‘Robocop’ Review

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Dir: Jose Padilha

Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, and Samuel L. Jackson

Synopsis:. In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – a loving husband, father and good cop – is critically injured in the line of duty, the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer

 

*Reviewer Note:  This is a spoiler free review, as always.*

 

The original Robocop wowed moviegoers back in 1987 with its heavy blend of hardcore violence, state-of-the-art special effects, and social satire, all wrapped in the hugely entertaining film of a police officer who is fatally wounded in the line-of-duty and reborn “part-man, part machine, all cop.”

Well let’s fast forward, yes forget the sequels and I’m looking more at you Robocop 3.  We have a loose remake that pays the original homage here and there, but does the best it to make the movie stand on its own. It doesn’t take the full satire route that Verhoeven did but instead tries to make its own point about what it means to be a man and or a machine.

Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) is a detective who ends up in critical condition after the arms dealer he’s investigating tries to blow him up. The timing works out for the robotics company Omnicorp, which is run by Raymond Sellars (Keaton), who has been trying to figure out a way to get the American people on board with the idea of robotic law enforcement. Omnicorp has robots policing the entire world, but can’t deploy in America as Americans don’t trust robots to make life or death decisions. They want a human element, or as Sellars puts it “a man inside a machine.” Enter Alex Murphy

The actual man responsible for putting Alex in the suit is Dr. Norton (Oldman).  Norton is convinced by Sellars but unlike Sellars’ lawyer Liz Kline (Jennifer Ehle) and marketing man Tom Pope (Jay Baruchel), Norton knows that this isn’t completely going to work. Norton knows that the human part will always beat the mechanical at the end of the day but all Sellars wants is his cash-cow.  Nevertheless, Norton goes against his better judgment and gives Alex his “life back.”

But where the original movie merely touched on the moral issues of turning a man into a machine before murder and mayhem took center stage, the remake make the issues the prime idea. In fact, unlike the original RoboCop, Kinnaman plays a much larger role. He brings the character of Alex Murphy out more with family, which is another thing the original only touched on briefly. The family situation digs only a little deeper but gets pushed to the side once again for the action sequences and its moral question.

Since I’m talking about Kinnaman, he does a pretty descent job in the lead role. It’s almost hard for me to judge since he does most of his acting with his face. But, there are certain scenes where that’s all he needs and he really makes you feel sorry for him. His best scenes are those shared with the always dependable Gary Oldman, with Dr. Norton the film’s most interesting character, as he wrestles with the consequences of his actions. Michael Keaton’s bad guy is okay, he’s not over the top but not very menacing either. I’d say the best villain is Jackie Earle Haley, whose Maddox – a former soldier now working for OmniCorp – entertains whenever he appears. He really deserved more screen time.

The only real satirical elements to the movie is the news show called The Novak Element, in which Samuel L. Jackson character delivers agenda-heavy monologues that are pro-robot and anti-freedom.  Other more nods to the original are hugely effective, from the music to the taser gun emerging from Robocop’s leg and of course some line from the original.

The action sequences are scattered throughout the movie in order to give the drama center stage. But, when the action sequences kick in they’re highly entertaining to watch. One of my favorites comes at the half way point of the movie when Alex gets a lead on the people that wanted him dead.

Besides its missteps, Robocop suffers from being named Robocop and trying to follow in the footsteps of the original. I know people won’t look over that fact and people will probably be disappointed that it isn’t satirical enough but truth of the matter is, director Jose Padilha isn’t trying to do that. Padilha is trying to make another statement. Verhoeven’s movie worked back then, and for the most part still holds up today, but this version isn’t trying to be that.

All in all, this new version of Robocop works on some levels and fails on others. While some might see it as trying to compete to the original, it is truly trying to make its own point in today’s society. It’s not a great movie but certainly not a bad one.

 

Robocop

3 out of 5

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‘The LEGO Movie’ Review

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Dir: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

Cast (voice): Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, Liam Nesson, and Morgan Freeman

Synopsis: An ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This is a spoiler free review, as always.  Sorry for the lack of reviews lately. I live in Chicago and if you’ve been watching the news, we (like many other people as well) have been hit with a ton of snow.  But I’m back!*

 

On paper, the movie sounds a little crazy. I think just about everybody was saying “what the hell are they going to do with a Lego movie?” and I’ll admit I was one of those people.  However, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) have blended together a unique blend of wit, humor, and heart.  And like most kid films, The Lego Movie is really about what it means to be a child but also a person in general (too cheesy?).

The movie follows Emmet (Pratt) who is the most ordinary “person” in his city of Bricksburg.  He follows the instructions for everything, loves the most popular stuff – that includes a lame TV show – and the infectiously catchy pop song “Everything Is Awesome.”  However, when he stumbles into a pit at his construction job, he unintentionally finds the “Piece of Resistance” that is part of a prophecy set by the “Master Builder” Vitruvius (Freeman) to defeat the evil Lord Business or President Business (Ferrell).  When the rebels discover Emmet’s just an ordinary person and not the “Special One” they must work together with his help.

Emmet is joined on his journey mostly by Wildstyle (Banks) who is also a Master Builder. Think of them like Neo in The Matrix that can see things around them and build anything.  Banks does pretty well as the kick ass heroine that does everything she can to protect Emmet and herself.  Freeman is pretty cool as the hippy-like wizard Vitruvius that ranges from wise to comic relief.  Will Ferrel’s Lord Business is maniacal but has depth to stop him from becoming a cliché villain. But it’s really Chris Pratt who steals the show as the endearing and sometimes dopey (in a good way) Emmet.

However the other familiar faces, drawing on some of LEGO’s strongest licenses, such as Batman and Superman for example pop up. But it’s testament to the film’s integrity that such well-known characters never really become the focus of the film.  Batman, even with substantial screen time and a strong supporting role, doesn’t steal the movie.  They even make Batman into a bit of a dick and relish poking fun at Green Lantern, who’s so desperate to make friends with the cool heroes.  But others are entirely original creations like Metal Beard – a gigantic mech topped off with the head of a pirate.

The use of LEGO also gives the film a style of its own and gives the action a distinctive look.  Set pieces often involve characters frantically building new vehicles or special items to help them escape.  It’s exciting to watch these items appear rapidly before your eyes, and they really give the film some great kinetic sequences.  Elsewhere, the solidity of LEGO adds a unique look to environments, especially elements like smoke and water.  Hell, seeing the Council of Master Builders is awesome to see. We see about every famous LEGO you can imagine ranging from; Shakespeare, Ninja Turtles, Ninjas, and Abraham Lincoln. It makes total sense because that’s the kind of freedom and creativity the movie is ultimately encouraging

However, for a movie that is promoted as a comedy, the movie has an unsuspected but welcomed emotional kick to its final act.  Dare I say the best moments of the movie are toward the end.  It’s in these final moments that The LEGO Movie becomes a little bit special

All in all, The LEGO Movie has it all; humor, action, emotion and even some twists that make it just more than a LEGO movie. I completely was blown away by a movie I wasn’t original excited for.  Everything about this movie was truly awesome.

 

The Lego Movie

5 out of 5