Category Archives: Movies

Tanya Roberts (1955-2021)

Wrote the below and then word came that… well, read on…

The shocking news that actor Tanya Roberts passed away at the very young age of 65 made the news yesterday (you can read about that here). She apparently walked her dogs and when she returned to her home collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, where she would pass away.

Most of the obituaries I’ve read concerning Ms. Roberts note she was Stacey Sutton, the “Bond girl” in Roger Moore’s final James Bond film, 1985’s A View To A Kill (Tanya Roberts first appears at the 1:33 mark of the below trailer)…

She was certainly an 80’s figure, with her other two big roles, in the 1982 film Beastmaster

…and in 1984 she would star as Sheena:

Later on she would make her mark in That 70’s Show as Midge Pinciotti…

I think its fair to say that her earlier works, now cult classics to some, nostalgia trips to others, weren’t all that good. It’s fair to say that A View To A Kill is the worst of the Roger Moore Bond films and among the worst of the Bond films, period. Few, too, would say Sheena is some lost classic while there are those who feel Beastmaster is a deserving Cult classic.

I say this not to put down Ms. Roberts, but quite the contrary. There’s something about the presence alone of Ms. Roberts in those films that make them memorable. One could point out the obvious: She is one beautiful woman, and the roles in both Sheena and Beastmaster in particular allowed her ample opportunity to show off that beauty.

In fact, when the news of her passing came, I instantly thought back to her roles in these films as well as The 70’s Show and my memories of her, frankly, were positive.

Yeah, maybe the 80’s material wasn’t always very strong and the film’s makers wanted a beautiful female in nearly no clothing running around, but there have been plenty of films like that made whose star isn’t quite as well remembered as Ms. Roberts, which suggests there was indeed more to her than just the proverbial pretty face.

As one gets older, the people in the arts one grows up with also grow older and, eventually, pass away.

Tanya Roberts’ passing at 65 is shocking as when I think about her my memories of her transport me back to that beautiful, athletic woman she was back in the 1980’s.

I hope she had a terrific life.

I may have to give A View To A Kill another whirl, for old time’s sake.

POSTSCRIPT:

Now there’s news that… Tanya Roberts in not dead?!

This is according to TMZ:

Tanya Roberts still alive… Despite her Rep saying she’s dead

Very weird, but concerning for Ms. Roberts nonetheless. She’s been hospitalized for over a week. I hope she recovers… assuming this second story is accurate!

POSTSCRIPT 2:

Now more news sources are confirming that Tanya Roberts is indeed alive, something which might explain my confused (and not totally sure!) original Postscript.

What a weird, weird story, though I have to admit I’m glad to hear that she’s not passed away. Still, what I said in that Postscript applies: Clearly she’s in some kind of major distress as she’s been hospitalized for over a week now.

Still, best wishes to her!

POSTSCRIPT 3:

Sadly, now comes news (12/5/21) that Tanya Roberts has indeed passed away. This is coming from TMZ:

Tanya Roberts dead at 65 following premature passing announcement

Frankly, I feared this would be the case. If memory serves, something similar happened with musician Tom Petty who was rushed to the hospital and was declared dead only for the news agencies to retract the story as he was still alive but basically vegetative.

I recall my daughter wondering if he’d recover and I told her based on the initial reports, that sounded doubtful. Mr. Petty would pass away a day or two after the initial hospitalization.

As I said, I feared Ms. Roberts was not in great shape. To be hospitalized so suddenly and remain there for over a week sounded grim. I suspect the publicist who released the initial report of her death knew she was about to pass and knew there was little chance of her recovery.

That’s guessing on my part, I admit.

Regardless, what I wrote initially stands. Ms. Roberts may not have been in the very best films during her biggest period of time in Hollywood, but she had a screen presence and to this day is remembered when many similar actresses in similar roles today are not.

She was a part of my youth, a face that was familiar to me and a beauty in the classic Hollywood tradition.

Rest In Peace.

The Snowman (2017) A (Mildly) Belated Review

I vaguely recall there was some excitement regarding the 2017 release of the film The Snowman.

Based on a novel by popular mystery/thriller writer Jo Nesbø, the film featured Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J. K. Simmons, and Val Kilmer. The movie was produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In; Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy).

And yet, when the film was released, it was met with almost universal scorn from critics and Mr. Alfredson went on the acknowledge his film was a failure, even stating that because of budget cuts, he was unable to film some 10% of the script (!).

The film, needless to say, didn’t do too well at the box-office and was soon gone, if not forgotten.

