Khamis, 16 Januari 2014

The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

Love lost

Posted: 15 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

Pierre Andre's latest film focuses on the idea of forsaken romance.

DIRECTOR Pierre Andre had The Notebook in mind when he came up with the script for Muka Surat Cinta. As a fan of love stories, the idea of forsaken love has always intrigued the actor-turned-director.

Muka Surat Cinta tells the story of married couple Putra (played by Mikael Andre) and Luna (Nina Iskandar). Despite Luna's best efforts to make their marriage work, Putra feels that things are going nowhere. Luna also faces another challenge in Nurul (Atikah Suhaime), a girl who has a crush on Putra and will stop at nothing to win his heart.

"In Muka Surat Cinta, I want to focus on the message that we're always searching for love. It's something I want to explore with the audience, that perhaps the person you're looking for is just right in front of you," said Pierre, 28, during a phone interview.

Later, Putra comes across a secondhand book and becomes obsessed with it. In the book, there is a love quote written by its previous owner.

"Putra finds a quote that really moves him in a novel terpakai. The journey begins when he goes on a search to find the person who wrote the quote."

Pierre had initially written the script for Muka Surat Cinta as an independent short film. And instead of Muka Surat Cinta, the original title was Perempuan Muka Surat Tujuh.

"When I pitched the script to (production company) Metrowealth, they asked me to expand the story to make it more suitable for a mainstream audience. I didn't make a lot of changes to the original script. I think the only major change was the film title."

The film also sees Pierre collaborating with his younger brother Mikael. Previously, the two worked together on the horror film Highland Tower.

"Sometimes, it's quite hard because he's young and there is a lot for him to learn. Still, I'm really glad that he got to embody the part really well."

Pierre described his forlorn hero Putra as "the strong, silent type". "There are some things that Putra struggles to say. Eventually, he learns that sometimes, you can convey more by not even saying anything at all." n Muka Surat Cinta opens nationwide on Jan 16.

Muscling his way back in

Posted: 15 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

With two Hercules movies out this year, we look back at the legendary hero's screen appearances over the years.

HERCULES battles Hercules this year, with Kellan Lutz playing the demigod in Renny Harlin's now-in-theatres The Legend Of Hercules and Dwayne Johnson taking on the Greek hero in Brett Ratner's Hercules: The Thracian Wars, based on the Radical Comics miniseries, on July 25.

Of course, Hercules – the Roman name for the Greek hero Heracles – has been immortalised on film for more than 50 years, with similar characters hitting the screen since silent-movie days.

In one guise or another, he's fought ancient-world despots and sorcerers, mythological beasts and the attractions of femmes fatale. He's ridden chariots into battle, horses through treacherous passes and ships to high adventure – often on budgets that wouldn't pay for a minute of Clash Of The Titans.

Yet, whether accomplishing the 12 Labours or leading villagers into rebellion, whether fighting anachronistically in the gladiatorial arena or voyaging with the Argonauts, Hercules on-screen is a hero for the ages. Or at least for the past several decades.

Steve Reeves

"If you want something visual/that's not too abysmal/We could take in an old Steve Reeves movie." So sang the pansexual Dr Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, alluding to the campy appeal of Hercules (1958) and Hercules Unchained (1959), starring bodybuilder Reeves. The 1947 Mr America and 1950 Mr Universe became a gay icon playing the bare-chested hero in these two Italian-made epics, each released in the United States a year after their European debuts.

The Incredible Herc - Lou Ferrigno traded his torn purple pants for a belt and loincloth to play Hercules in two low-budget sword-and-sandal flicks.

Lou Ferrigno have played Hercules in the past.

In the former, Hercules joins the Argonauts to retrieve the Golden Fleece, and wins the love of Princess Iole (Sylva Koscina). In the latter, he is mystically mesmerised by Omphale, Queen of Lydia (Sylvia Lopez), but eventually regains his memory and saves his captive wife.

Reeves would go on to do a slew of such mythological mishmashes, playing Goliath in Goliath And The Barbarians (1959), Phillipides in The Giant Of Marathon (1959), Aeneas in The Trojan Horse (1961) and Romulus in Duel Of The Titans (1961), among others. But it was his Herculean labours that launched a fantasy-epic subgenre colloquially called ...

Hercules, the Disney version (voiced by Tate Donovan).

Hercules, the Disney version (voiced by Tate Donovan).

Sword-and-sandal films

After the Hercules movies became hits, Italian studios and American distributors released more follow-up films than Hercules had Labours.

