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Pirates of the Caribbean 4 - More Jack Sparrow

Category: , , By Manu
I was watching The Pirates of the Caribbean the other day on television and I realized that you can watch the movie many times and still be entertained by it. I've watched it many times(all the three parts) but found myself laughing heartily at Johnny Depp and his antics. Suddenly an acute need for more Pirates of the Caribbean came up and was searching for a sequel in no time. Its almost time to bring out a new sequel to such a successful franchise, at least a rumour.

And guess what I did find that happy news- Disney recently confirmed the new edition in the franchise(although rumours were galore even as back as June, 2007. In June, 2007 CinemaBlend reported a rumour from a "source" .
“the ending of Pirates 3, the fountain of youth story might not be the only story they might used the next pirate’s film. The fountain story could used in another form to introduce the story for Pirates 4… the next film might be a departure from the same formula of the last three movies as well, meaning that Jerry Bruckheimer could be planning to enter the realm of Science Fiction this time around and it could be the heart of a new trilogy with Jack Sparrow and his crew of misfits. Some of the brainstorming going around involves some Jules Verne type of scenarios involving some pretty big flying machines, a man who wants to rule more than just the ocean, a encounter with the most famous and dangerous pirate of all, a race to get to a lost world (Hint, Hint) and Jack and his crew going to where no pirate has gone before (No, its not space but Disney had made animated movie about this place before with Michel J Fox voicing one of the characters).”
They stress pretty strongly that this is just a rumour and nothing more. The Michael J. Fox movie their source is referring to is almost certainly Atlantis, which would tie in the Jules Verne and science fiction elements mentioned. But all this may turn out to be false.

Director Gore Verbinski, who was in charge of the first three opus of Pirates of the Caribbean, is rumoured to return at the helm of the movie. He has said "I would start fresh and focus on the further adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow." Guess That means more Jack Sparrow, and thats always a good thing for Pirates of the Caribbean lovers
Another rumour floating around is that Tim Burton may be at the directors seat for the next edition, which is unlikely in my opinion.

One thing we know for sure is that the new movie is going to focus on Jack alone, no Will or Elizabeth to steal screen time from Johnny Depp. It has been reported that Keira Knightley does not wish to continue playing her character of Elizabeth Swann, she prefers to commit to different projects. Johnny Depp has officially signed on for Pirates of the Caribbean in September 2008. He is the single factor that made this franchise this popular and apparently he knows it too (he got $56 million for the new film)

British tabloid The Sun now reports "Brand is thrashing out a deal to appear in Pirates of The Caribbean 4 — as Captain Jack Sparrow's brother. The deal to play Jonathan, younger brother of Johnny Depp's character, could be worth ?5million." An unnamed source informed the paper, "There couldn't be a role more perfectly suited. There's a lot of Jack Sparrow in his mannerisms and behaviour. Depp's accent isn't a million miles away from Russell's either. Russell joining the Sparrows alongside Johnny and Keith Richards as their dad will complete the ultimate on-screen pirate family." Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) is also rumored to be in the movie.

And to add the the melee some sequences of the movie is even going to be shot in 3D for IMAX goes another rumour. Rumours galore on the next installment of this successful franchise, one thing is sure- Johnny Depp is reprising his crazy, lovable character Captain Jack Sparrow. The movie is said to hit the theaters in 2011, so plenty of time for new rumours to come up.
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International Film Festival of Kerala 2008 -Day 4- Postcards from Leningrad, Hafez, and Firaaq

Category: , By Manu
Day 4
By the day four the festival picked up some heat for me. The fourth day I had the chance to watch three great movies- Postcards From Leningrad, Firaaq, and Hafez.

Postcards from Leningrad(Postales de Leningrado)(2007)
The Venezuelan film, Postcards from Leningrad, we see Venezuela during the Leftist uprising in the 1960s through the eyes of two children. The movie starts with a young guerrilla-girl, living in secrecy, giving birth to her first daughter on Mother's Day. Due to that, her photos appear in the newspaper, from that moment they are forced to run away. Hidden places, false disguises and names are part of this young girl's daily life. Alongside with her cousin, they re-live the adventures of their guerrilla parents, building a labyrinth filled with superheroes and strategies, where no one knows where the reality or the madness began. However, this children's game does not hide the deaths, torture, denunciations and treason within the guerrillas.

Wildly stylized and darkly funny, Postcards from Leningrad captures a child's perspective on life in the 1960's with Venezuela's armed revolutionaries. The film's precocious young narrator, the daughter of a subversive forced into hiding, imagines the militants as superheroes, despite the brutal realities of guerrilla life. This heart-wrenching drama beautifully conveys the heavy toll wrought by radical politics.

Rondón wonderfully combines dramatic and comedic narrative storytelling; faux documentary; and comic book style hand-drawn animation over live action to tell this darkly funny, yet serious story of a very volatile time and culture. At first Postcards from Leningrad was confusing; Rondón jumps around in time without warning, and the two children narrate their stories as if they were comic book characters. There is none of the political nuance to explain the whys of the conflict. Gradually however, the story becomes clear, peppered with fabulous sequences of the various characters lives.

Family scenes around the Venezuelan New Year are lively and telling; especially when Teo, one of narrators' parents, returns home and is subsequently captured by the government and imprisoned. A sequence 2/3 of the way through the film, depicting a group of female, revolutionary, college students committing an act or defiance is perfectly executed in groovy, 60s style, bringing together split screens, animation, music and narration sublimely. Rondón is a talented filmmaker whose work deserves broader exposure. Superbly executed the director Rondón deserves the praise and the award for the best director at the festival.

