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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Our favorite shows feel perfect for their respective networks: The nude-friendly Game of Thrones is a tried-and-true HBO series, the tortoise-slow Mad Men fits AMC’s intelligent and patient viewers, and The Big Bang Theory never met a laugh track CBS didn’t like. But what if those series appeared on different networks? How would the show change? We’re exploring just that in our Network Swap series. Next up: What if Game of Thrones aired on MTV?
Series: Game of Thrones
TV Rating: TV-14 for drama, faux-graphic situations and illicit activities.
Theme Song: “Some Nights” by fun.
Logline: From the creators of Skins and the producers of The Real World and The Hills comes a new kind of docu-reality to MTV: alternative medieval reality! Enter: Game of Thrones. Set in the universe known as Westeros, seven strangers (Osha, Petyr Baelish, Sansa Stark, Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, Joffrey Baratheon) are plucked from obscurity and 2012 to time-travel to the land of the seven kingdoms to see what real life is like in a magical land at war.
Integrated into the Westeros reality, they'll live and eat with their respective family houses (Baratheon, Greyjoy, Lannister, Stark, Targaryen, Arryn), live in pre-selected kingdoms, and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start being king. Game of Thrones tells the thrilling is-it-or-isn't-it unscripted reality of life in a time far different from our own. Here, magic still lives and your allies and your enemies are vital to the survival... of your social status! Pick the wrong side, and you'll end up with your head on a stake at King's Landing, which is totally uncool.
The show bends the limits of what is real and what isn't: are they really battling to the death to take over the throne? Are you serious right now with these zombies White Walkers? Did that teenager really just birth some dragons? Dealing with the limits of their own perception of reality coupled with the reality of their old lives from 2012, one can never be too sure. Rife with exposing confessionals, gritty real-life drama and dudes that can change their faces without a trip to the plastic surgeon's office (or did they?), MTV's Game of Thrones is one game that can't be missed.
Demographics: Tweens and twentysomethings that find a certain hilarity in the unscripted television of poor life decisions. Fans of magical realism.
Cast: Jon Snow as the hunky outsider, Daenerys Targaryen as the misunderstood girl with a drive to succeed, Theon Greyjoy as the explosive one, and Tyrion Lannister as the imp.
Breakout Star: Scrappy tween wunderkind Arya Stark.
Soundbite: "Yo, where the f**k my dragons at?!" - Daenerys Targaryen, 16-year-old teen mother of dragons, former high school dropout, aspiring queen of Westeros.
Sweeps Twist: Taking part in MTV's Musical May-hem, Game of Thrones transports your favorite artists to the fun in Westeros: Justin Bieber guest stars as King Joffrey's illest best friend. They drink hella mead and throw grapes at commoners through the castle windows. While searching for a way back to The Wall, Jon Snow stumbles upon a raging party deep in the woods, with Linkin Park performing for a group of young and ambitious White Walkers who just want to rock and are maybe anarchists. Katy Perry joins Daenerys Targaryen for a raucous and girly good time in Qarth, while Taylor Swift sings one of her signature break-up songs for the lovelorn Robb Stark because, OMG, lady drama!
Reason People Watch: Game of Thrones presents the real dog-eat-dog world of medieval politics in a universe flipped upside-down by warring young adults hell-bent on ruling their known world. Plus people are dying to know: Is it real, or isn't it?! Fans tune in weekly to dissect the possibilities.
What the Critics Say: "I don't know what to do with this." - Everyone
Spin-Off Possibilities: Cersei Lannister's late-night, no-holds-barred talk show called Wait, Cersei? will ruffle feathers for several seasons. Petyr Baelish becomes a Made coach, and MTV writes a scripted comedy based on the life of the house Stark called (you guessed it!) Stark: Raving Mad.
[Photo Credit: HBO]
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Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Connor Mead is a womanizing commitment-phobic bachelor whose carefree antics nearly destroy his brother’s wedding weekend when his constant mockery of the sacred institution throws cold water on the event. But then straight out of the afterlife comes Connor’s philandering late Uncle Wayne (whose legendary cocksmanship inspired his current lifestyle) to lead him through a spooky Dickensian tour of the ghosts of all his many female conquests from the past present and future. As he realizes what a sorry state he’s in and how he blew his relationship with Jenny the one girl he truly loved and lost Connor will find out if there’s really a second chance in life.
