DUBAI: “Aladdin” star Mena Massoud is ready to revolutionize content from the Middle East as he announces the first slate of projects out of his company Press Play Productions, which aims to bridge the gap between Hollywood and the Middle East and North Africa.
One of the said projects involves the first non-English adaptation of a Stephen King book.
Adapting “The Doctor’s Case” and titled “The Last King,” the short film will be performed entirely in Farsi and will star an all-Iranian cast, including Maz Jobrani, Sheila Ommi, Marshall Manesh, and Tara Grammy.
Set in Iran, the film reflects the country’s ongoing “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement.
The company’s other announced titles include Canadian TV series “Evolving Vegan,” as well as the films “In Broad Daylight” and festival title “Spaceman.”
“Evolving Vegan” is slated to debut this spring in Canada. It’s a six-part food, travel and adventure series that explores the exploding plant-based food scene across North America.
Press Play is currently in post-production on Massoud’s Arabic-language debut film “In Broad Daylight,” set for a theatrical release later this year. The Egyptian film is centred on a young man who, after leaving his homeland as a young boy, comes back to Egypt as a trained agent to carry out the most dangerous mission of his life.
“Spaceman,” directed by Dan Abramovici, stars Massoud, J.K. Simmons, and one of Canada’s prolific mimes, Trevor Copp.
“In the 1970s, Egypt was the third largest film industry in the world and continues to cultivate a rich and thriving industry for the whole region,” said Massoud in a statement, according to Deadline.
“Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the UAE, and now Saudi Arabia are all breeding grounds for some of the best content in and around the African continent. Press Play will be a driving force in bringing those stories to the West. We have some really exciting projects releasing this year and in the pipeline and I’m thrilled to be bridging the gap between the MENA region and Hollywood.”
With offices in Dubai and Los Angeles, Press Play was founded by Massoud and producing partner Ali Mashayekhi, who heads content development in North America.
Cross is also seen dressed in a Dolce & Gabbana leopard print coat while she says: “I’m so tired of everybody else’s opinions, I can make my own choices” with Younes seen shot fully clothed wearing a black sleeveless blazer by Jil Sander commenting” “What can you lose, when you’re doing you?”
“Younes has such a quiet aura to himself, a kind soul with impeccable style,” creative director of Farfetch Yannis Henrion said in a released statement. “It’s brilliant to be able to portray both sides of the spectrum; showing two great personalities who love to express themselves with their style and make up their own aesthetic.”
“We are so excited to bring this unlikely pair of style icons together for this new campaign,” Henrion added. “Marcia is celebrated as an icon for her confidence and fierce style … We wanted to give Marcia the opportunity to show what her own style looks like since she is just as iconic and fierce in real life as in her best on-screen roles.”
The online retailer previously starred actresses Kim Cattrall and Leighton Meester in their campaigns.
Sahoor sorted: The food trucks and drive-thrus to visit in Saudi Arabia in Ramadan
Updated 30 March 2023
JEDDAH: Looking for a new late-night hangout this month? We’ve got you covered.
This is one of the coolest pitstops to make in Riyadh’s Al-Olaya neighborhood. Asian flavors and Western concepts such as the hamburger collide here to create the most delicious hybrids. Unusual pairings include salted-caramel chicken wings, sesame-toast shrimp and brisket charcoal bao. The baos — fluffy Chinese buns — come pre-stuffed or with a side order of stuffing to allow you to get your mouthful just right. Fans of the food truck’s offerings wax lyrical about Baozi’s Shrimp of Thrones and Loca Chicken Bao. After a loaded sahoor — we recommend ordering a variety of dishes from the menu and sharing the spread with friends; the serving sizes are pretty large — top off the experience with a Hakuna Matata — fried oreo and ice cream — or, in keeping with the season, a wholesome date pudding with ice cream. It’s sure to keep you sated until iftar comes around.
Serial Griller, Jeddah
When Saudi dentist Reham Fozi Shabana decided to ditch her day job for a food truck, little did she know she’d put together a burger joint people would rave about. Drawing from her own childhood, the Jeddah-based entrepreneur now has an eatery that suits the Arab palate; there are homemade burgers and crisp fries with toppings including Cheeto sauce and chicken sauce; chicken wraps; pancakes dripping in chocolate sauce; and, for Ramadan season, a new special: the Vimto slushy. Besides its readymade burgers such as ‘C Killer’ — with crispy chicken breast, cheese and spicy signature sauce, and B Killer, which has beef, cheese and cocktail sauce, Serial Griller also has a DIY BBQ box with food enough for six. The chain has outlets across Jeddah and can also be found on delivery apps.
