Selasa, 6 Mei 2014

The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

Disneyland Paris to grow ingredients for its 'Ratatouille' attraction

Posted: 06 May 2014 08:50 PM PDT

The vegetable garden will have numerous 'magical-sounding' produce by summer.

To commemorate the launch of its 60th attraction, which is dedicated to the movie Ratatouille, Disneyland Paris is planting its very own vegetable garden. Located near Disney's Hotel Cheyenne, the "Potager Ratatouille" should be ready in late June.

White Egg eggplants, Golden Marconi peppers, White Wonder tomatoes ... these are among the unusual varieties of produce visitors will find growing in Disneyland Paris's new vegetable garden this summer.

By the time Ratatouille: The Adventure attraction opens on July 10, the theme park should have ready access to all the ingredients needed to make the famous Mediterranean dish. The new garden will undoubtedly come in handy for the chefs at Chez Remy, the gourmet restaurant scheduled to open simultaneously with the new attraction.

Of course, it seems likely that the eatery will offer a version of ratatouille made with the ingredients grown on site.

To create this new outdoor space on the grounds of Disney's Hotel Cheyenne, which already includes an orchard and a flowering meadow, Disneyland Paris called upon Louis-Albert de Broglie, whose aristocratic heritage and devotion to sustainable farming has earned him the nickname of "the Gardener Prince". An heirloom vegetable enthusiast, de Broglie provided Disneyland Paris with around 60 tomato plants from his National Tomato Conservatory at the Chateau de la Bourdaisiere.

Around 10 varieties of tomatoes will be grown in the new garden, offering a wide range of flavours, textures and colours. Alongside the more traditional red fruits, visitors to the Ratatouille Vegetable Garden will find white, green, orange, pink and even black tomatoes. — AFP Relaxnews

Eddie Murphy will return to the 'Beverly Hills Cop' franchise

Posted: 06 May 2014 08:40 PM PDT

The comedy star is set to reprise the role he made famous in the 1980s.

The police comedy franchise Beverly Hills Cop will return to US theatres on March 25, 2016 with Eddie Murphy in the title role once again, Paramount indicated.

The franchise will be revived through this fourth installment, which will arrive in theatres 22 years after Beverly Hills Cop 3. Eddie Murphy will reprise his legendary performance as Axel Foley, the fearless, fast-talking cop.

For the fourth Beverly Hills Cop movie, the protagonist will leave sunny California to return to his hometown of Detroit, Michigan.

Jerry Bruckheimer and Paramount are producing the feature, which will be helmed by Brett Ratner. The director behind the Rush Hour franchise worked with Murphy on the comedy Tower Heist in 2011. Ratner will follow in the footsteps of Martin Brest, Tony Scott and John Landis, who helmed the three previous movies in 1984, 1987 and 1994.

The new Axel Foley adventure will be written by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec. The screenwriters are known for their scripts for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) and for the new adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is due for release this October.

Last season, Beverly Hills Cop nearly returned to the screen as a TV series, as CBS ordered a pilot for a comedy on the life of Axel Foley's son. The project hit a dead end, but Murphy's brief appearance in the pilot sparked a wave of enthusiasm for the character of Axel Foley. — AFP Relaxnews

Matt Damon might be tempted to play Jason Bourne again

Posted: 05 May 2014 10:25 PM PDT

The actor said he would consider doing another film in the franchise if you gave him a good story.

Universal may be moving forward with another Bourne movie starring Jeremy Renner, but there's still hope for fans hoping Matt Damon will return to the franchise.

He's even calling on them to come up with a story worthy of his time.

"I've always been open to it if Paul Greengrass is the director. We've just never been able to come up with a story," Damon said in an interview with CNBC last weekend. "So if any of your viewers have a story, please call Universal and submit it."

The fifth installment of the franchise inspired by Robert Ludlum's book series is set to hit theatres on Aug 15, 2015. Renner, who carried the story as Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy, is back, and Justin Lin (Fast & Furious) is directing.

"If felt like such a good way to end it the last time," Damon said of his third outting as the secret agent. "But having said that, I love that character and I'd love to see what happened to him."

Greengrass, who directed last year's Captain Phillips, was responsible for The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. While Damon has said for years that he's open to being Bourne again, providing his requirements are met, Greengrass' interest appeared at an all-time low during an interview with Empire magazine last fall.

"Listen, I loved the Bourne movies," he said. "I loved making them but it's like anything in life, you've got to move on and do different things." — Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Blast from the past: Retro cartoons getting live-action treatment

Posted: 05 May 2014 03:25 AM PDT

Classic children's television shows are making a comeback in a big way, and on the big screen, too!

It cannot be denied that when it comes to pop culture, the 1980s and early 1990s got a few things wrong. From atrocious hairstyles to cringe-worthy fashion sense, there are a few embarrassing things about 'em eras that we would rather not bring to light.

Not now, not ever.

However, the age of mullets and thick shoulder pads were not all bad because there were some pretty good things that went on back then that are still deemed cool today – like music, movies and cartoons.

In fact, cartoons were so good "back in the day" that the people who watched them as kids grew up to become some of the most awesome people on Earth ... To prove this, movie producers are banking their millions on some of these good ol' retro cartoons.

Since these cartoons already have a solid fan base (made up of people already in their 30s and 40s, but who cares?), it is pretty easy to market them as movies in today's age. Just look at the Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises which respectively made over US$2.6bil (RM8.3bil) and US$650mil (RM2bil) worldwide. Hey, I just said they were awesome, not Oscar-worthy!

Joining the likes of these two much-loved cartoons and a slew of other animated series getting the live-action and big screen treatment are Jem And The Holograms, Captain Planet And The Planeteers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Voltron.

Jem And The Holograms

This is a cartoon about an average girl who leads a secret life as a popular singer. Yes, Jerrica Benton was the original Hannah Montana way before Miley Cyrus was born ... heck, long before Miley's father was even famous!

