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No More X-Files, Please…

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Let’s hope the eleventh season of X-Files will be its last. Send FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully into retirement and forever close their outpost for investigating inexplicable, freakish phenomenon. Personally, I’m just sick and tired of all this conspiracy mongering, especially the idea that the human race is about to be eviscerated by an alien race and their lackeys on Earth.

Just do it already!

When the tenth season was announced two years ago, I was excited at the prospect of one my all-time favorite shows returning, but I was less sanguine about the eleventh season. It’s just too much.

And I’m not surprised Gillian Anderson, who has played Dana Scully with a steady and patient hand, has decided that this was her last season. Don’t know if David Duchovny is willing to go solo, but the idea of skeptical Scully not tagging along Mulder’s endless goose chases doesn’t seem right to me. Therefore, it would be better if the show just ended right here right now. The last episode – though unsatisfying –is a good place to end it.

If both Mulder and Scully can call it quits so can we, the diehard fan base. I’m of a strong belief that a show should end when it’s at its zenith and not wait till it slowly, and painfully, fades from existence. After 200 plus episodes and two movies, it’s time to let this franchise go.

So good-bye, X-Files, and thanks for the memories.

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Written by niraj

April 2nd, 2018 at 10:34 pm

Thoughts on Hateful Eight

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Hateful-Eight-posterHateful Eight was the last movie I saw in 2015 and I have some thoughts that I would like to share. Like any Quentin Tarantino film, it was fantastic. It had it all: great script, brilliant dialogue, fluid, near perfect performances, and excellent cinematography. Where it ranks in the Tarantino canon is still up in the air.

A period piece, taking place in post-Civil War Wyoming, it’s Tarantino’s third such film. The other two, of course, are Unglorious Basterds, set during World War II, and Django Unchained, set during pre-Civil War South. Tarantino said he wants to be known as a Western director and plans two additional movies set in the West, so expect more.

And like Unglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, Hateful Eight is a meditation on race. There’s no doubt where Tarantino stands on the issue. He has the police squarely in the crosshairs with his comments protesting police brutality. People forget the context of race these days: Race still matters; we are not living in a post-racial world as some would like to believe. You just have to follow the Black Lives Matter movement to figure out why.

Another interesting thing to note about Hateful Eight is the portrayal of women. Of the eight main characters in the film, only one is female, Daisy, and she’s detestable. Even though she’s a criminal, a racist, and a cold-blooded murderer, she inspires sympathy because she is abused—by a man!—throughout the movie. Is society sympathetic to abused women simply because she’s a women regardless how vile a human being she might be? And if a man was vile as Daisy, and was abused like her, would he be equally as sympathetic? I guess Tarantino wanted us to think about it because he doesn’t answer the question for us.

Lastly, like all his other films, Tarantino engages in genre-bending with Hateful Eight. It’s a mystery movie wrapped in a western, wrapped in a political polemic. And as usual, it works brilliantly.

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Written by niraj

January 5th, 2016 at 8:21 pm

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Happy New Year…and some Resolutions.

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I only have three resolutions for 2016. I will only keep two, one I will more than likely break.

  • Read more fiction
  • Definitely read more graphic novels
  • Blog more

Guess which one…

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Written by niraj

January 2nd, 2016 at 11:44 am

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Blast From the Past: Les Rythimes Digitales

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Always loved dance music since I was a child. I have many fond memories listening to disco tracks during the late 1970s — with Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive” not only a standard, but my all time favorite dance tune.

I listened to a lot of 80’s dance music, mostly remixes of Top 40 tracks, and found them to be both cheezy and a bore.

It was not until the late 1990s, with the arrival of internet as a distribution platform, did I discover new and interesting dance music that excited me like when I first heard the Bee Gees. There was house, trance, techno, jungle, etc. The variety was endless, and I was soaking it all up.

One of my favorite tracks of that era was from a UK label called Wall of Sound and they had this act called Les Rythimes Digitales (also known as Stuart Price) and he had an infectious pop-laced tune called “Hey You What’s That Sound?”

Take a listen.

There’s even a music video!

