The best movies of 2024 so far 

‘Dune: Part Two.’ (Supplied) 
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Updated 21 June 2024
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The best movies of 2024 so far 

  • Senegal shines, ‘Hit Man’ is a hit, and Zendaya slays it — twice

‘Dune: Part Two’ 

The second instalment in Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi saga isn’t just one of this year’s best films, but has a strong argument for being one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. It follows Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalomet) as he attempts to earn the trust of the native Fremen people of the desert planet Arrakis to persuade them to help him take down House Harkonnen, who are responsible for the massacre of Paul’s own house. This sprawling second chapter covers some heavy themes, including love versus duty, religious extremism, and the morality of violence, but always keeps sight of the need to entertain its audience. This it does throughout its almost three-hour running time with some dazzling battle sequences, the central love story between two of Hollywood’s biggest young stars (Chalomet and Zendaya’s fierce Fremen woman Chani), and thrilling sandworm rides.  

‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ 

With two hugely bankable stars (Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth), a lauded director (George Miller), and the fact that it’s a prequel and spin-off to one of the finest action movies of the past 10 years (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) — itself a part of a hugely popular post-apocalyptic franchise, “Furiosa” looked set to be one of the year’s box-office blockbusters. Instead, it was a relative flop. But that shouldn’t be taken as any reflection of its quality: Taylor-Joy is excellent in the lead role, finding an emotional connection to Charlize Theron’s portrayal of Furiosa in “Fury Road,” Hemsworth holds nothing back in his performance as the evil warlord biker Dementus, the action scenes are astounding (of course, it’s George Miller), the screenplay (uncommonly for a “Mad Max” film) has real depth, and the whole thing makes for brilliant big-screen entertainment.  

‘Hit Man’ 

Despite the title, director Richard Linklater’s latest isn’t filled with cunningly planned “Killing Eve”-style assassinations. Instead, it’s an entertaining blend of noir-thriller, black comedy, and romance held together by Glenn Powell in the lead role of Gary Johnson, a mild-mannered university professor who adopts a variety of personas while working for the New Orleans police department as a fake contract killer in order to catch people thinking of hiring an actual assassin. That wild premise is actually based (very loosely) on a true story. Johnson finds himself in trouble when he falls hard for a potential client, the beautiful Madison (Adria Arjona). Unwilling to get her sent to prison, he begins a relationship with her, but as “Ron,” his latest alter-ego. Inevitably, Johnson’s plan doesn’t go smoothly, and the results make for a great cinematic romp. 

‘Io Capitano’ 

Migrants and refugees have become populist political scapegoats, and with so much news coverage around the clock inuring others to the hardships those groups face, it takes something special to cut through. Director Matteo Garrone and his Senegalese star Seydou Sarr provide it with “Io Capitano,” which follows two young cousins, Seydou and Moussa, on a perilous journey from Dakar to Europe — a journey they undertake not because of the threat of starvation or violence, but because they want to travel and see the world, just as young people in the developed world do. Garrone mixes magical realism and graphic horror to convey the traumas the cousins have to deal with, and, in Seydou, gives us a memorable hero. The dialogue may be sparse, but “Io Capitano” packs a real emotional punch.    

‘Challengers’ 

Hollywood’s brightest young female star, Zendaya, steals the show in Luca Guadagnino’s sporty romantic drama. She plays former tennis prodigy Tashi Duncan, who’s now a coach after an injury forced her retirement. She’s coaching her husband, Art (Mike Faist), who just needs a US Open win to complete a Career Grand Slam. But Art is struggling with form and fitness, so Tashi enters him in a minor event in New York, hoping he’ll pick up a win and a confidence boost. But facing him is his former best friend (and competitor for Tashi’s affections), Patrick (Josh O’Connor). And it seems like he’s still carrying a torch for her, and vice-versa. The story gets pretty silly, but the performances of — and chemistry between — its three stars make “Challengers” a lot of fun. Great soundtrack, too. 

