Movie Review: Alita: Battle Angel


One of these days there will be a futuristic science fiction movie that is written, produced and released that does not paint such a dire picture of the future of the world, where there has been some sort of a nuclear war, and people live among pieces of broken machines and robots. This story takes place in the year 2562 and has one of the most depressing world environments I have ever seen in any movie.

The new movie “Alita: Battle Angel” has extremely impressive special effects that include some of the same technology that has existed since Avatar, released in 2007. Unfortunately and once again, special effects were considered more important than a great story. The main character in this movie, Alita is an animated robot created using a technology where the actor is fitted with motion detector devices and filmed in front of a green screen. Alita’s eyes are very big, like the characters in Avatar, and her big eyes make her a very likable character. She is found by a scientist played by actor Christoph Waltz and put back together and during the first third of this movie, it is found that she has special combat skills and is a robot over 300 years old. Even though she is a robot, she can love with a human and even eat food, something I have never seen a Robot do in any movie. Why would any Robot ever need to eat human food?

The problems with this movie are that its too long, well over 2 hours and the story is all over the place, especially at the end with a convoluted plot that was never explained well enough and even includes a Rollerball type of game where people can elevate to a higher world if they win. The fight scenes are many and probably too intense for any child under 15 years old and there are also scenes of bounty hunters who are hired to kill other robots and humans. The reasons for this part of the story, were another part that was never made clear enough. Alita: Battle Angel is another movie that has a comic book counterpart that the audience would have to read before they would be able to understand the entire story. This is all about bad screenwriting and it should not be necessary to know about any story before hand when you see a new movie. Its all about explaining what is going on in a concise easy to understand way and this movie skips over too many important things to make this story more understandable to the majority of the audience.

This movie also starts Jennifer Connely and Mahershala Ali who seem to have been added to this cast, only to attract more box office and other than the money, I wonder why either one of them decided to do this movie. Due to the technology and history with Avatar, James Cameron is also involved with this movie as a co-screenwriter. Cameron is both a great director and screenwriter, but for this script it seems he was too distracted with other projects to give his full attention to this one.

The Rotten Tomatoes review is only about 59% and I would have given this movie only about a 50% and due to all the problems, I cannot recommend it.

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Movie Review: Isn’t It Romantic


There have been way too movies like “Isn’t It Romantic” starring Rebel Wilson made over the years where someone gets hit on the head and then falls into a completely different world either because they believe they are different like last years “I Feel Pretty” with Amy Schumer or because they are in a dream world because they are in a coma like this story. Some of the messages of Isn’t It Romantic are very good, including the belief that so many Romantic Comedies give the world a false example of what relationships really are. A person has to love themself first before they can love someone else, very true. However, the story was not strong enough despite these messages to recommend and ironically became a movie that the main character hates – a bad romantic comedy.

It seemed like the screenplay for this movie was green-lighted entirely because of the log-line: “A woman who hates romantic comedies hits her head and winds up in a world of romantic comedies”. I am amazed that this story was considered good enough to provide millions in funding and make a movie from it. There are definitely way better ideas than this one and all aspiring screenwriters wonder why some movies are made and others are not.

You have to admire actress Rebel Wilson for being a successful and bankable in Hollywood as one of the very few overweight actors to not only star in but now produce their own movies. Isn’t it Romantic reunites actor Adam Devine as Rebel Wilson’s love interest with almost the same relationship they had in the first 2 Pitch Perfect films. These two seem completely incompatible physically and perhaps that is part of the joke here, but there is nothing I found funny in this movie. Actors Liam Hemsworth and Priyanka Chopra are also in this movie for reasons that have nothing to do with the story, and everything to do with increasing the box office.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie is an anemic 65% and I am more in the 50% range, believing that this movie should be missed.

Movie Review: They Shall Not Grow Old


To take the horrors of Word War I from film that is over 100 years old and then fix the wear and tear, age, speed and color – and then make a 2 hour documentary called “They Shall Not Grow Old” is an incredible scientific and movie making achievement. Most people would probably think that film this old, regardless of how many times it has been copied would not even exist, much less to be able to correct the many problems to make a new documentary about World War I.

There are many circumstances out of our control in life that can make you a successful human being and just as many that can make you a failure or a young person who horribly dies in war. Being a young man born in the early 1890’s or the early 1920’s virtually guaranteed that your life would probably include being drafted into 2 of the most horrible wars in human history and not only dying young, but horribly. Even if you survived, the odds were even higher that you would be badly wounded or have psychological scars that will never heal for the rest of your life.

