Review of Alita: Battle Angel

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Oh no, another Hollywood live action adaptation of a beloved manga. If this turns out like Death Note I might just stab myself with a Panga. Thankfully I am pleased to report that Alita: Battle Agent turned out better than Dragonball Evolution. I don’t recommend that you watch the Americanized Goku flick, unless you have a strong constitution. The film is produced and co-written by the bloke who directed True Lies. It features a female cyborg warrior, who battles against a scientist who resides in the skies.

Alita: Battle Angel takes place in the year 2563. It’s set in a dilapidated metropolis that’s almost as rundown as New Jersey. Centuries ago a major war devastated Earth and left most of humanity living in slums. The wealthy elite relocated to a flying city, from where they now look down at the poor bums. Our tale begins in a scrapyard, where Doctor Dyson Ido finds a badly damaged cyborg who he later names Alita. Rescued from death, Ido gifts Alita with a new prosthetic body that possess the speed and agility of a cheetah. 

The best thing about Battle Angel are the visual effects and action scenes. I never once got bored of watching the heroine tear up the enemy machines. Over the course of two hours she battles various bounty hunters and competes against gladiators in a sport named Motor Ball. The CGI, fight choreography and talent of director Robert Rodriguez delivered many an exciting brawl. Sadly however the script’s pacing could be a lot better. Alita changes from an innocent amnesiac into a battle hardened revolutionary just a few short moments after we first met her.

It’s a similar story with Alita and scrap dealer Hugo’s forced romance. They go from acquaintances to passionate lovers, faster than characters in an adult game like Rance. One can only speculate this is due to a 120 minute film condensing too much material from the comic book. The end result is a movie were characters and plot take a backseat to how great the special effects look. Shame, as I was expecting more depth from a feature whose cast list contained talents such as Mahershala Ali. Jennifer Connelly likewise has little to do, although seeing her in nothing but underwear stimulated my peepee.

Although not perfect I can still recommend this release from 20th Century Fox. I will forgive the superficial writing as every fight sequence rocks. When compared to other anime/manga adaptations Alita: Battle Angel is a hit. The creators put in some real effort, unlike the makers of Dragonball Evolution who produced a steaming pile of shit. The finale teases a potential sequel, which in my opinion would be really cool. A poor box office may however deny us from ever seeing a follow up… damn, capitalism can be so cruel.

VERDICT: THREE OUT OF FIVE

Review of Aquaman

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Aquaman is a DC superhero movie that was released at the (fish) tail end of 2018. It stars Jason Momoa, the muscle man from Hawaii, whose performance in Conan is best left unseen. Aquaman, aka Arthur Curry, is the offspring of an Atlantis royal and a lighthouse keeper. I bought the film during a recent iTunes sale for seven quid, although apparently you can get the DVD from Amazon for much cheaper. The story sees Aquaman attempt to foil an Atlantis invasion of the surface world, which is being led by his brother Ocean Master. Although the flick runs for over two hours, it’s such an enjoyable action adventure that I never found myself wishing that it would end faster.

Curry is a hero who fights for justice using brawn and a telepathic ability that gives him command over any sea creature. Mera, an Atalantean princess who can manipulate water, aids Aquaman in this live action feature. She is portrayed by Texas beauty Amber Heard. She looked stunning in a cleavage flaunting emerald costume – schwing, what a sexy bird. The pair travel to Africa and Italy in search of a mystical trident that could potentially stop the upcoming war. Whoever wields said weapon can claim mastery of Atlantis’ throne and army, according to ancient lore.

Ocean Master gets wind of this scheme and decides to recruit the services of a pirate named Blank Manta. He equips the criminal with advanced armour and orders him to give Aquaman the gift of death (like an evil version of Santa). Their subsequent showdown in Sicily was a visual treat. Kudos must go to horror veteran director James Wan, because every action scene he filmed was sweet. All the battles were easy to follow, as they are well choreographed and don’t resort to using excessive jump cuts like other blockbusters do. I really hate it when films do that – Hunger Games I am looking at you!

