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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Guns, Guts and Glory: Sly’s Expendables are back with a bang!


(Image credit: celebnwall.com)

Rating: 9/10

Yes. The gang is back one more time to rack up a humongous body count, one liners and some bad-ass butt kicking on cinema screens. Who better to assemble the crew than the great Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross? Sly brings the boys back for yet another dangerous mission. Only this time it’s personal!

Well this time, we get a series of new recruits from the 80s and 90s. Bruce Willis is gone but Harrison Ford (Drummer) and Kelsey Grammar (Bonaparte) make their debuts. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as Trench. Jet Li also makes a comeback and quite a good one I must add. The best addition perhaps is Wesley Snipes. He was an action film staple for most of the 90s and my personal favorite was ‘Passenger 57’. Stallone and Snipes were together in 90s smash ‘Demolition Man’. Another former co-star of Stallone, Antonio Banderas, joins in and provides comic relief as Galgo.

The rest of the team is still there: Dolph Lundgren (Gunner), Terry Crews (Ceasar), Jason Statham (Christmas) and Randy Couture (Toll Road). They are joined by a fresh and young crew assembled by Ross such as Luna (MMA star Ronda Rousey) and Smilee (Kellan Lutz) to go up against Mel Gibson who is the antagonist in the film. He does an excellent job as the villain but I did like Jean-Claude Van Damme better in ‘Expendables 2’. The tension between Ross and Gibson’s character Conrad Stonebanks is very real as both were one of the founders of the Expendables. The spoilers stop here.

The film is a straight-up action film that is not aiming for Oscars but just pure vintage entertainment. Everyone looks in great physical condition despite the age. We have lot of quips that are a throwback to lines from famous films back in the day. One of my favorite is ‘I am the Hague’ spoken by Stallone- throwback to Judge Dredd’s famous line…see that film to find out!

The action scenes are well choreographed and ultimately Stallone shows his expertise in every scene he is in. It is a slam, bang action flick that just keeps getting better and better with every minute. It is non-stop action with some feeling. At the same time, Snipes is a delight and has some of the best dialog in the film. He is also given a decent amount of screen time.

By far, I feel it is the best of the three films. The second one was a superb follow-up to the first, but this one just takes the cake. It is one that even warrants a second viewing. For action film junkies who just want good ole fashioned ass-kicking, better get in line for Expendables 3!




GameGrep

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Child's Play



(Image credit: Batman Forever)

A friend of mine once told me liking superhero films is chidish especially those  that have received critical acclaim, like the 1989 dark and brilliant film by Tim Burton, Batman and the 1978 Richard Donner epic Superman starring Christopher Reeve. Well apparently this friend was 6 years younger to me, and when he got to the movie watching age, superman and batman were probably just kids stuff to him. He wasn’t there to witness the great movies which people of all ages love. 

Superman especially is a character the whole world loves. He is someone that has touched the hearts of everyone for being a hero for the people. A savior from another planet, who lives among us as us, and his sole reason for living is to save our behinds. From a movie perspective, the character was brilliantly portrayed and Christopher Reeve was crystallized forever as the boy in blue. He made us love the character so much and for generations to come, he is the benchmark for future superman actors. Richard Donner directed the most amazing superman film to date, with a very memorable score, brilliant acting and a classic plot that is right out of the comic books. It is no doubt that this movie made superman the most loveable superhero for all generations. 

Coming to Tim Burton’s 1989 dark and morose epic, Batman, one can never think on first view, that it’s a kid’s movie. Actually, I could never watch Batman as a kid. The Joker scared the jeepers out of me. However, when I recently watched it as an adult, I realized what I missed out as a young kid. Tim Burton directed a masterpiece, a dark opera, where two people of opposite sides of the coin collide. The psychology behind the characters was portrayed very well. Jack Nicholson played the most wicked and psychotic villain every portrayed in a movie and was brilliantly acted. No doubt he got first billing. 

