Movie Review: “RoboCop”

Starring
Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Samuel L. Jackson
Director
Jose Padliha

At the rate that Hollywood is plowing its way through Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi catalog, you’d expect Vegas bookies to start slashing the odds on an eventual “Starship Troopers” remake. Though it’s only been two years since fanboys got their panties in a bunch over Len Wiseman’s “Total Recall” reboot, many of those same fans have been dreading the release of the new “RoboCop.” It will probably come as a surprise, then, that the film isn’t nearly as bad as people feared it would be. In fact, it boasts a better cast, better effects and a better story, even if the 1987 original – which is admittedly pretty cheesy by today’s standards – is still the better movie. So why bother with this remake? For starters, because it’s not really a remake at all, instead taking the basic premise and carving its own path that falls more in line with current politics.

The year is 2028, and with the exception of the United States, the rest of the world is now policed by a robot military force operated by technology giant OmniCorp. The government has blocked the use of robots in the U.S. due to the belief that they can’t be held accountable for killing, so OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) decides to give the American public someone they can identify with by putting a man in a machine. And it’s not long before they find the perfect subject when Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is critically injured in a car bombing after he’s targeted by a local drug kingpin. With the help of Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), a pioneer in robotic prosthetics, Sellars convinces Alex’s wife, Clara (Abbie Cornish), that the procedure is the only way to keep him alive. But the very thing that makes Alex unique (his emotions) also affects his performance in the field, and when Norton tries to counteract that by programming his brain to act more like a machine, Alex’s human side begins to fight back as he investigates his own murder.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Lacey Chabert (“Scarecrow”)

Lacey Chabert got her start in acting before she was out of single digits, but her big break came just after crossing into double-digit territory, when she was cast as Claudia Salinger in FOX’s “Party of Five,” giving her a full-time gig for six seasons. Since the show’s cancellation in 2000, Chabert has continued to work regularly, sometimes as a voice actor – you may remember her as Eliza from “The Wild Thornberrys,” but she’s still in the studio on a regular basis for other series, most recently on The Hub’s “Transformers: Rescue Bots” – but definitely still in front of the camera on a regular basis, too. Chabert can be seen in the latest SyFy original movie, “Scarecrow,” which premieres tonight, and she chatted with Bullz-Eye about her experiences working on the film, reminisced about some of her other past projects, and explained how she’s belatedly found her way onto social media…but only on her terms.

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Bullz-Eye: So how did you enjoy doing “Scarecrow”? I’ve only seen the trailer so far, but it looks like it would’ve been fun to do…or, at least, I hope it was!

Lacey Chabert: It was a lot of fun! I’ve never done a horror film where I was… Well, I was in “Black Christmas,” but I got killed kind of early on in that film. [Laughs.] My character didn’t even know that the killer was there! But this was something where I’m actually running from the killer…you know, the predator, the scary monster. So we’re running from him for basically the entire film, so that was a whole new challenge, something that I’d never done before, and…it was fun. It’s a fun Halloween movie!

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Stephen Frears (“Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight”)

Director Stephen Frears has done so much notable work for the cinema that it’s sometimes easy to forget that he’s more than capable of dipping his toe into the world of television on occasion as well. His latest effort behind the camera, “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” falls somewhere between the two mediums: the HBO Films production is making its TV debut on – where else? – HBO this Saturday, but it was actually screened in Cannes back in August, along with its small-screen brethren, “Behind the Candelabra.”

During this summer’s TCA press tour, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Frears and discuss his work on “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” including how he came to join the project and what he knew about Ali’s Supreme Court struggles prior to signing on, but he was also kind of enough to chat about a number of his other films. Although the conversation occasionally drifted in unanticipated directions, the sidebar excursions proved just as enjoyable and entertaining as anything that I’d gone in actually planning to bring up.

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Bullz-Eye: What was your familiarity with the Muhammad Ali story going into this project?

Stephen Frears: Well, it was both a lot and nothing. In other words… I remember Ali fighting (Sonny) Liston, so that’s how old I am. [Laughs.] I don’t remember the Olympics. But then I remember the trouble in America, of course. And then he sort of disappeared, and I couldn’t tell you what happened until he fought in Zaire and he became a sort of comedian. He became very, very funny. So this bit was like a sort of black hole.

BE: How did you come aboard as director?

SF: I ran into Shawn (Slovo) at a party. I said, “What are you doing?” She said, “I’m writing something very, very interesting.” [Shrugs, then laughs.] So I snooped around and found that it was very interesting. Simple as that.

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BE: Had you known her prior to that?

SF: I knew her to gossip to her, to say “hello” and talk to her at that party. [Laughs.] But now I know her much better.

BE: Was the script more or less filmed as written, or did you have to do some tweaking to make it work?

SF: I think there was a certain amount. I like to have the writer on set, because in a sense you’re writing all the time, but that’s just to make scenes clearer, things you learn as you go along. It must at some point have sorted itself out enough for us to say, “Right, let’s make this.” I can’t recall, there might’ve been a couple of drafts that we went through before we made it. And then we were writing the whole time on set, just to make things clearer.

BE: It’s interesting that the film focuses on a key moment in Ali’s career, yet it does so without ever portraying Ali. His presence is simply via archival footage. Was that always the plan?

SF: Yes, that was always planned, and the truth is that it was a great relief. The idea of casting Ali didn’t bear thinking about, so I was really pleased by that. But the interesting thing about archival footage is that people never quite say what you want them to say. [Laughs.] They don’t say what you’d like. But eventually we started finding a way how to deal with it. So it was very, very interesting.

