Face-off: iPhone and iPod Speaker Docks

Posted by Mark

Over the weekend I picked up three different speaker docks from the Digits Apple Store to review. Even though all three do the same thing they’re not really direct competitors, either because of the price difference or because of their abilities as you’ll see in my short reviews below.

Logitech S715i
The Logitech speaker was the smallest and most portable of the three. It’s also the only one that comes with built in rechargeable batteries which makes it really convenient to take to the beach and other places where power outlets aren’t available. The speakers are loud although the sound isn’t the greatest with pretty weak bass but that’s to be expected due to the size. One thing that really bugged me about the speaker dock is that I couldn’t connect my iPhone to it unless I removed the iPhone bumper which was annoying. Overall a fairly decent speaker that doesn’t win on style or sound but is priced competitively at KD35. Personally I’d check out the Jawbone Jambox first if I was looking for portability but that also costs twice as much.

Altec Lansing iMT800 Digital Boombox
When I first pulled out this boombox from the box I was a bit disappointed. I had just finished with the Monster Beatbox and compared to it, the Altec Lancing felt very plasticky, light and flimsy. It also didn’t sound as good nor was it as pretty. But it did have some features the Beatbox lacked and one of them is the built-in FM radio tuner. If you’re a fan of Linda on the Superstation you’re going to really want this. Another feature is the fact that it has three inputs, one iPhone/iPod dock and two auxiliary inputs so you could hook up 3 iPods if you want. Finally and more importantly is that the Altec Lansing can run on 8 large D-cell batteries which actually is a useful feature. Now because of the size of the Altec Lansing I thought it was competing with the Monster Beatbox but turns out they’re currently selling this for KD34 which suddenly makes this not so great speaker dock a really great deal. It sounds a lot better than the much smaller Logitech, it also has a small digital screen that shows you details like artist and album name as well as having the ability to run on batteries if needed. I actually emailed Digits back to confirm they hadn’t mixed up with the price. Turns out they’re having an offer on these and I’m guessing because of the newer iMT810 version.

Monster Beatbox by Dr. Dre
This by far was the best sounding speaker of the three. Even compared to my Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 8 the Monster Beatbox sounded really great with a lot more deeper bass. It was also the easiest of the three to operate and it also had the most solid build. The Beatbox is pretty simple with just an iPhone/iPod dock in one corner and a volume knob on the other. To give you an idea of how big a sound the Beatbox has, I live in a two story apartment and while I was sitting upstairs Nat was listening to music downstairs and I couldn’t tell if she was listening to music off our home theater or the Beatbox (turned out to be the Beatbox). The amount of bass it gives out for it’s size is just ridiculous, it really does shake the house. I did have one big issue with the Beatbox and that is the fact the dock can’t hold an iPad. I know you’re probably wondering who would want to use an iPad as a music dock anyway and the answer is anybody who’s tried the iPad version of Spotify. I use it with my BeoSound 8 and it’s unbelievably cool so much so that while I’m home I no longer listen to my MP3’s. The iPad Spotify app is fantastic plus I prefer to keep my phone on me and not plugged into a speaker dock. But that’s nit picking a bit which is fine since this is a review. Price-wise if you’re interested in the Beatbox, Digits are selling it for KD100 to my readers. Just tell them you saw this price on my blog and you’ll be able to get it for KD100 which is around KD20 cheaper than Amazon (not including tax and shipping).


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Singarea Korean Supermarket & Restaurant

Posted by Mark

I have no idea how to begin this post honestly. In fact, in the back of my mind right now I’m going “don’t post about this place” over and over because I loved it so much and I don’t want to share it with anyone. But it’s because I loved it so much I really HAVE to post about it. Singarea is a small Korean Supermarket with a small cozy restaurant on the upper floor. It’s located in one of those plazas (plaza is actually too nice a word here) in dajeej surrounded by stores that sell cheap furniture and lights. By the looks of the place outside I was expecting it to be pretty dodgy on the inside but wow was I wrong.

When I first walked into the supermarket I was surprised at how clean and organized it was. Majority of their products are imported so there were many interesting things I hadn’t seen before. After I was done taking pictures and wandering around the aisles aimlessly I decided to go upstairs and check out the restaurant.

The plan was to snap a few shots, check out their menu and leave but once I saw how the restaurant looked like there was no way I could leave without having lunch. It just felt like I was no longer in Kuwait. The wooden roof, the dark tables combined with the green chairs and the decorative partitions all combined gave the interior a very calm cozy and foreign feeling. I decided to sit in a corner where I knew I’d have a good view of the interior and enough light to take my food shots. There was only one other table occupied by three asian business men so it was peacefully quiet. The waitress was extremely helpful and friendly. She gave me the menu and asked me if it was my first time there which I replied to yes. She started to help me out with the menu explaining how they had Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine. My eyes quickly started checking out the things I knew like sweet and sour chicken but I resisted going with what I was comfortable with and instead asked the waitress to help me choose my dishes. Since I was in a Korean restaurant I wanted to try Korean dishes and asked her to recommend me some options. In the end I decided to go with the following (descriptions taken from the menu):

Starter
Deuk Bokki: Stewed rice cake with spicy Gochujang. Especially youngster’s favorite.
KD2.000

Main Course
Beef Bulgogi: Most favored Korean barbecue. Savory and succulent.
KD3.500

Dessert
Frappe: Fruits, sweet red bean paste and one of three flavors, strawberry, chocolate, blueberry syrup over shaved ice.
KD1.000

Drink
Red Vinegar Drink: Naturally brewed red vinegar from red Ginseng, pomegranate, Ume helps changing body into alkaline.
KD0.750

I forgot to mention that as soon as I sat down I was served corn tea (Oksusu cha) at room temperature. Never had that before and didn’t know you could make tea from corn. It tasted better than regular tea at room temperature.

My starter arrived a short while later and using my chopsticks I started to eat. The rice cakes were a bit spicy but full of flavor. I didn’t like the dish that much but I did appreciate all the flavors in it. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Korean food, I figured their flavors would be a bit safe like Thai food but it turned out to be more exciting like Chinese food which actually makes sense since they’re neighboring countries.The red vinegar drink was very refreshing and although I was expecting it to taste like vinegar it didn’t. It tasted more like a cocktail you’d have pool side and is a great summer drink. Because the rice cakes were spicy sipping the red vinegar helped cool things down. My second dish the Beef Bulgogi was ridiculously good and I mean I wiped the plate clean kinda good. It was sweet and the beef was very tender and oh I’m so going back just to have this dish again. Finally the desert arrived and although I’m not a fan of most fruits especially blueberry, I still wanted to try the dish just because I wanted to experience a Korean dessert. I expectedly didn’t like it but that was no surprise.

They have a huge menu and although I’m really tempted to order the Beef Bulgogi again on my next visit I’m going to try and not do that and instead try something else new. I generally eat the same thing all the time so it was very exciting to experience some new flavors. I really loved the place, the food, the ambiance, the service the whole experience was like nothing else in Kuwait. I can’t believe this place has been open for over 2 years and I just decided to pass by now.

Finding Singarea is a bit difficult but I’ve highlighted it on this [Map] If you can get to Sears then it’s easy. If Sears is on your left side, drive straight until you have the option to go straight or turn right and get onto the 6th Ring Road. From that point drive straight around 30 meters and you’ll find the plaza on the left. Singarea is inside that plaza. I recommend you park the car outside and walk in since during the daytime it’s incredible chaotic inside there. It’s a great place I highly recommend it.


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Fujifilm X-Pro1 Review

Posted by Mark

Late last month I picked up the Fuji X-Pro1 camera from Xcite to review and after spending a lot of time with it I can confidently say I loved it. How much? Well I wouldn’t mind it over the much more expensive Leica M9 but more on that later. I took the camera with me to Lebanon while on vacation and I carried it around and shot with it as much as I could.

The first thing I loved about the camera is the way it looks. When I first saw pictures of it online I was like I need to have it! It’s a simple black boxy looking camera that has a very timeless look to it. It’s bigger than I expected it to be but not that much different from the Leica M9. One thing that’s a lot different to the Leica is the weight. While the Leica M9 is a pretty hefty camera, the X-Pro1 is a lot lighter and that’s a good thing. I walked around with the X-Pro1 strung across my shoulder and I never felt the camera was bothersome or heavy. On the other hand I’ve walked around with a Leica M9 slung over my shoulder before and it’s presence was felt very quickly. Although the camera doesn’t look very ergonomic it felt comfortable in my hands and during use.

The X-Pro1 is a 16MP camera with a sensor that’s similar in size to most DSLR’s. I had the very bright 35m f/1.4 lens for the review and it’s really the only lens you need. The 35mm lens is equal to a 50mm lens on a full frame camera and that’s generally considered the most popular focal length since it’s close to what the eyes see. There are two knobs on the top, one for the shutter speed and one for the exposure. The camera also has a quick menu button which brings to focus the most commonly used options and a customizable FN button which in my case was calling up the ISO list.

Carrying the camera around and shooting with it was a lot of fun. The camera has a hybrid viewfinder similar to the Fuji X100 which is always fascinating to use. The hybrid viewfinder is something unique to Fuji and it’s basically an opticalviewfinder with information digitally displayed on top of it. There is also a switch on the front of the camera which when pressed turns the hybrid viewfinder into an electronic one. I didn’t use the EVF much since I’m not a fan of them but many people will appreciate it’s accuracy over the hybrid viewfinder. Although I read online about the camera’s focusing issues I didn’t run into any while shooting with the camera. I didn’t shoot any sports or fast action but I was shooting with the camera wide open and in different lighting conditions and maybe only once or twice did I have difficulty getting focus. ISO performance is another thing this camera is good at. At ISO1600 the noise is barely noticeable.

I have a few issues with the camera but none very major. First the on/off button gets switched on by mistake all to often and I can’t even count the times I found the camera on when it should be off. I have a similar issue with the aperture ring on the lens, it’s too loose and easily rotates with a minor bump or rub. Another more important issue is manually focusing with the camera. Manually focusing using the hybrid viewfinder isn’t an easy task since there are no markings on the screen to aid you and you can’t estimate using the focus ring on the lens since the focus ring works digitally (it also rotates infinitely).

Now the difficult part is deciding if this camera is right for you. If you’ve always wanted a Leica M8 or Leica M9 then get this camera. Other than the fact the Leica is nearly 4 times more expensive, the X-Pro1 has another advantage and that is the fact it has auto focus. The lenses are also like 10 times cheaper so really it’s a no brainer. If you’ve considered the Sony NEX-7 at one point then you should also consider the X-Pro1. I think the NEX-7 is a great camera but let down by a terrible collection of lenses. Personally I want this camera but I can’t seem to figure out when I would use it. I have the Panasonic GX1 which is my compact camera I take on vacations and dinners. Then I have the Nikon D800 which is what I use for my important stuff. The Fuji would have to replace one of those two but it wouldn’t be able to do the job of either of them right. It’s not compact or versatile like my GX1 and it also doesn’t have the large full frame sensor of my D800 or the lenses to compete with it. As I said earlier, deciding on this camera is the most difficult part.

The camera is selling as a kit for KD646. The kit includes the X-Pro1 camera, the 35mm f/1.4 lens and the original case kit. It’s only available at the new photography section in the Xcite store in Avenues. I just found out the camera kit is actually available at three Xcite branches:

X-PRO 1+X35mm Lens+X-Pro 1 Case (kit) – KD646 – Available in Rai, Fahaheel & Avenues
X18MM (Prime Lens) – KD159 – Available only in Avenues
XF60MM (Macro Lens) – KD182 – Available only in Avenues
EF-X20 (Shoe Mount Flash) – KD58 – Available only in Avenues


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Review: Prometheus

Posted by Mark

I’ve been really looking forward to watching this movie since I first found out about it back in December and now that I’ve watched it I have mixed feelings about it. The movie is directed by Ridley Scott who also directed the original Alien movie among other blockbuster hits and although I read that Prometheus isn’t a prequel to the Alien franchise, it’s hard to believe it’s not after watching it.

Plot: A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race. –IMDB

The movie has a lot of intese parts and the plot is incredibly good but I did find it a bit slow paced as well. A lot of people in the theater were getting restless and even I was starting to doze off which is why I have mixed thoughts about it. The movie right now is stuck between being a quick action packed movie like The Avengers or an epic 3+ hour adventure similar to Lord of the Rings. It should have either been shorter and faster or longer and deeper. Ridley Scott spent a lot of time showing the viewers some really interesting things but then when the movie finally picked up pace, it ended very quickly. I could easily see a sequel come out of this or maybe even a prequel.

As I said at the start, I have mixed feelings about Prometheus. I didn’t leave the theater thinking the movie was great but it’s been 3 hours since I finished watching it and I’m still thinking about it so it’s good in that sense. Worth watching, just don’t expect it to be action packed.

I watched the movie in Lebanon so it was uncut. The movie contains one scene where a couple make out and have sex. It didn’t contain any nudity just kissing but it would most likely be cut in Kuwait and that scene plays a crucial role in the movie. Other than that scene there are a few scenes where the female characters are wearing basically a two piece swimsuit, no idea if that would get cut in Kuwait but they’re also important scenes in the movie.

If you haven’t watched the Prometheus movie trailer then watch it now [Here]


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AeroBed Mattress Review

Posted by Mark

For the past 10 days I’ve been sleeping on an AeroBed Mattress while waiting for my furniture to arrive and I think I’ve spent enough time with it to give it a proper review. I purchased the AeroBed mattress from Ace Hardware and brought it with me here to Lebanon since I wasn’t sure where I could find them here. Ace had two or three different versions but this queen sized AeroBed was the only one that came with a motor to inflate it. The other air mattresses required the purchase of a separate pump (different options available) but I didn’t want the headache and instead wanted an all in one solution.

The air mattress came in a small box that included a storage bag and aqn electrical pump. I had to purchase a 220v to 110v converter since the electrical pump that was included in the box worked on the US standard 110v. To inflate the mattress it’s a very simple process, just plug the pump into an electrical socket and then place the pump over the plastic ring located on the side of the mattress and rotate until it locks into place. Once the pump locks into place it will automatically activate and start pumping air. The mattress starts inflating instantly and within 60 seconds it’s ready to use. If you prefer the mattress to be firm you can let the air pump work for another minute or two before removing it.

The mattress is surprisingly comfortable and I really wasn’t expecting it to be. The top side of the mattress has a velvety texture which allows the bedsheet cover to grip onto it stopping it from sliding around. That combined with a coil construction (the mattress isn’t flat but has large dimples) helps reduce the feeling that you’re sleeping on what basically is a large balloon. The only negative thing I found is that the sides of the mattress are not very firm so if you get too close to the edge there is a high chance of the edge folding under your weight resulting in you rolling off it in the middle of the night.

If you’ve got relatives coming over for a visit or if you have friend’s come over often then this could actually be a practical solution. When deflated the bed takes up very little space and when inflated it’s actually very comfortable. I wouldn’t recommend it for camping just because it requires a power source to inflate. The cost of the AeroBed was around KD30 for the queen sized version and I found it at Ace Hardware. Here’s a link to the [Product Page]


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Qatar Airways to Osaka

Posted by Patrick

When I finally decided to travel to Japan the first thing I did was try to find out how much the airline ticket cost. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I had an unrealistic astronomical price in my head to start out with so I started checking the ticket prices for all the airlines in the region like Emirates, Qatar Airways, Kuwait Airways, Gulf Air etc. Surprisingly, ticket prices didn’t vary that much from one airline to the other and I quickly narrowed my choices down to Emirates and Qatar Airways. In the end I went with Qatar Airways because I heard some good things about them plus their offices were located next to mine in Kuwait City.

