‘Phil’s Quick Capsule Review’ (a nod to legendary comedian Bill Hicks who coined the phrase when he reviewed ‘Piece Of Shit’ movie Basic Instinct)… where a perfect 10 is rarer than a rain free British summer!
Written by Phil Hobden – UK based podcaster, writer and former filmmaker. Part of the All Things Film network…
A question for anyone who’s seen this right off the bat – is Cheap Thrills a dark comedy, or a light horror? It can’t be both. It doesn’t have the faintest idea what it wants to be. So it decides to be both, I guess, and let the viewer decide. The poster suggests riotous, cheeky comedy.
When the film starts, its tone is blatantly clear; this won’t go well tonight for young new father Craig (Pat Healy) in what is undoubtedly the year’s biggest F.U. to any character – he’s served an eviction notice, goes to work and is laid off, and goes to drown his sorrows in a bar – only to meet a former high school acquaintance who’s much easier to handle when on mute. Poor sod.
Vince is his ne’er-do-well friend played by Ethan Embry, and they drink… and when Craig returns from the bathroom, Vince has cozied up to a couple named Colin and Violet. Colin is played by the go-to guy who’s name we can never remember but we always see in staple big budget comedies; David Koechner. Here, he’s the star of the show – his young trophy wife clearly with him because of his money; and, boy, does Colin wave it around. He dares the two youngster to down tequila and pinch a girl’s behind…
… and they end up back at his place, where the game really begin. Vince and Craig really need the money, and the wealthy sadist Colin dares them to do a number of ‘thing’s, which I won’t spoil, whilst simultaneously raising the amount. So, it’s one of those high concept comedies or horrors. Why then doesn’t it work? On paper, scripted as it is by David Chirchirillo and Troma’s own Trent Haaga must have read better than it plays. The film is set to slow-burn for approximately two thirds of its running time, and it all heads toward a tedious inevitability. I think the problem here is with relative newcomer E.L. Katz; tonally, the film is all off. It’s like the opening of Scream – in a manner of speaking – pulled out to 88 minutes. Rarely has a film felt twice as long as its own running time.
Okay, there are one or two reasonably satisfying set pieces involving – nope, not saying. Why? Well, if I do say what they are, then I’ll have ruined what limited fun there is to have.
The whole subtext about Craig needing to do this shit for the money, and Vince wanting the money is not exploited well enough until it’s far too late. Anyone who’s seen – let alone grew up on – concept cheap-o-ramas such as drivel like this will guess what one of the dares is before they’ve even left the bar. Especially if you’ve seen The Man From Hollywood. The ending is especially slack, with little-to-no motive (the furthest of the film’s troubles) for the lead character to do what he does, through to the daft reconnaissance that closes the picture down when the big titles flash at the end.
The main issue I have with the movie is that it simply doesn’t have the courage of its convictions. It doesn’t go TOO far enough. The BBFC have, according to the press notes, slapped this with a ‘15’ certificate for its May release. Fuck that. A film of this nature should be going apeshit bonkers, along the lines of Brian Yuzna’s Society or even Danny DeVito’s War of the Roses. If it were me, I’d have raised the bar higher a lot quicker, and the end would have been… too outrageous for print in a respectable website.
Cheap Thrills; perhaps the clue is in the title. Cheap? Certainly – this four hander seems to have been shot in the producer’s rich grandparent’s LA Canyon home. Thrills? Eh, not so much.
On paper – on canvas – this should really have worked a lot better than it did. The Monuments Men tells the story of a group of Yankee art lovers who quickly throw themselves through basic military training so they can get the OK from Roosevelt to recover a bunch of historic artifacts – or monuments – that Hitler is claiming for himself. Then you look at the poster – Clooney, Damon, Goodman, Murray – they’re all there, in a sort of exciting Oceans Eleven re-teaming, but this time, set in WWII.
Holy shit – did it have to be so boring and confused? This is more like ‘Leatherheads’ Clooney than ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ Clooney. Could it be that he’s spreading himself too thin in writing, producing directing AND starring? I don’t know – I think the issue here is that there’s plainly not enough story and certainly not enough happening in these events based on a true story. Sure, it’s important to keep art alive and out of the hands of the ‘do-badding’. Let’s put it this way; if the Germans do try it again, and decide to add great cinematic artwork alongside the Madonna and Mona Lisa, then if the original 35mm print of The Monuments Men is one of the ‘valuables’, I think we can probably just sit that one out.
