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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, was born on November 30th, 1835, 176 years ago. He was an American author, mostly noted for his novels, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (1876) and its sequel, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn".
Both books were inspired by Hannibal, Missouri, a town on the Mississippi River, where the author grew up and started his writing voyage in the local newspaper, The Hannibal Journal.
Twain was born during a visit by Halley's Comet and correctly predicted that he would "go out with it". The writer died of a heart attack on April 21st, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut, one day after the comet's closest approach to Earth.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fado: Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage

Portuguese Fado has finally been recognised as Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage.
It is more than a type of music, it is part of an entire culture... A typical Fado song features poetic - often introspective and melancholic -lyrics combined with a mournful melody. The singer may be accompanied by the distinctive-sounding Portuguese guitar and a classical guitar, called "viol√£o" in Portugal.
The towering figure of Fado was Am√°lia Rodrigues, featured in the picture. Following early national success in the 1940's, she became the first Fado singer, a.k.a. "Fadista", whose fame transcended the Portuguese-speaking world. Her death in 1999 initiated 3 days of official mourning.
On another note, the video that follows was taken from the 1942 film "O P√°tio das Cantigas", where another Portuguese icon, Vasco Santana, sings "Fado do Estudante": A story of love, betrayal and studying, or lack thereof.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Blackadder Goes Forth

In this final series, Blackadder is a World War I army captain trying to survive at the front lines of the Western Front.
It is 1917 and lunatic General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett is leading the British troops at the front lines against the Germans, while everyone waits for Field Marshall Haig's big push. There are various emotions throughout the camp regarding this. For Captain Kevin Darling, Melchett's right-hand man, it makes no difference, as it appears he will be safe and sound with the general when the big push occurs; Lieutenant George Colhurst Saint Barleigh is overly excited at thrashing the Germans. Private Baldrick believes this is a terrifying experience to which he is not looking forward. However, for Captain Edmund Blackadder it is something he seems too much of a coward to face. Self-centered, arrogant and sarcastic, Blackadder is constantly searching for a way out of this silly war, and will try various, often crazy, escape variations...

Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tim McInnerny

Why the love for this TV Series: The jokes are still as witty and hilarious as before, although this time there is quite a serious tone to the punch lines, particularly because in 1989 the subject of WWI was still very much in the minds of the British, whether it be through surviving soldiers or relatives.
There was some controversy when this was first broadcast by the BBC for its apparent lack of respect to those who fought and lost their lives, but in the end everyone agreed that was not the intention.
It remains a good History lesson, but I still prefer the original Blackadder.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Les femmes du 6√®me √©tage (Philippe Le Guay, J√©r√īme Tonnerre)

Jean-Louis Joubert is a serious but uptight stockbroker, married to Suzanne, a strict, class-conscious woman, and father of two arrogant teenage boys, currently in a boarding school. The affluent man lives a steady yet boring life. At least until, due to fortuitous circumstances, Maria, the charming new maid, allows him to discover the servants' quarter on the sixth floor of the luxury building he owns. There live a crowd of lively Spanish maids who will help Jean-Louis open up to a new civilisation and a new approach of life. In their company - and more precisely in the company of beautiful Maria - Jean-Louis will gradually become another man... A better man!

Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Sandrine Kiberlain, Natalia Verbeke, Carmen Maura, Lola Due√Īas, Berta Ojea, Nuria Sol√©, Concha Gal√°n, Annie Mercier, Camille Gigot, Jean-Charles Deval

Why I loved this film: It was very well done, showing the point of view of "the help". But is also showed that sometimes belonging to the same class or having the same background does not mean that you will have many things in common, it is always good to meet new people, you never know what surprises there may be in store...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ice Age (Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg, Peter Ackerman, James Bresnahan, Galen T. Chu, Doug Compton, Xeth Feinberg, Jeff Siergey, Mike Thurmeier)

Back when the Earth was being occupied by glaciers and animals were sprinting to save themselves from the upcoming Ice Age, Sid - the sloth, Manny - the mammoth, and Diego - the tiger, are forced to become unlikely heroes. The three reluctantly come together when they have to return a human child to his father while braving the deadly elements of the impending Ice Age.

