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Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

Music Review: The Sellout by Macy Gray

In Music, People on July 22, 2010 at 12:07 am

A subtle comeback for an old favorite.

I don’t find Macy Gray’s new album as good as her earlier works. In fact, I can only name a few tracks that have strong mass appeal enough for it to chart in any musical list. Her new album The Sellout released recently will not duplicate singles like “I Try” or “Still”, which put initially put her on R&B’s list of most valuable talents.

The album is too unlike the quirky, loud and moody Macy Gray I first knew. It’s a bit on the sad side, with a few exceptions of standard upbeat numbers (and even those aren’t really that uplifting). So naturally, I liked it. Maybe it’s the long hiatus that made me miss her so much that I settled with whatever she had to offer. That she sold out at this time in her life is very unlikely. It’s only when I listened to all her songs that I realized the meaning behind the title. That somewhere along the line, maybe a while back in her life, she traded love to follow her dreams, and now she is trying to get that love back. The lyrics are evident of that much. Fortunately, she sings about “Real Love” with Bobby Brown, which made me miss the 90’s more. A little collaboration with Velvet Revolver for the track “Kiss It” also threw in the rock vibe for good measure. Nothing absolutely stunning there, just another track in another album for Miss Macy.

The Sellout may have been made a little too late for Gray, as the emotional tone of the record suggests. It’s a bit washed out and melancholic – a sign that inspiration passed her by and she only remembered about it just now. Still, anything other than Lady Gaga is a welcome delight to my ears.

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Why I Love: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

In Film, People, Television on July 20, 2010 at 1:31 am

‘Because he’s just so damn cute’ doesn’t quite cut it.


“I kissed her,” said Cameron, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. “Where?,” quips co-star Heath Ledger as Pat Verona. With the cutest, most innocent smile, Cameron answers “In the car.”

Like that scene, Gordon-Levitt has capitalized on his boyish charm and bagged steady teeny bopper roles as a start in Hollywood, both in film (Beethoven) and television (3rd Rock From The Sun). This probably led to roles that are endearing enough even for pitiful ‘loser’ types that he is categorized in when it comes to the high school labels. In 10 Things, Heath Ledger was the main attraction, and Gordon-Levitt paled in comparison – looking physically and aesthetically lackluster.

The next film I see him in is The Lookout, this was when I acknowledged the fact that he has grown up and has detached himself of the ‘wholesomeness’ that often traps actors of his age. The acting was enough to engage me (to the entire movie) without any trouble.

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Next thing I know, he’s in Inception. Although Leonardo DiCaprio is the main attraction, and he again is the sidekick, it’s safe to say the contrast wasn’t that stark this time around. With a sharp suit and an uncanny resemblance to former co-star Heath Ledger and even Keanu Reeves for that matter, Gordon-Levitt delivers notable acting chops that make you look back at that kid Cameron in 10 Things and go “That was him?”

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So now that he got my attention, I took the time to know his earlier works, which sure enough turned out to be as impressive as his Inception stint.

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In 2004, he starred in Mysterious Skin where he played a troubled teen haunted by sexual abuse as a child. The film touched bravely on the long term effects of sexual abuse on boys, and how it breeds homosexuality – the role had Gordon-Levitt perform probably one of his most challenging and commendable roles to date. Taking a huge leap from the innocence of boyhood that he initially invested in, he succeeded where most child actors often failed.

Furthermore, 2009’s (500) Days of Summer propelled him into positive critical reception, earning his first Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. The film opened the 2009 Sundance Festival and received a standing ovation from the audience.

The film was evident of Gordon-Levitt’s diversity as an actor – playing a man in different stages of love – happiness, confusion, anger, depression and, ultimately, acceptance. With his old boyish charm bordering on the effeminate, he pulled off a dance routine and at the same time tapping on his recently-discovered dark side to look like he was pulled straight out of the gutter when things in the story turns out to be a huge disappointment.

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In the film industry’s constant changes and fickle audience, it’s nice to know that child stars like Gordon-Levitt can go beyond that lovable high school loser and do so much more – beyond drugs and alcohol – and evolve to become (and possibly replace) his predecessors, and for once be the main attraction.

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Inception: A Dream Within A Dream

In Film on July 17, 2010 at 10:21 pm

The resilience of science fiction in film making is revealed.


