Reviews

R

A collection of movie reviews for new and old movies alike.

 

Swiss Army Man

I… what did I even watch?

The best way I can describe this is “Absurdly stupid, but incredibly entertaining”. Almost everything about this is pretty damn original and balls-y, sort of like a meta-reflection of life through bad humor and fart jokes… and, believe it or not, it almost works!

I say “almost” only because, with such an incredibly high concept, you’d expect an equally brilliant ending of sorts, but sadly it ends up explaining little to nothing in the end. I would have actually been fine with that, honestly, if it was just left as a full-on open interpretation, or abruptly ending at a certain point, leaving you with a simple and contained “what if?” feeling, but instead the filmmakers seemed to almost want to allude to something, to guide you towards some hidden message they were just about to reveal at the end, something that they give the impression could be really something… but ends up being nothing. It’s mostly a tease, and a confusing one at that.

Still, aside from that sort of out-of-place ending, this whole thing was a wild journey in a positive way, as it wasn’t just a highly original idea, but it was objectively hilarious at times as well.

Also, is it just me, or is Daniel Radcliffe trying to be the new Leonardo DiCaprio? In the sense that DiCaprio wanted to shake off his “Titanic” fame as well as get his damn Oscar, whereas Radcliffe just wanted to shake off his “Harry Potter” fame, and so both ended up choosing the most absurd roles they can think of?

Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe, just for choosing this role, I should give 10 points to Griffindor.

 

 

Dragonball Super Broly

Now THIS is an anime movie!

Not that big in plot, doesn’t show too many new things that we haven’t seen before, and there isn’t an actual final climax per se in the ending (or at least it didn’t feel like it to me), but it still was a blast to watch and SO MUCH amazing fighting animations that it actually started to get tiring after a while. But hey, I’d be betraying and insulting my inner 10 year old if I even dared to say something like that.

I sadly never saw the original Broly movie, only scenes or the abridged version, but from what I do know this is also a huge improvement and reboot on the character Broly himself. Plus, now I’m REALLY excited at the prospect of maybe one day seeing him actually team up with the rest of the gang. That can’t be anything short of awesome.

When you wanna go stupid powerful, always head towards the DB franchise.

 

 

Bumblebee

Holy shit, a Transformers movie that doesn’t actually suck, and that possibly is even better than the first one, aka the only decent one we had until now! Good action, actual good characters that weren’t cringy or stock-characters (not as much as before, at least), actual emotions, actual humour that didn’t need to pander to toddlers, and more!

I didn’t even see “The Last Knight”, the only one I’m missing so far, simply because of how done I was with the franchise, especially after the incredible disaster that was “Age of Extinction” (I mean, HOW can you make dino-bots so underwhelming?), and yet now I find myself actually hoping for the first time in a long time that the franchise will continue on. Just… not with Michael Bay anymore, since clearly he ran out of steam after “Revenge of the Fallen” as far as I’m concerned (hey, it had Optimus Prime fuse with a fucking jetplane-Decepticon and make “Let’s roll” sound cool, you know what you paid that ticket for, and don’t @ me), openly admitted to not giving a damn about putting effort into this anymore, and a new director with experience in kid-friendly stop motion animation from Laika was clearly the right choice that needed to be made for live-action robot-cars-punching-each-other anyway.

Paramount, you got your get-out-of-jail-free card. Don’t waste it. It’s not that hard.

PS: John Cena is a FUCKING NATIONAL TREASURE, WE DON’T DESERVE HIM, BUT WE NEED MORE OF HIM, don’t @ me.

 

How to Train Your Dragon III – The Hidden World

The first time I saw the first film, way back in 2010, I was absolutely blown away. The characters were great, the directing was great, the music phenomenal, Toothless instantly became one of my all-time favorite dragons (and ya’ll know my obsession with dragons), the humor was on point, and it was all-around an amazing experience, even if the story itself was a little cliché… It was even something like my 11/12th-ish favorite movie (which isn’t saying a lot, I know, but I’ve always been extremely picky with my movies, so for me that’s saying quite something).

The second film was… pretty good. Honestly, I heard a lot of people say that it surpassed the original, but I didn’t feel that at all. I felt like it was re-treading a lot of the same ground of the first one, to the point that the third act basically felt like it was a carbon copy of the first installment, just with a different location. Still, I enjoyed it, and seeing Toothless was once again an absolute treat.

And now, nearly 10 years later, we have the (I would imagine — although you can never trust Hollywood these days) third and final film of this franchise. To be honest, however, it started to feel like it was on its last legs (dragon legs, if you will; I am funny). Its villain had a touch more charisma than the villain of the second film, but he ended up not being that memorable for the simple fact that his motivation wasn’t that interesting at all. Not that you need a full-on origin story, but something other than “I just want to hunt them down cause we can’t co-exist” was much needed. The biggest flaw, however, I think lies not only with him, but with the third act in general. Even if I had major issues on the similarities between the climaxes of the first and second film, at least I could recognise that the second one had amped up the stakes, and was much bigger and grander in scale. Here, however, I really didn’t feel that at all. It was like the filmmakers were out of ideas or just wanted to get this trilogy over with so they wouldn’t have the social pressure anymore. I’d even give it some credit in saying that, since all three films had towards the end SOME impacting, dark and deep moment that couldn’t be taken back (Hiccup’s legs in the first one, what happened to Stoic in the second one), because here Toothless and Hiccup had to actually say goodbye to each other seemingly for good, because their worlds just couldn’t fully co-exist. I say “Seemingly”, however, because it was sort of ret-conned at the epilogue by having a 7-ish (?) year time jump, Hiccup and Astrid take their kids to visit Toothless and his own new family at the Hidden World, and they reunite after so long. So, the big and adult moment that this series is known to have ended up having less of a punch this time.

With that said, however… man, somehow that epilogue really managed to hit home. Maybe it was the fact that this was nearly a decade in the making and a decade in getting attached to these characters and their very tangible bond, maybe because you really feel the impact of such a long time passing by, maybe it was that well written, maybe it was that well-directed, with that good of a score, or maybe the characters this whole time have been so well done that it feels more real than anything else… whatever it was, I really felt like I was seeing two old friends reunite after so long as if I myself had waited that long, and I really felt the “passing of the torch” moment being much, much brighter than expected. I nearly got chills.

Maybe I’m just biased toward this franchise and these characters… or maybe they just really did that good a job with them the whole time. And, in the end, aren’t the characters one of, if not “the”, main pillars of storytelling? If so, then maybe for all its flaws, maybe for all its faults in feeling more deflated than I would have liked, this film might have just saved itself with that very powerful ending.

Good save, guys. Barely — very barely –, but good save.

PS: If nothing else, seeing Toothless is always an immense fucking treat no matter what he does.

 

Captain Marvel

It was bad. But it can be passable if you don’t think about it.

***SPOILERS BELOW***

Get ready, folks. This is a big one.

Despite all that was going on online (and we’ll get to that in a second) I tried my best to wait and see the movie itself first before judging, because it is important to separate the art from the artist(s). In the end, I came out thinking “Huh. You know, that was actually pretty fun overall. Not perfect, certainly plenty of issues, but not worth the online fuss”. And that last part is especially true. Indeed, the trailers were far worse than what we actually got (thankfully) and so we can blame a certain percentage of the mess that has happened on those. Regarding the rest, however, while I did enjoy a large chunk of it, it ended up losing more and more of its quality the more I thought about it and had to revisit previously established story details of the MCU, rather it was by talking with friends about it or having them remembered by YouTubers. Is it the worst MCU movie? No, that title (sadly) still belongs to “Ant-Man and the Wasp”, but this movie still has some heavy issues that need to be addressed. I won’t split it into “good” and “bad” as I usually do, so let’s just go by individual categories in general:

STAN LEE:

First things first. This has one of the best tributes to Stan Lee I might have ever seen. Absolutely brilliant. This alone is a lot of extra points in the movie’s favor, and I can’t deny that. Good job, folks. Good job. *slow clap and salutes*

CAPTAIN MARVEL HERSELF:

She was ok. Just ok. Yes, there were a couple of cringy moments, and her character did brush dangerously close to being a Mary Sue at times, but in my opinion, she was saved just enough to stand on her own. Not necessarily well, but just enough by having at least SOMEWHAT of a personality.

VFX:

Some of the absolute best and worst at the same time. The best was easily the de-aging of Nick Fury, which was done so well that you actually forget for most of the movie that that’s actually a thing. A true testament of VFX artists is when you don’t notice their work, and this was truly an example of that, so bravo guys. The transformation of the Skrulls and photo-beam effects were pretty good, sure, as well as most of the effects. But then you get towards the end, at the third act’s climactic battle with CM herself blasting through spaceships, and… Jesus. Black Panther had rather bad CGI towards the end, sure, but at least you didn’t notice it as much in the theater itself. Here? It was baffling how ugly, unfinished and unrendered the CGI of CM was as she flew and glowed. Did they really just dump all their budget into Fury’s age, or what? Because there’s no way they could have looked at the model of CM flying around in the sky and said: “Yeah, we’re good now”. Again… Jesus.

DESIGNS:

Not much to say here. The MCU tends to have some pretty damn amazing designs, both in costumes and sets, and this is no exception. I did miss the darker area on the head of the Skrulls, but that’s really just about the worst I can say. The Kree and their homeworld are easily among the best parts, which is saying a lot considering I never really gave a damn about the Kree empire at all.

