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Ted 2: Continually Crass, Occasionally Obnoxious & Fiendishly Fun
Published On: 30/07/2015

Ludicrous, crass but also undeniably fun,Ted 2 - the sequel to Seth MacFarlane's successful 2012 comedy, Ted –proves to be a more consistent and better drawn-out affair than its predecessor, even if the jokes – which there never seems to be a shortage of– don't always land where they're supposed to. Picking up shortly after the events of the first film, Ted 2 is once again centred on best-buds and avid stoners, John Bennett (Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) who, as it turns out, don't seem to be living out their happily-ever-afters with the women in their lives. See, John has divorced the love-of-his-life, Lori (Kunis), and Ted, who at the beginning of the film shares his "I Do's" with his human-bride, Tami-Lynn (Barth), is in constant clashes with his new wife. Deciding that the best way to reconcile and put an end to all the bickering is to start a family, Ted reaches out to his best-friend for help; a decision which soon proves rather messy. However, Ted's civil rights are soon called in to question by the government who wish to brand Ted as property as oppose to a living thing, leaving John and Ted with no choice but to turn to the rookie – and pot-loving- lawyer, Samantha (Seyfried) for some legal help in an attempt to prove that Ted is a living being with rights of his own. Hence the tagline 'Legalise Ted'. Endless pop-culture references and MacFarlane's distinct brand of abstract toilet humour is once again the integral part of the story. While the first film lent most of its focus on Wahlberg and his romance with Mila Kunis – the actress was written out of the script due to her pregnancy with husband Ashton Kutcher – Ted 2 shifts the focus onto the talking teddy and his battle to be recognised, essentially, as a human. The decision to shift proves to be a smart move, although the film does tend to take itself a little too seriously at times; in addition, Wahlberg – whose deadpan delivery is almost always spot on –  seems to shine more in his secondary role. Ted 2 is neither ambitious nor smart and its jokes are often offensive and pretty vulgar.  Nevertheless, it's a fun goofy kind of vulgarity that will ensure more box office success and probably even a third film. 

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 Cold Stone Creamery Ice Cream: A Fiesta of Flavours on Maadi's Road 9
Published On: 29/07/2015

Ella Fitzgerald surely wasn't right when she serenaded Summertime and the Living is Easy; because it isn't, not in this heat. Perhaps if you're not on the beach tanning, a large scoop of the creamy, rich and refreshing ice cream that is Cold Stone and Creamery, is all the treat you need around this time of the year.  With its newly opened branch in Maadi on Street 9, Cold Stone Creamery will have your head turning with a colorful selection of insanely tasty flavors, its freshly baked biscuits invigorating your nostrils and its miniscule to gigantic ice cream sizes. Between the creamy rich vanilla, the coffee-infused mocha, the multi-colored berry fiesta, the nation's most beloved nutella flavor and many others, the choice was obvious; pick one flavor and take forever to choose, or spend all our cash delving into all the ice cream flavors available in the store.    After picking the largest ice cream biscuit-which you can order plain or with chocolate, we opted for four different flavors; a large scoop of oreo ice cream (17LE), another with dark chocolate flavor (17LE), a cotton candy flavor-an instant throwback to our childhood (13LE) and a mint-flavored ice cream scoop (13LE). The insane flavorful fiesta of ice cream didn't disappoint; they were all unique, tasty and quite delightful. We would've however preferred if the ice cream texture was thicker but the delicious flavors that pampered our taste buds completely made up for that. Tempted to try out more of what Cold Stone Creamery offers, we opted for a 'Strawberry Blonde' waffle with a blackberry sauce, marshmallows, strawberry and vanilla ice cream filling (35LE with 7LE for every additional filling). The waffle was insanely tasty; only the marshmallows were quite dry.       Cold Stone and Creamery also has a fantastic selection of milkshakes from which we ordered a refreshing Blackberry milkshake (30LE). Overall, tasting most of all the flavors Cold Stone Creamery has in store for us was an incredible experience that will surely keep us coming to quench our ice cream urges. Perhaps if there was more room into our tummies, we would've definitely ordered the zesty lemon ice cream which was light, sour and super refreshing. Check out Cold Stone Creamery's ice cream and dessert menu on their Facebook page.   

