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Geddo Habibi: Cringingly Irritating Egyptian Comedy
Fekreya (Boshra) is a British-raised Egyptian who insists on being called Vicky. Completely broke and out of her job after the stock market crash, she decides visit her estranged grandfather Hussein (Yaseen), who is on his deathbed in Egypt. As his sole heir, she stands to inherit a fortune which would effectively cure her financial woes. Predictably, she gets to Egypt, meets her granddad and after a thorny adjustment period, they become best buds.
The film kicks off with an awful opening credits sequence that really sets up how irritating Vicky’s character is. It was during this sequence that this reviewer first found herself cringing; something that would be repeated quite frequently throughout the rest of its running time. The film’s first act involves Vicky and her roommate harping on about the money Vicky stands to inherit if her grandfather would just die already. The movie paints the roommate as the more awful of the two, although Vicky is every bit as distasteful.
The middle of the film revolves around twenty-something Vicky’s friendship with a bunch of teenage boys and the problems this poses for her grandfather who thinks it isn’t proper. Cue a bunch of partying scenes and her granddad coming home to find kids making out and a random guy offering him a spliff.
The final act has Vicky and her granddad tracking down a former flame of his who, lo and behold, has a grandson who would be perfect for Vicky. This is when the film takes an inexplicable turn for the preachy which, all things considered, is still a definite upgrade to everything that preceded it. It extols, quite heavy-handedly, the virtues of real-love marriages as opposed to arranged ones, and gives Vicky the happy ending she’d been dreaming of forever; a husband.
678 had Boshra showcasing some decent dramatic chops and this reviewer would like to implore her to stick to drama because her comedic timing is completely off. Vicky was something along the lines of a manic, grossly materialistic person until she falls in love and suddenly calms down. It’s a very unlikable character and one that’s frankly highly irritating mainly due to the thrashing around that passes as physical comedy. It was the visual equivalent of nails on a chalk board. On the plus side though, Boshra has a pretty decent English accent.
The rest of the actors didn’t fare much better. Yaseen looks remarkably healthy and active for someone who’s knocking on the doors of death, while Abdel Aziz looks distractingly botoxed and is made up to look like a raccoon. Meanwhile, Fahmy is so bland that he barely registers on screen.
The actors involved in this movie are capable of so much better which makes this wreck even more depressing.
Channelling his inner-Liam Neeson, if you will, multi Oscar-winning actor and occasional humanitarian, Sean Penn, dips his toes into what is a new type of emerging genre: geriaction. While it’s unlikely that Hollywood executives and actors will be using it anytime soon, the term refers to action films starring ‘aging actors’. At 54, Penn is no spring chicken, but the California native is in tip-top shape for Pierre Morel’s surprisingly flavourless and action-less thriller, The Gunman.
The story follows special operative Jim Terrier (Penn); a mercenary stationed in Congo who provides security services for mining operations. During his time there, he meets and falls in love with a humanitarian-aid doctor, Annie (Trinca), who is also there offering medical support for those in need. However, when asked to liquidate the local Minister of Mining by his shady bosses, Cox (Rylance) and Felix (Bardem), Terrier must oblige. Soon after carrying out the hit, he flees the country without as much as a goodbye to Annie.
Eight years later, Jim is once again in Congo and soon becomes the target of an unknown hit squad. Barely making it out of there alive, he makes his way to London in order to seek out his old partners and see if they can help him figure out who is behind the mess. However, Jim’s digging and snooping is not entirely welcome and after finding his way to Annie once more, the wanted couple has no choice but to go on the run together to Barcelona where they hope to come up with a plan to get themselves out of the chaos.
One of the most surprising things about The Gunman is how its final onscreen realisation is nothing like what its trailers suggests. It’s painfully slow, very chatty – the dialogue is filled with political gobbledegook – and, in terms of action, well, there isn’t any. Apart from a couple of shockingly brutal and bloody exchanges, the rest of the story is pretty lifeless and uninspiring. On the upside, the film’s aesthetics – courtesy of cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano – is effective and its use of sharp and vibrant imagery adds the much-needed pizzazz to the story.
As for Mr. Penn, he spends most of the time trudging around looking bored, tired and oh yes, shirtless. His broodiness rarely translates into more than just looking plain expressionless. Then again, his stunt work is pretty impressive and there is a certain sense of gravitas that he brings to the table; unfortunately, just not enough energy to make us all care.
Surprisingly straightforward and refreshingly old-fashioned, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella – the delightful live-action remake of one of the most popular and beloved Disney’s animated classics – gets it right and proves that there is still room, time and love in our hearts for classic fairytales and the forever enchanting happily-ever-afters.
The skeleton of the story story is as you will remember it. Following her mother’s untimely death, the beautiful and kind-hearted Ella (James) is raised by her loving father (Chaplin) who has singlehandedly brought up his daughter to believe that kindness and generosity is the key to happiness.
After years of loneliness, though, Ella’s father decides that it’s time to remarry, leaving his daughter with no choice but to share her happy-home with an icy and unforgiving stepmother, widow Lady Tremaine (Blanchett) and a couple of equally nasty and spoiled stepsisters, Anastasia (Granger) and Drizella (McShera).
Welcoming her new family into her home is not easy and when Ella’s father dies, things get even more difficult as she is now left completely alone and in Tremaine’s care. Dismissing half of the household staff, Tremaine forces Ella to take over the house chores and to wait on her and her ungrateful daughters hand and foot. Despite the hardships, Ella – who is quickly renamed Cinderella – doesn’t want to leave her home and tries to make the best of things without knowing that her life is about to take on a whole new meaning when she and falls in love with none other than the Kingdom’s prince, Kit Charming (Madden).
Taking on a more straightforward and undemanding approach, Branagh keeps things grounded and simple, but vibrant enough to appeal to the modern audience. Thoroughly enchanting from beginning to end – although there are a couple of subplots which could have gotten a little less attention – Cinderella is sweet, but not syrupy and, unlike other recently released Disney remakes – Maleficent, Into the Woods – there are very little touch-ups, story twists and overall changes done to the original narrative.
The lead performances are equally strong and James – from T.V’s Downton Abbey – is absolutely delightful and her onscreen romance with the similarly charming Richard Madden –Game of Throne’s Robb Stark himself– is believable and truly endearing to watch develop. However, it’s Helena Bonhem Carter as Cinderella’s wacky fairy godmother and Blanchett as her evil stepmother, who truly elevate the film, delivering outstanding performances.
All in all, Cinderella – a story which has been written over three hundred years ago and adapted to the screen about a hundred times since then – is definitely worth the time and attention. Capturing the magic and heart of the 1950’s classic, it proves to be an endearing and truly engaging watch for all ages.