Robocop (2014)

Robocop: A better remake of a Paul Verhoeven movie than Total Recall.

Robocop: A better remake of a Paul Verhoeven movie than Total Recall.

Let’s talk a little bit about remakes. Many people are getting sick and tired of them to the point where moviegoers in general are saying that Hollywood has run out of ideas. And to certain degree, I agree with them.

However, I will point out that there have been some good remakes (The 2010 version of The Karate Kid with Jackie Chan comes to mind.) But there are some remakes that have come out that actually justify people bashing the concept of remakes. The best example of this is the 2012 remake of the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall, which wasn’t even a remake of Total Recall at all. It was a really crappy remake of Blade Runner. And another major problem with that remake is that it was released with a PG-13 rating while the original film carried an R rating for its excessive violence (I mean Ahnuld rips a guy’s arms out of his sockets for god’s sakes.)

And the remake of Total Recall shares one other thing with the movie we’re reviewing today: This movie is also a PG-13 rated remake of an overly-violent R-rated movie directed by Paul Verhoeven, who was also responsible for such films as Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers (also rumored to be getting a remake,) and who could forget his crowning achievement, Showgirls. However, without going into details too much further: Let’s get on with the remake we’re reviewing today: Robocop.

As far as the story goes, it does follow the format established by the original 1987 movie which was released as an ultra-violent satirical take on the world of the not-too-distant future (this film is set in 2028.) One thing I do like however is the fact that the remake’s director, Jose Padilha manages to keep the Robocop story relevant to going-ons in today’s world as referenced in the film’s opening where a show called “The Novak Factor,” a Fox-News type show hosted by Samuel L. Jackson’s Pat Novak opens his show with a news story about how America is using robot drones to liberate Iran and cut back on military casualties and has the host praising the drones’ successful thwarting of a suicide bomber attack and believes that the drone program could also work to curb the increase in crime and cut back on the casualties of law enforcement officials.

The drones are actually the product of Omnicorp, whose CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) gets the idea of putting a permanently-injured police officer inside one of the robotic drones to help sway public opinion in favor of the use of drones in American law enforcement and enlists his top scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to find a test subject for their “Robocop.”

Eventually they find their subject after a car bomb placed by a drug lord severely injures maverick Detroit Detective Alex Murphy (played by Joel Kinnaman.) And here’s where things differ from the original: In the original, Murphy (who was played by Peter Weller) was killed by a hitman. Here, he is still alive when he is integrated into the Robocop suit with the consent of his bereaved wife Clara (Abbie Cornish.) And another big difference from the original is that Murphy’s partner Lewis is a man rather than a woman, probably to focus more on Murphy’s family which they weren’t really able to do in the original.

After extensive training that includes tinkering with his brain to suppress his humanity and natural decision-making to make him more efficient, Robocop is unveiled to the public where he immediately wins the public over by arresting a wanted criminal who managed to blend into the crowd. And for a while the crime rate begins to drop. That is until Murphy’s human side begins to override his programming as he sets out to solve his own attempted murder, just like in the original.

There are also some Easter Eggs from the original movie that pop up during the remake: For example the original Robocop theme music pops up occasionally during the course of the movie, most notably during Samuel L. Jackson’s Novak Factor reports. Plus the model for the original Robocop is seen in Sellars’ office. The ED-209, another drone robot that was one of Robocop’s adversaries in the original movie pops up as well. But with some deviations here and there partly to keep it relevant with today’s society, the remake more or less follows the original story pretty well.

