Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Review

Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Review

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Written by James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis

Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 2h 2m

Genre: Science Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 62%

Available on Hulu and HBO Max

A cyborg uses her prodigious fighting skills to take on corrupt authorities in a future dystopia. (Hulu)

It’s not every day that a film introduces its titular character in what may very well be their lowest of lows. When we are introduced to the cyborg Alita she is, for all intents and purposes, long discarded trash. Regardless of this her brain, as well as her core power source, are still in prime condition. It takes the work of one Dr. Ido to restore her into working order. With a new body and new life, Alita, who remembers nothing, is forced to adjust to her new surroundings while trying to remember her obscure past. Dr. Ido, who becomes a father figure to Alita, and a young man named Hugo, her love interest, help her along the way. 

I didn’t know what to expect from a movie based off of a manga, let alone a film based on such an extensive and well-written manga. When the trailer first came out, I must admit I was concerned; especially since it follows the disappointing 2017 Ghost in Shell adaption. Like most viewers, I was taken aback by Miss Salazar’s exaggerated eyes. When first exposed to the imagery, I admit that the effects of the uncanny valley were strong. This detail can be somewhat ignored after you take into consideration that the manga makes a point to give Alita exaggerated features, though, if I recall it was originally her “large” lips. This detail would prove to be the only character design decision I found myself continuously questioning. 

My main qualm with the film is that there were often times the CGI was poorly executed. As a result, there were scenes in which I found myself being pulled out of the film, solely due to the poor integration of computer-generated backgrounds with the live-action actors. Additionally, the digital augmentation of Alita’s face often came off as awkward, most notably in the scene in which she tries chocolate for the first time. Otherwise, the film was beautiful and fully embraced the cyberpunk aesthetic.

For the most part, I have minimal complaints with the film. I was pleasantly surprised by the character development as well as the overall execution. I wouldn’t call the film your run-of-the-mill origin story. For what it’s trying to achieve in regards to its source material, I would call it successful. Many may say there isn’t really a plot, but as a introductory film to a potential franchise, the film gets the job done. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which was not what I expected.

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The Half of It (2020) Review

The Half of It (2020) Review

Directed by: Alice Wu

Written by: Alice Wu

Starring: Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Alexxis Lemire

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 1h 45m

Genre: LGBTQ, Comedy, Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Availability: Netflix

She’s a gifted introvert. He’s a sweet jock. Both are smitten with the same girl. Friendships– and first loves– can be complicated. (Netflix)

In my opinion there hasn’t been a teen movie that falls among the ranks of the classics for quite a while, but The Half of It might just fit the bill. Not only does the film include relatable romance, but it has an emphasis on friendship and platonic love, something we honestly need more of in both film and books. 

The film is a heartwarming examination of friendship and young love, as well as the struggles of immigrants, their children, and LGBT youth (especially in the midwest). It vividly illustrates the growth of romantic and platonic love on a number of levels, something we don’t often see in teen films. The film avoids the cliche of the relationships in the film becoming diluted by an overdone love-triangle. Rather we watch the blooming romance between two people, and the growth of a close friendship. Romance takes the back seat to the emphasis on friendship, which is exceptionally refreshing. And with the addition of including the struggles of the film’s protagonist as an immigrant only adds a realistic depth to the film. For viewers who immigrated to the States at a young age, as well as viewers whose parents are immigrants, the main character is exceptionally relatable.

This is one of those films everyone needs to watch and it’s one of those films you can watch more than once. Be warned though, you’ll probably be crying by the time the credits roll.

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Hush (2016) Review

Hush (2016) Review

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Written by Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel

Starring: John Gallagher Jr., Kate Siegel, Michael Trucco

Rated: R

Run-Time: 1h 21m

Genre: Horror

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

Available of Netflix

A deaf writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears in her window. (Netflix)

This film has been in my suggestions on Netflix pretty much since it became available on there, and for whatever reason I never got around to watching it. It follows a storyline quite common in thrillers and as a result my first impression of it wasn’t the best. It’s a storyline that I actually enjoy, but as of late have been enjoying less because these films tend to be predictable. The characters aren’t always the smartest and the villain is sometimes so smart they barely come off as actual humans. 

