The best movies of 2024 so far 

The best movies of 2024 so far 
‘Dune: Part Two.’ (Supplied) 
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Updated 21 June 2024
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The best movies of 2024 so far 

The best movies of 2024 so far 
  • Senegal shines, ‘Hit Man’ is a hit, and Zendaya slays it — twice

‘Dune: Part Two’ 

The second instalment in Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi saga isn’t just one of this year’s best films, but has a strong argument for being one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. It follows Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalomet) as he attempts to earn the trust of the native Fremen people of the desert planet Arrakis to persuade them to help him take down House Harkonnen, who are responsible for the massacre of Paul’s own house. This sprawling second chapter covers some heavy themes, including love versus duty, religious extremism, and the morality of violence, but always keeps sight of the need to entertain its audience. This it does throughout its almost three-hour running time with some dazzling battle sequences, the central love story between two of Hollywood’s biggest young stars (Chalomet and Zendaya’s fierce Fremen woman Chani), and thrilling sandworm rides.  

‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ 

With two hugely bankable stars (Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth), a lauded director (George Miller), and the fact that it’s a prequel and spin-off to one of the finest action movies of the past 10 years (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) — itself a part of a hugely popular post-apocalyptic franchise, “Furiosa” looked set to be one of the year’s box-office blockbusters. Instead, it was a relative flop. But that shouldn’t be taken as any reflection of its quality: Taylor-Joy is excellent in the lead role, finding an emotional connection to Charlize Theron’s portrayal of Furiosa in “Fury Road,” Hemsworth holds nothing back in his performance as the evil warlord biker Dementus, the action scenes are astounding (of course, it’s George Miller), the screenplay (uncommonly for a “Mad Max” film) has real depth, and the whole thing makes for brilliant big-screen entertainment.  

‘Hit Man’ 

Despite the title, director Richard Linklater’s latest isn’t filled with cunningly planned “Killing Eve”-style assassinations. Instead, it’s an entertaining blend of noir-thriller, black comedy, and romance held together by Glenn Powell in the lead role of Gary Johnson, a mild-mannered university professor who adopts a variety of personas while working for the New Orleans police department as a fake contract killer in order to catch people thinking of hiring an actual assassin. That wild premise is actually based (very loosely) on a true story. Johnson finds himself in trouble when he falls hard for a potential client, the beautiful Madison (Adria Arjona). Unwilling to get her sent to prison, he begins a relationship with her, but as “Ron,” his latest alter-ego. Inevitably, Johnson’s plan doesn’t go smoothly, and the results make for a great cinematic romp. 

‘Io Capitano’ 

Migrants and refugees have become populist political scapegoats, and with so much news coverage around the clock inuring others to the hardships those groups face, it takes something special to cut through. Director Matteo Garrone and his Senegalese star Seydou Sarr provide it with “Io Capitano,” which follows two young cousins, Seydou and Moussa, on a perilous journey from Dakar to Europe — a journey they undertake not because of the threat of starvation or violence, but because they want to travel and see the world, just as young people in the developed world do. Garrone mixes magical realism and graphic horror to convey the traumas the cousins have to deal with, and, in Seydou, gives us a memorable hero. The dialogue may be sparse, but “Io Capitano” packs a real emotional punch.    

‘Challengers’ 

Hollywood’s brightest young female star, Zendaya, steals the show in Luca Guadagnino’s sporty romantic drama. She plays former tennis prodigy Tashi Duncan, who’s now a coach after an injury forced her retirement. She’s coaching her husband, Art (Mike Faist), who just needs a US Open win to complete a Career Grand Slam. But Art is struggling with form and fitness, so Tashi enters him in a minor event in New York, hoping he’ll pick up a win and a confidence boost. But facing him is his former best friend (and competitor for Tashi’s affections), Patrick (Josh O’Connor). And it seems like he’s still carrying a torch for her, and vice-versa. The story gets pretty silly, but the performances of — and chemistry between — its three stars make “Challengers” a lot of fun. Great soundtrack, too. 

‘Civil War’ 

Alex Garland’s dystopian thriller — which follows a team of war journalists traveling from New York to Washington DC during a US civil war between an authoritarian government and a loose coalition of regional factions — has proven divisive, with some arguing Garland is championing style (this is the most expensive film so far made by distributor A24) over substance, and others arguing that there’s too much intellectual substance and not enough emotion. All of which suggests that maybe Garland has pitched his take on the horror of war, and the traumas faced by those involved and those reporting on it, just right. Visually, it’s stunning — the shots of war-torn suburbia as breathtaking as the famous scene from 2002’s “28 Days Later” (which Garland wrote) when Cillian Murphy awakes from a coma and staggers out into London’s abandoned streets — and Garland proves a master at ratcheting up the suspense whenever a new encounter happens. Treat it as entertainment, and not a thesis, and “Civil War” is worth a watch.  


