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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There are a few straggling TV finales left (Game of Thrones and Mad Men are sure going to keep us hanging on until the summer is really in full effect), but for all intents and purposes, we are officially in the land of Summer television. It kicks off tonight with So You Think You Can Dance and something called Duets (which I was disappointed to learn was not about the Cracker Barrel's peanut butter delicacies), but for the next few months we will find new series rolling out from May through August, and only some of it will be worth telling your friends you're allergic to barbecues so you can stay home. Some of it should not grace your screen unless you've melted to your La-Z-Boy. Lucky for you, we've figured out a handy scale to help you figure out what to watch the minute it airs, what to DVR, and what to leave running for Fido while you're at the beach.
We Would Give Up the Sun, The Ocean, and Smiling Before Giving Up These Shows
True Blood (Sunday, June 10 at 9 PM ET/PT on HBO)
Sookie may be driving us up a wall these days, but a summer without True Blood might as well be a summer without barbecues, beach days, and half-naked sexy people glistening in the sun. In other words, it would suck.
Louie (Thursday, June 28 at 10:30 PM ET/PT on FX)
This brutally honest series is one of the best “comedies” on television, though like creator/writer/star/editor Louis CK, it clearly doesn’t subscribe to any genre. It’s simply Louie, and while you should skip beers with the boys in order to watch it, you might want to keep a cold one in the fridge for a post episode wind-down.
Real Housewives of New York City (Monday, June 4 at 9 PM ET/PT on Bravo)
Ramona, Sonja, and the Countess are back and joined by three crazy new House Monkeys to make fun of. Who will we love, who will we hate, and who will be the first one Ramona throws a glass of Pinot at?
Breaking Bad (Sunday, July 15 at 10 PM ET/PT on AMC)
Walter White will be knocking off in the first half of the fifth and final season (which is really two seasons, but don't get us started). There's only eight episodes, so get your hit of that good blue meth until it disappears until next summer.
Dallas (Wednesday, June 13 at 9 PM ET/PT on TNT)
Oil, money, intrigue, lust, shirtless guys, Southfork Ranch: everything you loved about the king of prime-time soaps is back (even some of the creaky old stars) for a new generation. Please, don't let this whole thing be a dream.
Comedy Bang! Bang! (Friday, June 8 at 10 PM ET on IFC)
Host Scott Aukerman sits down with some of the funniest people in Hollywood (Amy Poehler, Zach Galifianakis) for this unconventional talk show. With comedian Reggie Watts on hand for musical accompaniment, this will be the funniest thing you'll see this summer. Well, besides your sunbathing neighbor.
The Newsroom (Sunday, June 24 at 10 pm ET on HBO)
At long last, Aaron Sorkin have an excuse to stay inside and not work on their tans. Think Sports Night meets CNN as Jeff Daniels plays Will McAvoy, an anchor setting out to change the face of cable news with his team (including Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, and Dev Patel.) Can't miss, appointment television.
Political Animals (Sunday, July 15 at 10 PM ET on USA)
Talk about a break from mindless summer entertainment. This six-part miniseries features Sigourney Weaver as a no-nonsense politician whose personal life has seen its fair share of scandals. The drama also impressively features Ellen Burstyn, Carla Gugino, and James Wolk.
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So You Think You Can Dance (Thursday, May 24, at 8 PM ET/PT on Fox)
Nigel, Mary, and a revolving host of guest judges will be back to watch everyone pop, lock, breakdance, and fox trot their way to the top prize. This year there is only one episode per week, but that's still enough time for Cat Deely to win the hosting Emmy she totally deserves.
Weeds (Sunday, July 1 at 10 PM ET/PT on Showtime)
Nancy Botwin is the world's worst mother and now the Feds are after her. Or is it the Mexican cartel? Or is it Starbucks for cutting down on her coffee drinks? Well, someone wants her dead.
White Collar (Tuesday, July 10 at 9 PM ET/PT on USA)
I know you won't have gotten your fill of Matthew Bomer's abs in Magic Mike and you're gonna need your fix. Also, Kelly Kapowski!
Damages (Wednesday, July 11 at 10 PM ET/PT on DirecTV)
Glenn Close is back to playing women and an evil woman at that in the fifth season premiere on DirecTV, which no one gets. Oh, that means Season 4 must be out on DVD. We'll be watching that.
