‘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…
It’s The Smoking Lamb Movie Podcast. A weekly, no-holds-baa-aa-arred, and R-rated look at the world of movies.
On this episode: In a Smoking Lamb first, Josh and Stephen are alone on the Podcast to cause havoc and prove that anyone can Podcast! So tune in for reviews of both the original and the remake of Flatliners, Goodbye Christopher Robin and Top 5 Performances By Actors Called Chris!
It’s The Smoking Lamb Movie Podcast. A weekly, no-holds-baa-aa-arred, and R-rated look at the world of movies.
On this episode: This week Mike, Steve and Ricky B check out the latest version of Stephen King’s IT to hit the screens, and also discuss the film in comparison with the mini-series from 1990. We also have the usual sections – the Top Five concerns movies with kids in leading roles, that aren’t kid’s movies; Mike brings his homework to class and does a report on Clerks 2, and a loophole is uncovered in this week’s Address The Lamb.
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: The original Pete’s Dragon was never one of my favourite Disney films. It was okay. But nothing more. Considering how much success Disney have had of late with adapting their own animated to live action, I had high hopes they could deliver something better here. Sadly however I was once again left with an overriding feeling of Meh!. It’s nothing specific – the cast and effects are both good – but the film and it’s central story of a boy and his dragon just didn’t connect. Was the same for my seven year old daughter also… let’s hope the upcoming adaptations are more successful.
Best Bit: The Dragon is well realised
Buy, Stream, Avoid: Avoid
If You Liked this Try: Cinderella (2015), Beauty And Beast (2017), Pete’s Dragon
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Ben Hur is a fine. I’ve seen both better and worse films this year. But whilst I have no real affection to the original, you cant argue that the cast was pretty outstanding. A few days since I watched this modern retooling of Ben Hur I cant remember a single actor from the film, or for that matter much more than the final chariot race. So totally forgettable in the whole but not the worst way to pass two hours.
Best Bit: Chariots!
Buy, Stream, Avoid: Stream
If You Liked this Try: Ben Hur (1959), Braveheart, Troy
Remakes – the bane of serious film fans the world over, usually pointless and generally always thought of as pale imitations of the more superior original classics they are based on. In fact i dare anyone to name more than five remakes that were actually better or at least a match for the original.
So as you can imagine i was seriously dismayed when I heard that Ghostbusters, one of the most original, beloved and successful films of the 1980’s, was to be remade by director Paul Feig (Spy – which i HATED)) and would star an all new cast headed up by Melissa McCarthy (who i have never liked in anything). Things fared no better when the first trailer debuted earlier this year and was subsequently met with deafening hoots of derision from what seemed to be the entire human race. To say the least things were not looking too good.
However i am very pleased to report that the new and updated Ghostbusters, is in fact, a really rather good film indeed.
To begin with, the casting of highly talented female comediennes (McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate Mckinnon) was a stroke of genius. It would have been so simple to cast the likes of Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence or Sandra Bullock, but instead director Feig has gone for four actresses who refreshingly really give it their all and not only manage to be very funny but also incredibly endearing as well. McCarthy and Wiig’s characters are childhood freinds who have always been outsiders and never in the cool crowd, Jones is a lowly subway attendant, bored stiff in her job but has an encyclopedic knowledge of New York and its history, and McKinnon (a revelation) is by her own admission a bit of a fruitcake but again is another outsider who in a touchingly funny speech near the end reveals how great it is to finally have some friends.
There is also a rich vein of quirky humor running through proceedings that proves to be very refreshing indeed – and whilst im not a massive fan of American comedy, i did find myself laughing out loud on several occasions – specifically when Chris Hemsworth is on screen as Kevin the Ghostbuster’s handsome but completely inept receptionist.
The film also doesn’t skimp on the crowd pleasing moments as well – theres action aplenty, specifically in the final battle, plus lots of inventive ghost effects, cool gadgets, some genuine scares and of course a liberal dose of that fantastic theme tune.
