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Scene from "La la Land" (Photo: Dale Robinette) VOA

Dec 18, 2016: This holiday season has a lot of offerings for moviegoers who may feel like celebrating with a film full of special effects, nods to Hollywood classics, A-list actors, thrills, action and of course, romance. Some of these films will also dominate the awards season after the new year. For reasons of clarity, we want to note that this list includes only some of what’s in theaters right now and mainly represents the bigger, bolder, glitzier productions. We’ll reserve the higher brow award-worthy films for another time.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling sweep us off our feet in the romantic musical La La Land, about two struggling artists in Los Angeles trying to follow their dreams while they fall passionately in love with each other.

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The bittersweet story is accentuated by a haunting musical score and infectiously upbeat choreography. This is a gutsy, creative musical by Damien Chazelle, the writer and director of 2014’s award-winning film Whiplash. La La Land pays tribute to the golden Hollywood era and to musicals such as An American in Paris in 1951, and Singin’ in the Rain in 1952.

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La La Land, however, fuses the traditional with the modern, giving the musical genre a new breath of life. The onscreen chemistry between the two stars is contemporary and at the same time reminiscent of old Hollywood couples such as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. This film is not only joyful, moving and inspiring, but is a sure winner at the awards season and a must for the holidays.

Sci-fi for the holidays

For those who love Star Wars and are especially attached to the original trilogy, Rogue One could satisfy. The battles, the star ships, the rebels fighting a desperate war against the totalitarian Empire while the Death Star looms over them, point back to the 70’s…but in IMAX 3D, with even bigger and better special effects. Only the Grinch would offer spoilers but we can certainly assure you that you will enjoy it through the surprises at the very end. Felicity Jones stars as another strong female character in the Star Wars franchise, and she is surrounded by a decent cast. This is not as much a character-driven film as it is an epic battle story.

Actors from left, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen and Forest Whitaker pose for photographers upon arrival at the Rogue One: A Star Wars premiere in London, Dec. 13, 2016. VOA

Assassins’ Creed is based on the popular video game and combines great martial arts scenes with the storyline of Callum Lynch, who unlocks his genetic memories through a revolutionary technology and experiences the adventures of his ancestor Aguilar in 15th century Spain. This high-action film is the perfect hybrid video game/movie which will attract the gaming community as well as fans of the film’s high-caliber stars, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

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Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in a scene from “Assassin’s Creed” (Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox) VOA

Those sci-fi lovers who crave an intelligent plot and a character-driven psychological drama will definitely enjoy Arrival, a tense story of extraterrestrial contact. Acclaimed filmmaker Denis Villeneuve offers a novel approach to the genre with mystical implications. Amy Adams has already garnered awards and nominations for her interpretation as the linguist trying to establish a language with the aliens.

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The film’s cerebral storyline will excite audiences who are called to solve a puzzle. This is a film that will stay with you for days. There are no battles and shoot-’em-ups, but the tension — also embedded in the film’s haunting music — is sometimes unbearable.

Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner in a scene from “Arrival” (Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures) VOA

In Passengers, another sci-fi flick, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are on a journey to a distant colony planet; but, a machine malfunction in their sleep chambers wakes them 90 years early. Soon, they discover that it may not have been an accident, as the ship that is transporting thousands of souls is spiraling toward a star. This high-budget film has special effects, popular actors and mystery, so it promises to do well at the box office. Whether it will garner praise remains to be seen, but it will surely put moviegoers who want to see collapsing stars, cool space ship gadgets and romance in a festive mood. (VOA)

ALSO READ: Earth Lost 10%-60% of its Atmosphere to Moon: Study

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in a scene from “Passengers” (Photo courtesy Sony Pictures) VOA



Using social media in moderation isn't bad. It becomes a problem when this becomes a habit.

By Dr. Vihan Sanyal

Most teenagers use social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram these days. It keeps a person connected to friends across the globe and gives them a window into the lives of people they are connected with.

Multiple studies have shown that teenagers who use social media excessively do so because they are either bored, need an escape from their immediate physical environment, are feeling overwhelmed and stressed, are lonely, have few real-time friends or need to feel appreciated and validated.

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Using social media in moderation isn't bad. In fact, it can help boost serotonin and other feel-good chemicals in the brain and can help uplift a person's mood. Most people take a selfie of themselves and post it on social media, and feel good about themselves when people like their post and comment on it. It becomes a problem when this becomes a habit. Many people feel compelled to post photos of themselves multiple times a day and then keep checking their accounts for the number of likes they have received.

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Ayurveda consists of set practices and lifestyle habits that work to make one healthy, both physically and mentally. Additionally, the herbs and medicines as prescribed in Ayurveda, are wholly natural and retain the ability to cure most diseases without any side effects.

N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe

Ayurveda, as mentioned, is the science of life. It is not just a set of general suggestions but a way of living life. It consists of set practices and lifestyle habits that work to make one healthy, both physically and mentally. Additionally, the herbs and medicines as prescribed in Ayurveda, are wholly natural and retain the ability to cure most diseases without any side effects.

Ayush Agrawal, Founder and Director of Rasayanam shares some prominent herbs that are renowned for their use in matters of health and wellness are discussed as follows-

Ashwagandha - Ashwagandha, by reducing the cortisol levels, helps control anxiety and stress. Its use is significant in calming the body and psyche of an individual and also helps in regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Ashwagandha is also popularly consumed as a vigor and strength supplement. Further, it aids muscle mass gain and boosts energy levels in people from all age brackets.

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Triphala - This over 1000-year-old remedy constitutes three principal ingredients of Amla, Bibhitaki, and Haritaki which are some of the most famous medicinal plants native to the country. Known for its anti-inflammatory and laxative properties, Triphala is also considered particularly helpful in preventing dental diseases and cavities as well as digestive problems. The many medicinal properties of this herb are what make it so well accepted and preached throughout the country.

Brahmi - Brahmi is primarily used for its significant impact on the brain and its functioning. It is said to improve the brain's retention and memory power as well as its spatial learning abilities. Brahmi is commonly utilized to treat and control symptoms of anxiety, stress, and ADHD. Additionally, it is also consumed to reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure levels.

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Here are some simple and efficient yogic techniques to get in shape. It only takes 15 minutes, and you don't even have to leave the house. These asanas can be done from where you are sitting and during short work breaks.

By Shraddha Iyer

With everyone's hectic schedules, we don't even notice how quickly a day passes and our health suffers as a result. How do you incorporate yoga into your daily routine with such a hectic schedule, and what can you practice?

For all the workaholics out there, here are some simple and efficient yogic techniques to get in shape. It only takes 15 minutes, and you don't even have to leave the house. These asanas can be done from where you are sitting and during short work breaks.

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Sukha Purvaka Pranayama

This pranayama is effortless breathing that focuses on breathing deeply into each section of the lungs, as the name says. There is a strong emphasis on both internal and exterior breath retention.


- Simply breathe in for 4 to 6 counts, filling the lungs up.
- Hold the breath, ideally for the same count, or it can be as long as you can.
- Exhale for 4 to 6 counts, holding the breath out for the same time or as long as you can.
- This completes one round.
- You can start with 10 rounds and increase the repetition with practice.

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