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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This week’s edition of Leanne’s Spoiler List is overflowing with fun and exclusive details from six spectacular shows. I’ve got the first scoop on The Big Bang Theory’s Valentine’s Day extravaganza, a sweet behind-the-scenes story from Glee, and a sneak peak at next week’s chilling episode of Bones. Plus, I chatted with the stars from Grey’s Anatomy, Beauty and the Beast, and Shameless to bring you your weekly dose of delicious spoilers. Read on for all the smile-inducing TV craziness below…
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1. The Big Bang Theory: Sweethearts and Sisters
There are two things in this world that I love with all my heart: The Big Bang Theory and Valentine’s Day. So the fact that BBT is having a V-day-themed episode next week means I’m pretty much bouncing off the walls with excitement right now. (That also may have something to do with the fact that I’ve had five cups of coffee today… ) In the “The Tangible Affection Proof,” love is in the air for our favorite CBS beauties and geeks, but I've learned complications will be served up by Kaley Cuoco's real-life sister, Briana Cuoco!
Our lovey-dovey foursome — Leonard, Penny, Howard, and Bernadette — are headed out for a romantic double date. Don’t worry girls — they're not taking them to The Cheesecake Factory. Instead, they're treating their gals to a very nice dinner in hopes of giving them the perfect Valentine’s Day. But of course — in true Big Bang Theory fashion — things never go quite as planned. (But why would you want them to?!) While at dinner, Penny spots her ex-boyfriend Matt and the girl that he cheated on her with, Gretchen. You guessed it, Gretchen is played by none other than Briana Cuoco.
While Penny and Co. are dealing with an awkward encounter, Raj and Stuart are planning a singles-only party at the comic book store in hopes of meeting some nice ladies. And over on the world of Shamy, Sheldon and Amy are frantically running around in search of the perfect heartfelt gifts. (Side-Note: Fingers crossed this will be even better than the time Sheldon gave Penny all those bathroom baskets for Christmas!) I can’t reveal all of the amazing details, but I can tell you that this is one Valentine’s Day episode that you definitely don’t want to miss!
2. Grey’s Anatomy: Mr. Seattle Grace
Physician's advisor Dr. Alana Cahill hasn’t exactly been the most popular addition to Seattle Grace this season. Okay, let’s face it, she’s incredibly irritating — especially after last week’s shocking reveal that she’s prepping the hospital to be sold. (The nerve!) Just when you think she can’t get any worse, Cahill decides to channel her inner Effie Trinket and proposes a not-so-friendly competition. One of my spoiler fairies at Hollywood.com got the chance to speak with the brilliant Constance Zimmer (who is absolutely nothing like her strict, harsh character, I promise!) about what Cahill has in store for Thursday’s all-new Grey’s Anatomy, “The Face of Change.”
“We’re trying to put a face to the hospital, specifically Jackson or Alex, so they are trying to compete to be that face,” Zimmer says. “That pits two teams against each other, to see who can look the best in what they’re doing, in their surgeries, in the African exchange program of Karev’s, etc.” That’s right, y’all — be prepared for an all-out battle royale in the halls of Seattle Grace where the interns are the tributes and we’re at the Capitol watching the craziness unfold. (Can you tell I just re-read all of The Hunger Games books?)
Although this is sure to be an interesting episode, it is obnoxious that only Karev and Jackson are fighting to be the face of the hospital. Um, excuse me, but why weren’t any of the ladies considered?! “They’re thinking who would look good on a poster,” Zimmer says. “I know I was asking the question, why not a woman? But I think it’s an overall sense of the hospital and they want to have someone that seems very appealing and likeable and who would be the most approachable. And for whatever reason, that came down to Jackson and Alex.” Humph. Fine, I can’t argue with the fact that both of those fellas would look mighty fine on a poster. But, of course, since this is Grey’s Anatomy, there will be a plethora of twists and turns in the quest for Mr. Seattle Grace.
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3. Shameless: Daddy Issues
We’re only three episodes into Season 3 of Shameless and it’s hard to imagine that things could get any crazier in the Gallagher household — but goodness gracious, they most certainly do! The king of secrets, Jimmy/Steve, has a particularly intense revelation in this Sunday’s episode, “The Helpful Gallaghers,” when he realizes that his father has been weaving a web of lies for years now. Like father, like son, right?
I recently chatted with the delightfully sweet Justin Chatwin to discuss all of the skeletons Jimmy finds in his father’s closet (metaphorically, of course). “He learns that his childhood wasn't what it was, and that his parents weren't who they were, and he eventually finds out that their financial situation wasn't what it was,” he revealed. “Everything that he relied on as a Plan B, C, and D, has completely fallen apart.”
Jimmy’s married pop has been getting down and dirty with Fiona’s underage little brother, Ian. This is a pretty huge secret, and one that is definitely going to be discovered in this week’s episode. I’m not going to reveal how the Gallaghers find out, but let’s just say that the entire neighborhood probably knows by now. So how does Jimmy react to this news? "Jimmy is a little bit homophobic at first, almost,” the actor explains. “Then we realize it's not homophobia he's reacting to, he's reacting to the same thing Fiona is reacting to with Jimmy — is my entire relationship with you dishonest? Is it untrue? How much have you been lying? I think Jimmy has this very judgmental response to it, and I think through judging his father, he starts to see more about himself."
