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Hassal Kheir: Sexist, Racist & Unfunny
First things first, racism is not a joke. Calling someone black in a derogatory way is not funny; it’s completely messed up. One of the film’s main characters calls his wife ‘black’ twice, hurling it at her like a slur, fishing for laughs. That would have been bad enough except that the viewers in the cinema lapped it up and these two instances elicited some of the film’s biggest laughs.
They, the filmmakers and the viewers, are apparently unaware of the fact that we’re in Africa and that brown skin comes with the territory. The kicker of course, is that the woman in question isn’t even that dark which provokes the question, how dark is too dark? This is the kind of sentiment you’d expect from one of those awful, anti-feminist Fair & Lovely ads.
Moving on. The film revolves around boobs; at least that’s what the filmmakers would like you to think considering the trailer. In actuality, it’s about some poor men who are unhappy with their wives because they aren’t Victoria’s Secrets models, don’t lounge around in lingerie and aren’t up for sex whenever their men beckon.
The arrival of a pouty, Lebanese belly-dancer in their building turns their world upside down. The men drool after her, their wives curse her existence while she prances around with her immensely irritating kid sister. When things get really bad between the couples, she tries her best to get them back together. Also; boobs - there's lots of them. The trailers weren’t lying.
Amar, who plays the similarly named belly-dancer, is stunning. In fact, her good looks almost make up for her grating screen presence. She talks in a sexy-baby voice, which just sounds creepy coming out of a grown woman, and spends the whole film batting her eyelashes. She puts the sex kitten stuff on hold to get the men back together with their wives but goes right back to it again once she needs something. Her character, along with every other one in the film, is a one-note caricature and not a very fun one at that.
The men are all horny, boys while their wives are self-loathing shrews. The film’s humour comes from the men either humiliating themselves in order to get Amar’s attention or letting their wives know that in their lack of resemblance to Amar, they may as well be men. It’s a terribly funny, not-at-all-clichéd type of humour though, to be fair.
The film is stuffed with songs, a couple of which are actually a little fun. The best are the ones sung by Saad El Soghair while the absolute worst is sung by Janna, the 'miracle' child who plays Amar’s kid sister. Either way, try not to listen to the lyrics, some of which are completely sexist, the rest of which are plain dumb.
Yes, this type of film isn’t supposed to be taken seriously but films can be light and stupid without being offensive. Besides, Hassal Kheir isn’t exactly teeming with redeeming qualities.
Those going in expecting an action-packed sci-fi adventure, complete with explosions, flying space-ship battles and a full-on war between humans and their extraterrestrial visitors, will be severely disappointed with Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. Taking on a more philosophical approach to things, Arrival is an intelligent and a thought-provoking alien-invasion thriller which revels in its own complexity and manages strike all of the right chords, but for a few missteps.
Based on Ted Chiang’s short story titled Story of your Life, the film begins with the arrival of twelve mysterious alien spacecrafts which position themselves at twelve different locations around the globe, igniting fear and paranoia amongst the residents of Earth.
Recruited by Colonel Weber (Whittaker), linguist Louise Banks (Adams) – along with mathematician Ian Donnelly (Renner) – is brought to Montana to help deal with the possible threat by making contact with the aliens in order find out who they are and what their intentions may be.
However, establishing communication with the visitors is not as easy as one would have hoped with Louise soon discovering that the aliens have their own language which uses symbols to communicate. Deciphering their tongue into a language they can understand is no easy task and with the threat of a global war between humans and aliens on the verge of a breakout, Louise must work hard to suppress her own personal demons in order to get the breakthrough she, and everyone else on the planet, needs.
Following his success with a character-driven drama like Prisoners and intense drug-thriller, Sicario, Villeneuve turns to sci-fi this time and manages to deliver yet another impressive – and by far the most ambitious – piece of work. Tackling some rather big questions about life, time and what makes us human, the script - written by Eric Heisserer - works as both a character-focused drama and a sweeping sci-fi adventure. Drenched in an enigmatic aura of the unknown, the pacing is slow and purposeful with Villeneuve unraveling the story’s mysteries steadily but thoroughly, keeping the tension and momentum high, while composer Johann Johansson’s original score, infuses the story with plenty of atmosphere and mood.
Delivering yet another powerful performance, it’s not a stretch to say that Amy Adams is the true star of the show; embracing her character’s strength and vulnerability with plenty of presence and grace, Adams delivers on all fronts, while Renner, although not used as much, is quietly effective.
All in all, Arrival is a winner and although it does struggle a little bit with trying not getting too lost in its own complex ideas, it’s one of the most thought-provoking, touching and moving sci-fi films you will see this year.
As an exploration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the military, Dito Montiel’s Man Down is a muddled story that’s pretty challenging to sit through. Though on paper there’s plenty of potential depth in this particular effect of war – and a solid cast at its disposable – the film descends into military-movie clichés, while not really keeping up with its complex set-up.
The movie to take place over four separate time periods and opens with U.S Marine Gabriel Drummer (LeBeouf) and his military buddy, Devin Roberts (Courtney), making their way through a vast and seemingly wasted American landscape which appears to have been destroyed by a chemical attack. On the look-out for survivors, the pair is hoping to find Drummer’s son, Jonathan (Shotwell), whom he believes has been kidnapped.
Before the audience gets a chance to find out what is really going in, the story flashes back to another time period where a seemingly distraught Drummer is being interviewed by Counselor Peyton (Oldman) about an ‘incident’ that occurred on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Moving on to yet to another period, we also get to see the story of Drummer and Roberts during their Marine Corps training at Camp Lejeune before, eventually, cutting to the story of Drummer’s life at home with wife, Natalie (Mara) and their son.
Taking on several narrative threads without really knowing where to take them, let alone how to put them back together, is one of Man Down’s major issues. Used to give some kind of visual interpretation of PTSD, the movie’s choppy editing is ineffective and comes across as a messy, superficial tool.
Clocking in at precisely ninety minutes, Man Down is a relatively short film but, thanks to the overworked script and slow pace, it takes forever for any of the stories to build into something bigger.
Working its way through a series of military clichés, the story works best when it is focused on digging into Drummer’s fractured mind, with the conversation between him and his counsellor – played by the seemingly wasted talent of one Gary Oldman – serving to be one of the movie’s best elements. LeBeouf is convincing as a troubled soldier desperately trying not to sink deeper into madness and his commitment to the role is commendable, making it all that more frustrating to see that the script itself is so lacking.