My experience with Qatar Airways was pretty positive, except for one issue at the start of the trip. My flight took off from Kuwait at 11:10PM and it was supposed to land at the Doha airport at 12:30AM and then my flight to Osaka would take off at 1:25AM. Problem is when my plane got to Doha it didn’t land right away. Instead, the plane kept circling around the airport for quite some time way past my boarding time. When we finally did land I realized three things:

– I wasn’t close to my gate
– The Doha airport is under major construction
– After being dropped off to the arrival terminal I had to take another bus to get to the transit terminal

I was already late for my flight and I started panicking. The bus ride to the transit terminal took around 15 minutes (it felt much longer) and as soon as I got to the terminal an airport attendant came up to me and asked “Osaka?” I replied yes and he then took my passport and started running. I started running as well and when I caught up to him I asked him what was going on with my flight? He laughed and said I was the last passenger and that he was looking for me and was about to give up before I showed up. I was super relieved I didn’t end up missing my flight.

Besides that early drama I loved Qatar Airways. Their seats are comfortable, their food is great and the entertainment system is actually not that bad. One big bonus is that all their economy seats have a USB plug so you can recharge your iPod, iPad or any other USB powered device which is pretty cool. My flight from Kuwait to Doha was packed but I didn’t feel cramped in my seat and the entertainment system had very recent movies and some addictive games to keep me distracted. The flight to Osaka on the other hand is where things got much much better. The plane was practically empty! When I got to my seat I had 2 empty chairs right next to mine, a European couple had an aisle each, an old Japanese man had an aisle to himself, basically each passenger in my section had an entire aisle to themselves. The first thing I did was check what movies were playing and found out that there were about 11 to choose from, all recent except for one (which I chose), Lost in Translation.

Food wise we had two meals, one right after the flight took off and the other before arriving. For flights to Japan you have the choice between “regular” or “Japanese” meals. The regular meals seemed boring to me so I went with the Japanese ones. One meal included beef szechuan, noodles with fish cake, a salmon roll and a small salad with some dessert, while the other meal was chicken noodles and some fruit.

The flight attendants were really friendly and since I had three seats all to myself I took the liberty of raising the armrests and slept across the three seats like a bed. This was definitely the most comfortable and enjoyable flight I’ve ever had and so I highly recommend them. The cost of the ticket was KD518 when I booked it.

Posted by Patrick


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Beau Rivage

Posted by Mark

While in Geneva we stayed at a hotel overlooking the Geneva fountain called Beau Rivage. It’s an old hotel that dates back to 1865 and I doubt the general look of the hotel has changed much since then and that’s actually what I loved about the hotel.

It’s a very posh hotel and you feel that as soon as you walk in. It’s not Dubai style posh where everything is gold and shiny, it’s a lot more understated here with pastel pink colored marble pillars and ceiling decoration that dates back most likely over a hundred years. Of course the fact that everyone speaks English with a French accent doesn’t hurt.

The hotel is 5 floors high and my room was on the 4th floor which was great since I usually prefer the higher floors since they’re quieter. Once I walked in I was amazed at how big the room was. I think it’s probably the largest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in and it was beautifully decorated. I’m not really into this classical style but it worked really well in this case. The room was decorated very tastefully and I had 2 large windows that were bringing in a lot of natural daylight and more importantly I had an incredible view. I also had a fireplace, a real one not just for decoration. No idea if they actually use them in winter (I doubt) but the idea is great. Each room in the hotel is also individually decorated so no two rooms are the same.

The hotel has a couple of restaurants including one that has a Michelin star.They also have a bar with a really great outdoor seating area that also overlooks the famous Geneva fountain. I didn’t pay for the room but according to the rate card, my room rate was 1,600CHF a night which is around KD480. The hotel is located walking distance from the main shopping streets and is also just a 15 minute ride from the airport without traffic. It’s definitely one of the best hotels I’ve stayed in.


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My Etihad Airways Experience

Posted by Mark

I flew Etihad Airways to Geneva via Abu Dhabi and honestly I was kinda disappointed, mostly with their airport. For some reason I had the impression that the Abu Dhabi airport was going to be huge but it wasn’t. There were a bunch of high end boutiques like Hermes and Rolex plus a decent amount of restaurants but the problem is they’re all squeezed into a very small place. The business class lounge was also pretty small with low ceilings and it filled up pretty quickly with barely any room to sit. Food was good plus they have a spa but there wasn’t much space in the lounge to chill out.

