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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1: First Film of Two-Part Finale
Published On: 23/11/2014

Unlike the first two films in the wildly popular cinematic adaptation of Suzanne Collins' young-adult novels, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I –the first instalment of a two-piece finale – is an underwhelming and slightly hollow watch.  Mockingjay Part I begins shortly after the end of Catching Fire, which saw Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) pulled out and rescued from the games by game-maker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Hoffman), and mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Harrelson). Brought underground and aided by the District 13 rebels – led by President Alma Coin (Moore) –  Katniss is asked to serve as the face of the growing revolt against President Snow and his tyranny over Panem.  However, getting the young-rebel on board is not easy, as Katniss – whose beloved home district was levelled by Snow's bombers in the previous instalment – is still trying to overcome the loss of her fellow District 12 champion, Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), who has now become a prisoner of the Capitol. Desperate to bring Peeta back to safety, Katniss soon agrees to become the 'Mockingjay' and operate as a symbol of hope and resistance for the people of Panem. Just like Harry Potter and Twilight – other similarly structured franchises that have split the big finale into two or three parts – Mockingjay Part 1 feels abrupt. Granted, it's unfair to judge a two-part film as, essentially, one arc is running through both, but a film released on its own can only be watched on its own and this first part spends its two-hour-plus running time setting up the pieces of the puzzle and building up the story with no payoff. This is somewhat remedied by returning director Francis Lawrence's focus on big battle scenes, though once again, there's no real payoff, no punch-line. One thing that won't be put into question is another engaging, emotional and an overall solid performance from Oscar-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence, who manages to keep the story kicking, regardless of its awkward pacing. Other returning faces, which included Hoffman, Harrelson, Hutcherson and Banks, are all equally reliable and, as the determined President Snow, Sutherland is once again a strong and a dependable villain. 

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Cafe Supreme: Bustling Cafe in Korba, Heliopolis
Published On: 23/11/2014

In Cairo, the term 'hanging out' has become almost synonymous with cafes. With no short supply of coffee shops and ahwas in Egypt's capital, a few hot drinks and a bit of a smoke were in order; so we headed to Café Supreme's Heliopolis branch. Located in the ever-crowded, yet confusingly charming neighbourhood that is Korba, Café Supreme offers both indoor and outdoor seating. We were greeted by a busy looking waiter who kindly obliged to offering us a table outdoors, despite how crowded it was. We took our seats, but couldn't help feeling squashed amongst the dozens of customers. Our menus were laid out in front of us within seconds and we took a few glances at it, despite knowing we weren't up for a full-on meal. Offering its usual, no-hassle main courses, however, including pizzas, pastas, chicken and beef dishes and salads, Café Supreme definitely makes for a viable eatery.  On a chilly autumn night, nothing seems to warm us up more than some shisha and hot chocolate and with that mind-set, we opted for  Vanilla-Coconut, Lemon-Mint and Blue Mist shishas (each for 37LE) and some Dark Swiss Hot Chocolate (22LE). Our shishas were by our sides and ready to be smoked within a few minutes and tasted quite lovely, with the waiter carefully placing the coal so as not to burn them out too quickly. The hot chocolate arrived a couple of minutes later and it looked and smelled as enticingly alluring as any dark chocolate creation should; it was thick, satisfying and tasted like real, unsweetened dark chocolate. Needless to say, we definitely contemplated ordering seconds. All in all, Café Supreme, as always, seemed to give us the best of both worlds; solid service and quality offerings. The dark hot chocolate was possibly the best we've had in a while and our shishas were regularly maintained, with our waiter stopping by every few minutes to replace the coal. The only problem was the whole issue of too many customers that made us feel a bit suffocated.

