REVIEW: ALITA-BATTLE ANGEL (2019)

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ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL (2019)

The summer movie season has started early and it has started with a bang! Alita: Battle Angel is a film adaptation of the Gunnm Manga series created by Yukito Kishiro. It’s produced by James Cameron and directed by Sin City’s Robert Rodriguez. The story has cyborg physician Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) finding the remains of a still active cyborg in a junk heap. Made to resemble a teenage girl, the doctor restores his discovery using a cybernetic body meant for his invalid daughter, who is now dead. He names her Alita after his little girl and soon the two bond as Alita (Rosa Salazar) tries to figure out who she is. Along the way Alita falls for street hustler Hugo (Keean Johnson) and becomes interested in the violent game of Motorball. Alita also finds she is no normal machine and there are sinister forces who want her technology for their own nefarious purposes…and they will hurt anyone to get it. A girl becomes a warrior, as Alita must now protect those she loves from harm.

The plot synopsis above is a simplification as Alita has a bit of a complex story, as many Manga do. It’s adapted to script by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis and exceptionally well directed by Rodriguez, in what may be his best film so far. Despite being plot heavy, Rodriguez takes his time with the story, first introducing us to Alita and letting us learn about who she is as she does. It allows us to become endeared to her, so when treachery sets in and the action really gets going, we are emotionally invested in the characters. And that’s one of the pleasant surprises about Alita: Battle Angel, it has a strong emotional center thanks especially to a very strong performance by lead Rosa Salazar as Alita. The actress really gets the emotions of the character through in the motion capture and vocal performance, so we really see the CGI character as a three dimensional one. We feel for her all the way and the film has a “human” center despite being filled with CGI characters and epic battles. On the popcorn level the film also delivers. The SPFX are spectacular, as is the design of the world of the 26th century, Alita herself and her cyborg costars. The action is fast and furious and while having a lot of elements, the plot is far from hard to follow. The flick is surprisingly violent for a movie that could be marketed strictly to teens, but it makes it adult enough for the older crowd to enjoy and adds intensity to the proceedings. Sure there is some corny dialogue and some cliché moments, but Rodriguez uses those elements to the film’s advantage, as it is an old-fashioned superhero story at heart…and heart is something this flick has a lot of.

The cast really play the material well. As said, Rosa Salazar is very good at embodying Alita with a strong character through body language and voice performance. She gives the cyborg teen a lot of charm, intensity, as well as, a sense of wonder and a touch of naivety. Salazar is a star in the making. Waltz is very endearing as the kindly Dr. Ido, who has some secrets of his own. He plays the father figure well, but with a quiet strength. Keean Johnson is also endearing as the rogue-ish Hugo, the boy Alita falls for. He also has some secrets, too, but he remains likable despite Hugo’s sometimes shady activities. The film also features Jennifer Connelly as Ido’s ex-wife, who works for the film’s primary villain, Motorball tycoon Vector (Mahershala Ali) and there is a surprise cameo, that won’t be spoiled here, as the man pulling Vector’s strings, Nova. There are also appearances by Ed Skrein, Jeff Fahey, Michelle Rodriguez and Jackie Earl Haley as various CGI cyborg characters. A very effective cast.

Overall, this flick was a blast and a really good time that gives a very early start to the summer movie season. It’s a fun popcorn flick, yet one with a more layered story to get us involved in and adds some dramatic weight and intensity to the FX and action. It has a star making performance from it’s leading lady, Rosa Salazar and has more heart than you’d expect from a cyborg. Highly recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Battle Angels.

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: SPECTRE (2015)

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SPECTRE (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

After delivering one of the best entries of the series, the 2012 Skyfall, Daniel Craig returns as James Bond and Sam Mendes returns to direct, with 007’s latest adventure, Spectre. While it doesn’t live up to the previous installment, it is far better than Quantum Of Solace and returns to the Bond franchise one of his most famous adversaries, the evil organization Spectre.

