Alita: Battle Angel isn’t a movie set in the future that’s all about doom and gloom. Director Robert Rodriguez‘s grand spectacle tells a story with genuine warmth and kindness, thanks in no small part to the presence of actor Christoph Waltz. Playing Dr. Dyson Ido, who discovers Alita in a heap of trash and jolts her back to life, Waltz helps make Rodriguez’s adaptation of Yukito Kishiro‘s manga series more heartfelt than a typical studio movie (which Alita: Battle Angel most certainly is not).
Waltz plays a paternal role and watches Alita’s self-discovery unfold like the audience does. Another part of Waltz’s role and job: assisting in explaining the world, Alita, and the tech. The actor does plenty of heavy lifting for the story, but like Cameron’s handle for world building, Waltz does it all with a natural ease. Plus, if there’s one actor you’re going to immediately buy as a brilliant scientist and doctor, it’s the Inglorious Basterds star, who recently told us about his experience with Rodriguez, cinematographer Bill Pope (The Matrix), and producer James Cameron during a brief phone interview.
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Alita: Battle Angel has been a long time coming. Based on Yukito Kishiro‘s manga series Battle Angel Alita, the big and intimate Robert Rodriguez film was once going to be directed by producer James Cameron, who ended up choosing Avatar over the property. Cameron ultimately handed directorial duties over to Rodriguez, who helped whip Cameron’s epic script into a manageable length.
Even with a different director at the helm, producer Jon Landau wanted to make a James Cameron-style event film, describing the movie as “a movie with themes bigger than its genre” and “has a central relatable character, who on many levels, is an ordinary character who ends up doing extraordinary things against this epic backdrop.” Alita: Battle Angel, which the site’s own Hoai-Tran Bui rightfully praised as Hollywood’s first good manga adaptation, certainly checks those boxes.
We spoke to Landau recently and he told us a bit more about the project’s history, working with Cameron, deleted scenes, and Avatar 2.
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Piercing doesn’t ever pull a punch. The title of writer-director Nicolas Pesce‘s adaptation of Ryû Murakami‘s novel of the same name couldn’t be more fitting. From its earliest images, audience members will know if this movie, which features visceral body horror, S&M, and cruel and ridiculous laughs, speaks to them.
Pesce, who previously directed The Eyes of My Mother and will follow this up with a remake of The Grudge, again establishes himself as a bold director with Piercing. “Pesce delivers a carefully crafted sophomore feature that explores the dangerous limits taken to rectify trauma and fulfill various desires,” Marisa Mirabal wrote in her review for the site. “A sick and stylish love letter to Giallo films of the ‘70s, Piercing is cinematic kink at its finest.”
It’s a love letter to Giallo and more, as Pesce recently told us in conversation about his influences, references, and taste in movies.
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Pete Holmes is more successful in season 3 of Crashing, but not much happier. The generally happy-go-lucky comedian is playing for churches and getting laughs, but he’s not performing like himself, worsening his struggle to find his voice or sense of self in the comedy world. Holmes – the character – hits some professional and personal lows this season.
While the Judd Apatow-produced series often shows the joy and camaraderie in Holmes’ standup career, it’s usually about failure and not always pleasant. The latest episode in season three, “MC, Middle, and Headliner,” tells a story about hate speech, sexual misconduct, and sexism, making the episode almost as much about the time we’re in as it is about the characters. In the episode, Pete, Ali (Jamie Lee), and Jason Weber (Dov Davidoff) go perform together at a cheesy comedy club, where Jason Weber – always the least progressive and self-aware character on the show – is confronted about his behavior and the sort of comedian he represents.
It’s a substantial episode in the entertaining but weighty third season, which we recently discussed with Holmes.
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Over the last 10 years, actor James Badge Dale has built himself one mighty impressive resume. Badge Dale’s career began when he was a kid in 1990 with a role in an adaptation of Lord of the Flies, but after that, and years after playing hockey and suffering an injury, he went to the theater where he found his passion for acting. Since his theater days, he’s delivered consistently high quality of performances for some of the best filmmakers around.
Now, he’s the lead in The Standoff at Sparrow Creek – a tense mystery mostly set in one location about a militia trying to discover which one of their own was behind a shooting at a police funeral. As a former cop turned militia man, Badge Dale brings a real sense of urgency to writer-director Henry Dunham‘s propulsive thriller. When speaking with the actor about the film, he not only told us about his experience on his latest movie, but some of his past jobs as well, from The Departed to The Pacific to working with Michael Bay and more.
