Transfomers: Dark Of The Moon – Review

It’s not hidden from anyone that I really enjoyed the first two Transformers movies. So when the news that a third one was being prepared surfaced, I was both excited and cautious. After all, the other previous movies were a sight to see, a true cinematic experience in everything bombastic so I was positive this one would be at least as visually satisfying. But there was no Megan Fox in it and how far can you stretch a story about aliens and robots that turn into cars and vice versa without stretching it too far?

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is probably my favorite movie of 2011 so far. If Thor had ignited this year’s summer movie season, Transformers 3 is burning and torching the field left and right, up and down. And then down. And then up. Just for good measure.

Shia LaBeouf returns as quirky Sam Witwicky, the guy always at the wrong place and time when it comes to this alien species of Autobots and Decepticons. He’s all grown up now, freshly graduated, and searching for a job. Megan Fox dumped him and he replaced her with an even hotter girlfriend named Carly, portrayed by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, a newcomer British actress. Carly has a job, working for her shady employer, played by Patrick Dempsey, who is more on the McDreary side than the McDreamy side here. And let’s just say, Sam Witwicky has got some kick ass luck when it comes to hooking the undeniable hotties of the world.

But the story of the movie starts decades before Sam was even born and builds on the conspiracy theories revolved around man’s landing on the moon. In the early 1960s, an Autobot spacecraft crashed on the dark side of moon. It was discovered soon after by the humans, launching the space race between the US and USSR. In 1969, Neil Armstrong lands on the moon. He utters his famous words and then everyone loses contact with him. That is everyone except 35 people in a locked NASA room. They investigate the spacecraft and return back home. Soon enough though, missions to the moon are canceled and all of the info is buried in Sector 7.

But the Autobots discover a fragment of that spaceship in Chernobyl and set out to recapture their long lost leader from the wreckage. But the Decepticons are more deceptive this time. They have infiltrated the human rankings like they’ve never before. They have allies in the least excepted of places and their plan is devilishly well-woven.

Transformers 3 is such a gloriously visual movie that you are transfixed from moment one and left as such well into the credits. Granted, I love the Paramore song so that’s why I stayed, but still. It’s a two hour and a half movie that leaves you staring at the screen for most of that duration. We can talk forever about those visual effects. Absolutely stunning. Glass-shattering, robots transforming, things exploding, people flying and frying… everything was so meticulously done with the utmost consideration for detail. The creators of this movie knew their strong suit would be the visuals and they did well by excelling in that regard.

Speaking of the duration, the storyline around the 1969 landing and the spaceship on the dark side of the moon could have definitely been cut down by about ten minutes, shortening the movie by a little amount. But I’m not complaining, I loved every minute of it.

The storyline is drastically different from the first two in the sense that you don’t need to have watched the first two movies to understand what this one is about. It starts off from scratch, serving at some sort of reboot for a franchise that some felt was sagging with its previous outing. I still do not get, however, how mankind is still oblivious to the fact that such alien species roam around us. Haven’t they effectively almost destroyed a bunch of capital cities in the previous movies? And why does Sam have to be leading a crappy life (girlfriend aside) whenever each movie starts? The character actually wonders if the government should give him a job, right at the beginning of the movie. And I have to agree. The storyline could use some tweaking for continuity and logic but it works for what it is.

On the acting side, you can say that most of the actors and actresses in the movie are, in biological terminology, linker sequences. How so? they help bring the movie together but their overall role is somewhat useless. Or if you don’t want to be harsh, you can question its use or think it is somewhat in the eye of the beholder so to speak. Is there much use for Shia and the new hottie Rosie in this movie? You might say they serve as some sort of catalyst. But that’s pretty much it. Even if you take them out, you’d still be left for a very solid movie. They just add to it. After all, one of the opening scenes has Rosie strutting around in underwear. Just saying.