Yet I was intrigued by the stories regarding the film and its final release. It isn’t often that you get what seems for all intents and purposes a very high profile “A” film with a great cast, director, writer, and producer which turns out to be -if the critics are to be believed- a near complete disaster.

Yeah, I was curious to see this film. I had to see for myself.

I’ll start with the good, which I think is pretty apparent from the above trailer: The film looks gorgeous. The snowy Norwegian setting is both beautiful and, when needed, creepy.

And that’s about all that’s good about this film.

This is a fragmented film whose story is at times difficult to follow because we have things happening here and there and often one sequence doesn’t even seem to be related to another. For example, the entire political subplot involving J. K. Simmons amounts to almost nothing in the context of the rest of the film. And Mr. Simmons isn’t even the only recognizable actor to appear in a nothing subplot. Perhaps one of the most head scratching sequence, a very small cameo appearance by Chloë Sevigny, has her play a victim of the serial killer and her twin sister!! Why? To give Ms. Sevigny three minutes of screen time instead of a paltry two?! Because that’s her entire story arc, victim then twin sister who shows up seconds later to say her sister was a good person, and that’s that.

Perhaps the saddest thing to see is Val Kilmer, who at the time was dealing with health issues and who looked, to be blunt, pretty sickly. Every bit of his dialogue was dubbed, quite badly, and if it wasn’t for the fact that he looks alarmingly frail, you’d laugh at the pathetic attempt to dub his lines in.

Michael Fassbender, a usually reliably good actor, is not terrible but is relegated to playing a one note character, your morose, brilliant, yet alcoholic/burnt out protagonist. His character’s alcoholism has him on the outs with the police department but he latches on to a promising young detective (Rebecca Ferguson) who has secrets of her own and is involved in what may be a case involving a serial killer.

Of course, it turns out that they are indeed dealing with a clever serial killer, one with mysterious motives and possibly years of hidden activity.

While the movie is a mess, in the end one does put the pieces together enough to understand the plot they were trying to present. Unfortunately, even with that knowledge one feels the story was underwhelming.

I suspect in the novel the movie was based on the many weird characters and scenes that seemed to go nowhere mattered a lot more than they do on screen. By the time we reach the movie’s climax and the serial killer is revealed, he turns out to be pretty much who we thought and afterwards wonder why he bothered with many of the actions he took.

As I said before, based on the stories I read about The Snowman, I couldn’t not see it. The curiosity alone made it irresistible.

But the movie is every bit as disjointed and disappointing as the critics said, with the only redeeming element being the wonderful cinematography and winter setting.

Too bad.

The Equalizer 2 (2018) a (Mildly) Belated Review

Back in 2014 Denzel Washington starred in a remake/reworking of The Equalizer TV show starring Edward Woodward which ran from 1985 through 1989. Here’s a bit of the TV show, for those unfamiliar with it…

I was a fan of the original TV series which was basically a clever variation on James Bond… had the venerable agent grown older and retired to New York and decided to continue helping people who needed his “unique” skills.

When the Denzel Washington film came out, I reviewed it (you can read my review of it here) and I thought it was an “ok” film. Not terrible by any stretch of the imagination but neither did I feel it was particularly memorable.

I also questioned why the film was made as a remake of that particular show. To wit: Why take away the one thing that made the TV show so unique, the idea of an elderly James Bond type in New York, and get rid of that completely by having Denzel Washington play an agent who others thought was dead but, through the course of this original movie, ends up where the Edward Woodward show began, with him offering his “unique” services to those in need. Only he wasn’t a “fish out of water” James Bond in a New York milieu.

When The Equalizer 2, the sequel to this film, was released in 2018, I didn’t really care to see it. Again, I didn’t hate the original movie but I was leery of the changes made to the original concept and didn’t feel particularly compelled to go watch the sequel.

A couple years passed and the film showed up on a cable channel and, for the heck of it, I DVRed it. It sat there for a few months and yesterday, for the heck of it, I decided to give it a try.

Though my expectations were low, I found the opening hour or so of the film quite interesting: It took its time to establish the various characters and their situation(s), drawing me as a viewer in to the world of Robert McCall (Denzel Washington, natch) and the machinations that ultimately lead to him having to deal with a group of killers… a group of which he was once a part of.

I don’t want to get into SPOILERS and I won’t, but it was refreshing to see this opening and to see director Antoine Fuqua, who directed the original film, take his time showing us the various characters who play a role in the story to come.

However, as good as it was in the early going, it felt like this went on a little longer than it should have. Still, once the pieces were set and the action really started, it was interesting and tense, even if I would also say it wasn’t necessarily spectacular.

