Film Review: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Release Date: February 5th, 2019 (Spain premiere)
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis
Based on: Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro
Music by: Tom Holkenberg
Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, Jeff Fahey, Derek Mears, Casper Van Dien, Edward Norton (uncredited), Michelle Rodriguez (uncredited), Jai Courtney (uncredited)

20th Century Fox, Lightstorm Entertainment, Troublemaker Studios, TSG Entertainment, 122 Minutes

Review:

“I do not standby in the presence of evil!” – Alita

I didn’t get to see this in the theater but I did catch it on a Delta flight, as I was returning home from Las Vegas.

I’m glad that I finally got to see this movie, as I had been waiting a long time for its digital release.

Overall, I really enjoyed Alita. But it has become a movie that Hollywood and its shill media outlets are apparently shitting on now because some people seem to think it is tied to the Nazi-esque Alt-Right or something.

One, I don’t even really know what the Alt-Right is and I don’t care. Two, how the fuck is it Alt-Right when it was directed by Robert Rodriguez, a famous director of Mexican decent and stars an actress of Peruvian decent with another major character being a black man? Plus, it was put out by a major Hollywood (i.e. uber leftists) studio, as well as being written and produced by James fucking Cameron?!

Anyway, that criticism is stupid but I guess some people still subscribe to the mainstream media’s bullshit.

Moving on.

I thought the film had a solid story. In a day and age where we are spoon fed stories about unchallenged Mary Sues (the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Captain Marvel, for instance) it’s refreshing to see a strong, female character that has to fail and learn from that failure in order to grow and become better. In that, Alita: Battle Angel is a much more relatable story than those other films. But I guess that’s why the media wants to shit on it.

Personally, I like strong yet flawed characters that can learn and grown. All people have flaws and limitations and its the process of overcoming those limitations that build character and make people stronger. It has nothing to do with gender, race or any sort of identity politics despite the entertainment industry’s insistence that it does.

Plus, Rosa Salazar is incredible as Alita. She has more charisma in one CGI finger than Brie Larson had in her entire body for over two hours in Captain Marvel. You almost love Alita from the first moment you meet her and watching her grow, throughout the film, is really the whole point of the story. When she conquers evil, you feel it. It doesn’t matter that the film is somewhat bogged down by its CGI effects, the story is relatable and very human. But that also has a lot to do with the skill and craftsmanship of two great filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron.

The rest of the cast is solid, especially Christoph Waltz. But man, that guy is damn near perfection in everything he does.

Like the Alita character, the film does have its flaws too but the sum of its parts made it a fun, enjoyable picture. And frankly, I’d be on board for future sequels.

In the future, I’d like to see the CGI get more detailed and less artificial looking. But this is sort of the trend of the time now, as visual effects artists are rushed and have less time to produce top notch effects when Hollywood has become way too reliant on them over practical, physical effects that can be crafted in the real world.

In conclusion, this is not as great of a movie as some have said but it is still a fine way to spend two hours and it is more human than a lot of the alternatives in modern sci-fi action films.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the original manga and anime, as well as Ghost In the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Film Review: Psycho III (1986)

Release Date: May, 1986 (Seattle International Film Festival)
Directed by: Anthony Perkins
Written by: Charles Edward Pogue
Based on: characters by Robert Bloch
Music by: Carter Burwell
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey, Roberta Maxwell, Donovan Scott

Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Conservative clothes never go out of style.” – Norman Bates

As impressed and surprised as I was by Psycho II, I was kind of hoping that the magic would sustain into the third film in the series. Also, considering that this one was directed by Anthony Perkins, a man who knew Norman Bates better than anyone on the planet, I was hoping that he’d bring some real depth to the character and story.

Well, this doesn’t live up to the quality of Psycho II and it’s nowhere near as clever but it works alright as an ’80s slasher picture, as long as you aren’t looking for a massive body count or an overabundance of gore.

The film benefits greatly from the performances of Perkins, as well as Jeff Fahey, who has been a favorite of mine for years and who always brings a little something extra to every movie that he’s in.

Although, apart from the two male leads, the rest of the cast is pretty damn weak.

Also, the story just isn’t there for me. It’s kind of like a rehash of elements from part II but mostly comes off as a fairly mindless slasher movie. It lacks the psychological terror of the first two pictures and Perkins doesn’t seem to have the acumen, behind the camera, to really propel this story forward visually or from narrative standpoint.