‘Civil War’ 

Alex Garland’s dystopian thriller — which follows a team of war journalists traveling from New York to Washington DC during a US civil war between an authoritarian government and a loose coalition of regional factions — has proven divisive, with some arguing Garland is championing style (this is the most expensive film so far made by distributor A24) over substance, and others arguing that there’s too much intellectual substance and not enough emotion. All of which suggests that maybe Garland has pitched his take on the horror of war, and the traumas faced by those involved and those reporting on it, just right. Visually, it’s stunning — the shots of war-torn suburbia as breathtaking as the famous scene from 2002’s “28 Days Later” (which Garland wrote) when Cillian Murphy awakes from a coma and staggers out into London’s abandoned streets — and Garland proves a master at ratcheting up the suspense whenever a new encounter happens. Treat it as entertainment, and not a thesis, and “Civil War” is worth a watch.  


Adidas apologizes to Bella Hadid after 1972 Olympics ad furor

Updated 24 July 2024
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Adidas apologizes to Bella Hadid after 1972 Olympics ad furor

  • Brand dropped supermodel from shoe campaign amid outrage from Israel-linked pressure groups
  • ‘We apologise for any negative impact and we are revising the campaign’

LONDON: Adidas has apologized to supermodel Bella Hadid after pulling her from an advertising campaign that referenced the 1972 Munich Olympics, Sky News reported on Wednesday.

Israel-linked pressure groups accused the campaign of causing offense due to Hadid’s part-Palestinian background.

At the 1972 games, 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer were killed by the Black September group.

Hadid is reportedly considering legal action over Adidas’ decision to remove her from the campaign, which is promoting the relaunch of a shoe from the 1972 Olympics.

The brand said on Instagram: “Connections continue to be made to the terrible tragedy that occurred at the Munich Olympics due to our recent SL72 campaign.

“These connections are not meant, and we apologise for any upset or distress caused to communities around the world. We made an unintentional mistake.

“We also apologise to our partners, Bella Hadid, ASAP Nast, Jules Kounde, and others, for any negative impact on them and we are revising the campaign.”

A number of Israeli and Jewish pressure groups targeted Hadid’s involvement in the ad campaign.

The supermodel has long been an outspoken advocate of the Palestinian cause and has criticized Israel’s war in Gaza.

The American Jewish Committee claimed that Adidas was using “a vocal anti-Israel model” for a campaign that “is either a massive oversight or intentionally inflammatory.”

The CEO of the Combat Antisemitism Movement said: “To have her launch a shoe commemorating an Olympics when so much Jewish blood was shed is just sick.”


‘Hope in an Age of Dystopia’ exhibition depicts how ‘the world seems to be falling apart’

Updated 24 July 2024
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‘Hope in an Age of Dystopia’ exhibition depicts how ‘the world seems to be falling apart’

DUBAI: Beirut’s Dalloul Art Foundation latest exhibition, “Hope in an Age of Dystopia,” features 66 works by creatives from all over the Arab world — and beyond.
With pieces by artists such as Hady Sy and Selim Mawad of Lebanon, and Palestinian Amer Shomali, the event runs in Beirut until Aug. 15 and also showcases the work of Lebanese-Canadian creative Johanne Allard.
Director of Dalloul Art Foundation Wafa Roz told Arab News that the show captured how “the world seems to be falling apart.”
She said: “The past few years have been especially difficult. However, despite all this, there remains a sense of diffident hope — that even with all these terrible events and increasing power differences that seem inescapable, we are able to resist and to find different ways to move forward.”
Roz added the artistic pieces shared a glimpse into how global power structures affected people’s daily realities and shaped their needs, desires and feelings.
“The social issues depicted in the exhibition are both on the global and local scale … Each artwork depicts a part of the ongoing narrative of overarching systems of control,” she said.
Allard’s work from the “A Feast In The Ruins” series fits seamlessly into the theme.
“Each piece in this series uses embroidery on metal sculptures of moths to symbolize the destruction and erosion of cultural and societal fabrics caused by war and imperialism in the Levant and MENA regions,” explained the artist.
Allard said her work served as both a remembrance of the past and a critique of ongoing systemic issues, while also including elements of hope and resilience.
“Ultimately, ‘Hope in an Age of Dystopia’ is about acknowledging the challenges of our time without giving in to despair. It inspires us to confront difficult truths, reimagine possibilities, and actively contribute to change, where hope prevails over uncertainties,” she added.
Roz also spoke of how trends in the world of art constantly evolved.
“We are seeing more conceptual works that move away from direct depictions, most likely as a reflection of the complexities of the themes and concepts which the artists are exploring,” she said.


