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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Oprah sat down with Andy Cohen on his show Watch What Happens Live last night and it was epic. Actually, epic might be an understatement. Because, not only did Oprah slap Andy silly, but she also watched some koala sex. O-yes!
First off, let's talk about the groundbreaking moment when Oprah slapped Andy. Andy asked Oprah to smack him across the face while reenacting a pivotal scene from her new movie Lee Daniels' The Butler, and yeah it was awesome. Of course, Oprah didn't actually full-on swat Andy, but she did a mighty-fine job at fake slapping! After her playful slap-a-roo, Oprah gets all serious, reprising her character Gloria Gaines as she dramatically delivers a line from the film, which prompts Andy to squeal "She has the nomination." And we have to agree with Andy, Oprah absolutely kills it.
Now, if you thought that slap sequence was earth-shatteringly incredible, you're in for a treat, alright! Oprah and Andy even played a little game show, Encycl-O-Pedia. The outrageously optimistic host quizzed Oprah on her knowledge of her O-tastic twenty-five years on The Oprah Winfrey show. While the whole game-show was truly giggle-inducing, a few hilarious bits jump out. First off, we watch Oprah reminisce while watching her jam along to Mariah Carey's performance of "We Belong Together," but she doesn't quite nail the lyrics. I guess no one ever taught Oprah the "watermelon" lip-synching trick, eh? Secondly, Cohen reminds Oprah of when she couldn't help but blurt out "cum" in 1991. And last but definitely not least, Oprah watches herself O-gasm at the sight of two koala bears in the sack. Who knew Oprah was into koalas so much?!
And the greatest part of the whole interview? Oprah compliments Andy on his gregarious, uplifting spirit before declaring to him "you carry the light". Although I'm not really sure what carrying said light entails, it sure sounds magical. So, Oprah if you want to throw an ambiguous, seemingly metaphoric compliment my way, I'd be honored.
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Academy Award winner Kate Winslet. Academy Award winner Halle Berry. Academy Award nominee Hugh Jackman. Academy Award nominee Greg Kinnear. Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts. Academy Award host Seth MacFarlane. Definitely Nowhere Near The Academy Awards Johnny Knoxville and Snooki. All together on the big screen, at long last. Well, kind of.
The only thing more baffling than trying to make sense of what exactly Movie 43 is about (we'll get to that), is figuring out how in the hell they assembled half of Hollywood to be in a no-holds-barred raunch fest that was made for just around $6 million. Peter Farrelly (the other half of the Farrelly brothers behind comedy classics such as Kingpin, There's Something About Mary, and their masterpiece Dumb and Dumber, as well as its in-the-works sequel) is a producer and one of the dozen directors to contribute to the comedy, which opens in theaters today. Farrelly a simple explanation for all of this: fellow producer Charles Wessler, who has worked with the Brothers Farrelly on all their films.
"It's the brainchild of Charlie Wessler. He'd been talking about this for years, basically what he wanted to do was a Kentucky Fried Movie thing," Farrelly says. After receiving hundreds of submissions and scripts, Wessler settled on roughly forty and then set his sights on some of the biggest names in the business to star.
As Farrelly put it, "The world doesn't know Charlie Wessler, but Charlie Wessler knows everybody. He was a P.A. on Star Wars, he was the assistant to the director on Empire of the Sun. He's done a million things. So he would call actors like Richard Gere and say, 'Hey Richard, you wanna do this short film?' We have no money. You're working for one day for scale, but there's gonna be a lot of laughs."
If that didn't sell the sizzle enough to the all-star cast (which also includes the likes of hot commodities Emma Stone, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and Jason Sudeikis, to name just a few), the various directors whole filmed segments of Movie 43 over the span of two years (with different writers and crews, as well), catering to when and where the actors could film. Production even waited a full year for Gere, whose conflicts kept him unavailable for this extended period of time.
While it seemed like a pretty convenient deal for the busy stars participating, there was one A-lister who wasn't swayed by the lure of working on the mysterious Movie 43. "[George] Clooney told us to f**k off," Farrelly admits.
As such, everyone but Clooney (and Colin Farrell, and South Park's Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who each reportedly dropped out of the project along the way) was on board. So what exactly did the stars who stayed put get themselves in to?
Movie 43, a series of short films connected by a wrap-around featuring "Dennis Quaid as a down-and-out producer" pitching crazy ideas, is a very different breed of the big ensemble movie. "My fear with that is people will think it's like a Valentine's Day-type movie," Farrelly says.
Anything but. Movie 43 features a series of gross-out jaw-dropper shorts, including the Farrelly-directed sequence about a woman on a blind date (Winslet) whose suitor (Jackman, pictured above) has it all: good looks, charm, money, and…a pair of testicles that hang from his chin that no one else but her seems to notice. While Farrelly doesn't expect the Oscar-nominated Les Mis star to be out stumping for Movie 43 ("You're not gonna see him at our premiere, he's got things to do"), he and Winslet were all-in for their shoot.