Given how good the duels between Aquaman and Black Manta were it’s a real shame that the villain doesn’t get more scenes. I suspect he will appear more prominently in Aquaman 2, let us hope it doesn’t take too long for a sequel to hit cinema screens. Thanks to the mix of colourful CGI, comedy and action the movie avoided being yet another DC flop. In fact, from what I recall, back when it made its debut on the week’s blockbuster movie chart Aquaman finished top. It looks like Marvel’s rivals are starting to improve. Shazam and Joker were also well received by moviegoers, so it appears that DC and Warner Bros have finally found their groove.

On a five point scale I am giving Aquaman a four. I am not a big fan of the comics, but the movie adaptation was great – in that aspect it mirrors my feelings on Thor. Some viewers may disagree and say the content is childish. Screw them because, in my opinion, soldiers who ride sharks are badass and a hero who can pull off a gold top with green pants is stylish. It’s refreshing to see a DC movie that isn’t promoting a cinematic universe or even worse is dark just for the sake of being dark. The DC films helmed by Zack Snyder were guilty of that, James Wan went with a more lighthearted approach instead and hit it out of the park.

Spider-Man: Far From Home Review

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Spider-Man: Far From Home is the sequel to Disney’s wallcrawler reboot. Back in 2002 Sam Raimi gave us two excellent live action webhead movies. Sadly that series came to an end when studio interference conspired to produce a messy third installment. A decade after the first Raimi movie came out we got The Amazing Spider-Man. Said reboot (and it’s followup) were far from amazing. After three successive duds Sony Pictures conceded that they are inept at making films and allowed Marvel Studios to film a new reboot. The result was the brill Spider-Man: Homecoming. Can Far From Home match the quality of its predecessor? Read on and find out.

OVERVIEW

Marvel superheroes don’t have time for vacations. That’s something Peter Parker learns, after being resurrected in Avengers: Endgame. Pete was hoping for a peaceful trip to Europe, with his classmates, but those plans are scuppered when Nick Fury gives him a call. The director of SHIELD recruits Spider-Man to aid him in battling elemental creatures, who are terrorizing the continent. Joining him for the ride is Quentin Beck (aka Mysterio) a fellow hero who hails from an alternate dimension.

Far From Home shows how recent events have changed Peter. After getting zapped out of existence and witnessing the death of his mentor, Parker has lost his enthusiasm for being a high profile Avenger. He is content with battling local neighbourhood crime and living a regular high school student life on his time off. It’s gotten to the point that Peter is looking for any excuse to give away all the cool tech he inherited from Tony Stark, including a pair of shades that can hack any device and command killer drones from outer space.

The movie’s 129 minute running time can be split into two parts. The second half of the film is your typical superhero fare, where Spidey battles to save the world. Before that we get a bunch of high school hijinks. These focus on Peter trying to pluck up the courage to confess his romantic feelings to MJ. Like in the comic books however, Peter’s relationship is put in jeopardy by his crime fighting obligations. Many times he is forced to go AWOL and disappoint MJ, which is not ideal given that rival classmate Brad Davis is also vying for MJ’s affection. Forget party loving redheads, these days kids find moody/sarcastic chicks to be irresistible.

VERDICT

My rating for Spider-Man: Far From Home is four stars. For the second time Marvel Studios have delivered a fun packed Spider-Man movie. Let’s hope they don’t falter on the third attempt, like Raimi did. Overall, I would say that I liked Homecoming a little more. It had a more menacing villain and did a better job of keeping it’s comedy moments under control. There was a bunch of goofy stuff that could easily have been cut out from this film. I found the romance between Spidey sidekick Ned Leeds and a young Betty Brant unnecessary. The same goes for the fling that Aunt May and SHIELD agent Happy Hogan have. Neither of those subplots did much, other than give overweight guys the unrealistic hope that landing a gorgeous girlfriend is possible.

Some positives include the performances of Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal. Holland cements his place as the best live action Spider-Man to date. He played well off the charismatic Gyllenhaal, an actor who years ago was considered for the role of Spider-Man too. Moving onto Gyllenhaal’s character, I was impressed by the effects used to bring Mysterio’s powers of illusion to life. I also dug how the studio retained Mysterio’s costume from the comics. Thankfully they didn’t deem a fishbowl head to be too goofy and replace it with something less iconic, as was the case with Electro’s live action redesign.

