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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Star Trek Into Darkness is full of many mysteries: Are Tribbles contractually obligated to appear in all Star Trek movies from now on? Why does Carol Marcus have a British accent when she doesn't have one in The Wrath of Khan and when her father Adm. Marcus (Peter Weller) is obviously all-American? Are we supposed to be okay with the destruction of much of San Francisco just because Kirk got over his self-doubt and landed his five-year mission? Did J.J. Abrams actually think Benedict Cumberbatch, as great as he is, could erase people's memories of Ricardo Montalban? We can't answer any of those. But the following eight burning questions we definitely can. Well, more or less.
1. Is the Enterprise Really Designed for Atmospheric Flight, Let Alone Underwater Travel?
As far as atmospheric flight is concerned, most definitely. Constitution-class starships are enabled for travel in planetary atmospheres, and the Enterprise does so on many occasions throughout The Original Series. Later versions of the Enterprise, like the Galaxy-class Enterprise-D from The Next Generation, would definitely not be able to do that, however. That said, there has never been any precedent for the Enterprise venturing underwater. I guess this altered timeline has resulted in even more modifications to the ship than we realized!
2. Is William Shatner's Kirk Any More Responsible When It Comes to the Prime Directive?
Not really. Just check out the Original Series episode "The Apple," in which Kirk is incredibly insistent that a group of primitive tribesman live free of the influence of an omnipotent god/minigolf obstacle called Vaal. He basically imposes "freedom" upon them, even though they're not ready for it. And that's not even counting Shatner Kirk's 17 separate violations of the Temporal Prime Directive, according to Starfleet's Temporal Investigations department in the 24th century. Those violations meant Kirk actually changed the timeline — like, say, bringing humpback whales 300 years into the future from 20th century Earth. Interestingly, Shatner Kirk never lost his command over any of those incidents, unlike Pine Kirk.
3. What Did Khan Do To Be Exiled in Space and Frozen for 300 Years?
Khan Noonien Singh and his followers were genetically engineered throughout central and south Asia in the 20th century to have superior physical and intellectual prowess. The scientists who bred them hoped that they would ascend to leadership positions in their respective countries — nations that had histories of conflict and poverty — and bring order from chaos. Well, most of them did become leaders. About 40 countries throughout Asia and the Middle East were under their control in the 1990s. But eventually the Augments, as they became known, turned on each other inaugurating a terrible conflict that lasted between 1992 and 1996 called the Eugenics Wars. Khan was the most powerful leader among these squabbling Augments and a cunning warrior — though it should be noted that none of the massacres and extermination campaigns led by the other Augment rulers occurred under Khan's leadership. By 1996, all the Augment leaders had been defeated, and, facing certain death, Khan and 72 of his genetically-enhanced followers climbed aboard a spaceship he'd designed and christened the Botany Bay, after Australia's famous 18th/19th century penal colony. It was a ship without warp drive so he and his followers had to enter cryosleep hoping that someday somebody would awaken them. That person was Kirk on The Original Series, and Admiral Marcus in Into Darkness.
4. Why Is There Such Hostility Between the Klingons and the Federation?
Humanity made a terrible impression upon the Klingon Empire upon their very first meeting in 2151 and won’t really be able to recover until the very end of the 23rd century. First contact between Earth and Qo’noS (in the film it’s styled Kronos) occurred when a Klingon warrior crash-landed in a farmer’s field in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, as seen in the pilot episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. The farmer wondered who this hulking, barking warrior was, so he shot him in the chest. An interstellar incident ensued and Capt. Jonathan Archer was tasked to return the injured Klingon to Kronos onboard the newly christened Enterprise NX-01 to avoid war. He succeeded, but the Klingons looked upon humanity with suspicion ever since. And after Earth entered into an interstellar Federation with the Vulcans, Tellarites, and Andorians, the gagh really hit the fan as far as the Klingons were concerned.
War was just a misstep away for decades and in 2259, the year of Star Trek Into Darkness, the cold war between the Federation and Kronos was at its peak. In the original timeline it was only in 2293, the year Shatner’s Kirk helped the Federation sign the Khitomer Accords with the Klingons, that peace was actually achieved. Will that still happen in J.J. Abrams alternate timeline?
