Heist Stakes: 5 heist movies to set your adrenaline pumping

Heist Stakes

In anticipation of Logan Lucky, here are five other caper flicks to check out

By Jedd Jong

The heist comedy Logan Lucky has been called “redneck Ocean’s Eleven”, eschewing the glitz and glamour of high-end Las Vegas casinos for the dusty heartland that is home to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Steven Soderbergh, who directed the 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven, was drawn to Rebecca Blunt’s screenplay for Logan Lucky because it felt like the antithesis of the cool, slick Ocean’s movies.

Heist movies are a particularly captivating film genre: they can be light-hearted romps or intense affairs filled with double-crosses and clever gambits, and audiences enjoy seeing a complex robbery come together, then unfold – but not always according to plan. Sometimes it’s a team of scrappy underdogs reclaiming what they feel is rightfully theirs – like the Logan family in Logan Lucky. Other times, our heroes are seasoned career criminals who must outfox dogged law enforcement agents to pull off an intricate heist.

Before (or after, we won’t judge) you catch Logan Lucky in theatres, delve into the realm of fiendishly clever schemes, honour among thieves and best-laid plans going awry with these five heist movies.

#1: OCEAN’S ELEVEN

This 2001 remake of the 1960 film of the same name has arguably overtaken the original in terms of impact on pop culture at large. The 1960 film starred Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Angie Dickinson – the 2001 film matched that star power with George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts. Clooney’s Danny Ocean hatches a plan to simultaneously rob the Bellagio, The Mirage, and the MGM Grand casinos on the Vegas strip, assembling a team of highly-skilled experts to help him pull off the job. Johnny Depp was considered for the Linus Caldwell role, and Mark Wahlberg was briefly attached to the part, but Matt Damon clinched the role instead. Director Steven Soderbergh and the main cast would return for two sequels: Ocean’s Twelve in 2004, and Ocean’s Thirteen in 2007. Soderbergh said that after the death of Bernie Mac, who played Frank Catton, a fourth film would be unlikely. Instead, we can look forward to the all-female spinoff Ocean’s Eight, starring Sandra Bullock as Danny Ocean’s sister Debbie, alongside Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna, which will be released in June 2018.

#2: THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE

Based on the 1973 novel of the same name by Morton Freedood (under the pen name ‘John Godey’), The 1974 film The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is considered one of the best thrillers of the 70s. The film is about four hijackers who commandeer a New York City subway train, demanding $ 1 million to be delivered within the hour, and promising to kill one passenger per minute after the deadline expires. The leader of the hijackers, Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw) faces off against Transit Authority police lieutenant Zachary Garber (Walther Matthau) in a game of wits, with the lives of 17 passengers hanging in the balance. The Transit Authority of New York was reluctant to allow director Joseph Sargent to film in the actual subway, fearing that the movie would inspire train hijackings. The film was mostly filmed in the tunnels leading to the decommissioned IND Court St. station in Brooklyn, with the station doubling for Grand Central and 28th St. stations. The station is now home to the New York City Transit Museum. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three was remade as a TV movie in 1998 starring Edward James Olmos and Vincent D’Onofrio, then as a feature film in 2009 starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta.

#3: ENTRAPMENT

This 1999 thriller may not have the glowing critical acclaim enjoyed by the other entries on this list, but it is a sentimental favourite for this writer. In Entrapment, undercover investigator Vriginia “Gin” Baker (Catherine Zeta-Jones) becomes entangled with debonair gentleman art thief Robert “Mac” MacDougal (Sean Connery). Their partnership culminates in a plot to steal $8 billion from the International Clearance Bank located in the North Tower of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on New Year’s Eve of 1999-2000. Malaysian viewers baulked at a scene in which a shantytown is depicted a short distance from the Petronas Towers. The shantytown is in Malacca and was superimposed over a shot of the Towers. While certainly not the first to feature a thief weaving through a ‘laser tripwire’ security system, Entrapment was one of the films that codified the trope. The film was not-so-subtly marketed with trailers prominently featuring Zeta-Jones in a slinky catsuit seductively squirming between thin red threads, as Gin practices for the heist. The leading man and lady of the film are separated by a staggering 39 years, but Connery’s charm is almost enough for it not to seem icky. Almost.

#4: INCEPTION

Christopher Nolan’s film, often cited as a foremost example of the “thinking person’s blockbuster”, puts a sci-fi twist on the heist movie formula. The film’s protagonist Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a specialist in stealing not money or diamonds, but ideas, entering the minds of his marks as they dream. He is given the near-impossible task of planting an idea, or “incepting”, but Dom is haunted by the memory late wife Mal (Marion Cotillard), impairing his ability to pull off the mission. The cast also includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe and Michael Caine. By combining spectacular action set-pieces with heady themes that muse on the subjectivity of dreams and reality, all enacted by a stellar cast, Nolan created an indelible experience that filmgoers eagerly discussed, dissected and watched repeatedly. Inception’s mind-bending dreamscapes were brought to life with a mix of practical and digital effects, including a 30-metre-long rotating set used to film the signature Zero-G hotel hallway fight sequence. The film won four Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects, and was nominated for four more, including Best Picture.

#5: HEAT

With his 1995 crime thriller Heat, Michael Mann elevated the cops-and-robbers movie to a fine art. Like any good heist movie, there’s a cat-and-mouse element at the heart of Heat: professional thief Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) is relentlessly pursued by LAPD detective Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) of the robbery-homicide division. The film is praised for featuring some of the best performances from its leading men (before either fully settled on accepting roles in bad movies to pay the bills) and for its elaborate action sequences, including an epic street shootout and a climactic confrontation at the LAX airport. Heat also stars Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, William Fichtner and Natalie Portman.

The film was a remake of a television pilot that Michael Mann had made. The pilot wasn’t picked up to series, but aired as a TV movie called L.A. Takedown. This was in turn inspired by true events: the real-life Neil McCauley was a former inmate at Alcatraz who was eventually hunted down by Chicago police officer Chuck Adamson in 1964. Because of the violent, explicit depiction of the heists, Heat was cited as an inspiration for a spate of real-life armoured car robberies. The 1997 North Hollywood shootout, involving a faceoff between bank-robbers and the LAPD, was often compared to Heat. In the realm of film, Christopher Nolan took inspiration from Heat for The Dark Knight, also a sprawling crime epic.

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The Drawing of the Three: Animated Threequels

For inSing

The Drawing of the Three: animated threequels

Before Cars 3 zooms into theatres, we look at the good, the bad and the okay third instalments in animated film series

By Jedd Jong

Big-budget animated films take a lot of work, and often have longer production periods than live-action films. Even with the latest technological advances, it takes weeks to produce footage that is onscreen for mere seconds. Some concepts gestate and evolve over several years. In the early-2000s, we saw a trend of animated movies receiving low-budget direct-to-DVD sequels. There have also been theatrically-released animated films that did well enough to warrant not only a sequel that also opened in theatres, but a third instalment too.

While Pixar’s Cars films are not nearly as beloved as some of the studio’s other output, they have become a merchandising goldmine, even inspiring the Cars Land section at Disney’s California Adventure theme park. The first film got a lukewarm reception, with Cars 2 receiving a critical drubbing – its 39% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes is the lowest of any Pixar film. The consensus is that Cars 3 is a marked improvement on its immediate predecessor. The film opened in the United States in June, and has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 68%.

In some cases, animated film series show signs of running out of steam at movie #3, but in others, the third instalment breathes new life into the franchise. On the count of three, here is an overview of five threequels in animated film series.

#1: SHREK THE THIRD

2001’s Shrek established DreamWorks Animation as a worthy competitor to Disney and Pixar, even though DreamWorks had butted heads with its powerful rival before. Loosely based on the children’s book by William Stieg, Shrek was energetic, irreverent and contained a resonant message about looking past appearances, and how judging someone on their appearance alone can end up negatively defining them. 2004’s Shrek 2, which introduced the villainous Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming characters as well as sidekick Puss in Boots, was a critical and commercial hit. However, the wheels came off the Shrek train with the third instalment, which was released in 2007.

