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Underworld Blood Wars: Vampire Franchise Outstays its Welcome
Published On: 06/12/2016

Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative. The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone's favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind. Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone's safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter. Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn't enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can't hurt anyone. Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously. All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day. 

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KRISS: Cut, Bleach, Dye & Style at One of Cairo's Best Salons
Published On: 05/12/2016

What better way to spend a rainy afternoon in Cairo than looking out onto the flooded streets from a warm salon chair as someone brushes your hair? The visit to KRISS salon in New Cairo didn't exactly start out as seamlessly, though; the telephone manner of the receptionist was found wanting, to say the least, as she opted to cover the mouthpiece with her hand instead of putting me on hold as she hollered at a colleague for help because she didn't understand what a bleach and dye treatment was. Another let-down, was that of KRISS' six branches, only one features a ladies-only section- the New Cairo salon located opposite Rehab Gate 6, at The Corner Mall. However, things improved once inside the glass-front salon, which was a little on the small side square footage-wise, but cosy with cream-coloured walls, floors and decor. After being guided to a black patent-leather salon chair, one of the two ladies' stylists asked what was to be done. When treatments were added to the appointment that weren't previously arranged for, she was pleasantly accommodating and began to appraise the head of hair in question before getting started. The stylist stated that a cut would cost 150 LE, bleaching and dying would be 400 LE each (measured by how many millilitres of product was used) and the final styling would come to 100 LE. Altogether, a pricey day at the coiffeur, but the treatments are actually fairly priced when you consider them individually. The hair was spritzed with water and combed thoroughly before being braided and cut; KRISS is one of the few salons in Cairo that understands how to cut hair that is to be donated to Cancer foundations to be made into wigs. What they did with the remaining 12cm of hair was brilliant. Pixie cuts are becoming a trend among Egyptian women and KRISS has definitely caught on and learned a thing or two about how to create them. The stylist was precise – even snipping a little extra off after the final styling, making sure the 'do played up bone structure (including the now close-cut back of the head and nape of the neck). Then it was time for a bleaching – not exactly everyone's favourite experience; the stylist made sure to dry the hair before applying the colour-zapping mixture in order to minimise the burning sensation we all dread. They were also careful to check the progress of the treatment every 15 minutes or so to make sure the hair wasn't overly-bleached or damaged. When the desired tone was achieved, the hair was washed with L'Oreal shampoo, dried with a towel that came in plastic packaging (we're assuming it was dry-cleaned) and brushed before L'Oreal permanent dye was applied. Throughout the whole process, a blue plastic cape was used to ensure any spills didn't cause dire discolorations on clothes – this was a nice change from the spare towel salons usually use. One thing that didn't differ between KRISS and other hair salons, however, was the stylist's neglect to clean away excess dye from the ears during/after the dye was rinsed out. Once the colour was set, the stylist got out the blow-dryer and flatiron and went to town, styling the 'do almost exactly like in the reference picture that they'd been shown. Needless to say, we were well-pleased with the drastic before-after result and would definitely go again. The salon also caters to men, so would make for a neat unconventional date (like couples' massages, but cheaper!). In addition, KRISS features a mani-pedi section stocked with Essie polishes, including gels. To see what else KRISS offers and book an appointment, visit their Facebook page. 

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Yves Rocher: Quality Beauty Products at Reasonable Prices
Published On: 05/12/2016

Although shopping has the magical ability to elevate the spirit, there's something special about shopping for cosmetics and beauty products; the thrill of a simple lipstick or foundation transforming your look outweighs that of a new outfit which, unlike cosmetics, won't be worn every day. As glorious as it is to shop for cosmetics, spending a fortune is inevitable; when quality is indispensable, it's better to endanger a bank account than putting health at stake. However, some brands manage to balance the equation by offering good quality products with decent prices, and Yves Rocher happens to be one of them. Located next to US Polo in Mall of Arabia, the small shop boasts a collection of nature-inspired beauty products; from scented creams and anti-aging products, to makeup and fragrances. Starting with the makeup stand, Yves Rocher has all the items needed to make a decent makeup kit. Available in different tones, we tried the Zero Defaut creamy foundation (271LE), whose smooth texture gives full coverage without the dreaded cakey effect. Of the same smooth texture, Yves Rocher has two lines of lipsticks, which share almost the same nude tones but differ in finishes. The first is reasonably priced (130LE), however, it has a slightly outdated shimmer that makes it almost impossible to wear these days, while the considerably more wearable second line, which boasts an almost-matte finish, costs a dear 190LE. Since winter time demands well-moisturised skin, we shuffled through the stand where scented creams are on display along other complementary products like shower gels (400ml – 113LE). Yves Rocher has the usual fruity scents, like berries and coconut (50ml – 44LE), but those who are not into sugary scents will find Hydra Vegetal (119LE); a good option with an equally fresh scent – especially as it can be used as a facial cream. But not everything at Yves Rocher follows the same good value-for-money; we noticed that the brand's perfumes are a little overpriced. A 50ml-bottle of perfume, for example, starts from 375LE, and goes up to a hefty 575LE. Apart from the expensive perfumes, though, Yves Rocher's prices across their makeup, hand creams and moisturisers are actually quite reasonable if compared to other brands of the same calibre – making it one of those places where you enter looking for a certain item, but walk out of with a handful of products. 

