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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“Wouldn’t it be interesting,” proposed one Craig Thomas to his friend and writing partner Carter Bays back during their youthful days of creative exploration at Wesleyan University, “to craft a television series around a grown man’s recollection of all the paths that led to the union of he and his eventual wife?”
“Perhaps,” Bays countered, “but what would really be interesting if we had that same man recalling all the paths that led to the union of his friends Robin and Barney.”
“Yes,” Thomas agreed. “We should probably just focus on that.” And they did. Thus, How I Met Your Mother.
Even as one of the better episodes of the present season, this week’s “Lobster Crawl” falters in regards to one incredibly important element: Ted. All season long, with the exception of the filler material involving him with Victoria, Ted has been used as set dressing. He offers a nerdy quip or a… well, actually, no. There is no “or.” Even his comedy is pretty one-dimensional these days. Ted is there to push the episodes to their full 22 minutes while Robin and Barney bat around their confusing feelings for one another, and while Lily and Marshall deal with the nonissue of having a kid that can be conveniently placed offstage and forgotten about whenever a scene calls for it.
It’s okay to have an episode or two that shafts Ted to the background — his friends, as full and important characters, deserve their due time at the center of the plot. But week after week lately, we learn nothing about Ted or his journey. We don’t delve further into his quest to meet the future Mrs. Mosby, but instead pass the time, without witnessing any evolution for the so-called star, until the eventual introduction of whoever she’s supposed to be. It’s hard to really invest anymore — the show has long run dry on passion.
Sure, even long after The Office tumbled to deplorability did it manage the great sendoff it gave hero Michael Scott. So maybe, just maybe, we’ll still manage a wonderful, magical conclusion for Teddy Westside. But with all respect to Josh Radnor, he hasn’t yet displayed the tragic sensibilities exhibited by Steve Carell (an underrated dramatic actor, for sure). Furthermore, the four-camera format doesn’t lend as generously to fulfilling emotion as does the single camera perspective. But all that aside, acting and direction notwithstanding, it’s the writing that dominates. And How I Met Your Mother, while still capable of cranking out a fine joke here or there, or a feasibly well-crafted speech about friendship or love or mayonnaise salads or whatever it be, doesn’t hold the golden pen it once did.
This week, Ted plays the devoted babysitter for Lily and Marshall, reveling in all of young Marvin’s “firsts” that he witnesses, much to Lily’s chagrin. It is realized by the married couple that their friend is overcompensating with Marvin due to the emptiness in his own life resultant of both a lack of family and children and having no projects to work on since he finished designing that building… wait, is anyone else having a hard time remembering Ted finishing a building? Was it a really long time ago, or is it just a really uninteresting plotline?
At the forefront of the episode is Robin, working desperately (and pathetically) to attract Barney sexually in an effort to have one last fling and get him out of her system. In a sequence calling back to HIMYM’s favored “The Playbook” episode, Robin attempts a slew of half-cocked ideas (the “damsel in distress” routine, flirting with a bunch of guys in front of him, and putting on a seductive show with another woman) to woo Barney. And this series of scenes, the latter especially, brings up an important question.
How old are these people? On my count, they should be about 35 by now, give or take. Now, I’m not shooing the idea of remaining youthful and fun loving into maturity. But there comes a point at which dancing up on a brain-dead coworker to arouse a dude who says the word “bro” about 18 times a day is no longer charming. Perhaps I’m taking this too seriously, but it isn’t funny when Robin wrangles her weathergirl Brandi to turn Barney on, it’s uncomfortable. They’re too old for this kind of shtick now. On with the mother-meeting, please. Adulthood is inevitable, stop pushing it away!
Robin’s final attempt to attract Barney, a candid expression of her desires, is yet another failure. She shows up at his apartment only to find him engaged in a game of Crazy Eights with her nuisance of a coworker Patrice. See, following the Robin/Brandi show, Barney high tails it back to the television studio to sleep with Brandi… before realizing that she and this life are hardly what he really wants. As such, he forms a bond with the earnest Patrice, there working late, and the two begin a courtship of sorts bound to drive Robin batty. She really hates Patrice.
