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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Cop thriller Cold War has triumphed at the 2013 Hong Kong Film Awards, picking up nine trophies. Moviemakers Longman Leung and Sunny Luk earned prizes for Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay, while Tony Leung Ka Fai won the Best Actor trophy for his portrayal of a police commissioner caught up in a hostage situation.
The project also took home trophies in the categories of Visual Effects, Sound Design and Editing.
Former singer Miriam Yeung nabbed her first Best Actress award for her role in romantic comedy Love in the Buff, while Vulgaria co-stars Dada Chan and Ronald Cheng emerged victorious in the supporting acting categories.
Other big winners at Saturday's (13Apr13) ceremony included actor Jackie Chan, who picked up his eighth HKFA honour for Best Action Choreography in Chinese Zodiak, and Drunken Master director Ng See-yuen, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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With the unveiling of the official competition and Un Certain Regard lineups for the Cannes Film Festival Thursday morning in Paris came the news that Mel Gibson will be striding up the red carpet next month.
The actor will be out to support Jodie Foster’s The Beaver which has an out-of-competition berth. That news, which was imparted by the festival’s general delegate Thierry Fremaux ahead of announcing the films in official competition, was just one bit of info which appeared to get the assembled journalists all a-Twitter.
The rest of the announcements, while somewhat anticipated, make for a Cannes festival that will be heavy on art house bigwigs and newcomers alike.
The roster of returning talent includes such powerhouse auteurs as Lars von Trier with Melancholia, Pedro Almodovar with The Skin I Live In, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne with Le Gamin au Velo, Aki Kaurismaki with Le Havre, Radu Milhaileanu with La Source des Femmes, Nanni Moretti with We Have a Pope, Paolo Sorrentino with This Must Be the Place and, of course, Terrence Malick with Tree of Life. That film had actually been expected to be in competition last year but was not ready in time. Malick won the directing prize for Days of Heaven when he was last in competition in 1979.
Sean Penn stars in the English-language Sorrentino film and in Tree of Life which also has Brad Pitt – a near-certain bet to make an appearance in Cannes – and Jessica Chastain. Other stars potentially gracing the red carpet in support of their films include Kirsten Dunst and Kiefer Sutherland who star in Melancholia while Pitt’s partner Angelina Jolie is a likely attendee for the Kung Fu Panda sequel, although that film is not among the official selections.
The cast of Woody Allen’s opening night film, Midnight in Paris includes Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and model/singer-turned-first-lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy while Rob Marshall’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is screening out of competition which can only mean that Johnny Depp and French partner Vanessa Paradis will be on hand on the Riviera.
But, while a major element of Cannes is the glitz and glamour, the most important component is the films.
Along with the big name auteurs this year will be new talent like Australian Julia Leigh whose first film Sleeping Beauty has scored a competition berth. There are 19 films in competition and 19 in the complementary Un Certain Regard sidebar. All told, there are six female directors with films across the two sections which marks a first for the festival.
Austrian Markus Schleinzer is no stranger to Cannes having acted as casting director for many of the films of Palme d’Or winner Michael Haneke, but this time he’ll be on the Croisette with his directorial debut, Michael.
Making his first trip to Cannes is cult favorite Nicolas Winding Refn. The Pusher director will be on hand with competition entry Drive which stars Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan.
Other English-language titles include Sean Durkin’s feature debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene which originally premiered in Sundance and stars Elizabeth Olsen. That film will run in Un Certain Regard. Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin with Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly is in competition.
In introducing the selection, which has some notable absences (Dominik Moll’s The Monk and David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method among them), Fremaux remarked that although he and his committees chose 49 films for the official selection, “there were a lot more than 49 films that we liked.”
Cannes runs from May 11-22 with Robert De Niro overseeing the main jury as president. Keep an eye out for Hollywood.com’s Cannes blog which will run down the daily festivities direct from the Riviera and the red carpet.
