Tuesday, February 25, 2014
ROBOCOP Reboot Wins Fans, Fails It's Legacy
ARTH VADER (AV): So a hard-nosed, hard-working Detroit cop gets a little too close to some ugly truths and gets a near-fatal dose of injustice. In order to save his life and/or turn a profit, fictional tech giant OmniCorp (OCP) creates a super-bionic android that who becomes a bad-ass bastion of 21st century vengeance in Robobcop. While this movie is hardly a down-the-line remake it holds significant links to the 1980's cult classic of the same name by Paul "yes I also directed Starship Troopers" Verhoeven. How did this remake hold up for you Pontificator?
CASTING, DIRECTING AND ACTING
AV: This was a stellar cast that included silver screen giants like Michael "I'm Batman" Keaton, Gary "Commissioner Gordon" Oldman and Samuel L. "Mace Windu is Dead" Jackson. Michael K. “It’s Omar from the Wire” Williams also comes in and does a stellar job as Detective Alex Murphy's streetwise partner, Jack lewis. Joel Kinnaman takes the lead of Alex Murphy and helps put us into a trance-like state with some below-the-bar acting in the lead role. Veteran foreign and indie film director José Padilla unveils a fascinating vision of the violent, not-too-distant future world of Robocop. That vision is powerful, frightening and beautiful all at once. The intensity of the opening scenes in Tehran are some of the best in the film and that was all in the cinematography. What did you see, Ponty?
TP: I don’t have much to say about the flat performance of Joel Kinnaman except that he was better as Robocop than he was Murphy. For some reason, I just keep seeing Bruce Wayne when I watch Michael Keaton and I don’t know if it’s a nod to his performance in that role, or a slight to his performance in this one. Gary Oldman, on the other hand, was believable as Dr. Norton and delivered his character. Of course, Samuel L. Jackson’s Pat Novak was just what I expected it to be…right down to the “motherf#@&er” exclaimed at the end. I do believe that word is in his contract, no matter what he does.
AV: With a few stand-out exceptions, this movie doesn't really move the needle on innovation in visual effects. What is eerie and exceptionally well done are the effects of Murphy's remaining body parts–namely his head, brain, lungs, heart, throat and right hand which are kept alive cybernetically and the visuals are disturbingly well rendered. A showdown with the ED209's near the film's climax is major and visually breathtaking. Highly polished and streamlined. As an added note in the win column for effects, the visual effects in the TV show hosted by fictional right-wing nut job, Pat Novak (Sam Jackson) are impressively fluid. Pontificator, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the effects.
TAKING A DEEPER LOOK
AV: To be clear, I didn't hate this movie. That said, I didn't love it either. Simply put this movie just didn't need to be made. Robocop belongs to the 1980's as Paul Verhoeven's screenplay is witty, violent and timely with what was–for the time–leading edge effects. It was a freakish reimagining of Frankenstein’s monster and it worked. Not so with this reboot. As reboots go this was one of the better ones–so far this year–but that's where the praise stops. Main actor, Joel Kinnaman has a boring screen presence and the screenplay is just riddled with holes (ha-ha, get it?) with a host of continuity issues. But the story does entertain. Director José Padiha is rumored to have walked off set several time over studio meddling. If such rumors are true, it transferred into the final cut. But if you want empty-headed, visual effects action, then the Robocop reboot is your movie.
TP: Despite the light hearted attempt to remake Robocop with a PG-13 rating, there was a very profound underlying theme that did not escape me. The idea of replacing man with machine for dangerous work is not a new one. Indeed, the whole uproar over the real life use of drones underscores exactly what the film was dealing with. The film went a step further by showing the complete subjugation of another people at the hands of superior technology and in the name of providing “freedom.” What I saw was order, but not much freedom. The scary part was the argument being made to bring that same type of “order” to our cities. We have to ask ourselves how far off from this fantasy is our reality…and are we prepared to accept such a lifestyle, and if not…what are we prepared to do to stop it?
AV: Like it’s predecessor, this movie would be fine if left alone. The story has already been told, no need to hammer us with it. Movies in the sci-fi action drama category tend to see lots of sequels even if they are duds. While at the core, this movie was decent, lets not overdue it here, Hollywood, ok? In the words of Robocop (1987) just, “Drop it!”
