Vids I Dig 083: Filmento: ‘Alita: Battle Angel’: How to Manipulate the Audience

From Filmento’s YouTube description: Alita: Battle Angel is yet another new release that struggles to introduce an over-arching goal-heavy plot. And yet, unlike so many others, it still manages to be a a great movie worthy of a sequel, mainly because of one word: manipulation. The movie excels in using certain narrative tools to make the audience fall in love with Alita so strongly that all the other problems in it simply vanish. In today’s episode of Film Perfection, let’s see what these tools are and how they function.

Will there be Alita: Battle Angel 2? I hope so.

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: El Mariachi (1992)

Release Date: September 4th, 1992 (Telluride Film Festival)
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Robert Rodriguez
Music by: Eric Guthrie, Chris Knudson, Álvaro Rodriguez, Cecilio Rodriguez, Mark Trujillo
Cast: Carlos Gallardo, Consuelo Gómez, Peter Marquardt

Los Hooligans Productions, Columbia Pictures, 81 Minutes

Review:

“That morning was just like any other. No love. No luck. No ride. Nothing changes.” – El Mariachi (narration)

I’ve followed Robert Rodriguez’s career ever since first seeing Desperado. I had never seen this proto-Desperado film until now, however. But I liked experiencing this movie two and a half decades too late with fresh eyes and without nostalgia being a factor.

It’s an extremely low budget film. In fact, Rodriguez made this in Mexico with just $7000. That being said, the end result is incredibly impressive and I have to be accepting of certain flaws due to the immense limitations of the production.

The film has an incredibly gritty and grainy look to it but since this is kind of a throwback to grindhouse era cinema, it works to the movie’s benefit. Also, the action style and special effects, like the use of primitive squibs and blood splatter also works for the film’s style.

The acting is exactly what one should expect from a film like this but despite the limitations of the performers, the film’s star Carlos Gallardo is a pretty charming guy and it’s hard not to root for him, even if you’re not sure what the hell is going on.

Rodriguez also mixes in some solid humorous bits and the film is just as amusing as it is badass.

One flaw that’s hard to dismiss though is the film’s villain. That guy was just annoying as hell and delivered his lines like a coked up cartoon character. Maybe that was Rodriguez’s intention but it doesn’t work for me and it is distracting and pulls you out of the film.

Overall, this was fun to watch. It’s a short, cheap film and it will probably be enjoyed by those who like Desperado but it really just made me want to revisit that film.

For a first directorial effort, color me impressed.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the two films that were born from this one: Desperado and Once Upon A Time In Mexico.

Film Review: Predators (2010)

Also known as: Predator 3 (working title)
Release Date: July 7th, 2010 (Austin premiere)
Directed by: Nimród Antal
Written by: Alex Litvak, Michael Finch
Based on: characters by Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Music by: John Debney
Cast: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, Oleg Taktarov, Mahershala Ali, Danny Trejo, Derek Mears

Davis Entertainment Company, Troublemaker Studios, Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Media, 20th Century Fox, 107 Minutes

Review:

“We’re being hunted. The cages. The soldier. All of us. All brought here for the same purpose. This planet is a game preserve. And we’re the game. In case you didn’t notice, we just got flushed out. They sent the dogs in, just like you if you were stalking boar or shooting quail. They split us apart and they watched. Testing us.” – Royce

I threw this on because I wanted to refresh my memory with the quality of this film before watching the more recent sequel, 2018’s The Predator.

This has held up well after eight or so years. I still really liked it, it’s far better than either AvP film and it is the best Predator picture after the original two from 1987 and 1990.

Adrien Brody was already an accomplished and impressive actor before this but this is where he convinced me that he can also be a great action star. In fact, I really loved this version of Adrien Brody and would love to see him team up with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch from the original Predator for a future film. That probably won’t happen but fanboys can dream and sometimes dreams do come true.

What’s great about this movie is that Brody could have carried it on his own but he didn’t have to because the ensemble cast was pretty fantastic, as well.

Alice Braga, now a well-known actress thanks to her show Queen of the South, was a damn good female lead and a total badass. Topher Grace was a character with an interesting twist. Then you have Laurence Fishburne as a great mad man, Danny Trejo as Danny Trejo and Mahershala Ali before his Oscar winning fame. Plus, Walton Goggins is also in this and if you’ve been reading Talking Pulp for awhile, you should know how much I love Goggins in anything.

One really cool thing about this movie, is that it is a good sequel and a fantastic homage to the original. It recreates some of the iconic moments of the first picture without being ham-fisted or cheesy. And the average person might not notice these subtle homages unless they’ve seen the original ten dozen times like I have.

