3G in Lebanon To Be Delayed and Not Launch in October?

4000 lucky people are already using the service – of which I am one – but for the rest of Lebanon, the tantalizing dream of faster internet will possibly just stay a dream.

Personally, I found the area of coverage in the test pilot to be sort of absurd. Why is it that only Mount Lebanon and Beirut are the covered areas? Shouldn’t at least Lebanon’s major cities (Batroun, Amioun, Tripoli, Saida, etc…) be covered as well to get a broader picture of how the service acts in those locations?

However, while using it in Beirut, I’ve found the service to be seamless. I burned through 30 MB of data within minutes and without knowing. And no, I wasn’t streaming on YouTube. The only drawback was something I had also experienced while backpacking across Spain and France: battery life is murdered.

I was getting speeds of about 2 Mbps, which is very comparable – and even better – to the speeds I was using on Spain’s Orange and France’s SFR. Coverage, however, even in Beirut, was still quite spotty and I found my iPhone switching back and forth between edge and 3G frequently.

But basically everyone was waiting for October to roll around so we can put the smart in our smartphones and actually have data plans that would hopefully bring the country and us forward. But it looks like it won’t happen.

Just today, Lebanon’s Shawra council, responsible to uphold whatever little law is applied in this country, has ordered the rolling of 3G services to stop. The degree itself says the delay should happen for a month. But we all know how things in happen tend to be delayed. Why? They cited “illegal” actions taken place by the Ministry of Telecommunication at the hand of both former minister Charbel Nahhas and current one Nicolas Sahnaoui.”

Change and reform, indeed.

Apple Sets New iPhone Event Date – October 4th

Following leaks, reports, guesses, approximations and the like, Apple has finally set the date for its unveiling of the new iPhone, call it iPhone 4S or iPhone 5.

Mark the calendar to October 4th, which happens to be next Tuesday, at 10:00 am Pacific, which converts to about 8 pm in Beirut.

Invitations to the event were sent under the title “Let’s Talk iPhone” and had the following format:

Who’s excited?

We Found Love (Single Review) – Rihanna

Rihanna keeps churning these singles and albums, faster than any market can contain them. Wasn’t it less than a year ago that she released her most recent album, Loud!, and aren’t we being bombarded with her most recent single Cheers (Drink To That) on radio as I’m writing and you’re reading this?

Well, no matter… she’s ready to release yet another album, set for a November 21st release date and she has teamed up with Calvin Harris to deliver the lead single off the album, a club-banger titled: We Found Love.

“Yellow diamonds in the light And we’re standing side by side,” she sings to an electropop beat behind her. “As your shadow crosses mine, what it takes to come alive. It’s the way I’m feeling I just can’t deny… But I’ve gotta let it go.” And then she breaks into the chorus.

What’s the chorus, you might ask? It’s just one sentence. But unlike Lady Antebellum’s We Owned The Night, she doesn’t say it only once. She repeats the sentence four times. The sentence in question: “we found love in a hopeless place.”

The song’s second verse goes as follows: “Shine a light through an open door, love and life I will divide. Turn away cause I need you more. Feel the heartbeat in my mind. It’s the way I’m feeling I just can’t deny… But I’ve gotta let it go”

Insert repeat chorus.

So it’s needless to say that there’s not really much lyrical backbone for We Found Love to go on. What the song relies on is, however, some very tight production that gives you a result that is nothing short of incredibly catchy, with a great beat to go with it.And that’s pretty much it with We Found Love. It’s a dance song that is sure to become a radio hit. After all, almost anything radio friendly that Rihanna releases finds itself in the highest possible rotation on radio – no matter how frequent her releases come to be.

