Monday, April 27, 2015

#GoneGlobal: Kuwait IMAX Experience - Furious 7 Review

My first movie theater experience in Kuwait was both amazing and awkward. Of course, I was excited about viewing a film on an IMAX screen with enhanced surround sound. I had been warned about the censorship nuisance; however, I didn't expect the scene cutting to be so abrupt and obvious. It was borderline aggravating. So much so that I couldn't remain engaged with the storyline. Intimate moments were sloppily skipped over and a bulk of the language during pertinent dialogue exchanges was bleeped out, although the word "shit" remained uncut. Wait, let me backtrack... 

Kuwait has a few theater rules set in place to ensure that movie watchers are not disturbed. Some of the top cinema locations are for couples and/or families only; bachelors who want to enjoy a motion picture solo must sit together with other bachelors in the front rows. There's assigned seating (secured at the ticket purchase window), with ushers who direct you to your selected area and proceed to spy on monitor you thereafter. This specific experience occurred at Cinescape inside 360 Mall, after paying 4 KD, which is equivalent to about $13 USD. Anyway, I didn't have time to check the list of concession items, but solely judging the upscale setting, the prices appear to be fair. There was a museum in the lobby that included all types of film collectibles.

The seats were soft (not adjustable) but offered just enough cushion on the elbow rest and the restrooms were conveniently located near the entrance (with an attendant available to pass me paper towels after washing my hands). I made the pit-stop before being seated, but the gesture was very much appreciated and I would have been even more thankful for the assistance if I had not been on time for the movie. Surprisingly though, there were no previews. The action began promptly at the scheduled start time of 3:15pm. The intro was loud and I was startled due to the absence of a signal. Since I can't recall the plot of every film within the Fast & Furious franchise, I was looking forward to pointing out certain things that would trigger my memory.

This current edition did a great job of reminding Fast fans of past events. Picking up where Fast & Furious 6 sped off, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) returns with a similar memory lapse and Dominic (Vin Diesel) is silently pining for her love. The main plot consists of Shaw's brother (Jason Statham) seeking revenge for his paralysis, first attacking Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) and then vowing to take down Dom's entire crew. The tone was quite somber, with many references to dying, which made the already-known outcome too uncomfortable to bear. Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese) offered viewers some corny comical relief. Watching Brian (Paul Walker) escape death multiple times on screen was rather unsettling, considering that he died while riding shotgun in a speeding vehicle  in real life. In the most profound scene, he was barricaded inside of a moving truck and avoided being crushed via a fall over a cliff. The special effects were definitely heightened this time around. However, there was just too much focus on the shock factor.

The repetitive "cars don't fly" metaphor also served as foreshadowing for the unbelievable chase scenes. Cars literally flew through buildings and even demolished popular landmarks in Abu Dhabi, which I've now visited twice. Although the action was intense, the purpose of the story was lost in the midst of trying to pull random pieces together. I really enjoyed the emotional tribute at the end though, mostly because of this particular song that was playing in the background as #ForPaul flashbacks invaded the screen:

There's always room for improvement. Despite the fact that Furious 7 has now grossed over $1 billion worldwide (an unexpected record) and is currently number one at the box office (4 weeks and counting), the Fast 8 release date was recently announced (April 14, 2017). We all thought this action series was coming to an end, but based on the latest results, it appears as though it will never be "one last ride"... 

Grade: B-

What did you think of Furious 7? Did it exceed your expectations?



Thursday, April 2, 2015

#GoneGlobal: The Middle East Woman... Isn't She Lovely?

There are no single mothers in Kuwait... no woman who has given birth out of wedlock. Well, at least not according to any records. It's practically against the law for a woman from the Middle East to even think about being intimate with a man before he puts a ring on her finger. She can't formally date. In special cases, her marriage is arranged. The government does not impose, but some are covered up, from head to toe, only revealing themselves in private to the men whom they are forced to spend the rest of their lives with, emotionally closed. The M.E. woman pretends to be satisfied with this controlled lifestyle; however, unhappiness is in her eyes... the way that she stares at free women existing in a manner that's forbidden by her father, or even her chosen husband. Men have all the say, yet she's voiceless, permitted to inhale and exhale with no rebuttals. She must submit to their power. Bear their children. Maintain their household. And never speak up about the misery that's shielded underneath her cloak of protection. 

Tradition transforms into torture, as she wonders about the principles of her highly-respected country, a country that cannot be bothered with safeguarding her presence, because family matters most. Plus, her fate is decided based on its liberal or conservative standing. She silently fights for the justice she deserves, while other phenomenal women are openly allowed to flaunt their wide hips and colored lips. She craves creativity, unable to express her important concerns. At times, fear overshadows her faith. She's constantly yearning for God's grace, on call for prayer throughout the day, but unlike Christians, she's not asking for sins to be washed away. There's nothing to repent for. She's consumed by the concept of purity; her mistakes are discreet so her image is neat. Repercussions hold her back and stop her from shuffling her feet; there's no immediate escape. No one wants to help her release the frustrations, since disobedience has consequences. 

She may be overlooked, but she is not invisible. The rulers in her life are busy seeking dominance, unable to recognize the empathy that is necessary to completely eliminate her shame. She's getting closer to liberty with every tear that falls. I just hope she doesn't drown before realizing her worth. Because I could be her. She could be me. If the tables were turned. Her identity was borderline accidental. She unknowingly fell into oblivion, which inspired me to assume that she needs saving. I'm speaking on her behalf. These words aren't her truth; my firsthand theory instead. I'm stuck on the outside looking in... as she peers back, surveying me through the fabric that shields her skin. It's not a fashion statement. Our eyes connect. I can deeply feel her pain. I don't feel sorry for her, though. Behind that ensemble lies dormant strength and ambition. There's a symbolic reason for it all, and it is all quite hard for me to understand. 


Isn't she lovely?

Isn't she wonderful?
Isn't she precious?

She was born to be admired. 
I'm standing by, witnessing how well she endures the struggle, subconsciously emancipating myself from a preconceived reality, too.