Tag Archives: James Cameron

My Favorite Scene: Avatar (2009) “The Hallelujah Mountains”

There was a time, not so long ago, when people went to the movies to see something they’d never seen before. A quarter-century into the era of CGI, it feels like almost everything has been done. Big films have thousands of VFX shots, and while the quality of them has definitely increased exponentially, the quantity is such that it’s hard to remember the last time I sat in a theater utterly gobsmacked by what was on the screen and wondered how in the world the filmmaker accomplished it. James Cameron doesn’t make a whole lot of movies, but when he does, you know he’s going to push the envelope. He loves break ground, be it The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day or Titanic, if Cameron is making a film, he’s out to smack the gobs of his audience and show them something new. Love it or hate it, you can’t argue he didn’t make Avatar awfully pretty to look at.

As Avatar near’s it’s 10th anniversary, its legacy is a bit of a mixed bag. The film remains the all-time box office champion globally with $2.71 billion. The film was largely hailed by critics, was nominated for 9 Oscars and won three (Cinematography, Visual Effects, and Art Direction), and is responsible for 3D technology being slapped on to every big film that’s come out in its wake. Avatar and 3D are linked, and the film, like Gravity and IMAX, is so heavily dependent on being seen in the most cutting edge way on the biggest screen possible that it loses a lot in most home theaters. And unlike Gravity, Avatar is working with the other Cameron trademark: really dicey dialogue. We are talking about a film whose plot centers around the battle for control of a resource named “Unobtanium”. You don’t watch Avatar for the script. You watch it because the film is gorgeous.

Cameron developed Avatar for 15 years before he brought it to the screen, and it’s an impressive bit of world-building. It’s a visually-arresting, layered biosphere that still holds up as some of the nicest eye candy that’s ever landed in a cinema. My favorite bit of that eye candy is The Hallelujah Mountains. First introduced in a great fly-by sequence, the floating mountains (which Cameron modeled after a Chinese rain forest) are given a three-minute showcase on the way to the banshee scene. That bit of FX exposition, which contains almost no real elements, is my favorite bit of the film. I have seen, at this point in my life, easily 10,000 movies and if one manages to leave something indelible on the landscape of my imagination, that’s fantastic. Floating mountains? That’s a little corner of my personal cinematic kingdom that Avatar gets to claim, and for that reason, I’ll forgive horribly named elements and Sam Worthington’s acting and think fondly on the film in perpetuity.

Alita: Battle Angel Trailer #2 (2018) *From James Cameron & Robert Rodriguez*

Fox has released the second trailer for Alita: Battle Angel (or “The Adventures of Creepy Big-Eyes).  It’s kind of odd that it wasn’t showcased at this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con.  Aside from a Deadpool 2 panel Fox really didn’t have much of a presence at the con.  With the studio’s acquisition by Disney now all but a matter of contracts, Fox finds itself at a crossroads.  Alita is definitely an F/X showcase and I thought the second trailer was an improvement over the ponderous and wistful first trailer.  This movie was initially supposed to come out last weekend and we’ll have to see in December if the delay was to get the kinks out or to put off a bomb.  More below from Coming Soon.

Visionary filmmakers James Cameron (Avatar) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) create a groundbreaking new heroine in Alita: Battle Angel, an action-packed story of hope, love, and empowerment. Set several centuries in the future, the abandoned Alita (Rosa Salazar) is found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Ido (Christoph Waltz), 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.

Everything is new to Alita, every experience a first. As she learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield Alita from her mysterious past while her street-smart new friend, Hugo (Keean Johnson), offers instead to help trigger her memories. A growing affection develops between the two until deadly forces come after Alita and threaten her newfound relationships. It is then that Alita discovers she has extraordinary fighting abilities that could be used to save the friends and family she’s grown to love. Determined to uncover the truth behind her origin, Alita sets out on a journey that will lead her to take on the injustices of this dark, corrupt world, and discover that one young woman can change the world in which she lives.

Alita: Battle Angel also stars Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, and Jackie Earle Haley.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez, the December 21, 2018 release features a screenplay by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis and Rodriguez. Based on the graphic novel series Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro, Alita: Battle Angel is produced by Cameron and Jon Landau.
Rosa Salazar in Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel Trailer #1 (2018) *Will Hollywood Finally Get Anime Right?*

*Text from The Verge
For more than a decade, James Cameron was working on an adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga Battle Angel Alita, before handing off directing duties to Spy Kids / Machete / Sin Citydirector Robert Rodriguez. That project is finally moving forward: Alita: Battle Angel is scheduled to hit theaters next year, and today, 20th Century Fox released an initial trailer, in which its main character falls squarely into the uncanny valley. Continue reading Alita: Battle Angel Trailer #1 (2018) *Will Hollywood Finally Get Anime Right?*

My Favorite Scene: Aliens (1986) “Ripley vs. The Alien Queen”

First of all, shame on YouTube for not having one of the greatest fights in film history in one clip, and yes, the annoying intro for each part ruins the flow, but believe it or not, this is the best take I could find on the infamous climax in the second film in the Alien Franchise.  While Alien was a horror movie, James Cameron (remember when he wasn’t just the Avatar guy?) came in and made Aliens a war film.  It’s a total toss-up as to which is the better film.  They’re both perfect at what they were trying to achieve.  Back when sequels that matched the original really only had Godfather Part II and Empire Strikes Back as peers, Aliens completely matched its predecessor.  Instead of just one xenomorph, now there was an entire hive, which leads to the reveal at the end of the film of one of film’s greatest monsters: The Alien Queen.  Whereas in the first film, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is really just a survivor and a victim, in Aliens she becomes a warrior.  Weaver broke ground on what a woman could do as the star as an action movie, and remains the standard (she even managed to shake an Oscar nomination out of the Academy for something cool, which still blows me away).  From the discovery of the Queen and her nest to the loader battle in the dock, this titanic battle of two mothers over their “children” still remains one of science fiction’s greatest moments.
AliensfilmQueen

My Favorite Scene: Terminator 2 Judgment Day (1991) “Galleria/Motorcycle Chase”

It’s not an overstatement to say that Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of the most important movies of all-time.  That title is earned, not only because the movie still stands as one of the greatest action films ever made, but because it changed the way movies are made forever.  Before T2, you would have to look back to the Star Wars original trilogy and Godfather Part II to find sequels that critics and audiences both hailed as surpassing their original.  “Sequel” was a radioactive word in Hollywood, and T2 is one of the main films that helped to change than and (for better and worse) brought the modern trend of franchising to the fore. Continue reading My Favorite Scene: Terminator 2 Judgment Day (1991) “Galleria/Motorcycle Chase”