FlixChatter Review: Robocop (2014)

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The original version of RoboCop holds a special place in my heart, not only it’s one of the best films of the 80s, it actually converted me to become a hard core shoot’em up action fanatic. Being that I was born in the Far East, I grew up watching martial arts films, lots and lots of kung fu and samurai flicks. But when I first saw 1987’s RoboCop, I was hooked and the action/adventure is my favorite genre in films. Back in the mid 2000s MGM announced they were going to do remake of Verhoeven’s classic and of course I was not happy to hear that. But around 2006 or so, they announced that Darren Aronofsky was attached to write and direct the remake, since I’m a fan of the director I was intrigued. Unfortunately MGM ran into some money issues in late 2000s and Aronofsky left the project. A few years later, they found a new director and now the movie is ready for prime time.

This new movie starts out with a newscaster Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) giving news to the US citizens about how the robots are controlling the streets of a country in the Middle East and that they’re doing a great job of securing the dangerous neighborhoods. Then he starts lecturing about why the US government are so robophobic, you’ve probably seen that clip countless times from the TV spots and trailers. We learned that these robots belongs to a giant corporate called OmniCorp (OCP) and that they’re looking for ways to put the robots on the streets of the US so they can make even more money.

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The problem they’re facing is that most of the US politicians aren’t comfortable having emotionless robots doing police work, so OCP’s CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) came up with a plan to have an actual human being inside the machine. He convinced his main scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to go along and they start searching for a candidate to become this new RoboCop. They’re hoping that with a human inside the robot suit, the politicians will change their minds and vote to legalize robots roaming the streets of US everywhere. Around this time we were introduced to a Detriot police detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), he and his partner Jack Lewis (Michael Williams) were ambush during a sting and Lewis ended up in the hospital. Both of them were trying to bring down a crime lord but without the permission of their boss Chief Karen Dean (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). Murphy also accuses some of his fellow detectives of being dirty but since he doesn’t have any evidence, his boss told him to leave the case. The bad guys was able to put a bomb beneath Murphy’s car and later when he got home, the car’s alarm went off and when he tried to turn it off, the car blew and Murphy was hurt quite badly. OCP finally found their candidate and if you’ve seen the original film then you know that Murphy’s now a RoboCop and the adventure begins.

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After seeing the awful remake of Total Recall, I didn’t have much expectations for this movie. But to my surprise, I quite enjoyed it. Instead of just reshooting the scenes of the original, they actually brought in some new ideas for the remake. Where the original film dealt mostly with the corporate greed of the 80s, this one tried to say something about the current US military and of course the corporate world, I don’t think they quite succeed at that they’re trying to say but it’s interesting never the less. This is the first movie I’ve seen from Brazilian director José Padilha and I thought he did a pretty good job, but I do wish he’d hold the camera still once in a while. He’s one these young directors who thinks that by having camera moving constantly, even during dialog scenes, would make the scenes more interesting or something. But at least he didn’t shake the cameras too much during the action scenes.

Again I did like some of what screenwriter Joshua Zetumer came up with for the remake, he was trying to please the fans of the original and also trying to bring in the new generation of fans. Unfortunately the script sort of loss its focus down the stretch, I loved everything that happened in the first 40 minutes or so of the story but I wish he stuck with the ideas he came up with. The climatic showdown between our hero and the villains kind of felt forced and just didn’t work for me. If this one turns out to be a hit, I hope they can expand the ideas for the sequel.

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Performances wise, I thought all of the actors did a great job. The only other movie I’ve seen Joel Kinnaman in was the awful Safe House where he played the villain. Now he’s the lead and I thought he did a pretty good job, instead of playing a cold robot like Peter Weller did in the original, he has to express more emotions in this movie. Gary Oldman was great as usual, he actually has the same amount of screen time as Kinnaman. Somehow I thought of him as the scientific Jim Gordon since he helped RoboCop out a jam a few times. Abbie Cornish plays Murphy’s wife and she didn’t really have much to do but look worried or cry once in a while. It’s always nice to see Michael Keaton in a big movie but unfortunately he’s not menacing enough for a big corporate baddie, for sure he’s no Ronny Cox’s Dick Jones of the original film. Jacky Earle Haley shows up on screen once in a while as the second main villain but he’s no Clarance J. Boddicker. Last but not least is Sam Jackson, as usual he chewed up every scenes he appeared in. It’s clear that the filmmakers wrote his character to be the likes of Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly.