The acting for the most part was pretty solid. Joel Kinnaman is a little bit more human in the role of Robocop than Peter Weller was in the first. Once again, I also like the fact that we got to see more of Murphy as a family man in the remake which more or less corrects a mistake that was made in the original films. Abbie Cornish also does a good job for what little screen time she has as Murphy’s wife. However the real performances comes from Gary Oldman as the conflicted scientist who knows that what he’s doing is wrong as far as tampering with Murphy’s brain to make him less human but ultimately redeems himself when he saves Murphy’s life when Sellars orders him terminated. Also Samuel L. Jackson comes through yet again as only he can and here’s where I will give out a little ending spoiler here: He gets to say his favorite word even though it’s bleeped out because he’s on air at the time. I’ll say, if Samuel L. Jackson really was a reporter for Fox News, I would definitely watch. Also Jackie Earle Haley (who also starred in a remake: Playing Freddy Krueger in the 2010 remake of Nightmare on Elm Street) is pretty funny as the military guy who trains Murphy and consistently refers to him as “Tin Man.” And Michael Keaton does a brilliant job channeling an evil version of Steve Jobs as Sellars.

The effects are awesome in this movie and as far as the new Robocop armor goes as well as the new capabilities it possesses goes, I was blown away. For starters, the trademark Robocop helmet with the visor only goes down when he goes into combat mode whereas when he is not in action, the visor is up and you can see his face. When I first saw production stills for this movie with Kinnaman in the Robocop armor, I was like “Did he raid Christian Bale’s Batman costumes from Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy?” Again the Batman connections to this movie are enormous (in addition to original Batman actor Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman who played Commissioner Gordon in the Nolan films.) And I also like the idea of Robocop creating a weapon to suit whatever situation he faces rather than relying on only one giant gun that only he can fire. For example, instead of just a gun where he can only kill people like in the original, he also has an assortment of non-lethal weapons including a taser which he uses quite a bit. Plus he also runs and jumps, which is something he couldn’t do in the original.

So I know what you’re thinking and despite the fact that the movie received a mixed reception from both critics and fans of the original franchise, I have to file this remake under “good remake.” For one thing, this movie is a better remake of a Paul Verhoeven movie than Total Recall, especially since this is an actual remake of Robocop rather than another movie that is pretending to be a remake of Total Recall. And comparing it to the original films, I have to say that while it’s almost as good as the original (the prolonged training sequences slow the movie down,) it’s way better than Robocop 3 (the franchise’s other attempt to make Robocop more appealing to a wide audience apart from the cartoon series and live-action TV series, both of which I watched growing up.)

So if you want to see a good remake and are a fan of the franchise and want to see a fresh take on an iconic character, then this movie is for you. I can’t recommend this enough.

 

Skyfall

Skyfall

Skyfall

Well, I figure today for a change of pace that I will do a written movie review blog instead. And it’s also about time I did a review of a James Bond movie. And what better movie to do a review on than the new Bond film Skyfall. Skyfall is the 23rd installment in the 50-year-old franchise that is directed by Sam Mendes, the man who won an Oscar for directing the 1999 film American Beauty but is probably better known as one of Kate Winslet’s ex-husbands. He seems like an odd choice to direct a Bond movie, but he pulls it off really well and the end result is one of the best Bond films ever.

But before we begin, let’s take a look at the last film, Quantum of Solace. Though while I thought the movie was good, I did have a couple of problems with it. For one thing, it was too short and the theme to that one was uninteresting. Nevertheless, it was still pretty good despite its flaws. Daniel Craig was just as badass here as he was in Casino Royale (his debut movie as 007) and the acting was still pretty good. However, Skyfall is a big improvement.

The movie begins with Bond (once again played by Craig) nearly getting killed while on a mission to obtain a document that has the identities of MI6 agents who have infiltrated terrorist organizations around the world. If the document falls into enemy hands, their identities would be compromised leaving them vulnerable to assassination attempts.

The enemy hands this time around is Silva (Javier Bardiem), an ex-MI6 agent who is out for revenge against M (again played by Dame Judi Dench) for betraying him to the Chinese government years earlier where he was subsequently tortured by the Chinese (apparently someone was pissed he married Penelope Cruz. :D) And when MI6 agents begin getting killed after being exposed by Silva, M is put under an investigation headed by Ralph Fiennes, who starts out as your typical arrogant bureaucratic jerk but plays a much bigger role by the end of the movie (I won’t spoil it here.)

