Friday, September 23, 2016

Dancing Crab, Louisiana Seafood @ Orchard Central

August has always been a busy month for me, celebrating birthdays with and for various friends and family members, thus things gets a little backlog and got spilled over to September, looking at the rate that I have the chance to write, I'm afraid that it will spill over to October too.  BUT I'm fine with it though, this means that I am spending time with family and friends instead of being cooped up at home or staying up late into the night to try to push out posts.  

Today I am penning down a special post, a post about friendship and of course good food.

The 4 of us have known each other since Day 1 in our secondary school, mucked around through 4 years of it in different classes but always hang out together during recess time till we eventually "flew" from the nest.  Even though one of them left us on 2nd year, I kept in touch with her still through those years.  Things got a little bit complicated & lost when we stepped into the Working World, suddenly every thing seems to be going faster than we can keep up.  We lost touch with each other for a decade (I think) after that and all thanks to the great old might Facebook, we managed to connect back again!

This time, we have all been promoted to Mothers with children of our own, though no longer the teenager girls but we still giggle like one, joke and poke fun at each other like the good old days whenever we are together .  However, its all serious talks when it's concerning our kids, no jokes only putting our hats together to think of a solution.  We shared with each other our woes & worries, our happiness & achievements (Yes, mothers no doubt but we still have dreams and goals!)

We rarely have a chance to meet up due to our individual work & family commitments, it's tough for us to meet up once a year but when we do, time zoom past too fast.  This August we made it a point to meet up coz we didn't managed to last year.  Since I rarely dine out in recent years, I leave it to the girls to decide and they are such a gem~ to choose a place that is near my office so that I do not need to do a mad dash after work to meet them.

Our all girls dinner was at Dancing Crabs, Louisiana Seafood @ Orchard Central, a place where we have never been to and only heard of. We took a chance because we wanted to try a different kind of cuisine plus how wrong can seafood be besides not being fresh and possibly getting food poisoned?  Ok, scratch that, I was being too morbid.  We wanted to check this place out coz we really love crabs and hate to cook them at home; all the hassle of and the cleaning up etc...

I didn't have time to check out their website to see their menu other than their location at Orchard Central, I have faith in the girls to choose good restaurants that serve good food.  The restaurant did not disappoint us, we had such good food & time that it earned itself a chance for a second visit in future.  
Dancing Crabs - serving a mix of robust, country-style Cajun seafood and the distinctive richness of Creole cuisine 
Are you ready to be enticed by me and Dancing Crabs?

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As this is the first time I am visiting, I am clueless on what to expect but judging from the photos on their website it's going to be quite a messy and interesting affair.  We know that to truly enjoy crabs we have to eat it with our hands, the joy of cracking open the hard pincer shell to get to the juicy meat has such satisfaction that no other food can match.  How can we over come this challenge without the risk of getting our clothes dirty?  Well, have no fear!  Dancing Crabs provides each patrons with a plastic apron as a measure to prevent stray sauce from landing onto your clothes.  And Nope! no plastic gloves will be provided and you must be kidding us to even THINK of that!

It is PERFECTLY okay to be Messy at the table and to Eat with Your Hands

Now, the standard utensils that are given to you will be the tools you need to get into the crabs for their meat.  So don't expect to see forks, spoons, knives or even plates on the table.  The food are either served in baskets or in aluminum pots.  As for the crabs, they are dumped onto the middle of table covered in clean plastic sheets for all to savour the goodness the communal way OR you can opt to have it served in the pot but where's the fun of it?

Oh, another thing, since we are using our hands to eat, this means we give each other our FULL attention!  Love it!  No hogging on the phone with eyes glued to it's screen.  This also mean that lesser photos were taken except for a quick snap before attacking the delish food.  And don't worry about your sauced covered fingers, there is a washing area within the restaurant with soap and paper hand towel to rid them off.

If you are expecting a restaurant that is brightly lighted because you think eating crabs needs loads of lights so that you can see what you are eating, then you are wrong!  The restaurant has spotlights all around and especially near or above the tables, so no worries that you will miss any tiny bits of that crab meat in between the shell. 

I like that they list out the different choices of food on the wall. so while you are waiting in line you can have an idea what they are serving and check it out on the menu once you are seated.

We made reservations days prior so we were seated the minute we arrived at the restaurant.  First time to the restaurant, we took out time to go through every single item on the menu.