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The Vatican Tapes: Generic & Occasionally Silly Exorcism Horror
Published On: 28/07/2015

Let's dive in and get to the point; there is little-to-nothing new or innovative about Mark Neveldine's young-woman-possessed-by-a-demonic-spirit offering in The Vatican Tapes – a generic and uncreative horror entry that fails to inspire, move or frighten. The film begins with a brief video scene showing a possessed woman named Angela (Taylor Dudley), before switching back through the plot's timeline to find the main character preparing to celebrate her birthday with boyfriend, Pete (Amedori). After unexpected visit from her God-fearing father, Roger (Scott), and a minor accident that sends her to the hospital, Angela begins to show some troubling signs of aggression and unusual behavior. We come to learn that this is the beginning of a systematic demonic takeover, which soon catches the attention of Father Lozano (Pena), who subsequently takes the case to the Vatican when he begins to suspect that Angela may have been chosen as a vessel for the Anti-Christ. Are you still with us? The Vatican Tapes marks the very first horror film for the director of the Crank film series, Mark Neveldine whose seeming inexperience in the genre is evident throughout. Written by Christopher Borrelli and Michael C. Martin, there's very little to the story – it's as basic, straightforward and predictable as you can get –  and its clumsy execution only goes on to exacerbate. Possessed (ha!) by a level of incoherence, the film and its undeveloped and plain uninteresting characters make it near impossible to invest in the film. Told in flashbacks and with the shaky found-footage format that just refuses to go away, the plot never really finds its footing and seems rushed, making it awfully difficult to figure out what's actually going on at times. Similarly, the acting suffers, especially the picture's biggest name, Michael Pena, who seems uncomfortable in his own skin throughout. With a reported budget of $13 million, the film has thus far only made $900,000 return and it wouldn't be a surprise if the production failed to recoup its expenditures. But then what can you say for a film that, in some scenes, looks like it came from a Wayans brothers' horror spoof in a sub-genre that hasn't produced a film to top the one that started it all off, The Exorcist?

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Art Corner: Summer Collection 2015
Published On: 28/07/2015

Zamalek's Art Corner Gallery has garnered a reputation for exhibiting more versatile art for established as well as young aspiring Egyptian artists – something that can be seen in the gallery's two-week summer exhibition featuring a multitude of artworks mostly exhibited over the past year.  Art Corner's summer collection offers a delightful mix of styles in different in shapes and sizes; from gigantic abstract pieces, to smaller, more intricate paintings.   Perhaps the most prolific artist within this summer exhibition is Omar El Nagdi, with his delicately painted pieces mixed with bold lines and his signature gold frames. One of El Nagdi's most remarkable pieces is an oil painting featuring Egyptians engaged in manual labour and wearing garments from different eras including the Pharonic era – a beautiful piece manifesting the working class in Egypt.       Another particularly remarkable piece – and quite large in size – is one by Taher Abdel Azeem, in which he composes a beautiful portrait of Old Cairo during nighttime when the place seems to have a magical glow. Abdel Azeem is a special artist known to capture scenes at their best, emphasising them in all their glory and splendour using an expressive style of painting as well as a limited colour palette. Laila Allam also has several pieces displayed in the summer collection, one of which boasts a unique and modern style of portraiture. Born in 1932, Allam is a noted sculptor and an art professor whose refined work has earned significant recognition. Allam paints women with special features ; big eyes, plump lips, fiery red hair; in fact it seems the features have the essence of caricatures, where the artist focuses on a particular human feature and then magnifies it in some way. The most interesting aspect of Allam's paintings is that all the drawn faces appear to be of the same woman, which  stirs curiosity and a great deal of admiration to her style. . Art Corner's summer exhibition proves to be another successful and enjoyable celebration of some of Egypt's most esteemed artists and it definitely offers a further insight into contemporary art.

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Pixels: Cool Concept, Flawed Film
Published On: 27/07/2015

