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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S2E7: The night started off with a Tweet sent my way from Voice contestants The Shields Brothers, saying the latest episode was “gonna be shocking!” It definitely started off that way with two great battles, one with the aforementioned Shields that absolutely was the craziest thing on TV since Gary Busey. The rest of the night cooled off a bit until the world witnesses the absolute strength of Erin Willett, who lost her father to cancer right after she wowed the world and made it to the live rounds. What a finish!
Neck Ties vs. Nerves
“Pip’s the guy ... he can do everything.” - Blake
Pip, our favorite bow-tie-and-suspenders-wearing sprite, was pitted against Nathan Parrett; both are such old souls. Apparently Nathan did not bring it in the blind auditions because Adam kept gushing over how he improved, leaving Pip a little jealous. Robin Thicke did all he could to help the ultra nervous Nathan break out of his shell, but Pip stepped out on the stage and immediately sounded like Michael Buble singing “You Know I’m No Good.” The battle was great and the two worked so well together; they're both stylish and their sounds blended so effortlessly. Adam chose the better performer - Pip - over the stronger voice in Nathan. Pip Wins!
Quiet vs. Riot “That was so weird, that was so weird, that was so weird.” - Adam Former model Erin Martin came next facing off against The Shields Brothers. It was rock and roll punching America in the face against a fluttery beauty with an upside. What a song choice by Cee Lo: “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” This has to be the most unique matchup The Voice has EVER seen. Erin, usually quiet, was showing her teeth early and became downright nasty at times. Ne-Yo wasn’t impressed with the beauty either. “I see you. Okay, you’re cute, what else you got?” Erin came out for battle dressed like the evil queen in Once Upon A Time or Snow White and the Huntsman and the Shields Brothers were their usual crazy selves in leather jackets and t-shirts. It was such an amazing, bizarre performance. It seemed like two different songs altogether. At times Erin sounded like a condor or a dinosaur but her unique style pushed Cee Lo to pick her. Don’t fret, the Shield Brothers already have a retaliation video. Erin Wins! Sexy vs. Seventeen “When I was singing to Christina, I did get lost a little bit. I just kept looking into those beautiful Blue eyes.” - Jonathas Jonathas got a little too lost. There was no way to live up to the Shields Brothers, but Jonathas and Ashley De La Rosa sure tried. The two sang “No Air” by Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks; it seemed a perfect match for the two. At times, Jonathas really sounded just like Usher with smooth sounds and sensual rhythms but other times he was just flat and reached his plateau. Ashley started off slow and scared but had some fleeting break out moments that showed her potential. In the end, Christina picked the 17 year-old, who just needs a little training to take her farther in this competition. Ashley Wins! Uptight vs. Unbelievable “Jermaine, you took this song and kicked its ass man!” - Adam Next came Jermaine Paul - Alicia Keys’ backup singer - against Alyx, who's probably the most prepackaged, cold teen singer on the show. The two had to sing Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” but it was never a contest. Blake tried to get the both to cut lose, which Jermaine took to heart. As for Alyx, even her cutting lose looked fake and pre-planned. Blake’s wife Miranda Lambert said she doubted that the young Alyx has ever let loose or had pure fun. Jermaine was the complete opposite, impressing Kelly Clarkson so much, she offered to bring him on tour with her. We can skip the battle because it was more like a massacre. Alyx gave a lame attempt at the end to cut lose and screamed “What the hell,” but no one was buying. Jermaine Wins! Underdog vs. Uncomfortable “As much as I love Angel’s voice, I think Katrina just flat out won this battle.” - Blake Angel Taylor battled Katrina Parker next to “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis and from the start, this song was better suited for Angel, who is on the show after dealing with an abusive father, but that didn’t seem to matter in the end when Hurricane Katrina brought it! Both of the coaches, Thicke and Alanis, wanted the two contestants to be vulnerable and feel the song. Adam even said to take those nerves and use them, even if you forget the words. When it was over, Christina compared Katrina to Adele - that's some big praise! Adam was hiding in his sweater when it was decision time, probably because he knew he had to go with the underdog who stole the show while Angel was kind of timid. Katrina Wins! Country vs. Catastrophe “I hope he knows I’m doing this for him.” - Erin He knows! No jokes here, what Erin Willett did next was nothing short of amazing. She faced off against her friend and country singer Gwen Sebastian singing “We Belong” but right before it was time to go on, she found out her father Chuck’s cancer had taken a turn for the worse and he had 24 hours left to live. Before this Erin was concerned that she didn’t want to overuse her powerful voice during the battle. That was all thrown out the window and the entire crowd, coaching panel and world was rooting for Erin. Even Gwen was smiling at Erin, rooting for her while they were actually battling. It was a finish to the show that had everyone a little teary eyed. Blake went with the powerful Erin, who sang her heart out for dad. Erin Wins! This battle round was the epitome of a classic bookend show, where the beginning and the end really made it a great episode. After watching Erin’s struggle, you forget about a flat performance or two and just get caught up in all the drama. Next week, we welcome the last battle round and prepare for the live shows. Every time you get comfortable, this show changes on you. Are you ready? What did you think of Erin’s performance? What did you think of The Shields Brothers? Do you think the right people were chosen? Let us know in the comments section below.
