Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Limoncellos, Crocs, Fitness First in Mall of Asia and Beowulf in IMAX 3D…

Limoncellos. I recently uploaded pictures from our lovely dinner at Galileo Enoteca. If you love cold cuts (I do! I used to eat sausages directly from their packages when I was in Sweden, and my godmother will send me occasionally cold cuts from Germany) and cheese, this is the place for you. They also import high quality Italian wines and liquors. This prompted me to ask whether they sell one of my favorite liquors, limoncello. Limoncello, pronounced [limon'tʃɛlːo] (thanks for the correction Zen) is lemon liquor made from lemon rinds, alcohol, water, and sugar. It is usually bright yellow in color, sweet and lemony, but not sour since it contains no lemon juice. It is a digestivo, so it's best taken after a meal. If you haven't tasted it yet, you should! My brother Archie always brings home from his travels in Rome bottles of Villa Massa Tradizionale Limoncello di Sorrento and the last time he came home, he brought home a variant with cream (imagine irish cream, but with lemon). Unfortunately, Galileo Enoteca is currently out of stock of limoncellos. But I'll be constantly on the lookout. So if you know where I could get these, please do tell!

SM Mall of Asia. A few days ago, I went to SM Mall of Asia for the purpose of looking for a pair of Crocs sandals (this was the last shop I could ask, the other shops have ran out of available sizes!), and not to waste my time there just for the sandals, I also brought along my gym bag to experience the newly opened Fitness First there. Now, everyone should understand that SM Mall of Asia was designed for casual shoppers, who have the whole day to walk around. It is so huge it would be impossible to memorize the locations of all stores after a few visits. I had only one store to visit, and it was located (after inquiring at the concierge) at the entertainment block, far at the back of the mall which is a few minutes walk from the façade. It was already a good warm-up for the gym. I found the Crocs shop, but I was in for a disappointment. They have all the available sizes for the model (Brown Off Road size 10) I was looking for, except mine! I thought it's not yet time to buy myself one. As I left the store and headed to the gym (which was located outside the mall, in the newly constructed building), I passed by the IMAX 3D Theater and saw that Beowulf was showing. I haven't seen Beowulf yet, and I wanted to see it but just couldn't find the time to do so. So I inquired, and booked for the 5PM show. It was expensive, the ticket costing P400, but I thought, better experience IMAX with a film I wanted to see. I thought, it would be cool to watch a computer generated film in 3D. I went to the gym for a 2 hour workout session before the film starts. I thought, after the film (which would finish around 7pm), I would still be able to catch the Body Combat class at the gym.

Fitness First Mall of Asia. The new Fitness First gym is located in the building just outside the IMAX theatre, so it was a short walk. I went to the reception and showed my member's ID. I was surprised that they replaced my ID (which doubles as a card key for the locker rooms) with a similar plastic card but without the hole, the reason for which I will realize later. The first thing you'll see is the cardiovascular area (3 rows of treadmills, steppers, cycling machines and elliptical) with the standard TV screens. The member's lounge is very small compared to other clubs, and I actually have to squeeze through some of the chairs to reach the drinking stations (standard soda dispenser, coffee and water). I peeked inside the Mind & Body Studio and it was huge! The cable machines area was filled with new TechnoGym machines, with some of them fitted with digital monitors that would tell you how many reps you have already made and also the range of your movements as well. The strength and free weight area is located on the second floor. What amazed me is the new automatic locker system they have installed. The plastic card they gave me was actually the key card – all I had to do was to place the key card near the locker, and it would open and close – like magic! Amazing! After playing around with the locker door for a while (the other club goers who saw me do this are already giving the weird look), I proceeded to cardiovascular area to look for the ergs (rowers) to add to my Concept2 Holiday Challenge mileage. I couldn't find them, and I was beginning to worry that they decided to remove the rowers since after all they were not popular machines in the gym. But a personal trainer ushered me to the indoor rowing area, which is nestled in an elevated corner of the gym. While rowing, you get a nice view of the cardiovascular area. The ergs there are already connected to the TV systems so you can already plug in your earphones to listen to the shows (unlike in other clubs). The air conditioning was in top condition, so good that it was freezing in the cardiovascular area. I somehow wished they had the room temperature lower because it was quite difficult to sweat. On the other hand, I found exerting more to feel that I was giving an effort (I was running at a rate of 10.5-11 km/h at the treadmills, compared to my usual 9.5 km/h). The GX Studio looks spacious (in width, not length), but immediately I noticed how small the stage area was so it would be difficult to have more than 3 instructors at the same time. Another thing were the 2 huge structural pillars in the studio. Good thing they're located at the sides, but they could be quite a big distraction if you're moving from side to side. I have yet to experience a class in the Mind & Body and the Cycling Studio. But all in all, it was a satisfying experience (too bad it is quite far from home…).