Michael Keaton played a confused and depressed Bruce Wayne, who is haunted by a past that he fights. He plays a very complicated character and its easy to feel sorry for him. When Kim Basinger plays the damsel in distress, she becomes the comfort that Bruce Wayne is looking for in his life, but he comes to reality that he is Batman inside and his public life is his mask. He finds in Joker a wicked version of himself. The connection is superbly depicted. Tim Burton sets the mood right, and gives Batman the treatment it so rightly deserved. No doubt it was the biggest movie of 1989, and gave batman fans the movie they have been waiting for a long time. A movie that is so complicated for even adults to comprehend, because of the dark and complex characters in this neo- gothic opera, that Burton made it his own and depicted the opera of our own lives. 

My other personal favorite in the same series was Batman Forever, arguably the last great film of the Burton era, had Batman deal with more complex personal demons as well as a complex love life. Add to that, he had to deal with two villains who were causing trouble in Gotham City. He, as Bruce Wayne, also had to help a young adult who recently lost his family at the hands of one of the film villains, and was dealing with the same demons that Bruce himself had to deal and reconcile with. Ultimately, he joins hands with him as Robin, to aid the cause of delivering justice to the city's criminals and to make sure no one suffers the fate which both these heroes have. 

Christopher Nolan revived the dark world of the Batman with the Dark Knight Trilogy that did exceptionally well at the box office as well as with critics, joining Nolan to the great list of superhero film makers mentioned above. The Iron Man, Sam Raimi and Marc Webb Spider Man films also are great films that remind us of the hero inside all of us, and the choice that all of us have: to do the right thing. 

What my point is that superheroes, like science fiction is not child’s play. Some of these characters are very complex and live in worlds that we can connect to. We can see inside a man that has a dual personality. We all carry some hurt inside; there is a side of us always hidden in the shadows, and one that is displayed in the public. 

We are all Batman in a way. We carry some guilt, some fear, hidden demons inside us, and we fight it every day just to survive. At the end of the dark tunnel, there is always light, and we are all looking to find the end of that tunnel in our lives. Also there is a superman inside all of us, someone who cares for the needy and less fortunate, someone wanting to be a hero for ourselves and other people in our life. Someone who can reach out and touch the sky, he is one person that continues to elude and fascinate us. And then there are some people who call it child’s play. Go figure?


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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How I Met Your Mother: biggest series finale since Friends?


(image credit: bdcwire.com)

Those looking for a ‘Friends’ reunion don’t need to look any further, since its biggest inspiration ‘How I Met Your Mother’ finally came to an end in an exciting series finale. Both shows had several similarities. Both were based on New York and focused on the lives of young, close friends dealing with day-to-day situations in their personal and professional lives.

Almost every character on ‘HIMYM’ seemed like a version of their ‘Friends’ counterpart in an alternate universe. The only difference was that it was narrated by former ‘Full House’ star Bob Saget as a retrospective of how his younger self found ‘the mother’. The show starred Josh Radnor, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan, Jason Segel and Cobie Smulders in their respective lead roles

Most television audiences remember the series finale of Friends with fondness of how it wrapped up different stories of the characters and created new beginnings. It was closure for not just the fans but also for the cast who had spent ten years in their respective roles on a weekly basis. 

The last season added the character of the mother Tracy McConnell, played by Cristin Milioti. The finale focused on how the main character Ted Mosby played by Josh Radnor eventually meets and marries ‘the mother’. 

Similarly to Friends, it wraps up sub plots such as the relationship of the witty ladies man Barney Ross played by former ‘Doogie Howser’ Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders’ character ‘Robin’. Alyson Hannigan, famous for her starring roles in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ show and the ‘American Pie’ film series, stays on as Lily, the loyal wife of Jason Segel’s character Marshall.

The series finale has been the most talked about since Friends, especially on social media platforms. Fans have been discussing the finale. A simple Google search even reveals a petition for the show’s producers to change the ending. Without giving anything away, an alternate ‘perfect’ ending to the finale season was filmed.

Cast members including Smulders have reportedly stated that they are content with how everything is wrapped up in the broadcasted ending, breaking tradition by giving fans a glance to the future, the fate of the mother and ‘Aunt Robin’. One of the scenes filmed during the shoot of the first season nine years ago has been featured in the ending. Radnor, however, was reportedly more content with the alternate ending instead of the one they had shot during the first season.

The alternate ending is expected to be available on the series DVD set. For those who have not seen the finale yet, we will not spoil it but it is worth watching for long time fans of the series. It may bring back memories of the now-classic series of finale ten years earlier. At least we finally met ‘the mother’!


