Tag Archives: Rosa Salazar

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2022) Review

Marcel the Shell

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Jenny Slate as Marcel (voice)
Dean Fleischer Camp as Dean
Isabella Rossellini as Nana Connie (voice)
Rosa Salazar as Larissa Geller
Thomas Mann as Mark Booth
Lesley Stahl as herself
Director: Dean Fleischer Camp

Marcel, a 1-inch-tall shell, lives with his grandmother, Connie, the only residents of their town after their neighbors’ sudden, mysterious disappearance. When discovered by a guest amongst the clutter of his Airbnb, the short film he posts online brings Marcel millions of passionate fans and a new hope of reuniting with his long-lost family.

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For the past months I had been hearing about Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. It seemed to be some animated movie which ended up being one of the most beloved movies of 2022. I never saw the trailer, but from my brief glimpses of it, I admit I was somewhat confused by the love. I wasn’t sure that I would get into it, but after it was nominated for best animated film, I thought I should at least check it out. I was pleasantly surprised.


Marcel the Shell with Shoes On actually originated as a series of shorts which I haven’t watched myself, but after watching the film, I am interested in checking them out. The movie is a mockumentary about the protagonist Marcel, a living shell, and his grandmother. Things develop over the course of the film, but there isn’t a whole lot driving the plot, and its mostly just watching Marcel’s life. You’re sort of just along with the ride, and if you’re not on board in the first 30 minutes, then you’ll probably find the rest of the movie to be a bit of a drag. On the whole. I’d say that it was a pleasant watch. It’s charming, funny and witty, and quite optimistic on life. It goes for something somewhat profound and touching without feeling disingenuous. It’s not all cheery, there are some melancholic and bittersweet moments, and there are some unexpected tonal shifts. While these shifts can be sudden, there’s a pretty good balance throughout. While Marcel might be appropriate for kids, it does seem like adults would get more out of it than children, mainly with some of the mature themes and the dry humour. Marcel is about 90 minutes long and that was the right runtime, it didn’t feel like it overstayed its welcome.


There is a very small number of characters here, but it fits the contained nature of the film. The living shell protagonist Marcel is voiced by Jenny Slate and her voice helped bring this character to life; he’s likable and carries the movie well. There’s also his grandmother voiced by Isabella Rossellini, and director Dean Fleischer-Camp even plays one of the main characters too, playing the director of the documentary (also named Dean). I liked his dynamic with Marcel, considering he’s in much of the movie (albeit mostly off camera).


Dean Fleischer-Camp directs this well. Marcel is partly live action and partly animated, with everything appearing to be real except for the stop motion shell characters. The stop motion animation especially shines in the live action shots, and it feels real. It’s also deliberately filmed as a mockumentary/faux documentary, and it does appropriately resemble a real documentary, from the zooms, camera movements, audio and even some of the way dialogue is delivered. Finally, its accompanied by a nice and light score from Disasterpeace.


Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a funny, witty and heartfelt mockumentary with good stop motion animation. If you heard about how everybody loved the movie, I’d recommend keeping your expectations in check. It is a light and relaxed movie with very little drive, but I liked it for that.


Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Review

Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Rosa Salazar as Alita
Christoph Waltz as Dr. Dyson Ido
Mahershala Ali as Vector
Keean Johnson as Hugo
Jennifer Connelly as Chiren
Ed Skrein as Zapan
Jackie Earle Haley as Grewishka
Director: Robert Rodriguez

Set several centuries in the future, the abandoned Alita (Rosa Salazar) is found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Ido (Christoph Walt), a compassionate cyber-doctor who takes the unconscious cyborg Alita to his clinic. When Alita awakens, she has no memory of who she is, nor does she have any recognition of the world she finds herself in. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious past.

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Alita: Battle Angel is a movie I had been hearing about for a while, mainly about how it was based on an manga and the lead actress had motion capture to make her eyes bigger to make her look like the lead character from the source material. Aside from that I really didn’t look too much into the movie. As it started to get close to its release date however, I started to pay attention to it, and I was starting to look forward to it. It has a cast involving Christoph Waltz and Mahershala Ali, James Cameron is producing it, Robert Rodriguez is directing it and at the very least, it looked very visually entertaining. Alita: Battle Angel was better than I thought it would be. It suffers from some problems (mainly the sequel baiting) but on the whole I liked it.

Alita is based on a manga series that I haven’t read but I’ve heard it has a following. I was really wrapped up with this story and the world that it existed in. There is a lot of worldbuilding and for the most part I really liked it. One of the biggest things to note is that this is clearly setting up for future movies and you can feel that throughout the entirety of the movie. For the first two acts it feels like it’s the first half of a movie, I was still on board with what was going on, it’s just that it feels like we should’ve progressed much further in the overall story than we did. With that said, compared to some other movies that try to do a ton of worldbuilding in their first movie, Alita actually does it alright. There is some exposition that just flew completely past me and I didn’t process everything that was set up, however I was able to follow the main story. It also does some sequel baiting and is really relying on the assumption that it will receive some sequels to continue the rest of the story. With that it feels like it’s restraining itself to have this movie cover up to a certain point in the story because other movies would cover later portions of the plot. With that it does make me think that it should’ve been longer, it’s surprisingly only 2 hours long.