We think freshly squeezed Lemonade @ SGD4.00 - SGD4.50 goes well with the seafood better than any soft drinks (too much gas too).  I love my Pink Thyme Lemonade with added soda, the bubbly feel and taste was refreshing~  This may be a small jar of drink but trust me, its enough to last the whole meal.  The food is so flavourable and juicy that we didn't find the need to drink the lemonade to wash down the food nor to get rid of an overwhelmed taste of saltiness or such.  The lemonade sort of refresh my taste buds and further enhances the goodness of the food.

Well, I'm not really into ordering starters but the girls wanted something to munch so we ordered Caesar Salad @ SGD10.  Our waiter (sorry, I did not manage to catch his name) came with our salad in a bag, shake it in front of us to mix everything up, and poured the salad into the pot.  When I say it is perfectly OKAY to use your hands, I really mean it, we were supposed to eat the greens with our hands too but we didn't feel comfy with that (still trying to get accustomed to the idea) so we requested for forks and plastic forks were given to us in a breeze.

Crunchy romaine lettuce, tender chicken breast and waffles cut into bite-sized mixed in the dressing, what's not to like about this salad?

The Beer Battered Mushroom @ SGD8 was value for money to me, the mushrooms are big and not teeny tiny type, plus they are crispy on the outside juicy on the inside.  Yupe, we too have to eat these with our hands, we did had our reservations initially, these are deep fried in hot oil, won't they burn our delicate fingers?  We approached the mushrooms with caution, no one screamed Ouch!, they were warm to touch thus its safe to pick them up with your fingers.  We would expect the mushrooms to be lukewarm too but surprisingly they were hot, not pipping hot but hot enough.

Clueless to which combo to order and the size, we seek our friendly waiter's help who suggested that we try their Dungeness Combo @ Seasonal Price that consist of 1 Dungeness Crab, 300g Prawns, 250g Clams, Potatoes, Corn, Sausages cooked in Spicy Miso Butter Sauce.  

The crab with the other ingredients and sauce was boiled in a bag and served to us with an option to have it on the table or in the pot.  Well, they say "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" so of course we want the food on the table!  The pile of food does not look much but trust me, the 4 of us were stuffed full!

Wait, ONE crab for 4 pax?  Is it enough?  Will every one get to eat the crab?

Don't worry!  One fat & juicy crab is definitely enough to go around, we each had our equal share of the crab.  And the crab!  Yes the crab, the Dungeness crab!  You can tell that it is fresh because the meat is sweet and easily get the meat off the shell.  

The prawns and clams are fresh too, in fact the whole bag is full of goodness that we literally finished every thing.  If we have some mantou or bun I would think we will have finished up the sauce too.  That night, this combo cost us SGD184!  We agreed that the price is reasonable because the food is heavenly good and excellent!  

There you have it! We spent two hours there unknowingly!  Chatting and talking, catching up with each other.  Great company with great food always sets the mood right for every one.  

Give Dancing Crab, Louisiana Seafood a try the next time you have a gathering with family or friends, it may be pricier than other restaurants but the dining experience is totally different.  From the reviews I read about on their excellent service by their staffs, I think it just gave us an extra reason to head down to the restaurants.  They have other branches besides Orchard Central, do check out the locations at their website.

And yes, we will definitely be back again to try their other food in the menu!

Dancing Crab,  Louisiana Seafood @ Orchard Central
Orchard Central #07-14/15
181 Orchard Road
Singapore 238896
Tel: +65 6509 1878
Fax: +65 6509 1879

Opening Hours : DAILY
Lunch: 11:00am - 3:00pm
Dinner: 5:00pm - 10:00pm
(Last order 9:30pm)

Reservations : Highly Recommended

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I had such a wonderful gastronomic time at Dancing Crabs that I wanted to share it with my family too!  Well, no trip to the restaurant but I try to create it by making Cajun Seafood in a Bag that weekend~ Same different though but who cares?  Still, the goodness of fresh seafood for every one.  I have more ingredients in it and the price I paid for them is close to SGD100.  No Dungeness crabs or Sri Lanka crabs, only 2 flower crabs because the crabs at the supermarket that day wasn't really fresh.

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This linky is for anything that is FOOD related. It could be a restaurant you visited recently, meals you cook with your family or for your family or recipes you wish to share with every one.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Community Chest Heartstrings Walk 2016

Our 2016 goal of participating as many family run and walk is successful, on 31 July 2016 we added Community Chest Heartstrings Walk 2016 to the list!  This is an inclusive family event that offers opportunities for people with and without disabilities to interact.  Since this is a charity walk, the SGD10 registration fee will be channeled to charities supported by Community Chest.

