Every week, I’m charged with typing up the cinema listings in a local magazine. It’s a thankless task, if I’m honest, taking about two hours out of my schedule whenever I embark on the mission. But because I get the listings straight from the cinemas themselves, I am at least given a pretty good insight into what the week’s movie line-up will be like.
Over the weeks, you start to notice patterns, telling you which kinds of movies are doing well and which ones need to be kicked. You also get an idea about which kinds of people go to the various cinemas around Dubai. Any given month’s big Bollywood movie, for example, will probably be showing for around four weeks before it’s pulled at Wafi’s Grand Cineplex, suggesting that the cinema hosts plenty of Indian visitors.
Likewise, a small cinema like Grand Cinecity at Al Ghurair, which only has eight screens, has to choose its films very carefully. So it will often show all of the week’s big Bollywood, Tamil or Malay films, and only a selection of the Hollywood ones. This is, presumably, because its punters are more interested in the films from their home countries.
The bigger cinemas like Dubai Mall’s make it more difficult to spot patterns, because so many people from all walks of life visit them. What’s more, if a cinema has enough screens, it can accommodate all tastes, giving everyone equal preference. Sometimes, however, I look at even these listings and think, “What is wrong with people?”
This week, for example, Grand Megaplex will show The Hobbit in 2D on just one screen. This equates to just five showings per day. Last week, it was more than double that. What amazing new film has The Hobbit been replaced with just one week after being released? Bloody Jack Reacher, a new crime flick in which Tom Cruise pretends that he can be a gritty action hero.
Going back a couple of weeks, the biggest film of the moment was the superb Anna Karenina, which, though slightly tedious, was at least a properly put together piece of cinema. Most of Dubai’s theatres were showing it on more than two screens, meaning more than 10 showings per day. But one week later, it had been taken off the rosta entirely at a couple of cinemas, and its showings had been greatly reduced at others.
What took its place? The Man With the Iron Fists, a film about as cerebral as an excrement-throwing monkey. The same could be said for the next week’s big film, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s latest hyper-violent action mash-up. Even Argo, Ben Affleck’s much-hyped imagining of the so-called Canadian Caper, suffered at the hands of tripe such as So Undercover and Vamps, the former of which was a straight-to-DVD release in America due its awfulness.
This utter rubbish only lasts a week or two, but then it’s replaced by more utter rubbish, and all the while these unpleasant logs laid by the salesman of Hollywood are chipping away at the slots that should be given to better films. However, a good film only gets the screen time it deserves if it’s a BIG good film. And those only come about a couple of times every year.
You can’t blame the cinemas. Their job is to sell as many movie tickets as they can, meaning that, if a film does badly, it’ll lose some of its screen time. In its place, there’ll be a new film that will hopefully do a bit better, or else there’ll be more showings of a film that completely sold out in the previous week. Whether the film is good or bad never comes into it.
This means that the blame lies with the cinema-going public. It is the punters who decide a movie’s fate at the box office, and it is the punters who influence what’s being shown. Unfortunately, judging by this week’s listings, the punters have no taste.
Back in May, I wrote that I reckoned my HTC Sensation XE would be able to stand up fairly well against the next generation of Android devices that were soon to hit store shelves. How very wrong I was.
To be fair to my past self, if the phone still worked as it was supposed to, I’d have been right. If the phone worked properly, I wouldn’t be able to justify splurging on a new device just because I wanted the hottest new gadget. When it works, the XE is a great phone. However, it has been, in recent weeks, bordering on unusable.
I don’t say that lightly – it really has been that bad. The main problem is that it will simply turn itself off whenever it damn well feels like it. I could be browsing the web, typing a message or in the middle of a reasonably important phone call – it doesn’t matter. The power will simply cut out, and I’ll look down to a blank screen, as if the phone has narcolepsy.
