Is 'Alita: Battle Angel' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Have To Say
FROM ROBERT RODRIGUEZ & JAMES CAMERON

Digg · Updated:

Live action anime and manga adaptations stewarded by western film studios don't have a great track record. Maybe a decade-plus in development hell and some big CGI eyes will help "Alita" (based on Yukito Kishiro's "Gunnm") make the leap to the big screen? Here's what the reviews have to say:

There's A Lot Of Story Stuffed Into The Film…

In the far future, the head and torso of what looks like a cybernetic young girl is found in a scrapyard by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), who works as a repairman for all the various cyborgs and people with machine parts who live in Iron City. Ido gives the girl a new mechanical body and names her Alita, after she wakes up and can't remember a thing about herself. Iron City is presided over by a bigger, fancier floating city, the last of its kind that somehow survived a giant war long ago — a war in which Alita played an important part, as she soon discovers.

[Thrillist]

There's the introduction of the sport Motorball, run by the mysterious Vector (Oscar winner Mahershala Ali) who has designs on capturing Alita, using an army of paid bounty-hunting cyborgs of various degrees in quality. The people of Iron City have mostly allowed themselves to be transformed with any available tech. Some are pretty slick, like Ed Skrein's Mohawk-sporting hunter, while others are bulky and grotesque such as Jackie Earle Haley's behemoth. We're also introduced to Alita's first love interest, a charming rogue named Hugo (Keean Johnson), who has secrets of his own that could prove deadly.

[Punch Drunk Critics]


… Thankfully, The Odd World Of 'Alita' Is A Sight To See

The production design is sharply and emblematically detailed, and Rodriguez highlights it with a welcome graphic clarity. (For instance, the futurism of "Alita" is far more substantial, and less doctrinaire, than the world-building of Steven Spielberg's "Ready Player One.") The byways of Iron City are as inviting to view as they're alluring to its protagonist, and one of the movie's delights is its fusion of Alita's discovery of the city with her efforts to discover herself.

[The New Yorker]

The script is still somewhat unwieldy, chock full of explanations about how robotic bodies work and the history of the decaying setting known as Iron City. Yet, underneath multiple levels of plot and world-building, there's a weirdo heart keeping the action moving along.

[RogerEbert.com]

Rodriguez is more focused on show than he is on story, as Alita: Battle Angel hits every required beat in an arc of self-discovery — including a slightly bizarre take on puberty as it applies to robots — with the kind of force (or lack thereof) that recalls a kid finishing their homework before being allowed to play video games.

[Polygon]


Underneath The Big-Eyed CGI Makeover, Rosa Salazar Gives An Excellent Performance As Alita

Alita grows from a charming and innocent teenager into the strongest weapon known to humankind in the span of two hours, and Salazar brilliantly navigates the character's emotional journey.

[io9]

She's stoked on life on Earth; everything — especially anything having to do with conflict or Iron City's countless blade-limbed, razor-fingered cybernetic bounty hunters — is thrilling and new to her. She's Jason Bourne crossed with the Little Mermaid.

[Vulture]

Salazar, whose human form most recently materialized in "Bird Box" and the English-language remake of "The Kindergarten Teacher," has graduated from supporting act to leading lady with grace and grit. Her motion-capture performance is one of the most impressive we've seen this side of Andy Serkis, with a physicality that's enhanced by digital trickery but a spirit that's all her.

[IndieWire]


The Rest Of The Cast Doesn't Fare Quite As Well

Ido [Christoph Waltz] is mainly there to inform Alita of everything she needs to know for her next mission, while reminding her how she's not supposed to do the thing she's clearly going to do. The actor tries his best—there's a moment with an orange that's pretty cute—but he's not given much to work with. Ido's ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) and her boss Vector (Mahershala Ali) fare even worse, shifting around like grains of sand wherever the plot needs them. It feels like a waste of two talented actors.

[io9]

The cliché game plot isn't helped by the film's cartoonishly evil villains. Jennifer Connelly plays Chiren, Ido's haughty, morally compromised ex and fellow cybersurgeon. She stands out from the grittier denizens of Iron City, with her fine clothes and a forehead gem which looks distractingly like a BIM mark from the trash classic The Apple. Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley), the hulking murderous cyborg hunting Alita for much of the film, at one point literally kills a dog just to show how irredeemably evil he is. Moonlight's Mahershala Ali fares a bit better, by virtue of a plot quirk that has him alternately playing sports mogul Vector, and Zalem's maniacal ruler Nova. But his acting talents are largely wasted on the clunky script, written by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis.

