Category Archives: movies

Derailing the Horror


Do you know what’s scary?  Answer:- the way I procrastinate.  If you look back over the years, readers will find that I will be making New Year Resolutions and wishing every  one a Happy New Year sometime towards the end of January.  Likewise, I tend to leave my Christmas decorations up and try to disguise them to make it look like I put them up specially for Chinese New Year a few months later.  So just yesterday, I finally got to watch the movie that I had set aside for Halloween.

It’s a Korean movie titled, “Train to Busan”.  As if train journeys are often not horrific enough, they throw in large numbers of evil, undead zombies.  It is a big hit in Korea and you know what?  In my humble squirrel opinion, it deserves every good review it has received.  As with any zombie movie, it is not so much a  spine chilling horror experience but more of an adrenaline racing, heart pounding action movie.  But the human element is well crafted into the story and the acting surprisingly good; especially the young girl in the story.  I recommend it.

You know what else is scary?  The real world!  Starting with Korea where the Korean President is alleged to have been unduly influenced by the daughter of a cult leader (BBC story); to Indonesia where thousands took part in violent and fatal protests in the capital Jakarta because they do not want a popular (and generally held to be an effective) non-Muslim governor overseeing a majority Muslim city; and finally the insane circus of the current U.S. Presidential elections.  Hilary or Trump?  The squirrel shakes his head at both but trembles in fear at the thought of President Trump.

squirrel-screaming

And so, we squirrels have decided to intervene for the sake of the world.

Squirrel knocks out power to Miami County elections board

Hungry squirrel tampers with presidential election

We try to help.

Korean War Memorial


bloom county war
Cartoon by Berke Breathed (Bloom County Babylon: Five Years of Basic Naughtiness)

The cartoon kinda sums up my confused state of mind.    When I was a wee lad, I grew up  on a diet of television series like “Combat”, movies like Chuck Norris’ “Missing in Action” and Commando War Comics. All of which tended to give a glorified and sanitized portrayal of war, in that, the bad guys are usually clearly viciously bad and deserve to be killed by the virtuous good guy heroes who almost always just get flesh wounds.

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And so, I grew up playing soldier and even cowboys and Indians.  Only later did I begin to understand that war is almost never clear cut black and white and it’s not just the bad guys that get killed.  I learned about “collateral damage”, “civilian casualties”, “killing fields” and “genocide”. I began to see that war wasn’t cool.

Today, I consider myself to be firmly in the peace-loving, pacifist, flower-power camp.  Or at least, that’s who I grew up to be.  And yet, I confess that I was excited to have the opportunity, with my brother,  to visit the Korean War Memorial and their open air collection of war machines.  Please forgive this relapsing war-junkie as I guiltily present some photos from that visit.

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Enter Korean War Memorial (Photo by LGS)

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The front of the Monument showing the brave and valiant fighters (Photo by LGS)

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The rear of the Monument showing perhaps the suffering of the people (Photo by LGS)

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F86L Sabre (Photo by LGS’ brother)

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F-51D Mustang (Photo by LGS)

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The opposing MIG 19 (Photo by LGS)

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LGS valiantly defending against air attack (Photo by LGS’ brother)

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The Hardware of War (Photo by LGS)

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American Tanks (Photo by LGS)

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Cool-looking attack boat (Photo by LGS)

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This Patrol Boat actually took place in the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong and still carries the scars of the battle to repel a North Korean naval incursion in 2002 in which 6 South Koreans lost their lives. The red holes are battle damage. (Photo by LGS)

Choosing Sides


When I was young, I spent a lot of time reading comics.  And now, some of those same comics have made it onto the silver screen in a big or should I say, a MEGA way.  The Marvel-Disney stable of movies now account for four of the five movies with the biggest grossing opening weekends of all time.  The Marvel comics movie franchise has now earned more than Harry Potter, James Bond, the Hobbits or even Star Wars.

All of which merely underlines the fact that I had a wasted youth. If only I had studied my comics more diligently instead of wasting my precious time with trigonometry, science and history at school, perhaps today I would be enjoying my share of the Marvel bonanza. If only. Yes……a wasted youth is a sad, sad thing.

Anyway, I just came back from watching the latest Marvel movie, “Captain America: Civil War”. It was a great movie. I enjoyed it; my wife enjoyed it; my young nephews enjoyed it; someone I know who is really into comics really enjoyed it; someone I know who doesn’t read comics at all went to see it twice! So this means this squirrel gives it a 5 acorn rating.

