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EVIL Is The New SEXY

21 Nov

EVIL is the new SEXY
The villains on popular Taiwanese drama, Love, talk about the pros and cons of being cast as baddies
By Tan Kee Yun
November 21, 2010
 
 

keeyunt@sph.com.sg

GUO Congmin and Xie Mingming.

Ask any ardent viewer of Taiwanese soap opera Love who their favourite characters in the show are and these are the two names that pop up.

Ever since the 787-episode drama series made its way into Singapore living rooms and became de rigeur at family dinners, the on-screen evil antics of Guo and Xie have become a major hit.

Did we say evil?

Yes, while Love centres on the trials and tribulations of the Lin sisters – kind-hearted protagonists Chunhua (Chen Meifeng) and Shuhua (Fang Xin) – the villains are the ones who are stealing the show.

‘Xie Mingming is the most devilish role I’ve ever taken on so far. I haven’t been that bad since,’ actress Jiang Zu Ping told The New Paper at Taipei’s Fullerton South Hotel with a chuckle.

PICTURES: BIZ TRENDS MEDIA, MEDIACORP

‘But I must say, it was definitely the most successful… It was really satisfying to be able to play her (Xie), as I’m a totally different person in real life.

‘That’s the best part about acting. You can live out your wildest fantasies of being this ruthless, menacing person who breaks the law like nobody’s business.’

In Love – which airs daily over Channel8 – Xie Mingming, born originally into a humble household, schemes her way into a wealthy businessman’s family.

According to statistics provided by MediaCorp, Love ‘attracts an average of 864,000 viewers per episode and on some days, a million viewers’.

It is also showing on Malaysia’s TV channel Astro and was previously available via cable TV in other regions outside of Taiwan, such as Hong Kong and Macau.

Aunty thinks his reel life is real life and says:Turn over a new leaf

In a tussle for the family’s fortune, Xie backstabs her mother-in-law and even her own husband.

Jiang, 32, was promoting the year-end Love Of My Life Concert, which will see seven Love cast members entertain Singapore audiences with songs and skits.

Veteran actor Ni Qi Ming, 45, who plays the greedy, womanising Guo Congmin, is part of the line-up aswell.

The impact of Love was so great that for a long time, many fans treated him like he was Guo when they bumped into him in the streets, he said.

And sometimes, the father of two would jovially playalong.

‘I remember when I was promoting Love in Macau, several aunties came up to me and started holding a conversation with ‘Guo Congmin’ on the spot,’ said Ni.

‘They asked me questions like ‘Why are you here in Macau? Are you hiding from your creditors? Why do you treat Shuhua (Guo’s wife in the show, whom he dumped) so badly?’

‘One even…encouraged me to ‘quickly turn over anew leaf’ and not hanker for money anymore.’

Not wanting to dampen their spirits, he told the aunties cheekily: ‘All of you must not tell the police that you’ve seen me here, okay?’

His character earned an unsavoury reputation for cheating countless women of their feelings and money.

Towards the end of the show, in a twist of fate, herealises his mistakes after being stricken by throat cancer.

Jiang, as well as veteran actor Lin Yi-Fang, who plays the supporting gangster character Masa, both echoed Ni’s sentiments with regard to the maniacal fandom that greeted them.

‘There was a period of time when people in Taiwan were calling Xie Mingming ‘Jian Mingming’ instead,’ said Jiang. (‘Jian’ means contemptible in Mandarin.)

Bizarre encounter

She recalled one of her most bizarre encounters with a fan.

‘I was taking a stroll and there was this man on a motorbike,’ she said.

‘When he rode past me, he suddenly jerked his head around and screamed loudly ‘Xie Mingming!’

‘The next minute, he had hit something in front of him and fell down.’

The accident wasn’t too serious though, she added.

‘Before I could stop and check if he had hurt himself, he picked himself up and gave me a sheepish smile, mouthing ‘pai seh’ (Hokkien phrase for sorry).’

Lin, who’s in his mid-50s, said that even though it has been two years since Love ended its run in Taiwan – it was aired on Taiwanese TV in 2008 – people still call him ‘Masa Big Brother’ whenever they see him.

‘It really proves how successful the show is,’ he said.

‘I’ve been stereotyped for many years playing gangster roles, but this one somehow stuck with viewers…’

Coincidentally, Ni, Jiang and Lin got roles in another soap opera My Mother’s Place (Niang Jia) shortly after Love wrapped up.

Not surprisingly, they play villains once again.

Ni was the first to admit that he was initially a little worried about being typecast.

‘Love was so popular that the image of me as Guo Congmin has become entrenched in people’s minds,’ he said.

‘People look at me and see me as a baddie, no matter what I play.

‘I deliberately told producers I didn’t want to play the bad guy anymore, but a string of scripts came and alas…all were evil roles!’

He soon changed his mindset to a more positive one.

‘I guess to a certain extent, I’ve created a style of my own through playing bad guys like Guo Congmin.

‘It’s distinctively mine.’

Jiang, too, is relishing her current ‘villainous phase’ after playing soft-spoken, demure, girl-next-door types for nearly a decade since she kickstarted her acting career in 1998.

‘Evil isn’t that simple…and can be very exciting to depict.

‘In Love, the character of Xie Mingming is quite layered and complicated.’

Come Dec 26, these villains will have to take on an entirely different challenge when they are required to serenade audiences in Singapore.

The concert organisers tell The New Paper that they hope this upcoming gig will be ‘the best gift’ local Love fans can enjoy over the Christmas season.

