RoboCop (2014)

RoboCop (2014)Released: February 12, 2014. Directed by: José Padilha. Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Abbie Cornish. Runtime: 117 min.

In a time where remakes are a dime a dozen, MGM comes out with a remake of the 1987 cult-classic “RoboCop,” which isn’t nearly as good as the original, but who would expect it would be? I just can’t understand the notion why someone (José Padilha, in his Hollywood directorial debut) would want to remake a near-perfect film. At least this isn’t a poor film. Like the original, it follows police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman); a loving husband and father, and a good cop – something that seems to be hard to find in the corrupted 2028 version of Detroit. When he has a lead on the main villain of the film – Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow) – his car gets blown up. OmniCorp, a leading force in robotic technology, sees Murphy’s condition as the perfect chance to make the so-called RoboCop – half-man, half-machine.

The most refreshing thing about this remake is to see the new versions of the ED-209, where the advancements in filming technology is able to create some great robots; while the movement of the ED-209 in the original in film is just laughably bad. This also takes some liberties in altering the original source. In the original, Murphy is actually brain-dead, if memory serves me correctly. In this one, Murphy is kept alive, only receiving bad burns from the explosion. This way, it helps the film become a question of who’s control in the robot suit; the robot or the man? That aspect of the film isn’t that compelling. It’s okay at first, but it’s not entertaining as it can be when Alex’s control instincts are altered to be quicker in combat; bringing about the theme of freewill. One other part some might not like about the film is when Alex isn’t all there, and he experiences a shift in personality. From this, themes of consciousness come about.When Murphy becomes unlikeable for a stretch, it’s reminiscent of that stretch in “Spider-Man 3” when Peter becomes distinctly unlikeable because he’s been overpowered by the venemous substance.

Since the wife and child are present characters in this film, one would think the filmmakers would want Murphy to communicate with them; but for a fair deal of the film, that enjoyable aspect is taken away from this feature. This stretch is poor because Murphy doesn’t feel like a layered character anymore, he is simply RoboCop. Viewers can tell they are trying to make RoboCop more human this time around; because of the fact that Murphy’s face is shown largely throughout the film, and his guard mask only comes down in combat as protection. For me, I believe that if Clara (Abbie Cornish), the wife, and David (John Paul Ruttan), the son, are present – they should be there to communicate with Alex, build each other as characters, as well as being used to show Murphy’s humanity. Alex’s family is his drive to keep going. Joel Kinnaman portrays him believably; but he’s often too depressed in parts, too robotic and vacant in other parts, and by the time he says a classic line, the delivery feels so forced that the film might be better without it. Abbie Cornish also portrays a character affected by the whole situation, and her performance is enjoyable.

Some other positive aspects of this film are the visual effects, the explosive action and the suit design; the black is nice. The film is pretty entertaining even if some plot components feel a bit empty (particularly when Murphy is too robotic). One thing I do miss is the gore of the original. A lot of the times there is a gunshot and a random henchy just goes down for the count. Lame. There is some gore, but it’s not that enjoyable – it takes place in a hospital room, where we see what is left of Alex – his lungs, throat and head. It’s oddly compelling, but in a sickening way. The story isn’t nearly as engaging as the original, either, because the originals’ villains are much stronger. Who can forget Kurtwood Smith as one of the meanest cats around town? Also, what happens to Murphy to be put into the suit is more underwhelming because the motive for the hit is to just get him off the main criminal’s tail; I think, like in the original, no motivation to kill Murphy (unless you count sheer meanness as a motivation) is a much more terrifying idea.

Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley, Gary Oldman occupy supporting roles on the OmniCorp team. Keaton is Raymond Sellars, the mastermind behind OmniCorp; Gary Oldman is Norton, Murphy’s doctor; and Haley seems to be a weapons expert who makes sure everything is in tip-top-shape with the robots. Michael K. Williams portrays Murphy’s partner; I couldn’t help but wonder at some points what it would be like to see a black man in the RoboCop suit. Well, not just any black man, him in particular; because I find myself to be impressed by his acting capabilities, and I just can’t wait to see him in a leading role. Sam L. Jackson is another supporting character, portraying a TV personality who is present from time to time with developments on the Dreyfuss Act, which doesn’t let robots on American soil. At the story’s heart, this is really about how robots might be able to better an intensely corrupt Detroit, and, to a greater extent, the rest of the world if this test deems successful. It would decrease crime levels, but with robots occupying spots on the police force, one has to wonder how many jobs will be lost. How would the police officers make a living? Would there be a job waiting for them at OmniCorp? Just some food for thought, there, to finish off the review.