But without letting the cat out of the bag (and us squirrels prefer the cat not to be running around loose), Captain America and Iron Man find themselves on opposing sides and the rest of the Avengers and superheros have to make a decision about who they support. All of this leads us to this most important and potentially divisive question being asked of all the fans, “Are you on Team Capt. America or Team Iron Man?”

When asked, Wally the Corgi said, “I’m Team Cap because he’s got a cool frisbee.” (Editor: a good enough reason!)

And what about us squirrels?  Well, actually we are great friends with Black Widow so whoever she sides with is just fine with us. Although, sometimes we can’t tell if she is on this side or the other as so often she is playing the double agent. All very confusing really.

squirrel girl black widow
Squirrel Girl hanging with good friend Black Widow and some weirdo.

So whose team are you?

The Good Ol’ Days


Ah, the good ol’ days.  Will we, in Malaysia, ever see the likes of those heady days again?

The year was 1980.  The nation was not that wealthy but we were rich in natural resources, bolstered by a burning hope for a brighter future and rich because we enjoyed a very special and unique heritage of multiculturalism in which there was much mutual respect and appreciation between the main cultural groups of Malays, Chinese and Indians and also amongst the other minority groups.

It was a Malaysia that many of us were proud of.  And perhaps rather emblematic of the nation’s psyche and indeed the state of the nation at that time, was our national soccer (or football) team.  1980 represented the pinnacle of achievement for Malaysian football.  It was the year that our ragtag team of part-timers shrugged off a couple of years of middling performance, rallied under a new coach, forged a strong sense of identity and defeated the much feared and favoured South Korean powerhouse in dramatic fashion.  They scored the winning goal in the last 5 minutes of the match to win 2-1 and it meant we qualified for the Moscow Olympics.  We even beat Arsenal and held other visiting professional clubs to a draw.

Unfortunately, the team did not get a chance to play at the Olympics as Malaysia joined the U.S. led boycott of the games in protest over the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.  Yet, despite the disappointment, it did not seem to matter cause the country was filled with optimism that better days and greater achievements lay ahead for soccer team and for the country.

As it turned out, Malaysia’s fortunes in the beautiful game declined steadily since then.  Our FIFA world ranking fell from a high of 75th position to 174th position; placing us in the same group as countries like Timor Leste which doesn’t even have any proper soccer facilities.  Critics refer to the end of meritocracy, the rise of racism and political interference as well as corruption as the causes of the decline of the national team.  Sadly, this seems to have mirrored what has happened to the country in general.

This year, a movie was released called Ola Bola which its director claims is “inspired” by the true story of our national team’s glorious march to Olympic qualification in 1980.  In fact, much of the movie seems entirely true to the actual historical events.  The three main heroes of the movie were Tauke, Ahmad Ali and Muthu who were quite clearly based on Soh Chin Aun, Hassan Sani and Arumugum – the real three Malaysian football heroes who also happen to be Chinese, Malay and Indian respectively.  Many Malaysians enjoyed the movie because it reminded many of a better time when racial harmony was not only stronger but in fact held up as an example internationally.

Indeed, many urged Malaysians today to take up the message that Malaysia would be stronger if we were united despite our different backgrounds and not divided along racial lines.

A powerful message indeed and one really worth heeding but sadly, there is also a point of controversy.  The movie changed the winning score of that game with South Korea from 2-1 to 3-2; perhaps for the sake of greater drama. But the movie also changed the identity of the person who scored the game winning goal. If the movie were to be true to history, then the character Eric (who is based on the real life Malaysian soccer hero, James Wong) should have scored the last goal.  Instead, in the movie, Ali is the game winner; leading some to wonder if that decision was made so that a certain segment of Malaysian society would be more willing to watch the movie – which seems to compromise the anti-racist message of the movie.

Ah, Malaysia…..if only we could go back to that simpler, happier and more hopeful time.  I miss it so.

ola bola players
Comparing the actual players and their respective movie characters from Ola Bola

james wong hassan santokh soh chin aun
Some of the Real Heroes today :- (L-R)  Hassan Sani, Soh Chin Aun, winning goal scorer James Wong and Santokh Singh

Another Not Another World Cup Soccer Post


Be warned, this will be a long and wandering post as I am delirious from squirrel pox fever.  But I think you will like it if you make it to the end.  If you are short of time, just watch the videos.

