Alita: Battle Angel – PG-13 – 2019 – Fantasy/Science Fiction – 2h2m Movie Review

by Douglas Montgomery II

Alita Battle Angel was originally a Japanese cyberpunk anime series. Alita has also been a long time dream project of director James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic, Aliens, Terminator), who ultimately ended up as producer of the just released movie version. Directing chores went to Robert Ridriguez (Sin City, Predators, and Kill Bill: Volume 2). Starring Rosa Salazar as Alita, Christoph Waltz as Dr. Dyson Ido, Jennifer Connelly as Chiren, Keean Johnson as Hugo, and Mahershala Ali as Vector. Alita Battle Angel, the live-action adaptation has been stuck in development for some time, along with many production delays, but it has finally hit theaters. The result is a mixture of faithful to the original anime property for fans, but missing that human interaction connection for general audiences.

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic future and follows a cyborg (Alita) who is found in a garbage dump by a doctor who rebuilds her and brings her back to life. Suffering from memory loss, Alita connects to who she is/was via a long lost martial art form used by military style cyborgs many years prior. As time progresses, she eventually achieves full knowledge of her past and what she must now do given the current state of things. All of this works well, but the movie suffers a bit because human connections seem to take a back seat to all the stunning visual and practical effects at work. So audiences are somewhat forced to except the emotional connections between the doctor who discovered her, and her new found friend Hugo. It’s not that emotional connections don’t exist, but they happened to quickly, and you just have to accept it and go along for the ride.

Now make no mistake, Alita Battle Angel is an action-packed ride, with well crafted action sequences, some awesome martial arts fighting, and great visual eye candy. In fact, the action, fighting, and visual effects are so good you can overlook some of the human emotion connections that’s missing. At least that’s what I did. And if you just accept Alita as a live-action, 3-D animated action/fantasy movie, you’ll enjoy this movie. And I must say as fantastic as the visuals and action was, the bar wasn’t really moved. I mean Avatar this is not. I saw Alita in IMAX 3-D, and honestly I don’t feel it was necessary. I would have been just as satisfied seeing this movie in Dolby cinema. So I advise do not spend the extra money for 3-D.

Dr. Dyson (Watlz) was a great character with some great moments with Alita. But Chiren (Connelly), and Vector (Ali) both good characters with potential, but they don’t really get enough time to stand out. Ali’s bad guy Vector in particular, just wasn’t given enough to be the villain I was looking forward to seeing him be, and this was especially disappointing for anyone looking to see Ali sink his acting chops into a wicked, evil character, much like he did as Cottonmouth in the NetFlix Marvel series Luke Cage.

For genre fans and anime fans you’ll probably like Alita, however, I don’t think general audiences will fully enjoy and appreciate this movie. So, if you want an action movie with a deep thought-provoking message, where you feel something for the characters on an emotional level then I would not recommend this movie to you. Now, If you’re looking to see some good special effects, intense action, and some martial arts fighting then check this movie out! If you’re a fan of anime, check Alita out! Just want to see a plain old action flick, then go check out Alita Battle Angel! Alita Battle Angel is playing in theaters now!

The Kid Who Would Be King – PG – 2019 – Fantasy/Action-2h Movie Review

by Douglas Montgomery II

The Kid Who Would Be King starring child actor Louis Ashbourne Serkis as Alex, is definitely a movie for kids, but a movie that adults and parents should take kids to see, because as the line that precedes the movie title reads, “Evil Gets Schooled”. Evil in various elementary forms does in fact get schooled in this movie. Directed by helmer of Attack The Block, Joe Cornish, who also wrote Ant-Man and The Adventures of Tin Tin, this movie is an analogy to the story of King Arthur for adults, but a modern day adventure for kids who may not be or are just becoming aware of King Arthur and the Knights of the round table story.

The movie begins with a quick back story of King Arthur’s battle with his half-sister Morgana, who although defeated, has vowed revenge on the land. Fast forward to present day and we find school kid Alex and his best friend Bedders, played by Dean Chaumoo, dealing with being bullied by some of their fellow school mates. But Alex is not one to shy away from a fight and let’s everyone know there’s definitely a fire inside of him. It’s that fire that drives and delivers Alex to his destiny of finding Arthur’s sword and the modern re-imagining of King Arthur and his Knights in the guise of himself and his school friends. There’s many life lessons for kids to learn and relate to in this movie. From several examples of leadership, feeling powerless, acts of selflessness, teamwork, and using one’s enemies to accomplish your goals and turning them into friends at the same time.