Does this mean that Jimmy is going to tell Fiona that his marriage to Estefania is still very real? Sorry, TV fans, I’m not going to spoil that one for you, but I feel like I’ve given you quite enough Shameless scoop for one week. Moving on!
4. Beauty and the Beast: Vincent’s Choice
Last week, Catherine (and fans everywhere) were thrown for a loop when Vincent’s ex-fiancé, Alex, came back into the picture — conveniently right when Cat and Vincent decided to give their relationship a chance. Oh CW, you sure know how to mess with our hearts, don’t cha? Now that Alex is intent on giving her relationship with Vincent a second chance, Vincent must finally make a choice. But would Alex still be so eager to start a new life with Vincent if she knew the truth about his beastly side?
Earlier this week, my CW expert chatted with the oh-so sweet Bridget Regan, who is lucky enough to play hunky Jay Ryan’s significant other. (Can you tell I’m seething with jealousy?) And the first thing they discussed is how Alex might react if/when she finds out Vince’s secret. The actress explains, “That’s what we’re going to run into in the next episode. Alex is a nurse. She’s a strong woman who is experienced and has face a lot of scary things in her life, but something like this? It’s completely foreign!” Foreign? More like a fairy tale!
“It’s really hard to wrap your mind around," Regan teases. "So that’s going to be the next challenge for her, to see if she can understand this, what would happen, and how she would deal with this.”
Does she think knowing the truth would change how Alex felt about Vincent? “I understand why the fans are so protective of the relationship with Catherine and Vincent, because she does know all of him and she does accept him for all of who he is,” Regan says. “And at this stage, Alex doesn’t know. She loves this memory of a man. She doesn’t really know this man.” BATB fans will have to tune in to Thursday’s all-new episode, “Cold Turkey,” to see if Vincent does indeed share his secret with Alex.
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5. Bones: Stay Away From the Light!
Of all the procedural dramas that flood the airwaves each and every night — and let’s face it, there are a lot — Bones has always been one of my favorites. The only bone I have to pick with FOX drama is the ultra-squishy sounds that poison my eardrums whenever the team handles the guts and goo of their victims. Blegh!
Luckily, next week’s episode, “The Shot in the Dark.” focuses more on who shot Brennan and less upon poking and prodding dead bodies. That’s right, Bones fans — I hate to be the one to break it to you, but our beloved forensic anthropologist will be shot while working late in the Jeffersonian lab. Not only are we presented with the question of “Who done it?” we also need to know how. There’s no bullet!
Fast-forwarding just a bit, we see that Booth, the amazing man that we all know and love, is at her hospital bedside 24/7, but Brennan keeps visiting “another place.” We all know that Brennan very firmly does not believe in God, or heaven, or any other kind of non-logical event, so you can imagine her confusion when she sees her mother sitting on a couch next to her. Grab your waterproof mascara and start lining up your boxes of tissues now, Bones fans, because next week’s episode is without a doubt a tearjerker.
6. Glee Twitter Question: @Faberrything Leanne, you precious cupcake lady, I'm in pain, just took out 2 wisdom teeth. Any good news or something to cheer me up??
Confession: This is the first time I’ve even been referred to as a “precious cupcake lady” and now I don’t want to be called anything else. I’m oh-so-sorry that you are in pain (and probably have really cubby cheeks right now), so how about I tell you about my recent encounter with Glee’s Vanessa Lengies? That girl can cheer anyone up! As you all may or may not know, the creative Brittana fans have imagined a very intriguing background story for Lengies' Glee character, Sugar Motta (AKA my favorite character.) Basically, the fandom has decided that Sugar is Brittany and Santana's love child who was sent to the halls of McKinley from the future — thus explaining her wacky outfits and positively perfect personality. Here’s where it gets good: Not only does Lengies know about this theory, she is 100 percent convinced that it is true!
“Oh, in my mind I am definitely the lovechild of Santana and Brittany. There is definitely no doubt,” the actress says. “Ever since day one when I read that online and I was like, ‘Okay that’s my story,’ and I kind of just go with that in my head. “ But Lengies is not the only one who believes the story — Heather Morris is in on the conspiracy as well! “Heather and I have been planning this whole thing where we’re going to build a spaceship and plan to go back," she says. "Basically, our idea is that Sugar came back and she told Brittany and Brittany was like, ‘I knew It. I knew it the whole time!’ but we couldn’t tell Santana because she would think it’s crazy."
Futuristic follies aside, Lengies tells me she admires how passionate the Glee fans are. “I love all the stories that they write. They’re so epic and amazing, but the thing is when she show doesn’t go along with it, I feel so bad personally, because I’m a Brittana lover.” The actress continues, “Recently, I’ve found it hard to keep biased because I feel like the show is the Bible.” Well Glee-bees, hopefully this silly little story helped cheer you up!
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Are you exited to see Kaley Cuoco’s sister on The Big Bang Theory? Who do you think will win in the Grey’s Anatomy battle? Nervous to learn Brenna’s fate in Bones? Do you agree with Vanessa, is Sugar the futuristic lovechild of Brittana on Glee? Tell me everything in the comments below!
Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera
—Additional Reporting by Sydney Bucksbaum, and Shaunna Murphy
[Photo Credit: CBS, Showtime, ABC, FOX, The CW]
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There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.