TP: It likely that Robocop is set to return in the near future. I can only hope that it comes with a better storyline, but with the same profound interest in it’s underlying vision.
ARTH VADER rates Robocop: Not a travesty but far from a victory, Robocop (2014) offers nothing new to the franchise, the genre or the movie-going experience. You could do worse things with $10 then to go see this movie.With cool effects, decent star power and a story that just plain doesn’t matter, RoboCop (2014) bionically delivers five (5) busted blocks.
THE PONTIFICATOR rates Robocop: While it will never be the classic the original was, despite the better effects, it was very entertaining. It was just good enough to avoid being a total bomb, but not quite good enough to be a true blockbuster, only shooting six (6) busted blocks in the name of the law.
Friday, January 31, 2014
ARTH VADER (AV): This is not the Frankenstein’s monster I grew up with, Ponty, though this newly re-imagined look is curiously compelling. Mary Shelly’s original fiction about a scientifically reanimated corpse was a cautionary tale to the science community and society at large. The subtext was this; when women create life it is of the natural order of nature and life. When man creates lives, you get… well a monster. Sadly, Frankenstein is still a story that men are still butchering nearly 200 years later since this movie has nothing to do with Shelley’s anonymously published tale originally published in 1818.
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): I have never read the comic graphic novel this film is based on and know this film bares no resemblance to Mary Shelly’s classic. That said, I found the idea to be intriguing even though it wasn’t nearly as interesting as it could have been.
CASTING, DIRECTING & ACTING
AV: As for acting, there just isn’t any in this film. The casting could have been far worse than Aaron Eckhart and Bill "Are you sure this isn't Underworld" Nighy. And while Yvonne "Killer Elite" Strahovski is easy on the eyes, I'm not altogether sure what role she's supposed to play. Damsel in distress? Naive, well-meaning doctor? Deceived do-gooder? Confusing at best. Sadly, though Eckhart is not necessarily a believable re-animated monster, he does hold a menacing sort of air. The direction was undeniably dark and with lots of sweeping wide-angle shots for me to lap up the big battle sequences. The camera does a solid job of keeping the effects shots prominent.
TP: Aaron Eckart takes a crack at being the action hero… and I’m not so sure he sold audiences. He has always been a capable actor, I’m just not so sure this was the role for him. Bill Nighy is one of my favorites. No matter what he plays in, he brings something special to the screen and his role here was reminiscent of his head vampire role in Underworld. Truth be told, there were really no standout performances and the rest of the cast seemed rather two dimensional for me. Never once was I vested in anyone in the film… just intrigued by what Bill Nighy was going to say or do next.
AV: Good solid, explosions, CGI-built environments and great-looking Gargoyles (you know, you gotta have Gargoyles, Ponty!), the visual effects are solid though I must say… really nothing new. And what the hell (literally) was up with the demons? Their looks, make-up and transformations were all tired and lazy, as if they were all after thoughts. That’s not a good sign for a flick that is trying to sell me on an eye-candy experience.
TP: There was no new ground broken in this film, but it also didn’t completely screw the FX up either. I found them passable and actually entertaining. The contrast between “descending” and “ascending” was nice and there was one scene where the use of slow motion was done better than I’ve seen it done in a long time. The fights were predictable, but there was one in particular that was obviously well rehearsed and practiced to perfection as I sat wondering why most fight scenes in films I watch won’t invest such effort. Overall, good effects.
TAKING A DEEPER LOOK
AV: This movie is the culmination of the writers, SFX artists, producers and even some of the actors from the famed Underworld series. Pontificator, I can sniff out made-for-sequel films from here to Transylvania and this one even ends with a monolithic, 'more to come' feel as the main character's epilogue delivers voice over that is unimpressive and foreboding. He does not have much to say about a senseless story involving demons and gargoyles that is both hard to follow and confusingly trite. The title of the film suggests the monster has fragmented speech but throughout the film, Eckhart's overly handsome 'monster' is articulate, intelligent and resolute. Mixed signals at best.
