us. I had to watch my step as one could easily fall into the water as the boardwalk had many gaping holes in them. The water below was filled with all sorts of rubbish and a horrible stench emanated from it. I could not help wondering how these people could live under such filthy conditions.

My thoughts drifted to the stilt villages off Weld Quay in Penang, which are generally clean, safe and properly maintained.

We had to take a detour to reach Lorong 5, where the fighting took place, because the village headman Ramli Saraman had ordered the boardwalk from Lorong 4 to be broken down as a symbolic gesture to show the "bad men" were from Lorong 5.

They showed us a home that was riddled with bullet holes, and pointed out the spots where three of the intruders were killed, and their bodies left untouched for three days.

One was on a boat, one on the walkway and another on the verandah of a home. The dried splattered blood, close to where the bodies were found, are still very visible. The bodies, which included that of a Filipino councillor of Pulau Sitangkai in the southern Philippines, were eventually removed for burial by the religious authorities.

But the superstitious villagers excused themselves when we walked towards the abandoned home where a policeman was beheaded, saying they did not want to go into that "house of evil."

We saw what appeared to be the remains of human tissue on the wooden entrance. The thought that two of our men in blue were beheaded while another had his eyes gouged out sent shivers down my spine.

I walked freely inside the house even as I thought of the horrible and cruel acts that were carried out by these heartless militants. I felt angry and sad at the same time, wondering how human beings could carry out such acts.

The television set had clear traces of blood, which horrified me. The walls of the home were adorned with family photographs, like most ordinary homes, except that something extraordinarily evil had taken place.

None of us wanted to stay any longer than necessary at that place.

As we walked out of the village, we came across a young boy who had come back to collect more of his belongings, saying the family was not ready to move back in.

The men we met said they feared more gunmen may come back, and they also worried about the repercussions from our security men.

They impressed upon us that they were just ordinary people trying to eke out a living in peaceful Malaysia but these militants had given the Suluks a bad name.

"Some Sabahans now look at us suspiciously when they know we are Suluks from this village. It's embarrassing," a restaurant worker said.

Ironically, the word "Semporna" is said to be from a Sanskrit word meaning "a place of rest" or "a journey completed" but for these Suluks, who fled from their homes, they know they are unlikely to get much sympathy from the Malaysians, especially when their countrymen still want to make a claim for Sabah.

Many Malaysians have long questioned the influx of these foreigners into Malaysia, especially into Sabah, and if we do not take a stronger, even harsher, stand against such easy entry into our country, we only have ourselves to blame when security threats arise.

Semporna is the gateway to Sipadan, one of the world's most beautiful diving spots, but it should never be a gateway for illegal immigrants.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Eggstatic Easter offerings in the latest issue of Flavours

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 02:22 AM PST

WAKE up and smell the coffee! Coffee culture – and everything that entails, from premium, single-bean brews to artisanal coffee outlets and coffee machines that cost as much as a small car – has definitely arrived in Malaysia.

This month's Flavours magazine, the country's premier food and lifestyle publication, dives deep into the scene, speaking to connoisseurs, cafe owners and, the rising stars of the scene, the baristas, five of whom grace the cover of the March issue. Read about these passionate coffee makers and you'll be surprised not only by their passion but also by their interesting backgrounds.

With Easter coming up soon, on March 31, you must check out the Eggstatic agar-agar feature. Even if you don't celebrate the festival, you'll love the delicately gorgeous jelly in eggshell moulds that recipe developer Debbie Teoh made. Also in keeping with the season, artisanal bakery The Carpenter's Daughter shares the secrets of divinely flavourful and fluffy hot cross buns.

In the Rah-rah ramen feature, Flavours writer Ooi May Sim hits the noodle trail to uncover the long and short of Japan's second-favourite staple (behind rice). She delves into how to make fresh ramen – illustrated with step-by-step photos – the signature flavours from different parts of Japan and the different toppings, as well as some of Klang Valley's best ramen outlets.

The celebrity chef featured this month is the irrepressible Chef Sam Leong of Singapore's Forest Cooking School, who held a masterclass in Kuala Lumpur, often having participants in stitches with sallies like "the Chinese teaspoon is different from a pastry teaspoon" and "The ladies in my classes like to take the opportunity to get closer to me ..."! He also shares three tasty receipes on pages 51-53.

