Alita: Battle Angel

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Alita: Battle Angel

An angel falls. A warrior rises.

20192 h 02 min

Alita: Battle Angel is based on a Japanese comic book (manga) series called Gunnm from the early 90s. There was also a 1-hour cartoon (anime) adaption around the same time. Now we get a live action adaptation by master of cinema James Cameron. With Cameron at the wheel, you know a movie is going to be good. Mostly (but in fairness, everyone has to start somewhere).

The key takeaway from Alita is that it is just a good movie. Nothing in the film feels objectively bad. Alita herself is a balanced character with a real personality. She is a young girl learning new things in a world that is alien to her. At the same time, she is a total badass who can put everyone else in the room on the floor. Throughout the story, there is pain as well as joy. She makes friends and finds love but also finds enemies who want to destroy her for what she is, regardless of who she is. By the end of the film, she is far from the person she was at the beginning.

This being a James Cameron film, it probably goes without saying the special effects are amazing. Cameron proved that CGI is one of his main things back with Avatar, and that has not changed. The fight sequences are incredible and none of them are shoehorned in. Even the city just as the background is an amazing visual setting, giving audiences the sense of a real living, breathing city.

The plot in the movie is nothing too crazy. There are no major twists or shocks as the story develops. But there does not really need to be. In the end, this is not some kind of high stakes save-the-world scenario. The story is ultimately about Alita; about her finding who she was before and who she is now. This is an origin story.

The movie itself follows one of the big rules for a potentially great movie: leave the audience wanting more. This is clearly part of a much, much bigger story. We have only seen a small piece of a big universe with this film. Having not read the original manga, I cannot say off-hand how much of the original story is covered in the film adaption. However, the original story from the 90s was followed up by two sequel series. The latter of which is still ongoing. If Alita: Battle Angel gets a sequel, which seems plausible with the box office results, there is a lot more source material to pull from.

March 3, 2019

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

More Than One Wears The Mask

20181 h 57 min

Miles Morales is juggling his life between being a high school student and being Spider-Man. However, when Wilson "Kingpin" Fisk uses a super collider, another Spider-Man from another dimension, Peter Parker, accidentally winds up in Miles' dimension. As Peter trains Miles to become a better Spider-Man, they are soon joined by four other Spider-Men from across the "Spider-Verse". As all these clashing dimensions start to tear Brooklyn apart, Miles must help the others stop Fisk and return everyone to their own dimensions.

Director Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Runtime 1 h 57 min
Release Date 7 December 2018
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Excellent

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse can be summed up with one word: wow. Go in expecting a good movie and be blown away by a great one. The standout thing about this film is that it just does everything right. Into the Spider-Verse is not a live-action Marvel film; it knows this and does not try to be one. Watching this film feels very much like reading a comic book. From the art style to the story layout, Into the Spider-Verse is very much a comic come to life. While it may be a stretch to call the film perfect, it comes very, very close.

At its core, Into the Spider-Verse is an origin story. Thankfully, it breaks the mold of superhero origin stories in film. Anyone who keeps up with comic movies even marginally knows Peter Parker’s origin story. A radioactive spider bites him, Uncle Ben gets shot, and so on and so forth. This story is centered on Miles Morales, the second Spider-Man originally introduced in Marvel’s Ultimate comic series. Miles’ story is not identical to his comic origin but shares some similarities, making the film both old and new for existing fans.

Focusing on a different Spider-Man is great and part of what makes Miles story so invigorating is that he is not the first Spider-Man. Far from it; there are many other Spider heroes who have come before him. And like him, most of his predecessors started as average people. Peter Parker and Miles both stand out among other heroes by being normal people. They did not start out as world-class scientists, billionaires, or gods. They were just normal kids who suddenly had this power fall in their laps. And despite their hard lives, they never hesitated to do the right thing with their powers.

This is a movie that breaks the mold for what an origin story can be. Miles is not alone, but his journey is still a hard one. With not even a day’s worth of experience under his belt, he is thrown into a high-stakes adventure. Other, more experienced people are there but if he does not rise to the challenge everything could be lost. He learns more quickly than some others that superpowers do not put you above others. You can still get hurt, the people you care about can still get hurt. But despite all that, you have to persist. You have to carry on. Because everyone has the potential to be a hero.

December 30, 2018

Free State of Jones

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Free State of Jones

Based on the incredible true story.

20162 h 19 min

Free State of Jones was a little misleading with its trailers, but that by no means indicates that it was not a good film. The trailer portrayed the movie as more of an action film. There are a fair number of gunfights throughout, most of which can be partially glimpsed in the trailer. But the action sequences are not what the film is about. A large portion of the story takes place during the American Civil War so of course there are going to be battles. This is by no means an action movie; nor could the brief action sequences even be intense or focused enough to call Free State of Jones a thriller. It is, at its core, a historical film.

If you are a fan of history, that is fantastic. I sincerely think that you are going to enjoy this movie. Other viewers may feel that the film just drags on and on and on. The movie has a lot of talking; characters just standing around and talking. Sometimes they talk to each other and sometimes they monologue, but talking is talking. While that may not be the best path for a giant blockbuster $$$ film, it was perfect for a historical story. War is a lot of standing around and talking with brief moments of action, just as this film portrays. Free State of Jones is meant to show another side of the Confederacy. Not everyone in the Confederate Army was up in arms ready to fight for the South. Many of them were men who were just told, “We are going to war. Consider yourself conscripted.” But Free State of Jones is not about the war itself.

For viewers who are not very familiar with the American Civil War, it will be harder to follow this film. That being said, the movie deals with a theme that is not entirely uncommon. Soldiers who are poor farmers and other simple men ask themselves, “Why are we fighting and dying for these rich folks? They are not bleeding to keep their wealth, so why should we bleed for them?” This leads to soldiers deserting and they end up being helped by runaway slaves, whom they help in return. These black men fight alongside them for freedom from the Confederacy and become fellow soldiers, brothers-in-arms. Then the war ends.

Anyone who has ever read a history book can tell you that the Emancipation Proclamation was only a baby step forward in ending slavery. When there is a war on, people are willing to let bygones be bygones so that they will not die. But once that is over, things become a racial issue again. Free State of Jones ultimately focuses not on war or even freedom, but segregation. The abolishment of segregation is an increasingly slow process that even today is still a major issue. It certainly did not come close to ending within Newton Knight’s lifetime. Nor did this one man’s action in a single county of Mississippi have a particularly remarkable impact on history. But the film portrays how the seeds were planted for those equal rights and how much of a struggle it is to have those seeds germinate. While the overall rating for Free State of Jones is not exactly 5 stars, as a historical film it is certainly worth your time.

September 25, 2016