Movie Review: ‘Pixels’ is the dullest fare and not at all enjoyable

Pixels

Producer: Adam Sandler, Chris Coloumbus, Allen Covert, Mark Radcliffe & Micheal Barnathan
Director: Chris Columbus
Star Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Brian Cox, Ashley Benson & Jane Krakowski
Genre: Sci-Fi
Verdict: POOR

A Dull Fare

Chris Columbus’ body of work includes the Home Alone & Harry Potter series besides of course other comedy oriented films. In his latest film Pixels he has tackled the mindset of the extraterrestrial creatures with a tongue in cheek attitude.

Plot: As kids in the 1980s, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), Will Cooper (Kevin James), Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad) & Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage) saved the world thousands of times, at 25 cents a game in the video arcades. Now, they’re going to have to do it for real. In Pixels, when intergalactic aliens discover video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth, using the video games as the models for their assaults, and now US President Cooper must call on his old school arcade friends to save the world from being destroyed by PAC – MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede & Space Invaders. Joining them is Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), a specialist supplying the arcaders with unique weapons to fight the aliens.

Aces: The only thing good about Pixels is the display of its flawless special effects.

Minuses: Bad direction topped with bad performances.

Last Word: It’s an awfully crafted movie. Can’t even recommend for kids viewing.

2 of 4 Indians detained in Islamic State-controlled territory in Libya released

Lakshmikant and Vijay Kumar, the two Indians who have been released.

Lakshmikant and Vijay Kumar, the two Indians who have been released.

New Delhi: Two of the four Indians detained in the Libyan city of Sirte, an area under the control of the Islamic State, were freed on Friday evening.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said: “I am happy we have been able to secure the release of Lakshmikant and Vijay Kumar. Trying for other two.”

Three of those abducted are faculty members at the Sirte university and the fourth person works at a university branch in Jufra.

“They are back in the Sirte university,” official sources said.

According to sources, two of those released are from Raichur in Karnataka and state capital Bengaluru.

The Andhra Pradesh government urged Swaraj to expedite steps for safe return of all four. The remaining two hostages are from Hyderabad and Srikakulam.

Vikas Swarup, external affairs ministry spokesperson, said earlier in the day that all four were returning to India through Tripoli when they were detained on Thursday at a checkpoint about 50km from Sirte, hometown of former Libyan strongmen Muammar Gaddafi. Later, they were taken to the Sirte city.

The incident came a year after 39 Indians were kidnapped from Iraqi city of Mosul. They still remain in the custody of their captors.

Most of Sirte fell to IS in May and the university is not functioning since February, raising doubts that the Indians continued staying there as they were were yet to get their salary dues. All of them had been in Libya for more than a year.

There are 2,000 Indians at present in conflict-hit Libya, who stayed back despite many advisories urging them to leave the country.

Since most of the Indian mission staff to Libya is now based out of Tunis, it is proving to be difficult task for officials to track the developments inside the trouble-torn country.

Last July, a group of 65 Indian nurses were trapped in fighting which engulfed parts of Libya.

(Agencies)

Tripura governor slammed for calling mourners at Yakub Memon’s funeral potential terrorists,

Tathagata Roy

New Delhi: Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy’s tweets about Yakub Memon’s funeral have evoked sharp responses from everyone. 70-year-old Roy tweeted saying those who attended the last rites of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon were potential terrorists, who must now be keenly watched by the intelligence agencies.

Yakub Memon was hanged early on Thursday in Nagpur Central Prison after a historic pre-dawn Supreme Court hearing that rejected his 11th hour legal appeal. His body was taken to Mumbai, where he was buried next to his father. A large crowd had gathered when Memon’s body arrived at his home in Mahim. He went on to add, “Governors ought to be concerned abt security of state. Intelligence keeping tab on Yakub’s mourners is preventing terror. Better than cure” (sic) After receiving criticism for his controversial remarks, Roy tweeted, “When I suggested ‘intelligence keeping a tab’,I mentiond NO COMMUNITY. So how come I’m accused of being ‘communal bigot’? Guilty conscience?” (sic)

The Mumbai police had also banned filming or taking photographs of the body during its transportation from the airport to the burial ground, in order to avoid any breach of law and order. Roy, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national executive since 2002 and the BJP Bengal president from 2002-2006, assumed office as Governor of Tripura in May 2015.

