Sign in using your account with
Banat El Am: Egyptian Gender-Switching Comedy
The Shanab family home, which they bought from the Hanche family decades ago, is a blight upon their existence. Whenever anyone tries to sell the house, they’re afflicted with some terrible misfortune, the most notable of which is the death of almost the entire family by electrocution. The only ones spared happened to be Grandma Batta (El Gidawy) and her three granddaughters. All grown up sceptical of the house’s horror stories, the three cousins, belly-dancer Shouk (Fahmy), vain university student Shahinda (Maged) and doctor-in-training Shaymaa (Chiko), decide to sell the house to alleviate their financial woes. To their horror, they wake up the day after signing the contract as men. The film follows the three women as they navigate the world in male bodies while looking for a way to get the house back from the man they sold it to; Aziz El Hanche (Edward). Upon buying back his ancestors’ home, the curse that had afflicted his family since that awful day, was lifted and as a result, there’s absolutely no way that he’d ever part with it again.
Basing a movie on gendered stereotypes and jokes could have been wildly sexist so kudos to the filmmakers for making a film that was relatively inoffensive. On the flip side though, the film just wasn’t that funny and the jokes usually just fell flat. And while the main trio play off of each other well enough, Fahmy, as Shouk, is by far the strongest, though that may be because his character is the least stereotypical of the three. Shouk is the smart one who takes charge of the situation, while Shaymaa and Shahinda wile away their time obsessing over their weight and appearance respectively. There comes a point where you just want to tell them both to get over themselves.
A requisite romance between Shaymaa and Dolly (El Lozy), a model, feels highly forced and really doesn’t forward the plot in any way. El Lozy is barely given anything to work with except for the most cliché dialogue imaginable. It basically revolves around how he’s the only guy she knows that understands women so well.
The jokes are mainly riffs on stereotypes such as ‘women can’t park’ or ‘women can’t change a tyre’ or that they’re image obsessed or overuse the word ‘cute’. These rarely brought anything new to the table as they’ve been done to death..
The film is super cheesy and nowhere is this more visible than in its visuals and special effects which look like they’re straight out of a cartoon. In fact, the cartoon aesthetic even extends to the characters and the dialogue. Aziz is infatuated with Uncle Scrooge and dedicates a long, glowing monologue to him and the grey streak in his hair is highly reminiscent of Cruella De Vil.
Banat El Am probably would have been better had they used this opportunity to discuss the topics brought up, in a less shallow way. It could have been a perfect chance to discuss sexism in a way that would appeal to a mass audience of both genders.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.