Based on the quality of the two Spider-Man “Home” movies I am pleased to hear that Sony and Marvel have patched up their differences and extended their partnership to produce more sequels in this universe. Given how Spider-Man has been positioned to be Iron-Man’s successor (and the bombshell this film ends on) I cannot imagine how disappointed fans would have been had Sony parted ways with the MCU. Corporate greed sometimes sabotages art, but thankfully common sense prevailed on this occasion. Thank you for reading. Until next time, court is adjourned.

The Death of Superman Review

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In the past I have commented that Superman is a boring hero, as he is overpowered. Now that I think about it though, perhaps I should reconsider that opinion. For a supposedly invincible character, Superman sure does like to die a lot. In recent times I have witnessed the Man of Steel perish in Batman vs Superman and the animated movie Superman: Doomsday. Completing the hat trick of demises is the film I am reviewing today – The Death of Superman. Sorry about the spoiler, but hey come on it’s in the friggin title! This straight to DVD feature is based on a nineties graphic novel. Back then news stations reported on Superman’s death in the comics. How naive we were back then. These days when a hero dies no one bats an eyelid, as it’s well known that DC and Marvel love to resurrect those who pass away.

OVERVIEW

A good chunk of this movie’s eighty minute running time is pure action. The antagonist of the piece is a rampaging monster, who the media christen Doomsday. Said alien has emerged from a crashed asteroid and is on a mission to kill anything that gets in his way. The Justice League intercept Doomsday early on, but are powerless to stop him. With the likes of Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Batman out for the count, only Superman stands between the murderous extraterrestrial and the city of Metropolis. It’s disappointing to see that the foe who takes down Superman isn’t one of his more recognizable villains. Doomsday is just a generic brute with a temper and his origins are not explored at all in this flick. The only purpose of his existence is to serve as proof for geeks who like to debate that the Hulk could beat Superman in a fight.

Before the action kicks off the movie tries its best to illustrate what a swell guy Superman is, in order to give his murder some emotional impact. The early scenes show Superman battling crime and posing for selfies with citizens who cannot help but to gush about his heroic deeds. We also get some romance between Superman and reporter Lois Lane. She has been dating coworker Clark Kent, unaware that he is the last son of Krypton. Their relationship is on the rocks, due to Clark’s secretive nature. His feelings for Lois are so strong however that he decides to come clean and reveal his true identity to her. Tragically this confession comes moments before he flies off to tussle with Doomsday. When the dust settles Lois will have lost Superman, much like how Supes loses his red underwear when donning a New 52 costume.

VERDICT

My rating for The Death of Superman is a three out of five. Like many of the other recent DC Universe Animated Original Movies I would describe it as entertaining. Worth a rental, if you are a superhero fan, but it pales in comparison to the DC cartoons of yesteryear. The movie’s biggest problem is that the story is wafer thin. Doomsday crashes on Earth and Superman goes off to fight him is pretty much the entire plot. That sufficed for the comic, as back then news that DC would kill off their most famous character was a major event. Decades later however anyone who is interested in watching this adaptation knows that Superman’s death won’t be permanent. Knowing that outcome really hurts the script’s drama. Even those unfamiliar with the source material won’t be left in suspense, as the finale teases Superman’s return.

Judging the movie by itself is a little unfair though. The Death of Superman only chronicles part of the comics’ storyline. I suspect I would enjoy the film more if I watched it back to back with its direct sequel Reign of the Supermen. Although the movie lacks substance it does a decent job of laying down the foundations for a more interesting tale, which covers four imposters who attempt to fill the crime fighting void left after Superman’s funeral. One of the pretenders in question is an armoured hero called Steel, who was once played by Shaquille O’Neal. Shame that he wasn’t around to assist with the battle versus Doomsday. No matter how mighty the aforementioned Superman slayer is, he would be no match for a practionair of Shaq Fu.

Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Two of my favourite cartoons, from the eighties and nineties, join forces in one of the most unlikely crossovers I have ever seen. Based off a six issue comic book, Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pits the titular heroes against Ra’s al Ghul and the Shredder. Early on in the film it is established that the League of Assassins and Foot Clan have formed an alliance. Ra’s al Ghul’s assassins wish to destroy crime infested Gotham City, in order to rebuild it anew. To execute this objective they plan to turn Gotham’s citizens into wild beasts, by using the mutagen Shredder’s Foot Clan possesses. In exchange Shredder will be compensated with an immortality granting Lazarus Pit.