This would be fine if it only happened once in a while, but it’s happening about five times a day. And if the phone’s been in my pocket, I’ll only discover it’s off when I fish it out to do something. When I turn it on, I’m hit with a barrage of messages asking where the hell am I and why is my phone turned off.
A quick scan of the Phandroid forums reveals that this is a widespread issue with the XE. However, no one seems to have a definitive answer for why it’s happening. Personally, I think it’s shoddy build quality. Because the phone just cuts out, rather than shuts down properly, I’m tempted to think that it’s something to do with a loose connection between the battery and the rest of the phone. Perhaps, for whatever reason, the power connection is lost momentarily, causing the issue.
There’s more evidence for this shoddy build quality theory elsewhere on the phone. The volume adjustment buttons on the side, for example, simply fell out one day. And the free Beats by Dr Dre headphones that came with the phone lasted but a month before completely falling apart. Considering that I bought the XE in March – just nine months ago – I’d say that was pretty shocking.
Before I upgraded to the Sensation, I had the HTC Desire. It was a step up from my ageing iPhone 3G, and I’d been captivated by the Desire HD. I reasoned that the Desire must be pretty good, too, and it was well priced, so I went for it. However, that phone only lasted a year because it had the memory of a goldfish. As time went on, I’d have to delete contacts, messages, apps – pretty much everything – just to be able to use the damn thing. So, I thought, I’ll get the next generation HTC because I really liked the HTC Sense UI.
I won’t be making the same mistake again. When you have to upgrade twice in two years – once after just nine months – you know that you’re dealing with some shoddy products. I know a guy who is still rocking his old iPhone 3G, and another who’s using a Blackberry from 2009. There’s no way my current phone would last that long. The question is, if I’m not going for a new HTC, which brand should I flock to?
I’m tempted by the iPhone 4S, simply because a friend who recently upgraded to the 5 will sell me his old handset on the cheap. I know it will be a great phone, and I know it will last – Apple products always do. But I’m not sure if I want to go back to the dreary world that is iOS. Meanwhile, I’m also intrigued by Nokia’s new Windows 8-powered Lumia 920, which recently got a great review from prolific blogger, writer and tech guy Alexander McNabb.
That said, I’ve already made up my mind, and it’s the Samsung Galaxy S3. I know for a fact that it’s a great phone because I had it on test a few months ago. I was genuinely sad to have to give it back to Samsung when my loan period was up. What’s more, you can get the 16GB version for a steal on JadoPado.com. Good thing my birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks.
I moved to Tecom from Jumeirah a little over a month ago. The two environments couldn’t be more different if they tried. While Jumeirah is a quiet, suburban area with little construction and impeccable roads, all lined with lush, green grass and growing palm trees, Tecom is a dusty, harsh metropolis, with tall buildings blocking out the sun and barely finished roads. Of course, Tecom has been built up extremely quickly over the past few years, but much of it is still a construction site, meaning that, to walk anywhere, you’ll no doubt be forced to navigate cones, sand tracks and quarries, all the while dodging diggers and pick-up trucks.
There’s another big difference between Jumeirah and Tecom, and it’s found in the graffiti that’s plastered across the two areas. In Jumeirah, you’re lucky to see anything more cerebral than profanities scribbled hastily across back-alley walls, probably by bored, middle-class kids. But in Tecom, the graffiti artists have taken on an entirely different mentality.
I use the word “artists” loosely, because in neither place will you find the amazing and impressive word-art that adorns the railway lines of London. Nor will you find anything resembling the likes of Banksy. But in Tecom, you will find evocative quotes written across walls and building site boards, most of them in the same handwriting, signed only with the letter “U”.
There are others, of course, which I suspect are done by copycat graffitists (is that the word?), but U’s works are unmistakable. Quite what his (or her) motives are is anyone’s guess, but I reckon he or she is facing that same love/hate relationship with Dubai as many expats do. They despise living here and yet they couldn’t bare to live anywhere else. Perhaps they’re just trying to get people to slow down and think about things.