TP: Ah Vader…I’m wishing I had something good to say, but instead I have a couple of complaints. Although I liked the idea of the story, the classic good versus evil with the monster of Frankenstein caught in the middle, there were some story elements that just didn’t make any sense… at all. Terra, the human doctor tasked with replicating the process that created Adam (Frankenstein’s monster) has just been told that her world is going to be overrun with demons… indeed, sees proof that they exist after helping Adam defeat one, but still starts the process that will unleash hundreds of thousands of them on Earth to try and reanimate her colleague that has just been killed? Umm… they weren’t lovers, and even so, she’s going to hand the world over to the demons for him? Dumb. Leonore, the head Gargoyle, finds the thousands of demons I just spoke of, in the middle of the reanimation process… and orders the two other other Gargoyles with her to start destroying them… one by one? Say what? How about just destroying the machine that they are all hooked up to and stop the reanimation sequence? Wait… that makes too much sense.
AV: You could tell from this movie’s narrative that it has “Trilogy” written in its DNA. I believe screenplays are already written for follow-up installments of I, Frankenstein. Based loosely on the fairly decent Darkstorm Comic's graphic novel and series written by Kevin Grevioux, there is a great deal of source material for this story, and if I know Hollywood–they will systematically ignore every bit of it. P-Man, how say you?
TP: While the idea was good, the delivery wasn’t nearly good enough to sink a single dime into another go round. Please, don’t try to bring this back to life.
ARTH VADER rates I, Frankenstein: Swing and a miss, Hollywood. TIME Magazine Online reviewed this movie under the title "I, Frankenstein is NOT the worst movie ever made." I concur. Its fun to look at, a great idea (that gets fundamentally butchered as soon as the film begins) and has promise for future installments. Unfortunately, the absence of story, plot or acting (not to mention common sense) as well as a screenplay that assumes the audience is a group of over-stimulated 8-year olds, drops this movie where it lumbers. The movie simply fails to inspire. Still, I went to the lab and stitched together four (4) Busted Blocks and threw the switch still hoping for a spark.
I, Frankenstein: 5 / 10 Busted Blocks
Monday, January 20, 2014
New take on a classic character leaves a lot to be desired
ARTH VADER (AV): Not sure what part of this film claims to be faithful to the ancient tale of Hercules, the human son of the Greek God Zeus but this movie, for all its flaws does try to make a case for Hercules' humanity. By having him not only be completely in the dark about his heritage, Herc renounces his Dad (Zeus) as an absentee Father. Pontificator, I must say, I wanted to buy what this movie was selling but there was nothing (and no one) to get behind in this film. As for the characterizations of this film—how does 'unwatchable' grab you?
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): It grabs me just fine Vader. There are many stories of Hercules, some that come from the classic mythology, some that don’t, and some that mix a little in while telling their own tale. This film is one of the latter as the only part taken from classic mythology was the killing of the Namean Lion…and the only part accurate was the lion itself, not the circumstances surrounding the encounter.
CASTING, DIRECTING AND ACTING
AV: There were no notable effects in this film. Now, I'm sure that many of the sweeping cityscapes in the wide angle and panoramic shots were all CGI as well as the blue-fire whip and the lightening zooming down from the heavens when he cries out "Father I believe in you!" (what?). And you can't forget the crazy and bizarre all-CGI lion Herc fights near the start of the film (huh?). One would think that a movie like this–given the state of VF/X these days–would have more need or use for visual effects. But you would be wrong, Ponty. Very, very wrong.
TP: This is where the pain continues Vader. The CGI is absolutely horrible, at least ten years behind what is being used in film today. The costumes are laughable, best taken back to whatever Broadway play they were stolen from. I have never seen a more liberal use of slow motion action sequences in my life. There was slow motion in some scenes that weren’t even combat oriented…just slow motion, just because. There was even one scene where the scenery is clearly on a scrolling screen to simulate movement. I mean…really??? There should be some sort of quality assurance process before something like this makes it to the silver screen. Seriously.
TAKING A DEEPER LOOK
AV: This movie is so bad it actually held a 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Given that was ALL reviewers (since on opening day no one else had seen it yet) that tells you that us snooty reviewers hated it. As for me, Ponty, there were moments when I had a good time with this film. No it’s true! I'm able, most of the time, to shut off my brain entirely and just watch a movie. Now how on Earth this movie cost $70 million to make is far beyond my meager understanding of Hollywood movie production. An epic fail in the opportunity column as this film does little-to-nothing to embrace the viewer and give them something to connect with. Even the ex-Twilight heartthrob couldn’t even bring a handful of teen girls in to see his rippling muscles tear down columns of granite and steel.