Called "sword-and-sandal" or "peplum" films – after the short tunics/overskirts men wore in them – dozens of such films battled it out at the US box office into the mid-1960s. At least 19 starred Hercules, played variously by bodybuilders including Mickey Hargitay, Reg Park, Mission: Impossible's Peter Lupus (credited as Rock Stevens) and Kirk Morris (nee Adriano Bellini).

Like Godzilla in that era's giant-monster movies, Hercules sometimes teamed with others of his ilk, such as Samson, Goliath, Ursus and Italy's homegrown Hercules, Maciste. In fact, a few Hercules movies actually starred one of those interchangeable others – and were retitled and dubbed here to star Herc.

Hercules And The Black Pirate (1963) was the Samson movie Sansone contro il corsaro nero, for instance, while Hercules And The Masked Rider (1964) was the Goliath picture Golia e il cavaliere mascherato.

Animated Hercules

In Walt Disney's Hercules (1997), its title character voiced by Tate Donovan, the young demigod must become "a true hero" in order to join his brethren on Mount Olympus.

Trained by the satyr Phil (Danny DeVito), vexed by the evil Hades (James Woods, who steals the show) and beloved by the conflicted Megara (Susan Egan), he battles the Titans, a hydra and other menaces – and even has time to belt out a few songs.

Facepalm moments

The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962). So you don't believe Moe, Larry and Curly-Joe time-travelled to ancient Ithaca to help Hercules (Canadian bodybuilder Samuel "Samson" Burke) depose an evil king? Why, I oughtta ...!

Hercules Against The Moon Men (1964). This Mystery Science Theater 3000 staple actually stars the Italian hero Maciste (Sergio Ciani, aka Alan Steel), dubbed and retitled here to star Herc. Whatever his name, he battles alien invaders in ancient Greece. Talk about Chariots Of The Gods.

Hercules In New York (1969). Billed as Arnold Strong, a 22-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first film teams up with a pretzel vendor, rides a chariot through Times Square, buys lunch at the Automat and gets his voice dubbed by another actor.

The Incredible Herc

In between The Incredible Hulk TV series and TV movies, the two-time Mr Universe Lou Ferrigno starred in the 1983 Italian picture Hercules and its 1985 sequel, The Adventures Of Hercules.

Sorbo the Lean

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (syndicated TV, 1995-1999) was a Hercules for the millennial generation. The hero as portrayed by Kevin Sorbo was lean and green, not a bacchanalian bodybuilder, and as concerned about social equality and the preservation of Mother Earth as he was about protecting villagers from monsters and capricious gods.

With his most frequent sidekick, Iolaus (Michael Hurst), he often encountered the warrior princes Xena (Lucy Lawless), who would spin off into her own syndicated hit. Leading up to Sorbo's series were five 1994 TV movies – all co-starring Anthony Quinn, by Zeus! — Newsday/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Struck by suicides

Posted: 15 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

Two of action actor Collin Chou's sisters killed themselves while he was working on The Four 2.

DURING the filming of an emotional family scene in the new period action-fantasy The Four 2, Taiwanese actor Collin Chou was worried he would break down.

The 46-year-old says that shortly before he was scheduled to film a heart-rending fall-out scene with his screen sister, who is played by Chinese actress Liu Yifei, tragedy struck his own family in real life.

"My youngest sister had depression and committed suicide," he says solemnly in Mandarin over the telephone from Beijing where he was doing promotions for the film.

"I did have worries that I wouldn't be able to go through with that scene, but I am an actor and I still have to do my job."

The film is a follow-up to 2012's The Four, about a quartet of crime fighters with superhero-like abilities. Chou plays Iron Hands, a man who has strong arms and is adept at metalwork.

Throughout the filming of the sequel, the actor kept his troubles to himself.

Things got worse on the homefront. After he finished filming and the movie was in post-production, his second youngest sister also committed suicide because of depression.

Says the actor frankly: "Between the two incidents, there were about six months where I just had to go about my work as professionally as I could.

"Moviegoers want to see your performance on screen, not see you lay out all your personal issues. So I just did my job, even though it was really very tough to bear."

Chou, who has eight brothers and two other sisters, adds: "Maybe depression runs in the family. I try not to think too much about these things. I still have to go about my life."

The movie's director Gordon Chan describes Chou as "admirable" for remaining professional in the face of personal tragedy.