Firaaq is an Urdu word that means both separation and quest. Firaaq is an ensemble film takes place over a 24-hour period; a month after a horrific communal carnage of the 2002 Gujarat riots, where as many as 2,000 people–mostly Muslim–were killed. The riots were a Hindu backlash to the Godhra train burning where Muslims were accused of burning up a car with 58 Hindu pilgrims inside.

The film traces the emotional journeys of 'ordinary people'. A middle class housewife closes the door on a victim and struggles to overcome her guilt. The loyalties of two best friends are tested in the times of fear and suspicion. A bunch of young men having suffered the riots seeks revenge to fight their helplessness and anger. A modern-day Hindu-Muslim couple struggles between the instinct to hide their identity and the desire to assert it.

Nanditha Das, the debut director and acclaimed actress, has dealt with the human side of this sensitive issue and pulled off an incredible feat of giving it the depth it needed within a time-frame of 24 hours. Firaaq grew out of Das' persistent social engagements with human rights issues as also her own concerns about the impact of violence on all of us, our lives and our relationships.

I dedicated a whole post for this just because of the political ramifications and relevance of this movie. A more detailed review is here.

In this Iranian cinema, Abollfazl Jalili tells a poetic tale of star-crossed lovers while attempting to balance between age-old traditions and contemporary beliefs. After memorizing the Koran and passing his exams scholar Shams al-Din is elevated to the rank of 'Hafez' - so named after the 700-year old Persian Poet. He is asked to pass on his knowledge to Nabat, the daughter of the great Mufti, but tradition dictates that they must not see each other. Teaching her from a seperate room, Hafez soon falls in love with Nabat's voice and steals a fleeting glimpse on his beautiful pupil; his love for her is pure., but his transgression brings harsh consequences.

Do not watch this movie thinking its an easy romantic film. This is a movie that takes itself seriously and deal with far more issues than Love. I have never in my life so overloaded with symbolisms as I was watching the movie. I have to admit that I didn't understand more than half of the intended symbolisms. A beautifully crafted movie, that is way out of my league. I am not qualified to review this movie, just because its in a whole another level. Here is a review I found in Google. Not much of a review, cause I don't think such a movie can be reviewed. Anyways..here is the review : Variety
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Firaaq- Movie Review - Gujarat Riots, Muslim discrimination and Violence

Category: , , , By Manu
Firaaq is an Urdu word that means both separation and quest. Firaaq is an ensemble film takes place over a 24-hour period; a month after a horrific communal carnage of the 2002 Gujarat riots, where as many as 2,000 people–mostly Muslim–were killed. The riots were a Hindu backlash to the Godhra train burning where Muslims were accused of burning up a car with 58 Hindu pilgrims inside.

The film traces the emotional journeys of 'ordinary people'. A middle class housewife closes the door on a victim and struggles to overcome her guilt. The loyalties of two best friends are tested in the times of fear and suspicion. A bunch of young men having suffered the riots seeks revenge to fight their helplessness and anger. A modern-day Hindu-Muslim couple struggles between the instinct to hide their identity and the desire to assert it.

Nanditha Das, the debut director and acclaimed actress, has dealt with the human side of this sensitive issue and pulled off an incredible feat of giving it the depth it needed within a timeframe of 24 hours. Firaaq grew out of Das' persistent social engagements with human rights issues as also her own concerns about the impact of violence on all of us, our lives and our relationships.

A film which portrays the atrocities that were going on in post riot Gujarat- the hunting of Muslims by Hindus as well as Law enforcement agencies, the fear in Muslim minds, the discriminatory social injustice towards Muslims- must be shown to a broader audience, at least, to enlighten the common man about what is going on in Gujarat.

The Hindu-Muslim couple in the movie(which according to me was the most striking story along with the boy Mohsin), especially the Muslim(Samir), is divided on where to stand when it comes to his identity. He is scared to say he is a Muslim, but yet in his heart he wants to assert it. This character shows how the middle-class Muslim in India feels. He says he has to think twice about praising some Pakistani cricket player, lest he is branded as a Pakistani spy. The Hindu Fascists in India have created an atmosphere in which it is impossible for a Muslim to lead a normal undiscriminating life.

The feeling that all Muslims are Pakisthani spies, or terrorists is spreading through the Indian psyche, unconsciously, and its an alarming trend. The Muslims in India are no less Indian than all the rest of them. Just because a minority in the Muslim community resort to Jihadi ways doesn't give us the right to brand the whole Muslim community as Terrorists. The film has brought out the common Indian psyche through the character of a tea shop owner who thought Samir a Hindu. Towards the end of the film, the character decides to assert he is a Muslim. The tea shop owner who was very cordial and friendly to the character turns on his heels and became indifferent to him the moment he learned Samir is a Muslim. This is something that could very well happen in India provided the massive brainwashing going on here.

Of all the characters in the movie, the 8 year old Mohsin was probably the most heart wrenching with his sorrowful eyes which speaks more than anything. The movie brings out clearly how a 8 year old is introduced to the intricacies of religious divide and how he absorbs the calamities around him. He gets taken into a home by a housewife to take care of him and she introduces him as Mohan(a Hindu name) to her mildly Hindu Fascist family. Mohsin soon leaves the house in fear of the husband, and when confronted by some Hindu bullies in the street he tells them his name is Mohan. Can you imagine a state in which even a Muslim name is dangerous? And more importantly, a mere 8 year old knows this. That is the deteriorating condition in India(not the whole, but some parts).

The final act was actually quite chilling, and I felt it could cut either way, depending on your outlook. One, that it is of hope, that with the next generation lies opportunity to bury the past and forge a new future ahead filled with better understanding, and the appreciation that such violence should never occur again. On the other hand, it reminds of how impressionable a young mind is, and through the wandering within a camp, taking in the sights of the aftermath of atrocities committed, that the seeds of revenge could have been innately planted, and being ready for improper indoctrination for further atrocities to be committed, some time in the future.