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Cortigiano: Wholesome Family Diner in Maadi
Published On: 22/11/2014

There's something about these quintessential family restaurants in Cairo. It might be the wholesome meals or a sense of nostalgia from hundreds of Fridays spent eating together. Cortigiano is one of those. It's come a long way since we visited their original branch in Dokki, so we decided to stop by one of the other branches in Maadi. Located on the quiet Road 7, Cortigiano takes up a cozy spot that you can identify from the red brick and plant pots exterior. Inside, the décor is different shades of brown and beige, with all the seating options looking quite comfortable. A friendly waiter showed us to our table, handed us our menus and retreated for a bottle of water. We opted for the surprisingly pricey Shrimp Cocktail (76.95LE) from the appetisers and a Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad (36.95LE). For our mains, the Beef Tenderloin with Black Pepper (93.50LE) caught our eyes, as did the Pollo Alla Griglia (61.95LE) Serving time isn't as fast as you'd hope, unfortunately. It's not that the service wasn bad - it just slow. When the Shrimp Cocktail arrived, we were quite disappointed; rubbery shrimp, that tasted quite bland, with a slightly metallic-tasting cocktail sauce. The salad came next, featuring the regular iceberg lettuce, grilled chicken strips, and Caesar dressing. The dressing was thin, diluted and ultimately quite weak in taste, and there were minimal croutons. The Beef Tenderloin was a pleasant surprise, but we're unsure if that's because the starters set the bar so low. Served with the traditional two sides of sautéed vegetables and fluffy white rice, the Beef Tenderloin, albeit not being the greatest quality meat, was cooked to the requested medium, and the sauce pleasingly subtle. The Pollo Alla Griglia is a barbecued chicken breast marinated with lemon, herbs, oil, garlic and thyme, and served with two sides. While again, the chicken wasn't incredible - the marination didn't leave the kind of mark that the potency of its ingredients would have you believe - it was cooked nicely and the dish was extremely filling. Practically all the items on the menu were huge in portion, but the prices aren't as affordable as they used to be. In fact, they've almost doubled since our 2010 review. But while some of the food is hit and miss, the pleasant atmosphere and all around comfortable feeling you have at Cortigiano seems to keep people coming back.

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The Angriest Man in Brooklyn: Robin Williams Stars in Dreary Comedy
Published On: 21/11/2014

Given the reasonable star-power behind it, much was expected of The Angriest Man in Brooklyn – loosely adapted from a relatively unknown film titled, The 92 Minutes of Mr. Baum. Directed by Phil Alden Robinson – see Sum of All Fears – and written by Daniel Taplitz, the film is centred on Henry Altmann (Williams); a crabby family man and a real-estate broker who's  prone to raging outbursts which sadly, have resulted in estranged relationships with his wife, Bette (Leo) and son, Tommy (Linklater). After a series of medical tests and examinations, Henry soon meets Dr. Sharon Gill  (Kunis); a seemingly worn-out doctor who informs him that he has suffered an aneurism.  She adds fire to the fuel by telling her unstable patient that he only has ninety-two minutes to live. Henry rushes out of the hospital and quickly hits the road of redemption. In an attempt to mend broken relationships with Bette, his son, Tommy, and brother, Aaron (Dinklage), Henry needs to hurry before it is too late. Undecided on what it wants to say, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is probably one of the most bewildering and cringe-inducing films of the year. Lost and with little structure behind its premise,  the film –  just like its main character – spirals out of control pretty quickly and one too many ideas, stories and subplots are thrown into the mix, without ever giving it enough room or time to explore them. Nonetheless, watching Williams in action is always interesting, no matter how crazy and the late Oscar-winner is once again given free reign and even though, he does go a little overboard with the theatrics at times. Draining, lazy and painfully sloppy, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is likely to throw viewers into fits of rage, too.  An understandable reaction to sitting through eighty-three minutes of nonsensical and unfunny blabber.

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Mohamed Al Sagheer: New Cairo Branch Proves Popular Chain is Still the Best for Hair
Published On: 20/11/2014

