Category Archives: Young Guy

When Your Local Sandstorm’s In International News

You know you experienced a climatic phenomenon when your hometown is getting international news coverage because of it.This Thursday, Dubai was covered in natural sepia tone as a sandstorm (technically, it wasn’t a storm, more of an atmosphere encompassing breeze but hey, ‘Sharknado’ was a waterspout) filled the entire city. Social media couldn’t get enough. I woke up that morning and pulled my curtains to a dystopian universe prototype that was at once serene and eerie:

While the sandy shade faded by evening, the weather remained a little harsh. And while that was the prediction for the entire weekend, today things seemed back to normal. Here’s the report from Mic with more pictures to explain:
http://mic.com/articles/114422/these-photos-show-what-dubai-looks-when-it-s-hit-with-a-brutal-sandstorm?utm_source=policymicFB&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social

There’s more pictorial support in this article from local source The National:
http://www.thenational.ae/uae/uae-weather-dust-storm-covers-uae—in-pictures#1

P.S. What you saw in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was indeed exaggerated nonsense, those sandstorms are really not that common or severe. Even this recent occurrence is at best an anomaly.

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Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

mockingjay

(there’s a bonus part at the end)

The closing chapter of The Hunger Games has been opened.

If you’re still asking why the last book was (unnecessarily) split into two films, you’re a naive spirit who knows nothing of the world (hint: $$$$). But the cash grab comes at a cost, Part 1 feels more like a teaser, a build-up of events that will crescendo in Part 2. That’s not to say it doesn’t have it’s own climax, but you wouldn’t be blamed for feeling just a little bit shortchanged. Remember Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1? It’s a similar feeling. However, Suzanne Collins’ books aren’t nearly as lengthy so there’s no beating around the bush, hence this film ends at a reasonable time.

Danny Strong’s screenplay with a rewrite from Peter Craig (who also adapted The Town to the big screen)indicates two strong screenwriters knowing how to tie things up neatly. What’s missing though is the omnipresent tension Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt created in Catching Fire. But then again, Catching Fire began and ended within one film.

The unusual nightmare sequence is a fitting start, and things get into action soon after. We’re soon introduced to the familiar faces who survived the events of the Quarter Quell and are now taking refuge in the underground District 13. Then there’s the grand addition of Julianne Moore as Alma Coin, the district’s president.

Moore knows how to play strong and resilient without overdoing the angry or passive-aggressive. She’s a character at peace with herself while at war with the Capitol which makes for a great performance. Equally enthralling is the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in a turn so animated, you forget the actor has been dead for almost a year, until the end credits remind you with a dedication. Mahershala Ali is also introduced as Boggs, the head of security at District 13 and Katniss’ immediate new ally, blending in seamlessly with a dignified presence. But major props go to Elizabeth Banks as a de-glammed Effie, who might have been stripped off of her wigs and costumes but not her snark.

I’ve always felt that the entire book and film series can be summed up as an allegory on various sociopolitical issues. The main analysis of this part is definitely media manipulation. The 13th District use Katniss as their charismatic mascot, their titular Mockingjay. They begin creating video clips with the help of a professional film crew led by Cressida Bonas (a Skrillex-haired Natalie Dormer). They film guerrilla-style snippets to rile up their supporters. On the other hand, the Capitol broadcasts talk show-like one-on-one’s between a hostage Peeta and Caesar Flickerman who does his best using emotionally manipulative language. The film nails this look at two different parties connecting to their core audience with the appropriate platforms and images.

The sound design throughout is a work of beauty. The crashes, bangs, and thuds never shoot out yet still hit you hard.The emphasis is not the volume of the sound, but it’s impact. The foley work is realistic and never sounds looped in during post-production, a problem that plagues many blockbusters today. James Newton Howard’s score too is the right amount of subtle, never highjacking a moment (*cough* Interstellar *cough*)

This subtlety thankfully carries over into the action sequences. Believe it or not, no in your face destruction or bevvy of screen-hogging explosions, even when air raids destroy structures or when a dam explodes in a bomb attack. The Michael Bay’s of the industry need to take cues from Francis Lawrence. Speaking of which, mea culpa time. I was quick to judge Lionsgate’s hiring of Lawrence when Gary Ross departed. Owing to his previous work, the one thing I never thought he would add was subtlety, yet he’s done a commendable job on two and soon three films.