In Shrek The Third, Shrek (Mike Myers), Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) embark on a road trip in search of Shrek’s nephew-in-law. The would-be heir to the throne is none other than Arthur Pendragon, or “Artie” (Justin Timberlake), who is attending a magical boarding school. The film also starred Monty Python alum Eric Idle as the voice of Merlin, and featured Fiona (Cameron Diaz) leading a posse of princesses voiced by comediennes including Amy Poehler, Amy Sedaris, Maya Rudolph and Cheri Oteri. The film drew a tepid critical reaction, with critics pointed out that it seemed to be working overtime to prove its wit with a smorgasbord of pop culture references, at the expense of the heart displayed in its two predecessors. Shrek the Third was followed by Shrek Forever After in 2010, and a Puss in Boots spinoff in 2011. The property is being ‘resurrected’, but it is not known if the fifth film will be a complete reboot.

#2: ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS

Blue Sky Studios, which has produced animated films such as Rio, Epic and The Peanuts Movie, made its debut in 2002 with Ice Age. The animated film about an unlikely collection of critters who come across a human baby, who is the target of a Smilodon. Ice Age earned a positive critical reaction and was even nominated for a Best Animated Feature Film Oscar, which it lost to Spirited Away. The film’s break-out star, a sabre-toothed squirrel named Scrat, scuttled his way into the pop culture consciousness. Alas, it seemed that this first entry was destined to be the would-be franchise’s high point, as the four films that followed have received considerably icier receptions.

The first film was followed by 2006’s Ice Age: The Meltdown, with 2009’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs as the third entry in the series. In this film, Sid (John Leguizamo) the sloth is pursued by a Tyrannosaurus rex after he unwittingly “adopts” three eggs that hatch into new-born T. rexes. The dinosaurs have survived the extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period by hiding in a subterranean jungle. The film drew criticism for its tired story, but was praised for the quality of its animation. Disagreeing with the consensus was the late Roger Ebert, who awarded the film 3.5 out of 4 stars and called it the best in the series yet. Two more sequels, 2012’s Ice Age: Continental Drift and 2016’s Ice Age: Collision Course, have been produced.

#3: KUNG FU PANDA 3

DreamWorks Animation introduced the world to the loveable panda Po (Jack Black) in 2008’s Kung Fu Panda. Pretty much the ultimate promoted fanboy, Po goes from playing with action figures of the Furious Five to joining the team of warriors. The Kung Fu Panda films boast one of the glitziest casts DreamWorks, known for hiring A-list names as voice actors, has assembled. Black is joined by Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman and James Hong.  The three films have been consistently well-regarded by critics, with the first film receiving an 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the second scoring 81% and the third getting 87% as well. The series’ use of Chinese culture and traditions as inspiration for its anthropomorphic world and the energy and creativity with which its action scenes are animated have contributed to its praise. The first Kung Fu Panda film also performed well in China, leading to introspection from the Chinese film industry, whose domestically-produced animated films have often been criticised as being poor in quality. China responded with 2011’s Legend of a Rabbit, a.k.a. Legend of Kung Fu Rabbit, a knockoff of Kung Fu Panda.

In 2016’s Kung Fu Panda 3, Po is reunited with his long-lost father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston), who takes Po to a hidden village of pandas. In the meantime, the Furious Five are menaced by Kai (J.K. Simmons), a powerful spirit warrior who has defeated numerous Kung Fu masters and stolen their chi. Kai has Po, the Dragon Warrior himself, in his crosshairs. Po must train his ungainly kin into fighting-fit warriors to defeat Kai, as Shifu (Hoffman) announces his retirement, passing the mantle of teacher on to Po. Mads Mikkelsen was originally cast as Kai, but the character was rewritten and recast with Simmons. Rebel Wilson was also originally cast as Mei Mei, a panda with a crush on Po, but was replaced by Kate Hudson. Scheduling conflicts were cited as the reason, but Wilson has argued that tabloid articles accusing her of lying about her age and upbringing were what led to her being fired from the animated film. DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg has planned the series to have six chapters. A fourth movie is supposedly in development, but a release date and casting hasn’t been announced.

#4: DESPICABLE ME 3

The most recent entry on this list is Despicable Me 3, which was released in June of this year. The first Despicable Me film was released in 2010, and was the debut animated feature film from French studio Mac Guff. Mac Guff has since been acquired by Illumination Entertainment. Thanks largely to the success of the Despicable Me franchise, Illumination has become a major player in the animation scene. It was established as the family entertainment arm of NBCUniversal, and in 2016, NBCUniversal acquired DreamWorks Animation. The Shrek ‘resurrection’ we mentioned earlier? That, and the rest of DreamWorks’ upcoming animated movie slate, is being overseen by Illumination founder Chris Meledandri. The first Despicable Me film was about how the supervillain Gru (Steve Carell) eventually becomes the foster father to three young girls, but the show was stolen by Gru’s army of capsule-shaped assistants, the Minions. The Minions became a merchandising phenomenon, got a spin-off to themselves in 2015, and even have their own ride at Universal Studios theme parks.

Despicable Me 3 sees Gru meet his long-lost twin brother Dru (also Carell), while battling 80s-themed supervillain and washed-up child star Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). A subplot sees Gru’s wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) trying to adapt to her new role as foster mother to Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel). While the lively animation and larger-than-life action sequences were praised, the contrived plot device of a long-lost twin sibling was seen by some critics as a sign that the franchise was running out of ideas. By now, the Minions have become a lightning rod for scorn, with many viewers rolling their eyes at an extended subplot about the Minions mutinying against Gru and getting thrown in prison. Illumination also displayed signs of smugness, taking a hard swipe at Finding Nemo in the film’s opening minutes (Gru’s submersible slams into a clownfish, leaving its father distraught as only its son’s severed fin remains). The franchise shows no signs of slowing down, with Minions 2 set for a 2020 release date.

#5: TOY STORY 3

In 1995, Pixar Animation Studios created the first feature-length computer-generated animated film ever made: Toy Story. An industry game changer, Toy Story was an auspicious feature-length debut for a company that had been tinkering with high-tech animation techniques and showcasing them in short films for some time. Toy Story is about the secret life that the denizens of Andy’s toybox have when he is not around. Andy’s favourite toy has long been the cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks). Woody feels threatened when Andy brings home a new toy, the spacefaring Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), who believes he is an actual space ranger and refuses to accept that he is a toy. Woody attempts to win back Andy’s affections and must begrudgingly cooperate when Woody and Buzz find themselves endangered by Sid, Andy’s neighbour who takes delight in dismantling and reassembling toys.

The Toy Story films are critical darlings – the first film is one of the few in existence to have a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. 1999’s Toy Story 2, in which Woody gets stolen by a toy collector and has to be rescued by Buzz and the other toys, also earned a 100% Tomatometer rating. In 2010’s Toy Story 3, the toys confront an uncertain future as Andy, now grown up, prepares to leave for college. In addition to boasting the usual high-quality animation and fine vocal performances that Pixar had become known for, Toy Story 3’s deep meditation on loss, nostalgia and the process of growing up moved many viewers to tears. The film has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – the first negative review counted by the site coming, predictably enough, from infamously contrarian critic Armond White. Other critics gave the film glowing reviews, with the BBC’s Mark Kermode declaring the Toy Story series “the best movie trilogy of all time”. The film also topped filmmaker Quentin Tarantino’s list of favourite films of 2010. While many feel Toy Story 3 works as a beautifully bittersweet note on which to end the series, Toy Story 4 is set for a 2019 release and will be about Woody and Buzz’s search for the lost toy, Bo Peep.

Cars 3 opens in Singapore on 31 August 2017.

Bouncing Off the Walls – Spider-Man: Homecoming Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon Interviews

As published in Issue #89 of F*** Magazine  


Text:

BOUNCING OFF THE WALLS
Spider-Man: Homecoming stars Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon tell F*** how excited they are to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
By Jedd Jong

Imagine you’re an average American high-schooler. You get bitten by a radioactive spider, and gain superpowers. Pretty cool. Then, a billionaire tech innovator and founding member of the Avengers ropes you in to his team, has you join in a battle against an opposing faction of superheroes, and then drops you off back home. There’s no question: your life’s not going to be the same after that.

Similarly, Tom Holland’s life has changed forever, after he became the latest actor to don the red-and-blue tights as Spider-Man. Holland debuted as the wall-crawling hero in Captain America: Civil War, and is now headlining a movie of his own.