Squatwolf expands in Saudi Arabia with new warehouse, fitness events

Squatwolf expands in Saudi Arabia with new warehouse, fitness events
Updated 10 sec ago
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Squatwolf expands in Saudi Arabia with new warehouse, fitness events

Squatwolf expands in Saudi Arabia with new warehouse, fitness events
  • UAE brand opens warehouse able to handle 30,000 orders a day
  • Company was founded in 2016 by Anam Khalid and Wajdan Gul

DUBAI: From starting as a passion project to now serving athletes in over 200 countries, Squatwolf, the gym-wear brand co-founded by Anam Khalid and Wajdan Gul, is expanding in Saudi Arabia.

The founders have opened a  warehouse in the Kingdom.

The Saudi Arabia warehouse can process up to 30,000 orders a day and ensures same-day delivery in Riyadh and next-day delivery to major cities, including Jeddah, Dammam, Alkhobar and Makkah. (Supplied)

“We take pride in being the first gym-wear brand in the Kingdom that is supporting Vision 2030, fueling the power of the gym as a playground of self-improvement to all,” Khalid told Arab News recently.

“Our Saudi warehouse is a demonstration to our commitment as a UAE brand to support the region and go all in.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SQUATWOLF (@squatwolf)

The Saudi Arabia warehouse can process up to 30,000 orders a day and ensures same-day delivery in Riyadh and next-day delivery to major cities, including Jeddah, Dammam, Alkhobar and Makkah, Gul said.

The brand plans to collaborate with retail and gym partners, local ambassadors and organize community events to support their expansion goals.

“We’re here to recognize every gym-goer, regardless of their fitness level,” Khalid said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SQUATWOLF (@squatwolf)

Gul confirmed that The Squatwolf Games, a prominent fitness event in Dubai, is set to make its debut in Saudi Arabia.

“Yes, Squatwolf Games is coming to Saudi and coming in big. We’re constantly evolving the games to something bigger and better.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SQUATWOLF (@squatwolf)

The brand will also participate in the KSA Muscle Show, further engaging with the local fitness community.

The company was founded in 2016 by Khalid and Gul. “It all started when Gul and I realized there wasn’t a gym-wear brand in the region that matched our love for the gym, its community, and the impact it has on all aspects of our life,” Khalid said.

Gul believes the fitness and activewear market in the Kingdom is booming. “With the Saudi 2030 Vision in place, more gyms are opening up every day, fitness is becoming a way of life and staying healthy is on everyone’s radar,” he explained.

“Being the first gym-wear brand in the MENA region, including Saudi Arabia, gives us a competitive advantage to stay one step ahead across insight-driven product performance, local communities and gym-goer demands,” Khalid added.


Lebanese actress Cynthia Khalifeh carves out a path in Hollywood with ‘Borderline’

Lebanese actress Cynthia Khalifeh carves out a path in Hollywood with ‘Borderline’
Updated 21 July 2024
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Lebanese actress Cynthia Khalifeh carves out a path in Hollywood with ‘Borderline’

Lebanese actress Cynthia Khalifeh carves out a path in Hollywood with ‘Borderline’

LOS ANGELES: Lebanese actress Cynthia Khalifeh is teaming up with Lucien Laviscount from “Emily in Paris” and Laura Marano of “The Royal Treatment” for the horror-thriller “Borderline.”

The former TV presenter is also eyeing future projects as she aims to achieve her Hollywood dream.

“I’m one step forward on the path to achieving my big dream since I was young, which is to act in international films. So, baby steps and I really feel like I am a bit closer,” Khalifeh told Arab News in an interview.

“It was a lot of risks that I had to take, a lot of just jumping on adventures where I didn’t have anything that was guaranteed.”

“Borderline”, a film shot in a specially constructed studio in Malta, highlights the darkest fears associated with dating apps.

“It talks about online dating and how sometimes you might go to meet someone you don’t know, and there’s a certain danger,” Khalifeh said.

The actress said the show is called “Borderline’ because, “they meet in a place located at the border between two countries, so there is no law applied from this country or the other, so anything can happen in this place.”

“The girl or I find myself stuck over there in one night, contained, in one place, trying to run away from this person but I face him at the end. I learnt a lot of fights,” she added.

About her co-star Laviscount, she said: “Lucien plays a completely different role than that of the handsome sweet guy that all girls fell for in ‘Emily in Paris.’ Here, you will not like him at all.”

