Penang Filming Locations: Anna & The King

My girlfriend wasn’t really interested in looking around George Town, particularly on foot, so with that in mind I left her in bed for an hour or so each morning while I went out to explore. I wanted to see the area as its normal to get to know your surroundings and for two other reasons; one was that its a British colonial town and the second was that parts of it were used to portray ‘Bangkok’ in the 1999 film ‘Anna and the King’ starring Jodie Foster.
There was a bit of light rain in the air on my first morning outing but that soon cleared up as I briefly walked around by Fort Cornwalis and then on to Penang Town Hall (above right) where its Grand Ballroom played the part of the ‘Royal Court Room’ in the aforementioned movie which to be honest I only watched once I discovered some of it had been filmed in Penang. For the record, I’d never heard of the film until well after the trip had been booked and even though it was way more interesting than I thought it would be I won’t be rushing to see it again as its not exactly my type of movie!
The following morning I gave myself a bit more time and headed to Swettenham Pier (below left) in Penang Harbour which portrayed ‘Bangkok Harbour’. There was absolutely no-one else around when I was there and I only saw a few people as I moved back in the direction of the hotel via Armenian Street. This played home to the ‘Bangkok’ street scenes and its Armenian merchant houses (below right) supposedly needed very little set dressing to make them more 19th century-like.
On that very same street (at #128 to be precise) was Syed Alatas Mansion (above left), an 1860’s house of an Arab trader from Sumatra, where Anna and Prince Chulalongkorn find ‘Lady Tuptim’ in chains and as a slave. The temple where she was actually captured by palace guards (having ran away, disguising herself as a young man and joined the monastery where her former fiancé lived) was the UNESCO world heritage site Khoo Kongsi. As far as temples go this was quite interesting as its a clan house (part temple part meeting hall) in the middle of a neighbourhood of houses and for that reason was difficult to find. Khoo Kongsi (above right) is an elaborate mix of dragons, lanterns, carvings, paintings and ceramic tiles and that was my final port of call before I went back to find sleeping beauty still asleep in our room.
You can see my Penang photo album here.

TF Film Review: The A-Team (2010)

So having worked my way through the A-Team TV series DVD boxsets in the first half of this year I had become overly familiar with the original characters. With that in mind my expectations for the movie were quite low! They probably didn’t need to be to be fair as Hannibal was played by the excellent (and suitably greyed-up) Liam Neeson who has a proven acting pedigree and he didn’t really diappoint although he wasn’t quite as smug as George Peppard in the TV series. In fact Bradeley Coopers Face-man was more smug which I didn’t really take to. Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson did a better job than I expected as BA Baracus but lacked some of the charisma of Mr T in the TV series and to be fair that was always going to be the most difficult character to replicate. I didn’t really take to Sharlto Copley’s portrayal of Murdock too much. Mr T. may have been the star of the A-Team but in my mind it was Dwight Schultz as Murdock who was the real star delivering some great comedic performances. He was the one that most of my friends and I always wanted to be in the playground recreations in the 1980’s after the previous weekends Saturday evening viewing of the show.
Some critics have attacked the plot of the film but what were they expecting?! The A-Team is all about action and this film certainly delivers on that front with the best seeing the team parachuted out of an aeroplane in a tank but anyone who saw the trailer knew this was coming which is kind of a shame as it ruins it a bit but I guess they have to include the best bits in these trailers to entice viewers.
I liked how the film told the back-story of how they got together and were convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. The use of protagonist names like Lynch and Morrisson are for the fans and the jail breaks are pretty inventive with the best involving revolving around some 3D action. I would have liked to see someone hire the A-Team as they used to in the TV series and though the film certainly won’t set the world alight it overall did the job that it’s supposed to do which is deliver high-speed thrilling action without much regard for minor things like plot and storyline! Room has certainly been left for a sequel.

The A-Team – TV Series

This American action/adventure TV series was probably my favourite as a child and 24 years after it was axed I have to say that I still love it. While a lot of TV shows from one’s childhood are often not as good as you remember I’m happy to say that that is not true (in my opinion) for this programme. This was essential teatime viewing in the 1980’s and was known for it’s simple stories with the bad guys being easy to spot as our four Robin Hood-type heroes beat them using a range of weaponry and explosives that never killed anyone or even did them too much injury. The plots were written to be easily understandable to the typical child-like brain which is probably why it still appeals!
With knowledge that an A-Team movie was on the way I bought (or got bought) the complete five season A-Team box sets when I was back in England last Christmas and spent the first half of this year working my way through all 98 episodes.
Of course one of the best things about the A-Team was the theme tune including the military style narrative introduction which I never grow tired of hearing. The iconic black van played a huge role in the status of the series and is still something I’d love to see with my own eyes. I had hoped to see it when I went to Universal Studio’s in Hollywood in 2002 as I’d heard it was rusting away on the backlot but sadly it was nowhere to be seen. The ‘Cars of the Stars’ Museum in Keswick in the north of England may be the solution as I think that is home to one of the GMC van’s used throughout the five seasons.
Needless to say that the main reason for its success were the four main characters; Colonel John Hannibal SmithLieutenant Templeton Face-man PeckCaptain Howling Mad Murdock and Sergeant BA Baracus played by the main star of the show Mr T. The fact that he was the star supposedly upset George Peppard who was the real proper Hollywood actor which lead to a lot of tension on the set as was explored in detail in the Channel 4 show ‘Bring Back The A-Team’ show a few years ago.
Here are some of the formulaic parts of an episode:
* Cars flying through the air and turning upside down having collided with some obstacle such as a car.
* B.A. Baracus throwing somone over his head.
* One of the A-Team diving on top of somone from above.
* Weaponry and vehicles being formed out of some leftover cr*p in a warehouse which they got locked in.
* The team escaping in a car and driving through a gate or barrier as a couple of guys dived out of the way.
* No-one ever really getting hurt. After a huge car-crash the cameras would always later cut-back to the enemy dusting themselves down or coming out of the wreckage unhurt.
* One of the team hurling a grenade in the direction of the enemy who then dived for survival.
* Being caught by Colonel Lynch, Colonel Decker or General Fullbright many times but always escaping.
* Murdock having to escape from his mental ward in may episodes.
* The catchphrases: “I love it when a plan come’s together”, “Hannibal’s on the jazz”, “I pity the fool” and “I ain’t getting on no plane!”.
* B.A. being drugged to get him on a plane.
* Murdock & B.A. nearly coming to blows in most episodes.
* Face scamming a vehicle or other object with relative ease.
* Hannibal seemingly chain-smoking his cigar’s.
* Hannibal saying “You’ve just hired the A-Team” whilst usually in disguise having lead the potential client through a series of tests to see if they were legitimate.
The series ran for five seasons with the first four being pretty much of the same formula. Having just watched all of them this year I can see why the ratings did fall as the fourth season kicked in. The already-simple plots became ever more lame or increasingly stupid with ridiculous guest appearances from the likes of Boy George and Hulk Hogan. However, the season four finale did include a death and was notable for some truly serious dramatic moments with the A-Team members privately reminiscing on their Vietnam war experiences
The final season’s changes in style were not popular with a fifth member of the team added and having been captured they were now working for a guy in a style similar to the Mission Impossible TV series. The show was axed mid-way through this season and brought the curtain down on one of the most man-driven shows and its taken a while but only now has an A-Team movie been made but will it be any good?

Back To The Future 25th Anniversary

Many people assume that Star Wars is my favourite film but that’s probably just because of the EU (expanded universe) and its endless amount of products. ‘Back To The Future’ is actually my number one film of all time and late last year I bought a collection of props from the trilogy which I picked up when I went back home for Christmas. The set features:
  • Full 3 page Delorean Repair Instructions
  • Doc’s Flux Capacitor Diagram
  • ‘Enchantment Under The Sea’ Photo
  • Marty’s Letter To Doc
  • ‘OH LA LA’ front and back covers
  • ‘Tales From Space’ magazine covers
  • ‘A Match Made In Space’ Book Cover
  • Aged letter from Marty to Doc
  • Save The Clock Tower (1 white, 1 yellow and 1 blue)
  • Sports Almanac Book Cover
  • Cusco ‘You’re Fired’ Fax at the 3 stages
  • Pepsi Logo’s
  • ‘No Hoverboarding’ Sign
  • Cafe 80’s Menu
  • Delorean Map
  • Library Card
  • Social Security Card
  • Cinema ticket for “The Goonies”
  • Concert ticket 
  • Biff Tannen Museum ticket
  • Student card
  •  ‘Free Pepsi’ coupon
  • Driver’s License
  • Tardly Slip
  • ‘Battle of the Bands’ Flyer
  •  Doc’s card
  • Photo of Marty and Jennifer
  • Family Photo

Anyway, this month marks the 25th Anniversary of ‘Back To The Future’ which I love due in part to the skateboarding scenes (which I really loved as a teenager), the soundtrack, the plot and the chemistry between Michael J Fox (Marty McFly) and Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown). It was such a great thrill to see the Delorean, Biff’s


car and the famous clock tower when I went to the Universal Studio’s in California in 2002. It was, and still is, a fantastic 1980’s flick combining sci-fi, action, comedy and romance and even now when I watch it I still notice new things which are so important to the plot in this film or either of its sequels.