We haven’t long until the winter finale — the possible union of Robin and Barney, meeting of Ted and Whoever, jokes-about-sex-and-ghosts of Lily and Marshall. Surely Patrice will serve as some vehicle to get Barney to the altar (whether he’ll remain there is as of yet ambiguous). And as much as I have traditionally rooted for Barney and Robin, I’m ready for their back-and-forth to be done with. It’s tiresome, crowded, without any of the ballerina’s balance that an early seasons Ross and Rachel once shared… and I know, they’re always the control group, but what are you gonna do? They kind of nailed it.
So hopefully, we’ll soon see Barney and Robin tie the knot for good. Hopefully, we’ll see Ted and his wife-to-be find one another. I’m ready for these people to grow up, to start their lives, to get their payoff. I, as do many fans, still hold onto the great characters we once knew. And they deserve to find happiness, once and for all.
[Photo Credit: Carin Baer/Fox]
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Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
Hole frontwoman Courtney Love is suing her boyfriend's ex-wife. Her claim? That she's being stalked.
In the lawsuit, Love claims that Lesley Barber, the ex-wife of Geffen Records exec Jim Barber, allegedly tried to mow her down with her Volvo and threatened to burn her house down during a "20-month campaign of stalking."
The incident involving Barber's Volvo resulted in an injury to Love's foot when Barber ran over it with her car. The alleged attack on June 4 cost Love an acting part in the sci-fi thriller "John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars" and her $500,000 payment.
BRIDGING THE GENERATION GAP: Will the Material Mom and the queen of teen pop really get to sing together? That's what Sonicnet.com is reporting. According to a source familiar with the project, Britney Spears and Madonna will hit the studio in May. Spears' next album is scheduled to be in stores by early summer, meaning their collaboration may be included in the project.
Both singers have publicly praised each other. Spears has said that Madonna has taught her how to express herself, while Madonna has said she supports Spears' efforts. Yeah, OK.
Meanwhile, the two are going up against each other in the Best Female Pop Performance category at this year's Grammy Awards.
BEATLES ARE NO. 1: The Beatles' landmark album, "Revolver," has been named the greatest rock 'n' roll album of all time, according to a survey of musicians and critics conducted by VH-1.
Thirty years after the band broke up, they're still topping the charts with the release of "1," a compilation of the Fab Four's 27 No. 1 hits. The Beatles also dominated VH-1's survey with a total of five albums making the list. They included "Rubber Soul" (No. 6), "Abbey Road'' (No. 8), "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'' (No. 10) and "The Beatles,'' better known as the White Album (No. 11).
Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones also had five albums on the top 100 list. Seven other bands had three of their albums on the list, including Led Zeppelin, The Who, Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix. Others to make the list included Nirvana's "Nevermind" (No. 2) the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" (No. 3) and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" (No. 4).
Music and documentary footage of artists on the list will be shown in a five-hour special, "100 Greatest Albums of Rock & Roll,'' airing on VH-1 Jan. 15 through Jan. 19.
BUSTED! Rapper Vanilla Ice was arrested in Florida for allegedly attacking his wife during a domestic dispute, the Associated Press reports. Police say the musician, whose real name is Robert Van Winkle, placed his hand over his wife's mouth to shut her up. Van Winkle admits to pulling out some of her hair, but he says that was to keep her from jumping out of their truck while they were driving on Interstate 595.
The rapper, 32, was released Wednesday and released from Broward County Jail the next day on $3,500 bail. Prosecutors have 21 days to file charges.
"We had a heated argument,'' he said. "That's about it. It's not that big of a deal. I would never hit my wife or any girl or anything like that ... I love my wife, I love my kids, my life's fine, everything's good, no hitting, no drugs.''
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