LONDON: Ever wondered what happens in the hallways of Starfleet’s high-tech spaceships while Captain Kirk et al are off saving the galaxy? Curious about what the 99 percent of the crew who are usually off screen get up to? Well, wonder no longer. Originally created for CBS All Access, new animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks” has launched internationally on Amazon Prime Video, offering a glimpse into a hitherto unexplored corner of the long-running show’s universe. While recent “Star Trek” shows have taken the franchise in a more adult direction (the excellent “Discovery” and “Picard” have included the first F-bombs in Trek history), “Lower Decks” takes a decidedly more comic approach.
Ensigns Mariner, Boimler, Tendi and Rutherford serve aboard the USS Cerritos — but the closest the quartet get to the action is when they share a turbolift with one of the senior staff. While the captain and her officers get the lion’s share of the important missions, Boimler (voiced by Dennis Quaid of “The Boys” fame) and Mariner (“Space Force” star Tawny Newsome) usually wind up delivering supplies, cleaning spilled coffee, or dealing with the administrative side of meeting new alien species. It’s a clever riff on the tried-and-tested “Star Trek” format — though readers of John Scalzi’s “Redshirts” will recognize the premise at least — and there is some fun to be had by gently mocking many of the series’ tropes.
As far as adult animation goes, “Lower Decks” is far from breaking new ground. The short, sharp episode arcs are easy to follow, and boast more than a few genuine laughs (and no shortage of Trek easter eggs), but the humor is on the safe side of risqué, and the visual style feels safe and familiar. For the “Star Trek” universe, however, the kind of self-awareness that comes from mocking its own source material represents a welcome surprise. In true “Star Trek” spirit, “Lower Decks” is seeking to explore strange new worlds.
THE ROUNDUP – Pop-culture highlights from the region
Updated 19 min 3 sec ago
The Dubai-based, UAE-born Somalian MC — one of the leading figures in the Arabic drill scene — released new single, “Kafi,” late last month, ahead of a new album due to drop at the end of May. “Kafi” isn’t typical of Freek’s repertoire, it’s calmer, but with a strong lyrical message. In a press release, he described it as an “emotional” track that “tackles the issue of child abuse … and how children deal with it.”
The veteran Egyptian artist’s latest solo show, “Our Black Thread,” is currently running in Cairo’s Gypsum Gallery. It consists of hand-sewn, embroidered works that began as improvisations on organza teabags. “She asks what form of intentionality separates craft from art,” a gallery statement read. “She (uses) repetition as a formal statement on endurance and resistance.”
The 28-year-old Egyptian rapper released his new track “Mooga” (Waves) this month. It’s a song inspired by the well-known novel “The Life of Pi,” he explained in a press release. “As lonely and emotional as one can get when leaving your home and the ones you love, sometimes you have to let go and just go with the waves,” Gad said.
The Egyptian MC and trap pioneer formerly known as Dama made an unexpected comeback from his ‘retirement’ (announced last year) in late February, releasing a hard-hitting new song called “Ghaba” (Jungle), the video for which has now racked up more than 13 million views on YouTube. It was followed up in late March by the release of “CTRL” — a five-track EP.
Editor, co-writer Hind Shoufani discusses Oscar-nominated short ‘The Present’
‘We created something that speaks to what an occupation takes away from people,’ Shoufani says
Updated 29 min 9 sec ago
BEIRUT: “It’s immensely surprising, and a step in the right direction for the Academy,” says
Palestinian-American filmmaker, writer and poet, Hind Shoufani, of this year’s list of Oscar-nominated short films. “They’re looking at diversity, women’s voices, underrepresented minorities; they’re paying attention to intense, conflict-driven and truthful stories.”
One such story was crafted by Shoufani and compatriot Farah Nabulsi. “The Present” — directed by Nabulsi — has already won a BAFTA in the British Short Film category and is nominated for Best Live Action Short Film at this month’s Academy Awards.
Available on Netflix, “The Present” chronicles a day in the life of Yousef, compellingly depicted by renowned Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri, who sets out across the West Bank to buy a birthday gift for his wife. His 10-year-old daughter, played by the talented Mariam Kanj, joins him on a journey peppered with the injustice and humiliation emblematic of the daily plight of people living in the Occupied Territories.
Shoufani — a Fulbright scholar born to Palestinian parents in 1978 in Lebanon who has lived between Damascus, Amman, Beirut, New York and Dubai — explains that the partnership between Nabulsi and herself was “collaborative and fruitful.” The director supplied the film’s overarching themes and inspiring narrative threads and Shoufani fleshed them out in script and dialogue, introducing crucial plot elements, such as the daughter as a character.
“We had long sessions where we would go through different drafts of the script, talk through scenes and negotiate ideas,” says Shoufani, who also edited the film. “We ended up creating something that speaks to the heart of what an occupation takes away from people, in terms of agency and the ordinary ability to have freedom of movement and dignity.”
Shoufani believes that “The Present” owes much of its capacity to resonate with so many people to its authenticity (it was shot in the West Bank) and the simplicity of the story.
“Most people nowadays don’t want to sit for two hours and watch a highly nuanced, socioeconomic/class-driven, ethnographically correct, anthropologically dense film,” she says. “We don’t try to explain the past 70 years of Zionism, we don’t moralize or make grandstanding political statements... Instead, you have this ordinary man with a beautiful daughter whom anyone would only want to protect and love. Your natural human instinct is to want to keep this little girl safe and make sure she’s okay.”
