Alita: Battle Angel (2019): A 26th Century Fox Film

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“Alita: Battle Angel” is directed Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spy Kids), written and produced by the critically acclaimed James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic) and stars Rosa Salazar (Parenthood, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained, Spectre), Mahershala Ali (Green Book, Moonlight), Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones, Deadpool), Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children, A Nightmare on Elm Street), and Keean Johnson (Nashville, The Fosters). This film takes place in the year 2563, or 300 years after a massive war between planets leading to Earth’s devastation. When the film starts, we see a scientist assemble a girl who clearly has a consciousness but has no memory of major events that happened in the past. With that in mind, she decides to go on a journey to recover her memories.

This movie, to me, had a very bumpy road up until its official release. Word of mouth about it in terms of its development has been spoken since we hit the 21st century. At the turn of a new millennium, Fox registered the rights to the domain battleangelmovie.com and James Cameron registered the rights to battleangelalita.com, who has said for years that this film is in progress. He was going to do it after the production of the TV series “Dark Angel,” but he didn’t get to it. He wanted to get the thing done after the film “Aliens of the Deep,” once again, he didn’t get to it. After all, Cameron’s biggest priority during the late 2000s was “Avatar,” mainly because he wanted to bring awareness of environmental preservation to public audiences, which to be fair, is a pretty good reason to focus on a movie like that. Well, in addition to raking in over $2 billion at the box office… In August 2010, over a year and a half after “Avatar’s” release in theaters, Cameron stated he wanted to work on the “Alita” film, but he is having trouble getting around to it. Then came 2013, where Cameron happened to be in an interview with director Alfonso CuarĂ³n (Roma, Gravity). Cameron suggested 2017 as the time to start working on the film. Coincidentally, shooting began in late 2016. And a year before that, The Hollywood Reporter stated that Robert Rodriguez was in talks to direct the film (a confirmation to direct would be announced in 2016). Said director was supposed to “condense and combine Cameron’s 186-page screenplay and some 600 pages of notes into what could be the shooting script.”

So basically, James Cameron is approaching his “Alita” project similar to how I would approach my high school crush. I’d start out looking at her, admiring her, trying to talk to her abd say hi once or twice, get her to notice me, only til I get to the point where I either lose that crush or I think she’s too good for me.

Although, I haven’t even gotten to the trailers yet! The first trailer for “Alita: Battle Angel” released at the end of 2017, and at the time, the film was scheduled to come out in July 2018. Then, the second trailer, which came out last year in July during San Diego Comic-Con, suggested the film would be out at the end of the year in December. If you ask me, that was a terrible decision made by whoever was in charge of the release, because then the film would have to compete with other titles such as “Aquaman,” “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Bumblebee,” and more. Luckily, they made the smart choice of moving the release date once again, this time to February 2019, as suggested in a trailer for the film which came out this past November. And it seems to have worked out in the film’s favor because it ended up making over $400 million worldwide, which is more than twice the film’s budget of $170 million.

But the real question is this… How was “Alita: Battle Angel” as a movie? Was it good? Was it bad? Was it ugly? My answer, none of the above! In fact, it was awesome! Remember back in 2015 when “Mad Max: Fury Road” came out? Personally, I don’t particularly like it as much as everyone else, but I for one have grown to appreciate the flick as a visual spectacle. There are numerous thrilling action sequences, the cinematography took a lot of effort to pull off, and damn it pulled off well! And the film is filled to the brim with practical effects. There are tons of vehicles specifically built for the film, the locations fit every scene quite well, and there are a number of stunts and movements throughout the picture that are kind of brilliant when you break them down. To me, this was that, but with CGI. Kind of like “Avatar” or “Gravity” or the 2016 “Jungle Book” remake because like those films, I almost questioned how the CGI looked as polished and stunning as it did. This film is the very definition of a visual spectacle, and I’m almost surprised that I am even saying that, because when I first looked at Alita herself from the first couple of trailers, I thought she I’d be slightly offput by her appearance. Not by her body, I am not a guy who wants women’s bodies to look a certain way, but… her eyes. Honestly, they didn’t even bother me in this film, and to be honest, they made Alita stand out to me in a positive way as the film went on. It let me know of the character I happened to be looking at. After all, when we first look at Alita’s face at the start of the film, she didn’t even have eyes. The eyes we see in the film were added on.

