LONDON: Netflix’s “The Addams Family” spin-off is a melting pot of horror and hormones.
It’s safe to say that those familiar with the Hollywood trivia that Tim Burton passed on directing 1991’s “The Addams Family” (due to a scheduling conflict with “Batman Returns”) might have expected him to return to the spooky series at some point. Less predictable, however, would be the idea that he would do so as executive producer (and director of four episodes) of a coming-of-age spin-off Netflix series focusing on the family’s daughter, Wednesday.
“Wednesday” is an eight-part comedy horror show that follows the Addams family’s only daughter as she is enrolled at an austere school for supernatural outcasts. In her first week, however, Wednesday finds herself caught up in an intricate web of secret societies, rampaging monsters and murderous conspiracies — much to her morbid satisfaction.
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Jenna Ortega (who Netflix regulars may recognize as Ellie from the second season of “You”) plays the titular teen, who finds her sense of macabre isolationism at odds with the strict school principal (played by Gwendoline Christie), her over-earnest therapist (Riki Lindhome), new roommate Enid (Emma Myers) and teacher Marilyn Thornhill (Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday in the two Addams Family live-action movies). Accompanied by Thing, a disembodied hand with a penchant for obscene finger gestures, Wednesday must not only unmask a murderer, but also navigate the minefield of a school full of hormonal teenagers.
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In some ways, “Wednesday” is great — Ortega is every bit as natural a fit for the role as Ricci was in the 1990s. Burton manages to include some nice nods to the franchise as a whole, and there’s a pleasingly dark aesthetic to the show that frames the more sinister aspects of the story with aplomb. But in others, it’s a little harder to stomach.
The teenage angst feels at odds with the murderous narrative, some of the CGI work is a little schlocky, and elements of the overly emotive high school tropes feel more like cut scenes from “Dawson’s Creek” than a primetime Netflix show. But it’s a fun time, that’s for sure, and it’s nice to see Burton flexing his trademark style and gloomy verve.
For centuries, people have speculated about the possibility of planets orbiting distant stars, but only since the 1990s has technology allowed astronomers to detect them. At this point, more than five thousand such exoplanets have been identified, with the pace of discovery accelerating after the launch of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey and the Webb Space Telescope. In The Little Book of Exoplanets, Princeton astrophysicist Joshua Winn offers a brief and engaging introduction to the search for exoplanets and the cutting-edge science behind recent findings. In doing so, he chronicles the dawn of a new age of discovery—one that has rapidly transformed astronomy and our broader understanding of the universe.
JEDDAH: After two days of incredible electronic sounds in Jeddah’s historic Old Town, the MDLBEAST’s boutique festival Balad Beast came to an end as more than 25,000 people tore up dance floors to performances by 70 top DJs.
Saturday featured some of the biggest names in music, including Busta Rhymes, Carl Cox and Lupe Fiasco.
Ramadan Alharatani, CEO of MDLBEAST, told Arab News: “We just wrapped up what we call ‘the loudest week in Riyadh’ less than a week ago and here we already are, bringing tens of thousands of people together to enjoy incredible music in the most breathtaking surroundings with Balad Beast.
“The atmosphere has been amazing and everyone from the crowds to the performing artists have embraced the uniqueness of Al-Balad’s incredible history. We’re happy to host our first boutique festival in a place that’s close to our hearts — Al-Balad, Jeddah.”
Visitors danced their hearts out in various outdoor areas and across five enormous stages with laser shows and state-of-the-art sound systems. Bringing together a range of stages and artists, Balad Beast offered music for every young man and woman — from hip-hop to indie to electronic.
Mishaal Tamer, a young Saudi pop star, described his Al-Balad performance as significant and special. “It’s always special when you play in your own town and my family has been living here for over 100 years. It was definitely a surreal feeling to sing in front of a crowd that understands you and allows you to express yourself.
“I am glad to be a part of such a historic event that happened in Al-Balad. I just can’t believe how beautiful the place looks with the digital art — it’s meaningful to me being artistic.
“I encourage young artists in the Kingdom who think it’s not possible to make a career out of music. Since there are so many amazing events coming out of Saudi Arabia, it is turning into a country of music festivals which in turn is encouraging artists like us to grow and flourish.”
Tamer composed a song for Balad Beast called “966,” an area code for Saudi. He also wrote a special song dedicated to his parents. Roots are important for the young singer as he discovered music through his family and country.
Mohammed Taher, a VIP guest who came to show his support to Tamer and Balad Beast, said: “ I never thought Al-Balad would be transformed this much. In fact, the whole country has transformed in recent years. I see the spirit is changing and it is turning quite exciting to witness how the people are getting engaged in these events and activities happening around. It’s the time when people should not only live the change but also make it by being a part of it.”
Aside from the amazing pop music played during the two days, residents of Al-Balad enthralled visitors with well-known traditional Hejazi music.
Mayor of the historic area in Al-Balad Mohammed Al-Yousef dressed in a thobe and traditional Hejazi orange turban. He stood at the area’s main gates, telling Arab News that it was his duty to welcome guests to Al-Balad.
He added: “We are so glad to have such a huge music festival in Al-Balad and we really thank the organizers for bringing it to our area. We really enjoyed the last two days and hope visitors and all those who were involved in this music festival have enjoyed all the alleyways of downtown Jeddah.”
Balad Beast also featured an eclectic array of fire shows and magical performances by Dubai’s best closeup magician Felipe Scherson, London-based magician Tom Elderfield and a juggler and illusionist from France, Jyoti Supernaturel.
Marsh Abayan, talent manager at 4freelancers, which organized the magic shows, said: “This is our second time coordinating with MDLBEAST and gathering the most extensive portfolio of entertainers around the globe for the VIP guests and the visitors. We look forward to coming next year again with new talent and entertaining shows.”
