Now Playing at the Row Three Rep: What is Human?

[Row Three programming if we owned a Rep Cinema]

Blurring the Line Between Android and Human

Metropolis – 5:00pm
Blade Runner – 8:00pm
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence – 10:00pm
bonus: Battlestar Galactica – all night and the next week 🙂

With the concept of mankind creating sentient robots and androids inevitably follows the question of how we are to treat them – since we made them, can we do with them what we want, treating them as disposable slaves? Or by creating something that can think like us, and eventually react and feel like us, are we bound to treat them the same as we would (or should) treat other human beings? And faced with such a potential reality, what does it really mean to be human? These are the kind of questions that cerebral sci-fi has always asked, with robots and now clones being among the most appropriate catalysts to spark such explorations of ethics, morality, and ontology itself. There are many films (and TV series) I could’ve chosen for such a triple feature; I chose these partially to tie in with our ongoing Ridley Scott marathon, and also because these films also specifically feature androids, that is, robots that appear to be human, who fool humans into thinking they are human, and who may not even themselves be aware that they are androids. Of course, all of these works use androids to explore the issue of “otherness,” or what happens when a dominant group comes into contact with a group they deem “different.”

Note: Scott’s Alien also features a human-fooling android, but questions of human-android ethics are not really explored in that film.

Taken on the surface, there’s not a whole lot of inquiry into the robot-human question in Metropolis; the human Maria is unequivocally good, almost angelic, while the robot Maria is evil and destructive. But I wanted to include it because it is really the first iconic cinematic depiction of a robot, and it’s telling that the first use of a robot in cinematic science fiction is to mislead and misdirect a humanity that believes the robot to be human – and not only to be human, but to be somebody they know and trust. It would be many years before sci-fi would have good human-mimicking robots – even the robots in Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still are distinctly non-human in appearance. In Metropolis, that question of whether robots should be treated as humans is superficially irrelevant, because the only robot we see is given the role of enacting the worst that humanity has to offer. On the other hand, the Complete cut of Metropolis fleshes out (so to speak) the back story surrounding the creation of the robot, which inventor Rotwang created as a substitute for Hel, the woman he loved and Joh Frederson took from him. So before the robot was commandeered by Frederson as a means to put down the undercity rebellion, Rotwang already intended it to be a human stand-in. Deeper questions are begged – would Rotwang have found comfort in this shadow of Hel? Would the robot have been an adequate substitute? Are robot-Maria’s evil excesses solely due to Frederson’s mission for her, or is a mechanical creation of man inevitably going to disappoint and betray, and if it does, is that because if its mechanical nature or the humans who built it? Would (should) Rotwang have treated robot-Hel as human, or would he simply have enslaved her, a helpless puppet to his desires? It’s unclear from the film whether robot-Maria had full sentience or autonomy, so the questions may be moot. But they’re there, nascent even from the very first cinematic depiction of a human-mimicking android.

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Cinecast Episode 252 – Objectively Speaking

Super, extra special thanks to Patrick Ripoll of The Director’s Club Podcast for helping out with our spoiler(!) review of The Hunger Games in this episode. We get into a little bit of Ewan McGregor channeling Indiana Jones as he goes fly fishing and Kurt just reads books. We kick it old school this week though with a massive tangent right off the bat on the nature of the “it’s so bad it’s good” theory of many a cult film. Also the term, “objectively bad or good” has been kicked around lately on the site so we dive into that as well. In-house business doesn’t kick in until about the thirty minute mark, so you kind of know what you’re getting into here. Also special thanks to Jim Laczkowski (also of The Director’s Club Podcast) for providing us with this week’s opening theme music; Wayne Newton, eat your heart out! At any rate, enjoy the tangential David Lynch retrospective, the marvel of 80s robotics and of course quicksand in space.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!



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Full show notes are under the seats…
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A New Trailer for “Sucker Punch”

“You will need to find five items.” Well, I think I’ve found them: some dragon fire, a little bit of Scott Glenn, exploding Nazi look-a-likes (i.e. nods to steampunk), robots, swordplay in lingerie – all tied together with Led Zeppelin. Upon subsequent viewings I am not much of a fan of 300 and pretty much loathe Watchmen on almost every level; yet consider me along for the ride with Zack Snyder and his Sucker Punch. This newest trailer isn’t a whole lot different than the one we got back in July, but this one is about twice as long and we now have a bit more of an idea of what the storyline is along with why and how it is being told. There is also a lot more guns, explosions and robots being vertically split in half.

