‘ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL’ An Eye-Popping Spectacle Without an Ending

Assembled from the scrapyard of a nine-volume run of cult mangas from the 90s, Alita: Battle Angel is the joint production of director Robert Rodriguez and producer James Cameron. Looking at it from a distance, you might assume the costly mega-manga adaptation were more the work of the later. And that’s anything but a ding. Alita has the look and feel of a Cameron sci-fi epic. The world building is sprawling. The effects are tip-top. The spectacle is massive. There’s a reason the blockbuster guru said that the “only way” to experience his latest was in a theater. He wasn’t lying.  Read More


Out in Theaters: ‘DOWNSIZING’

The reach of possibilities that could unfurl within the world that director Alexander Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor have imagined in Downsizing – one where a small population of citizens have opted to shrink themselves to live a bigger, better life – is near limitless. At a microscopic size, everything fundmentally changes. You can get hammered off a thimble-full of wine. When traveling at sea in a tiny vessel, the threat of the most minor whitecap would pose tsunami-sized peril. A mosquito would be a winged monstrosity. And a daring cinematic spectacle. Even the humans who have not opted to go the way of the Shrinky Dink could wield awesome power over their minuscule counterparts, the most average citizen having the ability to go on a Godzilla-like rampage throughout the wee one’s shrunken cities if ever they decided to.  Read More


Out in Theaters: ‘THE LEGEND OF TARZAN’

An unmitigated, excitement-bereft disaster, The Legend of Tarzan marries the very worst tenets of spectacle-based blockbuster entertainment to a wholly abominable ringer of a script in this haphazard attempt to jump-start a franchise whose existence should never have made it past the very first boardroom meeting. Unconvincing characterization and stupendously dull scene work are overwhelmed by eye-pestering CGI with no conviction to call its own that assaults the viewer, who is turn is already forced to reckon with a dramatically barren, entirely overblown, infuriatingly retread plot. The result is a vine-swinging affront to adventure cinema that fails to even once justify why it was made and who it was made for. Read More


Out in Theaters: ‘SPECTRE’

Before 2006, it might have seemed unreasonable to list a slew of gripes and grievances over the convenient scripting and utter ridiculousness of a Bond movie. This is a character who’s faced invisible cars, bagpipe flamethrowers, underwater jet-packs, cigarette rocket darts, deadly hats, and nigh unkillable nemeses. He once even fought a giant on the moon. Historically, Bond is an over-the-top super agent less grounded in reality than the WWE (emphasis on the word ‘historically’). But upon taking up the mantle in 2006, Daniel Craig has ushered in a new era of Bond; a super-serious, no-BS generation of the beloved super spy, 007. Craig’s a Bond more comfortable with a kill than a quip; an alcoholic outsider with rage issues, and yet someone who legitimately grapples with his license to kill. His Bond has been called gritty and callous, and for good reason. He’s been equal parts savior and butcher, still reeling years after the death of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and regularly drinking himself into moody reticence. This modern Bond is more character than caricature; a believable emblem of super-spy badass whose cloth more closely resembles Bourne than Batman. It should come as a major disappointment then that Spectre, the 24th onscreen iteration of the infamous British agent, is a monumental slip backwards into a 00-Stone-Age of yesteryear’s lackluster Bond. Read More


Out in Theaters: HORRIBLE BOSSES 2

A comedy sequel that slam-dunks over its predecessor, Horrible Bosses 2 is a sardonic, infantile laugh riot. Joke for joke, it’s more meaty than the 2011 original. The characters are churned up and the window dressings turned down. This has one and only one purpose: to make you laugh.

After decidedly not killing their bosses, Nick, Kurt and Dale have since gone into business for themselves, inventing a product known as the “Shower Buddy.” Their sudsy SkyMall idea lands them a spot on the nightly news (an appearance they accidentally botch with silhouetted sexual references) but not before production baron Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) notices opportunity.


After ordering thousands of units of the American made all-in-one shower companion, Hanson pulls the plug on (don’t try to say it fast) assuming the company will collapse and he can buy their already manufactured goods for pennies on the dollar. Considering their background in amateur crime, the sloppy trio decide to take matters into their own hands and respond with a kidnapping scheme to bargain Hanson’s son Rex (Chris Pine) to cover their lost capital. Hilarity ensues.