5. What's Up With That Shattered Moon Orbiting Kronos?
Presumably that’s the moon Praxis, where the Klingons conducted most of the geothermal energy harvesting to power their homeworld. In 2293 the moon blew apart due to overdrilling, an explosion that threatened even to render Kronos uninhabitable. That’s why the Klingons wanted to make peace with the Federation in the first place: they needed Starfleet’s help. Now, how come an event that didn’t occur until 2293 in the Prime Timeline appears to have already happened in 2259 in Abrams’ timeline? Well, because the Klingon Empire was greatly affected by Nero’s temporal incursion. In fact, years before he reassumed command of his vessel in order to hunt Spock and destroy Vulcan, Nero and his crew were captured by the Klingons. Then he escaped and obliterated a large Klingon fleet in the process. These events may have caused the already-warlike Klingons to become even more militaristic and mine Praxis that much more relentlessly for its precious energy. That could have caused it to blow up decades earlier than in the Prime Timeline.
6. Is the Destruction of San Francisco the Worst Tragedy to Befall Earth Since World War III?
Earth slowly but surely settled down following the conclusion of World War III in the mid-2050s. That conflict left 600 million dead, most of the world’s governments — and cities — destroyed and whole parts of the planet affected by nuclear winters for years. It was only with the adoption of the New United Nations in San Francisco that attempts to unify the planet into a United Earth government began in earnest, a process that was accelerated following first contact with Vulcan in 2063.
The next couple centuries are pretty quiet…with the exception of the Xindi Incident of 2153, as seen on Star Trek: Enterprise. Again, time travel was involved. The Xindi were a group of aliens who had been fed information from time travelers saying that humanity would one day hunt them to extinction. So the Xindi decided to strike against Earth first. They launched a probe to fire a particle weapon over what used to be the southern United States — obliterating much of Florida, in particular — and killed some 15 million people. That was more than a century before the events of Into Darkness, though, and few would probably be alive who’d have experienced it firsthand. Khan’s kamikaze piloting of the USS Vengeance into the heart of San Francisco probably didn’t kill as many people as the Xindi attack, but the psychological impact of such vast devastation in the Federation capital probably can’t be understated. J.J. Abrams & Co. wanted to incorporate an aspect of the War on Terror into their film, so they transformed Khan into a 9/11 hijacker with the USS Vengeance at his disposal instead of a 747.
7. How Can a Starfleet Admiral Be As Evil as Marcus?
With the exception of Admiral Pike (and, in the Prime Timeline, Admiral Kirk himself) Starfleet admirals are always evil! It’s an argument for absolute power corrupting absolutely because, because whether male or female, human or alien, they’re almost always trying to discredit our heroes, making power plays, or, like Admiral Marcus, trying to transform Starfleet into something more sinister.
8. Will the Federation Try to Manufacture Khan's Super Blood?
You’d think they would, right? I mean, why else would they place Khan in cryofreeze once again? And it doesn’t seem like they’re putting him back aboard the Botany Bay for another decades or centuries-long space cruise. He seems to be going into cold storage in a warehouse somewhere. If his blood can actually extend people’s lives and even bring the recently deceased back to life, then Star Trek: Insurrection shows us the Federation will exploit that resource all it can — meaning that Cumberbatch’s Khan will be kept alive until he wakes up to wreak havoc in another film down the road.
Bonus Question: Why Is a Man Named "Khan Noonien Singh" a Pasty Englishman?
I’ve thought long and hard about it. I’ve ranted in thousands of words about it. But there’s still no good reason for it. Let the Star Trek Into Whiteness jokes commence!
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More: We Rank All 79 Episodes of ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’ from Worst to Best ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Fan Review: Your ‘Star Wars’ Prequel Anger Is What I Feel Now ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Spoilers A Guide to Its Easter Eggs and Callbacks
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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.