Jerrica's alter-ego Jem, her sister Kimber and friends Aja and Shana make up Jem And The Holograms, a highly successful pop group that sings hit songs and look perfect at every turn with pink hair and wild makeup. They have rivals in the forms of The Misfits and The Stingers who sometimes, honestly, have catchier tunes.

It was recently announced that Nashville actress Aubrey Peeples has been cast as the lead, Jem/Jerrica, while Stefanie Scott will play Kimber, Aurora Perrineau as Shana, Hayley Kiyoko Aja and Ryan Guzman as Rio.

You know what would be funny? If Jem And The Holograms, The Misfits and The Stingers join a dying talent show, namely American Idol, and one of them puts on a performance so bad that the show is cancelled, once and for all.

Captain Planet And The Planeteers

Gaia, the spirit of the planet, sends five magic rings (four with the power to control nature and one controlling the element of "heart"), to five chosen youths: Kwame from Africa, Wheeler from North America, Linka from the Eastern Europe, Gi from Asia, and Ma-Ti from South America.

And when these Planeteers' powers combine, Captain Planet and his perfectly coiffed green hair make an appearance to defend the planet from eco-villains.

Rumour has it that Sony Pictures is in final negotiations to get the rights for the movie adaptation of the 1990s cartoon. which will be produced by Mark Gordon and Don Murphy. Maybe they should include a scene in which Captain Planet shows up every time someone doesn't flush the toilet and scare the living crap out of them (pun intended).

The power is yours: Captain Planet wants you to do your bit to save the world.

The power is yours!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Forget the fact that they look more like tortoises than turtles but Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello are undeniably four of the most popular talking, walking and crime-fighting sea creatures in the world.

The upcoming movie, based on the super hit cartoon series of the same name, is directed by Jonathan Liebesman and featuring the "acting talent" of Megan Fox as well as Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard and Noel Fisher.

The vigilante turtles and their reporter friend/driver/confidante April (Fox) run around New York City trying to keep the world safe from the hands of villain Shredder. Although a live-action movie was already made in 2007, it didn't garner as much love and attention (and more important, money) as the producers would have liked.

I wonder if they can do a short piece on the Ninja Turtles and April visiting our local markets to catch vendors selling turtle eggs? (It is ILLEGAL to sell or purchase turtle eggs for consumption, BTW.)

Turtle power: The pizza-loving turtles are ready to kick some evil butts.

Turtle power: The pizza-loving turtles are ready to kick some evil butts.


Do you know what is better than the Transformers? It's Voltron. There, I said it.

This 1984 cartoon features a team of space explorers that travels in robot lions (don't laugh) that join together to form a giant robot which is pretty much indestructible. There were several versions of the Voltron cartoon, each with crazier storyline than before but hey, it was still as awesome as heck.

It took forever for the Hollywood folks to finally decide to create a live-action movie version, which hopefully will hit the big screen this year.

There really isn't much information about this movie yet but they better come up with something after teasing the fans for so many years. If it's the storyline that they still can't figure out, maybe it can just be a movie about how Voltron kicks the living lights out of Transformers and everyone lives happily ever after?

Voltron: Defender of the Universe

Voltron: Defender Of The Universe

TV's 'Hot In Cleveland' gets hotter

Posted: 05 May 2014 01:50 AM PDT

The popular sitcom featuring Betty White is renewed for another season.

TV Land has delivered an early renewal to comedy Hot In Cleveland for a sixth season. The show broke the news on its official Facebook page along with a photo of the cast celebrating.

The renewal arrives as the series is currently airing its fifth season in the US, which began in March, and shows that its ratings thus far has given TV Land the confidence of renewing it this early in the season.

The comedy follows three has-been entertainment industry veterans, played by Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick, who move from Los Angeles to Cleveland, Ohio, where they end up leasing a home with its caretaker, played by Betty White.

Created by Suzanne Martin, Hot In Cleveland is executive-produced by Martin, Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner, through their production companies SamJen Productions and Hazy Mills Productions. The concept behind the show is based on an original idea by Lynda Obst, who serves as executive producer. — Reuters

Uncertain future for animal wranglers in the entertainment industry

Posted: 04 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Animal wranglers adding themselves to endangered species list.

Animal wrangler Jim Brockett stands a few yards away from Arrow, like a director studying his actor.

The African augur hawk latches his yellow talons onto what looks like a severed finger – actually a piece of foam – and swoops into the air before landing on the gauntlet of a falconer (who promptly rewards him with a thawed chick stashed in a leather pouch).

"He's got the finger part down," says Brockett, who's helping train Arrow for a macabre scene in the crime drama Bones.

Brockett, 70, and his wife, Gina, are owners of Brocketts Film Fauna Inc in Thousand Oaks, California in the United States. They have been supplying hawks, bobcats, alligators, snakes, spiders, lizards and various other critters to the entertainment industry for more than three decades, operating out of a secluded five-acre ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains.

An Emperor scorpion is shown in August 2013 at Brocketts Film Fauna in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Animal wranglers who provide animals for entertainment productions such as television and film, like Brocketts, face tougher regulations on treatment of animals on set. (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

An Emperor Scorpion at Brocketts Film Fauna.

The Brocketts and their animals have made regular appearances on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, numerous crime dramas including True Blood and CSI: NY, and movies such as Terminator III and We Bought A Zoo.

But they've grown increasingly uncertain about the future of their business.

"We're not going to be doing it that much longer," Gina Brockett says. "It's going to go away."

Animal trainers and wranglers, those who transport horses and other animals to sets, have been fixtures of the motion picture industry since the dawn of Hollywood. But many veterans in Southern California view themselves as an endangered species in their own right.

They cite the growing use of digital effects, the flight of film work from Southern California, as well as mounting pressure from animal rights groups.

The use of animals in film and television productions has become increasingly controversial. HBO in 2012 shut down production of its drama Luck after three horses died during production.

