Jim Carrey digitally processed as both the Ghost of Christmas Present, left, and Ebenezer Scrooge in Robert Zemeckis's A Christmas Carol.
Jim Carrey digitally processed as both the Ghost of Christmas Present, left, and Ebenezer Scrooge in Robert Zemeckis's A Christmas Carol.

Razzle dazzle



Part of Hollywood's blossoming love affair with digital 3D, A Christmas Carol stars a "motion capture" version of Jim Carrey as the classic Dickensian anti-hero Ebenezer Scrooge, a penny-pinching Victorian curmudgeon who is persuaded to mend his mean-spirited ways by a terrifying series of ghostly yuletide visitations.

The director Robert Zemeckis is on extremely familiar ground here. Written in 1843, primarily as a means for Charles Dickens to pay off his own crippling debts, A Christmas Carol later became the evergreen inspiration for dozens of festive films. More than 50 adaptations have been made to date for both big and small screen, including several animated features. Carrey has even played a version of Scrooge before, in Ron Howard's 2000 live-action smash The Grinch.

Clearly conscious of this historical legacy, Zemeckis combines fidelity to his 19th-century source material with cutting-edge 21st-century technology. The director stays broadly true to the book's structure, condensing passages of dialogue directly from Dickens, and even using John Leech's original illustrations for visual reference. His most obvious departures from the novel are the fast-paced action sequences, such as the nightmarish fantasy vision in which Scrooge shrinks down to doll size as a ghostly funeral hearse chases him through the city's cobbled streets.

Some reviewers have protested that such Harry Potter-style distractions add nothing to the substance of the story, but they make for perfectly harmless spectacle. In fact, this is where Zemeckis presses home his competitive advantage over previous Dickens adaptations: by maximising the potential of digital animation for grand visual flourishes. Right from the opening shot, an aerial swoop across the snowy rooftops of Victorian London, A Christmas Carol is a sense-swamping thrill ride.

The digital 3D version is particularly impressive. Projecting flurries of snowflakes, horse-drawn carriages and vast cityscapes into the air before you, this eye-popping visual bling is the main selling point. Refreshingly, with his nuanced performance as Scrooge, Carrey tones down his usual hyperactive clowning. In voice and manner, he appears to be channelling Mr Burns from The Simpsons - which makes sense, as the cartoon's tight-fisted tycoon is clearly an indirect homage to Scrooge himself.

Like Tom Hanks in The Polar Express, Carrey plays multiple roles, including all three Christmas ghosts. In these he is less impressive, sporting a wobbly range of accents that slip between England, Ireland and Scotland, often in the space of a single sentence. This is an oddly clumsy oversight for such an expensive and meticulously detailed project, but perhaps Zemeckis was counting on non-British audiences not noticing, or caring.

In motion-capture terms, Scrooge's heavily lined gargoyle face and bony, elongated body are extremely well realised. And yet, despite looking like a digitally generated Freddie Krueger, Carrey still manages to convey sympathy for his character's essential loneliness and self-loathing. The portrayals of the first two ghosts, the first a kind of giant talking candle, the second a gargantuan Father Christmas figure, are also imaginatively done.

Alas, the rest of the cast are not afforded the same level of expressive detail. The digitally manipulated Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins and Colin Firth are all just about recognisable as themselves, but resemble lifeless waxworks more than real people. In some cases, these creepy showroom dummies are actually more scary than the ghosts. Impressive as it is, motion-capture technology is plainly not yet advanced enough to replace or even fully replicate human beings. Photo-realistic? Bah, humbug!

The creaky cautionary message of A Christmas Carol is perhaps too familiar and too obvious to move 21st-century hearts. Indeed, in our more cynical consumerist age, there is always a danger that Scrooge's sour attacks on shallow seasonal sentiment may even strike modern viewers as refreshingly frank. In this, Dickens may be just as much to blame as Zemeckis. This latest re-telling certainly feels slick, soulless and mechanical, but at least it is surprisingly low on schmaltzy Hollywood sentiment. Unlike previous adaptations, Zemeckis does not linger long on Scrooge's conversion to festive good cheer, perhaps realising that nice characters are essentially dull.

A Christmas Carol is undoubtedly more engaging technically than emotionally, but it works just fine as razzle-dazzle spectacle.

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now

Key figures in the life of the fort

Sheikh Dhiyab bin Isa (ruled 1761-1793) Built Qasr Al Hosn as a watchtower to guard over the only freshwater well on Abu Dhabi island.

Sheikh Shakhbut bin Dhiyab (ruled 1793-1816) Expanded the tower into a small fort and transferred his ruling place of residence from Liwa Oasis to the fort on the island.

