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RoboCop 2014 is no classic but is fun to watch to a certain extent
For every generation, there comes a film that stands out among other films of its genre and gets praised by both moviegoers and film critics in the decades that followed. Such a film may not have made gigantic movie ticket sales during the time of its release but its substance and acclaim made it a classic among its admirers. This is true with 1987's RoboCop directed by Paul Verhoeven. That film stood out among 1980s action flicks not only due to its over-the-top action but also for its outstanding direction, solid performances and overall subversive expression (can you say anti-Reaganomics?).
This year, we have the remake of RoboCop starring Joel Kinnaman, supported by veteran actors Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman, and directed by Jose Padilha. Aside from looking flashy and futuristic, the new RoboCop movie is surprisingly good and different enough from the 1987 original to stand on its own.
Made for a PG-13 audience in mind, RoboCop tells a very different version of the story of police officer Alex Murphy with a setting that is near-futuristic and yet reflective of today's manipulative corporate media environment. Like in the old movie, something terrible happens to Murphy which leads to his becoming RoboCop done by a corporation led by Michael Keaton.
This is where the similarity with the old film ends. Unlike in the old movie, Alex Murphy becomes RoboCop with the consent of his wife who really loves him and wants him back with their family. On the corporation itself Omnicorp the movie seems less critical on corporations which is no surprise since there is no more anti- Reaganomics influence here. This does not mean that the in-movie corporation is a good organization.
Like the 1987 movie, this film touches on themes like the conflict between humanity and technology, corporate media manipulation of public perception, the conflict between free will and programmed constraint, etc. The new movie tackles those themes with its own set of flavors to give today's viewers something relevant. Speaking of relevance, it sheds light on modern geopolitics as well as serious developments that test national laws. RoboCop is also a lively reminder about society and its people gradually heading towards totalitarianism.
More on RoboCop himself, the film did a nice job explaining how Murphy turned into a machine and how the corporation used him as their premiere tool against a federal law that bans unmanned drones in America. The aspect of family for RoboCop is a welcome approach as it really set it apart from the old RoboCop films' concept.
Apart from storytelling, the acting is overall solid. Samuel L. Jackson as the TV show host is much more lively than he was in the superhero movies of recent years. He sure makes a great host who is entertaining and engaging. Michael Keaton as the head of the corporation performed well although I was not convinced with the way his character turned out in the end of the film. Joel Kinnaman as RoboCop is pretty bland although he makes a convincing family man. His wife played by Abbie Cornish did a good job as the caring wife and mother. Jakie Earle Haley is the antagonistic and easy-to-hate Rick Mattox and he fits in well in the film Nothing special from Haley though.
The standout performance belongs to Gary Oldman as Dr. Norton. Oldman is very lively in his role and thanks to him, Dr. Norton is a more engaging character to watch than RoboCop himself. Really, Oldman stole the spotlight many times in the film and almost feels like a protagonist.
Action? There are several action scenes indeed but if you are expecting a spectacular action sequence or set piece, you will be disappointed. With the action it has, RoboCop is still satisfying to watch as there are a lot of gun battles, some explosions, some special effects combined with stunts, etc. I should mention that RoboCop in this film is faster and more agile too.
Conclusion RoboCop of 2014 obviously will not win any major awards nor will it ever displace the 1987 RoboCop from its place in cinematic history but it is good enough on its own. Think of RoboCop 2014 as a less reflective but action-packed and modernized take on the RoboCop concept. I came into the theater with modest expectations and I left more amused than expected. I should say however that the story fell apart somewhat during the last thirty minutes as there were some scenes or happenings that were not believable.
Overall, RoboCop 2014 is no classic but is fun to watch to say the least.
An under-rated and misunderstood horror film!
When the term Halloween is mentioned regarding movies, the name and image of killer Michael Myers often come out. In the art of film, director John Carpenter defined the slasher horror sub-genre of horror films in 1978's Halloween. In that film, his use of the first-person camera views, establishing the final girl trend, showing that people who are promiscuous or drug users get killed and other elements went on to become imitated by other filmmakers on the many slasher horror films that followed. It also established Michael Myers (called The Shape) as the stealthy, almost invincible killer that later became an American pop culture icon.
Of course, the $325,000 movie went on to make tons of money and Halloween II followed a few years later and made nice profit even though it never matched its predecessor's success.