Reviewing comedy is a fickle game and one given over largely to subjectivity but for me, the comedy here really works, improving on a formula that looked better on paper than it actually was the first time around. Horrible Bosses 2 delivers on that promise of unabashed retardation. The first film was a half rack of ribs, occasionally tasty but built on chalky bones, while this is pure brisket; a tenderer cut that trims the fat and leaves just the jokes. The dead air has been filled with sweat, nicknames, non-sequitor and flagrant exaggeration. The archetypes are racketed up well past the point of normalcy and from Kevin Spacey‘s left ear diamond earring to Jamie Foxx‘s Motherfucker Jones penchant for chewing on slurpee straws to Charlie Day‘s perma-coked out mania, the energy of the group is solidified in a sense of juvenile glee nothing short of infectious.

The main triptych were happy-go-lucky, fairly straight-laced dudes with a little bit of quirk but now their idiosyrnacies have been turned up to cable-network extreme. Jason Bateman is even more of a cowardly, self-righteous asshole. Jason Sudeikis drips numbness while pumping out a stream of off-putting sexual energy. Charlie Day is more, well, Charlie Dayish; his nervous energy and sweaty antics broadcast in all its kooky crack-baby glory. It’s the noisy, chaotic, dummy humor of It’s Always Sunny; the calculated misanthropy of dumb dudes doing dumb deeds.

Yes, Jennifer Aniston and her carnal explicitness busted my gut. Pine proved (yet again) that maybe comedy is what he was made for. And Day, Bateman and Sudeikis are all right on the money. It was a solution of funny people doing funny things and it had me laughing the whole way through. That’s not to say that what worked for me will necessarily work for you though. In fact, many will likely be put off by Horrible Bosses 2‘s short-order comedy. For me though, it’s one of the best studio comedies of the year; a hearty step up from their first outing and a nearly laugh a minute affair. Bring on number three. 


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Tarantino Has a Title for His Next Film


After talking about how his next film would continue playing in the southern America/slavery playground that Django Unchained dabbled, Quentin Tarantino revealed that the title of his much anticipated new film would be The Hateful Eight. Tarantino’s screenplay is reported finished and will likely find its way online and into the line of scrutiny sooner rather than later. Although few details about the film have surfaced, Tarantino has stated that he would like frequent collaborator Christoph Waltz to join the cast alongside  Bruce Dern, who you may remember had a small role in Django but has more recently seen his star shine bright after playing Woody in Alexander Payne‘s celebrated Nebraska.

Tarantino is infamous for juggling a bunch of ideas so it’s hard to say which, if any, of his previous endeavors will make it to the screen with The Hateful Eight. In 2009, Tarantino talked about doing a story about abolitionist John Brown, which may or may not feature in his next:

“One story that I could be interested in doing, and it would probably be one of the last movies I do. My favorite hero in American history is John Brown. He’s my favorite American who ever lived… He basically single-handedly started the road to end slavery and the fact that he killed people to do it. He decided, ‘Okay, if we start spilling white blood, then they’re going to start getting the idea.”

Other ideas that have been left on the proverbial curb include an (unnecessary) follow up to Kill Bill, The Vega Brothers which pit Pulp Fiction‘s Vincent Vega (John Travolta) against Reservoir Dogs‘ Vic Vega (Michael Madsen) and a host of British spy films, like The Man From U.N.C.L.E., that he’s had or been trying to get the rights to for years.

And while Tarantino’s word is certainly not his bond, it’ll be interesting to see where The Hateful Eight lands on his iconic Tarantino spectrum. Per his previous work, there would be few surprised to see The Hateful Eight end up somewhere between a western and samurai film. As Tarantino himself said of Western films, “Okay, now let me make another one now that I know what I’m doing.”

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HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 Nabs Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz


Is Hollywood so unimaginative that it has to rehash an idea as simple as Horrible Bosses? Even after lackluster numbers, it appears that the 2011 comedy will attempt to flower into a franchise after all.  Confirmed to play a new horrible boss/father-son duo are Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis will reprise their roles as the extremely unlucky guys who just can’t seem to find a good boss, a feat proven tricky when you’ve attempted to murder your last bosses.

What else is there to say about Christoph Waltz? He can do no wrong. One can imagine that he is swimming in scripts for better movies than this, so it must be okay. Right? Chris Pine has also proven to be pretty solid talent lately and it will be interesting to see how he handles a comedic role. The few comedic moments in the new Star Trek films were well executed by him.

Hopefully they don’t go the route taken by Hangover 2 and do the exact plot again. However, it’s difficult to imagine a much broader scope when the film is called Horrible Bosses. You pretty much know what you are in for.

I am currently working on the third film in the series, where the protagonists work in a Chinese factory and commit suicide after 2 hours of existential pondering and hopelessness. At least that’d be something new.

Horrible Bosses 2 is directed by Sean Anders and stars Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz. It hits theaters on November 28, 2014.