Advertisement

Reviews: Amir Khan is a contender in 'Team Khan,' plus more documentaries

Reviews: Amir Khan is a contender in 'Team Khan,' plus more documentaries
Amir Khan hopes to rise up the ranks in the boxing world with the help of his family in the documentary "Team Khan." (Brainstorm Media)

‘Team Khan’

An exasperatingly slick documentary with a charismatic subject, “Team Khan” follows two years in the rise of British-born Muslim boxer Amir Khan, a dashing champion chasing the ultimate test of greatness: a match against the likes of a Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao.

Directors Blair Macdonald and Oliver Clark secured great access across training sessions, photo-ops, moments with wife Faryal and their 2-year-old daughter, and spirited get-togethers in gray suburban Northwest England with his extended Punjabi clan. If “Team Khan” offers any insight as it aggressively packages him with the familiar tropes of verité sports-doc portraiture, it’s how the closeness of Khan’s relatives — many of whom work for him — keep him grounded behind that high-wattage smile and disciplined drive to make the most of his lightning quick blows.

Advertisement

Built around a few key bouts in Las Vegas and New York meant to set him up for that hoped-for call to challenge a legend, the directors’ “Rocky”-ish approach has its upside (Khan is easy to root for) and downside (is this a film or a commercial?). There are also side trips to cement his philanthropic bona fides, including a trip to Pakistan to show support after 2014’s Peshawar school massacre, and a visit to his ancestral village. If your taste for athletic snapshots has tired of tales of the troubled, Khan’s at least smoothly offers someone as comfortable being a Muslim hero and family man as he is a fast-jabbing contender.

—Robert Abele

‘Team Khan’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Playing: Starts Nov. 16, Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena

-------------

‘Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain’

Caltech physicist Spiros Michalaki in the documentary "Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain." Bring your thinking cap.
Caltech physicist Spiros Michalaki in the documentary "Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain." Bring your thinking cap. (SingularDTV)

The fast-paced, globe-hopping documentary “Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain” provides plenty of words, examples and context to help define its complex subject, blockchain technology. Still, it’s unlikely that less initiated viewers will be able to fully explain, without a crib sheet, what they’ve just learned.

That’s no fault of this well-assembled film, or its capable writer-director, Alex Winter (yes, the costar of the “Bill & Ted” movies), but, rather, of the elusive concept of blockchain, despite its burgeoning presence and application in today’s world as a kind of shared digital ledger.

With input from technologists, entrepreneurs, currency experts, news analysts and others, a wide, kinetic array of archival clips and more recent visuals, and Rosario Dawson’s crisply voiced narration, the movie engagingly outlines blockchain’s role as the underlying technology behind such digital currencies as bitcoin (which gets its own dissection), plus its growing part in accounting practices, music industry payments and renewable energy markets.

Winter also tracks the case of Lauri Love, a British activist charged with hacking into U.S. government computers. Love’s connection to blockchain may be more thematic than specific, but his story makes for an intriguing sidebar.

The film posits that blockchain, with its decentralized technology, “has the potential to upend everything from Wall Street to Silicon Valley.” Talk about a “Trust Machine” sequel in the making.

—Gary Goldstein

‘Trust Machine: the Story of Blockchain’

Advertisement

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

-------------

‘Family in Transition’

Amit and Galit Tsuk and their children in "Family in Transition," a documentary filled with authentic moments and real emotions.
Amit and Galit Tsuk and their children in "Family in Transition," a documentary filled with authentic moments and real emotions. (Abramorama)

Amit and Galit have been together in the small Israeli town of Nahariya since they were 15, but their relationship changes in ways they can’t expect when Amit tells his wife that he is a woman. The documentary “Family in Transition” follows Amit, Galit, and their four children through Amit’s transition and Galit’s simultaneous evolution.

Director Ofir Trainin captures the couple and their kids in authentic moments, revealing the challenges that each family member faces. There’s real honesty and emotion throughout the film as it tells not only of Amit’s life as a trans woman but also her wife’s experiences. Trainin tries too hard at times to make a moving scene even more moving, undercutting the narrative, and should put more trust in the strength of the story he is telling.

—Kimber Myers

‘Family in Transition’

In Hebrew with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Playing: Starts Nov. 16, Laemmle Town Center, Encino

-------------

‘Bali: Beats of Paradise’

Judith Hill in the documentary "Bali Beats of Paradise."
Judith Hill in the documentary "Bali Beats of Paradise." (Sun and Moon Films)

Ostensibly a biography of Indonesian composer Nyoman Wenten, “Bali: Beats of Paradise” is really more of an hourlong making-of about “Queen of the Hill,” the music video he made with American singer Judith Hill. The documentary delves into Wenten’s life and work, but it spends most of its brief runtime on “Queen of the Hill” and Wenten’s desire for it to hit 1 million views on YouTube.

Los Angeles-based Wenten is eager to bring the Indonesian musical genre gamelan to a larger audience as he prepares to retire. Before he returns to his native Bali, he teams with Hill to create a sound that bridges gamelan and Hill’s signature style of funk.

Directed by Livi Zheng (who helms the music video as well), “Bali: Beats of Paradise” feels manufactured, but it provides an introduction to both gamelan as an art form as well as to Wenten. It’s entertaining but slight, particularly as it bulks up with the post-credits inclusion of the video.

—Kimber Myers

‘Bali: Beats of Paradise’

In English and Indonesian with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 55 minutes

Playing: Starts Nov. 16, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; Downtown Independent, Los Angeles

-------------

‘The Gilligan Manifesto’

It might have made for an inspired college paper thesis, but as a documentary, “The Gilligan Manifesto,” which attempts to draw a direct link between “Gilligan’s Island” and the Communist Manifesto, is conceptually shipwrecked well before completing its one-and-a-half-hour tour.

Contending that the TV series — the pilot was shot a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis — was actually an allegory about a small group of Americans having to create a new social order in a post-apocalyptic world, the film paints hapless Gilligan as the embodiment of the working class and Mr. Howell, natch, as the personification of capitalism.

Director Cevin Soling backs up his thesis, which originally took the form of an article he wrote for “Americana: The Journal of Popular Culture,” with a shapeless onslaught of Cold War-era newsreel, propaganda and grainy B-sci-fi coming attraction footage, the likes of which had been more effectively packaged in the 1982 documentary “The Atomic Café.”

There’s also commentary from several Harvard professors and all-too-brief interview clips with “Gilligan’s Island” creator Sherwood Schwartz, who died in 2011, and castaway cast-members Dawn Wells and the late Russell Johnston, as well as pointlessly extended episode clips which do little to further Soling’s strained theories.

Advertisement

Of course, the bigger issue here is that when it comes to espousing Marx, the ’60s sitcom tended to take its ideological cues from Groucho rather than Karl.

—Michael Rechtshaffen

‘The Gilligan Manifesto’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Playing: Starts Nov. 16, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

------------

Advertisement
Advertisement