Rounding out the cast are Alex’s school mates, Lance (Tom Taylor), Kaye (Rhianna Dorris), Young Merlin (Angus Imrie), Alex’s Mom (Denise Gough), evil sorceress Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), and Adult Merlin (Patrick Stewart). While it would have been nice to have seen more of Stewart as Merlin, and more villainy from Ferguson’s Morgana, this is clearly a movie about the kids and what they have to deal with in this world, and ironically, its the same themes that play out in our own lives as adults. And as Alex is told early in the movie, the world is not going to change, it is you that has to change. An important platitude for anyone to grasp young or old.

The Kid Who Would Be King is fun, humorous, fantastically adventurous, but teaching the audience some lessons in life and people, all at the same time. If you have kids, and are looking to drop your kids off at the movie theater, or want to take your kids to a movie and have them learn something valuable while being entertained, then The Kid Who Would Be King is by far a good choice. After seeing this movie, audiences won’t exit the theater a king, queen, or member of royalty. But if they pay attention to what’s being said, they’ll leave feeling like a graduate of charm school. The Kid Who Would Be King is now playing in theaters! Go check it out!

Glass – PG-13 – 2019 Drama/Fantasy – 2h 9m Movie Review

by Douglas Montgomery II

In 2016, M. Night Shyamalan gave us Split, a mystery/thriller starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities. It was excitingly suspenseful, McAvoy gave a noteworthy split personality performance, and it was a nice return to form for Shyamalan. Then, adding some connectivity flavor, surprisingly links the narrative to Shyamalan’s 2000 Unbreakable. For those who saw Split, it was a nice shock, generating eager anticipation, and setting up the inevitable sequel, that is the just released Glass, starring James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, and Samuel Jackson.

Now Unbreakable would be categorized as a mystery drama, and Split a thriller mystery, but Glass, turns out is fantasy drama, and felt a little out of place amongst the previous two movies that preceded it, and I’ll explain why later. I was really looking forward to seeing where Glass took the story from Split’s ending, but where with Split I was intrigued, and at times on the edge of my seat at what McAvoy’s character, Kevin Wendell, was going to do next, with Glass there’s no more underlying mystery to him, we already know about that “one” personality. And the buildup to Kevin and David Dunn’s (Bruce Willis) confrontation happened too quick, and proved ultimately unsatisfying. Linking Split to Unbreakable now just feels like a clever attempt to link a story, in order to spark fan excitement and generate some box office love.

Glass, tied to Unbreakable, reminded me why I had some issues with the later. It was kind of boring. The tone of Glass, like Unbreakable, set to a grainy, grey, after it’s been raining atmosphere, but lacking the mysteriousness and intensity of Split, just didn’t keep me engaged. The abduction plot line in Split, a little akin to Silence of the Lambs, helped propel that story forward, but that’s, unfortunately absent in Glass. Instead we have a psychiatrist(with a hidden agenda) trying to convince all of the main characters that their powers are really just curable manifestations of the mind. And the film’s reveal towards the end, lending to an overarching, fantasy-like sub-plot, just didn’t work. Out of the three, Split is by far the better movie. I still believe Shyamalan’s got skills, but he should’ve let Split end as a standalone movie, without the Unbreakable lineage.

The return of Samuel Jackson and Bruce Willis is definitely the highlight of this movie, but the charm of their return didn’t last very long, and it didn’t save the movie either. I had high expectations for Glass, but couldn’t get past some of the above mentioned flaws. I thought and hoped, that like Split, Glass would be Shyamalan’s return to recreating the success of his earlier work, but it’s not. It’s an effort to break that glass wall of disappointment, but for this movie goer, the glass is cracked, but not yet broken. Glass is now playing in theaters! Go check it out!

Replicas 2018 – Thriller/Fantasy 1h 47m Movie Review

by Douglas Montgomery II

Have you ever watched a movie and thought to yourself, “how in the world did this movie get made”? Or wondered, “what movie executive let this happen”? If so, then Replicas, starring Keanu Reeves is just the movie to elicit such questions. Replicas is so awful, and there are so many bad things in this movie, it’s difficult to select just one or two from an assortment of poor acting, plot holes, unrealistic situations, etc, etc.