Chan, 54, recalls: "He did not tell anyone about what he was facing, and revealed it to the rest of us only at the press conference recently. The only thing I noticed was that he was extremely quiet that day, but otherwise, everything went on as normal.

"This sounds terrible now that we know what happened, but I had been so happy at the time because he acted out the scene with so much emotion. He nailed the scene."

At the aforementioned press conference – held in Beijing in November – Liu, 26, was reportedly so moved by Chou's revelation that she jumped up to hug him.

Tearing up, she reportedly told him: "Even though you lost two sisters, you have also gained one from now on, and that is me."

Asked about it, Chou readily admits that he sees her as a sister.

"She's very approachable and a sweet girl-next-door. Over the years of working with her, I've also seen how she has matured and grown. She is a really wonderful person," he says.

In a way, he also played big brother to the rest of the cast, which includes Ronald Cheng, Deng Chao and Anthony Wong – he "took care of them" by making coffee for them every day.

He says in a decidedly lighter tone: "I like to brew a big pot of coffee and it would be very selfish of me if I didn't share it with the others."

The actor, who is married to former Hong Kong beauty queen Wanda Jessica Yung, 47, with whom he has two sons, is a martial artist who debuted in show business at the age of 18 in the film Promising Young Boy (1987), produced by action star Sammo Hung.

He subsequently joined Hung's stunt team and has since appeared in supporting roles in numerous action flicks, including Kung Fu Cult Master (1993), The Bodyguard From Beijing (1994) and War Of The Under World (1996).

He got his Hollywood break in 2003 in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions as Seraph, guardian angel of the Oracle. Three years later, he also had a role in the action film DOA: Dead Or Alive (2006), adapted from the video game.

He says he is open to taking on Hollywood films again, but with a caveat.

"For Western films, I won't accept any roles that insult the Chinese and will avoid them like I've always had." – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

> The Four 2 opens in cinemas nationwide today.


The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Fire erupts at Nippon Steel plant in central Japan, no injuries reported

Posted: 16 Jan 2014 08:45 PM PST

TOKYO (Reuters) - A fire erupted at Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp's steel plant in central Japan, local fire authorities said on Friday, adding no injuries have been reported.

Aerial footage on national broadcaster NHK showed fire and smoke billing out of multiple spots in the plant, near Nagoya. An official at the local fire department said fire engines were sent to the site around 12:30 p.m. (0330 GMT).

A spokesman at Nippon Steel said the company was still gathering information.

Shares in Nippon Steel were little changed on the news, down 0.9 percent.

(Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo and Emi Emoto; Writing by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Shinichi Saoshiro)

South Korea to cull more than 20,000 ducks after report of possible bird flu

Posted: 16 Jan 2014 07:55 PM PST

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea will cull more than 20,000 ducks after reporting its first possible outbreak of bird flu since 2011, the agriculture ministry said on Friday.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said a duck farm in Gochang, North Jeolla Province, about 300 km (186 miles) southwest of Seoul, was likely to have been contaminated by the H5N1 virus. Final tests are due out later on Friday.

The suspected case of the virus was reported on Thursday and the provincial government has taken pre-emptive measures to control the spread of any disease and ordered a cull of more than 20,000 poultry at the farm.

Poultry movement controls have also been ordered and 24 poultry farms in four provinces, that recently bought ducks from the Gochang farm, have been quarantined.

Asia's fourth-largest economy has had four outbreaks of the virus in the past 10 years, the last one in 2011 which led to the slaughter over 3 million poultry, but no human cases of the bird flu strain have been reported.

In Asia, around 150 people in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have been infected by the new H7N9 strain of bird flu since it emerged in China last year, claiming at least 46 lives.

(Reporting By Jane Chung; Editing by Michael Perry)

South Korea rejects North's call to halt drills with U.S.

Posted: 16 Jan 2014 07:35 PM PST

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea on Friday rejected a call from the reclusive North to halt "provocative" military drills with the United States, saying that as a democracy it didn't carry out preemptive strikes.

North Korea traditionally demands the South to call off the drills, scheduled for February and March this year, labelling them as a prelude to invasion, but this year it also suggested both sides take steps to ease tension, including a moratorium on mutual verbal attacks.

"The Key Resolve and the Foal Eagle exercises will go ahead as scheduled ... (South Korea) is a democratic country so we do not engage in preemptive strikes," South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said at a briefing.

Tension soared early last year as Pyongyang reacted angrily to tightened U.N. sanctions imposed in response to its latest nuclear test. North Korea said it would retaliate against any hostile moves by striking at the United States, Japan and South Korea, triggering months of fiery rhetoric.

