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Tomorrowland: Bold Disney Sci-Fi Adventure
Published On: 26/05/2015

Directly and unapologetically inspired by Disneyland's futuristic theme park ride of the same name, one might well argue that Tomorrowland is marketing ploy, designed as a sly attempt to drive more traffic the 'Most Magical Place on Earth'.  But Brad Bird's science-fiction adventure managed to soften this writer's admittedly cynical heart. Tomorrowland is centred on Casey Newton (Robertson); an intelligent and driven young woman – and daughter of a NASA engineer, Eddie Newton (McGraw) – who sees the world through rose-tinted glasses. Unexpectedly gifted a mysterious looking pin, Casey soon gets access and a sneak peek into a parallel dimension called Tomorrowland – a land where only the best artists, dreamers and visionaries reside. There, she meets an Audio-Android named Anthea (Cassidy) who eventually sends her on a path to Frank Walker (Clooney); a pessimistic and sceptical man who was once a brilliant and an equally optimistic young inventor. See, Frank used to be a resident of Tomorrowland but, after learning of the community's secrets, was kicked out by the dimension's leader, Nix (Laurie). He has no desire of ever returning - let alone break down the door that has long been shut away from the pessimism of the real world - but he soon buckles under Casey's relentless optimism as they embark on an adventure.  Bird creates a visually grand and immersing futuristic world; one filled with plenty of imagination, action and colour which will leave audiences with plenty of memorable moments. However, the heavy use of CGI gives the film a bit of an unintentional coldness and the script suffers similarly. The plot and the characters have plenty of heart, but much of the film is spent explaining the finer details of its fantasy world, rather than just letting them play out organically.  As expected, the cast is solid; Clooney is his usual charming self and the chemistry between him and Robertson – previously seen in Nicholas Spark's The Longest Ride – navigates the story affectively, while Laurie channels his inner-House – successfully of course. Driven by a series of bold ideas and fuelled by powerful sentiments of positivity and hope, not everything is ideal in Brad Bird's earnestly optimistic world of Tomorrowland; it's an intriguing and ambitious science-fiction entry that, despite its flaws, still manages to serve up a pleasing family-friendly movie-going experience. 

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Spooks - The Greater Good: Silver Screen Adaptation of British Show Lacks Edge
Published On: 26/05/2015

Spooks: The Greater Good, the big-screen treatment of the long-running BBC television series, comes almost four years after the show's exit from the small-screen.  Known for its devastating twists, fans of the original show will be pleased with Bharat Nalluri's commendable effort, although those who aren't familiar with it, might feel a little lost in the process and even a little underwhelmed with the end-result. The adaptation sees Peter Firth reprise his role as the unflinching and emotionless MI5 chief, Sir. Harry Pearce, and the film opens with a long opening credits sequence showing Pearce taking the heat for the escape of a Middle Eastern Terrorist, Adem Qasim (Gabel) during a botched prison transfer from MI5 to the CIA. Taking full responsibility for the escape, he is soon forced to resign from service and, as a result, fakes his own suicide and goes rogue, which triggers an investigation. The man given the find out what happened to Harry is – dramatic pause – his former protégé, Will Holloway, ably played by Game of Thrones hunk, Kit Harrington. Written by Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent, there's a distinct sense of grittiness and realism that is often missing from similar productions across the pond in Hollywood. The tone is applied well to what is a heavy mix of traditional and modern elements of espionage films and the twists and turns are aplenty – perhaps a little too many to keep a steady track of. But the urgency behind each and every one of them can be felt throughout. Sadly, however, the film's faults are of its own doing; produced on a relatively modest budget, it tries a little too hard to impress and it's only when it tries to move things into the kind of grandeur and ambitious action set-pieces associated with its Hollywood peers that it falls a little short. Firth, who has been playing the same role for the past ten years, is unsurprisingly convincing as the ex-MI5 Head of Intelligence Chief, though Harington doesn't shake off his pretty-boy persona enough to be as affective. Visually, the film is a winner and the silvery-blue aesthetic it's coated in perfectly communicates the murky winters of London and the aforementioned gritty tone. There's a lot to commend in Spooks: The Greater Good, but at the end of the day it offers nothing new to the genre and it's big-screen adaptation just needed to be more daring and step out of the confines of television. 

