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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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Finding your one true love is never easy, but come May 14 Bachelorette Emily Maynard is willing to give it a shot with 25 willing and ready suitors at her beck and call. So to help Emily weed out the keepers from the crazies, Hollywood.com has decided to determine who is really worthy of her final rose. First impressions can go a long way — let's see what kind of eligible bachelors the show has in store for her.
Occupation: Insurance Agent
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Wild Card: His biggest date fear is forgetting his wallet.
Odds: He may not have that "bad boy" demeanor that the girls always go crazy for, but you have to admire a man who hates the thought of making his date pay for him all night long. Trust me, ladies, it happens more often than you think. I say this guy's got some definite potential.
Occupation: Grain Merchant
Hometown: Uberlandia, Brazil
Wild Card: Speaks both Portuguese and Spanish.
Odds: Nothing is more sexy than a man who can speak a foreign language (although having a killer body doesn't hurt either). This guy seems to have both, which should definitely come in handy when trying to stick out among the rest. Never underestimate the power of a man with an accent.
Occupation: Mushroom Farmer
Hometown: Medellin, Colombia
Wild Card: He's a Mama's Boy.
Odds: A girl could probably make peace with the fact that he's a mushroom farmer (in fact, I'd be curious to see what exactly his job entails), but he mentions his mother twice during his brief bio, which immediately sends up red flags. This guy already has a No. 1 lady in his life — and you're not it. And when asked what three things he would want with him if trapped on a desert island, one of the things was a picture of his mother. I'm sorry, but a Mama's Boy with no survival instincts is just bad news. Run!
Occupation: Race Car Driver
Hometown: Den Bosch, Netherlands
Wild Card: He's driven in the INDY 500.
Odds: Professional race car driver? Say no more — this guy has some serious fiance potential (so long as he's not fast at everything he does). Did I mention I'm single?
Occupation: Technology Salesman
Hometown: Midland, Texas
Wild Card: Calls himself a Closet Romantic.
Odds: Not to sound mean, but isn't there an age limit on this show? I know love is supposed to be ageless, but her 26 to his 41 is just a big enough age gap to make me (and I'm sure many others) feel very uncomfortable. Plus, he calls himself a Closet Romantic. Well it's a good thing he's signed up for a dating show then. It's not like you need to show affection or anything. Gosh!
Next: Meet the Dog Lover.Name: Charlie
Hometown: Worchester, Mass.
Wild Card: He's a Dog Lover, ladies.
Odds: This guy's answers were a little too clean cut to be completely legit (like when pageant contestants say all they want is World Peace), but he has a soft spot for dogs, which can't go unnoticed. In fact, he even owns an English Bulldog — adorable. He's not going to be the first guy eliminated from the show, but puppy love can only get your so far on a series like this.
Occupation: Corporate Sales Director
Hometown: Bartlett, Illinois
Wild Card: The fact that he's a Corporate Sales Director.
Odds: Given his job in sales you know he probably has a way with words, meaning he could be quite the charmer. But on the other hand, he could be like one of those annoying telemarketers or door-to-door saleman who just won't take no for an answer (in a not-so-adorable way). Whatever he may be selling, Emily may not necessarily be buying.
Hometown: Charlottesville, Virginia
Wild Card: He's a musician.
Odds: Every girl loves a guy who can sing, but musicians don't really have the most financially stable form of employment, which isn't exactly music to a single mother's ears. Sorry my friend, but you've struck the wrong chord.
Occupation: Real Estate Agent
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Wild Card: He still talks about his ex.
Odds: No woman wants to hear a man talk about another woman in any capacity unless he's referring to his mother or sister. When asked to recall his best date memory he mentions a "really long hug" with his ex. First of all, that's it? A hug is your very best memory? Secondly, mentioning exes too much won't help your chances on a dating show. Better get that out of your system while you can, buddy, or it's going to be a rose-less night for you.
Occupation: Fitness Model
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Wild Card: Doesn't like to move fast in relationships.
Odds: In his bio, Jackson says he was speechless when a girl asked him where "this" was going in the middle of their first date. If he doesn't think questions like that are going to be asked during his first one-on-one date with Emily, then he clearly has no idea what this show is all about. Next!
Next: Meet Mr. Spontaneous. Name: Jean-Paul
Occupation: Marine Biologist
Hometown: Moraga, Calif.
Wild Card: He's a little too spontaneous.
Odds: In the span of three weeks, this guy managed to quit his job and sell everything he owned, all so he could travel the world for six months. Some may call it spontaneous, but Emily will probably see it as highly unstable. Proceed with caution.
Hometown: St. George, Utah
Wild Card: The name.
Odds: Seriously? Jef with one "f"? I'm sorry, I just can't take this guy seriously. Call it woman's intuition or whatever, but this guy just isn't f'ed up enough — and I mean that quite literally. What's in a name, you might ask? A lot in this case!
