Thursday, November 13, 2014

Movie Review: Interstellar

Had a chance to watch Christopher Nolan's latest blockbuster film: "Interstellar" during the opening day in Singapore threatres on 6th NOV last week.

And I have to say. Mind blown. I am just mind blown after watching it.

Spoilers Alert!

Firstly, it touches on love, kinship, relationships and these alone are already tearjerkers.
To show the bond between the family within a short span of time is not easy. I feel that the impact it has on audiences is much greater than "Inception". I left the cinema feeling stunned, loss of words, and felt pity for the main character!

How can anyone not be crying?
The main character Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey ) missed out on the prime years of his children's lives! It is heart wrenching to just think about it.

Secondly, space, universe, galaxy, time relativity. They are soooooo profound and a lot of research has to be done before you can wow the intelligent audience. Unlike the dream within a dream within a dream from Inception which can be totally fictitious (ok, a lot of thinking had to go into that), this had to be done properly in order not to receive backlash from nasa enthusiasts. Although I think it has quite a few loopholes that scientists probably would wanna bash them about but hey, it was already very well done.

This post is not gonna explain to you how the wormhole and the galaxy works, but there are numerous articles talking about it already. Here's one awesome explanation my friend sent to me:

Major spoilers here (I am gonna assume you all know the story already and I am skipping to the end):
The whole concept about Cooper falling into the "extra-dimensional "tesseract" where time appears as a spatial dimension and portals lead to Murphy's childhood bedroom at various times" is profound and I had to mull over it for a few days before I understood. (ok not really a few days, but you get the drift)

Thirdly, to make space travel real yet entertaining to audiences is so difficult to juggle. On one hand you want to be realistic and show that space is actually just a boring empty silent space but on the other hand, you don't want to bore the audience with too much real stuff, yet not make things as fake as Star Wars. (think flashing light sabres and over-the-top sounds effects) The wormhole alone is mind blowing already.

Don't understand the part about the equation and how the space shuttle at the end of the film came about? Time relativity was the key. I think Wikipedia did a good job explaining most of the plot so you can just get the info from there. The powerful thing about Christopher Nolan's films is that they spark debate. And people would still talk about and discuss the films many weeks and months later on. Some lighthearted and seemingly "satire" post explains about the whole plot of the film here.

But, best of all was that it had a clear ending.

There should be a trilogy. So that the film can develop the characters more, and educate the audience more about how the galaxy works and stuffs. But I figured that it would be too much for the normal audience to bear since these type of sci-fi movie ain't very popular. These type of films is just not suitable for trilogies. Just think of the other movie, "Gravity".

The movie sequence didn't quite cut it though. There were simply too much details to put into a 169min movie and it was simply going too slow at some point, but too fast at some other. There also weren't time for the other characters to develop. Technical jargons regarding the galaxy and time relativity were also huge topics that the audience needed time to digest. By the end of 169min, I was just mind blown yet mentally drained as well.

However, lucky the movie has great actors to prop it up. The child actor nailed it. Matthew was awesome as usual. At least there were redeeming factors to make up for the loss in the flow of the movie.

Overall heavy movie, but it was still enjoyable, evokes emotions, and gets quite exciting at times. The special effects and how the galaxy was portrayed were also beautiful. I would dare say it was one of the better movies this year. 

What say you?

Monday, November 03, 2014

Vietnam Timeless Charm: Hanoi 3D2N

Backdated post on our 3D2N company retreat on the 12-14 Sep 2014.

This year, we had the opportunity to go to Hanoi!

Day 1, Friday

We arrived in the afternoon and checked in to Golden Silk Boutique Hotel. Most of their buildings are narrow and close to each other. Wonder why? The lady from the hotel told us that in the olden days, houses which are wide have to pay higher taxes. So everyone made their houses narrow, but long. Kinda funny as to why the government then doesn't bother that the houses are long, but yea that was the way it was!

On the bus:

Then we went for a late lunch at this famous eatery selling Bun Cha. 
It is essentially BBQ pork in sweet and sour soup with bun noodles and herbs on the side.
 See the spring rolls at the bottom left of the picture? IT WAS AWESOME!

The pork here, is really really good! It definitely tastes better than it looks.

Basically u just have to mix the pork with this sweet and sour sauce with some chilli, add in some noodles and u can dig in. 

The way to eat most of their traditional food is simple, just mix them all together.

Bun Cha Address: No.1 Hang Manh Street

After that, we were sooooooo hot and sticky that we went into this small dessert shop for some waffles and ice cream.

But, firstly, there was a pungent toilet smell coming from behind where we were sitting, secondly, the food wasn't great. Just a place for us to rest and get some aircon coupled with foul smell.

Then we walked to St. Joseph's Cathedral and took some mandatory shots. 

It was an old chapel and had those kind of architecture which I liked. U know, the renaissance type of architecture? hahaha. The interior was nice too!

Then we went to look for a place to do leg massage. Went randomly into this place and then realised that their skills were really bad. 

No strength, and they were massaging the calf area instead of the bottom of the feet most of the time. Isn't that useless? I didn't feel satisfied after the massage so it is better to research better and go to those that people recommended so as not to feel unhappy like me!

Ok we had some drinks and pizza at a random cafe after that,

and went on a search for a supermarket in the area to buy the necessities, like Vietnamese coffee and snacks etc.
It was back to hotel after that. Heard from people that u shouldn't stay outside later than 11pm there as it may get unsafe. I don't know how true that was, but we certainly didn't want to take our chances!

