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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Man or woman cannot survive on DVD box sets and possible Netflix reboots alone when it comes to enjoying our favorite TV casts. What better way for television's most dynamic duos to live on than in podcast form? With that thinking in mind, former co-stars of the beloved '90s Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Michael Maronna (Big Pete) and Danny Tamberelli (Little Pete)are hosting their own podcast. "The Adventures of Danny and Mike," will send them out on the road to try their hand at different jobs such as guest-bartending in Montreal or managing an ice cream truck in Brooklyn. I guess that means Tamberelli will have to take a break from touring with his jam band. The recent announcement got us thinking of what other former duos should team up again to join the podcast-sphere.
Larry David & Leon Black
While some would argue that Larry and Jeff from Curb Your Enthusiasm would make the most compatible hosts, we think it would take Leon (played by J.B Smoove) to really push Larry's buttons and make for much more interesting airtime. The two already briefly reunited for David’s HBO Film, Clear History, but that gives us just a taste of what these two masters of improv could accomplish if given their own show. Let's call it "Tit for Tat" for now.
Daria Morgendorffer & Jane Lane
If you’re going to tease millennials with a Pete & Pete reunion, they why not give them what they really want – a Daria and Jane reunion. They've already mastered the art of voice-acting, so a podcast would be a natural transition for both Tracy Grandstaff (Daria) and Wendy Hoopes (Jane). They could talk about the "Plastic of the Week" and expose everyday hypocrisy in a very, very soothing voice. Granted, Grandstaff's schedule is tight being a vice-president at Comedy Central and all and Hoopes is still acting, but we think they could make it work for the sake of the greater good.
Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement
These comedic troubadours from New Zealand started off as a BBC radio show, so it makes sense for them to return to their roots. Flight of the Conchords made an early exit from HBO – leaving us with an emotional void that only the sweet falsetto of Bret McKenzie and smooth dulcet tones of Jermaine Clement can fill.
Dr. Frasier & Dr. Miles Crane
For the NPR-listening, tweed-clad set, a spin-off Frasier podcast would be just the thing to ease into your morning and fend off road rage with the some spirited discourse from our favorite buttoned-down WASP brothers. Kelsey Grammer would be a natural fit, having already played a radio host in the sitcom and David Hyde Pierce could diagnose people's problems with faux psychiatry. Having won a Tony, perhaps he could occasionally break out into song while Grammer dishes out dirt on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Rickie Vasquez & Rayanne Graff
Claire Danes may have received all the accolades, but for us, My So-Called Life revolved around Rickie & Rayanne played by Wilson Cruz and A.J. Langer. Their chemistry was unmistakable and their sartorial choices have probably inspired thousands of tumblr themes, so why not bring this fierce twosome back together? Cruz can fluctuate into talking about modern gay culture and basic b**tches while Langer or shall we call her "Lady Courtenay," can reveal what her day-to-day life is like being married to an English Earl.
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Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.