The best part of the film, IMHO, was the way it presented the idea of a hurricane -yes, the weather system- slowly coming in, scene by scene. I really like the way that the weather deteriorates subtly as the movie goes along, symbolically showing the fury of McCall building. Once we reach the climax, the hurricane -and McCall’s fury- is quite literally all around us. We see McCall at his deadliest against the bad guys as the full force of the hurricane buffets them.

…but…

The bad guys, like in the original film, are unfortunately once again not all that well defined. I practically moaned when their leader explained his evil actions with the cliched “we worked for X so and so number of years and then they just put us out to pasture… we’re not going to let them!”

…but still…

Despite this I enjoyed this movie. In fact, I’d say it was far better than the original Equalizer. While it may not be the best action/adventure film evah, its kinda nice to see one with a lot of thought behind its story and structure and a not insignificant amount of heart.

While The Equalizer 2 does not reinvent the wheel and I’m still not sold on the idea of re-doing a TV show while removing almost everything that made it unique, if you’ve got a free evening with nothing much to do, spending a bit of time with The Equalizer 2 is far from the worst thing you could do.

Recommended.

Tenet (2020) a (Very Mildly) Belated Review

I watched the film yesterday and, honestly, it feels like maybe I should wait until I see it again before offering a review.

However, given the film runs 2 hours and 30 minutes, I don’t know when I’ll get that chance. Besides, I think I got most of what the film was about but will acknowledge it is quite deep and it does, like the best of director/writer Christopher Nolan features, ask the audience to think and not just passively watch what goes on screen.

Having said all that, the film is essentially a James Bond movie -specifically the 1965 film Thunderball– mixed with time travel elements.

Indeed, as the hours passed following seeing the movie, the more and more I realized the movie’s basic plot was indeed a variation of Thunderball. Just for the hell of it, here’s the trailer to that film:

While not one of the best of the Sean Connery Bond films and perhaps the first one (it was the fourth made) to start showing a little wear on the whole Bond formula, Thunderball nonetheless is an entertaining large scale Bond film involving the theft of a nuclear device and Bond’s attempts to get it back before its used to start a nuclear war… and possible Armageddon.

The film’s villain, Largo, is essentially duplicated in Tenet’s Sator (played with menace -and an at times silly Russian accent, by the very British Kenneth Branagh). Sator, like Largo, is very rich and spends plenty of time on his very large and luxurious yacht. Like in Thunderball, Sator is intent on getting a device which could spell the end of the world, only in his case its something that affects time itself.

The movie features John David Washington as “Protagonist”, a no-name hero who, after showing he’s willing to die for his the right cause, is “recruited” into a shadowy world where time is fluid and can run backwards. The fate of humanity is on the line, and with the help of his right hand man Neil (Robert Pattinson in a sorta/kinda Felix Leiter role), they navigate the current situation and devise a way to stop Sator from ending the world.

To do this, they have to go through his wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki, quite good) who is being held on a leash by Sator and suffers greatly from this.

The movie certainly has a Inception-like quality along with its James Bond theme, and there wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t enjoying myself.

However, after the film was finished, there were certain problems with the plot that, at least for me, reared their head. Sadly, when you deal with time travel, especially where various characters are able to do so at will, one begins to wonder why the hero or villain don’t just go “back” to where they can fix things so they succeed and their nemesis fails.

I don’t want to get into SPOILERS, but this is increasingly the case toward the film’s ending. While Mr. Nolan tries to explain away these discrepancies with talk of the Grandfather paradox and fate and history being “set”, the reality is that until time travel is a reality, there is no reason to think we can’t go in time and “reset” the past.

The Grandfather paradox, for example, involves the idea that if we can travel back in time and kill our Grandfather before he conceives one’s father, how is it possible for you (the grandson/daughter) to even exist to go back in time to then kill your Grandfather? Wouldn’t you cease to exist if you were to kill your Grandfather before your father/mother was conceived? But then how did you exist to be able to go and possibly do this to your Grandfather?

It’s a philosophical question, one which has no answer, but I would argue that if time travel were possible (which is an open question, to say the least!) then the idea of multiverses and alternate timelines has to be considered. Thus, you could kill your Grandfather which would change the timeline and mean you now come from a timeline where your Grandfather lived but now, in this new one, the lineage stops yet you can theoretically continue to exist.

I know I’m probably botching the explanation, but its the best I can do off the top of my head.

So, if i do believe that timelines can change, I obviously believe that nothing is set in stone once you move from one time to another. You therefore can murder Adolf Hitler as a baby and, while WWII could still happen, it will do so without Hitler’s presence.