The Peak, Alkhobar
There’s much to be said for the ambience of this chain — for one thing, there’s outdoor seating under the starlit sky. For another, there’s a pergola to add to the relaxed vibe. But even if you ignore the decor, this place serves up treats enough to draw a crowd. The large portions mean this American-style joint is perfect for sahoor with friends. The food, from burgers to the crunchy fries and cheese, is delicately smoked for that extra ounce of flavor. And for seasonal treats The Peak offers bites such as ice cream custard, with rose petals and pistachios adding a little crunch. Want to be the chef who does it himself and impresses the family while he’s at it? Order The Peak's Special Grill Combo with everything — including mayo and seasoning — for a grill-up at home.
Mumbai On Wheels, Jeddah
Got a hankering for some old-school Indian street food? Head over to this truck near Lulu Mall, in Jeddah’s Marwa area, where you can get pao bhaji (mixed vegetable with buns); papri chaat (small flour cakes with sweet and sour toppings); and vegetarian and non-vegetarian platters, among others. Billed as the city’s first Indian food truck, Mumbai on Wheels aims to emulate the roadside shacks back in India, complete with bright bulbs, a colorful veneer and spicy nosh straight from the Subcontinent. Favorites include the famous vada pav (deep fried potato dumpling in a bun), samosas and phirni (a sweet dish made with rice, milk, sugar and dried fruits). Just bear in mind that, like the logo, the food here is bound to be sizzling!
X Bite, Jeddah
There are no microwaves in this establishment, founded in 2017. The food is prepared fresh for every customer. With a simple cast of American diner favorites — burgers, crispy chicken, shakes and sodas — X Bite has won many fans and has grown to include a restaurant, but its initial outlet on Al-Madinah Al-Munawarah Road remains a big draw. X Bite also has a DIY kit, so sahoor can be a family affair minus travel. But it also goes the extra mile if you are looking for a caterer for a get-together. The team will tailor-make a menu for your guests, be they 40 or 400, they say.
The brainchild of Emirati Amal Al-Marri and Saudi Deem Albassam, Salt offers bite-sized burgers and cheesy fries but also signature delights locals will love, such as Lotus ice cream. Salt launched in the UAE back in 2014 and has expanded from the Emirates to Saudi Arabia, and has a permanent location at the U Walk complex in Riyadh. Try the classic wagyu beef burger with cheese and pickle in a buttered bun for an unforgettable meal. Salt also has trucks in Riyadh, Alkhobar, Dammam and AlUla.
The 60 Pasta, Riyadh
We love eating with our eyes before we eat with our mouth and this food truck delivers with bowls made of bread stuffed with delicious sauce and gooey, cheesy bites that slide down effortlessly. They aren’t stingy with their portion sizes either, so you can share your meal with that special someone. Highlights include truffle pasta, special pasta with spicy chicken, chicken Alfredo, and the signature 60 pasta bowl. Meals are made fresh and so there can be quite a long waiting time, but it’s worth it.
Missing your daily cup of joe? Sip on classic or signature blends at this drive-thru café in Salim Ibn Moqil, An Nakheel. Unique infusions include macha latte, hibiscus watermelon, and infusion coconut latte. For food, there are buttery croissants, sandwiches, tarts and tiramisu. There’s also a place to sit, if you feel like staying a while, but service is quick and quality is unwavering; get ready for a new favorite coffee house.
Cast of ‘Succession’ talk the beginning of the end of smash hit show
It’s one of the most-acclaimed shows of the century, but the dark comedy’s fourth season will be its last
Updated 30 March 2023
DUBAI: There’s a regular lifecycle for a television masterpiece. At first, it’s a sleeper hit, adored by critics and early adopters. As the years go on, if it’s good enough, it grows into something much greater — a phenomenon that becomes so embedded that its quotes and characters become cultural touchstones. All of this has happened with HBO’s “Succession,” which just began its fourth season on OSN+. There’s one step in the cycle, however, that creator Jesse Armstrong is still hoping to avoid — the one where a great show carries on past its prime. And so, with this season, “Succession” will come to an end.
As they filmed this latest season, however, no one knew this (except Armstrong). The cast and crew were shocked and heartbroken. All, that is, except actor Brian Cox, who plays Logan Roy, the domineering and acerbic business mogul whose ‘succession’ plan for his media empire carries the show’s central conflict.
“I’m delighted. I’m very happy that it’s coming to an end,” Cox tells Arab News.
This isn’t to say that Cox is not a fan of the show, or not grateful for the experience. Rather, in his eyes, stories should have endings, no matter how much the world may demand a next chapter.
“Jesse implied to me that it was going to be coming to an end. Everyone else was hopeful that it was going to go on, but I was fine about it. I don’t hang on to things. It wasn’t really decided until around episode six or seven that it was going to be wrap-up time, but in the end, that’s the discipline of (Armstrong),” says Cox.
“A lot of shows go well past their sell-by date. This show will never do that. It’s a good thing that people are mourning the fact that it’s coming to an end. It’s like a death in the family. But I think that’s healthy, and that’s what’s so extraordinary about Jesse — that he had the courage to do it. Never outstay your welcome,” Cox continues.