The flight from Abu Dhabi to Geneva was pretty comfortable but that’s because I hadn’t slept and it was already 9AM by then. The Etihad business class is slightly claustrophobic since it looks like it’s divided into cubicles but unlike British Airways for example, the space didn’t feel bright or big. But, my seat folded into a flatbed which is all I cared for. Service was also friendly and the bathroom had a window (I love that).


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Review: The McLaren MP4-12c

Posted by Mark

A blog reader contacted me around two weeks back asking me if I wanted to review his McLaren and of course I said yes. After spending the day with it this weekend I can easily review the car with 3 words… “I want one”. Seriously I want one. I can’t afford to buy it but that doesn’t change the fact I really really want it.

There are a lot of reviews of the McLaren online and Top Gear have a great one which you can watch on YouTube. So, not wanting to come about this review in the same way I decided to look at the car differently. It’s obviously a fast super car and everyone already knows that but I was curious to how the car would perform as a daily driver in Kuwait. I would hate to spend this much on a car and then only drive it on weekends. I’d want to drive the car to work, to the gym or even to the supermarket.

First thing I looked for after getting into the car was cup holders and I ended up finding two right behind the center console. Cup holders are great for holding your drinks but they’re also more useful for storing items like your phone or sunglasses. The McLaren not only has two easy to access cup holders but there is also a 12v socket inside one of them which means you can plug in your phone charger as well. That’s practical. Another practical feature is the AC, both the driver and passenger have separate control panels which is a feature you usually find in large cars but not super cars.

The seats are also fully electric and have 3 memory positions which is convenient if the car is being shared between say a couple or family members. The sound system is naturally located in the center console and is made by the high end audio guru’s Meridian. The sound system control panel is a large touch screen that is more than double the size of the iPhone and is 100% iPhone/iPod compatible. Once you connect your iPhone or iPod to the car you can then navigate your music by touch and even view album art beautifully all on the center console screen. I think it has the best iPod integrated system I’ve seen so far. The car boot is a lot bigger than I expected. I wouldn’t take the car to IKEA if I need to get a bookcase but it’s definitely supermarket friendly.

The McLaren is very comfortable to drive. I actually found it more comfortable and forgiving on worn out roads when compared to say my old Z4. I’m also pretty tall (6’1) and I didn’t feel claustrophobic or cramped in the car neither did I have problems finding my correct seating position (the seats are incredibly adjustable). Driving the car I was actually impressed by the fact I could cruise in it at 80km/h and not feel like I should be driving it a lot faster. Of course once you step on the gas the car is breathtakingly fast but as a daily driver you want to be able to drive on regular roads at regular speeds and the McLaren does that really well. Even the car’s gas mileage is pretty good at 15mpg which is similar to my FJ Cruiser. I did find the brake peddle a bit too stiff to press but it’s something you would get used to after a few hours in the car.

The only two things that hurt the car as a daily driver is the ride height and the doors. It’s a pretty low ride since it’s a sports car which means the majority of the speed bumps you’ll need to take sideways. The second issue is the doors, they swing open upwards which means you can’t park in very tight spots. If the parking spot is tight you won’t be able to open the doors so you always need to make sure you have ample room on the sides. But again if you’ve paid this much for the car, I doubt you’re going to be squeezing it anywhere.

I love the car but then again who wouldn’t? The thing is I don’t only love it because it’s a super car, I love it because it’s a super car you can actually use every day. I wasn’t kidding when I said I want one, I do I just can’t afford the starting price of around KD70,000. But if anyone from McLaren is reading this, give me a fat discount (like 75%) and you’ve got yourself another customer.


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Movie: Battleship

Posted by Mark

I watched Battleship earlier tonight at the movies and I thought it sucked. The movie was filled with every cliche you could imagine and it also felt like a Transformers movie mixed in with the movie Armageddon. Once you get near the end of the movie it goes from bad to worse with some of the most cheesiest scenes I’ve ever seen which is why I have no idea how it scored a 6.5 on IMDB (it’s too high a score).

On the bright side there isn’t anything to be cut from this movie, I don’t even recall a kissing scene so it’s Kuwait safe. Still, that shouldn’t be an excuse to go and watch it. It’s not worth it. [Movie Website]


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