Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Çam Sakızı (1962)

Murat is the captain of a small touring vessel, along with his first mate =. After an onboard altercation, they strike up a friendship with two feisty girls, Güldür and =, who quickly take a shine to the two sea dogs. They persuade the duo to take part in an upcoming boat race against a brutish rival, despite the prowess of his advanced ship. Can the group win the day? And will they find romance together too?...

Not to be confused with the 1974 rom-com, with which it bears no relation beyond the same name (translating to Pine Gum), Çam Sakızı is a romantic comedy with a seafaring spirit to it...Well, coastalfaring anyway.

This is a fairly basic rom-com, particularly of the era. But not in a bad way. I was looking forward to seeing it for a while now. Now that I have, it's pretty entertaining. It feels like your typical fluffy affair from the 60s, that you could easily picture starring someone like Doris Day. Nothing groundbreaking, but it passes the time well (assuming you understand the language).

The story is basic, and the movie perhaps runs a little too long for what it is at 96 minutes, but it's never boring. We get good character introductions, fun shenanigans, and some action in the end. Everything culminates in the boat race, which the heroes naturally win. For no other reason than they just happen to go a little faster, but it's satisfying enough.

The romance is cute. It gets rolling pretty quickly, with both couples striking up good friendships that soon lead to more. Meanwhile, the comedy is all fairly basic, nothing getting more than a chuckle out of me, but it's only a light picture anyway, and nothing in it was unfunny, or aggressively annoying.

The characters here are good. Murat is a fine lead character. Not the deepest of heroes, but leaves a positive impression. His sidekick meanwhile is more comic relief, and is never annoying.

The girls are a wild pair! They're sisters who get along swimmingly, until the slightest disagreement, then they chase each-other across the house, and demolish their rooms in big brawls that end in massive amounts of spanking! They have fun interactions with the various other characters throughout, be they good or bad.

The supporting cast is good. The girls' father is a good guy, and has some nice earnest moments, giving him a connection with Murat. Then there's a nerdy and hapless guy who tries everything he can to get the attention of the sisters, despite constant setbacks, and them finding different beaus. He knows how to pick some good tunes though! The villains are a pair of bullies, who you enjoy seeing getting taken down a peg, be it verbally, in bar fights, or in a race, where all the fancy equipment they boast about is put to the test. I really liked what happens in the ending, which was a sweet 3 Musketeers style moment of throwing villainy to the side.

The score is made up of many cute 60s-ish tunes, which I got a kick out of. The last act also has a healthy amount of classic parade marches for the boating contest, and such. I half expected the 'Monty Python theme' to play!

Çam Sakızı is quite a good looking film, and it captures the boating content well! There's presumably a mix of race footage shot separately, and actors inserted in, but if so the seams are all hidden fairly well. The only problem is the quality of the print I saw, which was a point below garbage. Low-quality rarely adds to the enjoyment of a movie, but this is one where it really hinders the visual experience! The film is in black-and-white, and looks fine, although I do wonder how it would've looked in colour. Some movies need a flourish, some can do without, and this one could've gone either way.

The movie also has a snazzy opening credits sequence, which use a mix of illustrations and photos. I only saw it once I was lucky enough to discover another better print of the movie, containing these credits. Then again, maybe not so lucky if I only found it after I'd seen the movie.

The cast here does a good job all-round. Orhan Günşiray is a fine lead, playing attractive romantic figures just as aptly as he would smartasses and comedy characters. Neriman Köksal and Suna Pekuysal are gorgeous and funny (I pissed myself laughing at the adorable way Neriman says Boo in her accent!), while = is decent as the sidekick and Ahmet Tarik Tekçe is a fun villain. There are also plenty of moustaches to go round, as you can expect from a Turkish production!

Çam Sakızı is a fun enough rom-com, with enough to entertain, even if there's nothing overly special about it. It's just a simple artifact of a great period...

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Hababam Taburu (1975)

A mischievous crew of sailors make a habit of pranking their crotchety old captain, but one day their tricks work a little too well, and send their vessel far off course into the North African coast. They land on the shores of small nation Umumba, where they're immediately pressganged into military service by the local government, engaged in their current war of the week. Now the group must figure out how to escape back to the high seas, and to home, without getting killed. And can they win a war or two along the way?...

Hababam Taburu is a seaside/military comedy, not to be confused with Turkish school classic Hababam Sınıfı. By the same author, and the first of which also came out in 1975. Not sure which came first, though I'd be inclined to say Sınıfı since that's the more professional high quality film, whereas Taburu is a more basic product.

The story here is as basic as can be. Really it's just an excuse for comedy setpieces and shenanigans. As long as you go in aware of this you shouldn't have a problem. It's not like the movie ever pretends to be anything else. It also verges on softcore porn in places. I was pretty surprised by how far some bits went! Don't get me wrong, it's hardly on the same level as Porky's, but still, it exceeds the expectations you have for pictures like this!

What little chatter I've seen online about Taburu are mixed, with some taking a dislike to the film for its base simplicity, while others liking it for that same reason, seeing it as charming escapist fluff. I can see both sides, but in this day and age you can't go wrong with a decent routine comedy, even as a simple time-killer.

The comedy here is fairly standard stuff. Nothing you won't see coming, but is passable at worst, and funny at best. There's some good physical comedy here, and amusing situations. There was one moment with the guys trying to sneakily watch a porno, before being busted by Hulusi Kentmen, who shoos them all out and proceeds to...twirl his moustache if you get my drift. There are also a couple of grosser moments (mostly involving the big guy's belly, and a scene that could've been right out of Alien!).

The bellydancing scene, featuring the guys in female disguises, is as silly as you can imagine, but you almost forget this with how into their song the movie gets. And I also noticed a similar joke from other Turkish comedy Şaban Oğlu Şaban. I did think it odd that Taburu would pinch a joke (albeit a fairly commonplace one already), yet be otherwise completely different. Well as it turns out, it predates all three of Kemal Sunal's military comedies!

The main characters in Taburu are fairly basic archetypes. No-one really shines in their own distinct way, but none are meant to. They're just here to entertain. Their long suffering captain bears the brunt of much of their pranks, and while I wouldn't say they're the most likeable per se, they never come across as malicious. The supporting cast are much the same, though some stand out more, such as the sultry nurse. Despite her sunkissed North African surroundings, she dresses as a stereotypical nurse, albeit with a much smaller skirt size, and little concept of buttons. And is surprisingly reciprocal to advances from whoever happens to giving.

The climax is fun. An invasion of the other side has come, and the gang must try their best to hold it off. And they do so with some clever thinking and strategy. The kind that could only come to a bunch of tricky goofballs like these.

Then we have a fun ending, with some rewards, a sweet-ish interaction between captain and crew, and one last prank. Just a shame there's not more fun music to play us out, instead just cutting abruptly to The End.

The cast here is made up of secondary players as far as the Yeşilçam era was concerned, barring stalwart Hulusi Kentmen. He's his typical amusing grumpy self. The others give decent performances for what they are. Nothing amazing, and some might find their mugging a little annoying, but they're not egregiously bad, and this isn't meant to be high art or anything. Figen Han is drop dead sexy as the nurse, and could take my pulse anytime!

Hababam Taburu is a visually pleasing film. The crew have a nice color balance to them, especially when contrasted with the boat, and the blue sky and ocean. Bit of a shame then when they're drafted and stuck in identical military uniforms. The location work is good, convincing as North Africa despite a presumable more Anatolian filming area. Then there's the illustrated opening credits, which have a fun art style, complementing the movie's goofy tone and literary origins well!

The score here is a hoot! We've got a fun main theme, and tracks feeling right out of a jazzy(?) 60s production like Casino Royale, and some more 70s period tunes, that reminded me of A Summer Place.

Hababam Taburu may not be a patch on the more famous film to bear half that name, but it's still a pretty fun Turkish comedy. It's got some fun actors, decent humour, and is a good time killer for those who like Oriental hijinks...

Friday, November 10, 2023

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

Buckaroo Banzai has it all. He's a world-class genius, scientist, athlete, crimefighter, and part-time rock star. His latest experiment sees him testing an interdimensional craft, but it proves to be more than they bargained when it attracts the attention of the Red Lectroids of Planet X. They've been stranded on Earth ever since a past experiment, and are determined to steal Buckaroo's tech to return home to retake their old planet. Now it's up to Buckaroo to stop them before the entire planet is destroyed. Easy for Earth's greatest hero!...

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is one of the prototypical cult movies of the 80s. A failure upon its release, it gained a small but dedicated fanbase, and is fondly remembered to this day, despite never getting the franchise it may have set out to jumpstart.

This movie didn't do well for a few reasons. The long title might've put some people off (come on, guys, live a little!), and the movie is willfully obtuse, acting as if it's not the first entry, and we're already familiar with this hero. In a way it's fun being thrust into this world partway.