With a laugh, Ni said singing is ‘foreign territory’ to him.

‘Give me a script and I’d be able to confidently memorise it in five to 10 minutes.

‘But when it comes to memorising songs, it’s so much harder.’

Jiang agreed, saying she will be ‘a bundle of nerves’ before she even steps on stage.

‘I haven’t even decided what to sing yet,’

she said.

FYI

WHAT: Love Of My Life Concert

WHERE: Suntec International Convention & Exhibition Hall

WHEN: Dec 26, 1pm, 4pm and 7.30pm

TICKETS: $98, $88, $78, $68 and $48 from http://www.sistic.com.sg or 6348 5555
 

The NewPaper

Is Her Win TAINTED?

20 Nov

Is her win TAINTED?
Earlier linked to judge Irene Ang, OMG winner is also related to another judge, Tay Ping Hui
By Charlene Chua
November 20, 2010
 
 

cchar@sph.com.sg

THE NEW PAPER, OCT 15

JUST last month, ousted One Moment Of Glory (OMG) contestants had complained about the ‘unfair advantage’ that may have been accorded to fellow contestant Jill-Marie Thomas.

All because she was allegedly good friends with Irene Ang, resident judge of the local Channel 5 reality talent show.

But Thomas survived the talk and has even emerged winner.

The 28-year-old guitar-strumming songbird beat four other OMG finalists – dance acts Luminiq Crew and CJ Crew, singer Sean Harrison and acrobats IFly Prodigy – at the finale on Wednesday night.

Thomas won the grand prize of $50,000 cash after performing her rendition of Alanis Morissette’s You Learn and Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours.

But even as she is trying to savour her win, she has been linked to yet another OMG judge.

This time, it’s the finale’s celebrity guest judge, local actor Tay Ping Hui.

Thomas is Tay’s brother-in-law’s niece.

Tay had mentioned their relationship on his blog entry a year ago when he had posted a video of Thomas performing Wonder Girls’ Nobody and praised her performance.

He told The New Paper: ‘The blog entry is still there. I didn’t delete it as I have nothing to hide.’

The latest revelation threatens to further taint Thomas’ win.

Why?

It also raises the question of why the show producers didn’t simply find another guest judge for the finale.

Ms Jennifer Gwee, MediaCorp TV’s managing executive producer of the Content Creation Division, told The New Paper that Tay was invited back to the finale as guest judge because of his knowledge and ability to comment on the performers’ technical skills.

She said: ‘Jill-Marie Thomas being a distant relative to Tay Ping Hui was not seen as an issue as the judges have always been objective and professional in discharging their roles and responsibilities in the show.

‘Throughout the series, we have not had any reason to doubt the credibility of any of our judges – all of whom are well-known and much respected in our entertainment industry.’

Other contestants: She deserved to win

She added: ‘As the judging format of the show is based 50 per cent on judges’ votes and 50 per cent viewers’ votes, ultimately, it is the quality of the contestants’ on-stage performance and the ability to garner strong public votes that eventually determined the overall winner.’

However, some viewers we spoke to felt that it was ‘unlucky’ that Thomas had both a ‘friend’ and a relative on the judging panel.

Said 52-year-old housewife Stacy Khoo: ‘I think that anyone who has been following the show will agree that Jill is an excellent singer and would have won no matter who the judge was.

‘It’s really an unlucky coincidence that she happens to know Irene Ang and is related by marriage to Tay Ping Hui.

‘For people who don’t watch the show, they will definitely think that there may have been bias in thejudging.’

Tay himself said that he was shocked when he first found out that Thomas was on the show, after he had agreed to be a guest judge on the fourth, fifth and sixth episodes of OMG.

The other guest judges included local artistes Jeanette Aw, Hossan Leong and US singer Debbie Gibson.

Said Tay, 41: ‘When I first saw Jill backstage at the recording of episode 4, I was taken aback. I immediately went to the producers and declared that I was related to her.

‘They asked me if I could be an objective judge and I said I am one. So they said they were fine with it.

‘I’m the sort of person to say it like it is, so for anyone to suggest that I was anything but objective in my judging on OMG, I find that very offensive.’

Tay added that he and Thomas aren’t close and he doesn’t meet her at family gatherings, not even during Chinese New Year.

Tay, who said that he was called back by the OMG producers to reprise his role in the finale, commented during the show that she should write and perform the National Day Parade song next year.

He judged the competition alongside resident judges Ang, Beatrice Chia-Richmond and The Flying Dutchman (Mark van Cuylenburg).

Said Tay: ‘Jill’s the undisputed winner. I would never give her low points when she’s put in a fantastic performance just to prove that I’m not biased.’

Judges’ ranking makes up half of the contestants’ results; public votes make up the other half.

Integrity

Chia-Richmond and The Flying Dutchman (FD) both said that they did not see any reason that Tay should not have been a guest judge in the finale even though he was related to Thomas.

Said FD, 54: ‘Just because he’s a relative doesn’t mean he can’t be an objective judge. People have got to give us credit for being a panel of adults.

‘Integrity. We all understand what it means.’

Added Chia-Richmond, 35: ‘Ping Hui is not afraid to ruffle feathers and he’s not going to give an opinion that he doesn’t mean. All I can say is lucky him, he has a talented relative.’

The judges’ other favourite to win was Luminiq Crew. The group had wowed them with its stylish dance routine that included breakdancing and beat-boxing.