The real crux of the problem is that this film is a mess. A pious, preachy mess. Oceans Twelve this ain’t. But then again, it’s hardly the Dirty Dozen, either. It’s just sort of – nothing. It’s bit part with teams of players, and none of them are used to their fullest. Bill Murray and Bob Balaban on screen in any other movie would be a real hoot, I’m sure. Here, they’re sort of standing around looking funny with their squinted eyes and shrugged shoulders. When that isn’t happening, gramophone music underpins their cause and any humour is vacuumed from the film. Goodman is one of the few that emerges unscathed – and in trying to scathe that vast canvas, it would seem anyone would fail – least of all Clooney.
Protracted, long and drawn-out and overstated beyond belief – much like its source material, The Monuments Men is a worthy cause of a story well worth telling. But Clooney and co. (who’d have thunk it?) prove not to be the team to do it.
The Review: Displeased at the way mankind has treated the Earth and itself, the Creator (i.e. God)decides to wipe out humanity by covering the world in a huge flood. However, not wanting to punish the innocent, He tasks Noah (Russell Crowe) with saving the animals by building a gigantic Ark to escape the oncoming deluge. Meanwhile, the evil King Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) is plotting to kill Noah and hijack the Ark for himself and his armies.
Directed by Darren Aronofski (Black Swan), and co starring Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson, Noah is a very odd beast indeed. I say odd mainly due to the fact that it seems to be many different movies all rolled into one, being by turns part religious epic, part drama and part action adventure. Indeed, by rights this film shouldn’t work at all – it features glowing swords, weird landscapes, six limbed stone angels and tackles a genre that has been hitherto untapped since the days of Cecil B DeMille. Plus lets not forget that the last big budget disaster film featuring an oceanic apocalypse was Water World (1995) and look what happened to that!
However in the hands of the highly talented Aronofski, Noah does work extremely well and proves to be a highly enjoyable and superbly made film.
Beautifully photographed, with outstanding visual effects, Aronofski skilfully creates a desolate old testament world, filled with death, sin and the ravages of humanity. When it comes, the flood itself is a wonder to behold and is unflinching in its devastation – one particular standout scene has Noah and his family safely ensconced in the Ark, whilst forced to hear the dying screams of the thousands caught in Gods watery punishment.
In addition its very action packed, and especially fascinating in its depiction of creation and the fall of man to original sin.
All the main cast are universally excellent. Crowe gives his best performance since Cinderella Man, depicting Noah as a solid man of action, plagued by doubts but willing to sacrifice everything – even his family –to carry out the Creators plan. Jennifer Connelly is equally good as Noah’s wife Naameh, Anthony Hopkins brings gravitas to proceedings as Methuselah, Ray Winstone is his usual superb self as Tubal-Cain and Emma Watson is an absolute standout in the role of Ila –Noah’s adopted daughter.
Without doubt though this would have all been for naught without the talents of Darren Aronofski. Any other director would have messed this film up but with Aronofski’s steady hand and intelligent visual flair, what could have been a critical and commercial flop of biblical proportions turns out to be the total and complete opposite.
An absolutely cracking film that in years to come may well be regarded as a modern classic. Highly recommended.
The Review: I love it when the title of a film aptly sums up precisely how thrilling and entertaining the experience of sitting through it is like. Take The terminator, for examples, or perhaps even Twelve Angry Men (and RoboCop) – those two titles tell you what’s going to happen; gear you up for a giddy ride. Then there’s shite like The Motel Life starring Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff, which does precisely the same. Only don’t be fooled by the title this time around; The Motel Life is much, much more boring.
The aforementioned superstars play brothers – in childhood they’re approximately the same age, and now in adulthood, it seems Dorff has gained about fifteen years on his sibling. A quick trip to the iMDB informs us that Dorff is a clear decade older than Hirsch. But it gets better – Hirsch is a clear decade older than his love interest played by Dakota Fanning, who for all intents and purposes (and especially in the America) is not quite at the requisite age yet for having been dumped a while ago by this loser and considering taking him back.
But anyway, I digress. The Mote Life is directionless twadlle. Dorff hits and kills a youngster with his dumpster truck – or something – and dumps the body on a frozen river and legs it. He tells his brother, and they decide to flee. But dickhead Dorff throws his toys out of his pram, feels sorry for himself, and shoots himself in the leg. His amputee leg. Oh dear.