AV: Ten minutes after leaving the theater I would have forgotten this movie entirely, if it weren't for this blog. I would not think this movie would have left the hands of the distribution people but here we are reviewing. Unless there are scores of producers in Hollywood with untold millions to toss away, I can’t envision a world where a sequel to this train wreck is made. And to those millionaires looking to recklessly throw away millions, please contact us through this blog. We need to sit and chat, because we have story ideas that will blow your mind (and your budget!). You’re up, old friend…
TP: This will be where the pain will become torture Vader. If they even think about a sequel, it will be the clearest indication ever, that Hollywood hates us and takes some sort of sadistic pleasure from our screams of agony. Just to echo, millionaires looking for great movie ideas…contact us, great ideas is what we do. Really.
ARTH VADER rates The Legend of Hercules: It’s too early in the year to give this movie a bomb of the year nod but there is no way in good conscience I would or could recommend this movie to anyone. While I did enjoy parts of this movie, there are far better ways to spend the cost of a movie ticket. Give it to the homeless or buy a book, hand it out to a kid on the street or even just see a different movie. This movie busted two (2) cement blocks (somehow!) and lets us never speak of it again.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Geek Peek 2014: Our Next Favorite Movies Are Just Around The Corner
In these final hours, we bid farewell to the 2013 movie year. However, we also look ahead to the amazing cinematic treats Hollywood has in store for the fan boy in all of us. We here at the Boxed Office take our annual peak under the hood at the geek–fest that are our most anticipated films of 2014. We look ahead at some of the biggest sci-fi, super hero and fantasy and CGI films coming soon to a theater near you:
I, Frankenstein (1/24) - TP: I’m used to seeing Frankenstein’s monster as some lumbering misshapen creature that moves like he has lead in his legs (I don’t know that he didn’t) and is about as intelligible as someone speaking Latin with marbles in their mouth. So I’m more than a little intrigued by Kevin Grevioux’s, (co-creator of the Underworld franchise) and Patrick Tatopoulos’s (director of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) vision of this classic character. Aaron Eckhart will be bringing the monster to life, and from what I’ve seen so far, he is bringing a whole lot of bad-assery to the silver screen. With Bill Nighy playing opposite him, I’m definitely feeling that “Underworld” vibe in this one… and that won’t be such a bad thing come January.
Robocop (2/12) – AV: Yeah, I must confess, I was pretty reluctant to even consider this film worthy when I first heard of this remake more than a year ago. The original was so rich in camp, classic one-liners and Paul Verhoeven’s humor was a cool balance to the hot violence of this 1986 sci-fi classic. But this remake looks bomb-diggity, with first-rate effects and super-badasses like Samuel L. “Jules” Jackson and Michael “I’m Batman” Keaton leading the way, this films will be one to watch. Dead or alive, the Robocop reboot is coming for you in February 2014.