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The Kid Who Would Be King has been a long time coming for writer-director Joe Cornish. Not only because it’s been seven long years since his feature directorial debut, Attack the Block, left us eager and hungry to see his sophomore effort, but also because he thought of the Arthurian story in his teens. After waiting so long to tell his original story, Cornish ended up bringing a tangible and infectious excitement to the movie’s playful sense of adventure, similar to Attack the Block.
The Kid Who Would Be King is a modernization with a refreshing absence of irony and a complete feeling of sincerity. It’s a kind-hearted kids movie from Cornish that takes its kids and where their story goes very seriously, reminiscent of Spielberg and John Hughes in some ways. The movie wears some of its influences on its sleeve, as Cornish recently told us over the phone. The director also looked back on the release of Attack the Block, as well as talked about Led Zeppelin and the wonderment of John Boorman’s Excalibur.
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Few directors today make genre movies as intimate Karyn Kusama. The director of The Invitation, Girl Fight, and Jennifer’s Body gets real up close and personal to her characters, especially the protagonist of her latest film, Destroyer. Detective Erin Bell — a bulldozer of a character played by Nicole Kidman — is not a character you can take your eyes away from.
The character originated from the co-writers of The Invitation, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. Like that party-in-the-hills-gone-terribly-wrong horror story, the screenwriting duo and Kusama tell a complex story gracefully with Destroyer, which is an equally dense crime story and character story. Recently, we discussed Kidman’s performance as Bell, shooting in Los Angeles, corrupt cop movies, and more with Karyn Kusama.
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Serenity is probably not the movie audiences are expecting. Steven Knight’s third feature as a director is a bonkers thriller, both old-fashioned and modern, that defies expectations. Nobody could ever call this movie predictable. Knight says he’s not a fan of the constraints of any given genre, and it shows in Serenity, a movie not tied down to the rules of a thriller. It’s not an easy film to put in a box or even say much about without spoiling anything.
It’s the first feature Knight has directed since Locke, and although that drama came out six years ago, it’s so memorable that it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since the creator of Peaky Blinders and Taboo directed a movie. Recently, he told us about the challenges of his latest film, why he doesn’t like labeling movies by genre, the differences between writing for himself or a studio, and more.
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Michael Shannon is one of those actors that constantly reminds us there’s no such thing as small parts. No matter the size of the role, his presence will leave an impression, with his sole scene in Loving being one example. Every second matters when Shannon is on screen. The actor, who was last seen on AMC’s The Little Drummer Girl, now stars in Meredith Danluck‘s feature directorial debut, State Like Sleep, an intimate neo-noir with dreamlike sequences.
Katherine Waterston plays a photographer investigating the death of her husband, and during her journey of grief she crosses paths with Edward, her neighbor at a hotel. Because of the story’s unpredictable tone and genre elements, you’re not quite sure what to expect from Edward at the start, but there’s ultimately a surprising tenderness to his messy relationship with the lead character. Along with Waterston, Shannon makes the movie’s few moments of kindness very impactful.
Recently, Shannon told us about his experience with Waterston and Danluck, in addition to the importance of naps, the apex of his career, a memory from Kangaroo Jack, and some details about Rian Johnson’s Knives Out.
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Too many biopics fall prey to hero worship. In trying to celebrate someone’s life, many biographical films end up lacking humanity, nuance, and, more often than not, hard truths. It plagues bio films, especially the agreeable kind that score all the Oscars. But in the case of Adam McKay‘s Vice, he didn’t make the average biopic. He’s certainly not looking up to Dick Cheney, the former Vice President, but looking down on him with a big ‘ol unforgiving microscope.
The drama is an epic that moves at a remarkable speed, covering a large ensemble and chunks of information without ever feeling like CliffsNotes. Similar to The Big Short, McKay pulls off a remarkable juggling act with some serious topics and major tonal shifts. Vice is a gracefully dense piece of work.
Below, read what the Academy Award-winner had to say about researching George W. Bush Jr’s vice president, Christian Bale‘s comedic chops, deleted scenes, and what he thinks Cheney would make of his damning portrait.
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