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Il Divino Pizzeria: New Pizza, Pastas & More at One of Cairo's Best
Published On: 05/12/2016

Known for being one of the best pizza restaurants in Cairo, Il Divino recently announced the launch of a new menu that includes new pastas, sandwiches and pizzas, as well as salads and desserts. Even though the Zamalek branch is quite small, the service from the very start at the time of our visit was rather unorganised; we had planned to kick things off with the Insalata Di Quinoa Con Gamberie Agrumi (78LE) as an appetiser, but we were served the pizza before anything else. The pizza in question was the Bufala (65LE) pizza. Topped with perfectly-seasoned tomato sauce, a generous amount of fresh buffalo cheese and complimented with fresh basil leaves, the thin crust pizza was perfectly executed and everything tasted fresh, leaving us wondering why this classic wasn't on the menu before. After almost finishing the pizza, the salad was served alongside an order of Linguine Frutti Di Mare (90LE) too. As a mixture of quinoa, avocado, baby shrimp, chickpeas, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and citrusy vinaigrette, the portion of the Insalata Di Quinoa Con Gamberie Agrumi was huge. Despite the slight un-freshness of the shrimp, the feta cheese and the vinaigrette added great flavours and it made for an overall light salad. After almost finishing the pizza, the salad was served alongside an order of Linguine Frutti Di Mare (90LE) too. As a mixture of quinoa, avocado, baby shrimp, chickpeas, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and citrusy vinaigrette, the portion of the Insalata Di Quinoa Con Gamberie Agrumi was huge. Despite the slight un-freshness of the shrimp, the feta cheese and the vinaigrette added great flavours and it made for an overall light salad. We finished our meal with Calzone Nutella (55LE) for dessert – a calzone stuffed with Nutella and topped with more Nutella. On paper the dessert seemed delicious, but the result was rather disappointing. The dough was too dry and thick and the scant amount of filling wasn't distributed equally. A jar of Nutella costs 130LE these days, though. All in all, we had mixed feelings about our visit at Il Divino. The new additions of the sandwiches and salads have made it into a suitable breakfast or brunch destination, and the pastas now has more variety. On the other hand, the service, the imperfections in the salad and dessert didn't do justice to a restaurant that regularly serves up terrific pizzas and whose new pastas could look like they're going to be just as good.

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Hayda: New Branch, Familiar Flavours at Galleria Moon Valley
Published On: 04/12/2016