If anything, if I had to compare “Alita: Battle Angel” to another film visually, I’d say the best example would have to be last year’s “Ready Player One,” which if you have followed this blog for some time, you may know I adored that film. Visually speaking, it was hard at times to recall if I had seen anything like it. To this day, “Ready Player One” has some of the best CGI I have seen in a film because it creates this immersive video game world that I kind of wanted to be in, especially considering how it highlights the real world and how it has gone to s*it. I don’t think I’m going to have a great 2045, I think we’re going to be super low on resources! Give me my video game world now! Much like “Ready Player One,” “Alita: Battle Angel” spends much of the runtime being rather glossy, but in its own case, it also has some grittier looking images to take a gander towards. Down in Iron City, it kind of has a similar look to Wakanda from “Black Panther,” but with more to do around the area. Then again, I don’t typically imagine many Wakandans walking down a street to sample some chocolate so who knows? Plus, there’s one part of the city scenes that captured my attention.

The introduction of motorball.

Holy s*it, I seriously don’t get how people can watch football. I can watch motorball all day every day!

Motorball: The new sport for the universe.

Now I should point out that I have never introduced myself to the original source material of “Alita.” In fact, despite calling myself a nerd, anime and manga are two of my weakest areas when it comes to following the main aspects of geek culture. So in case you cannot tell, the concept of motorball is fairly new to me. But damn, I love it. It has the physicality of hockey, although perhaps greater physicality since everyone’s occasionally trying to kill each other, not to mention the adrenaline of NASCAR. It is a sight for the eyes if there ever was one.

And speaking of awesome moments with tons of CGI, let me just point out that you all should check out “Alita” just for the action alone. There’s some creative ideas to be witnessed, and there is one character in particular who has these chain wires coming out of his arm, it reinvents the word epic. Honestly, to me, these action scenes are up there with films like “The Matrix,” “Man of Steel,” and the “Lord of the Rings” franchise of how fantastically exhilarating the action can tend to get. It almost reminds me of a video game, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean that in comparison to a bunch of flashy video games where everything is eye candy and it almost makes you feel like you want to be part of the action despite the possibility of getting killed. Damn, this movie is the bomb.

But this movie is not all looks, it has some decent characters too. I was rooting for Alita the entire time, I really liked the love interest she interacted with, specifically Hugo (Keean Johnson). I bought into the chemistry Alita had with her “father” and I really liked the backstory as to how Alita got her name.

But at the same time, since I have been talking about how unbelievable this film is, it should come as no surprise that my biggest problem should have to do with the characters. This is not to say that I hated anybody in particular, I have no beef with anyone. But when it comes to the film’s antagonistic side, it almost feels as if it doesn’t exist at times. For some reason, there have been numerous moments throughout the film that make it feel as if there happens to be no real threat. Granted there is a threat, but even when there is, it almost feels like it barely has a reason to be in there. And speaking of problems, there is a moment in the film where the “father” character, Dr. Dyson Ido, establishes a couple of rules with Alita, and that conversation tends to almost go nowhere in terms of how the rest of the film plays out. Granted, it partially goes somewhere, but it never feels like it has a full reason to exist. I won’t go too far into the rules or where they tend to go, but it’s something I wanted to point out. This is slightly nitpicky, but nevertheless, I feel it is also something that is important to establish.

In the end, “Alita: Battle Angel” gave me pretty much what I wanted. It’s enormous, it’s lively, and it’s boisterous. Overall, it’s probably the biggest spectacle of the year (maybe aside from Endgame). And based on how much I enjoyed this film, it kind of makes me forget about the development and post-production problems a little bit. I watched this film on 4K Blu-ray because I wanted to provide myself with as much of a spectacle as I can. Having done that, it kind of makes me mad at myself for not going to see this in a theater. Especially in IMAX 3D. There are several moments that if you have a 7.1 surround sound system, it will make you feel like you’re inside your screen. It’s what a movie is supposed to be, an escape. And in this case, “Alita: Battle Angel” is one escape that put me in a world which I never wanted to leave. I’m going to give “Alita: Battle Angel” a 9/10. I don’t know if this film will end up being for everyone, but for me, this was Heaven. As a nerd, I found myself loving the sci-fi and fantasy elements brought to the story. And from a technical perspective, “Alita” shines as bright as the sun. Plus, you know how a lot of people are still waiting for that “excellent video game movie?” Films based on anime and manga are almost in the same league as video games. The only ones that stand out, happen to do so for not so good reasons. I have not watched “Dragonball: Evolution,” but knowing enough about it, there is enough to support why I have not watched it yet. I don’t dive into anime and manga all that much in general, but still, this movie, unlike a lot of other similar entrants to its genre, is something special. I dig it, I would love to see a sequel, and if it comes back to theaters, I am there.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that I just recently watched “Missing Link,” the new animated film from Lakia. I will have a review for that up as soon as possible, be sure to stay tuned for that! Also, this upcoming weekend, I will be at Terrificon so I will not be watching anything new from Friday to Sunday. But fear not! Because I will be doing a post reporting my activities from the con! That should be up sometime next week, hope you all get a chance to read it! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! And while I cannot promise you I am sharing my epic wins from playing motorball on there, be sure to like my Facebook page! It has updates on upcoming posts, it lets you know when new content is available, and I’ll even remind people of various milestones I hit on the blog every once in a while. Check it out, please! I want to know, did you see “Alita: Battle Angel?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite fictional sport? Willing to bet most of you are going to say Quidditch, aren’t you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Django Unchained (2012): Now You Have My Attention, Tarantino

