Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
Treading water at the very surface of RoboCop, there is an idea. A dense concept, ready and willing to provide no dearth of dissection for any eager student of philosophy, psychology, political science, physics — hell, any of the Ps. To simplify the idea on hand: What separates man from machine? It's a question that is not just teased by the basic premise of José Padilha's remake of the 1987 sci-fi staple, but asked outright by many of its main characters. And then never really worried about again.
We have principal parties on both sides of the ethical quandary that would place the security of our crime-ridden cities in the hands of automatons. Samuel L. Jackson plays a spitfire Bill O'Reilly who wonders why America hasn't lined its streets with high-efficiency officer droids. Zach Grenier, as a moralistic senator, gobbles his way through an opposition to the Pro-boCop movement. We hear lecture after lecture from pundits, politicians, business moguls (a money-hungry Michael Keaton heads the nefarious OmniCorp...) and scientists (...while his top doc Gary Oldman questions the nature of his assignments while poking at patients' brains and spouting diatribes about "free will"), all working their hardest to lay thematic groundwork. Each character insists that we're watching a movie about the distinction between human and artificial intelligence. That even with an active brain, no robot can understand what it means to have a heart. But when Prof. Oldman tempers his hysterical squawking and Samuel L. Hannity rolls his closing credits, we don't see these ideas taking life.
In earnest, the struggle of rehabilitated police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) — nearly killed in the line of duty and turned thereafter into OmniCorp's prototype RoboCop — doesn't seem to enlist any of the questions that his aggravated peers have been asking. Murphy is transformed not just physically, but mentally — robbed of his decision-making ability and depleted of emotional brain chemicals — effectively losing himself in the process. But the journey we see take hold of Murphy is not one to reclaim his soul, although the movie touts it as such. It's really just one to become a better robot.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
Meanwhile, RoboCop lays down its motives, and hard: Murphy's wife and son (Abbie Cornish and a puckish young John Paul Ruttan) lament the loss of Alex, condemning his dehumanization at the hands of Raymond Sellars' (Keaton) capitalistic experiments, and sobbing out some torrential pathos so you know just how deep this company is digging. Weaselly stooges (Jay Baruchel, Jennifer Ehle, and Jackie Earl Haley) line the OmniCorp roster with comical wickedness. Overseas, killer combat bots take down peaceful villages, unable to work empathetic judgment into their decision to destroy all deemed as "threats." And at the top, figures of power and money like Sellars and Pat Novak (Jackson) speak the loudest and harshest, literally justifying their agenda with a call for all naysayers to "stop whining." Clearly, RoboCop has something to say.
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And when it's devoted to its outrage, RoboCop is terrifically charming. The buzzing political world is just a tiny step closer to ridiculous than our own; the pitch meetings at OmniCorp are fun enough to provoke a ditching of all the material outside of the company walls. And one particular reference to The Wizard of Oz shows that the movie isn't above having fun with its admittedly silly premise. But it loses its magic when it steps away from goofy gimmicks and satirical monologues and heads back into the story. We don't see enough of Murphy grappling with the complicated balance between his conflicting organic and synthetic selves. In fact, we don't see enough "story" in Murphy at all. First, he's a dad and a cop. Then, he's a RoboCop. But can he also be a RoboDad? With all of its ranting and raving about the question, the film doesn't seem to concerned with actually figuring out the answer.
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On Thursday morning, the pulled-from-the-headlines thriller Zero Dark Thirty took a solid four Golden Globe nominations, for writing, acting, directing, and Best Picture. The Globes are just the beginning: when the competition opens up to the technical categories come Oscar time, ZDT could walk away with even more. And Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to The Hurt Locker could win them too, as evidenced by the latest trailer for the film.
Here are five reasons visible in the above spot that make me confident Zero Dark Thirty could go all the way this awards season:
1. Jessica Chastain's Fervent, Understated Performance
The keystone of Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain's Maya ends up as one of the best characters of the year, an opinionated but respectful newcomer who evolves over the ten year hunt for bin Laden into a obsessive seeker of truth. In 2011, Chastain proved herself to be one of the most well-rounded performers in Hollywood. In 2012, she proves herself as one of the fiercest. You see her real claws come out late in the trailer, insisting that she has 100% confidence in her knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts.
2. Dialogue That's as Tense as the Action
ZDT relies heavily on dialogue and the dissection of information, but Mark Boal's script — which is on the top of many voters' minds — layers every bit of exposition with distinct voice. Around the 40 second mark, Mark Strong chimes in with a few words of aggressive wisdom, a wake-up call for an intelligence department that's uncovered nothing. It's a brutal scene in the movie, but simply rattling off facts wouldn't amount to the weight displayed in the moment. It's through Boal's raises the stakes through capturing the sound of human fear.