Day 2, Saturday

Randomly, my ootd for the day: don't know what I was pinching in the pose, but whatever.

Day 2 was a whole day planned by the company. We had to take a 4h bus ride to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay! I was so happy and excited to go to this place because this is known as 小桂林. Contrary to popular belief, I prefer looking at breathtaking sceneries and nature rather than shopping in the cosmopolitan cities. I mean I do love shopping lah, but I like to explore beautiful places too.

Halfway through the journey, we stopped by at the pitstop for toilet breaks and to look at their local handicrafts.


A random postbox.


Can somebody tell me if this is real? This jar was real huge yknow!

Ok then finally, we reached the dock to get ready to go onboard the ferry to Ha Long Bay! Company gave us Vietnamese hats as souvenirs. hahahahahaa. All of us had to wear it for photo-taking later on in the day. But anyway, it was also a good hat to shield from some of the SUPER STRONG sun rays there.

There were tables and chairs in the ferry for everyone to sit down to have lunch. And in the first 10min of our ferry leaving the dock, it collided with another ferry! I have googled and heard horror stories of how overcrowded the area was with tourists and LOTS of ferries. Because our ferry was too near the other one, when we tried to stop and go in an another direction, the inertia of the our ferry was still going in the direction of the other ferry and thus it knocked into them. Not a huge collision but still we were shocked. The tour guide then told us it is fine not to worry. I was thinking, "hell yeah, obviously u say it's fine... u are making money out of all the tourists mah"

But anyway we were fine and the dishes came out one by one.

Just normal food. 

Spring rolls:


Normal prawns:

Chicken with mushroom:

I was expecting really fresh seafood... but, it was really just.. normal.

Then what awaited us was the awesome view. Like what I see on TV.


These pictures really don't do justice to how gorgeous the place looks in real life.

Only thing was. IT WAS TOO DAMN HOT!

But we still had to pretend it isn't and try to pose nicely in photos.

Then we reached a destination where we can go kayaking or bamboo boating.

Of course we chose the bamboo boat cos we don't want to get wet, and it was too hot and tiring for us to row boats ourselves anyway.

I googled (again!) that kayaking was dangerous in the Ha Long Bay area and thus didn't want to try my luck. Just google "Ha Long Bay accidents" and u will see a long list.

But actually, a lot of our colleagues tried the kayaking and it looks fine. 

I guess people who have had accidents went to those areas which are deeper into the sea and have less people?

Because this place we went to, was just TOOO DARN CROWDED.

When I say too darn crowded it is like everywhere our boat rows to, there were other boats in close proximity with us. Close to the point that we collide. Yep u heard me right, collide. But it is ok one the boats seem to be immune from the knocks.

Our life vests were old and some weren't in tip top condition but still ok to use. So should any emergency arise, u just pray hard for a friend to save u instead.

Our boat rower was a female who knew how to speak Mandarin; she helped us take a lot of pictures too. At a point in time she went into this area and helped us take 360 degrees all round so as to get all the view of the rocks in! 

All the pictures at Ha Long Bay were absolutely captured without any filters

We went through this tiny opening too:

After that, we went to Thien Cung Cave.

Nothing much really. I've been to Jeju's Manjanggul Cave before to see the longest Lava tube before so this wasn't really an eye opener.

 Except that some pictures were really quite nice:

Just felt so lame, that humans like to have such futile imagination and pretend that the rocks are such and such.

And yep, the shadow they got from the lights shining on the rocks and they say this is a lady washing clothes by the river. Or was it bathing by the river I can't remember. Cos then the tour guide pointed to another place opposite and said that there is a guy peeping at her. We were like, ermmmm. Lame.

Ok after that, it was the journey back to our hotel and by the time we reached it was way passed dinner time. We went to another famous eatery for Bun Bo Nam Bo.

This is just bun noodles with beef, lettuce and spring onion. The sauce was the thing that made this nice, in my opinion. The taste was surprisingly again, really good.

Bun Bo Nam Bo Address: 67 Hang Dieu

We went to the night market next and the other girls bought some souvenirs. I didn't really see anything I liked; tried to hunt for Samsung S5 covers but those there were mostly for iPhone or older models of Samsung...

Before going back to the hotel, we decided to try another of their famous food, Banh Mi,

Went back to our hotel room and tried 2, one from a cafe, one from the street vendor.

Cafe Banh Mi:

Street Banh Mi:

Verdict? Both were horrendous, though the cafe one was slight better. Slightly only. I don't know why it tastes so horrible when I have heard good things about it in SG, but next time if u want to try, go try a famous or highly recommended stall. The bread was hard, meat tasted raw and bland. Sauce was almost non-existent. Just bad.

Day 3, Sunday

Just showing the kind of hotel breakfast we had:

Nothing much really for the last day, we went hunting for this famous Pho Bo in the late morning only to find it having an extremely long queue. We did't have much time left so we just decided to head to Trung Nyuyen Cafe to have some cooling coffee, before some of the others went to buy KFC for lunch.

I decided to have my lunch in the airport and bought some other souvenirs with the leftover money I had in the streets first. IT WAS JUST HOT, HOT, HOT.

Since I didn't get to try the famous Pho, I decided to have Pho at the airport.

And, it was normal? Similar to SG ones. Perhaps I would go back to Vietnam one day to try a real famous Pho. Perhaps only, cos I can't stand the hot weather there.

Then it was a 3-4h flight and home sweet home. So thankful for our lovely airport with the super cold aircon. hahaha.