What We Are Watching Today: Korean drama ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ on Netflix

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Updated 14 November 2022

What We Are Watching Today: Korean drama ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ on Netflix

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  • The main love interest in the movie is played by Kang Tae-oh, a character constantly described by viewers as the biggest “green flag” in K-drama history

Korean dramas are in a league of their own when it comes to creating feel-good escapism which still send important messages and raise awareness. One of their latest masterpieces is “Extraordinary Attorney Woo.”

The show follows the story of Woo Young-woo, an autistic but highly intelligent girl, trying to navigate through life. In order to prove herself, she needs to make a name as an attorney while battling her condition.

The main character is played by Park Eun-bin, praised by viewers for her accurate portrayal of someone with an autism spectrum disorder.

The main love interest in the movie is played by Kang Tae-oh, a character constantly described by viewers as the biggest “green flag” in K-drama history.

Another character that wins the hearts of people as the show progresses is played by Kang Ki-young, who takes the role of Woo Young-woo’s mentor and team leader.

Each character feels layered and complex, with their own motivations. The show is clearly made to make viewers feel warm and fuzzy inside with animation, light-hearted comedy, and heartfelt scenes, but does not shy away from the struggles of people with autism and those around them.

It is safe to say that viewers, faced with Woo Young-woo going through all manner of cases thrown her way, will cheer for her after each one, not to mention gleaning an unusual amount of whale-related knowledge that is sprinkled throughout the series.

“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” is available to stream on Netflix.

 


Sabah, the ‘Empress of Lebanese Song’ who excelled in movies and music 

Sabah, the ‘Empress of Lebanese Song’ who excelled in movies and music 
Updated 04 February 2023

Sabah, the ‘Empress of Lebanese Song’ who excelled in movies and music 

Sabah, the ‘Empress of Lebanese Song’ who excelled in movies and music 
  • For this week’s edition of our series on Arab icons, we profile one of the Arab world's most popular stars
  • Over a career spanning seven decades, the Lebanese legend appeared in almost 100 films and released more than 50 albums 

DUBAI: “Empress of Lebanese Song,” “Sabbouha” and “Al-Shahroura” (The Singing Bird). These are just some of the nicknames given to the Lebanese singer and actress Sabah, whose remarkable career spanned seven decades.  

Sabah was born Jeanette Georges Feghali in November 1927 in Bdadoun near Mount Lebanon. She was the youngest of three daughters. Her family life was troubled — her father reportedly bullied and neglected her, and even tried to steal her earnings from her early movies. She once told an interviewer that she was crying one day because she hadn’t had any food and one of her uncles told her parents “that I had a beautiful voice when I sobbed.” Her traumatic childhood only got worse when her brother murdered their mother because he believed she was having an affair. 

Sabah in the 1958 film 'La Rue de L'Amour.' (Image credit: Abboudi Bou Jawde)

It was her talent that offered her a way out. Sabah started singing aged four, and released her first song in 1940, aged just 13.  

Five years later, she starred in her first movie, the Egyptian film “El-Qalb Luh Wahid” (The Heart Has Its Reasons) and adopted her character’s name — Sabah (morning). Still a teenager, she quickly became famous across the Arab world. She went on to star in almost 100 movies and release more than 50 albums, becoming internationally famous — performing in Paris, London, Sydney and New York. She reportedly had around 3,500 songs in her repertoire and carried on performing well into her eighties, finally retiring in 2010 due to illness. She died in Lebanon on Nov. 26, 2014, at the age of 87. 

Egyptian filmmaker Ahmed Shafik made “El-Shahrourah,” a TV drama based on her life (Sabah was played by Lebanese singer and actress Carole Samaha), which aired in Ramadan in 2011. For background, Shafik talked with Sabah for hours about her life.  

“I grew up listening to Sabah. She is a great artist, a great singer, a great actress. It was an incredible feeling the first time I went to meet her,” Shafik told Arab News. 

A picture from the late 1960s (R to L) Sabah with Egyptian actresses Leila Taher and Maryam Fakhreddine shooting a movie in Alexandria. (AFP)

“The (show) was based on her words. We — (writer) Fedaa El-Shandawily and I — sat with her in the hotel she stayed in until she died, and we would visit her daily. When the show was written, we read the episodes for her and it was exactly what she said,” he continued. “Her life was full of suspense and a lot of drama. At times, Sabah would tell us stories and cry, and at times she would recall memories and laugh.”  

