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Of bubbly faces and bubbly voices

Los Angeles based R&B vocalist Colbie Caillat is a singer songwriter with songs based on a humble approach sounding like sweet honey flowing over rocks. Although her music is acoustic based, the arrangements go much deeper, culling from classical folk, jazz & pop, with her distinguished breathy vocals and dynamic melodies commanding the audience of the listeners she's gained.

Colbie Caillat, born in California grew up in Malibu and Ventura County. Growing up surrounded by music with her father, Ken Caillat, who was most notably remembered for Co-Production and Engineer credits on Fleetwood Mac's Rumours among several others. Every sound of Colbie's soulful style unfolds a story of her many travels through life.

Colbie started her singing debut at an early age [eleven] with special performances around her house. Within weeks she ventured out into talent shows and school performances. Her parents citing her as the “little bird” would wake up at the crack of dawn to her singing her heart out waking the house.

At the age of fifteen something happened to Colbie that would change her life completely. She met Michael Blue, a producer and engineer who took Colbie under his wing and began to use her voice on the tracks he was producing. Then at the age of 19 Colbie wrote her first song on the guitar, and has never stopped since.

Ever since her mom gave birth to her in their Malibu home overlooking the ocean, Colbie Caillat has been the quintessential California girl. Her idea of a good time is hanging out with her friends at a beach bonfire or hopping in the car, tunes at the ready, and driving up the Pacific Coast Highway.

On “Coco,” her Universal Republic debut, the songs mirror Caillat's low-key, refreshing style. Armed with her acoustic guitar and her dusky vocals, she evokes the same gentle, yet spirited style of her musical influences John Mayer, Bob Marley, Lauryn Hill and The Weepies

As befits the organic style of her music, Caillat's fan base has grown by word of mouth, one person at a time. Last year, she began posting her songs on her myspace.com; tunes like “Bubbly,” a delightful confection about romance, and “Tailor Made,” Caillat's joyful message to her sister over seeing her sibling find the perfect mate.

With no marketing push and only the power of the music behind her, Caillat became a sensation on the social networking site. Last October when she had 6,240 friends, Rolling Stone highlighted her as one of the top female artists on myspace. Ultimately, Caillat became the #l unsigned artist for over four months, her profile has been visited over 3 million times, and she has more than l0 million plays.

As her online popularity grows, so does the recognition factor. “I'm not even famous yet and every time I go shopping, the young girls who work in the stores, they know who I am. They'll ask, 'Are you Colbie from myspace?'” she recounts with delight.

Grateful for the recognition, the laid-back, natural beauty lamented, “Great, now I'm going to have to put on make up every time I leave the house!” But she quickly reconsidered. “I'm kidding. But I am hoping that I can show my fans that it's okay to be yourself.” Indeed, even the album's title reflects her desire to remain true to herself: Her parents nicknamed her Coco while she was still an infant and it's a tag that has stuck.

Her household was filled with music. Her father, Ken Caillat, co-produced Fleetwood Mac's legendary “Rumours” and “Tusk” albums and later ran his own record label. “My dad was always producing and mixing and he has the console in our house. A few years ago, he remixed 'Tusk' so I've always been around music.” She recalls Mick Fleetwood and John McVie hanging around: “All of my dad's friends are in the business, so I've learned from them.

But she still relied heavily on dad's words of wisdom. “I just wanted to be a singer and he said if you write songs, you get respect from people; you're having them relate to a part of you that you're sharing with them.”

Inspiration comes from different places: conversations with family and friends or reflections on her own life. For example, her love of Hawaiian music is reflected on “Tied Down”: “I've been going to Hawaii twice a year since I was 12. At one point, I moved there for two months with friends and got a job and got a Rent-a-Wreck, went longboarding, it was lots of fun. I've always wanted to have a ukulele on a song. I just love that laid-back sound. Hawaii is a huge part of me.”

Or the frustrations of trying to conquer a fear in “One Fine Wire”: I took an improv class at junior college because I'm really shy in front of people up on stage. I ended up dropping the class because I had a scene I had to do. My parents were so mad at me because I just quit something I was trying to overcome. So I went upstairs into my room bawling and wrote 'One Fine Wire'.”

Game Review

By Sadman Alvi

When Gears of War first hit the Xbox 360 it created quite a fuss, grabbing awards from left & right and also amassing a huge fan base. And now that the game has been released for the PC, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to check out what the big deal was all about.

In the game you take the role of Marcus Fenix, a disgraced soldier of the COG (Coalition of Organazied Governments) to fight against the evil race of creatures named Locust, who pop out of the earth through many of their underground tunnels with the sole intention of annihilating mankind. You have your fellow gears fighting beside you, and these guys are as macho as it is possible to be; each one of them is a lump of bulging muscles, with face full of scars. Often they will shout out lines like “this is my kinda shit”, “bring it on”, “sweeeet” in the heat of a battle just to prove how macho they are, if you weren't already sure about it from their appearance. These dudes make the guys from “300” look like sissies running around in underpants.

The game itself takes place in a post apocalyptic earth, devastated by an all out surprise Locust assault. Just before the assault Fenix defied orders from his superiors in a futile attempt to save his father, consequently he was charged with dereliction of duty and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. In the beginning of the game you are freed by a fellow gear to fight the final desperate battle as the last human stronghold has been breached. But for some weird reason the developers have never bothered to provide any of these information in the game, I found them later in the game manual in a concise passage. All throughout the game I was asking myself why the hell are Locusts attacking? or what is Fenix's father's role in the war? or what the heck are these creatures? Aliens or a strange specie of Earth? The game never answers these questions, most of the time you don't even know what the heck you are doing except the fact that you are killing some ugly critters. Then again I suppose dumb-bloodthirsty-oversized soldiers don't need a reason to kill.