Four years ago, the World Cup was in South Africa and in the midst of the frenzy of postings about the soccer matches on blogs, Facebook and Twitter , I, the Lone Grey Squirrel, boldly stood firm against the tide and posted about rugby in “Not Another World Cup Soccer Post“.

And so, this year, I have decided to do “Another Not Another World Cup Soccer Post”.   And so starts a great new tradition.

So what will this post be about?  Well, not rugby cause I did it the last time but suffice to say that England lost again to the New Zealand All Blacks; losing three out of three games.    So it’s not just soccer that England sucks at.

England sport lose

No, this time, the World Cup is in Brazil and though I have never been to the Land of Samba and Carnival, Brazil is very special to this squirrel.

One of the reasons is  “Brazil – where the nuts come from“.  That phrase which is music to a squirrel’s ears is actually a line from the farce, Charley’s Aunt which was written by Brandon Thomas and first performed in 1892. Some consider it one of the best farces ever written and it is built round the concept of an aristocratic English nobleman being persuaded by one of his University friends  to play the role of a rich aunt of that friend.  It is in that capacity that he identifies himself as Charley’s aunt from Brazil – where the nuts come from.

Jack Benny once played the strange looking aunt.
Jack Benny once played the strange looking aunt.

 

And these are the nuts that come from Brazil. Really.  Brazil nuts. Yum Yum.
And these are the nuts that come from Brazil. Really. Brazil nuts. Yum Yum.

 

Another reason I love Brazil is because of the movie of the same name by Terry Gilliam from 1985.  This dystopian satire rails against bureaucracy gone mad and made all powerful.    The movie is wonderfully crazy, romantic and tragic.  I recommend it.

In the scene I have included in the video below, the Government has issued a warrant for the arrest of one Mr. Archibald Tuttle for committing acts of terrorism against building plumbing and air ducts.  Unfortunately, while the arrest warrant was being printed, a fly falls into the printer and causes it to misprint the name as Archibald Buttle.    The video now takes you to the home of Archibald Buttle just before Christmas………

Haha.  I love it when the wife is asked to sign a receipt for her husband!  Wonderfully bureaucratic.

And did you hear that tune at the beginning of the video? That’s another reason I love Brazil…. the wonderful song called Aquarela de Brasil or Watercolours of Brazil which was written by Ary Barroso in 1939.  i love the infectious rhythm.

The  English lyrics are as follows:

Brazil
The Brazil that I knew
Where I wandered with you
Lives in my imagination.

Where the songs are passionate,
And a smile has flash in it,
And a kiss has art in it,
For you put your heart in it,
And so I dream of old Brazil

Where hearts were entertaining June,
We stood beneath an amber moon
And softly murmured “someday soon”
We kissed and clung together,
Then tomorrow was another day
The morning found me miles away
With still a million things to say

Now when twilight dims the sky above,
Recalling thrills of our love,
There’s one thing I’m certain of;
Return I will
To old Brazil.

Enjoy the song which was also the theme song for the movie, Brazil.

Can’t Stop the Squirrel


Dear Boys and Girls,
It has been more than a month since the lone Grey Squirrel was connected to the blogosphere. Forced to move nest due to leaky roofs and pipes, the last 5 weeks have been taken up with throwing things out, packing the rest and moving to a new place about 40% smaller. And for most of that time, I have had to live without connection to the wild wide world of Internet. But fortunately, the Dark Ages has come to an end …….. at least for now. So don’t stray away. WATCH THIS SPACE for updates of the Squirrel’s adventures and latest rants.

Regular readers, all three of them, will know that I am a big fan of almost anything from the writing and/or directorial stable of Joss Whedon including that near perfect Scifi movie, “Serenity”.   One of the catch phrases from the movie is “You can’t stop the signal”.  In a similar vein, the Lone Grey Squirrel is back ……….you can’t stop the Squirrel!

Getting High on Sci-fi


I am a big fan of the science fiction genre and it seems I have been breathing sci-fi these last few days. Definitely overdosing on a sci-fi high.

 

 

This afternoon, I went to watch the movie “Prometheus”.   This was a movie that had me shivering with anticipation.  In 1979, Ridley Scott gave us the first Alien movie which was a masterpiece of tension-building and directorial economy.   The next movie, “Aliens” was also a masterpiece but a completely different animal – it was more of a war movie.  The later movies in the series, all by different directors, were  a long fall from the standard established by the first two movies.  But how would Ridley Scott revisit this franchise after 33 years and how would he handle this prequel?