Despite some flaws, I still think this remake is quite entertaining and much more ambitious than some remakes I’ve seen the last few years. I think had the script stuck with the ideas they came up with and have better villains, the movie could’ve been as good as the original. I’m very curious to know what Aronofsky would’ve done with the movie, pretty sure his version will be as violent as Verhoeven’s. Speaking of violence, this movie maybe one of the most brutal PG13 films I’ve seen so far, just a warning to parents who are thinking about bringing your kids to see it. There’s a scene in the movie where a kid got shot, very similar fashion to the original where a guy was shot multiple times but the robot ED209, it wasn’t as graphic as that scene from the original but some might find it disturbing.

With good performances and cool action scenes, I do recommend this movie. If you’re a big fan of the original like I am, you might enjoy it but just remember to keep your expectations low.

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What do you think of this new Robocop?

In *honor* of Hollywood ‘dump months’ – 6 films that are excruciating to sit through

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So now that all of the holidays and prestige films have been released, Hollywood will dump films that they’re not too proud of in the months of January and February. In fact, the term ‘dump months’ is an unofficial term used in the film community for the period of the year when there are lowered commercial and critical expectations for new major-studio releases. [per Wiki]

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Let’s face it, most of the films coming out in the cold winter months aren’t going to win any awards or earn big money at the box office. With the exception of the new Jack Ryan film, I don’t plan to waste my money on any of them this winter, I’m looking at you The Legend of Hercules; I, Frankenstein, and the Robocop remake. Seriously those films just look awful to me, what happened to the careers of Renny Harlin and Aaron Eckhart anyway? I loved the original Robocop but the remake just look ridiculous and since the studio decided to moved it out of the prime summer release, I just don’t have much hope for it.

With so many bad looking films coming out in the next few weeks, I thought I should list some of the films that were excruciating to sit through, unfortunately some of these films were box office hits but thankfully many of them were duds. In no particular order, here they are:

The Waterboy (1998)

This was one of WaterboyPosterthe biggest box office hits of 1998 and that’s unfortunate because it’s such an awful movie. I used to be an Adam Sandler fan, really enjoyed Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison and The Wedding Singer, so of course I looked forward to seeing this one. But wow only about 20 minutes into the movie, I wanted to walk out. I didn’t crack a smile the entire time I sat in the theater, I just couldn’t believe that any studio executives thought this was a good idea to turn such an awful script into a movie. The movie was pretty mean-spirited, witless and worst of all, not funny at all.

Bad Boys 2 (2003)

BadBoys2PosterI enjoyed the silly first film but I didn’t think it deserves a sequel. The only reason why this film ever happened was because Will Smith was in a slump at the box office at the time and of course he needed a hit. I know there are people who’ll defend this film and said it’s a perfect example of Michael Bay at his best, but is that really a good thing? Now I’m one of those people who loves action films but this two and half hours of mayhem just wasn’t fun to sit through. When I go see movies like this, I expect to have fun and be transport to another world; not in this one. It took itself way too seriously and the bickering between the two leads just felt forced to me.

Apparently Sony is moving forward with a third film and I can only pray that Smith won’t come back and star in it. But he’s in another box office slump so I won’t surprise if he agrees star in another sequel.

Rollerball remake (2002)

RollerballRemakeIt’s one of the biggest box office bombs ever and it deserves it. I’ve never seen the original version but when it’s announced that John McTiernan and Keanu Reeves has signed up to do a remake, I was actually excited to see it. Well a couple of months before the cameras started rolling, Reeves decided to back out and the filmmakers has to scramble to find his replacement.