Actress-comedienne Ang, 41, had said during the finale when asked to predict the winner that she would spilt the prize money and award it to both Thomas and Luminiq Crew.

The New Paper was unable to contact her as she left immediately after the finale and did not answer her mobile phone.

In our previous report, Ang, who owns Fly Entertainment, said that given the small entertainment industry in Singapore and her many years of experience in the business, she has met many local entertainers.

She added: ‘My events arm has engaged many entertainers (including Thomas) throughout the 10 years … As judge of OMG, I maintain my integrity by being fair and just to the best of my ability.’

Fly’s subsidiary event company, Running Into The Sun, is run by Chia-Richmond.

Thomas herself told The New Paper that she and Tay are ‘distantly related’ and she rarely sees him.

‘It’s a novelty when I do because he’s Tay Ping Hui, Channel 8 star, to me. I’m not close to him at all.

‘My performances in every episode are enough to show everyone what I can do. I deserve towin.’

Thomas said that Ang and Tay are professionals and ‘would never risk their reputations’ for her.

She clarified that she and Ang are friends on a ‘professional level’ in that she has been hired by Ang’s entertainment company to perform at events.

Thomas plans to give half of her prize money to her mother and use the rest to record an album, something she had wanted to do for a long time but didn’t have the finances for.

When told that Tay was related to Thomas, Luminiq Crew member Daniel Hakim Supani, 23, said on behalf of his group that Thomas won fair and square.

He said: ‘We’ve been through this journey with Jill from the start and we have seen the hard work she has put in so, no, there wasn’t bias in the judges’ decision.

‘She’s excellent at doing song mash-ups. That’s her special talent. We’re not disappointed that we didn’t win, just relieved that we can now spend some time with our girlfriends and friends.’

Samantha Mun, a 22-year-old member of CJ Crew, which the judges had ranked third after Thomas and Luminiq Crew, also agreed that the judging had beenfair.

She said: ‘Besides, 50 per cent of the votes are from the public. Jill wouldn’t have won if the public didn’t want her to win.’

 

The NewPaper

'Sexiest Man, Take Out The Garbage'

20 Nov

‘Sexiest man, take out the garbage’
Actor Ryan Reynolds jokes about how wife Scarlett Johansson may react to his new Sexiest Man Alive tag:
November 20, 2010
 
 

TO SAY life has been good for Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds is an understatement.

After all, the man is married to voluptuous actress Scarlett Johansson (who incidentally is GQ magazine’s 2010 Babe of the Year).

And he will hit the silver screen soon in the much anticipated The Green Lantern.

But it gets even better – Reynolds has now been voted Sexiest Man Alive by People Magazine.

It said the 34-year-old has ‘an eight-pack of abs that makes millions swoon’.

The actor said things are not going to change at home with Johansson just because of the title.

‘You just have to go with the flow,’ he told People.

‘This gives my family entry into teasing me for the rest of my life.’

Reynolds has been married to Johansson for two years.

‘Now it’s going to be, ‘Sexiest man, take out the garbage.’ That does sound better,’ Reynolds said.

‘The most difficult part is going to be organically working this title into a conversation with random strangers.’

He told the magazine that maintaining his physique takes hard work.

‘When I stop training, I turn into a skin-coloured whisper,’ he said.

Actor George Clooney told the magazine that he was pleased to hear about Reynolds’ title.

GOING WITH THE FLOW: Ryan Reynolds takes his new title in his stride while his wife, GQ magazine’s babe of the month Scarlett Johansson, may tease him for it.
PICTURES: AFP, REUTERS

‘I’m very happy for him,’ said Clooney who has been given the title twice.

He then added, in jest: ‘I’m also happy that it’s not Brad (Pitt).’

Actor Pitt has also been awarded it twice.

Others who made this year’s list include Mad Men star Jon Hamm, hip-hop impresario Drake, rocker Jon Bon Jovi, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and singer Justin Timberlake.

Reynolds is the 25th holder of the title, following in the footsteps of Australian actor Hugh Jackman, Ireland’s Pierce Brosnan, Scotsman Sean Connery, two-time winner Johnny Depp and many more, including actor Mel Gibson.

His wife will have her own bragging rights after she was named GQ’s Babe of the Year. She willalso grace the cover of the 15th annual Men of the Year issue, which hits newsstands on Tuesday.

‘At 26, she remains fresh-faced, curious, trying on new moods and outlets of expression as easily as she changes her hair colour,’ the magazine gushed about the actress.

Johansson, however, suggested she’s considerably less interesting.

She told GQ: ‘I’m still trying to figure out what to do when I’m not making movies. I just don’t do that many things.’

And if you think there surely can’t be anything to add to an already charmed life for Reynolds, there’s more good news to show you can’t have too much of a good thing.

Some sneak scenes from The Green Lantern were shown this week and it has been getting positive buzz.

Smouldering scene

One scene shows Reynolds and Blake Lively share a smouldering scene, reported the Daily Mail.

The scene, shown on US show Entertainment Tonight, shows Gossip Girl’s Lively, 23, and Reynolds facing off in an aircraft hangar.

The newly-brunette actress stares into his eyes as he unbuckles his belt and declares: ‘Let’s get these pants off and fly some planes.’

While viewers have yet to see the full trailer, which Entertainment Tonight plans to air later, this first glimpse certainly looks promising, reported the Daily Mail.
 

