RoboCop


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! 

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

Batman Returns


Viewed – 09 August 2009  Blu-ray

With all the fuss over last year’s admittedly impressive The Dark Knight, I still came away longing for the old days when Batman was directed by Tim Burton and starred Michael Keaton as the caped crusader.  This 1992 follow up to Burton’s own Batman see’s Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego pitted against two villains (something that grew to a ridiculous degree in the two awful following films) namely Michelle Pfeiffer’s Cat Woman and Danny DeVito’s Penguin.  Great choices following Jack Nicholson’s acclaimed turn as the Joker last time around.

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The Penguin you see, was abandoned as a baby in the film’s classy, eerie opening sequence, and chooses Christmas Eve to make his return to a city that shunned him; Gotham.  Teaming up with corporate big wig Max Shrek (Christopher Walken) he makes a bid for Mayor, whilst at the same time Max’s bumbling secretary Selina Kyle (Pfieffer) is transformed into Cat Woman after Shrek pushes her out of a window following an unfortunate ‘curiosity kills the cat’ incident.

Although on paper complex, Burton’s assured direction and obvious love for the material makes everything flow effortlessly, with startling set design and a quartet of brilliant performances, be it Walken’s menacing Max or Devito’s ghastly Penguin.  But for me Pfeiffer steals the show every time she appears; sexy, playful and mad as hell – the perfect Batman femme-fatale.

It is then sad to watch this with the memory of Christopher Nolan’s two Batman films firmly in my mind.  Nolan doesn’t know how to create the Batman look, his Batman (despite the spot on casting of Christian Bale) is bland and uninteresting, with too much screen time given to the villians – and here, although Michael Keaton’s Batman / Bruce Wayne is less showy and more subtle than the foes he faces, Keaton delivers a confident and convincing portrayal of the tortured soul that is Bruce Wayne – perfect casting.  I will add that I couldn’t warm to Devito’s Penguin, totally unpleasant and one dimensional, with a very basic story arch that is sadly the films main focus.  Also some of the effects work is showing it’s age, although this is masked well with Burton’s incredible eye for gothic imagery, given a greater flamboyance when mixed with Danny Elfman’s superb score – still the only Bat theme anyone needs.

So in closing, if your a Batman or comic-book movie fan, this is an instant recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5