Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Review

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Based on Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro

Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A deactivated female cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.

My Opinion:

I went into this with zero expectations or knowledge of the source material. I really enjoyed this film! It’s actually my favorite 2019 cinema release so far (but I’ve not managed to go to many movies so far this year). It’ll be interesting to see where it ranks for me by the end of the year.


First of all, this movie succeeds where so many others spectacularly fail: it has likable and fairly well-developed characters that the audience will actually care about. Okay, it’s a fun action sci-fi movie so there are plenty of one-dimensional characters but the writers clearly put some time & effort into the ones that really matter (they just could’ve spent a little more time on the male love interest). The female cyborg (Rosa Salazar) and the father-figure man who “revives” her (Christoph Waltz) are great characters and their relationship is the best thing about the film. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the look of Alita herself but I thought they did a fantastic job with her. They got a good balance between making her look different from the humans while still seeming human emotionally (especially through her extra big eyes that you quickly get used to) and never entering into creepy uncanny valley territory. She’s more likable than the majority of “human” characters in films these days. I also loved that she’s this kick-ass warrior while at the same time having the feelings and innocence of a sweet teenage girl. This could have come across as really cheesy if not handled right but it works perfectly in this film and I can’t see anyone not getting some enjoyment out of this movie, especially lovers of fun sci-fi action.

I think it’s hard to make a sci-fi film these days that doesn’t feel derivative as there have been so many brilliant stories in this genre. Does the story in Alita feel totally original? No, I suppose it doesn’t. Yet I felt like I was watching a sci-fi film I haven’t really seen before despite it borrowing from so many other films. It’s a cross between Rollerball (1975) & Blade Runner with elements of Bicentennial Man and Ellen Ripley’s Aliens “female kick-ass” action crossed with a good coming of age teen flick. It’s an odd combo that somehow works, making the film a lot of fun and making it feel more unique than it actually is. As for Rollerball, it takes the only good thing about that overall somewhat boring movie: the violent & thoroughly entertaining sport itself. It’s only one small part of Alita, though, as there are so many other storylines going on but it did add some extra fun and action to the film.


I’ve not read reviews so don’t know how others feel about this film but I hope that sci-fi lovers enjoyed it as much as I did, whether male or female. I know there’s sometimes backlash when there’s a female lead in what’s seen as a more male-dominated genre. I’ll never understand that. A good movie is a good movie and the characters are far stronger in Alita than in a lot of sci-fi films, which often lack character development. The amount of action in this should keep fans happy as well. There’s loads of action with some great fight scenes involving all kinds of funky-looking cyborgs that you really want to see Alita kick the shit out of.


Now to give this movie my rating… I struggled with this one! I’d almost up my rating to 8, actually. I might. I often come back to reviews later and adjust my rating. Bear in mind that sci-fi is my favorite genre and this movie is very much my type of thing. The film isn’t perfect. It could’ve been better. It could’ve gone deeper into Alita’s story and her feelings and the meaning of being human (explored more in things such as Ex Machina). The “baddies” were weak and we didn’t get to know enough about their motivations (the characters played Jennifer Connelly and especially Mahershala Ali, who felt a bit wasted in this). Well, sort of played by Ali… I won’t get into that (spoiler). I wouldn’t call this film shallow but it could’ve been more of a “thinky” sci-fi. However, it was a lot of fun to watch and I loved the characters. Sometimes we expect a bit too much from movies. I’d happily watch this one again, which I can’t say for a lot of movies I’ve watched in recent years. I’d love to see this one get a sequel.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018) Review

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman

Story by Phil Lord

Based on Miles Morales by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli

Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
Miles Morales becomes the Spider-Man of his reality and crosses paths with his counterparts from other dimensions to stop a threat to all reality.

My Opinion:

Wow. This film was pretty damn great. I’d seen so much hype for this online so didn’t know what to expect as movies rarely live up to their hype for me. Plus, I’m not a huge comic book/superhero movie fan other than thinking they’re enjoyable but forgettable fun. This movie lives up to the hype. I can only imagine how Spider-Man comic fans feel, though – they certainly seem to be in love with this. As someone who isn’t a fan, I’m happy to hear that since I think I kind of loved this film as well. And I certainly have a new favorite version of Spider-Man himself! Well, a few favorites…

I’m going to keep this super short as it’s Christmastime and I’m sick and I have a lot going on. I never like to say too much about these superhero films anyway as I have zero knowledge of the source material. All I know is that I’ve seen all the movie adaptations they’ve done for this character and I easily had the most fun with this version. I adored Miles Morales and thought his relationships with all the other characters in this (such as his father, his uncle & Gwen) were very strong. This movie had far more heart than other adaptations and I bought into these characters far more than in other versions. Plus, seeing different versions of Spider-Man from different dimensions was cool as shit.

The humor all worked perfectly, the New York setting was amazing and I loved that Miles is a graffiti artist and this is yet another movie that made me want to visit New York, the unique animation style was a real treat, the Stan Lee cameo made me want to cry but it was beautiful, and the scene after the credits is BRILLIANT! Loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed absolutely everything about this movie and, as I said, I’m not even a big superhero fan. I’d highly recommend this movie to anyone.

My Rating: 8.5/10

The Place Beyond The Pines (2012) Review

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Seriously – this is a 2012 movie??

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Starring:
Ryan Gosling
Bradley Cooper
Eva Mendes
Dane DeHaan
Emory Cohen
Ray Liotta
Ben Mendelsohn
Rose Byrne
Mahershala Ali
Bruce Greenwood
Harris Yulin

Music By: Mike Patton. That’s right – of Faith No More! Cool. Noticed his name in the credits and wanted to make sure to mention him – love Faith No More. And… Anyone remember Mr Bungle?? Ha!

Plot:

I’m not sure if I should go into the plot much. The way they are marketing this film, by only really focusing on Ryan Gosling, is a bit misleading. Ryan Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a motorcycle stuntman. While in town with a travelling fair he works for, he sees an ex-lover of his (Romina, played by Eva Mendes). Luke learns that Romina’s one-year-old son is his. Luke decides to stay in town and help to raise his son even though Romina has moved on & is with another man. He gets a job at an auto repair shop but, when that doesn’t earn him enough money to help his son, he turns to robbing banks. Luke soon becomes addicted to this “easy” way of getting money.

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This is all pretty much everything I read about before seeing the film. But there’s MUCH more to the movie than just this one story about Luke. So don’t go to it expecting the entire movie to just be about Ryan Gosling going on a bank-robbing spree. The movie is better than just that.

I really enjoyed this movie. My hubby didn’t so much. He thinks it’s because I have the hots for Gosling but I don’t think that has anything to do with it. He’s still hot, even with some really ugly tattoos and a Metallica t-shirt, but he certainly doesn’t do it for me as much in this film as in others. And he’s good in this, as always, but he doesn’t steal the whole show. His character isn’t quite as strong as in other films – he was much deeper in things like Lars And The Real Girl & Half Nelson and he was “cooler” and more mysterious in Drive. The director, Derek Cianfrance, also did Blue Valentine. I still haven’t fully decided if I prefer that or Pines but I do think Gosling’s character was more well-developed in Valentine & he delivered a better performance. But, overall, Pines is probably a more “entertaining” film with a better story as opposed to Valentine which is more about the performances than the story.

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If you love Drive, you MIGHT like Pines but don’t go to it expecting it to be anything like it. It’s very different. There was a bit of a hoodie at our screening – he did stay for the whole thing but he & his woman kept talking to each other about being bored. This is where I always get a bit snobby and say things like “people need to find a little something out about a movie before going to it!” but to be fair, although I knew what kind of movie it was as I’m a movie lover & do my research, I do think they’re making this movie look a little too much like another Drive. As to be expected as it’s the same director, it’s much more like Blue Valentine. It’s a drama. It has a slow pace. It IS a little overlong (as much as I enjoyed it I did feel it could have been cut down by half an hour). It’s my kind of thing, though. It’s not going to be for everyone.

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As for the stories (as I said, there’s more to it than just the story of Luke and this has been hinted at in enough reviews that I don’t think I’m spoiling anything), they were all good but I especially liked the first one & the final one. The final one was a complete surprise as I knew nothing at all about that one before seeing the film. I think I felt the most for the characters in the final bit & found my heart pounding a little when there were a couple of times where you really didn’t know what was going to happen to them. I thought all the characters in the whole film felt realistic as well – these seemed like real people because I thought they acted in ways that real-life people in the same situations may behave (not as common in movies as it should be!). As it’s marketed in that Drive kind of way, I thought it would be really violent. It’s not. There were a few times where I thought it might suddenly get crazy-Drive-level-violent but it thankfully didn’t. Not saying I don’t like Drive – I love it. But this film didn’t feel the need to up the violence or the action or to start acting all “cool”. It kept things slow & steady but it still had me on the edge of my seat at the end in a similar way to how I felt while watching American History X. Not sure why this comparison popped into my head while watching Pines – I think the tension I felt toward the end was quite similar (although American History X is definitely a better film).

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A quick mention of the performances: As I said, Gosling is good as always but it’s not his strongest role. Eva Mendes is good as is Mahershala Ali, who plays her boyfriend. I liked the character Ben Mendelsohn plays – the owner of the body shop where Gosling works. Ray Liotta is… sooooo Ray Liotta! So, you’ll be happy if you like Ray Liotta but I found it quite disappointing that he’s playing the same role here that he ALWAYS plays. In fact, that’s probably the thing I liked least about this film. Dane DeHaan also plays a very similar character to one he’s played before but he’s very good at that sort of role and I thought he was very good in this – he’s possibly one of the best things about this movie, actually. For me the most pleasant surprise was probably Bradley Cooper, though. He plays a rookie cop. This is also widely known about the plot (if there’s a bank robber there has to be a cop!) but they REALLY don’t focus much on him in the trailers & things I’d seen beforehand. It’s a big role! Honestly, the only thing I’d really seen him in was The Hangover so, naturally, I wasn’t overly impressed with him. (The Hangover isn’t really my type of thing). But then he was suddenly up for an Oscar! (I really do want to see Silver Linings Playbook). So, yeah – turns out he can act. I thought he was good as the rookie cop who’s a bit unsure of himself.

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Summary: I liked this a lot but it’s not for everyone. It’s a slow-paced drama with some very good performances but not any really amazing ones. It’s a little overlong but has a good sense of growing tension, especially at the end, which kept me very gripped. And I really cared about most of the characters. Good drama. I recommend it. But remember it is NOTHING like Drive. Overall, though, something holds this movie back from being excellent instead of just very good. No, I don’t know what that something is. If I knew, I’d be the one making the movies! 🙂

My Rating: 8/10

Mike Patton – The Snow Angel

The Ryan Gosling Project

My Top Five Metallica Songs