The NewPaper

THE BOYS (AND GIRL) WHO NEVER LIVED

19 Nov

FIRST FEATURE
THE BOYS (AND GIRL) WHO NEVER LIVED
About a decade ago, a nice little boy with glasses set out on a series of magical adventures that would charm the world.
November 19, 2010
 
 

Harry Potter’s massive, rabid fan base hurled their pocketbooks at the little wizard with abandon, snapping up books, movie tickets, posters, toys and silly striped scarves.

The titular character earned zillions for all involved, spawning a legion of me-too copycats who would try to ride Harry’s enchanted coat-tails to that same big-money fantasy land in the lemon-drop sky.

But alas, each new children’s book-turned-movie wannabe ended up suffering the same grizzly fate.

One by one they were rounded up, hobbled, and forced to trudge single-file into Harry Potter’s relentless death factory.

Shift supervisor JASON JOHNSON wades into the knee-deep blood and gristle to pick over their barely-recognisable remains.

FRANCHISE DECEASED
Eragon
ERAGON (2006)

WHAT WAS THE IDEA?

Based on a book by Christopher Paolini, it’s about an orphan (Ed Speleers) who discovers a dragon egg and learns he is the ‘chosen one’ to overthrow the evil King Galbatorix (John Malkovich).

WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED?

Well, it was based on a book written by a 15-year-old boy – and thus had a fundamental lack of depth and originality.

To compound problems, the film was directed by first-timer Stefen Fangmeier, a special- effects technician who had zero feel for character, plot or pacing.

It takes a rare anti-talent to get a bad performance out of Malkovich, and also to make dragons boring.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE HELPED?

Lovable and well-defined characters such as Harry Potter and Hermionie Granger.

GONE
Will Stanton
THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING (2007)

WHAT WAS THE IDEA?

As the last immortal warrior, a boy (Alexander Ludwig) is sent to find six hidden signs that will help him fight the forces of darkness.

WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED?

Much was changed and apparently lost in the story’s translation from print (the five-book series by Susan Cooper) to screen.

For a start, our hero is supposed to be English, not American.

Whatever the case, Ludwig was seriously lacking in both charisma and acting chops.

The supposed villain, played by skinny, snaggle-toothed Christopher Eccleston, is no Lord Voldemort.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE HELPED?

There should have been more respect for the source material, as with the Potter flicks.

DISCONTINUED
Lyra
THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007)

WHAT WAS THE IDEA?

An orphan girl (Dakota Blue Richards) heads north with an armoured polar bear to save her friends from the machinations of Magisterium, an authoritarian organisation.

WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED?

With fine performances from the likes of Nicole Kidman, and stunning special effects, the film was beautifully made but became the victim of its own depth and complexity.

Director Chris Weitz battled with movie studio New Line Cinema over certain controversial anti-Catholic themes (author Philip Pullman was an outspoken atheist), and the film ended up a muddle.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE HELPED?

Lighten the tone. Straightforward escapism – such as boy wizard vs evil wizard – trumps high-minded profundity every time.

REJECTED
Jared and Simon Grace
THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES (2008)

WHAT WAS THE IDEA?

Twin brothers (both played by Freddie Highmore) move to an old mansion where they discover a ‘field guide’ to the fairy world, plus a magic stone that allows them to see the supernatural creatures. Mayhem ensues.

WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED?

Considering its subject matter, the film came across as bland and pedestrian.

Highmore was too plain, the house was too dingy, the creatures were too flat.

Director Mark Waters, at his best in teen-oriented comedies such as Freaky Friday, and Mean Girls, lacked the necessary imagination for such an undertaking.

The film looks like a grandma made it.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE HELPED?

How about a sense of wonder, as we felt when we first visited Hogwarts with Harry?

ONE MORE CHANCE?
Percy Jackson
PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF (2010)

WHAT’S THE IDEA?

A seemingly ordinary boy (Logan Lerman) discovers he is a demigod, and after being trained at Camp Half-Blood, embarks on a mission to find Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

The film was directed by Chris Columbus, who helmed the first two Harry Potter films, so you’d think it would be in good hands.

The trouble is, Columbus seemed to be just going through the motions and treated the material with a sort of cursory indifference.

Campy humour ended up turning the film into a joke rather than a sensation.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE HELPED?

Columbus should have shown the same passion for Percy that he did for Potter. Or they should have simply found a fresher director.

 

The NewPaper

Domhnall Gleeson

19 Nov

FIRST FACE
Domhnall Gleeson
By Joanne Soh
November 19, 2010
 
 

WHO’S THAT GUY?

This 27-year-old redhead shares his surname with a credible Irish actor, and it’s no coincidence – he is Brendon Gleeson’s eldest son.

WHERE YOU’VE SEEN HIM

Probably nowhere, unless you’ve been living in Ireland or have caught the 2006 Broadway play Lieutenant Of Inishmore.

WHY HIM

Having a famous last name doesn’t make him a shoo-in for showbiz, but this young man has what it takes to make it big on his own.

He has already received a Tony Award nomination and has amassed a short but impressive line-up of films.

WHAT’S NEW

The writer-actor-director joins his father, who plays Hogwarts professor Mad-Eye Moody, in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 1 as Bill, the eldest son in the Weasley wizard clan, who marries French witch Fleur Delacour (Clemence Poesy). The father-and-son pair even share a scene together near the start.

He’ll also star in the Coen brothers’ upcoming Western remake True Grit, with headliners Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon.

Then there’s romantic drama Never Let Me Go, where he shares screen time with Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan.

