Alita: Battle Angel


Viewed – 07 January 2019  Cinema

Director James Cameron (Titanic, Terminator 2) had been hoping to helm this adaptation of the popular Japanese manga.  However, his attention these days is focused on the Avatar sequels, and so with a large degree of supervision he passed his passion project onto Robert Rodriguez, a risky move in my opinion as the once celebrated genre film maker hasn’t had a major hit in a while, with Sin City probably being his last movie to make any sort of rumbles. 

Alita

Set in the distant future, this has Christoph Waltz’s cybernetic limb doctor stumble upon the remains of a robotic girl, and goes about bringing her back to life, only to discover she has incredible fighting abilities.  ‘Alita’ you see, has clouded memories of a past that is linked to the hovering city of Zalem, ruled over by omnipresent ruler ‘Nova’.  What was she before?  What do her memories hold secret, and why are thugs seemingly hellbent on capturing her?

Visually stunning and with state of the art technology, this is a fun adventure with a breakout performance by Rosa Salazar as Alita (underneath Avatar-style CGI).  Along with a great Guipetto-like turn from Waltz who always lends presence to each movie he appears in and a story that cracks along at a good pace, I found myself having a great time with this.  Occasionally the CGI over-load reveals some shortcomings with one such scene looking like the actors are not part of the scenery (the rooftop scene), but in many other aspects it’s jaw-dropping (Alita herself bug-eyes and all, and those mutant bad guys).  The movie also falters at being clearly the beginning of a much larger story, with too many questions left unanswered.  Also the love story sub-plot is a tad cheesy, and less said about Jennifer Connelly’s performance the better. 

Yet with solid world-building and some bad-ass action (the bar fight, the motor-ball sequence), not only has Rodriguez found his groove … but Cameron can also be proud to finally realise such a vision.  Roll on part 2!

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Advertisements

Leave No Trace


Viewed – 23 January 2019  online-rental

I’d only heard about this movie as being worth a watch after watching a top ten of 2018 run down by respected British movie critic Mark Kermode, and as I often like many of the movies he recommends, I thought I’d give it a shot.  This gently-paced father and daughter drama follows a troubled man (the often brilliant Ben Foster) as he attempts to live in the wilderness of a vast national park with his young daughter (newcomer Tomasin McKenzie).  However soon the authorities intervene and attempt to re-intricate them back into normal society, raising questions regarding the young girl’s welfare.

Leave No Trace

Immediately this is a very convincing depiction and I quickly began to care for the two principle leads and wanted them to be aloud to live however they wished.  After all they seemed happy in each other’s company and caring for each other’s wellbeing. However as the movie progressed  I learnt more and began to also question how they were living, and that had me glued to see how things might turn out.  Director Debra Granik has delivered a story (based on a book) that is both moving and heart-breaking primarily down to very believable performances.  I’d also hazard a guess that other characters in the movie were played by real people as themselves for that added authenticity … and it works very well indeed.  I should also mention that the cinematography on show, whilst not flashy and more documentary-style is at times beautiful.

Yes, I’d have liked for a few more things to happen; a bit more danger or repercussions and that pace is tough at times … but as a movie that gets you thinking and questioning your principles, I have to recommend this one.

Verdict:  4 /5

Prince of Darkness


Viewed – 20 January 2019

In my ongoing quest to watch and review director John Carpenter’s back-catalogue, we come to this 1987 somewhat ignored entry in his filmography.  Starring genre favourite and Carpenter regular Donald Pleasence as a priest who stumbles upon a decades long secret held by a church, that has been housing a sinister, mysterious force in it’s basement.  On the death of the priest last given the task of keeping the secret er…secret, Pleasence turns to a college professor (Big Trouble in Little China’s Victor Wong) who recruits a group of students to monitor and understand the strange discovery.

PrinceOfDarkness

I’ve been a fan of this movie for a while, having caught it on TV numerous times.  However on viewing it recently it dawned on me that it’s night quite the sum of it’s parts.  Firstly the acting varies from passable to pretty bad, and dialogue is delivered like the cast are reading autocues, with a consistent lack of feeling.  The setting is at least creepy and unnerving and acts as a character of it’s own, and the weird vat of green mist / goo is suitably is ominous.  Also in the final act the movie cranks up the freakiness and proves effective especially once the evil presence starts taking affect on various characters.  The idea is probably a bit too ambitious for it’s own good and doesn’t quite deliver either in scares or concept, feeling half-finished.  It also takes itself way too seriously.  Not one of Carpenter’s worst, but not up their with his best either.

I didn’t manage to pick up the also available deluxe edition of this Studio Canal release that comes in the same packaging treatment as the recently released Escape from New York and The Fog, but we still get some decent extras.  This includes the always essential John Carpenter commentary, as well as interviews, scene analysis, trailers, behind the scenes featurette and a photo gallery.  The movie itself is in decent shape, with Carpenter’s eerie score proving especially effective in DTS HD 5.1.  Dialogue is also crisp and the movie looks good, if a little smudgy and overly soft in places.  Overall above average treatment for a fun if ultimately unsatisfying movie.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Stan & Ollie


Viewed – 16 January 2019  Cinema

It seems long overdue a movie being done of the classic comedy duo Laurel & Hardy.  I vaguely recall catching either old movies or shorts on TV as a kid and loving their rather innocent and charming approach to often slapstick humour.  Both of them had a great personality that worked well together, and seeing anything they did even now still raises more than a few chuckles.  There is something timeless about them that I think unlike many other acts like Charlie Chaplin or the Three Stooges, hasn’t aged all that badly.

STan & Ollie

This movie follows the comedy duo as they reunite after a period of retirement to do a tour around England and Ireland in an attempt to finance a new movie.  However following an incident during the height of their career, it soon becomes obvious there’s some bad blood between them.  Steve Coogan and John C Reilly take on the rather intimidating task of bringing such figures to life and I am both happy and amazed to say they achieve it to an incredibly uncanny level.  Coogan nails the expressions, the mannerism and even the walk of Stan Laurel and Reilly is just perfect as Hardy despite some prosthetic make up effects (which are done brilliantly).  The relationship between the two is perfectly observed, touching, a little sad but also amiable and funny.  You get a good idea who these guys really were and how they both respected each other, at times loathed each other but ultimately loved each other.  Set mostly in England you get none of the Hollywood glamour and more so the has-been stage of their lives, of two stars struggling to hold onto the magic and keep themselves relevant.  A squabbling duo of wives adds some fun personality, a money hungry agent also adds flavour and overall this is a charming and fascinating movie.

As a Laurel & Hardy fan I would have appreciated more of a glimpse into how they came to be, or just a snap shot of their fame.  The focus on the later part of their career makes for a good story that granted, tugs at the heart strings … but as much as I really enjoyed this, I came away feeling it wasn’t the full  package – especially for those unfamiliar with their legacy  Otherwise a heart-warming, funny and brilliantly acted look at two comedy legends.

Verdict:  4 /5

Top Ten Movies 2018


Based on movies I enjoyed the most in 2018.  Some movies may have hit cinemas during 2017 but I missed out seeing them at the time.

10

Thor

Thor Ragnarok

9

Hereditary

Hereditary

8

Annihilation

Annihilation

7

Shape of Water

The Shape of Water

6

IT

IT

5

Lady Bird

Lady Bird

4

Ready Player One

Ready Player One

3

A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place

2

Avengers

Avengers: Infinity War

1

The Greatest SHowman

The Greatest Showman

 

Honourable mentions:  Halloween, Deadpool 2, Unsane