The horse deaths renewed debate in the industry about the use of animals on film sets and the role of the American Humane Association, the group charged with safeguarding the welfare of animals in entertainment.

Tippi Hedren, the actress and animal rights activist best known for her role in The Birds, in 2012 lobbied for a bill that would outlaw the private breeding and possession of exotic cats except at highly qualified facilities, such as accredited zoos. Similar measures have been proposed for bears and primates but have been resisted by the circus industry.

Although none have been approved by Congress, animal wranglers like Jim Brockett view them as a threat to their livelihood. He and his peers contend that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) and other groups pressure filmmakers to avoid using live animals on sets, and constantly lobby federal and state agencies to impose costly rules aimed at driving them out of business.

"I would have to say they are not wrong," says Peta spokeswoman Lisa Lange. "We'd like to see them pursue other careers. We do want to see a complete end to the use of wild animals in film and television, and we're getting there."

Brockett's face tightens when the subject turns to animal rights activists who criticise his trade. He insists the film and television industry has helped to educate the public about the animals the activists think they're protecting.

"No one would care about dolphins," he says, "if there wasn't a TV show like Flipper."

Going green

Some animal trainers have found novel ways to adapt to the digital revolution.

A company called GreenScreen Animals of Santa Monica, California, has found a lucrative niche supplying stock footage, shooting video of wolves, lions, bears and other big-game animals on a giant green screen stage, which can then be rendered as a forest, mountain, parking lot or school crosswalk.

"Animals never go out of fashion," GreenScreen co-owner Mark Shockley told the Los Angeles Times last year. "Our footage is only going to grow in value."

Brockett has his doubts.

An albino cobra from Thailand (left) and a lynx at Brocketts Film Fauna.

"That's the last time your elephant or wolf is going to go to work," he says, "because at that point they have everything they need on a green screen."

As a truck drives by the ranch, a low, throaty growl emanates from a concrete pond, where a group of alligators lounge in swampy green water.

"Hear that noise?" Brockett says. "It's an alligator bellowing. He thinks the truck is another alligator."

Brockett keeps as many as 30 alligators. "Our alligators do all the Lubriderm commercials."

Brocketts Film Fauna charges by the day to rent its animals for film crews. Chickens cost about US$200 (RM650) a day, while a large alligator or king cobra snake would cost US$1,500 (RM4,900).

But it costs as much as US$15,000 (RM49,000) a month to feed the animals, whether it's kibble for alligators, beef-based food for bobcats, and rats and mice for the snakes. There's also an additional US$8,000 (RM26,000) a year to truck in sufficient water.

Last year the company had 30 jobs in one month alone. But the orders aren't as large as they used to be, and business is down as much as 40% from 15 years ago, Brockett says.

Teamsters Local 399 has seen at least a 50% drop in the number of animal wranglers over the last decade, says Ed Duffy, the union's business agent.

"These trainers have spent years working with their animals and teaching them what is necessary to perform in front of the camera," Duffy says. "They are really fighting for jobs right now."

About 20 trainers have left the business or retired in the last three years because there wasn't enough work to go around, Duffy says. The union now has 90 trainers and 21 wranglers, most of whom live in Southern California.

"Long-term it just gets harder and harder to do this stuff," Brockett says. 

"Gina and I are probably going to retire next year." — Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services


The Star Online: World Updates

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Gunmen abduct 8 more girls in Nigeria; U.S. pledges help in search

Posted: 06 May 2014 07:00 PM PDT

MAIDUGURI Nigeria (Reuters) - Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped eight girls from a village near one of the Islamists' strongholds in northeastern Nigeria overnight, while the United States made plans on Tuesday to help search for more than 200 schoolgirls seized by the militant group last month.

"We're going to do everything we can to provide assistance to them," U.S. President Barack Obama told NBC News in an interview on Tuesday. "In the short term our goal is obviously to help the international community, and the Nigerian government, as a team to do everything we can to recover these young ladies."

In a separate interview with ABC News, Obama called the kidnappings heartbreaking and outrageous.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened in a video released to the media on Monday to sell the girls abducted from a secondary school on April 14 "on the market".

The kidnappings by the Islamists, who say they are fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria, have shocked a country long inured to the violence around the northeast.

They have also embarrassed the government before a World Economic Forum meeting on Africa, the annual gathering of the wealthy and powerful, in Abuja from May 7 to 9.

Nigerian officials had hoped the event would highlight their country's potential as Africa's hottest investment destination since it became the continent's biggest economy from a GDP recalculation in March. The forum has instead been overshadowed by the crisis over the girls, whose whereabouts remain a mystery.

That has thrown the government's failings on national security into the spotlight just when it sought to parade its achievements such as power privatisation and economic stability to top global business people and politicians.

Police and residents said the eight girls kidnapped overnight were aged 12 to 15.

Lazarus Musa, a resident of the village of Warabe, told Reuters that armed men had opened fire during the raid.

"They were many, and all of them carried guns. They came in two vehicles painted in army colour. They started shooting in our village," Musa said by telephone from the village in the hilly Gwoza area, Boko Haram's main base.

A police source, who asked not to be identified, said the girls were taken away on trucks, along with looted livestock and food.

Boko Haram, the main security threat to Africa's leading energy producer, is growing bolder and appears better armed than ever.

"Many people tried to run behind the mountain, but when they heard gunshots, they came back," Musa said. "The Boko Haram men were entering houses, ordering people out of their houses."

In a separate attack early on Monday, suspected Boko Haram gunmen shot or hacked to death at least 13 people in a raid on a market town in the northeast, a survivor said.

April's mass kidnapping occurred on the day a bomb blast, also claimed by Boko Haram, killed 75 people on the edge of Abuja, the first attack on the capital in two years. Another bomb in roughly the same place killed 19 people last week.


Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan welcomed the U.S. offer to send an American team to Nigeria to support the government's efforts to find the girls, the Obama administration said on Tuesday. (Full Story)

Obama told ABC the kidnappings "may be the event that helps to mobilize the entire international community to finally do something against this horrendous organization that's perpetrated such a terrible crime."

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the United States was sending an "interdisciplinary team" including military personnel to help in the search.

The United Nations warned Boko Haram that if the group carried out its leader's threat to sell the girls, it would forever be liable to prosecution for war crimes, even decades after the event. (Full Story)

"We warn the perpetrators that there is an absolute prohibition against slavery and sexual slavery in international law. These can ... constitute crimes against humanity," U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.

The military's inability to find the girls in three weeks has led to protests in the northeast, Abuja and Lagos, the commercial capital.

British Foreign Minister William Hague reiterated an offer of help to Nigeria on Tuesday, after calling the abductions "disgusting and immoral". (Full Story)

Worsening violence so close to the capital has also put the spotlight on security arrangements for the World Economic Forum, with a few delegates cancelling, although organisers still expect most to arrive as planned.

Police and military units were deployed outside the Sheraton hotel. A black pickup truck carrying four men dressed in black with sub-machineguns patrolled, then sped off.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Michael Shields in London and Steve Holland in Washington; Writing by Tim Cocks and Peter Cooney; Editing by David Stamp, Anna Willard, Will Waterman, Andrew Hay and Mohammad Zargham)

China condemns Vietnamese 'harassment' of ship in disputed waters

Posted: 06 May 2014 06:30 PM PDT

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China has warned Vietnam not to disturb activities of Chinese companies operating near disputed islands in the South China Sea, after Hanoi condemned as illegal the movement of a giant Chinese oil rig into what it says is its territorial water.

The United States on Tuesday sharply criticized the movement of the deep sea oil rig, calling it "provocative and unhelpful to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region".

The relocation of the oil rig by China's state-run oil company is the latest show of Beijing's growing assertiveness, which is raising alarm among smaller countries in the region.

China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi told Vietnam's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Pham Binh Minh, that Chinese firms operating in the Paracel Islands, which the Chinese call the Xisha Islands, are within the mandate of China's sovereignty and should not be subject to interference, according to a statement posted on the Chinese foreign ministry's website late on Tuesday.

Vietnamese harassment of Chinese companies conducting normal activities violated China's sovereignty and administration rights, Yang, the country's top diplomat, said in a telephone call to Minh.

The incident came days after U.S. President Barack Obama visited Asia to underline his commitment to allies there, including Japan and the Philippines who are themselves locked in territorial disputes with China.

Obama, promoting a strategic "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific region, also visited South Korea and Malaysia, but not China.

Daniel Russel, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the United States was looking into the oil rig matter, but urged caution from all sides.

"We believe that it is critically important for each of the claimant countries to exercise care and restraint," he told Reuters during a visit to Hong Kong ahead of a previously scheduled trip to Hanoi on Wednesday.

"The global economy is too fragile and regional stability is too important to be put at risk over short term economic advantage."

China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. It also has a separate maritime dispute with Japan.


Its claims coincide with growing diplomatic and military influence in the region and have raised fears of possible conflict.

The Maritime Safety Administration of China (MSAC) announced on its website on Saturday that all vessels should keep one mile (1.6 km) away from the rig, called the Haiyang Shiyou 981. It expanded that to three miles on Monday.

The $1 billion rig is owned by China's state-run CNOOC oil company and it had been drilling south of Hong Kong.

On Sunday, Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesman objected to the Chinese announcement, saying the coordinates of the oil rig put it in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and on its continental shelf, about 120 nautical miles off its coast.

The spokesman, Le Hai Binh, said in a statement Vietnam "resolutely opposed" the Chinese company's drilling.

But, like other Asian nations involved in territorial disputes with China, Vietnam appears to have limited options when dealing with the emerging superpower.

The Philippines said last month that the United States had a treaty obligation to help in case of an attack on its territory or armed forces in the South China Sea, although Obama did not say categorically that Washington would do so.

In 1992, Vietnam sent naval vessels into an area where China signed a contract with a U.S. firm to develop oil and gas in what it said were its waters.

"From 1992 until now, I haven't seen any action from Vietnam stronger than that," said a Vietnamese academic who specializes in South China Sea affairs.

"...My guess is either this action from China is to send a message to the United States after Obama's Asia visit, or to direct the community to this topic to distract them from the terror in Xinjiang."

China's nervousness about Islamist militancy has grown since a car burst into flames on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October and 29 people were stabbed to death in March in the southwestern city of Kunming.

The government blamed militants from the far-western region of Xinjiang for both attacks.


China routinely sends patrols into the South China Sea, mostly involving the coast guard and civilian maritime protection force rather than the navy.

But the positioning of such a large structure in disputed waters was seen by some analysts as a significant escalation in the dispute.

Singapore-based South China Sea expert Ian Storey said the rig movement risked a "potentially very dangerous scenario".

"There have been standoffs with survey ships in the past, but this is something new," said Storey of the Institute of South East Asian Studies.

"There's been a great deal of speculation about how China would use this expensive new rig and it seems we now have the answer. It puts Vietnam in a very difficult position.

"They will have to respond to a challenge to their sovereignty, and when they do, China will be sure to make a counter move, so we are in a situation where a potentially very dangerous scenario could unfold."

China's Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, wrote in an editorial on Tuesday that China should show a "firm attitude" towards Vietnam.

"China follows a moderate policy. But no country can always show a smiling face to the world. China shouldn't be angered easily, but if its interests are infringed upon, a strong retaliatory move should be expected," it said.

(Additional reporting Nguyen Phuong Linh in Hano Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Gabriel Wildau in Shanghai; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Michael Perry)

Niger arrests fourteen suspected Boko Haram gunmen after patrol ambushed

Posted: 06 May 2014 05:35 PM PDT

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Fourteen suspected members of the Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram were arrested in neighbouring Niger on Tuesday after an attack on an army patrol in the eastern region of Diffa, the regional governor said.