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After directing The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan had an idea for another film. It wasn’t original, in fact it was – as what many have suspected – inspired by earlier films like The Matrix. The idea was “What if you can share someone’s dream – and steal ideas while you’re at it?” The premise of the film is two-fold. One, that a technology exists which allows one to share someone else’s dream; and two, that this technology is abused to steal ideas from someone through that dream.

The result is Inception, a sci-fi heist thriller that satisfies an audience visually, intellectually and emotionally. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a dream extractor who claims to protect his clients – but then steals their ideas in the process. He is presented as an outlaw haunted by an ugly past, ready to redeem himself by doing one last job. Ken Watanabe plays Saito, the businessman who offered the job in exchange for clearing Cobb all pending criminal liabilities. Saito, however, did not want Cobb to extract an idea. On the contrary, he wanted inception. To plant an idea inside a business rival’s mind by sharing his dream. Cobb then assembles his team: The Point Man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), The Architect (Ellen Page), The Chemist (Dileep Rao) and The Forger (Tom Hardy). The heist begins and the audience might find it a challenging task of keeping up. With multiple events on layers of (un)reality, it’s hard not to get confused. This is where reactions to the film might differ. The complexity may entertain the viewer, or may simply be too much.

As fascinating the idea of being in a dream state and battling someone’s subconscious is, the film invests on basic human emotions to drive characters forward. Guilt, love, longing – all these create an unexpected level of connection to the characters that anyone could relate to. It is fascinating how the human race, with all its technological advancements, will forever be motivated by emotion. Inception is a contrast of innovation and human nature. A contradiction of technological advancement and man’s susceptible frailty towards the most resilient parasite – an idea.

rating-4_0 4 out of 5 stars

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‘Parks & Recreation’: Why it’s not ‘The Office’

In Television on July 6, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Carell vs. Poehler 

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I’ve always admired Steve Carell for bringing an authentic personality to ‘The Office’, the mockumentary style comedy that turned many heads, critics and audiences alike. It introduced a new method of filming for television that audiences may have only previously seen from real reality shows as early as ‘Cops’ or MTV’s ‘The Real World’. Unlike these reality-based shows, however, ‘The Office’ is a perceived ‘reality’ where the events are scripted and plot-driven, but made to look like it isn’t – using single-camera shots and the absence of canned laughter – hence the pseudo-genre ‘mockumentary’.

Despite rumors that NBC’s ‘Parks & Recreation’ was a spinoff of Carell’s ‘Office’, the only similarity it shares with the show is the mockumentary aspect. The premise, story, and characters are completely different. Yes, it’s still life in the office, but compared to Carell’s designation as a small private company’s head honcho, ‘Parks & Rec’s’ Leslie Knope (played by SNL’s Amy Poehler) is a government employee and semi-head honcho trying to impress the cameras that ‘follow’ her around in a day-in-a-life manner.

It’s not everyday that local or US television poke fun at government issues, more specifically a comedy sitcom or series. With this I find ‘Parks & Rec’ a welcome addition to redundancies in the pile of television junk we see everyday. Whether you are indifferent, pro or against government, if you look closely, certain truths are hidden inside this little show that goes beyond the purpose of merely cracking up. It does make you think about your own government, and how things differ or are similar to the show. It might even breed sympathy for the very few people left in government who stand by certain ideals and beliefs, despite the tempting benefits of corruption and power.

Humor is the common denominator for the two shows, but one that is on different sides of the coin. While Carell got immediate comedic effect being the manic and insanely insensitive boss that he plays, Amy Poehler, on the other hand, has to play a very serious character who doesn’t even try to be funny – but is. One that probably amounted to a lot of outtakes and bloopers during filming. Anyone who is familiar with Poehler’s work in Saturday Night Live will know that she’ll go to any lengths (or prosthetics) to make people laugh. In ‘Parks & Rec’, Poehler looks like an average boss running the Parks & Recreation Department with an enthusiasm that ranges from annoying to endearing, and she still can make you laugh and look you straight in the eye without flinching.

In a nutshell, while ‘The Office’ is as blatantly hilarious on a regular basis, ‘Parks’ is subtly smart – and funny when it really shouldn’t be.

To watch ‘Parks & Recreation’ online, click here.