Blinded by the Light is a soul-stirring journey of self expression. Set to a rocking soundtrack of Bruce Springsteen's seventies and eighties working-class anthems. A British teen of Pakistani descent struggles against the confines of his culture and racial persecution in an economically depressed town. Equal parts fantasy musical, somber drama, and uplifting romance, director Gurinder Chadha uses creative filmmaking to explore the yearnings of the human heart. Blinded by the Light is sublimely poetic in its delivery. A terrific finale had me on the verge of tears.
Blinded by the Light takes place in 1987 Luton, England. The shy and introspective Javed Viveik Kalra chafes under the rules of his oppressive father Kulvinder Ghir; who doesn't believe Pakistanis can ever be treated equally in Britain. He wants his son to study hard and find a respectable career. Javed hides his poetry from his parents. His only freedom is writing lyrics for a friend's Dean-Charles Chapman synth-pop band.
Javed is also an outcast at school. He's spit on and targeted by local skinhead racists. A fateful encounter with Roops Aaron Phagura, a Sikh student, changes Javed's life. He's given the Bruce Springsteen albums "Born in the USA" and "Darkness on the Edge of Town". The Boss addresses Javed's innermost fears and hopes for a better life. He's finally able to show his writings to a kind teacher Hayley Atwell, and pursue his social activist crush Nell Williams. Javed's newfound liberation soon conflicts with the stark truths of his reality.
Blinded by the Light does not have a standard narrative. Gurinder Chadha Bend it Like Beckham, Bride and Prejudice incorporates multiple fantasy elements to illustrate Javed's awakening. Springsteen's lyrics swirl around his head as he listens. Several scenes transform into music videos, where Javed and his friends race through town, or mimic other films like The Breakfast Club. Chadha employs Bollywood style filmmaking to lighten up the heavier themes. Her approach works most of the time, but admittedly gets long-winded. The song and dance numbers could have been pared down.
Blinded by the Light tells more than Javed's story. Gurinder Chadha is masterful in her depiction of the time and place. Luton was supposed to be a step up for Javed's family. The film explores the ramifications of job losses to the community. A fering economy made the Pakistanis scapegoats of their disaffected neighbors. It also shows the shame Javed's father feels as the family sinks into crushing poverty. Javed is overcome with guilt. How can he pursue lofty personal dreams when his family is suffering? Chadha is unflinching in this regard. Javed's choices are not easy. Blinded by the Light is heartachingly dramatic.
Bruce Springsteen's music is the fuel that powers Blinded by the Light. Songs that are considered quintessentially American have no cultural or geographical boundary. Love, loneliness, and the plight of the poor are universal to humanity. Pakistani and Sikh teenagers in England face the same problems as those in Springsteen's hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Their openness to a different perspective led to the discovery of a kindred spirit. This is the film's greatest lesson and desperately needed in these divisive modern times. Blinded by the Light is produced by Bend It Films and Ingenious Media with distribution from Warner Bros.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Movieweb.
It's a truth so universally acknowledged that it seldom bears repeating: America sees animation as a genre, while the rest of the world recognizes it as an art form unto itself. Here, it's just for kids, and most of the movies that Hollywood makes with it are about ice princesses or angry birds or plastic sporks gripped by existential crises. Beyond our borders, however, animation can be for anyone, and tell stories about anything. One look at something from Studio Ghibli or Cartoon Saloon is enough to appreciate how much we lose by treating “cartoons” as a lesser form of cinema that chiefly exists to placate young children; a massive animation department wasting its talents on the likes of “Wonder Park” is like someone buying a Ferrari just to drive around a golf course.
But, every once in a while, a foreign director makes a work of feature-length animation so far beyond the bounds of what American viewers have been conditioned to expect from such things that it can't help but add insult to injury. Enter: Salvador Simó's “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles,” an animated film about the making of “Las Hurdes Land Without Bread,” Luis Buñuel's scathing 1933 satire of the era's naïve ethnographic documentaries.
