Tag Archives: jennifer connelly

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel has robots, cyborgs, martians, floating cities, subterranean caves, hyperviolent arena sports, space battles, and an all-seeing immortal dictator pulling the strings behind the scenes.  And somehow, it manages to make all that stuff boring.  Like a three-handed guitar player (and make no mistake, Alita includes a three handed guitar player), Alita: Battle Angel is far less than the sum of its parts.

MV5BODMzMjlmZTYtOGU2NS00NGM2LWI4ZDItNzQzYTYwNDA2ZmU4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXRzdGFzaWVr._V1_CR21,0,939,528_AL_UY268_CR10,0,477,268_AL_The titular Alita (the Battle Angel, as it were) is found by Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) in an Iron City garbage heap. Well, Alita’s head and shoulders are, but the rest of her body is missing. Turns out, Alita is a 300 year old cyborg from before the “Fall” and Dr. Ido really easily brings her back to “life”. Like, it’s no trouble whatsoever for him to reboot her, and you might wonder why no one else has tried for the last 300 years.  But don’t, because if you start asking questions like that about this movie, you will never be able to stop.  Trust me.

We come to learn that in Alita the “Fall”  was a war between martians and Earth’s floating cities, rather than a name for the second worst season (anyone who thinks fall is worse than winter has never lived through a real winter), or an elevator between Australia and post-Brexit London (doesn’t it seem like Boris Johnson’s plan for Brexit might be to build that stupid elevator from the worse Total Recall? But I guess that makes sense when Donald Trump seems to have already ripped off the Mars colony part from the also-not-great original).

The only floating city that didn’t fall happens to be the one directly over Iron City, and oh yeah, Alita was found in the garbage falling from that floating city, and oh yeah, somehow after 300 years she still is in great condition without her body even though if any other cyborgs in this movie lose a finger they instantly die (except where screaming would add dramatic effect). Also, the only way to get to the floating city, obviously the home of the immortal dictator guy (Edward Norton!?! I had no idea he was even in this but of course Jay spotted him right away), is to win the Motorball championship (like a White House visit, I guess), but there is infinitely more political commentary in the previous two paragraphs of this review than in the whole of Alita. That’s probably for the better, considering how brainless this James Cameron script is. This was the best he could do after working on it for TWO DECADES?

There’s more back story and then some Matrix-lite fight scenes with a lot of cyborg spines and blue goo, but at this point I hope you are realizing that it doesn’t matter because it is all really stupid and you should avoid this movie at all costs. Some of the cyborgs might be kind of cool I guess but when Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali and Edward Norton clearly can’t be bothered with this movie, why should you?

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9

Shane Acker made a short, 10 minute film called 9 while he was still a student at UCLA. One wild ride later, it was nominated for Best Animated Short at the Oscars. It didn’t win, but it sure didn’t lose: Acker was offered the opportunity to expand his beloved short into a feature film, and this is it.

Although 9 is an animated film, it may not be appropriate for kids. It’s got a PG-13 rating and it is, frankly, dark. It’s set in a dystopian future in which man and machine have gone 9_movie-hdto war and likely both have lost. Only dust and destruction are left. And these dolls. They’re clearly sewed together with scraps of material and inexpert stitches, made from whatever parts are lying around but somehow injected with pieces of human souls; they’re all that’s left of humanity.

The machines that are still terrorizing them were born of the same scientist who sewed the dolls. They were made with good intentions but an evil chancellor corrupted them. This chancellor has shades of Hitler to him, and there are Nazi references throughout the film.

9 (Elijah Wood), the 9th doll sewn by the scientist, is prepared to die for humanity’s salvation, but he has to convince the 8 others (Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Connelly, and John C. Reilly among them) to join him.

The film definitely has an edge to it, criticizing our blind pursuit of progress. The film’s pitting of the simplest toy against complex machinery is pointed. That said, haven’t we seen this before? Like a million billion times? Perhaps something else could threaten us for a while? Technology is our undoing: we get it. And we’re not going to do a damn thing about it. Acker’s film is beautiful. His post-apocalyptic vision is too tempting to ignore, but I do wish there was a little more meat and a little more originality to go along with it. Maybe this one should have stayed a short.