South Korea also said the North's latest demand, carried in a long statement issued by its National Defence Commission, was disingenuous, as it insulted the South even as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for improved ties.

The two Koreas have yet to come up with any substantial measures to reduce military tension on the world's last Cold War frontier.

After more than 60 years since the end of 1950-53 Korean War, the two sides remain technically at war as the conflict ended with an armistice rather than a treaty.

But analysts say the North cannot risk igniting a conventional military conflict it would almost certainly lose.

Many North Korea watchers believe it could instead launch another long-range rocket or push ahead with a nuclear test. It has conducted three nuclear tests, the last one in February last year.

The North could also stage another artillery attack on South Korean territory as it did in 2010, and risk provoking a military response from Seoul that could trigger a wider conflict.

The North's rocket launches are banned under U.N. resolutions because they are viewed as part of a process of proving the technology for an intercontinental nuclear weapon.

Kim, who took power two years ago after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, has pursued his father's military policies, including those aimed at obtaining nuclear strike capacity.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Jack Kim and Nick Macfie)


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Honda boosts output with Pegoh plant’s second line

Posted: 16 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

ALOR GAJAH: Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd has opened the No. 2 line at its factory in Pegoh which will double total production capacity from 50,000 to 100,000 vehicles annually.

President and chief executive officer of Asian Motor Co Ltd Hiroshi Kobayashi said the new line, with a total built-up area of 49,190 sq m, comes 11 years after the No. 1 line was opened in January 2003, and took less than a year to complete with a total investment of RM382mil.

"We are positive that Malaysia will help achieve the long-term growth of the Honda brand and we remain firm in our commitment to provide good products with speed, affordability and low C02 (carbon dioxide) emissions to meet the growing market," he said at the opening ceremony graced by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed yesterday.

With the opening of the No. 2 line, Honda looks forward to assembling more vehicles for the growing Malaysian market, particularly in the small model and hybrid segment which has seen rapid growth over the past couple of years.

Currently, Honda Malaysia assembles the City, Civic, CR-V, Accord and both the Jazz petrol and hybrid variants at its Pegoh plant.

Meanwhile, managing director and chief executive officer of Honda Malaysia Yoichiro Ueno said the automative industry in Malaysia had shown rapid growth in the past five years with continuous support from the Government especially in promoting energy-efficient vehicles.

"We have set our mid-term plan to make an additional investment of RM1bil in three years starting in 2012, to the manufacturing and sales network and with the mid-term goal of achieving 100,000 unit sales by 2016," he said.

In order to achieve more affordable prices for Malaysian customers, Honda Malaysia was targeting to enhance the localisation of component parts from the previous 30%-40% to over 70% in the near future., he said, adding: "This can be achieved with a combination of hard work of our associates to implement advanced technologies and the expansion of component suppliers." – Bernama

Study: Overweight Americans who pick diet drinks eat more food

Posted: 16 Jan 2014 05:21 PM PST

WASHINGTON: Heavy Americans who drink diet beverages rather than those sweetened with sugar appear to eat more, according to a study released on Thursday that raised questions about the role lower-calorie drinks play in helping people lose weight.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University analyzed data from a U.S. survey of 24,000 people over a period of 10 years. People who were overweight or obese generally consumed the same amount of calories a day no matter what they drank, but those who chose diet drinks got more of those calories from food.

Outside experts were quick to caution that it is not clear what role, if any, diet drinks such as low- or no-calorie versions of sodas, sports drinks and teas played for people who ate more.

In the study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, overweight drinkers of diet beverages in the United States ate 1,965 in food calories a day compared to 1,874 calories among heavy people who drank regular sugar-sweetened beverages.

Among obese diet beverage drinkers, those who consumed low- or no-calorie drinks ate 2,058 calories a day in food versus 1,897 food calories for those who had regular drinks, researchers said.

Such differences were statistically significant, they added.

Lead author Sara Bleich said the results, when paired with other research, suggest that artificial sweeteners may affect people's metabolism or cravings, although more study is needed.

She acknowledged that people could be deciding to eat more since they are saving calories with their diet drinks.

"The push to diet soda may not make a lot of sense if you are then also eating more solid food," Bleich said. "The switch from a sugary beverage to a diet beverage should be coupled with other changes in the diet, particularly reducing snacks."

Critics said the analysis, based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey between 1999 and 2010, is flawed and that it is too early to say what, if any, role the low-calorie drinks or their artificial sweeteners play in weight loss.

