#NativeNerd reviews: Mr. Rogers, Knives Out, Alita: Battle Angel and Baby Yoda

Vincent Schilling

My weekly mash-up of reviews now playing in theaters, streaming on your favorite platforms or otherwise available

Wow, Indian Country Today readers, I truly appreciate the multitude of positive responses following my last week’s selection of movie reviews on several films I have watched over the past few weeks. I consume a lot of media with the intent to provide some perspective and I am humbled by the notes of support from you all, so I offer a sincere thanks / Nia:wen.

See Related: #NativeNerd movie mini-reviews: 1917, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit and more

This week includes a few movies I viewed last week and this week and in the case of Alita: Battle Angel, I included it because it has just become available for purchase, renting and/or streaming.

So here we go.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

6 out of 10
My quick quote: “A great film showcasing the life and legacy of Mr. Rogers, however, I never bought Tom Hanks was anyone else but Tom Hanks. Disappointingly, the movie focused more on the journalists’ story than Mr. Rogers.”

SYNOPSIS:
Lloyd Vogel is an investigative journalist who receives an assignment to profile Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers. Fred's empathy, kindness and decency soon chips away at Vogel's jaded outlook on life, forcing him to reconcile with his painful past.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood movie poster.

This was a great movie that has already received rave reviews on Rotten Tomatoes above the 95% fresh rating, so I suspect I am in the lower end of the rating categories. That’s ok, not everyone feels the same about all movies.

Overall, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed because I struggled the entire movie to believe Tom Hanks was Fred Rogers. Like so many that have seen this movie, I too grew up with the show, and for me, I was a bit too familiar with the icon Mr. Rogers was.

I felt there was a bit too much freedom played with the set design in terms of every outtake becoming an extension of the miniaturized world of Mr. Rogers. I felt they didn’t have the right to do it, nor should they have tried to add to the world that has already existed for decades.

I felt the movie focused way too much on the journalist’s story, and felt several times during the movie that they needed to get back to Mr. Rogers. Tom Hanks did a beautiful job, and I appreciated his kind approach to the role. But sadly, I never bought it. I did cry, I was moved by the beauty of what the man Mr. Rogers stood for, but in the end, it was only a decent day in the neighborhood.

I think the movie would have been better if an unknown actor had played Fred Rogers. Or perhaps Tom Hanks should have played the journalist and vice-versa. Tell me you don’t agree in some way.

Now in theaters.

Knives Out

9 out of 10
My quick quote:
“I LOVED it. An amazing cast of characters led flawlessly by Daniel Craig, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas. The moment I thought I knew what was happening, a twist threw me. One of my year’s favorite films.”

SYNOPSIS:
When a crime novelist dies just after his 85th birthday, an inquisitive detective arrives at his estate to investigate. He soon sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind the writer's untimely demise.

Knives Out
Knives Out movie poster

This was a great film that I enjoyed from the moment it started until the last scene. I was blown away by Daniel Craig’s hilarious and dead-on portrayal of the hired investigator Detective Benoit Blanc. I also loved the performances of the spoiled rotten trust account family member Ransom Drysdale portrayed by Chris Evans and the unassuming family nurse Marta Cabrera played by Ana de Armas.

This movie threw me all the way through. Though admittedly I am usually fairly haphazard in my detective abilities in any sort of mystery film or book.

I just loved it. It was funny, captivating and believable in every respect. I never got caught up in any of the actors' previous roles or lives before this movie, so a sincere round of applause for director Rian Johnson.

I feared this would be some sort of rehashing of a Clue movie concept, but it wasn’t. It was a blast, unique in its clever approach, it led me completely astray (the desired effect in any mystery movie) and ultimately, comes highly recommended from this Native nerd.

Now in theaters.

Alita: Battle Angel

10 out of 10
My quick quote: “Yes, I am giving Alita: Battle Angel one of my stingy 10’s out of a possible 10. Imaginative, true to the artists' concepts, and an all-out cinematic action blast.”

SYNOPSIS:
Set several centuries in the future, the abandoned Alita is found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Ido, 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.

Alita Battle Angel
Alita: Battle Angel movie poster

Alita: Battle Angel is one of my favorite movies of the year. A bit of backstory a lot of people don't realize is that James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez collaborated to some extent on this movie. Alita: Battle Angel was a film James Cameron had optioned years ago and was his alternative choice to Avatar. After some CGI research, Cameron decided on Avatar, the second highest-grossing movie of all time. After the success of Avatar, Cameron — who has expressed he wishes to do more Avatar films — handed it off to Rodriguez.

I just don't know where to begin with how much I love this film. Alita is an android of sorts, with a human brain, who is discovered, as the synopsis says, lying a junk pile. She is reconstructed and then has to discover who she is — a former warrior that fought before the big war. She then learns she can use her warrior instincts and android body to lead a new fight against the evil forces that exist in the Iron City.

Everything just came together for me. Half-human, half android people, bounty hunters that were also half-human, half androids covered with robotic arms, legs, torsos and more, and a sports game where people smash each other into walls going at high speeds, off of ramps and tubes and tunnels? I just could not get enough.

As a matter of fact, Twitter agreed with me this morning as #AlitaSequel was trending.

If you are a half-human, half-android movie character fan like I am, go see this movie. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I dived into the entirety of the extra features, learning about the Manga series, and the dedication to honoring the artist Yukito Kishiro.

Alita: Battle Angel is now available to stream, rent or purchase on participating platforms and stores.

The Mandalorian 

(Aka the Disney+ series with Baby Yoda in it)

8 out of 10
My quick quote:

“I am loving The Mandalorian, you know, the character that has seriously fallen by the wayside to the world’s uproarious support of the new Baby Yoda? Yeah, that one. Good job Disney+ on this early Grand Slam”

SYNOPSIS:
A lone gunfighter makes his way through the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic.

The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian movie poster

I am loving The Mandalorian. And yes it is because of Baby Yoda. I suspect I could end the review there as Disney+ has already demonstrated it doesn’t need anyone's help in getting the word out.

I am sure Disney+ has already made Six hundred billion kazillion dollars off of getting people to watch The Mandalorian and subscribing to their streaming services already.

I kinda feel sorry for the Mandalorian, who admittedly to me seems to be struggling just a tad bit in wearing his armor, finding the right place to look through his telescope using the thin sliver of dark glass in his helmet and fight the most clumsy of wild creatures and giggling Jawas.

I am teasing a bit, but I am noticing these bumblings. But then comes Baby Yoda. 

The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda
The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda.

I’ll bet Disney+ merchandising people are working 23-hour days trying to get figures, plush toys and more out in some fashion for the Christmas season. One month earlier Disney? You would have had the Cabbage Patch Kid crisis for Christmas 2019.

I like the Mandalorian in all his subtle clumsiness and look forward to catching up on more Disney+. It’s a great series that I am sincerely enjoying. I am looking forward to more Baby Yoda.

Want a little more Baby Yoda in Indian Country? Check out Aliyah Chavez’s article: ‘Baby Yoda is now one of us’ 

The Mandalorian is now available on Disney+.

Native Nerd Phone

Follow the #NativeNerd, Vincent Schilling, associate editor for Indian Country Today and a proud movie reviewer.

Have a film, product or another review request? Email me at vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com or reach out to me on social media, Twitter at @VinceSchilling and Instagram at @VinceSchilling.

Also, follow my Indian Country Today #NativeNerd account on Twitter at @ICTNativeNerd

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Nice, going to check out Alita, with grandaughter this weekend. Also looking forward to Knives Out at some point, as your review has sold me.

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