WHO’S IN IT?
Matthew McConaughey plays Connor with little distinction from the myriad of other skirt-chasing cads he’s played in a string of unmemorable chick flicks like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days Failure to Launch and Fool’s Gold. His immature chauvinist act is getting a little old and poor Jennifer Garner his latest leading lady can’t do much to save him. There’s little chemistry between the two and in fact both stars don’t seem to have their heart in this lame lustful takeoff on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Instead of Scrooge it’s Screwed — and the crude tone doesn’t make for the merriest of romantic comedies. For some inexplicable reason Michael Douglas took the thankless role of the late Uncle who mostly just throws out lots of double entendres. Breckin Meyer is OK as the hapless groom while Lacey Chabert is just plain annoying as his shrill bride-to-be. Acting vets Robert Forster and Anne Archer do what they can to maintain their dignity in smaller supporting roles.
The trailer for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was much better than the actual film and showed the premise had great promise. Unfortunately they had to release the rest of the movie and the jig was up.
The screenplay just doesn’t deliver. There are few laughs in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and most of them are forced as in an endless slapstick kitchen scene where McConaughey tries desperately to keep a wedding cake from completely collapsing. He proves physical comedy is not his forte. Where’s Lucy when you need her? The overall tone is just crass and sleazy and the fantasy sequences involving the ghostly visits are flat and uninspired.
MOST PROPHETIC LINE:
At one point McConaughey utters “Wake me when there’s an action sequence will you?” We would have but there aren’t any.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Read a book instead. How about A Christmas Carol?
Set in a world inhabited only by motor vehicles Cars is sort of a cross between Michael J. Fox's Doc Hollywood and NASCAR. The main hero is a hotshot rookie race car named Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson)--an obvious homage to the late fast-driving Steve McQueen--whose one goal in life is to win the Piston Cup and bask in fame and glory. Yet on his cross-country trip to the Piston Cup Championship in California to compete against two seasoned pros (real-life legendary racer Richard Petty voices the reigning champion The King) Lightning finds himself unexpectedly detoured in the sleepy--and forgotten--Route 66 town of Radiator Springs. There he meets its colorful denizens--including Sally (Bonnie Hunt) a snazzy 2002 Porsche who owns the local “rest” stop; Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) the town’s rusty but trusty tow truck; and Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) a 1951 Hudson Hornet who rules the town with a steady hand er wheel. Together they all help the cocksure Lightning realize that there are more important things than trophies fame and sponsorship. If Pixar calls you come running so it isn’t at all surprising how impressive the Cars vocal line-up is starting with legendary screen icon Newman as the Doc. Come on being the race car driving nut that he is you think the 81-year-old actor would say no to voicing a 1951 Hudson Hornet who has his own mysterious past in the racing world? Hell no. The rest of the cast also seem to have a good time channeling their inner car from Wilson’s snarky speedster to Hunt’s cute and sexy Porsche a big-city lawyer who decides to get out of the fast lane. Supporting voices include Cheech Marin and Tony Shalhoub as Radiator Springs’ low-riding body shop and Italian Fiat tire shop owners respectively. Even George Carlin gets into the act as a groovy ‘60s VW wagon who sells “organic” fuel. Good stuff. Of course what Pixar flick would be complete without its comic relief? Although he’s no Ellen DeGeneres as a short-term memory impaired fish Larry the Cable Guy fills in nicely as the dim but sweet Mater the ultimate hick tow truck. Having been out of the directing loop since his 1999 sequel Toy Story 2 Cars marks Pixar’s golden boy John Lasseter return--and this is his big love letter to the splendor that is the automobile. Of course his demand for perfection took its toll. The animators had to come up with a new technique called “ray tracing ” which allows the car stars--that are metallic and heavily contoured--to credibly reflect their environments. Even with a sophisticated network of 3 000 computers and state-of-the-art lightning-fast processors that operate up to four times faster than they did on The Incredibles the average time to render a single frame of film was 17 hours. Still all that time spent pays off. Cars is a real visual treat with another firm grasp in storytelling. Sure it’s a bit of a vanity project and may shoot way over the kiddies’ heads making them squirm a little during the “slow” parts. But as one of the recently appointed top guns at Disney Lasseter can do just about anything he wants these days--and we are going to love it dammit.