Rosa Salazar was perfect in the titular role of the cyborg Alita. You immediately like her when she first appears and she just has such an on screen presence, convincing in both her innocence and in how capable and dangerous she is. She goes through some development over the course of the movie and she was one of the strongest parts of the movie. The rest of the cast is also good. Christoph Waltz is well suited in his role as the scientist who puts Alita back together (best performance I’ve seen from him in a while) and Jennifer Connelly is also good in her role. Mahershala Ali is one of the best actors working right now and here he gets to chew the scenery as one of the villains, it’s not one of his best performances by any means but he plays his role well despite not getting much to do here. The cybernetic villains really get to show off more, with both Ed Skrein and Jackie Earle Haley working well as formidable adversaries for Alita in motion captured roles. The weakest link in the cast was Keean Johnson, but I don’t think it’s necessarily him that’s the problem, it’s more his character and the whole romantic subplot with Alita. Sequel baiting aside, that romantic subplot was the weakest part of the movie, it follows very familiar beats and isn’t entirely convincing, it just feel really forced. I’ve seen it done worse in other movies, it’s just that it really sticks out in this movie when everything else is really good. Thankfully certain reveals at least give his character more to work with than just being the love interest. There are also surprisingly brief appearances from some known actors in the movie. I looked up the cast list after watching and there were some names that I recognised, which was even more surprising since I didn’t notice them in their roles in the movie. Some of them appear in a couple scenes at most. A couple are full on cameos and don’t appear for more than 10 seconds, one of them was quite jarring and was in the middle of the movie. The other was at the end of the movie, in a key role who is clearly going to be heavily involved with the future movies (if they are going to happen). The cameo is also from an underrated but recognisable actor and if the sequels do get made, I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

Robert Rodriguez directed Alita really well, it is really worth seeing in the cinema because it’s a stunning looking movie, Bill Pope really shot this really well. Any time there’s an action scene, it’s fantastic, it’s fast, it’s brutal, and these scenes are among the best moments of the film. Battle Angel can also be surprisingly violent despite it’s PG-13/M rating, there are decapitations and limbs being sliced off and it’s very effective and I loved watching that. Alita does seem to have the upper hand in each situation she’s in (at least in this movie) however it’s directed in such a way that you still feel quite a bit of tension as the people she’s up against seem incredibly dangerous. The visual effects are really good as to be expected but the practical sets and effects are also worth praising, they really have designed this world very well and put a lot of thought into it. Much of the designs are creative and exaggerated which fit this world that they created. As for the motion capture on Rosa Salazar for Alita, it actually works pretty well, you get used to the design very quickly. The score by Tom Holkenborg/Junkie XL is among one of his best, fitting the movie very well and particularly shines during the action scenes.

Alita: Battle Angel is a visually stunning, entertaining and all around solid cyberpunk movie, led by a fantastic performance by Rosa Salazar. I really do think it’s worth seeing, especially in the cinema. Even if you don’t like the story, it’s worth seeing for the visuals alone. I really hope we get to see the sequels, there’s a lot that they set up here and there’s a lot of potential for this series to be truly great.

The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) Review

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Lisa Spinelli
Parker Sevak as Jimmy Roy
Michael Chernus as Grant Spinelli
Gael García Bernal as Simon
Anna Baryshnikov as Meghan
Ajay Naidu as Nikhil Roy
Rosa Salazar as Becca
Director: Sara Colangelo

A teacher (Maggie Gyllenhaal) sees such great promise in her 5-year-old student (Parker Sevak) that she goes to unreasonable lengths to protect his talent.

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I heard some good things about The Kindergarten Teacher a while ago. I pretty much only watched this because I heard that Maggie Gyllenhaal gave a really great performance in it, I didn’t know anything else about the movie aside from the premise and that it would be distributed by Netflix. The Kindergarten Teacher overall is a solid movie, with a fantastic lead performance by Gyllenhaal, even if it’s not the easiest movie to watch.

The Kindergarten Teacher is a pretty straightforward character study and it doesn’t try to be anything more than that. It’s only 90 minutes and they don’t overcomplicate things, and they keep the plot moving at a reasonably good pace, even if this movie is very at its core an intimate drama. It is probably worth noting that this movie is a bit of an uncomfortable watch, despite the plot not sounding like it would be. It’s not extremely disturbing and there’s nothing really too graphic or anything like that of the sort, though it is unnerving during portions of the movie. It’s uncomfortable in the sense that over the course of the movie, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character gradually oversteps her boundaries when it comes to the child, and you just want her to stop what she’s doing. Now thankfully they don’t go for the worst case scenario like many of us would think it would (it honestly would feel kind of cheap if they did) but its nonetheless not easy to watch. With that said, while you might have those feelings, it’s still rather riveting and you want to see what will happen at the end of the movie.