Diffa, some 1,400 km east of Niger's capital, Niamey, borders the Nigerian state of Borno, the centre of Boko Haram's uprising. Tens of thousands of refugees have fled the fighting to the arid region, and local Niger officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over Boko Haram infiltration.

Yacouba Soumana Gaoh, the regional governor of Diffa, said the army had detained two Boko Haram suspects who had robbed a man at gunpoint early on Tuesday in the commune of Chetimari.

"The security forces then fell into an ambush laid by presumed members of Boko Haram. After fierce fighting, reinforcements were sent in but the attackers were able to cross over the border," he told state television.

The governor said three suspected militants were captured during the fighting, two of whom suffered gunshot wounds. There were no casualties among the army troops, but one of their vehicles was peppered with bullets, he said.

Nine other suspects were later arrested in the regional capital Diffa and the surrounding area, he said.

A military source, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters he was not aware of any link between the arrests and the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria last month. A further eight girls were kidnapped from a village by suspected Boko Haram gunmen on Tuesday.

The kidnappings by the Islamists, who say they are fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria, have shocked a country long inured to the violence around the northeast and has outraged international opinion.

Officials in neighbouring Chad and Cameroon have strongly denied that Boko Haram had taken the girls across the border into their countries.

(Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Bate Felix and Prudence Crowther)


The Star Online: Business

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Asia Forex: Won highest since Aug 2008; Ringgit, Taiwan dollar firm

Posted: 06 May 2014 07:03 PM PDT

The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the dollar at 0135 GMT Wednesday.

    Change on the day at 0135 GMT
  Currency    Latest bid   Previous day    Pct Move
  Japan yen       101.57         101.68       +0.11
  Sing dlr        1.2468         1.2472       +0.03
  Taiwan dlr      30.116         30.176       +0.20
  Korean won     1026.50        1030.30       +0.37
  Baht             32.37          32.37       -0.02
  Peso             44.27          44.32       +0.11
  Rupiah        11515.00       11515.00       +0.00
  Rupee            60.11          60.11       +0.00
  Ringgit         3.2450         3.2535       +0.26
  Yuan            6.2239         6.2257       +0.03
  Change so far in 2014
  Currency    Latest bid  End prev year    Pct Move
  Japan yen       101.57         105.28       +3.65
  Sing dlr        1.2468         1.2632       +1.32
  Taiwan dlr      30.116         29.950       -0.55
  Korean won     1026.50        1055.40       +2.82
  Baht             32.37          32.86       +1.51
  Peso             44.27          44.40       +0.28
  Rupiah        11515.00       12160.00       +5.60
  Rupee            60.11          61.80       +2.81
  Ringgit         3.2450         3.2755       +0.94
  Yuan            6.2239         6.0539       -2.73- Reuters

KLCI slips in early trade

Posted: 06 May 2014 06:53 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The FBM KLCI slipped in early trade on Wednesday as investors were still cautious as the Ukraine crisis weighed on investors sentiments.

At 9.35am, the KLCI was down 4.41 points to 1,856.02. Turnover was 272 million shares valued at RM197.8mil. There were 149 gainers, 219 decliners and 235 counters unchanged.

Reuters reported Asian shares dipped and the safe-haven yen hovered just above a multi-month high against the dollar in early trade on Wednesday as the heightened possibility of Ukraine slipping into civil war dampened risk sentiment.

Ukraine has so far experienced its deadliest week since the separatist uprising began, leaving less room for peace efforts.

At Bursa Malaysia, plantations were mixed with United Plantations down 88 sen to RM25.56, KL Kepong 16 sen to RM23.84, PPB Group 10 sen to RM16.10, IJM Plantations eight sen to RM3.50 but BLD Plantations rose 26 sen to RM8.96.

PetGas fell 10 sen to RM23.26 and Yinson eight sen to RM7.92.

Gainers were consumer stocks with BAT up 12 sen to RM61.32 and Nestle 10 sen to RM69.10.

DBhd rose eight sen to RM1.71.

Favco rose seven sen to RM3.47, TimeCom eight sen to RM4.16 and TaAnn eight sen to RM4.28.

Diary Malaysia 2014 corporate earnings

Posted: 06 May 2014 06:09 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Following is a list of release dates for the quarterly earnings of some top Malaysia-listed companies.  
    All dates are confirmed except those marked by a "T", which
means it will be released around those dates.  
    (T): Tentative
    TBD: To be determined
 Company                      RIC         PERIOD  DATE
 AirAsia Bhd                              Q1      May 19-23
 AMMB Holdings Bhd                        Q4      May 13-16
 Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd              Q1      Jun 9-13
 Axiata Group Bhd                         Q1      May 21
 British American Tobacco                 Q1      Apr 24
 (Malaysia) Bhd                                   
 MISC Bhd                                 Q1      May 19-23
 CIMB Group Holdings Bhd                  Q1      May 19-23 Bhd                             Q1      Apr 25
 Felda Global Ventures                    Q1      TBD
 Holdings Bhd                                     
 Genting Malaysia Bhd                     Q1      May 27-30
 Genting Bhd                              Q1      May 27-30
 Hong Leong Bank Bhd                      Q3      May 6-9
 Hong Leong Financial Group               Q3      May 6-9
 IHH Healthcare Bhd                       Q1      TBD
 IOI Corporation Bhd                      Q3      May 19-23
 Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd                  Q2      May 19-23
 Malayan Banking Bhd                      Q1      May 29
 Malaysian Airline System                 Q1      May 20
 Maxis Bhd                                Q1      May 5-9
 Petronas Chemicals Group                 Q1      May 23-27
 PPB Group Bhd                            Q1      May 14-19
 Petronas Dagangan Bhd                    Q1      May 6
 Petronas Gas Bhd                         Q1      May 7
 Public Bank Bhd                          Q1      Apr 21
 RHB Capital Bhd                          Q1      May 26-30
 Sime Darby Bhd                           Q3      May 29
 Tenaga Nasional Bhd                      Q2      Apr 24
 Telekom Malaysia Bhd                     Q1      May 28
 IOI Properties Group Bhd                 Q3      TBD
 UMW Holdings Bhd                         Q1      May 19-23
 SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd              Q4      TBD
 Petroliam Nasional Bhd                   Q1      TBD
 YTL Corporation Bhd                      Q3      TBD- Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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British actor Matt Smith joins 'Terminator' reboot

Posted: 04 May 2014 08:50 PM PDT

The former Doctor Who star will be playing a new character in the upcoming film.