(Agencies)

NHRC issues notice to Karnataka govt over farmers’ suicides

farmers families

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission has expressed ‘grave’ concern over alleged farmers’ suicides in Mandya district of Karnataka over low payment by sugar mills and issued a notice to the state government seeking a reply within four weeks.

Mandya, known as the ‘sugar bowl’ of Karnataka, has seen a spate of farmer deaths as the mills were paying them Rs 700-800 per tonne, despite the Chief Minister’s promise of purchasing at Rs 2,500 per tonne, the NHRC said.

The deaths due to suicides by farmers is of grave concern and calls for prompt and quick remedial steps by the government, the rights body said.

It has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka calling for a report in the matter within four weeks.

Referring to a media report in this regard, it said that the “negligence” by the state and Union governments in the matter of fixing fair price, payment of arrears by mills and a sugarcane glut are the main reasons for the sudden spike in the suicides.

(Agencies)

Muslims being ‘erased’ from Central African Republic

Amnesty International says Muslims living in rural areas especially targeted as militias undertake “ethnic cleansing”.

Central African Republic

by Azad Essa, Al Jazeera

Militias have taken advantage of the political vacuum in Central African Republic (CAR), engaging in ethnic cleansing of Muslims in a bid to erase the community from the country, human rights group Amnesty International has said.

Discussing Friday’s report, entitled “Erased identity: Muslims in ethnically cleansed areas of the Central African Republic,” Joanne Mariner, a senior crisis response adviser at the UK-based organisation, told Al Jazeera that Muslims in the western half of the country were being repressed and forced to abandon their religion.

More than 30,000 Muslims are living in seven enclaves, guarded by UN troops, across the country, but for those living outside, especially in rural areas, they are being targeted with impunity, the report found.

“They not allowed to express themselves as Muslims; if they are outside the enclaves, they cannot pray, dress in any way that identifies them as Muslim,” Mariner said.

“Their survival depends on a daily routine of negotiation with anti-Balaka fighters.”

Mariner said that many had been forced convert to Christianity or face persecution from the community

‘Failed state’

More than one million people have been displaced since Muslim-led Seleka rebels took control of Bangui, the capital, in March 2013.

Following a spate of abuses by the Seleka rebels, vigilante groups known as anti-Balaka (anti-machete) emerged to fight off the new leadership.

But the anti-Balaka, made up of animist and Christian fighters, also targeted the country’s Muslim minority, seen as sympathetic to the Seleka.

Amnesty’s report, based on a series of interviews with residents across CAR, says militias “unleashed a violent wave of ethnic cleansing aimed at forcing Muslims to leave the country”.

“The continued insecurity and threat from the anti-Balaka comes from there being an absence of a state,” Mariner said.

Though violence in CAR has tapered off since late 2014, the country remains largely insecure.

The collapse of the state apparatus and the fragility of the transitional government have left parts of the country to the mercy of militia groups in the hinterlands.

Concerns remain that despite the perceived calm, the root causes of the crisis have yet to be addressed.

Amnesty’s report comes just days after the International Rescue Committee said CAR “needs a new start, or it will become the case study of a failed state”.

Destruction of mosques

In April, a US envoy said that almost all of the 436 mosques in CAR have been destroyed in the violence. Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, called the devastation “kind of crazy, chilling”.

Amnesty said in Friday’s report that none of the mosques outside Bangui, and the town of Carnot, have been repaired or rebuilt.

One of the “clearest signs of the intensity of sectarian animus was the destruction of the country’s mosques”, the organisation said.

More than 6,000 people have been killed since the crisis began in March 2013.