Although the very idea of watching 80's video-game characters come to life on the big screen might hold a certain novelty, Pixels – starring iconic rom-com actor Adam Sandler – has transpired to be something of a disappointment. Inspired by a 2010 short film, Pixels' plot revolves around avid arcade-game geek, Sam Brenner (Sandler) and opens in 1982 with the lead losing the final of a video-games tournament in questionable fashion. At the same time, NASA launches a time capsule, of sorts, featuring a video transmission of the tournament showdown as well as other popular video-games, T.V shows and 80's pop icons into space. NASA's attempt is misinterpreted decades later as an act of aggression and Earth is soon invaded by extra-terrestrials taking the form of classic arcade characters. With no one else to turn to for help, President Cooper (played Sandler-soldier, Kevin James) reaches out to his best bud, Brenner – now an underachieving software-installation worker – to channel his gaming skills to fight off the invasion. Despite its slick visual effects, the general comic outlook of Pixels is likely to only be appreciated by hard-core Adam Sandler loyalists. Directed by Chris Columbus – see The Goonies or first two Harry Potter films – and written by Happy Madison Productions' very own Tim Herlihy, the film stars Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad and Jane Krakowski – but despite the comic chops of the cast, the film never really uses them well. Overall, Pixels seems  like a nauseating jumble of creative ideas; unfocused and overfed, with  very little innovation beyond the stunning visual effects – particularly those over London's Hyde Park – the film has received largely negative reviews and we can't help but agree. Granted, the sight of Pac-man ripping through a modern city is a spectacle unto itself; but there's nothing behind the gimmick and it becomes very hard to engage with what you are seeing very quickly. Despite this, there is no doubt that Pixels will still be a draw at the box-office.  The idea and the potential is there, however, with Hollywood's favourite man-child there to show us the way - yes, we're looking at you Mr. Sandler - you can't help but feel that this could have been something great, had it landed in someone else's lap. 

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Gallery Grant: Summer Collection 2015
Published On: 27/07/2015

Artists have always been interested in reviving objects in their paintings; something that is beautifully captured in the pieces of the gallery Grant's annual summer collection in Abdeen district. Gallery Grant, is currently hosting an annual summer collection featuring  remarkable artworks from all artists who exhibited their  pieces over the past year.  The gallery provides a soothing atmosphere and an educational, enlightening and artistic experience to all its visitors, with its adequate lighting and its stylish and modern interior.  As we enter the gallery's hall, an assemblage of paintings hung on the walls instantly draws our attention, all of which are traditional, moderately small and framed to add that extra touch of refinement. The first painting we came across is a modern abstract piece by esteemed Egyptian artist Mohamed El Zahid, which seems to entail a story of precision, colour, shape and form; from afar it could almost be considered  a still life, perhaps a room with objects and furniture together creating an interesting composition.  Warm reds and oranges tones are used in the background, whereas cooler tones; blues and greens, are used for the objects, creating a clear separation between the two.  Most of the paintings covering the walls of Gallery Grant have an oriental flavour, focusing particularly on Bedouins and rural life in Egypt. One artist, Hassan Rashed paints a young Bedouin boy playing an instrument similar to a guitar; his skin is dark as is his robe, though the ta'aya on his head is full of vivacious colours and intricate patterns, which are also featured in the background.     Farouk Shehata is another artist who applies his attention to oriental art, particularly focusing on Egyptian scenes, though his style is quite modern in relation to traditional, realist artists.  Two of his drawings rely on portraying Egyptian scenery including the river Nile, tall palm trees and a mosque. Shehate's aesthetic can accurately be described as a beautiful and personal scenic scribble on paper. Perhaps one of our favourite artistic creations within this exhibition is a piece by Hoda Murad called 'Strelitzia' (commonly known as the Bird of Paradise). Using  oil pastel over paint which defined  the strong lines of the stem as opposed to the  thicker paint used for the petals, Murad  succeeded to capture a 3D-like flower glowing against a dark background  like tiny flames of a candle. Gallery Grant's summer collection is small in size yet beautifully composed with a small collection of the paintings on for sale

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Mango: New Mohandiseen Branch Launches with Edgy But Expensive Summer Collection
Published On: 26/07/2015

With a newly launched branch in Lebanon Street – not too far from the existing one in Geziret El Arab Street – popular Spanish high-street fashion brand, Mango, has revived its presence on Cairo's increasingly eclectic shopping scene with a colorful fiesta and a new summer collection for all the fashion gurus out there. We entered the new spacious two-story venue, completely drawn by how neat and perfectly soothing the summer collection looks; with unified colours in each department skimming and browsing through the items is a breeze. The first collection we laid eyes on was comprised of red, blue and white colours. A red-patterned jumpsuit with hints of blue (699LE), a cool white shirt with neat blue stripes (499LE) and bestseller jeggings (399LE) available in different shades of blue, were among the items that stood out. The second collection, comprising of white, beige and black colours, had a sleeveless, dressy blue jumpsuit with a V-cut (699LE); one of the many items that wowed us.    Mango is known to also offer a versatile collection of evening gowns for shoppers, which can only be found in limited branches; a large collection of simple evening gowns – varying between 1,299LE and 1,599LE – can be found in abundance found in the Lebanon Street branch. The outlet's second floor is where all the discounted items are, with over 50% and 70% reductions. Cocktail dresses – including a short strapless one we loved – can reach 345LE. The shop also offers a large collection of trousers reaching 145LE each, in addition to shirts and blouses between 199LE to 245LE – prices that will only be available in Mango during discount season. Overall, Mango's summer collection boasts a colourful and vibrant look with an edgy, modern twist; it's a treat for the eyes, but sadly not a treat for the pocket with its prices not affordable for the average shopper. 