He also recently directed his father and younger brother Brian in the short film Noreen.

QUOTED

ON SCORING A PART IN HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 1

‘It’s fantastic, but there are so many extras and it’s just so huge, you’re not in control of anything.’

ON FOLLOWING IN HIS FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS AS AN ACTOR

‘I was slightly hesitant about getting into acting. This was when I was a kid… trying to find your identity and see who you want to be in life. I did worry about being the ‘little Gleeson’.

ON HIS LOVE FOR THE STAGE AND FILMS

‘If you’re an Irish actor, you have to be able to do both because there just isn’t enough work to go around.

‘Surviving on theatre work alone would be very difficult, unless you get to a level… like my dad. He works in film all the time – he hasn’t done a play since 2000. You have to get good at both, and that’s what I’m trying to do.’
 

The NewPaper

SPELL CAST

19 Nov

FIRST FEATURE
SPELL CAST
After six films and seven books, you should know by now that The Boy Who Lived is an orphan.
November 19, 2010
 
 

Harry Potter, the titular hero from the Harry Potter franchise, is a sympathetic kid gifted with great power, and one whose life is always in mortal danger from Lord Voldemort, the ultimate evil in the wizarding world.

But Harry knows he’s not alone.

Over the years, he’s racked up an extended family who will always be there for him and stand alongside him in times of trouble.

Each passing film gives us deeper insight into our favourite characters and also introduces new figures in the ever-growing Harry Potter universe.

Potter-head JOANNE SOH brings you up to speed on who’s who in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 1 as we prepare for the journey’s end.

DOBBY & KREACHER

Kreacher (voiced by Simon McBurney), the cranky, foul-mouthed house elf – who served the Black household and was left to Harry upon the death of the latter’s godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) in Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix – detests Harry and his friends, but becomes an invaluable ally and helps Harry find a Horcrux.

Another house elf Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones) – whom Harry freed from the cruel Malfoy family in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets – continues to be Harry’s ever-devoted protector. Dobby comes to his rescue when Harry and company are captured by the Death Eaters, but makes a huge sacrifice in the process.

THE WEASLEYS

Never has a family whose association with Harry undergone so much tribulation.

We saw how their home got razed to the ground in Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince.

This time, the eldest Weasley kid Bill (Domhnall Gleeson) sees his wedding to Fleur Delacour (Clemence Poesy) – the French representative of Beauxbatons Academy Of Magic in the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire – interrupted by the Death Eaters.

Twins Fred and George (James and Oliver Phelps) also didn’t fare too well. Early into the film, George has his ear cursed off by Snape in battle. As for Fred, you’ll have to wait until Part 2 to find out his fate.

HARRY POTTER, RON WEASLEY AND HERMIONE GRANGER

The end is inching closer for the Chosen One.

Out of the comfort and safety of his beloved Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is now on the run from Voldemort and his lackeys as he seeks to destroy the Dark Lord’s secret to immortality – the Horcruxes.

His quest also leads him to the mysterious Deathly Hallows: An invincible Elder Wand, a Resurrecting Stone and an Invisibility Cloak.

Being Harry’s inseparable best pals, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) also find themselves in mortal danger and their friendship is put to the test.

XENOPHILIUS LOVEGOOD

He is the wacky publisher of The Quibbler, one of the very few pro-Harry news organisations, and father of Harry’s schoolmate Luna (Evanna Lynch).

Harry meets Mr Lovegood (Rhys Ifans) at Bill’s wedding and learns from him that the Deathly Hallows are more than just a wizarding child’s bedtime story.

RUFUS SCRIMGEOUR

The upper echelons in the Ministry Of Magic are definitely not faring too well in these dark times when evil roams freely.

The film kicks off with Scrimgeour (Bill Nighy), the new Minister of Magic who relays Dumbledore’s inheritance to Harry, Ron and Hermione.

However, he refuses to relinquish the Sword Of Gryffindor, citing it’s a vital historical artefact and a property of Hogwarts, thus it’s not Dumbledore’s to give.

BELLATRIX LESTRANGE

This bloodthirsty witch with the crazed eyes and wild hair calls herself the most loyal of all Voldemort’s servants.

Not only does she inadvertently reveal a vital clue to the location of another of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, she also tortures Hermione for information and fatally injures one of Harry’s key allies.

THE MALFOYS

The pompous and aristocratic Malfoys – father Lucius (Jason Isaacs), mother Narcissa (Helen McCrory) and son Draco (Tom Felton) – are now at the mercy of Voldemort, having deemed unfaithful as a result of Draco’s failed attempt to kill Dumbledore in Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince.

Fearing for Draco’s life, Lucius offers his mansion to serve as Voldemort’s headquarters and is also rendered powerless after being forced to give up his wand.

LORD VOLDEMORT

He Who Must Not Be Named (Ralph Fiennes) is no longer hiding in the shadows – he has even wrestled control of the Ministry Of Magic.

While his henchmen, the Death Eaters, search for his teen nemesis, Voldemort violently seeks to find a wand that won’t backfire on him when he next duels with Harry.

The wand in question is the hallowed Elder Wand, said to allow the owner to conquer death.

SEVERUS SNAPE

Snape (Alan Rickman), having killed Dumbledore, is now Voldemort’s right-hand man.

He is instrumental in the film’s opening attack on Harry, having snitched on how the members of the Order Of The Phoenix plan to move Harry from his uncle’s place in Privet Drive to the Weasleys’ home.

