2021 PREVIEW: Silver-screen sensations

2021 PREVIEW: Silver-screen sensations
“No Time To Die” is Daniel Craig’s final appearance as James Bond. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 January 2021

2021 PREVIEW: Silver-screen sensations

2021 PREVIEW: Silver-screen sensations
  • From the return of some (very) old favorites to new kids on the superhero block, here are the films to look out for in 2021

DUBAI: Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, several of last year’s ‘most-anticipated’ movies still haven’t been released 12 months on, meaning we already have a handful of delayed blockbusters to look forward to in 2021. Most prominent among them are Marvel’s “Black Widow,” Daniel Craig’s final appearance as James Bond in “No Time To Die,” John Krasinski directing his wife Emily Blunt in “A Quiet Place Part II,” Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” described as “a love letter to journalists,” Denis Villeneuve’s take on Frank Herbert’s “un-filmable” sci-fi epic “Dune,” and Tom Cruise reprising one of his most iconic roles in “Top Gun: Maverick.”

Cruise is set for a big year at the box office, as he’ll also be returning as Ethan Hunt in “Mission: Impossible — Libra,” the seventh installment of the franchise. “Libra” should be out in November. Plot details remain sketchy, but from what little information we do have, it’s fair to say audiences won’t be short-changed on the franchise’s trademark adrenaline-junkie set pieces: there’s a motorcycle jump off a mountain and a foot chase over Venice’s canals using gondolas as stepping stones. Director Chris McQuarrie takes the “M:I” reins for the third time.

“Fast & Furious 9” will hit multiplexes in May. (Supplied)

Action fans will also be eagerly awaiting the return of another blockbuster franchise, with “Fast & Furious 9” hitting multiplexes in May.

But in a year full of reboots, remakes and sequels, perhaps the most hotly anticipated of all is “The Matrix 4,” due to hit cinemas on December 22. Co-creator Lana Wachowski returns to the franchise that set the benchmark for modern sci-fi movies at the turn of the century and she will be joined by the majority of the cast from the originals, with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss as Neo and Trinity. The trailer doesn’t tell us much about the plot, but the iconic “bullet-time” trickery is still there. Fans will be hoping the film is closer to the magnificence of the original installment rather than the somewhat confusing (and confused) third act.

August will see the release of what’s being called a “soft reboot” and sequel: “The Suicide Squad.” (Supplied)

Of course, no cinematic year is complete without a slew of superhero movies, and 2021 will see the arrival of some new heroes/antiheroes. One of most intriguing is Marvel’s “Morbius,” the second entry in its series based on characters from the “Spider-Man” universe after 2018’s “Venom.” Jared Leto plays the titular scientist whose discovery of a cure for his rare blood disease turns him into a vampire. Let’s hope Leto’s outing for Marvel goes better than his stint as The Joker for DC did — the actor’s portrayal of the villain in 2016’s “Suicide Squad” wasn’t well received.

Speaking of which, August will see the release of what’s being called a “soft reboot” and sequel: “The Suicide Squad,” written and directed by James Gunn and sharing several cast members — most notably Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Leto’s name doesn’t appear on the cast list.

Top of our must-see Arabic movies of 2021 is “Amira” by Mohamed Diab. (Getty)

Marvel is also introducing its first Asian-led superhero movie, “Shang-chi,” starring Chinese-Canadian actor Simu-Liu as the eponymous martial arts master fighting against the Ten Rings crime syndicate. If the latter sounds familiar, they’re the group that kidnapped Tony Stark in 2008’s “Iron Man.”

Marvel will also be introducing its new ensemble franchise, following the wrapping up of “The Avengers” series. “The Eternals” — slated for a November release — sees a group of immortal aliens band together to protect Earth (where they’ve been living for millennia) from the Deviants. The cast includes Kit Harington, Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie, with acclaimed Chinese indie filmmaker Chloé Zhao directing.

