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By Orin

IT is quite tough to describe Pixar without any superlatives. They simply didn't give us the chance in the 25 years that they have been around, having produced some of the most ingenious films (because 'animated movies' here is really quite an understatement) ever created.

Also, there aren't many trilogies that have managed to keep up their success throughout the series. Lord of the Rings managed to, but even Godfather and Indiana Jones couldn't (considering the third and the fourth film of the series) and lets not count the Harry Potter or Twilight series, they are not movies, merely franchises. Many others have stumbled along the way. No matter how much we want to blame the producers for commercialising our favourite series, it has to be acknowledged that continuing the success of the previous movies is a very difficult and complicated job. Expectations pile up as soon as the first movie becomes a commercial or critical success, the stars sometimes become unwilling to continue, there's always a pressure to be as good as the previous ones and there is the possibility of enraging those fans who have taken the series far too seriously and are enraged when the director tweaks a few things here and there; basically there's just too much at stake and the directors cannot do it. So, it is quite surprising when they succeed, really.

To put epilogue to such a successful Pixar trilogy, where the first two have been outstanding, is a job that not many directors can accomplish. Director Lee Unkrich took up the job to give a send-off to the Toy Story series. His job was to hold up the legacy as well as bid farewell to the series the fans have, by now, watched tens of times. It would have to be a movie that said goodbye; and this would have to be a grand goodbye.

The story in the third movie begins like this: The young Andy to whom Buzz and Woody belonged to is now all grown up and ready to go to college, parting with his childhood. Some of the toys in his massive collection had been given to charity, some had withered with age. Those who remained were living in a constant fear of being abandoned. Andy wants to put them in the attic and take Woody with him for old time's sake and somehow all the toys end up in a day-care centre (controlled prison style) run by the sadistic Lotso bear.

I should not elaborate more here, but there's also a fun Ken and Barbie couple. The story holds up pretty nicely till the end. And then again, why shouldn't it? It's Toy Story!

Thankfully though, that is not all. The top notch cast consisting of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack played their role nicely and made Woody, Buzz and Jessie even more realistic. Attention to detail has been true Pixar style. There's a lot going on, but everything always comes together perfectly. Another great thing about the movie is its magnificent soundtrack. Randy Newman's 'You've got a friend in me' is a great addition to any soundtrack and the scene with the song with it was one of the best moments of the movie.

Superb directing, voice acting, magical soundtrack and brilliant animation have made this movie so lively that it is certainly among Pixar's bests (they have UP, WALL-E and Ratatoullie under their belt. It's not easy to decide).

Two tips for the movie:
#1 DO NOT watch this movie in bad print. It does not do the movie justice.

#2 Keep lots of tissues at hand. Your younger cousins/siblings might stare at you for crying like a baby during a 'cartoon', but they are still young. They won't understand. If you think I'm joking, talk to me after you have watched the movie (while thanking god for letting you live in a time when they make movies like this).

We all know Pixar is unique in its own ways. But even they couldn't have made this any better.

Ramadan Playlist

By TheAlien4mEarth

HUH? Yes, you read that right. A playlist for Ramadan. 'Cause when you're fasting the entire day, there's nothing like music to keep your mind off your stomach. But then again, the Billboard Top 10 isn't exactly the best thing to be listening to during the holy month. So here's the alternative this Ramadan, and perhaps, even beyond that-

Native Deen- A three-member musical group from the US, Native Deen is arguably one of the most popular Muslim hip-hop acts among the youth. Using catchy beats and clear lyrics to spread the word of Islam, they reach a wide audience, sometimes even performing to sold-out crowds. Their songs touch on a variety of issues, ranging from Islamic identity to how small deeds can make a difference in our lives.

Songs to listen to - Ramadan is Here, Not Afraid to Stand Alone, Small Deeds, Intentions and M-U-S-L-I-M.

Sami Yusuf- Having studied at the prestigious Royal School of Music in London, this British-Muslim singer chooses to spread the peace with his songs. His wonderful melodies make him a popular feature on the London music scene among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. “Allahu”, his uplifting devotional piece, is the perfect song to have playing at your house as you welcome guests this Eid.