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Café Du Jardin: Kitschy Restaurant Falls Short at Dandy Mega Mall
Published On: 25/07/2015

As one of the first of its kind in Cairo, Dandy Mega Mall might not be the coolest spot in town, but continues to attract shoppers in the area. Smaller than its peers, Dandy isn't exactly a place that suggests decent dining experiences await, but Café Du Jardin certainly has a charm about it. A small bistro with soothing décor, Café Du Jardin is a nice alternative for those who like to step away from the fast food outlets offered at the mall's food court, with its versatile selection of French and European cuisine.      The restaurant boasts has a kitschy aesthetic, painted in mint and white, decorated with artificial plants and white chairs, with small flower pots on the windows in pastel colours – it doesn't quite seem real at first. Among the dishes offered in the restaurant's small menu, tuna and salmon tartar, beef stroganoff and fish fillet with lemon butter sauce stood out. Strangely, the menu didn't feature any soups, but after inquiring with the friendly staff, we found out that seafood soup (22LE) and a mushroom cream (22LE) soup are available – we opted for the latter and had little complaint despite it being unremarkable. Looking for a quick, light bite, we picked Cashew Chicken (60LE), which comprised of stir-fried chicken slices spiked with coloured peppers, coriander and ginger and served with angel hair pasta. We also went for a chicken Caesar salad (40LE). The salad was, in short, disappointing; the chicken was cooked well, the lettuce was fresh and the croutons crunchy, but the dressing was way off - it was far too over-slated and the use of black pepper was rather heavy-handed, too. Hoping for better results with our main course, the cashew chicken was quite tasty; seasoned and cooked well, the only thing it was missing was, well, anything else. It was all a bit one-note and just needed an extra dimension – maybe a side that can break the monotony of what was, overall, a solid if uncreative and flat dish. There was little room left for drinks and dessert, that's when we opted for some refreshing lemon mint juice and orange juice (16LE each), which were refreshing, moderately sweetened and all-round excellent. Of the dessert items, meanwhile, we tried the caramel-banana crepe (32LE). Again, there were few complaints with the dessert – it was cooked well and subsequently tasted as you'd expect – but, like the rest of our meal, there was nothing that stood out and elevated it and it desperately needed it. In this particular case, the caramel was dying out for something sharp, maybe acidic, to cut through it. With all this in mind, one can't help but think Café Du Jardin has focused more on creating a cute, quaint aesthetic than putting together a menu that will keep you wanting to come back for more. Having seen and sampled their menu, we left with very little reason to return.

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Terminator Genisys: New Trilogy Gets Off to Shaky Start
Published On: 24/07/2015

Like it or not, the Terminator franchise holds a special place in Hollywood history – thanks in part to Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The once great franchise is arguably Arnie's most iconic role and despite being three year away from his 70th birthday, the former Governor of California doesn't look half-bad in the fifth, but far from final, instalment in the franchise. Terminator Genisys is the first of what has been described as a new, standalone trilogy, but if the first film is anything to go by, fans will most likely be throwing their hands in despair at what's to come. Set initially the year 2029, the film's main device is time travel and the butterfly effect – concepts that are becoming increasingly difficult to keep fresh and original. While co-creator, James Cameron, has unabashedly put his support behind the Alan Taylor-directed flick –going as far as to say that it has reinvigorated the franchise – Genisys only served to further dilute a series that just can't keep up with contemporarily conceived sci-fi action.  The story opens with A.I. system, Skynet, all but defeated by the freedom fighters, lead by John Connor (Jason Clarke). In one last attempt to defeat the resistance, a T-800 Terminator is sent back to 1984 to kill John's mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke), who is of course under the protection of the Guardian (Schwarzenegger). What happens from then on is a bit of mystery. Possibly the biggest problem of the film is that it tries far too hard to maintain elements of the original series and fails to do so well. While staying faithful to the films that have made the Terminator franchise so iconic is commendable, all references and lines of continuity feel forced and unsubtle, as if to say, "hey, look – we haven't forgot the original!" Seeing Arnie don the Terminator character once more is, in itself, a novelty – especially after the horrendous CGI used to resurrect him in 2009's Terminator Salvation. But outside of that, you come away with very little when the end credits start to roll. The two Clarkes starring in the film hot the right notes in their performances, but suffer the convoluted script more than anyone. While reboots, remakes and distant sequels have generally found success in the last few years – some commercially, some financially, some both – the fact that the film has only recouped half of its budget, which includes a marketing budget of at least $50 million dollars, speaks volumes about how tame and just plain unexciting this endeavour has been.  