Then in 1982, Halloween III: Season of the Witch came out. Originally, the Halloween film franchise was geared towards making distinct, independent stories with completely new characters dealing with the Halloween season in general. Halloween III proved to be profitable but got slammed by critics and several viewers hated it simply because it was too different and had no Michael Myers (who was shown destroyed in Halloween II).
If you ask me, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is actually an under- rated and misunderstood horror film. It is no slasher. It has no Michael Myers. It has no zombie or vampire elements of horror. But those differences don't make it a bad movie at all.
In fact, Halloween III was more about the witchcraft aspect of Halloween's origins outside of America as well as social commentary about capitalism and consumerism. These three primary elements are, least to say, very challenging to build a foundation of horror with. Still, the filmmakers pulled off nicely with that challenge and what turned was that Halloween III has a more original concept of horror than most other horror films made ever since. It never feels generic and continues to be creepy.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, Halloween III begins with a desperate man running away from mysterious men in suits and ties. He eventually gets killed at night at a hospital and his killer weirdly left the place, entered a parked car, poured gasoline around, lit the gasoline and blew the car up.
Of course, the person who witnesses the explosion and events at the hospital is Dr. Challis (Tom Atkins) who is not only the protagonist but also a challenging one for viewers to follow. Why is that? Because Dr. Challis is an undesirable man for a horror film protagonist when he is not working, he drinks a lot of liquor, spends time at bars, does not care much about his family and is a womanizer. Ironically, this aspect of the film makes Halloween III even more unique from other horror films.
So Dr. Challis meets Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), the daughter of the murder victim. She strongly believes something is very wrong and something big was behind the murder of her father. Together they travel to a far away town where a big company making Halloween masks is being led by an Irish businessman named Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy).
Enough of the story. You will just have to watch the film on DVD or Blu- ray for the Halloween season or whenever you feel like watching a horror movie different from the rest.
Even during its time, Halloween III had a low budget although the production value on screen don't necessarily reflect that. Considering the challenges the filmmakers had to endure, Halloween III works as a horror flick as it provides scary and creepy moments nicely and also expresses the message that there is something behind all the commercialism of Halloween. In any business dealing with seasonal trends, there is always something that keeps people spending their money on products they don't really need and there is always a company that tends to profit from it.
Is Halloween III an anti-business movie? In some ways, yes. Just look at the isolated town where the business and its factory are located. If you listen to the dialog closely, you will realize that locals of the town are being put down by the company (Silver Shamrock) which employs people coming from elsewhere. Also there is that reflection of corporate-led control on the town with those many surveillance cameras and an imposed curfew (who would want to live in a community so restrictive and without public officials to stand up for the people?) and more. Naturally, Conal Cochran is the main villain radically different from not only Michael Myers but all other horror film villains. Dan O'Herlihy's performance is undeniably solid.
Another notable aspect of Halloween III that deserves attention was its defiance of the unwritten rule of movies and television that prohibit the showing of children getting killed on-screen. The filmmakers really had the courage and insight to break that rule to show what kind of evil would happen when kids wear Cochran's masks (each equipped with material from a stolen Stonehenge) and watch the Silver Shamrock commercial (with that very repetitive, mind-numbing song). The bad things that turnout are enough to shock viewers and even send chills up the spines of parents who are afraid of their children engaging in Halloween.
Overall, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is one of the most under- rated and most misunderstood horror films that truly deserves your attention in this day and age. It defied many of the clichés or traditions of most horror films and yet succeeded in delivering spooky moments in unpredictable fashion. It is also challenging to watch given its undesirable protagonist and having no final girl to outlast the evil. To call the film a failure because it did not have Michael Myers is a big mistake. Be sure to watch this film every Halloween.
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Good, not great.
What can I say about the film? It is good, not great. It's another Bourne film without the presence of Jason Bourne/Matt Damon.
Without spoiling the plot, the movie is in essence a talky movie about an agent who had been dependent on "meds" and finds himself struggling just as the "programs" start shutting down. Compared to the previous three Bourne films, The Bourne Legacy had more dialogue (which could burn you out) and less action.
Surprisingly, Jeremy Renner does make a good action star and you can see more talent from him. Really, his appearance as Hawkeye in The Avengers was just a small preview of what he can do. His character Aaron Cross was arguably shallow but was saved by Renner.
Oscar winner Rachel Weisz plays the supporting role Dr. Marta Shearing but in a big way in terms of screen time. Compared to other action flicks that have female supporting roles, Weisz has a bigger on-screen presence and added some importance to the plot.
