Viewed – 11 February 2014 Cinema
Yes I had my reservations going into this. Remakes… will Hollywood ever just leave things alone? But I digress. This new version of the 1987 classic action-thriller stars relative unknown Joel Kinnaman as ill-fated gutsy cop Alex Murphy hot on the heels of a drug kingpin. Yet after disaster strikes, leaving him in critical condition, the shady robotics company Omnicorp come up with the idea of turning him into their new machine on the Detroit mean streets … that’s right, RoboCop!
Michael Keaton (yes…Michael Keaton!) plays a business man who following a law prohibiting machines being aloud to enforce the law on U.S. soil, turns to a scientist (Gary Oldman) who may just be able to put a friendly face to his master plan. Co-starring Jackie Earle Haley as a weapons tech guy whose a bit of a nutter himself, and the delectable Abbie Cornish (Sucker Punch) as Murphy’s wife – this has some good star appeal. With a more family-friendly rating we’re not going to get the hardcore bloodshed of the original (and it tells) but this does go for a very different flavour, focusing more of the Murphy attempting to hold onto who he is (or was) rather than the sleaze and excess of the Paul Verheoven movie.
Action is fairly frequent, with some decent effects (the robots look great) even if the training, testing and development of RoboCop seems to go on forever. Also the lead bad guy is a no-name charisma-free presence that can’t hold a candle to Kurtwood Smith’s Clarence Bodikker. Thankfully then, the movie chooses to focus more on OmniCorp and the morality than the drug dealers.
When switching off from the original this can be enjoyed quite easily on its own merits as a slick, imaginative and fun experience, filled with good performances (even Kinnaman in a tricky role) and some star names (Samuel L. Jackson crops up as a media guru – even if he’s not exactly stretched).
Likable, lightweight but worth seeing. Definitely in a lower league, but a nice tribute all the same.
Verdict: 3 /5
Viewed – 08 February 2014 Blu-ray
20th Anniversary Edition
I remember seeing a trailer to this way back when and going fairly blindly to see it in the cinema. Me and a friend of mine were blown away by it, and it quickly became one of our all time favourite movies. The story of twelve year old Mathilda (a brilliant debut from Natalie Portman) who in the aftermath of her family being wiped out takes refuge in the company of the shy, illiterate hitman who lives down the corridor (Jean Reno) … a friendship blossoms and soon she’s hatching a plot to take revenge. Gary Oldman is a corrupt DEA agent who cracks pills between his teeth and listens to Beethoven whilst killing people who rip him off – and orchestrating all this with finesse and skill is French new-wave director Luc Besson (Nikita, The Fifth Element) to a soundtrack by Eric Serra.
This is a movie that has it all, great performances from the street-wise but naive Portman all cocky but falling apart at the seams, to Reno’s subtle and convincing portrayal of a child in a man’s body who just happens to know how to kill. Then there is Oldman, in possibly his craziest but most memorable role (get me eeeeeeeeeeverybody!!!) as well as a very good supporting turn by Danny Aiello. Then there is Besson … arguably his finest movie, with such poetic, ice-cool camera work enhanced by an amazing soundtrack and moments of slick action executed with the utmost style and panache. This may not be an action-heavy movie (it really only has two scenes here) but the tension that builds up, and the great performances throughout, peppered with well judged humour and such emotion … this is one of the few movies I would genuinely call a masterpiece.
This 20th Anniversary Edition by Studio Canal boasts a decent HD image quality that has some vibrant colour and good detail, especially in close-ups. Softness rears its head in places but overall this is a very pleasing presentation. For this movie too the 5.1 DTS Master Audio Soundtrack is excellent with a really immersive soundstage and great clarity throughout. The Blu-ray houses both cuts of the movie and although I chose to watch the tighter Theatrical Version, I would recommend fans check out the extended Director’s Cut for such extra scenes like Mathilda’s Russian roulette scene, the extra hits that Leon takes Mathilda on and a few more moments of Mathilda’s inappropriate advances towards her hitman friend (!). Extras however are poor, with just two interviews and a noticeably absent Besson, Oldman or Portman with no commentary, something Besson never does anyway – so no big shock there.
