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Review: “Alita: Battle Angel” Fights Faithful, Dark, Fun



When it comes to films based on Japanese anime and manga, they have a record far more stumbling than that of video game movies. These types of movies have been plagued with everything from confused direction (Dragonball Evolution) to cheap translations (Fist of the North Star) to awkward whitewashing (Ghost in the Shell). But Alita: Battle Angel may just be the first film to break that mold, at least from a translation point.

One would hope that the screenplay writer James Cameron would put some dedication into this project he had been talking about making happen for nearly two decades. Surprisingly, he matches the source material well. The world is perfectly defined with a cyberpunk dystopia of the far future, the elites residing in a metropolis of the sky while the poor cyborgs struggle on the surface world of garbage. Also present is the grim atmosphere which I questioned if Cameron would delve into, given that the original story was a depressing one of pathos, amputation, decapitation, bifurcation, and the murdering of a dog.

Keean Johnson (left) and Rosa Salazar (center) in Twentieth Century Fox’s ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

The film has all of this in telling the story of Alita (Rosa Salazar), a mysterious teenage cyborg found with very little of her body in a heap of dumped robot parts. Determined to rebuild her and give her a new life as a teenage girl is Doctor Ido (Christoph Waltz), committed to being a charity of a cybernetics doctor when so few can afford so much in artificial limbs they need. Alita is a kind girl, made all the more sweet with those artificially giant eyes added digitally. While this may really give her the look of an uncanny valley creation in hopes of replicating that anime style, it works well in defining Alita as both an artificial being and fitting in with the odd nature of cyborg society.

There’s a progressive build of Alita discovering both the world around her and uncovering her cloudy past. She takes as much of an interest in the fast-paced violent sport of Motorball as she does the scrappy young Hugo (Keean Johnson), potential boyfriend material. But she’ll soon come to learn that not everybody is who they appear to be, as both Hugo and Ido have secrets they haven’t revealed as the web of corruption in the city runs deep. All of it relates back to the giant floating paradise in the clouds that everybody shoots for, including the smug gangster leader Vector (Mahershala Ali) who acts as a puppet for those above, sometimes literally. Everyone wants to make it to the top and they’re willing to break any rule to get there.

Rosa Salazar (Alita) and Keean Johnson (Hugo) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

Of course, it’s no shock that Alita is the girl to shake things up and fight the system. This is where director Robert Rodriguez takes the helm of this project and gives it his own flavor of slick and violent action. He really pushes that PG-13 rating to the limit of how much you can get away with in dicing up cyborgs, staging intimidating barroom brawls and vicious battles on a giant racetrack. Even for a director known for plenty of violence in his films, Rodriguez still manages to cram in a number of ouch-worthy moments where characters are sliced in half or have their faces chopped at an angle. Also present is Rodriguez’s trademark humor that manages to fit in snugly amid the more tragic parts of this cyberpunk tale.

Alita still has a few kinks in the armor with some clunky bits of dialogue and emotions that run a little flat here and there. But I must admit I was surprised with how well this film holds together for being so ambitious in pursuing such a story, sticking to its essentials while still giving off a vibe all its own. I recall far back as being a teenager when hearing about Cameron’s plan to adopt the original manga into a live-action movie and doubting it would ever see the light of day, especially with his crowded schedule and the lacking adaptations over the years. But, lo and behold, I’m astounded to not only see the movie made but that it’s also well-made and true to its roots. A solid picture for fans of the manga/anime and a pleasing cyberpunk tale for newcomers of a teenage cyborg kicking metallic butts.

Rosa Salazar stars as Alita in Twentieth Century Fox’s ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

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Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman




Robert DeNiro de-agedHave you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. ????

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Movie News

“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office



It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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Movie News

“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back



With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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