“The key challenge is a lack of security. The government understands they have a long way to go [but] they need to be able to assert control over these far flung areas,” Mariner said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said this week that more than 1,000 people were still looking for their loved ones, a year after after being separated from them during the wave of violence.

“In this part of the country, very few families have been spared the pain and uncertainty of being separated from loved ones,” Scott Doucet, head of the ICRC sub-delegation for the west of the country, said.

The UN says that that 2.7 million people, more than half the population, are still in need of aid, while 1.5 million people were affected by food insecurity.

The global body’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says humanitarian needs continue to exceed resources available.

Meanwhile Doctors without Borders (MSF) has previously described the country to be in a state of a protracted chronic health emergency.

CAR has been led by a transitional government since January 2014. The country is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on October 18.

French army scientists to analyse possible MH370 debris

Possible wreckage from missing Malaysia Airlines jet to be sent to French military laboratory near Toulouse for checks.

Satellite and other data has allowed investigators to narrow search to an arc of the remote southern Indian Ocean west of Australia [EPA]

Satellite and other data has allowed investigators to narrow search to an arc of the remote southern Indian Ocean west of Australia [EPA]

by Al Jazeera

Plane debris washed up on the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean is almost certainly part of a Boeing 777, a Malaysian official and aviation experts have said, potentially the biggest breakthrough in the search for missing Flight MH370.

Malaysian investigators are expected in Reunion on Friday and the object, identified by aviation experts as part of a wing, would then be sent to a French military laboratory near Toulouse for checks, French police sources said.

National carrier Malaysia Airlines was operating a Boeing 777 when the flight disappeared in March last year en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, creating one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history.

It was carrying 239 passengers and crew.

The plane piece was found on Wednesday washed up on Reunion, a volcanic island of 850,000 people that is a full part of France, located in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar.

Reunion is roughly 3,700km from the broad expanse of the southern Indian Ocean off Australia where search efforts have focused, but officials and experts said currents could have carried wreckage that way, thousands of kilometres from where the plane is thought to have crashed.

‘Fanciful theories’

An minister from Australia, which has been leading the hunt for the missing plane, said on Friday that he was confident the search for the missing  plane was being conducted in the right area.

“We remain confident that we’re searching in the right place, and if in fact the plane parts found on Reunion Island are linked to MH370, that would rather strengthen the case that we are in the right area,” Transport and Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss said.

“It’s not positive proof, but the fact that this wreckage was sighted on the northern part of the Reunion Island is consistent with the current movements, it’s consistent with what we might expect to happen in these
circumstance.”

Satellite and other data has allowed investigators to narrow their search to an arc of the remote southern Indian Ocean west of Australia, with ships scouring more than 50,000 square kilometres of deep ocean floor without success.

Authorities are planning to search a total of 120,000 square kilometres.

Truss said that if the two-metre long piece of wreckage found on the French territory was indeed from MH370 it would eliminate some of the “rather fanciful theories” about what happened to the plane.

“[If proven] It establishes really beyond any doubt that the aircraft is resting in the Indian Ocean and not secretly parked in some hidden place on the land in another part of the world,” he said.

“So it removes some of those theories but it doesn’t provide a great deal of help in specifically identifying where the aircraft is at the present time.

“We are confident, on the basis of continuing refinement, continuing assessment of the satellite data, that the search area is correct.”

 

Palestinian baby burned to death in Israeli settler attack

Two homes set ablaze in Duma village in occupied West Bank, with graffiti left on the walls reading “revenge” in Hebrew.

A man shows a picture of 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha who died when his family house was set on fire by Jewish settlers in the West Bank village of Duma on July 31, 2015. The Palestinian toddler was burned to death and four family members injured in the arson attack on two homes in the occupied West Bank. AFP PHOTO / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH

A man shows a picture of 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha who died when his family house was set on fire by Jewish settlers in the West Bank village of Duma on July 31, 2015. The Palestinian toddler was burned to death and four family members injured in the arson attack on two homes in the occupied West Bank. AFP PHOTO / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH

by Al Jazeera

An 18-month-old Palestinian boy has burned to death after settlers set fire to his family house in Duma village, south of Nablus city, in the occupied West Bank.