Several researchers noted that the study did not track a set group of people over time and only looked at a 24-hour snapshot of what any individual consumed.

The beverage industry, which has long promoted diet drinks as an alternative to full-calorie beverages, defended such alternatives to help manage weight.

"Losing or maintaining weight comes down to balancing the total calories consumed with those burned through physical activity," the American Beverage Association said in a statement on Thursday.

Low- or no-calories drinks contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose. Many beverage companies are also turning to other alternatives, such as the extract of Stevia.

Kelly Brownell, a professor psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and dean of its Sanford School of Public Policy, said while the study was compelling and there are still many questions about such sweeteners, more data is needed.

"People need to separate the biology from the psychology," he said.

Bonnie Liebman, the director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said while her group may have other questions about artificial sweeteners, "it's premature to conclude that it's something going on in your brain."

In the meantime there are other ways to watch your weight, she said: "You're much better off with water - or coffee or tea, if they're unsweetened."- Reuters

US Industry Summary

Posted: 16 Jan 2014 05:16 PM PST

Analysis: Time Warner Cable customers may not see quick fix from merger

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Charter Communications Inc, as it campaigns to win over investors in its bid to acquire Time Warner Cable, has suggested that a change in control could be a godsend to the often-disgruntled customers of Time Warner Cable. But if Charter is successful in its bid, customers of Time Warner Cable, the No. 2 U.S. cable provider, who complain about Internet speeds and video may not see improvements anytime soon. And if they're hoping that their bills will be smaller, they may be disappointed.

Using the Force: Lucasfilm opens Singapore creativity centre

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - "Star Wars" creator Lucasfilm formally expanded its creative universe on Thursday by launching its visual effects and animation hub in Singapore that works on Hollywood blockbusters and bolsters marketing efforts in fast-growing Asia. "May the Force be with you," Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister of the Southeast Asian city-state, said in a speech at the glass-enclosed and horseshoe-shaped "Sandcrawler" building.

Exclusive: Charter, Comcast in renewed talks on Time Warner Cable bid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Charter Communications Inc reached out to Comcast Corp this week about teaming up to buy Time Warner Cable Inc, after the larger rival rejected its $37.3 billion takeover bid, according to people familiar with the matter. Charter approached Comcast on Wednesday to discuss carving up the second-largest U.S. cable company's systems and subscribers, the people said, asking not to be named because they were not authorized to speak with the media.

Falcone says he didn't know Ergen was buying LightSquared debt

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Phil Falcone, the billionaire investor whose Harbinger Capital Partners owns wireless satellite company LightSquared, said Thursday he expended considerable energy in 2012 and 2013 trying to work out who was buying up LightSquared's debt. The purchases, which later turned out to have been made by Dish Network Corp Chairman Charles Ergen, are at the center of a trial in the U.S. bankruptcy court in New York this week.

KKR, Permira sell remaining stake in ProsiebenSat.1

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - ProsiebenSat.1 shareholder KKR said on Thursday that it would divest the remaining shares it holds jointly with Permira in the German broadcaster. The two buy-out firms would place the 36.3 million shares or about 17 percent they own in ProSiebenSat.1 in an accelerated bookbuilding process with institutional investors that will start immediately, KKR said in a statement.

Time Warner Cable investors would back higher Charter deal: sources

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A number of Time Warner Cable shareholders would support a merger withCharter Communications Inc if Charter raises its current bid for the larger rival to $41 billion or more, according to people close to the matter. Charter on Monday formally offered to buy Time Warner Cable for $132.50 a share, or $37.3 billion, based on shares outstanding. Time Warner Cable's board swiftly rejected that bid as "grossly inadequate" and said it was open to a sale at $160 per share.

Time Warner Cable executives 'failed,' Charter says in push for deal

(Reuters) - Charter Communications unleashed a verbal attack on Time Warner Cable on Tuesday, saying the cable operator's executives had "failed" as Charter tried to rally investors to accept its bid. Charter's top executives slammed Time Warner Cable for having the industry's lowest customer satisfaction and "negative momentum." Charter argues that Time Warner Cable is better off in its hands because its management can spearhead a turnaround of its larger rival.

Investor Khosla: '60 Minutes' cleantech segment full of errors

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla on Tuesday issued a harsh rebuke to "60 Minutes" a week after the news magazine TV show broadcast a report saying that Silicon Valley and Washington have little to show for their investments in clean technology. In an open letter to both "60 Minutes" and its network, CBS, Khosla said a January 5 segment for which he was interviewed "grossly misrepresented the state of the sustainable energy industry."

