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     " A cookbook entry only Hannibal Lecter could love. "

      Title: Alive: 30th Anniversary Edition DVD by Buena Vista

      Format: DVD Video

      Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong

      The Hype: "An incredible film about the power of the human spirit," Alive is the true story of thirty-five Uruguayan rugby players in a desperate fight for survival. Does it make for a good movie? Are there any good actors in it? Do they remain civilized, or do they devolve into primitive, club-wielding monkey-beasts? Put down your bludgeoning weapons and look deep into the witch doctor's fire, my ape acolytes, and I will review in shadow-play.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Story: Alive is the true story of the Old Christians rugby team, who charter a plane to fly from their home in Uruguay to Chile to challenge a rival team. The pilots make a terrible error, and the plane crashes into the mountains, stranding the thirty-five survivors on a barren glacier with almost no food and no hiking supplies to use for escape. It is an astonishing tale of survival against greatest adversity, with many unexpected and unpleasant twists. The most well-known and gruesome detail of the story is that the survivors were forced to eat their dead in order to survive, else they would not have had the energy to go on, nor for two of them to trek through the mountains for ten days to get help and bring rescue for the sixteen young men who endured. While a fascinating and gripping tale all on its own, Alive is even more compelling for its truth, and the realism with which it is presented. 4 out of 5.

      Acting: The cast of Alive consists mainly of young actors from both South America and the United States, with the North American actors such as Ethan Hawke and Josh Hamilton filling the lead roles for audience interest, but virtual unknowns such as Christian Meoli and Bruce Ramsay play some of the most compelling characters. For the most part, the story is drawn out well, though there is a tendency toward a few odd trends, such as the characters being portrayed as overly remorseful for every small transgression, being made out to be a group of blue ribbon young citizens as clean-cut as any black-and-white era sitcom family despite the massive amounts of cigarettes and alcohol smuggled on the plane (which they later live off of). The American actors don't even try to speak with even vaguely Uruguayan accents, which would be all right if so many other cast members weren't obviously of Latin and South American heritage and actually spoke with authentic accents. Josh Hamilton delivers a very convincing performance as the cynical intellectual Roberto Canessa, and Ethan Hawke does a well-rounded job of playing Nando Parrado, arguably the hero of the film (as he was the driving willpower of the group and the one to press on through the mountains to Chile). Performances are convincing overall, save for those few traits which did not detract from the film but certainly gave this monkey pause, as he rather likes it when accents are at least attempted. 3 out of 5.

      Action: Surprisingly enough, you can work a lot of suspenseful scenes into a movie about banding together to survive a plane crash. While there are no gunfights, fistfights, or car chase scenes, there is a riveting plane crash in the beginning, a tumultuous avalanche near the end, and a harrowing brush with subterranean crevasses during the middle of the film. The movie rarely drags, always spicing things up with some sort of event that will keep your heart pumping, and while it isn't standard action fare, at no point does the movie ever feel terribly 'slow.' 3.5 out of 5.

      Visuals and Directing: The film is well directed and paced, with excellent work done on the sets so that one would never spot the traces of a film crew (it was filmed on location). Frank Marshall does a great job of convincing the audience of the realism of the film, and as the real Nando Parrado was on-hand to help verify the reality of the film's sets and events, it comes across as a particularly apt and accurate portrayal of "the Miracle of the Andes." The plane's flight near the beginning of the film is rather poorly done, though the close-up crash visuals are excellent and visceral, and camera effects are well used in suspenseful sequences. Of particular note is the frightening scene within which the snowy ground literally falls out from beneath one of the characters, revealing a massive canyon. 3.5 out of 5.

      DVD Extras: The film comes with surprisingly few extras for a "30th Anniversary Edition" DVD. There are no deleted scenes or extra footage, as none exists from the film - every scene from the script exists in the final cut. There is no director commentary, no alternate languages (though there are subtitles in English), yet again rather odd for a DVD that is likely to sell well to Spanish-speaking audiences due to the nature of its content. It does contain two documentary films, however. The first film, Alive: 20 Years After, details the lives of the sixteen survivors twenty years after the event, and was filmed after the 1993 release of the motion picture itself. The documentary is interesting and informative, telling you not only what became of the primary characters of the film after the movie itself is done, but also where they are now (which is living in the same city they grew up in, all of them still friends and frequently playing masters rugby with rival colleagues). It shows how the survivors came onto the movie set and gave their input to directors and screenwriters, as well as interviewing Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa about their experiences on the mountain. The second film is Return to the Andes, which is a documentary of Nando Parrado's return hike to the site of the crash, where his mother and sister are buried, and his revisiting of old ghosts. That film has very little dialogue and is mostly just footage, with occasional interviews with Parrado about his feelings and memories of the trip. This monkey was rather disappointed that there wasn't more to see, but the former documentary was very well-done and interesting (as I had always wondered what became of the survivors), which makes up a little bit for its lack of usual DVD extras. 3.5 out of 5.

      Value vs. Price: At $19.99, it's a decent buy if you were a fan of the movie and you're interested in taking the time to watch both documentaries closely. The film is good, and worth watching more than once, but it isn't something integral to your DVD collection, and it should not be watched while eating, before eating, soon after eating, or when considering eating. In fact, I highly recommend that monkeys with weak stomachs preemptively throw up before watching this film for the first time. It isn't bad; it's just the content. 2.5 out of 5.

      The Verdict:

       A good film overall with some memorable moments, impressive visuals, and a sociopath's take on cuisine, Alive is a memorable film, and the DVD is a pleasant evening's entertainment. You will find yourself sympathizing with characters and wondering what became of them (and so the documentaries will be helpful), but I wouldn't suggest emulating them, no matter how heroic they may seem.

      The Good: Great true story, a good documentary, and solid visuals.

      The Bad: No attempts at Uruguayan accents and a somewhat whiter-than-white portrayal of the heroes.

      The Overall Ugly: A cookbook entry only Hannibal Lecter could love.

      What it's Worth: Rental

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