After the show aired, Sabah’s family reportedly filed lawsuits against the production house. But, according to Shafik, none of the cases came to trial because he had the recordings of his interviews with Sabah.  

“Sabah herself did not file a lawsuit,” he noted. “Sabah cared for her professional career and did not care for her personal life, her family.” 

The singer married 10 times and was rumored to be in multiple relationships throughout her life. “She was trying to find stability and make a family. Most of the men in her life wanted the rich and famous Sabah — not a family,” Shafik said.  

In 2021, Sabah was among the Arab female artists featured in the Arab World Institute’s six-month exhibition, “Arab Divas, from Umm Kulthum to Dalida.” Maïa Tahiri, CEO of glob.art, the cultural platform that helped support the exhibition, told Arab News, “Umm Kulthum, Warda Al-Jazairia, Asmahan, Fayrouz, Sabah, Dalida … (these women) have influenced not only several generations but have created a bridge across cultures. It was very moving to see daughters with their mothers and grandmothers at the exhibition, sharing their memories and ideas, rocked by the famous songs of these incredible women who contributed so much to the Golden Age of the Arab world. 

“Sabah is an icon, not just in the Middle East or the Arab World,” Tahiri added. “The fact that she acted in almost 100 movies and interpreted approximately 3,500 songs explains her global fame… Her freedom, her frankness and her love for fashion also explain the fascination people still have when it comes to her.” 

Tahiri said that throughout her lustrous career, Sabah remained faithful to her dressmaker, William Khoury. “Even though she mostly performed in Egypt, it was extremely important to her to have her stage costumes made in her homeland, Lebanon. The exhibition put forward a large panel of Sabah’s outfits, revealing her appreciation for boldness,” she said.  

That boldness carried over from her risqué dress sense to her personality. Lebanese radio presenter Chady Maalouf, who met Sabah many times between 2001 and her death in 2014, told Arab News, “Dealing with Sabah meant dealing with a very professional star, whether in punctuality, commitment or frankness and clarity in the answers.”  

Sabah with the Lebanese couturier William Khoury in 1974. (Image credit: Madonna Khoury)

Sabah, he said, “was one of the first to carry the Lebanese dialect — through her songs — to Egypt and the Arab world, bringing it closer to the Arab public at a time when the Egyptian dialect was dominant in the world of singing and acting.” 

Maalouf’s favorite interview with the star was his first, recorded in her house at the time in Hazmieh. “Sabah was always elegant, even at home,” he said. “The dominant color of the furniture and curtains was turquoise. She showed me some of her (ornaments) after our interview. One was a gift from Fayrouz and Assi Rahbani, and another piece was from the Egyptian actress Soheir Ramzi.” 

Sabah performing in Alexandria in 2003. (AFP)

An interview in 2006 he recalled “was one of the few times I saw Sabah sad. She had tears in her eyes, because our meeting coincided with an Israeli attack on Lebanon, and rumors were circulating in the press that she was celebrating her birthday when the country was being bombed.”  

The conversation that has stuck with Maalouf the most, though, was when he asked Sabah why she didn’t move to the US where her daughter, son and two grandchildren lived.  

“She replied: ‘I love them all very much, but there I will feel that I’ve become merely a grandmother and forget my glory, and that I am Sabah. I love myself and don’t like to be insignificant.’ Then she added, ‘I’m not selfish, but I love the artist in me,’” Maalouf said. 

“I believe that this phrase really sums up her life: Janet Feghali loved Sabah and lived for Sabah. And she did it well.” 


Lebanese actress Yumna Marwan to star in Hulu series

Lebanese actress Yumna Marwan to star in Hulu series
Updated 03 February 2023

Lebanese actress Yumna Marwan to star in Hulu series

Lebanese actress Yumna Marwan to star in Hulu series

DUBAI: Lebanese actress Yumna Marwan is set to join the cast of the FX limited series “The Veil,” which will air exclusively on Hulu.

The “Costa Brava, Lebanon” star is joining a stellar cast including US actress Elisabeth Moss, US actor Josh Charles and French Algerian actor Dali Benssalah.

According to the official logline, the series “explores the surprising and fraught relationship between two women who play a deadly game of truth and lies on the road from Asia to Europe. One woman has a secret, the other a mission to reveal it.”