And there was also Edward Norton whose sheer talent made up for the lack of depth of his agency executive. Norton makes a good executive who is brash, tough and demanding.
Since this movie had an excessive amount of dialogue, I should say that the motorcycle chase scene that was filmed in the Philippines was the closest thing the film had to an action highlight. For me, the Philippine motorcycle chase was a nice reliever (from the lengthy talk) and added some much needed speed to the film's pacing just enough to save it from being a total bore.
It's kinda hard to recommend The Bourne Legacy to everyone. If you are the type of viewer who is obsessed with the Bourne franchise, be it the books or the films, then this movie just might prove to be good. If you cannot handle a Matt Damon-less Bourne film at all, skip this.
Aliens is a classic!
I watched once again Aliens and even though the film is over 25-years- old, it still is a GREAT film to watch all thanks to James Cameron and his team. The film is not just a sequel to the 1979 film by Ridley Scott but also a reflective story as well.
Think about it. Cameron stated that the Vietnam War was an influence on Aliens not just with the presence of soldiers but also with Ripley agreeing to go back to the world where her crew (who died one by one) visited and discovered a place of many alien eggs. Ripley's role as an observer parallels the acts of some real life Vietnam War veterans who, despite their nightmarish experiences during the war, returned to Vietnam in a totally different manner.
As for why Aliens stands out nicely among other action films of the 1980s...it is SUBVERSIVE of the cinematic trends of the decade.
Think about it. In Aliens, there were these highly trained and brave soldiers who easily symbolized the Gung-Ho militarism culture of 1980s action cinema. Like Rambo, these soldiers were macho and had deadly firepower with them. Yet in the film, you see that they were helpless when they encountered the aliens.
Behind it all, Cameron inserted a strong mother-and-daughter relationship between Ripley and the young girl Newt. While she was lost in space, Ripley lost her daughter to old age. Newt lost her parents to aliens. Of course, none of Ripley's scenes would have happened without the incredible dramatic performances from Sigourney Weaver who truly deserved her Oscar nomination in this film. From a survivor to a mother and a fighter, Sigourney Weaver is excellent.
Finally, the film's aliens (xenomorphs) are very well done even though a different creative team worked on it. It's great to see how James Cameron and his team came up with clever ways to present the aliens as numerous despite their limited resources. A lot of research was done and special attention to detail was made too.
Overall, Aliens is a classic!
It may not be perfect but Prometheus still is an engaging sci-fi flick that comes with a mix of mystery, science, horror and some notable solid performances.
Director Ridley Scott tells a story that dealt with the search for answers regarding the origin of humanity and similar to his 1979 classic Alien, Prometheus has a star ship and a crew with a mission. At the same time, the famed director made great use of the technology and with his technical team delivering great cinematography, striking effects and most of all a great sense of immersion into the story.
The first half of the film had a strong sci-fi exploration flavor in it laced with mystery. In the second half, the tone changes into suspense, horror and shock all delivered in a fine pace. Along the way, there are lots of elements that connect Prometheus with Alien and for sure the nerds or the more observant moviegoers will have a blast connecting the dots.
The casting is a mixed bag although it is somewhat justified by the time the film ends. Sure there were crew members who are pretty shallow and not worth caring for. Of course, the more notable roles such as David (Michael Fassbender), protagonist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) somewhat made up for the lack of depth from the others.
Noomi Rapace delivered a fine performance as a strong-willed woman who not only searched for answers but also came up with the courage to survive against tremendous odds ala Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Alien.
Charlize Theron is excellent as the beautiful but very cold-hearted Meredith Vickers, and for the most part her presence attracted a feeling of animosity from the viewers. Still, there is also that feeling that before you want to get rid of Vickers, you also would want to know what she knows, what she is after and more.
Michael Fassbender, in my view, stole the show as the android David. He is no copycat of Ash (Alien) or Bishop (Aliens) but rather he stands out as an android that not only tirelessly works to accomplish his goals but also learn about humanity as well as the search for answers on the galactic level. Quite symbolically, David is very much like a living, walking version of HAL (2001: A Space Odyssey) as well as a more sophisticated version of Star Trek: TNG's Data.
