Friday, January 15, 2010

Inglourious Basterds

I just finished watching “Inglorious Basterds“. Yes, I waited for the DVD to watch it, I am ashamed of myself, so sue me!

In brief, Basterds is a mass of brilliant talents that is crackling with creative energy and a delicious taste of pulp culture and Spaghetti westerns movie making.

Brad Pitt is still occupying the King of Cool throne. And at this point I don’t think he should get an Oscar nod, because he does not need it anymore. He is above it. If there would be any prizes to be given for excellent performances, they should go to Diane Kruger, and to the perfect Christoph Waltz. Diane gave the performance of a lifetime taking herself from the pretty face roles in adventure movies into the solid performance and serious acting in any role. Christoph is out of ordinary, excelling at every moment he is on the screen grabbing more attention than all of his fellow actors in this project.

The movie is a Quintin Tarantino movie, so do not turn blue trying to criticize the unorthodox way this film was done. From the brilliant writing, to the catchy phrases, to the choice of music, to giving every single shot its time breathing to astonish the viewer, to the shooting angles. Making it the coolest movie of 2009.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Cool, the Dad and Kaylee

I don't know when you'll be reading this, but right now the world is busy with fighting wars, confused economy and the swine flu. To escape such cloudy atmosphere I normally try thinking of something positive to clear my mind. And what is more positive than the memories of childhood?

Until I was 7 my dad and I had a ritual of going to the movies every Thursday. I enjoyed all kind of movies, but The Westerns held a special spot in my heart. See, like many great fathers, my dad involved us (my brother Aus and I) into his hobbies and memories. And his always started with The Westerns. I never forget how his face shines and how his voice gets involved with an amazing body language every time he talks to us about The Westerns and the Cowboys. John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Glenn Ford, Red Sun, High Noon, Rawhide, Charles Bronson, Franco Nero and of course Spaghetti Westerns.

We enjoyed the aftermath as much as we enjoyed watching the western movie itself. The aftermath was a ritual that started with dad getting us into a discussion about our experience that night. Character analysis, the good guy, the bad guys, the music, certain phrases that caught his attention, and the lessons we learned from that movie. The next day we would do the same while having breakfast, and I could not wait for him to get back home from work for the last stage, my favorite, where he would prepare us paper-made characters that resemble the ones we witnessed last night, and form a western atmosphere of hideouts and hills on a quilt and we "play" the movie together.

I grew up and got distracted by new atmospheres and pleasures. But I never forgot my passion towards the westerns. The love that was implanted in the core of my being by my dad.

How could I forget? The whistling wind, the shooting bullets that sound like cannons, the cracking whips, the beautiful women, the hero who always stands tall, the bad guys, and Ennio Morricone. The Magic. Each time I watch one of these old friends I feel a shield of love forms around my heart. And if you ask me about the best memory I have, ever, it would be sitting with dad on that quilt playing cowboys.

Because I have only a 7 years old daughter (Kaylee), I could not get her involved into that special world of Men. But one way or the other, the smart girl she is, she feels my passion towards it, and she reflects it on me from now and then surprising me with a jolt of joy. The last time was at the park a few weeks ago. I was getting our picnic stuff from the car when I saw her standing with a water gun in her hand, a sharp Clint Eastwood look on her face, ready to shoot at any second while humming "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". She soaked me wet!

The Westerns. Love.

So this is to Sergio Leone, the good guys, the bad guys, the beautiful women, the beautiful Kaylee, the dusty western hills, and the greatest man of all, dad.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Best books I read:
The Complete Idiots' Guide to Herbal Remedies by Frankie Avalon Wolfe
A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome by Alberto Angela

Best movies I have seen:
State of Play with Russel Crowe and Ben Affleck, Crossing Over with Harrison Ford and Ashley Judd, Last Chance Harvey with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, Revolutionary Road with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and finally Incendiary with Ewan McGregor and Michelle Williams.
for more top rated (by yours sincerely..!) visit

Best TV currently running TV show:

Best TV talkshow:
Craig Ferguson (I KNOW!!!)

Song that I listen to most:
George Michael's Through

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Royal pains, royal show

I just finished watching the premiere of a new TV show on USA (the TV station, on US cable). It is called "Royal Pains". 

OK, so it is not as smart as "House". It is not as serious as "ER". And it is not involving as "Grey' Anotomy". It is the most entertaining doctor-reltaed TV show I have seen for the last 5 years.

A brilliant doctor makes the right choice to face all the wrongs in his professional career. A little trip would get him into big things. And so it starts.

