ON DVD & Blu-Ray: July 23, 2019

Though a fan of science fiction I'm not familiar with Yukito Kishiro's 1990 manga comic Battle Angel Alita that inspired the latest Robert Rodriguez picture as produced by James Cameron. I'll clarify that I truly enjoy science fiction largely for the genre's ability, whether it be in the writing or when translated to the big screen-the concept artist, director, or costume and set designers-ability to create a new environment and/or new world's altogether. Further, to apply a structure to this environment where an advanced, and if not advanced at least futuristic society, exists where the world follows the rules of this implemented structure is inherently fascinating as it undoubtedly takes cues from our present world and applies what the creator might think will be to the human races benefit or ultimate detriment. Such prophecies within the genre over the years have created an amalgam of tropes, motifs and clichés, but while the dystopian future has been a familiar trend over the last few years especially it does well to establish a compelling backdrop or habitat, if you will, for the kind of people we come to know in Alita: Battle Angel. Cameron, Rodriguez, and Laeta Kalogridis's (Shutter Island) screenplay shows early on that it has the aforementioned innate ability and, more importantly, a strong desire to construct a world centuries ahead of our present time that is not only inventive, but feels fully realized and lived-in. What the screenplay doesn't do and arguably fails to do is follow through on the promises of this world in which it builds. Meaning, that while it's not automatically a negative to utilize familiar sci-fi and action tropes there does need to be a unique take on whatever traits your movie or story might be adopting from the genre and there are certainly flashes of as much in Alita, but most of it comes from the investment in our main character rather than any kind of investment in the beats she is following. You want to know more about the character, you want to live alongside them because this world that has been created feels so alive and so layered and so interesting, but it's almost as if you also wouldn't mind checking in on and seeing what other characters are up to because as much as we like Alita, there isn't really much depth or surprise to the video-game structured script that is pitting her against the ultimate final boss in the sky. Full review here. Video review here. B-

While one might expect a single-word description of how they feel coming out of something called Hellboy to be along the lines of "bewildered" or "curious" or even "confused" what it actually feels like coming out of Neil "The Descent" Marshall's 2019 re-boot of the Hellboy comic character is "numb". There is so much happening in this desperate (zero-sense making) attempt to bring Mike Mignola's comic back to the big screen in hopes of launching another new franchise that it doesn't seem anyone involved stopped long enough to actually consider what that franchise might need to look like given the context of its existence. Instead, screenwriter Andrew Crosby is throwing as many characters, subplots, flashbacks, and countless other things at the audience at once that it's overwhelming to the point of feeling nothing. That is to say, this new Hellboy fits squarely into the cliché of "everything and nothing all at once". If one were to describe Hellboy and everything the film contains it would be almost ignorant to think that what was about to come your way couldn't potentially be one of the greatest albeit most ridiculous things ever concocted while in reality it turns out to be nothing short of the definition of incoherent. And despite so much going on, nothing lands, nothing to make you-the viewer-care about anything or anyone on screen. Yes, there is technically a narrative here, but this is mostly just an excuse to exercise some cool practical make-up and prosthetic techniques as strung together through blandly executed action sequences (except for the final, epilogue scene-where is that full version of Hellboy at?!?!). It’s not all bad as David Harbour (Stranger Things), taking over for the much-loved Ron Pearlman who previously dawned the sawed-off demon horns in Guillermo del Toro’s two original films, is seemingly having a lot of fun and making the most out of having the opportunity to play the character, but his vigor isn’t near enough to justify sitting through an extended two-hour runtime for a movie that could have been streamlined into ninety-minutes of pure, horror/action schlock. This version of the comic is what it seemed Marshall wanted to make given he was granted an R-rating, but even the leaning into of the restricted rating is wasted on an excess of blood rather than being capitalized on with more creatively gruesome endeavors. Full review here. Video review here. D

In Laika's latest financial misfire (a $16 million haul on a reported budget of $100 million) the stop-motion animation studio and ParaNorman director Chris Butler writes and directs Missing Link about a creature named Mr. Link who recruits explorer Sir Lionel Frost to help find his long-lost relatives in the fabled valley of Shangri-La. Along with adventurer Adelina Fortnight, this trio of explorers travel the world to help their new friend. Despite a strong track record and a roster of well-known and well-liked voice talent including Zach Galifianakis, Hugh Jackman, and Zoe Saldana this thing just couldn't take off. That said, I've heard nothing but good things ("Hilarious" - Aaron Neuwirth, We Live Entertainment) and am sad I missed this during its theatrical run, but will in all honestly probably be renting this tonight to watch with the kiddos. 

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