For his co-stars of course, it wasn’t just a matter of trying to milk out more story. Over the show’s run, while it is often merciless in its portrayal of the Roy family, from its patriarch to his four children and the many hangers-on beyond, it’s also open-hearted to them. The magic of the series is that it takes some of the most unrelatable and unlikable characters ever put on screen and, by focusing on their family dynamics, makes it impossible not to relate to them in some way — and impossible not to wonder who will actually succeed Logan Roy.
“Jesse and the writers realized in the first season, when they had storylines that took the central characters away from each other, that it dissipated the tension and the energy. This family is so addicted to each other and so worried about what the other ones could do behind their back. They don’t fit in anywhere else in the world except with each other. Because of their wealth and elitism, they have no one else to relate to, so it’s family or bust,” says Sarah Snook, who plays Logan’s daughter Siobhan Roy.
The close ties between the characters mirrors the real-life bond between the actors, says Alan Ruck, who plays Logan’s eldest son Connor.
“With all the outlandish things that the writers have asked me to say or do, I think it all comes back to how you relate to the people you're working with,” he explains. “I just have to key into the energy of Sarah Snook, or Kieran Culkin, or Brian Cox or Jeremy Strong, and how much I like them. It keeps me in the room, and in the situation, no matter what crazy things (my character is) saying or doing.”
While Culkin, who plays youngest son Roman, has been in the limelight since he appeared opposite his older brother Macaulay in 1990’s megahit “Home Alone,” what he’ll miss most about the show is the rest of the cast, knowing that it’s unlikely he’ll be working with them again because the show’s popularity would make it difficult for people to get past their character associations. The whole phenomenon thing, though, is a bit lost on him.
“I don’t really have a sense of what a ‘global phenomenon’ is, exactly. My life is small. I do the show, then I’m home with my kids. I never see the scope. I’ll occasionally see a giant poster and go, ‘Oh cool, people are watching it,’” says Culkin. “When we filmed the pilot, I had a lot of fun doing it, but I didn’t know who the heck was going to want to see this show. I still don’t, but I’m glad they did, because we got to do this together.”
Syrian-Cuban artist Jason Seife discusses his digital artwork ‘A Modern Genesis: Spring Garden’
Updated 30 March 2023
DUBAI: The Syrian-Cuban artist discusses his digital artwork that was showcased at Art Dubai in March.
I was born in Miami, but my mother is from Cuba, and my dad from Syria. Growing up in Miami, the Hispanic side felt fulfilled, because I had friends who spoke Spanish and I speak Spanish fluently. But ties to the Middle Eastern side faded off, as my grandparents passed away and I didn’t speak Arabic.
I always found that carpets felt nostalgic. They reminded me of when I was younger. The ones that were family heirlooms, we showcased them on walls. Carpets in general, design-wise, were always intriguing to me. I spent time in Syria, Istanbul, and Iran, studying under actual carpet weavers to understand how they are made so that I can then take it and hopefully make it new and exciting for younger generations to come.
The goal of this piece, for which I worked off an existing carpet, was to make this new, to add life to it. A carpet is just a still image, but when you’re working digitally with animation, you can paint a more complete picture and show what’s really happening. It’s like a comic book, and with this medium, we can narrate as much as we want.
I always start off on an iPad. For this piece, the digital designs existed in my hard drive as reference images for paintings. Once I saw a way of bringing those designs together into works of their own, that became really exciting for me.
It was brought to life by 3D-sculpting every element in it. Every flower, leaf, and vine is 3D-rendered. When you animate something like this, you have to do “rigging,” which is essentially a skeleton that goes inside of the animal or the flower that allows it to move naturally.
Each frame is done individually. When you’re working on something that has so many moving parts, you never know if, when it comes together, it’s going to be nauseating. Part of it is finding the right pace for the animation; this is a 20-second synchronized loop. I wanted it to feel like a symphony — calming and therapeutic, like looking through a window on a spring morning. When it all came together, it was so rewarding.
Arab style stars tapped to show off Italian brand Etro’s latest accessory
Updated 29 March 2023
DUBAI: Iconic Italian luxury brand Etro, known for its ready-to-wear looks with luxurious fabrics and paisley prints, has added a new bag to its roster and collaborated with fashion-forward influencers from the Middle East to show it off.
The brand has tapped names from the region — including Karen Wazen, Ola Farahat and Rym Saidi — to advertise its first-ever bag designed by Creative Director Marco de Vincenzo.
Other popular faces in the campaign include Saudi beauty influencer Yara Al-Namlah, Iraqi blogger Deema Al-Asadi and Palestinian social media star Julia Hussein.
“XOXO gossip girls… There were rumors of a new #EtroVelaBag. Paparazzi say it’s the new age of ‘functionality’ in hand,” posted Al-Namlah on Instagram, along with a few shots of her carrying the bag.
“Makin’ my way downtown— in @etro,” posted Wazen, the Lebanese fashion entrepreneur and social media influencer based out of Dubai.