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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Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For


Viewed – 01 July 2015  Netflix

Brace yourselves, this might get kind of rant-like.  I was a fan of the original Robert Rodriguez / Frank Miller directed Sin City, a comic book adaptation that broke the mould and helped pioneer a new way of making movies.  Yet converting a gritty, noir-ish graphic novel to the screen was never going to be easy, especially due to Frank Miller’s distinctive monochrome art-style, and although the overly bleak tone prevented the movie for me being a stone cold classic, the end result was still an incredible achievement.

sincity2

This long awaited sequel however struggles almost from the start to reclaim that movie’s refreshing style or energy despite bolting together a series of plodding stories with characters that, apart from a few returning faces, fail to linger in the memory.  I was shocked to find Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green and Josh Brolin being cast, faces that I had immediately imagined as perfect for this dark, violent world; delivering performances that felt either clichéd or half-assed.  I mean Green has to get naked for the majority of her storyline to make much of an impact, and her femme-fatale character just seemed tiresome.  The same could also be said for Brolin, who looks the part and indeed plays the part, but is pretty much what Mickey Rourke’s character was all about in S C #1, and when you consider we still have Mickey Rourke’s Marv here (how…I mean, really – how?) his whole existence seems pointless.  Don’t get me started on the re-casting of Miho.

So the movie finally puts all it’s money on the slow burning revenge plot of young stripper Nancy (a still hot, feisty Jessica Alba) whose plot at least has some real drive, but by then it’s a strong case of too little, too late.

Rodriguez who has been off his game for a while now, does fill the movie with plenty of (white) blood, gore and some cool, if short lived action and the whole comic-book visual style still works a treat.  With better writing and more fire in it’s belly, this could have equalled … no, surpassed what came before.  But as it stands A Dame To Kill For was just poorly thought out and mostly forgettable.  A genuine shame.

Verdict:  2 /5

Machete Kills


Viewed – 06 August 2014  Netflix

I’m a little concerned.  Robert Rodriguez, that indie wonder kid, best buds with Quentin Tarantino and director of such classics as Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn and Sin City, has been making more of a name for himself lately as the poster boy for the grindhouse genre.  Tarantino was wise to just dip his toe in it before delivering the double whammy of Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained.  Yet the imminent arrival of the hotly anticipated Sin City: A Dame To Kill For has been slightly wilted by Rodriguez’s z-grade obsession … which going by the reviews, got old very quickly.

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This follow-up to the movie inspired by a trailer in the middle of that Grindhouse double feature calamity, finds hulking Mexican for hire Danny Trejo as bounty hunter and former marshal ‘Machete’ who gets hired by the President of the United States (Charlie Sheen … er, yes) to bring down a crime lord who is threatening to send a missile to nuke Washington.  Yeah it’s stupid and it’s the sort of plot you’d find in an 80’s TV show or some movie in a flea pit of a cinema that had run out of porn … but it’s a concept, played fully tongue-in-cheek that makes for highly entertaining tosh.

Rodriguez clearly loves the material and although it lacks some of the sucker-punch moments of the previous one it still had enough comical ideas (the speeder from Star Wars, ‘Machete don’t tweet’…) that bored is not something I could be.  Co-starring a cast you almost have to read twice to believe, yes Sheen as well as Cuba Gooding Jnr, Michelle Rodriguez, Lady GaGa (!) and even Mel Gibson – this could have been a riot.  Yet due to that intentional grindhouse style, its all done badly; the acting is only passable (although Gibson is great) and the effects, stunts and even the gore are amateurish (with a surprising lack of nudity).  Yeah I get it, it’s all part of the joke … but does detract from some of the movie’s bigger moments. 

One to watch with beer, friends and your brain on auto-pilot.  Is it wrong I actually want to see ‘Machete Kills again – in space’ ??

Verdict:  3 /5

Sin City 2 trailer


Although I regard the original Sin City with mixed feelings (admiring the style and action, not so much the overly bleak tone…), this trailer for the long awaited follow-up is looking rather cool…  Surprised was I to see Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke making an appearance, but more Jessica Alba is always a good thing.  New casting choices of Eva Green and Joseph Gordon-Levitt also make this a must see.

Machete


Viewed – 13 October 2011  Blu-ray

Like Hobo With A Shotgun, this movie is going for that low-budget exploitation feel.  Made infamous by the fake trailer showcased in the Planet Terror / Death Proof double-feature known as Grindhouse, this was probably the only trailer featured in that failed ‘experiment’ that could be turned into a full feature, and so the question remains, what’s it like?

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