Often times, we find ourselves craving some pampering thanks to  gruelling daily pressures of life in Cairo and there are few better ways to start a day than by heading off to one of our all-time favourite salons for some haircare. we made our way to Mohamed Al Sagheer. Located in the ever-peaceful and ever-green Katameya Heights compound, the New Cairo branch of Mohamed Al Sagheer appears deceivingly small from the outside. After climbing up the stairs that lead to its entrance, however, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it is in fact quite roomy. We were greeted by some friendly, well-groomed staff who swiftly dressed us in white robes, took down our request for a blow-drying and straightening treatment (90LE), before leading us to the waiting area. Our 15 minute wait, which was great seeing as how the place was quite crowded during the time of our visit, allowed us to take in the refreshingly chic yet simple design of the beauty salon. With a clean-cut white colour scheme and windows everywhere that allow the bright sunlight to seep in, the place just screams with positive energy. Modern furnishings, including some interesting looking clear plastic chairs with colourful cushions and some pop-art inspired portraits of iconic entertainers including Audrey Hepburn hung on the walls, tied the whole de jour theme of the place together. Our wait came to an end with our hairdresser escorting us to another room, where we were seated in front of a long, full-body mirror. He immediately started discussing with us how we wanted our hair styled, giving us professional tips regarding which style would suit our face shape more. Upon agreeing on a certain style, he immediately began to work his magic through our messy tassels. Unfortunately, however, the whole blow-drying and straightening process was no walk in the park; at times, it hurt given the length and volume of hair and his tight grip. The end result, however, was breath-taking; shiny, volumised and not at all fluffy or out-of-control; it looked perfect. The hair spray used, we must add, was also of high-end quality and helped keep our hair smelling amazing whilst being under control throughout the day. All in all, Mohamed Al Sagheer just never fails to amaze, with its wonderful, welcoming staff and overall efficient service. Sure, we may have suffered a minor headache due to all the yanking and pulling of our hair, but beauty is pain, right? Plus, the splendid end result made it all worth the hassle. 

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Lujo's Fresh Junk: Fresh Gourmet Fast-Food in Zamalek
Published On: 19/11/2014

Every now and then, you're body demands the strangest of cravings. It wants fast food, it wants new fast food that's different to all the fast food that you've been having, and it wants it right now. This sensation may hit you at home or at the office, but what's certain is all the effort you're willing to exert is eating the food. Enter Lujo's Fresh Junk; a joint in Zamalek that pulls together all the kinds of fast food onto one menu, and presenting them in a new way. The restaurant is rather small; the indoor area consists only of a counter over which you place your order. There are a few bar stools, but we don't recommend occupying them since you'd be sitting face to face with the cashier - awkward. The outside area has a simple wooden table with two chairs. We don't recommend sitting here either as you'll be sharing your food with the cats over the ambiance of the next door workshop's loud music. After a quick glance through the menu we opted for the Wasabi Shrimp Tempura Wrap (38LE) and a Mushroom Truffle Pizza (44LE). Additionally, we opted for Zucchini Fries (10LE) with Mayo Pesto Dip (6LE). Our food was served, not so shortly after, on wooden slabs that resemble chopping boards, while the Zucchini Fries were served in a small metal bucket. The Wasabi Shrimp Tempura wrap consisted of fried shrimp tempura topped with pickled sesame cucumbers, shallots and Wasabi tartar sauce on a bed of mixed greens. The wasabi was unfortunately missing from the mix, but that was the only let down in an otherwise great sandwich. The flavours were in perfect harmony and the shrimp remained crispy despite the toppings. Similarly, the Mushroom Truffle pizza was delicious. The truffle oil and fresh mushrooms worked well with the arugula and balsamic vinegar. The pizza had a nice, thin consistency and a good ratio of toppings. We did, however, find the mushrooms a little scarce. The Zucchini Fries had a nice crispy golden layer coating i, and a good consistency all around, which isn't easy since zucchini cooks very fast. We felt like we ordered the wrong dip however, since Pesto Mayo was a little too heavy. Finally, we opted for a Peanut Butter Cookie (9LE), which, unfortunately, let down what was an otherwise enjoyable meal; it was mall, too moist and barely tastes like peanut butter at all. Lujo's is perfect for takeaway and ordering from home, especially when with a group. While the prices are higher than your average fast food, the gourmet touches elevate the menu.

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Safar Khan Art Gallery: Abdel Salam Eid Exhibition
Published On: 19/11/2014

Over the years, Safar Khan Art Gallery in Zamalek has featured exhibitions by some of the top artists on the contemporary visual arts scene like Hussein Fawzy, Farouk Hosny and Ahmed Nawar to name a few. Art in Egypt as a community has become more and more inclusive, but the gallery has been able to guarantee a certain quality, and even prestige, of visual art thanks to their selections. Abdel Salam Eid was born in 1943 in Alexandria and is a professor of Photography in the Fine Arts faculty at Alexandria University. While he has received several national and international accolades for his work in photography, this particular exhibition featured the use of many unusual mediums and materials – rope and plastic forks are two of the most peculiar. The masterpiece of the exhibition is placed close to the entrance, to the right, and also serves as the subject of the exhibition's promotional poster. Combining photography, mosaics, and 3D sculptures of birds in the centre, the piece captures the artist's methodology quite aptly. But Eid's interesting approach doesn't end with the unusual materials he employs, as he uses them in unusual ways, too. In another, much larger, piece, the mosaic element sees Eid use the tiles face down, revealing the rough, corrugated backside. The tiles were sliced to tiny pieces and then reassembled to form interlocking geometric patterns reminiscent of Islamic motifs. To contrast the ceramic mosaic tiles, he uses blue glass towards the top which makes the entire piece pop with colour. One can't help but be impressed by Eid's vision in utilising simple, domestic materials available in our. The use of rope in particular demands a closer look; while it looks haphazard, closer inspection reveals well studied interlocking patterns. He achieves a strange harmony between different textures like pieces of cloth, wood and even metal parts to form a complete composition. Aside from collages and different textures, the Ecoline paintings – similar to watercolours, but denser and closer to coloured ink with much more vibrant colours – also particularly eye-catching. The paintings reveal many forms of intersecting colours open to interpretation. Whether you're a fan of contemporary art with the patience to observe and find an explanation in a painting or not, Abdel Salah Eid's unique approach has made for an endlessly fascinating collection.

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Tove Lo: Queen of the Clouds
Published On: 18/11/2014

Singer-songwriter, Tove Nilsson, first made her way to everyone's ears with debut single, '(Habits) Stay High,' and now the twenty-seven year-old Swede, who was discovered by the iconic Max Martin, has just released her first studio album. Sweden has a fine history of producing unique pop; Abba aside, Swedish acts have successfully infiltrated UK and US charts in the past and continue to do so. The Cardigans were all the rage in the 90s and more recent examples include the Knife, the Concretes and Lykke Li who have all had varying success outside their homeland in the last decade. It's easy, then, to say that expectations are somewhat high for Ms Lo; but she meets them with aplomb. Queen of the Clouds is divided into three parts – 'The Sex', 'The Love' and 'The Pain' – with each narrating a different stage of a relationship.  The first section carries an edgy theme of carefree love and lust, riddle with risqué lyrics. 'My Gun' is unapologetically racy, 'I Like 'Em Young' is as daring as its title implies and 'Talking Body' is equally as unrepentant in its approach to sex. 'Time Bomb' opens the second chapter of the story and sets a different theme as the relationship teeters between love and incompatibility, with a piano intro leading to a fast-paced chorus. With tracks like 'Not on Drugs', the album finds a venn diagram-like space that is best described as Taylor Swift and Katy Perry after they've knocked back a dozen cans of Red Bull, with its endearingly basic-pop lyrics yet explosive, disco-inspired beats. The love affair crashes and burns in the third part of the album as Nilsson croons, "And then there's no good way to end things/ 'Cause it's ending, y'know?" in 'Thousand Miles' which features a more laid back, monotonic beat that allows her vocals to take centre stage. The album's lead single 'Habits (Stay High)' features in the last part and, alongside 'This Time Around', sees Lo at her angst-ridden best. For the many that were eager to find what else Tove Lo had in her musical armoury, this will not disappoint; the bustling brunette meets the expectations of the bold, raw take on pop that her early hype promised. Queen of the Clouds mixes fun, dance-friendlybeats, with grand choruses and edgy, soulful lyrics in a neat little, edible package.

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Trash: Underdog Story Set in the Slums of Rio
Published On: 17/11/2014

