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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.
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.
Lasse Hallstrom’s latest onscreen efforts – following his generous offering in 2000’s Chocolat – is yet another delicious treat that celebrates the power of food and the importance of family traditions in the predictable but exceptionally charming, The Hundred Foot Journey.
The story is centred on the Kadam family from Mumbai, who, after having experienced a personal tragedy and the loss of their beloved family-run restaurant, decide to flee to Europe in search for a better life. However, after failing to make it in the cold British weather, the Kadams, led by Papa (Puri), decide to head further south.
The family of six, which includes Hassan (Dayal) – a young aspiring chef - soon stumble upon a small village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, located in the south of France. Immediately taken in by its small-town charm, Papa decides to explore the village and after laying his eyes on a piece run-down of property, he decides that his family will settle and try to reopen their family restaurant.
After many objections from the rest of the family – who believe that the French are not accustomed to Indian cuisine – the rebuilding soon begins; however, problems soon arise when they learn that their new restaurant is located exactly one hundred feet from a Michelin-starred restaurant run by uncompromising food-snob, Madame Mallory (Mirren). Naturally, she isn’t too welcoming of competition.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first; it is highly advisable not to go on The Hundred-Foot Journey on an empty stomach. If you do, know that it is at your own risk.
Adapted from the pages of Richard C. Morais’ novel of the same name – and produced by the unlikely pairing of Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey – the story is very, very simple. Regardless of its rather predictable and sometimes overly-sentimental premise, however, it manages to create an inviting world that is pretty hard to resist. Easy on the eyes, the refined and somewhat old-fashioned cinematography – which embellishes most of its shots with a sun-kissed glow – adds to the overall experience and manages to awaken and breathe life into everything it touches.
Mirren, who seems to have mastered the French accent pretty well, shows great versatility in her role of the icy restaurant owner whose hard-as-nails exterior slowly begins to melt away as the minutes go by, while Puri, as the sensitive and the exceptionally stubborn father determined to make it, is simply irresistible.
However, it’s Dayal as the passionate chef who serves as the secret ingredient to the mix and although his romantic attachment to a sous chef named Marguerite doesn’t really translate all that well, he still manages to carry and convey Hallstrom’s obvious passion and love for food to an audience who will more than likely be summoned to stop by for a quick Chicken Tikka Masala on their way home.