Similarly, some of the things which happen toward the end of Tenet, to my mind, don’t have to happen the way they do. We could simply go back to other points in time to resolve or screw them up worse!

As I said, Nolan movies sure can make you think.

Overall, Tenet is an easy recommendation, a film that borrows the best of James Bond and marries it with some brain twisting time travel. It moves like lightning and is filled with surprises and big set pieces.

Yeah, an easy recommendation.

The Hunted (2003) a (very) Belated Review

Weird how things work out, no? A few days ago I reviewed a film called The Hunt (you can read it here) and yesterday I catch the William Friedkin directed, Tommy Lee Jones, Benecio Del Toro, and Connie Nielsen starring 2003 film The Hunted.

Other than the fact that we do have a person “hunting” -and being hunted!- by another person, these films have very little else in common. Here’s the movie’s trailer:

Those familiar with director William Friedkin no doubt are familiar with his two best known films, The Exorcist and The French Connection. Those who are really familiar with him know he made two other pretty damn good films beyond those, Sorcerer and To Live and Die In L.A.

But, like just about any creative soul out there, there are hits and there are misses and Mr. Friedkin has certainly had a few films that are simply not up to the caliber of those I mention above.

I would put The Hunted on that list but would quickly add that just because it doesn’t quite reach the level of “prime” William Friedkin doesn’t mean the film is bad.

In fact, I mostly enjoyed The Hunted for what it was, a for the most part straightforward action film which pits Mr. Jones and Mr. Del Toro’s characters against each other.

The plot goes like this: Aaron Hallman (Benecio Del Toro) was trained along with many other U.S. military men by L. T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) to be a merciless, shadowy killer. He does his job only too well but in the hellish conditions of the Serbian war, he cracks.

Stateside, he brutally kills two hunters and the F.B.I., including agent Abby Durrell (Connie Nielsen), contact the now retired Bonham to help them hunt and capture the man responsible for these killings. They don’t know it, but Bonham recognizes the characteristics of the kill and suspects the person responsible is one of his trainees.

Bonham is an interesting character. He claims to have never fired a weapon (and, indeed, in the movie he never does) and while he trained people in how to kill, he himself claims to have never actually done so. Further, he now lives in a remote mountain cabin and appears uninterested in harming anyone or any animal (he helps one early on) despite the fact that he possesses the knowledge and skills to do so.

Though reluctant to join the F.B.I., Bonham does so and soon confirms the killer is one of “his”. He tells the F.B.I. to stand back and goes on the hunt for the killer, soon coming face to face with him.

I don’t want to get into spoilers here, so I won’t discuss more of the plot but it is very straightforward as I said above. Unlike some of the better Friedkin works, this one doesn’t have layers of meaning below the surface. The movie essentially plays out like a variation of the first Rambo film, First Blood, only the “bad” guy in this case is the one with the PTSD.

The action is for the most part well done but toward the film’s climax things got a little wonky. It seemed like there were scenes missing here and there. For example, one sequence has Bonham jumping on a train and in the background you can clearly see the police with drawn guns moving toward the train, yet at no point before that moment are they behind the train! Further, when Bonham heads out for the final confrontation between himself and Hallman, there are odd sequences interspersed, of the F.B.I. flying around the general area (it seems very unlikely these two wouldn’t notice helicopters near them) and the way Bonham tracks Hellman also seems a little disjointed. Further, it strains credulity that both Bonham and Hellman have the time -and are not bothered!- while they create weapons to fight each other. This is particularly silly in the case of Hellman’s weapon… I’ll say no more!

Still, as I said before, the film is for the most part an entertaining if not extraordinary action film which benefits from the charisma of the leads.

Not spectacular, but recommended nonetheless.

Hellboy (2019) a (Mildly) Belated Review

The latest iteration of Hellboy, featuring director Neil Marshall taking over for Guillermo Del Toro (who I suspect at this point does whatever film he wants to do) and David Harbour taking over for Ron Perlman in the lead role, had me interested in its first few minutes.

Understand, I’m a pretty big fan of the Mike Mignola Hellboy comics. Further, I felt once Harbour showed up as Hellboy he did a pretty good job with the character, though I would note rather quickly that he seemed to be following in Perlman’s footsteps.

Still, he was pretty good.