The script, however, is pretty terrible and it doesn’t seem to understand some of the things that worked so well before. For instance, it has always been assumed, at least by me, that Norman was actually speaking to himself in his mother’s voice. Here, it’s as if his mother’s voice is in his head because we often times see Norman reacting to the horror of her requests as she talks to him off screen. It takes the magic away and there’s just something more batshit about Norman speaking, as his mother, to himself. The film also cuts to shots of Norman’s dead mother pointing and changing her position from shot to shot without his assistance. Maybe the film is trying to take some sort of artistic liberty in trying to show these moments through Norman’s eyes but it doesn’t work.

Where you weren’t sure if Norman was the killer in part II, that mystery is gone here, as he’s pretty much just a slasher, cutting his way through some ladies. But he still has that good side in him and doesn’t necessarily want to do evil but the ending of the second film set him off and there are certain moments in this one that pull the triggers to propel Norman to murder, once again.

This isn’t a waste of time, if you like the Norman Bates character, but this chapter in the original string of films is weak. I can’t speak yet for the fourth and final film, as I haven’t seen it and I actually can’t find it streaming anywhere.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: The other Psycho films.

TV Review: Justified (2010-2015)

Also known as: Lawman (working title)
Original Run: March 16th, 2010 – April 14th, 2015
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard
Music by: Steve Porcaro, Gangstagrass (theme)
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Natalie Zea, Walton Goggins, Jere Burns, M.C. Gainey, Brent Sexton, William Ragsdale, Stephen Root, Margo Martindale, Brad William Henke, Neal McDonough, Stephen Tobolowsky, Scott Grimes, Jeff Fahey, Garret Dillahunt, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Danielle Panabaker, Amy Smart, Alicia Witt, Michael Rapaport, Patton Oswalt, Gerald McRaney, Adam Arkin

Sony Pictures Television, Rooney McP Productions, Timberman-Beverly Productions, Nemo Films, Bluebush Productions, FX, 78 Episodes, 37-53 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Justified was one of those shows that everyone told me to watch. I really loved Deadwood and was pissed that it ended when it did, only after three seasons and on a cliffhanger. Timothy Olyphant was fantastic in that show. When Justified came around, it seemed like the modern spiritual successor to the near perfect Deadwood. And many people went on to confirm that to me, before I even saw it.

Then I saw it.

I don’t know what it is about majority opinion and my own opinion but when it comes to television shows, they don’t seem to match up. The thing is, I hate this show. “Awful” isn’t a strong enough word to describe it.

Maybe there is just something about FX that is horrible because every single FX show I have ever watched, except for Always Sunny, has completely underwhelmed me and left me befuddled as to how so many people are in love with FX’s product. The network is perceived by many to be on par with the greats like HBO, Showtime and AMC. Justified is just one of a string of many shows that feels just as safe and generic as the episodic crime drama bullshit found on the big networks: CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox.

I also don’t know who the music director is at FX but Justified easily has the worst theme song in television history. It is eye rolling, stomach churning and just a horrendous attempt at trying to force together hip-hop and bluegrass. But FX shows have a history of having really shitty theme songs, except for Always Sunny. The Justified theme, actually makes the terrible Sons of Anarchy theme, sound like a masterpiece.

The worst part, is that I like Olyphant and even more than him, I love Walton Goggins. This show has great talent on the screen but the final product is still crap. Sure, the acting is better than average but the plot, the characters and everything else is so drab and cookie cutter.

I only made it about halfway through the third season before giving up. I rarely give up on a show. But nothing really grabbed me by that point and the consensus from the fans of the show is that the first three seasons are the best and then it falls off after that. Well, it was never really on for me to begin with so I certainly don’t want to invest another twenty-plus hours in it “falling off”.

I wish there were more westerns and even neo-westerns on TV. I just wish more were like Deadwood, Hell On Wheels and Longmire (once it went to Netflix) and less like this basic bag of bullshit.

And ultimately, it’s just made me go back and start re-watching the far superior Deadwood once again.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Sons of AnarchyBreaking BadFear the Walking Dead and Deadwood.