Score65/100

This is the End (2013)

This is the EndRelease Date: June 12, 2013

Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

Stars: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill

Runtime: 107 min

Hollywood is obsessed with a lot of things. One of their current obsessions is the apocalypse. Mostly because, if we survived 2012, why not, right? This is the End is summer 2013’s second apocalyptic movie (or first if you don’t really count After Earth), and it’s a comedy that feels completely fresh. It’s based on Jason Stone’s short film entitled “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse”, set on an ordinary night in Los Angeles.

Many celebrities including Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, and Emma Watson, amongst so many other cameos, are partying it up at James Franco’s mansion. They’re having a good time, drinkin’ beer, abusing cocaine (if Michael Cera doesn’t hog it all), joking around; doing what celebrities do. Soon enough, a huge hole opens up and wah-bam, it’s the end of the world. Half of the celebrities’ cameos end in gory demises, and there’s only a small group left to fend for themselves in Franco’s mansion. They take inventory, and it’s up to Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson, and the trouble-making Danny McBride to wait out the apocalypse.

The only other possibly comparable movie to this is Tropic Thunder.  That movie’s main satire was of big Hollywood productions and those who make them. The main gag at play here is the actors skewering each others’ public personas, and essentially being hilariously mocked, and doing the mocking. They are playing themselves, but at the same time, they aren’t. They’re playing heightened versions of themselves, where some of these character attributes are similar to their everyday selves, but some aren’t. Who could possibly envision the seemingly sweet and innocent Michael Cera as a drug-abusin’, obnoxious loud-mouth? No one could have, but it makes for a simply hilarious character.

That’s the thing about This is the End: it’s insanely funny. Ridiculous, yes, but a sure blast if there ever was one. Each of these characters poke fun at each other and the fun they’re having really shows. They invite us on the ride, and this viewing is truly fun. They make a sequel or two to their best movies (Pineapple Express), and decide not to make one for Your Highness. It’s all good old-fashioned, self-aware bliss. You’re going to love these guys.

This is one of the most effective comedy/horror sci-fi hybrids in some time. I love the balance of gross-out humour and gross-out horror. The premise is very original, and the humour is silly and immature, but the majority of this content will have you laughing and howling the whole way through. It’s quotable, brilliant, immature, and just plain fun. This is the funniest movie some of these guys have ever been in. They sling one-liners every which way, there are a few great startles and you’ll probably love every minute of this.

Though, the pacing is rough in the middle. One usually can’t expand on the traditional end of the world premise, but the writers know what they’re doing and so they give this superb execution. They run with what they know: comedy. The movie just works incredibly well. For the most part, it’s a thin story, but it is effective and admirably written. About 90% of the jokes hit, and the ones that don’t, are mostly said by Jay Baruchel. He’s from my hometown, but the guy isn’t incredibly funny. He has a few good lines, but they’re limited. This could be because he’s written as the straight man, however. There’s also so much product placement that makes this feel like one big commercial for all things Coca Cola, Milky Way, Nutella, and CT Crunch (I could go on, there’s about as much product placement as memorable quotes). This is easily forgiven because it’s set in a real-life celebrity culture. No one’s going to just own No Name brands, especially not rich people who star in movies.

One would expect that this wouldn’t have a huge emotional core. It does, surprisingly, have a better one than the average comedy. This is a buddy comedy of a bunch of guys making the best of their situation, the relationship between Seth and Jay, and the fact that all of these guys need to learn a thing or two about fate, redemption and – most of all – friendship. It isn’t as undeniably sweet as Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is, but I’d be fibbing if I didn’t at least get a few chills at one of the movie’s most effectively awesome, sort-of emotional- and so, so hilarious – moments near the end.

This just shows that a comedy about hanging out with one’s best buds could be a real gem to the genre. Adam Sandler could take quite a few pointers from this comedy. These characters are so easy to love, even Danny McBride who you’ll love to hate. This is one of the greatest ensembles ever assembled, at least for a critically acclaimed flick. It could be called “Comedians Assemble”. It’s one of the most quotable movies since The Hangover, and you’ll want an encore screening the second it’s over, mostly to just learn more quotes, because there are so many. I love all of the obvious nods to popular movies, as well. This is as absolute blast that combines so many favourite genres – comedy, sci-fi, horror… It’s like Neapolitan ice cream. There are more than a few surprises in this fantastic comedy treat.

91/100