Overall, Transformers 3 is an awesome addition to the franchise that carries it. It is a highly, highly (yes, twice for emphasis) movie that allows you to sink right in. It is huge in the sense that it submerges you with its grand sounds that accompany the eye-popping visual effects. Michael Bay presents a movie that is much better than the previous Transformers movie, although I still stand by Revenge of the Fallen being a good movie as it was. Some great actors were featured in very minute roles, such as John Malkovich in about five minutes of screen time as Sam’s employer and legend astronaut Buzz Aldrin has a cameo at one point. He was one of the original astronauts who landed on the moon. At the end of the day, Transformers 3 is a movie that you know you’re going to watch because of its metal-crunching and awesome action sequences. You do not expect to go there for some heavy mental stimulation. And for what it’s worth, it delivers brilliantly.

Apple Now Selling Unlocked iPhones in the U.S.

Rejoice iPhone lovers. Apple is now selling unlocked iPhones in the US, which makes buying them a whole lot cheaper and easier. How so? Most of us have family/know someone in the U.S. And most iPhones we use originate from there, previously requiring the user in other countries to “illegally” unlock their iPhone in order to use it. Well, those hurdles no longer exist. And I am very happy about that.

Just launched on the online Apple Store, the iPhone 4 is selling at $649, without taxes. Factor in a maximum of 10% in taxes and you get a device that costs $700, much less than the price Lebanese retailers charge or other countries around the world ask you to pay.

Although the price tag is a little higher that a contract-free US iPhone, it’s definitely worth it. I know where I’m buying the upcoming generation iPhone from.

Now the question that begs itself: will those who bought a contract-free iPhone be allowed to have their phones legally unlocked?


X-Men: First Class – Movie Review

Ever since the first X-Men movie was released more than a decade ago, I was fascinated by the saga and the upcoming sequels did not deter me from still liking it.

X-Men: First Class is both literally and figuratively a return to basics. It is both the prologue to all X-Men movies that were released before it and it is also a return to form of a series that kinda lost its way with trying to build too much history and subplot.

Erik Lehnsherr is a teenage boy, imprisoned in German Nazi concentration camps. When Dr. Schmidt sees him move a metal gate as his parents are taken away from him, he summons Erik and asks him to move a metal coin. Erik fails, with devastating consequences that lead to great anger, launching Erik’s powers of controlling metal and killing two guards on the spot.

Fast forward twenty years and Erik (Michael Fassbender) is on a mission to find Dr. Schmidt and kill him in revenge. On the other hand, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is seeking a PhD in Genetics with his research about the upcoming mutations in the human species. Charles, along with shape-shifter Raven (later known as Mystique and played by the awesome Jennifer Lawrence *insert fanboy hearts*) are trying to find other people of their kind and help them accept their condition. That’s when they are recruited by the CIA in order to prevent a nuclear war between the US and Russia, a war that is spearheaded by the present form of Dr. Schmidt, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a mutant whose power is deadly and his group of mutants who will do their best to bring destruction.

James McAvoy, as young Dr. Charles Xavier, is in a role he was born to play. I couldn’t imagine a better actor in this role simply because McAvoy embodies the serenity that Xavier has in the previous movies, set in the future compared to this one, perfectly. He is wise, calm and intelligent, exactly as the future Dr. X is.

On the other hand, Fassbender is as great in portraying Erik, later known as Magneto. He sets the tone for the character we all know later on amazingly well: the many layers that shape this man and his beliefs. And he does so perfectly.

Jennifer Lawrence, who portrays a younger Mystique, is absolutely stunning both literally and figuratively in that portrayal. Mystique (or as she is known in this movie: Raven) controls her powers really well. But her weakness is acceptance. She hates her blue-scaled look and seeks out a much more “acceptable” form as a human. Her path in the movie is first and foremost one towards self-acceptance, with which she will also help Henry McCoy (later known as Beast) to accept his mutation as well.

X-Men: First Class is fueled by the directing chops of Matthew Vaughn, whose latest offering was Kick Ass, a very interesting movie if you haven’t seen it. And you need to give lots of props to this director for taking what was, according to many (I still enjoyed the movies), a sagging franchise and breathed new life into it by reinvigorating its past and reminding everyone how it all started.

