Friday, April 25, 2014

Movie Review: Muppets Most Wanted

So earlier this week I was invited to the media preview screening of Muppets Most Wanted, the second Muppets movie following...... The Muppets.

Picking right where the previous movie left off, Kermit and gang have pulled off a successful comeback, and they want to keep that momentum going. Tour manager Dominic Badguy ("It's pronounced Badgie... it's French... meaning... good guy."), played by the ever-talented Ricky Gervais, enters the scene with perfect timing to offer to make that a reality, with... of course... a darker secret behind him.

What struck me about this film was its irreverence. But it's easy to be irreverent. Just systematically go against the grain, offend plenty of people along the way and not give a flying hockey puck about said people. Muppets Most Wanted, however, manages to display their nonchalance to Hollywood and their own tall legacy in a coy, teasing and completely clean way. In other words, good old humor that demands more effort in both writing and execution.

Ty Burrell, better known as the hapless father Phil Dunphy in arguably the best sitcom on American TV today, Modern Family, and Tina Fey, from SNL and sometimes known as Sarah Palin's comic double, both take on accented roles in this movie, Ty Burrell playing a French Interpol inspector and Tina Fey playing a Russian prison guard. I personally think this is a risky task to undertake. Maintaining a fake accent consistently for a full-length feature film isn't an easy task, and efforts can all too easily fall to derisive calls of "trying too hard". Ty and Tina manage to pull this off decently though, turning their respective imitation dials to 11.

If you're looking for plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and enjoy being the only one in an entire theatre to go "HAHA" because that means only you were smart enough to catch a less obvious reference (no come on, don't giggle like you don't like it, you know you've just one-upped like 149 other people), Muppets Most Wanted is showing in cinemas islandwide. Go catch it this weekend!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

SingTel Group and Samsung cooperate to accelerate mobile data growth in the region

On the sidelines of the Galaxy S5 launch in Singapore today, the SingTel Group - comprising SingTel (Singapore), Optus (Australia), AIS (Thailand), Airtel (India, Africa), Globe Telecom (Philippines) and Telkomsel (Indonesia) - and Samsung today announced 4 joint initiatives to encourage the growth of mobile data in the region, benefiting over 500 million customers in all.

Retail Collaboration Programme
This allows select Samsung Stores to provide the respective local carrier's sign-up services, providing a simpler retail experience for customers. Currently available in Philippines and soon to be available for India and Indonesia.

Those who visited the Samsung pop-up store (well, sort of) outside Ngee Ann City some time ago may remember this in action. It certainly does drive sign-ups of customers who are already considering getting a Samsung smartphone with SingTel, but for walk-ins, at least in Singapore, I think this won't be so effective, since we're so used to getting everything done at a telco outlet anyway.

Direct Carrier Billing with Samsung Apps
Singapore already offers this and it will be rolled out to Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia. Customers can buy Samsung apps and content by either charging to their mobile bills or deducting from their prepaid balances.

This was most interesting to me. Alistair Johnston, CMO of Telkomsel (above left), revealed in the Q&A of the press conference that Direct Carrier Billing is an attractive alternative to payment by credit cards, which do not enjoy as high a penetration rate in emerging markets. Pratthana Leelapanang, SVP for Digital Service of AIS (above right), noted that NFC technology is being used in Thailand as a direct means of payment for public transport (ie, using your smartphone as an EZ-Link card) as well as cashless contactless payment for about 300 major establishments such as fast-food chains, and this can be linked to Direct Carrier Billing.

Mobile App Development Programme
This is just basically calling on start-ups around the region to bring their development ideas to the SingTel Group and Samsung, and if they like it they will accelerate their development and open access to the half a billion mobile customers around the region. Selected developers will have their apps marketing in Singapore, Australia, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia.

Nothing new, and I'm no expert on this, but dang those figures look real good to me.

Direct Access to Applications
Gonna have to be honest here - this is a fancy term for pre-loaded apps by the telco, albeit "carefully customised to reflect local requirements and content", starting with the Galaxy S5. Will be available to Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia.

Take what you will of it.

All in all, this sounds like a promising push, with SingTel flexing its international muscles by bringing so many telcos in on it. Perhaps there'll be a progress update on the morning of the Galaxy S6 launch.

If you aren't already thinking about that SingTel... time to start planning? :)

After the press conference the media were invited down to witness the commencement of sales for the Galaxy S5. First 10 customers in the queue were rewarded with an extra (quite good) goodie bag.