Photo by Michael Muller

Spider-Man: Homecoming sees Peter Parker/Spider-Man navigate life as a high-schooler, nursing a crush and fending off bullies, all while facing off against villains armed with cutting-edge tech. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), taking on the role of mentor to young Peter, cautions that the teenager shouldn’t bite off more than he can chew, but Peter wants nothing more than to join the Avengers. Tony has provided Peter with a fancy suit enhanced with gadgets, but threatens to take the suit back if Peter proves he cannot shoulder the responsibility of his powers. As Adrian Toomes/The Vulture (Michael Keaton) and his associates Phineas Mason/Tinkerer (Michael Chernus) and Herman Schultz/Shocker (Bokeem Woodbine) menace New York City with gadgets made from stolen alien technology, Peter quickly finds that his superhero exploits endanger those he cares about, including his beloved Aunty May (Marisa Tomei).

Spider-Man was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, first swinging through the pages of the Amazing Fantasy title in 1962. Spidey is arguably the most iconic Marvel character, right up there with Iron Man, Captain America and Wolverine. After reaching a deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment, which owns the film rights to the Spider-Man character, Marvel Studios could introduce the character into the MCU. This makes Holland’s version of Spider-Man the first film incarnation to officially exist in the same reality as other Marvel superheroes, giving the “Homecoming” of the title meaning beyond just referring to the American high school tradition of the homecoming dance. Taking the reins for Spider-Man: Homecoming is director Jon Watts, who caught the attention of Marvel Studios executives with his indie thriller Cop Car.

Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images for Sony Pictures

Holland and Jacob Batalon, who plays Peter’s best friend Ned Leeds, were in Singapore to promote the film – the Southeast Asian nation was the first stop on their month-long press tour in the lead-up to the movie’s release. On the closed-door red carpet at the ArtScience Museum in Marina Bay Sands, Holland and Batalon greeted cosplaying fans, were surprised by a torrent of confetti unleashed above them, and played with this writer’s customised Spider-Man action figure.

“I feel like we’ve flown to a better planet,” Holland enthused when asked about his first impressions of Singapore during the press conference. At the age of 21, he’s already built up a respectable résumé, leaping into showbiz as Billy Elliot in the eponymous West End musical. Holland has since appeared in films like The Impossible, How I Live Now, In the Heart of the Sea and The Lost City of Z. Holland has also been announced as playing young Nathan Drake in a film prequel to the Uncharted video game series, but that hasn’t been written in stone yet.

“Every day felt like a dream,” Batalon said of his experience on the Spider-Man: Homecoming set, adding wistfully “I hope to never wake up”. Batalon was attending a two-year program at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts when he was cast in the film, which is only his second onscreen credit, after the independent student horror film North Woods. In the comics, the character of Ned is Peter’s colleague at the Daily Bugle newspaper. Ned has been revised to become Peter’s best friend and confidant, who discovers that Peter is secretly Spider-Man and is thrilled to no end to learn this.

Joining the press conference via a video link, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige commented on the film’s young stars, saying “Tom and Jacob are very similar to Peter and Ned. They’re enthusiastic, they’re happy to be in this big movie. Peter and Ned are happy to be involved with the Avengers and see this world.” Feige likened Peter’s situation to “going back to your high school band after being overseas touring with the Beatles”. Feige made his case to producer and former Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group Amy Pascal, eventually coming to an arrangement. This would see Sony, still holding on to the Spider-Man rights, make, pay for, distribute and market the movie, but allow Marvel Studios to fold Spider-Man into the MCU.

F*** sat down for an interview with Holland and Batalon at the Marina Bay Sands hotel, who were thrilled with every moment of their overseas adventure. They had earlier posted the requisite selfie taken in the famous Infinity Pool of the hotel up on social media. Holland kicked off his shoes, picking at his toes during our chat, while Batalon rested his baseball cap on his knee. Holland was accompanied by his best friend Harrison Osterfield, whom Holland had gotten hired as a personal assistant.

Holland and Batalon discussed the relatability of the Spider-Man character, Holland’s ‘method acting’ preparation to play an American high school student, uncomfortable stunt rigging harnesses, working alongside the film’s female cast members, and sharing the screen with titans like Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr.

Tom, your father Dominic is a comedian, and he wrote a book called How Tom Holland Eclipsed His Dad. What was it like growing up with a comedian and writer as your dad, and what is it like being more famous than him and having him admit that?

HOLLAND: I’ve been very lucky that my dad is in this industry. It’s an industry that really is like no other. I’ve just been very lucky that I have someone in my family, especially my dad, who can give me advice on what to expect and how to deal with certain situations. The book Eclipsed is a really great, funny read. It’s a lot of fun because I learned a lot about my dad’s career that I didn’t know about, and I learned a lot of my career that maybe I’ve forgotten about, and it’s been a great reminder of what I’ve been through and what he’s been through.

Jacob, this is your first studio film. How did you win the role of Ned Leeds?

BATALON: Our director Jon Watts chose the right person for the job as opposed to the person who looks right for the job. Tom and I’s chemistry has been pretty apparent from day one. Because of that, because of the way we are, it’s a lot simpler to just go with that. I believe in being in the right place at the right time, and it all sort of came together.

What has your experience been working with your female co-stars, including Laura Harrier, Zendaya and Angourie Rice?

HOLLAND: What a lucky bunch of guys we are!

BATALON: They’re really, really great, talented and very beautiful.

HOLLAND: Fantastic, really talented, really, really interesting people and all very interesting and unique. Laura Harrier’s character Liz Allan is obviously Peter’s crush. He is infatuated by her and loves everything she stands for. Michelle, played by Zendaya, is sort of the weird, quirky friend within the friendship group. She’s a very interesting character, one that I’m very interested to see progress in the movies. Angourie Rice plays Betty Brant, Liz Allan’s best friend in the movie.

In the comics, she’s the secretary to J. Jonah Jameson.

HOLLAND: Yes! So hopefully, something can develop there, with Angourie. We were very lucky that we had such a strong female cast, and they were able to carry themselves and make it such a strong, female-oriented [project].

How did you gain the gymnastics expertise required to play Spider-Man?

HOLLAND: I started gymnastics when I was about 9, and I have been training quite solidly since then, with a few gaps here and there – injuries, stuff like that. I was doing a show in the West End that required me to have a very basic gymnastics background, and I continued with that after my training.

The hardest…the most uncomfortable stunt I had to do was the scene when Jacob finds out I’m Spider-Man, and I’m crawling on the ceiling. The closer you are to the ceiling, the more uncomfortable it is on your bum. It really stretches your bum. That was a very, very uncomfortable day.

The rig, right?

HOLLAND: Yeah, I was on a rig. I would go upside-down and they would go like “rolling!” Jacob would break the Death Star or something and they would say “hold!” and I would go “arrgh, no, please!”

One of the things that has endlessly fascinated me is the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. It was originally directed by Julie Taymor with Reeve Carney playing Spider-Man, and was plagued by lots of production problems but I think it’s gained a cult following. Are you familiar the show, and what are your thoughts on it?

HOLLAND: I think we should make Spider-Man [Homecoming] 2 a musical! I never got to see the show, I wish I had. From having to do my work on set where you can do it over and over again if you mess it up, I have huge respect for the guys who have to do it onstage live, that must’ve been incredibly hard work and they must have been at the top of their game. I heard it was a fantastic show and was really, really impressive.

Tom, in the comics we recently had All-New, All-Different Spider-Man by Dan Slott. In that story, Peter Parker became a very Tony Stark-like figure, in that he was a billionaire playboy, he had a fancy car, and he had offices in China. This has since been undone, and another reboot in the comics has brought him back to high school age. How important do you feel the underdog quality is to the character, and how does that manifest in your take on Peter Parker?

HOLLAND: I think part of the reason why Peter Parker and Spider-Man is such a successful and beloved character is because of how relatable he is. Everyone can relate to Peter Parker in some way, whether it’s struggling to do your chemistry homework, struggling with school, talking to a girl. Whereas it’s difficult to relate to Tony Stark because he’s a billionaire. His problems are “my Lamborghini didn’t show up on time”, whereas Peter Parker’s problems are “I don’t have enough money for the bus fare”. It’s nice for young people, especially young boys going through high school, being a superhero and going through the same problems they go through.

Photo by Michael Muller

Tom, you went undercover in an American high school to prepare for the role. What was that experience like?

HOLLAND: High schools in America are so different from high schools in England. I learned so much about my character and how he should act and behave in front of his teachers and his peers.