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Before we begin this post, I want to announce that I officially purchased my opening night tickets for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which is the latest film from director Quentin Tarantino. I’m going to see the movie in 35mm and I will likely have my review up by the end of the opening weekend. But since that movie is not out yet, I am going to be tackling a couple more Tarantino films from the past including one of the latest additions to the director’s library, “Django Unchained.” I sat down last week, watched the film for the first time, and let me just say, any movie that has Robert Carradine (King of the Nerds, Revenge of the Nerds), chances are I will have some interest in checking out. Without further ado, let’s start the review!

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“Django Unchained” is directed by Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction) and stars Jamie Foxx (Ray, Collateral), Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, The Green Hornet), Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, Inception), Kerry Washington (Scandal, Save the Last Dance), Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Snakes on a Plane), Walton Goggins (Justified, The Shield), Dennis Christopher (Breaking Away, It), James Remar (2 Fast 2 Furious, Sex and the City), Michael Parks (Red State, Planet Terror), and Don Johnson (Miami Vice, Nash Bridges). This film involves a dynamic duo, specifically a freed slave and German bounty hunter. The freed slave’s main purpose throughout the film is trying to reunite with his wife. To do that, they have to travel to a plantation in Mississippi.

I was pretty excited to watch “Django Unchained” for a number of reasons. As of watching “Pulp Fiction” and reviewing it, I instantly had Tarantino fever. “Django Unchained” had a decent cast including Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio. Plus, while he does not play a major role, Robert Carradine, one of the members of the legendary Carradine acting family, is in this movie. While I may not be invested in said family, Carradine is personally one of my idols simply for being host of “King of the Nerds,” one of the only good reality shows to ever exist. I was pretty much set for whatever Tarantino was going to deliver.

I just want to remind everyone that in the name “Django,” the “D” is silent. But as for my thoughts on the film, I almost feel that in a world where praise can make noise, my praise for “Django Unchained” would be pretty freaking audible. That is not to say that it is as good as “Pulp Fiction,” there are a couple issues I have with “Django Unchained,” including one or two that could be used in comparison to “Pulp Fiction.”

When I watched “Pulp Fiction,” I had my eyes glued to the screen for pretty much the entire picture. Part of me wants to say that for “Django Unchained,” but I’d be lying if I didn’t go without saying that the pacing for “Django Unchained” occasionally becomes a hindrance. The thing that kept me looking at the screen for “Pulp Fiction” was the execution of the dialogue between characters, not to mention actions in between. “Django Unchained,” much like “Pulp Fiction,” is a movie that is very cool to look at. It feels exactly how I would want a western-style film to be. But there are one or two points where I am thinking to myself certain scenes can be executed in a slightly different way for the sake of shortening the runtime or some other reason. Who knows? Maybe it’s one of those things that I will learn to appreciate over a second watch, but it’s hard to tell. It’s not like I became angry with the ways certain scenes went down, in fact, there is one scene in particular past the halfway point that goes on for a long time, and the execution there is brilliant. And that’s the thing about Tarantino that I have come to appreciate over the past couple of films I watched. There are a lot of movies out there that I would criticize for having extended scenes that go on forever, with boring dialogue. There are particular long scenes in this that may have dialogue that some directors and writers could probably leave behind. Tarantino however, seems to be the master when it comes to shoehorning in useless scenes. It’s mind-boggling that I as an audience member could be witnessing a moment of the film that is borderline unneeded, but because of what is being said, it feels like a cherry on top of a sundae!