There's a general rule on the Cairo restaurant scene that suggests when a restaurant opens a second branch, it affects the overall quality of the original, so we were rather worried when we paid the new branch of Hayda a visit. Recently opened at Galleria Moon Valley Mall in New Cairo, the interior uses the same famous chairs, pink and turquoise colour scheme, posters of Lebanese stars on the walls, and white Islamic patterns, but on a smaller scale. The venue has two separated indoor areas; the first one has only four tables and a linear table-set-up that looks like an open buffet, while the second is more spacious and has a lot more seats. We kicked things off with Sambosek Spinach (35LE); four pieces of triangular pastry filled with spinach and walnuts. The pastry had a great crispy crust and a soft interior and the spinach was perfectly seasoned and had a terrific zesty kick to it, while the walnuts added a great crunchy component. Moving to the mains, we opted first for the Kofta Azmeer (80LE), which came as three pieces of grilled meatballs stuffed with mushrooms and served in a huge bowl filled with tomato sauce and then sprinkled with parsley and cheese. Despite its appeal, the dish was just very disappointing. Served with rice topped with a scarce amount of toasted nuts, the meatballs themselves were very dry, the mushroom centre was very similar to the canned variety and was completely untreated which made the meatballs feel tougher and drier. Meanwhile, there was far too much tomato sauce, which was bland, while the cheese didn't really add anything. On the other hand, the Sausage Fatteh (65LE) was considerably better, though not perfect. The sausage itself was seasoned well and had a great texture and the rice was cooked perfectly; but the bread at the bottom was a bit soggy and the fatteh was topped with tahini not yogurt sauce as promised on the menu. Overall though, it was pretty good. We finished our meal with Konafah Naboulsy (50LE) with Nutella and Bananas. It wasn't our first time to try Hayda's outstanding Konafah Naboulsy and thankfully it had the same crispy crunch, the same stretchy cheese and the same spot-on sweetness, but with the addition of the Nutella, which made for a good match with the fruity, fresh bananas. But although those two ingredients worked together, we felt it was a bit too much with the cheese. These kinds of desserts are usually a hit with diners, but it wasn;t exactly the most innovative of combinations – the chocolate, banana and cheese just never came together as a trio. This summed up our visit at Hayda's new branch perfectly – it had its ups and downs. We loved the service and the cosy ambiance, but it's definitely not as striking as the Nile-side Giza branch and, at the time of our visit, there were several issues with the food.

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Hardwired... to Self-Destruct: Metallica Return to Form with First Studio Album in Eight Years
Published On: 04/12/2016

Having released no new material for almost a decade, Metallica finally return to the scene with their latest album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. Written mostly by James Hatfield and Lars Ulrich, this is the first album that doesn't include any song writing contributions from Kirk Hammett since he joined the band in 1983; when the album was being written, he lost his phone in a Copenhagen airport which included 250 riff ideas so he had to start from scratch. The two disk album has 12 tracks in total with 6 on each that still retain the thrash metal vibe that Metallica has come to be known for. Following the same fast pace, the first song ,'Hardwired' starts with a steady drum and guitar riff that will get you head banging and tapping your feet in no time. With strong songs like 'Moth into Flame' and 'Halo on Fire', the first disk has the familiar thrash tropes that make it what it is; it's fast, it's hard, it's in your face and has an attitude, which is what makes Metallica so awesome. However, the first disk is not without fault; the fifth song 'Dream No More' feels out of place musically as its rhythm and guitar work doesn't feel cohesive with the rest of the songs on the disk, as if it was supposed to be on a different disk or in another album as it goes from fast then slow and conflicting itself. The second disk, on the other hand, starts on a different note with songs like 'Am I Savage?' and 'Here Comes Revenge' following a slower tone than the rest of the album, though 'Spit out the Bone' might be the fastest song on the whole album and will surely make you feel like you need to catch your breath afterwards. As a whole, the album sounds like one huge song, especially the first disk which feels fluid and, in a way, follows a rhythmic pattern; however, the second feels a bit tamed and toned down, as even though it has some fast-as-lighting guitar work, it still lacks some oomph to it. Still, it offers a level of satisfaction for diehard fans who have waited for eight years for new material. All in all, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct is a great addition to the band's discography; the band members have given it their all, while not showing their age. We just hope it doesn't take them another eight years till the next one 

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Man Down: Shia Lebouf Performance Wasted in Superficial War Drama
Published On: 03/12/2016

As an exploration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the military, Dito Montiel's Man Down is a muddled story that's pretty challenging to sit through. Though on paper there's plenty of potential depth in this particular effect of war – and a solid cast at its disposable – the film descends into military-movie clichés, while not really keeping up with its complex set-up. The movie to take place over four separate time periods and opens with U.S Marine Gabriel Drummer (LeBeouf) and his military buddy, Devin Roberts (Courtney), making their way through a vast and seemingly wasted American landscape which appears to have been destroyed by a chemical attack. On the look-out for survivors, the pair is hoping to find Drummer's son, Jonathan (Shotwell), whom he believes has been kidnapped. Before the audience gets a chance to find out what is really going in, the story flashes back to another time period where a seemingly distraught Drummer is being interviewed by Counselor Peyton (Oldman) about an 'incident' that occurred on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Moving on to yet to another period, we also get to see the story of Drummer and Roberts during their Marine Corps training at Camp Lejeune before, eventually, cutting to the story of Drummer's life at home with wife, Natalie (Mara) and their son. Taking on several narrative threads without really knowing where to take them, let alone how to put them back together, is one of Man Down's major issues. Used to give some kind of visual interpretation of PTSD, the movie's choppy editing is ineffective and comes across as a messy, superficial tool. Clocking in at precisely ninety minutes, Man Down is a relatively short film but, thanks to the overworked script and slow pace, it takes forever for any of the stories to build into something bigger. Working its way through a series of military clichés, the story works best when it is focused on digging into Drummer's fractured mind, with the conversation between him and his counsellor – played by the seemingly wasted talent of one Gary Oldman – serving to be one of the movie's best elements. LeBeouf is convincing as a troubled soldier desperately trying not to sink deeper into madness and his commitment to the role is commendable, making it all that more frustrating to see that the script itself is so lacking.