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'Friends Reunion' Rumors: Do we really need them?

(Image credit: hypable.com)
It’s been almost 10 years since we last heard ‘I’ll Be There For You’ by ‘The Rembrandts’ on our television screens in the opening credits of possibly one of the biggest sitcoms of the last two decades. Friends was created by writers Marta Kaufmann and David Crane for NBC in 1994 and lasted a good ten seasons. Not only did the show set new pop culture trends, the series finale was one of the most watched in television history.

Ever since the series came to an end in 2004, fans have been hoping for a reunion. The individual lead actors have made appearances on each other’s shows, but have consistently denied rumors of a reunion. The sitcom ‘Joey’ was a spin off starring Matt Le Blanc as his Friends character Joey Tribbiani. The show only lasted for a season and was not considered to be as strong as its parent. 

As of now, any rumors about Le Blanc getting back together with former co-stars Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Matthew Perry (Chandler), Lisa Kudrow (Pheobe), Courtney Cox (Monica) and David Schwimmer (Ross) is considered fake.

It’s not so hard to get rumors on such stories viral in this day and age. Not just rumors, fan-made reunion posters are a constant feature on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These rumors and fake stories have been consistently denied by the show creators and actors. Every fan is drooling at the aspect of seeing the baby Emma as a young girl being raised by Ross and Rachel, or Monica and Chandler spending their tenth anniversary on a romantic getaway or Joey finally getting nominated for an Oscar.

These make up great stories, but whether we get to see them realized on screen is a burning question. For the moment, fans willing to relive the show can do so easily since all seasons are now available on DVD. Recently, Matthew Perry and Courtney Cox reunited on an episode of the show ‘Cougar Town’ featuring subtle nods to their relationship in Friends. Hopefully one day we may see ‘The One about the Reunion’ on television one day or a feature film. 


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The Pursuit of Happyness- Guest post by LUMS Undergraduate student Tania Rashid


Tania had written this as an academic piece for her Writing and Communications class at LUMS. I really liked it and thought it would be nice to have guest posts on the blog. I hope you enjoy Tania's piece, and I encourage other budding writers to submit their write-ups to be published as guest posts.
'The Pursuit of Happyness'



 

'The Pursuit of Happyness' is a biographical movie based on the life of the self-made millionaire: Christopher Gardner. The film, released in 2006, is actually based on a memoir written by Gardner, which depicts his life during the 1980s. In the movie, director Gabriele Muccino, through his use of imagery and symbolism, shows us some of the most widespread phenomenon's prevalent in the modern capitalist society. This essay focuses on analyzing three of the main themes found in the film: the struggle to stay afloat in a highly competitive society; the desire to achieve 'The American Dream' and the constant efforts made in order to grasp the true meaning of happiness.


The movie revolves around the fast-paced life of San Francisco. Throughout the film, people are shown struggling to fight time- moving hurriedly in order to get to their destinations. The constant beeping of horns symbolizes the urgency which surrounds the city at all times. Moreover, the amount of joblessness prevalent in this city can be measured from observing all those people who are showcasing their talents on roadsides. A number of musicians can be seen during the opening of the film, who's only pastime seems to be playing their instruments on the street to obtain some 'quick cash'. The setting for a ruthlessly competitive society can be seen from the very start of the film.


Christopher Gardner is one of the victims of this highly competitive capitalist society. He has not sold any 'bone density scanners' (which he does for a living) for a while and is extremely low on cash. So much so, that his apartment rent is a few months overdue. Similarly, his wife Linda has her own struggles to put up with. She has been pulling double shifts at a factory for the past four months in order to make ends meet. Later, she decides to abandon her family for a better job opportunity in New York. It should be noted that for a mother to desert her child is not an easy task, and the reason Linda does this is because she can no longer put up with the intense and cut-throat nature of her current job. Gardner meanwhile struggles hard to keep him and his son financially stable, but unfortunately ends up having to leave his apartment. After this, life seems to be very rocky for both father and son. Having no steady accommodation, they are often forced to spend nights in sleazy motels, homeless shelters and even subway toilets! Their struggle for survival seems bitterly tragic.

It should also be noted that when people are in desperate situations, ethics and morals generally cease to exist. The way Gardner pushes a few ladies away to get on a bus before them shows how self-interested a person can get in such times. Had he not done that, he would have had to sleep on the street, because the homeless shelter, where he is currently residing, is a stickler for punctuality. We may therefore, draw a link between the competitive society and individualistic goals which are pursued by the members of such a community.


Moving on, we realize that 'The American dream' plays a very significant role in this film. What this dream encompasses is different for everyone but most people portrayed in the movie have hopes to achieve their respective dreams. A crucial scene in the movie portrays to the viewers what this dream means to Garner. While passing by a stock brokerage firm, he spots a luxurious red car. Gardner falls in love with the entire environment surrounding that vehicle: the tall brokerage firm, the employees walking outside and the entire aura found around him. At that moment he desires to become a stock broker. Meanwhile, a serene music plays in the background epitomizing the desirable nature of this kind of life.


Another object which signifies Gardner's ambition is 'The Rubics Cube': which seems to represent the complex society in which he resides. The cube, whose solution is portrayed as an impossibility, proves to be a true enigma. However, Gardner finds a way to solve the box and this indicates the possibility of a positive event in the future. The scene in which he is solving the cube is highly charged and there is a lot of self-pressure on him to succeed. When he finally manages to accomplish the task, everyone around him seems impressed- even the taxi driver who is also attempting to solve one of these cubes. It appears as if every individual is engaged in trying to 'de-code' the mysteries of their society- but they do not all have the capability to manage this daunting task. Therefore, not everyone's 'American Dream' comes true.


Defining happiness has been one of the most important themes of this movie. Initially, Gardner assumes happiness to be associated with the acquisition of a certain kind of job. However, he constantly mentions the declaration of independence in which Thomas Jefferson speaks about the nature of happiness and that it is a feeling you are always trying to pursue, but whether you ever get to it is the perplexing question. The last scene of the movie establishes the true meaning of happiness for Gardner. He is offered a job which was very competitive and hard to bag. Tears of joy spring in his eyes and we see him in a state of total euphoria. His hard work has finally paid off and he feels valued and worthy. Once again, tranquil music surrounds the scene and Gardner says: 'This part of my life, this little part- is called happiness'. It is interesting to note that the word 'happiness' in the movie's title is intentionally misspelled: perhaps to indicate the lack of clarity in this word. Happiness is a nebulous term and holds different meanings for different people. Thus, why should it be spelt in the same monotonous way?


Like many biographical films, 'The Pursuit of Happyness' has a few discrepancies with the real story of Gardner. His son 'Chris Jr.' is portrayed by a 5 year old actor (Jaden Smith), whereas in reality the boy was just a toddler. However, when it comes to Will Smith's portrayal of Gardner, only praise comes to mind. According to The Rolling Stone magazine, "Will Smith is on the march toward Oscar... the role needs gravity, smarts, charm, humor and a soul that's not synthetic. Smith brings it. He's the real deal" (Travers).


Since the very beginning of the film, the audience is trying to figure out what happiness truly means. Towards the end, we see that Gardner has realized what it represents to him. His intense struggles and unwavering ambitions helped him reach his 'American Dream' and he was thus able to enjoy the fruits of his hard labour. From this movie, we need to learn that we ourselves are responsible for pursuing our happiness and that passion and devotion usually gets us there. The movie concludes at an emotionally charged moment and leaves the viewers overcome with a feeling of pure bliss: as if we were journeying with Gardner himself.

 

Work Cited

Travers, Peter. "Pursuit of Happyness."Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner, 12 Dec. 2006. Web. 10 Mar. 2010. <http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/movie/7605317/review/12812265/the_pursuit_of_happyness>.



GameGrep

Monday, July 14, 2014

Germany battle Argentina to win hotly anticipated World Cup final

(image credit: parhlo.com)
July 13th was a historic day for Germany as they lifted the World Cup after a 24-year-old wait. In a tense and exciting final that lasted beyond full time, ‘Super Mario’ Gotze came in as a super-sub and scored the winner with seven minutes to spare at the end of extra time. It had all the drama, excitement and tragedy that befit a final. Germany seemed destined to win this one, but Argentina did not make their job any easier in the entire course of 120 minutes.