They cast Reeves lookalike Chris Klein (probably the worst actor I’ve ever seen) and somehow McTiernan still was able to keep the film’s bloated budget of $90mil. The film was scheduled to come out in the summer of 2001 but after some bad test screenings, they couldn’t even convince Harry Knowles from Ain’t It Cool News to write a good review for the film, the studio decided to dump it in the winter of 2002. There were so many things wrong with this film, from the awfully shot and direction to the badly-written script and of course the lead actor was a joke. Seriously this was directed by the same guy who made two of my favorite action films, Die Hard and The Hunt For Red October, I wonder if McTiernan was high while filming this movie. Please don’t waste your time or money on this turd.

 

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Transformers3PosterAnother Michael Bay’s film on the list and this one also made a ton of money. I mildly enjoyed the first film, the second one was junk but I thought this one was just a pain to sit through. They somehow decided to focus on the human characters instead of The Transformers, I wanted to the evil robots to kill everyone human in this movie. Seriously every characters in the film were so annoying, especially the hero Shia LaBeouf, I wanted the bad Transformers to crush his skull and shut him up. All he did throughout the film was whining and yelling. Yeah I really hated this movie. I won’t be wasting my time and money on the fourth film that’s opening this summer.

Godzilla remake (1998)

GodzillaRemake1998This film should be consider one of the most hyped up films ever. I remember after the awesome Super Bowl teaser trailer, the promotions for this film were everywhere. Internet was still new at the time so most of the marketing were used in traditional print ads: billboards, large digital displays and the non-stop TV spots. I got even more excited to see it after they released a full trailer, I thought it’s going to be one of the biggest hits ever and my favorite movie of that summer. Boy was I wrong on both fronts, the actual film was awful and it became one of the biggest bombs of the 90s. I seriously wanted to walk out about half way through but my friends were having a good time and I didn’t want to be rude. Also one of them drove so had I left the theater, I would’ve to wait outside till the movie’s over.

The film was full of clichéd characters and plot, the acting was awful and Godzilla looked silly. I actually bought a cheap blu-ray of this film last year, hoping that I was too harsh on it and maybe I might enjoy it since I haven’t seen it in over 10 years. Boy I was wrong again, I turned it off after 20 minutes and sold the BD at the pawn shop the next day.

Of course another remake is opening this summer but I don’t think it’s going to make a dent at the box office. The cool trailer was shown when I went to see The Desolation of Smaug and a lot of people burst out laughing when they saw the trailer, not a good sign when people are laughing at it. Who knows maybe the new remake could be good but I won’t see it unless it gets tons of good reviews.

Lost In Space (1998)

LostInSpacePosterAh yes, the film that’s well known for finally dethroning Titanic from the number 1 spot at the box office. The 90s were a period when many old TV shows were turned into big budget spectacle, Tim Burton’s Batman films, Mission: Impossible and The Fugitive were some good examples. New Line thought they have a winner and try to cash in on the trend by green lighting this very expensive space adventure. After a good looking trailer, I was excited to see this film even though I’ve never watched the old TV show. I saw it at the opening weekend and I actually asked the theater manager for my money back because I hated it so much; he didn’t give me back my cash. It was such a painful experience to sit through, from the lazy direction and script to the awful, even for its time, special effects.

The plot made no sense and I didn’t care for any of the characters, even the great Gary Oldman can’t save this stinking pile of turd. New Line thought the film was going to be a huge hit and if I remember correctly, the film sort of ended in a cliffhanger style. The studio thought they had a lucrative franchise in their hands. Thankfully it tanked at the box office and pretty much forgotten by most people throughout the years. The film also cost its director’s career, Stephen Hopkins was a up-and-comer director at the time and after he made this film, he’s been doing TV shows ever since.

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Those were some of the awful films I had to sit through, did you see any of them and do you agree with me? Feel free to list your own films that you thought were painful to sit through.