Axel Springer, others interested in Forbes: report

(Reuters) - Forbes Media, the company known for its namesake magazine and ranking the world's richest people, has caught the attention of six different companies including Germany's Axel Springer, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Other interested companies, the Journal said, include Chinese investment company Fosun InternationalSpice Global, an investment conglomerate based inSingapore; private equity firm Oxley Group in Singapore; investment management company Whale Capital Group in China; and the president of Forbes conferences, Jack Laschever who is leading an investment group.

British phone-hacking trial shown footage of alleged Brooks' cover-up

LONDON (Reuters) - The trial of Rebekah Brooks, who ran Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper arm, was shown film footage on Tuesday of what the prosecution alleges was her husband's attempt to hide evidence from police investigating accusations of phone-hacking. The day Brooks was first quizzed by police, and before her home was searched, prosecutors say her husband, racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, hid a laptop and a bag behind a bin in an underground parking lot of their plush Londonapartment block where it was picked up by the Brooks's security team.


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Michael Douglas in Marvel's 'Ant-Man'

Posted: 13 Jan 2014 10:55 PM PST

The actor, who recently won a Golden Globe Award, wants to surprise audiences by playing a brainiac.

After throwing audiences a curveball by playing flamboyant pianist Liberace, leading man Michael Douglas is ready to make another unconventional career choice, this time playing a scientist in Marvel superhero film Ant-Man.

Disney-owned Marvel said that Douglas, 69, will play Henry "Hank" Pym, the creator of the technology to shrink a human to the size of an insect and thus become Ant-Man. Anchorman star Paul Rudd, 44, will play Scott Lang, the alter-ego of the diminutive Marvel superhero.

"I've been dying to do a Marvel picture for so long," Douglas told Reuters. "The script is really fun, the director is really good. Dylan (the actor's 13-year-old son) will love it. He'll have a picture he can see."

Pym's character first appeared in the 27th issue of Marvel Comics series Tales To Astonish in January 1962. Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, said in a statement posted on that Douglas will play Pym with "charm and fortitude".

Douglas, who won a Best Actor Oscar in 1988 for Oliver Stone's financial drama Wall Street and picked up a Golden Globe award on Sunday for his turn as Liberace in HBO movie Behind The Candelabra, is taking a rare step into the world of big-budget franchise action films.

"Sometimes – like (when) they didn't see you for Liberace – you've got to shake them up a little bit and have some fun," Douglas said of surprising both studios and audiences with his decision to do a superhero film.

Walt Disney Co's foray in bringing Marvel's superhero universe to the big screen has proved to be a lucrative choice, with films such as Avengers and Iron Man 3 crossing the US$1bil mark at the worldwide box office. The plot for Ant-Man is being kept firmly under wraps. The film, directed by Edgar Wright, is scheduled to be in theatres in July 2015.

While Douglas has only done one sequel in his career spanning more than 40 years – Gordon Gekko in 2010's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – the actor teased about his involvement in future Ant-Man sequels. "(Marvel) reciprocated well, there are sequels. Who knows?," the actor said. — Reuters

Skarsgard for 'The Diary Of A Teenage Girl'

Posted: 13 Jan 2014 10:55 PM PST

Actress Kristen Wiig will also join him in the movie.

Alexander Skarsgard and Kristen Wiig have joined the cast of The Diary Of A Teenage Girl, alongside new lead Bel Powley.

What would you do if you ended up in a relationship with your mother's boyfriend? That's the dilemma in front of Powley in the movie.

The film is based on a graphic novel by controversial and accomplished illustrator Phoebe Gloekner (rather than on Melody Carson's series of Christian stories) and is set in the 1970s.

With Powley set to fill the role of the novel's 15-year-old Minnie Goetze, there'll be no surprises should Wiig be confirmed as Minnie's mother, and Skarsgard the boyfriend that Minnie ends up sleeping with.

The film is both adapted and directed by Marielle Heller, an experienced screenwriter who is married to Saturday Night Live and The Lonely Island member Jorma Taccone.

Primarily known as a British stage actress with experience in West End and Broadway shows, Powley will be flanked by Wiig of Bridesmaids and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, as well as True Blood and Generation Kill star Skarsgard. — AFP Relaxnews


The Star Online: Nation

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Family's CNY plans take a sad turn

Posted: 15 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

GEORGE TOWN: All odd-job worker Tan Ah Choo wishes for this Chinese New Year is for her leukaemia-stricken daughter to be home for the family's reunion dinner.

