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Tek Tek Bom: Another Mohamed Saad Slapstick Flick
Mohamed Saad plays Tika, an underdog Egyptian who sells toys for a living. A poor but good man, Tika's story begins on his wedding night which turns from the happiest night of his life to the most devastating memory, as the January 25th revolution breaks out on the exact same night. The riots end up destroying his wedding, and he and his wife (Dorra) both hide with no intentions of getting involved in what's happening.
They accidentally come across a neighbourhood gang that's planning to take advantage of the police's absence and lack of public security. After witnessing their plans, Tika is forced to join their next heist and become a member of the gang.
At one point, Tika gets involved in a nearby burglary and prevents the elderly George (Labeeb) and his family from harm by standing up to the thugs. With such a heroic act, the neighbourhood celebrates his bravery after things settle down a. As a result he is assigned as the neighbourhood patrol leader. Matters take a turn for the worse though, when Tika and his patrol members get thrown into jail after a misunderstanding, and get framed for a murder he didn't commit.
In relation to Saad's previous projects, Tek Tek Boom isn't as bad as we feared, but it lacks that one hook or gimmick that has usually carried his other films. As for the main plot, it jumps from one situation to another with no specific destination or realistic chain of connection. It's pretty exhausting.
In an attempt to tackle more dramatic roles as an actor, you'll be exposed to the cringing sight of Saad crying, hugging children and generally being a human being throughout. This is of course Saad's show, and all the other actors are quite peripheral. A real shame since Dorra in particular is able to combine charisma and comic timing in her role. Lotfy Labeeb and Gamal Ismail both play their parts well, but also get little screen time.
In short, Tek Tek Boom is far from Saad's worst films, but it is simply lacks on every level. You'll find yourself chuckling at most, and you may even enjoy his song about how he'd treat the Egyptian people if he was president.
Riddled with a long line of groundless and senseless ideas, As Above So Below – the latest entry to the exhausting found-footage horror sub-genre – is heavy on the mood, but short on everything else.
Centred on the myths behind the Catacombs of Paris, As Above So Below follows enthusiastic archaeology professor, Scarlett Marlowe (Weeks), who is desperately trying to get her hands on a magical rock, capable of turning metal into gold, called the Philosopher’s Stone.
Starting off in Iran, Scarlett soon finds herself on the streets of Paris, convinced that the stone – which she’s trying to retrieve in order to honour her late father’s wish – lies hidden somewhere in the Catacombs under Paris. Eager to begin her mission, Scarlett soon reaches out to old flame, George (Feldman), for help as well as documentarian, Benji (Hodge), and a random Parisian explorer, Papillion (Civil), who offers assistance with navigation.
Going into the Catacombs, the team soon begins its search for a long hidden passage that is supposed to lead them to the mythical stone. However, as they start going deeper underground, strange events begin to take place and if they are ever to reach their destination, the team will need to battle the darkness around them that seems to thicken with every step they take.
No matter how sound your idea may look on paper, the key is execution. In the case of this latest found-footage debacle, it is unfortunately, very poor indeed. The power of the mood, although relatively strong and effective, is weakened by the film’s crammed premise which sees plenty of random ideas thrown around without any explanation or point.
Luckily, the cast manages to weather the faults and offer a few relatively convincing performances. Weeks, as a woman who will stop at nothing until she gets what she wants, is persuasive; Mad Men’s Feldman keeps things relatively grounded, and Civil – a somewhat unknown French actor – offers just enough energy to keep things interesting.
However, it’s the writing that is at fault here. Chilling, but not enough to make your blood run cold, As Above So Below is terribly confusing, contrived and awfully claustrophobic and if it wasn’t for its somewhat underwhelming – and seemingly abrupt – finale, things might have turned out differently for this part Tomb Raider part Blair Witch bag of fables and scares.
In 2006, John Carney wrote and directed a small indie-romance breakout hit, Once, and ended up walking away with an Oscar for Best Song, a Grammy for its folksy soundtrack and a Tony for its stage adaptation. In 2014, he returns to direct another musical-drama, Begin Again; a joyful and a moving story of music and lost souls which, despite its subtle corniness, still manages to hit the right notes.
Scripted by the Irish-born director himself, Begin Again is centred on Dan Mulligan (Ruffalo); a down-on-his-luck record label exec and self-described “selfish, depressed pr*ck” who’s just been fired from the very same company he helped build. His drinking problems, brought on by the bitter divorce from his wife, Miriam (Keener), and a strained relationship with his estranged teenage daughter, Violet (Steinfeld), doesn’t help his situation much and Dan – who is growing more cynical by the minute – is in desperate need of salvation.
His luck soon turns for the better when he meets Greta (Knightley); a British singer-songwriter who reluctantly agrees to play one of her songs during an open-mic night. Immediately taken by her performance – a soulful Norah Jones-like guitar solo – Dan soon begins to create his own music by visualising the instruments surrounding her playing on their own and very quickly decides to offer the Brit a chance to record an album together.
Greta, who is getting over her breakup with her rock-star boyfriend, David Kohl (Levine) – a self-centred musician who is slowly beginning to climb the ladder of success – was scheduled to fly out of New York the very same day. However, she too is taken by Dan’s enthusiasm and agrees to stay behind.
As previously demonstrated in his magnificently unassuming Once, John Carney once again allows the story to flow naturally; fluid and full of grace, Begin Again never feels forced. Some of the film’s best moments are the quiet ones, where no words or dialogue is needed. Naturally, the music is one of the film’s major components and, although the songs tend to feel a little sappy in the beginning the playlist of indie-folk and pop tunes slowly begin to grow on you as the minutes go by.
The performances delivered by the two leads are incredibly sincere and organic and for those doubting Knightley’s singing abilities will be delighted to learn that the young actress handles her task well. The chemistry shared between her and the deliciously neurotic Ruffalo is easy, off-beat and, most of all, engaging, while Levine should probably take a few extra acting lessons before deciding to make another big-screen appearance.
There is a sense of vagueness and general unpredictability that follows the story from beginning to end and that’s probably why Begin Again works. Modest, grounded and incredibly uplifting, it’s one of the year’s best feel-good film.