Songs to Listen to- Allahu, Who is the Loved One, Healing

D-Clique - A very talented duo, comprising of Jawad and Akbar. They both started writing poetry from a very young age, and it wasn't long before those poems became songs. In their opinion, music today has lost its meaning, especially at a time when there's so much to say. Well, D-Clique is definitely here to change that, with their thoughtful lyrics and unique compositions. Diversity in their music means that almost everyone will find a D-Clique song to suit them.

Songs to Listen to - Better Days, Responsibility, Stand Tall, Pray With Me and Please

Blakstone- The name being a reference to the Holy Kabah, Blakstone is more than just music. In their words, “it's a movement, a struggle”. Many of their songs have political connotations attached to them about the state of Muslims in the world today. The Palestine War is a recurring theme in their work. With tight rapping and mind-blowingly strong lyrics, Blakstone is a fearless group that does not hesitate to question the Muslim community's place in the world.

Songs to Listen to- Why?, Just Another Day, Tell Me, Apologies, Blakstone

Zain Bhikha - Those who watch Peace TV or even Islamic TV might be better acquainted with this soulful artiste. Even with minimal music, he manages to capture your attention, and eventually, your heart. His songs, which are mostly of the spiritual and devotional kind, are ideal for putting you in a contemplative mood this Ramadan.

Songs to Listen to- Mountains of Makkah, Give thanks to Allah, Can't Take it with You (ft. Dawud and Abdul-Malik), Zalimuni (ft. Native Deen)

So there you have it. An entire playlist for the month. Most of these songs can be listened to at www.muslimhiphop.com. What sets these songs apart is that they're not only songs with Halal content, but also good music in their own right. Give them a try. After all, it's not everyday that you find music that actually has something to say.

Anime Review

By Professor Spork
Episodes: 26
Rating: 15+

Every other decade a random genius manages to create something in the field of art that would one day be dubbed a 'classic'. In 1996, Rumiko Takahashi joined this group of singular legends with the entry of one Inuyasha manga series, which aired as an anime at the beginning of the 21st century. Of course, the epic tale started off as a typical Japanese ficlet: junior high school student Kagome one fine day falls into a magic well which transports her back to the feudal era where she meets half-demon Inuyasha, manages to shatter the powerful Shikon Jewel (the object of every demon's lust), discovers that she's said half-demon's ex-lover reincarnated, and embarks on a journey to find the shards of the jewel before villain Naraku does, meeting countless people and endless barriers along the way. In 2004, after six long seasons and 167 episodes, the anime version of Inuyasha ended abruptly, having run out of manga volumes to draw its storyline from. Takahashi was obviously overpaid.

So five years later, once the manga was completed, they decided to end it. In 26 episodes. An attempt to end the Inuyasha in 26 episodes seemed clearly to be going for overkill, and the critics had their field day. Yet the very first airing of The Final Act silenced everyone. There was no backtracking, no trailing, and no delay. The entire original cast and crew had come back together to give the fans a final taste of vintage Inuyasha, and man did they deliver! The artwork for the sequel is immaculate; the sketchy manga drawings replaced by the much-preferred bold lines and brighter colours from the movies. Character themes remain the same beautiful classics, and the rest of the music is absolutely breathtaking. The combination of lyrics and composition in the ending themes and soundtracks easily outdo anything the original Inuyasha has ever produced; well thought-out, timed, and executed to perfection.

The pace of the story? Gruelling. There isn't a moment to exhale throughout the entire arc, and you'll be scratching your head at the end of each episode trying to figure out how they managed to squeeze so much into barely 23 minutes of action. With a list of characters stretching to over twenty, each with their own story to tell and end, you can't really blame the speed. However, this also forms the only drawback. It is extremely difficult to keep up with the storyline, and apparently the creator figured the most suitable conclusion for most of the characters was to kill them off within the half-mark. That's a lot of death in a very short time. Despite that, each tragedy is remarkably scripted and stunning to watch unfold, and the happier finales will leave you smiling, guaranteed. The Final Act brings an emotional closing to the primary love triangle and secondary romance, as well as to the seemingly never-ending feud between Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru over Tetsusaiga.

Inuyasha The Final Act is more than a must-watch for any anime fan (in subs, because the dubbed version sounds worse than The Jonas Brothers, live). The final episode certainly wasn't tremendous, but the epics never end as well as you wish they would, and at least no one was left out. Romance-lovers will forget to breathe, action-freaks will drool, and comedy-fans will grin. If nothing else, the girls could ogle Sesshoumaru until their eyes fall out.


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