On that morning, more than 7000 people gathered to be part of this meaningful cause,  signifying our concerted effort in creating awareness for people with disabilities.  We see many groups of people from various organisation supporting the cause, kudos to them!   

Among the participants of the Walk were ambassadors from the on-going “See The True Me” campaign that was recently launched in early June to encourage greater awareness and appreciation of persons with disabilities. They were present with their families – Chen Wanyi, who has Down Syndrome; Ivan Gomez, who has autism and Ong Peng Kai, who has cerebral palsy. Additionally, at the forefront of the morning activities will be 18-year old Muhd Aqram bin Mohd Yazed, a young man with autism, who will be the co-emcee for the event.  

Our 4km Fun Walk was flagged off by Guest-of-Honour Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Special Guest, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

Yes, a photo in front of the Starting  Point is a MUST!

The Walk was held at Marina Bay, a venue that we are so familiar by now because we attended a few other similar events at the same area too but the atmosphere and feelings for each event is different depending on the nature of the event; fun run or walk, competitive or not.  This time as some of the participants have either visual or physical disabilities the pace was slow and steady.  I admire their persistent even though we have to walk up & down slops and flights of stairs, they did not give up nor complain, enjoying the walk like everyone.    I applause the volunteers or caregivers who are pushing those on wheelchairs.  It's really a challenge for them especially at some section there were no ramp/slopes for them to push the wheelchairs and they have to carry them down the stairs.  Perhaps the organizers can look into such issues when they choose the venue next year.

We really took our time to walk, finishing at about one hour later, we stopped frequently along the waterfront promenade to enjoy the beautiful view of Singapore River, we even took time to take  some fun photos with Merlion.  

Of course a photo at the Finishing Line is a MUST too!
There was a Family Carnival that featured experiential booths to help promote a better understanding of the challenges faced by people with disabilities on a daily basis but I did not have a chance to check it out though the kids did try their hands on a couple of games.  I was queuing up under the hot sun collecting our goodie bags.  There were just too many people to my liking, yes I don't do well in crowd especially when there are too much loud noises.  We left and headed off to have our early lunch at DC Comics Super Heros Cafe inside Marina Bay Sands.

Check out the photos of that day over at Community Chest Singapore.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mid Autumn 2016 @ Gardens by The Bay

September is another of my favourite month, besides the term break after the hectic mid year exam there is Mid Autumn festival~ where I can feast on moon cakes YUM!  That and also looking at the colorful lanterns of vibrant colors and various shapes & sizes.  I love the traditional lanterns made from glass paper as they hold a special place in my heart.  When I was a little girl, I was taken care by my grandparents, on every mid autumn festival my grandfather will buy 1 or 2 such lanterns for me.  As years goes by my collection grew, I remembered there was a phoenix, a dragon, a goldfish, a rabbit among them.  It was such a pretty sight when I lite them all up on the mid autumn day, while munching on the mooncakes.

These days I don't buy lanterns for DinoBoy as he does not appreciates them plus he only like those plastic inflatable lanterns with super duper noisy music that will create a ruckus in the house or anywhere!  However, when I told him that we will be seeing some giant lanterns at Gardens by the Bay's Mid Autumn Festival, he was all hyped up and eager to see them.  We visited the festival a day before the official launch and here's what we did and saw.

Giant Lantern Sets
Look at him smiling so happily in front of Chang'Er or 嫦娥, one of the giant lantern sets you will find all around the garden.  These giant lantern sets are based on stories of the moon in Asian folklore.  These magnificent lanterns with their vibrant colors looks pretty during day and night, some of the sets have elements that stretch across several parts of the gardens.  Do look out for the storyboard that accompanies the lantern sets, they tell the story of the folklore in case you are not familiar with them.

Colonnade of Lights
If you are at Supertree Grove, you cannot miss the brightly lite corridor with 4,000 lanterns of unique design and color.  We spotted a pokeball, Singapore flag, princesses and even the great poet Li Bai 李白! The kiddos recited his famous poem too!  This lanterns trail seems to be stretching and leading us to somewhere...