Meanwhile, Bond who had been in hiding since his “death” resurfaces to resume his duties. However, his gun arm is kind of shaky as a result of a shoulder wound he got at the beginning of the movie. Despite that, M clears Bond to pursue Silva. And here is where we are introduced to the new Q (played by Ben Whishaw) who is a quiet, sarcastic 20-something computer geek as opposed to a cranky old man that he was in the original movies. And yes, folks. This Q does make some new toys for Bond though not as extravagant as they were in olden times. This time, 007 gets a customized Walther PPK gun which can only be fired by him. “What did you expect? An exploding pen?,” Q quips to Bond during their first meeting. Points if you can guess which Bond film the exploding pen appears in.

"Do I make you horny, Mr. Bond?"

“Do I make you horny, Mr. Bond?”

Back to Javier Bardem’s portrayal of Silva. I got to say that he is one of the best Bond villains to come out of the franchise in years. He plays the character as really creepy and psychotic that you got to take him seriously. In short, he is basically the franchise’s version of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. Among some of his highlights includes a scene where he interrogates Bond and he’s checking to see if he has a wire and well, I’ll let the picture right next to this paragraph speak for itself. And when he does allow himself to be captured by MI6 agents (and the movie ventures into Chris Nolan territory) and where he masterminds yet another terrorist scheme from the confines of a glass cell (which seems to be the in thing for big movies these days.) Hey, it worked for the Joker, Loki from The Avengers, Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and for the main villain in the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness.

What ensues after that is some real suspense-filled edge of your seat thrills as Bond and Silva play a game of cat and mouse that ultimately ends up at Bond’s childhood home, Skyfall presided over by Albert Finney (in a role that was rumored to have been offered to Sean Connery which would have been the icing on the cake commemorating the 50th anniversary of the franchise by seeing the original Bond interact with the current Bond.)

The Bond girls this time around are Naomie Harris who starts out as Bond’s partner at the beginning of the movie and also has a major twist at the end of the movie which I will not spoil and Berenice Marlohe as the mysterious Severeine who has a secret past and is actually the girlfriend of sorts of Silva.

This movie is nothing short of awesome. This definitely ranks among the best of the Bonds that deserves to be named along with movies like From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale. It’s also one of the best spy thrillers ever. And that’s saying something. Plus I love the awesome theme song from Adele which is actually a drawback to the Shirley Bassey themes from previous films. Craig is still as badass here as he was in his previous two Bond movies and here’s hoping he still has his edge being that he is signed on for at least two more Bond movies. And if those two are as good as this movie was, then the Bond franchise will definitely have potential to make it to its 100th anniversary.

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Well friends, this is it. The big one. The review that everyone has been waiting for. A review of the most anticipated film of 2012. So sit back, relax, and buckle up because I am about to get this review underway. Ladies and gentlemen, here is a review of the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga, The Dark Knight Rises.

But before we get started, I want to offer an apology for not reviewing the previous film, The Dark Knight. I was just starting to film myself on YouTube at the time The Dark Knight came out and I meant to do a review of that film at the time, but I forgot all about it and by the time I would have gotten around to it, everyone would have said everything I was going to say about it anyway so I decided not to go through with it.

So as my way of atoning for that, I am going to review this movie. One suggestion I would make about this movie is that you better pack a lunch because this film is almost 3 hours long. You heard that right, folks. Almost 3 hours long, a rarity for a summer movie blockbuster. So let’s not waste any time, shall we?

I’m gonna start off with a recap of the last movie, so this is hardly a spoiler because it’s safe to say that everyone by this point has seen The Dark Knight. Batman is wanted by the cops for murdering District Attorney Harvey Dent, even though by that time, Dent was corrupted by the Joker and turned into Two-Face. As Two-Face, Dent kidnaps Commissioner Gordon’s family and Batman saves them, even though Dent is killed in the process. In order to ensure that Dent’s good-guy reputation is secure, Batman and Gordon hatch a plot in which Batman will take the fall for both Dent’s death and the crimes Dent committed as Two-Face.

