Cultural calendar This week, Maroon 5, Los Angeles' premier coffee-table funk-pop ensemble, hit Dubai's Media City Palladium on one of their Odyssean promotional tours.
From the big screen to the rock scene
A respectable haul of stars is in town this week for the fifth and biggest Dubai International Film Festival. If you happen to be within eyeshot of the Madinat Jumeirah on Thursday, watch out for Nicolas Cage, Brendan Fraser, Danny Glover, Laura Linney and Goldie Hawn, all confirmed attendees at the red-carpet bash. You may also spot Oliver Stone, whose Bush biopic, W, is the opening-night film. Seeing as its only tepidly reproachful portrait of the 43rd president managed to wind up neoconservative loyalists and critics alike, the director should be pretty conspicuous: he'll be the guy who's giddy with relief at escaping America's bipartisan naughty corner.
As for the festival itself, tickets for popular films are going fast. Still, there are a couple of free open-air screenings that should be worth checking out. In Heat, a Dutch-Moroccan teleplay directed by Lodewijk Crijns, two Dutch women travel to Morocco to buy furniture for their henna salon but get tangled up in a botched people-smuggling job. The film, which was praised in the Netherlands for its intense naturalism, is showing at the Media City Amphitheatre on Dec 16. And at the same place the following night, you can catch Mamoru Oshii's The Sky Crawlers. A satirical sci-fi film based on Japanese novels by Hiroshi Mori, it blends two- and three-dimensional animation to conjure a world of perpetually adolescent airborne gladiators. Praised at the Toronto International Film Festival and heaped with awards at Venice and Catalonia, it should at least be worth a look.
Among the most intriguing of the ticketed events is Steven Soderbergh's Che, a four-hour, two-part biopic of the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto Guevara. The always-watchable Benicio del Toro takes the title role. The film has had a bumpy ride through the festival circuit, especially stirring up the critics at Cannes who found its relative indifference to questions of motive and its deep interest in the minutiae of military strategy at once brave, irritating and morally dubious. Oh, and it's in Spanish. Frankly it sounds like box-office poison; indeed it may not get a proper cinematic release at all. Lucky us, then, who do get to see a grand experiment from one of America's most restlessly inventive directors. It plays on Dec 15 and 17. See @email:www.dubaifilmfest.com for details and tickets. Prices range from Dh20-Dh80.
From the artistic wilderness to the middle of the road: on Wednesday, Maroon 5, Los Angeles' premier coffee-table funk-pop ensemble, hit Dubai's Media City Palladium on one of their Odyssean promotional tours. They did four years for their debut, Songs About Jane, and the follow-up only came out in 2007, so we'll get to see them when they're still comparatively fresh. Incidentally, if anyone can decipher the title of their sophomore effort, do share. It Won't Be Soon Before Long sounds like one of those garbled cod-profundities that Oasis are so fond of - Let Forever Be, Don't Believe the Truth, that sort of thing. This being Maroon 5, however, one suspects a skeevy subtext - few bands can be so dedicated to the theme of loving and leaving, whether in art or in life. Even so, the album is a cracking piece of laser-cut, high-gloss pop craftsmanship, and the band's aeons on the road all but guarantee a performance of merciless efficiency. Tickets start at Dh235. See @email:www.livenation.ae/maroon5.
Finally, the Laughter Factory is touring its new three-man comedy line-up from Dec 11-18. The Canadian stand-up comedian Stewart Francis heads a bill that also includes the scabrous US satirist Sean Kent and the British oddball Matt Welcome. Francis, a game-show host at home and a panel-show regular in the UK and America, is the most prominent of the three; his loopy one-liners and funereal demeanour place him somewhere between Jimmy Carr and Boothby Graffoe in the cladogram of modern comedy. Welcome, on the other hand, is returning to comedy having reportedly spent a few years finding himself. His comeback gig was, by his own description, "cathartic", which may be interpreted according to taste. The show is touring the Emirates; call 800 4669 for tickets and see @email:www.thelaughterfactory.com for more information.