REVIEW: ‘Spiderhead’ — Chris Hemsworth fails to convince as a genius scientist in flaccid sci-fi thriller

REVIEW: ‘Spiderhead’ — Chris Hemsworth fails to convince as a genius scientist in flaccid sci-fi thriller
Jurnee Smollett as Lizzy and Miles Teller as Jeff in ‘Spiderhead.’ (Supplied)
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Updated 24 June 2022

REVIEW: ‘Spiderhead’ — Chris Hemsworth fails to convince as a genius scientist in flaccid sci-fi thriller

REVIEW: ‘Spiderhead’ — Chris Hemsworth fails to convince as a genius scientist in flaccid sci-fi thriller

DUBAI: Netflix’s new sci-fi thriller is based on a short story by award-winning author George Saunders that was published in The New Yorker — normally a guarantee of literary quality. It’s odd, then, that the film is stocked with uninspiring dialogue and a narrative that seems light on substance. 

Perhaps the key is that the original material was a short story. By stretching it into a feature film, the screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the pair responsible for the “Deadpool” movies) have failed to provide sufficient quality material to cover the extra yardage. 

The “Deadpool” link is telling. Reese and Wernick attempt to slip a similar knowing humor into “Spiderhead.” It doesn’t work nearly as well with Chris Hemsworth in the lead instead of Ryan Reynolds. 




Chris Hemsworth as Abnesti and Miles Teller as Jeff in ‘Spiderhead.’ (Supplied) 

Hemsworth plays the genius rogue scientist and megalomaniac Steve Abnesti, who has set up the titular state-of-the-art island penitentiary. It’s his vision of a new kind of prison system, one in which the inmates can roam around without supervision and have their own comfortable rooms. In return, they have agreed to be the subjects of Abnesti’s drug tests — drugs which alter their emotions and perceptions, including the ‘love drug’ N-40, “Laffodil,” which makes everything seem funny, and the sinister “Darkenfloxx,” which induces pain — both physical and mental.

Hemsworth’s charisma is undeniable, but he’s out of his depth here, acting-wise, failing to convince when asked to display the full gamut of emotions supposedly induced by his inventions.




Nathan Jones as Rogan in ‘Spiderhead.’ (Supplied) 

Miles Teller and Jurnee Smollett, as inmates Jeff and Lizzy respectively, fare much better, giving the movie an emotional heart that it doesn’t really deserve and doing far more with the by-the-numbers script than can reasonably be expected. They make “Spiderhead” mostly watchable through their convincing portrayals of two damaged people trying to find some light in the darkness of their guilt. 

Director Joseph Kosinski does a mixed job. He manages to pace things well — balancing dialogue-heavy ‘science’ scenes and bursts of violent action with panache ­— but seems unsure exactly what he’s trying to deliver. The film’s light touches (the pink titles; the upbeat pop music; Hemsworth’s jaunty dancing) jar uncomfortably with its darker themes (the dehumanization of criminals; the ethics of altering people’s minds), and the result is unsettling. But not in an interesting way — just in a ‘Have I just wasted 107 minutes of my life?’ way. 

This could have been an intriguingly dark movie. Instead, it’s another dystopian sci-fi film that’s not nearly as clever as it thinks it is.


Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair hits Giorgio Armani, Giambattista Valli runways in Paris

Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair hits Giorgio Armani, Giambattista Valli runways in Paris
Updated 06 July 2022

Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair hits Giorgio Armani, Giambattista Valli runways in Paris

Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair hits Giorgio Armani, Giambattista Valli runways in Paris

DUBAI: Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair is taking the fashion industry by storm. 

This week, the rising catwalk star, who is signed to Elite Model Management agency, walked the runway for Rome-based brand Giambattista Valli, Italian fashion house Giorgio Armani and Lebanese designer Georges Hobeika during Paris Haute Couture Week, running until July 7. 

On Tuesday, she wore a voluminous high-low brown dress for the Giambattista Valli show.

During the Armani runway presentation, Al-Zuhair stepped out in a purple-blue set with a glitzy blazer tied with a colorful bow at the waist and oversized trousers. 

She shared a behind-the-scenes picture with her followers on Instagram.  

After the show, she wrote: “Thank you for this magical moment,” tagging renowned designer Giorgio Armani’s page. 

On the first day of couture week, Al-Zuhair wore a multi-colored piece that featured a blue top with floor-grazing sleeves and a two-toned embellished skirt. 

The model, who is based between Paris and London, has already appeared in campaigns for high-end brands like Burberry and Tiffany & Co. 