Khalifeh’s contributions to the screenplay led to her role as co-writer of the film. Choosing horror to launch her global career, she hopes to dominate this year’s Halloween season.

“I started throwing ideas and then they told me, ‘You know what? Do you want to join in?’ It happened and I joined the writing team,” she said.


Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown

Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown
Updated 20 July 2024
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Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown

Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown

LONDON: Thanks in no small part to the COVID-19 pandemic, we never really got to find out what audiences made of 2020’s “My Spy,” in which CIA operative JJ (Dave Bautista) is forced to team up with precocious 9-year-old Sophie (Chloe Coleman) to take down an international arms cartel.

The movie’s cinematic release, and subsequent box office receipts, were curtailed by global lockdowns as the film went straight to streaming, and found an audience suddenly a lot more tolerant of decidedly average content.

Anna Faris as Nancy and Dave Bautista as JJ in ‘My Spy: The Eternal City.’ (Supplied)

You wonder if, had audiences been able to vote with their feet first time around, “My Spy: The Eternal City” might never have seen the light of day. For while this is ostensibly a comedy-action romp co-starring a teenager, it is also a weirdly violent, oddly graphic spy caper that does not seem too sure of what it is trying to be.

JJ and Chloe now live in suburban almost-harmony. He has taken a desk job so he can be at home more, while she rebels against his overbearing presence and constant demands she keeps up her spy training. When JJ offers to chaperone a school trip to Italy, he must balance being a cool stepdad with a rapidly unfolding plot to blow up the Vatican in which the pair become embroiled.

Returning for the sequel are Ken Jeong as JJ’s boss, and Kristen Schaal as his nerdy analyst Bobbi. But if you are hoping that continuity of casting means a coherent follow up to the 2020 original, you are in for a disappointment.

Chloe Coleman as Sophie and Dave Bautista as JJ on the set ‘My Spy: The Eternal City.’ (Supplied)

Director Pete Segal (also returning) starts off with the same familiar, comedic beats (and leans heavily on this franchise’s spiritual predecessors “Kindergarten Cop” and “The Pacifier”) but makes the baffling choice to turn up the violence.

The sequence with some attack budgerigars is a particular lowlight, and the bottom-drawer comedy with jokes about bodily functions and a fight involving a naked statue.

It is all a bit of a mess, which is a shame, because Bautista (so good with deadpan comedy in the Marvel movies) and Coleman manage to recreate some of the same chemistry that was one of the few good things about the original.

That film was not great, sure, but compared to this, it seems like a fondly remembered masterpiece.


Adidas faces backlash for dropping Bella Hadid from sneaker campaign

Adidas faces backlash for dropping Bella Hadid from sneaker campaign
Updated 19 July 2024
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Adidas faces backlash for dropping Bella Hadid from sneaker campaign

Adidas faces backlash for dropping Bella Hadid from sneaker campaign
  • Shoes linked to 1972 Munich Games killing of Israeli athletes.

LONDON: Adidas on Friday dropped American model Bella Hadid from an advertising campaign for sneakers that are associated with the 1972 Munich Olympics, following criticism from pro-Israeli groups.

The German sportswear company apologized for the “upset and distress” caused by choosing Hadid, whose father is Palestinian, as the face of its relaunched SL72 sports shoes. The original version of the footwear was created for the 1972 Games, during which 11 Israeli athletes and a German policeman were killed by a Palestinian militant group.

The relaunch of the shoe last week drew criticism from the Israeli government, in a message posted on social media platform X, and several Jewish groups. They questioned the decision by Adidas to select Hadid to advertise a shoe originally associated with an event during which several Israelis were killed.

Adidas said it would “revise” its campaign and added: “We are conscious that connections have been made to tragic historical events, though these are completely unintentional, and we apologize for any upset or distress caused.”

Hadid has repeatedly made public comments critical of the Israeli government and in support of Palestinians over the years. In an Instagram post dated Oct. 23 last year she described the military campaign launched by Israeli authorities following the Oct. 7 attacks as “the most intense bombardment in the history of Gaza,” and lamented the loss of innocent Palestinian lives.

“US White House National Security Council dangerously says Israel ‘owes no one any justification’ and that it will have ‘no red lines.’ Innocent lives should always be justified in the name of humanity,” she added.

“Israel has completely shut off telecommunications and electricity across Gaza. Injured civilians currently can’t call ambulances. Medics are begging reporters to let them know where bombardments are happening, but reporters don’t know either because of the internet outage. The people of Gaza have nowhere to go. Children are dying. Please.”

