Monday, August 10, 2020

Review Alpha (2018)


#Alpha (2018): 6/10

Alpha follows a tribe as they approach hunting season, their one big opportunity for the hunting party to gather as much meat as possible for their people before the harsh winter weather sets in. Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is presumed dead after the hunt doesn’t quite go as intended, and is left to fend for himself by his father, the leader of the pack, far from home with the cold winds slowly approaching.

The casual cinema-goer seems to be a lot more accepting of foreign language films these days since the rise of shows like ‘Game Of Thrones’; a series that showcases many foreign tongues by way of subtitles. Director Albert Hughes decides to go down this route for Alpha, with the entirety of the film spoken in a prehistoric dialect. The film is similar to ‘The Revenant’ in terms of story, but is much tamer in tone. The plot itself is very linear, sticks to the point, and doesn’t really offer much beyond that. Some of the dialogue hints towards a mutiny, which may have provided extra dramatics, but this potential story arc is never explored.

Smit-McPhee does a good job of conveying a vulnerable young man who finds the courage to carry on, not give up, and get back to his family and tribe, using skills taught to him by his father earlier in the piece, all whilst reluctantly managing to tame a wolf that is injured and left behind by its pack in much the same way that he has been. What’s more, the film is visually stunning with its beautiful landscapes and sweeping shots.

Although not particularly original in nature, Alpha delivers a survival adventure story with a lot of heart and charm, some fantastic cinematography, and a touching finale.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Review Blinded by the Light (2019)


#BlindedByTheLight (2019): 5/10

Inspired by the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, and based on Manzoor’s memoir “Greetings From Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll”, Blinded By The Light is the latest film from Gurinder Chadha (‘Bend It Like Beckham’), the story of a young British-Pakistani Muslim boy growing up in the English town of Luton in the 1980’s, struggling to find a balance between his strict Muslim background and the liberal western world around him, Javed’s life changing forever after he discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen.

The film is top-heavy in Springsteen’s music, which will no doubt please his fans; his lyrics painted on-screen during many-a-montage. Unfortunately this doesn’t do enough to distract us away from the fact that the film regularly lacks in the acting department with some undeniably cringeworthy scenes and cheesy dialogue, often far too on the nose, and not really helped with some hot and cold performances from the film’s main protagonists. Regrettably Viveik Kalra, who plays Javed, just doesn’t possess the fire in his performance to carry the film.

The film does take a while to get going also, but once it does, the film improves. There are touching moments between Javed and sister Shazia, and as the plot unfolds, so does the tense relationship with father Malik, which comes to an explosive head. We also bear witness to the darker side of cultural division, with ugly clashes between Muslims and far-right protestors. All in all, a mixed bag.

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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Review Blackfish (2013)


#Blackfish (2013): 7/10

Blackfish documents the shocking true story surrounding the untimely death of orca trainer Dawn Brancheau and details the key events that lead up to her killing by male orca Tilikum at Orlando Florida’s aquatic park SeaWorld in 2010.

For a documentary, Blackfish doesn’t half unsettle with some unnerving video footage and explanations from ex-employees describing the behaviour of the orcas on-screen. It even has a psychological thriller feel to it at points. Blackfish is clearly one-sided, but it’s hard to argue against its compelling argument from the actual footage and character recollections being offered up to the viewer throughout the documentary.

Whatever your views of the documentary and its opinions from those featured in the film though, it certainly does raise the same moral questions that need answering; should these animals be in captivity? Are big corporations taking animals from the wild for the animal’s benefit? On this evidence, the short answer would appear to be a resounding no.

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