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Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Movie Review By Steven Wilkins


Alita: Battle Angel Review,

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Screenwriters: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis & Robert Rodriguez; based on the graphic novel by Yukito Kishiro
Stars: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly

Crested by Yukito Kishiro for Jump Magazine in the 90’s, Alita is a cyberpunk Manga series brought faithfully to life courtesy of director Robert Rodriguez with screenplay by himself, James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis

With what seems to be a sprinkle of Ghost in the Shell and Astro Boy (2009), Alita ticks a lot of high marks. The story itself is engaging enough following Alita whom is found in a scrap yard by Dr. Ido. After repairs are made to her cybernetic body, she awakes with no memory of who she is or was.  

Upon meeting Hugo, a friend of sorts to Ido, she’s introduced to the surrounding world.  Though the film kicks off feeling like it’s going to be a slow origin story, the action is well placed and sets the film in motion throughout.

Visually, Alita is a jewel best viewed in 3D IMAX if you have the option available.  The only drawback to the use of heavy CG comes during the Motorball event in which many of the characters look a tad cartoonish in a way but it doesn’t by any means take away from the overall feel of the movie.  Coming in at two hrs the end actually feels like it came too early and will likely leave you wanting more. 

So, hopefully a sequel is in the future but for now, Alita is a very  enjoyable adaptation that anine fans should appreciate and casual movie goers could potentially love.


Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Review By Philip Henry

Alita Battle Angel

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Screenwriters: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis & Robert Rodriguez; based on the graphic novel by Yukito Kishiro
Stars: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly

If you’ve seen the trailer for this you probably thought the same thing as I did – it’s Ghost in the Shell under a different name. I know nothing about manga comics or cartoons, so I am talking about the underwhelming Scarlett Johansson film when I talk about Ghost in the Shell. It was such a boring movie I actually remember very little about it, apart from there being some kind robotically-enhanced super-girl in it who went around kicking butt in the robot nudy.

And that’s basically what we have here, too. Though in this case she goes around smashing up cyborgs that either fight with the speed and agility of Spider-man, or lumber around like those APUs that defended Zion in The Matrix movies. For me, this film has the same failing as Avatar – Cameron is more interested in showing us the technology behind the film than telling a decent story.

Another thing I saw in the trailer was the almost completely CG environment. I’m not a fan of this either (I had a really bad experience with a Phantom Menace once) because as good as the CG might be, and it definitely is in this film, it still looks fake to me, and little more than a semi-realistic cartoon. I just find it really hard to get emotionally invested in a CG characters walking around a CG environment, except in the case of the Toy Story movies, of course, but they work because the emphasis is on character and not showing off their latest CG advancements.

I don’t want to get too down on this film. It’s actually not half bad, and more than watchable, but considering the pedigree behind the camera it strikes me as disposable fare. There is a story in there that borrows from Logan’s Run and The Matrix to name just two, and I’m sure the actress in the lead role was fine, but how can we tell when her face has been altered to give her big manga eyes, so all the subtlety of her performance is lost?

There are some nice inventions in this PA world starting with the 26th Century Fox logo at the start – don’t you just love it when they mess with the logo. I especially liked the one-wheeled motorcycle and some street sets do seem to have been built and aged very well, before being enhanced with CG, of course. The futuristic sport of Motorball plays a big part in the film. It’s basically Death Race on motorized roller-blades on a Nascar track. There’s some big action set-pieces that look very nice, but since I never felt any of the CG cyborgs were in danger, it was hard to care when anyone crashed or burned. 

This film looks exceptionally good, but that’s not enough (for me at least). Movies aren’t just a visual medium, they should engage the emotions as well as the senses and that’s where Alita fails.

Maybe I’m alone in finding it hard to get invested in computer animated characters, but my heart never skipped a beat when Tom & Jerry got hurt either. I’m sure others will love this movie for its sheer scope and spectacle. There were kids at the screening I attended who seemed to love it. There is one F-bomb in the film, which struck me as odd. Maybe it was Cameron and Rodriguez trying to prove they were still edgy. They should’ve just dropped it, because I think kids are the main audience for this. The shadow of Rodriguez’s Spy Kids movies looms large and one F-bomb isn’t going to bring the rawness of El Mariachi or Desperado back.

It’s an enjoyable enough way to spend a couple of hours but it’s a long way away from earning a place on my Blu-ray shelf between The Terminator and From Dusk Til Dawn.

Downsizing (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Director: Alexander Payne
Writers: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Stars: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Kristen Wiig

I saw the trailer for “Downsizing” in December when I went to see “The Last Jedi” and I have to admit at being impressed with what looked like a clever and humorous film by Alexander Payne.

The movie is about a man realising he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself to five inches tall, allowing him to live in wealth and splendour. Sounds nuts right? But the introduction and the explanation to this scientific breakthrough was actually explained well and executed just fine to set up what I felt was going to be an entertaining two hours.

Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig), are an average couple living an average but stressful life in Omaha decide to “Downsize” to be able to have a glamorous life in a miniature purpose built community they could never afford in “real size world”. The couple at first have their reservations on going through with what is an irreversible procedure, but once one of the agents talks them through the benefits of “Downsizing” it’s a no brainer, well at least for Paul. Even in these early scenes you can sense Audrey isn’t quite where Paul is at and this is one of the issues I had with the trailer. It explained to us what happens with Audrey backing out of the procedure unknown to Paul.