No uniforms?

HOLLAND: No uniforms. All of a sudden, I was going “oh no, what am I going to wear today?” In England, you just wear the same thing every single day.

Flash Thompson was kind of influenced by my trip to the New York high school. There are no [traditional] bullies there, no jocks, so the bully was the rich kid who made snide comments about how ugly your shoes are or something. Tony Revolori’s character was largely influenced off of my trip.

How did you perfect your American accent?

HOLLAND: I just practised and practised and practised. I spent time with Jacob. It’s like a muscle, your tongue is a muscle and it needs working out.

Jacob, in the comics Ned Leeds is white, and in the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series he was Korean and renamed ‘Ned Lee’. What are your thoughts on the representation of Asian-Americans in Hollywood, especially in these big comic book blockbusters?

BATALON: I think minorities in general don’t get the spotlight they deserve in the industry. The industry is very indicative of where society is going right now. Society is moving in a much more forward-thinking way, and that’s kind of how it is right now in the industry. Equal opportunities are coming a lot more for minorities right now. Being Asian specifically, it makes me proud to be part of that stepping-stone process. I think it’s a great thing to have all types of interpretations of a certain character.

HOLLAND: I think Jon Watts really did a good job with casting for who you are, not for where you’re from. It’s kind of the first step to making a difference, making a change, and I’m proud that our movie is a movie that’s doing that.

What are the similarities between you and your characters?

BATALON: I think if anything, Ned influenced my life in reality. Ned is super happy and bubbly all the time, and that’s made me happy and bubbly in real life.

HOLLAND: Very true [laughs].

I love Spider-Man. I genuinely feel like if Peter Parker [were] a real person, he’d be part of our friendship group and we’d be really good friends. He’s a very hardworking, nice kid, very down-to-earth, and I like to consider myself those things. I’m very lucky that I get to play a character whom I can see myself in, and I look forward to playing him for many years.

Tom, what was it like going toe-to-taloned-toe with Michael Keaton’s Vulture?

[Both Holland and Batalon laugh]

I’m very proud of that, by the way.

HOLLAND: That was really good, well done.

BATALON: Really, really clever.

HOLLAND: It was pretty intimidating, you know? He is a very formidable force on set, especially when he’s playing a character like the Vulture, because he didn’t hold anything back. He went for everything. The interesting thing about Keaton’s version of a supervillain is that if a regular kid can become a superhero, then a regular guy should be able to become a supervillain. That’s exactly what Keaton did. In the movie, he plays a regular guy who’s very unhappy with what’s happening in society, so he makes a stand for himself, instead of being a billionaire alien scientist.

If both of you could have one superpower each, what would it be?

HOLLAND: I would go with time travel. Because if you think about it, time travel is basically teleportation at the same time. You can pause time, travel to somewhere else, and then click ‘time play’ and it’s like you’ve just teleported. I’m very interested to see if dinosaurs really looked like what we think they look like. Who knows if they looked different?

BATALON: I would want the power to tell the future. Not just vague versions, but like…

HOLLAND: Then you’ll know when you’re going to die!

BATALON: I wouldn’t know my life. Like I would know exactly where you’re going to walk, what you’re going to wear. If I know what’s going to happen, I can do something about it.

Photo by Jedd Jong

Jacob, as Peter’s best friend, I guess you could be considered a sidekick. You’re also playing one of the greatest sidekicks of all time, Sancho Panza, in The True Don Quixote. What do you think makes for a memorable, scene-stealing sidekick?

BATALON: I think that being a sidekick is really understand that you’re not #1, and that’s okay. You’re willing to do the things for the main person. Loyalty and being a good person kind of plays into that whole factor. You really can’t be selfish, you have to just be there for your person. I watched a lot of Lord of the Rings, a lot of Harry Potter.

HOLLAND: He is my Samwise Gamgee. My Ron Weasley.

Your Chewbacca?

[Both laugh]

HOLLAND: Yes. Jacob is the scene-stealer of the movie. He really is.

BATALON: Okay, you’re going to make me cry in front of everyone right now [laughs]

Tom, we’ve seen you in The Impossible, which was a harrowing, emotional movie. Which would you say are more challenging: emotional scenes or action scenes?

HOLLAND: It’s different, because emotional scenes take place over a day, let’s say – there obviously are cases when it can take a lot longer – but an action sequence can go on for months and months and months. The work load for an action movie, there’s a lot more. When you make a movie like The Impossible, there’s a lot of action in it while maintaining a very high level of emotion. That’s one of the hardest movies I’ve ever made. But the unrelenting amount of action on Spider-Man was really, really difficult.

Tom, you screen tested with Robert Downey Jr. for Captain America: Civil War, and in this movie, Tony Stark is kind of a mentor to Peter Parker. How has the chemistry between the both of you developed?

HOLLAND: Robert and I really hit it off from day one. Even in my screen test, it was apparent that we had good chemistry and we would work well together. It’s something that’s just continued to develop over the last two years. I’m really, really honoured that he was willing to be in this movie and to help me out. It really feels like a homecoming. He is the godfather of the MCU, and the fact that he was in my movie, supporting me, was a really, really heartwarming thing for me.

It’s amazing and a little eerie that five years ago, when you said you would like to be the next Spider-Man after Andrew Garfield, it came true. Five years from now, what other roles would you like to undertake? James Bond?

HOLLAND: Yeah, James Bond! The thing is, I said that once. In that interview, I said I wanted to be Spider-Man, I only said it one time, and it came true. Now that I have to do all this press, everyone is like ‘do you want to be James Bond’? We may do Uncharted, we’ll have to wait and see.

How does Spider-Man: Homecoming balance being both a high school movie and a superhero movie set in the MCU?

HOLLAND: I think the nice thing about the film is that without the Spider-Man parts of the movie, you still have a really strong high school movie. It really has the best of both worlds: it’s a strong high school kids’ movie, while still maintaining that superhero, epic Avengers vibe. I think Jon Watts did a very good job with maintaining the synergy between the two genres.

Spider-Man: Homecoming opens in Singapore theatres on July 6 2017.

Generally Speaking: War Machine press conference/red carpet

For F*** Magazine

GENERALLY SPEAKING

Brad Pitt dons the fatigues for Netflix’s comedy-drama War Machine

[Tokyo Exclusive]

By Jedd Jong

The meteoric rise of online streaming giant Netflix has made several major cinema chains quake in their boots, and for this particular battle, Netflix has come armed with one of the biggest movie stars of the last 20 years: Brad Pitt, who stars in and produces War Machine. F*** was at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Tokyo for a press conference attended by Pitt, writer-director David Michôd and co-producers Jeremy Kleiner and Dede Gardner.

War Machine is based on the non-fiction book The Operators by the late Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings. Pitt plays General Glen McMahon, a thinly-veiled fictionalisation of real-life general Stanley McChrystal. A decorated soldier credited with the death of an Al Qaeda leader, McChrystal’s military career came to an end when disparaging comments he made about Vice President Joe Biden appeared in a Rolling Stone article.

Glen McMahon is characterised in the film as a blustering buffoon; Pitt visibly enjoying playing the over-the-top role. Pitt said that he and the filmmakers settled on certain traits, including the character’s awkward posture while running, by deciding what “just made [them] laugh the most.” Pitt observed that McMahon “portrays and sees himself as an emblem of greatness when actually he looks quite silly,” and that the “absurdity of the general” embodied the ultimate pointlessness of the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan.

Pitt was clad in a black jacket over a grey shirt and white trousers, seeming relaxed as he attempted to keep things light by cracking jokes. “I take full credit for the shorts,” Pitt quipped, referring to the shorts that McMahon wears while jogging. He dared all the men present to “start a new trend together” by mimicking the none-too-flattering look. The humorous comment didn’t draw much of a reaction from the Japanese press, and because of the need for questions and answers to be interpreted back and forth from English to Japanese and vice versa, there wasn’t much spontaneity or momentum to the proceedings.

Michôd said it was “terrifying” that the war in Afghanistan has been going on for 16 years. “I couldn’t work out why it has been going on for so long and how it is possible that people- who I would assume are quite smart and capable-are still pretending as though there is some kind of victory waiting for them just around the corner,” Michôd mused. After reading The Operators, it all clicked. “What I saw at the
centre of it was a character, a general who was kind of delusional because he was so removed,” Michôd revealed. In the book, Michôd saw how McChrystal’s ambition “removed him from the experiences of the troops on the ground, and from the civilian world that he was there to serve.” From Michôd’s point of view, the root of the protracted involvement of American and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan was “plain human delusion”.