To first address the predictability of this film, I must say that while it was at times quite predictable it was predictable in a good way. Now how can a film be predictable in a good way? For me it has to heavily to with the fact that, in the case of this film, the fact that I was able to predict the next moves of the characters didn’t detract from the event actually happening. Rather it added to the suspense of when will it happen. 

A surprising positive for the film was the production. I found that the film was shot well, and very easy to understand visually. The use of sound added to the general ambience of the story, making it more immersive and, for lack of a better word, stressful. 

The acting was better than I expected, especially from the antagonist played by John Gallagher Jr.. The few scenes in the beginning in which he is wearing a mask are a particularly good example of his acting ability, considering that even though most of his face was obscured by the mask it was still evident to the audience what was going on inside his head. They say true acting is having the ability to not only act the story out on the grand scale, but to be able to act with one’s eyes. This film is a good example of this. 
Ultimately I enjoyed the film. It actually had me at the edge of my seat, cursing under my breath in shock and practically bouncing in my seat in anticipation. Nowadays it’s hard to find a thriller that can evoke such a response.

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A Whisker Away (2020) Review

A Whisker Away (2020) Review

Directed by: Junichi Sato, Tomotaka Shibayama

Written by: Mari Okada

Starring: Mirai Shida, Natsuki Hanae, Hiroaki Ogi

Rated: TV-PG

Run-Time: 1h 44m

Genre: Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Available on Netflix

A peculiar girl transforms into a cat to catch her crushes attention. But before she realizes it, the line between humans and animal starts to blur. (Netflix)

The trailer for A Whisker Away immediately brings you in with the visuals of a cute animated cat, but if you’re like me and only saw it in passing when browsing through Netflix. The movie is about a cute animated cat, but it’s a little more complicated than that. 

A Whisker Away takes you into a whimsical world that’s softly developed in a very Ghibli-eque manner. What you find is that in this world there is a cat merchant, who, in exchange for your human face, will give you a mask that allows you to become a cat (your face is then in turn provided to a cat who is then able to take your place). Of course, you are given a trial period, so see whether you really want to be a cat. To an extent the film is reminiscent of Ghibli’s The Cat Returns, but doesn’t manage to quite hit the mark. 

The film seems to be an attempt to capture the whimsy such a story told through animation can have, but falls short. It’s not easy to say where because there’s nothing blaringly wrong with the film. It’s unique, but not so unique that you can say you’ve never seen anything like it before, because you probably have. It’s beautifully animated, but doesn’t do anything special in regards to it’s animation. The characters aren’t memorable, even after watching the movie twice I can only remember two characters’ names, primarily because of how often the names were said. Otherwise, there isn’t much to say about them. The motivations for what they did was relatable, but the way they handled it wasn’t which made it hard to truly relate to them. The film wasn’t engrossing as films should be, rather than being transported to another magical world, the film feels like nothing more than… well a film. In the end, I can’t say I regret watching it, but it’s not a movie you’d be excited to watch more than once.

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I’m Not an Easy Man (Je ne suis pas un homme facile) (2018) Review

I’m Not an Easy Man (Je ne suis pas un homme facile) (2018) Review

I Am Not an Easy Man is a humor film with an obvious feminist agenda that manages to be more hilarious than preachy. Though at times the way the aspects of the story are presented is ridiculous it manages to paint an interesting alternate universe where society is matriarchal. As a women, this sounds like a blessed idea, but the film does a good job of showing the importance for equality, that even in a truly matriarchal world has its own flaws. The characters are well written and the presentation of this world is done well, with both obvious and subtle differences. It does a very good job of raising topics of discussion, regarding topics of toxic masculinity to the effect of a gender dominated society. 

The only true downsides I could find in the film is some of the cultural differences in the matriarchal society that were hard to believe and therefore brought me out of my suspension of belief. The film features a number of scenes with shirtless women, a parallel to how our society has no problem with partial nudity of men but think differently when it comes to women. This simple fact doesn’t bother me, but when a short scene included a shirtless women going on a job my immediate thoughts were “God that must hurt!” Because, even in a society where it is totally okay for a women to be out shirtless its hard for me to believe someone would be content running while shirtless. For those who don’t have breasts, let me tell you, it is not comfortable to run without some sort of support. Scenes with similar minor grievances are littered throughout the film and while they do not detract from the basic storyline i am going to consider them a negative of this film because they still managed to pull me out of this world. Even in a good film, little things like this can affect the experience greatly.

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