Food Street
And indeed, the Colonnade of Light led us to food and beverages!  Yes, there is Food Street to quench your thirst and satisfy your hunger, click here to check out some of the vendors that you may find over there.  For the meat lovers, you really have to check out the crackling roast pork over at Keith Crackling Roast.  That slab of roast pork looks so inviting and so delicious!

It was a warm and humid night, even though we are hungry, we did not feel like having such dry, fried food, not even the sugary canned drinks by a local famous brand is able to make us want to grab a can of icy cold drink to cool ourselves down.  We walked up and down the street twice, about to give up on the hope of getting anything to eat and drink when something caught our eyes, 3 big glass containers of lemonade!

We made a bee line to it and was greet by the friendly lady mending the Sofnade stall.

We each grabbed a cup of freshly squeezed, chilled mint lemonade, as we feel the lemonade flows down our throat we felt the cooling sensation going through our body.  Yes, that night was ultra warm and humid.

We decided to try their cake donut balls even though its fried but its bite size finger food (so mess is allowed thus the kiddos won't get chided off for being messy), pop into the mouth and chew.  It was a wise decision because the cake donut balls was soft and springy, full of cinnamon on every ball!  

If you watch the video below you will see that the Handsome Man squeeze the cinnamon sauce on every layer, not stingy on ingredients!  Plus point for them!

Garden Rhapsody
Don't forget about the signature light and sound show of the Gardens by the Bay while you are there~ The theme for this festival is "A Journey Through Asia", be prepared to sing along famous tunes such as 《夜来香》, 《甜蜜蜜》,'Bengawan Solo', 'Dayung Sampan', 'Sukiyaki', and 'Singapura, Oh Singapura' while you immerse yourself in the rich and diverse soundscapes.

The overall creative vision is led by award-winning Lighting Designer Adrian Tan, and one of Singapore's most sought-after music composer and arranger, Bang Wenfu, since 2015. Guest Lighting Designer for this edition is Taiwan-based Goh Boon Ann, formerly the Resident Lighting Designer of City Contemporary Dance Company and Guangdong Modern Dance Company.

Ron Arad's 720°
When we were looking for this event we strolled unknowingly into almost total darkness at the Meadows, we thought we have made a wrong turn but there were others walking/strolling around, we ventured further and saw this huge structure standing somewhat eerily in the middle of the field.  The shadows of the crowd added to the mystery and suspense too.

As I walk towards to structure, I was stumbling coz it was dark and there were no lights, but mostly coz my eyes were glued to the images on the structure, trying to make sense of what was being shown on it.  When I entered it I was awed, mesmerized by the images projected on the "wall" and trying to take in every thing.

This magnificent structure is Ron Arad's 720°, in its perfect circle that measures 18m in diameter, it's "wall" that is made up of 5,600 silicon cords; that's over 37 km in length and suspended from a height of 8m.  Ok so a full circle is 360°, why is this called "720°"?  This is because these silicon cords serve as an interactive video screen for both sides of the 360° stage, so its 720° in total.

The man who created 720° is Ron Arad, one of today’s most influential architects, artists and designers with a fearless approach to form, structure, technology and materials. His public art pieces include the “Vortext” in Seoul and the “Kesher Sculpture” at Tel Aviv University. Major retrospectives of his work were mounted at the Barbican Art Gallery in London (2010), MoMA in New York (2009) and the Pompidou Centre in Paris (2008).

While I enjoyed the 30mins performance it was definitely not suitable for young kids even though there were scenes that were light-hearted, cheerful and colorful.  However, most of it were of dark solemness atmosphere, the sadness, death, mourning, pain... the giant skeleton projected on the wall sent a handful kids crying or dashing out through the curtain in fear.

Apparently there are a few performances throughout the day, do check them out before heading down with the little ones.

Video Programme:
# COLOURS ARE ALWAYS BEAUTIFUL By Javier Mariscal / 2012 / Courtesy of the artist
# IN THE EYES OF THE ANIMAL By Marshmallow Laser Feast / 2016
# OFF GRID By Kutiman / 2016
# ON REFLECTION By Ori Gersht / 2014
# PARADE By Universal Everything / 2016
# PROLONGONE By Gabriel Klasmer and Shira Klasmer / 2011
# RH° By Jude and Jolyon Greenaway / 2011
# SORDID EARTH By Mat Collishaw / 2011
# WALKER By David Shrigley / 2011

Going out with two 10 year old and 1 Pokemon trainer it is quite difficult to visit all the programs of the festival. Ok I digress, YES! you can catch Pokemon in the garden too and judging from the numerous time I lost that particular adult with the 2 kids stuck to her, apparently there are MANY pokemons to catch.