Matt Smith is headed from one iconic sci-fi franchise to another.

The popular Doctor Who star, who just left the legendary British show last year, has been cast in the upcoming Terminator reboot, Paramount announced recently. He will play a new character with a strong connection to John Connor, and joins a cast that includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi and Byung Hun Lee.

Smith recently acted for Ryan Gosling in the actor's directorial debut Lost River, alongside Christina Hendricks, Eva Mendes and Saoirse Ronan.

Alan Taylor will direct the film, which is being called Terminator: Genesis, from a screenplay written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier. The film is due out on July 1, 2015, and is expected to launch a new franchise for Paramount and producers Skydance. — Reuters

Vans launches Star Wars-themed kicks

Posted: 04 May 2014 08:30 PM PDT

It is now possible to take a walk on the dark side and be the epitome of cool.

Things are hotting up for fans of a specific galaxy far, far away with the launch of a new limited edition line of Star Wars-themed sneakers by Vans.

Hot on the heels (sorry) of the announcement last week of the cast of the next Star Wars movie comes news of a collaboration between the skate shoe brand's premium Vault by Vans line and the Star Wars movies.

The "Vault by Vans x Star Wars" sneakers take some of the label's classic models and reinterpret them using vintage 1980s prints with a Star Wars touch. Darth Vader, Stormtrooper helmet shapes, lightsabers and Imperial AT-AT Walkers all feature across the line.

The shoes will be available on June 1, although a few limited edition pieces will be launched this week in selected stores across the globe. — AFP Relaxnews


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Woman loses RM10,000 in cash, valuables while praying in mosque

Posted: 06 May 2014 07:40 AM PDT

GUA MUSANG: A South Kelantan Development Authority employee lost RM10,000 in cash and valuables when her handbag was stolen at the Razaleigh Mosque here Tuesday.

Gua Musang District Police chief Supt Saiful Bahri Abdullah said the incident occurred at 1.45pm, when the victim was performing Zohor prayers with eight other women.

Speaking to reporters here Tuesday, he said the handbag contained jewellery, two cell phones, car ignition key, international passport, Tabung Haji account book and RM5,000. – Bernama

Belligerent woman escorted off Malindo Air flight to Kuching after making bomb threat

Posted: 06 May 2014 06:35 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: A 41-year-old woman was removed from a flight to Kuching, Sarawak by security at KLIA2. 

The incident occurred at about 2.20pm Tuesday when the flight crew was preparing passengers before take-off.

Malindo Air chief communication officer Raja Sa'aadi Raja Amrin confirmed the incident and said the woman was apparently very angry before boarding the flight and had also said there was a bomb on board.

Sepang Deputy OCPD Deputy Supt Zaldino Zaludin said a stewardess asked the woman to move a bag that was placed near her feet on the compartment above the seats when the woman started scolding the stewardess.

"The suspect scolded the stewardess for no reason by using words that were threatening," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The stewardess then informed the captain of the matter and the captain called Malaysia Airports Bhd (MAHB) security to remove the suspect from the aircraft," he added.

DSP Zaldino said the aircraft then took off for Kuching at about 4.22pm after a delay of two hours and 22 minutes.

He added that the suspect was from Kuching but was working in the peninsula and was returning home to attend to family matters.

DSP Zaldino said the suspect was arrested at 6.05pm by police and would be remanded under section 506 of the Penal Code.

MH370: Euro agency urges black box life extension

Posted: 06 May 2014 06:29 AM PDT

PARIS: Europe's aviation safety watchdog called Tuesday for the transmission time of tracking beacons fitted onto black box flight recorders to be extended from 30 to 90 days, a reform that may have made it easier to find missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370.

The aircraft disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board, and an intense search for the plane has been scaled back after coming up with nothing despite an air and sea hunt over 4.64 million square kilometres of the southern Indian Ocean.

Part of the problem is that the batteries to the beacons fitted onto the so-called "black box" cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder – which are crucial in locating a plane and determining what caused it to crash – have died, making the search even more difficult.

In a statement, the European Aviation Safety Agency urged "the extension of the transmission time of underwater locating devices (ULD) fitted on flight recorders from 30 days to 90 days".

The agency suggested that all large planes flying over oceans be equipped with a new type of ULD with a longer locating range.

The minimum recording duration of cockpit voice recorders installed on new large planes should also be increased to 20 hours from the current two hours, it added.

"The tragic flight of Malaysia Airlines MH370 demonstrates that safety can never be taken for granted," said Patrick Ky, EASA's director.

"The proposed changes are expected to increase safety by facilitating the recovery of information by safety investigation authorities."

The recommendations need to be adopted by the European Commission, and will apply to all planes and helicopters registered in the 32 EASA member states.

Australia on Monday hosted a meeting in Canberra with the transport ministers of Malaysia and China to determine the way forward in the hunt for the missing plane, which will focus on an intensified undersea search.

China is involved because two-thirds of the passengers were Chinese, while the plane is believed to have gone down in Australia's search and rescue territory.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss admitted the hunt will take time, with the ocean bed in the prospective search zone several kilometres deep and largely unmapped, meaning specialist sonar equipment and other autonomous vehicles are needed.

He said a tender process would start soon to acquire them, but it would likely be two months before the equipment was actually in the water, while more oceanographic mapping was required to better understand where they would be looking.