TIFF: American Pastoral

pastoralbar640Ewan McGregor makes his directorial debut with American Pastoral, an adaption of Philip Roth’s novel. As always, I haven’t read the book and Jay has. She reports the movie to be quite faithful to the book, even pared down to have a two hour run-time.

I feel like the book must have a black cover, because American Pastoral is dark from start to finish. It is methodical in chronicling a family’s unravelling and is as far from idyllic as you can get.

With its dialogue-heavy scenes divided by contextual stock footage clips, American Pastoral felt more like a play than 21st century cinema. It is richly shot but largely static. The style mostly fit but at times the transitions were jarring. When they worked the transitions felt like covers of Life magazine, reenacted. Except as far as I know, Life magazine never featured a pipe bomb explosion at a small-town post office. Perhaps my dad’s magazine collection is incomplete.

In the Q&A session following the screening, McGregor described his approach to directing as an attempt to give life to the movie he saw in his head when he read the script. He imagined some nice shots and paid the price to get them (literally in the case of some costly train platform scenes). His foray into directing is a workmanlike effort but not a distinguishing one.

As an exploration of the destructive power of children, American Pastoral succeeds. As entertainment? Not so much, not for me.

By the closing credits I felt sad and drained, which I have no doubt is exactly how McGregor and Roth would have wanted me to leave the theatre. But because nothing stuck with me other than that empty feeling, American Pastoral is not a movie I can recommend.  If you enjoyed the book it’s likely worth a shot though, and in that case I hope you can connect with it in all the ways that I didn’t.

 

Best Live-Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

TMPIt’s Thursday again and you know what that means – this week we’re being asked to list our favourite live-action fairy tale adaptations. Not such an easy feat for some of the Assholes, but we’re giving it a go! Thanks, Wanderer, for your inspired themes.

 

Jay

It’s probably telling that though we owned copies of Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, I was never a very Princess-oriented little girl. Even as a kid, I preferred darker stories, and so my go-to fairy tale was always and still is Labyrinth.

I’m sure you know it: it’s about a teenaged girl (Jennifer Connolly) who makes a stupid wish that actually makes her baby brother disappear. Realizing her mistake, she has to win her brother back from the Goblin King by solving his labyrinth in just 15 hours. This movie combines two labyrinth-2_1389186934things that are so awesome I might call them otherworldly, and putting them together just multiplies their effect. First, David Bowie as the Goblin King: absolute perfection. To this day you couldn’t cast it better. The hair, the pants, the eyebrows! Second, Jim Henson. He brings some fairly complex puppets into the mix, some inspired by the genius work of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. Henson surrounds Bowie with a cast of Goth Muppets that create this hyper-real fever dream. The story’s fairytale roots stoke the fires of Jim Henson’s imagination beautifully, and we’re absorbed and suspended into a world where anything can happen.

For my second pick, I’m going with Penelope. Penelope is lovely girl (Christina Ricci) from a wealthy family who was born with the face of a pig. The pig-face is the result of a curse put on her family by a witch in retaliation for their rejection of a  house maid turned away when a penelopemember of the house impregnates her. Generations later, Penelope bears the brunt of her family’s indiscretion. To break the curse, Penelope must find “one of her own” to love her. Her suitors (including a roguish James McAvoy), however, may be more interested in her money than in true love. The movie gives life to the other side of the tale, a modern girl born only to be hidden away in shame, and what that has meant in terms of self-worth. I think it’s also an interesting example of how, with a little suspension of disbelief, we can invest in a fairy tale without a lot of big-budget effects and other trappings familiar to the genre. The fairy tale is made much more accessible and relatable on this plane.