Film Review: The Lawnmower Man (1992)

Also known as: Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man, Virtual Wars (Japanese English title)
Release Date: March 6th, 1992
Directed by: Brett Leonard
Written by: Brett Leonard, Gimel Everett
Based on: The Lawnmower Man by Stephen King
Music by: Dan Wyman
Cast: Jeff Fahey, Pierce Brosnan, Jenny Wright, Geoffrey Lewis, Jeremy Slate, Dean Norris, Austin O’Brien

Allied Vision, Fuji Eight Company Ltd., Lane Pringle Productions, New Line Cinema, 103 Minutes, 141 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“…my birth cry will be the sound of every phone on this planet ringing in unison.” – Jobe Smith

What a painfully dumb f’n movie this was! I have always liked Jeff Fahey and Pierce Brosnan but even they couldn’t keep this turd buoyant!

Some films age well, some films age poorly. The Lawnmower Man feels like it was a poorly aged film by 1992’s technology standards. I mean, were there any techie guys on set to help steer the ship towards any semblance of realism? Did the writers actually understand the emerging virtual reality technology that was at the forefront of this movie? Hell, have they even seen an actual video game ever being played?

The filmmakers’ idea of what virtual reality and video games were in 1992 is on par with my psycho religious aunt that once told me that Sonic the Hedgehog was cute because demons designed him to lure stupid, unsuspecting children into the clutches of Satan.

I never watched this movie until now. Why? Because when it was new and I was 13 years-old, the trailer looked like dog shit. The CGI effects were horrible and even if they were better than current video game graphics, they still looked hokey, cheesy and terribly uninviting. The virtual world in The Lawnmower Man wasn’t something I would want to visit as a 13 year-old that was addicted to Sega Genesis. It was ugly, bizarre and to be blunt, completely uninteresting.

This film bears no resemblance to Stephen King’s story of the same name, which is why King successfully sued the filmmakers for putting his name on the film. The only thing that is remotely similar is the scene where the lawnmower busts into a dude’s house and basically eats him.

This movie sucks, it is really hard to get through, yet it is beloved by some people. But some people eat Tide Pods and buy Taylor Swift records on vinyl.

There is a sequel to this because Hollywood has no shame.

So, yes… this is a film that absolutely must be pushed into the unforgiving maw of the Cinespiria Shitmoter! The results read, “Type 3 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: The Ghost In the MachineLawnmower Man 2Brainscan.

Film Review: Grindhouse (2007)

While I have seen both Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof multiple times, I never got to see the full-length version of Grindhouse until now.

When it came out in 2007, only one theater near me carried it and it wasn’t there very long, so I missed it. Also, the films were released separately, as expanded editions, when they hit store shelves. There wasn’t a full version of Grindhouse available after its theatrical run.

When I subscribed to Starz via my Amazon Fire Stick, I saw that the full version of the movie was available and thus, I could finally rectify this cinematic injustice. I’m really glad that I did because these films actually play much better in this format, as double-billed companion pieces to one another.

Plus, I finally got to see the trailers, as a part of this overall experience, even though I have seen them on YouTube multiple times since 2007.

Robert Rodriguez’s trailer for Machete was a highlight of the film and it was so good that it became its own motion picture and then expanded into a franchise. Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS trailer was interesting enough, as a trailer, but doesn’t seem like something that will work as a full-length feature. The same can be said for Edgar Wright’s Don’t. Now Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving should be made into a full-length slasher film in the same vein as Machete. Roth has hinted at making it and I hope he eventually does.

This film also spawned a contest for fans to make fake trailers in the grindhouse style. This lead to the full-length feature Hobo With A Shotgun, which was a hell of a lot of fun. I need to re-watch it and review it in the near future.

Moving beyond the fake trailers, we have the two big films that make up the bulk of the Grindhouse experience. So let me get into each film and discuss them on their own.

Planet Terror (2007):

Release Date: April 6th, 2007
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Robert Rodriguez
Music by: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Stacy Ferguson, Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan, Quentin Tarantino, Tom  Savini, Michael Parks

Rodriguez International Pictures, Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Now you’ve got a gal in your wrecked truck with a missing leg? A missing leg that’s now missing?” – Sheriff Hague

Planet Terror has always been my favorite of the two movies in Grindhouse. That still stands, as I love just about everything about it. It may even be my favorite Robert Rodriguez picture but it is a close race between this, From Dusk Till Dawn, Machete and Once Upon A Time In Mexico.

The film is essentially a zombie outbreak movie but it is really gross, even for that genre. People’s faces start bubbling into puss and there is a lot of blood and other strange bodily fluids oozing out of people throughout the movie. There are also lots of severed testicles and a melting penis. It’s a gross movie but it is still well done and it doesn’t overtake the picture making it a mindless gore festival.