Why is it that Dr. Xavier is paralyzed? How did Magneto get that weird helmet he wears to prevent Dr. X from accessing his mind? How did the term X-Men originate? How did both sides of the battle (call them good and evil) originate? X-Men: First Class answers all these questions and more. It is a movie that doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. X-Men has always been a saga about the fine line between good and evil and how that line gets blurred often. This one is no different. You feel that both sides of the equation have things going for them. It doesn’t show one side in a good light and the other in a bad light. Both have strong and true convictions. You get to choose the side you want to be on.

2011 is shaping up to be a great movie for superhero movies. After the highly entertaining Thor (my review), X-Men: First Class steps it up. And with more superhero movies to come, it will take a mighty effort for them to overtake the caliber that this movie presents. Go watch it now. You will be absorbed for over two hours. Your move, Captain America.

This Is What A Trillion Dollars Looks Like

During our scholastic years, we were taught that a zero is a bad grade to get, right? And we’ve all panicked nights and days over exams that we hadn’t studied well for (and yet, we all leave ourselves till the last possible  minute in order to study, every single time).

However, with age (some age, others mature, right?), you get to know that the more zeros you have, the better. Especially when it comes to dollar bills.

For those who don’t know, a trillion has twelve zeros. A billion has nine. So a friend sent me these pictures online to come to grasp with the US national debt. I decided to incorporate the Lebanese national debt in this as well.

Let’s start with $100, the largest US denomination in circulation. We’ve all seen it, not many of us have owned it.

A packet of 100 $100 bills is about 1.5 cm thick and makes up $10000.

Now the “little” pile of money next to the man is, believe it or not, $1,000,000. That’s more money than most of us will ever make in our lifetime.

A $100,000,000 pile, however, looks more impressive, right? Yeah, keep dreaming (or drooling). But we’re not done yet.

Now add together ten of those precious previous piles, and you get $1 billion. Now imagine the below picture multiplied by 50 and you have the Lebanese national debt.

But even after the 50x multiplication, you’re not even close to $1 trillion. Why’s that? because you are literally rendered insignificant compared to it. This is what $1 trillion looks like.

The US national debt is $14 trillion. Enough said, right?

Lebanon To Get LTE Along With 3G?

We all know that we have the worst internet in the world in Lebanon. Our politicians are mostly always full of promises and little action when it comes to almost every regard of our lives so treat this as yet another one of those “talks” that get you excited, but hopefully this time something will actually happen.

So 3G is coming to Lebanon come September, apparently. We will finally have decent internet to use, albeit it will only be on our mobile phones. But it’s a start. Many people, however, were critical of the imminent implementation of 3G saying that the world is already moving to 4G or LTE technologies, which offer much higher speeds. Lebanon implementing third-generation technologies while the rest of the world is moving on to fourth (or even fifth) generation stuff isn’t really stepping up your game in a competitive market.

However, it looks like Lebanon will be receiving LTE upgrades in some areas, while 3G is more spread out over the country as a whole – which is very, very good news. After all, even more advanced countries such as the US have not implemented LTE in all of the country, only in major cities so far. So what do you expect from a country with much more limited resources?

According to this article, MTC Touch (one of the two mobile operators in the country) has built over 850 3.5G stations in Lebanon, of which 200 will offer 3.9G services (giving you double the speed that 3.5G can offer, about 40 Mb/s) and 50 of which will be LTE stations, allowing download speeds of around 173 Mb/s.

And if this wasn’t good enough, the prices that are being thought of (and I’m sure this will apply to Alfa as well since this is a monopoly) are not bad at all. In fact, they look to be very promising. Prices could start from a mere $10 (and go to over $100 depending on the download speed of choice) allowing data quotas of about 2GB for smartphones (both upload and download) and over 15GB or even 20GB for laptops.

Alfa will issue a formal statement about the 3G services it will offer on Thursday, May 12.