Leveraging one of Buñuel's least famous but most pivotal works into a warm story of artistic maturation — albeit one that's shadowed by the Franco regime and the specter of death — Simó uses animation to smear the line between dreams and reality; to bridge the gap between the precociousness of Buñuel's surrealism and the power of his social critiques. For all of its heady ideas, some of which it explores to greater effect than others, “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles” is most striking for how it illustrates that animation isn't a mere subcategory of cinema. That movies have always been a unique medium for how they see reality and unreality as two overlapping roads towards the same truth.
We're introduced to Buñuel in a Paris café on the day before “L'Age d'Or” is set to scandalize Western society. Voiced by Jorge Usón, whose raw and unforced delivery sets the tone for a movie in which all of the characters speak with the weight of real people, this Buñuel is a man as crude and hard as the style in which he's drawn. While the other intellectuals at his table insist that coups are the only way to transform the world, Buñuel is convinced that art has the potential to be an even more powerful tool. Indeed, he's so compelled by his power to change the way people think that he sometimes forgets to think about the people whose ways he's hoping to change. He's more interested in his ego than in his effect; when a fan asks how to differentiate Buñuel's images from those of his “Un Chien Andalou” collaborator Salvador Dalí, Buñuel snaps: “There's a very simple way to differentiate my images from Dalí's: They're all mine!”
As a provocateur, Buñuel is basically peerless. As an artist — and perhaps as a human being — he still has some ways to go. His next destination: Las Hurdes, one of the poorest areas in all of Spain. Buñuel wants to go there to effectively use the local people as living props in a film about the poverty close to home; a film that would violate documentary reality in ways both subtle and extreme in order to underscore the bitterness of a land without bread, while also mocking other filmmakers for fetishizing the hardships in far-off lands as people were starving to death in their own countries.
But Simó and co-writer Eligio R. Montero suggest that no one was more humbled by “Las Hurdes” than Buñuel, himself. Adapted from a graphic novel by Fermín Solís, their screenplay weighs the humanity of Buñuel's later work against the confrontational transgressiveness of his first movies, and imagines how the process of making this 27-minute short may have taught the legendary auteur how to strengthen his anarchic tendencies by attaching them to an ethical spine. It's a development that this movie only manages or even bothers to dramatize in fragments, but it's fun to think of “Labyrinth of Turtles” as a left-field critique of Buñuel's largely unassailable first masterpieces.
“Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles”
Nevertheless, this movie is more rewarding as a light human drama than it is as any kind of hard-nosed treatise on the particulars of Buñuel's artistic pathology. The core of the story isn't even Buñuel himself so much as his friendship with activist Ramón Acin Fernando Ramos, a hapless and idealistic family man who agrees to fund “Las Hurdes” if he wins the lottery. In an appropriately surreal twist, that's exactly what happens next a true fact in a movie that tends to distort the making of “Las Hurdes” as much as “Las Hurdes” itself distorted the people of Las Hurdes. Buñuel is pure id and danger and willing to do anything to get the movie out of his mind. Acin, by contrast, is more level-headed and in touch with the suffering that he’s eager to exploit. While “Labyrinth of Turtles” is guilty of eliding this basic interpersonal conflict in favor of an “edutational” feel, it's hard to complain about the spotlight it shines on Acin and “Las Hurdes.”
It also helps that the characters are so well-drawn, if only figuratively. The animation itself is unremarkable. It can look cheap and stilted, as the humans are composed of hard lines that clash against the anime-bright backgrounds, while the architecture of Las Hurdes seems rotoscoped in a way that makes it all look both real and imagined. But therein lies the method to this apparent mediocrity: “Labyrinth of Turtles” is designed to occupy the unsteady landscape between the borderlessness of Buñuel's imagination and the inflexible facts of life in Las Hurdes, a place where the houses are filled with shit and young children starve to death in the streets.
One moment the movie spirals off into flashbacks and surreal visions of giant elephants walking through the town square. The next, it returns to the grim reality of the situation at hand. The aesthetic makes these two modes feel like different shades of the same color; things for Buñuel to blend, and not just choose between. At several junctures, Simó even cuts from the animated making-of “Las Hurdes” to live-action footage from the actual film in a way that somehow makes Buñuel's movie feel more invented and more genuine at the same time Arturo Cardelús' lush and beautiful score helps smoothe over the seams. “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of Turtles” may be too sketchy and openly sentimental to merit comparison to its namesake, but it's tempting to think he would've approved of how it uses animation to relocate “Las Hurdes” between fiction and reality.
GKIDS will release “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles” in theaters on August 16.
Here's a pitch for “Lodge 49”: “Dud” Dudley is about as close to a real-life Paddington Bear as Peak TV is going to get. The merry rover of Long Beach, he's an idealistic character taken with the possibilities of adventure who, even though prone to errors and mistakes, brings some magical sense of wonder into the lives of everyone he comes across.
But even with Wyatt Russell's charming, cash-strapped hero as the ongoing inciting force binding new family and old together, AMC's undersung series has been quietly amassing one of the most compelling collections of characters anywhere in the TV landscape. Not content with making a universe that revolves around one figure trying to piece together the answers to some of life's biggest questions, “Lodge 49” has grown into a country-hopping, plane-transcending hangout with individuals of boundless depth.
Everyone in “Lodge 49” is searching for some sense of belonging. Sometimes it comes in the form of a job breakthrough. Other times it comes from the special kind of camaraderie that comes from hanging out on weeknights in a bar inside a drafty meeting place. As a result, the show delights in those inexplicable ways and intangible forces that can draw different people together, binding them to a common, shared experience.
Again using that kind of bond as a jumping off point, Season 2 plunges into the world of the metaphysical, all while being grounded in real world experiences. As the eccentric holistic medicine practitioner Blaise St. John — played to perfection by the inimitable David Pasquesi — tells Dud, those with his pursuit must learn to move in both the real and the mystical. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of a current TV show that manages to do the same. There can be real pain here when people are trying to parse out the mysteries of the past or suss out the possibilities of the future. In other cases, as with Dud's sister Liz Sonya Cassidy, there can be just as much frustration in not knowing why those quests never seem all that appealing in the first place.
And there's a growing mythology to the otherwise-ordinary goings-on at the Long Beach-area fraternal order that gives the show its title. Tying into a long tradition of adventure stories, “Lodge 49” is deceptive in its scope, even as its central players catch flights and hop in vans to far-flung locations. To fully explain the chain of events that leads Lodge 49 members like Ernie Brent Jennings and Connie Linda Emond on their respective Season 2 excursions is possible, but the more important takeaway from these new episodes is that the show recognizes what its characters don't always manage: There's no special lesson that will unlock the secrets of the spheres that human connection won't otherwise bring about.
While “Lodge 49” sets in motion these vast pursuits and grand unifications, it also continues to explore the anxiety that comes with loss. Death hangs over multiple characters in the series, whether they facing the possibility of experiencing it themselves or are still wrestling with the inexplicable ways that people have been removed from their own lives. “Lodge 49” is gradually expanding its scope, even while some of the people within them still hold themselves back out of fear of regret.
For as fully realized as these core Lodge folks remain — it's a joy to watch performers like Eric Allan Kramer add new layers to characters like Scott with each passing episode — it can make the more transitory figures in this story feel all the more fleeting, like when Season 2 brings new tenants to the retail space once occupied by the Dudley's family pool supply company. But when those people get to stick around, like with Dud's enigmatic new legal representative Daphne Mary Elizabeth Ellis or El Confidente Cheech Marin, who fits into the series' framework into some unexpected ways, they not only get their chance to be more than just a single characteristic presented in human form, they help the show fulfill the journey that enmeshes so many of its characters.
Even when the show dips into its bag of visual tricks, it's never presented in a way that feels outside of the “Lodge 49” viewpoint. A pair of sequences at the top of the Season 2 premiere — a literary-induced hallucination and a kaleidoscopic refresher on each of the protagonist's singular pursuits — still fit into how Dud or Ernie or Connie or anyone else see the world. It's a tricky task for a show to maintain a consistent overall atmosphere while allowing for some out-of-this-world diversions. But such is the mystery of the Lodge.
