Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Do you have an interest in seeing this film? Then see it at the cinema. Trust me, this is a cinema film. You’ll get a lot more out of seeing this on a big screen than you will by sitting on your sofa watching it. This is spectacle cinema at it’s very best. And like most spectacle cinema, you do feel it’s lacking something though.

It’s not the performances, they’re all fantastic. All of them, and there’s a lot of them. I think it has so many characters as this film was made with an eye towards a sequel. I mean, with the ending this film has, it has to have a sequel otherwise the story will just be unfinished. Christoph Waltz actually seems charming and not-evil in this film, which I didn’t know he was capable of (off topic, if they do a remake of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, he’s Judge Doom). The star of the show is definitely Rosa Salazar, who is so damn impressive in this it’s hard to believe. The way they kind of animate her eyes is genius, a beautiful blend of reality and CGI which is an incredible use of the technology. It’s not being used to replace or create reality, but to work alongside it, which is a technique which always works better.

Now the downside; the big one is the plot is kind of generic. The romance sub-plot seems kind of forced. A lot of the dialogue is just explaining plot points and character motivations to the audience, some of which could have been done a lot more subtly. It’s tonally all over the place, going from a film that’s seemingly aimed at children, to a dog being slaughtered then having its blood used as war paint before saying “fuck mercy” and killing someone. It’s a 12A which features a character being chopped in half at the waist, not a robot, a human. I’m not sure if being chopped in half would kill a robot in this film as it’s incredibly inconsistent when it comes to things like that. Sometimes having a limb chopped off leads to them being severely weakened and makes them as good as dead, and sometimes they just walk it off like it doesn’t affect them. It makes the action scenes difficult to get invested in as after every hit you’re not sure how to react, did that cause immense damage, or does it not matter? You have no idea until AFTER each hit, there are no rules set to tell you which makes it incredibly frustrating.

I feel I need to mention the motorball sequences. They’re the action highlights of the film and make you want to see a film based around it (wait, that exists, it’s called Rollerball and the original is awesome), in fact, I would be genuinely surprised if there’s not a video game based on that sequence, and kind of disappointed.

So should you see it? I’d say yes. The visual world-building is top notch and film-making like this deserves to be rewarded. So go buy a ticket and see it at the cinema, even if you’re not blown away, I highly doubt you’ll regret it either.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

I genuinely enjoyed this film and will definitely buy it on DVD when it comes out. It was funny, heartwarming and had an incredibly well-crafted script that is suitable for children and adults. If you asked me during the first half of the movie my response would have been the opposite. I was kind of bored, the jokes were mainly from the trailer so were ones I’d heard before, and the songs were only okay. That songs gripe might not have been the film though, it is possible that the way the cinema set it up was the problem; the background noise and the music was louder than the lyrics so you couldn’t make them out clearly.

So yeah I was not a fan of the opening, it felt not quite as sharp as the first movie, and it sidelines a lot of the characters. Princess Unikitty for example was one of the highlights of the first movie and is not really in this one. The same goes for almost all of the characters from the first one with the exception of Emmet, Lucy, and Batman. This would be fine if the characters who replaced them were as good, and whilst there is nothing really wrong with them they just miss that spark.

One other issue is reality. In the first movie the fact that it was a kid playing with lego didn’t really matter until the very end of the movie. In this it goes throughout, which is both better and worse. It does mean that since you’re constantly aware that it’s kids playing with toys, your brain always thinks “ok, this is what’s happening in the film, now what’s REALLY happening?” so you can’t really get invested in it. The upside is how beautifully it ties into the ending. The final third of this film is amazing and WOULD NOT work without the reality subtext. It’s genuinely genius what it does, and what it means. Yeah this film is about kids playing with toys, but it’s about HOW they play with them. It’s the first film I’ve seen which kind of takes aim at the notion of everything having to be dark and gritty, that phase which every teenage male goes through where they feel everything they like has to be grown up. The idea that films they watch have to be dark and fully of guns. A concept which causes people to try so hard to appear to be mature that it comes off as juvenile. This film takes aim at that notion, and does so wonderfully. The way that reality bleeds into this film is a work of art and I commend it.

