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.

LMFAO Not Coming to Lebanon After All: Cancel Concert

Talk about ultimate weirdness… but the group responsible for this year’s summer dance anthem has canceled their Lebanese concert, according to NRJ, the event organizers.

The cause of the cancellation?

“LMFAO have canceled their event in Lebanon due to threats they received from some fanatical extremist Christians who think their Extremism is the voice of Jesus.
These extremists think that the guy featured in the LMFAO music videos is dressed like Jesus.”

Here’s the broadcast NRJ released announcing the cancellation.

I had no idea such groups existed in Lebanon in the first place. Is anyone else familiar with extreme Christian Lebanese groups? If so, what exactly are their resources to get a death threat all the way to the band?

I’m sarcastically impressed.

NRJ’s statement continues with them wondering if, in the future, Lebanon won’t be able to host eccentric artists like Lady Gaga or Madonna.

And while I’m pretty sure neither would want to come for a concert here, they do have a point…

But I digress. I’m still pretty caught up with the idea of the extreme Christian group sending a threat to LMFAO and them buying it.

I really hope this turns out to be some joke.

9/11 Remembered. And Put in Perspective.

I still remember this September day, ten years ago, when my whole family sat dumbfounded in front of our television set, not believing what we were seeing.

How could the United States, the world’s leading country (despite some in-denial people thinking otherwise), have this happen to it? Shouldn’t they have been more prepared? After all, two airplanes hitting their country’s biggest towers and an attack on the Pentagon isn’t exactly a small feat – for any terrorist group.

Any group responsible for the attack must have taken months, if not years, to slowly brew the intricate details of the assault. Therefore, it’s very hard to believe the United States’ intelligence agencies had no idea about it. Instead, they chose to shrug these threats off. There’s no way something like this could happen to us, I’m sure they thought.

But it did happen, taking the lives of 3000 people with it and launching the “war on terrorism” propaganda that has been going on for the past decade.

I still remember holding my mom’s hand as she saw those people jump out of the building, hoping they would be saved somehow, thinking that jumping increased their chances of survival. I still remember news anchors going silent for minutes on end because they were out of words. I still remember my whole household feeling shaken. I still remember my grandma’s panic-stricken face as she stumbled towards the phone, trying to call her sons even though she knew they were far from New York City.

What we did not think of was the aftermath.

I never thought I’d be automatically labeled as a person of suspicion just because of my country’s geographical location. I never thought my aunt would have to wait three hours in LAX before they allowed her to go out and see my family. I never thought it’d become so difficult for me to go the United States, even if I hadn’t seen my family for over five years. I never thought my Muslim friends would automatically become one of the most hated groups in the world just because of their religion. I never thought things would change as much as they did.

I am not a mean person. In fact, I am probably one of the most American-sympathizers you can find – at least in Lebanon. But the thing is, 9/11 needs to be put in perspective.

It will always be a memory of hurt. But ten years later, where should we really stand regarding 9/11? The people who lost their lives should forever be remembered. They were innocent victims who fell to the brutality of a radical group that has a distorted view of their religion.

But ten years later, that’s the only thing I can take out of 9/11. And here’s why.

Sure, 9/11 revealed the United States’ vulnerability. But I’m sure the ship has sailed on that vulnerability. Following that day, the United States’ assumed the role of the policeman of the world. No one did anything unless the United States approved. And if some country happened to dare the United States, they were met with a bunch of sanctions they could never get out of.

The War on Terror has led to the death of not 3000 but more than 900,000 people, most of which are women and children whose only fault was to be in the wrong country at the wrong time of history. What do these men, women and children differ from those 3000 men, women and children that died in the World Trade Centers? Their ethnicity? I hardly think so. Their religion? I’m fairly certain all victims were not uni-religious. The main difference is that the world thinks more of those 3000 people that died on 9/11 that they do of those 900,000 that died in the War on Terror. Why? because in the world’s mind, those 3000 are innocent. The 900,000 are terrorists. Wrong place, wrong time.

The 9/11 attacks also gave the U.S government a free pass to do whatever it wants militarily until it was too late. Example? The Iraq War – also known as Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I still have no idea, even to this day, how Iraq fit into the whole Al Qaeda scenario of the 9/11 attacks. Their only fault? Too much oil beneath their soil. I am also fairly certain the United States’ intelligence agencies were more than knowing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Live and let live no more.

But why go so far back in time – even if all of this is a few years old. Let’s look at what’s happening around the world today.

There’s a famine in Somalia. Children are dying every few seconds out of hunger. The United States has the world’s highest obesity rate. They’re throwing food away because they can’t eat it anymore. The children of Somalia, on the other hand, don’t even have access to bread crumbs that fall off a table and we don’t notice.

As a result of “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” thousands of Iraqi Christians lost their lives and were forced to leave their land and country, becoming not welcome there anymore. Their only fault? They were of the wrong religion at the wrong time in the wrong place. What could have the US done, for instance? Protect them.

Massacres are taking place daily in Congo. Women getting raped has become their way of life. Children getting murdered just because they happened to be caught in a crossfire between greedy tribes, who happen to be the pawns of bigger players, in a game of gold and diamond.

Palestinians get murdered every day by Israeli “Defense” Forces. The U.S covers those murders to the extent that they vetoed the Palestinian request to become a recognized UN state. I am not the most Palestine-sympathizer. But when the United States asks for its victims to be remembered, then all victims that are falling because of the United States’ involvement need to be remembered as well. I am fairly certain Israel wouldn’t be as ferocious if it didn’t know the United States had it back, whenever and wherever.

Thousands have been murdered by a tyrant Syrian regime, since their protests began, and the international community (led by the United States) has done very little to help alleviate the suffering of those people.

And not very recently, in the calm country of Norway, a Christian fundamentalist let loose on teenagers whose only fault was, yet again, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The American reactions to that are summed up in this video.

Yes, it has been ten years since 9/11. But that is precisely why it’s time to get over it. 3000 people that died do not compare to the thousands dying everyday because of 9/11 ramifications. 300 million Americans are not better people than the other 5.7 billion that make up the rest of the world. After all, isn’t equality one of the fundamental and founding principles upon which the American system is built?

There are way worse things taking place everyday all around the world. Their only fault? They’re happening at the wrong place.

LMFAO in Lebanon – October 1st

Everyday they’re shufflin’ – across the world that is.

The band that brought this summer’s song, Party Rock Anthem, are bringing their party rocking to Lebanon in less than a month, courtesy of NRJ.

Tickets go on sale today at all Virgin Megastore outlets in Lebanon.. The teen and dance floor sections are selling for $40 while the ENERGY and teen lounges go for $70.

Star Academy’s Lara Scandar is making an appearance. The concert’s closing set will be mixed by my AUB friend, DJ Base.

More info can be found here.

 

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this: