Darke Reviews | The Martian (2015)

This is not part of my October reviews, fortunately or unfortunately, my regular reviews do not get trumped by October. I had every intention of seeing this Thursday night but exhaustion kicked in and a desire for a record 6 hours of sleep ended up winning. Having seen it today and after some rest I can provide you the review you deserve.  I will say this, do not let Matt Damon or Jessica Chastain near the space program. Something goes wrong every time; how is it he is the one always stranded?

Anyway; does the movie hold up to the hype machine?

The film is based on a book by Andy Weir and adapted for the screen by Drew Goddard. I understand from some friends it is an excellent book and will be curious to hear the comparison between the two. Goddard on the other hand was the producer of the much loved (and very awesome) Netflix series Daredevil, The Cabin in the Woods, and Cloverfield. He also wrote one of my favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Conversations with Dead People.” So the source material is very strong, the writer has some solid understanding of characters and tension but do they have a director who can do something with that?

Well lets talk the story for a moment. This is a what you see is what you get. The movie literally is: Matt Damon gets left behind on Mars. NASA tries to figure out how to save him, while he tries to save himself.

Simple story. You need good actors and a good director to make it work. I give you Ridley Scott. I give you the man behind the camera and actors of Blade Runner, Alien, Black Hawk Down, and the list goes on. He doesn’t have a flawless list (Robin Hood, Hannibal, Exodus) but a solid one. He, despite his stumbles, is a brilliant film maker who can do more to create tension with a shot and space than a dozen of the modern horror directors combined. That is what this movie needed. Tension. You don’t know if they will bring him home, you don’t know if they will all survive doing so. Goddard, Weir, and Scott have masterfully crafted a story where you just aren’t sure.

Of course some of the work must go to the actors. Matt Damon by necessity carries the film and he has the chops to do it. I was watching the movie and thought is there another actor who could do this? Short answer I came up with is no. End to end of this movie, there’s not another bankable actor who could do this with such charm and such range.  Then you combine it with the following cast members

  • Jessica Chastain (Interstellar, Mama, Zero Dark Thirty)
  • Michael Peña (Shooter, Fury)
  • Jeff Daniels (Newsroom, Speed)
  • Kristen Wiig (Despicable Me 2, Brides Maids)
  • Sean Bean (duh)
  • Kate Mara (House of Cards)
  • Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier, Once Upon a Time)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity, 12 Years a Slave)
  • Mackenzie Davis (Halt and Catch Fire)
  • Donald Glover  (Community)

This is the literal definition of a powerhouse cast. Each person despite how much or little screen time they are given manages to translate that into a memorable or otherwise engaging character. That’s art folks. This movie would die in the vacuum of space if you didn’t want to root for the characters. If you didn’t want to sit at the edge of your seat or bite your lip. Everyone is understandable in every decision made. Every action. Every consequence.  The movie lives and dies because of the performances these people gave in conjunction with solid directing, and source material.

In other words, this is everything Fantastic Four was not.

It is also not as pretentious as Interstellar, which I wanted to like, but really couldn’t.

As a technical point, the CG enhancement of the landscapes, the background, the skies made me really believe that they could have been on Mars. This is the George Miller lesson folks. Use CG to enhance not dominate. There’s only one slightly jarring, but appropriate effect in the movie. Everything else to me is beautiful. I was commenting the other day how claustrophobic modern movies tend to be. Tight locations, tight camera’s, fear of long range shots or appropriate long range shots. This movie is anything but. It uses distance as a tool as much as it uses sound and lack there of when needed. It really lives by show don’t tell on a lot of points and again is a better movie for it. If there are any other flaws, there’s some pacing issues (a Ridley Scott natural flaw) but otherwise that’s it.

TL;DR?

This is a good movie. This is a damn go0d movie. This isn’t a good sci fi movie. This isn’t a good dramatic movie. This IS a good movie. I watched the movie on the edge of my seat more than a few times.

I came out of the movie inspired.

I came out of the movie wanting to Science!

I came out of the movie satisfied with my experience in a way few movies this year have.

I highly recommend The Martian to anyone.

Darke Reviews | Terminator Genisys (2015)

31 years. It has been 31 years since the line “Come with me if you want to live” was first uttered on the silver screen. Sadly, I was too young to see the original on the big screen, but have watched it dozens upon dozens of times since. Terminator 2 came while I had one of my best summers ever, living in Virginia, and I had the joy of watching it 5 times in the theatre. Watched dozens of times since then. One of my best friends and I planned a judgement day party for August 29, 1997. I even made labels to put on sunblock labeled SPF 2,000,000 – you know so we didn’t have a bad day. I think you can safely assume I am a fan of the mythology and first two movies. I didn’t even hate Edward Furlong.

Then Judgement Day came and went. The party didn’t happen as we had all moved away. Then 2003 came with a promise to give us the Rise of the Machines and it lied to us. It lied so badly. If I thought Furlong was bad, then Nick Stahl was a walking abomination. Then they tried 6 years after with Terminator Salvation, trying to apologize for how bad 3 was…but I fell asleep from boredom through the apology. I couldn’t tell who was more machine the T-800’s or Sam Worthington and Christian Bale. So

6 years after that, what do we get?

Let’s start with a two writer script, though obvious credits are given to Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron for the characters themselves. Laeta Kalogridis, who gave us screenplays for NightWatch (Timur Bembekov’s supernatural thriller) and Shutter Island.  Patrick Lussier, he who gave us Dracula 2000 and Drive Angry. Both of these individuals, while having western films under their belt, also lean towards lower budget European films designed for international audiences. I don’t know that I would have picked them to try to reboot and reinvigorate this franchise considering their previous works; which, while I enjoy, are mostly low end popcorn fare or weak on the script but high on atmosphere. Much of these traits can be found here, the script is kinda weak and some of the dialogue is down right painful.

Sarah is fine, the Terminator is fine, John is fine, Kyle is a walking travesty. Part of that goes to the casting director, Ronna Kress who needs a smack upside the head. I have no idea how a person who could cast Mad Max: Fury Road so perfectly could so screw up here. I have to assume studio interference. It is the only logical choice. The other part goes to the studio and director, Alan Taylor (who is best known for his season 2 Game of Thrones episodes).  A better director may have gotten a better performance, but I doubt it; but perhaps he could have argued to have a better Kyle Reese.

There is no reason to cast Jai Courtney. I recently commented that he needs to find the tree he was carved from, no one is buying him as a real boy. He is without any charm or charisma in Divergent, Die Hard, Jack Reacher, and gives me less hope as Captain Boomerang in Suicide Squad. Hollywood STOP TRYING TO FORCE HIM DOWN OUR THROAT. Please. Stop. Aside from being a terrible actor he is horrifically miscast as Kyle. Michael Biehn created the role and despite not being the prettiest belle at the ball had a charm and handsomeness to him that lead us to like him. He was so damn earnest and believable  that I cared that he served in the 132nd under Perry from 21 to 27. When he said, “I came across time for you, Sarah. I love you; I always have…” it is the most romantic thing ever. Courtney and this script can’t pull any of this off. He is positively the worst thing about this film. Every line he uttered comes from a place where I wanted to throat punch him. Aside from being unable to make me care, and in fact look forward to his demise, he just looks bad. He is too damn handsome. Too full. I blame that on the director and casting again. Beihn, and even Anton Yelchin in T4, looked thin, looked worn, and looked like they grew up in a wasteland after Judgement Day. They were lean, he is cut. His physique makes no sense in a world where humans are scrambling to get by like little more than cockroaches in the ruins of the world. He’s just too pretty. You want someone who looks like he could be Kyle? Try this image:

Yes. I am Guy Pearce. You are welcome.

Yes. I am Guy Pearce. You are welcome.

At least we had Jason Clarke and Emilia Clarke – no relation. While Jason Clarke doesn’t quite carry the beat to hell, hardened military commander that Michael Edwards did in T2 (his stare is bloody iconic). He does a good job at least making me believe he is Connor, a boy who knows the future to a certain point. I like Clarke as an actor with excellent performances in Zero Dark Thirty,  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and even The Great Gatsby.

John_Connor_T2

My stare can kill a terminator at 1000 yards.

John_Connor_T5

I at least wear the scars better than Christian Bale.

 

Emilia has probably the toughest role to play of all the cast. Going from the mother of Dragons to the Mother of the Resistance. She has to fill shoes left by the epic Linda Hamilton who gave us two startlingly amazing performances of a character at two different times in her life. Now, having just watched Terminator (1984), just now while writing this she clearly paid attention to Hamilton and her performance. She hit enunciation, body language, and even lip motions from the first film. While there are moments she over reacts and hits too much emotion for someone who is raised the way she is, overall I buy it. I know other reviewers are having trouble with her, but to be honest I think she did well. She didn’t have an easy job or good script, but did very well with what she did. While the writers clearly didn’t get Kyle, they did get Sarah and some of her reactions were spot on.

I can’t finish talking about the cast without talking about Arnie. The role is like an old glove that he slipped into. He was on the mark 100%. He also could tell this film wasn’t great, but makes sure to let you know HE is enjoying himself. Honestly, this is the Arnie I miss. Even as a bloody cyborg he overshadowed almost everyone on screen with the weight and charisma of his performance.

From a technicals standpoint? It suffers as so many movies do these days. It is too clean. Too polished. Their post-apocalypse is all shiny and chrome, with beautiful body armor and fashion models for soldiers.  Even the current timeline they give us has the same problem. There’s no grit, no weight, and no atmosphere to this. Ultimately a  lot of movies in the past decade suffer from this, where there is no atmospheric heart to help sell the movie and the world. It is just meh and you don’t care. The CG work on the Terminators has not improved since 1991. Thats right 24 years later and not only has it not improved – it got worse. The computer effects are just down right awful. Nothing is redeeming about them. Not a thing. There’s also not enough practical effects in the future scenes to make me buy it. Both Terminator and Terminator 2 had just the right amount of practical to let me believe there was an HK rolling into position to kill Kyle. That a flying HK was moving overhead chasing our heroes was there. The only technical effect that works is the de-aged Arnie for the 1984 T-800. I liked it. I looked for flaws and nothing screamed at me, even as the reproduced the original shot from 1984.

TL;DR?

I want to hate this film. I really want to hate it. I can’t. I almost feel like I owe them an apology for lambasting them so badly before the film. It isn’t great. It doesn’t redeem the franchise in any way shape or form, but it is better than the last two laughable attempts at a movie with the Terminator name attached. I did laugh and enjoy all the callbacks to the original two movies, there’s plenty of lines there that will bring out the nostalgia factor, which did make me look more favorably on it. It felt like they were at least trying – even if they failed. I did care about Sarah at least.

  • If you were curious – go in with low expectations. You will probably be entertained.
  • If you need MST3k bait, it’s there if you need it.
  • If you hate that it’s PG13 – you should. It doesn’t have any real power due to the MPAA.

I will say that the 3D is pointless and even the XD sound system was wasted without the original theme playing at epic levels of volume.

All in all – if you don’t want to see Jurassic World again this weekend and aren’t saving up for Ant-Man – go ahead. You probably will find yourself enjoying the nostalgia factor at least. It is at least fun.


 

The movie schedule for July is looking pretty good with such films as

  • Minions
  • Self/Less
  • Ant-Man
  • Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation

Pixels is also coming out, but I am debating this…will probably boycott to avoid giving Adam Sandler and his problematic productions money.

Darke Reviews – Ex Machina (2015)

This is a little known, but often lauded film, I have been waiting for. In multiple previous reviews I have slammed the films for having a fear of science and more importantly a fear of AI. Transcendence is one the more recent criminals in this vein. I have a near unique perspective where I am just as eager to look at and love the past as I am the future. I am not afraid of science.  I am not afraid of any advances and point in fact I resent those that hold us back from even more. Too many sci fi movies these days seem to be based on a fear response rather than hope or driving us to better ourselves, our world, and our technology.

So please pardon me if I wax a bit philosophical as I write this review, the movie asks some very important questions in the right ways.

Let’s switch things up a bit and get into the acting, this film runs on a minimal cast. While not as small as say Moon, for the better part of the film there are 3 main actors who must do all the work; those being Oscar Isaac as Nathan, Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb, and Alicia Vikander as Ava. Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, Robin Hood, Drive and soon to be in Age of Apocalypse) plays scientific genius Nathan the man with a compound in a remote area of either Canada or Norway. I appreciate his take on the eccentric billionaire. There’s something roguish and even brutish about his performance yet with a calculating intelligence that drives him and his protege Caleb forward. It is a surprisingly detestable character yet he captures your attention much in the way Tony Stark does. Gleeson (Bill Weasley from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows) is nearly the opposite. For all the extrovert force that Nathan is, Gleeson’s performance as Caleb is almost wall flowerish. It is a well controlled and constructed performance that allows you to buy into his decision making and approach through the film His body language is on point during his Turing test conversations with Ava. Vikander (Seventh Son, Anna Karenina, Man from UNCLE), may have the hardest performance. Where the boys must be equally demanding of the camera during their shots both energetic and quiet; Vikander’s Ava must capture the camera and your attention with something else. Every motion she makes must look as if she is a machine pretending to be human but so human she passes. This is more difficult than it sounds yet she achieves it in her own body language. Her face alone is allowed full expression yet her body tells you as much in how she moves and positions herself. It’s really quite remarkable.

The technical prowess in which the actors performed must get some credit from the writer and director Alex Garland. Garland, who previously gave us the genre redefining 28 Days Later, the lack luster Sunshine, and criminally underrated Dredd, is in top form here. It’s clear the man knows how to shoot a film and get a performance from his cast. The three films I mentioned are clearly watching a man come to understand his gifts behind the camera and with a crew with each one building on the successes and failures of the other. That leaves us with Ex Machina. Nothing is wasted in the film. Not a single shot is without some level of purpose be it literal or metaphorical. Every camera angle is where it should be for maximum effect. It truly is a technically amazing film from a cinematic point of view. While I know there is much that was in the can that hit the editing room floor, as there is with any film, we are given the purest essence of film making. Music, Light, Shadow, Color, Negatives, all interplay perfectly.

Before I talk story and the questions, I do need to say as good as the movie is – it still falls into some traps that I found displeasing. The character of Nathan, while breaking many stereotypes, hits enough of the wrong ones to bother. While the movie does not directly objectify the female cast members there is an overabundance of shots that made me think someone from Game of Thrones was involved. Obviously I have no issue with the female form, as I am in the process of giving myself one, but there’s just something off putting in the delivery here. It is largely clinical if you narrow your eyes at the movie, but a moments though and it becomes uncomfortable again. This is probably the one major flaw of the film. It’s enough of a flaw that if you genderswap any of the characters the film likely may not be made or retain the rating it did under the iron thumb of the MPAA; which is an entirely different problem in how American’s view film, much less those psychotics over at the MPAA.

From a story stand point, Nathan hires Caleb to be a living Turing Test for Ava. For those who don’t know, (though the movie explains), the Turing Test is a method in which a human tests a computerized system to determine if they can tell they are working with a computer. This is normally done as something blind, but the nature of this experiment requires it not to be. Caleb is flown in and brought to a massive remote compound and meets Ava, a fully functional AI. She deliberately looks like a machine in order to see if she can make Caleb (and the audience) forget that fact.

There are so many good questions the movie asks and it spends just a little less time on the topic than I am happy with. This is a minor flaw, as the movie delves into the philosophical topics around AI and Robotics, but doesn’t commit to them lest it lose the audience entirely. I fear that is the issue, the risk of boring the wider audience with a certain amount of techo-babble and philosophy. What it does ask creates powerful questions that we ourselves can look at and have conversations about? Questions about Gender and Sexuality; though the movie does mostly classify under the binary format, the larger conversation could be had. Questions about wants, needs, loves, lies that we tell each other and ourselves. Most importantly the movie asks us if we are human, can we truly define that? Can we define what separates us from a truly advanced AI or what really would pass the Turing Test? The movie wisely and thankfully doesn’t make us fear AI save a throw away line of evolutionary/revolutionary theory, but embraces that it is an inevitable future and what that could mean. This had me excited as the trailers kept their word. here. The trailers however, sell the movie short giving it a horror vibe or perhaps a bit of a sexual objectification vibe. I could go on for hours about the conversations that could be had from watching this film and delving deeper into the questions it literally and metaphorically asks.

TL;DR

This movie is not for everyone. I would love to give the Darke Seal of Approval (I need a seal of approval first) and that everyone should see it, but I can’t.

There is no action here, this truly is a thinking persons film. IF you want to grab a drink and chat with friends in the spring night air after seeing the movie – this is a good film for you. It is both visually stunning and mentally stimulating. For my SciFi, Philosophy, and Psychology lovers, you really need to see this film.

All others, I couldn’t say you would enjoy it. You might and if this review has made you the least bit curious then I say find a matinee and see it; otherwise give it a pass.

The movie satisfied me greatly in that it doesn’t fear AI and the scientific advances that come from it. It deserves to be a critical darling if not a box office one. There is a lot of subtlety and nuance in the film and I hope you feel the same.

 

 

 

Darke Reviews | Interstellar (2014)

Well, after some dental surgery I can’t talk but I can at least type. Good thing I don’t do podcasts or video reviews yet. I went to this half expecting to fall asleep from the medication or exhaustion and general apathy. I went into Interstellar thinking it has been overhyped to hell and back. So one thing I need to explain right at the start here, which is there are different kind of films. There are bad films, good films, indie films, art house films, tentpoles, and entertaining films. You may mix and match these to your hearts desire. For example The Room qualifies as Indie, Bad, and Art House. Big Hero 6 is both good and entertaining, while Starship Troopers is bad and entertaining. So where does Interstellar land on this weird venn diagram?

Well to be honest, Art House and Good. I normally wouldn’t start with that, but you may have noticed one of the optional traits missing. Let me explain.

The director is Christopher Nolan, of Batman and Inception fame, which I am on record as having no love for. I feel he is a bit too egotistical and wants to show just how “artsy” he can be at the sacrifice of good story, logic, or deformation of otherwise good characters. I honestly think he buys his own press about how “brilliant” a director he is and has gone beyond visionary into pretentious. I don’t feel that this movie is any different. It was hard not to watch the movie without imagining Christopher Nolan hopping around behind me going “see how visionary I am…you haven’t seen that before!” The problem is I have. So much of this movie I have seen before, not always better, but before. I saw Star Trek II, 2001, 2010, Alien, and Aliens.  I saw Red Planet, Mission to Mars, Event Horizon, and oh did I mention 2001? Yes. I think Nolan looked at the great films of sci fi, the truly great masterworks and wanted to try his turn at the helm, and from that I can say he …is ok. But because of his style, and partially my bias, I don’t think thats a pass, just a neutral.

The story of course is by his brother Jonathan. Jonathan I think is overly influenced by his brother, but its hard to prove where the flaw is. Having written Memento, the Prestige, and The Dark Knight shows talent, but then Dark Knight Rises shows he doesn’t know how to get himself out of a corner and doesn’t logic it out. It shows that he doesn’t truly and fully understand the characters he is writing at all times. Obviously, he too was a fan of all those movies I referenced and for his part in combining them did well enough. There are sci fi elements I have not quite seen, but was able to predict, but most of the story beats themselves are pure paint by numbers.

Thankfully the actors in the film redeem most of the directorial and writing flubs. McConaughey isn’t my favourite actor, but I don’t hate him. He’s fairly solid here, but becomes too reserved for reasons I would welcome to someone to explain to me. Hathaway is remarkable in her role and I do buy her role as a scientist, which isn’t a slight on female scientists, but actresses playing BAD scientists. Remember Hollywood thought we should by Tara Reid as an archaeologist (Alone in the Dark) and Denise Richards as a Nuclear physicist. Hathaway comes across sound and intelligent and is fairly strong and inspiring. The most inspiring for me is Jessica Chastain. Her role as Murp(y’s Law) is strong, determined, and highly intelligent. She’s one of the brightest points to the film along with the actress that plays the young version of her Mackenzie Foy (The Conjuring, Twilight: Breaking Dawn). It was creepy how easy I could see one growing into the other, not like the garbage that was Looper with Joseph Gordon Levitt becoming Bruce Willis. The rest of the cast is filled with familiar faces doing unfamiliar things and are all turning out some of their better performances. Even the voices of the AI’s are good.

Now visually – the movie is stunning at times and repetitive at others. Their take on the black hole is breathtaking to the point I almost wish I had seen it in IMAX. Honestly, I can’t go too deep into discussing the visual artistry without speaking to scenes so need to stop there to avoid spoilers. The film is really well done from a technical perspective – until the end. Dear Selene above, the Return of the King had less endings and was less long winded! The music is good and used to the right effect to the point I am debating trying to get my hands on the score.

TL:DR

The movie is a beauty. It is cinematic, art inspired, and yes Good. But I don’t know that I can send anyone to the theatre expecting to be entertained. It is a strong movie, but not always entertaining. I did find myself sitting up once or twice, but overall it was just Good and OK.

Christopher Nolan’s pretentiousness is in high form and only mitigated by the actors and sometimes by the visuals.

So – if you are in the mood for a 3 hour long Sci Fi space opera? Sure go see this.  Otherwise, sorry folks give this one a pass and go see Big Hero 6 this weekend or save your money for Hunger Games in two weeks.

 

Darke Reviews | Alien (1979)

Some movies have good posters. Some movies have good trailers. Then there are the taglines.

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…”

“Who ya gonna call?”

“Houston, we have a problem.”

“They’re here”

Each of those evoke a memory of a film or a moment in time. They are all you needed to know what you were getting into. Now, imagine if you will (a place beyond sight and sound?), the concept of a horror movie in space is all but unknown. Sci Fi horror and truly gruesome alien monsters don’t exist. You walk into your local cineplex and see the image above with this tagline:

“In space, no one can hear you scream.”

At the bare minimum you might be curious, but what would you be getting if you paid money for a ticket?

The very definition of gothic horror actually.  Written by Dan O’Bannon, inspired by his earlier work Dark Star, and co written by Ronald Shusett. Both of the men would go on to have little success beyond this with Total Recall being one of the few non-Alien based movies of any notoriety.  It’s a shame since they did such a fantastic job in making relatable working class characters that you bother to care about. If that seems a trend in some of my reviews, it is. It is important to me that I care about the characters and create investment in their well being. If I don’t care if they live or die, then where is the tension? There’s no reason to care, then I am only watching for the psychotic glee of witnessing horrific deaths. That has its purpose from time to time, but to be truly great – you need to care. It’s also worth mentioning many of the tropes and cliches of modern cinema started with movies like this. Not only that, but they created a universe here. One we keep dipping our toes back into year after year – Books, Comics, Sequels, Video Games…all of it.

The story here, for those uninitiated, focuses on a group of blue collar miners on a massive space ship and refinery called the Nostromo. They are woken from cryosleep by a mysterious signal from a nearby planet LV-426.  A small recon team is sent to explore the source of the signal and uncovers an ancient ship with secrets within. A specimen is brought back to the ship which begins its return voyage home; only for things to go  wrong. Claustrophobia, fear of an unknown creature, fear of each other, and an ever increasing body count ramp the tension to a climax unlike most others.

The acting cast reads almost as a who’s who of 70’s and 80’s films. Tom Skerritt as Captain Dallas, Sigourney Weaver as Lt. Ellen Ripley (in one of her first screen appearances),  Veronica Cartwright as Lambert, Harry Dean Stanton as Brett, John Hurt as Kane, and Ian Holm as Ash. Every aspect of their characters works. They feel real. Their reactions are honest (in some cases very honest). Special recognition of course must go to Weaver. She has the unenviable task of carrying the film when it initially appears Skerritt – the veteran – would do so. She is outmatched in nearly every capacity by the creature that is stalking them except her will to survive. That is a thing of beauty to watch.

Director Ridley Scott, who has done more famous films than I can list reasonably, made this his opening to Hollywood as a director. He did it remarkably. Every aspect of this after the script came down to his raw direction. Tight claustrophobic tunnels, steam, poor lighting, uneven camera angles, and practical effects all from his hand and eye. Granted all the beautiful atmosphere that makes it the gothic classic that it is wouldn’t do well if the villain was Pennywise.

AlienPennywise

Beep Beep Ripley. Beep Beep

 

For that we went to the mad genius H.R. Giger. His brain had a thing for the blending of man, machine, and monster. This isn’t to say he made cyborgs or robots, but rather things that seemed to defy both in their surrealist organic nature. Thankfully, he won an Academy Award for this. The creature design is iconic and alone may be the reason this franchise has spawned so many sequels and stories over the decades.

TL;DR

This movie is definitive. It is the work you need to go back to if you want to do horror in space. No one, arguably, has done it better since.

It has some gore to it, but most of the horror comes from what you can’t see and what you aren’t being shown. This movie successfully combines psychological horror, science fiction, and monster movies.

It’s an absolute film.

This is Jessica Darke, with the last review of the night. Signing off.

 

 

 

 

Darke Reviews | Lucy (2014)

Two films, two reviews, one night. Sleep is for the weak. Both reviews will have diametrically opposed commentary on one topic. Yet there are similarities in them as well. Let me get to a bit of color commentary on Lucy, I want to be able to get both reviews out before it gets too terribly late, even if most of you won’t read this for another 5 hours now.

Trailers. I promise one day I will get so mad at the trailers for movies I will do a Rant in the Darke. Today is not that day, but it’s oh so tempting. I would say easily 80% of the most intense scenes of Lucy are shown in the trailer. POssibly as low as 60 but thats pushing it. This annoys me. The movie offers no surprises in that regard. Hollywood fail folks. Trailers are designed to entice. Get you going “Oh I think I want to see what this is all about”, perhaps “That looks interesting, what happens in it.” It shouldn’t be after seeing the film going “I saw this why? The trailer showed so much.”

The trailer, however, did not show everything. For that I am partially thankful. I wish they had been more careful, but the question is what didn’t they show?

Luc Besson, you beautiful, sick fiend. Will you ever be satisfied? You directorial style is eternally refreshing and paced well for audiences across the globe. You waste no time in the movies 1:28 running time. The movie is absolutely as lean as it can be. Even with your oddly bizarre inserts during scenes which were jarring at first, but acceptable with the story you’re telling. When you introduced the world in 1990 to La Femme Nikita, then in 94 to Leon The Professional, and in 97 to the 5th Element you continued to push boundaries of action, women, and science fiction. Those are but some of the highlights of your directing career. They also inform your audience that not everything you see is what you get.

You also of course are a writer, with a tendency to be the sole writer upon a film. Thank you. You gave us Nikita, Leelu, and Leon. You brought Jet Li to Paris for Kiss of the Dragon and gave us Jason Statham’s driver in The Transporter. You gave us an introduction to David Belle in District B13. You gave us a man who has a special set of skills. Skills he’s honed over a long career and he does things when people are Taken. So many icons of modern action are at your hands.

The way you treat women is a fascinating study as well. They tend to be victim and powerful. They tend to, in your own habits of writing, start from the bottom and become something more. Something better. You do that with a belief in humanity that it can be more. That it can be good, even with the cynicism and pessimism of the worlds you create. For that, I thank you. You aren’t perfect and your initial treatment is…a bit uncomfortable at times, but your empowerment is to be commended.

Did you nail it again with Lucy?

Well. Yes, yes you did. The movie runs sickeningly lean. Too lean I think. There are scenes that could have used more meat to them. More depth, but I don’t think it what was what you were intending. The pacing is amazingly quick and yet easy to follow at the same time. Your casting is certainly not white washed and again I blame your brilliant european sensibilities for that. It wasn’t as xenophobic as I thought. It just was.

I think thats the secret to Lucy. It is. If you will pardon a bit of sacrilege, I am that I am. Not far off the mark. Everyone is who they are without apology or explanation. Bad guys are bad. Good guys are good. Scientists are scientists (that actually seem to want to do science). Lucy is Lucy.

What about that cast though is there anything to it? Well Scarlett Johansson actually carries the film. Her reaction to the events and how she passes through the world helps a lot. Is it a bit emotionless? Yes. Thats to her credit. If you watch her other films, even Widow has emotion as she does her thing. There’s something minimalist here that needs to be appreciated. Especially within the context of the story. The rest of the cast is good in what they do, but really the weight falls on Johansson and she doesn’t let it hold her down.

She did what I hoped and became a strong female character that carried a film on her own.

The movie does one other successful thing. If you remember my Transcendence review, it annoyed me to the point of rage on how it treated the advancement of the mind. This one? Not only embraces the possibility of that kind of enhancement. It takes that possibility on a date, gets drunk with it, and lets itself be taken advantage of by the possibilities it offers. I think they are in a deeply committed relationship now; or just committed. Hard to say.

TL;DR?

If you were interested in Lucy at all? SEE it. Please.
If you weren’t but now are curious – sound off below AFTER you see it with your thoughts for a chance to win tickets to another film.
If you like the game Mage the Ascension – SEE IT. You’ll be saying “‘fraking ‘genitors” the entire time.

If you don’t dig good sci fi or sci fi in general. Give it a pass.
If you don’t like or can’t accept quasi science in your sci fi – pass.
If your kids want to see it…I am …uncertain. Maybe 13+.

Lucy, much like Snowpiercer is the kind of movie we need. Yes, it needs more meat to its story, but it took risks. Good ones. They paid off for me.

I really enjoyed this and the thoughts the movie left me with. It had a message and a good one at that. Whats the message?

See it and find out. You tell me! I know what I got from it.

Darke Reviews | Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

First let me apologize for not getting that Earth to Echo review out. I will make an attempt this evening, but first I want to talk to you about a sequel. Sequels notoriously have a curse for being less awesome than their predecessor. There are a handful in all of time that break that. Empire Strikes Back and Godfather II being two of the most prominent. August 5, 2011 saw the reboot of a franchise that was abused to the point it still causes flashbacks. Burtons version is at best an abomination and at worst a cinematic enema on the audience and good movie making.

But…enough of that 2011 we got Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This was a fantastic film very few people saw. It only opened to $54 million and went down hill from there. This was a crime. It had all the makings of a fantastic work. Good acting. Good editing. Good graphics. Good story. While not a flawless film, it is an amazing one that sadly only made $176 million domestically. It was enough though, enough for a sequel three years later. A sequel released this week.

Does it measure up?

So the movie picks up about a decade after the first ends, and this is me tap dancing to avoid spoilers. The Apes have their culture and humanity has its own. They live in ignorance of each other and sadly that ignorance is about to be shattered.

Lets talk acting first. Just give Andy Serkis an Oscar. Now. Don’t wait til January and don’t snub him again. If anyone and I mean anyone says you cannot act sufficiently through Mo-Cap or make up do me a favor and smack them in the face with a good open hand slap. Serkis is a genius. Nothing in his performance as Ceasar is lost or wasted. Every body language pose, posture, and shift is there for us. His  face is a map to raw emotion. What words there that exist are used so sparingly forcing the man to do so much more through sign and expression. You always know what he is feeling, what he is thinking with barely a syllable uttered. This is acting. This is what others need to aspire to when they do motion capture. Peter Jackson has just had someone set the bar higher.

Nearly everyone else is passable against the magnificence that is Ceasar. Jason Clarke, a man usually relegated to secondary or tertiary roles in film and TV brings an A game many doubted he had. This isn’t the man from White House Down, Zero Dark Thirty or the Great Gatsby. This is a potential headliner still in need of some refinement but one who holds his own remarkably well. Its a hard task to carry the weight of the human centerpiece on your shoulders in this movie and he seems up to it. He even proves a great counterpoint to Gary flippin Oldman.

Sadly he is the only human who has a really well defined personality or chance to show it. Everyone else is a stereotype of some kind or somehow useless. I didn’t even know Keri Russells character name. Oldman too is a stereotype, but one you can empathize with. He takes a note from his own playbook and brings it back to the subtle for the most part. Ok subtle for Oldman. This is a very Gordon like performance for him. When the cracks show in the veneer of control is when you see what he is and it works.

The Apes on the other hand are the stars. Everything Transformers gets wrong in this space, THIS movie gets right. None of the actors are particularly well known and are never actually seen. Each performance as an Ape is nuanced. Everything that Serkis delivers is brought to the game by the other actors. He set a bar and they reached for it and were largely successful in doing so. Its magic.

It’s the uncanny valley.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, it is -generally – the point in which human likeness in something unreal becomes so close to real we grow uncomfortable. This movie tips the balance. The graphics work is so near perfect in every detail its hard to believe we are not looking at actors in make up at times. Reality and computers have come closer than ever and are nearly…nearly flawless in execution within this film. Nothing to date comes close to how real the Apes appear.

Add to that particularly inspired design choices. Brilliant even. The use of sign language over voice speech by the apes was the act of an ingenious mind. Animal behaviorists will have a field day on the accuracy of the movements and actions of the ape society. Research was done. Effort was put into place. It paid off. These are details many would not realize are there, but I’ve lived with a vet tech for a decade and a half now. We’ve discussed these things, studied them for games, and have a basic above average understanding. Trust me when I say it is well done in this space.

TL;DR?

Ok so. I referenced the Godfather II and Empire Strikes back earlier. Yes this movie is in the same calibre as them. It IS that good. The only true suffering is in the pacing. The bridge between act II and III is just too long and drawn out. Aside from that it is an excellent film we SHOULD be going to see.

Just like Snowpiercer the week before, these are the movies we need to be giving our money to. These are the movies we need made.

Yes, you should see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

But Jess should we see it in 3D? – ok no. 3D adds nothing but ticket price.

Go see it in 2D and enjoy it for all its worth. Tell hollywood with your wallet where we need to have movies made. Good stories, acting, plots, and effects are rolled into one.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, while an homage to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, shines in its specialness and could – if we are lucky – be the dawn of a new era of movies.

Darke Reviews | Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Sorry folks, this one was late. I was a lil busy at Phoenix Comic Con and didn’t get a chance to see this until tonight. In my usual fashion I am forgoing sleep to get a review out. I am pretty sure this is a form of mild insanity. Ok, so as usual spoiler free, but if you have seen a single trailer for it you know it involves time travel. Ugh that makes it a challenge to write a review without spoilers on a movie that has such a wibbly wobbly timey-wimey narrative.

This isn’t to say the narrative is bad or confusing. Is it a hodge podge of other plots you’ve seen before? Yep. This is Groundhogs Day + Starship Troopers + Mass Effect + probably a few others I could name but won’t. The last Tom Cruise movie I saw, Oblivion (I really need a page so I can link to these), did this too. An amalgam of plots we’ve seen blended with some care and only a little grace to create a final product. Does it do it well?

For starters, this one is based off of a story by Japanese author Hiroshi Sakurazaka published in 2004. I cannot speak to the original source material beyond I can see the clear influence of it through the narrative and the places the movie went that we would not innately go in the US. The screenplay then has the dreaded 3+ Rule applied with multiple individuals adapting this. Christopher McQuarrie best known for Jack Reacher, The Tourist, and the Usual Suspects. In other words he likes using characters to drive the story forward. Good. There’s Jez Butterworth, who has the 2007 bomb the Last Legion and 2010 politico thriller Fair Game. No idea what he added or how he got the work based on history here. There is also his younger brother John-Henry Butterworth, who also worked on Fair Game. My feeling here is that the brothers wrote the original screenplay and McQuarrie was brought in for rewrites and polish. This is a fairly common thing in Hollywood and leads to the problems we often find in the plot.

What is the plot? Major Cage (Tom Cruise) is being sent into a D-Day style final battle against an alien threat called Mimics. During the battle he dies (this is not a spoiler) then wakes up (still no spoiler). During the course of understanding this he encounters Sgt Vanke (Emily Blunt) who has answers. Together they will try to stop the failure that is the D-Day invasion and hopefully stop the alien menace.

You have no idea how hard it is to avoid spoilers here. Director Doug Linman (Jumper, Mr. & Mrs Smith, Bourne Identity) brings an A Game we have not seen to date outside of Bourne to this. With the exception of ONE decision the entire film I think he did it all right. He deals with the time travel in a fairly inventive way and is smart enough to not let the plot over explain it. He sets ground rules and expects you to follow along or get left behind. No real time or effort is wasted in exploring  the why’s just the whats. This is brilliant. When watching a movie, I expect it to meet it’s own rules, by not firmly setting all the rules he gives himself some freedom and avoids traps and paradoxes other stories hit head on (Looper).

I *LIKE* movies that do this. Give me a world. Go over the basics. I will either accept this or reject it. Too much detail creates traps that sharp minds will spring on the writers, directors, and their work. He does this fairly well and again with one exception doesn’t leave me angry at his choices; including the cast.

Tom Cruise is picking interesting films of late with two of his last three being firmly entrenched in sci fi. Both of which are doing their best to give us something new from the ashes of the sci fi we have had before. I know some people have issues with him on a personal level. I don’t care. I really don’t. Does he act well? I think so. Does he entertain me? With few exceptions, yes he does. He delves into relatively new territory here and I enjoy the exploration of his character as he lives, dies, and resets. He really pulls off the damage this can do to your psyche. You don’t get a firm count on how often it has happened, and you know it has happened  more times than they show, but you know it is A LOT of pain and death.

Supporting him fully here is Emily Blunt. You ask yourselves, the Love interest from Looper? The love interest in The Adjustment Bureau. The love interest in The Wolfman and the dramatic female actress from so many romantic dramas I can’t count them all. How does this person support Tom Cruise in a war movie? By being the biggest and baddest person on screen. She is fit, she is commanding, she is powerful. She is the force of nature that earns the nickname her character has in the story. Her power is what drives him and what drives the story forward.  Both characters develop as the story goes on  and sadly hers to a lesser extent than his. She however makes the action look effortless. She has a natural chemistry with Cruise that makes their battlefield camaraderie work.

The supporting cast really isn’t worth mentioning. They were cast for who they are and what they bring and are nothing but backdrop charactertures. Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson as entertaining as they are could have their parts filled by others with the near the same result. Sad that. The others bear next to no mention. They get little screen time and little impact. Both good and bad there.

Technically? Well here’s where I can get a little ..bothered. The creature design is clearly inspired by the biomechanical squiddies from Matrix. Down vote. They move like some of the things from Battleship. Downvote. In combination and with their additional details they do create a new creature in our sci fi consciousness which is still oddly interesting. Upvote. Too bad you don’t get to see a lot of them. I get that in film  with heavy CG you have to find new ways to hide things and blurry quick motions are an easy way to do it. This bordered on abusive and may have crossed the line. The power armor itself was awesome and even if it was inspired from non canonical sources in its design I have not quite seen THIS design before. I like what I saw and I like how they used it. The biggest problem of the movie is the camera work on the action. I do like to see it. They do great work on the slow beats in the battles but when the pulse is to be pounding, the eyes are too busy to make sense of it all. When you do see things I admit it looks cool as hell.

The only other technical flaw is the final credits. I am tired of blue print sequences ala Iron Man. I am tired of pop music that is vaguely ironic or tied to the film by the most tenuous thread. John Newman’s light poppy beat Love me Again is a mangled mess of a song to have attached to this movie. It took me so out of the film it was painful and jarring. It did NOT belong in the credits at all. This isn’t saying it’s a bad song. It isn’t. Its just a poor choice and was used simply because it has a “again”/time element to it. Even if it is slightly overused Imagine Dragons Radioactive would have been better. Linkin Park’s What I’ve done or Bleed it Out, while ‘older’ would have felt more natural to how the film ended from a musical queue. 30 Seconds to Mars – This is War or Kings and Queens, if you need something softer would work. Love Me Again – definitely not.

TL;DR? Thought so.

Yes this movie borrows heavily from many concepts done before, but it does it well. This is an important movie to sci fi and if the genre is something you enjoy – You must see this film.

If Sci fi and War movies are not your thing you either didn’t read this review or did and now know you shouldn’t see this. That opinion stands.

This is a REALLY good sci fi film. It doesn’t necessarily make you ask questions, which keeps it from being great, but weaves a solid narrative and interesting action with that science fiction bent. It does a lot really well and only fails in a few places I couldn’t talk about here. If this is your genre – this is your movie.

Please go see Edge of Tomorrow. We need more good sci fi and movies like this need our support. It wont change the world on its own but given time and a little patience it can help bring us to a brighter future of Sci Fi.

This weeks review – Dragons…..

Darke Reviews | Transcendence (2014)

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” – Albert Einstein

Since the movie saw fit to quote Einstein as it’s push for research into artificial intelligence, I thought I would open with a quote that the movie didn’t mention  (surprisingly). Last week when I reviewed Oculus I spoke of the things we fear as a (western) culture and how that drives our trends in horror movies. Sci-fi also delivers some of those fears as well, but rather than trying to terrify us on an emotional level; it goes for the scare on a mental level and ultimately tries to make you think.

In the past year we have seen a rash of Sci Fi movies asking us what makes a man (Oblivion), what defines a soul (Robocop, I Frankenstein), should we fear technology (Paranoia – yes it sucked, but it asked). Those are but a few. So my opening quote is our fear. Are we too connected? Too dependent on machinery? How far is too far for science? The thought of Dolly and it’s implications terrifies many. Don’t get me started on Bern and the Collider. We have decades of movies now telling us that Artificial Intelligence is the end of man kind. Decades of being told to be afraid of advancement in this field. 2001, Terminator, War Games,  the Matrix, and more recently Battlestar Galactica all show us the terror of our machine overlords and what “will come to pass”.
This is where Transcendence comes into play.

It had the opportunity to come in and shake things up. To tell us to not be afraid of the machine. To not be afraid of science and technology. First time screenwriter Jack Paglen and director Wally Pfister are just as afraid as the movies want us to be. I lay the blame on Christopher Nolan. He is an executive producer on the film and Pfister has been his Director of photography forever and a day. So I think Pfister was acting as a mouthpiece for Nolan here. CNS raises its head to the surface but never quite breaks through. It verges on the pretentious and preachy and filled with its own self importance of the message it wants to deliver. It just sort of falls flat on that message.

I want to like this movie more than I do. I truly do. The fact that it came in with a preconceived notion that technology was bad and our humanity, our soul, and our consciousness were divine bothers me on a deep level. This film had such great opportunities to ask questions – which it kept trying to – and really explore the answers. Instead we get a sort of jumbled mess of shots of people walking, people looking pensive, and effects that were verging on dated a few years ago. Thats what really makes me angry though. It ASKED some of the questions it was trying to get to. It was just asked from a bias that made it difficult to answer. It asked the questions in such a way that it may as well have asked “so when did you stop beating your wife?” Yeah that is a little extreme. I am angry though. There was such potential here and they threw it back in our face. A movie like this should make us think. It should have us give a hard look at everything. I did while the credits rolled, but its my nature.

Why so worked up about it though? There’s plenty of bad movies out there that try to be more than they are.

You are right, there are. None of those have the raw potential to be more. The script isn’t horrific overall. Its shallow and afraid, but not horrific. The movie succeeds where so many fail because it has actors you want to watch. It has actors you give a damn about. Thats why I am angry, because it had potential. The movie gives me back the Johnny Depp I love from the Ninth Gate, the Tourist, and Finding Neverland. It serves to remind me that he is a tremendous talent capable of nuanced performance through voice alone and not just Disney and Tim BUrtons pet goofball. Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3, Vicky Christina Barcelona) also runs the gambit of emotions in her performance. I was pleased, even if she did come across as a “we couldn’t get Scarlet Johansson” at times. Its unfair, but for the first few trailer passes I thought it was Scarlet. Her acting, however, really does let her hold her own on the screen with a cast of actors you will recognize.

Paul Bettany (Knights Tale, Iron Man), Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins), Morgan Freeman (will do anything for a paycheck), Kate Mara (House of Cards),  Clifton Collins Jr. (Boondock Saints 2), Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds), Xander Berkeley, Lukas Haas, Cole Hauser, and others fill this cast with talent. Freeman is wasted as he often is these days and generally uninspired – also as he is these days. Nearly all the actors do their very best to deliver when they can. The standout is Bettany. He and Hall carry the film and deliver the necessary emotional punches that it needs when it needs it. Bettany successfully upstages (in the best way possible) Freeman at every turn and easily is a beautiful presence on screen with Depp and Hall. I really hope to see more between Depp and Bettany as they both can play each others dramatic and comedic talents to the fullest in anything they do, as well as hitting action beats.