3. Bigelow's Action Style in Non-action Scenes
Bigelow showed a real prowess for modern action filmmaking in The Hurt Locker, a heart-pounding inside look at the life of bomb defuser. But Zero Dark Thirty isn't an action movie (even while featuring a few explosions, shootouts, and military operations). Think The Social Network or All the President's Men, stories of larger-than-life journeys conducted in small scale rooms. Luckily, like those films, Bigelow understands how to invigorate close quarters conversations or silent moments. Whether Maya is sifting through paperwork or taking a silent moment in the bathroom, scenes in Zero Dark Thirty always feel like the world is on the line.
4. The Cinematography of the Raid
Expect Zero Dark Thirty to impress on the technical side thanks to an amazing score by Alexandre Desplat, spine-tingling sound design by Paul N. J. Ottosson, and cinematography by Greig Fraser that creates the atmosphere more mystery. The finale's infiltration of the bin Laden compound is now a well-known incident, but only when you see it portrayed in dim twilight do you realize how terrifying the work of Seal Team Six really is.
5. A Cast of Actors People Love
When it comes to Zero Dark Thirty's Oscar chances, don't expect too many other nods outside of Chastain in the acting department. With a sprawling ensemble, it's hard to pick just one actor or actress who stands out — but the excellence of every performer is the foundation for what makes the movie work. Jason Clarke, Jennifer Ehle, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, James Gandolfini all pop in the new spot above and all make a huge impact as part of the clockwork that helped pay off ten years of work. Highly compelling and never over the top, it's the entire cast who will carry Zero Dark Thirty to the Best Picture race.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Sony Pictures]
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The name of the game to this year's New York Film Critics Circle is "history." Whether the events of said piece of history date back nearly two centuries or if they're barely a year-and-a-half old, what stands is their pronounced effect on our country. Nobody is going to doubt the substantial impact Abraham Lincoln had on this nation, politically and socially. And few alive today will soon forget where they were when news broke that the U.S. Government had captured and killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Both these stories have been transformed to screen this year — Steven Spielberg's Lincoln and Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty — and each has earned recognition by the NYFCC, which announced its new rung of victors on Monday.
These particular pictures topped NYFCC's winners list for 2012, with ZDT taking Best Picture, Director, and Cinematography, and Lincoln earning Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Supporting Actress (Sally Field), and Screenplay.
Check below for the complete list of winners!
Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow: Zero Dark Thirty
Daniel Day-Lewis: Lincoln
Rachel Weisz: The Deep Blue Sea
Tony Kushner: Lincoln
Best Supporting Actor
Matthew McConaughey: Bernie and Magic Mike
Best Supporting Actress
Sally Field: Lincoln
Greig Fraser: Zero Dark Thirty
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Film
Beat Nonfiction Film
The Central Park Five
Best First Feature
How to Survive a Plague
[Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures]
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The female filmmaker also triumphed over Spielberg for the title of Best Director, while Zero Dark Thirty's Greig Fraser earned the Best Cinematographer honour.
All was not lost for Lincoln - the historical epic earned Daniel Day-Lewis Best Actor for his portrayal as the assassinated U.S. president, and Sally Field, who played his onscreen wife, Mary Todd, claimed the Best Supporting Actress prize.
Lincoln also landed the Best Screenplay honour for writer Tony Kushner.
Meanwhile, Rachel Weisz's performance in British drama The Deep Blue Sea earned her the Best Actress accolade, while Matthew McConaughey picked up the Best Supporting Actor prize, scoring double recognition for his turn as a prosecutor in black comedy Bernie and as a strip club owner in Magic Mike.
Tim Burton's Frankenweenie was named Best Animated Film, and German director Michael Haneke, who celebrated a big Best European Film win at the European Film Awards on Saturday (01Dec12) was honoured for Amour, which the New York pundits named Best Foreign Language Film.
The New York Film Critics Circle's top picks are considered to be among the best indicators of the Academy Awards in the run up to the Oscars.
It was Bigelow's second win for Best Film and Best Director - she won the same awards in 2009 for The Hurt Locker, and went on to claim gold in the same categories at the 2010 Oscars.
The New York Film Critics Circle honours will be presented during a ceremony in New York on 7 January (13).
Well it's been a wallop of a day, hazed in the post-election stupor. The country may be nearly divided, but we've got another presidential turn decided, and so it's time to get back into the thick of the television industry's highlights of the day. With news of lawsuits and season pick-ups, we can all agree on one thing: Hollywood is moving forward. It's tidbits time!