Planet Terror has a lot of depth and character development for a movie loaded with a ton of people. Everyone has an interesting story and it is cool seeing it all play out as these people eventually come together in an effort to escape the growing threat of a zombie apocalypse.

It also really fits the old school 1970s exploitation style of horror pictures that populated grindhouse theaters in big cities. The cinematography really captures the right vibe and kudos to the extra graininess and inconsistent look of different shots in the same sequences.

The practical effects also work well in making this film fit the grindhouse mold. Sometimes there is obvious CGI and it is a reminder that this isn’t a true 70s grindhouse picture but it isn’t a distraction and it serves its purpose well enough.

The cast is also phenomenal. I remember that when I first saw this, that I hoped it would open up doors for Freddy Rodriguez. He’s still not anywhere close to being a household name but his character of El Wray should reappear in some way, in some other Rodriguez picture. He’s a guy too cool to just be confined to this one movie.

This is also my favorite thing that Rose McGowan has ever done. Plus you get a very evil Josh Brolin, an enchanting Marley Shelton, a bad ass Michael Biehn, plus Michael Parks, Tom Savini, Bruce Willis, Lost‘s Naveen Andrews and Quentin Tarantino as his most despicable character to date. Jeff Fahey, who is always stellar, really kills it in this movie as J.T. the Texas B-B-Q king. Also, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas has never looked better.

Planet Terror is unique, even for a film in a tired genre. It takes the zombie formula and ups the ante in every way possible. Rodriguez made a fine picture that should be mentioned alongside other great zombie classics.

Death Proof (2007):

Release Date: April 6th, 2007
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Music by: Rachel Levy, Jack Nitzsche, Mary Ramos
Cast: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Parks, James Parks, Marley Shelton

Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, 114 Minutes

Review:

“Because it was a fifty fifty shot on wheter you’d be going left or right. You see we’re both going left. You could have just as easily been going left, too. And if that was the case… It would have been a while before you started getting scared. But since you’re going the other way, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to start getting scared… immediately!” – Stuntman Mike

When I first saw Death Proof, it didn’t resonate with me. I mean, I enjoyed it enough but it just didn’t compare to the work that Quentin Tarantino did before it. I still feel this way but I have more of an appreciation for the film now. Also, seeing it in the Grindhouse format, which is more condensed, serves the film better.

The problem I initially had with the film, and some of Tarantino’s other pictures, is that it is way too talky. Sure, he writes great dialogue but sometimes it can run on for far too long. Death Proof in its longer running time falls victim to this. The condensed Grindhouse version, however, is better balanced.

Another problem with the film, is that many of the characters just aren’t likable. This is especially true for the first group of girls we meet. At least the second group felt more like friends and their conversations came across as more natural and authentic.

Kurt Russell initially knocks it out of the park as the killer driver, Stuntman Mike. However, as the film and his character evolves, he completely loses the cool bad ass shtick and becomes a giant whining weeny. His character transformation isn’t a bad thing, it is just how it is executed that makes it a problem.

The one thing that really makes this a cool picture, however, is the cars and the stunts. Tarantino selected some seriously bad ass automobiles that were homages to films that influenced him. The stunt work and action was amazing and the sequence of the first major accident was shot and executed stupendously.

The problem with the film, being that it is supposed to be a grindhouse throwback, is that it needed more balls-to-the-wall mayhem and less chit chat. The fact that this has a lot more dialogue than Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror but somehow can’t develop characters as well is pretty baffling. Tarantino would just rather focus on cool conversations on subjects that directly interest him than to have any sort of meaningful character development. You just don’t care about these people in the same way you care about those in Planet Terror.

Regardless of my criticisms, I do still like this movie. But to be honest, I still think it is the worst film in Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre. Granted, that doesn’t mean much, as everything he’s done has been fairly great in some way.

In the end, this is still entertaining as hell and who doesn’t love muscle car chaos and kick ass chicks?

Additional directorial credits:

Robert Rodriguez – Machete trailer
Rob Zombie – Werewolf Women of the SS trailer
Edgar Wright – Don’t trailer
Eli Roth – Thanksgiving trailer

Additional acting credits from the fake trailer segments: Danny Trejo, Nicolas Cage, Sheri Moon Zombie, Cheech Marin, Udo Kier, Tom Towles, Sybil Danning, Bill Moseley, Will Arnett, Nick Frost, Jason Issacs, Simon Pegg, Peter Serafinowicz