Will you be blasting this in your car on repeat? I don’t think so – well, unless this is your kind of music. Will it be blasted in night clubs across the world on repeat? Yes, it will. And at the end of the day, it’s not really a bad song. There’s just not much substance going for it. And in a time where pop radio is slowly changing, one wonders why Rihanna did not wait longer and release something with more power. After all, the fact that Adele’s Someone Like You is exploding on radio and Lady Gaga’s You and I is also doing well, as well as Lady Antebellum’s newly released (to pop radio that is) Just a Kiss, should be indicative enough that change is on the horizon – and it’s not just because of the names associated with those songs.

Maybe Rihanna’s label should stop making her their only viable source of income and give her some room to breathe. God knows it’d be good for her and us.

But I need to repeat this… We Found Love is not a bad song. It’s just same old, same old.

Listen to We Found Love here

Nadine Labaki’s New Movie: Where Do We Go Now (W Halla2 Lawein) – Review

Lebanese cinematic talent has not been given much room to grow. In a country where art is the least concern, cinema has found it especially hard to take off. However, a stream of Lebanese movies has been finding its way to our theaters. Some like Nadine Labaki’s previous movie, Caramel, were a huge hit with viewers. Others were not as lucky.

But the fact remains that the Lebanese audience is hungry for movies that describe its society, its problems, its worries and woes.

And then comes Nadine Labaki’s new movie: Where Do We Go Now, with its Lebanese title: W Halla2 La wein (also in French: Et Maintenant, On Va Ou?)

The premise of the movie is quite simple – and for many Lebanese, worry-inducing for fear of overuse of cliches. The overall basis of the plot is the coexistence of Lebanese Muslims and Christians in one community, sometimes peacefully and other times not. Many, like yours truly, felt the issue was overdone. Maybe not in cinema but in everyday life. Most of us are sick of being bombarded with commentary about the struggles that face our very diverse community. But this is not the case in Where Do We Go Now.

An unnamed village during the later part of the 20th century has its only connection with the outside world in the form of a very rudimentary bridge, around which landmines had been planted and never removed. Even TV reception is very poor to the village and the movie begins with a few youngsters searching for a broadcast signal to set up a TV night for the town-folks. This village is also a religiously divided community where the Church and the Mosque are only a house apart. And more often than not, the people live together happily.

But as it is, and despite barely having any access to news from the outside world, the men of this village start to confront each other in violent ways. Little things that would pass unnoticed cause them to explode, signaling the anger they’ve been bottling in. And it is then that the few women of the village start to devise plots to keep the men busy, entertained and get their minds off being violent. These plans will vary from fake miracles to putting hashish in cakes. But these women will go to every measure possible and break every limit imposed on them by society to keep their town together. And it is for these women, representing a vast majority of our Lebanese mothers, that this movie is so aptly dedicated.

Nadine Labaki, director of the movie and starring as Amal, is astonishing as always. You, really, cannot see her eyes on screen and not be mesmerized. She’s simply entrancing, even when she doesn’t speak. Then how about when she delivers a tour de force performance as one of those women, who happens to be in love with a man from the town’s other religion. But to be perfectly honest, the accolades one ought to give Labaki are not for her acting but for her directing. Never have I imagined a Lebanese movie can turn out this good and she makes it seem effortless. Her camera shots, her focus on details, her keen eye… all of this combine to give you a cinematic experience that will entrance you.

This movie, like Caramel, features mostly unknown faces and all of them deliver as well. It is hard to believe – and yet in retrospect so evident – that such acting can come out of common people that we all meet on the street. Where Do We Go Now is a movie of such epic proportions that these “unknown” actors and actresses (mostly actresses) deliver performances that are so subtly nuanced, so exquisitely flavored and so astonishingly well-done that they would put the best actresses and actors of Hollywood to shame. Yes, I have said it.

The score of the movie is chilling and haunting and wonderfully executed by Nadine’s husband Khaled Mouzanar. The movie also features a few highly intelligent songs, written by Tania Saleh.