Her daughter Josephine Loh Zie San, 18, is being treated at the Penang Hospital.

The 53-year-old said she was still in shock as the doctor had just told them of her condition on Tuesday.

"Zie San left school after her PMR to help me with my part-time catering business as my 64-year-old husband is a diabetes patient," said Tan.

"My heart is in pain just thinking about what she is going through."

Tan said her daughter's symptoms started showing about three weeks ago when she complained of a sore throat caused by swollen tonsils.

"Last week, she started to have a pox-like growth on her upper lip. We thought it was just a pimple. But she started to develop a fever and fainted the next day," Tan said.

Zie San was rushed to the Penang Hospital on Sunday.

The former SMJK Sacred Heart student said she did not feel "too sad" when told she had leukaemia.

"I don't care what disease it is as I will face it positively. I will beat it."

Despite the bruises on her hands due to the frequent blood transfusions, she said she would "take the disease head on".

"If I looked at it negatively, I think the leukaemia would 'win' over me.

"The doctors said I have to be hospitalised for a year and cannot be home for the Chinese New Year due to my weak immune system. I'm hoping for a miracle," she said.

Anyone wishing to donate blood to Zie San can go to the blood bank at the Penang Hospital and mention Zie San's name.

Forces cautious after shootout with Sulu invaders

Posted: 15 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian security forces were very cautious after the shootout with the Sulu intruders in March 1 last year, the High Court heard.

VAT 69 commando Supt Mancha Laga said that this was one of the reasons why the security forces did not immediately search the houses within Kampung Tanduo, where they were involved in a one-hour gunbattle with the armed intruders.

He told judge Justice Stephen Chung that they had waited for several days before searching the houses in the area.

He believed that the gunmen were well-prepared and had stationed snipers around the area, which resulted in the death of one of his men Kopl Sabaruddin Daud (he had since been posthumously promoted to sergeant) and the injury of several other security members.

"We did not search the skirmish ground or the houses near the location so soon, as I feared that we would become an easy target for the gunmen if we did so," he said.

Supt Mancha said he had headed the second of five teams assigned to cover the five locations around Kampung Tanduo in February and March last year.

"When the armed intruders started firing at us after giving a warning, we had to take cover and retaliate," he said, adding that the shootout had lasted for about an hour before the intruders started retreating.

"However, they (armed intruders) continued firing while they retreated to find cover," he added.

He said he and his teams were on alert after the shooting ended as they believed that armed men might still be lingering around waiting to attack.

Later in the trial, he also identified a bag which was found at the skirmish location on March 1.

Supt Mancha was the third witness to testify in the trial of 30 people involved in the intrusion into Lahad Datu in Feb 12, 2013, at a hall designated as an open courtroom in the State Prison Complex at Kepayan here.

All the accused are represented by Kuala Lumpur-based lawyer Datuk N. Sivanathan, Kamaruddin Mohmad Chinki, Rowiena Rashid and Abdul Gani Zulika.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail led the prosecution team with four others.

Najib hits back at kangkung critics

Posted: 16 Jan 2014 10:51 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he used kangkung (water spinach) to explain the principle of supply and demand because it was a popular vegetable.

"I like to eat kangkung, you all like to eat kangkung. As such, I gave an example which everybody eats. If I use quail as an example, only certain people eat it," he said.

"The example should not be ridiculed by anybody because I gave the example on the principle of supply and demand which decide the prices of some of the food commodities which are not subject to price controls," he said.

Najib also drew attention that the vegetable was only one example of food items used by the public.

The Prime Minister also said he had ordered the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (KPDNKK) to be more firm against traders who arbitrarily raise prices of goods.

Najib said this was to ensure traders were more ethical in carrying out their commercial activities and at the same time help the people.

"I have ordered the ministry to use existing laws against any trader who announce prices or charges which are too high merely to get more profit (profiteering).

"This is one way how we can help reduce the prices for consumers, particularly prices hiked up by unethical traders out to take advantage of the current situation," he said at a 'Dinner with the Prime Minister' organised by the Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress here Thursday night.

He also urged consumers to be more proactive by reporting to the authorities if they detected traders who deliberately raised prices of goods.

Apart from this, Najib said he and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin themselves would go down to the ground to check on prices of goods more closely.