Burn Notice is in Seventh Heaven: The popular USA Network series Burn Notice has gotten the go-ahead for a 13-episode, seventh season order. The one thing of note about the upcoming season, is it's size. USA's 13-episode pick-up is three episodes smaller than the 18-episode orders for the last three seasons. [Deadline]
Benjamin Walker to Get Missionary at HBO: Benjamin Walker, he who would be presidents forever (playing Abraham Lincoln in the movies and Andrew Jackson on Broadway), has decided to take on a role in the HBO series The Missionary. The show—from unlikeliest of duos Malcolm Gladwell and Mark Wahlberg and writer Charles Randolph— is set in 60s-era Berlin, following an American missionary who becomes a CIA operative. Spy versus spy perhaps? Can Walker then age 50 years and appear as a consultant CIA operative on Homeland? (You're welcome for the free great idea, Hollywood!) [Vulture]
FOX Loses Lawsuit Against Dish: U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee refused to grant Fox Broadcasting's initial attempt to block Dish Network's ad-skipping DVR services "AutoHop" and "PrimeTime Anytime" in a Los Angeles court today. But advertising-haters shouldn't rejoice just yet, as the ruling may not be a total victory, as the judge may accept certain copyright infringement theories to settle the suit. The court order is currently under seal, which means confidential, basically. [THR]
Modern Family Abuse Allegations: It is unfortunately being reported that Modern Family's Ariel Winters (aka Alex Dunphy) has been removed from her home after an allegation of abuse against her mother was filed. Mother Chrisoula Workman is being accused of physically and emotionally abusing her 14 year-old daughter. The star's sister, Shanelle Gray has been given temporary custody while the mother is ordered to stay away from the young girl until the November 20th guardianship hearing. [E!]
[Photo Credit: USA Network]
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
Top Story: Jackson Loses $5.3 Million in Lawsuit
Michael Jackson took another hit when a California jury ruled in favor of the German concert promoter who sued the pop oddity over a series of canceled millennium concerts, Reuters reports. The promoter's attorney Skip Miller told Reuters the jury in the city of Santa Maria awarded Marcel Avram nearly all of the $5.9 million in lost profits he had been seeking after six and a half days of deliberations. Jackson's attorney, Zia Modabber, told Reuters the verdict was in a way a victory for the entertainer, since Avram had sued Jackson for more than $21 million. "He's fine with it," Modabber said. "He stood up for himself and went to trial and Mr. Avram didn't get nearly what he wanted."
Britney in Battle Over Roller Skates
Britney Spears and footwear company Skechers USA are in a lawsuit battle over an agreement to design and sell custom Britney 4 Wheelers skates, The Associated Press reports. The pop princess sued the company Dec. 26 for $1.5 million, claiming Skechers used her to plug their own line of roller skates and not the ones she designed. Now, Skechers has filed a countersuit claiming fraud and breach of contract relating to product designs and advertising for the skates, as well as claming Spears pushed them into sponsoring her 2001-2002 concert tour.
Eminem a No-Show at Oscars
Claiming he'll still be on vacation, Eminem will not perform his Oscar-nominated song "Lose Yourself" from the film 8 Mile at the Academy Awards ceremony March 23. While this throws a tiny kink in the proceedings, the show's producer, Gil Cates, who usually persuades the artists nominated in the Best Song category to perform, told USA Today, "There's no rule that the nominees have to sing or that you even have to include all of the numbers in the show, I could do a medley or no songs at all....It's a very fluid show with few constraints."
Role Call: Catwoman, Superman Cursed
Halle Berry will get in touch with her feline self as she takes on the title role in Catwoman for Warner Bros. She replaces Ashley Judd, who had committed to the Batman spin-off but dropped out to do the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. At least we know Berry will look great in a catsuit...Director Brett Ratner is down to two choices to play the red-caped Superman in the upcoming Warner Bros. franchise: Brendan Fraser and soap opera star Matthew Bomer (The Guiding Light). The other major contender, The Fast and the Furious's Paul Walker, took himself out of competition...Christina Ricci just landed the lead in Wes Craven's Cursed. Craven reunites with his Scream writer Kevin Williamson in a film that is a throwback to classic horror tales, following three strangers whose fates collide on a moonlit night in contemporary Los Angeles.
Role Call, Part Deux: Martin Shops, Ward Dirty Dances, Eckhart, Kilmer Go Missing
Steve Martin is finally getting his novel Shopgirl made into a feature film with the Walt Disney Co. With no director attached as yet, the story revolves around a girl selling gloves at a Neiman Marcus store who falls for an older, divorced rich man...Sela Ward has joined the cast of Havana Nights: Dirty Dancing 2, playing the mother of an American girl who moves with her family to Cuba and falls hard for a local dancer (Y Tu Mama Tambien's Diego Luna)... Aaron Eckhart and Val Kilmer join Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones in Revolution Studios' The Missing, a story set in 1885 Mexico about a woman who teams up with her estranged father to track down the psychopathic killer who kidnaps her daughter.