As for the characters in “Django Unchained,” all of them are well written. In fact, there are some cases where I refuse to call them characters and instead call them “A+ dialogue generators.” I really felt for Jamie Foxx’s character of Django at certain points, and there are times where I managed to find him pretty kick-ass. And such kick-assery is established from the very first scene, which is carried through the entire film with ease. And as far as his chemistry with Christoph Waltz goes, it is taken to the point where I cannot even imagine anybody else playing either of their characters.

By the way, I love this scene.

Amerigo Vessepi: What’s your name?

Django: Django.

Amerigo Vessepi: Can you spell it?

Django: D-J-A-N-G-O. The D is silent.

Amerigo Vessepi: I know.

I dunno, there’s something about that which just randomly screams, “Hey! I kick ass and take names!” And not only do I have to give credit for Jamie Foxx for the way he delivered that line, but I think top credit has to go to Quentin Tarantino, because I imagine he wanted this line specifically in the way which it happens to be presented here. Granted, it is also an Easter egg because this movie was inspired by the 1966 movie “Django,” starring the guy opposite this movie’s “Django” in the conversation above. Specifically, Franco Nero.

Although, even though I said I cannot imagine somebody playing someone else’s character, there’s one exception, but the reasoning for it is kinda crazy. When I read the cast on the Blu-ray case for this movie, I almost thought KERRY Washington said DENZEL Washington, so I cannot currently get him out of my head!

Speaking of things I cannot get out of my head, part of me really wants to see this movie turned into a video game. Why? Because this movie at times is unnecessarily violent, but it is all the better for it. There’s one shootout towards the end in particular that was a giant bloodbath. Said shootout contains a number of satisfying kills, and I would probably would need to rewatch this film, or maybe that scene in particular, but it could end up being in my top 20 favorite action scenes. And it does not take away from any emotion that I had towards the characters, because Django would get himself into a less than satisfying situation that made me admire the other side for how they executed their actions (stylistically), but I was still able to latch onto Django as a character.

I also gotta give credit to the costume and makeup department, especially with the transformation of Samuel L. Jackson. Because in this movie, he does not completely look like Samuel L. Jackson and instead looks more like the stereotype for a retired badass NBA basketball player. Per usual, Jackson is charismatic, plays a well written character, and at this point I’m pretty much repeating myself, I do not see anybody else playing his character. It’s amazing what a little grey hair can do to make a role more convincing.

In the end, “Django Unchained” is a fun ride, and kinda bonkers. Depending on the next movie I watch from Tarantino, he could become my favorite screenwriter of all time, and while this was not as good as “Pulp Fiction,” this manages to have the same Tarantino flair that movie had which I appreciate. This is not to say that “Django Unchained” is a ripoff, but it is just another reason why I happen to admire Tarantino’s directorial choices. He’s edgy, creative, and badass. “Django Unchained” solidifies itself as one of the best films of its year and when it comes to other violent films out there, this makes every other film look like it was made for children. “Django Unchained” kicks ass! I’m going to give “Django Unchained” a 9/10!

Thanks for reading this review! For those of you who want to know my next installment in the Tarantino review series, it is going to be his latest film, specifically 2015’s “The Hateful Eight.” I wanted to see this movie in theaters, but I never got around to it because of competition. Let’s face it, I ended up seeing “The Force Awakens” four times in a matter of two months. Nevertheless, I am very excited, I enjoy a good mystery every once in a while, so hopefully this will be good! As for new releases, I’m still trying my best to get myself to go see “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” I’m wondering if it is gonna be this year’s “Deadpool 2.” It’s a movie that I want to see, one that I am trying extra hard to get myself to see, but for one reason or another, I almost failed to get around to it. We’ll see what happens! Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you ever watch “Django Unchained?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite unnecessarily violent film or scene from a film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Downsizing (2017): More Like Upboring

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“Downsizing” is directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) and stars Matt Damon (The Martian, The Bourne Identity), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained, Inglorious Bastards), Hong Chau (Inherent Vice, Treme), and Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). This movie is about a guy who shrinks down after the realization that this action would change his life for the better.

I went to see this film with my mother, and both of us knew very little about it. I knew basically what I just described up above. Matt Damon plays a guy who at one point gets shrunken down. I found out a lot of things about this movie as it went on. For example, I found out the movie’s garbage. I also found out the people who are shrunken down go on and live in a tiny land. Another thing I also found out is that the shrinking was an idea to save the environment and the Earth from overpopulation. What’s another thing I found out? Oh yeah, and I found out the movie’s garbage! Allow me to explain the unbelievable boredom that you’ll experience watching “Downsizing.”