THE SKRULLS:

Here comes a big one. The first time I discovered the Skrull empire was with the introduction of the Super Skrull when I read the “Fantastic Four” as a kid, and I’ve loved them ever since. Ignoring the Super Skrull, their race was just amazing. An alien race of super-warriors who had the power of shapeshifting, meaning that they could turn into anyone, and infiltrate anything or anyone else with ease. The beauty of them came from there, and the fact that they are actually a very ambivalent race. There was never a single staple of “good” or “evil” for all of them like, say, for the Daleks in “Doctor Who”, but instead, while they were more often than not considered evil, on an individual level they were always very ambivalent, meaning that the story potential with them was virtually limitless. There’s so much you can do with these characters that are both multilayered and complex, and can easily impersonate anyone, making them the ultimate spies. I knew they were always rivals of the Kree empire, but I honestly never gave a damn about them, because they instead were always incredibly bland to me. Just some humanoid warrior aliens who were a bit stronger than normal, and were sometimes blue. Nothing else of relevance. Big whoop. They only existed as a counter to the Skrull empire, and that’s all I cared about. So, when they were announced as being in this movie, they were the main thing I was looking for. What happened? Well, a decent start, first. They’re depicted as just plain evil and conquering numerous planets and civilizations, with the Kree empire trying to stop them. Fair enough. But something happened. The Skrulls were being considered… well… “only” evil. This had me puzzled, something felt off, but still I continued watching with curiosity. And then, there’s the big reveal. It turns out that the Kree were the ones who were exterminating all the remaining Skrulls, and the Skrulls themselves were just innocents trying to run away. They were “refugees”.

Sigh.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that the idea of a refugee is in and of itself bad. Don’t get me wrong. And I can understand some changes can happen from the comics, and that certain fictional elements can help reflect real-life events… if done well. This not only robbed any of the original fasciations, potential and interest that the Skrulls had, but it was done in a really blatant, obvious and forced way. Can’t say I expected subtlety from Disney of all places, but this was really hammering it home. So much story potential flushed down the drain. Pure black and white. No greys. And I usually love the idea of monster-like characters actually turning out to be good… but these were the wrong species to test this with. Way to water it down. I know that they were interesting enough in the end, but it was only “just barely” so.

THE ACTION:

Pretty good. The last fight sequence ended up being a bit hard to watch because it looked too dark, but aside from that and the before-mentioned CGI, it was ok. Especially when CM was trying to escape the Skrull spaceship and when she’s on the LA metro.

THE STORY/NOSTALGIA:

This ended up being accidentally fascinating. Right off the bat, I should say that the beginning of the story is… rather poorly structured and paced. I understand that it was by necessity, and just to play devil’s advocate, I can’t think of any other way, at the moment, in which they could have paced this story considering the fact that it had to simultaneously: 1) give a sense of mystery by not showing the full origins of Carol Danvers at once in order to fully give the audience the impact and weight of her amnesia and 2) defy the expectations of both Danvers and the audience so that the “twist” could be impactful. With that said, as much as it was an impossible feat to balance all together properly, it still doesn’t work well. We’re being bombarded with very obvious exposition and then forced to see an equally forced series of flashbacks. Again, I can’t think of any better way to do it, so I don’t really blame the writers facing such a feat, but it doesn’t mean that it works. With that said, the rest of the movie, while having several issues here and there, ended up being really cheesy, predictable, and felt more than anything else like an extremely big-budgeted version of a 90s action sci-fi movie… which accidentally WORKED in its favour, at least for me, because it is specifically set in the 90s! I love me some 90s entertainment, and to see what would have been a well written 90s script, set in the 90s, with modern-day effects, gave a sense of nostalgia that hit all the right buttons as if this was a movie I had loved as a kid and I was rediscovering, despite the fact that it never existed up until now. It was likely all by accident, I doubt it was on purpose, but man, what an accidental “technical” save at the last minute. So, if that’s your thing like it is for me, you’ll enjoy it on the same level I did. If not, you’re likely not a 90s kid.

MARVEL HUMOR:

Thank fucking GOD, this wasn’t as bad as “Thor Ragnarok”. Yes, there was the usual MCU humor, and yes it was predictable and cringe-y at times, but it was spaced out, left a lot of room to breathe for serious moments to balance everything out, and it was just… acceptable. It was fine. Thank God.

CHARACTER INTERACTION AND ACTING:

Surprisingly solid. Sure, Larson didn’t act exactly in an Oscar-worthy way all the time (or ever) but considering the context of the character, where she lost her memory and what little she does remember is replaced with stoic and emotionless Kree training, it ended up suiting that type of acting well enough. Plus, she actually did have at least some charisma here and there, and there were moments where, even if it looked like she was still stoic-faced, she was able to make you feel what she was going through. Not to mention that she acted ESPECIALLY well when paired with other characters, such as with ex-co-pilot and long-lost friend Maria Rambeau (there was an especially touching scene with the two of them talking, and that can’t be denied), and even more so with Nick Fury. We all know that Samuel L. Jackson is a great actor, and here he pairs shockingly well with Brie Larson, and when you re-contextualize all of his character decisions with the rest of his MCU appearances, you can believe that he had this strong bond with her this entire time and that Carol Danvers was very often present in his mind, especially when Fury’s last action before the “snappening” of “Infinity War” was exactly to send a beacon to Danvers (sure, he could have done that before, but you get the idea). They just worked so well off each other. Bravo, folks. You certainly did this part well.

NICK FURY’S EYE:

Movie. Fuck off. I honestly didn’t think too much of this at first, but the more I did, the worst it sat with me. So, two things. First off, after the second action scene, during the fight on the LA metro, Fury finds out he was driving his car with a Skrull the entire time, and so tries to fight him off, and in order to win, slams his car into a bus and spins out of control to a stop. The Skrull is dead, and he got a serious injury to the eye. You’d think that this is the badass scene where we discover he had famously lost his one eye, right? Nope, it’s a scratch, but it’s fine. Then, later, in this movie we have a cat named Goose, who happens to join our gang of heroes on these various adventures. It’s the Abu/Momo/whatever other animal side-character and mascot of any other franchise. Good, gotcha. But you know that there’s more to this cat than meets the eye. Predictable as it may be, it turns out in the end that this cat Goose is a type of alien species that just eats anything in its way like a ferocious beast, with huge tentacles coming out of its mouth, and cartoonish-ly ingesting even multiple people way bigger than itself at a time. Alright, fine, you got your predictable and cheesy gag, cool. We’re getting close to the end of the movie, everyone wins, they’re in a space ship and they’re flying back to earth after saving the Skrull from Mar-Vell’s secret lab. All is fine and cool, and they’re laughing, and Fury is petting Goose, knowing now what a cute little monster he is.

The cat just scratches his eye out of the blue. That’s how Fury lost his eye.

What. The. Fuck. Yes, a later joke shows Coulson asking something like “Sir, is it true that you lost your eye fighting off Kree warriors?”, and Fury lies with “Yes, that’s the truth”. That’s the excuse to diffuse such a weak moment. Now, I wouldn’t actually give too much of a damn, considering that this was meant for humor, that the big badass look Fury got came from a cat all along. Hardy har har. HOWEVER, it wasn’t until I heard another YouTuber mention why this is crap. In “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, Fury specifically tells Steve Rogers “The last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye”. I completely forgot about this line, and now I can’t stop thinking not only that a great story potential was utterly lost here, but that Fury straight-up lied to Rogers.

Movie. Fuck off.

MAR-VELL:

Mar-Vell is the Kree warrior who was the ORIGINAL Captain Marvel (get it? Mar-Vell. Marvel. It’s funnier if you read it as a teenager), who transferred his powers to Carol Danvers after an explosion. HE was a male. Now, they changed Mar-Vell into a female.

Ok. Why?

No, it’s not exacting breaking the movie. Yeah, I get it that Disney wants to be PC. I just don’t think this was needed. The rest is fine enough, I guess. That is all.

