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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Gospel stars Edwin Hawkins, Tye Tribbett and Warryn Campbell are set to be honoured at an upcoming prizegiving by officials at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). The trio will be guests of honour at the ASCAP Presents: Morning Glory breakfast reception in Nashville, Tennessee, where Hawkins is presented with the Gospel Icon Award for his career achievements, while singer/songwriter Tribbett and producer Campbell will pick up the Spirit of Song Award.
Nicole George-Middleton, ASCAP Vice President, Rhythm & Soul/Urban, says, "We are so excited to honour an amazing group of artists as part of the Morning Glory breakfast. They have made remarkable achievements in music and have inspired so many. Artists like Edwin Hawkins, Tye Tribbett and Warryn Campbell have produced a legacy that will live on and continue to shape music."
The event will take place on 18 January (14).
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Newborn royal Prince George's official christening photos have made history by bringing together four generations of present and future British monarchs for a portrait for the first time in over a century. In the main family shot, taken by fashion photographer Jason Bell, proud great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, sits surrounded by her three future kings - George, Prince William and her son Prince Charles, the current heir to the throne.
The Duke of Edinburgh, George's mum Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, uncles Prince Harry of Wales and James Middleton, aunt Pippa Middleton, grandparents Carole and Michael Middleton and step-grandmother Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are also featured in the happy family portrait, which was taken in the morning room at Clarence House in London following the young prince's christening at the Chapel Royal of St James's Palace on Wednesday (23Oct13).
Britain's royal baby Prince George has been formally christened at St James's Palace in London. The three-month-old son of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge was baptised on Wednesday (23Oct13) in front of his parents and other high-ranking royals, including Queen Elizabeth II, her husband the Duke of Edinburgh, and William's father Charles, Prince of Wales.
His brother Prince Harry and his parents-in-law Carole and Michael Middleton were also in attendance during the 30-minute service.
The baby boy wore a Honiton lace and satin gown, a replica of that first worn by Queen Victoria's eldest daughter in 1841, for the ceremony in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace.
The service consisted of two hymns and two anthems, chosen by the baby's parents. The hymns were Breathe on Me, Breath of God and Be Thou My Vision, and the anthems were Blessed Jesu! Here we Stand - which was written for Prince William's baptism in 1982 - and The Lord Bless You and Keep You.
There were also two lessons - St. Luke chapter 18, verses 15-17, read by the Duchess of Cambridge's sister Pippa Middleton, and St. John chapter 15, verses 1-5, read by Prince Harry.
After the baptism, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Duchess of Cambridge was seen beaming with delight as she carried Prince George from the chapel to a waiting car.
Prince William and Catherine, Duchess Of Cambridge have chosen seven close friends, including his cousin Zara Tindall, to act as godparents to their son Prince George. The couple will be joined by reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince Harry as the third in line for the throne is baptised at a chapel in St James's Palace in London on Wednesday (23Oct13).
Princess Anne's pregnant daughter Zara will act as godmother, alongside Catherine's school pal Emelia Jardine-Paterson and Julia Samuel, a close friend of the prince's late mother Diana, Princess of Wales.
Godfather duties fall to William and Harry's former private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, the prince's childhood friends William van Cutsem and Earl Grosvenor, and Oliver Baker, who attended St. Andrews university in Scotland with the royal couple.
Their decision to choose close friends as their firstborn's godparents breaks with royal tradition of asking members of foreign royal families and the aristocracy to take on the roles.
The Duke of Edinburgh, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Catherine's parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, as well as her siblings, Pippa and James, are all expected to be in attendance at the ceremony.
The party will celebrate the baptism with a reception at royal residence Clarence House, where guests will be served cake from the couple's wedding in 2011.
British royal Prince William attended the wedding of a friend in Norfolk, England on Saturday (14Sep13) without his wife, Catherine, Duchess Of Cambridge, who stayed at home to look after the couple's baby son, Prince George. William's brother Prince Harry also attended the nuptials, along with his sister-in-law Pippa Middleton.
Britain's Prince William has teamed up with soccer idol David Beckham to record public service announcements (PSAs) for wildlife conservation charity WildAid. The pair filmed the commercials on Thursday (12Sep13) as part of the non-profit organisation's demand reduction campaign, which is aimed at reducing the demand for rhino horn and ivory in places like China and Vietnam.
The advertisements will air later this year (13).
Prince William recorded the PSA hours before attending the inaugural Tusk Conservation Awards at the Royal Society, London on Thursday (12Sep13). The event marked his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge's first red carpet appearance since giving birth to their first child, son George, in July (13), and she dazzled photographers in a glittery floor-length gown by designer Jenny Packham.
Catherine, Duchess Of Cambridge's sister Pippa Middleton has denied reports she is planning to walk down the aisle. The party planner, who first hit headlines in April, 2011 when she stunned the world in an Alexander McQueen dress at her sister's wedding to Prince William, insists she is not engaged to her stockbroker boyfriend Nico Jackson, according to a report on UsMagazine.com.
The pair has been dating for six months and reportedly visited her nephew, Prince George, shortly after his birth in July (13).
Kate Middleton reportedly plotted to snare Prince William after the university he had chosen to attend became public knowledge. Katie Nichol, the author of a new book titled Kate: The Future Queen, claims the Duchess of Cambridge rejected an offer to study at Scotland's Edinburgh University and took a gap year so she could go to St Andrew's instead - as the British royal would be there.
The claim will fuel speculation the future duchess set out to target the prince at university. It has previously been suggested she caught his eye by deliberately wearing a barely-there dress to a fashion show he was attending.
According to Britain's Daily Mirror, a career adviser at Kate's former school has confirmed her first choice of university had been Edinburgh but she took a gap year and reapplied to St Andrews.
The couple wed in 2011 and had their first child, Prince George, in July (13).