A little discussed fact of massive violence is that it’s not over when the fighting stops. It’s just smoldering like a volcano returning to dormancy after an eruption. There’s a haze of fear and loathing still thick in the community. It happened with Jews who survived the camps trying to return home after WWII only to find they weren’t anymore wanted then they were during the war. The enduring displacement was maybe the biggest reason for establishing Israel, which shifted the war to a smoldering tension, and occasional eruption, with Palestine. It’s the same five years after the Gujarat riots between Hindu and Muslim Indians. It's extremely difficult, but not impossible, to break the stranglehold that violence begets more violence.
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Slumdog Millionaire -Movie Review- An enthralling rollercoaster ride of emotions

Category: , , , By Manu
Every once in a blue moon, a movie comes which captures the heart of the common audience as well as get the critics raving about it. Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" is just that. From the genre skipping director Danny Boyle, who brought us the hard hitting drama "Shallow Grave" , the exemplary"Train Spotting", the fast moving Zombie thriller "28 days Later", comes another emotional roller coaster which takes us through the highs and lows of Jamal Malik, a kid from a Mumbai slum.

The slumdog of the title is 18-year-old Jamal (Dev Patel), a survivor from the streets of Mumbai, India, who is starring on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? In the course of his fantastic run on the show, he has come under suspicion for cheating. The police begin torturing him to get him to confess. How could a street kid with no formal education know such obscure answers as what American statesman is on the $100 bill? (Plot Courtsey: Lori Hoffman)

And thus starts the journey through Jamal's life and how he came to know the answers to all those questions. The story is laid out before us in three layers- one is the immediate present where police officers are interrogating Jamal for fraud, another is the quiz show that happened the day before, and the third one is Jamal's recalling of his tumultous life. The three threads are woven dexterously revealing just enough to keep the story going. For every question he answers in the show he reveals a little more about his life and how he got to know the answers.

Resisting the temptation to reveal more of the plot, we're moving on to whats good in the film. Simon Beaufoy has done a great job scripting the movie, adapting it from the Vikas Swarup novel "Q&A". I haven't read the novel, and so I don't know how much faithful the movie is to the book; but it doesn't matter cause I don't think I will like the book better since I've seen the movie first. The dialogues were subtle, but yet quite revealing the gamut of emotions the characters are going through.

The direction and camera was admirable. The sheer color and energy of the movie gets you the Indian feel. The movie is 100% Indian, but yet made by an Irish Director. We have to give credit to Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandon(who co-directed the movie) for getting the real feel of India and for not turning this one into a western friendly flick. Like an american lady says in the movie-"real India". The captivating movements of the camera got me riveted to the screen without missing even short periods of silence.

The performances on the acting front just blew me away. The youngest Jamal, played by Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, did really well for a kid his age. Full credits to the directors for extracting such a natural performances from young kids. Dev Patel sizzled the screen with an amazing performance as Jamal. Freida Pinto also does a really good job as Jamal's love interest Lathika. Irfan Khan, who is said to be one of India's best actors, is thoroughly believable as the inspector who interrogates Jamal. Anil Kapoor also did a pretty good job as the charismatic game show host. As I have reviewed the Soundtrack of the movie earlier, I guess there is no need to repeat how great the soundtrack is and what it does to the overall feel of the movie.

Danny Boyle's love for complicated characters is really evident in the movie and the best example for that is Jamal's brother Salim. He is a complex character who harbours love for his brother, and at the same time gets jealous when Lathika gets close to Jamal. With an inherent mean streak in him, Salim inevitably falls into the underworld, but still has some good in his heart. He is a character who is forced by his circumstances into what he is.

The movie is a modern day fairy tale, a rags to riches journey of a boy, a classic love story, and many more. The movie depends on Love and Destiny to carry the story forward and they did that just beautifully. Jamal's undying love for Lathika, right from the day his mother is killed in an anti-Muslim riot by the Hindu fascists, is endearingly lovable. Jamal never once gives up his love for her, not for one moment. They get separated many times in the movie, but Jamal's persistence and love for Lathika brings them together again and again until they are finally free of the obstacles in their way.

There are some "in your face" shocking scenes, such as s*it covered young Jamal, that comes across as endearing. The sheer honesty of the film captivated my attention. Jamal and his brother does not even know what Taj Mahal is and that is very true in most of the real world cases. How will a Slum kid with no formal education, who tries to go through the next day somehow, know what Taj Mahal is. One of the questions asked in the show is the words engraved in front of India's national symbol. The options are so simple that even a 5 year old kid would answer that, but Jamal doesn't. When asked about this he promptly asks a series of questions to the inspector to which he knows the answer, but the inspector doesn't, like the cost of "Pani Puri" in a particular shop.

My Verdict- The movie, simply put, is fantastic. An Indian movie that is worthy of an International stage(Yes, I said Indian movie. Even though the director is Irish, the movie is 100% Indian, but without the songs, dance and cliches). With 4 Golden Globe nominations, 2 Screen Actors Guild nominations, 3 National Board of Review wins, 3 wins and 3 nominations in British Independent Film Awards and an array of other wins Slumdog Millionaire gives us the perfect mix of cinematic aesthetics and public affection.The climax was so tense that I almost fell off the edge of my seat. This is one movie you don't want to miss. The movie is so surreal, that is feels real.