[The Verge]


Don't Expect To Love The Movie's Love Story

Yes, there's a love story, and it's dumb and pointless. Right after waking up at the start of the movie in her new body, Alita has a meet-cute with Hugo (Keean Johnson), a scrap worker with a secret. Even though he starts out as her chummy buddy with a bit of sexual tension, the movie decides halfway through to make him the most important part of Alita's life.

[io9]

If a loaf of Wonderbread could write love scenes, they'd might sound like the cloying flirtations between these two teens.

[Rolling Stone]


Rodriguez Directs The Wild CGI Action With A+ Clarity…

The movie's action is phenomenal, especially in 3D, where the motorball matches and fight scenes send balls and all manner of vicious weapons at viewers. Director Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Spy Kids, Sin City) does excellent work with the CGI-dominated battles, bringing the film's anime and cyberpunk aesthetics to life, and taking advantage of the impossible feats cyborgs can perform.

[The Verge]

The battles are unrestrained and eye-popping, looking more like an episode of Dragonball Z than the live-action movie ever did. While the idea of Motorball feels like relic from the Rollerball days, the sequences are fast, exciting, and very violent. I would go so far to say they're too violent for kids, no matter what the age rating on the film may be.

[Punch Drunk Critics]

Motorball sequences are some of the best animated race sequences since Speed Racer, yet darker and much more dangerous. The action is fast, yet the camerawork is precise enough that your eye never loses track of what's going on.

[Thrillist]


… But For Better Or Worse, It Also Feels Like A James Cameron Movie

Though he's only a producer and writer here, Cameron nearly drowns out Rodriguez's directorial voice in the process of transposing the motion-capture technology he deployed so well in his last film (Avatar) onto this future-punk extravaganza.

[The Atlantic]

Cameron's sensibility wins, hands down. Not only does Rodriguez give up most of the fun, but Cameron also runs away with the substance. And that's all the more unfortunate, as the two are evenly matched early on in the film and the outcome of their efforts appears, at first, promising. In an interview in the French magazine Les Inrockuptibles, Rodriguez says that he "wanted the movie to be more like a James Cameron film than a Robert Rodriguez film." He got his wish, alas.

[The New Yorker]


For Everything 'Alita' Gets Right, It Fights Uphill Against Development Cruft And The Pitfalls Of Manga Adaptation

Even those moments when the movie rouses itself to cinematic vigor are followed by padding and recycling. Cameron has been trying to get Alita's story on screen for two decades. No wonder it feels wobbly and worked-over. Back then it might have played like gangbusters. But now, after a deluge of comic book epics and other CGI-filled sci-fi fantasies, the movie feels like it's way past its sell-by date.

[Rolling Stone]

In the past few years, we've seen a lot of live-action anime adaptations that have tried to translate the sheer weirdness of those stories onto a movie screen, and not many of them have succeeded. Two years ago, at around this same time, Scarlett Johansson's Ghost in the Shell crashed and burned due to an irresponsibly conceived story that put into stark relief the whitewashing of its main character. You could accuse Alita: Battle Angel of the same thing (none of the core cast of this anime adaptation is Asian), which is the more serious of two problems I have with it. The other is that the love interest, Hugo, played by the hapless Keean Johnson, is a real stick in the mud, woodenly delivering his end of touching exchanges with Alita.

[Thrillist]

Rather than explore complex issues and troubling experiences by way of sci-fi future-historical fantasy, "Alita: Battle Angel" debases them—and its exemplary character—under the force of a blinkered and reactionary model of drama and business alike.

[The New Yorker]


TL;DR

The scale of Alita's ambition is matched only by its joie de vivre; it's as if every ramshackle contraption in Iron City is powered by energetic silliness alone. We may never get an Alita sequel, but the next time Hollywood tries to mount an outrageous sci-fi spectacle like this one, I'll be there to hold up my cybertorch.

[The Atlantic]

Watch The Trailer

 


Is The Seth Rogen Comedy 'An American Pickle' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
IN A REAL PICKLE HERE

Digg · Updated:

The movie, which streams on HBO Max on August 6, has an enticing premise: a man gets preserved in a jar in the early 20th century and wakes up 100 years later in contemporary Brooklyn. But does the movie itself live up to its zany plot? Here's what the reviews say.