“Quite honestly, without a delivery system like Netflix, this movie wouldn’t have been made,” Pitt said, praising Netflix for taking risks on challenging material. He praised Netflix and online delivery systems like it, saying that thanks to these platforms “there’s more content getting made, there’s more risk out there, there’s more films, there’s more stories being told, there’s more filmmakers getting shots.” All involved took a “big leap” for War Machine, which Pitt called a “big, bold move for Netflix, quite frankly.”

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Gardner echoed Pitt’s sentiments on Netflix, saying “I think everyone has similar intentions, but not everyone has the courage.” Gardner said she “could not have dreamed of a better partner” than Netflix, and that Plan B also had a positive experience working with Netflix for Bong Joon-ho’s upcoming film Okja. Gardner called the Netflix personnel “rock stars”, saying “we try and push boundaries in the stories we tell, and when you meet a company like Netflix who says ‘okay, we want to do that too,’ and they say ‘We have the money for it and we’ve got the manpower to support you’, it’s like a gift from on high.”

War Machine is available on Netflix from 26 May 2017

Read the full article in the upcoming issue of F*** Magazine

 

 

Sister Act the Musical Press Call

For F*** Magazine

SHE AIN’T HEAVY, SHE’S MY SISTER
F*** joins the congregation for the preview of Sister Act the musical
By Jedd Jong

The Asian tour of the musical Sister Act takes the soulful nuns to Singapore, following a U.S. national tour. F*** was at the MasterCard Theatres in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, for the press call on 8th May 2017, ahead of the show’s premiere on 9th May. We were treated to a performance of two numbers from the show, spoke with some of the cast and crew, and took a backstage tour to get a glimpse of the production’s inner workings.

Based on the beloved 1992 film of the same name, Sister Act chronicles the misadventures of Deloris Van Cartier (Dené Hill), a lounge singer who inadvertently witnesses her mobster boyfriend Curtis (Brandon Godfrey) commit a murder. For her protection, Deloris is placed in a convent, where she runs afoul of the Mother Superior (Rebecca Mason-Wygal), a stickler for tradition. Deloris winds up revitalising the convent with an innovative approach to religious music, befriending Sister Mary Patrick (Emma Brock) and helping the shy Sister Mary Robert (Sophie Kim) unearth her powerful potential as a vocalist. In the meantime, Curtis gets wind of her whereabouts, as police officer Eddie Souther (Will T. Travis) hunts Curtis down.

Sister Act’s libretto was written by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner with additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane; with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater. Menken and Slater have also collaborated on Disney’s animated films Tangled and Home on the Range, and the film-to-stage musicals The Little Mermaid, Leap of Faith and A Bronx Tale. Sister Act opened on London’s West End in 2009 and ran for just over a year, with a revised version of the show running on Broadway from 2011 to 2012. Sister Act was nominated for multiple Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, but won none.

While the plot remains largely faithful to that of the film, audiences should expect some differences. The film tooks place in the early 90s, which is when it was made, while the musical is set in 1970s Philadelphia. Music director Chris Babbage described it as a “musical snapshot of a moment in history,” stating that the score incorporates elements of “disco, a little bit of funk, a little bit of Motown”.

 

Unfortunately for fans attached to the covers of I Will Follow Him, My God (My Guy) and Oh Maria performed in the film, those are absent from the stage version. “Everything in this score is fresh,” said Babbage. He promised “intricate harmonies among the nuns as they learn to sing and as they have their big show-stopping numbers, 2, 3, 4-part harmonies,” adding that the lead role of Deloris is vocally challenging because the disco numbers require a large range. Babbage’s personal favourite number is Fabulous, Baby!, which establishes Deloris’s character at the top of the show, that he said “encapsulates Deloris and her energy,”

Sophie Kim, who plays Sister Mary Robert, is the first Asian actress to win the role in an English-language production of Sister Act. Kim is an established musical theatre star in South Korea, having performed in productions of West Side Story, Dreamgirls, Mamma Mia and Rent there. In 2010, she made the leap to Broadway, attending the New York Film Academy’s Musical Theatre Conservatory, working hard to overcome the language barrier. She went on to play Gigi in Miss Saigon and Tuptim in The King and I. Kim explained the affinity she has with Mary Robert, saying “this character is just like me in [the] U.S. I obeyed and followed whatever [anyone] told me to do. I always followed rules as well.” According to her, it is Mary Robert who “is going through the biggest change in this show.” Kim admires how Mary Robert becomes a “really brave, amazing woman who can stand up for what she believes,” saying its why she loves the role.

Brandon Godfrey plays Curtis Jackson, the mobster who goes from Deloris’ boyfriend to ruthlessly pursuing her after she sees him kill a man. The equivalent character in the film was named Vince LaRocca, and in the first version of the stage musical, was named Curtis Shank. Godfrey, alongside the actors playing Curtis’ goons, performed When I Find My Baby for the press.

When asked if it’s more fun to play the bad guy, Godfrey replied “Oh, absolutely.” Godfrey, who also played the abusive Mister in The Colour Purple, said he is often cast in villainous roles “because of [his] size”. While he might play a tough guy on stage, Godfrey has a sensitive side: his favourite part in the show is when Mother Superior finds a Bible under Deloris’ pillow, and softens her attitude towards the nightclub singer. “The whole time, Mother Superior has been angry at this girl, and then she realises ‘wow, we’ve done our job’, so that’s my favourite part,” Godfrey said.

Production stage manager Molly Goodwin took a group of journalists backstage for a glimpse behind the scenes. Goodwin was also the stage manager for the 2014-2015 US tour of the show, and thus knew Sister Act inside-out. Five shipping containers are required to transport the set pieces, costumes and other gear. Goodwin showed us where she’s stationed during each show: a console with monitors showing the front-of-house and the music director in the orchestra pit, with a cue sheet on a stand indicating when various lighting, sound and set cues are meant to occur in the show. Goodwin explained that she has more than 12 people, handling various aspects of the production, in her ear via a headset during each show.

Goodwin introduced us to a star of the show with no lines: the statue of Mother Mary. The figure stands just under five metres tall, and is covered by a tarp whenever the curtain is down. The statue has two sides: for most of the show, the side painted in normal colours is what the audience sees. Then for the finale, the statue is spun around to reveal a facade completely covered in mirrored tiles, like a disco ball. The statue is not the only one who gets a sparkly makeover: the cast don sequinned habits for the climactic number Spread the Love Around, which was performed at the press call. Goodwin described the mass backstage costume change as being choreographed like a dance.

When this writer asked Goodwin how she deals with the stress of stage managing a major production like Sister Act, Goodwin said that she feels in her element, and that sitting behind a desk and accounting would be really stressful for her. She said she sometimes has to remind her co-workers, “Guys, guys, we need to take the stress level down! We’re not cutting anybody open, we’re playing dress-up and make-believe!”, adding “we just have to keep a realistic perspective on everything.”

What’s the biggest thing audiences can look forward to from Sister Act? According to Nancy Evans, who plays Sister Mary Lazarus, it’s a good time. She hopes audiences will find themselves “having fun and feeling good about themselves as well as the show,” adding that “it’s a high-energy show that makes people laugh and cry, and stand up and sing at the end.”

Sister Act is presented by BASE Entertainment Asia and runs from 9th May to 28th May at the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands. Tickets are from $65 to $185 via Sistic and MBS.

Taste Paradise: Wonder Woman media launch

For F*** Magazine

TASTE PARADISE
F*** samples Wonder Woman-themed dishes at the DC Super Heroes Café
By Jedd Jong

After making her big screen debut in last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, superheroine Wonder Woman will finally get a movie of her own. Tying in to the highly-anticipated film, a homegrown marketing effort is rolling out Wonder Woman-centric accessories, apparel and food. F*** was at the DC Super Heroes Café in the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, for the product launch on 4th May.

Irwan Sukarman, creative director of JT Network, presented the Wonder Woman product line that will be hitting the shelves of DC Comics Super Heroes fashion and lifestyle stores in late May. JT Network owns the retail stores and the café, under license from Warner Bros. Consumer Products. Sukarman stated that the design principle boiled down to the three elements of “mythology, metal and strength,” to convey the “fierce grace” which is central to the Wonder Woman character. The items include tops for men, women and children, coasters, headphones, iPhone cases and bangles.