Will Prometheus end up as a timeless classic like Alien? That is something we won't find out until decades to come. No box office numbers or any wave of media reviews will be able to justify that because clearly only time will tell if Prometheus will be remembered whether as an indirect prequel to Alien or as its own sci-fi story.
In my honest opinion, Prometheus is a very solid sci-fi flick on its own and definitely it is one of Ridley Scott's best films in a long time.
The Avengers (2012)
A spectacular spectacular!
I just got back from the movie theater where I saw The Avengers. Without spoiling anything, I must say it is indeed a spectacular spectacular and I hope to find time to watch it again in the near future. It's an action bonanza laced with fine performances (I love the arguments between Captain America and Iron Man cleverly delivered by Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr.), clever humor and not surprisingly Marvel universe references.
Anyone who is a comic reader or a Marvel universe fan will notice lots of fine details on the characters, the plot and the images. Even with the daunting challenge of presenting The Avengers as an entertaining all-star gathering, director Joss Whedon cleverly told the story while utilizing the fine talents of the stars. The script was nicely done and the dialogue really reflect the minds of each character. Really, The Avengers is the complete package of entertainment that engaged me with lots of thrills and absolutely no boring moments. I highly recommend it.
Sucker Punch (2011)
I like Sucker Punch!
After more than a year of waiting, I finally got to watch Sucker Punch and I must say that it definitely is worth the wait.
The film is not perfect and obviously there is more style than substance in it. The good thing, however, is that Sucker Punch as a story is pretty much driven by its characters and the performance of their players (kudos to Emily Browning, Oscar Isaac and others) followed closely by the high energy action sequences laced with Zack Snyder's style.
From a distance, Sucker Punch looks dumb and hollow but in reality it's got some nice stuff in it. For one thing its presentation took inspiration from comic books, video games, anime and fantasy adventures (mixed with a distorted sense of time), mixed them all in a bag and made the story's core concept of the struggle for freedom a enjoyable ride.
The film obviously won't win any awards for acting, but this one still has a strong sense of drama which will remind you that the characters are not paperdolls-for-the-screen but rather believable human beings.
With its energetic style, high production values, solid cast and edginess, I find Sucker Punch to be the best women-led action film to date. It's almost like it grabbed Charlie's Angels, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, So Close and DOA: Dead or Alive by their necks and threw them out the window big time.
While it is the queen of women-led action flicks, I don't expect Sucker Punch to win the approval of those who have no little-to-no-interest in the action, fantasy or adventure genres.
It is flawed and may not be the cup of tea for many, but I declare Sucker Punch a very solid film to watch if you're open to its concept, performances and style. It also has some new stuff that are worth paying attention to.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Good, not great
Let me say it straight Iron Man 2 is good, not great. I definitely liked it but nowhere as much as the first film.
Specifically, Iron Man 2's plot does not seem that interesting and as such the narrative relied on special effects for impact in certain scenes. No matter how fantastic or bombastic action and effects could get, they just don't help the storytelling very much. The new antagonists Justin Hammer and Whiplash are both weak and not compelling. They both pale in comparison to Obadiah Stane (brilliantly played by Jeff Bridges) in terms of personality and antagonism. Don Cheadle as Col. Rhodes/War Machine never felt like he belonged in the film and the more he appeared on screen, the more I wished Terence Howard was back.
I also felt that the comedy in this film seemed forced. While the first flick made me laugh or smile, the sequel did not amuse me very much. While Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance as Tony Stark is worth praise, I find it weird that Stark now seemed more psychotic a far change from the conflicted man he was before.
Aside from Downey's stellar performance, the other big redeeming value was the film's adaptation of character elements from the critically acclaimed Iron Man comic storyline Demon in a Bottle. In that storyline, Stark was portrayed with an addiction to liquor and this concept was nicely portrayed in Iron Man 2. Expect to see Robert Downey, Jr. drink and drink a lot.
Having waited two years for Iron Man 2, I felt a bit disappointed. I tried to like the film. It is not a bad movie, but more of a less compelling continuation. The distraction scenes (leading to the Avengers) and the improved action scenes simply could not lift the film's weak story. Adding insult to injury, the final battle with Whiplash is totally unsatisfying to watch.
As long as you don't set your expectations very high, Iron Man 2 can be enjoyable. Clearly its presentation is different from the first film, and that made it less enjoyable for me. While you watch Iron Man 2 in the theater, I'll just replay Iron Man on my DVD player.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
The best Roger Moore Bond ever
Among all the James Bond films of Roger Moore, For Your Eyes Only is the best and most compelling I've seen.