Political Rant (forgive me but I had to)

In this modern day Indian Fairy Tale, Love and Destiny has a very big part to play. But underneath the Love and Destiny plot, there lies a more profound look into the lives of children from slums, how they are exploited, and how they live their lives. The movie honestly brings out the educational and economic divide that is present in India. It shows us there is a whole other section of the society who are well under the poverty line and struggle to get from one day to the next. The thing about the economic development in India( for that matter most of the world) is that the rich keeps getting richer and the poor poorer. The nations which boast of economic development should really look at the growing hunger indices of their countries. Economic policies of the countries should be formulated so that the gap between the poor and the rich should be reduced not increased. I'm so not happy at the way our world is running.

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Seven Pounds - Review - A tearjerker which doesn't bring you tears

Category: , , By Manu
After the heart wrenching drama "Pursuit of Happyness" Gabriele Muccino and Will Smith come together for another drama, Seven Pounds. Is it another "Pursuit of Happyness"? No it is not.

Plot (without spoilers)
Ben(Will Smith) is an IRS agent who is deeply depressed and guilt-ridden for the mistakes from his past. He decides to change the lives of three strangers. Among those he contacts are a blind telemarketer (Woody Harrelson), a battered single mom (Elpidia Carrillo) and, most importantly, Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), a woman in desperate need of a heart transplant with whom he inevitably fall in love.

It is really hard to write a review of Seven Pounds without spoilers, which are not much anyways(I figured out most of the story half way through the movie). Anyways for all those who are spoiler-phobic I can try to refrain from as many details as I can while still making sense.

The biggest problem with the movie is the script. The writer tried to weave a mystery plot with an emotional one and as a result comes up short at both. The result is neither emotional, nor mysterious. In most of the scenes that are supposed to make us emotional we will be unable to do so because we will have no idea why the character is so emotional. But that would have been acceptable if the plot was truly mysterious. The plot falls short there again. From the supposedly incomprehensible flashbacks, we pretty much figure out the whole story, in the first fifteen minutes. All through the movie I was confused to see the movie as a mystery or an emotional drama. And I was also wondering if the writer takes his audience for fools to expect everybody will be surprised by the climax.

I went in to the theatre expecting another Pursuit of Happyness, but was thoroughly disappointed. Gabriele Muccino did a good job in making such a flimsy script into a passable movie. Though the movie was visually pleasing, the story, and the way it is handles totally ruined it. Will Smith puts on another Oscar worthy performance though I wondered sometimes if he is trying too hard. Unlike in "Pursuit of Happyness" Will Smith's charater is perpetually sad, or moody making it a little hard to like him. His charisma shows through in a couple of scenes by overall he is a moody emotional man.

With a performance that tugs all the strings of your heart, Rosario Dawson captures you as Emily Posa, a girl suffering from congenital heart disease. Quiet, broken and yet so full of yearning for life, Emily is the one bit of heart and soul in this film. And in bringing Emily to life, Dawson gives what can easily be described as a career best performance. She is the subtle balance to Smith’s sap-session, lighting the film up every time she unleashes her infectious smile. Through her performance, we cannot help but to connect with Emily’s pain as she struggles with near-terminal heart failure and celebrate those quiet, happy moments she shares as she begins to fall for the mysterious Ben. But the outstanding performance of Rosario Dawson is not enough to save the movie.

My Verdict -
With a premise that is intriguing and unique the writer-director could have done much more. Will Smith teaming up with Gabriele Muccino will make us believe another "Pursuit of Happyness" is on the cards. But you are going to be really disappointed. The only two things that are worthy of a "watch" are the performances by Rosario Dawson and Will Smith. The plot holes will leave you gaping, the ending will leave you confused and the "big surprise" of Seven Pounds is that you get the "big surprise" pushed in your face in the first 15 minutes. Will Smith definitely broke his $100 million streak with this melodramatic, convoluted movie and he is not definitely not getting an Oscar for this one. Grant Nieporte should go back to writing sitcoms, where he belongs.

The soundtrack can be bought at Amazon And for all you Will Smith fans the 11x17 poster for the movie is available at Amazon
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Merry Christmas to you all

Category: By Manu

The coldestDecember came once again. Stars begin to appear in homes to proclaim the great arrival of X'mas. Snow begins to fall down from the heavens(where it snows :D) heralding peace and happiness. Christmas is a season of Love and Sharing. May this Christmas bring you and your family an abundance of Love and Happiness.

Merry Christmas

And a few links for all you to indulge in you vacations..

Shrek The Halls Review

Upcoming Music Releases in 2009

Upcoming Movies to look out for in 2009

Grammy Nominees- My Take

My Zazzle T-shirt Store - Tees ranging from hip and new age to baby t-shirts that are funny and adorable.

Pringoo and Myntra shops (Indian)

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Flo-Rida's new single Right Round - another one in the long list of covers of the song

Category: , , , , By Manu
Flo Rida released a new single Right Round and its been doing the rounds on YouTube. It is apparently a spin-off cover of Dead Or Alive's 'You Spin Me Round (Like A Record). I was familiar with another cover version by Dope that was mis-labelled as Marilyn Manson(lol). That got me into the different covers of the song and was amazed at the number of covers made of this song. Wiki names at least 14 covers of the song and looked up most of them(those are available on YouTube) and made a list of those which I like the most.

Edit:- Flo Rida announced his new album named R.O.O.T.S("Routes of Overcoming the Struggle") to be released on April 7

The Original
"You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" is a song by Dead or Alive on their 1985 album Youthquake. The track got a UK number-one hit and a top 20 hit in the United States.

Covers that are as good as or some even better than the original
Only some covers can achieve something new from the original which is as good as or even better than the original.

Dope is an American nu metal band formed in 1997. The band received some level of success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Dead or Alive song was covered for their debut album "Felons and Revolutionaries". Dope just made the song as a launching pad and made something that, according to me, is even better than the original one. The song is with enough differences to feel like their track but still not deviating too much from the original song.