Director Peter Jackson spent years creating a 2 hour documentary and story about the horrendous hardship’s of World War I that was fought during 1914-1918. The restored film footage covered the constant shelling from both the British and the Germans, the commonplace reality of death and dismemberment, the days and weeks of sitting around waiting for another battle to start, lack of food and suffering, the use of chemical weapons, the disgusting bathroom realities and even some pictures of trench foot, where the only solution was amputation. There is no way any human being can tell someone outside of a war like this what it was like, even with a high quality produced documentary like this one. Surprisingly, after the war the returning veterans were not treated well, and most could not find any work, even encountering indifference to what they have been through. This documentary also has narration throughout from many of the soldiers who lived through this horrible war, and if there is one flaw in this movie it is that many of the accents are so thick that very often you cannot understand what they are saying.

At the beginning of this documentary, Peter Jackson tells the audience that at the end of the credits he will address the audience after the closing credits to summarize much of the film restoration science was accomplished. Unfortunately the ending credits were way too long and annoying to sit through to wait for Peter Jackson. A better idea would have been to show Peter Jackson’s technical explanation right after the movie and then end the movie with the credits.

For anyone interested in world history and the history of World War I, this is a must see documentary, but prepare yourself for some very disturbing pictures and video. All wars are horrendous and should never exist in life but they will probably always exist. Humanity, even 100 years ago, is extremely accomplished at the cruel art of killing people.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for They Shall Not Grow Old are 99% and I agree with this rating and highly recommend this very impressive documentary.

Movie Review: What Men Want


As most people would probably agree, the title of this movie, “What Men Want” as well as the original from 2000 “What Women Want”, should be “What Men Think” and “What Women Think”, due to the fact that the entire premise is the main character suddenly having the ability to hear what the opposite sex is thinking. Aside from the impossible idea behind this film, the situations and dialogue that can spring from an idea like this are endless and potentially very entertaining. Unfortunately, this movie does not take anywhere near advantage of some very good scene and dialogue ideas, and in too many cases, takes the easy raunchy route. The original “What Women Want” released in 2000 was at best a below average movie and considering Mel Gibson was the star, reminds us that the year 2000 was 19 long years ago. Releasing a remake of an average movie does not make much sense, unless the remake has a significantly better twist and plot idea than the original. Unfortunately this remake fails on too many levels and is not nearly as good as the original.

What Men Want stars Taraji P. Henson as an employee of a sports agency and of all people Brian Bosworth, the former football and action star from the early 90’s who I have not seen in any movie in many years. You have to admire Bosworth for not giving up on acting given his very few acting parts in the last 10 years, acting is a very tough profession. Tracy Morgan is also in this movie playing the father of a high school basketball star about to go to the pros. I thought Morgan’s use of language and his funny way of talking was not enough to fix the dialogue in this script. This movie once again fails the audience movie rule for any comedy – nobody laughed in the theater I was in, an obvious must for any good comedy movie. “When Harry Met Sally” released 30 years ago, still stands out as a standard for all comedy films, as well as Annie Hall in 1977. There has never been a comedy movie released since 1989 that I have seen that comes close to these two all time classics in my opinion.

A good number of of the scenes involving back stabbing and office politics were realistic, very well done, and just about the only good thing in this entire story. There was one line at the end that I thought was very profound and basically stated: “nobody should ever derive their sense of self worth from the opinions of others”. An idea we should all live by.

The ratings for this movie on IMDB are a very low 3.2 and 47% on Rotten Tomatoes, I agree with both scores. What Men Want should be skipped.

Movie Review: Cold Pursuit


The new Liam Neeson movie “Cold Pursuit” achieved some new ideas I have never seen before in any film. First of all, Nels Coxman, played by Neeson has the most unusual job I have ever seen – he clears snow in mountain roads in the surrounding mountains of Denver Colorado. There is a long list of people who die in this movie, all followed by listing their name and religious denomination right after their death. The entire story is played very low key in a way that I found extremely unusual. Neeson’s co-star Laura Dern, who plays Coxman’s wife has an extremely small part in the beginning of the movie and then disappears, never to be seen again. The ending was also very strange with a shocking unexpected death that might have been an attempt at humor or insanity given the large number of people who die in this story.

Cold Pursuit is an effective revenge drama with Neeson, in a role similar to the excellent Taken from 2008 role as a father who would do anything for his child. The story involves a local drug cartel and once again we are reminded of ruthlessness of people like this, who kill like most of us brush our teeth. For most people like this they meet their own end as violently as they killed others.

