Robocop

The 386th film I have seen in theaters…

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Hesitantly we entered the theater this snowy New England afternoon for a visit with one of our all time favorite characters- Robocop. The remake of that quintessential 80’s flick was a hard sell. I dreaded every mention and set picture that leaked in the news. The, last year, the trailers started to drop. They shockingly looked good. I was still 100% certain that this would be a shit-fest of epic proportions. It is with this mindset that we entered the theater. We left the showing a couple hours later with smiles on our faces, anxiously talking of where they can take it in a sequel.

All images are the property of MGM/Columbia and all rights are reserved. I make no money from this.

It is the not too distant future, and the world is policed by OmniCorp robot soldiers who “pacify” local populations in places like Iran, providing them a “safe environment to raise children”/Police state. This is the standard in every nation but the United States, which has a Congressional ban on drone and robots that are armed. CEO of OmniCorp, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), needs to find a way to market the concept of robot cops to the American people. Wanting to display a robot cop with the “human touch”, he decides to use disabled cops, turned into Cyborgs, as the way to accomplish this.

In Detroit, Alex Murphy is a cop who is trying to take down the local criminal boss Antoine Vallen. In the course of the investigation, Vallen orders Murphy’s assassination, an attempt that fails. OmniCorp has found their Robocop. Matters are complicated as Murphy’s wife and son want to reconnect with him, while OmniCorp wipes him virtually of all humanity to make him a more perfect robot.

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Joel Kinnaman plays Alex Murphy, the man who becomes Robocop. Peter Weller offered up an amazing performance back in 87, but this is a different film. Where the original saw Alex put his family behind him, this Alex wants to go home. he wants to recapture his humanity and his family.

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Gary Oldman steals the film was Dr. Norton, the scientist who is brought in to create Robocop. A man of principle, Norton uses this project as a way to save a man’s life, prevent death or injury to police officers, and save lives. The carrot on the end of the stick is funding for his research into prosthetics. Oldman delivers the performance of the film. We see this good man get suckered into a terrible situation and try to find a way to save his soul.

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Michael Keaton plays Sellars, the Steve Jobs-esque CEO of OmniCorp. Keaton does a good job of selling this guy’s agenda, which unravels as the film progresses and we see who he really is.

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Samuel L. Jackson plays Pat Novak, a flag toting Bill O’Reilly figure who molds public opinion on Robocop, and robot cops in general. He is the propagandist of this film. I don’t know who thought to cast Jackson asĀ  a Fox News “reporter”, but it was inspired.

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Abbie Cornish plays Clara, Alex’s wife. She is a vast improvement over the first incarnation as she actually appears in the film in something other than a flashback. She wants her husband back and is willing to take on OmniCorp to achieve this.

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Jackie Earl Haley continues to prove his versatility as the hardened military man Mattox, who oversees the Robot Soldiers and is brought in to program Robocop. He is the closest this film comes to a true villain.

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Michael K. Williams, who for my money has the best scowl in show business, plays Jack Lewis, the now male partner of Alex Murphy. This character is greatly lessened in this version, to the detriment of this fine actor.

This was a very good movie. It faced a tremendous battle to be even passable when following one of the most iconic films of the last 30 years. The original was very much an 80’s movie, where this is very much a movie of our times. The cocaine snorting, prostitute mongering, yes men of the corporate world are replaced with the visionary Apple Computers style company. The newscasters, the primary source of indoctrination in the 80s, are replaced by the cable news host- a la Fox News. The gore is replaced with high tech razzle dazzle, and the threat is not Detroit as a Crime haven, but America as the last nation where human labor is still alive. This is very much a commentary on our times, with the drones and insane battles against terrorism that rob us of who we are as free citizens. The tongue was planted firmly in cheek for these moments of commentary, but not as overt and obvious as the original.

The greatest weakness of this film is the lack of a Clarence Boddicker.

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Kurtwood Smith was the single greatest element of the original. he was a viable threat amongst several viable threats like Dick Jones and the “wolf of wall street” Bob Morton. He, and his amazing gang of actors dominated the film with their criminal antics. The new crime guy- Vallen, is barely worth mentioning. No real character there for the actor to play. I appreciate them not using the name Boddicker in this film, either let that performance stand or do it real justice in a sequel.

At the end of the day, I am very happy this movie was made. It is not better than the original, but it is MILES ahead of Robocop 2 and 3.

The Lego Movie

The 385th film I have seen in theaters…

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This afternoon we abandoned the Oscar film viewing for the newest wide release. It was a good decision.

All images are the property of Warner brothers/Lego/whomever.

A Lego Man named Emmet, used to the conformist world of the city, discovers a strange Lego piece that is “Special”. He befriends a group of Lego characters as the government cracks down on him as this piece is the secret to saving the world!

This is your basic “chosen one” story. What makes this special is quality writing, and cameos by fun characters.