Flo Rida, is a two-time Grammy nominated American rapper. Mail on Sunday was Flo Rida's solo debut album; its lead single "Low" was a number-one hit for ten weeks in early 2008. I absolutely loved the whole album, a perfect club hip hop album with everything from great rapping to funky club sounds. The new single "Right Round" is like a spin off cover of the original song. The song has its chorus and beats similar to the original, but the rest is all Flo-Rida and its great.

Jessica Simpson
I'm guessing there may not be anyone who don't know the "goog girl" Jessica Simpson. She did a cover of the track too, but with her own lyrics except for the chorus, for her fourth studio album, A Public Affair (2006). Her version reached number twenty on the U.S. Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart and number ninety-five on the Billboard Pop 100, although its single release was cancelled. The song is not better than the original. but a perfect modern pop rendition of the song, with addictive beats and seductive vocals.

Gemini Five
A cover of the song was recorded by Swedish rock band Gemini Five for their 2003 album Babylon Rockets. Although they may have been inspired by Dope, their rendition of the song is different from both Dope's and the original. The song has a more fast tempo than the dope song and the drums and guitar work is awesome.

Eiffel 65
Eiffel 65 was an Italian eurodance three-piece group, formed in the late 1990s and best known for their international hit "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" and "Move Your Body"(those are the only two tracks I have heard too but I loved them). In 2004, they also covered the album which gave us a dance rendering of the song, which is the best dance version of the song.

Covers which sounded nothing more than an average remix

Thalía is a Mexican singer and actress with multiple Latin Grammy and Latin Billboard nominations. She is also regarded as a "Latin Pop Diva" and "Queen Of Latin Pop" due to her Spanish songs being successful in crossing a lot of national borders, or so WIKI says. I have not heard any of her tracks till now but I should say she got a pretty good voice. This song probably stands a little higher than an average remix solely because of the beats and Thalia's voice.

Danzel is a Belgian House, Techno and Dance musician who reached the Top 10 in late 2004 with the single "Pump It Up" which is the only song I've heard of him. In 2007 he did a cover of the Dead or Alive track which is at best a below average remix which is no way near the original song.

Covers which shouldn't have produced

GiGi D'agostino
GiGi D'agostino is an Italian DJ, remixer and music producer who has one, at best two, hits to speak for. The cover is not at all worthy of a listen. It sounds like a cheap remix of the original, with some lack luster beats and unnecessary cuts. Those of you who don't believe me be my guest.

Ten Masked Men
Ten Masked Men is a British death metal cover band who specialize in covering pop songs, and who should stop doing that. Seriously. May be cause I'm not a fan of Death Metal, at all, I found the song annoying with his growling voice and really bad guitar and drums. Imagine a lion singing the original song, and you'll get halfway there to this cover. Specializing in covering pop songs... and that too a death metal band.. huh.

Another great track though not a cover of the song, but somehow related to it(I can't put my finger on it) is Bodyrockers' Round and Round.

BodyRockers are an electronic music act, consisting of British/Australian duo Dylan Burns (from Canterbury) and Kaz James (from Melbourne). The pair came together in early 2004 after a chance meeting between Dylan and Kaz in Australia. The pair first started with Dylan playing his guitar over Kaz's rocky DJ set. They claimed the chemistry was instant. They are mostly known for their hit song "I Like the Way (You Move)", loosely based on Billy Idol's hit "Mony Mony", released in 2005. The song reached #3 on the UK Singles Chart, and #12 on the Australian ARIAnet singles chart.

I like their brand of dance-rock (If that's a genre). Catchy guitar riffs and DJ beats- whats not to like. Round and Round is terribly addictive and you'll listen to it again and again.

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New Singles from Flo Rida, Justin Timberlake & T.I, and The Fray

Category: , , , By Manu
Flo Rida- Right Round
Flo Rida, who shot to stardom with his debut album "Mail on Sunday" and his number one hit for ten weeks "Low". I personally loved the whole album, with its clubbish feel and great rapping. He released a new single from his new album due on 2009. Its kind of a spin off cover of the Dead or Alive song "You Spin Me Round". The track got a definite club feel to it, and is branded "Flo Rida". A typical Flo rida track that got me on high hopes for the upcoming album. I'm hoping he won't turn out to be another one hit wonder like T-Pain( whose latest album is absolute trash). Here is the single

Justin Timberlake ft. T.I - If I
We have seen Justin Timberlake and T.I together in the massive hit "My Love" from FutureSex/LoveSounds and in the outstanding Dead and Gone from T.I's Paper Trail. Now there appears to be a mysteriously leaked track on YouTube, "If I" from the duo and to add to the party produced by the talented Timbaland. Justin opens with his best impression of T.I and following with some old style vocals. Unlike what you expect from the big names, the track is mediocre. My guess is that it is probably a song they discarded, eventually finding its way to YouTube.

The Fray- "You Found Me" and "Say When"
The Fray is a Grammy Award-nominated four-piece piano rock American band from Denver, Colorado. The band is best known for the song "How to Save a Life", which charted in the top three of the Billboard Hot 100 and was also a top 5 single in Canada, Australia, Ireland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The Fray also found national success with the song "Over My Head (Cable Car)", which became a top ten hit in the United States and Canada. Many of you may recognize the "How to Save a Life" song as the song used in the promo of "Grey's Anatomy".

Their debut album "How to Save a Life" went double platinum in the USA. The album had many great tracks, which made me look out for their next album.