A submersible Bluefin-21 has been scouring the seabed in an area where undersea transmissions were detected, believed to have come from the plane's black box flight recorders before the batteries died.

It will soon be joined by a dedicated team of vessels from Australia, Malaysia and China. An Australian P-3 Orion jet will also be available to follow up any leads. – AFP

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Application to acquit City Harvest six thrown out

Posted: 05 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

SINGAPORE: The trial against City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and five others will continue.

Their defence lawyers had claimed the prosecution had not done enough to show there was a case against the accused, and called on Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon to throw out all of the charges.

But yesterday, the judge rejected this, saying that there was enough evidence for the trial to continue with all of the charges intact.

"In my view there is evidence to show that the investments were shams... and were merely disguises for something else," he said.

He was referring to several bond transactions which the prosecution believes were illegal and a way for the accused to misuse church funds.

About S$50mil (RM1.3mil) is alleged to have been illegally used in various sham transactions to finance Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun's pop music career and to cover this up. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Fresh faces triumph over incumbents in Indonesia polls

Posted: 05 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

SINGAPORE: A former national tennis player, a former shoeshine boy who is now chairman of the Ferrari Owners' Club of Indonesia and a bevy of artists are among the candidates who have won enough votes to be new MPs in Indonesia's 560-seat Parliament.

The ongoing tally of results of the April 9 general election has also seen voters reject approximately half the incumbents who stood for re-election, including prominent MPs, in favour of fresh faces.

Heavyweights who failed to win a seat include House speaker Marzuki Alie of the Democratic Party, deputy speaker Priyo Budi Santoso of Golkar and chairman of the People's Consul­tative Assembly Sidarto Danusubroto of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P).

"This is a form of punishment from the public towards their representatives who they feel have failed to perform over the past five years," researcher Bawono Kumoro of The Habibie Centre said.

"It should also be a lesson and warning for new MPs."

Sitting ministers who ran for Parliament seats also lost, including Law Minister Amir Syamsuddin and Sports Minister Roy Suryo, both from the battered Democratic Party.

Several sitting MPs who were not re-elected have cried foul, saying they were cheated by candidates with deeper pockets.

Bawono said while this possibility cannot be ruled out, the widespread rejection of incumbents suggests voters also want new faces to speak for them.

While final results and seat allocations will be finalised only later this week – and even then, may be disputed – province-level counts give a strong indication of candidates who have made it.

There will be 10 parties in the new Parliament. The largest, PDI-P, is expected to get around 110 seats and the smallest, Hanura, around 30 seats.

New MPs will not be sworn in until this October, but some have already spelled out what they would focus on if elected.

For tennis coach Yayuk Basuki, 43, who reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 1997 and won an Asian Games gold in 1998, this includes changing the way sports is managed in Indonesia.

A National Mandate Party candidate from central Java, she hopes to lift the performance of her country's sportsmen and start a programme to help athletes balance school with sports, among others.

For others, like Ahmad Sahroni, 36, of the new National Democratic (NasDem) Party, it is improving the welfare of residents, many of whom he grew up with and who helped elect him.

The son of nasi padang sellers near North Jakarta's Tanjong Priok port shined shoes and loaned umbrellas to people when it rained to get by, before making his money selling fuel to ships.

Celebrities and former stars have been among the clearest winners to emerge in recent days.

Among those who won seats for the first time are former action hero movie star and Democratic Party candidate Dede Yusuf, 47, the former deputy governor of West Java, and racing car driver Moreno Suprapto, 31, who is from the Gerindra Party and elected from East Java. — Straits Times / Asia News Network


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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Fendy Zakri's mirrors and smoke

Posted: 03 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Fendy Zakri explores hidden images and meanings in his first solo exhibition.

IT IS easy to see how scepticism might creep in when you look at Fendy Zakri's works and he tells you there are hidden images in them.

Do you look at the black background? Or the white lines? Or the red splotches? Do you have to gaze upon his works cross-eyed before you are rewarded with the sight of a panther leaping out at you from the painting? (No, there is no panther, but I don't want to spoil the surprise.)

At first glance, it looks like the artist simply slapped some paint on canvas, and then took a marker and wildly scribbled over everything with his eyes closed.

"Yeah, someone told me that it looks like a five-year-old child went crazy with crayons on the wall," the artist shares during a chat in Kuala Lumpur ahead of his first solo exhibition opening at Richard Koh Fine Art. But no, the lines are not random doodles, according to Fendy.

"Every single line is a suggestion of form, everything is deliberate. I carefully compose each line and every stroke of colour. Every element you see in my painting is controlled," he stresses.

Fendy Zakri expands on the idea of unlocking the secrets of the universe with one mechanism in his first solo exhibition Seeing The Unseen at Richard Koh Fine Art.

Fendy Zakri expands on the idea of unlocking the secrets of the universe with one mechanism in his first solo exhibition Seeing The Unseen at Richard Koh Fine Art in Kuala Lumpur.

Fendy compares his works to what goes on behind the scenes in an action movie.

A car accident in the film might look like chaos, but the orchestrated crash and the flying bits and explosions that follow are all planned moves.

"It is the same idea with my paintings," says the 32-year-old who hails from Ipoh, Perak, but is now based in Kuala Lumpur.

The third of seven children, Fendy started his working life in the world of engineering.

"My mother thought I should study engineering so that I can cari makan," he says.

"But I never liked it, I can't handle numbers. So when I was 26 I decided to quit my job and pursue my ambition of being an artist instead."

Seeing The Unseen is his first solo exhibition, an exploration of abstract concepts as much as it is a celebration of challenging familiar perspectives.

The exhibition features 13 abstract paintings created in acrylic and oil pastel on canvas. These works, when viewed with PicsArt, a photo editing software (on a smartphone), will reveal their hidden mirrored counterpart.

"You will then see the unseen. The images are always there in the painting, but it is hidden in plain sight. You don't see it with your eyes, you need your inner soul to see it," says Fendy.