I felt no tension (that extra artificialism while acting) with the cast. The writers did a good job, and touched a very entertaining subject. limited commercials helped to enjoy the show as it should be.

It has this relaxed pace, with the coolest atmosphere a TV show can provide. It has money (in gold), power, houses you dream of, and very VERY beautiful ladies. The logic and reality of combining all these factors into one hour is the most attractive thing  about it.

I am waiting without much of patience to watch the rest of the season praying for a long run.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Star Rating *****

Anyone with the tiniest bit of interest in history would know how Valkyrie ends. So why would anyone be interested in watching it?

For many solid reasons.

Between the beginning and the end of each journey, there is the journey itself. This movie is about a journey, and its details, which in this case is extremely exciting to witness.

Tom Cruise has been telling us for years that he loves to make movies. With Valkyrie, which he produced and played the main character, he scored a triumph of true movie making, that we love to watch. He extraordinarily plays Colonel Stauffenberg, one of the players in an assassination attempt against Adolf Hitler during WWII. The rest of the cast give a similar performance that adds a super thrilling effect through experiencing the ride. Of the many great talents associated in this work, actors Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard, Tom Wilkinson and Jamie Parker do an outstanding job playing the military men that were tormented between their oath to their fuehrer and their duty to their nation. David Bamber, although he has limited presence, he provides us with a Hitler as dangerous as we expect him to be. A standing ovation to the casting agents.

But this movie is not the cast’s movie. It was the director’s movie. It was Bryan Singer’s brilliance that turned a bit of history into a magical presentation that is very well weaved by the hands of the writers to give the viewer a relentless sequence of events and made it one of the most enjoyable movie watching experiences in the last few years. His maneuvering camera work takes the viewer into a realistic atmosphere through each step of the action sequences. Through this movie you would: feel the stomps of the advancing soldiers as you are one of them, hold you your breath in the presence of the mad dictator, live an extra jolt of Adrenaline while leaving the bunker, and experince the silence of failure.

If you are looking for action, then this is not your movie. If you are looking for the other elements that attract movie goers these days (anything between hot babes running in the woods in their under garments to giant robots), then you will be extremely disappointed. Now, if you are looking for a perfect thriller, that would surprise you even though you know the ending, then please watch Valkyrie.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Terminator Salvation

Star rating: *****

If you are a person who is not into Sci-Fi action movies, then do not watch Terminator Salvation, and start saving time and effort by not reading this review.

Now if you are a sci-fi action movie fan, then you will enjoy this movie, very much. Do yourself a favor and go see.

You may say Cameron is not directing. Arnold is not there. How can this be any good then? I’ll tell ya.

It is an expressway of non-stop action sequences from beginning to end, without needless distractions. No stop signs, no speed limits. The visual and sound effects are at their best, and unlike many movies of late, these effects have been a pleasure to watch where they have been used to strengthen the action sequences and the visual story telling instead of a digital show of force.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Terminator saga (where have you been? Mars?), the story revolves around a revolution led by the machines to terminate the “flaw” on the planet, that flaw being us, the human race. In the near future, Skynet, the machine villain, fails repeatedly to terminate the head of the resistance, a man named John Connor, so they try to use to get rid of him and/or his family line (mom Sarah Connor, dad Kyle Reese, wife Kate) in the by sending non-stop killing machines, to do the job, in the past (time travel). The story of Terminator Salvation meshes beautifully with the original storyline, so Terminator fans rest assured, the franchise is in good hands. The story of Salvation makes sense, in a Terminator-story-wise. It handles its characters carefully for the sake of the originality of the story and for the future of the franchise. The writers very clearly did a great job to fit the script with the characters, tailor-made fit.

In return, the cast does a great job, and Christian Bale is fantastic. McG, The director proves many Terminator fans, including myself, wrong when his effort shows more professionalism and more mature than his previous efforts in action movies. He offeres action sequences that top the competition of many other recently released action movies, with a strong anchor hold to many elements introduced to us in the previous Terminator movies, with a couple of hints to another favorite franchise of mine, and that is Mad Max.

How would a review about a new Terminator movie go without comparisons to the previous ones? So here it goes. Terminator Salvation fits perfectly as a sequel to the original movies, and as a great initiative to more movies of the franchise in the future. It is undeniably better than the third Terminator (Rise of the Machines) and is a great foundation for more sequels in the future.

The thing that keeps this movie from getting a ***** (check my rating system at the end of the article) is that it lacks the "Cameron touch", the method James Cameron used to direct his action sequences. With Cameron there is more of the viewer’s involvement with the action scenes and more attachment to the characters. “I saw a man, not a machine” and all the circumstances that led to it is the weakest link in the movie, story wise. And finally I miss the music in T2. The new soundtrack is not as haunting.

