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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The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Godzilla may finally get the film treatment he deserves. The hype behind next year's Godzilla roared at Comic-Con 2013. Con-goers who squeezed into Hall H approved of the trailer, which was reported to include at least another monster and had a serious tone.
Recently, leaked trailers of the film have hit the Internet, cluttering Twitter and Facebook feeds. Since they haven't been official, websites have been forced to take them down. But what was there for that brief time was good. Damn good. And popular.
A Dailymotion video garnered more than 100,000 views in just a matter of hours. YouTube had it. Movie sites praised the one minute and change trailer, uploading it on their site while collecting tons of viewers; people flooded the comments section about how strong the potential of Godzilla could be.
Why did the trailers get taken down? Whether Warner Bros. did this on purpose is unknown. Either way, it is a brilliant marketing ploy. Fans want to see the Big G in a serious American movie. That campy 1998 version starring Ferris Bueller won't cut it.
Director Gareth Edwards has promised Godzilla will be what fans are craving. Like Christopher Nolan did with the Dark Knight trilogy.
If you dig hard enough, there might be a trailer still up. What was there, however, featured destruction — busted trains, debris everywhere, holes in buildings. The majority of the trailer’s audio is J. Robert Oppenheimer's speech about the creation of the atomic bomb with this part standing out: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Of course during this time we see monster arms and legs and finally, Godzilla shouts his signature roar at the end.
A second trailer shows soldiers parachuting out of a plane to fight back against the mythical beast. Again, this trailer is serious stuff. You'll have to dig to find this one as well.
The 27 year old was recognised for his roles in Never Let Me Go and The Social Network, putting an end to Firth's monopoly of the awards season for his turn as King George VI in The King's Speech.
In a filmed message, Garfield told the crowd at the London Film Museum, "I really, really appreciate it and intend to let this spur me and provide more fuel for my fire".
Meanwhile, Kristin Scott Thomas was named the Best Actress for her part in French film Leaving, in which she plays a married woman who has an affair with a builder.
Filmmaker Peter Mullan's drama Neds, about violent youths in 1970s Scotland, won Best Film, beating Mike Leigh's Another Year and animated movie The Illusionist.
Other winners included Roger Allam, who accepted the Peter Sellers Comedy Award for his portrayal of a cheating writer in Tamara Drewe, and Gareth Edwards, who received a technical achievement trophy for his low-budget sci-fi movie Monsters.
Inception director Christopher Nolan was honoured for his contribution to cinema with the The Alexander Walker Special Award, named after the Evening Standard's late film critic.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has released its list of nominees for the annual BAFTA Awards, also known as the British Oscars or the only big awards show with a category just for British only. Surprise, surprise, the Brits have come out on top; the historical drama, The King’s Speech swept the noms with 14 in total. Close behind is Darren Aronofsky’s surprising thriller, Black Swan with 12 total nominations. The British Film category that comes in addition to the BAFTA’s “Best Film” category gives a second chance to 127 Hours, which doesn’t make the top five in the overall category but has the chance to take the top Brits-only honor. Also of note, 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld, who’s blowing audiences away in December’s True Grit, merits the grownup honor of a nomination for best lead actress for her role in the film (mini fist pump!).
While the awards will be broadcast exclusively on BBC One, sorry America, it’s still worth knowing which films made the cut.
And the nominees are:
• Black Swan - Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver, Scott Franklin
• Inception - Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
• The King’s Speech - Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
• The Social Network - Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Céan Chaffin
• True Grit - Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Outstanding British Film
• 127 Hours - Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, Christian Colson, John Smithson
• Another Year - Mike Leigh, Georgina Lowe
• Four Lions - Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Mark Herbert, Derrin Schlesinger
• The King’s Speech - Tom Hooper, David Seidler, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
• Made in Dagenham - Nigel Cole, William Ivory, Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer
• The Arbor - Director, Producer - Clio Barnard, Tracy O’Riordan
• Exit Through The Gift Shop - Director, Producer – Banksy, Jaimie D’Cruz
• Four Lions - Director/Writer - Chris Morris
• Monsters - Director/Writer – Gareth Edwards
• Skeletons - Director/Writer – Nick Whitfield
• 127 Hours - Danny Boyle
• Black Swan - Darren Aronofsky
• Inception - Christopher Nolan
• The King’s Speech - Tom Hooper
• The Social Network - David Fincher
• Black Swan - Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz, John McLaughlin
• The Fighter - Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
• Inception - Christopher Nolan
• The Kids Are All Right - Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
• The King’s Speech - David Seidler
• 127 Hours - Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
• The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel
• The Social Network - Aaron Sorkin
• Toy Story 3 - Michael Arndt