So did Dumbledore really put his trust in the wrong guy? Or is Snape a double agent who’s merely acting out Dumbledore’s plan?

ALBUS DUMBLEDORE

Though he was murdered in Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) continues to be the somewhat cryptic mentor to Harry and his friends, having left behind several precious items in his will for the trio: The Deluminator for Ron, a copy of The Tales Of Beetle The Bard for Hermione and a Snitch and the Sword Of Gryffindor for Harry.

Harry also finds out more about Dumbledore’s family history posthumously and learns that the wise wizard may not be so infallible after all.

 

The NewPaper

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-REMEMBERED POINTS

19 Nov

FIRST FEATURE
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-REMEMBERED POINTS
AS RECALLED BY MUGGLE AND HARRY POTTER NON-FAN JASON JOHNSON, art by KELVIN CHAN
By Jason Johnson
November 19, 2010
 
 

Harry Potter was an orphan with a lightning bolt scar. He lived with his fat relatives. Some owls came and invited him to study at Hogwarts, a school for wizards and witches.

At Hogwarts, Harry made friends with a very pretty girl named Hermione and a red-haired kid named Ron…or Rob? Though Hermione is way too good for him, they would later ‘snog’.

Harry had many adventures, such as…one time, he rode a dragon.

The headmaster at Hogwarts was Dumbledore, but the actor who played him ended up dying, so they replaced him with actor Ian McKellen. Word has it Dumbledore leads an ‘alternative lifestyle’.

Harry’s rival is Draco Malfoy, who is very snotty and has white hair. One time they had this magic wizard fight. Harry probably won.

Harry finally gets around to fighting his arch enemy, known as The-Man-With-No-Name. But actually he has a name, and it’s…Visigoth? Vodafone? Anyway, he doesn’t have a nose either, and he’s played by Ralph Fiennes.

Harry and his pals are always playing this game called Quidditch that makes even less sense than cricket. They fly around on brooms doing who-knows-what, and somehow we’re supposed to care.

Harry ends up dating an Asian girl, but then she disappears. He should really be going after Hermione, who is way too good for Rob.

After like 10 movies there were too many characters to keep track of. For certain there was Gary Oldman, Helena Bonham Carter and Robert Pattinson. Also, Emma Thompson was probably in it. Judi Dench too?

The Hogwarts gang used to be cute little kids, but they grow older. They still like playing Quidditch and fighting Voldemort, though. And snogging. Someone important died in the last movie. Or maybe not.
 

The NewPaper

PASSION FOR FASHION

19 Nov

FIRST BITES
PASSION FOR FASHION
November 19, 2010
 
 

Emma Watson’s post-Harry Potter path is definitely different from her co-stars’.

Besides being the only one to opt to further her studies, the English rose has chosen not to pursue acting for now.

Watson, who has modelled for British fashion giant Burberry, will be teaming up with Italian fashion designer Alberta Ferretti to help create a new line of clothing that’s expected to be available next year.

‘We are doing an organic clothing range. I can’t reveal the name yet…the collection is very classic 60s Jane Birkin,’ she told Us magazine.

Watson is also a champion for organic, ethical clothing after becoming the creative consultant for Fair Trade fashion brand PeopleTree.

She’s so passionate about her cause that shehas even offered to ‘work for anyone for free’ if they are prepared to make their clothing fair trade and organic.

BROADWAY BECKONS

Looks like Daniel Radcliffe has found his calling now that his wizarding days are officially over.

Broadway will be the Harry Potter star’s home for the next year or so, as he will be headlining the musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.

This remake of the 1960s musical will showcase Radcliffe’s singing and dancing skills as he tackles the leading role of JPierrepont Finch, a bow-tie-wearing window cleaner who works his way up the corporate ladder – thanks to a self-help book.

The musical is due to open in New York’s Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Mar 27 and will run until Nov 6.

RONNING WILD

Much like their JK Rowling characters, Radcliffe and Watson are off doing the more serious stuff, while Rupert Grint, just like Ron Weasley, is sticking with being the comic relief.

He has tied up with Deathly Hallows co-star Bill Nighy for Wild Target.

A comedy about assassins, it is a remake of the 90s French film Cible Emouvante.

The plot is that old chestnut – a ruthlessly efficient middle-aged assassin (Nighy) finds himself falling for one of his intended victims (Emily Blunt).

He spares her life, in the process somehowpicking up an unwanted apprentice, Tony (Grint).

The trio then go on the run from Nighy’s deeply unhappy employer (Rupert Everett, leaving no scenery unchewed).

From the trailer, it looks like Grint is still very much in Ron mode, confused and clumsy. He’s just swapped the wands for guns.

 

The NewPaper

Bad Boy Made Good

19 Nov

FIRST FEATURE
Bad boy made good
The Harry Potter movies aren’t just about Daniel Redcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. FiRST speaks to the rest of the young British actors playing their magical schoolmates
By Yeoh Wee Teck
November 19, 2010
 
 

After a decade of seeing Harry Potter actor Tom Felton on screen as bleached, pale and mean, it was slightly disappointing when he appeared before the international media looking decidedly normal.

When he walked into the room, there was no instant recognition.

And that’s the way the 23-year-old Briton – who plays teen baddie Draco Malfoy, the chief school nemesis of titular character Harry Potter – likes it.

He told FiRST: ‘I am left to my own devices a lot of the time. I think it’s the hair thing. I have some people do a double take though. But I do think a lot of people attach you with the hair.’