The product design competition WeDesign has partnered with DC Comics Super Heroes stores and Vendermac Distribution, theming this year’s contest to Wonder Woman. On 20th May 2017, the atrium at Bugis+ mall will host a design marathon where 120 designers will work on a given Wonder Woman-themed design challenge over a 4-hour period. The top five entries will win cash prizes, movie premiere tickets and limited edition collectibles. The winners will undergo the process of turning their designs into an actual product collection to be launched in the market. Head project manager Lee Kwan Ter unveiled Vendermac’s range of clutches, sling bags, keychains, pouches and laptop sleeves, which feature washed faux-leather and brushed metal details.

Chef Martin Woo explained his inspirations behind the special menu. Last year, the café also had tie-in dishes in the run-up to promote Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. The Wonder Woman menu card itself is shaped like the titular character’s shield. Chef Woo stated that the governing theme in devising the menu was that of empowerment and vitality, and he wanted to emphasise the organic nature of Wonder Woman’s home, the paradise island of Themyscira.

First up was Themyscira: My Salad Origin ($16.90), which comprises cabbage, purple cabbage, green papaya, beetroot, cherry tomato, baby red radish, sliced carrot, sesame seeds and sweet corn in a creamy sesame dressing. This was largely unremarkable, and not unlike a salad one could whip up at home. The beetroot, cut into star shapes, was the most unique element of the dish. Chef Woo explained that to remove the earthy, astringent taste of the vegetable, the beetroot was wrapped in wet dough and baked before being sliced into shapes.

Our second course was Paradise Island Mac and Cheese ($18.90), inspired by the scene in the trailer in which Wonder Woman dives off a cliff into the ocean. The baked pasta dish comprises Conchiglie Rigate (shell-shaped pasta), a five-cheese and mentaiko (smoked cod roe cream) sauce, with prawns, white button mushrooms, turkey bacon and garlic. While we counted only two prawns in the whole dish, it tasted pleasant enough. Macaroni and Cheese is a go-to comfort food for this reviewer, and he was satisfied.

Then came the Truth and Beauty mini burgers ($22). It’s not sure whether Truth was chicken and Beauty was beef, or the other way around. The beef burger had a filling of ribeye steak, shitake mushroom, purple Spanish onion and cabbage, while the chicken burger had a chicken patty stuffed with cheddar and smoked mozzarella cheese, an onion ring, pineapple salsa, peanut butter, cabbage and a sunny-side up quail egg. The yellow bun was coloured with turmeric, and the pink with beetroot juice. The chicken slider was similar to the Superman-themed burger from the Batman v Superman menu last year, which also used peanut butter. The chicken patty was standard, ho-hum stuff. The beef slider fared significantly better, with the ribeye steak slices being remarkably tender and tasty.

For dessert, we had the Shields of Truth pancakes ($15.90). Each pancake was emblazoned with the Wonder Woman ‘W’ insignia, and they were served with strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, strawberry ice cream and a whipped cream topping. The pancakes themselves were sufficiently moist and dense, but the ice cream seemed awfully cheap, as if it was from a supermarket home brand.

To complement the meal, we had the optimistically-named Wonder Woman’s Box Office Power drink ($10.90), which came in a glass styled to resemble the character’s armoured bustier. An ice-blended salted caramel popcorn-flavoured drink, this was a dessert in a cup – i.e., really sweet.

As a DC fan, this writer always enjoys visiting the café, but just as we’ve said in our previous reviews of their themed menus, the food is akin to what would find in a theme park – in terms of both quality and price. It was a surprise that no Greek-themed dishes were showcased, seeing as Wonder Woman draws heavy inspiration from Greek mythology, and that seemed like an obvious direction to go in.

Wonder Woman opens in cinemas on 1st June 2017.

Wonder Woman custom action figure is the writer’s own

Under the Hood: Ubisoft Assassin’s Creed Exhibit

For F*** Magazine

UNDER THE HOOD
F*** tours the Ubisoft Assassin’s Creed exhibit to learn what goes into making the games
By Jedd Jong

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As part of the Voilah! Singapore French Festival, game developer Ubisoft is holding an exhibition at the National Design Centre. F*** was at the media preview of the exhibit on the morning of Tuesday 18th April. Entitled The Art Behind the Game: The Ubisoft Experience, the exhibit showcases conceptual artwork, storyboards, sculptures and video segments to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the company’s blockbuster video game franchise, Assassin’s Creed.

Kobe Sek concept art

The exhibit takes up the atrium of the National Design Centre, and is focused predominantly on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, released in 2013 as the sixth major entry in the series. Ubisoft is headquartered in Rennes, France, with studios all over the world. Ubisoft Singapore was opened in 2008, and Black Flag is the Assassin’s Creed game which the local studio had the largest involvement in.  Set during the Golden Age of Piracy, Black Flag centres on Welsh pirate Edward Kenway’s adventures in the Caribbean. Edward gets drawn into the ongoing conflict between the Assassins and the Templars. Historical figures Laureano de Torres y Ayala, Bartholomew Roberts and Edward Teach a.k.a. Blackbeard feature in the plot.

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Walking in, the first thing that catches one’s eye is the life-sized statue of Connor a.k.a Ratonhnhaké:ton, the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and the grandson of Edward Kenway. As we looked around the exhibit, the finishing touches were being added in time for the official opening that evening. We were guided by Ubisoft Singapore Communications Manager Sylviane Bähr, and WY-TO Architects co-founder Yann Follain, who curated and designed the exhibit.

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Bähr explained that a collaboration with Voilah! had been in the works for some time. “This year, the theme of Voilah! is ‘imagination and innovation’, so we thought it [was] the right opportunity for us to show that we are a company and an industry that deals every day with imagination and innovation,” Bähr said. “It was a no-brainer for us that it was the right moment for us to do it, and we have a lot of content, as you can see,” she said, motioning to the artwork on display around her.

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Follain’s guiding principle in designing the exhibit was to create an interactive experience for visitors, as well as emphasising the amount of work that goes into designing a game. “The whole idea of the exhibition is to put the visitor in the shoes of somebody playing the game,” Follain said, pointing to the curved walls printed inside and out. “Discovering, going around, looking behind the wall – this is what inspired us when we designed the exhibition.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“The particularity of Assassin’s Creed is that it is heavily embedded into historical research and theoretical research,” Follain said, leading us to a wall with research photographs taken in Cuba pinned to it. A strip of storyboards ran from a pillar onto the floor, with a screen showcasing a comparison between the storyboards and the final cutscene as it appeared in the game’s demo. The Singapore studio oversaw the demo for E3, the annual massive game industry convention held in Los Angeles.

The section of the exhibit featuring character and costume design was based on the layout of a traditional portrait gallery. “We did some research on how a portrait gallery is done in the National Gallery, for instance,” Follain said. Gesturing to a schematic of the signature hidden blade, Follain remarked “the level of detail is fantastic, you can really feel how it works.” Follain added wistfully that he wished they could have had an actual functioning model of the blade on display as well.

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Several of the concept paintings on display are by Kobe Sek, the Associate Art Director at Ubisoft Singapore. Sek’s sketchbook was also on show – Bähr explained that Sek would draw in it during his commute on the MRT. Sek’s work has been included in Assassin’s Creed exhibitions around the world. Bähr highlighted a piece of concept art that Sek created for Assassin’s Creed Rogue, which she described as “iconic”.

Assassin's Creed Rogue Kobe Sek art

An often-overlooked part of video games, as it is in movies, is sound design. Ubisoft Singapore has its own Foley studio, where the sound effects for the game were created and recorded. Black Flag presented the team with the challenge of recording sounds underwater. At first, they tried waterproofing microphones with balloons and condoms, but that didn’t work, so proper hydrophones had to be acquired. Behind-the-scenes clips on the sound design for Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate will be screened as part of the exhibit.

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Another part of the exhibit features cross-section schematics of pirate ships and diagrams comparing the scale of the various vessels featured in the game. “The Singapore studio owned the majority of the ocean technology, the naval battles, and this is really what puts the Singapore studio on the map for Assassin’s Creed,” Bähr said. In addition to environments and ships, ocean life featured in the game. “We may change a little bit with the animals, because we want [them] to have a personality, or have a goal in the game,” Bähr said. The great white shark was designed by Teo Yong Jin, who made the shark somewhat bulkier than it would be in real life, because the design closer to reality made the shark appear too friendly.