But then…

I’ll get to the movie in a moment but first, here’s the Red Band trailer for Hellboy

Anyway, we start in the past, with witches being put down, including the head witch Nimue, the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich). Then we’re up to the “present” and introduced to Hellboy, who is in Mexico seeking out a fellow agent in the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, the organization that goes after evil creatures and which Hellboy belongs to, at least in the early going of the comic books). He finds the agent in a “lucha” ring, ie a wrestling arena, and all hell breaks loose.

So far, so good.

…but then…

Two words: Information dump.

In many ways this new Hellboy feature reminded me of Ryan Reynold’s favorite movie role punching bag: the 2011 film Green Lantern.

How so?

Well, because both films were overfilled with references to so many different characters and stories and individual comic books that it became something of a mess.

Both Green Lantern and Hellboy were betrayed by scripts that couldn’t focus and hit us with so much …stuff… that after a while one begs for simplicity and clarity and focus, which are simply not to be found.

As I mentioned, we have the Blood Queen. We then go to the Mexican luchador sequence (and vampires), then we side step to the Wild Hunt, then Baba Yaga and her bizarre house, then… ugh.

I mean, I could understand many of the references because I’m familiar with the books they’re based on, but could you imagine a James Bond film gets released and it features Bond first going up against Dr. No, then Blofeld, then Pussy Galore shows up, then Bond finds the love of his life and marries her only to have her killed, then he goes up into space to thwart a megalomaniac trying to poison humanity and comes down to a Voodoo plantation to deal with drug runners and in the meantime avoids an assassin with a Golden Gun…

I mean, if you’re a James Bond fan you know what I’m referencing, but if all those elements were pushed together in one film, the ultimate results would have been an overload and that’s what’s happened here.

I suppose one also has to acknowledge the fact that there are many -myself not included, alas, and you can read more about that below- who love the two Guillermo Del Toro directed Hellboy films and had a tough time with him leaving that franchise.

Add to that some strange/wild behind the scenes stories regarding director Neil Marshall (you can read about that here and here), and even some pointed statements by David Harbour about the film’s reception and production (there are rumors he didn’t get along with director Neil Marshall and the film had some 16 producers through its making and further rumors are that they did not agree often. You can read about that here) and you have issues.

It just seemed like too many things were going against the work to begin with. Too much ambition in showing all these interesting comic book elements when they didn’t need to. Too many “cooks in the kitchen”, so to speak, and a script that needed paring down rather than being so overstuffed.

Yet the film looks pretty sharp, I must say, and the action is good. Still, the film winds up being like Green Lantern, an overstuffed work that ultimately just isn’t all that good.

POSTSCRIPT: Regarding the two Guillermo Del Toro Hellboy films: I can’t say I’m a huge fan of those two films either, though I would say of the three Hellboy features, they are better than the most recent.

While they both looked terrific and boasted incredible special effects, the first film felt a little underwhelming to me, fizzling toward its end. The second, I felt, was like this new Hellboy in that there was too much going on and it felt like there were climaxes after climaxes to the point where I was exhausted.

All this, of course, is IMHO!

The Hunt (2019), a (Mildly) Belated Review

Back in 2019 the movie The Hunt was scheduled to be released but, after mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Universal Studios decided to pause the release of the film (you can read about that here).

Before that happened, I wrote about the film and its original trailer, which I felt gave away pretty much the total story of the film (you can read the original article here, but beware that some of the embedded material, including that original trailer, were taken down).

If you go to that original article, I go into what this movie obviously is: Another riff on what I think may be the most adapted story of all time, Richard Connell’s 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game.

The story involved a shipwreck victim who washes up on an island only to realize the man who lives there has a peculiar habit: He likes to hunt human prey.

The story was first adapted into a movie with the same name in 1932 and since then I can’t count the times either movies or TV shows or books offer a similar story with that common theme: The idea that someone has decided to hunt humans.

Anyway, after a fashion The Hunt was finally released in March of 2020. This is one of the main trailers used for the film when it was finally released:

Earlier this morning I managed to finish the film off and… man, there is so much to like about it.

I loved Betty Gilpin as Crystal and Hilary Swank, in what amounts to a cameo, was wonderful as the hissable villain. The direction is crisp, the action presented bloody in a grindhouse way. And the concept, while once again owing to Richard Connell’s original story, manages for the most part to present an exciting variation of the well used hunter-hunting-humans concept.

Unfortunately…

The makers of the film, specifically screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, decided to add another element to the story. They decided to satire current right/left wing politics, presenting the “hunters” as stereotypical liberals and the hunted as stereotypical conservatives. I’m sure “on paper” it sounded like a clever idea, but for me that concept played out really quickly and soon became alternately off-putting and obvious while never quite being as humorous as I suspect they thought it was.

So we have scenes where the hunters talk about global warming or speak about racism while figuring out the proper way to call an African American and do this while gleefully murdering their “conservative” prey who we find slaughter endangered animals or have conspiracy podcasts… and it’s just not all that amusing.

John Carpenter in a few of his films takes on societal satire but manages to do so in a far more effective ways (check out Escape From New York or They Live). Here, I wished the film focused more on its main plot and, especially, Crystal and her fight for survival and not hit us over the head with so many too-obvious “jokes” about liberal or conservative silliness.

If the film had decided to accept and accentuate its Grindhouse elements more while toning down and/or eschewing the obvious -and after a while increasingly silly- political commentaries and not gotten so into the weeds about why the hunt existed (it is explained and, frankly, it was yet another dumb political element, IMHO), the film would have been much more successful.

As it is, if you are in the mood for some bloody fun and can ignore the annoyance of the “satire” that plays out much quicker than the writers thought, then you may find enough to enjoy in this film.

Alita: Battle Angel (2019), A (Mildly) Belated Review

Alita: Battle Angel, released last year and produced by James Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriguez, was one of those films I was curious about seeing but never quite had a chance to catch during its theatrical run.

Not that I was a fan of the original -and much loved!- Yukito Kishiro Manga comics it was based on, but rather because the trailers looked pretty interesting. Interestingly, I have the Manga books but until after seeing the film, I hadn’t read them (another of those things I’ve bought but were sitting around waiting for me to find time for them).

Anyway, here’s one of the movie’s trailers:

I managed to DVR the film when it played on a cable channel and eventually watched it in pieces over the course of three or four days. The film is fairly long, clocking in at 2 hours and 2 minutes and I wonder if maybe I’d sat through the whole thing at one time I might have had a somewhat lesser opinion of it.

I say this because an awful lot occurs in the course of the film and, while it is magnificent to look at, sometimes the plot seems to move in fits and starts and meander. If I had sat through the whole thing at one time, I might have been annoyed by this but, having seen it in pieces, I was more forgiving.

After watching the film I started reading the Manga comics. The original Alita Manga comic book series is collected in a 9 volume series and, it turns out, this movie covers events roughly through the first 3 volumes of those books. Had they followed this pattern, perhaps Cameron and Rodriguez imagined making three Alita films, the two remaining ones intended to cover the final 6 volumes of story originally presented in comic book form.

The movie version of Alita is quite faithful to the comics, though the events are presented in a more overlapping order. Certain things are changed as well, but at least in my opinion the movie was quite faithful to the original comic.

Thing is, “as is” the story is incomplete and ends on something of a “to be continued” note. Sure, we are given a fairly complete tale here, but there is no final resolution and I don’t know if we’ll ever get it. While the film did well cumulatively worldwide, I don’t know if it made enough to justify a sequel. Further, at this moment and while looking over the IMDb listings for both James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez, neither has an Alita sequel listed among their upcoming projects.

So, unfortunately, Alita: Battle Angel may wind up being a stand alone film that doesn’t feature any ultimate resolution. That alone may want some people to stay away from it, and its too bad.

Alita: Battle Angel features Rosa Salazar as the android known as Alita. She is found in a heap of trash discarded from a mysterious floating city by Dr. Ido (Christopher Waltz). He creates a body for her and she explores the city they live in, falls in love, and comes to realize she may be the last of a line of powerful warrior androids.

It’s interesting enough, though I feel like many of the story beats have been used and reused so much that it doesn’t feel quite as fresh as I’m sure it did when the original Manga comics were released.

Still, the film is enjoyable if a little overlong. I also feel like it could have been tightened up a little more. Jennifer Connelly, for example, has a role in the film which, truthfully, could have been cut completely (I have yet to read the full 9 volumes of the Manga, but at least through the first three there is no character equivalent to her to be found in there).

There are other actors who appear here and there for what amounts to one scene and of course they were likely intended to be used in sequel films.

So… yay or nay?

I recommend the film. It’s a visual delight for sure, though the story could have been tightened up a little and there is the possibility we’ll not see the sequels that will complete the story.

Still, if you’re in the mood for a good adaptation of a beloved Manga comic, this one is worthy of your time.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955) a (Darkly) Belated Review

The other day I reviewed the film Sweetheart (2019) (you can read it here). I liked the film, but concluded:

(Sweatheart’s) a very good film, but not quite a great one.

There are many, many films that can be summed up like that. Films you enjoy, even recommend, that you nonetheless feel don’t quite go that extra mile, don’t have the extra “juice”, to make them an extraordinary feature.