I’m sure I’ve seen an overzealous report in one of the newspapers over here about Dubai residents being furious over this graffiti, and maybe people are getting ticked off about it. For my part, I quite enjoy walking through the half-constructed landscape and being given these little idioms to read along the way. Here’s a selection of the ones I could find on a short walk back from the bank, though I’m sure there are more. Thanks for the material, U.
All images copyright Tom Paye. These photos are my own work and as such are not to be printed, reproduced or re-used without prior approval.
Having just moved into a new, unfurnished apartment, I’ve recently had the pleasure of being able to build up my living areas from scratch. My flatmate and I have spent the last few weeks coming up with and then realising grand interior designs. Our place is hardly TV-worthy, but it’s certainly been very fun being able to design a living space to look exactly how you want it.
Luckily, as it turns out, we both have pretty similar tastes when it comes to interior design. We like clean, modern looks, repeating colour schemes and just a smattering of silliness to garnish it all off. Think guitars on the walls, skateboards above doorways and framed LPs from the ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies. We’ve been living in the new pad for little over a week, and it’s all coming together rather nicely.
This is thanks, in no small part, to the great furniture that we found at Pan Emirates. We were recommended the store by a friend who said that it stocked nice, modern-looking products that wouldn’t break the bank. Upon our first visit, we’d pretty much picked everything out, and left with a full-length mirror and an order form for a coffee table, a couple of rugs and two small arm chairs. You can see the results in the photo above.
Obviously, we wanted the stuff to be delivered as quickly as possible, but we were told we had to wait three or four days. Given the fact that all we had in our shiny new apartment was a futon and a TV, it was pretty annoying, but we slummed it for the few days and the Pan Emirates delivery truck turned up first thing on Wednesday morning, exactly when it was supposed to.
Now, Ikea is a big favourite among furniture buyers, and is far better known than Pan Emirates. The stuff it sells is crisp, modern and, above all, reasonably priced. The only real annoyance of Ikea is that you have to take it home and assemble it yourself. It’s fine in general, and the ease with which we put up our Ikea TV unit will pay testament to that. But in the face of the service you get from Pan Emirates, Ikea looks like a distant, cheap and nasty operation.
From the moment that your products are punched into the register at the store, and you’ve filled out the delivery form, you’re sent a confirmation text with a reference number and delivery date. Then, on the day that your furniture is due to turn up, you’re sent another text, confirming that it’s still happening. Soon after, a driver calls you up, asking when the best time to turn up would be. We asked if it could be in the next 20 minutes, and he said it wasn’t a problem.
Quite literally 20 minutes later, the driver and his team of mover men were ringing the buzzer, asking to be let into the building. They came in, assembled everything beautifully, and asked where we’d like it to be placed. Then – disaster! The guys had been supplied with the wrong type of runners for the drawer on the coffee table. He demonstrated that the ones he had sort of worked, but were in no way perfect. We thought, “Oh here we go.” But the driver said, “Let me make a couple of calls and try to get this sorted, and maybe I can come back later on.”
Dreading that this would be a hideously long process that could take weeks, we simply agreed to let him get on with it. But within 10 minutes, he said that he could pick up new runners and be back within half an hour to fix the issue. In a flash, he was out of the door and on his way, and he returned in about 20 minutes with the proper runner. In the next few minutes, our gleaming coffee table was finished and polished, and then the guys packed up their stuff, cleaned up properly after themselves and bade us goodbye with a smile.
We were in shock. Never before have I seen a Dubai company put that much effort into ensuring that the customer gets exactly what he or she orders at the agreed time. But it was more than that; the mover men themselves seemed genuinely concerned that we get our flat furnished as we’d wanted it, and would do anything in their power to ensure it.