The film opens with 007 (Daniel Craig) in Mexico City on one last personal mission for an old friend. The mission leads to disciplinary action and the discovery of a secret organization headed by a man named Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) who shares a past with Bond. Now as the shutting down of the “00” division looms due to an intelligence merger, Bond must disobey orders and track down this organization whose goal is global terrorism and world domination.

To get the negatives out of the way, one of the things that holds Spectre back a bit is that the script, credited to four people, could have been a bit tighter. As a result there are some uncharacteristic lapses in logic with this generally clever series and the film, even by Bond standards, is about 10-15 minutes too long. The film also lacks a sense of urgency as there seems to be no real pressure for Bond to track down Oberhauser and his organization. It’s only in the last act where the clock is ticking. We also get some obvious conveniences to help Bond along…like a net showing up out of nowhere…where he had to work a little harder in previous films. The good stuff far outweighs the bad, though and when the action comes it is fast and furious and Daniel Craig is as lean and mean as ever as Bond. There are some great chases and fight scenes, especially when Bond tangles with assassin Mr. Hinx (Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Dave Bautista). There are the usual exotic locations as Bond goes from Mexico to Austria to Tangiers to Morocco and once we finally get inside Spectre itself, there is some welcome nostalgia of the secret lair and a very familiar white cat. There are some of the usual Bond beauties, this time represented by an assassin’s beautiful widow (Monica Bellucci) and the daughter (Léa Seydoux) of an adversary turned ally. Sam Mendes once again creates a marvelous looking movie with Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography and there is a solid score by Thomas Newman. As for the traditional Bond song, Sam Smith’s Writing’s On The Wall is serviceable, but nowhere near as memorable as Adele’s Skyfall, though it fits well in the opening credits sequence. A solid Bond film, if not slightly flawed.

As said before, Daniel Craig is once again in top form as Bond. He’s got an intensity to him that really drives the action…and love scenes. He keeps us interested, as here and in Quantum, even when the script could be better. Christoph Waltz is a delightfully out-of-his-mind villain as Oberhauser and it is sad the script doesn’t get he and Craig together sooner, as they work well together and Waltz had the potential to be a really impressionable villain. Léa Seydoux is pretty and a bit feisty as the Bond girl of the moment, but she doesn’t get all that much to do and obviously falls for Bond far too quickly to be convincing…don’t they all. Dave Bautista makes a lethal and fun villain as the assassin Mr. Hinx. His character has only one word of dialog, but why speak when you can poke out someone’s eyes with metal tipped thumbnails. Returning cast members are all fine. Naomie Harris is sexy and smart as Moneypenny, who is constantly dodging Bond’s advances, as is the tradition. Ben Wishaw is very likable as the computer nerd version of Bond gadget maker “Q” and Ray Fiennes actually gets to step out from behind his desk and see action as the stern “M”.

I liked Spectre a lot. It is certainly no Skyfall, but it was still very entertaining, there was some intense action and I really liked the nostalgic return of one of Bond’s most infamous adversaries. The script could have used another pass or two, the film could have used a bit more of a trim and the plot needed to put a bit more pressure on Bond to achieve his objective…adding suspense for the audience. Overall, it is still a solid enough entry in the series and one that makes us hope Craig returns at least one more time to explore the possibilities this flick sets up with the return of Spectre.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 Aston Martins.

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JAMES BOND TAKES ON “SPECTRE” IN A FINAL NEW TRAILER!

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Daniel Craig is returning for his fourth outing as James Bond 007…and Skyfall’s Sam Mendes returns to direct…and he’s up against an old and familiar nemesis. We have a new trailer for the upcoming Spectre which opens on 11/6/15 and stars Christoph Waltz and Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Dave Bautista. Looks awesome!

-MonsterZero NJ

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JAMES BOND RETURNS IN “SPECTRE” and GETS A TRAILER!

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Daniel Craig is returning for his fourth outing as James Bond 007…and Skyfall’s Sam Mendes returns to direct…and he’s up against an old and familiar nemesis. Here is the first trailer for SpectreSpectre opens 11/6/15 and also stars Christoph Waltz and Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Dave Bautista.

MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES and THE ZERO THEOREM

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A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (2014)

If there is ever an example of Liam Neeson’s ability to elevate a routine thriller and make a cliché character interesting, it’s here. Flick has Neeson as an ex-alcoholic, ex-cop with a past…wasn’t kidding about the clichés…who is now a private detective and is hired by a drug trafficker (The Guest’s Dan Stevens) to find the men who kidnaped and brutally murdered his wife. As a thriller, the film is well directed by Scott Frank from his own script based on Lawrence Block’s book. There is nothing new here, though, as we get an investigation that leaves to something much deeper and darker and we even get the smart-aleck neighborhood kid turned sidekick. Neeson is solid and intense and makes the whole affair seem much more important than it really is, despite that once it’s over you realize that nothing much was actually achieved. A movie that is far more entertaining than it should be, even though we’ve seen Neeson threaten people on the phone countless times by now. Thanks, Liam!

3 star rating

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THE ZERO THEOREM (2014)

Some of Terry Gilliam’s early films are borderline brilliant, such as his cult classic Brazil and the award winning The Fisher King. Ex-Python Gilliam has seemed to have lost his way, though, after the dead-on Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and the collapse of his Don Quixote film…and this colorful but, convoluted Sci-Fi flick proves it. Despite a really good performance from Christoph Waltz as the eccentric Qohen Leth, the film meanders for over 100 minutes but, never really goes anywhere. There is the usual original and sumptuous production design, as is typical of Gilliam’s films, but Pat Rushin’s story of a futuristic corporate run society…a theme already overdone…where the loner Leth is asked to prove a theorem that everything is leading up to nothing, doesn’t really lead to much in itself. No more proof of The Zero Theorem than the actually film, which achieves little after almost two hours of Gilliam’s off-beat comedy and the antics of the story’s eclectic, cartoonish supporting characters. As a fan of Gilliam, I didn’t hate it. There were things to like, such as the visuals, Waltz’s performance and a delightfully sexy role from French actress Mélanie Thierry as a cyber-sex girl who falls for Qohen. As a complete film, however, it achieves little. Gilliam is still one of the most original filmmakers around but, it’s been awhile since he accomplished something noteworthy. Also stars Matt Damon as “Management” and Tilda Swinton as a cyber-shrink.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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JAMES BOND 007 IS BACK in SPECTRE!

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“A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.”

…That’s the plot from the official announcement that has been made concerning the latest adventures of James Bond 007! The upcoming 24th film will be titled simply Spectre… the name of the evil organization that plagued Bond during the 60s film adventures… and will star Daniel Craig again as Bond, Ralph Fiennes as M, Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw as Q along with Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser, former WWE superstar and Guardians Of The Galaxy member Dave Batista as Mr. Hinx, the super sexy Monica Belluci as Lucia Sciarra, Andrew Scott as Denbigh and Lea Seydoux as Madeline Swann! Director Sam Mendes returns to helm! Can’t wait as Skyfall was one of the best Bonds of the series! SPECTER is due in theaters 11/6/15

source:Joblo.com/CBM

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THE “D” IS SILENT: A LOOK AT DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) AND DJANGO (1966)

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As Tarantino’s hit Spaghetti Western homage comes to blu-ray on 4/16/13, I take a look back at Django Unchained and the film that inspired it…

Quentin Tarantino has become one of America’s most innovative filmmakers in that he takes his unapologetic love of movies, B movies in particular, and crafts original films out of bits and pieces that pay homage to the movies he loves. No more obvious then his latest ode to the Spaghetti Western, Django Unchained.

This epic story of ex-slave turned bounty hunter, Django (Jaime Foxx) has it’s main character named after the lone gunslinger played by Franco Nero in Sergio Corbucci’s classic Spaghetti Western of the same name. And in case you didn’t get that point, not only does the film open with that 1966 film’s theme song but, sports a delightful cameo from Franco Nero himself. The story opens with a slave, Django being bought in a humorously violent scene by German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz ( Christoph Waltz). Schultz promises Django his freedom if the slave will help him track down three wanted men Django has seen but, Schultz has not. But, Django has quite a knack for bounty hunting and after their quarry is gunned down, in a great scene involving a hilariously sleazy Don Johnson as a racist plantation owner, the two team up. But, when Schultz hears of the plight of Django’s German speaking slave wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), he agrees to help him search for and free her. This brings them to the door of a vile plantation owner, who specializes in slave fights, named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Will Django and Schultz be able to rescue his wife from the devious and well armed Candie? A lot of bullets and blood fly before that question gets answered. Django Unchained isn’t perfect. It is definitely a bit too long and the last act could have been structured a bit more efficiently but, Tarantino has always been a bit overindulgent and we let him slide because of all the things he gets right… and because his films are usually so damn entertaining.