Falling Skies (Sunday, June 17 at 9 PM ET on TNT)
Season 2 of Dr. Carter Battles Space Aliens starts up this summer. Noah Wyle returns as Earthly survivor Tom Mason in this surprisingly good and shamefully underrated sci-fi drama.
Wilfred (Thursday, June 28 at 10 PM ET/PT on FX)
Sure, this show about a guy who thinks his dog is a guy in a dog suit fell below its high concept expectations, but watching Elijah Wood get stoned with his man-dog is still more interesting than Wipeout.
Boss (Friday, Aug. 17 at 10 PM ET/PT on Starz)
Put down War and Peace and slowly walk away. You know you’re just going to use it to check out people at the beach and look smart at the same time. Just think of this ultra political, bookish drama about Chicago’s fictional mayor (Kelsey Grammer) as your summer reading.
The Closer (Monday, July 9 at 9 PM ET on TNT)
This will be the last summer you'll get to spend with Kyra Segwick's smart, wisecracking Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson. The Golden Globe-winning series enters its seventh and final season.
Perception (Monday, July 9 at 10 PM ET on TNT)
How do you cope with coming to terms with the end of one hourlong TNT procedural (The Closer)? Why, you start watching a new hourlong TNT procedural! This one features Will and Grace's Eric McCormack as smart, wisecracking neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Pierce.
Hell on Wheels (Sunday, August 12 at 9 PM ET on AMC)
Somewhere between the brilliant Breaking Bad and the so-bad-but-we-can't-look-away Walking Dead lies Hell on Wheels, a not so wild Western featuring Anson Mount and Common. We'd have preferred Oregon Trail: the Series, but this will suffice.
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Hatfields and McCoys (Monday, May 28 at 9 PM ET/PT on History)
Kevin Costner comes to the small screen to face off with Bill Paxton as America's famous post-Civil War fueding clans. There's a Romeo and Juliet love story too, of course. And it's a mini-series. Remember those?
Pretty Little Liars (Tuesday, June 5 at 8 PM ET/PT on ABC Family)
OMG, your tween cousin is like totes psyched obvs for the season three premy (that's tween speak for premiere).
Rizzoli & Isles (Tuesday, June 5 at 9 PM ET/PT on TNT)
It's like Cagney & Lacey for the 21st century when a tough lady cop and a medical examiner team up to fight even more crimes. Your mom loves this show.
Franklin & Bash (Tuesday, June 5 at 10 PM ET/PT on TNT)
If Rizzoli & Isles were lawyers with penises they'd be Franklin & Bash.
Wipeout (Thursday, June 28 at 9 PM ET/PT on ABC)
People falling in the mud. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…
Anger Management (Thursday, June 28 at 9 PM ET on FX)
Whether you're still shouting "winning!" at everyone or morbid curiosity will simply get the best of you, Charlie Sheen's new comedy debuts with back-to-back episode. Those tuning in will simply be dying to know: Can Sheen stay faithful to… adapting an Adam Sandler movie?!
Trust Us With Your Life (Tuesday, July 10 at 9 PM ET on ABC)
Fred Willard from Best in Show, everything, hosts this improv comedy show which will bring back Whose Line Is It Anyway? alums Wayne Brady, Greg Proops and Colin Mochrie, among others. Just remember, you can't shout suggestions from your couch.
Big Brother (Thursday, July 12 at 9 PM ET on CBS)
The guiltiest of guilty pleasures, Season 14 of televised institutionalization will put a whole new batch of attractive, certifiable people in a house together to compete and cohabitant for our enjoyment. And, of course, it features TV's best robot since Carson Daly: Zingbot.
Brand X with Russell Brand (Thursday, June 28 at 11 PM ET/PT on FX)
Russell Brand has a late night TV show. My bet is it will be very Russell Brand-y and you will either love every second of it, or you’ll go running into the ocean after a mere minute of air-time. He’s a bit of a polarizing guy.
Men at Work (Thursday, May 24 at 10 PM ET/PT on TBS)
Poor Danny Masterson just can’t find a TV show that will stick for him. The former Steven Hyde (of That ‘70s Show) now joins this mansemble comedy about four friends who work at a magazine. The main goal? Get Danny Masterson laid.
The Bachelorette (Mondays at 8 PM ET/PT on ABC)
Emily Maynard famously ditched her hunky Bachelor, so she’s giving it another try. I’m not saying it’s boring, I’m just saying if your friend wants to drink a couple of beers on his stoop at 8 PM on a Monday, you should probably accept the offer.