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Santorini: A Small Greek Island in Americana Plaza
Published On: 25/05/2015

Few things in life can compare to a fully immersive meal that transports you to the homeland of its cuisine. This is what happened to us at Americana Plaza's Greek restaurant, Santorini. Located next to flower shop, Khadra, the restaurant's decor resembles the same shades of white and blue you would find on the island of Santorini, one of the most beautiful and well known Greek islands. The indoor area is mainly occupied by the kitchen while the outdoor area is occupied by colourful chairs. Most of the items on the menu were new to us, which left us with a sense of excitement and a curiosity to try it all. Impressively, the chef at Santorini, Myrsini Lambraki, is the author of twenty-four cooking books published over the last 15 years, and is also cooking show presenter on Greek television. After scanning the menu, we opted for a Youvarlakia soup (24LE) and a Patatosalata (25LE) for our starters, and for our mains, Moussaka (58LE) and a Solomo (125LE). First, we were served a fresh bread basket accompanied by olive paste, olive oil and feta cheese. The bread smelt incredible, and all together the starters tasted magnificent. Next, the Youvarlakia soup was served. Consisting of beef and rice meatballs in a zesty broth, we can't deny we've never had meatballs in a soup before, but the amalgamation of flavours was just perfect, and the portion was quite decent. Shortly afterwards came the Patatosalata, made with diced potatoes, spring onions, olive oil, lemons and capers. Despite the simplicity of the ingredients, the freshness and strong flavours of each element came together wonderfully. The Solomo, or a Salmon Steak, was served with rice with spinach and beetroot and topped with a lemon-dill sauce; the salmon was cooked well and had just the right colour and flavour - more testemant to the old adage that less is more. Again, the ingredients were simple, but everything was cooked perfectly and tasted fresh. We didn't think things could get better, but the true star of the night was the Moussaka. Made with slices of eggplant, zucchini and potatoes topped with a minced beef and tomato sauce, béchamel sauce and parmesan cheese, once again, everything came together perfectly and fans of the Egyptian version of moussaka will be more than pleased. After essentially demolishing our food, we found a little space for dessert and opted for a Glyko Boukies (28LE) and a funky blue drink called a Blue Shore (23LE). The Glyko Boukies is similar to a Profiterole except without being covered in chocolate; it's also considerably lighter but with all the flavour and sense gluttony as its peer. The Blue Shore, an orange peel extract, was refreshing, but the ratio of juice to ice was off. After waddling out of Santorini, we were left with one question: why aren't there more Greek restaurants in Cairo?

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Poltergeist: Reboot of Classic Horror Film Falls Short
Published On: 24/05/2015

Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist can rightly claim to be one of the most successful haunted-house tales ever told and so a reboot of what is probably one of the scariest films of all time makes sense in that money-grabbing Hollywood kind of way. But as with so many reboots, Gil Kenan's uninspired take on the 1982 classic proves that it's no easy task. The story is centred on the Bowens; a family of five who, due to the recent recession, have been forced to downsize their home and move to a more affordable neighbourhood. Having recently lost his job, Eric Bowen (Rockwell) and his wife, Amy (DeWitt) have been struggling to keep up with the mounting debts and finding the perfect home for themselves and their three kids; teenager Kendra (Sharbino), her younger brother, Griffin (Catlett) and their youngest sibling, Maddy (Clements) hasn't been easy. Settling on a semi run-down estate in a town where the pricing seemed to be just right, the Bowens are excited to get settled into their new surroundings.  However, things soon go bumping in the night and both Griffin and Maddy – the latter of whom doesn't seem to be at all bothered about making new 'friends' in the closet – begin noticing strange occurrences. Griffin is the first to voice his concern, however his parents think that he is just being overly-anxious about his new home – that is until Maddy goes missing only to resurface as a voice inside the family's television. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire – see Rabbit Hole – the script stays very faithful to its source material. It's something to be commended, yes, but the horrors of old just don't have the same effect as they did back then and this reboot lacks freshness, creativity and that extra little oomph needed to bring it into the 21st century. Subsequently, it's difficult to assess as to how loyalists to the original will receive the film; on one hand, it stays close to the original, but on the other hand, there's nothing new – no new angle, no new pull. Luckily, the acting is solid and everyone involved turns in relatively convincing and connecting performances. One of the most versatile actors working Hollywood right now, Rockwell turns out to be a decent choice for the role of the troubled father and Clements - although, nowhere near as powerful as her predecessor - is creepily endearing.   In the end, though, Poltergeist 2015 is too weak to stand up to the original. One of the things that made the 1982 version the iconic horror it is today is that unnerving atmosphere and the unsettling energy which followed the story from beginning to end. For what it's worth, Kenan's keen eye and roaming camerawork manages to keep his audience on the edge of their seats, but the predictable jump-scares only serve to take away from tension.