Beowulf IMAX 3D. After 5 km of indoor rowing and another 5 km on the treadmills, I went to the theatre for my virgin IMAX experience. I had to feed myself but found that the snacks area in the IMAX are closed (Imagine no popcorn!!! Well, I'm not really a popcorn person when watching movies, but a movie watching experience is not complete without a whiff of buttered popcorn), I had to buy food outside (I had to settle with hotdog in a nearby stall). After devouring my snack, I proceeded to the theatre area (yes, I watched alone… loner ba?) where I was greeted with usherettes who distributed these special glasses you have to wear to create the 3D effect that IMAX is renowned for. The theatre area is huge! I picked a sear smack in the middle of the theatre, and looking straight ahead, the screen effectively covered even my peripheral vision. After a few minutes, the trailers rolled in, and they showed previews of upcoming IMAX shows. The 3D effect is really compelling! It's funny, I noticed some grandmothers beside me who were actually dodging at objects that really seem to fly towards you. After the trailers, the opening credits for Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf came in. It was amazing to watch the credits actually float on top of the background, and fly past your shoulders. Combine that with amazing sound effects. I knew I was in for an unusual experience, because I was stupidly grinning in sensual delight as I watched the film... The initial scenes were designed to make you get used to the 3D effects, and I specifically enjoyed the scene where the people were singing in the mead hall, and a flyby ensues… you literally find yourself flying away from the hall, from the kingdom, and into the forest (with the tree branches ) and into the cave of Grendel… and this was just the start...

The movie was great. I actually debated with my brother Oggie, who by the way writes amazing film critiques in his blogs, about this film. He claims that it was a waste of talent to bring Beowulf into life as a computer-generated film. Why not film the actors themselves as they are? I told him, it could have been a waste of talent, but the way I see it, this is a landmark film that celebrates how advanced the technology in film-making has reached. The technology this film has used to capture the performances of great actors such as Anthony Hopkins is so convincing that oftentimes, you actually feel you are watching the very actors themselves! The male characters looked very photorealistic; however, the female characters still looked like moving mannequins. This technology has great potential, and the way I see it, if motion-capture becomes so advanced and precise that it could even capture the smallest nuances of an actor's performance, this will open up a new concept in role-playing, rendering make-up and costumes obsolete. How else could Ray Winstone transform into the perfect-bodied Beowulf! Of course, Angelina Jolie is Angelina Jolie... (nosebleeding...)

Ray Winstone as Beowulf (which according to him looked like him when he was 18 years old)

Angelina Jolie as Grendel's Mother. Even though it was animation, she never expected she could feel so "exposed"

Although the story deviates from the original plot of the Beowulf epic, the screenplay by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary was an exceptional reimagination focusing on how humans themselves could turn out to be the very monsters they have sought to fear and destroy and how the seduction of evil could overthrow even the noblest of men. Some who are faithful to the original epic might feel the changes weakened the power of the Beowulf story, but I feel the more human treatment of the main character, showing his flaws and weaknesses provides more opportunities for reflection and introspection than just entertainment.

The film I feel is best experienced in IMAX 3D (although I haven't watched it in ordinary theaters yet), so if you're planning to watch it, watch it in IMAX 3D format. It's worth the price.

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