The story of Cold Pursuit also involves a custody battle between the head of the drug cartel and his wife, and they have a young son who has a likability and niceness that bears no resemblance to his parents. I found this an unlikely reality given the child’s parents and circumstances.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Cold Pursuit is a very solid 80% and my score would be more in the 70% range due to some of the slow points in the story and an ending involving the young boy in the aftermath of a shootout that made no sense. I give a mild recommendation to Cold Pursuit.

Movie Review: Destroyer


In 1994 Quentin Tarantino introduced a whole new way to tell a story, by starting at the end and then filling in all the blanks with flashbacks in a circular order and then doubling back to where the movie began. Over the years I have seen a number of movies that have tried to tell a story this way and most of them have failed. The new movie “Destroyer” starring Nicole Kidman has successfully used this highly unusual story telling method; not as well as Pulp Fiction but well enough to make the movie both engrossing and understandable.

As far as the acting, you have to admire Nicole Kidman for taking this role because not only does she not wear any makeup, but she is made to look like she is a disaster of a person who has not slept in weeks and might be close to suicide. As the story unfolds her appearance becomes more and more understandable due to an undercover assignment with a fellow police officer that goes in a very bad direction. Kidman probably took this role to enhance her acting ability and perhaps hoped for an Academy Award nomination, but unfortunately the film itself is not strong enough for the highest movie awards.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Destroyer are an average 72% and due to some of the flaws in the story that is slow in some areas, I would give this movie around a 75% rating and give it a solid recommendation.

Movie Review: Miss Bala


I give the new film “Miss Bala” some credit, with the idea that a beauty pageant has never been combined with a story about a drug cartel before. There is nothing possible or plausible in this story about a friend of a beauty pageant contestant who for some reason gets spared during a bar shooting and before she knows it is being used as a mule to smuggle drugs into Mexico. The story from this point on, barely makes any sense and from about the half way point, I was hoping the movie would end soon.

The Rotten Tomatoes for this mostly bad movie are a very low 27% and I agree with this rating. The title Miss Bala also makes no sense because the beauty pageant is for “Miss Baja California”. For her first big starring role in a mainstream movie, the actress Gina Rodriguez sure picked the wrong starter film. Miss Bala is a must miss.

Movie Review: Cold War


For those who hate reading subtitles for any foreign language film, the new movie “Cold War” is not for you.

I found this film highly unusual as its based mostly in Russian occupied Poland some years after the end of World War 2. Cold War is a love story between a woman who is a singer who travels around Europe in various musical troops and a man who did not have a defined profession in this story. The problem with this film as I saw it, were the reasons why the couple was not able to stay together were not portrayed clearly enough. The hardships and the aftermath of World War 2 was one obvious reason for their many breakups, but perhaps the real reasons were all lost in translation. I thought the quality of the film-making was very high, including some impressive black and white photography. There are some scenes of very good musical numbers in this film, all sung in Polish and Russian.

The ratings for Cold War are a very high 95% and this film has received three Oscar nominations this year including best Foreign Language film, but for me this story was too boring in many spots to give it a rating any higher than 75%.

Movie Review: Serenity


Movies like “Serenity” that are described by some critics as “January junk” are the kind of films that come out early in the year because they have no chance for any kind of an award and are essentially just early year filler until much better movies are released. Unfortunately Serenity is another example of January junk.

One reason why screenplays are so difficult to write is that when you are trying to trick the audience, everything along the way has to have plausibility. The story has to make sense and the way people react to what is going on, also has to make sense. In all my years of watching and writing about movies, this movie has probably the stupidest idea yet to trick the audience and in conclusion none of the entire 2 hours makes any sense. Movies like this anger audiences much more than entertain them, because a person would have to throw out all levels of common sense to buy into the insane high level idea that controls all of the action that happens for the entire movie.

Serenity stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane and Djimon Hounsou and I thought it was very hard to believe that 4 actors who have won and been nominated for Academy Awards, still agreed to act in this movie after reading the script. Serenity is probably another example of deal making and Hollywood favors that have to be honored. Considering the large number of better scripts that will never be made into a film, this bad script being produced is another example of one that should have been thrown into the trash. I have seen worse movies than this one, but I cannot remember a more inane high level idea that does nothing more than try to trick an already bored audience. The last ditch effort to save this bad film was the heads up to US audiences about a few McConaughey nude scenes, but this will not save the box office for an idea this bad.

The Rotten Tomatoes reviews for this movie are a very low 22% and I agree with this rating and recommend that everybody runs from this 2 hours of mess.

Academy Award Nominations 2018


Best Picture:

“Black Panther”
“BlacKkKlansman”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book”
“Roma”
“A Star Is Born”
“Vice”

Lead Actor:

Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Lead Actress:

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Supporting Actor:

Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

Director:

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”