Hanna Al-Abdullah, 25, who attended the Balad Beast for the second day in a row, said: “It has been an amazing Beast, and my friends and I enjoyed it very much.”
LONDON: The first three episodes of “Harry & Meghan,” advertised as a tell-all personal documentary on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, has premiered on Netflix — with somewhat mixed results.
Although they have been criticized for seemingly being hypocritical about their privacy, they certainly do have the right to tell their story on their own terms.
That being said, the show’s claims to offer a fresh account of their lives has so far fallen short of expectations.
The first episode could have done without the 10-minute rerun of archival footage showing Princess Diana’s harassment by members of the paparazzi. A briefer mention would have still honored her and the impact her death had on her son.
Apart from the seeming betrayal of Markle’s half sister and father leading up to the wedding, there is not much we hadn’t already heard in 2021 during the Oprah interview.
The Duchess mocked her royal engagement interview as “an orchestrated reality show” in the third episode. Yet one cannot shake the impression that the documentary appears heavily scripted throughout, spanning their self-recorded footage and interviews. It is natural to have doubts about their sincerity.
One thing seems clear so far from the series — they appear deeply in love. In an age of cynicism, witnessing their triumph against all odds is heartwarming.
There is also an incredibly important educational component to their story. Meghan delves into her experiences with colorism, explaining that having the privilege of a light skin while growing up in the US left her unprepared for the racism she faced in the UK.
The show further looks at how their engagement increased the visibility of the UK’s black communities. Their early entry into public life is also examined against the backdrop of the country’s heightened racism during Brexit.
The third episode sharpens the sociopolitical commentary by tracing institutional racism within the monarchy through the lens of British imperialism and slavery. It went so far as to describe the late Queen Elizabeth’s legacy of the Commonwealth as “Empire 2.0” — perhaps one of the first signs of any real introspection by members of the royal family.
One hopes that the last three episodes, to be released on Thursday, will continue to integrate the narrative with larger issues rather than reverting to the same old story about the downside of fame.
DUBAI: Oscar-nominated Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova was a vision as she stepped out in a glittering black gown from Lebanese couturier Georges Chakra at the 35th edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday, held at the Harpa concert hall in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik.
The actress opted for a piece from the label’s fall-winter 2023 couture collection, featuring a fitted, sheer bodice with see-through sleeves, according to reports.
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Bakalova made her debut with her portrayal of the character Milena in the 2017 movie “XIIa.” However, she came into the limelight after playing the role of Tutar Sagdiyev in 2020’s “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” a critically acclaimed mockumentary. For her role as Tutar, the actress went on to receive the prestigious Critics’ Choice Movie Award and was also nominated for the Academy Awards.
The actress was most recently in “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special,” which released on Disney+, where she voiced the character of Cosmo the Space Dog.
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The young actress will also be seen in several upcoming projects, including “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” “Unfrosted: The Pop-Tart Story,” “The Honeymoon,” “Fairyland,” “Triumph,” and “Electra.”
Meanwhile, at the European Film Awards, Ruben Ostlund’s satire “Triangle of Sadness” dominated, winning for best film, director and screenwriter, as well as best actor for Zlatko Buric.
Ostlund dedicated his best director award to the late South African actor Charlbi Dean, who died in August at the age of 32.
Vicky Krieps won the European actress award for her performance as Empress Elisabeth of Austria in “Corsage.”
“Mariupolis 2” took the documentary award, which was picked up by the daughter of its director, Mantas Kvedaravicius, who was killed in Ukraine. “He lost his life in a kind of selflessness most of us can’t hope to achieve — delivering medicine to people. I feel so fortunate to have had someone so brilliant in my life,” she said as she picked up the award, according to a report in Variety.
Other presenters during the evening included Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (“Game of Thrones”), Italian actor Lorenzo Zurzolo (“EO”), Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur, German actor Nina Hoss, French-Algerian actor Dali Benssalah and German actor Albrecht Schuch.
JEDDAH: Teenage years can be difficult, but for 13-year-old Karim, played by Yassir Kazzouz, the challenges are magnified when his father takes him from Paris to the small rural town of Boujad in Morocco for a holiday.
This is the outline of “A Summer in Boujad” by Paris-born Omar Mouldouira, who began his cinema career as a sound engineer before making short films set in Morocco and a television documentary series.
“A Summer in Boujad,” his first feature, shows signs of the director’s confidence throughout its 80 minutes.
Karim’s father, Messaoud (Hatim Seddiki), was born and raised in the decrepit desert town of Boujad. He migrates to Paris to make a living and provide for his family, but does not abandon his roots. Every summer, he returns with gifts that delight the townsfolk, who nickname him “Summer Santa Claus.”
But his son, raised in France and sent to a French-speaking public school, has little affinity with Morocco. He feels hopeless with his poor knowledge of Arabic, and there is a touching scene when the boy struggles to find his mother’s grave in the local cemetery, where tombstone inscriptions are in Arabic.
Karim’s brief friendship with a group of local boys comes to an abrupt end when he inadvertently crosses social lines. Torn between the need to communicate with his father and the urge to rebel, Karim feels like a pendulum swinging between bad decisions and terrible choices. His summer holiday turns out to be a disaster.
“My father doe not see me, but watches me,” he complains.
The boy finds an older role model in rebellious Mehdi (Ahmed Elmelkouni), who teaches Karim in the ways of lawlessness, but soon realizes that he has to take the rap for their mischief. The movie’s conclusion may seem too blunt, but there is room for hope and optimism.
Mouldouira has an eye for detail, and draws a vivid contrast between father and son. This is seen in a dramatic moment during the football World Cup. When Morocco scores against France, the older man is jubilant. Not Karim. A wonderful study of the implications of social dislocation.