Review: ‘The Guardians of Galaxy Holiday Special’ brings festive cheer to MCU

Review: ‘The Guardians of Galaxy Holiday Special’ brings festive cheer to MCU
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This festive ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ installment is as slick as the wider cinematic universe. (Supplied)
Review: ‘The Guardians of Galaxy Holiday Special’ brings festive cheer to MCU
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This festive ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ installment is as slick as the wider cinematic universe. (Supplied)
Review: ‘The Guardians of Galaxy Holiday Special’ brings festive cheer to MCU
3 / 3
This festive ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ installment is as slick as the wider cinematic universe. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 November 2022

Review: ‘The Guardians of Galaxy Holiday Special’ brings festive cheer to MCU

Review: ‘The Guardians of Galaxy Holiday Special’ brings festive cheer to MCU

LONDON: Viewers over a certain age may find that the phrase “Holiday Special” sends a shiver down their spine, but fear not — James Gunn and the Marvel factory are here to cleanse your palette. Gunn, recently announced as the new head of the DC cinematic universe, still has one more Marvel movie on the horizon, but before “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3” hits cinemas in 2023, the director has reunited with the ragtag group of heroes for a seasonal one-shot on the Disney+ streaming platform — the latest in Marvel’s series of Special Presentations after October’s “Werewolf by Night.”

In an attempt to cheer up fellow Guardian Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Mantis and Drax (Pom Klementieff and Dave Bautista) set out to give their friend an Earth-style Christmas, complete with lights, decorations and gifts. Except that their idea for a gift is to journey to Earth and kidnap actor Kevin Bacon, star of Quill’s favorite childhood movie, “Footloose.” Cue a series of comic interactions between the superhero Guardians and Earth’s population as they chase down and abduct Bacon and whisk him into space.

Unlike the now infamous 1978 “Star Wars Holiday Special,” this festive “Guardians” installment is as slick as the wider cinematic universe. For starters, it has excellent production values, appearances from all the Guardians (including Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Vin Diesel as Groot, Sean Gunn as Kraglin, and Maria Bakalova as new member Cosmo), and a story that, while light and throwaway, still fits into the wider MCU narrative. If anything, this is more of a scene-setting exercise for “Volume 3” than a seasonal cash-in. Gunn, and his ensemble cast, have clearly grown to love these characters as much as anyone, so there’s a feeling of playful reverence about this “Holiday Special” — not to mention a welcome sense that, while it’s silly and festive, this is as important to the Marvel timeline as any of the big-screen movies.


Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success  

Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success  
Updated 58 min 16 sec ago

Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success  

Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success  
  • As one of the co-founders of Telfaz11, the writer-director-producer is now reaping the rewards of years spent establishing an authentic entertainment industry in the Kingdom 

DUBAI: Ali Al-Kalthami is trying not to let it all go to his head. But that’s easier said than done. As one of the three co-founders of the pioneering Saudi production company Telfaz11, Al-Kalthami is one of the pillars of the Kingdom’s film future. And, as we’ve seen over the last two months, that future is now.  

In that short span of time, Telfaz11’s film “Raven Song” became the latest Saudi submission to the Academy Awards, their theatrical release “Sattar” became the highest-grossing Saudi film in history, and their latest feature, “Al Khallat+,” just became the first Netflix original film from Saudi.   

“This is not overnight success, of course,” Al-Kalthami explains to Arab News. “It’s been 12 years of experience, 12 years of staying true to our stories, our philosophy, and our talents. We’re grateful that all of these projects are flourishing at the same time, but we’ve been working a long time for these things to take place, and we’re most proud that we got here by doing it the right way — doing it our way.” 

A still from “Sattar.” (Supplied)

We’re speaking to the writer/director/producer over Zoom and he doesn’t want to turn his camera on. It’s nothing personal, he explains, he’s just been filming for 12 hours straight, directing his upcoming theatrical feature “Night Courier,” a dark crime comedy, in Riyadh and he doesn’t want anyone to see him. His mood, however, belies his exhaustion — he’s still thrilled to gush about “Al Khallat+,” perhaps the Telfaz11 project that is closest to his heart.  