Fray released their new single "You Found Me" with video(to which embedding was disabled) a couple of weeks before. The song is a great track showing some promise for the upcoming self titled album "The Fray" which can be pre ordered at Amazon.

Couple of days ago an even better single,"Say When" was released on YouTube and it sounds like the Fray I liked, almost like a track that should as well can be included in the last album.

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International Film Festival of Kerala 2008 -Day 2 and 3- Caramel

Category: , , , By Manu
Day 2
The second day at the festival was a slow one too with me ending up seeing only one documentary that day- Bob Marley: Exodus 77 .

In this documentary, we witness the tumultuous events of 1977 through Bob Marley's songs and archival footage. It explores why Bob Marley and his music have become synonymous with struggle for freedom and resistance to oppression across the globe. The heart was in the right place for the documentary, but the execution was plain right boring and at times incoherent. A series of disjointed visuals are shown with the backdrop of Bob Marley's songs. At times I almost wished the Exodus Album was a bit smaller. After watching this one I didn't have the heart to go for any other movies that day and returned home.

Day 3
With 3 movies, Music Box, Caramel and Listening to silence, Day 3 was pretty satisfactory.

Caramel(Sukkar Banat)(2007) - Caramel is a Lebanese movie directed by Nadine Labaki, who also stars as a lead role, about the lives of five women in Beirut who meet up at a beauty salon where they discuss subjects like sex, man and motherhood. It is a plce to openly discuss their thoughts and confess private sins and pleasures: Layale is in love with a married man. Nisrine is a Muslim and getting married- but she isn't a virgin. Rima finds herself attracted to women. Jamale is not allowing herself to grow old. Rose is looking after her sister instead of herself.

Nadine Labaki, the director, shows us a city with normal people or more appropriately, normal women whose day-to-day existence makes us smile, laugh, cry, sigh or weep. And therein lies the greatness of the film. Nadine has carefully scripted a tale where she succeeds in keeping the viewer hooked from the first shot.

The beauty parlour is a middle-class location where lighting has been used skillfully and the subtle changes in lighting convey moods effectively. Close-ups of hair being snipped and the routine chore of waxing convey the beautician’s mood. Dialogues are minimal, a shrug of the shoulders, discarding a tissue, the sniping of hair every gesture every close-up manages to convey a whole gamut of emotions. No preachiness, no moralising, just a group of women, each one who’s struggling to come to terms with her life.Only two or three men figure in the whole film, Layale’s married boyfriend, Nisrine’s fiancé and Rose’s elderly suitor. They appear briefly on screen and disappear. There is no place for men in this film. It’s a women’s perspective shown by a woman and again revolves around women.

Labaki steals the show in every scene she is in with that natural charm she has and her stricking good looks. The senile and eccentric sister of Rose is, perhaps, the character which provided the most laughs in the movie. Rose breaks our heart with a performance juggling her only chance at love(so late in her life) and finally throwing it away to look after her crazy sister.

My Verdict - To fully understand the undertones of the movie one must know something about the culture in Lebanon, the oppression women there are facing. If you see the movie with a western backdrop this is just another chick-flick(though a pretty good one at that). The struggle of the five women to go through their lives are rendered as a bittersweet ordeal by making us laugh and cry at the same time. The movie takes us through a journey of self discovery and liberation of the five women in their own unique ways. The Lesbianism, extra marital affair, sex before marriage, all of it are against the customs in Lebanon and yet we find them in the movie which rebels against established customs. The movie ends with the love interest of Rima cuts her hair short symbolizing the liberation women in Lebanon are craving. The movie rightly deserves its 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Top 10 Bad Movies with Great Star Power of 2008

Category: , , , , , By Manu
The year is coming to an end and its time for the top ten lists which are bound to pop up in almost every niche. On the risk of being left out, I decided to join the party with a top ten list with a difference(or so I think). This year a lot of really good as well as bad movies released. Some movies with apparently unknown cast and crew turned out to be great and at the same time some movies with a promising crew turned out to be disasters. Here is a list of those movies.

Top 10 Bad Movies with Great Star Power(that I have had the misfortune to see.)

10. What Happens in Vegas (IMDB)
At the number 10 spot its the Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher starrer "What Happened in Las Vegas". A full length sitcom which begs us to take it seriously as a film. Two outrageously stupid and selfish characters whom you can't get to like no matter how hard you try. It does have its moments here and there but no definitely worth a watch in the theaters.Its not a horrible movie but better rent it in a DVD and watch it when you have nothing else to do.

9. 10,000 B.C.(IMDB)
Snatching the number 9 spot is the epic(or supposed to be epic) movie set in 10,000 B.C with woolly mammoths, saber toothed tigers, cavemen, and what nots. The director of Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow had a lot to live upto and fell flat on his face trying to do so. The plot and screenplay was too silly for a movie of that scale. The visual effects and costumes, one of the plus points of the movie, along with some moments here and there saved the movie from a fatal drop to the forgetful chasm of Hollywood crap.

8. The Happening(IMDB)
The number 8 slot is adorned by M. Night Shyamalan's latest "scary thriller" ,The Happening. A strange, horrible and unprecedented crisis begins in Central Park. A high school science teacher, his wife and a young girl do what they can to survive it and so do we. The tagline for the movie says "We've Sensed It. We've Seen The Signs. Now... It's Happening". That is absolutely spot on about Shyamalan's film-making abilities. We sensed it with "Village", We've seen the signs in "Lady in the Water". And now its Happening. How ironic ?

