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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The nominees for the 2013 Grammy Awards will be announced tonight for the first time in a flashy, live concert at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena hosted by Taylor Swift and LL Cool J that will feature performances by fun., The Band Perry, Maroon 5, Janelle Monae, The Who and others.
While previous years' Grammys have been dominated by a single powerhouse artist or album (I'm lookin' at you, Adele), this year it could be anyone's game. Will Billboard sensations Justin Bieber and Rihanna get nods, or will indie darlings like Frank Ocean, Mumford and Sons, and The Black Keys rule the night? I guess we just have to wait and see!
Check back at 10:00 PM ET as we reveal the nominees along with CBS' broadcast.
Best Pop Vocal Album
Kelly Clarkson, Stronger
Florence and The Machine, Ceremonials
fun., Some Nights
Maroon 5, Overexposed
Pink, The Truth About Love
Record of the Year
"Lonely Boy," The Black Keys
"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," Kelly Clarkson
"We are Young," fun. featuring Janelle Monae
"Somebody That I Used to Know," Gotye featuring Kimbra
"Thinkin Bout You," Frank Ocean
"We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," Taylor Swift Best New Artist Alabama Shakes fun. Hunter Hayes The Lumineers Frank Ocean Country Solo Performance "Home," Dierks Bently "Springsteen," Eric Church "Cost of Livin," Ronnie Dunn "Wanted," Hunter Hayes "Over," Blake Shelton "Blown Away," Carrie Underwood Album of the Year El Camino, Black Keys Some Nights, fun. Babel, Mumford and Sons Channel Orange, Frank Ocean Blunderbuss, Jack White Song of the Year "The A Team" Ed Sheeran (songwriter: Ed Sheeran) "Call Me Maybe" Carly Rae Jepsen (songwriters: Tavish Crowe, Carly Rae Jepsen & Josh Ramsay) "Adorn" Miguel (songwriter: Miguel Pimentel) "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" Kelly Clarkson (songwriters: Jörgen Elofsson, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin & Ali Tamposi) "We Are Young" fun. featuring Janelle Monáe (songwriters: Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost & Nate Ruess) Best Pop Duo/Group Performance "Shake It Out" by Florence + The Machine "We Are Young" by fun. featuring Janelle Monáe "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye featuring Kimbra "Sexy And I Know It" by LMFAO "Payphone" by Maroon 5 & Wiz Khalifa Best Pop Solo Performance Adele, "Set Fire to the Rain (Live)" Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe" Katy Perry, "Wide Awake" Rihanna - "Where Have You Been" Best Dance Recording Avicii, "Levels" Calvin Harris feat. Ne-Yo,"Let's Go" Skrillex feat. Sirah, "Bangarang" Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin, "Don't You Worry Child" Al Walser, "I Can't Live Without You" Best Dance/Electronic Album Steve Aoki, Wonderland The Chemical Brothers, Don't Think deadmau5 Kaskade, Fire & Ice Skrillex, Bangarang Best Rock Performance Alabama Shakes,"Hold On" The Black Keys, "Lonely Boy" Coldplay, "Charlie Brown" Mumford & Sons, "I Will Wait" Bruce Springsteen, "We Take Care of Our Own" Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Anthrax, "I'm Alive" Halestorm, "Love Bites (So Do I)" Iron Maiden, "Blood Brothers" Lamb of God,"Ghost Walking" Marilyn Manson ,"No Reflection" Megadeth, "Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)" Best Rock Song Jack White, "Freedom at 21" Mumford & Sons, "I Will Wait" The Black Keys, "Lonely Boy" Muse, "Madness" Bruce Springsteen, "We Take Care of Our Own" Best Rock Album The Black Keys, El Camino Muse, The 2nd Law Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball Jack White, Blunderbuss Best Alternative Music Album Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do Bjork, Biophilia Gotye, Making Mirrors M83, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming Tom Waits, Bad As Me Best R&B Performance Estelle, "Thank You" Robert Glasper Experiment feat. Ledisi, "Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.) Luke James, "I Want You" Miguel, "Adorn" Usher, "Climax" Best Traditional R&B Performance Anita Baker, "Lately" Beyonce, "Love on Top" Melanie Fiona, "Wrong Side of a Love Song" Gregory Porter, "Real Good Hands" SWV, "If Only You Knew" Best Urban Contemporary Album Chris Brown, Fortune Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream Frank Ocean, Channel Orange Best R&B Album Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio Anthony Hamilton, Back To Love R. Kelly, Write Me Back Tamia, Beautiful Surprise Tyrese, Open Invitation Best Rap Performance Drake feat. Lil' Wayne, "HYFR (Hell Ya F---ing Right)" Jay-Z & Kanye West, "N---as In Paris" Nas,"Daughters" Kanye West feat. Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz, "Mercy" Young Geezy feat. Jay-Z & Andre 3000, "I Do" Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Flo Rida feat. Sia, "Wild Ones" Jay-Z & Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean & The-Dream, "No Church in the Wild" John Legend feat. Ludacris, "Tonight (Best You Ever Had)" Nas feat. Amy Whinehouse, "Cherry Wine" Rihanna feat. Jay-Z, "Talk That Talk" Best Rap Song Nas, "Daughters" Wale feat. Miguel, "Lotus Flower Bomb" Kanye West Featuring Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz, "Mercy" Drake feat. Lil' Wayne, "The Motto" Jay-Z & Kanye West, "N---as In Paris" Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa Featuring Bruno Mars, "Young, Wild & Free" Best Rap Album Drake, Take Care Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1 The Roots, Undun Nas, Life Is Good Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don't 2 Chainz, Based on a T.R.U. Story Best Country Song Carrie Underwood, "Blown Away" Ronnie Dunn, "Cost of Livin' " Eli Young Band, "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" Alan Jackson, "So You Don't Have to Love Me Anymore" Eric Church, "Springsteen" Best Americana Album The Avett Brothers, The Carpenter John Fullbright, From the Ground Up The Lumineers, The Lumineers Mumford & Sons, Babel Bonnie Raitt, Slipstream Best Blues Album Shemekia Copeland, 33 1/3 Dr. John, Locked Down Ruthie Foster, Let It Burn Heritage Blues Orchestra, And I Still Rise Joan Osborne, Bring It on Home Head to Grammy.comfor the nominees in all 81 categories! Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone [Photo Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images] More: Wait, Really? 12 Grammy Winners You Won't Believe American Music Awards Winners' List: Did Justin Bieber Best Rihanna For Top Honors? The 2012 MTV Video Music Awards Winners Are...
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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.