Review: RoboCop (2014)

RoboCop poster

Director: Jose Padilha (Elite Squad, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, Bus 174)
Screenplay: Joshua Zetumer,
Producers: Marc Abraham, Brad Fischer, Eric Newman
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 108 min.

As with any original property that is beloved by fans the world over, the idea of remaking RoboCop was not one that was going to be met with rapturous applause. But unlike a lot of remakes, especially from the ’80s – that most fondly remembered of entertainment eras – there’s actually nuggets of ideas in there that could very well work as a modern update.

And that’s where the RoboCop remake at least partially succeeds at what it sets out to do; update this technology-driven high concept to the modern day, or rather almost a decade and a half into the future, when the idea of robotic limbs and Artificial Intelligence is no longer just science fiction.

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Review – August: Osage County

August: Osage County Movie Poster

Director: John Wells (The Company Men)
Screenplay: Tracy Letts
Producers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Steve Traxler, Patrick Daly
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Julianne Nicholson, Dermot Mulroney, Misty Upham, Sam Shepard
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 130 min.

There are two types of approaches when adapting a play for the big-screen; you can take the original material and run with it, expanding the setting and themes onto a broader cinematic canvas (e.g. War Horse). Or you can basically make a straight-up, minimal location filmed version of the play. August: Osage County takes the latter road for a clearly Oscar-bait but nevertheless impassioned drama about family dysfunction.

Adapted for the screen by Tracy Letts from his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, the story centres on the various relations – mothers, fathers, sisters, uncles and cousins – of the Weston family, who come together after an important family member tragically dies. During the few days together new light is shed on old situations and dark secrets come bubbling to the surface.

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First Trailer for Taken on a Plane AKA Non-Stop

Behold the first trailer for Taken on a Plane, erm I mean Non-Stop, the latest film to solidify Liam Neeson’s new found career as an older action star. It stars Neeson as what appears to be a more subdued version of Taken‘s Bryan Mills, an Air Marshal who receives secure messages from someone who threatens to kill a different passenger every 20 minutes if $150 million isn’t transferred into an account.

It’s a plot that wouldn’t be out of place in a season of 24 and could readily be described as “Taken meets Flightplan” but it could provide for some leave-your-brain-at-the-door close-quarter thrills.

What do you make of the trailer?

Non-Stop co-stars Julianne Moore, Corey Stoll, Michelle Dockery and Scoot McNairy, and is directed by Juame Collet-Serra (Unknown, Orphan). The film is set for a February 28th 2014 release.

Review: Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim Movie Poster

Director: Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army)
Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro, Travis Beacham
Producers: Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Thomas Tull
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Rob Kazinsky, Ron Perlman, Clifton Collins Jr.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 131 min.

It’s been a long time coming but with Pacific Rim writer-director Guillermo del Toro finally has a gargantuan budget ($190 million to be exact) on his hands which has bought him a massive, expensive toy box to play with, roll around in and smash as he sees fit. It proves that the Pan’s Labyrinth director can step up the mark when it comes to huge movies like this and more than hold his ground.

The premise of his first truly big blockbuster – as fun as they were I always felt the Hellboy movies were held back by budget constraints – is pretty straightforward and will grab the attention and imaginations of the 10-year-old in all of us. It’s about giant robots fighting giant monsters. That’s it in a nutshell and del Toro has delivered a film of such spectacle that it’s hard to care that much about the cracks that appear along the way.

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Review: The Purge

The Purge Movie Poster

Director: James DeMonaco (Staten Island)
Screenplay: James DeMonaco
Producers: Michael Bay, Jason Blum, Brad Fuller, Andrew Form, Sebastien Lemercier
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Rhys Wakefield, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 85 min.

What would happen if, for 12 hours once a year, there were no laws and everyone was free to commit any crime they wanted without consequences, including murder?

That’s the general conceit at the centre of The Purge, a tense horror-thriller that sits somewhere between Panic Room and Battle Royale – Panic Royale, if you will – all the while attempting to say something about both the gun-legal society of the USA and the inherent propensity people have for being violent.

The plot focuses specifically on a well-off family who live in a big house paid for by the security systems the father (Ethan Hawke) sells that protect people who don’t want to take part in “The Annual Purge” from the people who do.

Just after settling in behind their seemingly impenetrable fortress of shutters and security cameras, the son of the family who is unsure of the whole process lets a homeless man in need of help into the house. The trouble is a gang of gung-ho Purge-enthusiasts is after the man and it then becomes a game of can the gang get in before society returns to normal the next morning?

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Review: Trance

TranceMovie Poster

Director: Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later)
Screenplay: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Producers: Danny Boyle, Christian Colson
Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 101 min.

Hot off the heels of having the world in the palm of his hand with the Olympic opening ceremony, Danny Boyle delivers his first feature film since the harrowing 127 Hours. Trance is a bewitching puzzle of a thriller that’s off-kilter fun from start to finish, reminding us of Boyle’s amazing ability to surprise his audience.