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Chris Pratt voices Emmet, the generic “construction man” Lego that is the only hope for defeating Lord Business.

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Lord Business, the villain of the piece, is played by Will Ferrell. As always, he kills it.

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Elizabeth Banks voices Wildchyld- the edgy love interest for Emmet. All would be well between them if not for her boyfriend…

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yes. Will Arnett plays her boyfriend….Batman. Yes, he was hilarious.

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The “Gandalf” of this film is Vitruvius, voiced by Morgan Freeman- no easy feat to pull off when both Gandalf and Dumbledore appear in the film.

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A few other familiar faces, and voices, might be appearing too….

This was a wonderfully silly movie that played quite strongly with the kids in attendance. Surprisingly well made.

I could write a huge article for this movie, but there is no need. It’s a fun kids movie. I will just let the awesomeness of this sit with you.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

The 384th film I have seen in theaters…

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This afternoon we ventured out to screen another of the films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. A few of the films disappeared after only one week in theaters! I am going to try to cram in Nebraska and Her at the earliest possible time, but we went out with ideas of seeing Gravity in 3D or perhaps August: Osage County. Instead, we checked out the latest Scorsese film.

All images are the property of Paramount Pictures and all associated companies.

It is the 1980’s and young Jordan Belfort gets a job on Wall Street in hopes of becoming a Broker. After the Black Monday collapse, he discovers Penny Stocks and forms his own firm. He lies, cheats, abuses drugs and alcohol, and goes through an army of prostitutes on his rise to the top of Wall Street. The party is going just fine…until the FBI takes notice of his activities.

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Leonardo DiCaprio will likely not win an Oscar for his role, that will probably go to Ejiofor, but he earned his spot on the list. DiCaprio walks the fine line between scumbag and hero remarkably well. The whole point of the Scorsese protagonist is that they are morally bankrupt and generally horrible people. From Liota in Goodfellas to DeNiro in Casino- they are MOST DEFINITELY “The bad guy”. Leo fit into this mold beautifully. He took a lot of heat for remarking that he found Belfort a likable and inspiring guy. That’s the reason Belfort could do what he did. He is likable. Leo nailed it.

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Looking at the nominees for Supporting Actor, I cannot help but suspect that Jonah Hill is going to win. This was an awesome chance for him, and he brought his “A game”. Donny, the partner in crime who happens to be married to his 1st cousin and is possibly a homosexual was the real stand out of the other characters. Hill took this and made it his own. While it’s absolutely Leo’s show, Hill has earned his place and should rightfully find his way onto the A list for future projects.

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Margot Robbie plays Naomi, Belfort’s wife. I initially thought she was just going to be “eye candy”, and she was definitely that, but she ended up being a great part of the drama. When Belfort implodes, it is his family- primarily Naomi which are used to show the destruction of this man’s life. Particularly once the arrests start coming, Robbie steps it up and shows her acting ability. A good performance.

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Joe Bernthal (Walking Dead) appears as Brad, one of the men Belfort uses to hide his millions. I hope this guy continues his upward move into Hollywood. He was compelling enough to keep around for an extra season on Walking Dead, and it is clear he is quite the actor.

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This film is blessed with a series of wonderful actors in smaller roles. Rob Reiner (All in the family) plays Belfort’s rage-machine father. The head of security at the firm, he tries, in vain, to reign in his son’s behavior. You can always count on Reiner for a great character.

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Joanna Lumly (AbFab) appears as Naomi’s British Aunt Emma- instumental in smuggling money into Switzerland. She’s still got it.

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In an all too brief appearance is Mattthew McConaughey as Belfort’s first boss. His insane drumming/chanting, as well as masturbation and cocaine snorting, inspire the young Belfort on the path to success.

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Jean Dujardin (The Artist) is the corrupt Swiss Banker that hides Belfort’s millions. After initially stating that he had no interest in pursuing “Hollywood Stardom”, I am pleased to see him in this film. A great actor, I hope he builds his American audience on strong performances such as this.

This film is taking a lot of heat due to it’s portrayal of the excesses of Wall Street criminals. This outrage has a lot to do with the damage these sort of men did to our economy over the last 14 years. (Belfort was out of the picture by the dotcom bust and the derivatives implosions). It’s what this character represents. The fact that it’s all true is even more stinging. But let’s be real for a minute.

Most people DO want the life of fortune. This guy is no different than the other characters Scorsese has made a career of profiling. They are greedy, power hungry, and it leads to their downfall. What is tough about Belfort is that he is still rich and powerful. People wanted the film to show his life in ruins by the time the credits run, but that’s not reality. Belfort is making millions of dollars and is riding high as a motivational speaker and corporate trainer. Like it or not, this guy knows how to motivate employees to work hard for success. He understands capitalism in a way most of us never will. We hate and despise him, but deep down, VERY deep down in most of us…we want to be him.

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