The two lynchpins that hold the conflict are heroine Katniss and big bad Coriolanus Snow. Color me biased, but I find Jennifer Lawrence to be a primary reason why Katniss Everdeen is so iconic. She’s equal parts strength and vulnerability, letting her rage take over when needed and breaking down when her loved ones are at risk. She’s a person, not an archetype. It really helps that Lawrence personable enough to add dimension to her character. Donald Sutherland is a masterclass happening before you. Like the seasoned veteran that he is, he gives Snow – a ruthless tyrant who wears white roses on his lapel to cover the blood stench in his mouth caused by poison sores- a soft-spoken cadence and an almost paternal disposition. The only thing scarier than an angry dangerous man is an unusually calm dangerous man.

Bonus- HERE is the best part:

If you read the book, you know about when Pollux requests Katniss to sing which Cressida & the crew record. Suzanne Collins wrote the poetic hymn The Hanging Tree into the book to be this song. Katniss describes it as a song her father taught her, but people could no longer sing because it was deemed anti-Capitol. Well fans, the song made it to the movie! The Lumineers gave it a melody and James Newton Howard added a score. I personally love the song because it reminds me of Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit and Joan Baez’s The Tress They Do Grow High, rosy melodies coded with macabre subtext. Jennifer Lawrence can definitely hold a note, her husky vocals add a new depth. In the context of when it appears in the film, it’s goosebumps-inducing and becomes the unofficial anthem of protest for all the districts. Listen here:

Marvel and DC Both Parade Their Female Superheroes. But Which One Will Hire A Female Director First?

MARVEL VS DC

Marvel vs DC is fast becoming the Apple vs Android of the entertainment industry. You know what that means, it’s not consumer interest at heart, but the need to outdo the other using consumers as pawns. Sounds like a world domination plan straight out of a comic book, huh?

Marvel just broke the internet twice in less than a week. First when they released a first look at Avengers: Age of Ultron, and then yesterday when they publicly announced Phase 3, which is their slate of upcoming films going all the way till 2019. As predicted, the list includes some sequels and threequels, but what really grabbed attention were the new franchises, including Black Panther and Captain Marvel, their first Black and female superheroes to get their own movies.

Marvel Phase 3

Coolbeans! Looks like Marvel is getting on with the times, BUT WAIT A MINUTE.

Just two weeks ago, DC announced THEIR upcoming slate which includes, well, their first Black and female superheroes to get their own movies: Cyborg and Wonder Woman. Moreover, the film version of The Flash will be played by openly gay actor Ezra Miller (meanwhile the TV series version has the out Wentworth Miller playing Captain Cold and Andy Mientus will soon play Pied Piper, a rare openly gay villain).

Congratulations, finally some diverse representation, but is this really a move to be progressive or yet another ridiculous arms race?

What about diversity behind the camera? To be fair, Ang Lee and Tim Story did do Marvel projects but neither one’s attempt was well received. Now both conglomerates are ready to showcase female heroes front-and-center but neither has ever hired a female director, and that’s a problem. It came close once, remember the Patty Jenkins snafu?. DC apparently wants a woman to helm Wonder Woman and Jenkins’ name is being circled again. Not for the Emmy-nominee’s talent but for the obvious reason that it would be a slap on Marvel’s face.

Why not have a female action hero’s story be told through a female perspective? That’s not to say men wouldn’t do a good job but previous examples don’t show much hope. No matter what, the male gaze does tend to get in the way. Remember how the camera kept lingering on Gamora’s butt in Guardians of the Galaxy? Remember THAT kiss in Elektra? Remember Halle Berry’s dominatrix costume in Catwoman and wondering how she doesn’t get cut and bruised all over? Remember Lara Croft: Tomb Raider at all? They’re not just badasses, they’re SEXY badasses, appeasing the depraved young male crowd is still paramount. Compare that with Rachel Talalay’s Tank Girl. Say what you want about it, but it did have empowering overtones ahead of its time.