And one of the things he gets so right here is the performances out of his cast. Jaime Fox is impressive as Django bringing both a sly humor and a smoldering strength to the slave turned bounty killer. I’m not usually a fan but, he won me over here. Christoph Waltz is an absolute delight as the German bounty hunter with a heart and sense of honor. He gives Tarantino’s crisp and witty dialog vivid life and creates an instantly classic character from the pages of the director’s script. The same could be said of the phenomenal performance by Leonardo DiCaprio whose wonderfully over the top Calvin Candie practically steals the show. DiCaprio is having a blast playing the vicious and sleazy dandy plantation owner whose charm oozes out of every pore but, only to cover up that this snake has fangs filled with venom and he will strike first chance he gets. And if that triple threat isn’t enough, we have a side splitting performance by the great Samuel L. Jackson as Candie’s cantankerous head slave Stephen. Stephen may be a slave but, sometimes his manipulation of Calvin makes you seriously wonder who is really running the Candie Land plantation.

Tarantino once again gives this top notch cast some wonderful Tarantino dialog to work with and, as usual, shoots Django with his trademark luscious camera work. QT’s love of film fills every frame. He skillfully mixes controversial topics such as the horrors of slavery and racism with some very sly and funny humor and peppers it with some blood spattering action and violence. Basically it’s a Quentin Tarantino movie. And that’s exactly what we paid to see. A fiercely entertaining movie with a great supporting cast featuring the likes of Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern, Don Stroud, Russ and Amber Tamblyn, Dennis Christopher, Michael Parks and James Remar to name a few.

A solid 3 and 1/2 pistols

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DJANGO (1966)

As 1964’s A Fistful Of Dollars was a huge hit, director Sergio Corbucci answered with his own Spaghetti Western in 1966, the classic, Django. Where Sergio Leone filled his films with beautiful sweeping vistas and made good use of the Spanish locations, Corbucci’s look for Django was very nihilistic and bleak as was it’s tone. Filmed in winter, the landscapes are barren and dead and the streets of the town are filled with mud and the sky seems mostly always gray. The films’ heroes are different too as Eastwood’s “Joe” is an opportunist who plays two rival gangs against each other in a dangerous game to profit from both. Franco Nero’s Django, on the other hand, is a former soldier who returns to a small town dragging a coffin behind him and seeking vengeance for the loss of a loved one. Django is a man whose heart and soul have been torn out by the Civil War and the murder of his wife and he doesn’t care how many have to die before he exacts his revenge on the evil Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo) for her death. And death is indeed what lies within the coffin he takes with him everywhere as Jackson and his men will soon find out. The loner gunslinger Django also plays two gangs against each other for his own gain but, his gain is far more personal then profitable. The film’s graveyard shootout finale is also very bleak and makes one wonder if Corbucci is asking us whether Django’s surrounding himself with so much death has made him an outcast amongst the living. Django is a hard and violent tale under Corbucci’s direction and Franco Nero’s Django is a hard and violent man who, unlike Eastwood’s charming anti-hero, is a man on a path to hell and plans on taking as many with him as possible. His flashes of humanity are brief and seem only directed at the saloon girl Maria, who falls for the dark loner. But, even Maria is not immune to the violence that follows this man wherever he goes. Django is an interesting entry in the Spaghetti Western genre and seems to be the dark opposite of Leone’s series with Eastwood. And as such has earned it’s own classic status and is rightfully regarded as one of the genres best examples.

Also 3 and 1/2 pistols

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