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The Gift: Conventional But Creepy Thriller
Published On: 29/09/2015

Despite the familiarity in The Gift's conventional, and somewhat predictable, stalker-thriller setup, Joel Edgerton – who writes, directs and stars as the lead – has managed to deliver a quiet and lingering psychological drama that isn't all bad. Tired of Chicago and its relentlessly cold weather, Simon (Bateman) and Robyn (Hall) have decided to move to Simon's hometown of Los Angeles and make a fresh start. Purchasing a modern and uniquely designed home, Simon – a sales executive working for a computer security firm – soon begins his new corporate job, while Robyn – an interior-designer dealing with a case of mild depression – works from home and take care of their dog, Jangles. During one of their shopping outings, the pair runs into Gordo – short for Gordon - (Edgerton); a socially awkward high-school classmate of Simon's who wishes to reconnect with his old bud - and his wife - by showering them with gifts and unexpected house visits. Robyn is instantly intrigued by Gordo's peculiar ways and wishes to get to know him better while, Simon is annoyed with his presence and wants nothing to do with him. Uncomfortable with the way Gordo is smothering Robyn with attention, Simon soon confronts him and asks him to leave them alone; however, Gordo is not willing to go away so easily. The Gift marks the directorial debut for the Aussie actor, Joel Edgerton –previous screenwriting credits include 2008's The Square and 2013's Felony - who successfully handles the job at hand and delivers something that is both intriguing and beautiful to watch. Maintaining a sense of surprise and a hefty dose of stalker-induced tension, The Gift is far from an original piece of storytelling – Edgerton is happy to borrow from other similarly told thrillers – however, even though if the plot plays out as expected, there is still a certain element of surprise and allure to keep everyone engaged. On the downside, however, the idea to incorporate the cheap – sometimes relatively effective – jump scares Blumhouse Production is known for, is what downgrades The Gift's initial potential, while a couple of subplots are left totally unexplored. Luckily, the commitment from all three actors is what helps keep The Gift with its head above water at its with both Hall – as the somewhat lonely and insecure woman dealing with anxiety – and Edgerton – as the subtle and terrorising weirdo - coming out on top. Bateman, known for his deadpan humour, is given the opportunity to showcase his more dramatic side and for what it's worth, he does so brilliantly. Anchored by a few strong performances and an intriguing central story, The Gift is certainly not without a fault, but it's got enough about it to leave it lingering in your mind after the credits roll.


Home Centre: One-Stop Shop For Home Accessories & Decor at Dandy Mega Mall
Published On: 28/09/2015

Though it's been a while, we still vividly remember the somewhat over-the-top promotion of Home Centre In the run-up to it's opening. There was no getting away from it and though it isn't exactly a shop that will lure you in as you casually browse Dandy Mega Mall, where it's located, once we did venture in, things made sense. More than just a home accessories and appliances shop, it's like small mall in itself. The first thing you'll notice is how impeciabbly arranged everything is – it drives home even more how many different areas of the home that the shop covers. We spotted an eclectic collection of wall clocks, of which a three-in-one clock that can show three different times (999LE) stood out, as well as an elegant, more classical bronze clock (499LE) which there was a smaller sliver version of too (299LE). There were also what one might call 'table-clocks', with a metallic clock on what was similar to a mini camera tripod (899), surprisingly tasteful. What struck as most about Home Centre overall is the wide range of prices, which allow you to either splurge on something extravagant, or save some money on purchasing more basic things. This of course applies to some stock more than others, with lamps ranging between 390LE and 1049LE. Naturally, size, materials and overall quality differs as you go up the process range; for example, among the cheapest options is a basic, hollow, metallic lamp, while the more modern designs sit at the top of the price chain – large and suitable for a reception area, it's adorned with silver-touches and a black, velvet shade. You can go into most home accessories shops in Cairo and find a small, afterthought of a selection of generic, printed art; Home Centre is no different, but at the time of our visit, there were a few decent pieces among the pop-art inspired interpretations. Prices vary based on size and materials, with the most expensive – a 70cm x 50cm pieces showing famous British landmarks – going for 240LE. The cheapest you'll find, meanwhile, go for around 79LE. When it comes to the basics, Home Centre pretty much has anything and everything – a it's a real one-stop shop. You can find everything from towels to toothbrush holders, both in all manner of colour, though the latter is outlandishly expensive – 99LE for a toothbrush holder! Even a tissue box cover is an outrageous 299LE.The prices are made all the more hard to swallow when you consider that, quality-wise, these items neither look nor feel like they justify their prices Overall, Home Centre is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to kit out a new home; and even if some of the prices are rather steep, you will find yourself browsing the shop's isles for some time.