Full list of official selection films:
Midnight in Paris - Woody Allen
The Skin I Live In - Pedro Almodovar
House of Tolerance - Bertrand Bonello
Pater - Alain Cavalier
Footnote - Joseph Cedar
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia - Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Le Gamin au Velo - Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Le Havre - Aki Kaurismaki
Hanezu No Tsuki - Naomi Kawase
Sleeping Beauty - Julia Leigh
Poliss - Maiwenn
The Tree of Life - Terrence Malick
La Source des Femmes - Radu Mihaileanu
Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai - Takashi Miike
We Have a Pope - Nanni Moretti
We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lynne Ramsay
Michael - Markus Schleinzer
This Must Be the Place - Paolo Sorrentino
Melancholia - Lars Von Trier
Drive - Nicolas Winding Refn
Out of Competition
The Conquest - Xavier Durringer
The Beaver - Jodie Foster
The Artist - Michel Hazanavicius
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Rob Marshall
Un Certain Regard
Restless - Gus Van Sant (opening film)
The Hunter “ Bakur Bakuradeze
Halt auf freier Strecke - Andreas Dresen
Hors Satan - Bruno Dumont
Martha Marcy May Marlene - Sean Durkin
The Snows of Kilamanjaro - Robert Guedeguian
Skoonheid - Oliver Hermanus
The Day He Arrives - Hong Sang-soo
Bonsai - Cristian Jimenez
Tatsumi - Eric Koo
Arirang - Kim Ki-duk
Where Do We Go Now? - Nadine Labaki
Loverboy - Catalin Mitulescu
Yellow Sea - Na Hong-jin
Miss Bala – Gerardo Naranjo
Trabalhar Cansa - Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra
L’Exercice de l’Etat - Pierre Schoeller
Toomelah - Ivan Sen
Oslo, August 31 - Joachim Trier
Wu Xia - Chan Peter Ho-Sun
Dias de Gracia - dir. Tekla Taidelli
Labrador - Frederikke Aspock
Le Maitre des Forges de l’Enfer - Rithy Panh
Michel Petrucciani - Michael Radford
Tous Au Larzac - Christian Rouaud
Networks tread lightly on election results
TV networks were determined not to repeat the same mistake they did in the 2000 election by calling out an early winner and instead dubbed the results "too close to call"--with the exception of Fox News Channel and NBC. Fox declared President Bush had won Ohio at 12:41 a.m. EST followed by Alaska at 1 a.m., announcing at least a tie for the presidency with 269 electoral votes. NBC followed suit and called Ohio and Alaska for Bush at 1 a.m. "This race is all but over," NBC anchor Tom Brokaw said. But by 5 a.m., ABC, CBS, CNN and The Associated Press, four other news organizations that received the same vote count and exit poll information as NBC and Fox, had kept Ohio in the "too close to call" category. But Brokaw said the network would not act as the arbiter. "There will be no declaration from us tonight as long as the Kerry campaign is contesting in Ohio," he said. ABC wouldn't call Ohio either--even though analyst George Stephanopoulos said it was almost mathematically impossible for Kerry to win. According to ABC's Terry Moran, the fact that none of the networks were declaring Bush the winner appeared to have irritated the White House. "Essentially…the president and his team is waiting for him to be declared the winner by us," he said. CNN's Jeff Greenfield, meanwhile, told the AP the 2000 election night ignominy--when all of the networks twice prematurely declared a winner in Florida and awarded the presidency to George W. Bush weeks before it was settled--had a lot to do with the network's indeterminate state. "If we hadn't gone through what we had gone through in 2000, we probably would have called Ohio for Bush," Greenfield said.
Jackie Chan not thinking of retirement just yet
Jackie Chan may have turned 50 this year, but the martial arts star has no plans to retire anytime soon. "I don't know how far I can go, but I'll just keep going. I feel I still can do it," Chan told a news conference in Singapore, where he is promoting the share market listing of Hong Kong-based film company Media Asia Entertainment Group Ltd. Chan, best known for performing most of his own stunts, came close to death in 1985 after falling from a tree and splitting his skull open. But he said would like to make more action movies both in Hollywood and Asia." Movies are my business and movies are my job," he said. "But if I am not in front of the screen then I would become a director or producer."
Delaney washes up in The O.C.
Fox's The O.C. and NBC's The West Wing are beefing up their lineups. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Emmy-winner Kim Delaney landed a key role on The O.C. as an ex-flame who reappears in character Sandy Cohen's (Peter Gallagher) life. She is slated to appear in at least five episodes of the show. Teri Polo, meanwhile, will play the potential first lady and wife of Jimmy Smits' character Matthew Santos, a three-term Democratic congressman from Texas with strong presidential aspirations in the political drama The West Wing. Polo is set to do four episodes this season and has an option for 12 more next season, provided the show returns for a seventh year.
CBS, NBC pull shows
CBS' Dr. Vegas and NBC's Father of the Pride have become the first casualties of the new television season, Reuter reports. CBS said it would put the new Rob Lowe drama, which ranked 53rd among prime-time network programs, on an indefinite hiatus, while NBC has yanked Pride, an expensive foray into computer-animated about a family of talking lions, from its schedule completely. The move comes amid admissions by network executives that NBC has struggled this season, with ratings for its target audience of viewers aged 18 to 49 on the decline following years of dominance in that demographic, Reuters reports.
Ailing LL Cool J cancels tour
LL Cool J, who is touring in support of his latest album The DEFinition, has canceled the remaining 12 dates on his tour due to an abdominal ailment, the AP reports. "I am extremely disappointed to have to cancel the rest of this fun and successful tour," the 36-year-old rapper-actor said in a statement. Shows have been canceled in cities including Atlanta and Miami. "I apologize for disappointing my fans who have already bought tickets." A release from his publicist said he is under a doctor's care and requires medication and rest. Ticket holders can seek refunds at the point of purchase.
Patty Duke to have bypass surgery
Actress Patty Duke, who won a best-supporting Oscar in 1963 for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, will undergo single heart bypass surgery Wednesday at an Idaho hospital, the AP reports. Hospital spokeswoman Lisa Johnson said Tuesday the actress is expected to make a successful recovery. Duke, 57, was admitted last spring to the center for insertion of a stent in one of her arteries to improve blood flow. Duke, who was married to John Astin from 1973 to 1985, is the mother of Lord of the Rings star Sean Astin. For years, it was believed John Astin was his father but genetic testing proved rock promoter Michael Tell, whom Duke was to married for less than a month, was actually Sean's father.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.
