‘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…
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Entering the SciFi wing of the Hall Of fame comes RoboCop – the 1987 Paul Verhoeven directed part action part satire that tackles crime, media and violence with a sardonic tone and a dark sense of humour. Over 30 years later it’s surprising just how well RoboCop holds up (and conversely just how forgettable the recent remake is). And even scarier… it feels very much like this could be modern day Trump America. Weller does a great job with the obvious and considerable restrictions that the RoboCop role put upon him but he nails it. However it’s the film villains that shine the most – from Ronny Cox as corporate bully Dick Jones to Kurtwood Smith as the psychotic Clarence Boddicker they chew up the scenery and give the film some really hateful villains. But beyond that it’s a film full of iconic moments – Ed-209, the suit itself, the uber-violence and the infinitely quotable one liners. In short – A must watch.
Best Bit: ED 209 goes rogue.
Buy, Stream, Avoid: Buy
If You Liked this Try: RoboCop 2, The Terminator, Total Recall
Phil Hobden is the former Film Editor & Writer for renowned martial arts focused COMBAT MAGAZINE in the UK. He is also a filmmaker in his own right, having produced two cult Independent action films in LEFT FOR DEAD and TEN DEAD MEN. He was the host for the award nominated Filmsploitation podcast for 4 years, currently co-hosts Ross And Phil Talk Movies and is a writer/editor for his own blog Phil’s Quick Capsule Review…
Each week Phil, from Phil’s Quick Capsule Review, takes a look at a different movie or TV related Top Five. This time out: The Best 5 Years for Movies… Ever!
Close but no cigar: 1982 (Blade Runner, The Thing, E.T, Tron, Rambo, Mad Max 2 The Road Warrior ), 1989 (Batman, Back To The Future Part 2, Dead Poet’s Society, Parenthood), 1974 (The Godfather part 2, Chinatown, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blazing Saddles), 1979 (Alien, Rocky 2, Max Max, The warriors)
5 – 1999
The Matrix, Fight Club, American Beauty, Toy story 2, American Beauty, The Blair Witch project
4 – 1987
Robocop, Wall Street, The Princess Bride, Full metal Jacket, Evil Dead 2, Predator, Raising Arizona
3 – 1994
Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption, Four Weddings & A Funeral, True Lies, Speed, Natural Born Killers, Clerks, The Crow, Leon
2 – 1995
Casino, Crimson Tide, Get Shorty, Heat, Leaving as Vegas, The Usual Suspects, Die hard: With A Vengeance, Goldeneye, Empire Records, Toy Story. Twelve Monkeys
1 – 1984
Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, The Terminator, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom, Police Academy, Cannonball Run 2
In a new semi-regular feature each week Phil takes a lookout a different movie related Top Five… this time out: the best summer movie seasons (Post 1975).
Close but no cigar: 1981 (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Stripes, Escape from New York), 1991 (Terminator 2, Boyz n the Hood), 1989 (Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2, License to Kill), 1987 ( Predator, Robocop, Dirty Dancing, The Living Daylights, Full Metal Jacket)
5 – 1984 Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, Once Upon a Time in America, Purple Rain, The Last Starfighter, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Top Secret!, Conan the Destroyer
4 – 1999 The Sixth Sense, Run Lola Run, The Blair Witch Project, The Iron Giant, South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut, Dick, American Pie, Bowfinger , The Thomas Crown Affair, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
3 – 1985
Back to the Future, The Goonies, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Cocoon, Fletch, Explorers, Fright Night, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Pale Rider, Prizzi’s Honor, Silverado, Weird Science, Brewster’s Millions
2 – 1982 E.T., Poltergeist, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Thing, TRON, The Road Warrior, Conan the Barbarian, Rocky III
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Aliens, Top Gun, Stand by Me, The Fly, Big Trouble in Little China, Back to School, Cobra, Labyrinth, Short Circuit, Transformers: The Movie, SpaceCamp, Flight of the Navigator
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Oh dear. Chappie started well – a morality tale of robot cops and the development of an AI but an hour in and I was bored senseless. It doesn’t help that the two lead ‘actors’ can’t actually act (Rappers turned characters playing a stylised version of themselves which you’ll only under stand via press notes). The film is also happened by the director – who has gone on record about how much he hates the writing and filmmaking process, something evident by the total lack of pace or direction. The FX are amazing but ultimately despite ether action orientated last 20 minutes, the film is ultimately hollow and boring.
Best Bit: Chappie’s FX are amazing
Buy, Stream, Avoid: Avoid
If You Liked this Try: Robocop, Ex Machina, District 9
Phil’s Quick look at what’s wetting his whistle for the upcoming year in films… Yup 2015 is going to be a BIG year.