Married to Jonas (Sunday, Aug. 19 at 10 PM ET/PT on E!)
What is it like being married to a Jonas brother? OMG I’ve wondered about that for so long – wait, it’s about Kevin Jonas. Oh, stand down. Well, it will probably be kind of cute.
Next: Heat Wave. No AC. Stuck to chair. Can’t reach remote. Heat Wave. No AC. Stuck to chair. Can’t reach remote.
America's Got Talent (Mondays at 8 PM ET on NBC)
Watch as shock jock Howard Stern alienates two fan bases, his own and that of America's Got Talent, by joining the popular reality competition. What will Stern say about a family that can spin plates?! Where's censorship when you need it?
Kendra On Top (Tuesday, June 5 at 10 PM ET on WEtv)
Infinitely more tolerable than yet another Kardashian spin-off, but there's only so many shows we can watch about women who are famous for being famous that are married to athletes. After all, that's what Downton Abbey is for!
Bachelor Pad (Monday, July 23 at 8 PM ET on ABC)
The television equivalent of a summer fling gone terribly awry, this Bachelor/ette spin-off puts former contestants in a house to try and find (money and) love in a hopeless place. Emphasis here on hopeless and less on love.
Duets (Thursday, May 24 at 8 PM ET/PT on ABC)
Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Robin Thicke, and Jennifer Nettles disappoint us all in this gimmicky American Idol rip-off. Instead of standing on their own merits, our contestants will duet (heh, get it?) with one of these superstars, or Jennifer Nettles, to earn their paths to fame.
Dogs in the City (Wednesday, May 30, 8 PM ET/PT on CBS)
How many hours do you spend watching dog videos on YouTube? If you’re worried you can’t get an accurate count, this reality show about… well… dogs… (wait for it) who live in the city is for you.
Hell's Kitchen (Monday, June 4 at 8 PM ET/PT on Fox)
Do you like food and yelling? Is Top Chef not on? Well order up some Chinese food and hang out with the ever-irate Chef Gordon Ramsay.
Love in the Wild (Thursday, June 7 at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC)
Jenny McCarthy. Half-naked people. Dating. In the jungle. It’s got to be worth at least one lazy viewing.
[Images: HBO, Fox, ABC Family, NBC]
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S4:E13 Last night was the season finale of Mad Men. No kidding. That was a season. I don’t feel like it was? The only reason last night was the finale was because it was about Don figuring out who he wants to be, and he wants to be with Megan (his secretary who seemed to have reminded the chair that Mrs. Blankenship died in that it is just supposed to be a chair and not a death trap). Also, Joan’s fertility was brought into question (again), but we’ll get to that later because it comes later.
The episode started with Don and Pete meeting with the American Cancer Society, talking about a way to get people to stop smoking without presenting them with medical facts and pictures of decaying bodies because that stuff doesn’t work any better than a wedding photographer. Don came up with the idea of creating a campaign around getting “new customers” (teenagers) to start smoking, using a commercial where mothers and fathers would be smoking with their daughters and sons. But instead of getting the teenagers to think they should be like their parents and start smoking, they’ll be thinking about themselves in the context of wishing they could still be children. The meeting ended and they walked away with getting another meeting, which they consider to be a win, along with the kid who gets the "most improved" basketball award.
Back at Betty’s house, moving out was heavily underway. Sally’s friend Glenn stopped by and asked if he could go up to Sally’s room and say goodbye to her. Carla agreed, and he hurried upstairs to get one last glimpse of his friend before she went to Disneyland with her father and he’s left launching bottle caps off his penis by himself. When he was walking through the kitchen to leave, Betty came back and yelled at him because he barged in on her when she was going to the bathroom one time and she hasn’t forgiven him. Betty was so upset that she fired Carla, after she spent 11 years working for her. Then Betty insulted her for working for the Draper family and for not being with her own children. It was bad, especially for Don, who wasn’t going to have any help when he went to California with his kids on business. And since Faye was no longer employed at SCDP, he opted to ask Megan to come along on the trip to help.
Once at the hotel, Don came back from a meeting and was serenaded in a French song that Megan had taught Sally and Bobby. He was surprised with how well she was handling her responsibilities with them, and she revealed it was because she has four nieces and six nephews, and that she’s smart enough not to advertise her homely skills at work. Carla didn't know French, so the hell with her!
