Friday, December 8, 2017

Trailer Review - Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel (2018)
Official Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Rosa Salazar as the titular bug-eyed anime heroine, Christoph Waltz as a humble junkyard-diving scientist, Jennifer Connelly as an evil scary lady, Mahershala Ali as an evil mobster, Keean Johnson as a boring love interest, and Ed Skrein as an unfortunate actor who had to wear a green screen bodysuit in order to play a CGI constructed cyborg.

Scene Pop: Those eyes... My god!

Effective?: It certainly is drawing major attention just for the first look at the CGI enhanced anime eyes the makers placed on Salazar, which means the trailer is ultimately a success. But seriously, what the hell is with the ultra serious tone, the dramatic reveal of "And Director Robert Rodriguez", and the pushing of its Oscar-winning actors? It's a sci-fi action flick!

Check it Out?: Maybe for a matinee. Alita has been one of the biggest white whales in Hollywood, thanks to James Cameron's absolute refusal to let the project die despite the sheer fact that even diehard anime fans have forgotten about the OVA. It could be an averagely fun film but I do really see it becoming the next Valerian.

Trailer Review - Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Official Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard returning as their lame characters, Justice Smith as an annoying kid sidekick (which everyone just absolutely loved in all of the movies past the first one) and Jeff Goldblum in a surprise appearance as Dr. Ian Malcolm.

Scene Pop: Malcolm's back! Even though there's a high chance it's just for a cameo!

Effective?: Not really. It starts off explaining its premise of dinosaur conservation but then moves on to straight up spoiling a ugly looking action sequence involving an active volcano, one of the stupid ball transports from Jurassic World, and Pratt doing his best Tom Cruise by trying to outrun the ash.

Check it Out?: Signs point to no. I love J.A. Bayona but Jurassic World quickly soured on everyone's hopes and dreams of the rebirth of this franchise. That film may have scored a humongous box office take but I can see this one pulling far lower numbers, even if Bayona can somehow make the movie work beyond its sure-to-exist studio meddling and Colin Trevorrow, the man who poorly directed Jurassic World, coming back to co-write the script.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Coco - Review

Miguel is the black sheep of his large crazy Mexican family of shoemakers due to his penchant for the forbidden vice of music. An accident on Día de Muertos reveals that his exiled great-great abuelo is actually popular musician Ernesto de la Cruz, much to the annoyance of his music-hating abuela Elena. One trip to Ernesto's crypt and strum of his famous guitar later, Miguel is suddenly transported to the Land of the Dead and begins his search for his banned family member. COCO is a delightfully entertaining breeze of an animated movie, that kind your heart needs when you a little cry or a reminder about the power of family and seeking your dream. The story has a thankfully casual pace, allowing the audience to enjoy its vibrant and musically inclined adventure with low stakes. There's a nice breath of fresh air with its structure, such as how the intended antagonist may be ruthless in their agenda but you clearly can understand their reasoning and why they're wearing kid gloves to catch that kid. It's just so very nice to have an exquisite Latino-based work brimming with culture and personality that's suited for children and families that isn't polluted with obnoxious helping hands for the language or the presence of a kid protagonist with vacant eyes and no soul. The backgrounds are all evocatively rich in their depth, detail, and sheer amounts of color and filled to the brink with crowds of splendidly designed characters. The voice cast is wonderful, with Gael García Bernal as Miguel's sidekick/guardian Héctor and Alanna Ubach as Mamá Imelda beings the absolute standouts for doing the double duty of emoting their lines and belting out tunes. The music is pretty good, especially Michael Giacchino's score, but I feel bad for Germaine Franco and Adrian Molina, as all of the original songs they produced are ultimately squashed by the heavyweight beast that is "Remember Me", the new contender for your kid's favorite song by the powerhouse couple of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Unfortunately, though I was enraptured by its world and much of the heartwarming material caused me to tear up, the film quite quickly vacated out of my senses once I walked out of the theater. It could have been the fact that the script gets way too relaxed and often resorts to cliche storytelling and predictable outcomes that we have seen in other works and/or in other Pixar movies. It could have been the great but unnecessary twist the film pulls so it can have the standard Pixar final act that always closes out the show. It could have been many other things but there just sadly isn't a ton of resonance beyond its animated beauty or touching scenes to make COCO a true masterpiece. It may grow more in my heart in time or it just may be a brief euphoric experience today due to the current state of Pixar. Oh, and as for the now infamous "Olaf's Frozen Adventure" short that plays before the movie: it is an inoffensive treat but the long pace, weird retconning, and truly forgettable songs do hurt its amusement.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Beguiled - Review