Starring: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Goran Visnjic, Jack Black

Why I loved this film: Although this is a cartoon, I did not think it was for kids due to the kind of jokes. Very hilarious and sweet from beginning to end - I was actually crying from laughing so hard!
This is definitely a "must see" movie, which means that now I will have to watch the two sequels...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Family Ties (Danielle Steel)

Annie Ferguson was a bright young architect. Talented, beautiful, just starting out with her first job, new apartment and boyfriend, she had the world in the palm of her hand - until a single telephone call changed the course of her life forever. Overnight, she inherited her sister's three orphaned children, keeping a promise she never regretted making, even if it meant putting her own life indefinitely on hold.
Now, at forty-two, with a satisfying career and a family that means everything to her, Annie is comfortable being single and staying that way. With her nephew and nieces finally adults, she is navigating a parent's difficult passage between lending them a hand and letting go.
Twenty-eight-year-old Liz, an overworked, struggling editor in a high-powered job at Vogue, has never allowed any man to come close enough to hurt her. Ted, at twenty-four a serious and hardworking law student, is captivated by a much older woman who is leading him much further than he wants to go. While the youngest, twenty-one-year-old Katie, is an art student about to make a choice that will lead her to a world she is in no way prepared for but determined to embrace.
Then a chance encounter changes Annie's life yet again in the most unexpected direction.
From Manhattan to Paris and all the way to Tehran, this novel reminds us how challenging and unpredictable life can be, but whatever happens, the bonds of family are the strongest of all.

Quote: "Men with that much charm were just never faithful. It wasn't in their DNA. She knew it but always tried to tell herself that it would be different this time, but it never was. Jean-Louis was just like all the other men she had dated. They were all clones of each other. She always picked the ones who couldn't be faithful or commit. It fit perfectly with her own fear of commitment and provided an inevitable end. She had been part of scenes like this too often before."

What I liked about this book: The beginning and the end were exciting, with different storylines that intertwined throughout the book and thrilling plots. I also saw myself in Liz's choice of men, it was like reading about my life, except for the fact that I get more suspicious. But, most of all, I loved the message it sends about families sticking together, no matter what. They should be top in our priorities!

What I disliked about this book: throughout the story there is a big gap where nothing interesting seems to happen, so it does become boring for a while.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ricky Gervais will be back!

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association have confirmed that Ricky Gervais will return to host the 2012 Golden Globes. This is great news for the fans, like me, but will the British comedian be free to do his own stuff or will he be subjected to censorship?
We just have to wait and see!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Black Adder a.k.a. Blackadder (Richard Curtis, Rowan Atkinson, Ben Elton)

Set in England at the end of the War of the Roses, we soon find out that History as we know it is all fiction. In fact, Henry VII did not actually win the battle of Bosworth Field... He lost and although Richard III died in the battle, his nephew King Richard IV reigned on for some years.
The story focuses on Richard IV's younger son Prince Edmund, a weeping coward who calls himself the "Black Adder". Assisted by his sloppy servant Baldrick and the moronic Lord Percy, Edmund plots his rise to greatness.
Later on, Blackadder becomes Prince Edmund's family name.

Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Elspet Gray, Tim McInnerny, Brian Blessed, Tony Robinson

Why the love for this TV Series: Although it was created in the early 80's, this sitcom is still pretty funny nowadays, being one of the most intelligent and hilarious shows ever created!
It is the best work done by Rowan Atkinson and what a History lesson!
I especially love the conversations between Blackadder and Baldrick!

Note: In the following video, Prince Edmund is trying to teach Baldrick to count beans when they are disturbed by a weird-looking Lord Percy:

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Ides of March (George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon)

An idealistic staff member for a presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his time working on the campaign.

Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei

Why I loved this film: There are four words for going to see "The Ides of March": Ryan Gosling, George Clooney.
However, the whole cast is amazing, I have just seen Ryan Gosling and Marisa Tomei on another movie over the summer and it was great to see them working together again, they play their parts really well.
This film deals with what goes on behind a political campaign, the people that get played, the scandals, important matters such as "abortion" and what should be expected of a political leader. The items discussed are totally up-to-date, you can see our worldwide problems in there.
I also loved the Clinton/Monica Lewinsky element included therein, when Ryan Gosling says: "You can lie, cheat and steal... You can start wars and bankrupt the country... They'll forgive you for that... But you don't f*** the intern!"
This is so true, if you think about it, the only time a president almost had to step down in the USA was when he had an affair with an intern, which really tells a lot about a country and its priorities.

The Middle (Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline)

This story tells of the daily mishaps in the life of a married woman and her semi-dysfunctional family: Husband Mike and their three children, Axl, Sue and Brick.

Starring: Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, Charlie McDermott, Eden Sher, Atticus Shaffer, Chris Kattan

Why the love for this TV Series: To start with, Patricia Heaton seems to play a similar character to the one she played in "Everybody Loves Raymond", but yet so different. The whole struggling wife scenario is there but this time the focus is on her and the kids do get special attention. Besides, this gives us more insights into her thoughts as a mother/wife, so it deals with intimate subjects to a greater extent and in a different way.
However, the main reason I started watching the show was the younger son, Brick, my favourite character. He is so funny and corky it is difficult not to love him!

The video that follows is a compilation of Brick moments in Season 1. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Private (James Patterson - with Maxine Paetro)

Former U.S. Marine Jack Morgan runs Private, a renowned investigation company with branches around the globe. It is where you go when you need maximum force and maximum discretion. The secrets of the most influential men and women on the planet come to Jack daily - and his staff of investigators use the world's most advanced forensic tools to make and break their cases.
In L.A., Jack is already deep into the investigation of a multimillion-dollar NFL gambling scandal and the unsolved slayings of eighteen schoolgirls when he learns of a horrific murder close to home: His best friend's wife, Jack's former lover, has been killed. It nearly pushes him over the edge. Instead, Jack maintains his game and devotes all of Private's resources to tracking down her killer.
But Jack does not have to play by the rules. As he closes in on the killer and chooses between revenge and justice, Morgan has to navigate a workplace love affair that threatens to blow the roof off his plans...

Quote: "When a door says Private, you want to know what's on the other side.
When an envelope says Private, you immediately want to open it."

Why this book speaks to me: James Patterson is one of my favourite thriller writers and this book did not disappoint me in any way.
I love crime and suspense stories, trying to figure out who the killer is and going over all the required steps in order to finding that person. I probably should have been a detective.
Mr. Patterson managed to include three crime stories in a single book, which made it much more exciting as well as giving an insight into the thoughts of the leading character and how he manages to deal with his own personal problems: Love affairs and past situations while still in the army.
It was all pretty exciting... Once I started reading it was difficult to put the book down!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Dr. Conrad Murray found guilty of Michael Jackson slaughter

Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician accused of killing Michael Jackson, has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, after a six-week trial in which Murray, 58, was accused of causing Michael Jackson's death by giving him a fatal overdose of the surgical anaesthetic propofol, combined with other sedatives, on June 25th, 2009, in order to help Jackson sleep to prepare for his comeback tour.
Throughout the entire trial, Dr. Conrad Murray has pleaded not guilty.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

MTV Europe Music Awards: Belfast

Hosted by Selena Gomez

The first surprise of the night was at the Red Carpet (a.k.a. Pink Carpet), David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff. I believe he has not been seen since the whole drunken episode that came out on Youtube... Or maybe he has... I am not sure. On a personal note, he thinks he is funny, but I do not agree... Although I loved The Knight Rider when I was a kid!

Jared Leto, from 30 Seconds to Mars (when asked what separated the Belfast crowd from other parts of the World): "The people are absolutely out of their minds". They won the Best Alternative Award, handed before the show.

Another personal note: He may sing addictive songs, but Bruno Mars is really annoying in interviews.

The show started off with a great performance by Coldplay.

Best Live: Katy Perry

LMFAO followed onstage inside a big Zebra. their performances are always very original!

Best Female: Lady Gaga

Bruno Mars performed his hit "Marry You".

MTV Global Icon: Queen

The priceless Jessie J performed "Price Tag".

Best Male: Justin Bieber

Red Hot Chili Peppers followed.

Lady Gaga opened the following segment with "Merry the Night".

Best New: Bruno Mars

Selena Gomez also performed "Hit the Lights".

Best Pop: Justin Bieber

Best Song: Born this Way (Lady Gaga)

Justin Bieber followed .

Then a tribute video to Amy Winehouse came along. It was very emotional!

David Guetta had everyone dancing next.

Worldwide Act: BigBang (Asia Pacific)

Best Video: Born this Way (Lady Gaga)

The show ended with Queen: "The show must go on", “We will rock you” and “We are the Champions”. I do not know who the singer is, but he is no Freddy Mercury... Long live the King!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Les Misérables (Victor Hugo, Rafael Yglesias)

Jean Valjean, a Frenchman imprisoned for stealing bread, must flee a police officer named Javert. The pursuit consumes both men's lives, and soon Valjean finds himself in the midst of the student revolutions in France. This film was directed by Bille August.

Starring: Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Claire Danes, Uma Thurman, Shane Hervey, Lennie James, Jon Kenny, Sylvie Koblizkova, Hans Matheson

Why I loved this film: I am a huge fan of "Les Misérables", having read the book and watched the show in the West End. This is a story of love, hope and fighting for what you believe in.
I was curious about the film when it came out and I have to say that this adaptation was very well done! The actors were amazing and I especially loved Claire Danes, Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush: Their performances were breathtaking. However, the entire cast was excellent. No words can describe it!

Les √Čmotifs Anonymes (Jean-Pierre Am√©ris, Philippe Blasband)

What happens when a man and a woman share a common passion? They fall in love... And this is what happens to Jean-René, the boss of a small chocolate factory, and Angélique, a gifted chocolate maker he has just hired.
However, being pathologically shy does not make things any easier...

Starring: Beno√ģt Poelvoorde, Isabelle Carr√©, Lorella Cravotta, Lise Lam√©trie, Swann Arlaud, Pierre Niney

Why I loved this film: A pretty funny movie, which manages to go in a different direction than what we are used to. It deals with the subject of shyness... A matter that is very dear to me, being directly affected by it, although not in the same way as the characters in the film.
However, the ending was a little disappointing, but I would highly recommend it.
There really should be a group that helps to deal with this shyness problem in the same way that the "Alcoholic Anonymous" exists.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)

"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

Susie Salmon is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all as she expected, even as the departed teenager is watching life on earth continue without her: her friends trading rumours about the way she disappeared, her killer trying to cover his tracks and her grieving family going their separate ways.

Quote: "There was our father, the heart we knew held all of us. Held us heavily and desperately, the doors of his heart opening and closing with the rapidity of stops on an instrument, the quiet felt closures, the ghostly fingering, practice and practice and then, incredibly, sound and melody and warmth."

Why this book speaks to me: When I first started reading it, I felt like this was only a book about a dead girl and a killer who you already knew... But as the story unravels, it becomes much more than that...
"The Lovely Bones" is about believing in what comes our way, dealing with the past and hoping for a better future... The bones are the connection between those featured in the book, who are brought together due to death, in ways they never thought possible: a tragedy may have a somewhat happy ending.
I would also like to dedicate this book to my grandad who passed away three days before Christmas 2003, but will always remain in my heart. His birthday was on November 9th. I miss him so much, our conversations, arriving at his home and hugging him before anyone else, the advice he gave me, his smile... But I know that he is watching me and I still talk to him every day!

Note: In 2009, "The Lovely Bones" was made into a movie starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci.