LOS ANGELES: It took Tom Cruise 36 years to head back to the danger zone to bring a “Top Gun” sequel to the screen, and the first reviews from movie critics said it was well worth the wait.
“Top Gun: Maverick” earned a 96 percent positive rating on the Rotten Tomatoes review aggregation website among 57 reviews as of Thursday. The movie debuts in theaters on May 27.
Cruise returns in the film as Pete Mitchell, the cocky Navy pilot, codenamed Maverick, who has never risen through the ranks because of his penchant for bucking authority.
Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press called the movie “a textbook example of how to make a sequel.”
“The movie satisfies with one foot in the past by hitting all the touchstones of the first film,” Kennedy said, “and yet stands on its own.”
Box office analysts project the movie from Paramount Pictures will rank as one of the biggest box office hits of the summer.
The movie had been scheduled for release in June 2020, but Paramount delayed its debut multiple times during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Critics said the movie offers thrilling flight scenes, an emotional story and strong performances by supporting cast including Miles Teller, who plays the son of Goose, Maverick’s partner who died in the original 1986 film.
But most of the praise was reserved for Cruise.
“It’s a fresh-faced gloss on the original ... powered, like the original, by a star who’ll simply never stop being a star,” wrote K. Austin Collins of Rolling Stone.
Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly said the movie “belongs in almost every scene to Cruise.”
“At this point in his career, he’s not really playing characters so much as variations on a theme — the theme being, perhaps, The Last Movie Star,” she said. “And in the air up there, he stands alone.”
Jeddah astronomer monitors sun’s perpendicularity to Kaaba
Updated 28 May 2022
For the first time this year, it is expected that the sun will be perpendicular to the Kaaba at 12:18pm on Saturday, the Saudi state agency SPA reported.
Eng. Majid Abu Zahra, head of the Astronomical Society in Jeddah, said that at the moment of perpendicularity, the sun will be at its maximum height of about 90 degrees. This means the sun will be aligned vertically above the Kaaba, causing the Kaaba’s shadow to completely disappear from its four sides.
He indicated that the phenomenon of the sun’s perpendicularity occurs as a result of the location of the Kaaba between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer. The sun becomes lined with the Kaaba as it moves from the equator to the Tropic of Cancer during the month of May, and when the sun returns south to the equator coming from the Tropic of Cancer in July.
The sun’s perpendicularity over the Kaaba is used to determine the direction of the Qibla in areas geographically far from Makkah by planting a piece of wood or plastic vertically on the ground, where the shade is monitored and the direction of the Qibla is in the direction opposite the shade, hence the shade’s extension indicates the location of the Kaaba.
Kyrgyz climbers remove Ukraine flag from ‘Peak Putin’
A Twitter user identifying as a climber posted a video of a Ukrainian flag flying next to a plaque marking the mountain as Peak Putin
The user confirmed that she and her climbing partner had been interviewed, but not charged, by city police
Updated 27 May 2022
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan’s climbing federation said Friday that it has removed a Ukrainian flag from a mountain named after Russian President Vladimir Putin, following a police investigation of the stunt.
Earlier this week, a Twitter user identifying as a climber posted a video of a Ukrainian flag flying next to a plaque marking the mountain as Peak Putin, 4,446 meters (14,587 feet) above sea level.
The user confirmed that she and her climbing partner had been interviewed, but not charged, by city police, despite earlier police suggestions that the perpetrators could be fined.
The climber did not admit to planting the flag, blaming the stunt on “some kind of hooligans” instead, in a Twitter post on Tuesday.
But members of the mountain climbing federation of the former Soviet republic took down the flag on Thursday and replaced it with a Kyrgyz flag.
Federation head Eduard Kubatov told AFP on Friday that there was “no sort of politics” in the decision to take down the Ukrainian flag and claimed the mission had been the federation’s own initiative.
“It is unpleasant for me that I have been dragged into politics... Kyrgyz flags should fly on Kyrgyz mountains, of that I am sure,” Kubatov said via telephone.
The government of mountainous, impoverished Kyrgyzstan is a loyal ally of Russia’s, although even here there have been signs of discomfort over Moscow’s war in Ukraine and the strident Kremlin propaganda defending it.
Last month, security services banned from a state parade manifestations of the “Z” symbol that Russia has used to pump up support for its forces fighting in Ukraine, where the symbol has been seen on Russian military uniforms and tanks.
Previously unnamed, “Peak Putin” took the Russian leader’s name in 2011 as Kyrgyzstan strengthened its ties with Moscow after a revolution the year before.
A look at Queen Elizabeth II’s style through the decades
Her Majesty neither sets trends nor follows them
The queen's style has been hyper-documented since her birth
Updated 26 May 2022
NEW YORK: Queen Elizabeth II just might have the hardest working wardrobe on the planet.
“Every outfit worn in public is carefully calibrated to inspire or remind, to signal gratitude or respect, to convey a sense of power or familiarity,” wrote The Mail on Sunday in 2015. “Her Majesty neither sets trends nor follows them — but while she is deaf to the siren call of fashion, she has her own singular style.”
From her tiaras, hats and Hermes scarves to her Launer London handbags and even her umbrellas, the queen’s style has been hyper-documented since her birth, young princess days, ascension to the throne and now, more than 70 years into her reign, as she celebrates her Platinum Jubilee at age 96.
Now known for her bright coats (so as to be seen by huge crowds) with matching brimmed hats, the queen was a young, glamorous princess and monarch in earlier decades.
Some highlights of the queen’s style through the years: Her childhood
Cotton or wool? The queen’s very birth prompted style debate, writes Bethan Holt, fashion editor of The Telegraph and author of this year’s “The Queen: 70 Years of Majestic Style.”
Her wardrobe from the get-go was a topic of national fascination with a layette sewn by her mother and grandmother, and a little help from underprivileged women throughout Britain. Declaring that babies in wool looked like “little gnomes,” Lilibet’s mum, then the Duchess of York, opted for frilly cotton, rejecting anything too fussy.
When sister Margaret came along four years later, the princesses often twinned it, dressing alike into their teens. But the future queen as a girl “never cared a fig” about clothes, according to her former governess, Marion Crawford.
“She wore what she was told without argument, apart from a long, drab mackintosh that she loathed,” Crawford wrote in her controversial memoir, “The Little Princesses.” The young heiress
With the tumultuous abdication of her uncle and the rise of her father to become King George VI, Princess Elizabeth became heiress presumptive (absent any future male heir, who never materialized).
Enter couturier Norman Hartnell, according to Holt. While there were other designers, he was entrusted with dressing the family as they emerged on the world stage, including the two princesses at ages 11 and 6. Their “bow-adorned dresses and little cloaks signalled a return to the calm dependability of the monarchy,” Holt wrote.
During World War II, 18-year-old Elizabeth began to make more public appearances, training as a mechanic in early 1945 toward the end of the war. It was the only time she routinely wore trousers (and boiler suits), according to Holt.
The queen was, and remains, a practical dresser when necessary, but also glamorous in sparkly gowns when the moment beckoned. And she often went short sleeved or with no sleeves at all, something that doesn’t happen today. She stood for photos with Prince Philip in a simple, light-colored dress with sleeves above the elbow and peekaboo low heels on her size 4 (6 US) feet shortly before their wedding in 1947.
“People want to see their royals looking like royals, but equally, they don’t want to think that taxpayers’ money is being blown away,” said Nick Bullen, editor in chief of True Royalty TV. The wedding dress
Hartnell transformed the florals of Botticelli’s “Primavera” into a gown of white crystals and pearls. But it wasn’t easy. There were diplomatic questions in the still-miserable aftermath of the war, Holt wrote. Customs impounded 10,000 seed pearls from the US, and journalists were assured that the origins of the silk produced in Kent and woven in Essex were worms from “nationalist” China rather than “enemy” Japan.
Thousands in the UK sent in their ration coupons for Princess Elizabeth to use for dress materials. That would have been illegal, so she saved up her own and asked the government for 200 extra, Holt told The Associated Press.
“It showed the thirst there was in the country for this big moment of glamor,” she said. “In recent years, we have known the queen and Prince Philip as this sweet old couple but we have to remember, in that time they were this dazzling, glamorous new couple on the scene.”
The wedding was not without behind-the-scenes drama. Queen Mary’s Fringe tiara, made by Elizabeth’s grandmother from a necklace given to Mary by Queen Victoria, snapped right before the ceremony and was rushed off to crown jeweler Garrard for repair.
The dress, and the wedding, offered “a real moment of hope,” Holt said. Her hemlines
She settled years ago on skirts and dresses just below the knee, but her hemlines were sometimes an issue for senior members of her family. In 1952, the 25-year-old queen led her family in mourning at her father’s funeral in accordance to strict dress codes set out during the reign of Queen Victoria, according to Holt.
As Queen Mary curtsied to her granddaughter and kissed each cheek, she admonished: “Lilibet, your skirts are much too short for mourning,” Holt writes. The new queen’s dress hovered well above her ankles yet respectfully below the knee, while that of her grandmother reached the ground. All, including Queen Elizabeth II, were shrouded in black veils, as Queen Victoria was for 40 years after the death of Prince Albert in 1861.
“The evolution of the queen’s style from young princess to longest-serving monarch in British history has her being of the time but not following fashion,” Bullen said. Finding a uniform
The queen we know today wears sensible block heels or brogues, usually handmade by Anello & Davide, a custom Launer perched on her arm and a brooch on one shoulder. She goes with kilts and skirts in tartans and plaids as her country style. But the queen of the early 1950s charmed the world in nipped-in waists, pencil silhouettes and some floaty, full experiments as a post-war fashion quake took hold in the country.
“In the early years of her reign, she really embraced Dior’s New Look aesthetic, and women looked to her outfits as a source of inspiration, much like people do with the Duchess of Cambridge today,” said Kristin Contino, style reporter for Page Six.
There was a playful glamor in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, including a bold multicolored evening dress in 1999 for a Royal Variety Performance. Created by Karl-Ludwig Rehse, it featured a riotous sequin diamond-pattern bodice of bright yellow, blue, green and pink.
There were also some trouser days and a turban phase in the ‘60s and ‘70s amid a wide range of hat styles.
The queen learned of her father’s passing on a stop in Kenya en route to Australia. Some reports indicate she was wearing jeans for an encounter with a herd of elephants the moment her father died in his sleep at Sandringham, Holt wrote. She donned slacks on safari in Zambia in 1979, and a trouser set in 2003 as she left King Edward VIII hospital in London after a knee operation.
It was Margaret, the rebel, who was renowned as a fashion plate in Dior and other designers, and her influence on Elizabeth was tangible. Little sister helped the queen scout new British designers and introduced her to up-and-comers, such as milliner Simone Mirman, according to Holt. Mirman created some of the queen’s standout hats, including her Tudor-style “medieval helmet,” as Hartnell called it, in soft yellow, for the 1969 investiture of Prince Charles.
“Margaret was really in tune with fashion. She would have been the one reading Vogue. And so she would often go with the queen to appointments to help her inject that little bit of extra style into her looks,” Holt said.
Usually sticking to British designers, the queen has a long-held fondness for silk scarves by the French fashion house Hermes. The brand has issued several special designs in her honor. It did so in 2016 with a horse-themed scarf to mark her 90th birthday.
One doesn’t equate the queen of today with a mad rush to copy her style, but for a brief spell in the 1950s women could do just that thanks to her love of cotton dresses in dainty floral or abstract prints from Horrockses Fashions, a British ready-to-wear brand, Holt said.
Another look from those early years stands out as well. In October 1952, soon after ascending the throne, the queen was a sensation at the Empire Theatre for a royal viewing of the musical comedy “Because You’re Mine.” She wore a tuxedo-like Hartnell gown in black with a white front and wide lapels in a halter design, paired with long white gloves, a tiara on her head and a diamond bracelet on one wrist.
She hit every magazine and newspaper the next day. Manufacturers rushed to copy it. It was dubbed the Magpie and she never wore it again. Matchy matchy
The queen loves to color coordinate, sticking to bright colors and pastels in coats and floral dresses today.
That goes for her signature clear, bird-cage umbrellas as well. They’re made by Fulton Umbrellas and are attainable at $30 or less, though the queen’s are custom made. She owns about 100 in a rainbow of colors but contrary to reports, she doesn’t possess 200 of her favorite Launer bags, Holt said. Gerald Bodmer, who rescued Launer in 1981 after a period of decline, was keen to clear up that myth.