Back to the main topic, besides the above programs do check out other activities such as cultural performances by various traditional art groups, crafts for the young and old, story telling for the kids too. Its Mid Autumn tomorrow, why not head down to Gardens by the Bay to immerse yourself with spectacular sights and sounds of the Mid Autumn Festival? Bring a mat, you don't need to prepare food as you can just grab some from the food street, sit down on the grass and enjoy the beautiful moon which is said to be in its biggest and roundest on this day.  Perhaps you can see Jade Rabbit and Chang'Er in the big round moon.

Sat, 3 Sep 2016 - Sun, 18 Sep 2016
7pm - 11pm
Gardens by the Bay
Free Admission

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Review : Kubo and The Two Strings (2016)

Photo Credit : United International Pictures Singapore

About the Movie
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Cast:  Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, and Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, with Rooney Mara, and Matthew McConaughey
Directed by: Travis Knight
Written by: Marc Haimes and Chris Butler
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance)

Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of Game of Thrones) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta.

Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen - a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara) to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family and fulfill his heroic destiny.

A little bit more about the story

It’s time to follow my own path. My name is Kubo, this is my story.

The story started in a dark stormy night with Sariatu in a small tiny boat trying to fight the gigantic waves to sail to safety, the wave breaks and destroyed the boat, Sariatu and baby Kubo was washed to shore.  They settled down and lived in a cave on top of a mountain, years gone by and Kubo has grown up.  Every day besides taking care of his catatonic mother he goes to the nearby village to tell stories with his magical origami and magical two-string shamisen (traditional Japanese three-stringed lute with a square body, played with a large plectrum).

Sariatu told Kubo about the family past, the reason they are running away form them, she has 3 strict rules for Kubo; always have his monkey charm with him, wear his dad Hanzo's robe and never to stay out after the sun goes down.  All these years he kept to these rules till one day, during the traditional Odon - a ceremony where family members communicate with deceased loved ones, he got caught up speaking to his deceased father and waiting for him to show himself and before he know it the sun went down.  Almost immediately dark mist and cloud formed, his twin evil aunts found him, its like when darkness falls Kubo lights up like a red beacon for all to see.

From that moment on, Kubo's misadventure begins, Sariatu met with misfortune while fighting off her evil sisters to protect Kubo but not before telling Kubo to search for Hazo's armour the Sword Unbreakable, the Breastplate Impenetrable and the Helmet Invulnerable; because these items will be able to protect Kubo from his grandfather.  She then used her last magic to send Kubo flying away from the danger.

In the next scene, Kubo was awaken by Monkey who was tasked by Sariatu to protect Kubo and accompany him on his journey to find the 3 artifacts.  They are later joined by a muted origami Samurai who is a mini version of Hanzo and a beetle-like hybrid who has no recollection of his past and identity but strongly believe that he is Hanzo's apprentice.

After many fights with monsters and gods they managed to gather the 2 pieces, still missing 1 piece which Kubo realized that it was all along under his nose all these years.  Returning to the now burnt down village, Kubo managed to gather the 3 piece and not a minute too soon too because his grandfather the Moon King found him.  After failing to persuade Kubo to return with him to the clan the Moon King was outraged and tried to kill Kubo.

Did he managed to succeed?  Well, I am not going to spoil the movie for you.

Our Review ( 4 out of 5 Stars)
Kubo and the Two Strings a 3D stop-motion (you know that kind of technology where the object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence) fantasy action adventure animated movie brought to you by animation studio LAIKA, the studio behind The Boxtrolls.  For those that have watched The Boxtrolls, you would recall that the movie is dark and dull, not as colorful and chirpy as what you would expect for children's animation movie.  It is the same with this movie, there are dark shadows, evil mist, scary looking characters which may not be suitable for younger kids.  There are also a few destruction/battles/fighting scene that may seems too intense and heavy for younger audience.  We did hear a few kids cried out in fear in the theater so be warned first.  Let's look at a couple of them that I personally think sets the scary meter to near 10.

The Sisters, evil no doubt but they send chills down my spine every time they appear on screen, no thanks to the kabuki masks they wear and their evilish voice (especially when they call Kubo's name) and laughter.  Before I realized that there were wearing masks I thought people Moon Clan has expressionless face with black hole as eye and red lips, that will be super creepy right!  They were sent to kill their sister for betraying the family and to "bring the other eye to Grandfather".

