Best Cinematography Oscar Winners

Posted on February 18, 2019 at 7:43 pm

Pure pleasure, and a powerful reminder of why the members of the Motion Picture Academy reacted so strongly when the producers of the Oscar telecast tried to take the award for best cinematography off the broadcast. Here’s a look at the Best Cinematography Oscar winners.

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Film History Movie History

Trailer: Missing Link

Posted on February 17, 2019 at 9:12 am

I am an unabashed super-fan of LAIKA and their stop-motion films: “Coraline,” “The Box Trolls,” “ParaNorman,” and “Kubo and the Two Strings.” This trailer for their new film, “Missing Link,” from “ParaNorman” writer/director Chris Butler and featuring the voices of Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, and Zach Galifianakis, looks marvelous — and very funny.

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips

The Hustle — The Third Version of the Con Job Comedy

Posted on February 15, 2019 at 8:00 am

Copyright 2019 MGM

“The Hustle” stars Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, and Tony Award winner Alex Sharp in the third version of the story of competing con artists on the Rivera.

The first one was “Bedtime Story,” starring Marlon Brando and David Niven.

The remake was the classic “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” with Steve Martin and Michael Caine, featured in my book 101 Must-See Movie Moments.

It became a Broadway musical.

And now, yet another gender switch — this time it is two con women, Hathaway and Wilson.

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Not specified

Alita: Battle Angel

Posted on February 14, 2019 at 5:36 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Extended sci-fi/fantasy peril and violence, knives, guns, chases, many characters injured and killed, disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: February 15, 2019
Date Released to DVD: July 22, 2019
Copyright 2018 20th Century Fox

The most surprising achievement of “Alita: Battle Angel,” a (mostly) live action version of a story that was originally a cyberpunk manga series of graphic novels and then an anime feature, is that somehow producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez managed to make the main characters anime-style eyes a lot less weird than I expected.

The title character (Rosa Salazar Rosa Salazar) is a young female cyborg with Keane-style manga eyes, so the uncanny valley risk of her look being distracting and disorienting. But it turned out to be easy to adjust to it and almost immediately I was immersed in the dazzling world of the film and caught up in the action. Cameron (“Terminator,” “Avatar,” “Titanic”) and Rodriguez (“Sin City,” “Desperado,” “From Dusk til Dawn”) are both visual masters. The world they have created is immersive and wildly imaginative and the action scenes are staged are dynamic and compelling. There’s heart to it as well, with an appealing heroine who brings us along with her as she sorts through the moral quandaries of this brutal environment, showing herself more human than the humans.

It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in which the reduced population of Earth lives on what is essentially a planet-sized junk pile. A small group of wealthy elites live on a city suspended above earth like a gigantic Macy’s Thanksgiving parade balloon, as in the Matt Damon film “Elysium.” Everyone else just scrounges, scrambles, or battles for whatever they can.

Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) does what he can to help, replacing damaged body parts with sophisticated mechanical prostheses, many of the parts found through scavenging. Searching through rubble one day he finds a mangled treasure, the head and part of the torso of a cyborg girl. He brings her home and gives her arms and legs that look like they are made of delicately carved antique ivory. Their relationship recalls Geppetto and Pinocchio. He is the fond father of an adopted child that is very much his own creation. And as we will learn, the reason he had those lovingly prostheses ready is that he created them for a child who died before he could help her. Alita may be his second chance.

But Alita is not a little girl. As her memory comes back slowly, she becomes the warrior she was designed to be. She remembers her fighting skills first. Then some of the other details of her past begin to come back. She remembers that she fights and how she fights and something of why she fights though she is not as clear on where she came from or what her place is in the world.

A man named Vector (Mahershala Ali) and his physician colleague Cherin (Jennifer Connelly) run a lethal high-speed roller derby that is a “Hunger Games”-style form of Darwinian survival of the fittest entertainment and commerce — and a cover for some less public but more deadly activities. The other major economic enterprise of this society seems to be bounty hunting (including characters played by Ed Skrein and Jackie Earle Haley) and chop shops for mechanical prostheses. One person involved is Hugo (Keean Johnson), who has to re-think what he has been doing when he finds himself falling for someone he might not have considered human before he looked into those big, big eyes.

Parents should know that this movie includes extended sci-fi/fantasy peril, action, and violence, many characters injured and killed, disturbing images, guns, chases, explosions, some strong language, and kisses.

Family discussion: What does Dr. Ido want for Alita? Why did Chiren respond so differently to the death of her daughter?

If you like this, try: The “Star Wars” movies, “Speed Racer,” and “Jupiter Ascending”

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