In the hospital, and the cops are getting wise. Dorff now needs Hirsch to rescue him. I know, this all sounds like a Fargo-ish crime thriller, right?
This is dreary, slow-paced utter buffoonery which brings about memories of films far richer, certainly better written and infinitely more enjoyable than this pretentious piece of twattery. I rarely use the word “pretentious” around these here parts because it’s often misused. But here, I mean it sincerely. All this ‘action’ is punctuated by fatal halts in the ‘narrative’ flow to include animations of stories being told by Hirsch to…. well, whichever character will listen. This is a slam dunk deadbolt in the gears of a movie that has real trouble gargling its engine to roll past the 80 minute run time.
Dakota Fanning is haphazardly miscast as the love interest – but fair dos, she’s so underused anyway, it barely seems to matter. Hirsch on numerous occasions has eye drops bled into his tear ducts just before the directors shout action to ensure the tears are real. Dorff is… God knows what he is, but he is ‘it’ and then some. Annoying, I think is the word. It’d be quite fair to align The Motel Life to Of Mice and Men in more than a number of ways. My God this film is mind-numbingly tedious.
And this narcoleptic hogwash needed TWO directors? Ha. Yeah – one to read the newspaper, and the other to hold it up for him, no doubt. Yawn.
Caity Lotz trained in martial arts, dance and gymnastics. From starring in Mad Men, The Pact and Arrow as the infamous Black Canary to be Lady Gaga’s backing dancer, the 27 year old has had a more varied and in depth career than those twice her age. Her latest project is an action packed, British science fiction film The Machine, a story of two computer programmers fall in love as they create the first ever piece of self-aware artificial intelligence, which is designed to help humanity. But things go wrong when the MoD steal their breakthrough and teach it to become a robotic weapon.
The Machine is released inc cinemas & VOD on 21st March and on DVD/BluRay on 31st March. We sat down with Caity to talk The Machine, Arrow and Don Draper for an Exclusive All Things Film interview…
What appealed to you about the role of Ava in The Machine? I was really interested in the script because it was such a challenge. It was two completely different roles and one of them wasn’t even human. I was really excited to try and develop both of the characters to make them so different.
With the part of Ava being very physical, was the Machine one of the more changing projects you’ve worked on? Ava was a just a scientist so wasn’t very physical at all. The Machine however was very physical which added a challenging element to her. I trained in martial arts and dance so it was like I had been preparing for this role since I was 7. Switching back and forth between characters doing shooting was also a challenge.
How do you approach the action sequences? I just do it. We didn’t have much time for rehearsals so usually I would learn the fight scenes while they were setting up the cameras and we’d do it. Our stunt team on the film was amazing so they made me look good.
You’re career is very varied: TV & Film actress, model, dancer… what drives your choices? Curiosity drives my choices. I try to leave myself open creatively to whatever draws me. I think anytime your curious about an artform it’s is for a reason and that form of expression should be explored. I believe it’s important to go with the flow of your passions, even if it doesn’t end up being something you do professionally, it can teach you something and make you more open.
You’re currently fearing in a recurring role in the highly successful Arrow TV show. What attracted you to that series? Badassery. I’m not sure that’s a real word but it should be. I when I auditioned for the character they didn’t tell me who exactly I was playing, but I loved how strong she was. When I found out later I was going to be a super hero I definitely wasn’t mad about it.
What’s been your favourite role to date and why? That’s a hard one because I’ve been so blessed to play some wonderful characters, but I’d have to say The Machine. I really was able to lose myself into the character. There also was such a physical transformation. I got really buff for the role, bleached my eyebrows and hair, changed my posture and voice, when I looked in the mirror I didn’t even recognize myself.
Don Draper or Oliver Queen? I think I’d have to say Oliver Queen, I mean he’s a super hero.
What’s up next for you? Who knows!? Arrow takes up a lot of my time but I definitely won’t stay out of the film world for too long. Maybe I’ll take up bird watching.
The Review: I prefer Sam Rockwell to Owen Wilson, and I am pretty sure most people feel the same way. Quite why first time writing and directing team Geoff Moore and David Posamentier have instructed Rockwell to carry off his best Owen Wilson impersonation is beyond me. This is not the same Rockwell we saw in The Way Way Back which, when held against Better Living Through Chemistry, seems Oscar-worthy.