While Thai food is almost common in Malaysia and Vietnamese cuisine is fast becoming just as popular, the food of Myanmar is much less well-known. In All souped-up, Mohana Gill shows readers how to make the country's national dish, Mohinga, or rice noodles in fish soup. She shares not only the traditional recipe but also an easy version using canned fish that is just as tasty as the flavourful original.

The Design section looks at the very hip new nightspot The Establishment, which brings a little Melbourne style and cocktail culture to KL while the Travel section explores Nepal's tasty food among the mountain peaks.

Look out for this month's beautiful, coffee-influenced cover of Flavours at all good newsagents and bookstores nationwide.

Flavours is published by Star Publications (M) Bhd.

Mysteries and secrets

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 01:52 AM PST

Husband, Missing
Author: Polly Williams
Publisher: Headline Review, 341 pages

GINA married Rex just six months after meeting him, believing that she had found her one true love, her soulmate, the love of her life ... yada, yada. But then, the soulmate goes missing while on a holiday abroad and Gina's perfect little world comes crashing down.

Certain that Rex is still alive and hasn't abandoned her, Gina goes on a mission to bring back the man of her dreams, but her frantic search only unearths troubling secrets from her husband's past. This is when Gina starts to question just how much she really knows the man she married.

The Midwife's Daughter
Author: Patricia Ferguson
Publisher: Penguin Books, 390 pages

VIOLET Dimond is a midwife and has delivered many children. Now she's delivering the children of those she had brought into the world a generation before.

Also known as the Holy Terror, Violet is one of the last people practising the traditional ways at the turn of the last century, as medical advancements threaten to end her profession.

The story also follows the changing lives of women as they prepare for the World War I, including Violet's adopted daughter Grace, who is endlessly fascinating to the townsfolk because she possesses a skin colour they are not accustomed to.

Things are set to change with the war, but will it be a change for the better or worse? Violet and Grace themselves see nothing but more disruption to their already difficult lives.

Notes On The Crucible
Author: Robert Wilks
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish, 332 pages

THIS comprehensive "Notes On" volume is intended to help students better understand Arthur Miller's renowned play, The Crucible, which is often a part of English language and literature courses. The play is a fictional retelling of events surrounding the real-life Salem witch trials of 17th century America.

This book also includes information about the life and times of Miller, commentaries on each act, as well as questions and activities at the end of each chapter.

The Last Frontier: Exploring The Afterlife And Transforming Our Fear Of Death
Author: Julia Assante
Publisher: New World Library, 391 pages

ALWAYS wanted to know what happens after we die? Well, so did Julia Assante. In this book, she not only probes what happens after death but also looks into near death experiences as well as after-death communication.

She brings together scholarly facts, religious theories and the personal accounts of people who claim to have touched the afterlife in some way.

She even claims to offer ways – albeit not scientifically proven – to make contact with departed loved ones in an attempt to heal, overcome guilt and maybe even find out who gets to keep the house.

The Body Language Of Dating
Author: Tonya Reiman
Publisher: Gallery Books, 383 pages

CAN'T seem to snag the guy or girl of your dreams? Maybe the problem isn't your BO (although investing in deodorant has done no one harm) but the way you "read" your potential life partner.

While everyone reacts differently in various situations, knowing how to read body language, especially when it comes to dating, could prove to be useful.

The Body Language Of Dating begins with the basics, about anatomy and how various body parts of the two genders developed over time, and discusses communication differences, all backed by scientific studies and personal experiences.

The book also offers practical tips that are explained with scenarios and explores conversation skills and dressing to impress.

The Tombs
Authors: Clive Cussler & Thomas Perry
Publisher: Putnam, 374 pages

THIS is the fourth book in the Fargo series featuring rich treasure hunting husband and wife team, Sam and Remi Fargo.

They are roped into this latest adventure by an archeologist friend who asks them to help excavate a top secret historical site. They soon realise that they have in their hands clues to the location of Atilla The Hun's hidden tomb that is rumoured to be filled with gold and other valuable possessions.

When there's this much treasure at stake, though, you just know that the bad guys are going to come out of the woodwork ...