I'm beginning to suspect that it was 30 Rock's plan all along to take a season off, all the while accumulating an unbelievable amount of good news attached to its eventual return so that we'd all realize just how much we love, miss, and are compelled to watch it. The latest splendor to come out of the heap of 30 Rock-related developments involves three particularly fantastic guest stars: Emma Stone, Andy Samberg, and Nick Cannon, marking the kind of news you have to make sure you read correctly because it's just that awesome. The almighty Tina Fey herself has confirmed that these three young stars will be appearing on an upcoming episode of 30 Rock at the end of this month. Fey cites their involvement surrounding a fictitious movie called Martin Luther King Day (a play on the omni-casted New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day), in which Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) will also star. This comes on top of other great 30 Rock news, such as Alec Baldwin's agreement to continue on through the potential seventh season. 30 Rock's sixth season will premiere this Thursday, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. -EW
You might think the best conceivable facet of the finale of Archer's upcoming third season is its concept: the spy organization ISIS embarks on an outer space mission—and by that, we mean pretty much the entire organization of ISIS (sexual deviant secretaries and boozy HR directors likely included). But there is one thing even better than the entire cast blasting off into orbit: an astronaut played by Bryan Cranston. The Breaking Bad star will be lending his unfathomable talent to Archer to play a diligent, good-natured astronaut hero on the two-part season finale. The Huffington Post also reports that Archer's third season will also see guest stars such as The Walking Dead's Michael Rooker as a corrupt sheriff and 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer as a marijuana farmer and the brother to ISIS intelligence analyst/Tennessee Williams incarnation Ray Gillette (Adam Reed), in addition to the previously mentioned Burt Reynolds. Archer's third season premiere airs on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX. -HuffPo
Back in November, we heard that Priest star Paul Bettany would be joining the drama series Masters of Sex, based on the lives and work of gynecologist Dr. William Masters and sexologist/psychologist Dr. Virginia Johnson as chronicled in the book Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love by Thomas Maier. Bettany was cast as Masters, one of the two leads. Now, it appears that Bettany will not be involved with the project at all. There is no public explanation for Bettany's dismissal of the project. Showtime, the home of the developing drama, will now seek a replacement for Bettany as well as an actress to play Johnson. -TVLine
The last to know Steven Spielberg had signed on to produce and direct the film version of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was apparently the director himself.
A spokesman from Spielberg's office says the filmmaker hasn't officially climbed aboard and is still considering the project.
"Potter" is just one of the projects Spielberg is considering along with Stanley Kubrick conceived "A.I." (for artificial intelligence) and a bio about Charles Lindbergh. He's also set to make the Tom Cruise starrer "Minority Report" and a movie version of the acclaimed book "Memoirs of a Geisha."
SUPER-ACTION TEAMUP: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone hope to use their combined muscle at the box office to star in one massive project, The Hollywood Reporter says.
They're currently searching for a feature, which would mark the first time the two action icons have appeared onscreen together. Besides their combined weight, the film would be heavy in expenditures -- Stallone reportedly earned $20 million for the upcoming "Into Thin Air," while Schwarzenegger cashed in $25 million for last fall's "End of Days."
HE'S BAAACK: The next "Friday the 13th" will take place in the year 2455. And, yes, ol' hockey-mask-face himself will still be around.
"Jason X" (as its title indicates, it'll be the 10th installment in the series) is being set up at New Line Cinema, with up-and-comer James Isaac at the helm. The movie is scheduled to begin shooting in March in Toronto, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The story, scripted by Todd Farmer, involves a field trip in the future to visit the long-abandoned planet Earth. A teacher and his students discover a cryogenically frozen young lady and a hockey-masked thug. Before anyone can say "space kebob," the thawed out psychopath has returned to his killer ways, wreaking havoc on the citizens of outer space.
PARTY OF TWO: Teen idol Jennifer Love Hewitt will receive motherly advice from veteran actress Sigourney Weaver in MGM's upcoming comic noir "Breakers."
Daily Variety reports that the two have closed their deals and that Kevin Kline has been offered the role of Weaver's love interest.
The shoot is scheduled to begin in Florida and Los Angeles in April, with "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" director David Mirkin helming a script by Paul Guay and Stephen Mazur. The story's about a mother daughter con team and their male victims.
SIGNED AND SEALED: After surveying all the major talent agents in town, Harrison Ford has signed up with United Talent Agency. Longtime agent Patricia McQueeney will act as the actor's point person with the agency, which beat out estimable competitors including Creative Artists Agency and William Morris.