PLACEMENT IN THE MCU:

Turns out Captain Marvel seems to be pretty damn important for the whole MCU. And the last-minute decision of this is painfully showing. Not only was a photo of her next to a plane that said “Avenger” the reason Nick Fury nicknamed the Avengers initiative in the first place, but the explosion that gave her powers was actually fuelled none other than by the Tesseract from the first “Avengers” movie, aka the freaking Space Stone of the Infinity Gauntlet, one of the pieces that allowed Thanos himself to (SPOILER ALERT) erase half of all life in the universe. This means that the reason she can freaking fly towards entire other galaxies is because she literally has (I guess partially at least) the power of said Space Stone, and will likely be the actual key of bringing the Avengers all the way to Thanos in order to defeat him. This was never in the comics, and it’s no wonder they’ve been pushing Captain Marvel to be so relevant. ALL of this… before confirming if she would work. Let me elaborate a bit on this:

CHARACTER RELEVANCE:

I am actually a bit concerned now. I see how much Marvel (the company, not the character, I know) has been putting extra effort into really trying to push this character onto us artificially, rather than organically, just because they got jealous of DC’s “Wonder Woman” status. And I get it, that’s fine. However, I think Marvel should have thought it through a bit more carefully before banking this heavily on this character, especially when there were other characters that could have been their “Wonder Woman” and been so more organically. Examples? She-Hulk. She-Hulk has always been badass, and if you want a symbol of a strong woman, you literally have her, and that’s her main gimmick. Better yet, she’s got near Hulk-like strength, PLUS gets to keep her own intelligence, so she’s a fierce and empowering character and warrior no matter how you see her, especially if that’s really the game you’re trying to play. I’ll play devil’s advocate again and assume that, perhaps, Disney didn’t have the rights to her yet. Sure, she’s of Hulk’s universe, but she’s also heavily into the “Fantastic Four’s” universe, which is owned by FOX, which Disney hadn’t bought yet at the time. Alright, so let’s assume they legally couldn’t use her. A huge shame, but fair. In that case, just use Scarlett Witch. She’s literally one of the most overpowered Marvel characters ever, and Disney has been using her already all this time. CAPTAIN Marvel, instead? While I knew a little before, upon further research, I’m now seeing just how much she has been rebooted and forced onto the scene, and she doesn’t seem to actually sell almost at all. A small niche fanbase? Sure, but extremely small. So, we’re being introduced to a character that struggled to remain that relevant all this time, that very few people were even aware of due to how many times she was rebooted, and she’s being placed as a huge centre-piece in a much grander puzzle 10 years in the making, without considering if she’d fit well. And this leads me to the big, red button…

BRIE LARSON:

  1. As mentioned before, I do my utter best to try and see art for art’s sake, to differentiate the art from the artist. And I think I did a fine-enough job with this, because I didn’t let the controversy surrounding Larson affect my judgement of the film itself.

For those of you who don’t know, “Captain Marvel” is, without a surprise, meant to push heavily on the idea of girl power and representation. Cool, gotcha, I actually don’t have a problem with that, good for you, etc. IF it’s done well (“Wonder Woman” being, as we all know, a wonderful example of this). This inevitably and predictably caused some issues. Some trolls online indeed made a fuss about this, and frankly, they could have been left at that. Trolls. Judging a movie they hadn’t even seen yet. Sure, the trailers were horrible, but they were still premature trolls. However, Brie Larson herself stepped in, declaring the infamous line “Well, this isn’t meant for 40 year old white males”.

And thus the shitstorm began. People started boycotting the movie, a 10,000,000 dollar loss was expected just from that one comment, Larson had to go on camera and try to clarify (although I personally could tell she wasn’t happy at the idea), etc. What do I think? I think everyone needs to calm their shit, and that both sides are wrong. No, trolls shouldn’t have made a fuss. Yes, it’s fine if you have a female hero. Yes, it’s fine even if she’s super relevant. BUT, you have to do her as well as you can, and do her right. And no, Brie Larson shouldn’t have caved in and given that comment. Why? Because inclusivity doesn’t mean exclusivity. Assuming most of your audience is in that same boat is a huge assumption to make, especially when the movie wasn’t even out for anyone to judge.

Again, the trolls were idiots, and Larson was wrong in assuming they were speaking for everyone. I frankly think the boycott was going too far too, and that people should see it regardless (which they did, even if not in the same numbers). However, may this be a warning sign for both Marvel, Disney, and Hollywood in general, AS WELL as the general audience. First, please, just calm the fuck down. This wasn’t worth getting in such a fuss over. Secondly… Marvel/Disney, this is showing that you pushed a message before quality first. You ended up saving yourself by skin of your teeth, sure, so good for you, but please just keep this in mind from now on. The story comes first. You can even change character’s origins, I don’t care, as long as you do it well, and make sure FIRST that your audience will want more of it, before shoving it into everything else. Because, now, you have an actress that has caused a huge amount of unnecessary controversy, and you’ve been banking 7 movie contracts on her. Please, watch your step. You’ve come this far, please don’t blow it just because of this one character and actress, especially when in the end she was just fine in the end and all of this needless mess could have been avoided.

So there you go, folks. I’m sorry it was so long, but I had to get a lot of this out of my head and elaborate/process this in writing. In short, yes, I liked it enough, but just BARELY enough, and even then it’s hanging from a string that’s losing its integrity. With any further analysis, it’s the most needlessly, structurally broken piece of the entire MCU. I just hope that Marvel and Disney will learn their lesson because I, like all of us, just want to see good stories and good characters, especially when there’s been such a great streak so far.

Let me know what you think below (I obviously hope that I have been somewhat clear on this, and if not, feel free to point that out and correct me below), and please, just watch and judge the movie for yourselves without needless boycotting. Let’s be mature about this. One last time, art should be separate from the artist (especially if it’s just one artist among many).

Take care, and enjoy the movie. If you can.

EDIT: I just found out that, apparently, Larson’s infamous comments weren’t about Captain Marvel, but about “A Wrinkle in Time”, so IF that’s the case, then what’s fair is fair, I partially take back what I said. I say “partially” because, 1) the idea still stands that inclusivity doesn’t mean exclusivity, and 2) “A Wrinkle in time” is one of, if not the worst, movie I ever saw in my life, that movie can royally fuck itself, everything about it is shit, it failed because it’s actually fucking horrible and not because white men didn’t like it, and defending that garbage is making a worst case for yourself than defending Captain Marvel, Brie. Watch it.

 

Before I Wake 

Come on, Netflix, you were THIS close to making at long last an actual good fucking original movie, for once! Sigh.

Anyway, really, REALLY good concept and metaphor overall and kept my attention for most of the movie, and kept defying expectations each and every time with each story beat… But then it fails at the very end. And considering this is made by Mike Flanagan, who made the “Haunting of Hill House” tv series and Netflix’s “Gerald’s Game”, it suffers from the exact same problems. Absolutely amazing, brilliant and fantastic ideas (not, not his ideas per se, but still) with great characters, directing, etc. overall, but then at the end Flanagan seems to get scared of the idea of giving these stories an actual tragedy, and pretends like this was a family movie all along with a happy ending. And not only that, but a happy ending that’s so forced and cheesy and hammered in with its “warmth” that it feels like it’s trying to apologise for being a horror movie at all. Not to mention the BLATANTLY obvious and hammered-in dialogue in the beginning and end.

Come on, man. Work on your endings.

Still, despite that it was a brilliant concept, just… Watch out for a very out-of-place ending. Again. This is already strike three. Gonna keep an eye on you, Mike. Mark my words.

 

 Alita: Battle Angel

 

I’ve been waiting since 2010 to see what this was going to be like, and as an avid anime fan, all I did was get more and more excited with each and every new trailer released.

And I can definitely say this, as a first summary: you can easily tell it’s at least somewhat from James Cameron. Visual porn, and baby writing.  

***SPOILERS BELOW***

PROS:

It. Looks. Amazing. Sure, no surprise here, the world looks gorgeous and whatever, but the real true achievement goes to the MoCap of Alita herself. Many feared she’d be falling into the uncanny valley, but man was this not the case. We finally get a character that looks like a live action anime character, and looks both GREAT and REAL. There were a couple of shots here and there where I really had to struggle to see how much of an effect this was, where they truly tricked me into believing she was filmed and not generated. The last time I can remember having this effect was with the first “Final Fantasy” film way back in 2001 (to be fair, I was 10 years old, but still it was my first experience where I truly couldn’t tell what was real and what was fake in CGI). Absolutely stellar job on her, and if this loses the best VFX Oscar grab to something else, that something else better step up their game, cause this is a tough one to beat.

The action. Alright, bear with me here. Anime has always had a very unique and stylish form of action and it all comes from an interesting way of balancing budget. In short, if a studio has a limited X amount of budget, American animation tends to have much more simple character designs in order to put more money into the actual animation of those characters, whereas anime tends to put most of their effort and budget into the sheer high detail of their characters (wrinkles in clothes, multi-layered lighting and shadows, the infamously highly detailed eyes, elaborate backgrounds, etc.) and saves money by keeping them as still as possible, often with only three or four shapes for the mouth that they move in semi-random cycles, choppy movements, and often padding the runtime with just moving the layers of drawings against each other, or overstuffing it with constant, slow exposition. It’s a choice and a staple of the genre, for better or worse, and can be appreciated (or forgiven) better if seen at a younger age. So, how does anime still have great action? Easy. They slow down and pad the dialogue and non-action scenes as much as possible for even twenty episodes at a time, going so far as recycling past events as unnecessary flashbacks, so that the best animators can be as busy as possible making that one, single episode that has the very BEST animation, and it’s always used for the very best of action scenes. That way, there’s both the benefit of highly detailed characters and worlds, and outstanding animation. It’s why non-live-action anime films work so well, because they have close to the same budget and can cram it into only two hours of runtime. Now, with all of that said, imagine that level of jawdropping animation, but with a 200 million dollar Hollywood budget, with James Cameron behind it. Fan-fucking-tastic. The energy, power, speed, strength, balance of weight and great agility, it really is some of the very best action I have seen in a long time! I saw “Alita” in 3D as well, but while I’m now certain that the gimmick really isn’t that necessary even for this, any format can work for this film. So yeah, absolutely great job there, folks. You did a damn great job indeed.

CONS:

Yup. Far more of cons than pros, unfortunately.