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Finally, we were shown a wall celebrating the collaborative spirit and team synergy of the Ubisoft Singapore artists and technicians. The Singapore-based developers had decorated the wall with drawings and polaroid photos documenting their shared adventures working at the studio. “This tells a lot about our culture as a company. We always say ‘we’re serious about fun’,” Bähr said.

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When asked about Singapore’s evolution as a hub for both tech and the arts, Bähr said “I have been here for only four years, but I can tell you it has changed dramatically.” Bähr first visited Singapore ten years ago, and remarked that she thinks the government is “pushing in the right direction” by bringing in artists and promoting creativity in schools. “We are working with the schools, we are trying to push that ecosystem for art, for tech. Our developers really have that sense of sharing and mentoring the people here in Singapore,” Bähr said. “Honestly, from what I’ve seen, I’m amazed at where the country has come from, it’s really cool to see that all coming together…it’s like a mini Silicon Valley here in Asia.”

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Reassuring parents who have the misconception that video games are a frivolous enterprise, Bähr stated “you can have a serious career if you’re joining this industry. We’re using techniques that are being used in other industries, we’re using all the best practices and people from other industries actually end up with us. We learn all the time, because we are at the edge of technology. The industry is super-competitive, so we’re always on our toes.”

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Ubisoft: The Art Behind the Game runs from 18 April to 25 May at the National Design Centre. Admission is free, and admission for workshops and panels is free upon registration. Workshops include a speed drawing session by Kobe Sek and Mohamed Gambouz and a talk about the technology behind water simulation and waves by Paul Fu. Please visit https://goo.gl/3Nydjk to register for the workshops.

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Daughter of the Dragon: Jessica Henwick Interview

THE DAUGHTER OF THE DRAGON
Jessica Henwick tells F*** about playing Iron Fist’s kickass ally, Colleen Wing
By Jedd Jong

While most reviews for Marvel/Netflix’s Iron Fist series have been negative, it seems that critics agree that Jessica Henwick’s performance as Colleen Wing is an outstanding aspect of the show. The 24-year-old actress is best known for her supporting role as Nymeria Sand in Game of Thrones, and had a cameo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as X-Wing pilot Jessika Pava.

Colleen is a martial arts instructor who comes across the show’s protagonist Danny Rand (Finn Jones) while he is practicing martial arts in the park. At first, she wants nothing to do with this strange homeless man, but as she gradually finds out more about Danny’s background, including his training in a mystical monastery called K’un Lun, she becomes sympathetic to his cause. While there is still mistrust between Danny and Colleen, Colleen comes to fight alongside Danny and respect his place as the Iron Fist of legend.

Speaking exclusively to F*** over the phone from London in December 2016, Henwick spoke about the nature of Colleen and Danny’s relationship, filming the fight scenes, her impressions of the late Carrie Fisher and what she thinks about Colleen not having an official action figure of her own just yet.

What can you tell us about Colleen Wing and the place she occupies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

JESSICA HENWICK: Colleen Wing runs a dojo in New York, in Chinatown. She’s a very cool character in that she’s travelled a lot of the world and has settled down here in New York. She’s struggling to make ends meet, she’s got money problems, but she’s just about managing. She’s very independent, very much a lone wolf and doesn’t want to get help from anyone. She just about manages on her own and she comes across Danny. He comes in and ruins her life [laughs].

What is the nature of Colleen and Danny’s relationship?

It’s a very interesting relationship in that, if you’ve seen the trailer, people think he’s kind of crazy. He’s a person who’s been missing for however many years and he’s been in this mystical place called K’un Lun being trained by monks. She thinks there’s more to him than just a lie; her gut tells her that he’s telling the truth.

Would you say that Colleen and Danny are kindred spirits in a sense?

Are Colleen and Danny kindred spirits? In some ways, you’ll have to wait and see.

The partnership between Colleen Wing and Misty Knight is something fans have been looking forward to for some time. Will we see the seeds of that being sown in this first season of Iron Fist?

I think Misty’s not in Iron Fist, but you certainly ways in which she could be introduced and I would love to see it.

We read that you actively pursued the role. What was the audition process like?

I was one of the very first actresses to audition for the role and we did some screen tests with me and Finn. It was fun, I’ve known Finn for a couple of years, he’s very easy to work with. I got on a plane, and when I landed, I got a phone call from the head of Marvel who said “welcome to Marvel”.

Having played Jess Pava in The Force Awakens and Colleen Wing in Iron Fist, you’ve now joined an elite club of actors who have been in both Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Samuel L. Jackson, Natalie Portman, Mads Mikkelsen and Andy Serkis. How does it feel to have accomplished this?

It’s very flattering and I’ve been very lucky [laughs].

 

What has the physical training been like, and what action sequences can we look forward to seeing Colleen Wing in?

There are really cool action sequences because she’s in a fight club. I get to wear the tracksuit, like she wears in the comics, the white suit. She’s in very cool fights, and I have another fight with a woman that’s probably my favourite fight in the show.

How would you compare working on a HBO show like Game of Thrones to working on a show for Netflix like Iron Fist?

Game of Thrones is quite unique in that it has such a huge budget that I feel that I’m working on a feature film. Netflix is interesting in that it’s digital media, it’s not mainstream television and it’s a very unique project.

Carrie Fisher passed away recently…

Gosh, I just heard about that, I know…

Did you have any interaction with her while working on or promoting The Force Awakens and what can you tell us about her if so?

I did meet Carrie Fisher. I only worked on Star Wars for about two weeks. I met her very, very briefly. I didn’t have too many interactions with her when we were on set, even though we were both on set, she kind of kept to herself. She’s a very gregarious, bubbly, wild personality, I would say. She was the life of the party. I regret that I had a very, very short time with her. It’s been a hard year, we’ve lot of actors and musicians. I think Carrie’s touched a lot of people around the world and a lot of people will remember her fondly.

Who are some actors whom you admire or look up to?

I used to be obsessed with the film The Shawshank Redemption when I was younger. I love Morgan Freeman, specifically Morgan Freeman’s voice. Back when I used to be on Facebook, I used to be a member of a club that was just devoted to Morgan Freeman’s voice. I love younger actors like Saoirse Ronan, she’s great. I watched Arrival recently, and I thought Amy Adams did a great job.

That’s a phenomenal film.

It really is.

What are some of the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large that you’ve gravitated to?

I love Iron Man, specifically Robert Downey Jr. Who else in the Marvel universe? Hmm…oh, there’s this new role in Guardians of the Galaxy [Vol. 2], Mantis, played by Pom Klementieff. Mantis is such a cool role from the comic book and I’m excited to see what she does with it, I think she’ll knock it out of the park.

Finally, an official Colleen Wing action figure doesn’t yet exist. Can we start a campaign for Hasbro to get right on that?

Yes please! That would be so much fun. I would love to see that. I think there’s been a Nymeria Sand bobblehead from Game of Thrones and obviously Jess Pava from Star Wars is now a LEGO character, but to get a real action figure which looks like me, that would be cool.

No Man’s La La Land: The 89th Academy Awards

For F*** Magazine

NO MAN’S LA LA LAND
The 89th Academy Awards saves the biggest shock for last
By Jedd Jong

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And it was all going so smoothly.

The 89th Academy Awards, which took place on 26 January 2017 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, was proceeding swimmingly. Host Jimmy Kimmel was doing a fine job. Despite capping off an awards season fraught with political tension, the mood in the Dolby Theatre didn’t seem to be one of anger. Impassioned statements were made, but things were kept light enough. The musical La La Land, which had netted 14 nominations, had already clinched six awards. Moonlight, the queer coming-of-age romance, had scored two awards.

Then came the final award of the night.

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To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde, stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway presented the Oscar for Best Picture. Beatty opened the envelope, stared at the slip within, and passed it on to Dunaway, who announced that La La Land won.

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The majority of pundits had predicted as much. Another Oscars done and dusted, right?

In a flub of grand proportions, it turned out that Moonlight was the actual Best Picture winner. Jordan Horowitz, one of the film’s producers, was in the midst of his acceptance speech when he was abruptly informed that La La Land was mistakenly announced as the winner.

