Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

mikendave

 

This is a R-rated 2016 American comedy that I doubt was screened in cinemas here. The plot is quite silly and none of the actors endearing.

Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) are brothers who need dates for their sister’s (Sugar Lyn Beard) Hawaiian wedding. They place an online ad but only ‘unsuitable’ girls respond to it. Instead, two friends Tatiana ( Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick) who were recently dismissed from their jobs as waitresses in a bar end up going to Hawaii with them.  What happens at the wedding is simply embarrassing, if it’s not considered a disaster.

I find the attempt at humour offensive, tasteless and even crude. I don’t understand why an extensive use of foul language is supposed to be funny. In fact, it makes the characters here appear rather ignorant, useless and dumb. The brothers’ and the girls’ antics are too wild and weird to be believable. Instead of being clever, I find them extremely annoying.

The relatively respectable effort of the background crew – in cinematography, editing, music, vocal training, choreography, set decoration, title design and animal training – are largely wasted. Hawaii is such a beautiful place, and a better script would do it justice. Most of the music (for example Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender, traditional Polynesian songs like Queen Lilihokalani’s Aloha Oe and many more) could have been used to greater effect. Even the awesome fireworks display from China is wasted here.

It’s puzzling why Anna Kendrick, and even Zac Efron, agreed to do this movie. I’ve watched them in other movies before and their acting chops are definitely better than what is seen in this movie. I can’t comment on the other actors because I’ve never even heard of them before, so even though I find Beard’s voice gratingly irritating, I have no idea if it is supposed to portray the character she plays.

The Expendables

expendables

 

I have never been a fan of Sylvester Stallone and I usually gives his movies a miss, unless I like the co-star/s. Hence I’ve never watched any installment of The Expendables and wasn’t even aware that the 2014 movie that I borrowed is the third; and it wasn’t so much because I liked the co-stars but more because I was really curious why a movie would involve the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas and even Jet Li.

In the end, I had to fast forward many times; otherwise, I would have fallen asleep for sure. I didn’t like the plot : Barney Ross (Stallone) goes after a war criminal, Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson). He recruits a young team but the young ones are not as good as the old ones although they win in the end. (That’s why the large cast.)

I find the conversations flat, and the visual effects not living up to expectation. But with the amount of work involved, the budget for the production (involving a very large number in the various departments – music, cinematography, design, art department, sound and special effects departments, stunts, location, transportation, engineers and various coordinators and supporting teams) must have been huge. I don’t know what the box office was like, but the effort of the hundreds of people involved behind the scenes should not have been in vain.

This Is Where I Won’t Be Alone

thisiswhere

 

I first heard about this book from bookfairies_singapore on Instagram. My immediate thought was that this is a line from Dick Lee’s most famous National Day song, so the book must contain stories about Singapore. I was very excited to find this book on the library shelf the very next day.

Inez Tan holds a Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the University of Michigan and is currently pursuing a MFA in poetry at the University of California. This Is Where I Won’t Be Alone is Tan’s debut short story collection, and I expect her next published book would be a collection of poems.

There are thirteen short stories in 159 pages in this collection, some of which were originally published in Literary Reviews, Journals and an anthology from 2015 to 2018. (Oyster, The Colony, Why, Grandfather, Talking to Strangers, The Princess and the Dragon and On The Moon). My favourite is the first story, entitled Edison and Curie, about a pair of twins who tries desperately to survive their education. It also explores the gulf between one who is considered brainy and the other unwanted, and a secret that’s brewing, leading to a shocking act and a severe mental breakdown.

Lee Kuan Yew Is Not Always The Answer reminds me of my teaching days (hilarious but true); Tragic Flaws is the most Singaporean story (about the immigration, the poverty, the hunger, the great food) and most nostalgic; Home vividly captures one of the favourite haunts of secondary school students inside McDonald’s at King Albert Park.

These and the other stories in the collection are written with a keen eye for details. I enjoy the wit in the precision and the honesty in the emotions. I am very impressed, and I hope to read more of her works soon.

The Man Who Wore His Wife’s Sarong

manwhowore

 

Published in 2017, The Man Who Wore His Wife’s Sarong: Stories of the Unsung, Unsaid and Uncelebrated in Singapore by Suchen Christine Lim, winner of Singapore Literature Prize,  is an updated and expanded version of  The Lies That Build A Marriage.

The stories speak to those who know what it is like to love at the margins of society dealing with issues we do not discuss with our family members. The four additional stories in this collection are:

Mei Kwei, I Love You – Cha-li is a specialist in unfaithfulness, a private eye who channels the Monkey God to peer into hearts seething with dark secrets and contradictions. Through her work for a client, she discovers a dark secret between her adoptive father and an estranged sister;

The Cleaner’s Son – a toilet cleaner is forced to borrow from a loan shark to save her HIV infected son and ends up being arrested for drug trafficking;

Gloria – a Filipino domestic helper with ten children is changed by the different lifestyle and commits a foolish crime;

Big Wall Newspaper – the implication of a 14-year-old boy’s punishment of public caning in school for putting up ‘The Towgay News” (which reports bits of news about school, like bean sprouts) on the school notice board without the Principal’s permission.