Review: ‘Elden Ring’ expansion offers more of the same excellence 

Updated 24 July 2024
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Review: ‘Elden Ring’ expansion offers more of the same excellence 

LONDON: “Shadow of Erdtree” is the highly anticipated expansion for the critically acclaimed game, “Elden Ring.” The original game, released in 2022, swept numerous awards upon release and captivated players with its intricate world, challenging gameplay, and immersive lore. Within a week of its release, the expansion has seen over 5 million players dive into its dark world, a testament to the game’s allure and the reputation of its creator, Hidetaka Miyazaki. Miyazaki, also the president of FromSoftware since 2014, cemented his and the developer’s legacy with the release of “Dark Souls” in 2011, a game that defined a genre and set a new standard for difficulty and storytelling. 

Jumping into “Shadow of Erdtree” is no small feat. Even for seasoned players with over 130 hours invested, accessing the new content requires overcoming significant challenges, including defeating an optional boss to unlock the entrance to the “Land of Shadow.” This expansion continues the trend of demanding gameplay, rewarding perseverance with new content that expands the lore and challenges of “Elden Ring.”

The plot of “Shadow of Erdtree” continues the enigmatic and complex narrative established in the base game. Players find themselves amid the turmoil of demi-gods battling for fragments of the once all-powerful Elden Ring. Into this chaos steps a “tarnished,” an outcast whose journey is intertwined with the mysterious figure of Miquella the Kind. The story remains cryptic and layered, inviting players to piece together its many facets through exploration and discovery.

Fundamentally, “Shadow of Erdtree” offers more of the same elements that made “Elden Ring” a success. The expansion preserves the dark, epic, and dangerous atmosphere of The Lands Between. New areas and the addition of Scadutree fragments provide fresh content while maintaining the game’s signature aesthetic. Enemies are as unforgiving as ever, ensuring that players will face numerous deaths as they navigate the perilous landscape.

The sense of reward in “Shadow of Erdtree” is immense. The expansion enriches the game with a plethora of new items, crafting options, flasks, clothes, weapons, magic, key items, and Ashes of War. These additions enhance the depth of gameplay, offering new strategies and customization options for players to explore.

For those who love delving into the intricate lore and challenging gameplay of “Elden Ring,” “Shadow of Erdtree” is a must-play. It expands on the original game’s strengths, delivering a compelling and demanding experience that will test even the most seasoned players. Supporting wikis and community resources will undoubtedly be invaluable as players navigate the expansion’s new content and uncover its many secrets.


Ambani wedding brings spotlight to Mumbai’s oldest restaurant for South Indian food

Updated 24 July 2024
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Ambani wedding brings spotlight to Mumbai’s oldest restaurant for South Indian food

  • Cafe Mysore was established in Mumbai’s Matunga area in 1936
  • Viral clip shows India’s wealthiest family paying respect to its owner

MUMBAI: In the line of A-lister guests that Radhika Merchant and Anant Ambani greeted at their glitzy wedding, it was one elderly lady who had them bow and shout in reverence: “Thank you so much for coming! Every Sunday we eat your food.”
A short clip showing the scene soon went viral on social media, where the multimillion-dollar nuptials that took place over a week ago are still making the rounds.
The lady whom the son of Asia’s richest man and his bride received with so much warmth is Shateri Nayak, the owner of Cafe Mysore, the oldest restaurant in Mumbai for South Indian food.
Located near the King’s Circle railway station in Matunga area, it was founded in 1936 by Nayak’s father-in-law, Nagesh Rama Nayak, who moved to Mumbai from the southern state of Karnataka, and brought with him the flavors and quality that soon turned his business into a legendary spot.
But it was the recognition from the son and daughter-in-law of billionaire Mukesh Ambani that shot the place to Internet fame.
“I heard a lot about this, so I decided to visit,” Yashi Raj, a researcher at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, whose curiosity was piqued by India’s most expensive wedding.
She ordered Cafe Mysore’s special dosas — thin, savory crepes stuffed with paneer cheese, capsicum and vegetables — and dahi vada, or light round fritters with curd and spices on top.