Small-time pharmacist Doug Varney has recently bought out a pharmacy in a small, sleepy suburban town somewhere in the States. He’s married to a God-awful fitness instructor bitch, played by Michelle Monaghan and spends his life under the thumb of both her and his chubby twelve year-old son Evan who’s going through the usual pubescent naughtiness at school. Noah (played by Coffeetown’s Ben Schwartz) is a hirsute nitwit occasionally employed at the pharmacy to run deliveries. He’s not very good at it. So, late one night, Varney has to make the deliveries which sees him at the doorstep of the mansion belonging to Elizabeth Roberts (Olivia Wilde) who’s a pill-popping, stay-at-home trophy wife. She lets him in, and the pushover becomes seduced.
For long stretches of the ninety minute run time, the movie goes nowhere. Sure, it looks absolutely fantastic; the idyllic ‘burbs are marvelously captured on screen and are a vibrant, pastel-coloured treat. You’re probably wondering what happens next. Well, nothing much to speak of. And this is the problem.
Better Living Through Chemistry has no real clue as to what it wants to be. It’s hinted at that Liz and Varney may escape and run off together, but we sit in befuddlement as to Varney’s preoccupation with his truant son – can he leave him behind? And so, the film side-steps to tackle that issue by including a strange sub-plot seeing him and his son dress up as ninjas and throwing ninja stars at the pharmacy under cover of night. Then we’re back at the pharmacy where Varney starts to get high on his own supply of pills, on the advice of the legal-junkie Elizabeth. It’s then mooted that perhaps Liz and Varney may feed her always-absent millionaire husband a fatal concoction of pills so she can become a widow and run off with Varney elsewhere. But then Varney is too weak to succumb, or too off his tits to consider it seriously.
And the worst offence, here? A glum, gravelly-voiced female narrator tells us what everyone is thinking, despite us having sat through the bleedin’ obvious. It is later revealed that it is Jane Fonda providing the narration, who pops up in the closing scene as a customer. Who is this character? How did she know about them? It’s just a mess.
None of this gels in quite the way Moore and Posamentier probably thought it would. What we’re left with is a directionless, meandering and weak pretty-looking mess. I’d say those attributes can also be attributed to Olivia Wilde – here with blonde hair – but she’s so delectable and gorgeous, I’m not sure I can accuse her of ruining the story; if anything, she livens up the whole affair.
Better Living Through Chemistry was financed, in part, by and Ealing studios offshoot. Sure, this has the blueprint of an Ealing comedy along the lines of The Ladykillers and A Fish Called Wanda. When the think of the last title, we think of ideas way above its station; has she enlisted Varney to murder her husband, and then she can leg it with the money? Can a beautiful woman like that really develop feelings for a loser like him? Or, maybe we consider the potential for a Fargo-lite suspense thriller where the murder goes wrong? Nope – in trying to be both, it ends up being neither.
The Review: It seems all genres are racing to get out their flagship movies this month – curiously enough, it seems some of the movie studios might have incorrectly hedged their bets on what the punters want to see. Movie theatres are pulling some of the big Oscar contenders to make way for unexpected demand in the form of Lone Survivor and – now – this silly little buddy cop comedy Ride Along, starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube.
On paper, I guess this seems like a sure fire hit; the world-weary experienced cop having a screaming, effeminate little bitch (Hart) tag along with him for a day. Does this sound like Training Day? Of course it does. At least director Tim Story and his four writers know this and make several references to that picture in this one.
Happily, though, this is not Cop Out – there, the references may as well have been accompanied by a counter screen left within the first five minutes. As flimsy as the premise is, it works fairly well for the Saturday night crowd; Hart is a security guard who needs to prove to his brother-in-law-to-be that he’s got what it takes to join the force AND marry his sister. At first it’s a companionship built on annoyance, but as time goes on, the stakes rise; the faceless crime kingpin bad guy will make an appearance and it’ll all be thanks to the hapless moron who’s tagging along. If it was a white cast, it’d make absolutely naff-all difference.
Naturally, the films narrative punches are entirely forced and the end will be seen a mile off by anyone who’s seen – well, any movie, ever.
So, plot spoilers be damned, the question must be asked: is this a film worth seeing? Depends who you are. If you think you’d be passively diverted by 90 minute Lethal Weaponry with a light sprinkling of ‘street’ then this could well be the movie for you. Me? Well, I have a rather extensive movie collection at home I could revisit where this shit is done a hell of a lot better.