Top Story: Britney Could Be Next Daisy Duke
Teen pop idol Britney Spears could be the next Daisy Duke--tiny shorts and all. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Spears has been mentioned as one possibility to play Daisy in Warner Bros.' big-screen version of The Dukes of Hazzard, based on the hit TV series that ran from 1979 through 1985. Other actors who have expressed interest in the project include Ashton Kutcher for the role of Bo Duke, Paul Walker as Luke Duke and Anthony Anderson as Boss Hogg. There is no word, however, on who might portray Roscoe P. Coltrane. Although there are no details on scribe Jonathan Davis's screenplay, reports say it will have Coltrane and his dog chasing 'dem Duke boys while Boss Hogg plots to get their land with a scheme involving out-of-town businessmen. Daisy, in her little shorts, will most likely serve as a distraction as the Dukes vindicate themselves--all in the name of moonshine.
Joaquin Phoenix Defends Buffalo Soldiers
Joaquin Phoenix said his latest movie, Buffalo Soldiers, has nothing to do with the conflict in Iraq. In the film, which has been criticized for its negative depiction of American soldiers, Phoenix stars as a battalion supply clerk stationed in Germany at the close of the Cold War who runs every racket imaginable at the base, including black marketing Mop & Glo and cooking dope. But Phoenix said he does not think the movie, written and directed by Australian Gregor Jordan, is a critique of the U.S. military. "It's more of a statement film and kind of a cynical statement at that," told the Boston Globe Sunday. "It explores the idea that war is inherent in man, and there's a seeming desire for conflict. It could be applied to any situation and any military."
Box Office Nose Dives in July
July proved a disappointing month for the North America box office as theater admissions fell below the $200 million mark for the first time since 1997. According to The Hollywood Reporter, estimated admissions for July were $194.1 million, down 4 percent from the $202.5 million tallied during the same time last year. Ticket sales were up slightly--2 percent--compared to last year, but the increase has been attributed to a rise in ticket prices rather than the number of tickets sold. Of July's 13 wide releases, as compared to 12 in July 2002, only two films grossed more than $100 million each as opposed to three in 2002.
"Iron Mike" Tyson Knocked Out by Finances
Boxing champ Mike Tyson, once estimated to be worth at least $300 million, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan Friday in an attempt to bring some order to his finances, Reuters reports. Tyson blames his financial woos on boxing promoter Don King and has a $100 million lawsuit pending against the ring promoter, claiming he was cheated out of millions when he went back to fighting for him after his release from prison in 1995. Last year, Tyson also claimed lack of funds prevented him from paying estranged wife Monica Turner Tyson $10 million in a divorce settlement.
Jackie Chan in TV Spot To Boost Hong Kong Tourism
Veteran action star Jackie Chan is starring in a TV commercial in a bid to revive tourism in Hong Kong after the SARS outbreak, The Associated Press reports. Hong Kong business leaders estimate the SARS outbreak earlier this year cost the city between $4-6 billion in retail trade and airline and hotel businesses. In the ad, to be broadcast in 30 cities around the world, the Hong Kong-born star will simply greet potential visitors in several languages. TV viewers in the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada as well as mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia will see Chan's commercial in the coming weeks.
Ex-Motley Crue Singer Charged with Battery
Former Motley Crue singer Vince Neil has been charged with misdemeanor battery for allegedly attacking a prostitute at a brothel last month, the AP reports. According to the criminal complaint, the 42-year-old singer allegedly grabbed prostitute Andrea Terry by the throat and threw her against a wall July 10 at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch just east of Carson City, Nev. Brothel owner Dennis Hof told the New York Daily News that Neil and Terry got into an argument because he did not want to have sex with her. Neil had stopped by the brothel following a July 9 concert in Reno with 1980s metal bands Poison and Skid Row. If convicted, Neil could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Tupac's Hummer on eBay Auction Block
A woman who won a 1996 Hummer that belonged to the late rapper Tupac Shakur in a Black Entertainment Television sweepstakes will auction the vehicle on eBay.com. According to CNN.com, the black SUV is said to be in mint condition and loaded with Shakur's personal items including an invite addressed to him dated September 1, 1996. Shakur was killed following a drive by shooting on September 7, 1996. Bidding begins August 13 at $500,000 and is scheduled to end on August 23. The owner says she plans to use the money for an educational fund for her children.
Role Call: William Friedkin To Helm Skulls
The Exorcist director William Friedkin will helm The Book of Skulls for Paramount Pictures. According to Variety, the story, based on Robert Silverbur's novel, centers on a quartet of collegians who discover an ancient book containing the secret to eternal life and the high cost attached. Friedkin received an Oscar nom for directing the 1973 horror thriller The Exorcist--just two years after winning the Best Director Oscar for The French Connection.