Photo Credit

The evil Moon King, in his true form, looks like an alien worm from outer space or as what DinoBoy said "He's a giant ugly looking centipede" (sorry but no offence Moon King).  There are fighting scenes between Moon King and Kubo which can be visually stressful and scary for young kids.  I mean, look at this face... ugly no doubt but with mean looking incisors (I wonder why he has rabbit teeth lookalike front teeth), growling and screaming while trying to tear Kubo apart, all these scenes against a dark eerie night, I am already frowning just by thinking back at the scene.

Photo Credit

If you are like me who have a soft spot for ancient Japan with its houses in wooden frame and translucent paper as windows, with Japanese wearing their kimono or yukata, with sword wielding Samurai warriors, you probably would like this movie already.

If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see no matter how unusual it may seem. If you look away, even for an instant, then our hero will surely perish.

I love the marvelous work by LAIKA for the movie has no lack of the magnificent scenery.  Indeed as Kubo said "If you must blink, do it now" or don't blink at all for fear of missing any of the fine detail.which can be seen at the fighting scenes, the fur on Monkey's, close up shots of the Moon King in his true form and even the facial expression on Kubo when he repeats mockingly after Monkey "I encourage you not to die". We were seated near the movie screen (like 4th row from the front) and I could see every details, my eyes were practically all over the huge screen trying to take in the gorgeous visionary production.    You must keep your eyes peeled to the screen when the duo sets off in the snowy weather at the start of their quest.  This is when Kubo starts to discover how strong his magic is and are having fun with it with the shamisen and the origami papers.

Besides being a story about a boy's adventure and eventually becoming a hero to the village, there are deeper meaning in the movie plus some unexpected twists throughout the story.  A little bit of spoiler here, the "Two Strings" have a different meaning than you think, let's see if you can catch it after you have watched the movie.

It speaks of a boy's yearning of his father whom he has not met but heard many wonderful brave stories about.  It's about self discovery, Kubo wanted so much to be all that his father was but he soon realized that he is not and have to fight his battles his won ways.  It also teaches the importance of forgiveness, family, love and compassion.

This is a great movie to go with your older kids like 9 yrs old and above, who are also not afraid of darkness and evilness.  However, putting the dark and evil part aside, there are many light-hearted moments too, like the bickering between Kubo and Beetle or the brief disgruntled exchange of words between Kubo and Monkey (much like how your defiant tween would talk back at you HA!).  There are some crude jokes too which adds a little bit humour even during tense moments.  

Our 10 year old enjoyed the movie tremendously and I am so awed by the animation so yes I enjoyed it too.  The movie opens today in all major theaters, go grab you tickets now coz I just know it will be a great hit and tickets for the "hot" timing will be sold out pretty fast. 

Disclaimer : We were invited by United International Pictures (Singapore) to the preview screening of Kubo and the Two Strings, no other compensation were received. All opinions about the movie are 100% ours after watching it. All photos and movie trailers are duly credited.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Review : The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

Well, aren't we real lucky in August 2016? First we won tickets to a wonderful musical then our certain higher divine power decided to move his magic fingers to get us invited to the movie premier of a funny, hilarious animated movie - The Secret Life of Pets

Genre: Comedy
Cast: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Steve Coogan and Albert Brooks
Directed by: Chris Renaud
Co-Director: Yarrow Cheney
Written by: Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch
Produced by: Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy

For their fifth fully-animated feature-film collaboration, Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures present The Secret Life of Pets, a comedy about the lives our pets lead after we leave for work or school each day.

Comedy superstars Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet and Kevin Hart make their animated feature-film debuts in The Secret Life of Pets, which co-stars Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Steve Coogan and Albert Brooks. Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri and his longtime collaborator Janet Healy produce the film directed by Chris Renaud (Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2), co-directed by Yarrow Cheney and written by Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch.

A little bit more about the story
We KNOW that our pets will be O-Kay being left alone and we also hoped that they will be able to entertain themselves while being "good and behave", that means not breaking anything or destroying half of the house by the time we return home at the end of the day.  As you can see from the official trailer above, its seems that pets are generally bored the minute their owners stepped out of the house, except for a couple who either hosts great parties for the neighbour pets or have totally different personality *cue the head banging poodle*.