Occupation: Data Destruction Specialist
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Wild Card: He can cook.
Odds: Every girl loves when a guy knows his way around the kitchen. And the fact that he described it as being part of his ultimate date with a woman shows that he'd be more than willing to split cooking duties with his special someone. Whatever this guy's serving, rest assured Emily will want seconds!
Hometown: Dallas, Tex.
Wild Card: He loves Paul Newman for his philanthropic efforts. I think my heart just melted into a malleable form.
Odds: Looking good. He may have the hair of a buffer Ben Flajnik, but that’ll probably get him at least to the Hometown visits. He loves charity! What more do can you ask for?
Occupation:Luxury Brand Consultant
Hometown: Houston, Tex.
Wild Card: He stole his motto from Frank Sinatra: “You only live once … but if you’re like me, once is enough.” Gag me with a spoon. Go sell some solid gold toilets, Luxury boy.
Odds: Slim, if Emily knows what’s good for her. Even in that photo, he looks like he’s about to answer a yes or no question with “Cha.”
Next: Meet the Movie Buff. Kyle
Occupation: Financial Advisor
Hometown: Long Beach, Calif.
Wild Card: His all-time favorite movies are Zoolander, The Notebook, and Point Break, which means he clearly needs a Netflix account so he can see some more movies, but he knows enough about women to lie about how much he loved that damn Ryan Gosling movie.
Odds: He’ll stick around for a while, but the surfer boy shtick might wear thin midway through.
Occupation: Real Estate Consultant
Hometown: Laguna Beach, Calif.
Wild Card: His most embarrassing moment is losing his trunks and running down the beach naked. And now you’re wondering what he looks like naked. Which is exactly what he wanted. Perv.
Odds: He’s clearly got sex on the brain and he’s not afraid to make that known, but he’s cute and he comes from the lap of luxury. He’s got a decent shot to stick around for a while.
Occupation: Rehab Consultant
Hometown: Tahoka, Tex.
Wild Card: He’s Southern and he wishes he could be more like Ryan Gosling. If Emily dumps him, remind me to give him a call.
Odds: He played the Gosling card. He could go … all … the … way.
Hometown: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Wild Card: He prefers to be the center of attention: “I believe I was put here on Earth to lead people and spark them with enthusiasm.” Puh-leese. Translation: I’m an attention whore. Please don’t date me.
Odds: Not good. Emily’s a mother, this guy would throw a temper tantrum every time she devotes time to her child – a child who sparked her breakup with Bachelor Brad Womack.
Occupation: Marketing Manager
Hometown: Oak Creek, Wis.
Wild Card: He’s a family man, loves his Sunday morning Packers game ritual with the fam. But, he’s also got two tattoos, so he’s got a little edge too.
Odds: Fairly good. He’s got a nice mix of nice guy and bad boy, meaning he’s got some tattoos and he’s brave enough to mix a plaid shirt with that grey vest and slacks.
Next: Meet the Overly-Cocky. Ryan
Occupation: Pro Sports Trainer
Hometown: Augusta, Ga.
Wild Card: His biggest fear on a date is that his date will bore him. Next!
Occupation: Biology teacher
Hometown: Nova Scotia, Canada
Wild Card: He’s shy! In fact, he’s so shy he’s afraid to even dance. A shy teacher? How is that not breaking your heart? (Okay, his hair is a little pretentious, but still.)
Odds: They’d be better if he wasn’t so shy – he’s competing with 24 other guys, after all. But he seems like a sweetheart, and women are good at spotting those ones in a crowd. Don’t miss this one, Em!
Occupation: Party MC (I’ve checked, and the US Dept. of Labor does not recognize this as a legitimate career. That’s a lie, but it should be true.)
Hometown: Monroe Township, N.J.
Wild Card: He might actually be 15 years old: He wants to be Justin Timberlake, thinks Las Vegas is the most romantic city in the U.S., and his favorite romantic gift is a 25-page book about himself. He’s basically The Situation of Bachelorville.
Odds: Nada. Yeah, buddy.
Occupation: Lumber Trader
Hometown: Beaverton, Ore.
Wild Card: He lost his pants hopping a fence in Vegas, but at least he had the decency to mention that he wasn’t going commando. Now we’re imagining him in his underwear. He’s the PG version of Lerone.
Odds: He might be male Courtney. Sexy, manly profession? From a town that sounds made-up to go with his profession? Square jaw? He’ll be around for a while.
Occupation: Advertising Sales Rep
Hometown: Madison, Mo.
Wild Card: His perfect date: boat on a lake, dinner, wine, staring at the stars. It may be cheesy, but I still want to go to there.
Odds: Alright, alright, alright.
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