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.
It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
Moviegoers ate more Pie than anything else at the box office for a third straight weekend.
Universal's R rated youth appeal comedy hit sequel American Pie 2 held on to first place in its third week with a mouth-watering ESTIMATED $12.8 million (-39%) at 3,157 theaters (+85 theaters; $4,055 per theater). Pie 2, which cost about $30 million to make, has a cume of approximately $109.6 million, heading for $125-135 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by J B Rogers, it stars Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Sean William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Eugene Levy.
"It hasn't been done since Spy Kids," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning, pointing to Pie's three weeks atop the chart. Spy Kids, from Miramax's Dimension Films label, nailed down the top spot for three weeks from March 30 through April 15.
"It's a fitting way to end a great summer season for Universal," Rocco noted. "Plus, we broke $100 million with American Pie 2. With this kind of hold (it will go) past $125 million, that's for sure."
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated action comedy blockbuster sequel Rush Hour 2 held on to second place in its fourth week with a still solid ESTIMATED $11.43 million (-40%) at 3,001 theaters (-79 theaters; $3,807 per theater). Its cume is approximately $183.3 million, heading for $210-215 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Brett Ratner, it stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.
"If it gets to $210 million, it will be the second biggest gross of the year after Shrek," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning.
DreamWorks' animated summer blockbuster Shrek has grossed about $261.4 million to date. Universal's The Mummy Returns has done about $201.5 million through this weekend.
Dimension Films' R rated youth appeal comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back kicked off in third place to a solid ESTIMATED $11.1 million at 2,765 theaters ($4,014 per theater).
Jay's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Jay had been flying high on Hollywood's advance radar screen, suggesting to some observers that it would open to a noisier $15 million or more. While the film was number one Friday with about $4.5 million, it fell by about 23 percent on Saturday to about $3.5 million, a clear sign that it was not going to hold on to the top spot.
Written and directed by Kevin Smith, it stars Smith, Ben Affleck, Shannon Elizabeth, Will Ferrell, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes and Chris Rock.
"Jay and Bob had a solid opening," David Kaminow, senior vice president, marketing for Dimension's parent company Miramax Films, said Sunday morning. "We were number one on Friday and obviously Kevin Smith has his diehard fans, who went out (to see it immediately). That's his core (audience) and I don't know how much he necessarily crosses over. We also snuck the picture last weekend and that gave his fans an opportunity to get in early. And that might have played a role in the (results this) weekend."
Asked who was on hand opening weekend, Kaminow replied, "It was young males. Young women and females (in general) weren't as strong as the males."
Dimension Films' PG-13 thriller The Others held on to fourth place as it continued to expand in its third week, still showing good legs with an ESTIMATED $8.6 million (-21%) at 2,436 theaters (+283 theaters; $3,530 per theater). Others, which cost only $17 million to make, has a cume of approximately $46.2 million.
Directed by Alejandro Amenabar, it stars Nicole Kidman.
"The Others is doing terrifically and it's holding terrifically," Miramax's Kaminow said.
Paramount's PG-13 comedy Rat Race fell two rungs in its second week to fifth place, still running hard with an ESTIMATED $8.3 million (-29%) at 2,551 theaters (+1 theater; $3,254 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.6 million.
Directed by Jerry Zucker, it stars Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Seth Green, Jon Lovitz, Breckin Meyer and Amy Smart.
Warner Bros.' PG-13 baseball theme romantic comedy Summer Catch got on base in sixth place, opening to an ESTIMATED $7.54 million at 2,335 theaters ($3,227 per theater).
Directed by Mike Tollin and produced by Tollin, Brian Robbins and Sam Weisman, it stars Freddie Prinze, Jr., Jessica Biel and Matthew Lillard.
"I'm pleased with that opening," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning.
"The film had a very modest production cost (reportedly only about $19 million) and the exits with our core audience, which is females under 25, are very favorable. They scored 80 percent in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) and the definite recommend is 66 percent."
Looking ahead, Fellman noted, "Next weekend, Labor Day weekend, the only two movies opening are R rated (MGM's suspense horror film Jeepers Creepers and Lions Gate Films' drama O). I think we'll hold well. We don't need a lot of money to make money on this movie and we should excel in the ancillary markets as his movies do."
Buena Vista/Disney's G rated family comedy hit The Princess Diaries slid two notches to seventh place in its fourth week, still holding well with an ESTIMATED $6.7 million (-30%) at 2,749 theaters (+23 theaters; $2,441 per theater). Its cume is approximately $82.5 million, heading for about $95 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Garry Marshall, it stars Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway.
Universal's Captain Corelli's Mandolin dropped two rungs to eighth place in its second week with an unexciting ESTIMATED $3.88 million (-46%) at 1,612 theaters (+17 theaters; $2,405 per theater). Its cume is approximately $14.0 million.