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Written by niraj

January 4th, 2015 at 2:58 pm

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New Year’s Resolution…For this Blog.

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I have some New Year’s resolutions for this blog. I kept them realistic this time and not too difficult to accomplish —I hope! Presently, I only have two for now.

  • To write one blog post a week, at a minimum. I think I wrote only 7-8 blog posts in 2014. Pathetic. I want to go back to my roots where I use to blog several times a day.
  • I will be adding several new pages. First one will be a section called comics & graphic novels, where I will track all the comics and graphic novels I have read for the year. There will be others, but they are currently in development.

That’s it. Hope you had a great 2014 and even a better 2015!

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Written by niraj

December 30th, 2014 at 9:01 pm

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Best and Worst Movies of 2014

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Here are my lists for the best movies – and worst movies – I have seen in 2014. These movies were not necessarily released in 2014, but I have seen in 2014 for the very first time. The lists are in no particular order.

Best Movies:

  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • American Gangster
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • The Armstrong Lie
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Rush
  • Captain Phillips
  • 300
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Under the Skin
  • Her
  • Enemy
  • Altman
  • The Conspiracy
  • Chef
  • Three Days of the Condor
  • Out of the Furnace

Worst Movies:

  • Runner Runner
  • Closed Circuit
  • The Counselor
  • Sabotage
  • The Monuments Men
  • Transcendence
  • 47 Ronin
  • Man of Steel
  • Thor: The Dark World
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Written by niraj

December 28th, 2014 at 10:17 pm

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Theodore Roosevelt Gets Taste of War

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Currently finishing Edmund Morris’s brilliant The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. We find Roosevelt helping to liberate Cuba from Spanish colonial rule and place it under the benign guidance of United States, which considered the Americas ‘its’ backyard.

The truth of the matter, if we must be frank, is that Roosevelt is a man of action. He successfully tamed almost every challenge in his life: politics, literature, Indians and wild game in the badlands of Dakotas. But the one thing that he wanted more than anything else was to be a soldier, leading men from the front.

This he did with abandon and achieved the victory he craved. But after charging up San Juan Hill and capturing Spanish positions, he had his fill of war and wanted no more. His thirst for military glory was sated. Morris writes:

“With fulfillment came purgation. Bellicose poisons had been breeding in him since infancy. During recent years the strain had grown virulent, clouding his mind and souring the natural sweetness of his temperament. But last he had had his bloodletting. He had fought a war and killed a man. He had “driven the Spaniard from the New World.” Theodore Roosevelt was at last, incongruously but wholeheartedly, a man of peace.”

Do read the book if you get the chance, it will well worth your time.

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Written by niraj

December 24th, 2014 at 6:31 pm

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Review: Cocaine Cowboys Reloaded

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During the 1970s and 1980s, cocaine supplanted marijuana as the recreation drug of choice, turning the idyllic seaside town of Miami into a hub of decadence, crime, and violence. The cocaine trade was big business, attracting all sorts of sordid characters: Columbians, who supplied it; Cubans, the foot soldiers; and a motley crew of smugglers and hustlers who moved it all around. They called themselves (or were so dubbed, no one really knows for sure), the Cocaine Cowboys. They’re all subjects of a brilliant and illuminating documentary: a gripping story about how a group of criminals fed America’s growing fondness for cocaine, their rise and fall.

The Cocaine Cowboys came up with some ingenious ways to smuggle cocaine into the United States, often being one step ahead of law enforcement. They became fabulously wealthy in the process, creating an economic boom. But the city of Miami, and its helpless residents, paid a heavy price. Crime went up drastically as drug gangs viciously and brazenly fought each other in the streets for market share. The media started calling Miami the crime capital of the United States. Residents and tourists were fleeing the city in droves.

Aside from Miami looking like Al Capone’s Chicago, things were no doubt good for the Cocaine Cowboys, but like all good things, it came to an end. Hubris—and greed—played its part, of course; an after years of bumbling, law enforcement got its act together, and aided by the federal government, forced the cocaine business out of Miami. And those Cocaine Cowboys not already killed by the police, or their rivals, ended up in jail.