There are no surprises other than the fact that Kevin Hart makes quite an excellent annoying little prick. Closer inspection tells us that he’s in touch with his feminine side; a sort of contemporary Chris Tucker, if you will. Laurence Fishburne has gotten really old and fat. John Leguizamo has neither aged nor matured. Non-descript bad guys still look mean and fierce. Shadowy arms deals still take place.
In the middle of it all, a cutesy, annoying, little homosexual man in denial. I’m all for a modern spin on the familiar comedy cop routine, but the irony of the title “Ride Along” in view of all this is not lost on me. Don’t worry, I’m being facetious. I had a lot of time to think of that last one during the movie.
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Naturally this wasn’t my first (or even tenth) choice of film to watch this weekend but with a four year old daughter in tow I didn’t have a great deal of choice (12 Years a Slave or Wolf Of Wall Street?). And you know what? It wasn’t bad. In fact, for it’s scant one hour ten minute run time, I was never bored and even found myself quite enjoying it at times. So it’s no Frozen, but with a good message and it’s heart in the right place alongside some superb voice acting by the always excellent Tom Hiddleston as well as a story by Disney supremo John Lassiter, my daughter was glued to her seat. What more could you ask?
Best Bit: Tom Hiddleston as future Captain Hook
Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Rent
If you liked this try: Frozen (8/10); Wreck It Ralph (6/10); Monsters University (6/10)
The Review: The Monuments Men is the untold story of the men who protected and searched for stolen artwork and artefacts during the latter days of WWII. George Clooney plays Frank Stokes who is set the task by President Roosevelt to put a team of specialists together and go to German occupied France and Belgium to recover these valuable items. Needless to say, they are a rag tag bunch comprising of Matt Damon who is the curator of the Metropolitan Museum, architect Bill Murray, art critic Bob Balaban, sculptor John Goodman, painter Jean Dujardin and art historian Hugh Bonneville.
After having to go through basic training, the group are deployed across Europe, the majority of the time they are shouted at by senior officers who don’t care about protecting art, the rest of the time they seem to be chasing their tails apart from Matt Damon who goes to Paris where he meets Cate Blanchettes art curator who was employed by the Nazis to catalogue all of the stolen art and who may know its whereabouts.
Again Clooney proves that he is a solid director with this latest labour of love, it can almost be described as Oceans WWII as it focuses on a large cast of famous names stealing items from the rich and powerful albeit this time it’s the Nazis. The film itself is not without faults, the main one being trying to give each of the characters enough screen time to enable the audience to identify with them, some get too much (step forward Matt Damon and Cate Blanchette) and some are criminally underused (Bob Balaban and the always impressive John Goodman).
This is not the worst of it though, that is reserved for Cate Blanchette whose character is so wooden she could do with taking acting lessons from Keanu Reeves and Pinocchio. Blanchette phones the performance in and does not seem to be making any effort at all and it shows as each scene she is in seems to drag the film backwards.
The film is also disjointed in its narrative as it tries to balance the screen time for the characters as the months (and the viewing time) roll past. It is almost ninety minutes into the film that anything of real importance starts to happen.
In short, yes this is a worthy film as it sheds light on the role that The Monuments Men played in saving much of Europe’s art, however, like a school trip around an art gallery it soon becomes boring and forgettable.
The Review: This remake has one credited writer; newcomer Joshua Zetumer, with a total one credit on the IMDb. This one. And it shows. It actually shows two things: one, that a newcomer can show some promise for the future, and two – his first major screenplay probably shouldn’t be a remake.
News of a remake for the original 1987 RoboCop has been bandied about, changed, forgotten, reborn, rebuked and regurgitated for what feels like a decade, now. Almost everything and its sequel from the seventies and eighties is being remade.
I have a theory about why this might be. Those impressionable youngsters who marvelled at these modestly-budgeted pictures are now the CEOs of the mega conglomerate studios – and in their quest for nostalgia and a hark back to the good ol’ days, these cretins who clearly haven’t understood what made their favourite childhood pictures as awesome as they were, are now trying to replicate the success. So, on balance, with the gigantic failures of the abysmal Texas Chainsaw remakes, Evil Dead and – whatever else you can think of – it comes as some surprise that RoboCop 2014 is not an absolute failure. Even the hiring of Brazilian director Jose Padliha smacks of retrograde “this’ll work if he hire outside North America” Verhoeven kinship. The results, to be sure, are mixed.