The acting. If you have one of the biggest producers out there, with his own golden goose as a budget, and you can afford top-notch actors like Jennifer Connelly, Maharshala Ali, and Christoph I-won-two-fucking-Oscars-for-the-same-Tarantino-role Waltz, you’d think you’d be getting the absolute best performances you can. But… that wasn’t the case. I don’t know if this was Robert Rodriguez who was more interested in visuals than performance, or if the actors didn’t care, but… yeah, they didn’t seem to bring their A-game here. Especially Waltz. Here I was, imagining “Oh shit! One of the best actors we have, interested in an adaptation of an anime and manga! Wow, could this mean that the medium is really being considered that highly? Could maybe even HE like it?!”. The answer seems to be a simple “Not really”. It felt like he was there for the paycheck, and that most of what was going through his mind was “What am I doing in this childish project? This is silly. Whatever, let’s get the job done and wait for Quentin’s call again”. I really didn’t expect that at all, especially from him. Also, in terms of the CGI characters, they have issues as well. For example, Rosa Salazar who plays Alita herself. I got to say, I see perfectly see why they chose her for her looks, she has a unique face that can help translate the exaggerated anime transformation in a much easier way, and that really worked. She didn’t necessarily act badly either. She just… wasn’t great. Considering she’s the poster girl for a multimillion dollar movie, that’s trying to break the live-action-anime-adaptation curse and jumpstart its own franchise and also the whole genre as a whole, you’d expect her to give an absolutely stellar performance, but there were times where she really felt stiff. Without going into spoilers, there’s one scene towards the end where she has to shout “NO!” and it feels like a really, really bored “no.”, and that really takes you out. Again, don’t know if this she had a glass ceiling for her acting and was pressing hard against it, or if Rodriguez just didn’t direct her well, but it shows, and the fault can’t be given to the motion capture in a world and era where Josh Brolin was able to give a stellar performance as Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War”, half a year beforehand, despite the CGI.

The directing. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make myself clear with this, but I’ll try. First, I should clarify, I am absolutely not a fan of Robert Rodriguez. Not to hate on the guy, I know he’s extremely passionate as a filmmaker, and I know he has talent, it’s just that his films seem to aim for things that are too ambitious for him to fully accomplish. The same thing seems to apply here. Again, the action is absolutely fantastic, but even then, while he did his best to capture a live action anime feel even in terms of camera movements and such, there were a few small moments that, while not terribly important, were just enough to feel like really missed opportunities. I know I’m nitpicking here, but hear me out. In the first episode of the anime, Dr. Ido turns out to be a hunter-warrior at night, a bounty hunter, and his signature weapon is a huge, rocket propelled hammer with a spike on its end. Pure, stupid, unnecessary, and wonderful badassery. When we’re introduced to this weapon, there’s a huge focus to its introduction, with a close up of the weapon as it charges up the first time to build up its importance, before giving a huge earth-splitting slam to the ground. It works because you give a build up and focus for that weapon, regardless of how effective and practical it actually is. Wonderful, gotcha, love it. In the movie? Dr. Ido, played by Waltz, takes out a suitcase and puts the pieces together like it was a sniper rifle (fair enough), but we already see said huge hammer in frame, with only a couple of quick but flat close-ups of the hammer powering up its rocket. There was never that build up from revealing the weapon, with the sweeping music, with the charging it, a shot of the camera following the movement of the hammer’s swing as it slammed towards or against the enemy. It was just… there, and such a huge weapon in the hands of someone like Christoph Waltz ended up just looking silly and impractical. Not that a rocket hammer is very practical to begin with, but here there wasn’t even an attempt to make it look like a menacing weapon, so it ended up being utterly pointless and out of place, had it not been for the fact that it’s in the original manga. But we’re talking about a movie, here, so that isn’t a factor anymore. There are even acting-directed moments that don’t make sense, such as when Dr. Ido denies Alita the chance to fight in the Motorball competition (if I recall correctly) and Alita herself smashes her fists into the metal operating table, leaving a huge dent, and screaming “NO!”. That would be fine, except for the fact that there’s nothing that leads up to such an exaggerated reaction. The conversation was perfectly fine beforehand, and when this argument comes out, it’s an out-of-the-blue and forced angry “NO!”. Had it been a calmer “no” that would have been fine, but as it is, it just doesn’t flow. Ironically enough, that stronger “NO!” should have been switched with the final shout at the end, when Yugo falls from the huge tube to his death, but instead that is the moment where we get the laziest “no” I might have ever seen. Seriously, they had it backwards. All of these examples, among many others (that, frankly, I can’t even recall anymore specifically) are all to show how the directing is creative a lot of the time… but then gets lazy the rest of the time. I don’t know, maybe this is just me rambling.

The dialogue. Put plainly, it’s not that good. There were moments where certain words were repeated twice too close to each other, or were cliché, or downright redundant. It needed another draft or two for sure. It’s serviceable enough, but at times it’s even bad.

Finally, the big one. The writing. While there are many issues (it’s cliché, character motivations aren’t 100% motivated most of the time, etc.) I would have been fine with absolutely all of its issues… if it weren’t for one, glaring one. The finale. Like I said, I didn’t read the manga, and saw only the two-parter anime episodes, so I have no idea how it continues, but at this point there’s a chance I’ll never know in live action form. Why? Because this film has the most blatant and shameful form of sequel-begging I have ever seen.

Most of the film, for all its faults, was perfectly fine and entertaining, and gave me many high hopes, but then we get to a climax that didn’t really feel very climactic at all for some reason, and that reason ended up being because there is really no ending. It’s left on a huge cliffhanger. Right when you think the third act is over, they set up an extra little act, leaving the audience questioning “wait, you’re setting up more? But the runtime’s almost over, and even if poorly executed, you had your climactic ending! What gives?”. What gives is that the true, main villain, that was alluded to this entire time, ended up being a surprise final boss, with just the briefest of introductions, with the death of one of the main characters, Alita getting ready to get her revenge and getting ready to go up and tackle this big baddie Nova, and… it ends. Sweeping epic music, and cut to black.

That is not a cliffhanger, that is a ripoff. Say what you want to about how cliché the Marvel-like post-credit scene is nowadays, that formula works if you really want to sequel beg, because you get your cliffhanger and create a satisfying three act structure with a beginning, middle and end, incentivising your audience that the money spent was worth it, and indeed they can relive the experience next time. But this is the worst way to go with this route. In this manner, the film feels simply incomplete, and that’s all the feeling you really have at the end. The ending of a film, or at least the third act, is the thing that leaves the biggest impact on the viewer, and with this decision they made sure that the audience’s last memory was “it’s incomplete, I don’t know if I want to spend my time and money again for the same feeling in the future”. Writers, take note: Do. NOT. Leave. Cliffhangers. Like. This. It is by far the cheapest trick you can give to moviegoers, especially when you’ve spent God-knows-how many millions of dollars and years of preparation, which will make it all the harder for the box office to keep up with the expense, in an industry and medium that’s so unpredictable in its multitude of factors that you could fail due to the slightest misstep, and your greatest promise can easily never come to fruition.

After so much hype, so much excitement, and after such a responsibility to do everything in your power to break a stigma such as the anime-live-action-adaptation-curse, James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez nearly ruined everything just for this one, single, incredibly bad decision that goes against any basics of filmmaking. Yes, FILM-making. Because this might have felt like a cliffhanger for your average anime (which is fair), but when you transition to a medium, you have to abide as best as you can to at least the base foundation of that medium. Don’t like it? It can’t be done with a three-act-structure of a single Hollywood blockbuster film? Pace it differently in order to franchise it, or change medium and go to Netflix for a TV show, if you have to, but don’t break what’s not broken.

Sigh.

With all that said, while that one glaring problem has left a huge negative impact on me, and has in fact pretty much cut my enjoyment of this film in half, what was good was really good, and I do hope that A, the filmmakers learn never to do such a horrid mistake ever again, and B, that they do manage to be saved by a sheer miracle in order to give us a sequel and repair the damage. Because I really, really want to see more of this world, these effects, these characters, and more, and I want Hollywood to understand that live-action-anime-adaptations not only should be done, but can be done well.

Please give economic support for this film before it crashes and burns, even if just once, and let’s hope for the best. Peace out.

 

 Long Shot

If, when watching the trailer, you thought that the premise alone was bad, then just don’t bother.

Produced by both Theron and Rogen, they really could have spent their money elsewhere. Sure, it was well acted (hard to make Theron act badly, and in fact, she showed she has some comedic chops too), decently shot and edited, and… That’s about it. Aside from the technical details, it ranges from bland to bad.

The very worst part was the writing. How does a script this predictable and overdone still exist in 2019? You can smell everything that’s going to happen from the trailer alone and it doesn’t add anything else. Not only that, but considering the premise alone is so ridiculous and far-fetched, you’d think they’d throw just SOMETHING in it to help either subdue or at least take advantage of the suspension of disbelief. But no. Just… Nothing but cringe all the way through. 99% of jokes land exactly as you’d expect. Aside from one scene, it has very, very little meat or substance to offer. An empty meal. And honestly, it’s just showing that I’m right not to trust movies starring Seth Rogen. I have nothing against the guy, he’s fun, we all know that, but he chooses the most bland of comedies 90% of the time. A great talent that I have an extremely hard time pin-pointing in good roles. Come on, man. I don’t want to think of you as overrated.

Also, I expected way more from the director of “Warm Bodies”. You had such potential man, come on.

No, it’s not nearly the worst movie ever made, nor the worst one of the year. Worst than that, it’s bland. Heck, maybe its most memorable thing is exactly how unmemorable it is.

Just steer away from it, folks.

