‘Four to Dinner’: A clumsy questioning of love, soulmates

‘Four to Dinner’: A clumsy questioning of love, soulmates
‘Four to Dinner’ is now streaming on Netflix. (YouTube)
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Updated 12 January 2022

‘Four to Dinner’: A clumsy questioning of love, soulmates

‘Four to Dinner’: A clumsy questioning of love, soulmates

CHENNAI: Netflix’s latest rom-com, “Four to Dinner,” is the epitome of confusion. Written by Martino Coli and directed by Alessio Maria Federici, the Italian film plays like a jigsaw puzzle galloping through timelines and what is more frustrating is that the pieces do not seem to fit, although the concept it is built on is interesting.

“Four to Dinner,” dubbed well in English, explores how minor squabbles and misunderstandings can drive a wedge between a man and woman who may be in a relationship that seems like love. But even fairly decent performances do not lift the film, which gets more and more convoluted as it traverses the lives of the protagonists. 

At a dinner, a couple try and play matchmakers to two men and two women. Dario (Giuseppe Maggio) is a lawyer who gets attracted to Giulia (Matilde Gioli), a cynical mathematician. The other man, Matteo (Matteo Martari), falls for Chiara (Illenia Pastorelli). 




“Four to Dinner,” dubbed well in English, explores how minor squabbles and misunderstandings can drive a wedge between a man and woman who may be in a relationship that seems like love. (YouTube)

Federici questions the relevance of true love and the concept of a soulmate. His inferences converge on four probable outcomes with ego and the lack of courage to talk about feelings as underlying obstacles. By the end of 90 minutes, it is quite possible that some may begin to wonder about the idea of a soulmate and destiny, and the makers may bask in the thought that their work has achieved its target — but that’s a big if.  

The movie could have been more interesting if the writer and director had made a greater effort to flesh out the characters and establish a credible relationship among them. But, instead, they go in for hasty editing, weakening the narrative. 

Other aspects of production, like settings, are clumsy. The apartments of the characters look as cluttered as the screenplay. Photographed carelessly with little feel for light and shade, the night shots are jarringly contrasted while daytime appears too bright for any modicum of aesthetics. 

Although conceived as a light-hearted comedy, it is hardly that. Rather, it seems like an exercise in digging for answers that never come. 


Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger discuss all-women spy flick ‘The 355’

Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger discuss all-women spy flick ‘The 355’
Updated 21 January 2022

Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger discuss all-women spy flick ‘The 355’

Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger discuss all-women spy flick ‘The 355’

LOS ANGELES: US actress Jessica Chastain’s “The 355” just hit theaters to mixed reviews and Arab News sat down with the star to hear more about the game-changing film. 

In early 2018, Chastain pitched studios on a movie about an all-female team of spies — four years later, she’s starring in it. 

Perhaps best known for her dramatic roles, the bombastic action of “The 355” is something of a departure for Chastain.

The story sees a team of spies from agencies around the world uniting to stop a dangerous enemy.

Perhaps best known for her dramatic roles, the bombastic action of “The 355” is something of a departure for Chastain. (YouTube)

“It was never my intention even with making this film to be an action star or that kind of sarcastic one-liner character that you would see in all these genre movies,” the actress, who stars as spy Mace Brown, told Arab News. “I like playing all different kinds of parts as we see in ‘The Eyes Of Tammy Faye’ or in ‘Scenes From a Marriage’ and I just want to do everything.”

The film had a lacklustre showing at the American box office and with critics who cited a generic plot, flat characters and uninventive action. Chastain, however, believes the movie is being held to unfair standards.

“The industry tends to be more critical of a film that may be an ensemble of women or about a group of people that aren’t often celebrated by this industry,” she said. 

“We’re living in a pandemic and there is no sense to anything that’s happening right now because people’s safety is the only thing that they care about. And we need to stop using the pandemic as a way to devalue the stories of others,” added Chastain. 

Co-star Diane Kruger, who plays the role of spy Marie Schmidt, said her cast members helped her to overcome the physical and emotional stress of filming only six months after having a baby.

“It became exhilarating, week after week feeling I was able to kick higher, lift heavier just feeling my body coming back and becoming stronger again and taking control over myself again,” Kruger said. “It felt really empowering. It’s a little silly to say, but it did feel like this movie in a way helped me get back to me.”


Review: ‘Brazen’ — bizarre romantic murder mystery combines the worst of both genres

Review: ‘Brazen’ — bizarre romantic murder mystery combines the worst of both genres
Updated 21 January 2022

Review: ‘Brazen’ — bizarre romantic murder mystery combines the worst of both genres

Review: ‘Brazen’ — bizarre romantic murder mystery combines the worst of both genres
  • Netflix adaptation of Nora Roberts’ novel is a nonsensical mess

LONDON: When Alyssa Milano was announced as the lead in Netflix’s adaptation of Nora Roberts’ novel, “Brazen Virtue,” the author reported that she was deluged with comments from fans infuriated that Milano’s liberal politics did not square with their own. Many even threatened to boycott the movie in retaliation. Roberts, to her credit, welcomed them to exercise their right to do so. As it turns out, giving “Brazen” a miss is absolutely the right thing to do — not because of Milano’s personal beliefs, but because it’s an awful film.

Milano stars as Grace, a bestselling crime-fiction author who receives a call from her sister Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup), asking her to come visit. Kathleen has left her creepy husband, kicked her addiction to prescription meds, and retrained as a teacher in a bid to get sole custody of her son. Grace gives her the thumbs up, and concentrates on flirting with Kathleen’s hunky cop neighbor Ed (Sam Page). But when Kathleen is killed, and Ed inexplicably winds up heading the case, Grace focuses her problem-solving skillset on her late sister’s murder.

Milano stars as Grace, a bestselling crime-fiction author who receives a call from her sister Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup), asking her to come visit. (Supplied)

This is the jumping-off point for so many of the film’s inconceivable narrative contortions. Why is Ed, the victim’s neighbor, the only homicide cop available? Why are the police happy to let the victim’s (unqualified) sister be so heavily involved? Why does nobody have any issue with the fact that the lead cop and the victim’s sister are constantly making googly eyes at each other? It’s absolute nonsense.

Milano and Page at least have the good grace to attempt a serious take on this joke of a script, even as “Brazen” — written by David Golden and directed by Monika Mitchell — asks them to plough through an increasingly ludicrous series of plot ‘twists’ and villain reveals. “Brazen” definitely achieves what it sets out to do — take a romance novel and cross it with a convoluted murder-mystery. That might sound like something approaching a compliment; it definitely isn’t intended that way.


Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna joins Spotify program with new collaboration

Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna joins Spotify program with new collaboration
Updated 20 January 2022

Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna joins Spotify program with new collaboration

Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna joins Spotify program with new collaboration

DUBAI: Palestinian-Chilean singer and songwriter Elyanna has joined Spotify’s fourth Radar installment in the Middle East, the music streaming platform announced on Thursday.

Radar is an emerging-artist program spotlighting rising talent from around the globe. Some of the program’s most popular collaborations include “Is It On” by K-pop sensation AleXa and Kuwaiti-Saudi-based artist Bader Al-Shuaibi, and “Hadal Ahbek” by viral A-pop star Issam Alnajjar, featuring Canadian DJ duo Loud Luxury and Iraqi-Canadian singer and songwriter Ali Gatie.

The new collaboration sees the 19-year-old upcoming star team up with veteran Tunisian rapper and composer Balti on a single titled “Ghareeb Alay” (“A Stranger to Me”). The track, which fuses urban pop with reggae, will drop on Jan. 21.

In a statement, Elyanna said: “While ‘Ghareeb Alay’ characterizes the story of a love song, it’s much deeper than that. It reflects change, both around us and within.

“For me, it is about being an immigrant, an artist, and a young female at the beginning of my journey. Everything and everyone feels new and strange.”

On Tuesday, the singer teased 16-seconds of the song on her Instagram and wrote to her 440,000 followers, “who’s readyyyyyy?”

On his excitement about the collaboration, Tunisia’s rap pioneer said: “‘Ghareeb Alay’ is one of my all-time favorites. Together with Elyanna, we’ve managed to bring forward a new style of Arabic urban pop backed by Spotify’s vision for local talents.”


Review: ‘Archive 81’ is big, silly and a lot of fun

Review: ‘Archive 81’ is big, silly and a lot of fun
Updated 20 January 2022

Review: ‘Archive 81’ is big, silly and a lot of fun

Review: ‘Archive 81’ is big, silly and a lot of fun

LONDON: In a world filled with new, genre-defying content, there is a tendency to dismiss simple, straightforward shows as being insufficiently innovative or ground-breaking — as if there is something wrong with doing the obvious.

“Archive 81”, Netflix’s new horror series based on a podcast of the same name, tells the story of Dan, a mild-mannered archivist (played by Mamoudou Athie) who is asked to restore a mysterious videotape from the 1990s.

In the videotape, Ph.D. student Melody Pendras, played by Riyadh-born actress Dina Shihabi, outlines her plan to chronicle the lives of the residents of a New York apartment building that will later mysteriously burn down.

It tells the story of Dan, a mild-mannered archivist who is asked to restore a mysterious videotape from the 1990s. Supplied

Dan takes the job and is transported to a remote facility in the Catskills where he must uncover what happened to Melody, and the building, by working his way through the found footage.

This might come as a surprise, but it turns out that not everyone or everything is as obvious as we are initially led to believe. As Dan watches on, Melody uncovers haunting music that drifts through the air vents, a bizarre club that meets in the basement, and a handful of other narrative devices that scream “red flag” to most viewers.

“Archive 81” is the kind of show that reveals its secrets at a leisurely pace across its eight-episode stretch. It also the kind of show that has an inordinately convoluted storyline, some rather gaping plot holes and is full of dead ends.

“Archive 81” is the kind of show that reveals its secrets at a leisurely pace across its eight-episode stretch. Supplied

But that should not count against it. For a series that pretends to be highly complex, it is wonderfully simple — there is a secret, and probably a conspiracy, but we do not know what it is yet. However, by the time the last episode rolls around, we will.

Sometimes, that is as much complexity as a production needs to be truly enjoyable. Sure, there are some hammed-up performances — though Athie and Shihabi are both highly watchable — some silly supernatural mumbo jumbo, and a few predictable jump scares. But it is also a lot of fun in its own self-aware way.


Asti Symphony Orchestra heads to AlUla to perform with Andrea Bocelli

Asti Symphony Orchestra heads to AlUla to perform with Andrea Bocelli
Updated 19 January 2022

Asti Symphony Orchestra heads to AlUla to perform with Andrea Bocelli

Asti Symphony Orchestra heads to AlUla to perform with Andrea Bocelli
  • Orchestra president: ‘Playing in AlUla is an honor for us. It will be an unforgettable experience’
  • It is the world-renowned tenor’s fourth performance at the UNESCO World Heritage Site

ROME: The musicians of the Asti Symphony Orchestra have said they are honored to be playing at the Maraya Concert Hall in AlUla on Friday with Andrea Bocelli, the world’s most popular living tenor.

The concert, which has long been sold out, will be Bocelli’s fourth performance in AlUla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It will be streamed on the tenor’s YouTube channel.

The 130 musicians who will play with Bocelli in AlUla flew out on Wednesday from the Italian city of Turin.

“We have often been called to accompany Maestro Bocelli,” Enrico Bellati, president of the Asti Symphony Orchestra, told Italian daily La Stampa. “Playing in AlUla is an honor for us. It will be another unforgettable experience.”

The concert will be an evening of opera and pop, and will include Bocelli’s greatest hits such as the famous aria “Nessun Dorma.”

Founded in 2014, the orchestra is based in Meta, a small town in the Italian region of Piedmont.