Al-Zuahir is not the only Arab star who is making headlines at Paris Haute Couture Week. 

On Wednesday, US Dutch Palestinian supermodel Bella Hadid walked in the star-studded Balenciaga show along with A-list celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Dua Lipa, Naomi Campbell and Nicole Kidman.  

Hadid wore a green mini dress with a train of structured floor-length fabric.


Saudi filmmaker Ahd Kamel’s ‘Sanctity’ to be part of Netflix’s ‘Because She Created’ collection 

Saudi filmmaker Ahd Kamel’s ‘Sanctity’ to be part of Netflix’s ‘Because She Created’ collection 
Updated 06 July 2022

Saudi filmmaker Ahd Kamel’s ‘Sanctity’ to be part of Netflix’s ‘Because She Created’ collection 

Saudi filmmaker Ahd Kamel’s ‘Sanctity’ to be part of Netflix’s ‘Because She Created’ collection 

DUBAI: Saudi filmmaker Ahd Kamel’s short movie “Sanctity” is joining Netflix’s curated collection “Because She Created,” which features 21 Arab films by female directors. 

The collection — which spans various genres, including documentaries, drama and romance — features films that are new to Netflix and will be released on July 7.

It includes the works of critically acclaimed Algerian, Egyptian, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Lebanese, Moroccan, Palestinian, Saudi, Sudanese, Syrian and Tunisian filmmakers.

The new collection celebrates the creativity of the Arab world’s female storytellers and aims to give more people a chance to see their lives reflected on screen. 

Jeddah-born Kamel’s short film “Sanctity,” which was released in 2013, focuses on social traditions that make friendships between men and women seem abnormal. She explores the concept through a story about a young Saudi widow who tries to protect her unborn child. 

“Sanctity” was nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2013. 

Another film to be featured in the “Because She Created” category includes “Stateless” by Moroccan filmmaker Nariss Nejjar, which tells the story of a 35-year-old woman who is haunted by the memory of her childhood being ripped away from her when she was estranged from her family and forced into exile in Morocco. 

Algerian filmmaker Latifa Said’s 2019 movie “The Room” tells the story of an Algerian expatriate who discovers who her father really is after he passes away, through his objects and the things he owns. 

Meanwhile, Fatma Zamoun’s multi-character drama “Parkour,” which is set in Algeria, essays a couple preparing for their wedding before things take an unexpected turn.

These films are joined by “Bint Werdan,” an office comedy by Kuwaiti filmmaker Maysaa Almunin, and “Selma’s Home,” a family drama by Jordanian filmmaker Hanadi Elyan, among others. 

“We’re proud to be telling more stories by Arab filmmakers that can resonate with women from all walks of life and from around the world. Together, their voices provide inspiration for the wider creative community, while highlighting the importance of equitable representation in storytelling, and why it matters,” Nuha El-Tayeb, director of content acquisitions for Netflix MENA and Turkey, said in a released statement.


Princess Iman of Jordan engaged to Jameel Alexander Thermiotis

Princess Iman of Jordan engaged to Jameel Alexander Thermiotis
Updated 06 July 2022

Princess Iman of Jordan engaged to Jameel Alexander Thermiotis

Princess Iman of Jordan engaged to Jameel Alexander Thermiotis

DUBAI: Princess Iman bint Abdullah II of Jordan is engaged to Jameel Alexander Thermiotis, her mother Queen Rania announced on Wednesday. 

Princess Iman is the eldest daughter of King Abdullah II and Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan while Thermiotis is a managing partner at a New York based Venture Capital fund. He was born in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1994, but is of Greek descent, according to Hello magazine. 

“Congratulations my dearest Iman; your smile has always been a gift of love that I’ve cherished since the day you were born. I wish you and Jameel a life filled with love and laughter!” Queen Rania shared on social media. 

Meanwhile, the official announcement read: “The Royal Hashemite Court is pleased to announce the engagement of Her Royal Highness Princess Iman bint Abdullah II to Mr. Jameel Alexander Thermiotis, on Tuesday, 5 July 2022, in the presence of Their Majesties King Abdullah II and Queen Rania Al Abdullah, as well as Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Al-Hussein bin Abdullah II, Prince Hashem bin Abdullah II, and Princess Salma bint Abdullah II, in addition to members of Mr. Thermiotis’ family.


 


Review: ‘The Forgiven’ sees Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain confront their privilege

Review: ‘The Forgiven’ sees Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain confront their privilege
Updated 06 July 2022

Review: ‘The Forgiven’ sees Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain confront their privilege

Review: ‘The Forgiven’ sees Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain confront their privilege

CHENNAI: A weekend of debauchery into something more in director Michael McDonagh’s “The Forgiven,” which takes a frank look at race and privilege. The film is set to be released in cinemas this summer after it premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Set in Morocco, the camera expertly captures the sneering disdain with which a group of white holiday-makers regard the locals.  McDonagh, who adapted the script from Lawrence Osborne’s novel, satirizes rich Westerners by portraying them as bigoted and alcohol-fueled. This is apparent in the first minutes of the movie when a squabbling couple — Jessica Chastain’s Jo and Ralph Fiennes’ David — are seen driving through the desert. They’ve flown in from London to celebrate the new estate built by their old friend Richard (Matt Smith).

Ralph Fiennes stars in “The Forgiven.” (YouTube)

Having been drinking the entire day, David is ill at ease driving through the dark desert when he loses control and hits a teenager, instantly killing him. Undecided about what to do with the body, they load it in the boot of the car and carry it to a plush estate, where guests are engaging in boisterous revelry. If this was not bad enough, the boy’s old father arrives at the resort — his only child is dead and he is inconsolable. David is confused, Jo is nervous, but their friends treat the whole episode as some kind of inevitability.

David, in what is the only touch of humanism in the entire movie, agrees to accompany the father to his village for the burial. After a few days of spending time with the grieving family, David is wracked by guilt, but Jo — who is having her own fun at the resort — is not. 

Devoid of any trace of sorrow, Chastain is effective, mixing her highs and lows with panache. But it is Fiennes whose performance is unforgettable. Conveying an arc that travels from drunken callousness to fright and guilt, he is fantastic. And Moroccan actor Ismael Kanater as the boy’s father, Abdullah, is probably the most telling character, who hides his rage and anguish in a way that unnerves a confused David. 

“The Forgiven” is subtle and plays out a scenario where disrespect and ostentatiousness is rampant. A fairly expansive and well-crafted narrative, the film offers a penetrating look at racist snobbery.


Lebanese label Ashi Studio makes ‘waves’ in Paris with Fall/Winter collection

Lebanese label Ashi Studio makes ‘waves’ in Paris with Fall/Winter collection
Updated 06 July 2022

Lebanese label Ashi Studio makes ‘waves’ in Paris with Fall/Winter collection

Lebanese label Ashi Studio makes ‘waves’ in Paris with Fall/Winter collection

DUBAI: Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi’s Beirut-based label Ashi Studio presented its Fall/Winter 2023 collection on the sidelines of Paris Haute Couture Week on Tuesday. The collection, which was presented at the brand’s second live show in Paris, was titled “Waves.” 

Presented under the looming vaulted ceilings of the American Cathedral in Paris, the show featured everything from structured and embellished mini dresses to feathered gowns and glittering skirts with long trains. To better represent its “Waves” theme, the label liberally infused the collection with eye-catching ruffles, pleats and crinkled fabrics, in a manner that was eclectic yet understated.

The designer presented his collection under the looming vaulted ceilings of the American Cathedral in Paris. (Getty Images)

British model Jourdan Dunn was spotted on the front row in a light and airy Ashi Studio ensemble. France-based fashion blogger Veronica Ferraro was also at the event in an all-black, glittering get-up, pulled together with a large bow at the waist. Dubai-based TV host Diala Makki and Russian model Valero Kaufman were also spotted at the presentation.

While Ashi Studio was not on the official Paris Haute Couture calendar, other Arab designers are showing as part of the main event, including Lebanese designer Georges Hobeika, as well as designers Zuhair Murad, Ellie Saab and fashion house Madison Rabih Kayrouz.

A favorite among celebrities in the Arab world and beyond, Ashi Studio is no stranger to making headlines, and did so most recently when Bollywood star Deepika Padukone wore the brand’s floor-sweeping orange gown at the 75th Cannes Film Festival this year. The actress wore the taffeta gown to the premiere of the French drama film “The Innocent.”

Singer-songwriter Kylie Minogue is another star who has previously flaunted Ashi Studio creations. The “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” hitmaker stepped out in 2021 in an off-the-shoulder leopard print dress with puffed sleeves and a long cape. The dress was from the label’s “Silence in the Mirror” Fall/Winter 2019-2020 couture collection. The year before that, she shared a snap on Instagram wearing an all-white, feather couture jumpsuit from the fashion house during a shoot for her 15th studio album “Disco.” 

A-listers including Queen Rania, Beyoncé, Sonam Kapoor and Cardi B have also been spotted in the label’s creations.