Coming off the massive success of Moonraker, the producers decided to bring 007 back not only to Earth but also to a style that resembles the Bond movies of the early-to-mid 1960s. As such, the approach to telling the story really stays close to the roots of literature's Bond.
Unlike the early Roger Moore Bond films, there is a deeper detective story approach to the narrative of FYEO and the great thing is that mystery lasts long enough to compel the viewer to think deeply. It is also notable that you don't get to know who the villain is until the later part of the film. Oh yes, twists in the plot really make it worth watching too.
The cast is solid too and what I like about it is that the characters are much more believable than compared to Moore's earlier 007 adventures. There is no megalomaniac and no unbelievable villains. The villain is a smuggler who once rewarded by Bond's nation. Bond also has a leading lady who is seeking vengeance for her dead parents. As such, professional values, politics and personal vendetta clash and add depth to the narrative. The believable cast and realistic approach to storytelling makes this film really feel like the early Connery Bond flicks.
I also like the fact that Moore, who has often been too funny as 007, played the role with lesser humor and more seriousness. I also liked the fact the scene wherein he killed an enemy in cold blood by kicking the car off the cliff. The scene reminded me of Sean Connery in Dr. No.
There are some notable differences though. In line with the "tradition" of Moore Bond films, FYEO has some over-the-top action sequences and chases (skiing on a bobsled track)to heighten the pace. Fortunately, those sequences don't overwhelm the storytelling.
Weaknesses? I must declare that Roger Moore's age is the flaw in the film. It does not ruin the story at all, but rather the age makes it so unbelievable to see the very young and pretty Lynn-Holly Johnson express strong sexual attraction to old man Bond. Moore was 53 at the time of shooting and the two notable Bond girls were at least 30 years younger than him. As such, it was a smart move on the part of the producers to insert a 3rd and mature lady (the Countess) having a night with Bond. As what Moore stated in interviews, he knew that staying longer as Bond made the character look like a dirty old man.
Is For Your Eyes Only a classic? Absolutely and it's also the best Bond film of Roger Moore's. I give it an 8 out of 10 score.
Cobra is a treat for Stallone fans, action lovers and police story enthusiasts
We all remember how Sylvester Stallone arguably conquered the action genre in the 1980s. 1985 was a massively successful year for him as his movies Rocky IV and Rambo: First Blood Part II combined for over $600,000,000 in movie ticket sales worldwide.
In 1986, his winning streak continued, albeit on a lower gear, with the release of Cobra, a production of the notorious Golan-Globus team.
This film is a loose adaptation of the novel Fair Game. Stallone plays Marion "Cobra" Cobretti, a member of the Los Angeles Police Zombie Squad. As the film opens, viewer will witness the chaos crime brings to ordinary citizens.
Yet something happens one night - a lady (Brigitte Nielsen) accidentally encounters the Night Slasher and escapes. This man, who earned his name from the media due to his killing of people in the night, turns out to be the head of a gang of psychopaths who feel that they are "the future" of civilization.
The Night Slasher wants Nielsen killed, which causes her to go to the police and get protection from Cobra. Unknown to Cobra, the Night Slasher has a spy in the police.
You just have to watch the film for more on the story.
Technically, Cobra is obviously outdated by today's standards. True, its style of shooting action scenes and stunts were cool for 1986 but they all aged poorly. The story, which was toned down and involved Stallone, is pretty simple. Don't expect major plot twists or deep characterization here...Cobra is all about action and it is crafted to show that Stallone is very bankable with police-oriented action flicks.
In some ways, this film is literally an attempt for Stallone to dethrone (or complement) Clint Eastwood's legacy in cop movies. Oh yeah, one of Stallone's co-stars here also worked with Eastwood.
Considering that this was released in 1986, and that the same guy who directed Rambo: First Blood Part II called the shots here, some viewers might be surprised to find out that Stallone did not appear shirtless.
Cobra was financially successful with a global box-office gross of $160 million (just $49 million in America). It was easily panned by critics but was accepted by moviegoers who simply wanted action and/or Stallone himself.
Despite its overall weakness, Cobra is still somewhat fun to watch all thanks to Stallone. This movie is available on DVD and I can only recommend it to hardcore Stallone fans, nostalgic action fans and police story enthusiasts.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a 5.2 http://sharkey360.blogspot.com