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8 Restaurant: Authentic Asian Cuisine Meets Fine-Dining at Four Seasons Nile Plaza
Published On: 02/12/2016

News flash: everything you've ever thought you've known about Chinese cuisine is false. It's become common knowledge that Chinese staples such as chop suey and even fortune cookies are products of Western appropriation, but authentic Chinese cuisine is even further away from what we know. This is no more apparent in Egypt than at Four Seasons Nile Plaza's 8 Restaurant – a sophisticated eatery that largely stands untroubled in its position as the best high-end Chinese restaurant in Cairo. While it has the five-star hotel finish that you expect, there's also a certain element of lived-in nonchalance, best exhibited by various ornamental touches that stand apart from the sleeker aesthetic it also boasts. The staff – who are mostly of Asian descent – also add to this balance, in that they're almost clinically attentive and prompt, but warm and welcoming all the same. There's also a certain balance to the menu, which covers all tastes – meat, chicken, seafood, vegetarian, fried, fresh and much more – across an eclectic selection of dishes. Inspired by 8's weekly Friday dim sum buffet, we chose to start with what turned out to be possibly the best example of the Chinese dumpling in the city. The steamed shrimp dumpling (115LE/3 pieces) was delicious, though lacked any noticeable traces of bamboo shoots as stated in the menu, while the shrimp and fried goose liver dim sum (95LE/ 3 pieces, was cooked to perfection – and by that we mean without dripping with oil – with the goose liver and shrimp working out as a surprisingly good combo, particularly the former which was smooth and of noticeably good quality. The mains, however, is when you realise how skewed mainstream Chinese cuisine has become; everything at 8 is incredibly fresh and light – two things you don't usually associate with this type of food. Seasoning and other herb-usage is restrained, leaving the food do speak for itself. The Slowly Roasted Scallop dish (365LE) is the perfect example of this; served in a chilli butter sauce, the scallop pieces were a little tougher than one would hope, but the simplicity of the dish is genius and the accompanying stewed vegetables made for an even simpler but sensible side. A second scallop dish, this time with sautéed beef (360LE), showed the slightly more complex side of things at 8's kitchen. With the scallops being sautéed rather than roasted, the consistency was much better, while its combination with the beef and its juices was perfect. The only disappointment was that the satay sauce mentioned in the menu was pretty indiscernible. We gobbled down our delicate dishes with another seemingly familiar dish – wok fried egg noodles (92LE). Unlike the jumble of a dish we are used to calling noodles, 8's version doesn't throw a load of stuff into the wok – all the elements work for a certain reason; the noodles themselves have a slight dryness that leaves the vegetables and mushrooms to add a textural touch and a depth in flavour. And this seems like the key to 8's success – although the dishes seem simple (the menu affords each item nothing more than a few words as descriptions) each ingredient is treated with the utmost respect and serves a purpose within its dish. Typical hotel prices aside, 8 offers a unique culinary experience that no Asian restaurant can quite measure up to in Cairo.

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Allied: WWII Espionage Thriller Lacks Heart
Published On: 01/12/2016