For elaborate CGI fan-service, the trailer is tucked under the seat.

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Bookmarks for January 3rd

You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button to your left. It looks remarkably similar to this:

  • Analyzing 2009
    What story can be told of the film industry in 2009? The story, as I see it, is Hollywood’s realization that it must do a better job of protecting the financial viability of franchise films from being undermined by an increasingly voracious and savvy viewing public that is constantly searching for a greater degree of access to and control over the film properties to which they have become attached.
  • Movie Posters of the Decade
    Trawling through databases of all the movie posters released in the past ten years and trying to remember my ten favorites, two things stand out: that only a very small percentage qualify as great pieces of design in their own right and that my favorite posters have little bearing on my favorite films.
  • Dissertations on His Dudeness
    Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1998 movie, “The Big Lebowski,” which stars Jeff Bridges as a beatific, pot-smoking, bowling-obsessed slacker known as the Dude, snuck up on the English-speaking world during the ’00s: it became, stealthily, the decade’s most venerated cult film. It’s got that elusive and addictive quality that a great midnight movie has to have: it blissfully widens and expands in your mind upon repeat viewings.
  • Criticwatch 2009: The Whores of the Year
    “The question is whether Nature actually deserves a religious response. Traditional theism has to wrestle with the problem of evil: if God is good, why does he allow suffering and death? But Nature is suffering and death. Its harmonies require violence. Its “circle of life” is really a cycle of mortality. And the human societies that hew closest to the natural order aren’t the shining Edens of James Cameron’s fond imaginings. They’re places where existence tends to be nasty, brutish and short.”
  • God, Gaia, and Avatar
    Another year, another accoutrement of whores to accompany those who put some actual thought into film. The death of the film critic has been greatly exaggerated, but as always the rise of the quote whores and anonymous fanboy bloggers has gone ruefully under-reported.
  • Unwatchable Avatar: Hollywood Greed Could Kill 3D
    Like millions of others, I saw Avatar last weekend. I loved it—despite the 3D, not because of it. Admittedly, my seat was shitty and I wear eyeglasses, but if the experience isn’t guaranteed, 3D will fail.
  • The man who is scaling Mt. Criterion film by film
    The Criterion Collection is the standard bearer among high-quality DVDs, but he wasn’t associated with them, except in an indirect way: He has set himself the goal of seeing and writing about every single film in the Collection!
  • Too Big to Fail: The 34th Toronto International Film Festival
    Firmly established as the pre-eminent film event in North America, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) seems less compromised than comfortable. Rumours of a few years ago that TIFF was cutting back on adventurous programming may or may not have been accurate, but quite a few strange little items are still finding their way into the festival.
  • Current Decade Rates as Worst in 50 Years
    Not really movie related (not directly anyway), but we wanted to share. As the current decade draws to a close, relatively few Americans have positive things to say about it. By roughly two-to-one, more say they have a generally negative (50%) rather than a generally positive (27%) impression of the past 10 years.
  • Larry Gross’s Four Most Underreported / Misreported Movie Stories Of 2009
    The Hangover, The Road, Zoe Kazan, Funny People. Have at it; Larry is not shy with his opinion.
  • 40 Brilliant Robot Artworks
    Robots have been a driving force in technological innovations and in multimedia roles. From movies such as Star Wars, i,Robot, Wall-E, and Terminator, to videogames, and even real life with the Mars Rover, robots have advanced significantly over the past years in both design and functionality. As with any expanding field, artists often create conceptual works to help direct and illustrate.
  • Going Na’vi: Why Avatar’s politics are more revolutionary than its images
    Cameron is blunt when it comes to Avatar’s political overtones. But rather than a clunky work of agitprop the movie can—and, I think, ought to—be seen as a polemic, which makes criticism of its obviousness beside the point. Having Lang’s colonel refer to his plan to bomb the Na’vi into submission with the words “shock and awe” is not subtle, but it’s not meant to be. Cameron means to be confrontational, and to be sure, audiences looking for a diverting night out are not allowed to overlook the parallels.

Iron Man 2 Trailer


I bet you didn’t think we were going to post this, considering that it as about as ubiquitous as can be around the internet geek-sites. There was a lot of indifference and dismissal of the first Iron Man around Row Three for playing things oh-so-safe to formula (both comic book superhero formula and RDJ persona-formula) and its embrace in the popular and critical community. Call me a sucker, but this one looks slightly better with its Euro-accented Mickey Rourke and CEO-Celebrity Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) becoming a political and economical trump card. There is grist there, will they mill it?