Everest: Epic Adaptation of Remarkable True Story
Published On: 22/09/2015

Based on the real-life events of an infamous 1996 Mount Everest expedition, Everest ­ - directed by the 2 Guns director, Baltasar Kormakur - is a beautifully captured tale of bravery, human spirit and a battle for survival set against a gorgeous yet a merciless backdrop of the tallest mountain in the world. The story begins with Rob Hall (Clarke); the guide and the owner of a New Zealand-based company called Adventure Consultants who have become famous for their tours of Mount Everest. Leaving his pregnant wife, Jan (Knightley), behind, Rob is preparing for a new expedition and soon sets out to meet his new group of climbers including guide and a friend, Guy Cotter (Worthington), journalist Jon Krakauer (Kelly), postman-turned-explorer Doug Hansen (Hawkes), rowdy Texan pathologist, Beck Weathers (Brolin) and Yasuko Namba (Mori); a renowned Japanese climber looking to complete all Seven Summits. After helping his climbers with the basics of mountaineering, Rob and his team soon arrive at Everest where the rising popularity and commercialisation of guided climbs has led to crowding on the mountain. Trying to maintain a steady pace, the group – who were first forced to acclimatise to their new surroundings – begin their ascent. Fighting the harsh weather conditions – and a few moments of sheer terror - the unit is determined to make it to the top, however, disaster soon strikes and the climbers are forced to make life-or-death decisions and give it their all in their fight against Mother Nature herself. Scripted by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, Everest is told with a great deal of freshness and even if viewers are already familiar with the outcome of the story, it still manages to keep you thoroughly involved. The swooping and sometimes vertigo-inducing shots of the beautiful but deadly rocky terrain are mesmerizing and Kormakur's recreation of the infamous mountain is truly an accomplishment. The sheer intensity of the situations that befell this particularly unlucky group of climbers is almost palpable and there are a few truly intense and terrorising moments that will leave viewers at the edge of their seats. However, the film's major flaw comes in the form of character-detachment – not to mention a particularly chaotic third-act – and apart from Jason Clark, whose character and overall performance is truly compelling throughout, most of the other characters, although all genuinely invested in their respective roles, are never fully explored, leaving us a little apathetic to their fates. Overall, Everest is an immersing tale of heroism and it celebrates the human spirit when faced with the kind of gruelling challenges that only Mother Nature can. Beautifully shot, it's a visual stunner, though at times its technical achievements aren't matched by its less involving dramatic peaks. 


Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials: Stirring Sequel for Loyal Fans, Unimpressive For Others
Published On: 20/09/2015