So the big question remains – is the remake as good as Ivan Reitman’s 1984 masterpiece? I would venture that most people will say no, however for me it was damn close indeed. One just couldn’t ignore the fact that the humour was so off the wall clever and the characters that had so much heart, and this made all the difference for me. Yes ill admit i will never be swayed about my dislike of remakes but in the case i’ll make a notable exception.
This retelling of the 1982 ‘classic’ should be fraught with new ideas considering ho different we use electricity thirty years later. I’d love to be able to report that apparitions can utilise the 4G or wifi between electronic devices, or that the nasty little spirits have found a way to manifest themselves in human form via the element in a kettle when the poor, unsuspecting sod boils it to human temperature and gets scolded for doing so.
But, you see, in director Gil Kenan’s hand – yes, he of City of Ember – we merely get more of the same. Sam Rockwell turns up as the dad of three who is unemployed, but still finds the means to move himself and his wife and family to a wonderfully built detached house somewhere in Arseville, USA. His wife is a writer, and inbetwixt them they carry possibly the least sympathetic teenage girl and her two younger siblings; a boy who’s possibly on the autism spectrum, and the little girl who will ultimately discover the true meaning of ‘pressing the red button’ on the widescreen TV and that never seems to get watched by anyone other than the inhabitants inside the screen.
To be fair, the two very young children are good performers and manage to scream and get thrown around fairly convincingly. It’s a small wonder how best they could have utilised the copy-and-paste nitwitted, spoil brat teenager though as this character is clearly the audience for this mind numbing of a vastly superior original she probably has never heard of, or wouldn’t watch because it was made before she was born.
Poltergeist 2015 is to Poltergeist 1982, what Evil Dead 2013 was to Evil Dead 1981; i.e., fuck all and a little bit less, overall. It dollys in, and then out, and turns on the soundtrack and contains its fair shares of false alarms. And then, irritatingly, it all gets a bit ‘Insidious’ meets ‘Indie comedy’ minus the smiles. Jane Adams, whose turn in Happiness, pops up as a parapsychologist type – and, confusingly and unnecessarily, Jared Harris (an Adam Sandler co-back bencher) turns up with an Irish accent, presumably trying to mock Brendan Gleeson or whatsisface out of the National Lottery in The Borderlands, to add some gravitas to a lamebrained retread we’ve already lost patience with ten minutes before he even shows up. If you’re going to need a British accent, you fail to pull the wool over our eyes simply by having be an Irish man.
All in all, like so many ‘re-boots’, this may as well have been Insidious Chapter III if, for no other reason, than to save us having two like-for-like titles in as many weeks at this time of the year. Apparently there’s also the ability to see it in 3D. Perhaps one day that will apply to the characters, and not just the visuals.
Author: Andrew Mackay
To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download the Filmsploitation podcast, part of the All Things Film network.
In the not too distant future, Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman-TV’s The Killing), is mortally wounded in the line of duty, desperate to save him, his wife (Abbie Cornish) agrees to let Michael Keaton’s sinister Omnicorp and Gary Oldman’s brilliant scientist rebuild him as – you guessed it – Robocop – a part man, part machine, indestructible law enforcer who soon has the criminals of Detroit on the run. Until that is, Murphy’s human side starts to take over and, defying his corporate masters, sets out to solve his own murder.
In 1987 the now defunct Orion Pictures made the potentially crazy decision to give the then unknown Paul Verhoeven several million dollars to direct a futuristic sci fi film, about a cyborg cop, featuring a cast of virtual unknowns.
What could have been a bog standard Judge Dredd/Bionic man, direct to video, B movie, turned out to be anything but.
Blood soaked, peppered with quotable one liners (“id buy that for a dollar!”, “Guns, Guns, Guns!”) a brilliant score by Basil Poledouris, outstanding action sequences, one of the most evil bad guy’s ever committed to celluloid and a wry intelligent humour that slyly thumbed its nose at corporate America –the original Robocop deservedly remains one of the greatest sci fi action movies ever made.
When it was announced that a remake was in the works, legions of naysayers and fan boys where naturally up in arms crying sacrilege, which was further compounded, months later, when said geeks were up in arms after photos of a new sleek black Robo Suit were put on the net along with rumors of studio interference and meddling.