Felton had sandy, dark blonde hair when we met him at a roundtable interview held at posh hotel Claridge’s.

He looked at ease, even slightly sleepy.

Far from the haughty Slytherin brat who wears that slap-him smirk in the Harry Potter movies, Felton came across as polite, humble and alarmingly regular.

He added: ‘No one would dye their hair that blond because it’s a bit ‘Look at me, look at me’.

‘With blond hair, it’s a bit of a struggle to walk down Oxford Street, but without, no one bats an eyelid.’

But this is it, we reminded him – it’s the end of a decade-long (dye) job.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 1, the first half of the final movie, opened in cinemas here on Wednesday.

In it, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) set out on a perilous mission to track down and destroy the secret to Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) immortality and destruction, but there are dark forces in their midst that threaten to tear them apart.

Felton has been part of the Harry Potter cast since the first movie back in 2001. And it has been rewarding so far, garnering him a worldwide fan base.

But along with the fans come the crazies.

Felton said he receives ‘lots of great gifts from around the world’, but one, in particular, stood out.

‘A 45-year-old gentleman from America who legally changed his name to Lucius Malfoy (the name of Draco’s father) sent me the adoption papers to adopt me.

‘He wanted me to divorce my parents, change my name to Draco Malfoy legally and come live in his house, which he aptly named the Malfoy Mansion.

‘He sent us all the paperwork to prove that he was completely serious.

‘My mother kindly denied his request.’

For Felton, bidding goodbye to the Harry Potter series came twice.

‘For me, there were two final days.

‘There’s one when all of us kids were together on the set. Well, we’re no longer kids. And then, I had one more day of shooting with a second unit just by myself.

‘There was a lot of talk about the last day before we actually got there, so I thought it was rather hyped-up. And then it become an anti-climax.’

He continued: ‘It’s bizarre we’re just saying goodbye and talking about not filming together any more, but I do bump into the others left, right and centre and we’ll always be part of the HP team.’

Felton said he had wanted a memento from the set but was denied as security was very tight to ‘prevent people from taking things’.

He added: ‘They were conducting car searches on the way out to stop people from doing that. We thought of a great joke to tie up Daniel (Radcliffe) and shove him into the boot and try to steal him!’

Obviously that didn’t happen, but Felton managed to smuggle one important item – the silver serpent ring Draco wears.

Act on

Now that life as he has known for half his life will never be the same again, he says that he will miss it but is ready to move on in the acting industry.

Felton revealed: ‘I’ve just come back from Vancouver and I’ve finished filming Rise Of The Apes (the prequel to Planet Of The Apes).

‘I was very nervous and anxious but it turned out to be such a great experience it just confirms this is what I want to keep doing.’

Then there is his music.

Currently, Felton’s songs are available on iTunes. He has even written romantic ballads for his girlfriend, British stunt assistant Jade Olivia Gordon, who plays Draco’s future wife Astoria in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2.

He said: ‘I’ve started my own record label. A couple of investors came in and asked if I wanted to do anything with music.

‘I wasn’t really that keen to do anything with my own music but I think there are a lot of young musicians out there who haven’t had a chance.

‘The idea is to create a record label that helps the little people and the people who don’t have the resources to have their own distribution deal.

‘As of now, nothing is set in stone but we’re hoping to sign our own artist by the end of the year and possibly record some songs myself.’

Hogwarts graduating CLASS

To the die-hard Harry Potter fan, each and every character in the series is distinct and unique.

I must confess, I have not watched a Harry Potter film in its entirety. And after a 14-hour flight, everyone looked the same to me.

FiRST met supporting actors James and Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright and Evanna Lynch – who all play Hogwarts students and Harry’s allies – at a roundtable interview to talk about Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 1.

Their answers were mostly similar.

To summarise, they all want to continue to be in showbiz, they had no clue if their scenes would end up on the cutting room floor, and their favourite scene was the ‘wedding scene’ (a set piece revolving around the nuptials of characters Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour).

For sure, said the group, they will miss each other.

The most famous among the less famous is probably British redhead Bonnie Wright, 19, who plays Harry’s girlfriend and eventual wife Ginny Weasley.

On the last day of filming the franchise, she said: ‘It was one of those days you thought would never come, but when it did finally come around, it was a bizarre experience.

‘You want to enjoy the whole day but at the back of your mind, there is the sadness of finishing.

‘You don’t realise what you have until you’ve finished. But I think it’s when we watch (Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2, out next July) and the credits roll up that it will finally hit us that it’s the end.’

Giggly girl Lynch – who plays the loopy Luna Lovegood – had been at school on that last day of filming.

The 19-year-old Irish starlet said: ‘I was actually thinking I had homework to do, but everyone was saying ‘Last day, last day!’ – it didn’t hit me till the end of the day.’

Lynch decided she’d be positive about it.

‘I finished school and I finished Harry Potter. I was sad and I’ll miss it, but you got to look at it positively – it’s all over now, I’m not tied to anything.’

Except school, that is.

Lynch confessed she doesn’t know what’s next for her, except repeating her A-level exams.

She said: ‘I wasn’t very good (at my studies). But after that, I want to do more acting.

‘At the moment, I have braces, so I can’t do any films. I’ll have to wait till March when I remove them.’

Wright says she is currently going back to school too because ‘I love every part of learning’.

But give her the right movie role and she will be happy to move.

She said: ‘At this moment I’m talking about new things. And if I have to leave London to work, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.’