“Huda’s Salon” is the new film by Palestinian director Hany Abu Assad. (Supplied)

And while it’s not strictly a “superhero” movie, we’re interested to see how the movie adaptation of the bestselling video-game series “Uncharted” turns out. Tom Holland plays hero Nate Drake, with Mark Wahlberg and Antonio Banderas also cast in the July release.

There are several intriguing dramas set for release, including “The Many Saints of Newark,” a prequel to “The Sopranos” — often ranked as the best TV show of all time. Show creator David Chase is a co-writer, and Michael Gandolfini stars as a young Tony Soprano, the role that made his late father, James, an international star.

British legend Ridley Scott helms “The Last Duel,” which has been co-written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck with Nicole Holofcener — adapted from a book by Eric Jager. Damon and Adam Driver play two best friends in 14th-century France who are ordered to fight to the death after Damon’s character accuses Driver’s character of raping his wife, played by “Killing Eve” star Jodie Comer.

“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” is written by and starring Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. (AFP)

Another popular British filmmaker, Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Ant-Man,” “Baby Driver”) returns with a psychological horror called “Last Night in Soho.” Hot property Anya Taylor-Joy — fresh from her success in “The Queen’s Gambit” — stars alongside Matt Smith in this tale of a young fashion student who is mysteriously transported to the 1960s where she encounters her idol, a wannabe singer.

Top of the horror charts this year, though, will likely be “Candyman,” co-written and -produced by Jordan Peele and directed by Nia DaCosta. It’s a direct sequel to the 1992 film of the same name about the supernatural killer who appears if anyone says his name five times in the mirror. Tony Todd returns in the title role.

Tom Holland plays hero Nate Drake in “Uncharted.” (Supplied)

On the lighter-hearted side of things, we’re looking forward to “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar,” written by and starring Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, the team behind the brilliant 2011 comedy “Bridesmaids.” The year’s big comedy sequel (albeit one arriving 22 years after the original) is “Coming 2 America,” due out in March, which sees Eddie Murphy reprise his role as Akeem, the prince of Zamunda (and play three other characters). Akeem once again travels to the US, this time to find the son he’s only just discovered he has and welcome him into the royal family.

Regionally, there’s plenty to be excited about too. Top of our must-see Arabic movies of 2021 are “Amira” by Mohamed Diab, the Egyptian filmmaker behind the excellent “Cairo 678” and “Eshtebak” (Clash) and “Huda’s Salon,” the new film by Palestinian director Hany Abu Assad (Oscar-nominated for both “Omar” and “Paradise Now”), based on the real-life story of a woman being blackmailed by the boss of a hair salon she frequents.

Arabic calligraphy: Ancient craft, modern art
For the Saudi Ministry of Culture's Year of Arabic Calligraphy in 2020/21, we take an in-depth look at how the craft has developed from ancient to modern times.



From Riyadh to Dubai, why is good coffee in the region so expensive?

A cup of coffee from Dubai-based Nightjar costs $5. File/Instagram@nightjar.coffee
A cup of coffee from Dubai-based Nightjar costs $5. File/[email protected]
Updated 19 April 2021

From Riyadh to Dubai, why is good coffee in the region so expensive?

A cup of coffee from Dubai-based Nightjar costs $5. File/Instagram@nightjar.coffee

DUBAI: Buying a cup of coffee in the Gulf can be quite expensive.

Coffee lovers often bemoan the fact that their latte costs double in Dubai or Riyadh what it does in other countries.

What we might not realize, however, is that we are paying for a lot more than milk and beans in that cup of coffee.

Last week, social media was set alight by a complaint over the price of a $7 flat white in Dubai. Coffee lovers from Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar chimed in on whether the cost was justified. It begs the question: Why is coffee so expensive in this region?

We spoke to cafe operators to find out.

Leon Surynt, owner of Nightjar Coffee, one of Dubai’s most popular coffee brands and cafes, said that it is “really hard” to keep his coffee affordable.