I absolutely must preface this critique by alerting you to the fact that I believe 1987’s RoboCop to be the best movie ever made. Not only had it accidentally predicted the future (down-trodden, cash-strapped Detriot, USB sticks for middle fingers, and DVD players containing murderous messages) – it also successfully satirised corporate greed and ended up becoming more relevant to today’s society than it did when it hit our screens. The performances were studied and sublime. The screenplay by Michael Miner and Ed Neumeier is perhaps the best example of lean, non-fat storytelling. Not a second wasted. And the glorious matte paintings by Rocco Giofre – adding to city hall’s deafeningly sardonic downward-pointing arrow shape are about as faultless as hand-to-canvas design can ever come.
The soundtrack rocked in an understated manner, and created a theme tune recognisable to all. Above all else, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven directs with sheer ferocity; just the right side of parody; needlessly violent and need fully suspicious. In Dick Jones and Clarence Boddicker we are privileged to have two of cinemas most evillest, greedy and violent psychopaths. And the three best death scenes ever recorded. You know what they are.
Underneath the sheen, however, was a story of a man killed and turned into a robot. The robot fights against himself, and is reborn. He battles against his programming and starts to become human again. At the first plot point, he dies and is reborn. Crucially, at the start of act III, he removes his visor and reveals his human, misshapen head and wreaks revenge on his killers. The last line of the movie – when he’s asked his name – is “Murphy”, with a smile of sheer triumph. It gets applauses at every screening I’ve ever attended. It’s the end to end all movies. And none of it is shoved down your throat.
Today, with this remake, it seems the writer and director understand very little of why RoboCop actually worked. Sure, they try to replay the notes and bring it up to date. Samuel L. Jackson plays – let’s not fuck about here – Bill O’Reilly. His character, “Pat Novak” ( and yes, I get the reference!) has his own TV show in 2028 called “The Novak Element” which seals the deal on “The Factor” comparison. He cuts off liberals halfway through their speeches and gloriously upholds the beliefs of the right, whilst singlehandedly cutting away from any news story that may be at odds with his message. The opening of RoboCop 2014 is set in war torn Middle East where ED209s are deployed and, in a scene reminiscent of Dr. Manhattan having hoards of Vietnamese drop to their knees and surrender to his almighty power, so do the civilians of this land. Machines, here, effectively perform as clones of Kim Jong Un, where they make decisions based on reactions. When the limited number of civilians react, they use these robots as suicide devices in a fight, knowing the gore-hungry media will lap it up. But that part never reaches Novak. And in this respect, Padilha strikes gold in successfully bring up the Casey Wong/Jesse Perkins angle to a contemporary flavour.
Unfortunately, though, this is one of approximately two components that actually do work.
Working less well, sadly, are the fundamental aspects of the original – regardless of whether or not they are meant to serve the same original outing, they merely fall bizarrely flat this time out. Gone is the man inside the robot trying to remember whom he is. Instead we have a mutilated man go up in a car bomb; reduced to a set of terrible CGI lungs and a face, hanging off a futuristic android drip. It is replaced by a need to retire back to one’s family; sure, it’s an interesting angle (who doesn’t want to see SuperCop bang his wife’s pelvis to kingdom cum) – but the PG-13/12A rating won’t allow for it.
Alarmingly, the 12A rating will allow for extremely gory shots of Alex Murphy’s skull to be peeled back and reveal his brain sack. In scenes (surely accidentally) that will remind you of Cain from RoboCop 2, these scenes are flatly unnecessary, and simply included to show the sheer balls the filmmakers think they can get away with. I guess it’s because Gary Oldman is playing the scientist, and the context is of biology, rather than splatter.
Gary Oldman is a problem for the movie. He’s much too relied upon for exposition. Where the original demanded we piece the (altogether straightforward, admittedly) story with nuance and emotion, Padilha simply cannot wager MGM’s $100m on the fact that the audience has ever experienced loss or comedy before, and so gets Oldman to grabs as much explanation as he can and routinely force it down out throat. I lost count after the first thirty minutes just how many times Oldman comes out with “But, you’re not human, and you have commands” and/or “He’s starting to remember! The microbiotic chip sonar radar thing is making his face go all twitchy and might alert the bad guys to come and he might switch off at any moment and his wife might come here starting to ask question, so I think we should shut him off!” etc. Oldman may as well be credited not as the professor/doctor, but as the DVD commentary for thick people.