The main reason to watch The Kindergarten Teacher is for Maggie Gyllenhaal’s incredible performance as the titular Kindergarten Teacher. While I admit I haven’t seen a ton of her performances, this probably ranks among her best and is definitely the best I’ve seen from her so far. I like that despite how it’s clear that what she is doing is morally wrong, it does take a sympathetic angle on her that shows how some of it is well intentioned and you can see why she would have this obsession that would make her do the things she wants to do. At the same time though, the movie is fully aware that what she’s doing isn’t good. It’s a complex and layered performance that was delivered excellently by Gyllenhaal. The supporting cast is pretty good as well, with Michael Chernus, Gael Garcia Bernal and others serving their parts as well. The actor who plays the main child who Gyllenhaal’s character is particularly focussed on, Jimmy Sevak, was also quite good in his role, quite convincing and effective as a potential protégé who’s still quite innocent in this stage of his life.

The direction by Sara Colangelo (who also wrote the movie) is pretty good. The overall direction is all done at an adequate level to serve this story, it’s nothing flashy or miraculous, but it worked quite well.

The Kindergarten Teacher is not necessarily an easy watch, even though it was all around a solid movie with regards to the acting, writing and direction. However I’d still say that it might be worth watching for Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is really great here and deserving of way more praise than she’s been getting for her performance.

The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (2015) Review


Maze Runner; The Scorch Trials

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Dylan O’Brien as Thomas
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt
Ki Hong Lee as Minho
Kaya Scodelario as Teresa Agnes
Rosa Salazar as Brenda
Jacob Lofland as Aris Jones
Giancarlo Esposito as Jorge
Aidan Gillen as Janson
Dexter Darden as Frypan
Alexander Flores as Winston
Barry Pepper as Vince
Lili Taylor as Mary Cooper
Patricia Clarkson as Ava Paige
Director: Wes Ball

In this next chapter of the epic “Maze Runner” saga, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers face their greatest challenge yet: searching for clues about the mysterious and powerful organization known as WCKD. Their journey takes them to the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles. Teaming up with resistance fighters, the Gladers take on WCKD’s vastly superior forces and uncover its shocking plans for them all.

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I wasn’t very impressed with 2014’s Maze Runner, I thought it was quite predictable and I didn’t really care about what was going on, although it did have some good elements, such as the action and some of the performances were good. With Scorch Trials however, the Maze Runner franchise looks to be on the improvement. It still has its problems with its characterisation and character development, as well as having a lot of plot holes but I have to give credit to the people involved for creating an improved sequel.


Like with the first Maze Runner I didn’t really follow the story that well but I could just go with it. There are still plenty of plot holes, most of them come from the previous film’s ending, that being I’m pretty sure that WCKD (not a very subtle villainous corporation name by the way) could test children more easily by testing them in smaller rooms and not build giant mazes that would be more time and money consuming. The characterization like in the first film wasn’t that strong, I didn’t feel like I knew any of the main characters, except for Thomas but even then you don’t really learn much about him. The movie also did feel a little long at 2 hours 15 minutes, there were a few moments in the final act that they could’ve ended the film and I think that would’ve worked better. And yes, this film does have the type of ‘there’s going to be another one’ ending, like the first film’s ending, however it’s not as bad here.


Dylan O’Brien and the rest of the cast do a good job. I felt that I didn’t emphasise enough in my review of the first film that the cast did a good job, it’s just that the characters they played weren’t that interesting. I actually started to slightly care about the characters, which was a huge improvement over the original where I didn’t care at all what happened to them. I thought that Aidan Gillen and Giancarlo Esposito were great additions to the franchise (though that’s partially because Gillen is in Game of Thrones and Esposito is in Breaking Bad). I do genuinely think they did great jobs with what they had to work with and I’m looking forward to see them in the sequel.


The film looked quite good and had some great cinematography, especially with its action scenes. The action scenes, like in the previous film was great and again are the best part of the movie. The zombies (I don’t remember what they are called in the movie) in the first half looked practical and real, and I thought they were quite effective. However in the second half, they swapped them for CGI, and I didn’t really understand why, it did sort of take me out of the movie.


Although I wouldn’t call this film great, I will say that it was surprising and better than I thought it would be. This movie was definitely better than the first film, probably because it already had ‘established’ characters and the plot seemed to be moving forward faster. Maybe the next and final sequel might actually be great and even if it isn’t, it’s at the very least the first young adult franchise to not have a last instalment that’s broken into 2 parts, I’ll give Maze Runner credit for that.