Kidney surgery wasn't enough to keep Steven Spielberg from making an impassioned plea for diversity. The 53-year-old director skipped the red carpet arrivals but mustered the strength to make it to the podium at the 31st NAACP Image Awards on Saturday in Pasadena, Calif.
Only a few days after having a kidney removed, the filmmaker -- looking no worse for his recent wear -- urged his peers in the industry to continue to "expand the opportunities of the portrayal of diversity in all medium." His call to action came after receiving the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Vanguard Award for his "pioneering courage to promote social justice through creative endeavors."
"A couple of days ago, I was in the hospital,'' the director said. ``This is the first time I've been out since my operation and it feels like a dream, an absolute dream.''
Spielberg was praised by the NAACP for tackling issues of diversity in films such as "The Color Purple" and "Amistad" -- even if more than a decade ago, questions as to whether Spielberg, as a white guy, was qualified to direct the story of black women in "The Color Purple" seemingly undermined the flick's chances for the 1985 Academy Awards. (It got 11 nods -- and zero wins.)
The night's big-screen acting awards, meanwhile, went to "The Best Man's" Nia Long and "The Hurricane's" Denzel Washington. The former pic was also the overall winner for outstanding motion picture. Washington's award, after his Golden Globe win for best actor, bodes well for his Oscar chances as wrongly imprisoned boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.
Less recognized by the NAACP on the night of the Image Awards were the accomplishments of the television industry. The group had previously announced that it had trouble finding enough minority characters on the small screen to honor. On the television front (such as it was), "ER's" Eriq LaSalle and "The Steve Harvey Show's " Steve Harvey were the winning actors in the drama and comedy categories, while "Touched by an Angel's" Della Reese and "Sister, Sister's" Tia and Tamera Mowry were the recognized actresses for drama and comedy series, respectively. Overall, "The Steve Harvey Show" was tapped best comedy, "Touched By an Angel" best drama.
Another notable winner: Rosa Parks. The real-life crusader, whose refusal to move to the back of a Alabama bus in 1955 sparked the modern-day civil rights movement, was honored for her work as an actress in a guest spot on CBS' "Touched By an Angel."
The Image Awards honor the work of minorities in film, TV, music and books. The awards will be presented in an April 6 telecast on Fox.
Here's a complete list of the 31st NAACP Image Awards winners:
Outstanding Motion Picture - "The Best Man" Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture - Denzel Washington, "The Hurricane" Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture - Nia Long, "The Best Man" Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture - Terrence Howard, "The Best Man" Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture - Angela Bassett, "Music of the Heart"
Youth Actor/Actress - Jurnee Smollett in "Cosby"
Outstanding Comedy Series - "The Steve Harvey Show" Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series - Steve Harvey, "The Steve Harvey Show" Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series - Tia Mowry and Tamera Mowry, "Sister, Sister" Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series - Cedric "The Entertainer," "The Steve Harvey Show" Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series - Jackee Harry, "Sister, Sister" Outstanding Drama Series - "Touched by an Angel" Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series - Eriq La Salle, "ER" Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series - Della Reese, "Touched By an Angel" Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series - Clarence Gilyard, "Walker, Texas Ranger" Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series - Rosa Parks, "Touched By an Angel" Outstanding Television Movie/Mini-Series/Dramatic Special - "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie/Mini-Series/Dramatic Special - Sidney Poitier, "The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn" Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie/Mini-Series/Dramatic Special - Halle Berry, "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series - Shemar Moore, "The Young and The Restless" Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series - Tonya Lee Williams, "The Young and the Restless" Outstanding Variety Series/Special - "1999 Essence Awards" Outstanding Performance in a Variety Series/Special - Steve Harvey, "It's Showtime at the Apollo" Outstanding News, Talk or Information Series - "BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley: Black Men in Crisis" (BET) Outstanding News, Talk or Information Special - "True Life: I Am Driving While Black" (MTV) Outstanding Youth or Children's Series/Special - "Teen Summit" (BET) Outstanding Performance in a Youth or Children's Series/Special - Lynn Whitfield, "The Planet of Junior Brown"
Outstanding Literary Work, Fiction - "Blues: For All Changes" by Nikki Giovanni Outstanding Literary Work, Non-Fiction - "Yesterday, I Cried" by Iyanla Vanzant Outstanding Literary Work, Children's - "If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks" by Faith Ringgold
Outstanding New Artist - Eve - "Ruff Ryder's First Lady" Outstanding Male Artist - Brian McKnight - "Back At One" Outstanding Female Artist - Whitney Houston, featuring Faith Evans and Kelly Price - "Heartbreak Hotel" Outstanding Duo or Group - Destiny's Child - "The Writing's On The Wall" Outstanding Rap Artist - Will Smith - "Wild Wild West" Outstanding Jazz Artist - Quincy Jones - "From Q, With Love" Outstanding Gospel Artist - Traditional - Vickie Winans - "Live in Detroit II" Outstanding Gospel Artist - Contemporary - Yolanda Adams - "Mountain High ... Valley Low" Outstanding Music Video - "Wild Wild West" - Will Smith (directed by Paul Hunter) Outstanding Song - "Spend My Life With You" - Songwriters: Eric Benet, George Nash Jr., Demonte Posey (Artist: Eric Benet) Outstanding Album - "The Best Man - Music from the Motion Picture" - Various Artists (Columbia).