Well, he did great.  The storyline does develop the overall story-verse further and in a rather imaginative and different way than the earlier movies.  He was also able to keep it fresh even though he had to follow some concepts already well known to fans of the series.  It did not disappoint although, in my opinion, it still did not come close to the excellence of Alien and Aliens.

Yesterday, I noted that Ray Bradbury passed away at the age of 91.  Ray Bradbury was a science fiction, fantasy and horror story writer and it was reading his stories when I was a youth that got me started with my fascination with science fiction.  I was particularly enthralled by “The Martian Chronicles” and by the short story “All Summer in a Day“.  Reading the many tributes to him in the media, many famous authors also shared that he had been a major influence on their writing.  Certainly, his stories will continue to inspire many others.

Finally, the day before, the British magazine SFX published the results of a poll they carried out.  More than 10,000 sci-fi fans voted to determine the Top 100  science fiction, fantasy and horror movies of all time.  I was pretty pleased that most of my favorite movies of the genre also did well on the poll.

Below are my choice of top 10 movies of the genre.  The equivalent ranking in the SFX poll is given in brackets.

  1. Blade Runner (1)
  2. Aliens (3)
  3. Star Wars: A New Hope (4)
  4. The Thing (17)
  5. Serenity (7)
  6. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (2)
  7. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (5)
  8. The Fifth Element (15)
  9. Alien (8)
  10. Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (12)

In the SFX poll, 6th place was “The Matrix”, 9th place was “Back to the Future” and 10th place was “The Dark Knight”.

What are your favorites?

Batman and the Sudan


George Clooney is very popular with the ladies.  He has a boyish charm and handsome features.  And he is extremely popular with the ladies.  That alone is sufficient reason for me to dislike him.

But I have to say that I was impressed when I heard the news that he was arrested yesterday while protesting outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington D.C.  Maybe “Gorgeous George” is more than a pretty face.

One of Mr. Clooney’s more forgettable performances on the silver screen was as Batman in the 1997 movie, “Batman and Robin“.  But it would seem some of the mystique and persona of the Dark Knight of Gotham has rubbed off on him.  Like the Dark Knight, George does not hesitate to stand against the darkness and to stand up for what is right.

George Clooney was protesting against the actions of the Sudanese government carrying out attacks and killing their own people in the southern regions of the country and also preventing humanitarian aid from reaching the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile Regions.  The government appears to be trying to intimidate the local populations, which are of different ethnic and religious backgrounds from the ruling northern elite,  into abandoning the oil rich areas.

While the world is appalled by what is happening in Syria and is focused there, and rightly so, unfortunately the criminal actions against humanity in Southern Sudan has fallen from view.  Yet the tragedy there is already far greater than what is happening in Syria and is only expected to get worse.  The UN estimates 300,000 killed and 2.7 million displaced since 2003.

The world needs to do more for the people of Sudan in providing aid and to pressure the government in Khartoum to stop their savage and inhumane actions against its own citizens.

And George Clooney’s interest and activism on behalf of the people of Sudan is no flash in the pan or celebrity whim.  He really understands the situation and has invested much to the cause over a long period of time and has even made clandestine visits to the region and has even witnessed an attack.

George, thank you for standing up and doing what you can.  Thank you for doing so when it could be so convenient and easy to just forget it all and enjoy your fame and fortune.  Thank you for being a good man.  I might even get over the fact of your popularity with the ladies.  I’m not sure if that is possible but I’ll try.

George also spoke to President Obama about the Sudan situation a day before his arrest.  If you are moved by the plight of the poor and persecuted in southern Sudan, follow George Clooney’s example and pressure your government  through your representatives to not let the killing continue unchallenged.

To read more, go here – Amnesty International.

Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens


Well, the Muppets are back with their new movie, “The Muppets”, which was just released last weekend I believe.  I have seen a number of posts on it in the blogosphere including Riot Kitty who posted a video of the Muppets’ rendition of Queens’ “Bohemian Rhapsody“.  Thank you Riot Kitty.  How could someone not be moved by Animal’s plaintive singing of the lyrics, “Mama…”.