Set in the heart of Manhattan apartment building, the story started off with the owners' usual waking up, washing up and saying "byes" to their pets and the minute the door clicks shut, things get a little bit exciting, at least from the pets' perspectives.  It looks like the story line is pretty predictable such as barking non stop at squirrels at the tree outside the window - Mel the pug, watching soup opera - Gidget  a fluffy cute white Pomeranian (???), gorging on food in the fridge - Chloe the cat or even sitting attentively at the door waiting for owner to return home - Max the terrier.  Then WHAM! things started to turn upside down when Max's owner Katie brought home Duke, a sloppy, massive mess of a mongrel who, according to Max has zero interpersonal skills.

There was resentment, hatred and rivalry between Max and Duke while they try to get each other out of the house and be the ONLY pet for Katie.  Things get rough in the dog park and both of them found themselves at the back of the animal catcher's van en route to the pound.  All seems to be lost when suddenly the van was attacked by a rabbit - Snowball, a pig - Tattoo and a chameleon.  From there things started spiral downwards, getting a little bit crazy and exciting for these 2 domesticated canine.

They were being led down into the sewage by Snowball; who once was a magician pet but couldn't get over being abandon by his owner and went a little bit cuckoo, there they were introduced to the pack of Flushed Pets (sort of like the secret society we used to know), who's main aim is to take retribution on humankind.

Once Snowball discovers Max and Duke have an owner they love and live in the lap of luxury, he unleashes his gang to pursue them throughout New York City.  Forced to tap into their primal instincts to survive, these unlikely new brothers must navigate the wilds of the urban jungle and make it home safe…all before Katie returns.

Now, every story has a hero and a damsel in distress, over here the hero or HEROINE is Gidget, guess who did she enlist the help to look for and rescue her beau Max the Terrier?

Ok, we shall not give out too much of the story, that will not be fun any more!

Our Review (4 out of 5 Stars)
The Secret Life of Pets is a PG rated animation movie so expect loads of laughter, bizarre scenes and heart racing action together with some cutesy pets (yes even the scaly crocodile is cute and a little bit clumsy).

The story line is simple but the unexpected turn of events made me pay attention to the whole story.  In a nutshell it's a story about a dog who resented a newcomer to the family and are getting into each other's throat.  During the process, they got into deep trouble and tried their very best to bail themselves out of the situation, hoping to return to the safety of their home before the owner comes home with dinner.  Yes, the whole 90+mins of events happened in less than a day.  Oh ya, don't forget their friends who weren't much help in rescuing them from the evil lot, instead got themselves in the deep shit too!

However, it was like a roller coaster ride throughout the movie.  There were some tense moments where Max & Duke were being chased by the baddie animals, I can imagine the kids gripping the theater seats and wishing these two get away from harm's way FAST!

And because there are so many characters (I counted 10) in this movie, be prepared for loads of chattering and noise from all of them.  It can get kinda overwhelming to try to catch up with their dialogue and the things that are happening at the same time at some scenes.

There weren't any tear jerking scenes unless you consider one where Duke went back to his old home to find out that his ex owner had passed away, but even that was not enough to cause some tears to flow, probably a sense of sadness with a hint of sourness in the nose.  This is ok with me because I really can't stand kids friendly movie that makes the kids cry, I'd rather I have an enjoyable movie date with my kids than having to deal with sobbing kids in the middle of the movie.

Snowball was a little psycho to my liking, with his croaked eye and evil laughter, his mission to save all pets from humankind is admirable though and looking at the size of his "secret clan" The Flushed Pets I'd say that he's a successful leader and revolutionist.  He probably will succeed in carrying out his plan if his brain is not so whacked up.

As simple as the story line may be but as with most of the kids animation movie, there are some positive things that we can discuss with the kids.  Such as tolerance and patience towards siblings and friends because every one's different inside.  Pets are for life and we shouldn't abandon them just cuz they grow too big, too old, too ugly, too troublesome etc.  They are our responsibilities and they only have us to provide for them and let them live a great life.

The Secret Life of Pets, what our animals do while we are away... well, definitely not getting themselves chased or killed by fellow animals *chuckles*

So this September school term break, make a date with your kids and have a wonderful time in the theater watching this movie, you won't be disappointed, I promise you.

Disclaimer : We were invited by United International Pictures (Singapore) to the preview screening of The Secret Life of Pets, no other compensation were received. All opinions about the movie are 100% ours after watching it. All photos and movie trailers in this post belongs to United International Pictures (Singapore) and Illumination.