The world is bigger but, not necessarily better in Wes Ball's Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials; an exciting but a seemingly uninventive - and lengthy - second chapter book-to-screen adaptation of James Dashner's young adult fantasy series, whose overly complex world fails to make an impression. Written by the returning screenwriter T.S Nowlin, The Scorch Trials picks up right where the first movie left off; where Thomas (O'Brien) and his fellow Gladers were rescued from the maze trials by a group of secretive officials before being transported to a secure facility. After being given a chance to catch a much-needed break, Thomas –along with Newt (Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Lee) and Teresa (Scodelario)-don't know what to make of their new surroundings; a shady-looking science facility run by the even shadier boss-man, Janson (Gillen). Subjected to a series of complicated tests and questions, the group soon discovers that there is more to the organization than it meets the eye, with Thomas once again crossing paths with WCKD; the notorious Killzone Experiment Department that tests teenagers to battle a post-apocalyptic threat. Their only hope is to find the resistance group called the Right Arm, however, they first must escape and cross the Scorch; a treacherous wasteland populated by infested zombies known as Cranks. Moving away from the source material and into a world of its own - a move which might not impress the book fans too much - The Scorch Trials kicks things off to a promising and there is an impressive amount of intensity and intrigue present from the story's beginning. However, the suspense is quickly eradicated when the chase sequences take effect and although, The Scorch Trials does seem a little more competent in putting together a few effective action set pieces set against a Mad Max-inspired backdrop than its predecessor, the repetitiveness and the unoriginality of it all can be a little disruptive to the overall experience. O'Brien seems to have settled into his role quite nicely and the young actor was able to carry the movie relatively well while the rest of the Gladers aren't really given any weight to carry, except of course, the exceptionally-hefty dialogue which the production could have done without. Aiden Gillen - Game of Thrones' "Littlefinger" - is devilish enough as the underhanded security office while, while Breaking Bad's Esposito - who plays an eccentric gang leader named Jorge - is a wonderful addition to the series. There is a hell of a lot of running - and then some - in The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials and although, the movie tries to stay true to its roots, there's not a lot of direction involved in the process. It's exciting but, there is very little depth or poignancy to the story and while the movie will probably appeal to the fans of the first film, there's not a lot of reason to believe it will convince the rest who are new to the happenings.


MB3: Local Underwear & Loungewear Brand in Zamalek
Published On: 19/09/2015

While being a Cairo 360 reviewer has plenty of perks, there are a few moments in what is an otherwise endless journey of discovery – namely when we go to review shops. Browsing, touching and enquiring prices of 90% of a shop's merchandise is uneasy enough, but that uneasiness becomes tenfold when we visit a shop that specialises in underwear, like MB3. But work is work, you know? While its name sounds more like either a 90s r&b band or a horrible typo at an electronics store, the Zamalek-located shop offers underwear and loungewear solutions for men, women and children. At the time of our visit, one male staff member was present, which made it ever-so awkward for a woman to be enquiring about undergarments and the like. Pushing our inhibitions out of our increasingly paranoid minds, we explore the women's section first. The first collection to catch our eyes was that of thick, cotton sleeveless tees in both plain white (35LE) and a range of colours (37LE) – a reasonable and unsurprising price. Alongside the tees were a collection of leggings, with white ones going for 55LE and coloured/patterned ones going for 60LE. Other basic underwear items start at a mere 20LE. The children's section – the smallest by far in the shop – is made up mostly of boys underwear, which feature a range of different cartoon characters and such, priced at a reasonable 13LE each. It was only when we moved onto the men's section that we came to realise that it's the male species that MB3 caters most to, with an impressively varied selection of underwear and loungewear items on offer. Strangely, the staff member on duty was highly hesitant to reveal the price of the boxer shorts to a woman, repeatedly pointing out that these are not for women. Generally, however, the prices are a three or four LE more than its female equivalent, with sleevless tops going for 37LE to 40LE, and boxer shorts starting at 25LE. Overall the aesthetic of MB3's clothing is all rather over the top, with the MB3 logo emblazoned across much, if not all, of it. It was something else altogether that impressed most – MB3's collection of rather strikingly-coloured towels; big bath towels for 70LE and smaller hand towels for 50LE, while face towels go for 10LE. Bathrobes, meanwhile, stand as possibly the most expensive item, priced up at 300LE. As a local company that has chains all across the country – including many outside of Cairo and even two in Sudan – MB3 should be applauded for its reasonable quality and reasonable prices. Grab a free catalogue on your way out. 