Considering the pressure both teams were in, from the first whistle it seemed that both Germany and Argentina were playing defensively in order to avoid an early upset. By the time 90 minutes were over, one could tell both sides were holding off towards extra time. It would make sense in a pressure-cooker final like this, that a goal in extra time would put the conceding side in an extremely difficult position.

Having said that, both sides did try to break the deadlock in the first 90 minutes, with Argentina using the momentum gained on counter-attacks. Argentine skipper Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain unfortunately failed to make their chances count. Both these quality forwards lacked in the finishing department especially when they had been set-up with some fine chances. The Barcelona forward missed a sitter when his trademark left-foot shot went wayward. Higuain put one past Manuel Neuer’s net but the flag had already been raised.

The pressure was always on Messi to deliver considering his reputation as the best player in the world. Having been criticized on occasions for not able to win his country the gold trophy despite his incomparable talent, he was hoping to set the record straight. Germany knew they had to keep him quiet, and without a target man like Angel Di Maria, Messi was handicapped. Ezequiel Lavezzi was replaced on half time by Sergio Aguero who failed to reproduce his stellar form from his time with Manchester City. 

Germany brought in André Schürrle earlier in the first half who provided the extra pace needed in the middle. Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose and Bastian Schweinsteiger were all getting into the right positions but finishing was poor. At the close of half time, a header by defender Benedikt Höwedes hit the right post and when Muller got the ball, he was already offside. Schweinsteiger took a knock under his right eye, bled, left the field and came back ready for battle once more. He took home a scar that he would proudly show his grandchildren one day.

BBC’s stats reveal there were no shots on target from Argentina and Germany had five chances. Regardless of the chances, only one shot counted and that came from Mario Gotze with seven minutes left on the clock in extra time. While it seemed evident, both teams would settle for penalties, Gotze took a comfortable chance chesting a cross from Schürrle and placing it in the net stunning Sergio Romero.

Messi now had to be the hero for his country. The four-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona striker had all the skills and experience necessary to score a goal out of nowhere, as he did against the likes of Iran earlier on in the tournament. That moment came in the dying minutes of extra time in the form of a wasted free kick. Not long after that, the ref sounded the final whistle and Germany celebrated a well-deserved victory.  

As the fireworks lit the Rio de Janeiro sky, one would be reminded that football is a beautiful yet cruel game. It is these finals, when the loser feels that on a different day, it could have been them celebrating. However, Germany looked the stronger and tactical unit and deserved the plaudits. Argentina fought hard but one kept wondering if Messi was even playing. He took home the Golden Ball but it was Germany who took home the biggest prize in international football. It was a fitting end to the night of champions!



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Friday, June 13, 2014

Pride and Glory at stake as Mexico take on Cameroon


Image Credit: (bandarbet77.net)
Cameroon and Mexico take the field in the second televised match at the World Cup at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. After yesterday’s match between Brazil and Croatia, fans would be looking forward to another entertaining 90 minutes between two sides that are not considered favorites.

Cameroon reportedly arrived to Brazil four days later due to issues on bonuses within the squad. Two of their important players, the talented captain Samuel Eto’o and Oribe Peralta have injury concerns. Eto’o had a decent season with North London side Chelsea under Jose Mourinho scoring nine goals in 21 appearances. He is also Cameroon’s top goal-scorer and has previously played in the 1998,2002, and 2010 World Cups.

The former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker is currently looking for a club and is hoping to impress some potential suitors, reportedly Everton and Arsenal, with his performances in this summer’s tournament. However, it may not be the best start if he is unable to play against Mexico due to injury.

Mexico possesses a relatively stronger side but manager Miguel Herrera cannot take anything for granted considering how Brazil conceded an own-goal against underdogs Croatia in their opener. Brazil eventually won by 2 goals due to the quality of their attack.

Villarreal forward Giovani dos Santos will be leading the line instead of Manchester United forward Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez who has been out of form going goal-less in nine games. The Mexico side has not been the same since their 2012 London Olympics gold medal and is hoping to use the World Cup as an opportunity to re-establish themselves in world football.

Mexico did not win their pre-tournament friendly matches but will be looking to have a winning start against Cameroon. It should be an interesting match between two sides looking to prove themselves and may the best team win!


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