The next day, Don took Sally and Bobby to his old friend Anna’s house. Stephanie, Anna’s niece, gave him Anna’s engagement ring (that her husband gave her, and "her husband" being the man whose identity Don stole after he died in Korea). Sally and Bobby noticed the flowers that were painted on the wall and Sally asked who “Dick” was. Don, surprisingly, was honest and said it was a name he sometimes went by, but that she should really be worried about how she was going to get the lemons down from the lemon tree that was in the backyard. Since Sally had recently cut ties with troublemaker Glenn, she had no one to tell her that a nickname is always more interesting than a lemon.
Back at the house in Ossining, Henry yelled at Betty for firing Carla and refusing to give her a letter of recommendation. She said she just really wanted a fresh start, and that she felt she was entitled to one, but she already looks good in plaid pants so she doesn’t need one. Henry said nobody ever gets any fresh starts and that life goes on. Betty got quite angry because it seemed like he was never on her side, and he said that nobody is ever on her side….which is true. And it’s because she’s probably planning to keep plaid pants going well into 2015. (She’d outfit her deathbed in plaid, just like Lily Tomlin.)
At the hotel that night, Megan went out with her college friend, who told her she could never be a model because her teeth were weird (which might be why the secretary chair hasn’t killed her yet!). Then Don kissed her on the balcony and they slept together for the second time. Afterwards, Don told Megan that he’d “done a lot of things,” but Megan said she didn’t care and that she “knew who [he was] now.” Don went back to his room when the sun started to come up.
Back in New York, Peggy and Ken met with people from Topaz, a stocking company, about how they could boost their sales by investing in an ad. Peggy shot out two ideas for a commercial that they liked, after saying she would change everything but her Topaz stockings before she went out that night. Peggy, you might have ideas, but your efforts to be clean are dirty and that's why the guys at Topaz liked you.
At a diner in California, Sally and Bobby were having a very heated discussion about something when Sally knocked over her strawberry milkshake. Don immediately yelled, but Megan soothed Sally by saying it was just a milkshake and it was no big deal…and that since it was her last dress, she should help Megan wipe up the mess with the napkins. Don was shocked (SHOCKED!) at how he calmed down and obeyed her orders, too. Saddondraper.tumblr.com is as good as dead.
After Megan woke up, Don proposed to her with Anna’s ring. Megan accepted and she called her mother in France to tell her she was engaged. It was cute, all until you remembered the ring belonged to a woman who recently died of cancer, who was married to the man who died in Korea, whose identity Don stole to get out of the war. It was sweet, up until you remember all that. Which, incidentally, none of which Megan knows anything about!
Once they returned from California, Don told everyone he was engaged to Megan, but when the phone rang, it was clear she was still meant to answer it. Everyone pretended to be happy for Don, because it was clear this was the 60s version of getting a tattoo of a clover at St. Marks Place on St. Patrick’s Day.
Peggy waltzed into Don’s office ready to be the apple of SCDP’s eye for the day but was disappointed to hear her news wasn’t the biggest news in the office, and that Don’s personal life and seniority once again trumped her hard work ethic. Additionally, Peggy realized Megan’s engagement to Don meant people couldn’t really treat her like she was a secretary anymore, and that she essentially got a promotion even though Peggy was the harder working of the two. She stormed into Joan's office and complained about it.
Once he was alone, Don called Faye and asked her to meet for coffee so they could talk. But she’s a doctor, so she was smart enough to know what Don was going to say to her would be bad, and she didn’t want to have to stick around to sit through coffee after she heard the news. But if he had suggested they go play laser tag together, she probably would have obliged because there are plenty of pillars to hide behind and plenty of kids to hit after she’d been told the bad news (right Justin Bieber?). Faye was devastated, but made sure to tell Don that he should tell Megan to be careful, because he only likes the beginning of things…which is true. But hello! New nail clippers? The best.
During their phone call, Joan’s husband asked her if she was “showing” yet. This meant Joan decided against having the abortion, and that she was going to have Roger’s baby and try to pass it off as her husband’s! That kid was lucky enough to have his college essay already written for him before his eyes even developed.
At the end of the episode, Don and Betty “ran into” (I say “ran into” because Betty was totally waiting there for him to show up and putting lipstick on) each other at the house in Ossining. They marveled at all the time they spent there, and Betty hinted at the fact her marriage wasn’t perfect. Then Don told Betty he was engaged and she said she was very happy for him. They shared a drink and Betty handed over her keys, and presumably went back to her new house in Rye, where she was nannyless and as far as she was concerned, officially husbandless.