Thursday, February 20, 2014

Robocop (2014)- review

RoboCop is a science fiction remake of a 1987 film of the same name.  While using much of the same plot elements, the film makes bold new choices.  The cast choice is decent and they seem to be taking the material seriously.  While the previous film had a lot of social satire, the new film is not without its own version of commentary on drones and TV political commentators.

In the future, the United States is one of the few nations not using drone police officers.  OmniCorp is trying to get the Senate to overturn a bill that makes them illegal. OmniCorp attempts a marketing campaign using an injured police officer to turn into a cyborg to introduce to the public. Detective Alex Murphy, played by Joel Kinnaman, is severely injured in a car bombing and becomes the latest candidate.  OmniCorp keeps Detective Murphy alive and turns him into RoboCop.

One of the major differences between this version and the 1987 film is that the original film has a robotic man discovering his humanity while this one does the opposite and has a man become more robotic.  It’s an interesting change and it works for this movie.  This movie has a few nods to the original, but it really did not take me out of the movie.  Adding Samuel L. Jackson as a Bill O’Reilly-style commentator was fun and humorous to watch as well. 

The acting is decent. Jackie Earle Haley, Michael Keaton, and Gary Oldman bring their A-material.  Considering that they focused a great deal of the story on Detective Murphy’s wife and child, it really felt like they could have written their characters to be a lot more interesting. The action and effects are very good though one instance of shaky cam did make me nauseous until they cut into a new scene.

This new version of RoboCop is pretty good.  If you were a fan of the original or just even enjoy sci-fi action, give it a chance.  There are a lot of instances that they could have taken the easy way out and made a copy of the original film but they didn’t. This one seems genuine to the material and at least wants to be appreciated for it’s own merits. In that way it succeeds in being an entertaining movie.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Monuments Men – review

The Monuments Men is a World War II film directed by George Clooney.  The cast is very talented yet they feel underdeveloped. The humor is lackluster and filled with scenes that would have been better left on the cutting room floor. It tries very hard to hammer its message of the importance of art, but sadly the message is muddled between a fairly dull storyline.

In 1943 Frank Stokes, played by George Clooney, convinces the President that it is important to gather a team together to protect the art of Western Civilization from being destroyed during the war.  Frank gathers a team of curators, sculptors, and art historians to join the military. Together they seek out to find art that has been stolen by the Nazis and return the pieces to their rightful owners. After the struggle to find where the art is being taken, they find out that Hilter has made an order to destroy all the art if he should die or the Nazi regime should fall. On top of all that, the stakes are raised even further because they also need to prevent the Soviets from taking the stolen art as war trophies.

The acting is fine but the movie seems longer than it actually is.  The story drags and unfortunately the characters are not developed well enough to be interesting. Each character has their own side plot, but none of the individual plots are developed enough to make you invested.  In addition, the film tosses in standard “war is hell” tropes that just about every war film has. The film even goes so far as to force an emotional reaction by showing gold teeth and gold rings taken from victims of the Holocaust. 

The plot lines are muddled in The Monuments Men.  Cate Blanchett’s character chases her fleeing, Nazi boss and stares him down as he fires bullets at her. This intriguing event is never explained. From here, her story jumps around as the plot dictates. Instead of elaborating on something interesting, they chose to keep a gag regarding Matt Damon stepping on a land mine.  The tone of this scene (and a few others like it) would have worked better in a film like Ocean’s Eleven.

As a whole, The Monuments Men is not a bad movie.  It’s definitely a movie that would have benefited from another run through editing. It is a fine movie for rental if you are in the mood for a lighthearted movie about World War II.  This probably would have worked a lot better if it were seen through the eyes of a different director. Bottom line, the tone of this movie was not carried out well, and in the end did not work for film of this subject matter.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club – review

The Dallas Buyers Club is an impressive movie for a few reasons.  The story is deep and runs a gamut of emotions as we watch the main character grow from a homophobic bigot to an empathetic man who stands up for others in similar positions.  The acting is stellar and really showcases the talents of both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. 

In 1985 Texas, Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, is a man with extremely homophobic views until he is told he has the HIV virus. After illegally obtaining AZT, he is hospitalized after taking too much of it and ends up meeting an HIV- positive transgendered patient named Rayon, played by Jared Leto. After discovering that the FDA makes it hard to get drugs for HIV/AIDS patients, the two team up to bring drugs from over the Mexican border and sell them to HIV/AIDS victims. 

The character of Ron Woodroof is a very well written, redeemable jerk.  His pathos is felt and seems even more real by Matthew McCaughey’s outstanding performance.  Jered Leto is shocking in the amount of talent he portrays in his role. These are the performances that people will remember these actors for.  The movie doesn’t hold back and it is only stronger for every scene.

The Dallas Buyers Club will certainly be a strong contender for the Oscars.  If you get a chance you should see this movie.  If you are a fan of McConaughey or Leto and want to see them really surprise you with their acting talents, this is the movie for you.  The subtle theme of the FDA being an inefficient tool of pharmaceutical companies is present, but it is not preachy, which is nice. It is a great movie and one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.