Replicas’s set up is simple, but nothing we really haven’t seen before. Scientist Will Foster played by Keanu Reeves, works for a Research company, Biodyne Industries, who are experimenting with moving a recently deceased individual’s mind/consciousness into a robot. Okay, I’m interested. Well, the crux of this movie is built around Will Foster’s wife and children dying in a car accident, and he of course grief stricken (however, unconvincingly) will use the very experiments he’s been championing, to move his family’s minds into…..clones of his family. Yes, I said clones, not robots. As it conveniently turns out, not only is Biodyne moving minds into robots as we’re initially told, but they can also clone people.

From here we’re treated with a series of plot devices that are all over the place and often make no sense, but are simply inserted to get to the movie’s ultimate ending that this movie goer could not wait to arrive. Along the way we get some “replicated” (pun intended) special effects that you’ll recognize immediately from the likes of 2002’s Minority Report and 2008’s Iron Man. And while these effects are nice to look at on the screen, their hardly remarkable.

I could go on and on with things to pick at in Replicas, but why bother, I’m sure you get the point. One thing to note that I did ponder is what has happened to Keanu Reeves and his movie choices? I mean where is the Keanu Reeves from 1988’s Dangerous Liasons, 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1994’s Speed, and of course the Matrix trilogy?

I prefer to tell anyone to go check out a movie and judge for themselves. But that recommendation will not be happening this go round. I advise if you want to see this movie, wait until it shows up on NetFlix or some other platform. Otherwise, the descriptions I’ve provided, and the questions I’ve pondered here will be sadly “replicated”.

Aquaman – Fantasy/Science Fiction – 2h 22m Movie Review

by Douglas Montgomery II

From the pages of DC comics, to your local theater, Aquaman splashes onto the big screen like a tidal wave! And though technically, Aquaman was introduced in 2017’s Justice League, this is his debut and what a spectacular debut it is! Although it’s not perfect, as DC has had some missteps with some of it’s live action adaptations. Aquaman joins the DC ranks of 2017’s Wonder Woman, 2013’s Man of Steel, and yes even 2005’s Batman Begins, as solid, outstanding super-hero origin movies.

Let me get the imperfections quickly out of the way. My quibble, and singular complaint with Aquaman is the first act. The first 30 to 45 minutes of this movie moves so fast, with so much thrown at you, I felt like I was drowning and gasping for breath. The pacing, and initial story telling is a little all over the place and needed to slow down a bit. So many characters are thrown at you in the span of a half hour, I don’t know how a non-comic fan could keep up. Bottom line, I wished the maker’s of this film would’ve allowed some build up to the spectacle you eventually receive.

Aquaman, portrayed by Jason Momoa seems born to play this role and is clearly enjoying himself as the underwater hero of the sea. He makes his first appearance quickly establishing himself as a bad ass and let’s you know what kind of power is at his disposal. Directed by James Wan, story by comic book writer Geoff Johns, Will Beall, and Wan, these guys definitely know the Aquaman mythology. And the characters are all comic book-perfection. Villain Black Manta played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is spot on, and so are the rest of the cast which include: Amber Heard/Mera, Willem Dafoe/Vulko, Patrick Wilson/King Orm, Nicole Kidman/Atlanna, and Dolph Lundren as King Nereus.

Aquaman is full of dazzling special effects, making the kingdom of Atlantis a character onto itself. There’s a lot to see on screen to the point you’ll need a second or third viewing just to catch all the sea life, Atlantean monsters, weapons, and underwater vehicles on display. Warner Bros clearly spared no expense depicting all things Aquaman from over 70 years of his comic book history. I also tip my hat to the fantastic costume design by Kym Barret. As well as, the art direction, which is imaginative and phenomenal to behold.

I would recommend you see it in a theater with Dolby Cinema to really appreciate all the eye candy popping before your eyes. This is one movie anyone with a fancy home theater will really appreciate once it’s released on home video. I can already see it blasting across every flat screen in Best Buy stores and to great effect! Aquaman is an extremely entertaining, popcorn flick to be sure, with some awesome effects and some absolutely bad-ass fight sequences you’ll want to see repeatedly. Any DC or Marvel comic book fan will enjoy! I know I did!

