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Taraf Talet: Ramadan Thriller
Three friends, all of whom have a very punch first, think later approach to life, work as hired guns for a big time thug. When they start to get angsty over their pay, they find themselves on the wrong end of his wrath.
As the title implies, the show takes place post Jan 25 and focuses on Egypt’s number one national treasure; baltageya (thugs). It’s an attempt to humanize them and to paint them as complex individuals and not the shadowy creatures that hysterical rumours have made them out to be. From this angle, it actually works. We spent some time actually puzzling over the choice of title until it suddenly clicked that the three leads were supposed to be baltageyya and not your run of the mill criminals. These are the people we hear about on the news disrupting protests and poll stations, kidnapping people, stealing their cars, etc. Refreshingly though, it takes a balanced approach to the thugs without either demonising or making excuses for them.
The show stars Karara as Mimi, Abdel Moghny as Dibo and Youssef as Youssef; the same trio who starred in Mowaten X together last year. Despite the fact that their actions can occasionally be quite awful and their cavalier attitude to violence is rather disturbing, the actors play their parts with a nuance that prevents these traits and deeds from defining them. The material they’re given helps us to get to know the leads and their friends and family so well that you barely see them as petty criminals let alone baltageya since the show humanises them so much.
The supporting cast, which is mostly female, is also packed with good actors with El Shirbeeny and Raeis being the two main standouts. Shockingly enough, the show features a couple of present and former belly-dancers who unapologetically like their work, weren’t forced into it due to an abusive father/partner and who don’t treat their job title as a euphemism for hooker. It’s a complete break from the norm and a thing of beauty. Of course to balance it out, the majority of the female characters so far both think and speak almost exclusively about men and marriage.
Taraf Talet does a great and pretty entertaining job of weaving the political events into a dramatic structure without being too heavy on the clichés; it rightfully focuses on telling the story and not on thinly veiled political analysis.
Harrelson has a starry supporting cast backing him up made up of the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi, Ice Cube, Ben Foster and Robin Wright Penn. Brie Larson plays Dave’s daughter Helen, and after him, she’s the best thing about the film. The relationship between the two runs on hate and scorn mixed with a twisted kind of love. It brings to mind the saying about how blood is thicker than water. How you can hate a family member so much and see them for the worthless scum that they are, yet still allow their opinions and words to affect you. It’s a toxic relationship, one of many in the film, yet it packs a punch that the others don’t.
The story is occasionally difficult to keep track of as it jumps abruptly from one topic to another, but Dave’s internal conflict is more compelling than anything the story throws at you. Dave and Helen’s scenes together are far more powerful and infinitely more interesting than any of the scenes in which he brandishes a gun or kicks a guy to a bloody pulp. The film has some fine camera work; it forgoes flashiness just for the sake of it and instead focuses on bringing the viewer in closer to the actors. It works with the actors to set the scenes’ mood instead of just framing them.
After five decades in the business and a long string of supporting roles playing sociopaths and villains, 77 year-old Hollywood veteran, Bruce Dern, finally takes centre stage in Alexander Payne's incredibly poetic, tremendously moving drama, Nebraska.
Shot entirely in black and white, Nebraska follows Woodrow 'Woody' T. Grant (Dern); an elderly, progressively senile ex-alcoholic. After receiving a letter informing him that he has won a million dollars from a suspicious sweepstakes campaign, he is determined to make his way from Montana to Nebraska and claim his prize.
After failing to convince his delusional father that the prize money is a hoax, his son David (Forte) agrees to drive him to Lincoln, Nebraska, taking the opportunity to spend some quality time with his aging father.
Soon after hitting the road, the duo makes an unexpected stop in Woody’s hometown of Hawthorne, where they’re joined by his wife, Kate (Squibb) and David’s older brother Ross (Odenkirk); both of whom think that Woody should be admitted to a home for the elderly. Their visit soon attracts unwanted attention when word spreads of Woody’s newly-found fortune, bringing distant family members, old friends and foes, looking for a piece of the actions.
With his slumped posture and shuffling feet, Dern is absolutely riveting as Woody who, thanks to the years of drinking and childhood heartache, has managed to alienate himself from the world and everyone around him. Delivering a powerful and a quietly moving performance, Dern paints his character with a haunted look of a man who still appears to be connected with reality, but who chooses to find solace in his own world of imagination. As his sharp-tongued wife, Squibb is absolutely glorious, and delivers some of the film’s most hilarious moments. As Woody’s voice of reason, Forte goes for a gentle, unassuming performance, portraying a man struggling to find meaning to his existence, and a son who desperately wants to preserve a connection to his fading father.
Directed by Alexander Payne and written by Bob Nelson, Nebraska has an air of minimalism throughout. Thanks to the wonderful work of cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael – and lingering guitar-based scores by Mark Orton – each shot feels right in the moment, and manages to correspond wonderfully to Woody’s state of mind.
Sad, humorous and graceful, Nebraska is a beautifully written character-driven drama that portrays the warmth of humanity, and the need for tolerance, in a very moving and restrained way.