Nightjar imports its own beans directly from farms around the world, roasts them at its Alserkal Avenue roastery and sells to hotels and cafes across the country. 

“You need to have multiple avenues, which is a bit of online, a bit of wholesale and a bit of cafe, to make money here,” Surynt says. 

“We live in a society that has a low tax rate, but we also have many compliance costs.”

If we were to break down the cost of a latte at Nightjar ($5), Surynt says, the ingredients — milk and coffee — and the cup only account for about $1 or 20 percent. He estimates that staff wages and expenses, on the other hand, make up a whopping 30 percent, while rent is another 15 percent. Other overheads, such as government fees, marketing, admin and logistics mean his profit from that one latte is about AED 4 (or $1). And that’s not accounting for the cost of delivery aggregators, his salary and kitchen operations.

“There are a lot of hidden costs here,” Surynt said. 

The story is the same for many others.

Samer Harkous, business development manager for Cypher Coffee, supplies hundreds of cafes in the UAE and overseas with green and roasted beans. 

Cypher does not operate a cafe but offers samples at its roastery.

When pricing Cypher’s products, Harkous said rent and municipality fees must be built into the price of beans, and a profit needs to be made on top of that. The cafe selling those beans must then add on its own costs.

And roasting beans is a costly — and difficult — process.

Equipment is imported from overseas. Each bean requires a different roasting method, which is meticulously recorded on charts by staff, from monitoring the necessary temperature and gas levels to listening for the “first crack.” 

Beans themselves command a range of prices. Cypher’s most expensive roast is from Yemen (up to $136 per kilogram) and its cheapest, and most popular, is from Brazil (between $16 to $82 per kilogram). 

Brazilian beans are therefore used by cafes wanting to keep costs down. More expensive beans, usually used by specialty coffee houses, will command a higher price.

Ali Al-Fahad, founder of Earth Roastery, which was established in Kuwait in 2014 and has spread across the region since, adjusts his coffee prices depending on the country he operates in. 

He said that Kuwait is the most expensive and logistically difficult location for a cafe business, while Dubai is the easiest and cheapest. That is why it took them until 2019 to open a café. Before that, he was solely selling wholesale coffee beans.

“Business here is very risky. Very few people can be successful,” he said. “When we opened the coffee shop, we understood that.”

Al-Fahad said their highest costs go on salaries and visa costs, followed by rent and logistics.

“Customers travel. They want the same quality and experience as they have in Europe. But to be on that level, you need to invest more.”


A post shared by (@crustandcrema)

Cyrus Woo, deputy director at Bahrain’s Crust and Crema, said pricing was a “sensitive” subject when they opened.

“We had to be very careful. We only had other coffee shops to compare to, so we did market research and then did our own costing.”

Of the $4 it costs for an Americano or $5 for a latte, Woo agreed that what the customer is mostly paying for is staff salaries.

“If you factor in how much of the coffee and milk you’re going to use for one drink, those are the minimal costs involved,” Woo said.


A post shared by (@crustandcrema)

“You’re paying for the atmosphere, overheads, marketing, utilities, rent, insurance, equipment and labor costs. The market is saturated, and baristas are in high demand, so you have to pay more for them.”

Woo said that while coffee makes more money than food at a cafe, for coffee to be profitable, a cafe has to “sell a lot.”

“We are a for-profit business. We need to be able to survive, but we don’t want to be greedy. 

“I hope that when people come in and have coffee, they appreciate there’s a lot more involved, that they’re paying for the experience.”

So, when you’re handing over $7 for your latte, lamenting the expense, remember: You’re not just buying a coffee. You’re paying for your surroundings and for your barista’s wages. And actually, for $7, that’s pretty reasonable.

Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi stars in new Hugo Eyewear campaign

The model posed for the new Hugo Eyewear Spring 2021 campaign. Instagram
The model posed for the new Hugo Eyewear Spring 2021 campaign. Instagram
Updated 19 April 2021

Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi stars in new Hugo Eyewear campaign

The model posed for the new Hugo Eyewear Spring 2021 campaign. Instagram

DUBAI: There’s no slowing down Malika El-Maslouhi. This week, the Moroccan-Italian model was selected to star in the new Hugo Eyewear Spring 2021 campaign, which was shot by fashion photographer Matteo Montanari.

