CAIRO – Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is likely to become Egypt’s next president, headed to Russia accompanied by Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on Wednesday to discuss bilateral cooperation, the army said.Field Marshal Sisi, who is also Egypt’s defence minister and deputy prime minister, and Fahmy would hold “2+2” talks with their Russian counterparts, army spokesman Colonel Ahmed Aly said in a statement.The talks would focus on “bilateral relations and aspects of cooperation between the two countries”, the statement said. Egypt foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told AFP the two men had Wednesday left Cairo for a visit to Russia that would last two days.The trip comes “in response to the historic visit of the Russian defence and foreign ministers to Cairo” last November, the army statement said.Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Cairo for two days mid-November to discuss weapons sales as well as political and economic ties.That visit came amid tension between Egypt and its longtime ally the United States, which has suspended some of its military aid to Cairo after Sisi toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.Egypt had close ties with Russia before then president Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel in 1979, bringing in roughly $1.3 billion in annual US military aid over the subsequent decades.Since Morsi’s ouster, the military-installed government has been waging a deadly crackdown on his supporters that has left more than 1,400 people dead according to Amnesty international and thousands others jailed.Sisi, who is hugely popular after ousting the unpopular Morsi, is expected to stand in upcoming presidential elections, which he is likely to win by a landslide.
The Legend of Zorrodir Martin Campbellout nowIn 1998, The Mask of Zorro, alsodirected by Martin Cambell,was released to general acclaim.A rousing, swashbuckling adventurewith a healthy dose of humour,it made a sequel entirely predictable.Sadly, predictable is certainlythe watchword for this latest offeringfrom the conveyor-belt that isHollywood. The film, essentially aninferior photocopy of the original,is not terrible, but it is terribly mediocre.The sultry spark of the first filmhas vanished, replaced by lazy actingand an even lazier script. Thestory, little more than a series of frequentlyillogical plot devices, opensin 1850 as California votes on joiningthe Union. Zorro is enduringsomewhat less than marital bliss,with his devotion to work resultingin estrangement from his beautifulwife. This potentially emotional storylineis instead played for laughs,as Zorro strives to win Elena backfrom a villain so bland I’ve alreadyforgotten his name. Naturally, healso has to save America.The Legend of Zorro is sporadicallyfunny, but the broad slapstickmerely contributes to its uneventone, as it tries (and fails) to find abalance between grit and sanitisedfamily fare. The introduction of aZorro Junior to the forefront of theaction was always going to be intenselyirritating. One also wonderswhy the skilful swordsman Zorronever actually kills anyone with hissword.Nevertheless, the blockbusterdoes have its moments, and it occasionallyfeels like a better story islurking just out of reach. A mealtimescene proves surprisingly macabreand the rousing fighting ofthe climax is undeniably exciting.On a different front, real emotionis felt when Zorro’s identity is revealed,yet the chief effect of this isto highlight the sterility of the restof the affair.It is a depressing thought that sausagefactory of Hollywood cannotmuster the courage to experimentwith fresh material. Recycling is agood thing when it comes to litter,but not when cinema is concerned.The word ‘sequel’ may arouse producersin Bel-Air, but for me it hasall the excitement of toast.There are exceptions, of course,that prove this rule. This film,as you may have guessed, is notone of them. No amount of scenery,swords, special effects or even(gasp) Antonio Banderas can hidethe unerring feeling that The Legendof Zorro has nothing new tosay. Far from being a legend, thisfilm proved difficult to rememberlong enough to write a review.ARCHIVE: 3rd week MT 2005