So it was to most peoples surprise that when Robocop 2014 was released last week, it turned out to be pretty decent – sort of.
So whats good? – Well for a start the cast is excellent – Kinnaman, as Murphy/Robo is superb and a future leading man in the making, Oldman is effortlessly brilliant as usual and Michael Keaton is fantastic as the head of OmniCorp. The action is well staged, Jose Padilla’s direction is very inventive, the visual and make up effects are impressive and the film is never less than very entertaining.
There are quite a few things wrong – first and foremost, it simply isnt as good as the original, out goes all the blood, gore, one liners, swearing and complete lack of political correctness that made the 1987 film such a joy and in comes a bloodless PG 13 version that seems to want to appeal to a more sensitive mass market. The baddies – whilst enjoyable- cant touch the 1987 version’s motley crew of psychos, and Samuel L Jackson’s shouty TV host is completely pointless and ineffective.
I have nothing against remakes – Oceans 11, 3:10 to Yuma and The Departed were all brilliant – but they were remakes of films that were ether foreign, not very good in the first place or were so old that no one had seen them for decades. This is not the case with Robocop – and whilst Jose Padilla’s film is never less than enjoyable – one cant help feeling that the cast, director and budget could have been put to use on something more original – this of course is the fault of the studio – remake a well known film with a built in fan base, do a PG-13 version so as to appeal to a wider audience and –hey presto – a box office friendly franchise is reborn with minimal effort put in.
The trouble with Robocop 2014 and many others like it, is that it’s a remake of a very well known, well loved movie that (along with its sequels) is still available on dvd, and is shown on TV and Netflix on a regular basis. Therefore its still very much in the public consciousness – the result is that the filmmakers are set up for a fall before even one person watches the finished product – produce something original and different and you are accused of ruining an already good movie, or just do a straight remake and get told that you are rubbish because you have no new fresh ideas – basically dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t – and whatever anyone says – people will always compare it with the original movie.
In summary I would cautiously recommend Robocop, as it’s good solid entertainment, well made and very well acted – and I’d be interested to see a sequel – as Robocop 2 and 3 –(released in the 1990’s) were appalling.
However Hollywood needs to start being brave, move away from making easy money movies, and concentrate on producing fresh stories -now id buy that for a dollar. Author: Will Strong
The Review: This unnecessary remake stars Josh Brolin as a man locked away for twenty years with seemingly no reason, before being released and hooking up with a nurse to find out why the perpetrators imprisoned him.
If you’ve seen the original, then you know the rest – and you know this remake. The only practically new thing Spike Lee does here is offer us the opportunity to see what Derren Brown would look like playing an ultra rich, ultra eccentric bad guy. This role is played by District 9’s Sharlto Copley – and it simultaneously makes and ruins the film. He’s so over the top, and yet somehow he’s exactly the like the film; overproduced, oversaturated and over-everything. No need to remake the 2004 original which is far superior, although this does have its moments. It never really lets up, and Brolin is actually pretty good. Somehow, though, in the English language it loses something.
Nevertheless, as a fan of trash cinema, this just about passes muster – and is certainly passably entertaining. Elizabeth Olsen is certainly a talented performer. The moment you ask it to hold itself up to the original, it fails.
And that’s twice, now, when Samuel L. Jackson has been a part of a movie as needless as it surely sounds.
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.
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: It’s all a bit of been there, done that with the latest reimagining of a horror classic. As they mostly seem to be. The biggest problem however with Carrie (2013) is that the usually excellent Chloe Moretz is lost at sea, be it through poor direction or just bad casting and being that the film’s success or failure heavily rests on her shoulders, that is an issue. Add in an collection of faceless could be anyone ‘teen’ support cast and your left with a film that does nothing new, and what it delivers isn’t a patch on what was made before.
Best Bit: It’s pretty short.
Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Borrow
If you liked this try: Carrie (8/10); Evil Dead 2013 (8/10); Texas Chainsaw Remake (5/10)