Out of the Dark: Creepy Horror Starts Off Strong, Ends Up Delivering Little
Published On: 17/09/2015

Boasting a familiar, but workable, haunted-house setup, Lluis Quilez's Out of the Dark –written by Javier Gullon and David Poster - comes across as a little bare, featuring only a handful of frights that are still devoid of any real tension, suspense and overall significance. Out of the Dark tells the story of married couple, Sarah (Stiles) and Paul Harriman (Felicity's Scott Speedman) who have decided that it's time for a change of scenery and decide to move from London to the Colombian countryside along with their young daughter, Hannah (Davies). See, Sarah's father, Jordan (Rea), is the CEO of a successful paper mill and he has offered Sarah the job of a manager, in the hope that she will continue to run the business after he retires. Not long after their airplane hits the tarmac, the picture perfect family are greeted by Sarah's father and are soon introduced to their new living quarters; a beautiful and a spacious company-owned estate with a creepy past, of course. Naturally, strange things soon begin to occur - scary noises, bumps in the night, you get the drift – before the Harrimans are introduced to the region's troubling past where Spanish conquistadors slaughtered local children who are remembered by the locals in an annual religious procession. Events take a drastic turn when Hannah, whose health has been deteriorating since she arrived, is mysteriously kidnapped, leaving it up to her grief-stricken parents to connect the dots between her abduction and the most recent events that involve the company doctor, Contreras (Furth), and the recent mercury poisoning of children in the area. Despite having a relatively solid cast, a beautifully captured Colombian backdrop and chillingly moody atmosphere, Out of the Dark still just doesn't click and while the writers seem to want to offer something a little bit more than your ordinary haunted-house flick by tapping into the eco-political and third-world poverty topics, the pieces of this particular puzzle just never connect naturally. On the surface, Out of the Dark looks immaculate and the rich-coloured cinematography is probably is by far the film's biggest success; but its on-the-nose ghost-tale exploits suffer from one too many generic bumps in the night - an aspect of the film that gets a little tiring and repetitive towards the end. In terms of performances, Stiles and Speedman do the best they can with the flat script, while young Pixie Davies is adorable enough to make us care for her wellbeing. Overall, Out of the Dark is pretty to look at and its unnerving atmosphere carries it for a while. However, its lack of consistency in keeping audiences on the edge of their seats makes Out of the Dark essentially and disappointingly just another unoriginal supernatural melodrama we've all seen before. 


The Perfect Guy: Damp Squib of a Romantic Thriller
Published On: 16/09/2015

Repetitive, uninspired and painfully vanilla, David M. Rosenthal's The Perfect Guy – a poor cross between Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction – is the latest obsessive-relationship thriller that promises an exciting ride, but just doesn't have the tools to deliver the goods. Written by Tyger Williams – see 1993's Menace II Society from the Hughes Brothers – the story is centred on Leah (Lathan); a hardworking lobbyist who has always put her career before her personal life. However, she is forever-hopeful that her committed and longstanding relationship with Dave (Chestnut) will eventually lead her down the aisle and get her that white-picket fence and family that she always knew she wanted. Unfortunately, Dave doesn't seem to be on the same matrimonial page as Leah and she's quickly forced to cut him loose. It's not too long before she meets Carter (Ealy); a handsome IT security specialist who is quick to charm his way into her life and win over her – and her family – with his extremely seductive ways. However, things soon take a turn for the worst when Carter begins to show a meaner side to his personality and Leah quickly decides it's best to keep her distance. Naturally, her decision doesn't sit well with Carter who is not ready to go away without a fight and will do anything to make their union work. Shimmery and exceptionally glossy, The Perfect Guy looks pretty attractive - and inviting - and audiences will most definitely appreciate the efforts that went into the cinematography, including the sun-kissed L.A setting as well as Leah's modern, wall-to-wall glass-house in the hills where most of the film takes place. When it comes to the story itself, however, there is not much to speak of, as the predictability of William's script – almost unbearably and agonizingly so – and director David M. Rosenthal's safe play, drains the story from whatever potential it had. Things feel rushed and the viewers aren't really given the chance or the time engage with the characters who all feel a little bit overqualified for the job at hand. Lathan is relatively convincing, while Chestnut – as the good-looking ex-boyfriend – comes across as awfully empty-headed and bland. Lastly, it's Ealy – as the new too-good-to-be-true man in Leah's life - that takes away the prize for one of the least scariest on-screen stalkers in history, whose swiftly-changing personality comes across as funny as opposed to scary. All in all, The Perfect Guy is a cliché-loving soap of a thriller that doesn't know how to be; insipid and uncreative, there is very little terror hiding beneath its B-movie vibe and its immaculately polished façade. Do not be fooled. 