Inner soul, he says. Or simply the right software.

This collection of works was inspired by a book he read last year on the much-talked about Da Vinci Code.

"It was so exciting to read about the hidden codes in his works! When I came across the part on mirror images, I loved the idea so much that I knew I had to incorporate this into my art," says the artist who credits local artist Yusof Ghani as his mentor.

But it was more difficult than he envisioned.

"I wanted it to look very abstract. So I had to think about how to distort the image I want people to eventually see. It was challenging and it gave me a big headache," he says.

But no headache could be as big as his biggest painting at this exhibition, simply titled #13 and measuring 183 x 360cm.

"Abstract art is the medium I use to deliver and express my ideas and concepts," Fendy says, a great believer that "the thought behind an artwork is more important than the skill involved in creating it".

"This is what gives a painting its soul," he concludes.

Seeing the Unseen, Fendy Zakri's first solo exhibition, is showing at Richard Koh Fine Art (Lot No. 2F-3, Level 2, Bangsar Village II, Jalan Telawi 1, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur) from May 6 to 15. The gallery is open daily from 10am to 10pm. Call 03-2283 3677 or visit for details.

Related story:

More than meets the eye in Fendy Zakry's art


The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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Demi Lovato fights daily battle with her bipolar disorder

Posted: 05 May 2014 01:15 AM PDT

The singer-actress wants to be a positive role model for her tween sister.

Demi Lovato says her bipolar disorder is a daily struggle. The Neon Lights singer has faced numerous hurdles in life, including battling an eating disorder, drug and alcohol addiction and self-harm, and she credits medication and positive thinking for helping keep her manic-depressive illness in control.

She told Cosmopolitan For Latinas magazine: "It's a daily thing. I treat it with medication. Not everybody does that, but for me it works. That's what works for me – medicating, checking in with people, being honest, and being grateful for things."

Lovato, who was named "Fun, Fearless Latina of the Year" by the magazine, claims her main career motivation is being a good role model for her younger sister, Desperate Housewives child star Madison De La Garza.

Eva Longoria with Madison De La Garza, who is Demi Lovato's sister. 

She explained: "When I was younger, I needed someone in the spotlight to idolise, who stood for positivity and light and happiness, and wanted to change the world. And because I didn't have that, I realised, I want to do that, if only for my 12-year-old little sister."

The 21-year-old star proudly revealed her birthday last summer was a turning point in her life because she was happily sober for the first time in years. She explained: "I was used to drinking and doing drugs on my birthday. I always imagined my 21st being a huge party where I'd get s**t-faced and go crazy. But I realised that there's so much more to life than that." — Bang Showbiz

Adam Levine goes platinum blonde, gets some haters

Posted: 04 May 2014 08:35 PM PDT

Perhaps the singer-turned-TV host-turned-fashion designer thought he would have more fun as a blonde.

Adam Levine has dyed his hair platinum blonde. The Maroon 5 frontman, 35, took to his Twitter account over the weekend to announce that he's ditched his natural brown locks for an eye-catching peroxide blonde style.

The hunky star posted a picture of his new look, with his fiancee Behati Prinsloo looking over his shoulder, which he accompanied with the caption, "Apocalypse prep course complete (sic)."

However, it appears Levine has received some negative feedback on his new image as he later tweeted: "I hope people understand that when they say my hair looks creepy i take that as the highest compliment (sic)."

Meanwhile, Levine and Prinsloo have been busy planning their wedding after the singer popped the question last July in Los Angeles after a year of dating. It is believed the couple are considering having two weddings as they want a ceremony in California – where they live – and one in Prinsloo's native Namibia, Africa.

A source said previously: "He (Levine) went back and forth about having the wedding in Behati's native Namibia or in Los Angeles, where they live. Behati's parents would love for the wedding to be in Africa, but they understand that it is a major trek for all of their friends." — Bang Showbiz

Scottish fun at the KL Highland Games

Posted: 04 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

The inaugural Kuala Lumpur Highland Games will be held this month at Bukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur. 

The event is hosted by the Selangor St Andrew's Society. Established in 1887, it is one of the oldest Loyal Societies in Malaysia. 

The membership comprises the Scots, descendents of Scots and people who are interested in Scotland and Scottish culture.

While centred on competitions in piping and drumming, dancing and Scottish heavy athletics, the games also include entertainment and exhibits related to other aspects of Scottish and Gaelic culture.

This week, Capital FM and Red FM listeners can win passes to this exclusive event.

On Red FM, tune in to the Red Breakfast WTF (weekdays 6am to 10am), the Red Rave (weekdays 10am to 2pm), the Really Really Late Breakfast Show (weekdays 2pm to 5pm) and the Red Fix (weekdays 8pm to midnight) to score four passes.

Capital FM listeners can win passes by tuning in to the Capital Breakfast (weekdays 6am to 10am) and Eat, Play, Love (weekdays 10am to 1pm).

The KL International Jazz & Arts Festival 2014 will be held at Dewan Tunku Canselor, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur on May 17 and 18. This world class jazz festival features artistes like Dianne Shuur, Ashton Moore, Keiko Matsui and David Tughan.

Tune in to Capital FM's Jam Break (weekdays 4pm to 8pm) and Jazzscapes (Sundays 2pm to 6pm) to win a pair of tickets to the festival.

Just be the first caller through when you hear the cue to call and name one of the acts who will be performing at the festival.

Listeners in Penang can listen to Capital FM on 107.6FM.

If you are a big fan of Eminem, make sure you tune in to Red FM's Red Rave and Red Fix this week as the station is giving away the rapper's new album The Marshall Mathers LP 2 which features the hit single The Monster.

This contest is also held online. Log on to, answer three simple questions on Eminem and you might be one of the lucky five to walk away with the album.

Tune in to Red FM on 104.9FM in the Klang Valley and 98.1FM in Penang.


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