Graphically the game looks awesome; the character modeling especially looks really great. The game also has a unique drab and pale visual style, it seems just perfect for a war torn post-apocalyptic world

And now to the gameplay…basically the game is a third person cover & shoot'em up, but it greatly differs from other shooters because the pace of the game is much slower, instead of moving fast to avoid fire you have to stay still behind cover to avoid fire. Later in the game after an unexpected promotion you get to order around your team. You can tell your teammates to attack, follow and hold position. Although most of the time the commands work just fine, sometimes the “follow me” command can be really frustrating, as your teammates just won't follow you, they even have the guts to say “negative”. The enemies are unbelievably strong and probably can take more bullets than you, they fight cleverly too, stay behind cover and poke their head out to shoot. Whereas your teammates are totally and utterly incompetent, they will keep dying and you have to keep reviving them in the middle of the battle and blow your cover. In one bloody battle one of my teammates died 9 times, and I had to revive him every time. But when I die no one can revive me and the game is over. Their incompetence coupled with the strength of the enemies sometimes gets annoying.

All throughout the game you have to do the exact same thing, which is take cover and shoot, except for the few exciting boss battles and a mission on a vehicle. But fortunately the game is over before it gets too frustrating. However, probably the worst aspect of the game is the lack of a proper normal difficulty. In the beginning you have to choose from two difficulty levels, namely-casual & hardcore. In casual, anyone who has played shooters before will just breeze through the levels even without taking cover. Whereas in hardcore mode even experienced gamers will find that they are dying far too many times. The fact that the checkpoints are few and far between also doesn't help. You might kill more than 30 locust and die, and then find out that you have to do it all over again just because there were no checkpoints. And let's be honest about it, PC gamers are just not used to that sort of thing. The camera too, at first feels centralized and restricted, which is more suited for analog sticks. But when you have a mouse at your fingertip you want total freedom. However, developers have stated that they have worked hard to make the PC version feel like a game made for PC. It boasts better graphics (which Xbox 360 couldn't handle, shame) and more missions. Still the trial and error gameplay with checkpoints few and far between and the centralized camera made me feel that the game is more suited for console gamers.

This game reminded me of Halo, after the critically acclaimed and overly hyped game made it to PC from Xbox, PC gamers realized that there were much better FPS games in the market for the PC. I am not saying Gears of War is a bad game though, in fact it's a pretty good game, it's mindlessly fun. But PC gamers still won't be wrong to wonder what the big fuss was all about.

The Spiderwick Chronicles

"The Spiderwick Chronicles" is a terrific entertainment for the whole family, except those below a certain age, who are likely to be scared out of their wits.

But I do know the PG classification is insane, especially considering what happens right after a father says he loves his son. This is a PG-13 movie, for sure. But what will cause nightmares for younger kids will delight older ones, since "The Spiderwick Chronicles" is a well-crafted family thriller that is truly scary and doesn't wimp out.

Based on a well-known series of books, the movie involves a soon-to-be divorced mom and her three children who come to live in a creepy old mansion. This is Spiderwick, named after her grandfather Arthur Spiderwick, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The house itself is one of the stars of the movie, looking Victorian/Gothic with countless nooks and crannies and shadows and scary sounds. Is it haunted? Nothing that comforting. It's ... inhabited.

The plot:
The mother is Helen Grace (Mary-Louise Parker), who is battling with the rebellious Jared (Freddie Highmore), one of her twin sons. He doesn't like being away from his dad, is homesick, doesn't want anything to do with this dusty and spiderwebby old ruin that was left to his mom by her aunt. Jared's brainy twin Simon looks identical, no doubt because he is also played by Freddie Highmore, born in 1992, a gifted young actor best known for "Finding Neverland," "August Rush" and "The Golden Compass."

The twins' sister is the plucky Mallory (Sarah Bolger), a fencer who seldom goes anywhere without her sword.

Jared is the kind of kid who is always getting blamed for everything. When stuff starts disappearing, for example, he gets the rap. But he's brave, and when he finds a hidden dumbwaiter, he hauls himself up to a hidden room -- his grandfather's study, left undisturbed after all these years. This room fairly reeks of forbidden secrets.

He finds a "field guide" to the unseen world, left by his grandfather (David Strathairn), and that with its help and a Seeing Stone, Jared can see goblins, spirits, hobgoblins, ogres, trolls and griffins, which themselves can take many shapes. Some of them are amusing, like Thimbletack (voice of Martin Short), some alarming like Boggart (Short again), some helpful like Hogsqueal (voice of Seth Rogen) but undependable.

Anyway, Jared finally convinces his brother, and finally his sister and mother, that what he reports is real, but then the Graces are faced with dire threats.

This is all done with a free mixture of lighthearted action, heavy action and some dramatic scenes that are pretty heavy going for younger imaginations. The movie is distinguished by its acting, not least by the great Joan Plowright as old Aunt Lucinda. Strathairn is completely credible as a spirit-world investigator, although exactly where the sparkling points of light take him, and what he does there, is a little murky.

They say be careful what you ask for because you might get it. Recent family movies are too sanitized but this one, directed by Mark Waters ("Freaky Friday"), doesn't skip a beat before its truly horrific moments, so if you're under 8 or 9 years old, don't say you weren't warned.


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