But the main thing getting in the way of wider popularity is the same reason the movie is so beloved. It's a bloody weird film! And not weird in a way you'd expect either. A bit of goofiness is to be expected. But Buckaroo Banzai's weirdness is baked right into the story. The film is dense and confusing, not because it has a complicated story, but its presentation is off-kilter. One thing'll happen without warning to make you go 'Huh?', and before it gets an explanation two more things happen to make you go 'Wait, what the hell's going on?!'.

The film also feels random and weird for weird's sake, like the watermelon scene. That's one of the film's most famous cult moment, although it was kinda blink or you'll miss it. That sense of background weirdness does run the risk of underplaying some jokes, but it spares the film from being obnoxious.

As weird as the world of Buckaroo Banzai is, it's also oddly normal at times. It's just our boring old world, with with a few superficial touches of wackiness. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand it's a nice mix that stops things from getting too out-there for comfort. But on the other hand it does make what should be a wacky world seem a bit...duller?

While not a comedy, the film has a lighthearted presentation. This I like, though not all the comedy landed for me. I found some of it kinda lame. It's good when it hits though.

Buckaroo is a decent lead character. He's presented as the greatest in every field, but isn't insufferably perfect. He's a pretty mellow guy, and is an action hero with a greater focus on heart and friendship than carnage and big muscles. This is highlighted with the breathtakingly philosophical quote "Hey now, don't be mean. We don't have to be mean, cause, remember, no matter where you go, there you are". Wow, powerful stuff.

Penny Priddy meanwhile is a bit of a drip. She starts out suicidal, and gets herself in hot water when security mistake her for an assassin. From here on she ends up embroiled in events, and she improves as the movie goes on. By the end she plays a decent part, even if she has no idea what's going on or who's who.

Their love story is pretty weird. Admittedly Buckaroo does partly fall for Penny due to her circumstances, but mainly it's because she's the spitting image of his deceased wife, who it turns out is Penny's long lost sister. What a coincidence! Buckaroo's old wife is rarely mentioned straight out, and this connection really isn't used to its full potential. It makes their coupling feel a little shallow too.

Buckaroo's team of sidekicks are ok. They have fun names, wacky outfits, or cool swagger, but are all pretty underdeveloped and one-note. There's a lot to keep track of too. Then there's a friendly alien, who doesn't add much.

The Lectoids make for pretty fun adversaries, with their weird quirks. Not all of it landed for me, but they weren't dull at least. I didn't have any idea what was up with Dr. Emilio Lizardo and Lord Worfin though.

I've gotta say though, the Red Lectroids really didn't seem that bad, just as the Black Lectroids didn't seem that good! All the Reds wanna do is escape back home, and don't really have any interest in Earth. To them it's just a shitty hovel of monkey men, and they can't wait to see the back of it. They're assholes, sure, but that's it. It's only on the word of the Blacks (god that sounds bad out of context!) that says Worfin is worse than Hitler. They say this while also threatening our heroes to stop Worfin or else they'll trigger a nuclear holocaust and destroy the earth! It's also pretty rich of them to blame Buckaroo for unleashing the Reds, considering it was they who trapped them in the 8th dimension in the first place!

The cast is good. Peter Weller gets a different leading role, as an action star with a sensitive side, while still looking like he could kick your ass (albeit not in an obvious overmuscled way). His entourage contains many familiar faces, from a cool and collected Jeff Goldblum, to a fun Clancy Brown. Ellen Barkin is an ok love interest. Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli are welcome, if minor, presences. There's also an oddly dubbed performance from a barely recognisable Ron Lacey.

The film's biggest MVP though is John Lithgow! Apparently the director wanted someone else, and was unhappy that a bigger name actor was forced upon him by the studio. If true, I'm sure he bloody well changed his tune quickly, because Lithgow goes all out! He embraces the insanity of the film more than anyone else, not only with his wild visage and ridiculous Italian accent, but his bizarre inflections! Sure, he verges on annoying at times, but you've gotta admire any actor wiling to go so crazy in a role.

The effects are a high point, from the spaceships, to interdimensional travel, and of course the make-up for the aliens. It's a good, fun design, and moulds well to the faces of each actor. You probably won't notice who's who without pausing, but still! I'm sure there was an effort to make the film with a cheesy look to it, but never in the sense that it's 'so bad it's good'.

The soundtrack is pretty neat! It's not ostentatious, and is surprisingly lowkey. There are some 80s synth pieces, as well as a brief concert scene (not much to my liking, although there still shoulda been more if the heroes are rock stars!), and there's an overall sense of positivity and triumph from some of them. It reflects the sense of living in a world with a man as brilliant as Buckaroo Banzai!

The film is directed well, and a notable moment is the 'music video' ending credits, which is silly yet sincere, as the film's heroes all do a power walk while inspirational music plays.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai is an ok watch, and worth checking out at least once though didn't do a lot for me. The end credits promise a sequel that would never come. I don't know if that was a serious hook or just a joke (and frankly a World Crime League sounds like a step down in scale compared to aliens trying to destroy the Earth), but I think the film kinda works better as an isolated 'fifth' entry, acting as if there are films before and after, but only in our imaginations...

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Delta Force (1986)

Cannon Films specialised in B-pictures, and this is what comprised the majority of action lead Chuck Norris' career. He never really got the same A-list treatment as Stallone, Willis, Lundgren, or Van Damme, for which we can be grateful if you ask me. He's good for a cheesy laugh, but I've always felt he lacks charisma, has poor quality control, and is a bit of an ass in real life. 1986s The Delta Force however is different! For me it's the exception that proves the rule in a way.

A routine flight takes a turn for the worse when it's seized by Arab terrorists. They take the plane to their base in Lebanon with these new hostages in tow, singling out the Jewish passengers. The US government quickly gets word of the hijacking and assembles the crack Delta Force to save the day. Can they succeed?...

The Delta Force is an action film, based on the real events of only a few years prior. It takes a...few liberties with the story, as can be imagined when a real event is turned into a popcorn flick. The film got mixed reception on its release, and is still enjoyed by some to this day, for much the same reason. It's regarded as jingoistic, and unbelievable. Those who enjoy it though love it for its cheesiness, and unapologetic 80s style! Where do I fit in? In the middle. This is a film with issues, especially in hindsight, but it makes for an enjoyably ridiculous time!

Delta Force is a patience-testing 125 minutes, and has an interesting structure and tone. The first half comprises of the plane hijacking (the ordeal, per the tagline), and gradually setting up the drama. While the second half (the rescue) showcases the titular Delta Force as they singlehandedly demolish an entire chunk of Beirut and kill every last terrorist.

The first half is the film at its best. It's tense, fairly realistic, and is a pretty good depiction of a hijacking, especially little touches like the pasts of certain passengers, and the Jewish selections. Some moments can be a little impactful, but it's also frequently overwrought.

The second half is where the film diverges. We cut away from the POV of the passengers so quickly it's a bit jarring, and they're never featured the same way again as they were. The focus is now on this crack team of commandos. The realism of the first half is lost as we now see some of the most ridiculous action this side of Commando! Dune buggies and motorbikes equipped with machine guns and front and rear bazookas. Our heroes blast their way through Lebanon with nary a scratch.

I've read some call Delta Force disrespectful to the real events, and in some ways I can see. But to me the film comes off more like wish fulfillment. And it's really only the second half with fighting the terrorists where things go wildly 'off-book'.

The action in Delta Force is a highlight! Some might say it's stupid, I say it's fun! While it takes far too long to get going (75 minutes before the first real action scene, in-case you're wondering!), there's a nice variety of punch-ups, chases, and gunfights. The fanciful vehicles feel straight out of Megaforce, a kooky action flick that didn't do well, but must've provided inspiration to this. The rear rocket launchers for Chuck's motorbike at the end though does make it look like he's farting! We also get some weird sounding guns. Not sure if is realistic or silly, but kinda cool anyway.

The final duel between Chuck and the head terrorist is ridiculous, with the 'professional soldier' toying with his food basically. He shows up from afar on a hill, but as soon as Abdul raises his gun...Chuck's gone. Then he plows his bike through a window and they brawl within an abandoned house, before Chuck disappears again! He keeps doing this, before finally blowing the guy up. Pretty easy death for such a strong main villain.

The climax is a mix of chases and explosions, at the end of which Chuck manages to catch up to and board a moving plane. During all the fighting, astonishingly only one good guy dies! On the face of it this is ridiculous, but I suppose it show show well-trained they are, and it does sell the impact of this one life lost. The ending is pretty good. A bit cheesy when everyone sings America the Beautiful, but not drawn out, and has some emotional weight, as well as leaving us on a positive note when the families reunite.