7. Rambo(IMDB)
Rambo snatched the no. 7 spot with Sylvester Stallone returning as Rambo to bring out the worst movie(to date?) in the series. I am not a big fan of Rambo movies except for First Blood which I loved. After First Blood it became just another American Hero blowing up foreign "terrorists" by hundreds. Rambo only needs a patch of ground where evil men terrorise women, children and hard-working peasants, before his damaged hero blows them away by the truckload. But the new Rambo sunk to even lower levels by making the movie into something that is nothing more than a mindless shoot-fest. Forget the story, forget the character, forget emotions, hell,even forget excitement. This movie got nothing except a couple of moments(one of which is a flashback to First Blood) which gave it a place ahead of Mummy 3. Little more than a cartoon, Rambo caters only for those still smitten by the rat-a-tat of continuous gunfire

6. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor(IMDB)
The latest installment of the Mummy franchise settled for the number 6 spot after fighting with Babylon A.D fiercely. In the Far East, trouble-seeking father-and-son duo Rick and Alex O'Connell unearth the mummy of the first Emperor of Qin - a shape-shifting entity who was cursed by a wizard centuries ago. How many times have we seen that before? Isn't is time fictional character Rick O'Connel learned not to mess around with Mummies? Isn't it time for Brendan Fraser to say no to such movies? Rachel Weiz said no and good for her. The third Mummy entry is a headache-inducing mess that piles on unimpressive special effects to stretch a slight and often incomprehensible storyline. The only good thing in the movie is the performance by Jet-Li who absolutely sizzles the screen playing sinister emperor and saving the movie from a no. 5 spot in my list.

5. Babylon A.D.(IMDB)
The latest sci-fi action thriller from Vin Diesel, Babylon A.D, well deservedly gets the no. 5 spot. Veteran-turned-mercenary Thoorop takes the high-risk job of escorting a woman from Russia to America. Little does he know that she is host to an organism that a cult wants to harvest in order to produce a genetically modified Messiah. I can name a couple of movies that this movie borrows from right off the top of my head- Children of Men, Minority Report. There may be many more. The plot makes absolutely no sense rendering a nihilistic nonsense with no particular plus points. The ending is more incomprehensible than the "meaning of life". I strongly suspect the editing team screwed up and accidentally deleted the last part of the movie. Vin Diesel should really choose better projects if he wants to stay in Hollywood.

4. Righteous Kill(IMDB)
Righteous Kill bags the no. 4 spot with some really uninspiring screenplay, direction, acting, and anything that's left in making a film. Russel Gewirtz, the writer, should be ashamed of himself for bringing out such a work, especially after he has written a brilliant Inside Man. I have just one question for two of the greatest actors of all time- Why oh why did you take this project? Didn't you at least leaf through the screenplay before signing up? The movie tries to inflate itself on the iconic star power of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro but falls flat on its face.

3. You Don't Mess With the Zohan(IMDB)
Adam Sandler with his latest juvenile comedy "You Don't mess with Zohan" bags the no. 3 spot. I've never really liked him nor hated him. This movie has given me a really strong motivation to hate him.A comment at Rotten Tomatoes says it all-"The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine isn’t exactly the obvious choice of topic for a comedy – which is perhaps why this film is about as funny as a suicide bombing". I saw Judd Apatow's name was on the writers list and I was like- What is a guy who has written 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Pineapple Express doing in this film?You don't mess with Zohan, You don't even mess with the film. Just leave it alone.

2. The Love Guru(IMDB)
Mike Myers, the voice behind Shrek, the irresistibly funny Austin Powers, brings out Love Guru which quite easily grabbed the no. 2 spot. Mr. Myers, a writer and producer as well as the star, seems to have lost his touch, his jokes not funny anymore some bordering on obnoxious. It did get a couple of laughs at the first but soon it became a pain that I endured only cause I was with a friend and we were making fun of the movie. There is a part where Pitka(Myers) and his arch rival is shown to be in a fight with urine soaked mops, and that too as part of some Indian spiritual teaching lesson. If you find that funny, be my guest. I found the movie as a whole un-funny, and even offensive to my Indian psyche.

and finally... the movie that topped the list
1. Step Brothers(IMDB)
At the no. 1 spot we find "Step Brothers" lying on the gross and repulsive shoulders of Will Ferrel and John C. Reilly with all its disgusting glory. One cannot consider Will Ferrel to be star power, but the hype it got and the popularity surely counts for something. I can't understand what made critics give this piece of (for lack of a better word) crap a 55% on Rotten Tomatoes. Who really wants to see the unbearably repulsive antics of two 40 year old adolescents who are given a leash-free romp in the movie? This is not anything remotely like 40 year old Virgin, which was a movie I enjoyed. I cannot find even one reason why anyone would enjoy the film, but still many do. If you can somehow overlook the disgusting antics of the lead characters, then comes an unimaginative plot that is so predictable that you will slap yourselves for even thinking something different can be expected.

If you have any more movies that should have been introduced in the list feel free to post a comment about it.
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International Film Festival of Kerala 2008 -Day 1- Chevolution

After a seven day cinematic extravaganza the International Film Festival of Kerala, 2008 draws to a close with the Closing Ceremony yesterday. The delectable treat of cinema was more than enough to satisfy any movie lover's tastes.With renowned Film makers from around the world, like Idrissa Ouedraogo, Lucia Murat, Sitora Alieva, Samira Makhmalbaf, Uberto Pasilini and many more, gracing the festival as a jury member or in “Meet the Directors” segment, the festival became a well organized event.

Day 1
The festival started out really slow for me with only one documentary under my belt at the end of the first day but that single documentary made my day.

Not many people in the world doesn't know who Che Guevara is. For most he is a revolutionary hero, for some a masterful guerrilla tactician, for some a mass murderer and yet for some others the guy on T-shirts. Such is the impact made by a single man on World History. A large part of that impact and the widely spread recognition of his face is a single photograph.