“He says she has several styles in several colors. He says that 200 is very far off the mark,” Holt said.
Launer extends the straps of her leather bags to make it easier for her to hang them on her arm, and they make them lighter for her to carry. And what does she carry? Bullen said he’s heard there’s always a lipstick, a handkerchief and a photo of Prince Philip, who died last year at 99.
Irish designer Paul Costelloe, who dressed Princess Diana in the 1980s and ‘90s, told the AP of the queen’s style: “She’s a bit like a schoolteacher, a good schoolteacher. She never shocks. She gets it right.”
Critically endangered elephant, unborn baby suspected poisoned in Indonesia
The carcass of the heavily pregnant mammal was found next to a palm plantation in Riau province on Sumatra
A plantation worker discovered the mother, who was 22 months pregnant, on Thursday
Updated 26 May 2022
PEKANBARU, Indonesia: A critically endangered Sumatran elephant and its unborn baby were found dead from suspected poisoning in western Indonesia, a conservation official said on Thursday.
The carcass of the heavily pregnant mammal was found next to a palm plantation in Riau province on Sumatra, a large island home to some of the world’s rarest animals.
The archipelago nation faces an ongoing battle against wildlife crime and several elephant poisoning cases have been reported in recent years, including one in 2019 when a Sumatran elephant was found decapitated with its tusks ripped off.
A plantation worker discovered the mother, who was 22 months pregnant, on Thursday and immediately reported the carcass to authorities who collected samples before burying the body.
“We estimated the female elephant to be around 25 years old and during the necropsy test we found that it was pregnant and was close to giving birth,” said Hartono, the head of the local chapter of the Natural Resource Conservation Agency.
Officials are still testing samples to determine the cause of death, added Hartono, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
They suspect poisoning because the mother was foaming at the mouth when she was discovered.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, Sumatran elephants are on the brink of extinction with only about 2,400-2,800 left in the world.
The elephant population is also threatened by rampant poaching because of their tusks, which are prized in the illegal wildlife trade.
Rampant deforestation has reduced the critically endangered elephants’ natural habitat and brought them into increasing conflict with humans.
’End of an era’ as New York removes last of its iconic payphone booths
Fixed-line payphones began disappearing from the streets of New York in the early 2000s as cell phone use spread, and then vanished even faster in the 2010s with the explosion of smartphones
Updated 24 May 2022
NEW YORK: Marking the end of an era, New York City on Monday removed the last of its storied payphone booths, which have fallen victim to the ubiquity of free Wi-fi and cell phones in recent years.
But Superman fans can take comfort in the fact that Manhattan will keep four of the defunct booths, made famous as the impromptu changing rooms for journalist Clark Kent as he transformed into the Man of Steel.
Over the decades, the phone booths have featured widely in pop culture, from comic books to Hollywood blockbusters and TV shows.
That ended Monday morning, when, in front of assembled media, Manhattan borough president — the equivalent of the mayor — Mark Levine had the last booth housing two Bell System payphones at the corner of 7th Avenue and 50th Street dismantled and lifted on to a flatbed truck.
Levine said on Twitter he was “on hand today to say ‘Bye Bye’ one last time to the famed (infamous?) NYC pay phone.”
“I won’t miss all the dead dial tones but gotta say I felt a twinge of nostalgia seeing it go,” he added.
Fixed-line payphones began disappearing from the streets of New York in the early 2000s as cell phone use spread, and then vanished even faster in the 2010s with the explosion of smartphones.
The final blow came when, in 2015, Manhattan went ahead with the installation of thousands of LinkNYC hotspots offering WiFi and free local calls.
Those new kiosks are to be gradually connected to the emerging 5G network.
“Truly the end of an era but also, hopefully, the start of a new one with more equity in technology access,” said Levine, referring to neighborhoods in northern Manhattan, such as Harlem, that are less well covered by telephone and Internet networks.
According to local media, Manhattan will keep four of the old-fashioned phone booths on the Upper West Side, on West End Avenue at 66th, 90th, 100th and 101st streets.