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Stan & Ollie

Laurel and Hardy were an extremely popular comedy duo from the early 20th Century. Alongside Charlie Chaplain and Buster Keaton, their gifts for physical and verbal comedy delighted millions. Their prestige still lingers with their trademark bowler hats and unique looks continuing to be recognised. Behind every successful partnership is an interesting story to tell which ‘Stan & Ollie’ gamely tries to do. Exploring the personal and professional lives of the gifted performers, it lifts the lid on a duo transcending generations long after their earthly departures.

Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C Reilly) were a successful comedic partnership for decades. Looking back at the later years of their career, the story starts in 1953 with their lives at a crossroads. Past regrets and professional stagnation have taken a toll on their friendship. With a long tour of the UK ahead of them with no new film in sight, the future seems bleak. But surprises arise in ways changing them. With their memories flitting back and forth over their lives, the legacy they leave becomes a personal holy grail the men aim to reach before the end of their days.

Jeff Pope’s excellent script for ‘Stan & Ollie’ genuinely digs deep into the psyche of an iconic comedic duo. Although that may sound pretentious, the film is anything but. Due to Coogan’s and Reilly’s fantastic performances, ‘Stan & Ollie’ consistently shines until the final fadeout. The story effectively conveys the strong bond the men had with their partnership - a marriage of sorts. Like any union tough times would surface but their adoration for each other’s talents is starkly seen.

The period setting and costumes look amazing. Shining above all those are the performances from a first rate cast. Comedians often make solid dramatic actors as they know where to tease out the drama from the silliest of situations. ‘Stan & Ollie’ manages to praise the team but isn’t afraid in revealing their inner turmoils and mistakes they made. The ninety minutes spent in their company manages to add further dimensions to their work with ‘Stan & Ollie’ one of the best recent biographies made.

Humour never dies it thrives if it’s strong enough. ‘Stan & Ollie’ shows how the simplest of humorous routines could last decades. It’s well worth seeing with the pathos mixing well in the antiquated dramatics of a still brilliant comedic combination.

Rating out of 10: 8

Alita Battle Angel

Based on a popular Japanese manga series, ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ has been a long time coming. Trapped in Hollywood’s infamous ‘development hell’ – where announced projects become stuck in eternal creative and financial abyss - its long genesis has enhanced its mysterious reputation. Produced by James Cameron and Directed by gifted fantasy helmer Robert Rodriguez, ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ successfully mirrors its comic-book counterpart. The film looks like it cost a fortune and would need to make one with its elongated gestation adding to its gargantuan budget.

Alita (Rosa Salazar) is a cyborg who awakens after a severe technological mishaps destroys earth. Wondering what has happened, she finds answers from her friend Dr Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). Discovering a post-apocalyptic world shaken with fear, Alita also must contend with other cyborgs who want to cause more damage to a broken world. Among them is Zapan (Ed Skrein) who has Alita in his sights as the battle between machines escalates towards the point of no return.

One of the problems with current big epic films like ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is it crams too much information in a restricted run-time. This is where modern TV trumps movies like these at it has the ability to effectively to tell such a sprawling story. It’s not that ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is bad, it’s that crucial plot points seem missing with characterisation sacrificed for spectacle. The latter is where it excels with each bruising battle sequence and chase keenly felt. This is Rodriguez coming into his own as his usual directorial flourishes are seen in full flight. Whilst not the best of his long career, he still infuses genuine energy and danger to proceedings.

The biggest drawcard is the special effects that look suitably amazing. Both Cameron and Rodriguez know how to create new worlds that feel real. Their ability to develop new societies within each world shows their fondness for the sci-fi genre. It is unfortunate the story overall is somewhat muddled with hidden agendas and double-crosses dissolving into a small mess. The characters aren’t particularly memorable either despite the spirited performances. The typical ‘setting up events for sequels’ plot-strand is annoying but in terms of providing a visually arresting experience ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is worth seeing on a big screen.

‘Alita: Battle Angel’ has problems but is entertaining if one doesn’t think too much about the story. It’s a shame it isn’t up to par with the CGI which obviously had the most dollars poured into it. The ‘Playstation generation’ should dig this movie even if the screenplay becomes lost amongst computer generated wizardry.

Rating out of 10: 6