So yeah, go see this film, see it twice if you have to. It may not start great but it does achieve greatness when you stick with it. Has a few niggles, and there’s one live action moment which drags longer than it needs to. But it’s very funny with GREAT voice performances and is just as loveable as the first one

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

Hot damn this film looked good. There’s one moment where the characters are on a beach, making indentations in the sand, and you can almost FEEL the sand, it’s that beautifully animated. That doesn’t quite make up for the script though. It has its moments, but it feels incredibly generic. Unless this is the first film you’ve ever seen you will know exactly what’s going to happen before it does. This is not helped by the villain; who is incredibly unremarkable to the point where he’s forgettable. This is probably also due to how much of the time he spends off-screen, and when he’s not on-screen the shadow of him doesn’t really hang over the film. The main focus of the film isn’t the villain, it’s the female version of Toothless. It seems like the villain is just a method to get to THAT story, rather than the other way around. And the Toothless/Light Fury romance isn’t quite sweet enough to wash away the cynical feeling that it was geared towards toy sales (and yes, I know it was probably in the books first, but meh).

So all of that builds up to what is undoubtedly the weakest movie in the trilogy. The first one was REALLY good, the second one was also very good, and a worthy continuation of the series. This one? It just doesn’t have that inexplicable magic that the first two had. There’s something missing and that stops it being great, and means it’s just good. The ending is pretty great though. I hope it’s the ending anyway. I’d be incredibly disappointed if there’s a sequel to this as the ending to this provides perfect closure to the series as a whole. Maybe that’s my problem with it, it doesn’t seem like a series, just a sequence of films. There’s a few moments of connectivity between the films but they don’t really feel like they’re related. A lot of the characters are exactly the same as they have been throughout. If there was a sequel to this and someone watched that one, but missed out this one, there’s nothing they’d be surprised by. There’s no “wow, that character really changed in that movie I missed”.

I did like this movie, more than this review makes it seem. But put it this way; I don’t have the first one on DVD, and I do occasionally feel like my DVD collection is missing it. My collection will definitely not miss this. Also, the main characters looks way too much like Jake Gyllenhaal at the end.

dragon-3

Also, I can’t help this but whenever I hear the title to this series I sing it to the tune of Paint Your Wagon

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)

Before I start on this review I have to give out the biggest negative about it, and it’s one that will stop many people seeing the film. This film has intense flashing lights, so if you have epilepsy, or have sensory processing disorder, this might not be the film for you. That’s actually really annoying that that was not publicised. I mean, shouldn’t films that do that have a warning? We have warnings for “contains mild peril”, but not this. That’s…..really fucking weird and needs changing.

Now, onto the film…..this film loves the character of Spider-man, you can tell this by the way it mocks him sometimes. It’s like the lego batman movie in that way, it does make fun of previous films, but it’s done with such knowledge and love. This is a different kind of comic book movie, for one thing it’s REALLY weird. It’s a film for kids that deals with multiverse theory, didn’t get that in Thor (well you might have done but I didn’t pay attention because it was awful, or Thor-fal if you’re the type of person who feels the need to cram puns in where they don’t fit). It’s incredibly meta, but not too much so. None of this would matter if the actors didn’t put effort in, but the voice work here is great too. The film-makers didn’t skimp when it came to casting, you’ve got real talent here: Hailee Steinfeld, Lily Tomlin, Nicholas Cage, Liev Schreiber, Kathryn Hahn etc.

I mentioned the intense flashing lights earlier, apart from that this film looks SUPERB. The animation is some of the best you’ll see, with multiple styles displayed across the film, each incredibly distinct and gorgeous. The fight scenes are done brilliantly too, you never lose track of whats happening, the final fight in particular is a masterpiece of surreal film-making that plays out like a AAA video game boss level.

The soundtrack too, is amazing. It really suits the film, the songs are not only great but they go perfectly with the images. It does what a soundtrack should do, it complements the film perfectly. It also features what has to count as the best and most heartbreaking Stan Lee cameo ever. This is the first film released after his death (not counting the Deadpool 2 re-release), he appears on screen after Spider-man dies and says “I’m going to miss him”. F*cking heartbreaking. The most depressing part of the film, and there’s quite a lot of them, I mean, the original Spider-man gets killed early on, and all the alternate spider-men/pig/women are haunted by a death of someone, they’re defined by guilt about who they could not save. This is the best time to mention the characterisation of the different universe characters; they are all fully fledged characters with motivations and back stories. This could be a film to launch a franchise.