The film is a continuation of the 22-episode anthology web series he created, which has amassed an astounding 1.5 billion views — a viewership far too big to qualify this as a ‘cult hit.’ Rather, Al-Kalthami and co., through their years of viral YouTube videos, have defined what Saudi Arabia’s mainstream entertainment looks like, building grassroots support with content that is wholeheartedly Saudi, made with a love and authenticity that allows them to push boundaries and subvert expectations, an aesthetic that is defined in “Al-Khallat.”  

“From the start, I thought about doing a show that reflects the Saudi psyche. We wanted to capture everyday life in a way that that appeals to real people with engaging, well-crafted storytelling,” the creator explains. 

While “Al Khallat+” tells a number of unrelated stories — two thieves crash a wedding to rescue their captured partner, a chef risks his restaurant trying to save his parent’s marriage, a mother searches for her husband who in turn is searching for his son in a nightclub — they each share a defining theme, one that Al-Kalthami and his collaborators discovered while holed up writing together during COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Director Fahad Alammari on the set of “Al Khallat.” (Supplied)

“We went back to the 22 episodes we’d released on the internet, and wanted to figure out what worked and what didn’t as we started to work on the feature. And for some strange reason, we found that the stories that worked had something in common. In each of them, there was a character who had to hustle their way out of an issue brought on by society’s restrictions — and we don’t mean that negatively,” Al-Kalthami says.  

“If you think about Saudi Arabia as a largely conservative society, that comes with a lot of rules that cause restraints on social life. Watching people hustle around those restraints becomes funny, because people can relate to those situations. We approach it with a very local mindset, and that allows Saudis to come along for the ride with us.” 

While “Al Khallat” has a perspective purely his own, Al-Kalthami is always quick to give credit to his collaborators. If he is proud of anything personally, it’s that he’s created a platform which has allowed the Kingdom’s rising talent to thrive, from the myriad actors featured to the crew behind the camera, many of whom he has known for years.  

“When I saw the first edit, I was very emotional. I was able to see in front of my eyes so clearly all the ideas that we’d written come to life through such great production. Fahad Alammari, the director, executed this so well, for example, and seeing all these actors — all of my friends — having fun bringing these characters to life is so rewarding,” says Al-Kalthami. 

“From the beginning, I always wanted this to go somewhere beyond the internet. I had no other experience at the time, but I knew we would get there eventually. To have something that I created with my friends get picked up and treated as a franchise is very humbling.” 

The challenge that Al-Kalthami now faces is to keep pushing forward and rewriting the template that he and his collaborators have made.  

“As a writer, you often create this illusion around yourself when you create something successful. If you’re not careful, there’s a barrier that rises between you and reality. You have to force yourself not to believe the hype, to be true to who you are and true to the society you live in — and force yourself to keep living in it. You can’t isolate yourself and become carried away by your success,” he says. “You have to embrace life, and live like a normal person, and get inspired the right way. I’m always trying to force myself to stay grounded, which can be very tricky with this kind of success, especially when you’re in on the ground floor. You have to force yourself to continue to push the envelope, break boundaries and do great work, and you have to help build this industry the right way. That’s the responsibility of pioneers.” 

While Al-Kalthami is usually focused on the future — committed to pushing himself as a writer and helping Saudi talent flourish both within his own projects and theirs — he does, occasionally, allow himself to look back and take stock of all he and Telfaz11 have accomplished over the last dozen years. Often, the emotion hits when he least expects it. 

“Somebody sent me a TikTok video last week. In it, someone had put together pictures of all the Telfaz11 founders, filmmakers and family members, spanning every moment they could find from 2010 to 2022. They wrote that we were the voice of our local inner life, that we were filmmakers that Saudis believe in. It was just so poetic, so nice, and so innocent. It just really got to me,” Al-Kalthami says. “I was so overwhelmed, I could hardly control it. To know that a lot of people in Saudi feel we represent their voice, their authentic life, truly means everything.” 