Featuring alongside model Parker Van Noord, the catwalker appears in a video and campaign photographs wearing key pieces from the German label’s most recent eyewear collection. For the campaign, the 22-year-old posed on a rooftop wearing the brand’s newest range of optical frames and sunglasses, paired with a mustard yellow double-breasted suit and a black, logo emblazoned Hugo Boss top.


A post shared by HUGO (@hugo_official)

The campaigns keep on rolling in for the rising star, who was born in Milan to an Italian mother and a Moroccan father.

In addition to her latest work with Hugo Eyewear, El-Maslouhi also recently appeared in campaigns for Zadig & Voltaire, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein Swim, Jacquemus and Mango alongside fellow Moroccan model Nora Attal.

Memorably, she was the star of designer Peter Dundas’ most recent collection. The Norwegian designer selected the breakout model to  showcase the brand’s glamorous new offering for Fall 2021, which was digitally presented in a look book format.


A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

And when she’s not modeling different collections for brands, she’s helping design them.

She recently teamed up with London-based retailer Ishkar on a range of necklaces delicately handcrafted by jewelers in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

According to the online store, founded by former UAE residents Edmund Le Brun and Flore de Taisne in 2016, the Malika x Ishkar collection is set to drop soon.


A post shared by I S H K A R (@ishkar.co)

El-Maslouhi, who is signed to VIVA Model Management, made her modelling debut when she was 18 years old at the Alberta Ferretti Fall 2019 show and went on to walk for the Dior Cruise 2020 show held in Marrakech a month later.

She would go on to quit her university studies to pursue modeling full-time, gracing the runways of storied fashion houses such as Hermes and Chanel.

The model, who splits her time between Italy, France and the Netherlands, also has a few editorials under her belt, including Vogue Russia, British Vogue, Dazed Magazine and Elle France, for which she recently served as the cover star.

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan donates one million meals to new UAE campaign

The beauty mogul urged her followers on social media to donate to the campaign. File/Getty Images
The beauty mogul urged her followers on social media to donate to the campaign. File/Getty Images
Updated 19 April 2021

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan donates one million meals to new UAE campaign

The beauty mogul urged her followers on social media to donate to the campaign. File/Getty Images

DUBAI: Dubai-based beauty mogul Huda Kattan took to Instagram on Saturday to reveal she has taken part in a food drive campaign launched by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

The 100 Million Meals mission was launched to provide food parcels to disadvantaged communities across 20 countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa in an effort to combat hunger and malnutrition, exacerbated by COVID-19. 

Kattan announced that she has donated one million meals to those less fortunate via her cosmetics company Huda Beauty.

“It’s hard to believe that in today’s world, in 2021, we’re still dealing with issues of malnutrition and that every ten seconds a child dies because of hunger. This initiative is so incredible and it’s just a reminder of how each and every single one of us has the power to make a change,” said Kattan in a video posted to her Instagram account.


A post shared by Huda Kattan (@huda)

“I’m so proud to live in a country that prioritizes world hunger,” she said, urging her 2.2 million followers to donate to the charitable initiative.

The 100 Million Meals campaign is an expansion of the 10 Million Meals campaign, which was launched in 2020 to help those worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within a week of its launch, the initiative has raised over $21,200,000 equivalent to providing more than 78 million meals, as massive donations continue to pour in from individuals and companies inside and outside the UAE.

Kattan is an avid humanitarian and often steps up to help those who need it most.

In June, her cosmetics brand, Huda Beauty, donated $500,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a civil and human rights organization that provides legal assistance to low-income African Americans, during the height of the Black Lives Matters protests that swept through the US last year. 