Ubuntu Art Gallery: 'Ma'at Changing Colors' by Khaled Sirag
Published On: 16/09/2015

Currently on show at Zamalek's Ubuntu Art Gallery is a diverse and exhilarating exhibition of visually stimulating sculptures by Khaled Sirag. Ubuntu's generous spacing allows you to stand back and clearly observe all the sculptures that the artist offers us and there are many thought-provoking pieces to captivate the mind. One that we found particularly interesting is the collection of ceramic vases, which are elevated from the ground using rope rather than on a plinth as one would expect. The shapes and sizes vary of these vases though the markings and polished exterior are quite similar. Sirag primarily works with ceramics and, in this exhibition, most of the sculptures feature at least some component of this material, though he incorporates other materials within these pieces. He began his learning journey with ceramics in 1988; he was often inspired by nature and history, which is clearly demonstrated, in his final creations. This is apparent in one of the larger pieces, which features some kind of plant growing upwards from a glass vase filled with stones; now this is not your typical plant for the proportions are rather obscure and it has been turned upside down meaning that the roots are facing upwards towards the sky. The glass vase at the bottom is filled with white stones, though Sirag has added his ceramic touch at the rim of the vase using an emerald green finish to emphasise on the natural essence. Looking around the gallery, it seems that the artist takes ordinary ideas and then turns them into bizarre works of art, where nothing quite seems to make sense, yet they say art should evoke curiosity and pose many questions and Khaled Sirag has left us with so many. Another piece that stood out to us was a kind of collage-come-mosaic set out on the wall on two separate boards; they are side by side and together they form two wings which could be angel wings though considering Sirag's passion for nature it is also feasible that they were inspired by a large bird. It's interesting to note that Khaled Sirag has won seven ceramic competitions in total and has participated in many exhibitions both in Egypt and overseas. Ma'at Changing Colors proves to be a pleasing exhibition inspired by those natural elements we find all around us.


The Transporter Refueled: An Uninventive Flunk in the Famous Action Series
Published On: 15/09/2015

Taking itself a little too seriously, the fourth installment in The Transporter series - the Euro-action film franchise which helped put Jason Statham on the road to action-superstardom - is, as it was probably expected by many, not as snappy, brawny or as engaging as its predecessors. Working from a script written by Luc Besson, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage and with Brick Mansions' director Camille Delamarre behind the lens, The Transporter Refueled is filled with cinematic absurdities and it is once again centered on the skillful, getaway driver, Frank Martin (Skrein). Servicing the elite in the south of France, Frank's 'no-names and no-questions asked' transportation business has been thriving and he is soon recruited by the mysterious femme-fatale of sorts, Anna (Chabanol); an ex-prostitute looking to take revenge on her previous employer, ruthless Russian crime lord named Arkady (Bukvic), who has been profiting from exploiting women such as herself for years. However, after agreeing to abide to Frank's long-list of rules, Anna, accompanied by three other former prostitutes, quickly changes her tune and decides to have Frank's ex-spy of a father - Frank Sr. (Stevenson) - kidnapped in order to keep Frank Jr. accommodating to their specific needs. Drawing him into a personal high-stakes game of revenge, Frank has no choice but to comply and help Anna and her crew of blonde-wigged criminals get what they want. Stepping in for Jason Statham is the handsome Londoner and former rapper, Ed Skrein, who allegedly abandoned his role as Daario Naharis in HBO's Game of Thrones in order to star in this film. He is definitely no match for Statham's cool and I-can-handle-it-all machismo but, he does manage to hold his own despite his acting limitations which, happen to be evident throughout most of the movie's minutes. Meanwhile, the villains of the story are rather uninspiring and the writers can't seem to stay away from the clichés and the stereotypes that surround their Eastern European roots, while Chabanol proves to be one of the most uninteresting and underdeveloped female characters to hit the screen. Adding to the story's very own demise is the overuse of the slow-motion technique and the fast but, technically uninventive action-sequences - with the exception of the car flying through an airport tunnel and into the building terminal - which Delamarre embellishes with a heavy dose of shakiness and blurriness. The dialogue is weak, the logic is nonexistent and the plot holes are aplenty. Overall, it feels like no real thought went into neither the writing nor the production process to make The Transporter Refueled a must-see actioner. It may be 'refueled' but it sure looks like it's running on empty. 