The decision to drop Hadid from the campaign prompted a wave of support for the model on social media, with figures such as journalists Mehdi Hasan and Candace Owens criticizing Adidas. Some people called for a boycott of the company.
 


Mohammed Khoja pays homage to the Kingdom in latest collection 

Mohammed Khoja pays homage to the Kingdom in latest collection 
Updated 20 July 2024
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Mohammed Khoja pays homage to the Kingdom in latest collection 

Mohammed Khoja pays homage to the Kingdom in latest collection 
  • The Saudi fashion designer discusses his new shirts, inspired by different regions of his homeland 

RIYADH: “I was very motivated by (the idea of) integrating my experiences as a Saudi and contributing to the creation of a more contemporary Saudi design identity through my point of view,” Saudi fashion designer Mohammed Khoja, founder of luxury label Hindamme, tells Arab News. “My ultimate goal is to open more doors and to spread Saudi culture to global audiences. 

“Hindamme has grown considerably since its inception, and I am very optimistic about what’s to come. I believe brands such as mine are proving to be more lucrative and I’ve observed an uptick in demand, and opportunities for growth, in recent months,” he continues. 

Hindamme is an old Arabic adjective that roughly “a harmonious aesthetic form.” That is what Khoja hopes to capture in each of his creations — combining a bold but minimalist approach to ready-to-wear fashion.  

Mohammed Khoja is the founder of luxury label Hindamme. (Supplied)

Hindamme’s “Season V” collection, for example, drew on color theory, and included “mood-enhancing” gradients as well as futuristic, nature-inspired themes in fabrics including velvet, nylon, and satin. Khoja debuted those designs in Paris in June last year, along with 15 other Saudi designers at a pop-up event called Emerge, organized by the Saudi Fashion Commission and MoCX, the Saudi Ministry of Culture's General Department of Innovation, in partnership with the Saudi Visual Arts Commission, the Saudi Culinary Arts Commission, and the Saudi Music Commission.  

“Season V” was designed during COVID-19 lockdowns, and was partly inspired by Khoja’s desire to “reconnect” with the Earth. It included a heat temperature-gradient blazer, which Khoja intended as a stark reminder of the threat of climate change. 

For his latest collection, his sixth, the designer was inspired by different regions of his homeland.  

“It is inspired by my love of travel and pays homage to the Kingdom’s drive to promote tourism. I designed pieces that were sort of like elevated post cards for every region — it truly is like a love letter to our cultural diversity. The new designs are also a lesson in visual storytelling; they invite you on a journey to discover each of these glorious regions.” Khoja says.  

Khoja says he spent months conducting extensive research. “I integrated the landmarks of each region that I felt were the most iconic and synonymous. Each design incorporates the iconography of that area, such as Jeddah, Riyadh, Aseer, Eastern Province and AlUla.” 

Here, Khoja discusses some of the pieces from his latest collection. 

AlUla 

“The ancient languages and rock art are important elements for AlUla because of its rich ancient history of Lihyanite and Nabatean civilizations, so I utilized it for the shirt. Along with the ancient inscriptions and carvings, the AlUla shirt is decorated with famous ancient sites and landmarks such as Hegra and Elephant Rock, along with the integration of the majestic Arabian leopard,” the designer says. 

Aseer  

Khoja’s Aseer silk shirt includes a hand-painted backdrop of Rijal AlMaa village, decorated with Al-Qatt Al-Aseeri patterns, which the designer credits as a major source of inspiration throughout his career. “Aseeri culture has always been a great influence. I grew up reading books about the beautiful crafts and how women of the region specialized in this art,” the designer says, adding that Al-Qatt Al-Assiri was also the inspiration for his debut collection. 

Jeddah  

“Jeddah is a colorful array of iconography representing the bright colors of the coastal city,” Khoja says. “Jeddah is very famous for its breathtaking sunsets and I wanted to present its sunsets as the centerpiece. The shirt also includes the famous fountain as well as architecture from Jeddah’s historical district, Al-Balad.” 

Eastern province 

“With the Eastern Province design, I featured iconic landmarks of the region, with refences to Jabal Qarra in AlAhsa, Ithra and Dammam Well No. 7 — the first oil well discovered in the Kingdom,” says Khoja. 

Riyadh 

“The Riyadh silk shirt is another piece of visual storytelling and features iconic modern-day landmarks of our beloved capital such as KAFD, Kingdom Tower, and Al-Faisaliyah Tower. It infuses the rich traditions of its past with a neon homage to Diriyah and motif patterns taken from old Najdi doors,” Khoja said.