ULTRA Abu Dhabi music festival releases lineup of headliners for debut edition

ULTRA Abu Dhabi music festival releases lineup of headliners for debut edition
Updated 28 January 2023

ULTRA Abu Dhabi music festival releases lineup of headliners for debut edition

ULTRA Abu Dhabi music festival releases lineup of headliners for debut edition

LONDON: The international music festival, ULTRA Worldwide, has announced the first wave of headliners set to play the inaugural edition of ULTRA Abu Dhabi on March 4-5 at Etihad Park.

“Multi-award winning and platinum-record selling artist Afrojack is no stranger to headlining ULTRA Main Stages across the world, and will be on hand to deliver yet another high-octane set,” organizers said.

“Responsible for some of the biggest hits in the world, Grammy-nominated Calvin Harris will bring the beats to Yas Island for one of his signature high-energy sets (and) Dharma Worldwide boss KSHMR will whip the crowd into a frenzy with his culture-crossing sonics,” they also said.

Gud Vibrations label co-founder NGHTMRE will appear on the Main Stage with his signature blend of electronic music and producer Skrillex, who has won eight Grammy Awards — more than any other electronic dance music artist, will bring his shapeshifting soundscapes to the festival.

ULTRA Abu Dhabi will also host ULTRA’s underground techno and house concept RESISTANCE, featuring Drumcode founder and Swedish techno titan Adam Beyer.

“Producer and EXHALE label boss Amelie Lens will return to the Middle East to deliver her mesmerising blend of techno, while British legends Sasha_John Digweed bring decades of dance floor expertise to Abu Dhabi,” they added.

Etihad Park, located on Yas Island, is the largest open-air venue in the region and one of the world’s fastest growing leisure and entertainment destinations.

“ULTRA Worldwide sets the benchmark when it comes to delivering the ultimate festival experience, combining top-tier talent, cutting-edge technology and large-scale productions,” the statement said, adding: “As the most international music festival brand boasting active events on all six inhabited continents, it’s no surprise that ULTRA Worldwide’s Middle East debut will be one of the most highly anticipated events across the UAE this year.”

The three-day festival will offer a premium general experience pass that allows access holders to dedicated entrance gates, toilets, food and beverage stands, as well as a private lounge area. It will also offer VVIP passes at both stages.


Potential Omani bishop’s palace uncovered near Christian monastery on UAE’s Siniyah Island 

Potential Omani bishop’s palace uncovered near Christian monastery on UAE’s Siniyah Island 
Updated 27 January 2023

Potential Omani bishop’s palace uncovered near Christian monastery on UAE’s Siniyah Island 

Potential Omani bishop’s palace uncovered near Christian monastery on UAE’s Siniyah Island 
  • Archeologists uncover possible Omani bishop’s palace near Umm Al-Quwain’s recently discovered Christian monastery

DUBAI: Fresh findings by archeologists suggest the existence of a possible bishop’s palace — potentially Omani — near a recently discovered Christian monastery on the UAE’s Siniyah Island, off the coast of the state of Umm Al-Quwain.

A series of walls and rooms were uncovered last year that intrigued archeologists and historians involved in the excavation process on Siniyah Island, according to Tim Power, an archeology professor at UAE University.  

“This year, we came back to expand the trenches to try to understand what’s going on there,” said Power. (AN Photo/Maria Botros)

“It seems that we really have an interesting building that might be interpreted as an abbot’s house or perhaps even a bishop’s palace,” he continued.  

The archeology professor explained that similar buildings had been found in the Arabian Gulf over the years, which has helped historians and archeologists create parallels.  

Power added that recently what is thought to be a bishop’s palace was uncovered in Bahrain that had similar characteristics to the structure discovered on Siniyah Island.  

The newly discovered structure on Siniyah Island believed to be a bishop's palace. (AN Photo/Maria Botros)

“Historical sources, in particular the acts of the synods of the Nestorian church, mention a bishop of Oman between the fifth and seventh centuries,” said Power.  