"Hugh and Kate were just sensational because it's such a ballsy little piece." (Get it?!) "They embraced it so much and they were so committed and so into it. There was no hesitation. In fact, it was the other way. Both of them were going off the page doing insane things. They got into the swing of it," Farrelly says of his time with the stars, calling the shoot "two hilariously fun days."
Even with A-listers going, ahem, balls-out, this is a moviegoing generation living in the age of Funny or Die. Nowadays, celebrities taking part in outrageous, image-shattering shorts is not only the norm, but free of charge. "Funny or Die is sensational, I wish I'd started it," Farrelly says, "but they do have restrictions to what you can say and do. We wanted to do something that you can't do on Funny or Die. We wanted to push it past the Funny or Die ceiling."
Farrelly, along with the various directors and producers, also realized that coming up with a Kentucky Fried Movie (which came out in 1977) or Groove Tube (from 1974, which Farrelly cites as another influence as an ensemble sketch comedy movie) for a new era provided another challenge with today's breed of moviegoers. "Things have changed since Kentucky Fried Movie in that attention spans have shortened. You can't just have one short after another. Because then you just have people looking at their watches, like 'All right, I don't know if I want to start another short,'" he says.
Alongside Wessler, fellow producer John Pennotti, and Relativity, Farrelly and co. narrowed down which of the shorts would make it into Movie 43. "There were a couple that didn't make the final cut, we knew that would happen. The reasons they didn't make it is they were either redundant, in that there had been a short that was similar, or it just felt like overkill or trying too hard in trying to shock people. We really tried to find the right rhythm so people wouldn't feel manipulated," Farrelly explains, adding, "It gives us stuff for the DVD."
Movie 43 opens in theaters today.
[Photo credit: Universal Pictures]
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At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is just the kind of tortured addlepated writer you'd expect to find all alone in a backwoods upstate New York cabin in his ubiquitous ratty moth-eaten robe hair disheveled from the couch pillows on which he's constantly sleeping Jack Daniels bottle lurking conveniently on the coffee table and a blank page in his typewriter. It comes as no surprise that Mort's been unceremoniously dumped by wife Amy (Maria Bello) whom he found cheating on him in a hotel room with unctuous Ted (Timothy Hutton). Not much for Mort to do then besides rattle around his cabin trying (sorta) to stay awake long enough to pound out a few sentences of his latest work of fiction--until that is a black-hatted good ol' Southern boy calling hisself John Shooter (John Turturro) shows up on the doorstep accusing Mort of plagiarizing his short story "Secret Window " several years ago. With only a few days to prove to this Shooter that his story was his own before the guy makes good on his threats to kill everyone Mort knows Mort finds himself with a sticky situation on his hands--literally as pretty soon first his dog then his neighbors start turning up with screwdrivers sticking out of them.
Cast any other actor as Mort and the movie would sink faster than a truckload of bodies in a rock-quarry lake. As it is this is pretty silly horror fluff that barrels headlong into camp territory--but Depp knows it the whole time managing a self-awareness that avoids winking at the audience just enough to pull off some real tongue-in-cheek corkers. As he sinks his teeth into the corny stuff ("This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife " he muses a la the Talking Heads while lurking outside his house now inhabited by Ted and Amy) he proves yet again that he can work miracles with the kind of material he's given. It's entirely to his credit that Secret Window ends up a highly entertaining little horror movie. He's not necessarily to blame however for the pathetic lack of chemistry he has with cuckolding wife Amy. Not only does she dwarf him physically but it's also next to impossible to believe they were ever into each other despite mushy flashbacks that show them lovingly decorating the cabin or cavorting in their big house in the 'burbs. Turturro chews the scenery with gusto Hutton is effectively oily and Charles S. Dutton makes a quick but decent turn as Mort's protective lawyer.
Filmmakers seem to have a hard time successfully translating Stephen King's writing to the big screen and have done so with wildly varying results (read: from Shawshank Redemption to Dreamcatcher). But you have to give credit to writer David Koepp (Spider-Man Panic Room) who took on directing duties here for winding up a pretty tight little B-movie that ends up being entertaining in spite of (or perhaps because of) having more ham in it than an Easter dinner. Plus your guess about the "who" in "whodunit" will no doubt be spot-on. Despite all its homespun hokum despite the fact that the entire first third of the movie seems to be a musing on whether Mort can ever get to sleep in peace and despite the fact that the final third of the movie is about as secret as a glass window the blackhearted true-to-King ending still comes as something of a shocker. Kudos goes to the moody understated score by Philip Glass (The Hours) which ramps up the suspense without overwhelming it.