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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BARE BONES: TAU

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TAU (2018)

Pretty petty thief Julia (Maika Monroe) finds herself kidnapped and held prisoner by a man named Alex (Ed Skrein) who is conducting sinister experiments in his secluded computerized home. All she needs to do to escape is somehow befriend and outwit his complex artificial intelligence, Tau (voiced by Gary Oldman). That’s kind of it!

Netflix debuted film is directed by Federico D’Alessandro from a script by Noga Landau and is a silly and far-fetched movie that evokes other films like 1977’s Demon Seed for one. The script is sloppy and one wonders why a genius like Alex can’t figure out how to effectively restrain Julia, who is always escaping confines and causing havoc. It has some amusing sequences and some shockingly graphic violence, but is just too weakly scripted to make effective use out of it’s scenario. We should have been far more scared for Julia, but Alex is a lame villain and Tau becomes charmed by her far too quickly for us to feel she’s in peril for too long. Producer/lead Monroe is a feisty heroine, though sometimes we feel her heroics are handed to her a bit too easily by script conveniences. On the other hand, if you have a foot fetish, bondage fetish, Maika Monroe fetish, or all of the above, this may be your Gone With The Wind. Currently streaming on Netflix.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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IT FOLLOWS’ MAIKA MONROE RETURNS TO HORROR IN NETFLIX’S TAU!

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It Follows star Maika Monroe returns to our favorite genre in the Netflix sci-fi/horror thriller Tau. Monroe plays a young woman kidnapped by a scientist (Ed Skrein) to be used in experiments to test an A.I. (voiced by Gary Oldman) of his own creation. The film premieres June 29th! Check out some stills (from Maikamonroe.us) and the trailer…

 

Production stills: maikamonroe.us

 

 

Sources: Youtube/Netflix/maikamonroe.us

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REVIEW: DEADPOOL (2016)

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DEADPOOL (2016)

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

Up to this point, I knew almost nothing about the Deadpool character, other than fans were not happy with his portrayal in the 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine. So, I went into this flick without too many expectations, other than it wasn’t going to be your typical Marvel superhero movie, based on the trailers and ad campaign. I was right…but I also had more fun than I expected.

Flick tells the story of Wade Wilson, a former special forces soldier turned black ops operative turned mercenary and assassin. Wade has a fairly low level clientele and a beautiful stripper girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) who loves him for who he is. Wade’s life is turned upside down when he is told he has terminal cancer and is then contacted by a mysterious organization called Weapon X, that claim that not only can they cure him, but they can turn him into a superhero. To save his relationship with Vanessa, he takes the offer and is transformed into a virtually indestructible, yet horribly disfigured man. Now hot for revenge for turning him into a monster, Wade becomes Deadpool, a wise-cracking superhero-like assassin, leaving a blood-soaked trail in pursuit of Ajax (Ed Skrein), the man who performed the procedure and his powerful sidekick/bodyguard, Angel Dust (Gina Carano)…all the while being pursued by the X-Men to give up his bloody ways and join the team.

This is certainly one of the most brazen and self-aware of the recent spate of superhero films, with Deadpool not only stopping the action to talk with the audience, but also his constant verbal jabs at the rest of the Marvel universe. It is also one of the rudest, crudest and bloodiest flicks to wear the Marvel tag and there is sufficient wit to go along with that, which makes it work. Some of the dialog is very funny and Reynolds has the perfect delivery for Wilson’s sarcastic frat-boy sense of humor as he’s slaughtering bad guys. The film is well directed by Tim Miller, with a clever script by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese and it mixes the graphic violence with the twisted humor very well. The action is on a smaller scale than the usual Marvel flicks, especially those recently, but includes more gore and body parts than possibly even the Blade films. The FX are rendered very well and there is a solid emotional core to all the blood and toilet humor when dealing with Wade’s turning into something he’s horrified with…something he feels Vanessa would never love. Surprisingly, the combination of violence, crude humor and Frankentein-ish story does pretty much work for most of the time thanks to Miller’s knowing when and how much and Reynold’s spot on performance. If the film has flaws, it’s that not all of the humor is successfully funny, the film does slow down a bit when delving into flashbacks as to Deadpool’s origin and Skrein isn’t all that strong a bad guy and is upstaged by Carano’s Angel Dust. Back on the plus side, there is a hip, fun soundtrack and it was refreshing to see a superhero film with a anti-hero who is far from being a boy scout…ex. Deadpool’s lethal and illegal advice to an Indian cab driver over how to solve his love problems.

Obviously, this is Ryan Reynolds show and he really brings it. Not only is Deadpool a very likable and sarcastically funny anti-hero, but Reynolds really gives him a heart and we feel for him when he is first deformed. He delivers his lines perfectly, whether it is to lament his transformation and loss of Vanessa, or shamelessly taunting his blind roommate (Leslie Uggams). He was born to play the part. Morena Baccarin is smoking hot as a movie geeks dream girl, a stripper with extensive nerd knowledge and a pop culture reference vocabulary to rival the boys. While she doesn’t get to do all that much, she and Reynolds do have a nice chemistry and she is fiery in what she does get to do. As stated, Ed Skrein is a serviceable villain, though not a very memorable one. Carano makes more of an impression as his bodyguard with superhuman strength. She doesn’t say much, but is a physical presence especially when batting the metal skinned X-Man, Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapičić). T.J. Miller is fun as Wade’s buddy Weasle, Brianna Hildebrand is an explosive teen member of the X-Men and Jed Rees is appropriately creepy as the recruiter for Weapon X…and a certain Marvel icon has one of his funniest cameos yet!

Overall, Deadpool was a fun flick. It deftly mixes masturbation jokes, bloody violence and some surprisingly effective drama to make it one of the more unique superhero flicks to come out in this era of cookie-cutter comic book movies. Not all the jokes work and the film does slow down a bit here and there to tell it’s origin story, but overall the mash-up formula connects more often than not. Ryan Reynolds is a hoot as Deadpool and he is given some very funny, rude and pop culture reference filled dialog to spout, when not splattering the bad guys all over the place. Not great, but a fun flick that will occasionally make you giggle like a teenager, whether you are one or not, and sometimes laugh out loud. As with these flicks, stay through the credits!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 unicorns…don’t ask…

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