One question the documentary answers is where did all the money go? So much money was pouring in from the cocaine trade—in the billions—that an entire banking system sprouted up just to handle all it all, turning Miami into a center of narco-finance. Much of the money was laundered into legitimate businesses, mostly real estate. Much of modern Miami, as currently know it, its downtown, South Beach, and countless beachfront properties were financed by fortunes made from cocaine.

The story of the Cocaine Cowboys is told mostly by the participants themselves, through candid interviews, interspersed with news footage and grisly photographs, they tell a gripping story of the rise and fall of the cocaine trade in Miami.

One of the most chilling interviews is from a former hitman named Jorge “Rivi” Ayala, who worked for Griselda Blanco, a ruthless female gangster known for her murderous ways. Rivi, speaking from jail where he’s serving several life sentences, talks about his murders in a straightforward and matter-of-fact manner, devoid of any emotion or remorse whatsoever: a stone-cold killer. Rivi is one of many characters who make this documentary such a compelling watch.

Though the main focus of this documentary are smugglers and thugs, law enforcement gets to tell its side. They, too, talk, candidly about how hapless they were in fighting the drug gangs, hampered by poor to non-existent resources to widespread corruption.

If this documentary teaches us anything, it’s the futility of America’s war on drug. Law enforcement may have shut down the drug trade in Miami, but it just simply moved elsewhere. These days most cocaine flows through Mexico. The violence that once plagued Miami now hits the border towns of Mexico. Price America is willing to pay to sniff cheap cocaine.

[Note: Cocaine Cowboys Reloaded is an update of Cocaine Cowboys, originally released in 2006. It includes over one hour of new footage, interviews, and updates.]

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Written by niraj

October 22nd, 2014 at 9:06 pm

True Detective: Philosophy and Television

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Interesting article about the nexus between philosophy and television, and how critics perceive it in a medium, until recently, shorn of any intellectual artifice.

The author gets right to the point.

True Detective is a well-acted and compellingly plotted mystery, which is held back by its occasional pretensions to intellectual seriousness. Above all, True Detective stands accused of engaging in philosophy.

I have not seen HBO’s True Detective, but I’ve heard of it. It’s a glacially paced police procedural about a 17-year chase for a serial killer. One of the main characters, Cohle, is bit of an odd duck. Cohle is a brooding detective with a sharp mind. He is also an introvert with a tendency to go on philosophical tangents. An example:

I have seen the finale of thousands of lives, man. Young, old, each one was so sure of their realness, that their sensory experience constituted a unique individual; purpose, meaning, so certain that they were more than just a biological puppet. Truth wills out, everybody sees once the strings are cut off all down.

And it’s these philosophical meanderings that have some critics calling the show ‘pretentious’ and ‘intellectual’ or outright nerdy. Television viewers, it seems, prefer television to be not only tasty but easily digestible—in essence, “show, but not tell.” If they wanted to see somebody wax philosophical they would watch some undecipherable European art film, preferably shot in black-and-white. And nobody watches those. This leads to the conclusion that philosophy, as a subject of study, is not taken seriously by the general public, let alone television critics.

Please read the article in its entirety. I can’t do it justice by summarizing it here. It’s well-written and a damn good read regardless if you like philosophy or not.

(via the week)

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Written by niraj

March 17th, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Thoughts On New Robocop

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Some thoughts on the new Robocop movie releasing on February 12th.

I’m not impressed.

First, after only watching the trailer, this modern reincarnation of Robocop looks like pure cheese. I know this film wants to stand on its own merits, but one cannot help make comparisons with the original, which was gritty, dark, and dystopian. I just don’t see it here.

Second, not that it was any surprise, but the film sought and received a PG-13 rating, something I’m sure the studio wanted in order to pander to the least common denominator of our film going community. Not to say all PG-13 rated films suck, but more often than not they do. Whenever I see a movie tagged with PG-13 I automatically assume it’s been dumbed down or cleaned up in order to park more fanny in the seats, including the increasingly important international market.

I don’t want to call this a movie a travesty quite yet, but it sure sounds like it.

Here’s the trailer and pass your own judgement:

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Written by niraj

January 22nd, 2014 at 11:56 am