Oman during that period included the region that later became the northern emirates of the UAE, so it is possible this was the actual palace of a bishop, he added.  

This year, the focus has shifted to excavating a different part of the island, with extensive work carried out on settlements and other structures surrounding the monastery.  

Findings on the island suggest the presence of both Christian and Muslim communities, who are believed to have coexisted during a period of time.  

They also shed light on the transition from late antiquity to early Islam, just before the Arab conquest.  

Power, who was invited by the Tourism and Archeology Department of Umm Al-Quwain to put together a “dream team of leading experts,” chose individuals who can contribute to the project.  

“The goal of this season will be to outline the context of the monastery so it’s not just an isolated structure in the middle of this sand pit,” said Michele Degli Esposti, a researcher at the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences.  

(AN Photo/Maria Botros)

Esposti, who sat categorizing artifacts and materials found during the dig, explained why the site of the alleged bishop’s palace was different than other structures.  

“This area, contrary to what happens in the settlement, is quite poor in material remains,” he said.  

“One reason is that the core complex, which had a very nice plaster floor, was constantly kept swept and clean, so we found very little materials left behind.”  

A possible warehouse was found in the vicinity of the structure thought to be the bishop’s palace, containing further clues for archeologists to draw conclusions.  

“The bulk of the materials are made of pottery, quite remarkable quantities of glass as seen in the settlements, and a few stone vessels, which are quite interesting,” said Esposti. (AN Photo/Maria Botros)

Radiocarbon dating used to assess the pottery excavated suggests that the community believed to have occupied the island was there between the seventh and eighth centuries.  

Esposti said similar methodologies will be used to determine the age of the objects recently found to further narrow down the window of the predicted time period.  

Findings will allow archeologists and researchers to better understand the pattern of occupation in the new site discovered on the island in order to draw relevant conclusions. (AN Photo/Maria Botros)

The excavation process, which has a more multidisciplinary approach, involves experts and materials from around the world to aid archeologists on site. 

It is also the first time that TAD UAQ is hosting students from the New York University of Abu Dhabi to participate in the excavation process.  

Hoor Al-Mazrouei, an Emirati biology student at NYUAD, participated in the excavations taking place in the settlements where she helped find a pot potentially used for cooking.   

“While we were digging, we found that it doesn’t have a base, and that’s probably why it’s not used for storage but used for baking bread or used as a cooking base,” said Al-Mazrouei. (AN Photo/Maria Botros)

NYUAD students were involved in the process from Jan. 4-20, alongside archeologists from TAD UAQ such as Ammar Al-Banna.  

Al-Banna, who predicts that the island will welcome visitors in the foreseeable future, said the first step is to uncover all findings to proceed.  

“By uncovering them, we hope to understand why they are here and what the relationship between all the structures and the sites next to them is,” he said. “Of course, with the finds, some will be studied, some will be exhibited.”  

Excavation work on the island will continue until March and will end before the Ramadan fast begins.  

Siniyah Island’s monastery is the second to be found in the UAE, with the first discovered in Abu Dhabi’s Sir Bani Yas Island in the 1990s.


Arab celebrities star in Hugo Boss’s new campaign 

Arab celebrities star in Hugo Boss’s new campaign 
Updated 27 January 2023

Arab celebrities star in Hugo Boss’s new campaign 

Arab celebrities star in Hugo Boss’s new campaign 

DUBAI: Germany fashion label Hugo Boss has released a star-studded spring/summer 2023 campaign, featuring Arab celebrities. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by BOSS (@boss)

The massive digital campaign features US Palestinian producer DJ Khaled, Dutch Palestinian model Gigi Hadid, Syrian Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini, Lebanese influencer and entrepreneur Karen Wazen, Emirati host Anas Bukhash, Lebanese-Australian model and humanitarian Jessica Kahawaty and Iraqi para-athlete Zainab Al-Eqabi. 

In the new advert, each of the stars shared a photo collage featuring two images — one from their childhood and one present-day photo while wearing Boss sweatshirts or blazers from the new collection.