OVERVIEW

As the movie’s title suggests, the Dark Knight and the pizza loving ninjitsu reptiles clash when they first meet. The turtles have travelled to Gotham, a city where blimps are all the rage, with the aim of foiling Shredder’s scheme. Unfortunately for them they get mistaken for the Foot Clan, who stole a generator from Wayne Enterprises in the film’s opening scene. Batman battles with the wrongly accused Turtles, although they do eventually form a truce, once the misunderstanding is cleared up. Batman, aided by Batgirl and his son Robin, agree to work with the Turtles to take down their mutual enemies. Saving the city of Gotham won’t be easy though. Apart from tracking down the aforementioned villains, they will also have to contend with various rogues who have escaped from Arkham Prison.

It was fun to see the Ninja Turtles in action, after all these years. The last time I saw a TMNT cartoon was the excellent Turtles Forever movie, which aired a decade ago. What I like about this rendition of the characters is that they each have a distinct look. Back in the day viewers could only tell them apart by their weapon of choice and mask colour. Out of the quartet I would have to say that Michelangelo steals the show, as the script blesses him with the funniest lines. Aside from delivering quips the Turtles know how to kick arse. The fights between them and the Foot Clan are excellent, as was the martial arts duel that Batman has with Shredder. There is a ton of action in this 84 minute flick, with the best fights happening early on. I thought the final showdown was an example of quantity over quality. Not bad, but a little too wacky for my taste and at times the fights get undercut by goofy comedy.

VERDICT

My rating for Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is four stars. I would class this as an animated feature that will appeal to audiences of all ages. Adult viewers, who grew up with the old shows, will dig the various references and Easter Eggs. On the flip side, the gags and cartoony visuals should go down well with the younger crowd. Some people may dislike the movie’s art style, but I personally thought it had more charm than the darker/more bland looking DC Universe movies that have come out lately. At the very least I would say that the cartoony character designs don’t mean that this movie is exclusively for kids. Heck, I would caution against showing the film to the very young, as it can get quite violent at times. Some moments that come to mind include a decapitation and a whack that leaves someone with a bloody face.

One final thing that is worth mentioning is the solid voice acting. Troy Baker in particular deserves praise as he plays both Batman and the Joker. I wonder if he gets two pay cheques for that? Baker “kneads” the money, as he is the “breadwinner” in his family.

Review of Batman: Hush

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Batman: Hush is another straight to DVD animated film based off a popular DC Comics graphic novel. On this occasion a 2002/03 story, created by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, was selected to make the jump from comic book page to the small screen. In this eighty-minute feature Batman is hounded by a trenchcoat wearing bloke, who conceals his face with bandages. Darkman? A mummy who likes to cosplay as a private eye? Nah, the villain goes by the alias Hush and he is manipulating Batman’s rogues gallery, from the shadows, to do his dirty work for him. Even worse, the titular bad guy knows that the Caped Crusader is billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne.

OVERVIEW

I wasn’t too impressed with Batman: Hush’s first act. Thankfully it gets better after that. The early scenes are just a series of fights pitting Batman against various foes. First up is musclehead Bane, who is holding a wealthy kid hostage. After that Batman travels to Metropolis, where he faces a brainwashed Superman. Don’t get too excited about that duel though, as the showdown is settled just as quickly as their clash in Dawn of Justice. Once the dust settles Batman tracks down Poison Ivy, who is the person responsible for pulling Superman’s strings. She bewitched him with a kryptonite laced kiss. Looks like Clark will be sleeping on the sofa tonight. I can’t imagine Lois will approve of that smooch.

For me the movie improved once the story started to focus on the mystery of Hush’s identity. The case coincides with Batman and Catwoman becoming an item. I think they make a cute couple. Selina Kyle brightens up the life of the normally gloomy Bruce Wayne, and her fighting skills allow her to join her man on his nighttime vigilante excursions. The two are able to coexist as Catwoman has abandoned her burgarling ways. Kleptomania still her runs in veins though. At breakfast time the former crook cannot resist stealing Bruce’s coffee. One thing that amused me was how Selina was surprised that Batman had deduced she was Catwoman. Since when do goggles and a spandex bodysuit make for an adequate disguise? Then again this is the same universe where spectacles keep Clark Kent’s superhero persona a secret.