Goosebumps grown up

Posted: 07 Mar 2013 10:42 PM PST

A children's horror writer sits at the adult's table, with mixed results.

Red Rain
Author: R.L. Stine
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 369 pages

WHEN I was a kid, Goosebumps books were the coolest things ever. Yes, looking back, most of them were cheesy, and all adhered to a formula more predictable than a weather report from the South Pole. But I was absolutely enchanted by them. What 10-year-old 1990s kid in Malaysia wouldn't be?

Their bright, colourful covers, with "Goosebumps" written in an awesome, blood-dripping font at the top and a creepy picture underneath. The kid-friendly writing. The stories which, honestly, were never that scary but were always entertaining all the way to the final page, where some incredible twist would occur.

Yes, R.L. Stine, often called "the Stephen King of children's literature", was one of the teenage me's favourite writers. My childhood was vastly enriched by his captivating tales of monster blood, haunted masks, and evil ventriloquist dummies.

I even tried my hand at R.L. Stine-esque fiction (oh God, why) and while the results may have been awful, it first got me interested in writing, and eventually shaped how I am today.

You can see, therefore, why I was excited to read Red Rain, widely publicised as Stine's first adult novel. I wanted to like it. Honestly, I did. But I have to admit, I found myself disappointed with the book, mostly due to its weak writing and over predictability.

Red Rain is the tale of travel blogger Lea Sutter, who finds herself caught in a deadly hurricane while exploring the mysterious island of Le Chat Noir. While struggling through the devastation, Lea discovers two boys, Daniel and Samuel, who she falls in love with and decides to adopt.

But when she gets them home, it slowly becomes clear to Lea's husband Mark, and her two children Ira and Elena, that there is something supernatural about the twins. Possessing dark powers beyond imagination, Daniel and Samuel plan to "rule the school" – and woe betide anyone who stands in their way.

What is most remarkable about the plot is how unremarkable it is. How many times have we seen horror stories about creepy children who are more than they seem? Stine's novel, sadly, offers nothing new to the genre. Daniel and Samuel also come across as more annoying than frightening most of the time, and their accents (which seem to be some strange Caribbean-Scottish sounding mix) are amusing at first but slowly become grating.

Stine's writing is competent, although his dialogue occasionally feels stilted or unnatural. Goosebumps fans may feel a tinge of nostalgia, as much of the novel is written in a style similar to his bestselling book series, complete with his trademark twist ending.

Red Rain's characters are generally unremarkable, with the only interesting character being Pavano, a troubled police officer who finds himself drawn into the investigation. Another character I liked was Harrison, a medical officer with a twisted sense of humour; sadly, however, he only appeared in one chapter.

For those wondering about how "adult" Stine's adult novel is: there is some sex and lots of violence. Red Rain is heavy on gore, with one particularly memorable chapter depicting a gruesome discovery in a vehicle outside the Sutters' house. Unfortunately, most of the over-the-top violence seems gratuitous, almost as if Stine was trying to prove himself, the literary equivalent of the former child star turning to sexually charged roles hoping to cement a transition to "serious films".

Of course, Red Rain also has its good points. There are some genuinely creepy parts, and one particular twist, revolving around the true nature of Revenir, a disturbing ritual carried out on Le Chat le Noir, is cleverly developed.

Indeed, Stine's novel is most effective when it moves away from the standard horror cliché of creepy children and focuses on one of its more adult themes: the breakdown of a family.

Through Red Rain, Stine explores the nature of parenting, mostly through a subplot involving Kids Will Be Kids, a controversial parenting book written by Mark.

How far do you go when supervising your children? Where do you draw the line between innocent play and unhealthy behaviour?

Another inspired touch is the twins using their supernatural powers to influence the town's children, changing their personalities and causing them to act out against authority. This metaphor for peer pressure is cleverly explored and executed well.

All in all, maybe Stine is not entirely ready for the grownups table yet. I had hoped Red Rain would take me by storm but it turned out to be more of a drizzle. Stine has always been a good storyteller, though, so I hope to enjoy his next adult novel more than I enjoyed this one.

In the meantime, however, I will take a walk down memory lane and dig up my favourite Goosebumps. I don't suppose anyone out there has a copy of Say Cheese And Die, do they? I recall it being one of my favourites. What was yours?

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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