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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Last week, Seth MacFarlane let it be known that the premiere episode was going to be all about the boys. From the juvenile jokes to skits on President Barack Obama and Ryan Lochte (hell Jeah!), it was a true boys-only club kind of a night. Well, perhaps with Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosting the second episode -- and for the second time -- the star of such lady-friendly flicks as 10 Things I Hate About You and 500 Days of Summer, women will be more of a focus. Kristen Wiig and Abbey Elliott may have moved on, but that's even more of a reason to make sure Saturday Night Live doesn't lose its funny female niche.
ONTO THE HIGHLIGHTS!
Off to a FINE Start: Things fired off a bit differently this time around as Kelly Ripa's (Nasim Pedrad) big blink-less eyes stared at audiences in the first skit. Yes, it was LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, and the Blind Sideyness of it all was enough to conjure a few belly laughs. Pharoah delivered a spot-on Strahan impersonation, especially when he squeaked through gapped front teeth about how amazing it is that HE GETS PAID to do essentially nothing! Their first guest was good ole' Robert Pattinson (Bill Hader). The smoldering scowl, the gentle hair toss, the brooding... oh it was glorious. I think it's safe to say we've made up for last week's boys show already.
Shirtless Gordon-Levitt!: What an opening monologue, you guys! The episode could have ended right here and it would have been just fine. More than fine! Because you know why? JGL heard a loud cry, a plea, to remove his shirt. And Lord did he listen. I should have known when he first walked on stage, chipper as ever and looking a bit pale in the face. The nerves, of course. And although his Looper line about Ashton Kutcher being the real life younger version of Bruce Willis, or something, I don't know it didn't really make sense, it was quickly forgotten when he segwayed into his Magic Mike number and RIPPED HIS SUIT OFF. At first, he didn't bare it all. He teased us a little keeping a tasteful vest on. But then, he ripped some more. And yes, HIS SHIRT CAME OFF. He has abs! And no hair! Who knew?! No one knew, no one until tonight. This changes everything.
Tres Equis: Or, The Son Of The Most Interesting Man In The World. Creative, catchy accent, manicured facial hair, it was all there! All you need to know: "He can make a woman cringe, just by entering the room." Overall, a short and sweet skit, though I fear JGL's gotten exceptionally attached to this character -- he's having way too much fun in all white. I don't think this is the last we'll see of TSOTMIMITW. I don't think so at all.
Tampons and Conservatives: We're back to the female portion of the evening. It doesn't get anymore estrogeny than a tampon commercial, and that is exactly what Vanessa Bayer owned. She was fantastic. I see Wiig in her, I do, and it's getting me all tingly. And what's better than spoofing a fluffy-haired, soft-voiced menstruating lady, you ask? Well, a clan of republicans handing out the latest brand: g.o.b. "Now with wings!", that's what.
Mumford & Sons: The musical entertainment of the night! They were everything you'd expect. The band rocked out, extremely aggressively actually, with "I Will Wait." It was super enjoyable, even for non-hipsters (though they really could have trimmed the facial hair just a bit). I was actually pleased to not hear "Little Lion Man," though let's be honest, an emo song is an emo song is an emo song.
Weekend Update: It's in good hands with Seth Myers, this I know to be true. The one negative thing I can say, it needs to be cut down a tad. Maybe a little more than a tad. I mean, it just seemed to take FOR-E-VER. But it was amusing. After ripping on Romney's tax return release and love of a good spray tan, he focuses on President Obama in a new segment "What Are You Doing?" Oh yeah, and comparing Romney's campaign to Lost was pretty amazing -- Is Clint Eastwood supposed to be the smoke monster? Then, Kate McKinnon enters as an impeccable Ann Romney. I just want to hear her say "Beyonce" over and over again. Is that possible yet? Yada yada, Pharoah is here -- God bless his impressions -- and tackles ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith to discuss Tim Tebow and Marc Sanchez.
The Finer Things: This was Keenan Thompson's spotlight act. He and Pharoah, clad in cheetah and army print, are a perfect pair. Sipping out of champagne glasses, the two chitchat about, what else, fashion! JGL enters in Yankees gear for some Fashion Week banter. Actually, they carried on a conversation about Marc Jacobs and Helmut Lang that made complete sense. It was bizarre and pleasantly impressive. Again, getting back in good graces with the women.
Let's End on That Note:There were a few more skits after The Finer Things, but aside from Mumford & Sons back on stage, it was pretty bland. Tim Robinson finally made his appearance as a man being set up with his co-worker's daughter and it was fairly disappointing (for the record, JGL in a dress was not disappointing). What I can gather from this episode is that SNL appears to be JUST FINE. It's off to a great start, and Gordon-Levitt proved for the second time that he can in fact be funny on a whim. "Weekend Update" was the ultimate must-watch-on-repeat video, as was JGL's Tres Equis skit. What did you think of the latest episode? Let us know by sounding off in the comments section below.
[Image Credit: NBC]
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Saturday Night Live Recap: Seth MacFarlane Gets Laughs, and the Boys Take Over
Saturday Night Live Premiere: Ushering In a New Era?
Jay Pharoah Set to Take Over Obama Impression This Fall
So, this is something to look forward to as long as Fox doesn't screw it up. The network is hosting the Emmys broadcast this year, but they need someone wonderful to host the actual show and if everything moves along smoothly, that someone will be Jane Lynch; hopefully with more than just her Sue Sylvester schtick.
Of course, as other networks have done in the past (ahem, CBS Emmys hosted by How I Met Your Mother's Neil Patrick Harris), Fox aims to use one of the comedic talents from their list of programming to take the hosting torch. They've also considered Seth MacFarlane, who (duh) created Family Guy and does quite a few of the voices, and Ryan Seacrest is always a viable backup because he's done it before and he's pretty much willing to host anything. However, their top choice -- and the best choice -- is Lynch and word has it, she's close to inking a deal.
She's hosted Fox's upfronts for the past two years as her Sue Sylvester character from Glee, and while she does it fantastically, I really hope that only gets a few measly minutes or airtime when it comes time for the actual ceremony. Lynch has more talent than just her knack for dastardly humor, let's hope that when she inevitably signs on (because why wouldn't she?) they let her break loose a little. Could you imagine if NBC forced Jimmy Fallon to host the Emmys as Barry Gibb the whole time? Or as the obnoxious teenage Red Sox fan? It would have been awful. Instead we got a great show with an awesome opening number to the Boss' "Born to Run." Much better. Make sure you're paying attention, Fox.