I’ve been waffling over this third pick for a while. I felt like maybe I should go with a more classic adaptation, but damn it to hell, I’m going with a Cinderella story because it’s one that’s been told more than 700 times, in many different ways, all around the world. We just saw Disney’s live-pretty-woman-GCaction effort last night (quite good), but the one that will still stands out to me is Pretty Woman. It’s actually a pretty faithful adaptation, if a little modernized: a young woman with no family is forced into a life of hard work (prostitution, if you will). She meets a handsome prince (or millionaire businessman) and they start to fall in love, but she’s not from his world, so neither of them thinks the love with last. However, with the help of a fairy godmother (called Visa) she is magically transformed. But the prince must love her for who she really is, so she feels, and he follows, searching her out on her turf, his heart (and possibly other organs) swollen with love. And because this is a fairy tale, the ho and the ethically-questionable businessman live happily ever after. We assume.

Matt

If you joined us last Thursday, you might have noticed that I gave Luc a bit of a hard time about his lack of interest in black and white movies made after (or even before) 1970. Well, I’m hoping he loves live-action fairy tale adaptations because I can’t seem to find the same level of enthusiasm this week. It’s not that I object on principle. I don’t see any reason why stories that have so often inspired such great animated films can’t be reimagined as great live-action ones, especially with less pressure to conform their content to a G rating. Maybe because we can’t bring ourselves to set aside our cynicism for even two hours without the obviously manufactured world of animation but it’s a lot harder to believe in magic when it is Elle Fanning- not Sleeping Beauty- who can only be woken by True Love’s Kiss and almost every recent film in this sub-genre is almost embarrassing to watch. Still, after thinking about it all week, I have managed to come up with 3 worthy exceptions especially when allowing myself a little leeway with the rules.

Babe- When I say that Babe is one of my favourite films of the 90’s, I don’t mean “favourite babe-james-cromwellfamily movies”. I don’t know if it can be called a fairy tale under the strictest definition but it seems to think of itself as one. There may not be any fairy godmothers, pixie dust, or spells, but there are singing mice, scheming cats, an unlikely hero with the most innocent of hearts, and one of the most genuinely magical experiences of its decade.

 

Hook-  Steven Spielberg makes my list two weeks in a row. Technically more a Peter Pan sequel than a peter Pan adaptation, Spielberg’s 1991 film is one of his most underappreciated. Now a cynical corporate lawyer who hates flying, Peter Pan (Robin Williams) is all grown up and has literally Hook-1forgotten about Neverland. With the help of Tinker Bell (Julia Roberts), he must learn to fly again to save his young kids who have kidnapped by Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) who is still holding a grudge. Hook makes great use of almost every one of Williams’ many talents and Hoffman is brilliantly cast and will likely put Garrett Hedlund to shame in this summer’s Pan.

Into the WoodsSome of the most memorable fairy tale characters of all time meet in the intothewoodswoods in last year’s extremely entertaining adaptation of the Broadway musical. The stories take on a darker tone than we might be used to but the spirit of the stories survive.

 

 

Sean:

The Princess Bride: the best of the best. This is a fairy tale that a teenage boy could not only princess_brideenjoy and relate to, but could talk about with other teenage boys. The Princess Bride is endlessly quotable, sincere but not serious, and effortlessly original while remaining true to the essence of a fairy tale. I still love this movie and I expect it will be one that continues to be discovered and enjoyed for as long as we watch movies.
wizard-of-oz-original1The Wizard of Oz – this is a timeless movie that still holds up. Even the changing technical limits of the day add something to the movie, being in black and white initially, with colour then appearing once Dorothy gets to Oz. It’s so well done, the songs are catchy, the characters are memorable, and the big reveal at the end is one of the best twists ever. One of my favourite parts about the movie is that even after the curtain is pulled back, everyone still gets to live happily ever after, the very definition of a fairy tale.
Cinderella (2015) – we just saw this last night and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. rs_1024x759-141119042502-1024_Cinderella-JR-111914No surprises, no changes, no updates to the classic Disney tale, and that’s probably for the best. It was the definition of a fairy tale made into a live action movie, line for line, shot for shot, and mouse/horse for mouse/horse. At our screening, all the little (and some not-so-little) girls in their princess costumes clearly loved this movie and I could see exactly why they did. I would have said Cinderella is this year’s Frozen except that this year’s Frozen is going to be Frozen Fever, the short accompanying Cinderella, which made a little girl in the theatre gleefully exclaim, “Look at those dresses!”