Seth Rogen Plays Two Men, Herschel Greenbaum, A Man Who Wakes Up After 100 Years In A Pickle Vat, And Greenbaum's Great-Grandson, Ben

An Eastern European labourer named Herschel (Seth Rogen) arrives in America, only to be pickled for 100 years in a factory accident. He awakes in 2020, and moves in with his only surviving relative: great-grandson Ben (also Rogen). Things are going swimmingly — until Herschel wrecks Ben's business, leading to a vengeful game of oneupmanship.

[Empire]

While Hershel is low-key confounded by these modern times (what with interracial dating, women's rights, and the high cost of produce), he is most perplexed by his descendant's priorities. Ben doesn't observe Jewish religious traditions and hasn't visited the family graves in years. He has no wife, no children, and no career that Herschel can comprehend. So tensions rise. In no time at all, the pair declare each other enemies. Herschel strikes out on his own with a pickle cart with wares pulled freegan-style from dumpster diving. Meanwhile, Ben stews over how to ruin his eccentric great-grandfather.

[IGN]


The Movie Probes Into Issues Of Jewish Immigration Identity — Though Perhaps Not Deeply Enough

In its best moments, An American Pickle knows how to thread the needle between fish-out-of-water comedy and retaining a thoughtful look at Jewish ancestry in America, but those moments are few and far between […] Every time the movie has a chance to go deeper, whether it's with immigration or legacy or American comfort or Judaism, An American Pickle skims the surface and moves on.

[Collider]

Made in the midst of a resurgence in blatant anti-Semitism across the US, it's a strange choice for "An American Pickle" to reveal that Herschel's greatest backlash comes from...violent Christians? The movie sidesteps the most alarming aspect of Jewish persecution — its resurgence in public over the last four years — and never even gives Herschel a chance to learn about the Holocaust.

[IndieWire]


As A Comedy, It Sometimes Falls Flat In Delivering Laughs

There are some scattered laughs but it's not particularly funny, and "American Pickle" […] is generally all over the place, aiming to be an abstract comedy about family and religion but losing its way trying to also poke fun at modern culture.

[USA Today]

 [T]he film fails to build its laughs into substantial comic momentum, or even construct many substantial scenes. (Tellingly, one of its funniest is a mid-credits bonus.) As it progresses, the material feels more and more like a series of slightly amusing paragraphs, with sentimentality wedged uncomfortably between flights of satirical whimsy.

[The AV Club]

There are laughs along the way with Herschel and Ben's mirror-image intergenerational, culture-clash roommate bromance. But, inevitably, as with so much high-concept comedy, the real laughs, the ones built on detachment, self-aware flippancy and cynicism, come at the beginning, with the establishment of the premise.

[The Guardian]


The Story's Emotional Beats, However, Manage To Shine Through

 Despite the acrimoniousness of their split, you root for their inevitable reconciliation, which closes the movie on a warm note […] "An American Pickle" is neither the most substantial nor the most sophisticated comedy, but its soulful sweetness outweighs its flaws.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

It may not always succeed as a comedy but as a drama, this is the real dill. Part time-travelling family drama, part idiosyncratic immigrant-adventure comedy, "An American Pickle"'s gags underwhelm, but its emotion and originality will surprise you.

[Empire]

[T]he thread of leaning on family to process grief is touching, and Rogen manages to make Herschel and Ben's longing to connect feel real. The movie is frequently funny, sometimes sweet, and never particularly deep, but it does have a uniquely odd relationship to time that gives it a peculiar extra layer. Call it the proprietary brine.

[Wired]


And Rogen's Charisma Helps To Keep The Audience Entertained, Even When The Rest Of The Movie Falters

[I]t's enjoyable enough to watch the actor single-handedly rescue the high concept surrounding him.

[IndieWire]

Rogen is an always likable actor whose reputation was built largely on playing crude, sophomoric stoners. But there's an inherent sweetness in his screen persona that's been there since the very beginning on "Freaks and Geeks," notably in the affecting story arc in which his befuddled character, Ken Miller, struggled with the revelation of his tuba-playing girlfriend Amy's intersex birth origins. It's a variation on Ken — the tender, passionate bear of a guy occasionally stymied by his blind spots — that steers "An American Pickle" through its narrative rough patches.

[The Hollywood Reporter]


TL; DR

Nothing in "American Pickle" can match the silly storybook fantasy of its opening moments, but they do a good job of getting us hooked. 

[IndieWire]


Watch The Trailer Here


Is The Google Pixel 4A Worth It? Here's What The Reviews Say
NOT PHONING IT IN

Digg · Updated:

The Pixel 4A, which will be released on August 20, is incredibly affordable at $349, but can it compete with other smartphones? Here's what the reviews say.