“Both were superb and very tasty,” she told Arab News. “After visiting this cafe, I realized why it is so famous. It stays true to its taste and the food is very authentic.”
The restaurant’s nondescript interior is like of any other Indian eatery, but the flavors, diners say, are something else.
“I crave South Indian food quite a time and this is one of my very go-to places in Matunga, because they have an amazing rasam vada,” said Shrishti Tiwari, a student and Mumbai native.
She was referring to a popular appetizer made with lentil fritters in a soup that has tamarind juice as a base and is considered one of the healthiest South Indian comfort foods.
“I love their rasam, very frequently I come over for rasam vada,” Tiwari said. “I love this place because of the distinct flavors that come out in the masalas and the sambar ... and the people here treat you very nicely.”
Mythili Mistri, a business professional and the restaurant’s regular, comes almost every day for afternoon coffee and bonda, a crispy and savory potato snack.
Cafe Mysore’s coffee is typical filtered South Indian coffee — light and flavorful at the same time.
“I have been coming here for years actually ... I always come here for coffee and if I come in the afternoon they have this vegetable bonda which is excellent,” Mistri said.
She was not surprised that the restaurant appealed to all Indians, including the Ambanis.
“They are serving good food. We don’t get such good South Indian food in many locations,” she told Arab News.
“Just because you are rich it doesn’t mean that you don’t want to enjoy good food ... I think everybody likes to enjoy good food.”


Sofia Boutella unveils poster for ‘The Killer’s Game’

Updated 24 July 2024
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Sofia Boutella unveils poster for ‘The Killer’s Game’

  • Boutella plays the role of the protagonist’s love interest
  • Cast includes Dave Bautista, Terry Crews, Ben Kingsley

DUBAI: French Algerian actress Sofia Boutella took to social media recently to share the poster for her latest film “The Killer’s Game,” and revealed that it would hit theaters on Sept. 13.

Set against a bold red background, the poster features her alongside the ensemble cast, including Dave Bautista, Terry Crews, Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror, Pom Klementieff and Ben Kingsley.

Bautista stands at the center of the image, surrounded by his co-stars, each holding various weapons including knives, swords and axes. The tagline “Winning is all in the execution” appears at the bottom.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sofia Boutella (@sofisia7)

Directed by JJ Perry and based on the novel by Jay R. Bonansinga, the screenplay was written by Rand Ravich and James Coyne.

Diagnosed with a terminal illness, hit man Joe Flood (Bautista) decides to take a hit out on himself. However — and here is where the comedy kicks in — the hospital made a mistake and Flood is not dying at all. And now he has to escape a steady stream of hit men who will not be called off.

Boutella plays the role of the protagonist’s love interest, who gets caught up in the mayhem.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sofia Boutella (@sofisia7)

Boutella this week also shared the trailer of the director’s cut of her film “Rebel Moon,” directed by Zack Snyder.

Both “Rebel Moon – Chapter One: Chalice of Blood” and “Rebel Moon – Chapter Two: Curse of Forgiveness” will be released on Netflix on Aug. 2, Boutella wrote on Instagram.

The cuts are the extended and more intense versions of the initial releases. The new drops will include entirely new scenes, alternate takes, and a different sequence of events.

Boutella plays the role of Kora, a mysterious stranger living on a peaceful moon settlement threatened by the armies of the tyrannical Regent Balisarius. Kora, a former soldier of the Imperium, becomes the settlement’s best hope for survival.

She is tasked with finding and assembling a group of warriors — outsiders, insurgents, peasants, and orphans of war — to make a stand against the oppressive forces of the Motherworld.

Her journey delves into themes of redemption and revenge as she leads this diverse group to defend their home.