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Welad El Balad: Bargain Bin Jokes
As Scarlett Johansson said in 2001's Ghost World: 'This is so bad; it's gone past good and back to bad again.' Welad El Balad (Sons of The Country) is the kind of trashy film that invites sneering jabs from critics and excessive hyperbolic chatter.
If film is a true reflection of society; then don’t look in Welad El-Balad’s mirror. And if film really influenced the masses, then to put it succinctly: we’re done for. The truth of the matter is that this film is just one of many numbing formulaic pieces of junk designed to kill viewers’ time by offering a paltry mix of lowbrow chestnuts.
Films hailing from this tradition usually play down the story and focus instead on character-driven antics. Forget about names; El Soghayar is playing someone called Jawa (named after the brand of home-delivery motorcycles), but that’s as far as the character deviates from the real-life crooner. Ostensibly, everyone is playing a financially crippled version of themselves.El Soghayar is an aspiring singer, Dina is an aspiring belly dancer, and Lotfy’s goal is just to stay out of prison. There is also a mortician having trouble with consummating his marriage, more or less a pawn for Viagra jokes. Also, Angie Wegdan (the chubby girlfriend in H Dabour) gives an uncharacteristic performance as Bata, El Soghayar’s love interest.
Needless to say, the film is a can-full of debauchery followed by the usual sermon for dessert. However, amidst all the carless rambling, one moment does stand out. In one scene, Lotfy gives Dina an ultimatum: she must choose between him and her dancing career. For all intents and purposes, Dina gives a well-argued retort, where she compares belly-dancing to swimming: she points out the inherent hypocrisy of attacking the skimpy outfits of one while accepting those of the other's. It is flawed logic but admirable food for thought nonetheless.
The best thing that can be said about Welad El Balad is that there are worse films out there. Production values are decent, song numbers are catchy, and the running time is a merciful 85 minutes-long. Yet, even for crass films likeWelad El Balad, there is a surprising lack of funny moments, even those in the name of bad taste.
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.
Ludicrous, crass but also undeniably fun,Ted 2 - the sequel to Seth MacFarlane’s successful 2012 comedy, Ted –proves to be a more consistent and better drawn-out affair than its predecessor, even if the jokes – which there never seems to be a shortage of– don’t always land where they’re supposed to.
Picking up shortly after the events of the first film, Ted 2 is once again centred on best-buds and avid stoners, John Bennett (Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) who, as it turns out, don’t seem to be living out their happily-ever-afters with the women in their lives. See, John has divorced the love-of-his-life, Lori (Kunis), and Ted, who at the beginning of the film shares his “I Do’s” with his human-bride, Tami-Lynn (Barth), is in constant clashes with his new wife.
Deciding that the best way to reconcile and put an end to all the bickering is to start a family, Ted reaches out to his best-friend for help; a decision which soon proves rather messy. However, Ted’s civil rights are soon called in to question by the government who wish to brand Ted as property as oppose to a living thing, leaving John and Ted with no choice but to turn to the rookie – and pot-loving- lawyer, Samantha (Seyfried) for some legal help in an attempt to prove that Ted is a living being with rights of his own. Hence the tagline ‘Legalise Ted’.
Endless pop-culture references and MacFarlane’s distinct brand of abstract toilet humour is once again the integral part of the story. While the first film lent most of its focus on Wahlberg and his romance with Mila Kunis – the actress was written out of the script due to her pregnancy with husband Ashton Kutcher – Ted 2 shifts the focus onto the talking teddy and his battle to be recognised, essentially, as a human.
The decision to shift proves to be a smart move, although the film does tend to take itself a little too seriously at times; in addition, Wahlberg – whose deadpan delivery is almost always spot on – seems to shine more in his secondary role.
Ted 2 is neither ambitious nor smart and its jokes are often offensive and pretty vulgar. Nevertheless, it’s a fun goofy kind of vulgarity that will ensure more box office success and probably even a third film.