VERDICT

My rating for Batman: Hush is a three out of five. Not the best release from the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, but entertaining nonetheless. Worth a rental if you are someone who enjoys superhero cartoons. Heck, fans of the genre may be tempted to buy it outright given how cheap it currently retails for. Right now Amazon is selling the DVD for just five quid. I downloaded the film for even less than that, during an iTunes sale. One doesn’t need the wealth of Bruce Wayne to afford this flick.

Although I liked the movie, it should be noted that I am not familiar with the source material. I cannot therefore judge how well the film compares to the book. Based off a synopsis I read, Batman: Hush is a mostly faithful adaptation. As expected, there are some tweaks to condense the story into eighty minutes. The finale does however play out differently. For what it’s worth, I think the movie’s ending is decent. Less predictable and works better for a standalone piece. Comic afficandoes may disagree though. Back when I praised The Killing Joke cartoon readers remarked that the graphic novel was superior. The same may hold true here. If you disagree with my assessment explain why in the comments section. Keep it civil though. Anyone who wants to flame, just because my opinion doesn’t match theirs, should learn to… hush.

Review of Avengers: Endgame

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Avengers: Endgame lives up to its name. Not only does it end the Thanos storyline, which Infinity War started, but it also wraps up the journey of several key characters. Endgame feels like the natural conclusion to Marvel’s cinematic universe, even if it won’t be. These movies make too much cash after all. If the newly acquired X-Men and Fantastic Four don’t take off though, I wonder how long Marvel can keep the current continuity going, before the temptation to reboot with new actors becomes too strong to resist. If you ask me, the D list heroes that remain aren’t strong enough to replace the stars who bow out at the finale of Endgame.

Five years after the events of Infinity War, the human race is coming to terms with living in a world where half the population was erased from existence. Hawkeye didn’t take the disappearance of his family too well and has turned into a murderous vigilante with a bad haircut. A depressed Thor decides to turn into me, by assuming the form of a gamer who has a sizable beer belly. Others like Black Widow wrestle with depression on a daily basis. It’s not all bad though. Bruce Banner has come to terms with his condition and now is able to retain his intellect whilst in Hulk form. Meanwhile, Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) has settled down by having a daughter with longtime love Pepper Potts.

It’s at this point that Ant Man (Scott Lang) escapes the confines of the Quantum Realm. The five years that have passed felt like mere hours to him, due to the way that time flows when one is shrunk to microscopic size. The experience gives Lang an idea. Could the technology responsible for accessing the Quantum Realm be tweaked to allow for time travel? The answer is yes, when one has a genius like Tony Stark working on the project. Once the gizmo is built the surviving Avengers set off to the past. Like a DBZ character hunting down Dragonballs, the Avengers hope to snap up all the Infinity Balls… um Stones, so they can make their wish of undoing Thanos’ evil deeds a reality.

Although I am a fan of stuff like Steins;Gate, it must be said that Endgame resorting to time travel feels like a bit of a cop out. Marvel wrote themselves into a corner with Infinity War and now need a way to reverse the deaths they inflicted. A rematch with present day Thanos, to reverse his culling of life, isn’t an option due to reasons I cannot mention without going into spoilers. On the plus side the time travel allows audiences to revisit scenes from past films, which was pretty cool. Be sure to turn off your brain though, as Endgame isn’t consistent with the rules it establishes concerning time travel. At one point it is stressed that the mission to the past has to be covert, in order to avoid major changes to the timeline. This is forgotten later however, when one of the heroes breaks the rules in order to secure a happy ending for himself.

My rating for Avengers: Endgame is four stars. Not as good as Infinity War, but an excellent movie nonetheless. I enjoyed the early scenes, which showed how the surviving heroes coped with loss. Although some things could have been executed better, I was also satisfied with how certain character arcs were concluded. My only real gripe is with the film’s length. Three hours of mostly action is a bit much for someone like myself. Don’t get me wrong, the final showdown is epic. I was impressed with how they managed to squeeze in everyone of note into that fight. Cool as it was though, I did space out at times due to a mix of CGI fatigue and the 180 minute running time sapping my endurance. Thank goodness I watched this from the comfort of home. I doubt my bladder or antisocial personality could have endured that long in a packed cinema.