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Vero Moda: Simple Women's Clothes from Danish Fashion Brand at Cairo Festival City
Published On: 24/05/2015

In Cairo's shopping scene, it's becoming more and more difficult to come across shops that offer clothes which combine both quality and affordability. It's also becoming harder and harder to find ones that offer light summer apparel that doesn't come in the predominant form of crop tops, which are sadly hard to sport in the capital for reasons we're all aware of.   Vero Moda, located in the evergrowing Cairo Festival City Mall, seems to us a sort of needle in a haystack of endless clothes stores, with its practical combination of pieces that boasted good quality yet came with more or less affordable price tags that wouldn't make you gasp in pure shock at their sight. The shop is rather large and rests side by side to its men's brand, 'Jack Jones'. With a bright colour scheme of white and beige, contrasted by a little black, the store's overall design does not distract shoppers from the vibrant pieces on immaculate display. Our eyes immediately fell on a display of colourful jeggings laid neatly in the middle of the store. Diverting the more smart casual and semi-formal attire section, we spotted a flowy, black, sleeveless chiffon top with delicate silver beading on the neckline (365LE) that we instantly fell in love with. The powder pink, lace-adorned, mini dress (465LE) that our eyes fell upon next, however, was the ultimate showstopper in that section. Moving on to the 'Only', Vero Moda's more youthful line, we spotted a flow-y maxi skirts (400LE), short-sleeved lace tops (159LE) as well as comfy t-shirts and loose cotton tops. A few generic skinny and straight-legged jeans could also be found, alongside a couple of maxi dresses and loose cardigans. All along our visit, the sales personnel were always around to offer us assistance with finding a certain piece in our size and even giving us advice about which pieces suited us better, but when not called upon, allowed us to freely roam around the store and shop unperturbed. All in all, we found Vero Moda to be quite the practical store to hit for some casual, as well as slightly formal attire that is effortlessly chic, simple and quite frankly, light on the wallet. With efficient staff and an overall laid back ambiance, the store offered us a smooth shopping experience.

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Zamalek Art Gallery: 'Passion Offerings' by Adel Tharwat
Published On: 22/05/2015

Now showing at Zamalek Art Gallery's Venue II, 'Passion Offerings' displays a culturally rich series of paintings by Egyptian Artist, Adel Tharwat. Born in Cairo in 1966, Tharwat holds a PhD in Art education from Helwan University, where he later went on to become a professor. Tharwat's approach in 'Passion Offerings' delves into both shared and personal self-assessment when it comes to cultural identity and explores cultural heritage, with the aesthetic of Pharonic imagery, with African and more contemporary touches. The paintings themselves are enormous in size reaching a staggering 135 X 135cm, creating an effect of power and gravity, and each one features several figures grouped together and engaged in some sort of manual labour whilst others, the female figures, are displayed as symbols of vanity, love and the softer nature of humans. The style of the painted figures lack detail and so the individual role of each character is not important; the faces are merely just brown colour as are the bodies dressed in simple clothing: the males with simple cloth around them and the women in dresses.  Sharp lines and exaggerated curves are used to form the figures in likeness to the Pharonic wall carvings from centuries ago as are the meanings they give.  Tharwat's paintings read like a story – a story of traditional Egyptian cultural heritage filled with symbols, bold colours and each with the traditional essence of Egypt. His paintings are filled with marks and patterns that may resemble the weaving of tapestries. Another point that is apparent in several of these large paintings is that there are some areas painted in gold, which not only captures the light in a way that even the bolder colours used cannot, but also a certain beauty that fittingly represents wealth and sacredness. In the brochure which is available at the exhibition, Adel Tharwat quotes: "I am an Egyptian" and his paintings convey this message with a thoughtfulness and subtle passion in beautifully artistic fashion. Egypt has a rich culture and a vast artistic history, so exhibitions like this have an important presence in the what is quickly becoming a more eclectic local art scene and Adel Tharwat's  latest collection aid in preserving a piece of it.  