The details of each character are still under wraps, but Marwan will play the role of Adilah, Benssalah will play Malik and Charles will star as Max.

Marwan is famous for her roles in the TV series “Little Birds,” and the films “The Translator” and “The River.”

The actress spent her childhood in Beirut and her teenage years in the US.

She kicked off her professional career in 2013, when she starred in her first feature film “The Valley” by writer and director Ghassan Salhab. Since then she has taken crucial roles with renowned directors in the Arab world.

The actress starred in Mounia Akl’s debut feature, “Costa Brava, Lebanon,” which screened at international festivals.

The film won the Network for the Promotion of Asia Pacific Cinema award at the 46th Toronto International Film Festival. It also screened at the Venice Film Festival in 2021.

The movie is an eerie family drama set amid a raging climate crisis in near-future Lebanon. It also stars actors Saleh Bakri, who plays Walid, and Nadine Labaki, who plays Soraya.

Marwan stars as Walid’s sister, Alia, in the film.

Meanwhile, Benssalah, the other Arab on the show, is known for his roles in the James Bond film “No Time to Die” and the recently released “The Accidental Getaway Driver.” He has also starred in “Athena,” “All Your Faces,” and the series “Savages.”

British screenwriter Steven Knight is writing and executive producing “The Veil,” with Moss executive producing under her Love & Squalor Pictures banner, according to Variety.


Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox talks witty memoir, role in HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Emirates Lit Fest

Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox talks witty memoir, role in HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Emirates Lit Fest
Updated 03 February 2023

Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox talks witty memoir, role in HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Emirates Lit Fest

Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox talks witty memoir, role in HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Emirates Lit Fest
  • 60-year veteran honors parents’ struggle with autobiography
  • Considers himself ‘overrated’ like ‘overblown’ Johnny Depp

DUBAI: Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox certainly knows how to make some noise. The award-winning veteran, known for his portrayal as the angry Logan Roy in HBO’s “Succession,” has an extensive resume spanning six decades across theater, television and films.

Arab News met Cox at the Emirates Literature Festival to discuss his recently released autobiography. The memoir, “Putting the Rabbit in the Hat,” a candid yet highly emotional and hilarious book, journeys through his poverty-stricken childhood to his theater days and a formidable career in Hollywood where he acted in blockbusters including “Troy,” “The Bourne Identity” and “Braveheart.”

Born in 1946 in Dundee, Scotland, Cox lost his father to pancreatic cancer when he was only 8 and dealt with his mother’s struggles with mental health for years, ultimately being raised by his elder sisters. “Writing the memoir was a cathartic experience — I wanted to honor my parents. It was really about my mum and dad and what they went through during a particularly difficult time in the country,” Cox tells Arab News.

Cox was born in 1946 in Dundee, Scotland. (HBO/David Russell)

As a child, he found solace in film and television — often escaping to the cinema. “There were 21 cinemas in Dundee, and I was a regular at every single one,” he writes. Then, one afternoon, while watching Albert Finney in “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,” he experienced a life-altering moment — if a working-class Englishman can make it in movies, so could he. “I just thought that was very liberating — I felt that Albert was a good muse for me,” says Cox.

As the book tells the tale of his rise to stardom, his shortcomings — professionally and personally — not to be missed are the witty jabs at industry A-listers, including Edward Norton, Steven Seagal and Johnny Depp. Although he turned down a role in “Pirates of the Caribbean” (with no regrets), he does comment on Depp’s acting.

“Personable though I’m sure he is, he is so overblown, so overrated. I mean, ‘Edward Scissorhands.’ Let’s face it, if you come on with hands like that and pale, scarred-face makeup, you don’t have to do anything. And he didn’t. And subsequently, he’s done even less.”

His book tells the tale of his rise to stardom. (HBO/Graeme Hunter)

Was he not worried that his no-holds-barred comments may burn bridges? He clears the air. “I happened to say that Johnny Depp was overrated, but I don't think that — I think we’re all overrated. With Johnny Depp, I think he’s a creature rather than an actor. Edward Scissorhands is an extraordinary creation, and there’s a place for it, but at the same time, I think he’s clearly talented and successful in his time. So I wasn’t dismissing him. I just felt that, like us all, he’s overrated. I’m part of that overrated,” explains Cox. His thoughts on Steven Seagal: ‘He’s as ludicrous in real life as he is on screen,” he writes.

His Logan Roy character sees him as the patriarch of the Roy family and a mean media magnate. Critics have often compared Roy’s character to Rupert Murdoch’s, but Cox believes that isn’t the case. “One of the things that I keep emphasizing about Logan is that he’s not like any of the people he’s compared to — he’s self-made and didn’t inherit anything.

“So his stakes are that much higher because he created it — he wants to know how his creation will be carried on. And he’s a misanthrope,” he says. Another complex part of his character includes his love/hate relationship with his children. “His Achilles heel — the thing that causes the most grief — is that he loves his children. If he didn’t love them, he’d be far better off — but he does,” elaborates Cox.

In 2020, Cox won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series Drama for “Succession” — an award he respects but doesn’t necessarily take too seriously. “It’s the work — that’s the main thing. I’m not interested in awards — I’d rather have a job than an award.”


‘Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis confirmed to attend MEFCC in Abu Dhabi

‘Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis confirmed to attend MEFCC in Abu Dhabi
Updated 02 February 2023

‘Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis confirmed to attend MEFCC in Abu Dhabi

‘Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis confirmed to attend MEFCC in Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: British actor, writer, filmmaker and producer Andy Serkis – most known for his motion-capture performances in blockbuster films – has been confirmed as one of the celebrity guests at the Middle East Film and Comic Con in Abu Dhabi, running from March 3 – 5.  

The actor, who will be in attendance on March 4 and 5, has brought to life several iconic computer-generated characters, including Gollum in “Lord of the Rngs” franchise, Caesar the ape in the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy, Captain Haddock in “The Adventures of Tintin” and Supreme Leader Snoke in the “Star Wars” films.  

The actor also most recently portrayed Kino Loy in the Star Wars DIsney+ series “Andor,” streaming in the Middle East on OSN.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Andrew Serkis (@andyserkis)

In an upcoming role, Serkis will play millionaire villain David Robey in “Luther: The Fallen Sun,” the movie sequel to the popular Idris Elba-led TV series, “Luther.”  

Speaking with Total Film, Serkis said of the role, “I don’t think I’ve come across anything quite as dark for a long time.”  

The script forced him to ask, “do I really actually at this point in the world and time and my life, want to go down this particular rabbit hole of something that’s so hard to fathom in humanity?” 

Meanwhile, at MEFCC, fans can also expect to meet “House of the Dragon” and “Doctor Who” star Matt Smith as well as “Star Wars” veteran Anthony Daniels, who played android C3PO in all 10 films.  


Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch 

Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch 
Updated 02 February 2023

Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch 

Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch 

CHENNAI: Short documentary “The Elephant Whisperers” is in the running for the Best Documentary Short Film at the upcoming Academy Awards and after watching the Indian Netflix offering, you may well find yourself wondering how Academy voters are going to resist the extremely moving documentary about two adorable baby elephants and their warm-hearted caretakers, Bomman and Bellie.  

They live in the lush and delightfully picturesque terrain of Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. With its myriad colors, varied vegetation and fantastic species – captured vividly by Karan Thapliyal and others — the film kept me absorbed for all of its 41 minutes.  

Helmed by Kartiki Gonsalves with narration penned by Priscilla Gonsalves, “The Elephant Whisperers” is crisp and refreshing. As one writer put it, it is this year’s “My Octopus Teacher” — the 2020 Oscar-winning documentary tracing the bond between a filmmaker and an octopus. 

The core story here is about two elephant calves, Raghu and Ammu, who are treated like their own children by the couple. 

When Raghu's mother is killed, forest officials hand the baby to Bomman and Bellie. There are some moving visuals of how the “parents” take care of the calf. There is more joy to come when another calf, Ammu, is also handed over the couple. The two babies hit it off, and it is lovely to watch them play and tussle with eachother. 

Scenes of Bomman giving the animals a bath and later playing football with them remain etched in my memory. The couple feed them just like they would their own children and the feeling of affection is captivating and wonderfully translated on screen. 

As the environment becomes a buzzword in the media, it is especially touching when Bomman says we live off the forest, but we should also protect it. And despite the fact that Bellie's husband was killed by a tiger, she gets over her fear of the forest and begins to mingle with it. Later, when Bomman and Bellie get married, it seems like they have forged a perfect union not just with each other, but also with the rich forest that they call their home.