Set during the dark days of the American Civil War, a girls school hidden within the expansive and luscious forests of Virginia becomes further on edge when the forlorn and injured Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) of the Union Army is brought into their gothic abode. THE BEGUILED is a beautifully well staged and acted drama that is able to bring enough in its later stages in order to be truly invigorating. I haven't seen the original 1971 film directed by Don Siegel and famously featuring Clint Eastwood acting against type but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to notice the enforcement of a strong and conflicted female viewpoint to the story. The main women are smart and brave enough to overcome some of their physical deficiencies yet still struggle with the mental stress of Southern societal obligations. After all, it would unbecoming of a proper Christian gal to be lacking in manners or refuse to bequeath proper hospitality. Sofia Coppola crafts a visually gorgeous movie around the story, coupled with some amazing acting by the entire cast, but several moments of palpable sensuality and twisted mind games lack their full punch. She tries to make up for these shortcomings with some liberal usage of catty melodrama and black humor but they don't really raise the heartbeat of the picture. That is until the film lets loose all of its bubbling tension, ominous atmosphere, and Chekov's guns in its last third, crescendoing with two quiet gut punches right at the end. Another enchanting work from one of the world's best female visionaries.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Trailer Review - Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Official Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: It's got all the warriors: bearded Captain America, scared Iron Man, blonde Black Widow, new cyber-suited Spider-Man, human skinned and sure-to-die Vision, The Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange, Wong, Black Panther, Winter Soldier, Falcon, War Machine, Loki, Thor, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. And finally, we have Thanos complete with his space wife-beater, ugly bald head and his special gem holstering glove.

Scene Pop: I can't really pick one. Sure there are some cool shots but they feel like total audience bait, the type of crap that causes YouTubers to fake scream their heads off into the camera.

Effective?: As a teaser for its movie, yes. However, it does so at the expense of the upcoming Black Panther film. Why bother sitting through that film when you know he's going to survive his personal ordeal and team up with the reformed Avengers?

Check it Out?: Of course I'm seeing it. Why wouldn't I?! I'm just feeling a bit fatigued at this point and not as highly enthusiastic as when this whole secondary build-up by Marvel started with the Thanos reveal in The Avengers.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Murder On The Orient Express (2017) - Review

International private detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) wishes to use his long trip on the Orient Express as a brief rest before his next case in London. Unfortunately for the Belgian sleuth with the wild moustache, a dead body turns up in the next door cabin and he needs to figure out which of the other passengers committed the murder before the train is freed from a freak avalanche. Branagh brings a lot of new energy in front and behind the camera to the latest adaptation of the famed Agatha Christie mystery novel to slightly mixed results. The central whodunit remains the same but there are a few wrinkles in the details of Michael Green's script that helps reshape some of the drama, most notably the changing of one character to an African-American. To further punch up the devious festivities, Branagh sprinkles in a few action sequences and carefully blocked out long takes. Unfortunately, those brief moments of action are direly shot, ultimately pointless and feature a clear stand-in of the 56-year-old actor/director. As for the cinematography, it is often graciously well shot but some artsy maneuvers, namely a lengthy scene shot entirely in bird's eye view, end up spoiling the thrills. And the less said about the poor CGI and green screening, the better. Despite these creative missteps, the film is still an entertainingly warm picture about cold blooded slaughter and the icy fractures of human suffering. All of the games of deception are pulpy fun and there's plenty of humorous dialogue and black comedy to keep you chuckling. The acting is the best thing going for the feature; all of the players get to sink their teeth into the succulent drama and have a chance to shine. Funny enough, it is Branagh himself who really takes the cake, which of course was elegantly prepared by the fine kitchen staff and made from Godiva chocolate. He wisely sands off some of the hard edges of the peculiar investigator and plays up both the perfectionistic eccentrics and the hidden tragedies of the character, making his Poirot a more dapper and tolerable version of Adrian Monk. It may not overtake the celebrated 1974 version but it gets the job done.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars - Review

Stuck on a military space station and tasked with turning a group of lazy, vanity-seeking Mars-born recruits into proper mobile infantry, Col. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) sees his fortunes turn far worse when a surprise bug invasion unearths itself on the red planet. STARSHIP TROOPERS: TRAITOR OF MARS is a step in the right direction for the cult sci-fi franchise. Though it sadly still retains the odd Japanese 3D motion-capture animation look from the last movie INVASION, original screenwriter Edward Neumeier is back in the saddle as writer and boy does he have some new satirical things to say. The animated film is at its best when it focuses on some rich material that are certainly topical in our currently dark social climate. A rambunctious generation of people wired to online platforms, a glory hound with a five-letter last name who only cares about their approval rating, staff members who lavishly praise their superior or wear literal blinders, a political talk show that is legitimately called "Who's To Blame This Time?" and so on. These elements give the picture a much needed punch that is sorely lacking in the action department. Saying choreographed CGI violence looks like a video game is a way too easy knock to make in film criticism, doubly so if it's in an animated feature, but it really does here. While watching the several often mediocre shootouts and splattering of bug guts, I just couldn't shake off how much the power suits the heroes wear look like a cross between Gears of War and Vanquish, especially when they run or use their jetpacks. Or, how when Rico is sporting his basic battle gear, he looks like what you get if Xiahou Dun and Commander Shepard had a baby. Additionally, though I did enjoy the finer aspects of Neumeier's writing, the much hyped re-appearance of Dizzy, with Dina Meyer reprising the role, is ruined by a predictable twist and ultimately doesn't really matter in the end. I wasn't completely entertained but TRAITOR OF MARS brought enough vigor to barely cross the finish line and be an okay watch.