The Best Feature Of The Phone Is The Camera

[W]hen it comes to photos, the Pixel 4A goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 — and often wins.

[The Verge]

There is no distinguishable difference between the $350 Pixel 4a's and the Pixel 4's camera, a phone that starts at $800. That's incredible, and if you like your photos to look good, it's a major reason why the Pixel 4a should be at the very, very top of your list. 

[Business Insider]


Design-Wise, It's Not The Flashiest Phone

The Pixel has always been a phone that felt a lot nicer than it looked — it's not the most stylish. The Pixel 4a's design is even more basic than ever, though. It comes in Just Black and... that's it. There are no other sizes available, either. Keeping to one size and color was part of Google's strategy to reduce production costs. 

[Engadget]

The word I use most often to describe Pixel hardware is "unassuming." It's basic: no frills, no fanciness, just an easy-to-hold phone without any embellishments. It's a little boring, but at least it isn't tacky.

[The Verge]


But Helpful Software Features Like Live Captioning Might Be Drawing Points For Users

Google's software tends to make up for its basic hardware, and as usual, the company has some helpful tools that make the Pixel experience better than any other Android phone. Most of these have already been announced, like its personal safety and car crash detection feature, Google Docs integration for the Recorder app, as well as adaptive battery management. With the Pixel 4a, though, Google is bringing its Live Caption feature to calls.

[Engadget]

I like Google's bonus software features that it includes on Pixel phones. The voice recorder app is able to transcribe text, for example, and accurately transcribed about 90% of my interview with Google during a Pixel 4a briefing. It just saves me a ton of time that I'd otherwise spend trying to jot everything down. Other unique software features include crash detection, which can automatically call 911 if you get in a car accident.

[CNBC]


The Performance Of The Phone Is Generally Fine, Though It Can Be Slow Sometimes

The Pixel 4a has a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It's fine and fast enough to keep the phone running smoothly. There are a few hiccups at times, though. I noticed it would stutter while scrolling through long lists, like in Twitter, but that problem generally resolved itself after a few days. Google was aware of this, too, and it may just be that it takes some time for things to store inside the phone's memory.

[CNBC]

Anecdotally, the phone works quickly with most tasks. Unlocking the screen with my fingerprint, launching Assistant and opening apps went off without a hitch. But the Pixel 4A isn't the smoothest phone I handled. After I downloaded Call of Duty and PUBG, I had to restart the phone because both apps stalled while loading.

[CNET]


Some Of The Phone's Drawbacks Are Its Lack Of Wireless Charging And Waterproofness

Google left out one big feature that does matter: water resistance. That would save a phone that was accidentally dunked in a toilet or left out in a storm. So it was disappointing not to have it because durability was another feature that people wanted most in their smartphones.

[The New York Times]

This phone doesn't have some of the premium flourishes, like wireless charging, water resistance, a triple-lens camera, or 5G connectivity. But, it gets the core features so right that those extra flourishes seem irrelevant. 

[Business Insider]


Most Importantly Though, The Phone Is A Great Bargain With Its Cheap Price

The Pixel 4A is about $50 cheaper than its closest competitors and has 128GB of storage, instead of 64GB like years past, so it really is a solid value. And these days, any amount of money that can be saved is crucial.

[CNET]

The Pixel 4A is cheaper than high-end devices largely because it lacks the frills in fancy phones, like wireless charging and a face scanner. But for what you pay, it's a great value. Its camera quality and bright screen are on a par with many of the best smartphones out there.

[The New York Times]


TL; DR

The Pixel 4A is cheap and basic, but most cheap phones don't get the basics right. The Pixel 4A does. And just to remind you: it does so for $349.

[The Verge]


You can pre-order the Pixel 4A at Google Store and BestBuy. And if you're interested in buying a Pixel 4, you can buy one here.


If you buy something through our posts, we may receive a small share of the sale. Please buy a Ferrari. For more of Digg's suggestions on how to spend your money, check out Digg Picks.

Want more stories like this?

Every day we send an email with the top stories from Digg.

'It's the only newsletter that always engages me'
 →  Get the Digg morning newsletter
See a sample

👋 Welcome to Digg

Thanks for creating an account! Your accounts lets you Digg (upvote) stories, save stories to revisit later, and more.


📩 Stay up-to-date

Email will be sent to:

Select the newsletters you’d like to receive. You can change your subscriptions any time in your user settings.

🎉 You’re all set!

Enjoy your new account! As a reminder, you can change your profile and email settings in your profile.

View account