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Mad Max: Fury Road: Cult-Followed Action Series Returns with a Bang
Published On: 21/05/2015

Having spent decades in the making, Mad Max: Fury Road finds seventy-year-old director, George Miller, returning to the vast and the beautifully deranged Australian wasteland and anyone lucky enough to be invited for the ride, will immediately recognize its undeniable prowess and action-classic qualities that have been missing from the world of cinema for quite some time now.   Set in the heart of a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, Fury Road is once again centred on former-cop-turned-drifter, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy stepping in for Mel Gibson) who, after failing to stay ahead of his pursuers is caught by 'The War Boys'; an obsessive and a gasoline-loving cult working for a ruthless warlord and ruler named Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne) who controls everything, including the desert's water supply.   Forced to serve as a human blood bank, Max soon crosses paths with Imperator Furiosa (Theron); a formidable war rig driver who, during a routine fuel run, decides to go off course in an attempt smuggle Joe's most precious 'breeders', aka The Five Wives,  out of captivity.  However, Joe's army is hot on her tail, leaving her with no choice but to befriend the rugged Road Warrior who might be the only person to help her out of the mess. One of the most striking things about Fury Road – and there are plenty – is how unapologetic and relentless the film is from the very first minute. The story – storyboarded way before even a script was realised – is conceived as one long chase scene and the experience of watching the truly great George Miller at work – who has bravely refrained from using much CGI- is awfully difficult to put into words. Wonderfully bizarre, shamelessly violent and mind-blowingly exciting, the film spends very little time introducing us to the story or the characters; the action does all of the talking  and, although some might have a little difficulty connecting, the film doesn't rely on any gravity to its plot and doesn't apologise for doing so. Everything is in the visuals and the gorgeous cinematography – zesty orange by day and steely blue at night – is one of the most arresting things about the entire production. The same can be said for the performance of the forever-flawless Charlize Theron, is captivating in her performance as the fearless Furiosa. Sporting a shaved-head and a bionic arm, you can argue that it is, in fact, Theron who drives the plot forward – we won't get into the popularised notion that the film is a 'feminist masterpiece' here, but Hardy's intended minimal dialogue and man-of-action persona in embodying Max, leaves room for Furiosa to emerge as the hero of the piece. There's nothing complicated about Mad Max: Fury Road; but in the landscape of the modern action genre, few films of this kind have been met with such wide acclaim. After years of anticipation, Miller and co more than met expectations. Bravo.

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Al Masar Gallery: 'A Dialogue of Life' by Hani Feisal
Published On: 21/05/2015

The great thing about sculpture is that unlike a painting, it offers the possibility to walk around it and observe it from all angles giving the viewer the power to be so close that they are almost part of it.  Showing at Zamalek's Al Masar Gallery, 'A Dialogue of Life' features stunning sculptures by the artist, Hani Feisal, and the best part is its on display for an entire month. Feisal uses a variety of materials to create his sculptures: bronze, granite and wood, and the creations themselves are of animals such as a rooster, a crow, an ox and several human figures, both male and female.  One of our favourites from the collection was the smooth, shiny rooster sculpture which was made from bronze; it stood tall and proud and the bronze material captured the light as though it were the early morning sun. Another sculpture, a little further into the gallery, is of a crow, though this one is made from granite; a material which alone gives an outdoor affect.  The size which is around triple the size of an actual crow portrays a sacredness of the bird.  It is rather bizarre to see these creatures in this form as it appears like they were captured, frozen and robbed of life, though it could also be said that their life has been frozen and then preserved therefore giving it an immortality. Feisal's exhibition also includes some wooden sculptures of women though one particular sculpture, titled Village Woman, appears obese and grotesque with very little detail to add any personality to her.  However the wood material which was used to create it gives it a soft and delicate affect which contrasts against the unattractive shape.  A more clear portrayal of the effect of the materials is the double statue of two women, identical in every way except for the material; one from wood and one from granite, with the latter giving a feeling of distance, whereas the wooden one is more personal and sensual. The title of the exhibition raises interesting aspect to the concept of life, in itself offering possible connotations as to the content and idea behind the work inside.  If we ask our self What is life? some would say breathing, sleeping, eating and others may look deeper and state it is a test from God or another higher power.  Hani Feisal shows us through his sensual display of finely set sculptures that life is the way the rooster always stands tall and proud and never fails to crow at the break of day; it is the bird perched on a branch, contemplating the sky and it is the existence of the human-being and all the animals that make up our world.

