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|Index||32 reviews in total|
I just returned from seeing this movie today. The struggle for survival
of two lion prides a cheetah family are beautifully brought to the big
screen with masterful narration by Samuel L. Jackson. The
cinematography and soundtrack are spectacular.
Mara, a young lioness must struggle to survive after the death of her mother and be accepted into the pride. Sita, a mother cheetah, struggles to raise five cubs in a land populated by deadly hyenas. Kali, a powerful lion, and his three grown sons seek to take over Mara's pride.
The movie is realistic, but not so bloody that anyone but the most sensitive among us should be offended.
I will definitely be adding this one to my DVD collection.
We often think of African wildlife documentaries as being dry,
reiterated, or just clips of either cute baby animals or slow motion
shots of the predator striking at it's prey. All under the dry
narration of Sir David Attenborough or someone trying to sound like
him. This is different.
The theme of "African Cats" is one of a mother's love, the setting is on a stretch of Kenya divided by a great river where on one side we are shown a lioness and her cubs as members of the ruling pride, on the other a mother cheetah and her cubs as she attempts to raise her young as a single mother. Each situation has it's benefits and it's disadvantages.
All of this wonderful story telling occurs amidst the beautiful scenery of Africa and all under the perfect narration of Samuel L. Jackson whose voice matches the inflection and emotion of every scene reminiscent of the work of the late John Facenda of NFL Films.
The movie does not try to out-do its predecessors and be more than it is, it stays to it's story and it's themes and makes for a wonderful film for anyone. From the kid who loves animals, to the casual film goer who enjoys a good story. 6 out of 10, check it out.
Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey bring a charming little documentary set in the Kenyan Savannah. The film has been edited tightly to tell a coherent story and add a more dramatic feel. What sets it apart from watching a documentary on Animal Planet or Discovery Channel is that the viewer does not get the feel that he/she is watching a documentary. It feels like watching a feature film where the lionesses and the cheetahs are the protagonists. It is beautifully shot with stunning cinematography and a brilliant soundtrack with the exception of the Jordinn Sparks track that takes place during the closing credits. But watch the closing credits as it's hilarious seeing how the animals have been credited. Samuel L. Jackson's husky voice excellently narrates the story. It centers around Sita the cheetah and her cubs and Laila the lioness and her daughter Mara. And the presentation of the 'characters' are very well done as the viewer can easily relate to them and root for them. The elements of adventure, suspense and even comedy are brilliantly balanced in this wildlife tale. Given that the title is 'African Cats', I missed seeing the leopard. But anyway, 'African Cats' is overall refreshing, entertaining and heartwarming and a nice reminder of why some of us love animals.
African cats are as dangerous as they are majestic, and one runs the risk of forgetting that when watching this documentary. Cheetahs, lions, and hyenas are lethal killing machines, that is how they live, that is their role in nature. The pictures speak for themselves; narration may not even be necessary. Watching a lion chase down a gazelle or a cheetah face down a lion requires no commentary. This is life or death. Here the narration becomes a distraction. The animals are not acting for the audience's amusement. They are doing what animals do to survive. Do lions have a sense of family? Who knows. But one thing is for certain: this documentary provides a spectacular glimpse of the brute strength and incredible agility of these creatures. Technically, this documentary is superb. But anthropomorphizing these animals for dramatic effect really trivializes what the documentary is showing. These animals are not cuddly playthings; they can and do kill, which is an aspect of their nature that cannot be played down.
This was (in my humble opinion), one of the better "wildlife movies" I
have seen. Sure, there were not too many scenes of carnage but neither
was the footage sanitized to that with what we are traditionally used
to with Disney. A pretty good narration by Jackson and brilliant
cinematography results in a rather good portrayal of life and death in
If there is a little anthropomorphism so what? The overall cinematography was a great compliment to the music and I would think anyone leaving the theatre would admit to almost smelling the Masai Mara in all of its majesty. John P Nightingale
Disney Nature's new documentary could definitely have been more
imaginatively titled, but it's still an impressively mounted experience
for wildlife lovers, and feline fanatics especially. The film-makers
forego an information-filled Attenborough-style narrative, instead
favoring the incongruous delights of Samuel L Jackson regaling us with
a 'true life adventure' like some hoary old story-teller reading from a
children's tome. Some may find this non-scientific approach
condescending, but there's no denying the film offers visual spectacle
on an epic scale and an intimate, involving account of life for these
surprisingly vulnerable killers.
Fang is an aging lion struggling to look after his pride while contending with the usurping efforts of some younger competition. His sheba is trying to do the best for her cub Mara, stuck between her loyalty to Fang and the security that the more virulent lions on the other side of the river might offer. As the two groups come to blows over food, territory and leadership, it becomes clear that Fang's days may be numbered. Meanwhile, Sita is a cheetah with five rambunctious cubs, who are prized as coveted meals for many of the animals sharing their domain. Her efforts to protect, feed and teach them put her in mortal danger not only from enemies from other species but also their own.
As the beautifully captured seasons come and go, drastically affecting the awesome landscape, we witness the cats face many hardships despite being so high up in their food chain. Motion capture and slo-mo are judiciously deployed to generate wonder and tension, with the film's narrowed focus really giving the audience time to appreciate the African countryside, while several sequences of our subjects in peril prove as heart-stopping as a well-orchestrated horror movie. The soundtrack also adds to the atmosphere despite being somewhat predictably crafted and employed. The stories of the lions and the cheetahs are nicely balanced and bring some dynamic variety to the footage; the bigger cats are as impressive and noble as you'd expect, but the cheetahs often steal the show, thanks to the cubs' undeniable cuteness and Sita's mind-boggling multi-tasking prowess and intelligence.
Jackson really does attack his narration with all the relish of a new father indulging his kids at bedtime, making Daniel Craig's po-faced voice-over for the recent One Life film seem joyless and disheartening in comparison. The use of character names does actually help the audience keep track of the cats, even though the attempts to characterize them are sometimes laid on a little too thick. Keith Scholey and John Truby's script invests proceedings with even more humor and pathos than they would already have, and for the most part directors Scholey and Alastair Fothergill know just when to let the action speak for itself. There's also a cringe-worthy but amusing credit roll, where the various animals are assigned appropriate film-making roles; giraffes posing as crane operators are just the tip of the iceberg. It's something of a novelty but also represents icing on the cake for a film that has been more lovingly assembled than you might expect.
Cynics will point to the film's release coinciding with that of The Lion King to accuse Disney of trying to fleece families, while some will find the child-friendly voice-over cloyingly sentimental, but it marks a bit of a change for cinematic nature documentaries and at least they had the good sense to stick to 2D. Cat-lovers young and old will be delighted with this release, and it truly deserves to be experienced on the big screen. By concentrating so steadfastly on such a particular topic, Disney have made a wonderfully immersive and invigorating film, even if it's not particularly enlightening. The film may gloss over its stars' violent nature and assemble footage in a way that manipulates audience sympathy while slightly toning down the harsh reality, but African Cats is an unexpected pleasure to behold, coming as a breath of fresh air in an often stuffily rarefied genre.
¨The hunters became the hunted.¨ It's hard not to like a movie with
lion and cheetah cubs running around in their natural habitat, and
learning alongside their loving mothers how to survive in the dangerous
environment of the Kenyan savanna. Disney Nature brings us a new
wildlife documentary after the successful Earth which debuted in 2007.
Alastair Fothergill is the director once again although this time he
has a collaborator: Keith Scholey and the focus is primarily set on the
wild cats. The film is beautifully shot and each scene is breathtaking.
For those of us who can't afford a safari to Africa, this is as close
as we will get to these wild animals running around freely without bars
to hold them back. It was fascinating and animal lovers will especially
enjoy this, but it wasn't anything I couldn't watch on the National
Geographic channel. Experiencing these majestic kings on the big screen
is a plus however and I enjoyed my 80 minute safari across the African
savanna. It would be too harsh and mean spirited to give this film a
negative review because the cubs are just really cute.
Samuel L. Jackson is on board as the narrator of the film as he tells us the story of two separate families of cats and their struggle for survival. These animals are even given names and the shots are edited in order to create a story. On one hand we have a mother lioness that is protecting her cub, Mara, from a pride of lions from the North. Fang is the pride leader in the South, but he is being threatened by the leader on the other side who wants to expand his kingdom along with his now adult sons. A river infested with crocodiles divides the savanna so crossing from one side to the other is no easy task, however the risk is eminent. At the same time we have an interchanging parallel story as we follow Sita, a single mother of five cheetah cubs. She also is teaching her cubs how to survive in the wild, while at the same time protecting them from hyenas and other wild animals.
The story does feel forced at some points, but at least it adds a little dramatic effect to the picture. We get to experience a lot of hunts and chases, but the death scenes are cut off right away. The film is worth a watch due to the incredible footage as we get to experience the adventures of wildlife. I wouldn't sit through this film a second time and I probably would have found something similar on the National Geographic, Animal Planet or Discovery channels, but I just can't give this documentary a negative review.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A very average documentary. If you love big cats, then you like this.
The basic plot is that the film makers followed a pride of lions and a
lone cheetah mother with her new cubs. Eventually, the two groups meet,
briefly. There is nothing new to this film. If you've seen any number
of NatGeo or Animal Planet documentaries on big cats or the African
plains, then you've seen all this before and more(we'll get to that)
The pros: Great cinematography, great sound, adequate soundtrack, plenty of great close-ups, and even a set of villains.
The cons: Although Samuel L. Jackson is the only true African Cat, I felt he was wrong for the narration. I don't have a decent alternative in mind; Morgan Freeman would be overkill. Sam didn't do a bad job overall, I just felt he was wrong for this part. I kept expecting the lead villain, Kali the lion, to invoke Jules from Pulp Fiction and strike the savanna down with furious anger. Also, what sets cable documentaries apart from this film is the true circle of life--something Disney should know something about since they gave us the Lion King. On TV, you will see plenty of after-the-hunt carnage. There are only a handful of kill scenes in the movie, most off-screen, one even conveniently hidden behind a mound of earth. Sorry if you are easily offended by real life, but if you want a good documentary about top-line predators, you better show why they are the kings and queens of Africa. I'd have much preferred to see the courtship rituals of the animals, the awesomeness of lions mating, and seeing the cubs born. You get a lot of lion roaring, running, and plenty of shots of lion testicles.
Overall, to see a documentary like this on the big screen is a nice change; you really do see it all and it's cool and impressive as far as the animals go. But don't expect it to be great. Disney sanitized the film to take anything potentially offensive out, except for the above mentioned lion nards.
The theater was packed on an afternoon showing. I didn't think of this as a kid's movie, but the SUV-driving chumps(way to celebrate Earth Day, guzzlers) had to drag them into the theater, with "awwwwws" at every turn for all the close-up shots of the cubs. Very annoying. Don't see this opening weekend if you plan to enjoy it. Go on a Tuesday at noon. Chances are you'll have the theater mostly free of rug rats running all over.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
African Cats (2011): Dir: Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey / Narrator: Samuel L. Jackson: Breathtaking scenes of Africa and the survival of several species including two families of cats. One problem seems to be with the title in that there doesn't seem to be any footage of the other African cat, the leopard. It rounds off the three big cat species normally studied in Africa but it is never so much as mentioned in this documentary. Nonetheless, that doesn't prevent this film from being entertaining and adventurous in its own right. We have a pride of lions led by Fang whose tooth is hanging from a previous battle. We are given the sense that his time as leader is nearing an end. On the other side of the crocodile infested river are four male lions bent on taking over. They are led by Kali and he and his sons failed one potential takeover thanks to the lionesses but they will return in greater numbers. Layla is an aged lioness who was injured when kicked by a zebra. She hopes that her sister will adopt her cub Mara so that she may die in peace. Sita is a cheetah mother with five cubs although during one scary night hyenas make off with two of them. She must raise her three remaining cubs as well as fend off male cheetahs as well as their worst enemy, lions. Again, no sign or mention of leopards and that is an alarming case given the subject matter. Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey with Samuel L. Jackson providing the narration, the film is entertaining with plenty of suspense as two different species of female cats struggle to raise their cubs in the harsh reality of the African plains. Score: 9 / 10
Disney is going the docudrama route. Layla is the oldest lioness
raising her cub Mara with Fang the leader of the River Pride. They are
protected by the crocodile infested river from the pride to the north
ruled by Kali and his four sons. Also Sita the cheetah is raising her
five small cubs.
Samuel L. Jackson is narrating the American version. Quite frankly, he's trying too hard to dramatize what is already very dramatic. The footage and the writing is plenty good enough. I miss the British voice narration which usually gives these nature documentaries the needed gravitas. The score is another problem. It's again overly dramatic. It keeps overshadowing what are very compelling animal stories.
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