The parents of Ali Saad Dawabsheh and his four-year-old brother were also injured in the attack, sources told Al Jazeera on Friday morning.

Up to 75 percent of their bodies suffered burns, according to medics in Nablus’ Rafidia hospital.

The Israel army issued a statement saying that they were trying to locate the suspects in the attack.

“This attack against civilians is nothing short of a barbaric act of terrorism. A comprehensive investigation is under way in order to find the terrorists and bring them to justice,” Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said in the statement.

“The [Israeli army] strongly condemns this deplorable attack and has heightened its efforts in the field to locate those responsible.”

The army told Al Jazeera that additional forces were deployed to West Bank, refusing to specify the number of soldiers.

Palestinian reaction

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said on Friday that he wants the International Criminal Court to probe the attack as one of the first Israeli war crimes against Palestinians. “Every day we wake up to a similar crime. This is a war crime and a tragedy at the same time. Therefore we will not stay still. Absolutely not. As long as the settlement and the occupation are there,” Abbas said. Nabil Abu Rdeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said earlier on Friday that the Israeli government was fully responsible for the crime as it continued to support illegal Israeli settlement activities and the protection of settlers. He also blamed the international community for silence over crimes against Palestinians. Abu Rdeineh said that verbal condemnation of the crimes was no longer acceptable and that taking practical steps to hold Israeli attackers accountable, as well as the end to the occupation, was needed. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) that is led by Abbas reacted to the attack on Twitter.

Two Palestinian houses were burned at the entrance of the village with graffiti left on the walls, reading in Hebrew “revenge” and “long live Messiah”.

Witnesses told Al Jazeera that they saw at least two settlers running away from the scene.

Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the European Union envoy to Israel also reacted on Twitter.

There are at least three illegal Israeli settlements near Duma village.

According to the UN, at least 120 attacks by Israeli settlers have been documented in the occupied West Bank since the start of 2015.

A recent report by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organisation, showed that more than 92.6 percent of complaints Palestinians lodge with the Israeli police go without charges being filed.

Ashes 2015: Finn claims five as England sniff victory

Steven Finn

Birmignham: Comeback man Steven Finn missed a hat-trick but pulverised Australia with a five wicket haul as England were sniffing victory on an action-filled day two of the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston here on Thursday.

A win will enable England to regain their lead in the five-match series.

Australia managed to score 168 for 7 in their second innings at the draw of stumps, only 23 runs ahead of England with three full days of play remaining on a fast and bouncy track, where pacers have had a ball so far.

Peter Nevill (37) and Mitchell Starc (7) were in the middle.

Earlier in the day, replying to Australia’s first innings total of 135, England put up 281 on the scoreboard, courtesy half centuries from Joe Root (63) and Moeen Ali (59) and a 87-run eighth wicket stand between Ali and Stuart Broad (31).

After the England essay ended in the 12th over into the post lunch session, Australia needed 145 to stave off an innings defeat.

But they seemed close to ignominy, as 26 year old Middlesex pacer Finn (5 for 45) ripped through the heart of their batting in a deadly opening spell (9-1-39-4), even as opener David Warner (77) fought with grit.

The Australian batting tottered from the start, with opener and first innings resistance man Chris Rogers (6) getting struck on the front foot before the wicket by playing the wrong line against Broad.

Six feet seven inches tall Finn, returning to Test cricket after two years, then took centre-stage by plucking out Steven Smith (8) in his second over, as the Australian willower top edged a short of the length delivery.

Playing his 24th career Test, Finn did more damage in his fourth over, getting rid of skipper Michael Clarke (3), who fell to a fantastic low diving catch taken by Adam Lyth at fourth slip.

The England bowler proceeded to devour Adam Voges (0) off the next ball, to be on a hat-trick but Mitchell Marsh denied him the honours.