Don’t get me wrong, Matt Damon’s reaction to finding out he is 5 inches tall and excited to start his new life with his 5 inch tall wife is brought to a shuddering halt when he realises Audrey withdrew from the program in mid procedure was actually rather funny and his rant to her did make me laugh. Well I say mid procedure, it was actually after the medical staff began to shave her head that she did a runner leaving Paul in a rather awkward predicament. From here the movie is actually decent and going along nicely. The trailer portrayed and lead us to believe that this was going to be quite a quirky comedy with some dazzling effects and a great cast.

One of the issues I have with this film and its storylines direction. For a movie that appeared to be a light hearted comedy with a spin on it actually begins to unravel having no real plot and comes across a little preachy. I have to say that it felt like I was watching three different short movies with the first short movie being the best.

Matt Damon like the movie starts off well and to be honest begins to bore me. The character of Paul wasn’t exactly a joy to be around in the first place apart from a few funny scenes at the beginning and Kristen Wiig disappointingly has very limited screen time in “Downsizing” I say disappointingly because when you have someone with the caliber of Wiig, you use it to its full potential. The same can be said for Jason Sudeikis who plays Dave Johnson. Sudeikis is in and out the movie and used very sparingly which frustrated me a little and only turns up with a bit of advice and wisdom every now and again. Christoph Waltz is on another level in his abilities as an actor usually and I always look forward to seeing his next character. Here he plays Paul’s neighbour Dusan Mirkovic. An uninteresting character if I’m honest that doesn’t offer much and it almost feels like Waltz took this role on as a favour. The actor doesn’t appear to have his spark in this movie and really just looks like he is going through the motions until the director says “Cut”

Speaking of the Director. Alexander Payne is the man who gave us About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004) and The Descendants (2011) all decent films. Payne is also responsible for writing these movies and this is why I felt this movie would be decent at least. The problem with this movie is the element and novelty of the Downsizing factor is quickly forgotten about as you enter the second half of this movie and the audience isn’t reminded that these characters are only five inches tall, which makes the experience disjointed and not pleasant to watch. Overall “Downsizing” offered more in its trailer than it did in its finished product. The concept was enticing, it’s cast showed have been entertaining and we trusted Writer / Director to have executed this movie in a better way. Disappointing.

The Legend of Tarzan (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin



Director: David Yates
Writers: Adam Cozad (screenplay), Craig Brewer (screenplay)
Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie

Tarzan is a story that has been told so many times in different mediums and inspired versions of the Lord of the Jungle.

In this incarnation Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård), has been there, done it and bought the leopard print t-shirt as he finds himself acclimatising to his life back in civilised London as John Clayton III. The Prime Minister played by the brilliant Jim Broadbent who communicates an invitation from King Leopold II of Belgium, to come to the Congo and see all the good things that the King is doing for the natives.

Tarzan has no desire to go back to Africa, but he is persuaded by George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), a U.S. government representative who is skeptical of the King’s activities in Africa and wants to see the conditions on the ground for himself.

It turns out that Leopold’s invitation was a set up and that he King was not making as much money from the Congo’s natural resources as he had hoped. Hence why he sent Captain Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) to Africa seeking out new sources of income. Rom is looking for some rumoured diamond mines when he runs into Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) and his warriors.

Unaware of how ruthless the Belgians can be, Mbonga offers Rom access to the region’s treasures in exchange for Tarzan, with whom the chief has a score to settle. Hence, King Leopold’s “invitation”. Upon their arrival in the “Free State of Congo”, Tarzan and Jane (Margot Robbie) reunite with old friends, but their joy is short-lived, thanks to Rom’s cruel plan.

Tarzan, does what he can to help the natives, protect his wife Jane and stop Rom, while Williams does his best to keep up and help Tarzan when he can. The scene were Williams takes a leap of faith into the trees from a great height is a little naff as he plummets on to a log unscathed (Hardly First Blood)

“The Legend of Tarzan” updates the character and establishes who he is while giving us a fresh story with a great supporting cast that was let down at times with the characters being a bit unbelievable.

I wasn’t really sure why Samuel L. Jackson’s character was in the film, other than to set Tarzan on his merry way back to his spiritual home he never served a purpose other than to keep Tarzan company.

Jane Clayton played by on form Robbie had her moments but on the whole was really just leverage for Rom against Tarzan.

Christoph Waltz played the villain (as he does) well even if the character was a little unbelievable.

Visually at times I felt the movie let it’s self down with some of the CGI. Don’t get me wrong the effects aren’t appalling and at no point take you out of the movie. Just sometimes especially with the animals you can “just tell”

I give the makers and the writers credit for trying a different spin on the character and story whilst keeping the origins of the legend intact but the plot is a little over the place at times with flash backs (at one point I wasn’t sure if I was in the present day or a flash back) but if you like Tarzan I would give it a go. This movie burner is in no hurry to revisit jungle anytime soon…a bit like John Clayton III at the start of the movie.