Most Excited: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Er of course. What else could it be? Well probably the Avengers. or Mad max. But actually it was always going toe Star Wars. Even after the prequels tanked and Star Trek Into Darkness ended up being a bit of a let down, an intriguing teaser trailer and a promise of film more like the original trilogy has gotten my excitement levels peaking. It could all still go very wrong BUT right now the signs look very good.
2. Avengers: Age Of Ultron Come on did you REALLY expect anything else??? Avengers was blockbuster cinema at it’s best and so far Marvel haven’t put a foot wrong (even the ‘risky’ Guardians turned out to be a massive hit). So the returning Joss Whedon, the additional of the excellent Elizabeth Olson, James Spader and Andy Sirkis, the fact it’s coming after probably the strongest run of Marvel film yet (Iron Man 3, Capt 2, Guardian’s) well it all means this one has VERY hight expectations attached. Oh and judging by the trailer… it’s shouldn’t disappoint.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
This is an odd one. The trailer looks amazing. Tom Hardy is about as good as you can get in terms of replacing a peak Mel Gibson. And Miller has always been at his best with the Max films. There is a BUT. And that But is it’s been forever since the last great Miller film. And even longer since the last good Mad Max film. BUT (again) the trailer is amazing and it IS Mad Max… so fingers (and toes) crossed.
4. Pitch Perfect 2
Oh fuck it. Come on Pitch Perfect was awesome fun. And if they go in with even a 10th of the same spirit and sense fun as they did with that film, this should be a winner. The Pitch Is back.
5. Bond 24
No trailer. No story. Pretty much no idea other than Mendes and Craig returning, alongside Skyfall alumni Whishaw, Fiennes and Harris. Oh and Lea Seydoux. And Christoph Waltz. And… okay to be honest I was sold with Mendes. Look Skyfall was probably one of the best Bond films ever. And whilst it’s going to be hard to follow up, you kinda get the feeling if Mendes is back he has an idea. And THAT should make this well worth a watch. Oh and did I mention that pesky Blofeld rumour…
Bubbling Under:Mission Impossible 5 (At worst the last two MI films have been bloody good blockbusters), Ant Man (Could this be Marvels first flop… no), Minions Movie (It’s got Minions… ), American Sniper (Clint! Cooper! Guns!), Kingsmen The Secret Service (Great trailer! Great Cast! Great Director! ), Fast & Furious 7 (It’s still got lets), Magic Mike XXL (Magic Mike was ace), London has Fallen (Butler is back! If it’s half as mad as part 1 it should be a hoot)
Stinker Of The Year (Part 1):Terminator: Genisys It pains me to say it but this just looks terrible. A terrible title. Those horrid Entertainment Weekly cast shots. A reboot story. An old Arnie T-800. There’s just nothing that excited me about this film. At all.
Stinker Of The Year (Part 2): Point Break Fuck you Hollywood. Point Break is about on of the most perfect action crimes films ever made. And you want to reboot it. In the wold of ‘Extreme Sports’. Yup Hollywood is creatively bankrupt and this is the proof.
Jupiter Ascending (They haven’t made a good film since The Matrix), Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (Ugh… really?), The Fantastic Four (Good director, bad cast), Fifty Shades Of Grey (Shooting fish in a barrel) , Jurassic World (Trailer didn’t grab me. ), Hunger Games, Insurgent, Maze Runner Sequels (The Teen Angst thing has dramatically run out of steam)
So how did I do last year?
This is the time of the year when I look back at my picks of the good, the bad and the ugly from 2014 and see how close I was (or as it often is the case, how far!)…
For the Best: I tipped X Men Days of Future Past, Godzilla, Interstellar, The Raid 2 and The Monuments Men as my Most Anticipated of 2014. Well X-Men was a bit of a let down for me (although critically it was very well received). Godzilla, Interstellar & The Raid 2 were all very good, but with only Interstellar ending up near my top 5 films of the year. The Monuments Men flopped critically and commercially and whilst it wasn’t quite as bad as everyone thought it was a let down.
As for the Stinkers? Well Transformers: Age Of Extinction ended up being one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. But we all knew that even before the film was made. So that was spot on then! Jupiter Ascending slipped to 2015 so is back on that list for next year and whilst Need For Speed was bad Robocop wasn’tthe cluster fuck we all expected (although totally forgotten about by the time end of year rolled around), Expendables 3 was great fun probably the best of the 3 films (and the unrated cut delivered all the action the PG13 cut missed) and Noah ended up being EXACTLY as expected – dull, stupid and far too long.
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 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.