Aquaman is the king of Atlantis, the hero of the sea, and this holiday season he rules the box office Throne! Go check it out!

Bumblebee PG-13 Science Fiction/Action – 1h 54m Movie Review

by Douglas Montgomery II

One shall stand, one shall fall – Optimus Prime

     Optimus Prime’s famous line aptly applies to Bumblebee, the robotic, transforming hero and titular star of Bumblebee the movie.  Bumblebee stands very tall in fact and easily tower’s over the last few entries in the Transformers franchise.  In terms of story and characters you actually care about, Bumblebee shines in ways the other Transformer movies never did, and still delivers the robot on robot action that’s expected.

     For those of you (myself included), who are tired and burnt out of the Michael Bay/explosions every five minutes/lame humor infused movies we’ve previously gotten with this franchise, or if you’re just suffering from “Transformers fatigue”, ignore the temptation to skip seeing this movie.  Director Travis Knight and Writer Christina Hodson have delivered a truly solid Transformers movie, skillfully combining plot and intense FX action. 

     Starring Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie, John Cena as Agent Burns, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Evil Decepticon Transformer Shatter voiced by Angela Bassett, and of course Bumblebee voiced by Dylan O’Brien, I really enjoyed this movie!  Set in 1987, featuring original Transformers such as, Optimus Prime, Soundwave, Cliffjumper, Ratchet, and Shockwave, and a slew of 80’s music and references, as a Transformer fan and product of the 80’s myself this movie hit me hard.  I found myself singing along to several popular tunes from the 1980’s, and noticed several people in the theater doing the same.

      Hailee Steinfeld is the true standout and her interactions with Bumblebee, as well as, her teenage emotional baggage sit at the very center of this movie, and brought to mind both E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Flight of the Navigator, both 80’s movies.  And Bumblebee is not short on action or humor.  The Transformer action sequences are intense and specifically placed exactly where they need to be, and Bumblebee shows he’s both a hero and a comedian.  I was laughing at and rooting for Bumblebee!

     Bumblebee is definitely a family affair, and a movie that both boys and girls in particular, will enjoy.  And for those looking for a Transformer battle fix you’ll enjoy this movie too!  Autobot leader Optimus Prime once said “There’s a thin line between being a hero and being a memory”.  Bumblebee is a true hero and all those other Transformer movies are now just a memory!

Go checkout Bumblebee!  Transformers!  Roll out!

Spider-Man: Into the the Spider-Verse Rated PG Fantasy/Science Fiction 1h 56m Movie Review

by Douglas Montgomery II

What’s up movie watchers!

     I had the pleasure of seeing Spider-Man:  Into the Spider-Verse over the past weekend and it was absolutely fantastic!  Or as Spider-Man is called, Amazing!

     The voice cast included among others, Liev Schreiber, Mahershala Ali, Nicolas Cage, Lily Tomlin, Chris Pine, and Shameik Moore as main character and hero, Miles Morales.  The movie sports a fresh and new animation style thanks to the animators at Sony Pictures Animation and with a reported budget of 90 million USD, the result is …..Amazing.

     As a longtime marvel comic reader and fan I must admit that I was partial to original Spider-Man’s alter ego Peter Parker, and while I had heard of Miles Morales, I’d never really embraced Morales.  Into the Spider-Verse changed that view, and Shameik Moore’s voice performance combined with a superbly written story/plot, delivers a Miles Morales with a charm that’s difficult not to embrace.  Mile Morales features all the things I’ve come to love and enjoy about Peter Parker/Spider-Man and then some!

     Spider-Verse features all things Spider-Man that I and fans of the hero have enjoyed for many, many years.  Humor, vulnerability, action, bad-ass villains, and high stakes, all set against a colorful animated canvas that’s displayed like it’s never been before.  This movie has everything for adults and children to enjoy, and included a soundtrack of hot music that drove a story that seemed to continually get better and better all the way to it’s heart-stopping, climactic, final action sequence.  And just before the unexpectedly entertaining end credits roll, you’re treated to a heart felt scene that we’ve come to expect from Spider-Man.

   Folks, I cannot say enough good things about this movie! So go out to your local theater and dive deep into the Spider-Verse!  You’ll have an amazing cinematic experience!