Good thing Joss Whedon is a proud feminist or Black Widow would not have even made it to the Avengers universe (Where is HER standalone movie by the way?). Even Whedon’s co-created offshoot series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D features a team where the female members strongly hold their own alongside the men. The dude knows how to make strong women without referencing their sexuality at all and kudos to him, but the other guys just aren’t like him for some reason.

And it’s not just the female-centric action flicks, why can’t women direct any of the other heroes either? A majority of the films on both slates still don’t have directors, it wouldn’t hurt to consider female names. Catherine Hardwicke, Karyn Kusama, Lesli Linka Glatter, or Susanna White would all make suitable candidates who can work well with action and bring their own unique flair.

Unexpected hires have been successful for Marvel. Kenneth Branagh for Thor, Joe & Anthony Russo for Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Shane Black for Iron Man 3 were all left field choices that paid off. Hiring a woman is not nearly as big of a gamble, so why not?

Olive Kitteridge: Can We Give Lisa Cholodenko An Award Already???

Olive Kitteridge

If you’re anything like me, you were disappointed when Lisa Cholodenko’s was snubbed out of a Directing Oscar nomination for The Kids Are All Right in 2011 (In the same year, Debra Granik was shut out for Winter’s Bone and that upset me equally)The film did land Best Picture and Original Screenplay nods, as well as recognition for its stars, but Cholodenko was so crucial to the film being made the way it was, it just didn’t feel right to silence her auteur-like voice.

Not to make anyone an unnecessary villain, but on the other hand, there’s this cultish admiration for David Fincher. I never got The Social Network, nor did I get the praise heaped upon it. He got nominated but neither Cholodenko nor Granik got that honor. It will most likely happen again this awards season when he becomes a shoo-in for Gone Girl but Ava DuVernay will be a long shot for Selma despite the rave reviews. It’s equally noteworthy that post Kathryn Bigelow’s 2010 win for The Hurt Locker, no woman has been nominated, not even Bigelow again for the acclaimed Zero Dark Thirty.

Cut to today. A significant change in the TV landscape has been the revival of the miniseries(or ‘limited series’ or ‘event series’ based on what works for your brand). The Emmys went back to splitting the miniseries and TV movie categories this year, simply because the number of such programming is increasing vastly. Whether it’s based on the success of similar British formats or the anthology nature of American Horror Story, people are finding themselves invested in smaller episodic runs.

The tide is high, and riding the wave soon will be Olive Kitteridge, an adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer-winning novel. Much like Top Of The Lake and Fargo, it’s set in a mellow coastal town with interconnected stories. Starring Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, John Gallagher Jr., Rosemarie DeWitt, Zoe Kazan,and Bill Murray, it premieres this November on HBO. Helmed by? None other than Lisa Cholodenko herself. It’s her first major attempt since Kids and based on the previews and hype, it’s set to be a great viewing experience.

Given what happened this year, the Emmys have their own wrongs to right, a dubious voting system that seems – arguably- broken. As a result, an oligopoly of winners just keeps on winning. The miniseries category is luckily immune to this disadvantage. I for one can’t wait for Olive Kitteridge, it will air in four parts over the span of two weeks. HBO struck miniseries gold with Angels In America and John Adams, this could be headed in the same direction.

Music: Lorde’s “Yellow Flicker Beat”

lordeflickerbeatmain

It’s been promoted for weeks now, and it’s finally here. Lorde’s new song “Yellow Flicker Beat” is from the OST of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. Although, a very LOTR-style cover art might mislead some.

The first two Hunger Games films were accompanied by killer soundtracks (curated by alt-rock/folksy T.Bone Burnett and indie-rock/pop Alex Patsavas respectively) so I’m expecting the same level of excellence with this one, but we don’t get to hear the whole set till November.

Well, the song itself is very Lorde. Her voice is loomy and filled with her preternatural wisdom. The chorus is something that takes some time catch on, but you know that with enough listens you too will hum along. She does have a knack for catchy basslines, as heard in “Royals”, “Team”, and “Tennis Court’. This one is no exception: