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

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Big Eyes


Viewed – 25 April 2015  Online rental

I wouldn’t say I have been following the career of acclaimed director Tim Burton all that much of late, having once been a big fan and loving his movies (especially Beetlejuice & Edward Scissorhands), yet his reliance on casting Johnny Depp in everything he does had begun to grate.  So it seemed refreshing to see a movie by him that departs from the weird fantastical world he’s known for and yes, no Depp!

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This true story tells the tale of a painter in the 1950’s called Margaret Keane who’s paintings of doe-eyed girls became a huge thing even though they were credited as being painted by her husband, Walter Keane.  It was a big money-making scam that I can’t say I’ve ever heard of but Burton’s movie tells it in that magical, sugar-coated 50’s style that brings to life an otherwise fairly mundane topic.

Amy Adams is good as Margaret even if I found it hard to sympathise with how she goes along with husband Walter’s plan, and with Christoph Waltz we once again get a very showy and enjoyable turn, even if after seeing this acclaimed actor four times now, it’s becoming clear they’re all slight variations of the same, charming / potentially-dangerous character.   Also I found it hard to believe that Margaret’s daughter would be equally duped by the couple’s scheme, considering she had been her mother’s muse prior to meeting Walter.  Nit-picks aside, this was still enjoyable and whimsical.  Burton’s visual flair, although not as elaborate is still here and the setting, houses, streets, beaches etc. are presented beautifully.  Regular collaborator Danny Elfman also deliver’s a suitable, if not particularly memorable score.

For Burton this was a nice diversion, and for Waltz’ growing fan-base, another entertaining performance.  Yet along with a plot that get’s very predictable, I found little else to make me recommend this one beyond Sunday afternoon viewing.

Verdict:  3 /5

Top Ten Actors


That I’d watch in pretty much anything.

Inspired from a post over at Where The Wild Things Are and then also at Cinema Parrot Disco, I have chosen to compile the idea from both male and female ‘actors’ rather than doing separate lists… mainly because I was struggling with ten for actresses without being swayed by their attractive qualities…it’s a bloke thing.

Emma Stone

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Favourite movie:  Easy A

Leonardo DiCaprio

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Favourite movie:  Catch Me If You Can

Christoph Waltz

christoph waltz

Favourite movie:  Inglorious Basterds

Marianne Cotillard

Marianne Cotillard

Favourite movie:  Inception

Philip Seymour Hoffman (R.I.P.)

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Favourite movie:  Almost Famous

Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg

Favourite movie:  Boogie Nights

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Favourite movie:  Born of the Fourth of July

Edward Norton

Edward Norton

Favourite movie:  Fight Club

Samuel L Jackson

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Favourite movie:  Pulp Fiction

Cate Blanchett

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Favourite movie:  Blue Jasmine

There are many more, but these are the ones I tend to find myself watching regardless of what role they are in, and the movies mentioned above are the roles I have most enjoyed them in, not necessarily their best.  For actors I tend to avoid…the list is shorter, but I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black and to an extent … Ben Affleck.

Carnage


Viewed – 04 February 2013 Blu-ray

As far as my knowledge of Roman Polanski stretches, several memorable films (Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby) and something about him being banned from the United States is all that comes to mind.  However, let us not forget that first and foremost he is a director and so we come to his latest offering, that is based on the play by Yasmina Reza.

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Two slightly upper class couples come together one day to discuss what should be done following an incident where one of their children has hit the other in a near by park after a disagreement.  This highly believable and surprisingly engrossing premise brings together four acclaimed actors, namely Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly as the one couple and Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz as the other … all big personalities where it’s our job to sit back and watch the fire works.

On a whole this felt very Woody Allen-esque in it’s comically tense and accurate observations.  I found myself laughing, gasping and grinning throughout like that person at a party, not knowing where to look as others argue – a perversely entertaining experience aided by four decent performances by some of my favorites.  OK, Foster goes a bit into overdrive after a while, and an increasingly manish Winslet fairs little better.  Both however are over shadowed by the utterly wonderful Waltz and Reilly who prove a lot more interesting.  At under 80 minutes this flies by, doesn’t outstay its welcome and is very well written … even if, perhaps like real life it doesn’t really get anywhere.

Recommended.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Django Unchained


Viewed – 29 January 2012  Cinema

When Quentin Tarantino makes a movie, it’s an event.  Fact.  Few director’s have the kind of celebrity status he enjoys, and thankfully more often than not, he can deliver.  Over the years I would say he has evolved, from merely the movie geek wonder kid with a series of snappy scripts and a growing cult fan base, into a film-maker of true credibility.  2009’s Inglorious Basterds proved that, and now with this highly anticipated latest effort, he’s painting the classic spaghetti western in his trademark sharp-as-a-knife dialogue, clever-ass narrative and obscure soundtrack.

Django Unchained

Jamie Foxx (Ray, Colateral) plays Django, a slave who teams up with savvy bounty hunter King Shultz (Inglorious Basterdz’ Christoph Waltz) who promises to help him track down and free his wife, who has been sold off to a local tycoon, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).   Now as should be expected, this isn’t like every other western you might have seen (technically it’s a southern, according to Quentin) with Tarantino’s usual mix of sporadic violence, smattering of carefully implemented comedy and lengthy scenes of tense dialogue all aided by a soundtrack so bizarre and obscure, that the whole thing threatens to turn into farce.  Yet Tarantino is better than that and somehow makes it all work, especially once you get into the groove.  Waltz, as in Basterdz steals the show with a brilliantly charming but no less deadly performance, aided by a perfect Foxx, who owns the title role.  Of course it should go without saying that DiCaprio is also excellent in possibly his first villainous turn (proving very psychotic), and a special mention should go to Samuel L. Jackson who as always lights up the screen every time he appears.

Naturally though this is QT’s gig, working from his own brilliantly entertaining and often shocking script (his take on the slave trade utterly humbled this viewer) … and although stylised and at times comic-book-like (the bloody violence clearly exaggerated) still nails one of the darker times in American history.

Essential.

Verdict:  5 /5