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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After nearly four-and-a-half months of being without the breakout comedy New Girl and enduring the pain of watching the deserving Max Greenfield lose at the Emmys on Sunday, Fox had mercy on us New Girl fans and presented not one, but two, new episodes to kick off Season 2. It all made me so damn happy I could just burst into a terrible rendition of Deee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart" right at this very moment. Alas, I shall spare you and recap the eps instead.
When we last left the gang, they too were singing — and dancing — a happy tune in celebration of Nick's return. And they had just as much to be happy about at the beginning of the Season 2 premiere, "Re-launch". After a long, not-so-hard (har har) summer, Schmidt was finally getting his penis cast taken off; Nick was still earning his keep in the loft as the "gypsy alcoholic handyman" ("This isn't a fancy hotel!"); and Winston was…there. The only person who wasn't singing a happy tune was Jess. (Proof positive Jess and Zooey Deschanel aren't the same person, because Zooey would have burst into a song about cotton at this point). Jess' boss Tonya (Rachael Harris) informed Ms. Day that due to cutbacks the school was going to have to lay off non-tenured teachers like herself. And no amount of restraining herself from laughing at kids' hilarious names (lookin' at you, Vaj Rejuv) could save her: Jess was without a job. Much like when Schmidt went through his temporary hippie phase, Jess' unemployment, and subsequent identity crisis, shifted the dynamic of the crew. You know things are off when Crazy Old Man Nick is asking you if you're okay. Schmidt, on the other hand, was too busy planning the re-launch party for his penis and the Schmidt brand as a whole to notice. He did, however, allow Jess to work as a shot girl for his "danger"-themed party (alongside Parker Posey, who is killing it on the guest star front late, this time playing a literal halfwit) with a guest list included his neurologist, Philip Seymour Hoffman, a writer for Crank Yankers, and his ex lady love Cece. It had to be perfect. Of course, nothing is ever perfect, not even at a penis relaunch party. Go figure. Schmidt had to see Cece with her new beau Robbie (played by Nelson Franklin), and the sight of cut him to the core. And not just because he was a commoner "shaped like the Liberty Bell", but because he missed her and it was obvious she had to pick someone less complicated than Schmidt. That's the best thing about New Girl. It can go for "easy" comedy or schtick (i.e. Jess doing the Charleston wearing a tiny top hat as the world's worst shot girl) but it explains why the characters themselves go for laughs. Because, as Nick so perfectly put it while attempting to cheer up a down in the dumps Jess, "Life sucks and then it gets better and then it sucks again". I know, I know, an eloquent and sincere Nick? Maybe that spiritual journey in the desert really changed him, after all. Lest you worry Nick fans, much like Hippie Schmidt, by the time the second episode rolled around, the far superior "Katie", he was back to his usual ways. Jess, on the other hand, not so much. Still in full-on unemployed depression mode, Jess went so far as to pull a Ben Wyatt and make her own equivalent of "Requim For a Tuesday" and painted a picture of her roomies. Schmidt's cutting analysis of the "art": "What picture are you working with? My hair hasn't looked like that in three weeks!" But Jess didn't just, as Nick suggested, go off the grid. She went completely off the rails.After a series of romantic mishaps, including a mixup with wanting to get hooked up with a guy from Nick's bar (she instead got a weird, nebbishy dude named Bear Claw, played by the hilarious Josh Gad of Book of Mormon) and faking an online identity to a cute bar patron named Sam (David Walton). (Sorry, but wouldn't Sam have seen the real Katie's photo by now?) While it was important to see Jess break out of her mold of being a goody-goody (as "Katie" she juggled multiple guys and reveled in the perks of NSA nookie) we know that, like her unemployment, this rambunctious phase and relationship with Sam won't last. After all, Jess is a nice girl and one fine day, she'll have something with Nick. Well that and Walton is only slated for a few eps and Sam is a Creed fan, for godssake. A Creed fan! How do we know that major New Girl factoid about Future Jess and Nick? No, not some How I Met Your Mother-like twist. Rather, Future Nick (played to perfection by Justified's Raymond J. Barry) told Current Nick that someday he's going to have to apologize to Jess and "make her an Old Fashioned". Okay, so it wasn't "real time travel" as Nick had theorized, but really just a crazy old man in a box that curiously knew a lot about him (like, for instance, the fact that he likes to be behind the bar because it creates a barrier between him and other people). Still, when Nick shot Jess that knowing look with his sweet turtle face, maybe Current Nick knew more about his future than ever. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, everyman Jake Johnson is the unsung hero of this show. Speaking of looks, Schmidt was giving some serious sexy eyes to Winston's sister and spent the entirety of the episode trying to get in her basketball shorts. ("I'm like catnip to tough talking African American women", he bragged in his very Schmidty way). Schmidt's storyline wasn't nearly as entertaining as it was in the premiere, it was fun to see him back to his old ways. And besides, he still had way more to do than Winston who, over the course of two episodes, drank fruity cocktails and looked annoyed at Schmidt. In the words of Schmidt, "Winston is Winston". Kudos to the New Girl writers on that for at least acknowledging a little bit with a wink that Winston serves no real purpose on the show. Though "Katie" was an unquestionably stronger and funnier episode, the full hour of New Girl was everything I had been hoping and waiting for all summer. The jokes were fast and sharp, the sweet scenes were pulled off without being saccharine, and we all got some great new Schmidt-isms (His pronunciation of "hummus" would be well worth getting the toots for). I'm no Future Nick, but I see a solid season of New Girl ahead. Here now, are the best moments and lines from "Relaunch" and "Katie". "Re-launch" highlights: - "This is true, pure, unadulterated friendship"- Schmidt, in full penis cast garb (trash bag and all) to Nick, who watched in horror as Jess scratched his "itchy underthings" - Nicholas and Winstonia - Nick and Winston's full names, according to Schmidt - "Now I only wanna make a drink that a coal miner would want. Straight forward, honest, something that says, I work in a hole," - Nick, still clearly pining to be a fancy man. - "I'm Nick! I hate sunshine! When did gum get so fancy? This escalator goes too fast!" - Jess' priceless imitation of cranky Nick - "Get up on the bar and shake that piece of plywood you call an ass"- Nick being "mean" to Jess - "I'm not sure how to end this!" - Schmidt, after his fire twirling routine at the relaunch went downhill quickly "Katie" gems: - "Are you cooking a frittata in a saucepan? What is this, prison?" - Schmidt to Jess - "I can drink at 11…am" - Jess, going off the grid - "The loft just became Big Momma's House!"- Schmidt, upon Winston's mom's arrival - Schmidt's time travel sexual wish list: Marie Antoinette, Cleopatra, Young Ann Margret, Old Ann Margret - "Ask him about when I meet Kanye" - Schmidt's request for Future Nick - "He brewed me like a fine chamomile" - Jess, post Sam coitus - Nick as "Cricket the Leaper" - Schmidt referring to The Nutty Professor as a "cautionary tale - "Oh no, autocorrect changed body to meat bar"- Jess' sexting mishap- Jess experiencing the phenomena that is "for no reason whatsoever you are irresistible to the opposite sex". (It happened to Schmidt on the third night of the Hanukkah in 1996, better known as "night of the Shoshannas") - Jess confessing she wanted to grow up to be Jenny McCarthy ("She was so beautiful…all that swearing") while Nick, unsurprisingly wanted to be Kurt Loder. ("He is the elder statesman of our generation!")- Nick guessing that the future bad thing he does to Jess is getting drunk and accidentally peeing on all her pretty dresses. - Schmidt hitting himself in the face with a basketball during his face-off with Erica [Photo credit: Fox] More: Hey Giiirl, Whatcha Doin'? Prepping for 'New Girl' Before the Premiere, That's What! 'New Girl' Zooey Deschanel on Her Emmy Chances & Bad News for Nick-Jess Shippers'New Girl': Fox Casting VP Seth Yanklewitz Talks Emmy Nods, Season 2 and Guest Stars
Texas Rangers is loosely based on the actual story of the reconstitution of the Rangers members of a mounted force of Texans organized in 1835 to maintain order on the frontier. The film begins with Lincoln Rogers Dunnison (James Van Der Beek) witnessing the brutal murder of his family by a group of sadistic cattle rustlers. Seeking justice Dunnison heads to Brownsville to join the Texas Rangers. Even though he can't shoot a gun or saddle a horse Rangers leader Leander McNelly (McDermott) is impressed with Dunnison and takes him under his wing. McNelly who is afflicted by a deadly tuberculosis-type ailment decides his young apprentice will make a good leader once he is dead and buried. The Rangers spend the rest of the film plodding across a sepia-toned map and taking revenge upon lawless cattle thieves accompanied by lame and explanatory narrative.
Not even a group of male heartthrobs like James Van Der Beek Ashton Kutcher Dylan McDermott and Usher Raymond could make Texas Rangers remotely interesting. The biggest problem stems from the fact that all four have been typecast based on their familiar TV personas (with the exception of Raymond who is essentially the token black guy who complains about being mistreated by Uncle Sam). Van Der Beek plays the same moral righteous character he does on Dawson's Creek every Wednesday night while Kutcher acts pretty much along the lines of his alter ego Kelso from That '70s Show. And although Dylan McDermott is convincing as Leander McNelly he just seems as fervent as his character on The Practice. Their typecasting not only takes away from the film's authenticity it also magnifies their Wild West ineptitude like bungling horse riding skills.
Director Steve Miner takes what is by far the most clichéd and unimaginative script ever written (care of Scott Busby and Martin Copeland) and turns it into the most uninspiring film ever made. The movie consists primarily of shots of the aged map with superimposed images of faded Rangers on horseback galloping across it and of butternut squash exploding during shooting exercises. Combined with the fact that the editing is so thoroughly sloppy and unevenly paced the film becomes almost jarring. One has to wonder for example if Dunnison's expert marksmanship literally developed overnight or if it was simply a product of bad editing. It doesn't help matters that an Alberta stunt coordinator and horse wrangler employed during the shooting of Texas Rangers claims he counted 20 horse-related accidents during the production. It will make you cringe every time a stallion goes down.