Before that, the US-Iraqi beauty mogul pledged to donate $100,000 — to be split between 100 different freelance makeup artists providing them with $1000 each — in a bid to help people in the industry stay afloat financially during the pandemic.

Middle East Fashion Week announces dates for inaugural edition

The event is set to take place at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai. Instagram/@middleeast.fashionweek
The event is set to take place at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai. Instagram/@middleeast.fashionweek
Updated 18 April 2021

Middle East Fashion Week announces dates for inaugural edition

The event is set to take place at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai. Instagram/@middleeast.fashionweek

DUBAI: There’s a new fashion week in the region to look forward to. Middle East Fashion Week has announced its inaugural edition in a statement today. The six-day event is scheduled to take place at Dubai’s Atlantis The Palm from May 14-19. 

Unlike the traditional fashion week format we’ve all become accustomed to, Middle East Fashion Week is adopting a unique schedule, with a three-day sustainable fashion forum featuring high-profile international speakers, followed by three days of in-person fashion shows from international and regional designers, a gala dinner and a slew of other VIP events.

CEO of Middle East Fashion Council Simon J Lo Gatto, said in a statement: “Middle Eastern Fashion Week has been created as a platform to allow designers to come together with a unique opportunity to showcase in Dubai and to reach audiences not only across the GCC, but also the larger Indian subcontinent and Europe.”

He added: “Our goal is for the Middle East Fashion Week to become a biannual Fashion Week that acts as a reference point for designers from all corners of the world. Since inception in 2020, MEFC has positioned itself as the world’s first fashion council with sustainability as its core value and long-term objective. The platform was born from an inspiration to tackle climate change and pollution brought on as a direct result of the industry we love.”

The participating designers have yet to be revealed.

Ramadan recipes: An Arab take on TikTok’s famous baked feta pasta

Baked feta pasta.
Baked feta pasta.
Updated 18 April 2021

Ramadan recipes: An Arab take on TikTok’s famous baked feta pasta

Baked feta pasta.

DUBAI: If you’re on social media, chances are you’ve drooled over one of countless images of baked feta pasta — a dish that went viral this year for that holy grail combination of anyone-can-do-it easiness and blissful deliciousness.

The dish, which consists of feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and pasta, has been blasted all over the For You pages of millennials and Gen Z’ers on TikTok, and as of April 18,  #bakedfetapasta has more than 111.4 million views on the social media platform.

For those looking to whip up the dish for iftar, we asked Iraqi-Canadian chef Faisal Hasoon to share a simple baked feta pasta recipe with an Arab twist. 

The chef incorporates a fresh Middle Eastern flavor by way of roasted red peppers, sliced kalamata olives, a spritz of lemon juice and a sprinkling of zest.  

Baked Feta Pasta

(Serves 2-3)


Olive oil 3tbsp

6 cloves garlic (minced)

60g kalamata olives (sliced thin)

250g roasted red peppers (diced)

6 fresh basil leaves (chiffonade)

350g pasta (rigatoni) 

200g feta cheese (Greek, sheep or goat)

1 lemon (zest and juice)

Chilli pepper oil 1tbsp

Dried chilli flakes 1tsp

Salt and pepper to taste 


Step 1: In a medium sized pot bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta as per the instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, drain the remainder and set aside.

Step 2: Starting with a cold pan, cook garlic on low heat in olive oil. Allow it to simmer just before turning golden brown. Be sure not to overcook it as it will become bitter.  Add red chilli flakes and roasted red peppers, let it simmer for a few minutes then add sliced olives. Maintaining low heat and turning with a spatula frequently.

Step 3: Place the whole block of feta into the center of the pan and into the oven at 375 Celsius for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts. 

Step 4: Place the pasta into the pan and mix well until all ingredients are well incorporated, adding reserved pasta water as needed.

Step 5: Finish with the zest and juice of one lemon, fresh cracked black pepper and thinly sliced basil. For an extra kick, drizzle over chilli oil and enjoy!