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Big Bites: Sugar-Loaded Donuts & Other Sweet Treats in Maadi
Published On: 20/05/2015

While bakeries and confectionaries may not be in short supply around Cairo, the execution of items like donuts, croissants and other assorted goodies is generally questionable. If you were to consider your options for a good donut right now, chances are you can only name a couple of venues because, unfortunately, the donut isn't the most popular of sweets here. There's not really much to a donut; you either have dough and icing, dough and a stuffing, or dough and glazing. That's pretty much it. With such a big selection of donuts, cakes, rolls, cookies, brownies and muffins, we were honestly surprised when Big Bites emerged on Road 233  out of nowhere. Sporting a modestly-sized venue with a bright yellow colour scheme, a couple of wooden chairs and tables, and the display of goodies, the server will greet you as you step through the glass door, and pleasantly explain the flavours they have on offer. We opted for three stuffed donuts; a Blueberry and Cream Cheese (13LE), Apple and Cinnamon (13LE) and Strawberry Jam (13LE), as well as a Walnuts Brownie (12LE), a Cinnamon Roll (20LE) and a regular donut with White Chocolate and Caramel (10LE). Let's start of with the good; the Walnuts Brownie was quite tasty and surprisingly large, while the walnuts weren't overpowering and created a good flavour mix with the chocolate. Unfortunately, however, the donuts were the biggest let down; while the stuffing was tasty all around, the dough itself tasted nothing like donuts, but instead closer to cake - and not fresh cake at that. But that wasn't even the biggest problem; a bigger issue was how sweet the whole thing was. By our third bite, all we could taste was sugar. The Cinnamon Roll, smothered in an obscure icing that neither tasted like cinnamon, nor complimented the cinnamon powder, had the same dough as the donuts, leaving the overall experience rather unfortunate. Maybe it was an off-night, maybe the goodies were indeed stale, but whatever the case, everything we ordered was so sweet it rendered our taste buds obsolete.

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Zamalek Art Gallery: 'Out of the Box' Exhibition
Published On: 20/05/2015

Art is not only about beauty and appreciation; sometimes it can be used to communicate a very important, global message to the world, as proven by Adel Moustafa.  Born in 1980 in Kafr El Sheikh, but now based in Alexandria, this talented artist has enjoyed a privileged education achieving a Masters Degree in Fine Arts which led him to many exhibitions around the world including India, Italy and Yemen. From the moment you enter the exquisite Zamalek Art Gallery, the colours of dust and smoke pollute the scene.  It's murky, grimy and just plain unsightly but this is exactly what Moustafa wants to convey.  The exhibition is titled 'Out Of The Box', and Moustafa certainly lets this reality out. The results are as clear as day and as broad as the headlines of a newspaper. When you look a little closer and focus on the details, it's clear to see the images of cars, buildings and piles of rubbish which exist here as a clear representation of the pollution and damage we are causing every single day.  Entwined within this polluted and unfortunate scene are shoals of fish which suffer and even die at the hands of our 'new world'.  Every day when we drive our cars to work; smoke our cigarettes and carelessly drop litter on the floor, we are destroying another piece of our natural habitat and Moustafa conveys this idea perfectly and in numerous ways.  First of all, the vast size that he has chosen to display his work implies that the problem is also vast and growing.  Second, the materials used; the artist does not simply paint the images onto the surface, he actually prints them on paper and then sticks them on which is rather ironic yet at the same time symbolic for this paper comes from trees and we are destroying trees every single day to create paper and then disposing of it.  It can take a hundred years for a tree to grow yet seconds to cut it down.  The message communicated through each piece is an important one and what a fantastic way to communicate it, through the beauty of art, something that we are inclined to stop and study for its meanings. An interesting element that we can see in the paintings is the way in which the artist voids all rules of perspective and gravity, in fact it is as though he is creating a new world upon the canvas.  Through our ongoing pollution we are also creating a 'new world' though unfortunately it is not for the greater good.  Moustafa only opens the door to give us a peek of what may be around the corner for us.  The exhibition though heavy in content was both enlightening and a representation of the artist's talent. One of the more elegant touches to this exhibition was that whilst admiring, contemplating and appreciating these large, bold statements, a well-dressed gentlemen was serving tiny sandwiches filled with pate and creamed cheese later accompanied by a silver tray of drinks.  If that wasn't enough there was also small orchestra performing an exquisite piece of music with string instruments. Zamalek Art Gallery is well-known for holding marvellous, talent-filled exhibitions and 'Out Of the Box' has only enforced its excellent reputation.  Moustafa has managed to combine the beauty of art and the importance of the world we live in into one strong, meaningful statement that will help work towards the greater good and the salvation of our world. 

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The Cairo 360 Editors' Choice Awards 2015: Italian Cuisine Award Winners

Possibly the most misrepresented and hard-done-by cuisine of them all in Egypt, Italian food is among the most preferred by many around Cairo – because who doesn't like the comfort of a big bowl of pasta or the intangible joy of pizza? Yet it remains the single most localised and appropriated cui