PS: although I got to admit, I had NO idea that was Andy Serkis. Jesus, if he’s not covered in top notch CGI, it’s top notch makeup.

 

 Stuart Little 

SHYAMALAN fucking wrote this?!

It’s always so weird to revisit blasts from the past and see how different things were back then in terms of production, budget, look, etc. Still, while this started off REAL cheesily (and man, this concept can work for a children’s book, but it’s such a hazard to translate into live action with a straight face), it surprisingly managed to keep its momentum going. In fact, more than that, stupid as the premise is (‘cause it’s pretty baffling, really), I was surprised by two things:

1) How much this movie throws at you. You think you’re done with the movie, that you know where it’ll go next, but nope, halfway there it throws you a curveball and a whole new plotline that still latches well enough to the rest that was established before comes out. It definitely understands how not to be boring and how to keep your attention going.

2) Considering the actors had to act with a little toy or literally nothing at all, they did an overall pretty damn good job, and by god, you actually FEEL something after all. Sure, in a very simplistic and childish way, but deeply so. That’s what it does best. It keeps the emotions so simple and raw and clear that you have no choice but to feel them.

So yeah, actually glad I got to revisit this after nearly two decades.

… And saying that just made me feel painfully old.

PS: can we all just acknowledge that Nathan Lane is damned amazing, and that he deserves more work, especially as a voice actor? Why don’t we get more of him anymore? Get to it, Hollywood.

 The Silence

No, not the one by Scorsese.

Also, man, ever since “A Quiet Place” last year, Hollywood really has been trying hard to cash in on the horror-movies-without-one-of-the-senses gimmick.

Anyway, this was OK. Enough. Just that. In its favour, it actually managed to remain way, WAY more consistent with its rules, character motivations and world building compared to AQP. The middle of the movie seems to be the best part, where they’re pretty logical in terms of the actions the main characters take. Arguably the most clever moment came from the bad guys who try to infiltrate the house towards the end. That was admittedly pretty ingenious, for bad guys.

With that said… It’s not always that consistent. There are small details here and there that just don’t add up. For example, if it really is a post apocalyptic world (even if very recently so), how the hell did that iPad remain in service for so long? Not even including the electricity needed to power it, but the signal. I can understand power grids and electric plants possibly going on alone for some time in the case of an emergency if there’s no personnel, but what about reception towers? Do they really survive on their own for what seemed like weeks or months without supervision? Cause the main character had that damn iPad with her even in the woods, away from homes, and out of the blue she gets reception again. Is that feasible, or is it bullshit?

So there’s that, plus as a story it’s not that cohesive or well balanced. The beginning was sort of OK at best, but the ending really felt like the filmmakers just said “eh, whatever” and gave up, wrapping up the movie in the most generic and cliché way possible.

One more thing. The uncle. A character that gets introduced out of the blue as if he was always there (when he wasn’t, from what I remember) right before the action started, we barely get an idea of what his character is like, and all we get is exposition that’s basically “He’s just a swell guy. The most selfless person I know. He was always there for me as a kid. I’d trust him with my life”, etc etc etc. Yeah, NO way he wasn’t going to be the first one to die, and I called it. Yeesh, no subtlety at all.

So yeah, all in all, it’s… fine. Very basic, very little new. If you have nothing else at all to watch, I guess this could work for you, if nothing else because there are occasional interesting moments. But just those, moments.

Also, this was one Lucy Davis cameo away from being an alternate reality “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” spinoff.

 

 Hellboy

I heard it was bad. But not this bad.

Granted, it got a little better as it went on, it’s easily not the worst movie ever, and there actually are some redeeming qualities in this, believe it or not… But MAN, especially in the beginning, from the first shot even, my jaw literally dropped for a while from how bad it was. The biggest investment Lionsgate had to offer, and it was this.

Nearly everything was bad. The editing and pacing was all over the place, and along with its mood, the sound was obnoxiously loud without balance. It needed to just shup every now and then. The directing? All over the place, this director didn’t even seem to know how to reveal anything, whether it’s a character, a mcguffin, anything at all (among other directorial problems). The script? Well, there’s exposition dump, and then there’s exposition vomit. Take a guess which one this is. Acting? Most actors didn’t have much to go with, sure, but some actors did their job so badly, or at best were directed so badly, that they stuck out like a sore thumb. Main example? Mila Jovovich. Girl, get a better agent. You were supposed to get OUT of “Resident Evil” quality movies, and even there I can’t remember you acting so badly. Come on, I know you can do better, ‘cause you have.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what went wrong. But, as I mentioned before, there are some (SOME) good things in it. Number one?

David fucking Harbour. Now, I love the first Hellboy by Del Toro, as well as Ron Perlman in that role, don’t get me wrong… But man, I could feel that Harbour was the right choice when he was first announced, and I was still wrong because I didn’t expect to love him THIS much. He’s just so damn charismatic, and the very worst lines actually feel somewhat in character when coming out of him. He was easily the very best part of the movie, hands down. He just needed a better movie.

I’ll also say, while it was a bit much to take in all at once, and while they were unbelievably gross, the designs were damn amazing. Even Hellboy’s design, which I couldn’t get into outside of poster-format, ended up growing on me. Or maybe it was Harbour making it work, GOD he did such a great job!

One more thing that actually did work. As someone who’s been obsessing and loving Metal music more and more in the past couple of years (and I already really liked it before) this movie had some of the very best and most METAL scenes I might have ever seen and I couldn’t help but grin widely every now and then. I was hating myself for it because I was giving a positive reaction to such a bad movie, but man, when something works it just works. And it’s only accentuated by it being an R rated movie, so accompanied to all of the imagery was just how glorifyingly VIOLENT this was. I couldn’t help it, I loved all of those parts.

 

So yeah. It was really bad. Not nearly the worst movie I’ve ever seen, I can think of other superhero movies that are worse still, and I definitely wanted to see Del Toro finish his saga properly. It had some good parts, and I feel like I might forgive this more over time and maybe stash it in the “guilty pleasure” box (in chopped pieces though, and those pieces will still be better edited than the whole), but yeah, it just wasn’t good.

Come on, Lionsgate. I know you need your franchise fix after ending “Hunger Games”, but this isn’t the way to do it. Should have stuck with Guillermo, or at least with “Power Rangers”.

 

 Death Note

Oh. My. Fucking. GOD, THAT WAS SO FUCKING BAD.

Ok, ok, I’ll be a fair at first. Few actually decent things. Cinematography? Beautiful, ideal for this. Willem Dafoe as Ryuk? Perfect casting choice. L? He… had at least a few brief and decent moments (and I do mean only ‘moments’). Light’s dad wasn’t too shabby either.

Now, the rest. NOTHING GOOD. How can you royally fuck up and screw an original concept like this in such a bad way? I can understand topping such a masterpiece of an anime wouldn’t have been possible, but THIS bad? The first five minutes were laughable at best, utterly and shamefully unwatchable at average. Story was just completely run over (and hey, to be fair, it ain’t easy squeezing 50+ episodes into one movie, but COME ON). The motivations and characters? Just the absolute fucking worst. Light’s a scared idiot, L is far too emotional and reckless as well, Misa (oh, sorry, “Mia” apparently) ends up being half a villain in the end, and Ryuk… holy shit. HE’S THE MOTHERFUCKING BAD GUY! He’s supposed to be the most ambiguous and laid back of them all, he was just bored and wanted to see how things went, but here he’s ACTIVELY trying to orchestrate all the damn events, and none of them make any sense!

Just… just… oh my God, I’m so happy I was able to at least laugh a bit at some parts from their sheer stupidity, and I’m so glad I’ll never have to willingly watch this trainwreck ever again.

Such a goddamn waste. No one bother watching this at all, if anything, note it as a case study on what not to do on film.

 

Dunkirk

For crying out loud.

Great, utter meh. If I want to be generous.

Positives: Cinematography (no surprise), acting was serviceable, effects too. The best scene was arguably when they’re sinking inside that ship, and anything with the character of the father (cause Mark Rylance is awesome).

Negatives: Where do I start?

Perhaps here. This isn’t a movie, it’s a documentary. A big, multi-million dollar documentary in film clothing. Nothing wrong with documentaries, sure, but in that case just do that and be honest about it. Aside from the father and two sons, nearly all the characters had nothing that could resemble a memorable character. In fact, we’re just thrown into the whole thick of the high-tense war without getting a chance to properly know anyone. They’re just stock characters. Sure, they’re based on real-life people, understandable, but we should KNOW them if we want to fully relate to them. “Surviving” and “making it out” is better than nothing, but it’s not enough.

Regarding the action scenes. I heard people say it was as gut-wrenching as “Saving Private Ryan”. If that’s the case, this isn’t even in the same league. At best the airplane fights were interesting due to the realism in their slowness, but the rest of the action was otherwise surprisingly slow and especially monotone, and I was mostly bored by it. I’m not asking for Michael Bay levels of action (dear God, no…) but man, this was all just one note.

The editing. Someone PLEASE hire a better editor for Nolan, cause this might have had either some of the worst, cringe-worthy, or most boring editing I’ve seen in a while. “Batman Begins” had bad editing all around, sure, but it could have been seen as uniformly bad, whereas here, while the majority of the film was just slow and monotone with its action, I’m utterly shocked at how clumsy, bad and awkward the editing at the very beginning and very end were, so much so that it looked like it was student-level editing. I haven’t seen such a badly edited opening since “After Earth”. It’s SO close to that. And no, I’m not kidding. I… I just have no words at how bafflingly bad that opening and ending were.