Fool me twice, shame on me!

Trailer is tucked under the seat.

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Cinecast Episode 142 – Aging Oddly

Episode 142:
With the strange release dates in different cities this time of year it’s difficult to come together and actually have seen the same recent films. Yet we somehow always find a way. Today’s show is just Kurt and Andrew back together for a classic shoot the shit discussion on everything we’ve seen theatrically over the past few weeks – from remastered Halloween classics to the latest Almodóvar and Todd Solondz. We also get into a little early Oscar talk (including the new hosts just announced) and of course weekly DVD choices. Hope you enjoy this little back and forth and feel free to leave your thoughts on anything you wish in the comment section below and
!Thanks for listening!

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Full Surrogates Trailer Online (Bruce Willis)

A couple of weeks ago in Marina’s trailer round-up post, we posted a video of Bruce Willis along with some other co-stars and crew talking about their new film, Surrogates, which opens this fall. While the video does have bit in it from the trailer, it didn’t give much in the way of story line. I found the full trailer today and thought I’d share.

When;s the last time Willis did full on sci-fi? The Fifth Element maybe? Unless you count Planet Terror I guess. Either way, definitely looking forward to this one. It looks like the filmmakers may have sacrificed some story and ponderous ideas in lieu for some action sequences, but I’m still optimistic here. Check out the trailer below. Is this going to work or will this be another iRobot (aka Asimov rape)?

Shorts Program: Reach


Currently in contention at Cannes for their animated short corner is this cute little four minute clip of a robot whose curiosity just may end up getting the best of him. Pixar animators watch your back (or take notice); Reach says so much in so little time with absolutely no dialogue.

Creator Luke Randall put this together over the period of about eight months and has apparently already been doing very well in the festival circuit. This is certainly one of the finer animated shorts I’ve seen in a while (ya know, because I see so many). In a word, wonderful.

See it in high quality over at YouTube (recommended); otherwise, I’ve embedded the short underneath the seats here in the third row. I highly encourage you to check it out.


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Terminator Salvation: The New Trailer

Terminator Salvation Movie StillIt seems that we haven’t talked too much about it around these parts but doing a search through the site, I discovered that there have been numerous posts on the upcoming Terminator film, all of them from me, which suggests that I am mildly obsessed with McG’s take on the classic franchise. This new take, starring Christian Bale as John Connor, is scheduled to hit theatres in May but the trailers haven’t really given us much to go on and though I’ve liked some of the designs, I’m also a tad bit cautious about getting my hopes up too high only to be disappointed.

Terminator Salvation takes place after Skynet has destroyed most of the world in a nuclear holocaust and Connor, the leader of the survivors, is forging ahead to keep humanity alive. It’s a great concept, and one that I’ve been curious about since in the past we’ve only seen glimpses of life post Skynet, but I’m still on the fence. I like Bale but he still appears to be playing with the raspy voice, one of the things that really annoyed me in The Dark Knight (our review) but I’m willing to go with it, especially after seeing the latest trailer.

Not only do we get to see a little more of the post-Skynet world, but we also get more of a look at Sam Worthington and the role his character plays in the story. This could be the movie that puts Worthington on the map. I could do without the car crash but am happy to see it didn’t end in a big, Bay-like explosion and the image of the building collapsing is pretty spectacular. And huge props for the use of NIN’s excellent “The Day The World Went Away” as soundtrack music. Couldn’t have picked a better selection. Overall, not mind blowing but definitely exciting.

Terminator Salvation opens on May 22nd.

Check out the fancy new trailer tucked under the seat!

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Bound to Piss People Off: RoboCop Remake

Robocop Movie StillNot just people either but notably Kurt and Andrew, self proclaimed RoboCop fanboys.

Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 classic is pretty popular around here and for good reason, it’s a kick ass flick, but it looks like someone feels that the movie is ripe for a remake. Amongst this rabble of news is a silver lining of sorts. We don’t have some hack director wanting to remake this masterpiece but rather a well respected and, around here, well loved director.

News around the web is that Darren Aronofsky, the genious behind Pi, Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain is interested, or at least curious, about the new production. Turns out that Aronofsky recently visited MGM to discuss the franchise reboot.

How much weight could we put on this story? Probably not very much but the thought that Aronofsky could possibly be attached to the remake certainly makes me a little giddy. My fingers are crossed!