James McAvoy plays Simon, a fine art auctioneer who teams up with a gang of criminals in order to steal an expensive painting. However, the robbery doesn’t exactly go to plan, the painting goes missing and Simon apparently can’t remember what happened to it after taking a nasty blow to the head. The leader of the gang (Vincent Cassel) then decides to enlist the help of a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) in order to unlock the memory in Simon’s head of where the painting is located.

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New Trailer for Oblivion – Where’s WALL-E?

We’ve already seen a poster and then a first trailer for Oblivion, the upcoming big-budget sci-fi flick starring Tom Cruise. Now a new trailer has appeared and it’s bringing us more of the same vibe – a little bit WALL-E, a little Minority Report, a hint of War of the Worlds, a nod to Alien 3 and Pitch Black, some dashes of the video games Portal and Half-Life – a little bit of everything sci-fi really. It looks shiny and fun though it could provide for one of those hollow sci-fi experiences that’s all snap, crackle and pop but with nothing to make it last long in the memory. Hopefully that’s not the case.

The film is directed by Joseph Kosinski, whose previous and debut film was TRON: Legacy (which I actually really enjoyed), and has quite an impressive supporting cast including Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Seven Psychopaths), Andrea Riseborough (Shadow Dancer), Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman looking as cool as ever. I’m filing this one under “cautiously optimistic.”

Are you liking the look of Oblivion?

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit Movie Poster

Director: Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong, Heavenly Creatures)
Screenplay: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro
Producers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Zane Weiner, Carolynne Cunningham,
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Graham McTavish, Aidan Turner, Sylvester McCoy.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 169 min.

Note: This review concerns the 3D version of the movie as well as the higher 48 frames per second.

Fewer follows ups have been more anticipated than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first in a new trilogy of films set in the much beloved Middle Earth, previously seen in the hugely successful Lord of the Rings trilogy. After on-going behind-the-scenes troubles, previously attached director Guillermo del Toro left the project to pursue other things (though he still remains credited as one of the screenwriters), ultimately resulting in Peter Jackson stepping back in to take on the prequel to end all prequels, as some might call it.

Set 60 years prior to the beginning of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the film follows a young Bilbo Baggins (this time played by the ever likable Martin Freeman) who lives a happy and quiet life in the Shire. His life is disrupted one day when the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) turns up at his door practically demanding he go on an adventure with him and a band of proud and eccentric dwarves who are on a quest to take back the land, and their treasure, once taken from their ancestors by the fearful dragon Smaug. At first severely reluctant, Bilbo is ultimately convinced and joins the dwarves on their journey.

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My Love For Film In A Snapshot #20

I have to admit that as far as film genres go sci-fi is not one of my favourites. However, I can appreciate a great one when I see it and 1956’s Forbidden Planet is certainly one of them.

For some reason it took me this long to see the film and while obviously not up to scratch with the type of multi-million dollar effects we’re used to in the multiplex nowadays, the film is still astonishing in its use of effects that often leave you wondering how the hell they even did that. Visual techniques are used to create an awe-inspiring sense of scale at times and the above frame is taken from one of those moments, when Walter Pigeon’s reclusive Dr. Edward Morbius takes a young, pre-comedy Leslie Nielsen and Warren Stevens around his compound to show off the ancient technology he has discovered.

A lot can be read into the film on a political and social level or it can just be enjoyed for its (for the time) dazzling effects and enjoyably pulp plot. Highly recommended if you happen not to have seen it.

My Love for Film in a Snapshot #19

Don’t you just love a film that can be simultaneously grotesque and boldly beautiful? Bong Joon-ho’s masterful Memories of Murder is one such film, telling the brutal true story of the investigation of Korea’s first reported serial murders. I recently rewatched the film after some years and was blown away once more.

The above image is taken from the opening scene in which the incomparable Song Kang-ho (also the star of Bong’s monster hit The Host), playing weary but determined detective Park, arrives in the middle of a starkly-coloured field to investigate a body that’s been dumped there. The little boy proceeds to repeat everything he says in that annoying way some kids do, offsetting the brutality of the battered body lying under the concrete the boy is hunched on. Go home, kid. Those who have seen the film (and if you haven’t I urge you to ASAP) will know how it echoes the haunting conclusion.

First Trailer for Park Chan-wook’s English-Language Debut Stoker

For many world cinema fans like myself South Korean director Park Chan-wook has been somewhat of a hero. Whether it’s with his uncompromising Vengeance Trilogy – consisting of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance – or wacky I’m A Cyborg but That’s Okay he has consistently proven himself to be one of the best working today, in any language.

Continuing a long tradition of foreign language directors making the jump, it wasn’t long before Hollywood took notice of Park’s talents and brought him on board to direct Stoker, a “sort of” vampire tale (the screenwriter insists it’s not exactly that, however) which marks the director’s English language debut. The story centers on a teenage girl whose father dies in a car crash. Just then her mysterious and enigmatic uncle comes back into her life setting his sights on her and her unsuspecting mother. You can probably guess what the deal is from there.

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