Afterall, RoboCop 2014 is RoboCop 1987 for dummies.
But if you’re not totally aware of what’s going on and how you should be feeling, we then have Michael Keaton playing a sort of hybrid of Bob Morton and Dick Jones (that is to say, the inventor and bad gay second-in command from the original) who walks into a room and fucks Oldman’s shit up by saying things like “Yeah, but, the media and the public want him to be a bit human, so make it happen and do it now” before swanning off to stare at pictures of Teflon. It’s this character’s idea to make him “black”. A ‘street’ reference to the body suit colour is made by Lewis (yep – now male, and now black for marketing purposes, I guess) – but it’s never explained why. I think I may have just explained it, re-reading my last sentence.
The film utterly loses its way and got me checking my phone at the midway point. Without spoiling anything, it appears that both versions of this film have accidentally found Alex Murphy revisit his home. In the original; an extremely emotional scene where his family appear to have started to move on. An electronic estate agent played by Bob Monkhouse convinced him to buy his dream home. In this remake; oooooh, he scans the garden apth with his visor; obtaining – God knows how – an accurate reviewing of his maiming AND the aftermath of his wife finding him. From about twenty-six different angles. This screams of an equally rule-breaking, head-slapping moment in 1998’s Enemy of the State where logic flies out of the window as Will Smith watches back 3D surveillance during a theft. Surely the writer and director can’t believe we, the audience, are this thick?
But – judging by this packed Saturday night dreck – it seems that they can. Sitting in my favourite spot in screen five with my brother (also an ardent fan) and my wife, a row of about eight extremely unsupervised boys (barely in double digits age-wise) sat in stony, well-behaved silence throughout the entire running time. Behind them, right by the aisle, I sat. And a curious thought raced through my mind: I was once them, at that age, doing precisely the same thing when Verhoeven and Weller were running the show. I am now my Dad who sat with me – but this time, the experience is altogether childish and simplistic. The simplicity of the narrative has been confused with simple-mindedness. The careful undercurrent of satire and message the eleven year-old Andrew experienced, is now what these eleven year-old experiencing… and just before I could ruminate any longer, I am interrupted by a crushing loud CGI fight between RoboCop and a bunch of ED209s.
Only this time they don’t have that haunting, stop-motion Jason-and-the-Argonauts feel; we all know that feeling – they move in a staggered, menacing, almost unreal fashion. A fashion, I gather, that inspired the creepy-looking black-haired girl from the original Ringu movies. Here, now, ED209 looks like a reject from War of the Worlds; gone is the whale-like, upside-down sad faced behemoth voice box that shoots erratically. The row in front of me has the concept, but the execution now gives us a soft-edged, careful algorithm of pixels – both in the monster and RoboCop himself – and now, somehow, it doesn’t feel too scary.
By that point, and its Die-Hard ending (no, don’t read anything in to that – I’m talking mainly about location. Oh, and while I’m at it – no – he doesn’t die like that!) I had lost all interest, but I did have a smile on my face. Why? Well, fortunately – I guess for me – there’s no way in hell that RoboCop 2014 can be compared to RoboCop of 1987. They’re totally separate beasts altogether. One engrosses the mind and is still upheld by me as the best movie ever made. The smile originates now from the fact that it very likely cannot ever be recaptured; but if it inspires those kids in the row in front of me to check out the original, then – if they’re anything like me – they may feel the same.
On my journey home, I remarked to my wife and brother that I wished I had asked the kids what they thought of the movie. But as I write this, it’s passably irrelevant and I am glad I didn’t. One man sitting a few rows behind me and to the left giggled like a female hyena right the way through the movie, pausing only to shout rather loudly his thoughts at the onscreen action. I am glad he enjoyed it. My wife said she did, and she can’t remember if she’s seen the original.
I really am glad. I am glad the kids in front didn’t feel the need to migrate to their fucking iPhones. I was glad that I made it through the movie without wanting to walk out. I was fairly content leaving with the reaffirmation that I am correct about the original being the best movie ever made. I stood up, ready for that next cigarette after a quick trip to the toilet.
And as we walked out “I Fought the Law” by The Clash started blaring over the end credits.
And it was at that point that the remake lost another point.