The last paragraph aside, this is a solid work that is absolutely worth watching for all action seeking viewrs, and Terminator fans, all thanks to the efforts of the captain of this ship, Mr. McG.

Star rating system:
* Go watch Jerry Springer
** Accteptable
*** Good
**** Very Good
***** Unmissable
***** Perfect, should be taught in film schools.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Longtime Companions


Comics are my oldest and best un-real friends. Our friendship started when I was only three years old, my dad had purchased me a comic book of European origins where it introduced me to the adventures of a doctor and his family in the wilds of Africa. I couldn’t read, but my parents kept reading me this issue time and time again every single night before I went to sleep. I still have a couple of its images in my memory.

Then my lucky stars got our young neighbor to study painting. He was a teenager who collected comic books, and he was going through the period, most comic book collectors go through, when he felt he had outgrown that stage, and started giving me a couple of issues every time he wanted me to stay out of his studio. His name is Hazim. Now he is a known comic book artist in the middle east.

The comic books he gave me carried the adventures of my all time favorite super hero: Superman.

The years go by, and my love toward comic books never changed. I was born in Iraq, and collecting comic books in Iraq was not an easy hobby. Iraq’s governing regime considered comic books as an extreme luxury Iraqi kids could live without. That was Saddam Hussein and his Baath party regime. Comic books were rare items, they showed and disappeared like bubbles. Collectors like myself depended on sniffing for a source here and there in the black market (being smuggled with people coming from Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Kuwait) or simply trade them within our “community”!

I will never ever forgive Saddam and his regime for that. Still it was a good chance for me to get introduced to comic books coming from all over the world, 99% of them were translated in Arabic. From the US we got titles like Superman, Batman, The Flash, Turok (The original dinosaur hunter!), Little Lulu, Bonanza (and the Lone Ranger), Tarzan, Disney (Mickey, Donald, Goofy, etc.) and in the mid 80s we had Spider-Man, Hulk, and a couple of other Marvel characters. There were many European publications (Tin Tin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, ….) and even a few local comic books made in the Arab countries (Majalatee, Al-Mizmar, Sameer, …etc.). The only good thing about that was the knowledge I gained of many world wide comics publications and characters, something to brag about in front my American friends now and then!

It was 1977 when my mom and I went to visit England. It was my first time to know how far away I was left behind from the rest of the world when it came to my favorite hobby. Just because my total lack of knowledge of the Marvel Universe, all the eight comic books I purchased were Marvel titles. The next time we visited the UK was in 1979, I was older, wiser (!) and financially ready (have been saving for 2 years!). I went back to Baghdad with a cool collection of Marvel and DC titles including Brave & Bold, Iron Man, Captain America, Daredevil, Legion of the Super-Heroes, JLA, Avengers, Defenders, ...... of so many.

I sold my collection for the first time when I started my teenage years, it was out of pure stupidity. The money was spent on a Commodore 64 computer, Ray Ban sunglasses, T-shirts and a eau de toilet. I realized how foolish that was when I was almost graduating college. I started collecting again, with a vengeance, and money I earned through work. I built another collection and extended my knowledge in the comic books world. I wrote to DC (I still have a letter from Jeanette Khan accompanied by a subscription list!), I contacted Mile High Comics (reading their printed catalog was my only true joy during the 18 months I spent in mandatory military service), and finally a couple of Comics Buyers' Guide I received from my friends in the US. This collection was huge and an impressive one, which I had to sell when I left Iraq a couple of years later.

I traveled the middle east, Europe and then settled in the USA. Through all the past years traveling, my only companion was comic books. I can relate each period of my life for the past 20 years to the comic books I read and collected. They were the friends who were always there. They gave such a calming feeling each time I turned their pages, evoking tender feelings inside me, my longing to my family (it has been 15 years since I last seen my parents), the sparkles of imagination, the excitement of following the events and adventures surrounding characters I have known for more than 30 years.

I sold my collection again when I went through my divorce. A collection of thousands of comic books went away to pay a tiny part of the divorce lawyer’s fee.

I started collecting again 3 years ago. I got Kaylee, my daughter, into reading comic books. She started her own collection of Tiny Titans, Supergirl: Cosmic Adv. of 8th Grade, Little Lulu (Dark Horse TPs) and a couple of other titles. Like my parents did with me, I read her right before she goes to sleep, hoping that she would have the joy I had and still have for 40 years.