However, Marsh (6) did not last long, as Finn rattled the right hander’s stumps. Australia seemed in big trouble at 92 for 5.

James Anderson, who had enviable figures of 6 for 47 in the first innings, then ended Warner’s defiance, but Peter Nevill (37) and Mitchell Johnson (14) added an invaluable 42 runs for the seventh wicket in an exhibition of dour resistance that ensured England would have to bat again.

Johnson had earlier in the day took his 300th Test wicket.

Coming back into action, Finn saw the back of Johnson to complete to claim his seventh wicket of the match and 97th of his Test career.

The arch-rivals are locked 1-1 in the five-match series.

(IANS)

“Indian government has sent a wrong message by hanging an innocent man”: Chhota Shakeel

chhota-shakeel-yakub memon

New Delhi: Soon after Yakub Memon was hanged for his role in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, Chhota Shakeel, who is also an accused in the case and is known to be a close aide of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, reportedly warned of consequences of executing Yakub.

A report carried by Times of India (ToI) claims that Shakeel called up the newspaper’s office and said that Yakub’s hanging was a ‘legal murder’ and that the Indian government had betrayed him by punishing him for his brother Tiger Memon’s act.

Shakeel also reportedly said that by hanging Yakub, all possibilities of him and Dawood Ibrahim returning to India in exchange of promises of leniency have been ruled out. “Dawood bhai would have been meted the same fate if he would have come at that time… it is clear now,” the report quotes Shakeel.

He also alleged that the Indian government had sent a wrong message by hanging an ‘innocent’ man for his brother’s act. “It is a legal murder,” he said, adding, “There will be consequences.”

Shakeel also said that nobody would believe the Indian government or its agencies in future.

Shakeel also claimed that Yakub was in disagreement with his brother Tiger, the main accused, and had decided to follow the law. “Somebody trusted a government but the government breached the trust… Who will come back to get killed?”

He also claimed that Yakub had no links with Dawood Ibrahim. “He (Yakub) was accused of association with Dawood bhai. That’s not true,” Shakeel told ToI.

He also rubbished special prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam’s purported statement that Yakub’s hanging was a ‘message’ to terrorists. “You are hanging innocents to convey a message to us,” Shakeel said.

(Agencies)

To shut you up, they call you ‘Anti-National’, ‘Anti-Hindu’: Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi

Pune: Rahul Gandhi’s pep-talk to protesting students of the Film and Television Institute of India or FTII today segued into a sharp attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP.

“The nature of the discussion is – you agree with us then fine…if not, we will smash you. To shut people up they call you anti-national, anti-Hindu,” he told the students, who have been on strike for nearly two months over the appointment of TV actor Gajendra Singh as their chairman.

In the open session that was televised, the Congress vice president said that the FTII protest was a part of the “real fight,” which was for what the real idea of India is.

“Only the PM decides in the BJP, only one man has power. If the PM wants somebody, the BJP can’t remove them,” Mr Gandhi said.

Also referring to the BJP’s ideological mentor RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, he commented on what he called a “fundamental difference in your thinking and the RSS’ thinking.”

Dressed casually in a tee-shirt and jeans, the 44-year-old took questions and also asked many of them.

“This will make a really nice movie – how the entire might of the Indian government was trying to push 250 students aside,” he remarked to a hall-full of film students.

The students have boycotted classes for weeks and refused to return unless the central government cancels the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan, who is seen as close to the ruling BJP. Several alumni and film personalities say Mr Chauhan’s stature fall far short of the qualities needed for the top post.

“This is not just about FTII. It is happening in a lot of higher education and cultural institutions,” one student told Mr Gandhi, who nodded in agreement.

“The real question is how strongly you are willing to fight this issue. I am ready to fight with you,” replied the Congress leader.

The BJP has accused the Congress of trying to whip up politics over the film institute protests. “If students see Gajendra Chauhan as a politician, then is Rahul a filmmaker?” scoffed actor-politician Paresh Rawal.

(Agencies)