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1980 Wenta Tale3: Local Play Fuses Drama & Comedy to Address Egypt's Social & Political Challenges
Published On: 22/07/2015

A play steeped in witty humour, sketches inspired by Egypt's political scene and the youth pop culture, 1980 Wenta Tale3 (1980 Onwards) directed by Mohamed Gabr is one of the most popular and most watched performances in Cairo.  Showing most recently at El Hosapeer Theatre on Galaa Street in the busy Ramsis district, the play is performed by a group of 12 energetic actors from acting troupe, Studio Al Prova, but however isn't without fault. After buying our tickets (15LE), we entered Hosapeer's large old furnished proscenium hall to what seemed like a full-house accommodating between 300 and 350 people. Lack of publicity and limited budget often translates to low turnout in public theatres; but not the case of 1980 Wenta Tale3, whose team should be saluted on their remarkable promotional efforts especially on social media. Written by Mahmoud Gamal, 1980 Wenta Tale3 uses 15 or so sketches – which seem to have been written separately and put together through a collage of scenes – to highlight principal challenges facing the Egyptian society. Social dilemmas – including unemployment, marriage, inflation, uneven opportunities, healthcare, immigration and the country's scattered political scene – are shown from the perspective of youth; the ones born during the 80s onwards.   A nostalgic 80s and 90s Egyptian playlist entertains the crowd 15 minutes before the show starts; a well-played move by the crew to warm up the anticipating audience who were clapping and reminiscing as they heard Amr Diab's Shawa'na, Mohamed Fouad's Kamanana and Mohamed Mounir's Ally Sotak.     The play starts with a scene showing all the characters posing for a photograph in which they tell the audience their ages and a fun fact about who they are. The scene is repeated 3 times in the play, with the mood and dialogue of the scene gradually changing as unpleasant situations unfold within the lives of the characters or within Egypt's state of affairs. From then on, the play presents plenty of creative sketches; an epic parody of the famous Egyptian operetta El Leila El Kebira, which pokes fun at post-January 25th political discourse; a couple getting engaged, married, having children, aging and dying without ever being able to afford an apartment; an immigrant-to-be bidding farewell to friends showing great apathy to leaving his homeland.  Gamal, the playwright, has crafted a script that touches on many elements of Egyptian pop culture using humour that definitely doesn't go unnoticed. Some of his ideas included imagining what life would be like in the year 2150 and imagining policeman as an operator receiving people's demonstration inquiries.  Unfortunately, the script is a little sloppy, occasionally lacking dramatic depth and suffering from genericism, especially in its monologues and music used to enforce dramatic effect. This, in turn, seems to have boxed the actors into some on-the-nose clichéd moments; despite this, however, the actors' energy and focus was remarkable throughout. Content-wise, 1980 Wenta Tale3 is a little unpolished and rough around the edges; the script was humorous, but lacked depth at times; performances were lively, but felt forced; even the blocking was rather inconsistent. But with the limitations considered – monetary or otherwise – it's a fun play; an entertaining combination of comedy and drama that stays fresh by adding new sketches that reference current affair. With great dedication, both the cast and the crew should be commended for the production's inspiring collaborative effort. Overall, a play that's definitely worth your time. 

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Win! All You Can Eat Sushi for Two at Conrad Cairo's Kamala

There's no shortage of sushi restaurants in Cairo's increasingly eclectic dining scene these days, but as one of the more expensive cuisines in Egypt's capitals, opportunities to truly binge on the delicacy are few and far between. One restaurant, however, understands that the (sushi) struggle is re