The passengers are a varied and likeable bunch, with some nice interactions, in different ways. The Jewish ones get some of the best moments, as does priest Father O'Malley, who's a tough fella. The pilot gets some nice moments, as does the stewardess, although apparently some real life heroics of theirs are cut for the film. Still, they come out pretty well.

The terrorists make for ok villains, but lose their identity almost entirely during the back half, to the point where we can barely tell who being killed are random extras or main bad guys. There is one thing I noticed on my recent rewatch. Unless I'm mistaken, we see the terrorists hijack the plane and rattle off a lot of "Ve vill destroy ze Jews!"...but at no point do they ever make any demands! Pretty fundamental reason for hijacking a place to just leave out. Makes sense considering Israelis made this, and they couldn't explain the terrorists' motives without putting themselves in a terrible light.

The heroes are your typical US soldiers. Major McCoy retires in the prologue after seeing one too many pen-pushing bureaucrat screw up a mission by not letting the boys on the ground listen to their guts. He might do things his own way, but by god he gets them done, HOO-RAH! But events in the present lead to him saddling back up for duty...which was entirely expected by everyone else in the unit. It's led by Colonel Alexander. They're got a pretty cliched but nice relationship, with the Colonel acting as the gruff father figure to the perpetually late McCoy.

Now let's get into Delta Force's more...controversial side, if that's the right word-Its politics! On first glance this movie only seems political in the general way. Foreign terrorists threatening American liberty, etc. And in that regard it's honestly pretty inoffensive. Especially since this is based on true events, and little of what the hijackers do on the plane deviates from reality. We also get some humanisation from one (though this is forgotten entirely).

However, Cannon producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus are Israelis, and they took a much more hands-on role in the making of this film, directing and writing too. The film is even shot almost entirely on location in Israel. This immediately put a very biased slant of the film, and it's a little hard to overlook.

As for the treatment of Arabs, besides the aforementioned humanising, they're generically evil terrorists, ranting about Jews, Americans, infidels, etc. We never see any innocent civilians save for extras. What's really weird is something I only noticed on a rewatch-There are posters of the Ayatollah Khomeini everywhere! Ummm, ya getting countries mixed up there? ' Ah well, Persian, Arab, they're all brown aren't they?'. I'd say Delta Force just gets a pass just by the skin of its teeth. Little in the movie itself is outright bad, and only the behind-the-scenes info is a little suss.

The cast here is an impressive one. The passengers read like a Who's who of 60s-70s Hollywood royalty, and feels like one of the old all-star disaster films. An ageing Lee Marvin gets a juicy action role in what would be his last performance, going out on a high. He delivers his line with a positive gung-ho American flair.

The true lead is action 'star' and internet meme Chuck Norris, who acts as well as you could imagine. Looks the part, and gets some fun badass moments, though delivers some lines a little poorly. Usually I don't discuss an actor's political beliefs unless they're being a cunt. So let's dig in! Chuck Norris apparently butted heads with Marvin on set, and in promotion for the film sounds like a typical armchair general. If he was in charge he'd only need to 'send in the boys' and bing bang boom, problem solved! When in actuality if this b-list actor was somehow leading the Pentagon, he'd probably get every hostage and Delta Force member killed!

In a casting decision that might ruffle a few feathers these days, Robert Forster plays the lead terrorist, and he does a good job! I was surprised to learn it was him, because I had no idea the first time I saw this! The make-up team made him look convincingly Arabic. Not sure how he sounds though. I hear he had a language coach, but Hollywood actors say that a lot-It doesn't stop their accents from being shithouse. Much of the Arabs here are actually played by Israelis.

This is a great looking film, with Lebanese slums recreated decently. The cramped indoors of the plane are filmed well, and there are some pretty cotton fields in one scene (even if there apparently are no such fields in Lebanon).

And lastly, we come to the music. Prolific film composer Alan Silvestri does the score here, and it's a high point! Made with synthesisers, it's a silly but rousing tune. Even if it's not always played over the most appropriate of scenes, it's a great listen!...But there's a problem. This theme is played so many times! SO MANY! You will get so sick of it! In the climax alone it plays at least 3 times, then another over the credits. It must get around 20 replays? And as good a tune as it is there's really not a lot to it, which becomes more apparent on the 20th listen. The rest of the score is good, what little of it there is.

Overall, The Delta Force is a mixed bag of a movie, but it's worth at least one watch if you enjoy the old disaster ensembles, or cheesy 80s action. On either front this doesn't disappoint, and the film's messaging won't necessitate too much of a shower afterwards...

sit down, 1:01, pilot gun head, twin bazookas, 1:21, dawn motorbike

Monday, November 6, 2023

West Bank Story (2005)

In the 'disputed territory' of the West Bank lives two feuding families-One Israeli and the other Palestinian, both owning their own restaurant-The Kosher King and Hummus Hut. Their rivalry threatens to reach a boiling point just as two of each clan fall for one another. Can the love these two share bring peace to the families and their region?...

I first stumbled upon West Bank Story a few years ago when searching for Palestinian cinema. Directed by an American-Israeli this doesn't exactly fit the bill, but oh well, fair's fair I checked it out. As the title suggests, it's a take on West Side Story, by way of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with enough songs and comedy to go round. A short film of only 20 minutes, it made a good impression at the big film festivals, even winning an Oscar. This is the right kind of 'quirky, safe, foreign but not too foreign' that makes films award darlings.

Looking at it on its own merits, and judging for what it is, West Bank Story is fairly decent, if amateur (and certainly not Oscar-worthy!). It's simple, and the comedy is basic, at times recycled, with the plot itself being a twice removed pastiche of Romeo and Juliet through American musical theatre. The film is never really able to settle though, thanks to its runtime, and feels more like cliffnotes of a story than the real thing. I guess since it is only a student film they probably just didn't have the resources to go beyond 20 minutes.

The comedy is mildly amusing at times, cringy at others, and comes off more American than anything else. It pokes fun at both sides, with an emphasis on stereotypes. Whether these come off as goodhearted and innocent or flat out racist may depend on the viewer. What I found a low point was a particular gag. The absurdity of it all, a cashier firing an AK-47 into the ceiling before taking orders named after suicide bombing, could be funny, if they weren't rooted in the idea that 'all Arabs are terrorists'.

Some are critical of the overall concept of making a comedy based on a very real conflict. But I think it's fine. Getting humour out of dramatic situations can work wonders, and can not only be funny but cathartic. It depends on how you do it, otherwise it could come off as insensitive. As for how this does, ummmm, okay I guess, not wildly insensitive or mean-spirited.

Where West Bank Story excels is in its appearance, The film may be short, but it's packed with detail, with a large variety of costumes, dances, and the odd visual flourish. Even if they're not all funny, it's still a level of effort to be appreciated, and makes this kinda dense in a way despite the runtime.

The songs are ok, and there are a couple of good dueling harmonies, although overall pretty basic and derivative. There's also not enough time for this to really settle as a musical. If you crunch the numbers, most musical films might have about 20 minutes worth of songs in them give or take. But that's the overall length here.

And now let's come to the movie's politics. The fact that it doesn't hate Palestinians is a good start. It isn't blind to Israeli aggressions either, and isn't afraid to have characters call them occupiers, even if the creator himself doesn't necessarily think they are. At face value, if you know nothing about the conflict, it easily summarises the divide in a neat 20 minute package, and pokes fun at both sides while showing how if only they work together, things can be resolved. Now, I'm sure the creators' hearts are in the right place with making this, buuut I can't help but be a bit uneasy at how it portrays the situation.

While I do give a little kudos to Ari Sandel for trying to be a mediator, I can't help think it's a little naive, when this same story in real life would probably end in one-sided mass murder. Not to mention the awkwardness of a 'romance' which is like one between a slave and her master. Or more accurately, it'd be comparable to The Night Porter! "*swoons* Isn't the coupling of a poor woman and the man who can switch off her water at any time so romantic?". It's an uncomfortable power dynamic, and it's galling to ask why they can't all get along when one party is clearly the aggressor. At least the movie ends where it does, and we don't get an epilogue of the Hummus Hut being demolished and the Arab family evicted.

The cast here do an ok job. Their performances are pretty heightened and goofy already, with the main duo being the most normal. Some handle the comedy well, while others...ummm, don't. On another note, there are plenty of Israelis involved here. Not so much on the Arab side, in front or behind the camera. I'm not a big stickler about that, and I'm not gonna complain if a Bolivian is playing a Chilean, or a Persian is playing an Indian. But this case is so specific and rooted, and this absence is perhaps telling. Not saying Arabs can't poke a bit of fun at themselves, and some may be fine with this film as is, but yeahhh.

If you're interested in musicals, the Middle East, and political affairs, West Bank Story is an ok little time-waster. Nothing life-changing or hilarious, and it certainly won't do anything at the peace table, but it's passable enough if you squint...