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Where Do We Go Now?: Light but Profound Film on Religious Sectarianism
This film tells the story of a small village in Lebanon around the turn of this century. Their only connection to the outside world is through a treacherous walk over a rickety stone bridge and they barely have access to television and radio reception. The whole village relies on two boys who frequently make the trek over to the nearest town on an old scooter, running errands and supplying the villagers with newspapers, clothes and other bits and pieces. Despite their near-total isolation, the religious sectarian violence affecting Lebanon as a whole manages to filter in, disturbing the villagers’ peaceful coexistence.
Where Do We Go Now? explores the women’s often comical attempts at keeping the peace in their village. They employ different strategies to keep the men distracted from the news thus protecting their village and families from unnecessary bloodshed.
The film’s opening scene is of a procession of women clad wholly in black, some with covered hair the others carrying crosses, making their way to the cemetery that is divided into two based on faith.
The women come as one, split off according to religion then engage in the exact same acts, mourning and grieving their loved ones, of which there are many and all of whom are men. It’s a very powerful scene that sets up the film perfectly. It asserts that shared experiences can be more powerful than shared faith and that believing in different religions doesn’t make people fundamentally different.
Now this is how you tackle a serious, highly relevant subject without preaching. This is also how you successfully, and more importantly respectfully, portray female relationships. Where Do We Go Now? gives us what is practically a war story, from the point of view of the women. War is erupting between Muslims and Christians all over Lebanon, and the women of the village are hell bent on preventing intolerant, hateful sentiments from taking root in their home despite the fact that the men are becoming exceedingly volatile. And before the words ‘war story’ send anybody off running, the film is not gory in the slightest nor does it revel in any form of brutality. In fact, the closest it gets to a physical depiction of war is the odd fistfight.
Director Labaki’s touch is all over the film and to anyone who’s seen her debut, Caramel, this is highly apparent. She excels at portraying multilayered female relationships and dealing with the interaction between people in general. The film is at its strongest when the women are figuring out a solution to their community’s problem. On the other hand, the film lacks the same emotional punch when the focus shifts to personal problems.
In general though, the film seems effortless. The strength of the characters’ relationships make the events flow very organically, succeeding in subtly showing the film’s message and side stepping any preaching. Even more impressively, the film’s cohesiveness isn’t interrupted in the slightest during the two musical interludes where the characters burst into song. It also helps that the songs are thoroughly charming and in fact the score as a whole is pretty gorgeous and fits the film perfectly. The acting is spot on and the women have a lived-in feel that really sells the story. Their relationships feel very genuine and they play off of each other perfectly; especially when they’re joking around and devising outlandish schemes to keep the guys distracted.
Where Do We Go Now? is a great, distinctly Arab film in that it deftly blends tragedy, comedy, melodrama and musical interludes. It tackles a really difficult subject, yet it is perfectly balanced as a light, crowd pleaser with an important and relevant, if rather simplistic, message.
Mechanic: Resurrection, an unexpected sequel to 2011’s The Mechanic - a remake of the 1972 original which didn’t quite receive glowing reviews to begin with - offers the right kind of platform for Jason Statham’s already well established and very specific brand of action. However, while there are genuine moments of thrills to be had, Mechanic: Resurrection’s needlessly complicated and, at times, ridiculous storyline does get a little heavy-handed, turning the story into a relatively entertaining but helplessly cheesy action romp.
The story introduces us to Arthur Bishop (Statham); a retired contract killer who has decided to fall off the grid and live out a relatively quiet life in Brazil. However, his peaceful existence is soon disrupted when a group of associates, sent by his long-time enemy and prominent arms dealer Riah Craine (Hazeldine), threaten to uncover his location to the people who presume him dead unless he agrees to perform three hit jobs for Craine.
Managing to escape, Arthur flees to his home in Thailand where he soon comes across Gina (Alba), whom he manages to save from the hands of her abusive boyfriend, Frank (Quintavalle). From there, murmurings of a romance begin to bud, but not all is what it seems as Artur realises that Craine isn't too far away, even in Thailand.
Just how much you will enjoy this latest Statham-extravaganza solely depends on how much love you have for the man himself. As expected, the forty-nine-year-old star is reliable as ever and completely devoted to the action stunts required and even though there is nothing new on offer – we’ve seen him do this stuff before - he still manages to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his co-stars who are either given very little to do - we’re looking at you Ms. Alba - or don’t know how to handle the material given - see Hazeldine as the bland villain.
In terms of story itself, it takes a little bit time for the action to get rolling and while audiences will probably get a kick out of the various action set pieces and dangerous situations that Bishop finds himself in the plot, scripted by Phillip Shelby and Tony Mosher, boasts a certain degree of absurdity which might be difficult to swallow. Additionally, the romance between Statham and Alba feels forced and when things go awry, it’s difficult to become fully connected with the situation and the stakes.
All in all, Mechanic: Resurrection is a relatively fun, but by-the-numbers Statham action flick which is capable of offering a good time, but only if you go in knowing what to expect.
Originally titled In the Deep, there’s a lot to love about Jaume Collet-Serra’s slightly cheesy but relatively solid and beautifully photographed killer-shark movie, The Shallows. With franchises like Sharknado having turned this once terrifying concept - see Jaws - into a cartoonish spectacle, The Shallows reaffirms the genre’s position on the scare-o-meter and brings with it the feeling of dread and terror of the deep blue sea.
The story follows Nancy (Lively); a med-student from Texas who is on holiday searching for a beach that her recently deceased mother spoke very fondly of. With her travel-buddy off doing other stuff, Nancy is left to her own devices and with the help of a friendly local, Carlos (Jaenada), soon makes her way to the secret beach.
Arriving to what can only be described as heaven on earth, Nancy wastes no time before diving into the blue waters. However, her blissful afternoon of sun, sea and sand is soon cut short by an arrival of a vicious Great White shark who was drawn to the bay by a dead whale. Having taken a bite out of her leg, Nancy is forced to stay perched up on a rock formation and must find a way to save her own life before being swept away by the high tide that is soon coming in.
With the exception of a handful of supporting characters, The Shallows is a one-woman show with Lively - most popular for her role as Serena van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl - showing a surprising amount of versatility and skill in carrying the movie through on her own and offers a lot more than what one would expect from this kind of set-up – a shot of her witnessing something terrifying off-screen is a particular highlight.
Things get off to an ominous start with a two-minute Skype call between the lead and her father spelling out a little too much to the audience, meaning there's no character-building throughout the film. But Collet-Serra manages, quite successfully, to build up enough dread leading up to the attack, inducing the picturesque scenes with enough anxiety and fear to keep audiences on edge. The CGI is mostly spot-on - although there are scenes where its presence is painfully obvious - and the gore is relatively effective.
It’s no Jaws by any means, but there’s still enough atmosphere in The Shallows the the end result is a surprisingly and effectively constructed summer-thriller.