Sheikh Tahnoon bin Shakhbut (ruled 1818-1833) Expanded Qasr Al Hosn further as Abu Dhabi grew from a small village of palm huts to a town of more than 5,000 inhabitants.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Shakhbut (ruled 1833-1845) Repaired and fortified the fort.

Sheikh Saeed bin Tahnoon (ruled 1845-1855) Turned Qasr Al Hosn into a strong two-storied structure.

Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa (ruled 1855-1909) Expanded Qasr Al Hosn further to reflect the emirate's increasing prominence.

Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan (ruled 1928-1966) Renovated and enlarged Qasr Al Hosn, adding a decorative arch and two new villas.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan (ruled 1966-2004) Moved the royal residence to Al Manhal palace and kept his diwan at Qasr Al Hosn.

Sources: Jayanti Maitra, www.adach.ae

Top 10 most competitive economies

1. Singapore
2. Switzerland
3. Denmark
4. Ireland
5. Hong Kong
6. Sweden
7. UAE
8. Taiwan
9. Netherlands
10. Norway

How to wear a kandura

Dos

  • Wear the right fabric for the right season and occasion 
  • Always ask for the dress code if you don’t know
  • Wear a white kandura, white ghutra / shemagh (headwear) and black shoes for work 
  • Wear 100 per cent cotton under the kandura as most fabrics are polyester

Don’ts 

  • Wear hamdania for work, always wear a ghutra and agal 
  • Buy a kandura only based on how it feels; ask questions about the fabric and understand what you are buying
The National Archives, Abu Dhabi

Founded over 50 years ago, the National Archives collects valuable historical material relating to the UAE, and is the oldest and richest archive relating to the Arabian Gulf.

Much of the material can be viewed on line at the Arabian Gulf Digital Archive - https://www.agda.ae/en

SPEC SHEET: APPLE M3 MACBOOK AIR (13")

Processor: Apple M3, 8-core CPU, up to 10-core CPU, 16-core Neural Engine

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Memory: 8/16/24GB

Storage: 256/512GB / 1/2TB

I/O: Thunderbolt 3/USB-4 (2), 3.5mm audio, Touch ID

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3

Battery: 52.6Wh lithium-polymer, up to 18 hours, MagSafe charging

Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD

Video: Support for Apple ProRes, HDR with Dolby Vision, HDR10

Audio: 4-speaker system, wide stereo, support for Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio and dynamic head tracking (with AirPods)

Colours: Midnight, silver, space grey, starlight

In the box: MacBook Air, 30W/35W dual-port/70w power adapter, USB-C-to-MagSafe cable, 2 Apple stickers

Price: From Dh4,599

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Email sent to Uber team from chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi

From: Dara

To: Team@

Date: March 25, 2019 at 11:45pm PT

Subj: Accelerating in the Middle East

Five years ago, Uber launched in the Middle East. It was the start of an incredible journey, with millions of riders and drivers finding new ways to move and work in a dynamic region that’s become so important to Uber. Now Pakistan is one of our fastest-growing markets in the world, women are driving with Uber across Saudi Arabia, and we chose Cairo to launch our first Uber Bus product late last year.

Today we are taking the next step in this journey—well, it’s more like a leap, and a big one: in a few minutes, we’ll announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Careem. Importantly, we intend to operate Careem independently, under the leadership of co-founder and current CEO Mudassir Sheikha. I’ve gotten to know both co-founders, Mudassir and Magnus Olsson, and what they have built is truly extraordinary. They are first-class entrepreneurs who share our platform vision and, like us, have launched a wide range of products—from digital payments to food delivery—to serve consumers.

I expect many of you will ask how we arrived at this structure, meaning allowing Careem to maintain an independent brand and operate separately. After careful consideration, we decided that this framework has the advantage of letting us build new products and try new ideas across not one, but two, strong brands, with strong operators within each. Over time, by integrating parts of our networks, we can operate more efficiently, achieve even lower wait times, expand new products like high-capacity vehicles and payments, and quicken the already remarkable pace of innovation in the region.

This acquisition is subject to regulatory approval in various countries, which we don’t expect before Q1 2020. Until then, nothing changes. And since both companies will continue to largely operate separately after the acquisition, very little will change in either teams’ day-to-day operations post-close. Today’s news is a testament to the incredible business our team has worked so hard to build.

It’s a great day for the Middle East, for the region’s thriving tech sector, for Careem, and for Uber.

Uber on,

Dara

Naga

Director: Meshal Al Jaser

Starring: Adwa Bader, Yazeed Almajyul, Khalid Bin Shaddad

Rating: 4/5

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5