When this movie begins, its 8 years later and Batman has pretty much disappeared and the man behind the Bat, Bruce Wayne (again played by Christian Bale) has become a crippled recluse. Meanwhile two new villains have emerged to plague Gotham: Selena Kyle (played by Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar who we all know in the comics as Catwoman even though she isn’t called Catwoman in the movie and the main villain, Bane (played by Tom Hardy.) Now here is where I have to show some praise. Despite a liberty taken here and there, this movie’s Bane is closer to the real Bane as seen in the comics as opposed to the ass-raping the character received by Joel Schumacher in Batman and Robin. This is one of Batman’s most dangerous villains and the only real villain to actually defeat Batman and he is portrayed as such here but I’m not going to give too much away. I mean, it’s hard to do a movie like this without giving away too many spoilers.

Anne Hathaway does a pretty decent job here as Catwoman (I’ll call her that even though Nolan doesn’t call her that in the movie.) She has the right amount of sex appeal, physical prowess, and vulnerability that the character should have. And we sort of do feel the conflict that Catwoman has: She doesn’t know whether she wants to be a villain or a hero, just like in the comics.

The actions of both these villains force Bruce out of self-imposed exile and puts on the Bat suit again to save Gotham. Yes, folks, Christian Bale’s Bat-voice is back too, although it’s more toned down here than it is in the previous two movies. And what ensues is probably the biggest battle of his life.

And some of the supporting actors in this movie are pretty good too. Nolan Bat-regulars Michael Caine gives off an extremely touching performance especially for having significantly less screen time than in the last movie. Morgan Freeman again shines as Lucius Fox. Gary Oldman again does a pretty decent job as Commissioner Gordon. And the newcomers do a pretty decent job as well. Note that at least five of the main actors came over from Nolan’s last film, Inception (also a good movie I saw in theaters.) In addition to Tom Hardy (Bane) and Michael Caine (Alfred), Marion Cotillard (who appeared with Bale in the film Public Enemies) does fairly well as Miranda Tate, who has been handling Wayne Enterprise activities in Bruce’s absence.  You might think she doesn’t play a major role in the story, but she does (especially towards the end of the movie.) And Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as idealistic cop John Blake does most of the hero stuff whenever Batman is off-screen. And he does share a connection to Batman (which I also will not give away.)

The visuals are absolutely incredible. Everything from Batman’s newest vehicle, the Bat (a variation of the Batwing from the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher franchise) to Bane blowing up various sections of Gotham City (including a spectacular sequence where a football field is destroyed while one player plays on oblivious to the destruction around him.) And the climactic battle between Batman and his army of cops and Bane and his army of liberated criminals will clearly take your breath away.

Also of note is that this movie was filmed in New York City during the Occupy Wall Street movement which actually gives a hint of realism to this film (something the Nolan Bat-films have done pretty well) and from what I’ve heard, actual protesters were used as extras in the film further adding to the authenticity of the film.

So now on to the story. The story is a mixture of some of the best Batman stories ever told in the comics: “Knightfall” (the Batman/Bane storyline), “No Man’s Land” (criminals controlling a cut-off Gotham City) and the landmark mini-series, “The Dark Knight Returns” (Batman returning after a prolonged absence) and the story is told really well. In fact, the pacing is so good that you forget that this film is almost 3 hours long. If a movie can do that, then that’s the sign of a good movie.

So now the moment of truth: Is The Dark Knight Rises good or is it a colossal letdown? Well, in my honest opinion, The Dark Knight Rises is really, really good. In fact, I think I liked this better than The Dark Knight. It kept me really interested and it is clearly the ultimate Batman movie. A true epic and it’s also one of those rare threequels that is actually just as good as or better than the original movies. Other examples of this include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (even though I never seen it and as I’ve mentioned before in previous videos, I am not a Lord of the Rings fan.)

So there you go viewers. That is my take on The Dark Knight Rises. I highly recommend it to everyone and if you don’t want to see the Olympics, I suggest you go to the movies and check it out.