And let’s talk about the script. What an ingenious way to tackle the subject at hand. Not only did Nadine Labaki not fall to any cliche known to us as a Lebanese community, but she managed to introduce them in a subtle comical way that would make us laugh at ourselves for uttering or doing them in the first place. The script is so strong it will turn you bipolar. Yes, lithium is advised to be taken at the door while going in. Why? Never have I laughed so hysterically one moment and just wanted to cry the other. And then after being utterly devastated, it brings you back to laughter. The movie plays with you like a ping pong ball. And you cannot but love every moment of it.

I was talking to my friend Elia the day before we went to watch Where Do We Go Now, which happened to be the day it won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, and she said: “Elie, I’m very cautiously optimistic about this. I’m not letting my expectations overreach because I don’t want to be disappointed.” Well, I’m pretty sure Elia agrees with me on this: Where Do We Go Now brings out things in you that you didn’t even know you had. It brings out the best in you, as a Lebanese, sitting in that cinema chair for ninety minutes. And you need the best of the best to do that. Nadine Labaki, you deserve more than the few minutes of applause the people in the movie theater gave you. You deserve a full blown standing ovation. You have done the impossible. Again. Lebanese cinema has no excuse but to overreach for excellence now. And this movie deserves an Oscar win. Cheers to our mothers.

Captain America: The First Avenger – Movie Review

Having nothing planned on a Saturday night, my friends and I found ourselves going to the movies with this being as the only viable movie choice available.

Set in 1942, the movie stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, a disease-ridden and poor built American wanting to serve his country. Steve attempts to enroll the army many times, under different names and different hometowns, and gets refused every single time. On the eve of his best friend reporting for duty, Steve is overheard by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and is taken to a special training program. There, he proves to be the best candidate for the secret project the government is preparing, not because of his physical built but because of his great heart. The project turns out to be a set of injections with a serum that will transform Steve into a superhuman.

At the same time, Johann Schmidt, a Nazi officer, invades a town in Norway and steals an artifact with untold powers that he starts harnessing in building weapons. And soon enough, it’s up to Steve Rogers, who becomes known as Captain America, to stop Johann Schmidt.

Captain America is nothing groundbreaking. But it has heart. It’s rare to see a superhero movie where the main protagonist is unaware of his own power. The vulnerabilities of Steve Rogers’ weaker self are transmitted to his stronger self. And that is refreshing to see on screen: a superhuman who is, at the end of the day, human and weak and vulnerable.

Moreover, there’s an artistic tint to Captain America that you cannot help but notice. The movie feels like it was produced with old-fashioned craftsmanship: the movie cinematography feels associated with the era in which the events take place. After all, the plot is a retrospective view, similarly to X-Men: First Class.

The performances in the movie are nothing over the top but they do not underwhelm. And after all, a movie featuring both Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones cannot be that bad – no matter how hard it tries. And no, Captain America does not try to be bad.

The plot might be color-by-number, especially with the overdose of superhero movies that Hollywood keeps throwing at us, but unlike other superhero movies, this one is charming. Sure, it doesn’t come close to greatness like The Dark Knight but it holds its own and manages to entertain you at the same time. The action sequences are nothing extraordinary but they are very well done and complement the plot without overdoing it, like superhero movies tend to do.

At the end of the day, Captain America is a breath of fresh air and an enjoyable cinematic experience that will entertain you for the duration of the movie, serving as a good prequel to next year’s The Avengers. You will love the innocence and the genuine characters it portrays. At the beginning of the movie, and part of why Dr. Abraham Erskine takes on Steve for his project, he asks Steve: “do you want to kill Nazis?” to which Steve replies: “I don’t want to kill anyone. I just don’t like bullies.” And that’s precisely where this movie differs from other superhero flicks: the ultimate message it attempts to convey. The 3D in it, however, is mostly useless.

Nadine Labaki’s New Movie, Where Do We Go Now (W Halla2 La Wein), Wins Best Film at Toronto Film Festival

Lebanon, WE REPRESENT! Finally!