And while Bakri’s Yousef is seemingly the protagonist, it is ultimately Kanj’s portrayal of Yasmine that steals the show and infuses the film with a powerful message. “She has a strong hand in how the story resolves. It’s about the power of youth and women. It’s inspiring but also heartbreaking. And it gives us an opportunity to appreciate the strength and determination of this 10-year-old kid.”
Shoufani passionately praises everyone involved, especially Palestinian producer Ossama Bawardi. “I introduced Ossama to Farah, and I couldn’t be happier for him — he put this crew together in the West Bank and did all he could to get this film out into the world. He really believed in it, and I want to give him a shout-out because he’s just awesome.”
Though “bewildered” and “astounded” by the industry’s acclaim for “The Present,” Shoufani is equally thrilled by many of her other endeavors, including two personal projects that are close to her heart.
One is “They Planted Strange Trees,” her upcoming film that documents “the various identities of the Christian minorities in the Galilee,” where Shoufani’s family is from. While being intrigued “to explore indigenous communities that people don’t really talk about much around the world,” the journey is also very personal. “It’s also about reconnecting with my family, and what it means to not belong, and yet very much belong there.”
The other is a four-part series that captures the stories of four female Arab poets and draws its working title — “Poeticians” — from a group that Shoufani founded. “We’ve filmed in five or six Arab countries for eight years, and I’m trying to create a purely video-art-driven essay on taking poetry into a visual language. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful than making films that are based on poems.”
In the short term, however, she is very much looking forward to seeing how “The Present” does at the Oscars.
“I think it is vital that global audiences see this film, and I’m proud to be part of that experience,” she says. “As Palestinians, we have an unending array of stories to bring to life, because of our diaspora, our fight, our complex history and our strength. And, yes, our profound beauty as people.”
The talent is famous for his role in the award-winning Hulu sitcom “Ramy,” in which he stars as US-Egyptian actor Ramy Youssef’s Muslim cousin who owns a diner. Amer also has a Netflix comedy special called “Mo Amer: The Vagabond.”
Amer is not the only Arab actor in the cast. Tunisian-Dutch “Aladdin” star Marwan Kenzari confirmed in February that he is also starring in the movie, alongside actors Noah Centineo, Aldis Hodge and Quintessa Swindell.
Johnson, otherwise known as “The Rock” from his professional wrestling days, announced he was taking part in “Black Adam” two years ago on Instagram: “This role is unlike any other I’ve ever played in my career and I’m grateful to the bone we’ll all go on this journey together,” he wrote at the time.
The movie was supposed to be released in December 2021, but was pushed back due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Production is expected to begin in April in Atlanta.
According to Deadline, “Black Adam” is set for release in July 2022.
Former Disney, Nickelodeon stars send Ramadan greetings to Muslim fans
Updated 14 April 2021
DUBAI: Fulfilling every millennial and Gen-Z’s childhood dreams, stars from shows like “Hannah Montana,” “Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “Wizards of Waverly Place,” and “Drake and Josh” came together to wish their Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan this week.
Non-profit, US-based initiative Paani Project brought the stars together in a one-minute long video, which it shared on its official Twitter platform on the first day of the Holy Month.
“Ramadan Kareem,” wrote the non-profit on Twitter. “Paani brought out a few childhood favorites to share a message with you all.”
The video featured the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Jesse McCartney, Jennifer Stone, Phil Lewis, Maria Canals-Barrera, Drake Bell and skateboarder Tony Hawk.
“Hannah Montana” star Jason Earles sent greetings to “all my wonderful, beautiful and inspirational Muslim brothers and sisters.”
Meanwhile, Kyle Massey, who played Corey Baxter in “That’s So Raven” and “Corey in the House” said “I want to wish you guys a happy Ramadan. It is the most amazing time of the year and I want you guys to stay blessed and continue to make each other happy and be nice to one another.”
Paani Project was founded by four Pakistani-American students on a quest to provide sustainable solutions for the water crises in Pakistan.
“Wishing you a happy Ramadan, and thank you for all your work you’re doing in South Asia, building wells,” said Hawk in the clip.
i teared up ngl never thought i needed to hear this from mr moseby
Lebanon’s Zuhair Murad creates custom gown for iconic Egyptian actress Sherihan’s Ramadan comeback
Updated 14 April 2021
DUBAI: Iconic Egyptian actress Sherihan is back. After a 20-year-hiatus, the famed television star, who is beloved the world over for her “Fawazeer” series that traditionally aired during Ramadan, returned to our screens in an advertisement for Vodafone Egypt that marked the first day of the Holy Month.
In the ad, the trained singer and dancer wore a design by Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad who created a bespoke look for the actress.
Directed by Ahmed Shaker Khudai, the nostalgic, four-minute ad tells the story of Sherihan’s career, starting with her very first Ramadan fawazeer in 1985 – a riddle show that started on Egyptian radio in the 1960s, which soon moved into television– until her car accident in 1989, followed a years-long battle with cancer.
Murad took to Instagram to share his excitement over Sherihan’s on-screen return, writing: “After more than 20 years @sherihanofficial makes an impressive comeback with an ad for @vodafoneegypt that leaves a strong impression and takes the social media by storm,” adding “The star is wearing custom made @zuhairmuradofficial. The ad portrays her resilience in a journey that was filled with ups and downs.”