Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

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This review also appears on Movie Blogbuster.

Zero Dark Thirty revolves around events within the CIA that led to the killing of OBL. Unfortunately, this is your typical ‘good guy, bad guy’ Hollywood movie, which is a real shame because it deals with a topic that’s been making news rounds for the last 11 years. You have your stubborn American woman who is obsessed with taking down Al Qaeda, and all the terrorist acts against the CIA in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the years after Sep 11. As a result they made torturing suspects to get intel look acceptable and justified to protect the Homeland, and Obama’s decision to shut down CIA interrogation cells look like a bad idea.

The movie also lost all credibility with me because, as usual, Hollywood overlooked the most simple elements. For example, why would you be speaking Arabic to kids in a Pakistani neighborhood? Wouldn’t they be talking Urdu? And why would Pakistanis in OBL’s neighbourhood not listen to or understand the soldier speaking to them in Urdu, but suddenly comprehend ‘back off they will kill you’ in English? It’s stupid oversights like this that really bother me, especially when you’re telling the story of someone that has had a big impact on everyone in the world. It also started off with ‘The Saudi Group’ in big letters; if you’re going to oversimplify the plot, at least do your average viewer some courtesy in explaining who they are instead of just throwing names out like that.

Rating: I’d rather put 20 hours into watching Homeland (which is fantastic by the way) than spend a couple of hours watching this movie. I give it 2 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: Django Unchained

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I hate Westerns. They’re not really my cup of tea in the film world. But, I’m a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino’s films and with the incredible cast put together in this film, I knew I had to check Django Unchained out. Winning tickets to the premiere on Twitter (thanks @virginmena!) certainly helped matters!

Set 2 years before the Civil War in the US, the story starts with a German bounty hunter, Dr. Schultz, (masterfully played by Christopher Waltz) who buys Django (Jamie Foxx) to help him find his bounty. This was a time where slavery was still around, so you’ll see a lot of racism in this film, but Dr. Schultz wasn’t a fan of the concept and this progressed the story line in a very interesting direction (not giving away any spoilers). And, as you’d expect in any Tarantino movie, there’s a lot of dramatic shooting and a lot of blood; the last 30 minutes of the film were especially epic.

Rating: If there’s one movie you need to see this weekend, make it this one. Another Tarantino cult hit. I give 5 Oi’s out of 5.

A slightly modified version of this review also appears on Movie Blogbuster.
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Movie Review: Back to 1942

This film told the story of the town of Henan during the war, where a severe drought and famine caused 3 million people deaths as a result. It was an epic production to say the least. I don’t know what their idea of ‘hope’ is when they wrote the synopsis, but all I saw was a tunnel with no light at the end of it. It’s pretty depressing seeing things get progressively worse, but I think it’s important to watch it anyways to understand that part of history- even if just a little bit- and think about those in unfortunate situations today. Another aspect to the film was showing how communist China functioned and their reasons for sending emergency aid to Henan was shocking in my point of view. On the other hand, it was also interesting to see the focus family in the movie was of an upper-class family amongst those who typically live in poverty.

Rating: Depressing as ever, but incredible film and story line. I give it 4 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie review: When Monaliza Smiled

This Jordanian rom-com is about a woman called Monaliza who never smiles. Ever. She comes from a conservative family (also portrayed by her mannerisms and dress sense), and lives with her much older sister who hasn’t stepped out of the house in 20 years. She’s had no intentions to get married or be with anyone until she meets an Egyptian guy at her new job. From there, you see a lot of the struggles that a conservative girl would typically face in that kind of situation- family, nationality differences, admitting your feelings, and so on.

The characters were all well-written and the story had a nice flow. It’s not a new story if you’ve seen western rom-coms, but it is definitely new for the Arab world in a refreshing way. It had many depths to it, with supporting characters also having their own stories, which I found quite interesting. The ending was a bit too Jerry Maguire for me, but overall it was an enjoyable film.


Rating: Great Arabic film. We need more Arabic movies like this. I give it 4 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: Line of Sight

Another Jordanian film (I’m really impressed by the calibre of movies coming out from these new young directors!) that was about a newly married woman whose car gets stolen, except one of the thieves gets left behind and she holds him at gun point in an attempt to get her car back. The whole movie revolves around that scene, with flashbacks into the stories of the man and the woman, understanding their backgrounds better as the movie progresses. It’s a movie that tackled several topics really well- the choices we make and their consequences (in the director’s words ‘there are no victims in this story’); a peak into Jordan’s social classes, the lives they lead, and the big gaps between them; and what we want to believe vs. the truth.??

The film was written and directed by Aseel Mansour, and he did a fantastic job at both.

Rating: Gripping movie that keeps you thinking up until the very end. It hits theaters in the UAE in January, so make sure you see it. I give it 5 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: The Thieves

Imagine Ocean’s 11, but Korean-style and ten times better. That pretty much sums up The Thieves. It was a blockbuster hit in South Korea, and I can see why. The dialogue was funny (even with subtitles!), and the action scenes were awesome. And even though neither one is realistic, The Thieves was a lot more realistic than Ocean’s 11 because, guess what, a heist that big is more likely to fail than to succeed. And with that kind of thinking, it gave the story a lot more to go with than just a simple Heist, and a few more twists too. It was also cool to see female leads playing key roles in the heist, unlike the all-male team formed by Mr. Ocean.

Rating: Really fun to watch, and so funny even with the English subtitles. I give it 5 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: Hyde Park on Hudson

This is a period movie telling the story of President Roosevelt’s womanizing ways (who woulda thought?!) through a woman called Daisy, and is actually based her letters documenting all of this??that were hidden in a box under her bed! The movie is mostly in narrative form from Daisy’s point of view, and is not very fast-paced so you have to have a lot of patience with this movie. Bill Murray was phenomenal playing President Roosevelt- I personally think it was his best performance ever- and the film was really funny as well, especially when the King and Queen of England visit the US in 1939; their concern over ‘hot dogs’ made everyone laugh every time. My sister was bored to death though, so this movie definitely isn’t for those who love the typical Hollywood blockbuster.

Rating: If you like period films, watch this. If you don’t, watch it anyway for Bill Murray’s performance. I give it 4 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: Hitchcock

A dark comedy telling the story of the great director Alfred Hitchcock while he was making his horro movie Psycho. Dark comedy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so not everyone will appreciate this movie. I thought it was really good, and one of Anthony Hopkins’ best performances. What I loved the most about this film was the portrayal of this marriage to Alma; the ups and downs they go through- support, doubts about the project and each other, feelings of betrayal resentment, and finally appreciation- just felt real, and even more so with Helen Mirren’s great piece of telling off Hitch. It was also interesting to see how Hitch was ‘communicating’ with the killer he was basing his movie on, although I think that could’ve had a bigger part in the movie.

Rating: Watch it for Anthony Hopkins’ performance, even if dark comedy isn’t up your alley. I give it 4 Oi’s out of 5.

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Emirati Short Films- in review (part 2/2)

As I watch a lot of English movies throughout the year, one thing I try to do during film festivals is watch more documentaries and foreign films, especially Arabic ones. This year, I especially wanted to attend the Muhr Emirati film screenings to see what local talent is up to. There were some really good ones and some that were trying too hard.

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Life Spray– This one was a bit difficult to grasp; initially I thought it was about reincarnation but when I asked the director, she explained that it was an interpretation of a Quran verse of how when we are born (or in the womb- I don’t recall to be honest) we see the most important parts of our life- which, in this girl’s case, is her wedding day and the day she dies. Interesting idea, but I think it could’ve been done better. I give it 2 Oi’s out of 5.

Half Emirati– This was awesome. A short documentary about ‘halfies’ and their point of view on the whole thing- being treated, judged, what they think of themselves and their identity. Deals with an important topic in a really witty way. I hope the director (a half-emirati herself) turns into a full-feature documentary that explores the topic in more detail. I give it 5 Oi’s out of 5.

Goat’s head– This is a very sad film based on a true story, which makes it even sadder. It’s about a girl called Hessa Abdulrahman that got constantly beaten up by her dad, then married off for money where the beatings continued. The story is told in the form of the girl talking to a doctor while in hiding. I give it 4 Oi’s out of 5

White coloured elephant– A kid survives near-death experiences a few times, and also had accidentally pushed his sister to her death, so he’s kind of messed up. The ‘white coloured elephant’ is shown at the end and has no significance whatsoever. Also the kid wants a bike. Ummmm… I give it 1 Oi out of 5.

Path– This was brilliant up until literally the last 20 seconds. The film explores hidden intentions vs. action and our deep subconscious and what we could be capable of. It was suspenseful all the way through and really well produced. The double twist at the end was unnecessary though. I give it 4 Oi’s out of 5.

 

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Emirati Short Films- in review (part 1/2)

As I watch a lot of English movies throughout the year, one thing I try to do during film festivals is watch more documentaries and foreign films, especially Arabic ones. This year, I especially wanted to attend the Muhr Emirati film screenings to see what local talent is up to. There were some really good ones and some that were trying too hard.

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Safi– I loved this short. It’s about how times have changed told through the childhood memories of one of the characters, when life was simpler and fun back in the day of adjusting the antenna on the rooftop to get a clear signal. I give it 4 Oi’s out of 5.

Mutiny– What if your body starting turning against you and you couldn’t control it? This was the idea behind this short film, turning Alien Hand Syndrome into a little thriller. I give it 3 Oi’s out of 5.

Mirage.net–  A very powerful film that raises awareness about the issue of rape in the Arab society, and the importance of coming forward as a rape victim. It also sheds light on the dangers of the Internet that are easily overlooked and forgotten about; as the adage goes: “on the Internetnobody knows youre a dog”. I give it 5 Oi’s out of 5.

Durbeen– I didn’t really get this one. The film starts of with kids playing soccer, and one of them is left behind on the ground with broken glasses. As he’s walking home, he finds cardboard tubes and makes a pair of binoculars. Then he starts walking and seeing through the binoculars, and starts seeing bubbles and marbles and clean laundry gets showered in colors. Then he goes home, sleeps, wakes up and the same thing happens again the next day. The music was dreary too. Yea, I didn’t get it. I give it 1 Oi out of 5.

We need to talk– This is every-cliche-chic-lit-book-ever-written-and-rom-com-ever-made. It’s a comedic take (or an attempt at least) on a girl going through a breakup. We’ve seen this story a million times over, but with better everything. There was one scene when the guy wanted to breakup with her- the way it was shot looked like he wanted to get some action on the phone instead. The whole thing couldn’t get more cliche. I would give up 90 minutes of my time to watch a Twilight movie in exchange for the 35 minutes I spent watching this. Also, fonts were in Comic Sans (or similar). Thumbs way way down. I give it 0 Oi’s out of 5.

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