Based on a 2010 novel of the same name – written by the English young-adult fiction writer Andy Mulligan – Trash is best described as a feel-good story that carries a smimilar spirit to Oscar-winning drama, Slumdog Millionaire; similarly, it's a colorful and a slightly strained drama of adolescence and poverty. Set in Rio Di Janeiro, Brazil, Trash follows the story of Raphael Fernandez (Tevez), Gardo (Luis) and Rato (Weinstein); three fourteen year-old Brazilian boys who live in a lakeside favela and who earn their pennies by sorting trash at the nearby dumping ground. During one of their routine scavenger hunts, Raphael comes across an expensive looking wallet that, just as luck would have it, is full of cash.  While no one is looking, Raphael quickly pockets the cash. However, when crooked police officer, Federico (Mello), turns up desperately looking for the wallet, Raphael realises that there is more to his find than it meets the eye. As it happens, the wallet, which also contained a flip-book photo of a little girl with coded numbers on the back and a mysterious looking key, is directly linked to a wealthy and seemingly corrupt politician who is currently running for mayor. Realising that they are in way over their heads, the boys reach out to Father Julliard (Sheen) and aid-worker, Olivia (Mara), for help, all the while doing everything they possibly can to evade the hands of the corrupt police force who will do everything they can to get their hands on the wallet.  Trash, adapted to the screen by Richard Curtis, spends most of its running time in Portuguese and does a decent job in portraying the poverty hiding beneath the colourful streets of Rio; the chase scenes through the bustling streets and tight alleyways are particularly enjoyable. However, although pleasing to the eye, the material feels a little forced, a little too pretty around the edges and yes, a bit too Hollywood; if you were expecting more of a harsher look inside the life of favelas, perhaps you will need to revisit movies such as City of God or Elite Squad for a better insight.   Nonetheless, Trash does manage to keep things relatively upbeat and entertaining mainly because of the infectious energy and dynamism brought on by the three leads, who, despite their limited acting experience, hold the entire film together. 

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Thomas Patisserie: Sweets, Cakes & Desserts in New Cairo
Published On: 17/11/2014

Having already made its name in the Egyptian dessert market, Thomas Patisserie is by no means, an unfamiliar brand. Thomas' latest branch in New Cairo, however, is still new and pristine and so, being the adamant sweet-tooths we are, we decided to hit it up for a much-needed sugar fix. Located in a rather odd part of New Cairo, in the Medical Park,  Thomas is relatively spacious yet lacks any seating areas; it's the type of patisserie you go to when you want to take your desserts to-go. The interior appearance of the venue unabashedly leans to the sleek, dark, black spectrum of decor; an obvious attempt at obtaining a chic and posh design. The whole vibe, however, is a little too much and ends up looking a little tacky rather than the elegant. The place offers a variety of desserts, divided into the two obvious types; Western and Middle- Eastern/ Oriental treats. Taking a glance at all the desserts offered at the time of our visit, we couldn't help but notice that the gateaux and cakes looked much better-stocked and more alluring than their Oriental counterparts. The Oriental desserts on display, however, included lots of the classics like Basbousa (40LE-60LE/ Kilo), Konafa, and Baklava amongst others. You can also order a selection of the three for 130LE/Kilo. We migrated to the better lit display of all the gateaux, tarts and cakes one could ever think of. From round, English-type, breakfast-friendly cakes (70LE) to full-on, occasion-orientated cakes (120LE-150 LE for a small one and 170LE-210LE for a large one), the cakes came in all sizes with all kinds of flavours and toppings.  Moreover, the infamous French delicacies, Macaroons, were also available in a multitude of flavours (175LE/ kilo). Gateaux, both normal-sized (9LE-16LE/piece) and soiree-sized (100LE/kilo), were also available and we opted for a few pieces to indulge in. Other savoury baked goods can also be found at Thomas, including pates, croissants and mini pizzas (5.50LE-8LE/ piece). Gourmet chocolates (175LE/ Kilo) are also offered and would make lovely gifts for any occasion. Our gateaux were well-wrapped in a box and were pleasing to the eye. The classic, sugar-topped, millefeuille was light, yet decadent, with the pastry tasting exceptionally fresh.  The mango tarte was also quite delightful and light. The chocolate gateaux, however, despite tasting alright seemed to lack a certain oomph; chocolate desserts should never taste average. All in all, Thomas offers quite a lovely selection of desserts for all kinds of occasions. Despite its wishy-washy design and quite peculiar location, it still did have adequate service, with super friendly staff. The desserts themselves were not ground-breaking in the taste department, but were still of notable quality.

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Arts-Mart: Online Gallery Set to Launch New Art Space in Cairo

While the Arab Spring has launched arts in the region into a new and flourishing vain of prosperity, so to speak, there still exists a barrier for so many emerging artists as they try to burrow their way to Cairo galleries. Maybe it's a case of the field becoming saturated, or maybe it's a case of m