You’d expect this kind of service from a high-end brand, sure, but Pan Emirates is comparable to Ikea in price, and yet it provides a much, much better service. With Ikea, you’d better hope that those childhood years of playing with Lego and Meccano have paid off. With Pan Emirates, you just need to make sure you stick to the time you’ve agreed on, because the delivery men sure will. At this price point, that kind of service deserves serious recognition.
Pan Emirates Coffee table, black w/ glass panel and drawer – Dh495
Pan Emirates Small leather armchair – Dh295
Pan Emirates Rug, red, large – Dh545
Pan Emirates Rug, red, small – Dh179
Pan Emirates Mirror, black, oval-shaped – Dh195
IKEA shelf/TV unit, brown/black – Dh249
IKEA stand-up lamp, black – Dh39
When you’re expected to attend an event at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on the Palm, it’s no good turning up in a Toyota Camry taxi. After all, this is a venue at which scenes from the latest Mission: Impossible movie were filmed, and where, at the entrance, gleaming Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Ferraris wait patiently for the valets to return them to their masters.
I even saw someone turn up in a classic 1950s Jaguar, meaning that I was dreading clambering out of a normal cab. Thankfully, though, I managed to hitch a ride with a colleague, who was testing the Audi A7. It might not be as showy as the previous brands mentioned, but it’ll certainly hold its own when it comes to looking good at a high-end event.
Underneath, it’s essentially an A6, though it’s been styled in order to compete in the new coupé-saloon segment created by Mercedes when it released the extremely pretty CLS-Class back in 2004. It was certainly a saloon, based on a spin-off of the E-Class platform, though it looked tauter, sportier and sleeker, thanks to its sweeping roof line and pillarless windows. Audi has since pulled the same trick with its A5 Sportback and its A7.
When it first came out, I didn’t much care for the looks of the A7. I figured that it was trying too hard to be a CLS, and it hadn’t captured the fun, sporty side of the design that well. But seeing it in the metal changed my opinion completely. There’s no doubting it’s an Audi, with that familiar face that’s plastered over pretty much the entire range, though further back it looks like it’s taken nods from the lovely R8. And from the back, it looks almost like a muscle car, aggressive and purposeful. I like it a lot.
There’s more to like on the inside. I’ve been inside the CLS-Class, and, save for the very latest iteration of it, it had nothing on the interior of the Audi. The seats are supple and comfortable, though you can tell they’ll provide plenty of support when the going gets fast. There’s plenty of lovely leather to touch, plus real wood and metal, providing a feeling of genuine luxury – nothing you touch feels fake or plasticky.
Despite sitting in the front passenger seat for the journey, it was quite obvious there was plenty of room in the back for adults, at least for a short journey. Longer journeys may require the leg room of the A8 for extended periods of comfort, but it’s still surprising how much space Audi has managed to pack into the back, particularly with that sloping roof line. Talking of the roof, there are miles of room for the head, but that’s because you sit low down in the bowels of the car, as if you’re in the cockpit of a fighter aircraft.
I’m sure that feeling is magnified from the driver’s seat, where the centre console and instruments are all facing and geared towards. The design makes clear that this is a car to drive, not to be driven in, and that’s immediately obvious from my driver’s face as he revs up the three-litre TFSI engine, which is good for 295bhp. It’s quite a big car, so it’s surprising just how well it pulls, and you’re flung into the back of your seat whenever the driver sees a gap in the road and decides to stomp his foot down a little. It’s enormous fun to be in.
The kit on board is standard across the range of high-end Audis, and it’s all marvellous. It’s easy to use and intuitive, and the large screen at the top of the centre console is particularly beautiful, though if I was driving, I might have found it a little distracting. Either way, my colleague offered no complaints.
The drive was just about long enough to get to grips with what this car is all about. It’s meant to look great, offer a decent amount of driving pleasure and also the refinement of the – slightly more boring – A6. And I have to say that it does tremendously well on all counts. Stepping out as the Zabeel Saray representative opened the door at the hotel entrance, I smiled and nodded towards the car, which had provided me with as classy an entrance as could be found anywhere.