And here I thought that, after “Interstellar”, Nolan was gaining momentum again.

 

 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 

So, I recently decided to go through the entire “Man with no name” trilogy. I think I only saw “For a few dollars more” and “The Good, the bad and the ugly” once before, and even then it was well over a decade ago when I was in high school. So, can’t say I remembered much. So what did I think?

Well, first off, as a small side note, not gonna lie… I hate westerns. I really do.

There, I said it. Ironic, considering the film I made a year ago, I know. But I have my reasons. In short, the best way I can describe my view of westerns is that, as a genre, it’s like bread. Pretty bland on its own. You’d have to put a lot of effort into making some damn fine bread to make the experience actually enjoyable just with that. However, since I compare westerns to bread, it also means that it’s one of the only genres I can think of that pairs wonderfully with anything else. Throw in some tomato-like fantasy? You got yourself a fantasy-western bruschetta. Throw in some comedy-like jam? You got yourself a hilarious toast. Throw in some scifi-like ham? You got yourself a scifi-western sandwich. Aka, why I made the film I did last year. In other words, I find pure westerns to be pretty boring, but pair them with any other genre (comedy, fantasy, scifi, horror, etc.) and suddenly I’m WAY more interested in them to the point of near obsession. I have a very hard time enjoying westerns in any other way, unless, again, they’re done uniquely well, such as with Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” or “Hateful Eight”, the Cohen Brother’s “True Grit”, or…

Sergio. Fucking. Leone.

To summarise the trilogy, “For a Fistful of Dollars” was… you know, pretty good. Nothing great or special, mostly cool-looking. But, in the long run, I had a really hard time paying attention to the plot, so it was a very hard digest for me and ended up being half-cool-half-boring, to me.

“For a Few Dollars More” is a huge improvement. I cared a lot about the characters, they and the plot were more complex and interesting, the directing was much more creative, etc. Especially the second half ended up being pretty damn good.

But this? Yeah, I had no recollection as to just HOW good “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” was. Just plain VASTLY better than either of the previous ones. For its time, it had pretty decent sound design all things considered, absolutely excellent cinematography and set design (they clearly trusted Leone by this point, and thank goodness), all the characters were even more likeable and memorable, the music… I mean, what hasn’t been said about Ennio Morricone’s score? Come on, now, it’s already stuck in your head. And then, aside from a much, much tighter and fine-tuned script and pace that made it hard to find dull moments, the directing in this was. Just. Excellent. Leone really did learn a lot from his previous movies, and it came out full force in sheer mood, pacing, action, framing, timing, and creativity. Heck, the only issue I could find is that maybe the whole bridge scene felt like an unnecessary side-quest, and it’s overall pretty long, but that’s about the worst I can say.

Also, Jesus Christ, Clint Eastwood really does cement into concrete form the words “cool” and “badass”.

So yeah, even my biased ass can’t help but bow down to the man who jump-started the spaghetti western, an entire genre of its own accord, and being a citizen of that dude’s same country admittedly does give me a tiny bit more pride, something that doesn’t happen easily at all.

What else can I say? Keep your John Wayne, I’ll happily join the crowd in praising this masterpiece from now on. Few times have I been so glad to be wrong.

PS: You know… for the “Man With No Name” trilogy, they sure do call Clint “Joe” a lot in the first one…

 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best movie ever? No. Arguably best and most faithful Spiderman movie? FUCK YES.

And that’s really really hard for me to say, if anyone knows me. I’m a hardcore Spiderman fan, and the 2002 first Sam Raimi version still remains my favorite, so for me to say that this comes close, if not almost at the same level (again, though, “almost”), it really means something. And who’d have thunk it? Sony, of all things, did a better job at Spiderman than Marvel itself did. Sure, being animated meant a lot more freedom to go balls-to-the-walls crazy, and less pressure from NEEDING to connect to a bigger and more vast MCU, but still this could have gone south in so many ways.

The design and style wasn’t just good and creative, but you easily got used to it, and it ended up being unique. The music is awesome and pumps you up while matching the rhythm perfectly. The action was phenomenal. The voice acting was on point for everyone (Nic Cage as Noir Spiderman was shockingly perfect, and I forgot how damn cool that version of spidey can look). Directing? Near perfect and incredibly creative, especially for an animated film. And the writing? Fan-fucking-tastic. Not only genuinely hilarious, but also well structured, heartwarming, and with actual shocks, surprises and lots of them strong feels. I’m glad I wasn’t too familiar with Miles’s backstory, because this way I was able to experience it all in full. No regrets.

So yeah, Sony, THIS is how you do things properly, and if you make more sequels out of this, I’m pretty sure I and many others will be perfectly on board. You finally have a cash cow you can properly milk. DON’T blow it.

Your friendly neighbourhood fanboy.

 

Mowgli

Andy Serkis did a better job with this story than Jon Favreau did with his version a couple of years ago. There, I said it.

Sure, the Disney version had much better editing and special effects (when you have Disney money, it’s kind of a given most of the time), but aside from that, this trumps the other in almost every other way. Better creative directing (although admittedly just by a bit), and most importantly a much, much better story. The story of “the jungle book” has been done to death, and putting a new spin on it is as easy as putting a new spin on “A Christmas Carol”. Not impossible, but highly difficult, and when done right and achieved, it becomes a real something. Serkis easily did this. And no, there’s no blame put on Favreau himself because he had to do what the Mouse wanted, which was a live action remake of their animated version, and that’s fine and fair. Still, one ends up being a re-chewed version of a very simple and chill road-trip-esque ride, while the other does a good exploration of the importance of identity, belonging, family, etc., and does so with a much darker and grittier (effective) tone. Not perfect, but really good and dark. Seriously, there was one moment in the third act that was so unexpectedly dark and heart wrenching that I felt a punch to my gut. I’d say the latter has much more meat to it and is much more worth your time. Good job, Mr. Serkis, especially for your freaking directing debut.

PS (ita): il doppiaggio non è maluccio, tutto sommato, ma ci sono state due volte in cui si sono palesemente dimenticati di mettere l’audio del doppiaggio. Eccheccazzoraga.

 

Aquaman

Almost every live-action DC movie from now on should visually emulate this. I’m dead serious.

Sure, it’s stupid, the script could have benefitted from a rewrite or two especially with its dialogues. I found a couple of plotholes (for example, why are the main leads on a boat after a while when they’re Atlantians and can just torpedo themselves away? But I digress, it was pointed out to me that there could be an issue of conserving energy for the next fight to come, so it’s up for debate). It’s pretty damn simple and cliché as far as plots go, and there were moments when the attempted humor didn’t deliver as intended… But by God, James Wan might have just reworked the entire visual language of the DCEU from now on, and considering the box office results, it could even be an official certainty. This was absolutely stunning to watch. Magnificently beautiful designs (a special shout out here, because it can’t be easy making Aquaman, of all people, look cool), great visual effects (if you don’t count the sub-par green screens and de-aging), real fun acting (not Oscar worthy but it didn’t need to be) and awesome action in almost every way one can think of.

In all seriousness, the main issues I found were the following:

1 – Black Manta was an amazing villain with a perfectly justifiable origin story… Whom you love when he’s on screen, but you immediately forget about when he’s not on screen due to an overload of other stuff. Here’s hoping he gets a bit more next time, to say the least.

2 – Bad green screens, as mentioned before.

3 – Pretty standard and predictable plot that doesn’t add much in terms of novelty.

4 – Lots of exposition underwater, right when voices are distorted. But that might just be me.

5 – A couple of small plotholes here and there.

That’s all I can think of at this time. And in a movie as long as this, with so much happening all at once, that’s not bad at all. Especially for a fucking Aquaman movie, of all things. It knew what it was, and took advantage of its stigma to just go full-on ridiculous with no shame, and I loved it for it. Heck, the intro with the submarine alone is so stupidly awesome that I could forget it even if it was worse than what we got. And just one moment of acknowledging its other films!

So yeah, not all DCEU films should be like this (Batman being an obvious example), but pretty much all the other ones should take notes from this from now on. It took WB years to get out of the Nolan-esque grittyness after it had run its course, and at long last we can say there’s two DCEU films that are actually enjoyable (this and “Wonder Woman”). Keep it up, WB, cause you’re finally on the right track.

That, and clearly shooting in Italy has proven to be your good luck charm now, so keep it up.

 

Deadpool 2 Extended Edition

EXTENDED EDITION.

It’s amazing how much of a difference editing can make. Yeah, there wasn’t too much that was missing from the theatrical edition, so the plot still remains the same. With that said, I now see both versions have their own pros and cons.

Theatrical cut: Pros are that it’s much smoother and more digestible, and has overall better editing, timing and pacing quality in my opinion; cons, it leaves less of an overall impact, its simplicity having less substance to it, and the jokes and humor feel a little cheaper somehow (if that makes any sense).

Extended edition: Pros, the story is admittedly not only clearer, but it becomes much more memorable, you really get much deeper into the mood and characters, you feel them and their struggles much more deeply; cons, there were a couple of moments where the editing actually wasn’t that good, where the timing was just slightly off enough to be distracting and pull you out of the experience, and it tends to be a smidge slower in pace and timing, making the experience less streamlined.