As for the ‘wedding scene’ which tops their list of best on-set memories, Englishman Oliver Phelps, 24 – who plays prankster George Weasley while his brother James plays Fred Weasley – said ‘it was fun to film’.

In fact, at that point of the interview, everyone suddenly became unwilling or unable to say more about the movie they were supposed to promote.

The only clue came from Wright, who revealed: ‘Friendship will be very tested in the first film.

‘Anything we’d never done, anything we’d never exploded, we got to do in the second film.

‘You see Hogwarts in a different way. It’s quite a roller coaster, this last one.’

 

The NewPaper

SORRY, No Live Music

18 Nov

Post-revamp Lunar bar has struck off its live band and ramped up the number of dancers
SORRY, no live music
By Germaine Lim
November 18, 2010
 
 

DANCERS dressed as popular Japanese manga character Sailor Moon gyrate and perform sultry moves on platforms as music and lights pulsate in the two-storey club.

When they are done, three singers take to the stage, one at a time, each singing a song accompanied by, no, not a live band, but a deejay.

The changes are part of Lunar Asian Fusion Bar’s ‘$1 million revamp’ completed a month ago, which promised to ‘push the Asian pop entertainment to a new level unmatched in Singapore’, according to its press release.

Turns out, live music, which was once its primary draw, has now taken a back seat. Lunar’s four-piece live band has been done away with, returning only on special occasions like public holidays and special club events.

Whereas there used to be six resident singers, there are now four.

Instead, sexy coyote dancers, once an accompaniment to singers, have stepped up to the limelight, taking a more prominent role with more solo performances now.

The number of dancers who – like those wearing Sailor Moon costumes – come from Thailand, Taiwan and China has also increased from 15 to 20. There are plans to employ Korean and Japanese dance troupes, B-boys and B-girls.

Selling sex appeal to the male patrons, who make up most of the crowd?

Mr Bernard Lim, chief executive of LifeBrandz, which owns three-year-old Lunar, denies it.

The 42-year-old told The New Paper: ‘We think the market is getting tired of the live band set. It is part of our strategy to stand out from the crowd.

‘Every performer has an equal profile now because of the new interactive programming. Yes, our dancers are sexy. But we also look for dancers who are more professional instead of those who just shake their bottoms.’

The line-up change is not all. Instead of singing to a live band which was the status quo for the last three years, Lunar’s four resident singers now croon to minus-one tracks which are played by four resident DJs.

And rather than performing in 45-minute sets like they used to, they now sing just one song before getting off stage and wait between 20 and 30 minutes before taking the mic again.

On a typical weekend night, there will be between six and eight performances by acts such as singers, dancers and even magicians interspersed throughout a three-hour show which kicks off at midnight.

Mr Lim explained: ‘The format of performing 45-minute sets has been done to death here. We want the club experience to be more interactive. ‘

Paying off

Lunar’s resident singers Alex Chia and Cola Song shrugged off their new part at Lunar.

Said Miss Song, 23: ‘We still work as hard, if not harder, to produce a good show. Compared to the past, we’re rehearsing a lot with the dancers for enhanced visual effect, now that there’s no live band.’

Mr Lim, who pointed out that it is the improved sound and lighting systems which cost the most, claimed Lunar’s new direction is paying off.

Although he declined to give figures, he said that sales figures have gone up at least 30 per cent since the facelift, and patronage has also increased.

Lunar’s marketing manager Gavin Choo said the club now receives between 3,500 and 4,000 customers every week.

But industry players said it remains to be seen if this new business strategy will succeed.

St James’ chief executive Dennis Foo, 57, for one, believes that constant modifications may not be the answer.

Marketing manager Serene Choo is not a fan of the new Lunar.

The 36-year-old, who has been a regular since its opening in 2007, said: ‘I prefer having a band, singers and dancers perform, and then having a DJ to break it up. The live element is what attracted me to the club in the first place.’

Mr Chia, one of the resident singers, refers to singing without a live band as ‘a nightmare’.

The candid 31-year-old, who’s been with Lunar since its inception, said: ‘I’m more of a rocker and definitely prefer singing to live music.

‘For some songs, we have to rearrange and record the melodies again so the DJ can play the tracks. Finding and remaking these tunes are a challenge because they don’t come cheap.

‘That said, there are also patrons who prefer this sort of uninterrupted momentum since music played by a live band and a DJ has different vibes. Without a live band, there’s no need to change stage lighting so there’s no break in the flow.’

To be sure, this concept is not new, but neither has it taken centrestage as it does at Lunar.

Shanghai Dolly, which is owned by St James Holdings, has done this since it began last November.

In addition to the standard shows with a live band, resident singer William Scorpion performs to minus-one tracks intermittently when the DJ spins and the band takes a break.

St James’ Mr Foo said: ‘Our live band is still our main draw. Singing to minus-one tracks between sets is just an added feature.’

There’s more talent and skill involved, compared to just singing to minus-one tracks, The Arena’s Mr Gin said.

He explained: ‘During live performances, band members and singers have to be intuitive to unexpected sound changes and adjust to them accordingly.’

When The New Paper visited Lunar last Friday, the Sailor Moon dancers were performing. They were followed by three singers, including Mr Chia, singing a tune each during a three-song set played by resident DJ Soulman.

The staccato-like performance durations got mixed reactions. Guest relations executive Elina Chong, 22, felt the intervals between acts were too long, while finance manager James Li, 30, thought they were just right.

‘It feels (as if) there’s more variety and the night is less stagnant,’ he said.

 

The NewPaper