Hurrah, the entertainment line-up for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has finally been revealed. Roll up, roll up Prince, playing in the top spot for the closing night of race weekend on Sunday, November 14. We greatly look forward to joining together at Yas Arena in a collaborative rendition of Purple Rain. Then there's Linkin Park, who were supposedly so keen to come here they were booked in before last year's acts were even confirmed. And Kanye West will be completing the triumvirate, taking a break from entertaining his followers on Twitter to wow the crowds in Abu Dhabi.But let's not allow those three to steal the limelight. There's the rest of the Yasalam programme to work through.
We've got Sean Paul, Kelis, Nancy Ajram and Sophie Ellis-Bextor performing, among others, as part of Beats on the Beach, which runs from Wednesday to Saturday night over race weekend. Then there's the F1 Fanzone, open from October 28 and with racing simulators and driver signings; there's a Brazilian Parade on November 5 to celebrate the weekend's Sao Paulo race on November 7 (which will be screened there live); a gallery of F1 art and, oh, just a few motocross and mountain bike stunts from extreme sports professionals. Phew. That's it?
Why no, silly. Yasalam includes the chance for a spot of pre-race relaxation too, with the popular Cinema by the Sea series returning again in the run-up for the big weekend itself. Last year, organisers estimated that it brought in between 1,500 and 2,000 eager onlookers, and this year promises to build on that because this time round we're being treated to 10 films instead of six - kicking off on a Thursday night (October 28) and stretching right through until the following Tuesday (November 2).
So, why not flop yourself down in front of the outdoor cinema screen, grab a box of popcorn and watch just one, several or all of the following flicks. Just make sure you get down there early enough to grab a spare bean-bag. The cycle opens with a trip to Rydell High. There's a Grease-themed show too, so perhaps we'll see Pink Ladies tottering about the beach, hear a few 1950s rock'n'roll classics and detect the smell of Brylcream hanging in the evening air.
Who knows. We'll all have to wait and see, before settling down to watch Danny, Sandy and co work out their high-school angst and singing along to We Go Together. There's a distinct sci-fi flavour to the second evening, firstly with Knight Rider 2010. This is the 1994 film based loosely on the television series but set in an apocalyptic future and with a souped-up Mustang replacing the Pontiac. Next, there's Michael Bay's 2004 flick, Transformers, based on the 1980s action figures and starring Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox. A civil war between robots from outer space that can transform themselves into mechanical objects? Why not.
Racing is the theme the following night, with Jerry Zucker's Rat Race being screened before the Nicolas Cage flick, Gone in 60 Seconds. Zucker is the director and writer behind films such as Airplane! and The Naked Gun series, so expect similar levels of sophisticated humour from Rat Race. An eccentric casino owner (John Cleese) devises a new game to entertain the big-money spenders in his casino, which involves them betting on a group of losers racing across America for a million-dollar prize.
Vehicles involved include a monster truck, a hot-air balloon and, bizarrely, something that's supposed to be Hitler's Mercedes-Benz. Deeply silly, fairly enjoyable and with a solid cast that also boasts Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg and Cuba Gooding Jr. Gone in 60 Seconds is, of course, silly too, but in a high-octane manner with plenty of menacing looks and growling from Cage and a top car chase through the streets of Los Angeles.
On Sunday night, we have one of the two Cinema by the Sea repeats from last year with Cars, due to be shown in Arabic but with English subtitles. In true Pixar fashion, it's a family favourite and crammed with gags for both children and parents. Lightning McQueen is a confident racing car, who comes off-road in a town called Radiator Springs and is taught a few life lessons by its residents. Look out for the blue forklift truck called Guido. Slumdog Millionaire follows that, not because there's any element about racing in it (apart from its sprint to the Oscar finish line, of course), but because of its multicultural appeal.
Back to the racetrack the following day with Speed Racer, a film based on the Japanese animé series of the same name. Emile Hirsch stars as an 18-year-old boy-racer, obsessed with cars and embarking on a mission to fulfill the legacy left by his brother, who died in a race accident. Next is the series' second repeat, with the screening of The Italian Job. Michael Caine fans beware, because the newer version is being screened instead of the old. But then we still have Donald Sutherland, Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron to gaze at, and it's all good fun .
Finally, bookending the series in an appropriate fashion is our tenth screening: Grease 2. There is an element of role reversal to this - with Maxwell Caulfield playing the part of prim, bookish Michael, who falls for fresh-faced Michelle Pfeiffer starring as the bad girl, Stephanie. Its tagline reads "Grease is still the word", however, so expect Pink Ladies, T-Birds and a competitive speed race on motorbikes. We can hear the screech of rubber already.
The first film of each evening begins at 7pm, the second follows at 9pm. For more details see www.yasalam.ae.