Alright, no technicals this time. I kind of got my dig in there earlier. The effects are satisfactory, not mindblowing. They are a step up from the last time we saw something like this in The Lawnmower Man.

TL;DR?

I really want to recommend this, but I can’t. It is not for all audiences and only a few people I know would enjoy the conversations that come from it. Mage the Ascension players might see this as a Virtual Adept gone Maraud. Some folks might enjoy the conversation they develop on their own after.

Does our technology out strip our humanity? Is there something to fear? I will be honest folks, I wouldn’t mind having that conversation with people, but the movie isn’t needed for that. perhaps some day we will get a movie that doesn’t tell us to be afraid of AI.

Next week – I will be talking about Imports vs. Domestic with Brick Mansions.

Darke Reviews | Robocop (2014)

Dead or alive, I was going to see this. I admit I had a serious amount of nostalgia for the original 1987 Paul Verhooven (Starship Troopers, TOtal Recall) vehicle. I was one of the ones who when I saw the black sleek look on Robocop was unhappy. When I heard it was PG 13 instead of a hard R I was unhappy. Then I saw the trailer and at least understood why he took the black. I was more ok with it. I went yesterday as part of a double feature where my friend and I saw “I, Frankenstein” and this back to back. I don’t think going into it either of us realized the beautiful symmetry of this combination of films.

In previous reviews I have explained the multiple writer problem with a film. In some cases, the reverse can also be true where only one writer can be just as damaging to a film as too many writers. Giving such a recognizable property to a first time writer though, seems an odd choice and further echoes the words “Studio Cash Grab”. Joshua Zetumer clearly put his passion into the script and tried to update the movie for almost thirty years later. He also made some mistakes as well where he wanted to do too much and didn’t know how to execute on the interesting ideas he had. It’s a common problem with writers, myself included, where we have ideas and we want to get them to the page but we don’t explore them nearly as much as they deserve because we want to get to other stuff. Tip: If you are not ready to commit to a philosophical topic in a movie, don’t even begin to address it.

The story focuses around good cop and family man Alex Murphy. The quintessential good apple in a bad city surrounded on all sides by corruption and a city that’s screaming up to the powers that be “save us.” When Alex is seriously wounded as a counterattack for going after one of the cities biggest weapons dealers Omnicorp steps in and offers a solution. You see Omnicorp has a problem, they can’t put their robots on the streets of the US due to a law and the power of public opinion. Instead they put a man in a machine and sell him to the people to get opinion to change and to overturn the law. If only it were that easy, see a man has a will his own and while OCP seeks to control him at any cost the newly roboticized Alex decides the cost is too high.

Much like the original the film tries to lampoon a bit of what the modern societal landscape is. The 80s version covered ridiculous, toxic waste, corporate corruption, russians, drugs, and the raw depredation of society. While a serious film, it didn’t take itself too seriously. The 2014 version attempts to poke at the pathetically one sided news agencies with hosts who don’t report news but shout buzzwords at an accepting audience, marketing and that self same corporate greed the earlier one did. This one also tries to get philosophical and asks the question of what makes a man? unfortunately I Frankenstein handled that better (more in that review) The problem with all of this is that it takes itself too seriously and rather than shining a light on the idiocy of it all; it instead becomes a simple weak beat in a plodding plot.

The script isn’t entirely to blame though. Jose Padilha, in his first time directing an american film, also deserves his share of the blame. The movie has some of the most horrific pacing issues I’ve seen of late. It runs an easy twenty minutes longer than is needed and has a deeply unsatisfying ending thats reminiscent of the Return of the King with the number of false stops it has. His direction of the camera doesn’t do the action any justice either with a constant swirl or shaky cam that tells me he just wanted to try the technique. I only say that because he shows in other sequences that he does understand the concept of a steady cam. A sequence in which Robocop attacks a lab is shot in either thermo vision or night vision depending in which side of the fight you are on. It felt like he saw how Tarantino got away with bloodshed in Kill Bill (Bride vs Crazy 88s) and wanted to try that so he could keep the movie at a studio mandated PG13.

The studio also gets its share of the blame, but sadly its understandable from a corporate point of view. Their job is to make money and R rated movies don’t make nearly as much as PG-13 as they keep out a significant portion of the potential young male audience. First time director, first time writer, no actors anyone really recognizes (mostly)? Its clear they didn’t care about the project and just wanted to make a little over its budget or needed to retain rights for later.

The acting is…a mixed bag for me. The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman does what he can with the script and the direction. He tries a lot to bring some emotion to a film otherwise devoid of it. Is he as imposing as Peter Weller? No, not even close. His delivery of a few nostalgic lines needed work. But he tries and that is important. Abbie Cornish (Suckerpunch) plays his wife and tries as hard as Kinnaman does to bring emotion to it and deal with the storyline of Alex trying to reconnect to his family after the accident. I’d like to see more of her in other films; though admittedly I thought she was Radha Mitchell at first. Those are the two noteworthy performances. Michael Keaton phones it in as director of Omnicorp Raymond Sellers. Everything about him comes across like a half arsed understanding of what a corporate leader is these days. I know he is trying to make a career comeback, but he will have to actually put a little effort next time. Sadly next time is Need for Speed; not a good way to come back Mike. Jackie Earle Haley (watchmen, Nightmare on Elm Street) and Samuel L Jackson are here to chew scenery and be just shy of ridiculous. Sadly only Haley actually delivers on that. Jacksons presence while picking on the modern news agent actually detracts from the movie. As my friend said “I can’t take the movie seriously now” when he finished his opening rant. It was true. He was too much as he often is. I loved sam for awhile, but much like Willis he needs to stop while he is ahead before he becomes his own punchline. Speaking of actors, Gary Oldman as Dr. Dennett Norton tries as well to do what he can with the material. His performance falls right in the middle. I love Oldman for all he does, but could have cared less this time around.

TL;DR?

That’s largely the problem with the film. I don’t care. It had no substance to it. It wanted to be more than it was capable of and reached for the stars. I don’t even think it made escape velocity. It wasn’t prepared to commit to any of the ideas it wanted to try and because of that for well over two hours you are left wanting a bit more than you will ever get from the movie.

It is not right, nor fair, to compare it to the original. They are different films; and as much as I love the original I know its not good. Its a beautiful painting of ridiculousness.

Sorry to say folks, Robocop deserves a pass. I had hope for it, but as the credits rolled I felt unsatisfied. Your move hollywood, make it a good one next time.