(the movie) 5 /5
(the Blu-ray) 3.5 /5
Viewed – 25 January 2014 Pay-per-view
Approaching this you get the feeling it’s going to immediately be what the latest Die Hard movie wasn’t … as in an actual Die Hard movie. Channing Tatum goes to the White House for an interview to become a Secret Service agent, bringing his plucky daughter along because she’s up on her politics and kinda has a thing for current President Jamie Foxx. Yet whilst at the big white building, a group of terrorists attack and as you can imagine, Tatum is the only man who might be able to get the President out alive.
Not a new idea by a long shot, but given a certain panache by director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow). So expect gunfights, one-liners, a smattering of humour and plenty of things that go boom. What I wasn’t expecting however was the fun partnership between Tatum and Foxx (making for one of the cooler Presidents in Hollywood history) and an overdose of rather bad CGI (the helicopters flying through the city looked awful). Emmerich is known for having no subtlety, and believability pretty much goes out of the window in the second half of the movie, not helped by an increasingly annoying Joey King playing Tatum’s daughter (was she the best we could have got for a fairly important role?) and a barrel load of cheese towards the end. Tatum looked the part (complete with white vest) but lacked a certain level of charisma I’d say. James Woods also pops up and is very good, as is Maggie Gyllenhaal even if she gets very little to do. Oh and every twist is so blatantly sign posted, I gave up expecting surprises and just enjoyed the ride.
This was a lot of fun, but could have been a classic if Emmerich had just applied the breaks (and his brain) for once.
Verdict: 3 /5
Viewed – 14 January 2014 Blu-ray
The trailer to this movie pretty much sums up the whole experience. Mark Wahlberg & Denzel Washington, plenty of arguing, one-liners, attitude and lots of shooting .. no bad thing I hear you say and for the most part it isn’t. This is a fun romp, with double-crosses a plenty and a nippy script that doesn’t worry to much about a cohesive narrative or characters with much depth.
Apparently based on a comic book series by Steven Grant, we also get Bill Paxton turning up as a sneering bank owner who’s feathers are ruffled after Wahlberg & Washington steal $42 million from it, unaware that its all mob money. As the trailer revealed, the two leads are actually under cover agents, even if at first they don’t realise the other is … which is an interesting spin and Wahlberg & Washington give it their all. Denzel of course could do this sort of role in his sleep but is still very watchable, and the increasingly enjoyable Mark Wahlberg manages to make an arrogant womaniser just as likable. Token babe Paula Patton is on hand to be the eye candy, basically to give the guys something to look at amongst the ample-dose of machismo.
So what we have here is a stylish and energetic caper, making for a light, fun ride with a likable cast … but sadly little else to shout about.
Verdict: 3 /5
Viewed – 28 December 2013 Blu-ray
Was looking forward to this. From both the director and star of cult classic in the making, Drive comes a revenge thriller set in Bangkok. Following the murder of his brother, a drug dealer (Ryan Gosling) and his conniving mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) set out to avenge the death and come up against a ruthless cop, who lives by his own rules, regardless of the law.
Shot in a noir style with lots of lingering stares, very brief dialogue and a deliberate slow pace – this goes for serious moody thriller with an exotic setting, but instead delivers a tiresome, amateurishly acted drama livened up with extreme violence. What Director Nicholas Winding Refn’s previous effort managed, was style and substance and good casting – this has all those ingredients, but doesn’t gel. The dialogue is delivered straight faced, emotion-free and with long pauses between each sentence, making every scene look like a student art movie, complete with some mystifying symbolism. The revenge plot is ok, even if the villainous Cop’s motives are confusing, and although Scott-Thomas delivers a diverting femme fatale, Gosling – who was so good in Drive and broke out from his usual pretty boy rom-com type-casting, is wasted – even a fist-fight towards the end is a let down.
A real shame then as I loved the setting, thought some moments were quite disturbing (the brother’s murder) and technically it’s shot well and looks great … Bangkok becoming a character of it’s own – but overall a case of too much style and too little actual movie.
Verdict: 2 /5