So yeah, pick your poison. Both had pros and cons in their own rights. But, with that said, I remember leaving the theater having had a good time, but without it leaving an impact on me after a while. This extended version instead certainly did. So yeah, I’d say that the Extended edition, for all its faults, is the winner here. Not sure if I’d consider it better than the first one or not, but certainly much better like this, if you consider it on its own.

 

 Roma

GIVE. THIS. WOMAN. HER. FUCKING. OSCAR.

Finally got around to seeing this, and man, Cuarón really did confirm once again that he knows his stuff. I can’t say that this is worthy of Best Picture, much as I loved it, but it should definitely get best Director, best cinematography (Jesus, Cuarón directed AND shot this at the same time, he really deserves that because it’s hauntingly beautiful to watch, even if it was a series of “seemingly” simple shots) and Best Actress in a Leading Role.

True, I haven’t seen a number of the other nominations yet, but I’ll be damned if I can find anything better than what newcomer Yalitza Aparicio did. Without going into spoilers, the scene where she’s in the hospital (those of you who saw it know what I’m talking about) was a goddamn incredibly powerful moment. I teared up, and wanted to cry even after, just thinking about it again, and I still feel heavy in the chest after having finished it. What an amazing scene and performance, and it just shows that this director knows the true power and meaning of the absence of music in film. Along with “Children of Men”, this might be Cuarón’s best film in my opinion, and I really can’t tell at the moment which I prefer the most (although, suspiciously/interestingly, both have really powerful scenes regarding childbirth… huh).

So yeah, absolutely loved this. Full-on adoration for a film that had such a small and simple story, and made it as vivid as the black-and-white contrast it was shot in. Bravo, good sir. Bravo indeed.

PS: That was quite the un-subtle self reference to “Gravity” you did there, Al.

PPS: FYI, you got all of Italy incredibly confused and misled by your title. Just sayin’.

PPPS: I still think nominating this for BOTH Best Picture and best Foreign Language Film is bullshit. Either pick one, or give an extra Oscar to both “Cinema Paradiso” and “Life is Beautiful”.

 Cold Pursuit

When the title cards in your movie are the most interesting and memorable part, it’s not a good sign.

This really had no idea at all of what it wanted to be. Is it a “John Wick” wannabe? Is it “Fargo”? Is it “Keeping Mum”? Is it “The Godfather”? “The Raid 2” minus the fighting and action? “Taken”? “The Grey”? Really no identity of its own, and because of that it becomes just a scrambled mess. However, it is SUCH a mess that it actually crosses the border and enters “fascinating train wreck” mode. Not even a so-bad-it’s-so-good, just… A mess that you can’t piece together, and can only enjoy if you laugh at how much it tries to Frankenstein itself.

Also… MAN it’s not helped at all by the fact that it has just absolutely clueless and choppy editing. Really, really bad editing.

Definitely not worth buying a ticket to, barely worth watching for free… But give an Oscar to whoever did those title cards, cause they’re truly that brilliant.

 

A Star Is Born

Wait… it’s a FOURTH remake?!

Sigh, whatever.

Anyway, in the same way “La La Land” can be seen as a deconstruction of the “happily ever after” trope, “A Star is Born” does the same thing. On steroids.

This isn’t to say that it’s bad — far from it, it’s actually REALLY objectively good, all things considered — just that it’s heavy to process what it is. False advertisement aside (part of which is my own fault for not knowing it was, again, a fourth damn remake), it manages to be very well written, and terrifically well acted. I can’t say I’ve ever been a Lady Gaga fan, but it’s always been clear that she had talent and could sing. I just could finally appreciate it without all the Picasso-ing. And yeah, I know that she acted in “American Horror Story”, but considering that I never saw that beyond the first 6 episodes, I had no way of judging, so for a first time seeing her act, it was a hell of a bang to go with.

However, there are a few issues here and there. First off, regarding Gaga herself, as absolutely great as her performance was, there’s an interesting comparison to make between her and Yalitza Aparicio’s performance in “Roma”. Does it really count as superb acting, when both are competing against each other for having portrayed roles that are so similar to their real lives that it becomes hard to tell if it was actual acting or just self expression? Well, either way, that’s really the only problem I’d see there. I still also think that Yalitza did a better performance overall, even if by a hair further, but Gaga certainly deserves the praise she got for this. Let’s see if she manages to do the same in the future with a role where she doesn’t have to play a singer, or someone in weird make-up.

The only other issue I would have is that the story, while definitely good and well told, is rather… predictable. And this is coming from me who, again, didn’t know this was a damn remake. Although it does all make sense now. It feels like a carefully well polished script from at least two or three generations ago, with just enough of a sharp edge to it to justify it being such a retold story. You know from the start that there’s only a small handful of endings this could have, and you’re just going through the motions from sheer muscle memory. But even then, if this new polish is good enough to make all the right emotions actually come through the way they were originally intended, fresh, powerful and crisp even to this day, it means that they’re doing something right and that maybe this was somewhat worth it after all.

The songs were… well, just kinda ok for me. The very first one stuck the most, the rest was kinda ok, generic, forgettable, or Hollywood-ish. Maybe it’s just me.

So yeah, pretty good all things considered, with even Cooper doing a really good job not only as an actor (no surprise) but as a director who also had to direct himself (THERE’S the surprise). Good job, sir.

PS: Hey, Matt from “Heroes” is in this too! Good to see you still working, Matt. Good for you, buddy. Keep it up. Keep it up, indeed.

 

 Birdbox

 So… “Birdbox” gets slammed for having a huge amount of plotholes and inconsistencies despite having at least consistent character decisions, but “A Quiet Place” is praised for being brilliant with little to no plotholes.

Right.

Not to say that this was perfect or anything like that, but considering the sheer hate this had over the past couple of months, I was expecting WAY worse. Sure, the monsters don’t make any sense, but that’s what they were going for, a full-on mystery that can’t be understood by the characters, so the audience won’t either. Lazy? Sure. Consistent? At least that. And while the rules are also a little wonky here too, at least it’s the rules that don’t make sense, and not the characters themselves. I still can’t stop thinking how much of a huge plothole it is that, in “A Quiet Place”, there’s these monsters that’ll kill you if you make a sound (brilliant, sure) and so this family has to do their utter best to stay quiet pretty much all the time… except for a conveniently placed waterfall that drowns all their noises anyway and they decide to visit the place on extremely rare occasions instead of, you know, living there. At least in “Birdbox” the characters, while all screwed up and forced to contend with ridiculous rules, remain consistent in following them and adapt accordingly.

But no, “A Quiet Place” makes more sense, gotcha.

So yeah, while this film has a lot of issues (I’d argue that it fails in particular with its dialogue, which could have used another draft or two), and it isn’t even remotely scary enough to merit its horror genre, it’s actually not as bad as what I heard people say. Not great, but not that bad.

… Seriously, why didn’t they just go live near that damn waterfall?

 

 The Breadwinner

It’s becoming shocking how good this animation company is becoming, considering they only have three films under their belt including this one. First “The book of Kelts” (its only crime was that it was too short), then “Song of the sea” (which, in all seriousness, is the most visually stunning and beautiful and stylistic animated film I’ve seen since “Spirited Away”; I really mean it) and now this.

A heavy tale about the reality and cruelty of living in such a backwards environment and culture that uses the medium of animation to fully make you pay full attention to, paradoxically, all the small details instead of the big and grand ones, and in a way that I don’t think even live action could have achieved. Not to this painful and laser-like detail. Even Don Bluth would be proud of what this has achieved. It’s almost like this company is the Cohen Brothers equivalent of animation. Not glamorous or what you’d expect, but definitely healthier for you than you’d think.

An absolute must watch for everyone to help gain some perspective on things, and help keep these artists stay afloat. If only they had more attention and financial success, I really think that they could be actual competition against the big leagues like Disney, DreamWorks and Studio Gibli, so let’s try and make it happen. Give them a hand by giving these a watch.

 

 Sweeney Todd

It’s been almost a decade since I last saw this. I used to absolutely love it and recite almost every song. And does it hold up?

You can bet your RAZORS it does!

Still arguably the best Tim Burton film I can think of, the music is great, the set design, cinematography, lighting, costumes and more are drenched in a magnificent mood that’s hard to look away from, great pacing, great directing, great acting, great intrigued and highly-tuned story, characters and plot, just… man! And I know Burton didn’t write this story, but he might as well have.

I admit that back in the day I was pretty upset that Depp lost his oscar, for this performance, to Daniel Day Lewiss on “There Will Be Blood”, which is one reason I stupidly resented Lewiss ever since. Now, I still haven’t seen “There Will Be Blood”, so the hypocrisy is amped to an even greater level, but now that I’ve rewatched Depp’s performance, I think I can perhaps see why he might not have won. It’s still a fantastic performance, but perhaps not one that would have satisfied the Academy at the time. But that doesn’t mean, despite the usual critique that “but all he does is play crazy guys!”, that he doesn’t play them with absolute mastery, and that his work and talent should be diminished in any way (his personal life is another issue).

Also, how strangely fitting is it that Jamie Campbell, who played Anthony here, ended up playing a young Grindelwald in “Deathly Hallows: Part 1”, and now that role will be played by Johnny Depp in “Fantastic Beasts 2”? “Full circle” is putting it mildly.