Chevolution, a Cuban documentary by Luis Lopez and Trish Ziff, is a thorough and compelling investigation of the Che mythology and the essential malleability of the Che icon. Why did the image became so prevalent after 1967, and how has it meant so many things to so many different people? Chevolution asks all the right questions and gracefully allows us to answer them ourselves. In the documentary, producer/director Trisha Ziff and director Luis Lopez explore the Che phenomenon from all angles, including the revolutionary's early life, his fateful encounter with Castro, the Cuban revolution he helped make happen, to his life trying to foment revolutions in other countries. But it also examines how he crossed paths with photographer Alberto Korda, the fashion photographer/photojournalist who took the famous picture of Guevara that was the basis for the icon we know today.

The photograph taken by Alberto Korda was immortalised in World History and took up many meanings from Revolution to Rebellion to just a “fad”. The symbolic photograph was taken on March 5, 1960, in Havana, Cuba, at a memorial service for victims of the La Coubre explosion(which is believed to be the work of CIA but not solved to this date). This was an information that was new to me and made me see the photograph in a new light. I saw the meaning behind Che's eyes which shouts out his sadness, fury, determination, disappointment and action. Passed out to the occasional friend and published in a few small Cuban publications, Che’s image remained relatively unknown for 7 years. The photograph was then acquired by wealthy Italian publisher and intellectual Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in 1967. As Guevara's eventual capture or death appeared to be imminent with the CIA closing in on his whereabouts, Feltrinelli acquired the rights to publish Che's captured Bolivian Diary. Upon his return to Italy, Feltrinelli disseminated thousands of copies of the poster to raise awareness of Che's precarious situation and impending demise. Later in 1968 after his October 9, 1967 execution, Che's Bolivian Diary with Korda's photo on the cover was released worldwide. Feltrinelli also created posters to promote the book, which sold over 1 million copies. By this time, Korda's image had officially entered the public consciousness.

In 1967, Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick was also using Korda's image as a basis for creating his own stylized posters which is the start of the graphic Che image's origin.
“The first image I did of Che was psychedelic, it looks like he is in seaweed. His hair was not hair, it was shapes that I felt gave it an extra dimension. That was the image I produced for the magazine and that was done before he died and that is the important thing about that image. At first it did not print. It was considered far too strong and revolutionary. I was very inspired by Che's trip to Bolivia. He went there with the intent to overthrow the intensely corrupt government, helped by the Americans at the time, and that's where he died. I thought he was one of the greatest men who ever lived and I still do in many ways. And when he was murdered, I decided I wanted to do something about it, so I created the poster. I felt this image had to come out, or he would not be commemorated otherwise, he would go where heroes go, which is usually into anonymity.” —Jim Fitzpatrick, 2005

Soon Che became the face of every revolution across the world. His posters became kind of an inspiration to all those who were oppressed. He became the hero of the oppressed. Since in Cuba they didn't believe in copyrights on images this image became a public domain image and thus spurred thousand and millions of copies around the world. Every artist brought out their own version of the graphic. But somewhere down the line the photograph turned icon lost its initial means or rather the meaning was watered down. The iconic image of revolution was watered down to rebellion, and eventually to pop culture.

Pop culture welcomed Che with open hands and made it one of his minions and eventually lead to the hands of the capitalists who used the image shamelessly for their own profit. Those very people against whom Che fought began to use his image as a means to increase their profit. Che's image started to appear on all sorts of products including Liquor and Tobacco. It is despicable to see its derogatory use for all sorts of things Che stood up against.

But nonetheless the image doesn't loose its iconic meaning all together. The image is still seen an a symbol of revolution, a symbol of protest against the oppressors, of socialist ideologies. I have been always a little bit slanted to left ideologies for a long time and consequently I have considerable knowledge on who Che is and what he did for the people. One doesn't have to be a communist or even socialist to see what Che did was nothing short of greatness. To Throw away a life of aristocracy and to enter the revolutionary movement for the betterment of the people is a feat in itself. Most of us think about the atrocities in this world, shake our head and carry on with our daily routine. But he saw the oppression in people and dedicated his life to the cause. He did something about it. That's what makes him a hero.

A rating is really not in place here as the level of enjoyment depends on many factors like, you like documentary, you have a impartial perspective on Che, wants to know about how images travel etc. But still for the sake of it.

To be continued.......Stay tuned for Day 2...
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Yes Man- Jim Carrey is back

By Manu
After a long absence from the physical comedy world, Jim Carrey is back with Yes Man. I haven't seen him do a full length comedy movie, with an exception to Bruce Almighty) since Liar Liar back in 1997. He has been doing serious projects for quite a while now and its a welcome change to see him doing what he does best(not that he does Drama badly, I loved most of his serious ventures).

The basic premise for the movie is simple- A guy challenges himself to say "yes" to everything for an entire year. This one shows Carrey embrace the power of ‘Yes’. It takes a dig at people who take inspirational lectures and classes from self-boasting gurus, also reinforcing the fact that there is nothing extreme in life. The story revolves around Carl Allen (Jim Carey) who is a loan processing administrator, a divorced guy who lives alone and prefers it that way. He is seeking a solution for his troubled ‘No’ days. His outlook towards life changes following a crash course in saying ‘Yes’ courtesy Terence Stamp, starting a process of him making everyone around happy as well as finding the girl of his dreams Allison.(Zooey Deschanel).

The movie released world wide yesterday and you can find plenty of reviews on the Net, most of them praising the movie. With a 44% on Rotten Tomatoes(for a comedy movie)and a 7.2 on IMDB I can only conclude the movie is as entertaining as it sounds. Here is the trailer if you missed it. Check out the movie at your local theater. I know I am going to.

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