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Haz Saeed: Egyptian Comedy Grossly Simplifies the Revolution
Eid plays Saeed, a street vendor who’s legally married yet lives separately from his wife because they can’t afford a flat. He regularly gets beaten up at the police station for the most trivial of reasons and generally leads a highly downtrodden existence. His luck seems set to change though when he gets a letter stating that the government will be giving him a flat as part of their youth outreach projects. However, his dreams are dashed when he discovers that the head of this project intends on scrapping it and use the land for a commercial project instead. Soon after, the revolution erupts and the head of the project flees the country. It’s at this point that the entirely apolitical and rather dim-witted Saeed is forced into Tahrir Square to look for his revolutionary sister who is camping out and who has her mother scared to death over her safety. Saeed gets unwittingly caught up in the action Downtown and starts to question his priorities in life; food and shelter or freedom and dignity?
The film makes a good point in that for people who struggle to live day-to-day, political reform is probably not at the top of their priorities, which is perfectly understandable. Our survival instinct is the strongest one we have after all. But there is a way of making this point without making the protagonist a complete simpleton. Saeed can barely comprehend the scope of the revolution, is unable to grasp its purpose and is continuously shocked at the number of people in the square. With another actor, these traits may have come across as symptoms of a man brainwashed by the system but in this case, he just seems obtuse. The rest of the characters aren’t much better either. As a rule, the females shriek and screech while the guys yell and it's far more grating than it is funny.
One point that really undermines that message though is the disparity obvious in Saeed’s living situation. Even though he’s having trouble making enough money for a place of his own, the flat he lives in seems quite middle class if not for the fact that it houses six people of whom, he’s the only one who has to sleep in the living room. Not to mention they have an internet connection and satellite television.
The jokes, which are a mile a minute, are mainly one liners and miss far more than they hit. There are however a few good ones including a montage of different political ideologies being explained to a thoroughly bewildered Saeed. It’s a much needed break in the middle of a bunch of scenes of Saeed stumbling around in the crowd in Tahrir.
The problem with the current crop of films that attempt to tackle the revolution is that they’re dated before they even make their way to the cinema and that they’re by default, overly simplistic. There’s no way that a film can be made about the revolution without the benefit of hindsight and the thing is, they generally tackle the revolution as a whole and not just specific parts of it. It’s too much, too simplistic and too soon and in the case of this film, far too long.
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.