Nadine Labaki’s new movie, set for a Thursday release in Lebanon, has shocked everyone by winning the People’s Choice Award for best movie at the Toronto Film Festival. To put this in perspective, Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech won this award before their Academy Award rampage.

This festival is renowned for picking movies that end up winning big in award shows, so my hope for a Lebanese nomination for Nadine’s movie at the Oscars has suddenly exponentially increased.

Telling the story of the women of a closely-knit town, where people of both Christian and Muslim faith coexist, trying to keep their town united, the movie debuted at Cannes without winning anything there. However, it came out on top at this festival beating other movies like George Clooney’s The Descendants, thought by many to be his best work to date and Sundance winner Like Crazy.

Is anyone suddenly more excited than they could possibly be to watch the movie Thursday? Cause I sure can’t wait for Thursday to come.

And if the movie is as good as some Lebanese who already watched the movie in Paris are saying, I think we’re all in for a treat.

 

For my review of the movie, click here.

Crazy, Stupid, Love – Movie Review


Oh Crazy, Stupid, Love how high my expectations were for you.

In my head, Emma Stone can’t go wrong in a movie. Especially after the awesome Easy A. Put her in a mix with Steve Carell, Julianne Moore and Ryan Gosling and the movie result shouldn’t be that bad, right?

Wrong.

Crazy, Stupid, Love was atrocious.

Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) and Emily Weaver (Juliane Moore) are a not so happily married couple out on a date when the wife blurts out that she wants a divorce and that she has cheated on him. Five minutes later, they are divorced and living in separate homes. So naturally, like any devastated husband, Cal goes out to one bar over and over again, repeating his sad story so everyone can hear, over and over again. It is then that he catches the attention of the bar’s prime womanizer Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) who decides to give Cal a makeover and become his wingman. Soon enough, Jacob’s efforts succeed and Cal starts hooking up with every woman he can get.

At the same time, Jacob meets Hannah (Emma Stone), an aspiring lawyer preparing for her Bar examination and sooner or later, the two fall in love. Add to the mix Cal and Emily’s son having a crush on his older babysitter who has a crush on his dad, Cal. And then Cal sleeping with his son’s teacher, played by Marisa Tomei and you get a sense of what Crazy, Stupid, Love is.

Perhaps it’s the super weak script, perhaps it’s the unclarity that faces the film but Crazy, Stupid, Love had too many things going for it. And it failed to deliver on every single account, even on the laughing part. Sometimes, a comedy movie gets you to laugh. But at the end of the day, you can say it wasn’t a good movie. What if a “comedy” movie doesn’t get a chuckle out of you and is a bad movie? That’s Crazy, Stupid, Love right there.

Out of the bunch of actors and actresses in it, Emma Stone is probably the best. And no, I’m not biased. She delivers the movie’s rare funny lines and gives life to her character that all the other characters lack, and it’s not really the actors’ fault. Julianne Moore has such an underdeveloped character that it could have been omitted altogether. Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell lack chemistry as the movie’s main protagonists. The cast should have known better than to take on such a project.

The movie, moreover, has not one but two directors. It’s hard for me to believe how two “creative” heads thinking about making one movie could miss the mark in the way that they did. And none of it is fun to watch. The pace drags and lulls like the rickety joints of an arthritic ninety year old man.

And the script. Let’s talk about how ridiculously cliche the script is. There’s one point where one of the characters blurts out on screen: “Rain… how cliche.” Care to guess what happened before the rain? Yes, there was a fight. Sometimes, screenwriters can turn a cliche idea and make something good out of it. After all, not all aspects of life are out of the box. This is not the case here.

Crazy, Stupid, Love’s title is a very wrong representation of the movie. At least two thirds of the title. No, it’s not crazy. It’s as tame as movies go. No, there’s nothing to love about it. And yes, it is totally stupid. The movie’s fault? It never gets crazy or stupid enough to make you love it.