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5 Questions with Hollywood Stuntman/Dove Men + Care Spokesman Bobby Holland Hanton‏

Bobby Holland Hanton is the Michael Jordan of his profession. Hollywood’s top stunt double, Holland Hanton has doubled as Christian Bale (in “The Dark Knight Rises”), Daniel Craig (in “Skyfall”), Ryan Reynolds (in “Green Lantern”), and he recently filmed “Thor: The Dark World” with Chris Hemsworth. Bullz-Eye got to ask the latest spokesman for Dove’s Men + Care line of products for men five questions about his career.

Bullz-Eye: Of all the Hollywood studs you’ve served as a stuntman/body double for, who is the one you would most like to be for an entire week and why?

Bobby Holland Hanton: Between Batman, James Bond and Thor, this is an extremely difficult question. I would have to say Batman and Bond are equally as intriguing, with Thor being a close second. Batman is a superhero, who fights crime behind a mask and no one knows who he is – that is pretty cool. Whereas Bond is more realistic, he’s a slick and suave hero that everyone can see and root for. On Thor, Chris Hemsworth looked great and is a character that carries a heavy hammer — he is always particularly well-groomed and keeps his face fresh.

BE: What did you want to be when you were 10 years old? And how did you become a stunt double?

BHH: When I was 10 I wanted to be Batman, Thor and James Bond. No, I’m only kidding. I wanted to be a professional soccer player. Growing up, I followed in my older sister’s footsteps and took on gymnastics. I loved the physicality of the sport and I loved to train. However, soccer was always my passion, and then I found myself just enjoying the regimented training and working out.

BE: What’s the most gruesome injury you’ve suffered as a result of being in your profession?

BHH: I suffered a bad back injury while filming “Green Lantern.” I performed four back-focused stunts in a short period of time, which took a lot of hits to my back over and over. It took its toll after a while, and I found out ultimately that I had sciatic nerve damage. I needed to have two operations on my back, one of which was an emergency surgery, and it took about 9 months to regain full strength. I hope I can say that will always be the worst injury I’ve ever suffered.

BE: What do you do to stay in shape? What type of training do you do, what do you eat and how frequently?

BHH: It is all dependent on who I am doubling. With Chris Hemsworth in “Thor,” I was on a very strict workout plan to gain the strength and muscle. Whereas for Daniel Craig, who is slimmer, I did not work out as often, and focused on my diet and nutrition plan. I have found that between movies it has been best to maintain a middle ground, and I have been blessed to have the ability to change body types rather easily; I thank genetics, I guess. I believe in a strict regimen all day, every day in order to keep workouts and nutrition intact. I wake up every morning and take a shower before I start my day. I am a huge fan of products like the Dove Men+Care Aqua Impact body wash, because it prevents me from smelling bad on set after performing stunts all day, which would be embarrassing in the company of so many movie stars. I also make sure I eat regular portions throughout the day, every two hours, balancing high protein, high carbohydrates and high fats.

BE: Was there a movie star you’ve met who left you completely start struck? Who is the hottest female celebrity you’ve ever seen in person?

BHH: I have been fortunate to work with some of the greatest stars of all time. I would say Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman struck me the most. Chris Nolan is a spectacular director, and I loved working with him on “Batman”. In terms of the hottest female celebrity I have seen, I would go with Emily Blunt or Rachael McAdams — they are gorgeous!

Check out the full line of Dove Men + Care products at www.dovemencare.com.

  

A Roundtable Chat with Peter Straughan and Tomas Alfredson (“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”)

When Focus Features drops you a line and asks you if you’d like to head to New York City for an overnight stay at the Waldorf Astoria in order to attend a screening and press junket for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” based on the novel by John le Carré, you don’t think about it. You just say, “Yes.” And so I did. After catching a screening of the film on a Friday night, I got up on Saturday morning to begin the interviews of the day. First up: director Tomas Alfredson and one of the film’s screenwriters, Peter Straughan. (Alas, Straughan’s co-writer, Bridget O’Connor, who was also his wife, died of cancer in September 2010.)

One word of warning: the potential for spoilers exists within the piece. But, look, given that the original novel was published in 1974, followed by the TV miniseries in 1979, it’s not as if you haven’t had plenty of time to absorb this information already…

Journalist: How liberating was it for you to be told (by John le Carré), “Don’t reshoot the book?”

Peter Straughan: Very. [Laughs.]

Tomas Alfredson: Yes, very. I was much more so, I think. Peter wasn’t too worried, but I was very reverential about the book and was very nervous about taking a foot off the path. So it was just very good that John le Carré was there to push us off the path and tell us to do something different.

J: Can you each tell us about your first encounter with the book, if you had read it a long time ago? Did either of you?

PS: I’d read it, yeah. And Bridget had read it years earlier and loved it. In the UK, it’s considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, let alone spy novels. And then we read it again when we were asked to come in to discuss adapting it. Which made us quite nervous. [Laughs.] You read it, and…it’s quite a difficult book to adapt!

J: Because it’s so well known, or because of the complexity…?

PS: Because of the complexity. Because it’s quite an interior story. So much of it takes place in Smiley’s mind and Smiley’s memory. And also because, in the UK, it’s a holy cow. As is the TV series. So there was a sense of…I think we were maybe the only writers who rushed in and said, “Okay, we’ll do it!” Everyone else would say, “No, we don’t want to do it!” [Laughs.] Fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.

TA: I think it’s…very much about not deciding, “Okay, I want to do this,” but it’s about, “I want to start working on this, to start the process.” And early on, it was…I remembered the old TV series and the reading of the book, but also meeting with the actual persons, with Peter and Bridget and le Carré and the producers, who are very nice people. To do a scary thing like this, you need to be encouraged, and if you’re surrounded by encouraging people who you trust, it’s much easier.

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