Tag Archives: Robert Rodriguez

Spare Parts

Alita: Battle Angel

by Hope Madden

Cyberpunk comes to the big screen in the form of a post-apocalyptic roller derby. I would not have guessed that’s how it would go.

Alita: Battle Angel is, among other things, director Robert Rodriguez’s best film in years. That isn’t saying a lot, but the truth is that the filmmaker does more with dystopian YA heroine tropes than most recent directors have.

In a terrestrial wasteland in the shadow of a sky city eternally out of reach, one kindly scientist (Christoph Waltz) scrounges a scrap heap looking for cyborg parts. He rebuilds something he finds there—something that reminds him of his own lost daughter. Though Alita (Rosa Salazar plus motion capture magic) has no memory of who or what she was, her instincts oscillate between earnest adolescent and battle-honed killer.

Based on a Manga series about a bounty hunter, Alita concerns itself more with the themes of today’s young adult franchises: empowering young women to be true to themselves, stand up to authority, own their own destiny, and only crush on boys who love you for who you truly are.

All fine lessons. A stocked supporting cast including two more Oscar winners (besides Waltz)—Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly—elevate the sometimes threadbare dialog with sheer will and undeniable talent.

The film also showcases the latest cinematic tech wizardry at the disposal of co-scriptor James Cameron, wielded by Sin City’s visionary helmsman.

And it looks great. Better than the trailer makes you think it looks. The ruined city, the cyborg monstrosities, the action—all of it commands attention and refuses to be dismissed.

If nothing else, Alita absolutely marks a departure from the filmmaker’s traditional style. Indeed, it looks more like something Cameron would make: glossy and epic versus edgy and idiosyncratic.

There is nothing especially groundbreaking or memorable, however, about the film. There is nothing inferior about it, either. It pushes some boundaries in terms of content as well as movie experience and it entertains from start to finish. It’s Hunger Games with a more likable protagonist, Ready Player One with a plot.

It’s forgettable, cool looking and fun.

Machete Bores


by George Wolf


So disappointing.

The legend of Machete began in 2007, with director Robert Rodriguez‘s standout faux trailer in Grindhouse. That trailer screamed for an actual feature, and Rodriguez obliged in 2010 with Machete, a wonderful homage to 70s exploitation films.

The original had many things going for it, but Machete‘s secret weapon was what it didn’t have:  comic parody.

Sadly, that is all Machete Kills is interested in offering.

Danny Trejo is back as the titular badass, but this time his exploits deteriorate into an Austin Powers-type mission to thwart the plans of a Dr. Evil-type madman (Mel Gibson). Nothing feels like a hat-tip to the genre, especially the female characters, scripted this time with less fun and more degradation. It is all so incredibly dumb and misguided that an hour and forty minute running time feels like twice that.

Just weeks ago, Kick-Ass 2 failed in a similar fashion, as new filmmakers took over the franchise and completely abandoned everything that made the source film so worthy.

The demise of Machete Kills is a little harder to understand, as Rodriguez is back to direct, and, as in Machete, the screen is filled with wild casting choices (Carlos Estevez aka Charlie Sheen, Cuba Gooding, Jr, Sofia Vergara, Lady Gaga). The screenplay, duties, though, this time fall to newcomer Kyle Ward, which raises some questions.

How old is he? Did he even see the original Machete? Why did Rodriguez accept this travesty?

Machete in space?