On top of everything else, this show is as funny as it is ambitious. Spreading its ensemble to various corners of the globe brings with it plenty of opportunities for these people to realize the tiny absurdities that come in what they're searching for. “Lodge 49” jokes don't just come from the fact that people try to use produce as currency or that office managers have amateur poetry aspirations, it's that those choices follow naturally within the grounded logic of the show. As much Season 2 plays with the true meaning of “alchemy,” this show seems to already know the secret.
In 2018, “The Terror” turned a tragic shipwreck into a chilly parable exploring humanity’s darkest corners. Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic expedition was plagued, in one way or another, by a giant, man-eating polar bear long live Tuunbaq, but it was the fear inspired by the beast — and, more literally, the lethal cold ol’ Tuuny represented — that AMC’s drama was curious in exploring. Showrunners David Kajganich and Soo Hugh crafted a tale so detailed, so nightmarish, and so frickin’ cold that viewers felt the fear sink into their bones just as the subzero temperatures did to those sailors.
Now, less than a year-and-a-half later, “The Terror” returns for Season 2 with a fresh examination of fear set against an entirely different historical backdrop. From new showrunners Max Borenstein and Alexander Woo, “The Terror: Infamy” studies the horror felt by Japanese-Americans who saw their own country turn against them during World War II. The new season’s timely narrative — which can’t help but evoke the Trump administration’s shameful detention camps built along America’s Southern border — works its way under the onlookers’ skin much more than the special effects implement in Season 1, but the effect is largely the same: “The Terror” remains a thoughtful story of human nature, more haunting in its honesty than its ghosts.
But there are ghosts. “The Terror: Infamy” starts with an eerie sequence where a Japanese-American woman Yuki Morita in a soft, white kimono walks down a dock toward the ocean and ends her own life. Masayo’s unnatural movements before doing the deed speak to more than a simple sadness haunting her, and further evidence of supernatural interference quickly starts to stack up. At her funeral, Chester Nakayama Derek Mio tries to take photos for the family, but the developed prints show blurry faces next to clear ones. What’s happening is unclear, though its sinister nature is obvious.
Chester lives with his family on Terminal Island, a few miles south of Los Angeles and just off the coast of California. He and his father, Henry Shingo Usami, are fishermen, but Chester wants more. He’s in love with a Spanish-American student named Luz Ojeda Cristina Rodlo, and he can’t fathom why his immigrant mother, Asako Naoko Mori, and father choose to remain confined to one small swath of the big wide world, especially after traveling so far for the pursuit of freedom.
George Takei and Shingo Usami in “The Terror: Infamy”
Given the season’s title, it’s no spoiler to say the first episode’s events build up to December 7, 1941 — a point in time President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously labeled “a date which will live in infamy.” As Henry and Chester sit at the nearby military base, a giant clock is perched above their heads, so when the sirens start to sound and the Navy men begin running to their posts, there’s no mistaking what’s about to happen: The war has come home, though that phrase takes on a whole new meaning for the Japanese-American population uprooted from their lives and shipped off to internment camps.
These camps serve as the predominant setting through the first six episodes, and yet it’s impressive how much movement Borenstein and Woo create, both through forward narrative momentum and various disparate locations. Much of “Infamy” is grounded within the Nakayama family, but supporting characters are built out and a sprawling cast is well-utilized. As a yurei, or spirit, plagues Chester during his quest to prove himself as an independent man, bouts of seemingly madness create gruesome scenes that can’t be simply explained away — unless you believe in Japanese folklore.
There’s plenty of body horror — as limbs are twisted, torsos flipped, and necks cracked — but the cultural ties run deeper than film. Season 2 dives headfirst into the kaidan genre of Japanese literature, creating new ghost tales exhumed from mythic philosophy. Relying on such cultural touchstones is a respectful gesture to the very real suffering of the interned immigrants, as well as an affecting source of terror, even if the latter doesn’t compare to the distress felt by the former.
Kiki Sukezane in “The Terror: Infamy”
“The Terror: Infamy” works best when it invests in the natural drama of its characters, rather than the supernatural. While the performances can be rote, partially in service of the dense history being recreated, there’s a purity in their convictions and a power in their direct approach. When Chester’s fear for his family and himself starts to push him toward the edge, the good-natured, straight-shooting protagonist Mio has built thus far makes his spiral all the more unsettling. There aren’t a lot of surprises lurking in hidden layers of his turn, but Mio’s lead isn’t meant to be secretive: He’s showing his cards, pretty much all the time, and that works for scenes conjuring a ’40s era family melodrama.
Borenstein and Woo show a great deal of trust in the core story, the grand production design, and the modern parallels to carry most of “Infamy’s” emotional heft. While each beat of the story may play out as you expect, that inevitability largely makes the action itself more haunting. “The Terror” Season 2 can feel overly studious, with the supernatural horrors mixed in to keep you from spending each episode researching what really happened through Google. But through all the edifying, “Infamy” never forgets the human cost, or ignores the horrifying possibilities of what can happen when compassion is set aside out of fear.
“The Terror: Infamy” premieres Monday, August 12 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 has the irritated avians and their pugnacious porker foes joining forces against a common threat. The massively popular mobile game spawns a sequel that surpasses the utter silliness of the original. The Angry Birds Movie 2 goes full tilt on its goofy plot. Loaded with slapstick shenanigans and a head-bopping pop music soundtrack, the film's absurdity laughs you into submission. The crisp and colorful CGI animation adds to the cotton candy fluff.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 begins with Red Jason Sudeikis basking in the glory of his heroics. The adulation from his fellow birds masking a deep fear of loneliness. Red remembers his days as an outcast. He, Chuck Josh Gad, and Bomb Danny McBride, continue their prank war against Leonard Bill Hader and the citizens of Piggy Island. It's all good fun until huge ice balls start smashing into both of their homes.
The previously unknown Eagle Island is the source of the frosty attack. The Eagles unhinged leader, Zeta Leslie Jones, is tired of living on her freezing cold rock. She wants to chill in the temperate climates of Bird and Piggy Island. Red and Leonard assemble a team of crack operatives to infiltrate Eagle Island. Which also includes Silver Rachel Bloom, Chuck's genius sister who previously met Red at a disastrous speed dating event.
Related: Angry Birds 2 Trailer Arrives, Putting the Birds on Ice
The Angry Birds Movie 2 keeps the laughs flowing with gimmicks. The birds and pigs bumble about in a simple story that could have been fifteen minutes long. The screenwriters and animators sprinkle the antics evenly to keep the audience's attention. Couple the humor with fun music and you have the tasty filler needed to add substance to the light fare. There's also a loony subplot about three cute hatchlings on a quest to recover a clutch of lost eggs. They're hilarious and tread into surprisingly dark territory.
I would recommend plunking down extra for the 3D format. The Angry Birds Movie 2 has several action scenes with the characters zigzagging through the air. These are great POV shots, an amusing roller coaster ride for the 3D enthusiasts. The overall animation is quite vivid with more character details. The film improves the look of the original, but still retains the kid-friendly, polychromatic vibe.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 has an opening cartoon that's tonally different from the film. Hair Love is a short that plays before the movie. A young black girl with a huge Afro struggles to style her hair. Her father has even more difficulties. We soon learn that the girl's mother is in the hospital with cancer. Hair Love is poignant and touching, but an odd choice to show before such a frivolous movie. It's like going to a funeral, then hitting a theme park afterwards. Hair Love tackles sensitive themes skillfully. It's a multicultural learning experience, just too serious to preface Angry Birds.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 keeps the mobile game in flight at the movies. It's incredibly dumb at times, but the humor is consistent throughout. The film moves at a quick pace and never stays put long enough to bore. It will definitely entertain younger children. The Angry Birds Movie 2 is produced by Rovio and distributed by Sony Pictures Animation.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Movieweb.
Opening your film with a quote from Marcel Proust is certainly a choice, and “This Is Not Berlin” does its best to back the bold move. In his fourth narrative feature, Mexican filmmaker Hari Sama paints a vivid, if dizzying, portrait of his hometown, Mexico City circa 1986: There’s a steady stream of music, art, and literary references; broadly painted caricatures of youth searching for identity; hypnotic montages of political performance art; and full-frontal male nudity.
Using the underground avant-garde art scene as its backdrop and a wayward teenage boy as its protagonist, “This Is Not Berlin” renders the follies of youth through a kaleidoscopic phantasma of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Despite all the compelling decoration, however, there are few surprises.
The story follows Carlos Xabiani Ponce De León, a fatherless teen who who watches his little brother as his mother “Roma” star Marina de Tavira stays in bed hungover all day. He spends his days participating in massive group fights with other boys, and fawning over dirty magazines with his best friend Gera Jose Antonio Toledano, who has a clever side hustle renting out his father’s secret stash to classmates. Naturally, Carlos lusts after Gera’s alternative older sister Rita Ximena Romo, and the friends are thrilled when they’re finally able to convince Rita to take them out one night. Against her better judgement, she sneaks them into an underground club called the Aztec, a hedonistic den of sexual freedom where the substances flow and the music is loud.
Enlivened by exposure to their new scene, Carlos and Gera soon realize what the other kids at school might think of their new sexually fluid friends. “Is this a fag bar?” Gera asks his sister, to which she replies coolly: “It’s an everything bar.” Later, he’ll deliver this same missive to the guys at school as they warm the bench in their matching soccer uniforms. Their friendship is tested when Carlos goes out one night without Gera, at the invitation of a boy with a mulleted mohawk who’s clearly interested in more than a party buddy. Never taking his eyes off the women around him, Carlos explores this new world of nude photography, group body-paint sessions, and poetry readings complete with live blow jobs with an open mind.
During one of these orgiastic art-making drug-fueled sessions it’s unclear which activity takes precedence, an unnamed character screams the title of the film into the void: “This is not Berlin! Our friends are dying! All you do is party every night!” In its most generous interpretation, “This Is Not Berlin” applies a critical lens to art-making, or the performance of art-making, and the dangers of de-contextualizing one’s art from one’s lived experience. Apparently taking this advice to heart, the group mounts political performances during the national soccer games, hijacking a video feed with images of gay sex, declaring “soccer is homophobia,” and marching defiantly during a parade, the word “GAY” scribbled in red paint all over their naked bodies.
Ultimately, the film suffers from the same diagnosis that gave the film its title. Scenes rush by as quickly as the mounds of cocaine and faceless orgy scenes, creating a scatterbrained collage of provocative images devoid of context or meaning. De Tavira is severely underutilized as the mother; in what’s meant to be a pivotal scene, she violently smashes plates at a sink as if the director could conjure emotional resonance by sheer force of will.
The strongest relationship in the film is the friendship between Carlos and Gera, but the throughline is lost by the third act. By the time the distance between the boys finds resolution, so many other things have happened that it’s hard to care. At 115 minutes, Sama could have easily trimmed a few sloppy and disparate montages in lieu of focusing on the central friendship. More attention also could have been paid to Rita, who has a great early scene in which she calls out her literature workshop for being misogynistic, but the character feels like a one-dimensional sketch. The viewer sees her only as Carlos sees her, a cool older girl fronting a hip New Wave band. Unfortunately for the film, Sama is uninterested in viewing things from her perspective.
In the third act, “This Is Not Berlin” barrels haphazardly to its conclusion by shoving in resolution after resolution over one wild night and its near-tragic fallout. The film has style in spades; it would have substance, too, if only it knew when to quit.
Samuel Goldwyn Films will release “This Is Not Berlin” at the IFC Center in New York on August 9 and in LA on August 23.