That’s not the case with the film I’m reviewing here. The Robert Aldrich directed Kiss Me Deadly is an extraordinary feature, one that I would easily recommend to any fans of film noir or detectives or mystery.

Loosely based on the Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer novel of the same name, this movie, in my humble opinion, is a total home run, a searing, sleazy detective movie that presents an incredible story and an even more incredible conclusion, which I will get to in a moment.

The story: A lone woman runs desperately alongside a deserted highway at night, out of breath and clearly frightened. She sees a car’s lights in the distance and steps into the middle of the road, causing the car’s driver, Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker, in what is perhaps his all time best role), to hit the brakes and nearly crash while avoiding her.

Mike Hammer is pissed off. He drives a gaudy car, wears elegant clothing, but is a sleazy P.I. whose specialty is divorce cases. He uses his secretary, Velda to seduce those he is working against -and get incriminating information on them- and actor Maxine Cooper is another standout as the movie’s conscience, despite the sleazy things she does for her boss.

Before we get to her, Hammer reluctantly aids the stranded and terrified woman (played by Cloris Leachman in her screen debut) only to then have the two attacked and the woman tortured and murdered.

Hammer, not one for sentiment, realizes whatever the murder victim was involved in was big, and he intends to cash in on whatever it was.

Through the course of the movie, Hammer confronts many unsavory characters and has to deal with the law in the form of Lt. Pat Murphy (Wesley Addy, another standout).

When Lt. Murphy tells Hammer he’s in “over his head”, it may be a cliche line, but boy oh boy is it accurate.

I don’t want to get into too much more, but suffice it to say that Kiss Me Deadly is a must see, a film that in my opinion deserves its place among the very best film noir classics.

Oh, and if you recall the “glowing suitcase” from the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction and wondered what inspired that scene, look no further than Kiss Me Deadly.

Highly recommended.

Here’s my humble take on the film, which I originally presented here

Now then…

SPOILERS!!!!

PLEASE DON’T CONTINUE IF YOU PLAN TO SEE THE FILM!

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

So, as I said above, I wanted to talk a little about the end of the film, which I feel may be one of the most incredible movie endings ever made.

Here’s the thing, though: Which ending are we talking about?

Years ago, when the best quality home video you could buy was in the form of laserdiscs, I picked up a copy of Kiss Me Deadly on laserdisc.

I don’t believe I had seen the film before picking up the laserdisc, only that I knew the film was a cult classic (it wasn’t quite as well known as it is today, and this was before -I think!- Pulp Fiction’s reference to it which I mentioned above).

Anyway, the film was essentially intact except for the movie’s very ending.

Again, I’m going to get into SPOILERS here, so please think hard about continuing if you don’t want to be SPOILED about the film’s ending!

Kiss Me Deadly’s climax involves Mike Hammer returning to the bad guy’s ocean front home. There, he confronts Gabrielle (Gaby Rodgers, another standout performance as the “pixie femme fatale from hell”).

Hammer has finally realized he is indeed “over his head” in this, and all he wants is to save his secretary Velda, who has been kidnapped by the badguys.

Gabrielle shoots Hammer and then, her curiosity overwhelming, opens up the mysterious case everyone has been after. It contains radioactive material, and by opening it she is set afire.

Hammer, though shot, manages to get up and stumbles in the corridor outside the room where Gabrielle burns. He finds Velda and they head to the stairs at the end of the corridor leading out of the house…

…only to cut to the beach house which blows up, taking with it both Hammer and Velda.

An abrupt, but I felt incredible and daring way to end this whole sleazy affair, with Hammer and his beloved Velda victims of Hammer’s hubris.

Only…

…that’s not the ending that Robert Aldrich made. Check out this trailer, which was also included in that laserdisc I purchased:

Note that at the 2:00 mark of the trailer we are presented with the exploding house and another curious thing: Mike Hammer and Velda huddled together in the beach surf watching the house explode!

Strangely, at one point the ending of Kiss Me Deadly -but nothing else- was shortened and for many years people saw the film with the abbreviated ending of Hammer and Velda still in the house when it explodes.

Robert Aldrich, before he passed away in 1983, was asked about the movie’s ending and noted he had filmed Hammer and Velda stumbling out of the house, making their way through the sand and into the water, and watching the house go up in smoke from there and that this version was the version that he created and which was the “proper” version.

In fact, as interest in the film grew, a copy of the film was found in Mr. Aldrich’s vaults and it had that extended ending and today that is the ending you will find on video releases and I for one feel it works as well as the more abrupt version.