I honestly believe this might be the best Spider-man movie ever made, it’s VERY close. But yeah, the no warnings about flashing lights of that nature is hard to look past.

Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018)

I enjoyed the first movie, it was fun, heartwarming, smart, and funny. It was done by people who had an obvious love for video games, specifically arcade and retro ones. This one……doesn’t really work, for many reasons. Firstly, it kind of feels like a generic movie, not a Wreck It Ralph sequel. The first movie doesn’t seem to come into play much here, it’s not a natural progression and feels like it could have been written featuring any characters. There are moments which are specifically these characters, but they are few and far between. There’s no reason for this to be a sequel, and not just a random film.

It also seems like it’s written by completely different people, it doesn’t have any of the natural wit of the first film. Too many of the jokes veer into “this is a thing, we are referencing the thing, now laugh!” territory. There are some funny moments but they’re few and far between. This wouldn’t matter as much if the script was engaging, but it’s not. It’s incredibly bland, I was actually bored many times throughout this. When it approached what I thought could be an ending I was actually disappointed to be proven wrong. There’s an entire subplot about characters from the first movie starting a family which takes up a grand total of about 3 minutes of screentime. It’s kind of strange as you can tell the film was aiming to be emotionally heavy, and that would have been a good subplot to cut to to relieve tension and provide juxtaposition.

Now onto the positive; this looks SUPERB. Every frame is packed with detail, made with both attention and affection. And there are some genuinely funny and laugh out loud moments which remind you of why you loved the first film. The voice acting also has to be mentioned. Everybody is at the top of their game here, even those who only provide a few short lines completely nail it.

Now onto the best part of the film, and for me the only reason to watch it: the Disney princesses. I now want a Disney Princess action movie. The scenes with them in are incredibly funny, smart, and just all-round brilliant. If the entire film was like that I’d say it was better than the first one. As it is, it’s more like The Emoji Movie. And that’s never a good thing.

Isle Of Dogs (2018)

Have you ever seen a Wes Anderson film? Or even the poster for one? Did you hate it with every fibre of your being? If so this is not the film for you. The reasons you hate it: the colour schemes, the odd idiosyncratic nature of it all, they’re all prevalent here. But if you’re a fan of his work, then the reasons you love it: the colour schemes, the odd idiosyncratic nature of it all, they’re all prevalent here (thank you copy+paste). Personally, I adored it, and I chose that word specifically. I didn’t love it, it’s not the kind of film where I have a deep personal affection for it and will sing its praises to all and sundry. It’s not a film where I can spend hours talking about how it’s brilliant and everybody should love it. But it is a film I have warm feelings for, it’s the film equivalent of a cosy chair by a fireplace. You watch it and everything just feels, I dunno, right.

Part of that is down to the look of it. The stop-motion REALLY helps this. The style suits the story and is a great example of animation-story integration. If this was a heavily polished CGI film it would lose some of what makes it work. Even if it was animated like a 90’s Disney film it wouldn’t quite work. Characters are roughed up and damaged, this is great as it makes them seem real, like they’re actual things which have been damaged. So when someone is hurt in a fight, the damage stays with them throughout. The vocal work is great too, sometimes in animated films with all-star casts (and with Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray,Ken Watanabe, Scarlett Johansson etc, this is a definitely an all-star cast) it can be hard to be truly invested because every time a character speaks you go “hey, I know that voice”. You don’t really do that with this, probably because of how well suited the voices are to the characters, the characters sound exactly what you expect them to sound like when you look at the character designs.

The way the voices were handled was actually really well done too. The human characters mostly didn’t speak English, but Japanese, because the story is set in Japan (I know that seems obvious, but you’ll be amazed how many films make everybody speak English no matter what the location). The English come from either the dogs, an American, or a translation service, where the Japanese is still audible under the English (they essentially find an in-universe method of dubbing voices, and it’s genius).

So would I recommend seeing this? Definitely. Not if you’re a kid though (and if you are, why are you reading this?) Despite being marketed as a kids film I’m not sure how well this will be received by them. Also, it’s not quite as twee as the marketing and visual style might have you believe. It’s incredibly dark at times, one of the opening moments of the film features a dog dying of starvation, and it doesn’t lighten up too much in terms of story. If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson, watch it, if not, this won’t change your mind.