I also like that they add some new elements to the Predator mythos. It introduces a new type of Predator alien and hints at a sort of civil war between the two types.

This movie has great action, a perfect pace, some solid mystery and marvelous performances with some good twists.

This is how you make a good Predator film. Keep it simple, keep it action heavy and just go balls out.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Predator and Predator 2.

Film Review: The Faculty (1998)

Also known as: The Parasite (Japanese English title)
Release Date: December 25th, 1998
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Kevin Williamson, David Wechter, Bruce Kimmel
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster, Shawn Hatosy, Clea DuVall, Josh Hartnett, Laura Harris, Robert Patrick, Bebe Neuwirth, Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Usher Raymond, Salma Hayek, Jon Stewart, Danny Masterson, Louis Black, Duane Martin, Daniel von Bargen

Dimension Films, Los Hooligans Productions, Miramax Films, 104 Minutes

Review:

“I’m not putting that hack drug up my nose – it’s so eighties!” – Stokely, “Aliens are taking over the earth. Weigh it!” – Zeke

I thought I had seen this film before and maybe I did but watching it now, it was all new to me. Granted, at the time when this was a current movie, I was dabbling in extracurricular substances. Angsty Gen-X teen shenanigans, am I right?

And I guess this film isn’t too different from my head space in the era in which this came out. I was dabbling in the party hard lifestyle and all it had to offer like most of the kids in this movie.

Anyway, this film had everyone in it. Seriously, this cast was loaded with talent to the point that it is pretty unbelievable when watching it today. In fact, I’m surprised this wasn’t a hit or didn’t get a much larger cult following. It kind of came and went but it also came out in a time when there were a lot of films like it.

I also didn’t know that this was a Robert Rodriguez film. But when this came out, I wouldn’t have really known who he was yet even though I had seen From Dusk Till Dawn and Desperado.

The story is pretty simple, an alien parasite is taking over the minds of people. Basically, it borrows heavily from Invasion of the Body Snatchers and a lot of other similar stories. This takes place in a high school though and the aliens have pretty much taken control of most of the faculty and a lot of the students. As the film rolls on, a group of teens discovers what’s happening and they decide to stop the invasion.

This was a much better movie than I anticipated when I fired it up nearly twenty years after its release. I was surprised with how fun and nuts it was. There are some parts that don’t make a lot of sense, like the whole opening scene if you reflect on it after watching the rest of the movie. However, Robert Rodriguez gave it a certain spirit that made me think of one of his other films: Planet Terror. Now this wasn’t Planet Terror levels of insane but it was edgier and cooler than other films like it from the late ’90s.

This also had some really impressive special effects and visuals. The scene where the alien queen, in human form, is walking naked through the locker rooms and the shadows of her invisible intertwining tentacles cast shadows all over the room is so fucking cool. Seriously, I loved this moment in the film and it really legitimized the picture as something much better than its contemporaries.

The Faculty is a greater film than it needed to be and that is the mark of a great director. I feel like it was certainly held tightly under the studio thumb and that Rodriguez would have made something pretty insane if he made this later in his career but he was still able to put his unique stamp on it and turn out a film that was damn good.

The film also features the worst Josh Hartnett hairstyle ever captured on film.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Disturbing BehaviorTeaching Mrs. TingleUrban LegendIdle Hands and other late ’90s teen horror.

Film Review: Sin City (2005)

Also known as: Frank Miller’s Sin City
Release Date: March 28th, 2005 (Mann National Theater premiere)
Directed by: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
Based on: Sin City by Frank Miller
Music by: John Debney, Graeme Revell, Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood, Alexis Bledel, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Carla Gugino, Josh Hartnett, Rutger Hauer, Jaime King, Michael Madsen, Nick Offerman, Marley Shelton, Nick Stahl, Tommy Flanagan, Devon Aoki, Rick Gomez, Frank Miller (cameo), Robert Rodriguez (cameo)

Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, Miramax, 124 Minutes, 147 Minutes (unrated recut)

Review:

“Most people think Marv is crazy. He just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield swinging an axe into somebody’s face. Or in a Roman arena, taking his sword to other gladiators like him. They woulda tossed him girls like Nancy back then.” – Dwight

When Sin City came out, it was a bit of a phenomenon. Well, at least with fans of comic books and especially those who love the work of Frank Miller.

I haven’t watched this in a really long time and I wanted to revisit it after spending a lot of time delving into classic film-noir, which this picture takes some major visual cues from. Well, the original comic this was based on used a lot of noir visual flair, so it was only natural that this film adaptation followed suit.