This is another enjoyable and easy-to-read book. I love the subtle plot twists, the interesting dialogues and the powerful writing.

I’m now looking out for Lim’s non-fiction book, Stories of the Chinese Overseas.

Mistress America

mistressamerica

 

Tracy (Lola Kirke) is a lonely college freshman in New York. Then she meets her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig), a resident of Times Square and an adventurous girl. Lola’s life is turned upside-down by Brooke’s mad schemes.

This is supposed to be a comedy, so I expected a lot of laughs or at least humorous dialogue with witty exchanges. But, no. It was pretentious, whiny and even mean-spirited. It was contrived and I would even say shallow.

The actresses are unconvincing – first, they look much older than college-age students. In many scenes, they look like they are in their thirties; they seem to look neutral all the time, even when they are supposed to show how they feel.  The characters are implausible. The dialogues are unbelievable. Everything else is mediocre and forgettable.

Even the way music is used here is disappointing. Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op 9 No 2 , Paul McCartney’s No More Lonely Nights and about a dozen others do not seem to evoke the atmosphere of the various scenes. They seem ‘out-of-sync’ and I wonder what kind of tactic this is.

 

No One Dies Alone

noonedies

 

A dedicated friend,

A loving companion,

She was at the bedside

Till the very end.

A listening ear,

A hand to hold;

A lot of sacrifice

Beyond the final hours.

The rapid deterioration

Made speech incoherent,

The weakening muscles

Made writing impossible.

Struggling to breathe her last

But comfortable and assured;

The soul floats to heaven

Resting in Eternal Life.

Morning Has Broken

morninghasbroken

 

Her favourite hymn,

A beautiful song;

Morning has broken,

Hers is the morning.

So independent

And tenacious;

So confident

And positive.

Even when wrecked with pain,

In spirit she struggled and fought

But the body gave up.

She never regained her strength.

Her Legacy

psalm

Quivering shoulders and silent tears,

Sniffling, sobbing, weeping and heart-wrenching cries

From family and friends gathered,

Are testament to how much she’s loved

A filial daughter, a loving sister and aunt,

A good friend, truthful and courageous,

An avid reader and meticulous writer

With an unfinished manuscript.

She thought she would still have time,

Not expecting the deterioration to be so swift;

Her memoir will be published posthumously:

It is her legacy to her beloved niece.

WHY?

adelaide

 

Why do words fail me

When I need them to express

The sadness that I feel?

How do I explain

That Rachmaninoff

Springs to my mind instead?

Especially his Second Piano Concerto

And the Eighteenth Variation

Of his Paganini Rhapsody.

How do I tell her

That I’ll miss her terribly,

That her absence is keenly felt?

We were supposed to watch

Lang Lang LIVE last November

But he was out of commission.

Will I feel her next to me

When I attend Lang Lang’s concert

The next time he comes by?

Bury What We Cannot Take

burywhat

 

Having enjoyed Kirsten Chen’s soy sauce for beginners recently, I was excited to find her sophomore effort, Bury What We Cannot Take has just been made available for loan at the nearby community library.

The story is set in Maoist China in the Summer of 1957. The day 9-year-old San San and her 12-year-old brother, Ah Liam, discover their grandma taking a hammer to a framed portrait of Chairman Mao is the day that changes their lives. To prove his loyalty to the party, Ah Liam reports his grandma to the authorities. But his belief in doing the right thing sets in motion a terrible chain of events.

Though the events take place in Drum Wave Islet, off the coast of Xiamen, and though both Fujian and Fuzhou (dialects which do not sound alike at all) are also mentioned, I am still puzzled the names of some characters are very Singapore-Hokkien sounding; like Tan, Ong, Bee Kim, Bee Lian and Seok Kim, yet others are Cantonese-sounding, like Mrs Chan. I thought names like Ah Zhai, San San, and even Gor are more appropriate. I know that in Hokkien, Sio Beh means Little Sister and I know what delicacies moa ji, bak kwa, popiah, kiam peng and mooncakes are, but would the majority of readers, especially those without the ethnic and cultural background, know their significance?

It is ironical that Bee Kim taught Ah Liam to “trust no one except your own family” and it is he who betrays her (and more than once, too). One lesson San San has learnt from her family’s betrayal is that the only person she could depend on was herself. Why is she the one left behind when the family could not procure enough exit permits to Hong Kong for the whole family? How would it feel to be truly indispensable? Being indispensable means being treasured above all else; it means not having to prove your worth. But what San San has to go through more than proves her worth.

There is a passage in the book that says: “We must live with our mistakes”. But what if the mistake is too grave to live with? What if the guilt worms its way deep into the flesh and grows more and more potent, devouring tissue and fat and skin, until one day, your whole self has been ravaged and nothing remains? And it does not seem to me that most of the characters who have made mistakes feel guilty at all.

Still, this has been a fairly captivating read. I couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out “what’s next” and then “what happens next”. It also explores gender roles, oppressive ideologies, sacrifice, what it takes to survive and what it means to be free. The only thing ‘lacking’ is a satisfactory ending, which I find too abrupt.