I haven’t seen the new movie but I have fond memories of  the Muppet series especially when it showcased the imagination of Jim Henson and his co-conspirators.  Forget the romantic tension of  moody Bella and cold vampire Edward in the Twilight series.  The on again – off again, will they or won’t they romance between the independent assertive modern Ms. Piggy and the self-effacing every frog, Kermit was far more exciting and funny.  (although the Muppets recently gave a charitable nod  in the direction of Twilight with posters of “Bella Swine” (aka Ms. Piggy) and “Vamphibian” (aka. Kermit).

Kermit’s famous song, “It’s not easy being green” was very influential in my life and was one of my theme songs during my periods of deep funk and of course I always felt better after singing it.  But today, I wanted to highlight another Muppet song that has stuck with me all these years even though I only saw it once.  It’s amazing what the mind retains.

Anyway, here is the Muppets’ cover of the Louis Jordan song from 1946, “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens”.  It still cracks me up now.  Enjoy.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

100 Sci-Fi Icons


I am a big fan of the science fiction and fantasy genre which should be obvious to regular readers.  In fact, my last post compared the Harry Potter series with the Star Wars species.  I am also a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, X-Files, Star Trek amongst others.

I was therefore recently pleased to see a special issue of the SFX magazine at the local newsvendor’s magazine stand.  This magazine is a British publication which is dedicated to reporting on TV series and movies of the science fiction and fantasy genre.  This particular issue was the special “Top 100 Sci-Fi Icons” issue in which the result of an on-line survey of more than 10,000 Sci-fi fans was reported.

I was excited to find out how well my favorite characters had done in the survey, so I bought it and hurried home.  In the comfort of my hobbit hovel, I quickly scanned the results from the 100th placing on to the 1st place.

Three of my favorite characters were placed in the top 5 including the number 1 spot. I loved it.

Here are the top 5 positions;

  1. Captain Malcolm Reynolds – this antihero is the captain of the Firefly-class spaceship, Serenity.  He loses a lot and often but still wins enough to stay alive to fight another day and to offer another quick smarty pants quip.  Played by actor Nathan Fillion.  (one of LGS’s favorites)
  2. The Doctor – This distinctively British eccentric is actually a time traveling alien – last of the Time Lords.  I don’t get to watch the Doctor Who series in Malaysia so I can’t comment much but I am told the series has recently been given a fresh breath of life with a revamped and recharged new season.  This long running series has had 11 actors play the Doctor.
  3. Captain Jack Harkness – Also from the newly revamped Dr. Who series and later in the spinoff series, Torchwood, this bisexual inter-galactic con man and immortal is a ground breaking and charismatic character.  He is played by John Barrowman.
  4. Buffy Summers – The ordinary school girl with an extraordinary destiny and chosen to bear a heavy burden.  Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer like to describe her with the words “She saved the world a lot”.   Vulnerable and yet physically strong; shallow and yet with a depth of character that enables her to bear much suffering to fulfill her responsibilities.  She was brought to life by Sarah Michelle-Geller.  (Squirrel’s number 1 favorite).
  5. Spike –  One of the most complex characters ever.  You fear him, you like him, you hate him and you cry for him.  He was a psychotic bloodsucker and delighted in killing slayers but he was also a poet and at times a love struck puppy.  He comes stylishly wrapped up as a hedonistic punk rocker in a long leather coat.  He will eventually recover his soul and save the world by sacrificing his life ……but he gets to come back!  I did say he was complex!  Oh, and what a charming false English accent!  He was incredibly well played by James Marsters.  (Squirrel’s number 2 favorite).

Captain Malcolm Reynolds

The Doctor (the Time Lord and his Tardis)

Captain Jack Harkness

Buffy Summers - The Chosen One

Spike - William the Bloody Brilliant.

Other interesting facts:

  • For Harry Potter fans, you will be pleased that the boy wizard comes in at 7th position.
  • Not one, not a single one of the Twilight series characters made it in the top 10 but several characters from the other vampire series, True Blood did.  There is justice in the world. Hahaha.
  • Only two actors appeared on the list for two different characters.  These are James Marsters who played Spike ( Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Captain John Hart (Torchwood – 86th position) and Summer Glau who played River Tam (Firefly – 11th position) and Cameron (The Sarah Connor Chronicles – 16th position).  The Squirrel also thinks very highly of the River Tam character but Cameron – not so much.
  • Spike was also top villain, closely followed by Darth Vader.

Well, I have the list.  Any thing else that you would like to know?  Want to know how your favorite character fared in this survey?  Just ask.