As an overall cohesive story, the film doesn’t work that well. I get that it is a linked anthology with overlapping characters but it feels like it is just running all over the place. Frankly, this would work better as a television show where all of these characters could be better developed and jumping around with the narrative would just seem more organic.

This is still a cool movie with cool characters but sometimes they feel more like caricatures of pulp comic and noir archetypes. There isn’t really any time to get to know anyone beyond what’s on the immediate surface. Nancy and Hartigan are the only characters with any sort of meaningful backstory and even then, it is pretty skeletal and doesn’t have the meat it needs to really connect in an emotional way.

The film is highly stylized and while it looks cool, it almost works against it, as the grit and violence almost becomes too comic book-y. But this is supposed to be the comic stories coming to life and it represents that with its visual style. And I like the visual style but this is still a live action motion picture and it sort of forgets that.

I’m not saying it can’t have immense and incredible style but it needs to have a better balance between what would exist on a black and white comic book page and what works best for the medium of film. Being that this is the first film to sort of use this visual technique, I think people looked past its faults. I also think that once it was done here, the initial surprise and awe was gone, which is why no one cared much when the sequel came out and why the visual flare didn’t work to hide the faults of Frank Miller’s very similar film, The Spirit.

Additionally, sometimes the comic book elements seem very heavy handed and forced. The scene where Marv escapes the SWAT team may work in the comics but it felt bizarre and goofy in the movie. It would have been more effective if it was toned down and reworked, as opposed to Miller and Rodriguez trying to copy the comic panel by panel. This never works well, which was also why 2009’s The Watchmen had a lot of problems. Personally, I’d rather just stick to the comics if the filmmakers want to just recreate everything panel to shot.

Another problem with directly adapting comics is that the dialogue that works in one medium sometimes sounds terrible in another. Some lines when delivered on screen were cringe worthy moments. Still, I mostly liked everyone’s performance in this despite the sometimes questionable direction and script.

Sin City didn’t blow my mind like it did when I first saw it thirteen years ago. That’s fine. It is still pretty damn good and enjoyable but at first glance, way back in the day, I probably would have given this a nine out of ten rating. But at its core, it just isn’t that good of a film, even if it caused me to fanboy out in 2005.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and The Spirit.

Film Review: Machete Kills (2013)

Release Date: September 19th, 2013 (Austin Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Robert Rodriguez, Marcel Rodriguez, Kyle Ward
Music by: Carl Thiel
Cast: Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofía Vergara, Amber Heard, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., Walton Goggins, William Sadler, Demián Bichir, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Jessica Alba, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexa Vega, Tom Savini, Elon Musk, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan

Quick Draw Productions, Troublemaker Studios, Open Road Films, 108 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2013.

“Machete don’t tweet.” – Machete

I was a big fan of Machete when it came out. It kept alive the modern revival of grindhouse cinema, which was reintroduced to the world a few years back by the films Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s own Planet Terror. Both films were released together as a double bill feature called Grindhouse. Between the two films, there were a series of faux trailers for other grindhouse pictures. One of those was for a film named Machete. The fake trailer was so popular that Rodriguez decided to make the film. Once that was successful, he decided to make this film. There is also a third planned.

Machete Kills doesn’t hold a candle to the first Machete film. Don’t get me wrong, it was enjoyable and had some awesome moments but it was lacking in energy and in scope. It felt smaller and more linear, whereas the original film was a wild ride taking many different unexpected turns. This film went from point A to point B and then introduced us to a point C. Had it not been for the awesome performance by Mel Gibson as the main antagonist of this film, it would’ve fallen much flatter than it did.

The cinematic style of this movie, mirrored the first and for the most part, stayed somewhat true to the grindhouse vibe. The problem I have with these modern grindhouse films though, is the use of CGI effects. I get that it is more affordable and that these films have a tight budget but the whole essence of grindhouse films is over-the-top violence and action and often times gore. In the old grindhouse days, they had to find ways to pull this off with very limited resources. Part of what made those movies so effective and respectable, was the ingenuity of the filmmakers. This film, like its predecessor really lacks in this area. It takes the easy road and frankly, I expected more from Robert Rodriguez.

I do love that Danny Trejo finally has a starring vehicle though and I do look forward to the next sequel. I could watch new installments of Machete for years to come. He’s a great character and at the end of the day, despite the few issues mentioned above, these films exceed the standard blockbuster action fare that Hollywood keeps pumping out at $300+ million dollar price tags.