• True Grit - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Film Not In the English Language
• Biutiful - Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik, Fernando Bovaira
• The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Søren Stærmose, Niels Arden Oplev
• I Am Love - Luca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi D’Eril, Marco Morabito, Massimiliano Violante
• Of Gods And Men - Xavier Beauvois
• The Secrets In Their Eyes - Mariela Besuievsky, Juan José Campanella
• Despicable Me - Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
• How To Train Your Dragon - Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
• Toy Story 3 - Lee Unkrich
• Javier Bardem – Biutiful
• Jeff Bridges - True Grit
• Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
• Colin Firth - The King’s Speech
• James Franco - 127 Hours
• Annette Benning - The Kids Are All Right
• Julianne Moore - The Kids Are All Right
• Natalie Portman - Black Swan
• Noomi Rapace - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
• Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit
• Christian Bale - The Fighter
• Andrew Garfield - The Social Network
• Pete Postlethwaite - The Town
• Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
• Geoffrey Rush - The King’s Speech
• Amy Adams - The Fighter
• Helena Bonham Carter - The King’s Speech
• Barbara Hershey - Black Swan
• Lesley Manville - Another Year
• Miranda Richardson - Made in Dagenham
• 127 Hours - AR Rahman
• Alice In Wonderland - Danny Elfman
• How to Train Your Dragon - John Powell
• Inception - Hans Zimmer
• The King’s Speech - Alexandre Desplat
• 127 Hours - Anthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak
• Black Swan - Matthew Libatique
• Inception - Wally Pfister
• The King’s Speech - Danny Cohen
• True Grit - Roger Deakins
For the full list of nominees, visit the BAFTA site, here.
I wish I could say I'm surprised at the news that director Gareth Edwards has been tapped to direct a remake of Godzilla (the original Toho creation, not the Roland Emmerich American abomination), but I'm not. This is Hollywood, after all; if you can't find the shortest straight line between two dots, you're fired.
Edwards made a movie called Monsters. Legendary Pictures wants to remake the king of all monsters. The shortest line between the two is Edwards. Duh. That's the cynic in me talking, of course. If it were any other studio, I'd let the cynic win out right off the bat, but this is Legendary Pictures we're talking about. It's not some mass-production studio that cranks movies out like a sausage factory. It's the defiant outfit that paired up Christopher Nolan with Batman, Spike Jonze with Where the Wild Things Are and Zack Snyder with Watchmen. While not all of the studio gambles pay off, its track record for matching bold, uniquely stylized directors with iconic cinematic material is simply unmatched in Hollywood these days. But is giving Godzilla to Gareth Edwards really thinking all that outside the box? That's not a slight against Edwards. I think he's a tremendous talent and I've been a huge and vocal supporter of Monsters since I was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere of it. Even with only one film under his belt, he's earned enough credit in my book to be a director I'll be keeping an excited eye out for for years to come. But that's the problem I have -- that Edwards has made only one film. Sure, it's a mighty impressive film, the production of which should inspire anyone who has ever wanted to make movies their own way, but he's still a very green director. My concern isn't that he's incapable of going from a $100,000 budget to a $100 million budget (I'm just guessing here, as the Godzilla budget hasn't been disclosed); it's that in the scheme of things, Edwards is actually a very safe bet. It isn't because he just made a giant monster movie so another one will be easy, either. It's because a Godzilla remake isn't all that exciting to begin with. He's a giant lizard that destroys cities. As long your Godzilla movie has a giant lizard destroying a city, 95 percent of your job is done already. That being the case, you need to make damn sure that the destruction is so awe-inspiring, so larger than life that you can't help but stare at it all slack-jawed. Naturally, the movie needs to be a special effects extravaganza, and once you're telling that kind of a story, who is doing the heavy lifting? The director? Or the special effects department? Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to see what Edwards will do. I just don't want to be so quick to say a Godzilla remake is going to be OMGAMAZING simply because it's directed by a guy who made a low-budget monster movie. I can all too easily envision this being a case of a studio picking a unique directorial talent to make a not-so-unique movie. I doubt that at this stage in his career, Edwards has the confidence to throw any weight around against studio decisions. And what happened the last time Legendary Pictures hired a unique directorial talent to make a by-the-numbers movie? We got Jonah Hex, that's what happened. The Crank duo was brought in to make a grungy "superhero" flick about a merciless gunslinger. But their approach to the material was just too out-there for its star, so Legendary gave in, the two left the project and a no-frills replacement was brought in. The result was a no-frills movie that's dull as dishwater. I fear that's exactly what's going to happen here, only Edwards won't even need to leave the project for it to happen -- he already is the easily controlled director for hire. I hope that doesn't end up being the case, of course. The glimmer of hope I have comes from knowing that all deals are a two-way street. Edwards no doubt had gobs of projects thrown at him after Hollywood found out about him, so for him to choose Godzilla above all tells me that he feels he has something to bring to the project. But only time will tell how much of that the studio actually lets him bring.