300: Rise of an Empire (3/7) – AV: Leonidas is dead–long live the resistance! In a beautiful–if not empty-headed–and possibly unnecessary follow-up to 2006’s magnificent screen adaptation of Frank Miller’s acclaimed graphic novel, ‘300’, 300:Rise Of An Empire looks to be bigger and more badass than it’s predecessor. With stunning scenes of ancient ‘total–war’ and a premise that could hold some merit (maybe?), Rise of An Empire chronicles the Greek resistance to the invasion by the Persian empire. This fictional account real events will have audiences ‘dining in hell’ this coming March.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (4/4) - TP: I’m positively salivating in anticipation of this film. The trailer was more than enough to hook me, but after being treated to the full elevator scene, this became one of the most anticipated films of 2014 for me. I loved the first film and it seems as though they are bringing that same magic to this one, but with some extra “bang” and a whole lot of extra character treats. Let’s take a tally… Black Widow, Nick Fury, The Falcon, Crossbones, Batroc the Leaper, and of course, the Winter Soldier himself. Chris Evans is owning his role as the First Avenger, and now Anthony Mackie gets an opportunity to write his ticket onscreen in the Marvel Universe… and attach it to some sure money. This movie has all the signs of being the next big thing in super hero films, and will probably set the bar very, very high in April 2014.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (5/2) - TP: I’m already worried. I get worried when I see a trailer and it looks like the film has too many villains. Jamie Foxx playing Electro has already caused enough buzz to build this film up, whether you think he’s great for the role or feel they should not have departed from the source material. Paul Giamatti as the Rhino is just more icing on the cake. However, going beyond that (and they are) I get worried. Something always gets lost, and a film suffers when it’s overcrowded without being designed to be via the source material (ala X-Men). I’m hoping to be wrong about this, and that it lives up to all the hype in April.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (5/23) - TP: Exit director Matthew Vaughn and re-enter Bryan Singer. I’m not overly enthusiastic about this, especially in light of how good First Class was, but I’m intrigued by the sheer size of the cast… and scope of the story. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Iam Mckellen, Hugh Jackman, and Peter Dinklage for starters. Taking, arguably, the best X-Men story (certainly a classic) and translating it to film with all the gravity and effect of the original is no small task, so I’ve got to give the effort the benefit of the doubt (despite the change in director) and hope for the best. If they pull this off, this could very well be one of the greatest movies ever - hunting you down in May.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (7/11) - TP: Presenting the story of how the apes came to have dominance over humanity, and I haven’t been this excited to see the end of humanity in a long time. Andy Serkis is back as Caesar and I expect, is still as menacing and interesting as he was in the first film. I’m excited also about Gary Oldman being in this. Opening in the summer puts this film in the crosshairs for success as a summer blockbuster and will only have itself to blame if it falls short. I’m optimistic about this film, considering the fact that audiences are enamored with the idea of a planet ruled by apes. Prepare to be dominated this July.
Guardians of the Galaxy (8/1) – AV: Old friend, this is truly the movie event I've been waiting for! Ever since Marvel announced at the 2012 Comicon that this movie was in production, well it was all I could do to contain myself. This one is going to take everyone by surprise. With Chris Pratt as Starlord, the gorgeous Zoe Saldana as Gomora and big, bad Dave Bautista as Drax The Destroyer this movie is going to kick but and take names! Not enough for you? Try Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot and Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket Racoon (hang on, I'm about to plotz!) and a veritable host of Hollywood stars will help bring a legion of Marvel space heroes–and villains–to life. I've pre-ordered my Rocket Racoon T-Shirt, underwear and cereal bowl caddy. No official trailer yet but I'm hooked on the feeling that this one is gonna rock! August 2014 can't get here soon enough, partner!
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (8/22) – AV: While I am excited about this one, Ponty, when a movie keeps get it's release date pulled and reinstated, it is usually not a good sign. If directors Frank "The Original Dark Knight Creator" MIller and Robert "Dusk till Dawn Mastermind" Rodriguez can give us an equally potent follow-up to the original Sin City, we should all leave the theater with a smug smile. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For will be Black, White and Red all over this coming August.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (11/21) - TP: The action seems to be heating up as the story is nearing its conclusion. Although the last film advanced the story, it didn’t have the same emotional impact on me that the first film did. With Jennifer Lawrence reprising her role as Katniss Everdeen, freed, angry and leading a people on the brink of civil war, this film will probably have more shock value that the last one. Everything seems to ramping up to an epic conclusion, and I’m very optimistic that this movie will continue build the story, while also delivering some big time entertainment come November.
The Hobbit: There and Back Again (12/17) - TP: The fact this movie comes so late in the year aptly underscores the old saying “saving the best for last.” Everybody returns, for what should be, an epic film with IMAX 3D being the preferred medium. After the Lord of the Rings trilogy and two Hobbit films, we all should know exactly what to expect. I’m hoping Peter Jackson knows all this as well, and delivers the unexpected and makes the Battle of Five Armies something well beyond anything we have seen before, and makes us talk about it for years to come. I’ve been waiting for this ending since they first announced the possibility of doing a Hobbit film. All I’m asking is for the delivery to be equal to the anticipated wait. They say to be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it. This is me… asking for it in December!
Thank you all for reading–come back for more in 2014!