REVIEW: “ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL” (2019) 20th Century Fox

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From the dark depths of the cold Los Angeles winter evening, I dared dragged myself to go see this film. With my having already skipped one media screening, I decided to take my own dare and see “ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL” as it is the last one under the 20th Century Fox’s banner before the Disney takeover.

Needless to say, I should have picked truth – as while it took 10 yrs to get made, it only takes 10 minutes to wish you had stayed at home as it’s a film completely and totally taken from a barrage of other films.

Now I’ve not read the source material but I do know that Alita was originally a Manga comic series which is a Japanese graphic art novel. It seems James Cameron, along with Robert Rodriguez, are bringing the first of four of these books to the cinema with this film. From the little research I did into this, eastern stories have a lot of tradition – one being that any hero is the last practitioner of a secret and are martial arts experts. In Alita’s case this is something that I read to be Panzer Kunst which means Tank Art according to the online translator. She also, predictably, has no memory of her past which means we can go on this voyage of growth and discovery together riiight?!! well….

The story is set in the South American, Iron City in the shadow of a gigantic floating station from another lifetime, three hundred years after a great war. So: post apocalyptic dystopia. There is a blend of architectures, super cyberpunk characters, ruins and fragments of forgotten technologies. It looks great and the CGI is fantastic. It all starts with ex-engineer Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoff Waltz) finding the head and shoulders of a female cyborg in a junk pile. Somehow, magically the brain is still alive. So like in the story of Humpty Dumpty, he puts her back together again and proceeds to treat her as his daughter who was, you guessed it, named Alita played here by Rosa Salazar. Alita has no memory of who she once was but she immediately finds love with the handsome motorcycle riding human Hugo (Keenan Johnson) and also finds out within hours that she can fight like a badass. When Hugo introduces Alita to the brutal spectator sport of Motorball where the carnage is more important than the score and the winner gets a ticket to the space station. All bets are on you know who is going to want to be a Mortorball star and where this film is heading.

‘If’ this film, which had it maybe been made 10 years ago before we had say Pacific Rim, or ‘if’ it had maybe one original idea of its own, I might have really enjoyed it. As is, ‘Motorball’ the game it portrays, is a COMPLETE and total ripoff of the original 70’s Rollerball with James Caan (catorgically a much better film by the way). ‘If’ maybe the baddies like Zapan (Ed Skrein) weren’t simply already done so many times before, or ‘if’ Jennifer Connelly & Mahershala Ali had just not phoned in their performances and ‘if’ they had given them some grit. All those ‘ifs’ just make this too hard of a film to roll with all the way through.

While the character development is quite decent, it’s the characters themselves that gave me question. Some might not be bothered by the huge Manga eyes on Alita, but for me they were just plain creepy. Add into that, the whole doll-like 12yr old look that reminded me of the ‘Big Eyes’ paintings – another ‘not working’ item for me. I even got a bit creeped out of sorts by Christoph Waltzs’ Dr. Ido at the beginning when he leans over her broken machine body as he first finds her and says ‘You will be my little angel’. Granted, he turns out to be a ‘good guy’.

This was by far not the worst Sci-Fi I’ve ever seen, but it is one of the most lackluster. My take is if you love the comic story it’s based on, you will probably understand the film and like it a lot more as I didn’t hate it and as a time killer it was decent enough. While Alita: Battle Angel didn’t leave me wanting more and the next chapters don’t entice much, the cold hard fact is this film would probably have been best had it been done 10 yrs ago as we might not have seen the same-type cyborg movies that have already been done so many times previous to it and this would have seemed fresh & new. As it was, I’ve seen it and it just was all used material from so many other films.

Lastly, do you need to watch it in IMAX/3D? The flying jumps and weapon projectiles do look good – but it’s a lot of extra money for something that isn’t essential.

Grade: C-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening Tuesday, February 7, 2019 ~ courtesy of 20th Century Fox
“ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL” IS OUT WORLDWIDE AS OF FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2019

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REVIEW: “LOVE SIMON” (2018) 20th Century Fox

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What a wonderful teen angst movie Love, Simon is. Simply put, it reminded me of my teen years watching John Hughes films and I just felt like this is something he would have made had he ever done a film of the challenges of a teen coming out. Our storyline focuses on Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) and his one ‘big ass secret’ that no one in the world but him knows. As he is not the type of flamboyant, gay guy obsessed with musicals etc, he is just an average high school teenage boy with a seemingly picture perfect suburban family. He has a sister Nora (Talitha Bateman), whom he actually admits to liking, a very picture-perfect pretty mom Emily (Jennifer Garner), and the I-just-get-better-looking-with-age- Josh Duhamel as his dad Nick. He has his circle of best friends in Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) Leah (Katherine Langford) whom have known each other all throughout their childhood, and along with new addition Abby Suso (Alexandra Shipp) rounding out their little clique, they are just your average high school teens..or so it seems. They go to a fairly average high school with a rather funny, hammy-over the top, trying to hard to be cool, Vice Principal Worth (Tony Hale) as I don’t really remember any Vice Principal in the history of Vice Principal’s ever being, but hey, it’s a movie after all.

The story focuses on Nick’s coming out – or more the fact that he’s not done so. He has however, started emailing someone named ‘Blue’ who is also a ‘hidden’ gay student at high school. They found each other on “Creek Secrets”, the local school gossip site where Blue does a coming out, in a sense. He reveals he’s gay, but not who he actually is. Nick responds to this with his own fake moniker “Jacques”. Unfortunately the whole secret emailing starts to get really messy when fellow classmate Martin (Logan Miller), the school’s somewhat nerdy dimwit, stumbles upon the email exchange. It’s with this that he proceeds to blackmail Nick into manipulating all sorta of social situations so that he can ‘get with’ Abby, whom he wants in a big way. This whole thing goes terribly wrong and you guessed it – Nick is outed by Martin in the worst way possible.

Even with the dramatic outing – can you sometimes feel the movie is a bit homogenized? Sure you can – but it’s also sweet and likable. As someone who has many gay friends and knowing sometimes the total and complete trauma they’ve undergone in coming our and how many have never been fully accepted by family or friends – they did make that all on the more simplistic side of things with having supportive parents and friends and of course a magical ending of Nick finally meeting his ‘Blue’ and everyone living happily ever after. But even with those few nitpicks, and that’s all they are is nitpicks – I still highly enjoyed myself and ran the gamut of emotions of laughing, tearing up, smiling & being happy for them all. Jennfier Garner & Josh Duhamel are really wonderful here as the parents and the whole cast of teens are highly likable and do a completely believable take on these characters. From me to you, take the family, take your friends, take everyone as it’s a wonderful film for teens and adults alike.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, February 22, 2018 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
LOVE, SIMON will be out in theaters Nationwide on Friday, March 16, 2018 // U.K. and Worldwide release to follow starting in April