According to Najib, he would also take the opportunity to promote shops offering reasonable prices to the people.

"And we will advertise or inform all parties that these are the shops that should be frequented by the public," he said. - Bernama


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Philippines celebrates as caregiver wins Israel's X Factor

Posted: 15 Jan 2014 04:02 PM PST

MANILA (AFP) - Celebrations broke out in the Philippines on Wednesday after a Filipina who has spent nearly half her life as a carer overseas won Israel's first "X Factor".

Rose Fostanes, one of the millions of Filipino workers abroad lionised back home and forming a pillar of the country's economy, won the television talent show late Tuesday with a rendition of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" that delighted fans in both countries.

Local television, news websites, social media and even the president lavished praise on the unmarried, openly gay 47-year-old, who has worked abroad for more than two decades -- six of them in Israel -- to support her family.

"We know the situation she was in and we are very proud that she has again given the Philippines pride in the showcase of her talent," President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters Wednesday.

"The Filipino has an innate advantage when it comes to the arts.... It clearly shows that the excellence of the Filipino can be expressed anywhere, everywhere, when they are given the opportunity to show their talent."

Fostanes has been likened by fans to Susan Boyle, the middle-aged Scottish singer whose humble looks and shy demeanour belied a scintillating voice that captivated millions on the television talent show "Britain's Got Talent" in 2009.

Before she entered the competition, Fostanes' day job had been to care for an elderly employer in Tel Aviv -- one of some 10 million Filipinos, about a tenth of the population, who have gone to work abroad to escape poverty and joblessness back home.

Israel's media said her victory had put the spotlight on the country's low-paid migrant workers, among them tens of thousands of Filipinos, who work as carers or in menial jobs.

Fostanes, the only foreign contestant, lives in a crowded apartment in an area inhabited mostly by foreign workers in Tel Aviv.

"Not all workers and cleaners from the Philippines are in a position like this: It's like Cinderella, you know," she told the show in an earlier interview uploaded on YouTube.

But she fretted whether Israel's television audience, who had made her an early audience favourite, would tire of her plain looks and vote her out of the contest in favour of younger, slimmer rivals.

"This is what I'm afraid of, because I don't have the whole package," she said.

But fans were won over. In a live performance watched on television by many of her impoverished countrymen before dawn Wednesday, Fostanes' powerful, soulful singing voice won the judges' nod.

Her ecstatic younger sister, Rose, told Manila television network ABS-CBN: "This is my sister's life dream turning into reality. Who would have thought it would happen abroad?"

Fostanes had blitzed through the earlier rounds with impressive renditions of songs by Tina Turner, Lady Gaga, Prince and Christina Aguilera among others.

Clips of her performances have been drawing tens of thousands of hits since they were uploaded on YouTube this month.

Fostanes' girlfriend Mel Adel had told the station last weekend that she feared her partner's disclosure at the show of the lesbian relationship would harm her chances of winning.

"But I was elated that she did not disown me," Adel said.

Lani Cayetano, mayor of the Manila suburb of Taguig where the singer's siblings live, said: "She is indeed an epitome of hope, her powerful voice touching hearts not only of Israelis, but of all of us." - AFP

Acquitted of killing mother

Posted: 15 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

A 32-YEAR-OLD man who repeatedly stabbed his mother to death after voices in his head told him to do so was acquitted of murder in the High Court on grounds of temporary insanity.

Mohamed Redha Abdul Mutalib had a history of substance abuse and was heavily intoxicated with cough syrup two years ago when he attacked Asnah Aziz in their Eunos home, according to court documents. The 55-year-old housewife died from the 90 stab wounds the same day.

In a rare case, he will instead be held in custody at Changi Prison before being transferred to the Institute of Mental Health, where he will be held at the President's pleasure.

Clearing Redha of murder, Justice Tay Yong Kwang said that while the man had committed the act, he had not been capable at the time of knowing that it was wrong.

On Jan 26, 2012, Redha, then a healthcare assistant, tried to leave his flat after being woken up in the morning by noise from a lion dance performance at the neighbouring block.

After his mother stopped him from leaving, he beat and stabbed her. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network


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'Fashion Police' makes an arresting case

Posted: 15 Jan 2014 05:17 AM PST

The panellists from the popular fashion series on E! Channel say it like it is.

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Checkmate in '14

Posted: 14 Jan 2014 03:52 PM PST

The girls think up some fantasy TV chess and don't even mention the call signs from Combat! because they're, you know, not that old.

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