Directed by John Madden, it stars Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz.
Screen Gems' R rated sci-fi thriller John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars opened quietly in ninth place to an ESTIMATED $3.8 million at 2,048 theaters ($1,855 per theater).
Directed by John Carpenter, it stars Ice Cube and Natasha Henstridge.
Rounding out the Top Ten was 20th Century Fox's PG-13 sci-fi action adventure Planet of the Apes, down three pegs in its fifth week with a slow ESTIMATED $3.53 million (-51%) at 1,927 theaters (-1,133 theaters; $1,832 per theater). Its cume is approximately $167.8 million, heading for $175-180 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Tim Burton and produced by Richard D. Zanuck, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter and Michael Clarke Duncan.
This weekend also saw the arrival of DreamWorks Pictures' PG-13 rated comedy The Curse of the Jade Scorpion with a not-so-funny ESTIMATED $2.5 million at 903 theaters ($2,769 per theater).
Written and directed by Woody Allen, it stars Allen, Dan Aykroyd, Helen Hunt and Charlize Theron.
"It's very close to our expectations based on the mixed reviews, especially in Woody's core markets of New York and other large cities," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning.
Last summer DreamWorks released Allen's Small Time Crooks, which performed much better than the filmmaker's movies have done in recent years. "It opened to $3.8 million," Tharp said. "The reviews were good in the major markets."
Crooks, which opened May 19-21, 2000 to $3.88 million at 865 theaters ($4,486 per theater), wound up doing about $17.1 million in domestic theaters. "So this one will probably be more in line with the average of $8-10 million, which is what most of his films do," Tharp explained.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 comedy Bubble Boy floated into theaters with a disappointing ESTIMATED $2.0 million at 1,605 theaters ($1,230 per theater).
Directed by Blair Hayes, it stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Swoosie Kurtz.
USA Films' R rated comedy Maybe Baby checked in with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.09 million at 2 theaters ($4,455 per theater).
Directed by Ben Elton, it stars Hugh Laurie and Joely Richardson.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front, this weekend saw Fox Searchlight Pictures R rated thriller The Deep End go wider in its third week with a still encouraging ESTIMATED $1.23 million at 208 theaters (+150 theaters; $5,890 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.6 million.
Written produced and directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, it stars Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic and Jonathan Tucker.
"It was an excellent expansion," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning. "We will be expanding further this weekend to over 250 theaters."
Gilula said he is, "thrilled at this expansion because to go this much wider we quadrupled our number of theaters and held very respectable screen averages. We've gone fairly deep into the country. We're in a lot of smaller cities (such as) Tucson, Syracuse and Tulsa, Oklahoma. And a lot of those cities actually did quite well. I'm very pleased with that."
Miramax's R rated Apocalypse Now Redux widened in its fourth week with a still promising ESTIMATED $0.39 million (-20%) at 62 theaters (+12 theaters; $5,863 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.0 million.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, it stars Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper and Harrison Ford.
MGM's release of United Artists' R rated youth appeal comedy Ghost World widened in its sixth week with a still lively ESTIMATED $0.35 million (-23%) at 64 theaters (+10 theaters; $5,525 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.5 million.
Directed by Terry Swigoff, it stars Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas and Steve Buscemi.
Artisan's R rated comedy Made widened in its seventh week with a soft ESTIMATED $0.21 million (-44%) at 167 theaters (+6 theaters; $1,280 per theater). Its cume is approximately $4.1 million.
Written and directed by Jon Favreau, it stars Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Sean Combs, Famke Janssen, Faizon Love and Peter Falk.
On the international front, Universal celebrated a milestone as its Bridget Jones's Diary cracked $100 million. Bridget is only playing in 22 countries now and still has 60 percent of the international territories in which to open.
Bridget's opening this weekend in Germany gave it a terrific $1.4 million with 494 playdates. In the U.K., where it's now in its 20th week, Bridget's cume is $59.5 million, making it the sixth highest grossing movie ever in the U.K.
Bridget's next openings are Sept. 1 in Korea and Sept. 29 in Japan.
In its domestic theatrical run via Miramax, which made the $26 million film with Universal, Studio Canal and Working Title Films, Bridget grossed about $71.4 million.
Universal also saw its international release of Jurassic Park III hit $130 million. The film still has 18 countries in which to open, including Australia and Italy this coming weekend. With its domestic theatrical cume now at $172.6 million, JP III's worldwide cume is already at $302.6 million.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $93.27 million, up about 8.94 per cent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $85.62 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 15.49 per cent from last weekend this year when key films took in $110.37 million.
Last year, Universal's opening week of Bring It On was first with $17.36 million at 2,380 theaters ($7,295 per theater); and Warner Bros.' opening week of The Art of War was second with $10.41 million at 2,630 theaters ($3,959 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $27.8 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $24.2 million.
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