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El Almany: Thug Life
Ramadan stars as the titular El Almany; a thug who’s caught on video killing a guy for his phone and jacket. As the media latches on to the case and the police descend on the ghetto, we see exactly what led a promising, young mechanic to turn to a life of crime, culminating in murder.
Has Ramadan ever played a character that isn’t dirt poor? He’s a really good actor and he deserves better than to be typecast this way. Anyway, this film doesn’t have him showing off any new skills nor is it exactly a good showcase for him. The film is chock full of clichés and overacting, giving it a definite Egyptian soap opera feel and it’s mostly the romantic subplot that’s responsible for this.
El Almany is caught between two girls; Habiba, the girl next door and Sabah, a prostitute. Sabah is head over heels in love with him and he has absolutely no problem sleeping with her and stringing her along. The girl he really wants though is Habiba apparently because she’s a ‘good’ girl who doesn’t sleep around and because she keeps turning him down. The girls are pitted against each other for the whole film - virgin vs. whore - as Sabah lashes out in jealousy while Habiba tries her best to steer clear of both Sabah and El Almany in an effort to keep her reputation from being sullied.
The film’s lighting is really weird; the actors’ faces are often lit in a way that leaves their eyes in the shade while the sound is frequently muffled. In addition, the fight scenes look incredibly staged with fake sound effects and clunky, rapid cutting. All of this gives the film a very low budget look and while this is most definitely the case, the lighting and sound issues at the very least, could have been avoided.
The film doesn’t add anything to what is practically a genre of Egyptian cinema; thugs and prostitutes in the ghettos. The dialogue never goes past the simplistic and the visuals are by no means impressive nor do they show a different aspect of life in the ghetto than the one that we’re exposed to in every single film or TV show and which - no matter how violent or despondent they make it seem - nobody takes seriously.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though. The audience at the viewing we were at seemed to find the numerous shots of spaced out junkies completely hilarious and El Almany’s sidekick also managed to wrangle out a few laughs with his retorts.
El Almany is a straightforward, not particularly well made drama. It aims for gritty but more often than not lands somewhere in the vicinity of cheesy. Luckily, it still manages to be reasonably engaging, though it’s often for entirely wrong reasons.
Scary Movie 5 – aka Scary MoVie – marks the latest and slightly belated entry to one of the laziest spoof series in the history of cinema. The franchise, which continues down a shameless road of riff-raff, turns its attention to recent box office hits such as Mama, Black Swan, Sinister, The Cabin in the Woods, Evil Dead and of course, Paranormal Activity.
The premise hasn't changed one bit, but the outlandish formula that may have once incited a few laughs – or at least some guilty chuckles – has finally reached a point of no return: rock bottom.
Scary Movie 5's so-called plot focuses on Jody (Tisdale) and Dan (Rex); a young married couple who have come to care for three young girls who, after the tragic disappearance of their father – Dan's older brother – spend most of their time living in 'the cabin in the woods'. They are feral and wild, and continue to creep everyone out with constant references to someone called 'Mama'.
Keen to rid the house of any unwanted demons, Jody and Dan wire up their house with multiple cameras – à la Paranormal Activity. Meanwhile, the couple struggle to tend to their careers; Dan keeps himself busy researching apes at a scientific facility run by scary boss, Martin (Crews), while Jody tries to resurrect her career as a ballerina – à la, yes you've guess it, Black Swan – and auditions for the lead in a production of 'Swan Lake', working opposite pole-dancing ballerina, Kendra (Ash).
This is the first film in the series that has not been moulded by the hands of original creators, the Wayans Brothers, who declined the invitation to return, and the franchise's charmingly nutty lead, Anna Faris, who is currently pregnant. Needless to say, the film suffers from both omissions and doesn't have the foolish charm that made the franchise so popular, showing little-to-no intelligence in its humour.
The plot is incredibly inconsistent and plays out as a series of unconnected set-pieces, each telling their own story, just for the sake of it. Seriously, how many more Paranormal Activity spoofs do we have to sit through?
Tisdale, who has some pretty big shoes to fill after Farris' departure, is appalling and she still hasn't shaken off her Disney roots. Rex is just as horrendous and although the film has several talented actors at its disposable – Morgan Freeman narrates – none of them are given the right material to work with. Even cameos by Snoop Dogg, Mike Tyson, Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan all feel like missed opportunities.
Sitting in the wrong side of ridiculous, Scary Movie 5 is unfunny and too on-the-nose – wasting anymore column inches writing about it is infuriating.
Every now and then, a film comes along and leaves one completely spellbound and utterly speechless long after the end-credits roll. The Place Beyond the Pines is one such example.
Told in chapters, the story opens with the introduction of Luke Glanton (Gosling); a young motorcycle stunt driver working for a travelling carnival. During one of their stops in New York, he bumps into Ramona (Mendes); a girl with whom he’d had a one-night stand with during a previous rendezvous. He soon learns that he is the father of Ramona’s son, and despite the fact that she is now sharing a life with a boyfriend, Luke is determined to do his part and find a way to provide and care for them. He quits the carnival and befriends low-end mechanic, Robin (Mendelsohn), who convinces Luke that his stunt-riding skills might come in handy in pulling bank robberies.
The decision to venture into the world of crime ultimately puts Luke on the radar of Avery Cross (Cooper); a young police officer, and new father, whose story is focused on in the second chapter.
As the two men cross paths, their split-second decisions result in a life-altering moment that will not only have an impact on them, but on generations to come.
Director Derek Cianfrance – who had previously worked with Gosling in heavy 2010 indie drama, Blue Valentine – steps up to a much bigger canvas this time and still manages to delivering another incredibly stirring work of art. His carefully drawn world is compelling and unpredictable, and the unnerving and deeply moving score from composer, Mike Patton, only adds to the sense of dread that runs underneath the story's surface the whole way through. The consequences of one's decisions is the primary theme in this grand narrative and Cianfrance – with the penning support of Ben Coccio and Darius Marder – tells it in a way that feels natural and organic.
The Place Beyond the Pines has already been tipped for Oscar success, partly due to the fact that Cianfrance has managed to draw out some of the best performances of the year. Gosling – whose previous collaboration with the director proved to be some of his best work to date – is once again effortless, charismatic and utterly captivating. As a man who desperately wants to do the right thing, Gosling evokes an incredible amount of sympathy to his character while Cooper – who is slowly making his way to Hollywood elite status – delivers another magnetic performance. Even Mendes, in the role of a torn and distraught single mother, is confident, poised and manages to hold her own throughout.
Transfixing and poeti,c The Place Beyond the Pines is truly one of a kind. Viewers shouldn't be detered by its two-hour-plus running time; great stories like these take time to develop into epics and this is worth every minute.