On the surface, Robert Zemecki's slick and a technically pristine WWII-set romantic-espionage-thriller looks like a winner. Boasting an impressive cast and a script by Peaky Blinders' Steven Knight, everything about Allied points to success. However, although visually striking and overall satisfying in terms of action, it's the film's central story - the romantic pairing between Mr. Pitt and Ms. Cotillard – fails to ever really get going, leaving the film a little hollow and difficult to invest in. Set in 1942, the story begins with the introduction of Canadian intelligence officer, Max Vatan (Pitt), who finds himself on a mission in Morocco with French Resistance fighter, Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), who is to play the role of his wife during a covert operation that involves assassinating a high-ranking Nazi official. After successfully carrying out their assignment, the pair's pretend relationship soon turns into the real thing with the duo soon marrying and welcoming a baby girl into the world, as they settle in war-torn Britain. However, things are soon turned upside down for Max when he is informed by his by-the-books boss, Frank Heslop (Mad Men's Jared Harris), that Marianne is currently under investigation and that she, in fact, may be a Nazi spy. Given seventy-two hours to prove her innocence before he will need to kill her, Max soon sets out on his own investigation. Aesthetically, the film embraces an old-Hollywood approach, with a certain sense of nostalgic glamour and elegance present through the minutes. Told through a wonderfully slick lens frequent Zemeckis collaborator, cinematographer Don Burgess, there's a certain style and sophistication to every single frame. But while the film is pleasing to the eye and Steven Knight's script boasts plenty of moments of suspense and intrigue, there's a serious lack of heart missing from the story, which turns the more passionate moments into melodrama. In addition, the romance between the two leads is never really sold. Both Pitt and Cotillard definitely look the part and when they are not onscreen together, their performances are affective. However, it's when they share the screen and viewers are asked to buy into their love story that it all goes south. Allied is a functional and an effective WWII spy thriller. It's just not as captivating or engaging of a romance-drama that it sells itself to be. 

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Shawarmaister: Stepping Up Cairo's Shawerma Game with New Twists
Published On: 30/11/2016

As far as we know, the biggest twist on shawerma in Cairo involves pomegranate molasses; and if you're really out-of-the-box maybe you'll add extra cheese. Well, that's so yesterday because Shawarmaister is taking shawerma to the next level by introducing Coleslaw shawerma and BBQ shawerma, as well as a Light shawerma. Located on Taha Hussein Street in Zamalek, the restaurant is divided into two floors; the ground floor is for takeout and other is for dine-in. The whole place is filled with posters with seemingly irrelevant quotes and sayings like "Ma bethez el 3orosh ela El neswan wel qorosh", which make no sense whatsoever to the concept, while the yellow ceiling is a little overwhelming compared to the otherwise demure interior. On the bright side, the couches were very comfortable and the ambiance is very chill. We kicked things off with Kobeba (20LE) and French Fries with a Garlic sauce dip (5LE). Apart from being a bit salty, the kobeba had a crispy exterior and great amount of flavourful minced beef filling. Even though the garlic sauce had a good consistency for dipping and was delicious, the fries didn't need a dip, because not only were they cooked perfectly and far from oily, but also had very impressive seasoning blend. Moving to the mains, we opted for the Kofta Halabi Platter (45LE); four pieces of kofta with a side of basmati rice and a special halabi sauce that we had mixed feelings towards. The rice was light, fluffy and had a beautiful yellow colour which had us expecting exquisite flavours from the spices – but it was just bland. Meanwhile, despite bursting with flavours thanks to the seasoning, the kofta was a bit dry and overcooked. As for the special halabi sauce, the waiter mentioned that it was infused with mustard, coleslaw and has sweet and sour flavours, but it was just your typical tehina. Of the new shawarma, we tried BBQ Shawarma Lahm sandwich (Large 22.5LE). Served in Saj bread, the mixture of beef shawarma – which was a bit chewy - caramelised onion, BBQ sauce and coleslaw created an exquisite modern twist on the classic shawarma. If you're into sweet and savoury fusion, then this is the perfect sandwich for you. We couldn't leave without also chicken shawarma. Served in Lebanese bread, the Shawarmaister Shawarma Djej (Regular 17.5LE) was filled to the brim with chicken, the restaurants amazing fries, pickled cucumber,and garlic sauce. With the generous amount of filling and the sharp flavours, this sandwich showed simplicity at its best. Despite service being slow at the time of our visit, we can't help but appreciate Shawarmaister adding twists to a classic and actually making it work. Whether you're looking for a basic chicken or beef shawerma or something a little more out-of-the-box, there are few places better than Shawarmaister.

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Cairo Weekend Guide: Cairo Art Fair II, Mada Masr's Birthday, Cochlea Anniversary & More!

There are few sweeter words in the English language than 'three-day weekend' and Cairo's bars, cultural centres and venues haven't disappointed with what's shaping up to be an eventful few days. Shall we begin? One of the biggest events on Thursday sees event organiser, Cochlea, take over Venue Loun