Either way, the extended version showing that Hammer and Velda didn’t immediately die in the explosion isn’t all that much more pleasant an ending because the explosion which takes out the beach home is a nuclear one. Sure, Hammer and Velda are still alive and watching the beach house go up in smoke but given the cause of this explosion they, and probably quite a bit of the west coast, are nonetheless doomed.

As I said before, incredible stuff.

Sweetheart (2019) a (Mildly) Belated Review

Sweetheart, released last year to home video to extremely good reviews from critics (95% positive by critics at Rottentomatoes!) versus a much cooler reception by audiences (52%, Rottentomatoes again), came on my radar around the time it was originally released and I’ve been curious to see it since. Here’s the movie’s trailer:

The movie is quite simple: Jenn (Kiersey Clemons, quite good) awakens on a beautiful island shore. She wears a life vest and realizes nearby is Brad (Benedict Samuel), a fellow castaway. He’s in bad shape, though. At some point his body slammed into coral and he’s got a piece of the jagged material sticking out of his stomach.

Soon, Brad dies (this all happens within the first few minutes of the film, so rest easy, I’m not spoiling much), and Jenn is left alone on the island.

She explores and assesses her situation and, come night, realizes the island is the hunting grounds for a fierce monster.

Will Jenn survive?

After seeing Sweetheart, I was curious to read some reviews and one of the more astute ones note the film is like a cross between Predator and Castaway.

Not a bad comparison, but the film’s DNA lies more distant than that, all the way to creature feature movies like the original Thing From Another World and The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

The movie is pretty bare bones, but I say this in a good way. There is very little fat and the plot moves forward. When all is said and done -and without spoiling too much- we have a total of four “speaking” roles but it is Jenn who takes up the majority of the screen time and she does make for an engaging hero, even if she may not be quite as resourceful and gutsy as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the Alien films.

However, once all was said and done I felt there were a couple of head-scratching moments in the film that bear scrutiny. I’ll get to them in a moment as they do relate to SPOILERS.

So… thumbs up or down?

I recommend the film but bear in mind along with the fact that this is a pretty straightforward film it also does not reinvent the wheel. It’s well done, at times very suspenseful and the main protagonist is engaging and worth rooting for but Sweetheart is not a terribly original or searing presentation.

It’s a very good film, but not quite a great one.

Now then…

SPOILERS!

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!

Still there?

Hope you know what you’re doing…

Anyway, there were two things presented in Sweetheart -three if we count the movie’s title, which is explained in the course of the film but… come on! They could have come up with something more interesting, no?!- that bugged me.

The first one occurs when Jenn is attacked by the creature. She sustains a gash in her leg but that wound, magically, seems to disappear immediately afterwards and through to the end of the film. An odd thing, a very odd thing, to have happen in a film that seems to be otherwise very well thought out.

It makes me wonder if maybe they re-arranged certain scenes and her injury originally happened later in the story -like toward the very end- but was moved to earlier to create some sense of tension.

The second thing involves even more SPOILERS so, again, if you don’t want to be SPOILED…

All right then…

Through the course of the film Jenn encounters others who were in the ship she was in. Not many, granted, but she arrives with one survivor who dies quickly. She later finds the half-eaten body of another and then toward the later half of the film she sees a lifeboat and swims to it. She finds two people, a man and a woman, who have also survived the wreck.

Once they make it to shore, we realize they know each other. The man, Lucas (Emory Cohen), is her boyfriend and calls her “Sweetheart” (hence the movie’s title). Their relationship, we infer, was on the rocks even before the ship expedition. Both Brad and the woman, Mia (Hanna Mangan Lawrence), are elated to have reached shore but, understandably, have a hard time believing Jenn when she tells them a monster stalks the island.

This eventually leads to a confrontation between the two against Jenn, but before that Jenn borrows Lucas’ knife and notices blood on it.

Later on, when Jenn gets into the lifeboat, she notices bloodstains in it.

There is a clear implication that Lucas and Mia killed someone with that knife and did so in the lifeboat. My best guess is they killed the half-eaten man Jenn found before Lucas and Mia showed up.

It’s an interesting element, that Jenn may not only have to worry about the creature but also Lucas and Mia maybe being killers, but that element is shown -both with the blood stained knife and the blood within the lifeboat!- but absolutely nothing more is made of it.

As with Jenn’s wound, I wonder if maybe either they filmed more regarding this and ultimately discarded it or they had it in the script, filmed it, but decided to not bother with any further explanations.

For a film that is so razor sharp, though, its weird to have this dangling and ultimately unresolved plot element.

Weird stuff.