Have you ever watched C-SPAN and thought to yourself, what if something like this was full of fictional characters? No, this movie isn’t full of political discussions, but try watching C-SPAN for a number of minutes and try not to change to channel. Speaking of boring, have you ever read a terms of service agreement from beginning to end? This movie has one, it’s short, but if it were longer, that’s basically what this movie is. It’s a long terms of service agreement. Something you don’t want to look at, and in some cases, makes you wonder why you intended on signing up, or in this case, bought tickets, for what you’re experiencing. F*ck this movie!

This movie stars Matt Damon as the character of Paul Safranak. He and his wife decide at one point to shrink themselves down because if they do that, their lives will be better. They can live as large as a king, and work as little as Kim Kardashian. By the way, f*ck Kim Kardashian. Matt Damon gave a rather competent performance as his character. In fact, seeing Damon perform was one of the more redeemable parts of the entire film. There’s something about Matt Damon that makes you appreciate him. I thought his performance here was better than another stinker which came out this year, specifically “The Great Wall,” but it wasn’t enough to make a good movie.

I’m not even gonna get into the other characters. Because I don’t even care about them enough to talk about them! I almost fell asleep while watching this film, which I will say I’ve never done once during a movie while I watched it in the theater. Let me just say that Matt Damon’s wife is played by Kristen Wiig, there’s an Asian chick who doesn’t understand English that well played by Hong Chau, and there’s LITERALLY NOBODY ELSE that I feel should be talked about here in detail because I’d probably have to watch the film again in order to get information on them.

There are so many things that are wrong with this film. Aside from being a total borefest, there are tons of questions that sparked in my mind as I dredged through this atrocity. For instance, why the f*ck am I watching this? But also, how the f*ck is some of this s*it happening? While the film is logical in ways, it doesn’t have any noticeable physics errors for example, there are many questionable things that just come together to create one gigantic mess. As everyone gets downsized, literally all of their hair is shaved. Why?! Another thing that I questioned during the film is how all of these small people got a lot of their items. I mean, the movie never goes into it, but a lot of it is explainable. I’ve got a couple valid reasons in my mind. A big thing I wonder is how these folks get their money. Is money downsized? Are wallets downsized? Also, when everyone gets downsized, they’re naked. Therefore, they don’t have their credit card on them. Another huge question, does the government approve of financial downsizing? I don’t know when this takes place, but it has to either take place in the future or present day. By that logic, I imagine people would still be addicted to their phones. When one person shrinks himself or herself down, it’s a total life changer. Would phones suffer from downsizing? Yes, the downsized world would contain factories producing products like phones and everything along those lines. But why can’t you downsize products? This really makes me concerned about that money thing I just mentioned. I remember Matt Damon using a phone when shrunken down, but I can’t remember if it was one he had before the shrinking process. Also, since downsizing’s a life changer, I gotta say, that s*it doesn’t make any sense. Yes, you’re changing the way you live, not to mention where you live. Ultimately, you’re still the same person. The movie makes it sound like you’re never going to talk to the people you know again. Not only does Matt Damon talk to someone he knows who doesn’t shrink, but in general, how do you talk to people you can’t communicate with easily? Do it on the phone! You can still talk to your family on the phone! Also, once a person gets downsized, this process can’t be reversed. So they couldn’t make a separate machine for upsizing? Or make upsizing an option on the machine? At least say that there’s no way to do that! This movie is nothing but garbage!

I don’t have much else to say, but there’s this awesome pun given during the movie. Matt Damon is on the phone talking to one person in particular, which, yeah, more phone s*it. He says something to get the person to say “Don’t get short with me.” As terrible as this movie is, hearing that line might be worth the price of admission.

In the end, “Downsizing” sounds like an interesting movie on paper. A guy shrinking himself down to live a better life isn’t that bad of a concept, but this film not only bored me, but managed to make me question it more than I intended to. So for that, I wanted only one thing to shrink at this point, which was my anger. Unfortunately, it only grew as the movie progressed. F*ck this movie! I’m going to give “Downsizing” a 2/10. Thanks for reading this review, pretty soon I’m going to have my lists for my top 10 BEST movies of 2017 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2017. I’ve been working on those for quite a bit, and I can guarantee you that as of now, this movie made the worst list for sure! Stay tuned for more reviews, those countdowns, and more great content! I want to know, did you see “Downsizing?” What did you think about it? Or, what are some of the most boring movies you’ve ever seen? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!