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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.
With many Americans still picking Thanksgiving turkey out of their teeth and others already embarking on Christmas shopping, Jimmy Hayward’s Thanksgiving-themed, animated comedy, Free Birds, is the first of what will almost certainly be a production line of hastily put-together films capitalising on the festive season.
Meet Reggie (Wilson); a nonconformist turkey who has always been viewed as an outsider for his ‘radical’ thinking. The idea of having himself – and the rest of his fellow-turkeys – fattened up for the upcoming Thanksgiving festivities, is a notion that doesn’t sit too well with Reggie. He continuously tries to warn everyone of their imminent slaughter, but his warnings go unheeded. That is until they realise the stark reality of their situation and throw Reggie under the bus to save their own necks.
However, much to his surprise, Reggie ends up being the White House’s ‘pardoned turkey’ and is soon sent off to Camp David to live the good life; lots of TV and a great deal of junk food.
One night, he’s approached by Jake (Harrelson); a cheeky and rebellious turkey who informs him that there’s a way of travelling back in time to the very first Thanksgiving, where they can take Turkey off the menu for good.
Intrigued and fascinated by the possibility, the duo soon find themselves jumping into the secret government machine, named S.T.E.V.E (voiced by Takei), and travelling back to 1621. They quickly learn, however, that becoming ‘free birds’ is going to take some serious work.
While the idea behind Free Birds might sound solid on paper, the final result is not. Essentially, this is not a film that holds the wide appeal of the likes of Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Kids will love it, though adults will probably find the cutesy humour and inattentive storyline difficult to engage with. Moreover, the endless-parade of product placements and tiresome references to other, unquestionably better, films only serves to undermine it.
The film’s only redeeming feature lies with its two leads. Owen, in his usual carefree and offhand style, injects the character of Reggie with enough likeability, while Harrelson approaches his character with conspicuous willingness and excitement. The rest of the cast is equally deserving of praise, especially Poehler – voicing Reggie’s love interest – who brings zesty and feisty personality to her role.
Despite Free Birds’ good intentions, this underdog story – or in this case an underturkey, if you will – would have been a lot better if it spent a little bit more time in the oven.
Malcolm D. Lee’s sequel to his 1999 directorial debut, The Best Man, reunites fans with the now much-older college friends as they prepare for the upcoming Christmas holidays.
The film picks up fifteen years after the events of The Best Man, centring on Harper Stewart (Diggs); a one-time successful author who is struggling to make ends meet. Fertility treatment bills for his now pregnant wife, Robyn (Lathan), have set the couple back and Harper is unable to rely on the money from his decreasing book sales.
Meanwhile, his former best-friend and celebrated NFL star, Lance Sullivan (Chestnut), is on the verge of retirement. A devoted family man who shares his life with loving wife, Mia (Calhoun), and their four picture-perfect children, Lance puts his energy into having one last hurrah to cement his legacy before he steps out of the spotlight
With Christmas is just around corner, Mia sends out invitations to their shattered group of friends to spend the holidays with her and the family at their lavish estate; troubled couple, Julian (Perrineau) and Candace (Hall), party-girl and a reality TV star, Shelby (De Sousa), career-obsessed commitaphobe, Jordan (Long), and bad boy, Quentin (Howard).
Naturally, it doesn’t take much for tensions to rise, and the group soon finds itself between dealing and healing old wounds, which ultimately resurface questions of deceit, infidelity and secret sexual pasts.
The Best Man Holiday’s biggest strength lies in the hands of the cast, whose chemistry and wit infuse soul into the story. At the heart of it all is Diggs, who delivers a sincere performance of a man in search of forgiveness, while Lathan – as his pregnant wife – is just as charming in her role of a woman trying to support her husband through troubled times. Chestnut is a tad theatrical in some of the film’s more emotionally-charged scenes, unlike Calhoun, who handles her role with a welcome grace. However, the true star of the picture is Howard; funny and incredibly engaging, the Oscar-nominated actor has some the best lines and steals the show.
With so many characters, each with their own personal sup-plot and arc, the film strikes the perfect balance between them and every character gets apt screen time.
Although the story ends up bouncing from the funny to the dramatics in a blink of an eye towards the end, Lee manages to keep things interesting, despite the predictable plot and cheesy sentiment.