According to the brand, the new collection showcases a bold aesthetic, combining a city-inspired spirit with a summery, off-court lifestyle in the brand’s signature color palette of black, white and camel. 

The campaign aims “to inspire the world to live up to its full potential,” the brand’s statement said. “The journey to living life on one’s own terms, begins with finding one’s power, purpose, and perseverance. Despite its highs and lows, twists and turns, the journey is lived with confidence, style, and a forward-looking vision.” 

The campaigns stars celebrities, photographers, entrepreneurs, social advocates and more. Each of the stars will take to their own social media channels to share their inspiring stories.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by BOSS (@boss)

Lensed by Swedish photographer Mikael Jansson, the campaign also stars A-list celebrities, sports personalities and influencers including Demi Lovato, Pairs Hilton, Maluma, Bella Throne, Naomi Campbell, Lee Minho, Khaby Lame, Matteo Berrettini, Anne-Marie, BamBam, Stella Maxwell, Stefflon Don, Macaulay Culkin, Christina, Naomi Watanabe, NikkieTutorials, Cameron Dallas, Aaron Rose Philip, Gottmik, Ox Zung, Nic Kaufmann, Akam, Paola Locatelli, Juanpa Zurita, David Dobrik, Richarlison, Karl-Anthony Towns, Fernando Alonso, Xavi Simons, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, Suresh Raina, Anthony Santos and Zaire Wade.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by BOSS (@boss)

The stars all tagged their posts: “‘BOSSES AREN’T BORN, THEY’RE MADE’ @boss #beyourownboss.”

“Conviction, effort, and faith in the process. BOSSes aren’t born. They’re made,” the brand shared on its Instagram account. 


Netflix releases first trailer of Gigi Hadid, Tan France’s ‘Next in Fashion’

Netflix releases first trailer of Gigi Hadid, Tan France’s ‘Next in Fashion’
Updated 27 January 2023

Netflix releases first trailer of Gigi Hadid, Tan France’s ‘Next in Fashion’

Netflix releases first trailer of Gigi Hadid, Tan France’s ‘Next in Fashion’

DUBAI: Giant streaming service Netflix on Friday unveiled the first trailer of the second season of “Next in Fashion,” which Part-Palestinian catwalk star Gigi Hadid co-hosts alongside British TV personality Tan France. 

The new season will be released on March 3, Hadid said in her Instagram post. 

“So excited to join Tan France,” she wrote to her 77 million followers. “We had the most special and fun time with these designers and can’t wait for you to meet them!”

 

 

The first season of the fashion competition show, which premiered in January 2020, featured 18 designers who faced weekly design challenges to win a $250,000 prize and a chance to have their collection sold on Net-a-Porter.

This season will feature a group of up-and-coming talents who will compete to win $200,000, and “the chance to share their designs with the world,” the streaming service said. 

 “Hey, hey! Nobody booked you to model, dear,” France tells Hadid, who enters the room twirling as a catwalk star, in the trailer. “You’ve got an actual job to do.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

 

The short trailer shows separate scenes of Hadid speaking to the designers. “Are you guys ready?” she said in one clip, while in another she motivated the competitors saying: “Fashion should be fun.” 

In another scene, she was seen wearing her iconic red Versace skintight catsuit that consisted of a leather corset paired with pointed-toe knee-high boots and a voluminous, billowing red coat, which she wore to the Met Gala in 2022. 

“Tanny?” she says. “I’m gonna need some help getting down from here.” 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

 

 Hadid first announced that she will take part in the new season in February 2022. 

“Netflix is casting designers now for season 2. I know there are many designers out there that deserve a platform like this. Second-guessing yourself? Please just go for it. This is your sign and your chance. Show us your creations,” she told her followers at the time, sharing a poster that featured her and France.

Filming for the show began in April 2022, according to the model. 

Hadid took to Instagram to share her excitement over the forthcoming episodes at the time and talk about her co-host, calling the British reality television star her “brother” and saying that shooting the new show together has been “a joy of my life.”

France also lauded his “Next in Fashion” co-host and dubbed her an “amazing mom.”