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Sarkhat Namla: Definitely Not the Official Film of the Revolution
Sarkhat Namla revolves around the economic differences in Egypt seen through the eyes of Gouda (Abdel Gelil), an Egyptian contractor who was wrongly imprisoned in Iraq. The film tries to address the issues that Egyptians have been faced with in increasing economic difficulties such as the increase in food commodity prices, the rate of corruption and their effects on the Egyptian people.
Upon returning from Iraq, Gouda is disillusioned at the depressing state of the country. With very little to his name, Gouda finds himself in conflict; his sense of patriotism compels him to get involved in the revolution, but at the same time, his efforts to live a comfortable life lead him to become involved in the same type of underhandedness that the revolution is rising up against. Naturally, this inner struggle drives Gouda to extreme measures and consequences.
Originally meant to be a comedy, the story suffers from many elements that simply felt forced. Since it's mainly seen through the eyes of Gouda, you'll get the feeling that his jokes are misplaced. Egyptian films in the last twenty years or so have invariably pulled off adding humour to real-life situations but sadly, it doesn’t work here. It wasn't only the script that was the downfall of the film; but the setting as well.
Sarkhat Namla’s advertising campaign positioned it as the official film of the revolution. This is inaccurate, as it tries to focus on the events that helped in inspiring the revolution. In fact, the shooting was almost completed before January 25th, and when the revolution kicked off, additional scenes were filmed to make it more relevant. This further adds to the mess of the script, as the story seems disjointed. Another contributing factor is surely the fact that it had to be quickly edited after being picked to screen at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Abel Gelil turns in an adequate performance that doesn’t stray too far from his usual style. On the other hand, Youssef fails to shine and isn’t adequately used, appearing intermittently as Gouda's belly-dancer wife. The rest of the cast are distinctly average; nothing more, nothing less.
It’s actually astounding how the film fails to deliver on any of its promises. It’s neither really about the revolution, nor is it funny; the jokes and scenarios are worn out, the parts that specifically talk about the revolution only do so in a very shallow way, and images and footage of the protests are used awkwardly. Ultimately, Sarkhat Namla is a poorly executed film that fails to portray an important and topical subject adequately.
It should come as no surprise that Nicholas Cage has once again found himself in a bit of a career-move pickle; starring in yet another poorly crafted and ultimately absurd feature film as he takes on the horror genre.
Whilst working on securing a tenure, literature professor, Mike Lawford (Cage) has been spending a lot of nights away from home, much to the dislike and frustration of his wife, Kirsten (Callies), and their seven-year-old son, Charlie (Fulton), who, as most boys do at this sensitive age, is craving for his father’s attention. After one too many disappointments, Mike is hoping to make up for the lost time by taking Charlie to a nearby Halloween street carnival, where Charlie begins to act strangely, asking his father to “pay the ghost” before disappearing.
One year later, a now divorced Mike is still on the hunt for Charlie and urges Detective Reynolds (Bent) to keep the investigation open and as another Halloween approaches, Mike begins to experience strange apparitions – including large birds flying overhead and strange figures in the mist.
Directed by Uli Edel and written by Dan Kay – who has adapted the story from a novella by Tim Lebbon - there is very little in the story’s core that distinguishes it from other, similarly-fashioned ghost tales of revenge such as The Woman in Black or Dead Silence. There’s no heart, no oomph no passion and very little narrative suspense or anything that resembles tension hiding underneath its already-cracked surface.
Talking about cracked, Cage – an Oscar-winning actor, lest we forget – is surprisingly straight-faced here, with an exception of a few seriously funny wide-eyed moments of disbelief that will have you roaring with laughter rather than empathising with his distraught.
Although riddle with issues, the biggest of which are originality and overall execution of what is decent source material, Pay the Ghost is not as a complete time-waster as some of the actor’s previous films. But it’s still not smart or crafty enough to do much to regenerate and restore the actor’s already tarnished flailing career.
The fourth and final instalment in The Hunger Games film series is upon us and director Francis Lawrence has injected the closing chapter of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling dystopian adventure with a bit more heart and oomph than from what was witnessed in the first and rather dreary half of this two-part tale. However, although Mockingjay Part 2 is definitely a better and more exciting offering, it’s still not completely free of fault.
Mockingjay Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off, with Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) trying to recover after almost being choked to death by her former ‘lover’ and ally, Peeta (Hutcherson), who by the looks of things, seems to have been brainwashed and poisoned with thoughts of killing Katniss. Driven by the anger and her pure hatred for President Snow (Sutherland), Katniss soon escapes District 13 to join an assault on The Capitol under rebel leader, President Coin (Moore), only to discover that there is one last version of the Hunger Games still to play.
One thing’s for sure; Part 2 is a definite improvement over Part 1, which spent most of its time shifting about and setting things up for the big payoff. It’s a problem that we’ve seen before in the waves of adult-fiction novel adaptations – the first half spends so much energy in setting up the second that it fails to convince a stand-alone film. Although the pace picks up, there’s no sense of grandness to what is meant to be a huge finale and, actually, some may even feel underwhelmed by how the plot plays out.
On the plus side, the action is engaging and some of the battle scenes are staged with great attention to detail. In addition, Lawrence is, as always, her fantastic self and she’s once again the anchor on what has been a shaky ship.
As a story which has always attempted to frame the horrors of war through the eyes of a fiercely brave young heroine, so much more could have been done – much like the whole series, there’s something engaging about the finale, but it all feels like a chance missed.