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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Everyone is getting all excited that Eliasabeth Hasselbeck, a scarecrow that Barbara Walters found at the Republican National Convention and brought to life with magical fairy dust but never brought to the Wizard for her helping of brains, was fired from daytime chatfest The View. As much as many liberal leaning people would like it to be true, according to ABC the allegations are false.
"Elisabeth Hasselbeck is a valued member of The View and has a long term contract," says Lauri Hogan, ABC Entertainment Group's Publicity Director. Considering news broke yesterday that Joy Behar — the only originating member of the panel that is still left — announced she would be leaving, it would make sense that producers would try to scuttle Hasselbeck at the same time.
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The story sprung from an Us Weekly exclusive that said the star's contract had not been renewed after research discovered that viewers thought she was too extreme, right-wing, and not likeable. What sort of research did this entail? Actually watching the show? That should be research enough. And while that research is probably still true, the consequences, at least for now, appear to be false.
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
Paul Hogan, whose third Crocodile Dundee yarn will open April 20, is disputing a Writers Guild of America decision to award the film's writing credits to Matthew Berry and Eric Abrams, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Hogan said he wrote the original screenplay, invented the characters and developed the jokes for Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, a far cry from the "characters created by" credit the WGA awarded him.
"I have an ongoing problem with the Writers Guild because I am also the producer," Hogan told the Hollywood Reporter. "The producer is the natural enemy of the writer."
In Hogan's corner: Simon Wincer, who said that he directed a script written by Hogan.
The guild considers "any challenge a good-faith disagreement" and would prevail should Hogan sue, a WGA spokeswoman told the Hollywood Reporter.
Drescher to write about fight against cancer
Fran Drescher will receive $1 million from Warner Books to pen a memoir chronicling her battle against uterine cancer, according to Variety.
Drescher, whose CBS sitcom The Nanny ended in 1999 after six years, managed to beat the cancer because of an early diagnosis. She discussed her fight in an interview in the May issue of Rosie, the new magazine published by talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell.
Drescher also wrote about her career in Whining.
Ex-Beatle may sell mansion because of 1999 attack
George Harrison has told friends that he may sell the 120-room mansion where he was attacked and stabbed in December 1999 by an intruder, according to Britain's The Mail on Sunday.
The ex-Beatle's 34-acre estate, in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, could be placed on the market for 15 million pounds ($21.56 million). He purchased the mansion in 1970 for 135,000 pounds ($194,000).
Harrison almost died when Michael Abram punctured his lung with a knife. Harrison's wife, Olivia, saved him by striking Abram with a poker. He is now serving an indefinite term in a psychiatric hospital.
Rosie O'Donnell calls on friends to host show
Talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell will continue to recuperate this week after undergoing a medical procedure related to a previous injury, according to the New York Daily News. O'Donnell has called on Barbara Walters, Meredith Vieira, Caroline Rhea and Kathy Griffin to guest host her talk show.
Last week, O'Donnell had a wound on her left hand drained. She cut herself in August when she removed a price tag from a fishing pole belonging to son Parker.
Gandolfini makes Rutgers an offer it can't refuse
Mess with Rutgers University's besieged football team and you could find yourself sleeping with the fishes.
Alumnus James Gandolfini has filmed a morale-boosting commercial for the team, which endured a 3-8 record last season. Gandolfini, who displays his prolific powers of persuasion as The Sopranos' mob boss, appears in the commercial with new coach Greg Schiano.
De Niro to Lopez: "Love Me or Leave Me"
Jennifer Lopez may string Robert De Niro along in a remake of the 1955 romance, Love Me or Leave Me, for Warner Bros., according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The original starred Doris Day as an up-and-coming singer who woos Chicago racketeer James Cagney purely to advance her career.
Unlike the original, the proposed remake would not be based on the real-life story of 1930s singer Ruth Etting.
De Niro and Lopez would each likely squeeze another film into their schedules should they decide to make Love Me or Leave Me. De Niro's slate includes sequels to Analyze This and Meet the Parents; Lopez recently dropped out of the Francis Ford Coppola-produced biopic of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo to negotiate a $10 million paycheck for Taking Lives, a thriller Tony Scott may direct.
Roberts' "Sweethearts" dances against De Niro's "The Score"
Better scratch plans to spend Independence Day with Julia Roberts.
Sony has pushed back the Oscar winner's new comedy, America's Sweethearts, from July 4 to July 13, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Roberts will go head to head with MGM's just-confirmed Legally Blonde, a comedy starring Reese Witherspoon, and Paramount's The Score, a heist flick headlined by masters of method acting Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Edward Norton.
Rather than compete against itself, Sony also has moved its expensive CGI-animated epic Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within from July 13 to July 11.
MGM also announced it will release the oft-delayed Original Sin, a steamy period thriller pitting Antonio Banderas against Angelina Jolie, on Aug. 3 and its Rollerball remake possibly on Aug. 17.
Besson loses "Yamakaso" lawsuit
French director Luc Besson's production company must pay $50,000 to writer-director Julien Seri, who sued after being fired from the Besson-produced thriller Yamakaso, according to Variety.
The French labor court, ruling in Seri's favor, dismissed a suggestion by Besson's production company, LeeLoo, that Seri had been asked to resign.
Seri and Yamakao co-writer Phillippe Lyon recently lost their legal bid to halt the release of the film, which hit French theaters Wednesday.
Universal snaps up EMusic.com
Universal Music Group will purchase Web song-swap service EMusic.com for close to $23 million in cash, EMusic.com announced Monday.
Universal will pay 57 cents for each outstanding EMusic.com share.
The service, founded in 1998, first operated on a fee-per-download basis. It began offering a subscription service as an alternative to Napster, which allowed users to download music for free, in most cases without the music industry's permission.
EMusic also operates such sites as RollingStone.com and DownBeat.com.
"EMusic represents a tremendous group of assets that appeal to a wide range of music fans, including the popular RollingStone.com and DownBeat.com brands and a deep catalog of digital music," said Larry Kenswil, president, eLabs, Universal Music Group, in a statement posted Monday on EMusic.com. "We feel that EMusic complements Universal's other digital and Internet initiatives and we look forward to joining with them to offer music lovers more and more compelling online destinations and experiences."