It’s also so sad to see the great Alan Rickman again after so long, and to think that there shan’t be any more works from him. He was such a talented actor, and it took rewatching this to remind me just how good he actually was. We miss you, Professor.

What else can be said? A freaking masterpiece that should have remained more present in the general collective mind.

 

 Reader Player One

I am a huge fan of the book this is based on. I first discovered it when it was announced that Spielberg, my all-time favorite director, would be making this. When I read it, I fell in love with it, and thought Spielberg would be the perfect man for this.

Now, after an incredibly long wait, it’s here. And… yeah, it’s pretty good.

No, sadly not a masterpiece as I had hoped, nor “the movie to put Spielberg back on track!” or anything of the sorts. Just fun and good (and surprisingly short, for a 2+ hour long movie, but that might be because I already knew the story beats).

Speaking of which, there’s clearly a loooot different from the book — from added material, to moved material, to plainly cutting material out — and it’s a little hard to process if all of the changes did indeed work for the best or not. But oh well, Spielberg was smart enough to bring in Ernest Cline as the co-screenwriter, so even if he imposed certain decisions, he bought the “but I got the author with me so it’s ok!” card.

But yeah, overall, while it has many flaws and won’t be remembered as one of the greats, it’s still a lot of fun to watch, especially for true nerds and geeks.

That final battle, though. SO good.

 

 Donnie Darko

Director’s Cut (not sure if it’s better or not than the original)

I saw this film only once before, and it must have been all the way back in 2003/4. I barely remembered — and much less understood — anything back then, and was certainly not expecting this when I read that “Donnie befriends a giant bunny rabbit”, but it nonetheless intrigued me.

Now, I’ve seen it with a much more analytical eye. For a teenage movie from the very very early 2000s — and it sometimes shows, such as with speeding up the editing every now and then for a “cool effect” — I got to say it was surprisingly effective with how dark and deep it was. I can’t even say for sure HOW deep, since it still remains such a pretty complicated film that I’ll have to process it a bit more to truly understand what actually happened, but my understanding is that it’s pretty open in interpretation anyway, so I guess there’s that to consider too. The truly worst I can say is that the score was a bit too rich at times for its own good, but for it being the only flaw, I’d say it’s not such a bad thing at all.

Either way, it deserves the hype of being a cult classic, and it’s certainly a whole bucket of food for thought.

 

 Teen Titans Go to the Movies!

Sigh.

I don’t have the energy to go into detail about this, so for now I’ll keep it shorter than what I actually want to rant on:

Obsessed fan of the original show. Pissed as hell at “Teen Titans Go!” when it came out, but softened to it just enough to go “Eh, whatever, it’s for a much younger demographic so why am I getting worked up over this?” and just enjoy joining the hate train (although, paradoxically, the effect is the flip side of the “Ultimate Spiderman” animated series; “TTG” I don’t want to like, but have managed to enjoy a few times – “US” I wanted to love, but couldn’t stop hating; and both failed miserably to emulate the original “Teen Titans” humor).

Now the movie came out. I refused to watch it in theatres, and I’m probably still ok with that. With that said, though, it’s easily WAY better than the show, both in its strengths and weaknesses, and *gasp* made me laugh a little, to the point that it could almost make me want to watch “TTG” (although I won’t, cause I know better).

But it’s also freaking “TTG” and it’s still a waste, considering I know what the original was.

Alright, Warner Bros., Cartoonnetwork and DC. You had your fun with this, now give us back the real Titans. You even gave us a little tease at the mid credits, and not gonna lie, you gave me goose-bumps. Enough “TTG”. Give us the actual Titans. Now.

… no, I mean season 6 of the animated show, not the new live-action one.

… I’m gonna have to watch the live-action one now.

Fuck me.

 

 The Invisible

The first time I saw this all the back in 2007/2008, I used to think this was one of the most underrated films I had ever seen. Now… not so much.

There’s still some value to it, of course. The story and concept (apparently based on a previous Swedish novel and film, I just found out) is still pretty damn good, the cinematography looks good, the way the “ghost” interacts with the real world is actually incredibly simple, cheap and ingenious, and I was pretty damn surprised by the performance of actress Margarita Levieva (how is she not in more popular media?) and the way her character was written, along with some overall pretty decent dialogue here and there.

Sadly, however, there were a lot more issues that I noticed this time. For such a small, simple and humble premise, it tries to be too grandiose and epic for its own good, with the rest of the dialogue feeling pretty cheesy, with music that tries too hard to be cinematic and sweeping, and I didn’t realise until this just how bad Justin Chatwin’s acting can be. The worst offenders, however, are the editing and pacing, which make the whole film feel incredibly choppy and rushed instead of just letting it breathe and have a life and style of its own.

So yeah, needless to say I won’t be checking this out again anytime soon (and the fact that Goyer directed this doesn’t help at all).

Guess it’s just another one of those films that got shattered by adulthood. Live and learn.

 

 A Christmas Story 

Yup. Despite years of people talking about it (although not sure how often they aired this back at home, to be fair) I had never seen this until now, and I decided to finally check it off my bucket list (especially to finally and properly catch up with two NC reviews). The verdict?

… Well, I’ll be damned. It worked. Almost too much, even. It was weird and hard to get through at first, but it ended up being not only charming, not only funny (especially from the shockingly hilarious performance by Darren McGavin), not only did it actually get me into the Christmas spirit (good timing, too), but by god, if not for just a difference in culture and tastes (Ralphie was more into cowboys, whereas I would have been more into superheroes and aliens), the cutaway fantasies he had were pretty much EXACTLY how things went through my own head as a kid! It’s kinda scary how nearly perfectly accurate it was! Being the hero of your own story where you protect your loved ones from incredibly obvious cartoonish bad guys in a totally different genre but with the same location of your real life? Check. Daydreaming that your elementary homework assignment would not only be great, but would alter people’s lives for the best? Double check. It’s like watching at old clips of my own mind.

So yeah, needless to say I get it now why so many people talk about this movie even to this day, and should I ever encounter it again, pretty sure I wouldn’t have any issues with giving it another watch.

PS: The actor who played Ralphie was one of the producers of the first “Iron Man” (2008).

… wait what

 

 Mimic 

(this is a long one, so hope it does make some sense somehow amidst all the rambling)

So, aside from “Blade II” (which I only saw once, in poor quality, back in high school, so I’m not going to count it and will watch it again eventually) I’ve seen all of Del Toro’s feature films. And I realised something.

Exploring into Del Toro’s work, I started to realise that most of his work isn’t exactly anything all that special or spectacular, contrary to most people’s views nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I deeply love the guy, he has a strong passion for filmmaking, and listening to him is wonderful, but his stories and direction haven’t exactly grabbed my attention, aside from a couple of exceptions. I even started wondering if he’s actually a bit overrated. Talented and definitely good, but overrated. But I think that now it kinda hit me.

I was thinking that people were loving him because they were seeing him as this great genius that breaks conventional cinema, that creates these timeless masterpieces that will talked about for years to come, a new king of the epic. But it only now dawned on me that I was getting people’s love for him completely wrong. It’s not that he’s this great and grandiose mad dreamer with a perfectly unique voice.

He’s merely a poet. And I mean “Merely” in the greatest compliment I can muster. This is a guy who loves films, and specifically relishes in the fantastic, monstrous, B-movie cheese, of old and new. He’s clearly still a child at heart, and has his attention directed at what that very childish heart still enjoyed way back when. I don’t think he’d ever say no to a good film, and if he does, it’s got to be super rare. He’s the kind of lover of cinema that would appreciate anything thrown at him, almost no matter what. And that’s what I now see is the appeal of his movies. He doesn’t have a great unique voice, he’s just an expert poet who specialises in love letters. Love letters to his younger self, to the adventurous, gory, wild, fantastic and creative worlds he clearly constantly lost himself in.

And this film “Mimic” is kind of the proof of that. It’s cheesy, has all the cliches of the late 90s — very high contrasts and dark shadows, underground fights with monsters, the New York city subway, an obligatory romance with a pregnancy, scientists as the main action heroes, etc. — and yet it relishes in all of that. Now, true, Del Toro has stated that “The Devil’s Backbone”, which came out after “Mimic”, was his first “true, professional film”, and I completely agree, but considering that he has returned to these roots a few times after that anyway with “Hellboy”, what I do remember of “Blade II”, and more, I feel that it’s this cheesy Del Toro that’s the true one that comes out of the screen, not necessarily or only the one who tries to be a deep auteur. Why else would he return to making giant robot fights, superheroes, and monsters if he clearly had found his footing in “The Devil’s Backbone”? He had proven he could be taken more seriously, and then returned home.

This isn’t to say that “Mimic” is a masterpiece, far from it, but as much as it was entertaining — and it got REALLY interesting with the way it explained the evolution of these bugs, as well as the utterly genius creature design, definitely the best parts — I think that it’s true strength comes from the fantasy/monster genre surrounding it, taking what’s good of it, standing on those good things, and just having fun as much as it can to the point that, despite said cliches, so that it can stand the test of time more easily compared to others like it.

You could almost say that it works by being such a great love letter, that it “Mimics” its source with the aim of replacing it.

*slow clap* Well played, good sir. Well played.

 

David Cinnella

DAVID CINNELLA is an Italian-American Film Director, Screenwriter, Storyboard Artist, Editor, Cinematographer, and more.

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