Vacation: Crude Comedy Pales in Comparison to its Predecessor
Published On: 13/09/2015

Marking the first and second R-rated entry since the 1983 original National Lampoon's Vacation –starring Chevy Chase- Vacation is the latest out-of-control-family-road-trip comedy that is funny, maddening, charming and disgusting all at the same time. Written and directed by Horrible Bosses writers John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, the story is centered on the Griswolds; father and budget airline pilot, Rusty (Helms), his wife, Debbie (Applegate) and two sons, James (Gisondo) and Kevin (Stebbins). With their yearly family trip just around the corner, Rusty –who loves spending time with his family more than life itself- is looking forward to yet another vacation to their country cabin. However, when he accidently overhears Debbie complaining about the repetitiveness of their life and the unchanging ways of their marriage, he decides to switch plans and take his family on a road trip across the country to "Walley World" theme park. Unenthusiastic about the idea of spending so much time in close quarters of their Albanian supercar, the family soon hits the road. Naturally, things quickly go wrong for the Griswolds and their little cross-country adventure soon turns into a misadventure which involves swimming in sewage, river rafting and a visit to Rusty's sister, Audrey (Mann) and her well-endowed husband, Stone (Hemsworth). Attempting to revive its predecessor's name – the 32 year old cult classic that is National Lampoon's Vacation and with already a fair share of sequels– Vacation is unfortunately, not as inspiring. Coming across as a little desperate to please, its efforts, although pretty effective at times – with Stebbins the youngest and most hilarious of two sons and some pleasantly shocking profanity - there is just not enough subtlety or smart wits involved to bring around the necessary outcome; consistent and all-around pleasing viewing experience. Instead, Daley and Goldstein – who are currently working on the new and untitled Spider-Man reboot – go for the overkill and turn what was meant to be a friendly and an accessible family-road-trip comedy into a series of episodic gross-out gags and vulgar absurdity that only a few might appreciate. Helms - as the overly enthusiastic father who only wants his family to have a good time - is relatively serviceable as the lead, while Applegate seems a little lost in her role of an unhappy wife. In the meantime, Gisondo is suitably awkward, whereas Hemsworth shows of his comedic chops as the exceptionally 'gifted' husband to the less-funnier Leslie Mann. Overall, Vacation is definitely not the smartest of films and unlike the original, people will soon forget about its very existence. However, if you're looking for a piece of mindless midweek distractions then Vacation is a movie to see, otherwise, stay well clear.


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Cairo Jazz Festival 2015: Five Acts You Can't Miss This Year

Another edition of the Cairo Jazz Festival is upon us, with some of the country's best bands and musicians set to share the stages at Downtown Caro's Greek Campus with some truly outstanding acts from across the Middle East and the world – everywhere from Lebanon and Iraq, to France, Venezuala and