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“To hell with dreams. I’m done with it. This is true,” Moonlight director Barry Jenkins said as he tried to process what had just unfolded. The luminaries that filled the theatre were noticeably aghast, with Charlize Theron glowering at the stage. Kimmel attempted to salvage the situation, looking apologetic even though it wasn’t his fault. Beatty clarified that the slip in the envelope read ‘La La Land: Emma Stone’ – a duplicate of the Best Actress envelope, which led to the snafu.

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Up until that point, the proceedings had been generally pleasant. Anticipating that this would be a politically-charged ceremony, Kimmel made an effort to keep things light. “Remember last year, when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?” the talk show host quipped. Small parcels of candy and later, cookies and donuts were parachuted down from the Dolby Theatre rafters, much to the delight of the audience. A group of unsuspecting tourists were led from their Star Line tour bus into the Dolby Theatre to interact with the stars. And of course, Kimmel played up his long-standing mock feud with Matt Damon, mocking Damon for opting to star in The Great Wall, which he called a “Chinese ponytail movie” instead of Manchester by the Sea, which Damon remained on as a producer.

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Justin Timberlake’s energetic performance of the cheery “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” from Trolls opened the show, which also included several other enjoyable moments. These include Michael J. Fox and Seth Rogen emerging from a DeLorean on the stage, after which Rogen broke out into the Schuyler Sisters song from the musical Hamilton, much to the amusement of Lin-Manuel Miranda.

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Miranda rapped an original prologue to “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, performed by the voice of Moana herself, Auli’i Cravalho. The 16-year-old was unfazed when a dancer accidentally bumped against the back of her head with a prop meant to depict ocean waves. Sting performed “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story, while John Legend sang a medley of the two nominated songs from La La Land, “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”. We were disappointed that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone did not perform the numbers. Kimmel interacted with child actor Sunny Pawar, who played young Saroo in the biopic Lion. The host hoisted Pawar aloft, ala The Lion King, with Pawar’s father looking on approvingly.

While the tone wasn’t overtly confrontational, presenters and winners alike slipped anti-Trump messages into their speeches. In the lead-up to the Oscars, hackles were raised over the travel ban instated by President Trump, which barred travel to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries. To protest this, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi boycotted the Oscars, with the other nominees in the Best Foreign Language Film category rallying behind him.

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When Farhadi’s film The Salesman won, Iranian-American astronaut, engineer and businesswoman Anousheh Ansari accepted the award on his behalf. “I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” Ansari, reading from a prepared statement by Farhadi, said. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.”

“As a Mexican, as a Latin American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I am against any form of wall that wants to separate us,” presenter Gael García Bernal declared emphatically.

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“I’m from Italy, I work around the world,” said makeup artist Alessandro Bertolazzi, accepting the Best Makeup and Hairstyling award for Suicide Squad. “This is for all the immigrants.”

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The White Helmets, about volunteer rescue workers providing emergency relief in war-torn Syria, clinched the Best Documentary Short Subject award. Director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara implored the audience to rise to their feet, to show the people of Syria that they have not gone unnoticed by the far more privileged.

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Viola Davis, who was crowned Best Supporting Actress for Fences, delivered an impactful speech that left many in the theatre misty-eyed. She passionately exhorted for filmmakers to “exhume” the stories of “the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition,” giving credit to Fences playwright August Wilson, her co-star and director Denzel Washington, and God.

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Stone, who was nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category for Birdman, took home the Best Actress Oscar for playing Mia in La La Land. She thanked her co-star Ryan Gosling, calling him “the greatest partner on this crazy adventure.” Stone humbly acknowledged that she “still [has] a lot of growing and learning and work to do” and called the Oscar statue “a really beautiful symbol to continue on that journey and I’m so grateful for that.”

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Mahershala Ali, who won the Best Supporting Actor prize for Moonlight, thanked his wife Amatus Sami-Karim, who had given birth to their daughter Bari Najima Ali just four days earlier. “I had so many wonderful teachers,” Ali said. “One thing that they consistently told me is that it wasn’t about you. It’s not about you. It’s about these characters. You’re a servant — you’re in service to these stories and these characters.” Ali became the first Muslim to win an acting Oscar.

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Despite rumblings that sexual assault allegations levelled against Casey Affleck a year ago would hurt his shot at the big prize, Affleck won the Best Actor Oscar for Manchester by the Sea. “One of the first people who taught me how to act was Denzel Washington, and I just met him tonight for the first time,” Affleck said. He also thanked long-time friend and producer Damon, while giving a shout-out to his famous older brother. “Ben, I love you,” Affleck said, quipping “You ain’t heavy” in reference to the song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s Just My Brother”.

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32-year-old Damien Chazelle made history by being the youngest ever Best Director winner. Making special mention of his girlfriend Olivia Hamilton, the La La Land helmer said “This was a movie about love, and I was lucky enough to fall in love while making it. And it means the world to me that you’re here with me sharing it.” He also thanked producer/composer Justin Hurwitz – the two have known each other since they were 17.

The full list of winners and nominees follows:

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

WINNER: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
WINNER: Suicide Squad

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Allied
WINNER: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
WINNER: OJ: Made in America
13th

 

BEST SOUND EDITING

WINNER: Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

BEST SOUND MIXING

Arrival
WINNER: Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

WINNER: Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

 

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
WINNER: The Salesman
Tanna
Toni Erdmann

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl
WINNER: Piper

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
WINNER: Zootopia

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Arrival
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
WINNER: La La Land
Passengers

 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
WINNER: The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

BEST FILM EDITING

Arrival
WINNER: Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

4.1 Miles
Extremis
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
WINNER: The White Helmets

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT SUBJECT

Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
WINNER: Sing
Timecode

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Arrival
WINNER: La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Jackie
WINNER: La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Audition (La La Land)
Can’t Stop the Feeling! (Trolls)
WINNER: City of Stars (La La Land)
The Empty Chair (Jim: The James Foley Story)
How Far I’ll Go (Moana)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
WINNER: Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
WINNER: Moonlight

BEST DIRECTOR

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
WINNER: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

BEST ACTOR

WINNER: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

BEST ACTRESS

Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
WINNER: Emma Stone (La La Land)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

BEST PICTURE

Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
ANNOUNCED AS WINNER IN ERROR: La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
WINNER: Moonlight

IGNITE THE TIKI TORCH: The stars and filmmakers of Moana light up the ArtScience Museum

For F*** Magazine

IGNITE THE TIKI TORCH
The stars and filmmakers of Moana light up the ArtScience Museum

Words and photos by Jedd Jong

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Disney brought a taste of the rich culture of the Polynesian islands to our own sunny isle, with a light-up at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands on the night of November 9th to kick off the festive season. Disney’s animated musical adventure comedy Moana is inspired by Oceanic mythology and centres on the titular young voyager (voiced by Auli’I Cravalho), who teams up with the demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) on an epic ocean-spanning quest.

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Cravalho, producer Osnat Shure, lighting artist Roger Lee and visual development artist Griselda Sastrawinatra were at the ArtScience Museum to officiate the light-up, alongside host Carla Dunareanu. The L.A.-based Nonosina dance troupe performed a Polynesian dance set to Logo Te Pate, a song by Oceanic music group Te Vaka. Te Vaka’s frontman Opetaia Foa’i, alongside Mark Mancina and Broadway impresario Lin-Manuel Miranda, composed the music for Moana. The dance we saw was choreographed by Tiana Nonosina Liufau, who played the drums to accompany the performers.

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“we’re so excited about the holiday season and we always like to kick it off with a festive light-up,” said Marina Bay Sands’ president and CEO George Tanasijevich. “We’re very pleased to feature Moana and to partner with Disney for tonight’s event. Disney has been such a great collaborator with Marina Bay Sands over the years. This is the beginning of the holiday season, so we’re very happy that you could be here tonight.”

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“At Disney, our dream is to create happiness through magical moments for communities around the world,” proclaimed Robert Gilby, managing director of the Walt Disney Company Southeast Asia. “And today, for the Singapore community and for all visitors to Singapore, we’re delighted to celebrate this festive lighting with the star and creators of our latest fun animated feature film, Moana,” he continued. “We hope that the beautiful story and the amazing characters and this festive lighting inspire you to celebrate your own magical moments here at Marina Bay Sands.”

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Moana opens on November 23 2016.