Monday, January 20, 2014

Movie Vault Review: RoboCop [1987]

"Dead or alive, you're coming with me!"

Year Of Release: 1987
Directed By: Paul Verhoeven
Written By: Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer, Kurtwood Smith, Robert DoQui
Duration: 102 minutes

In A Nutshell:
Set in the dystopian year of 2029, where Detroit, Michigan is being crippled by crime and a financial melt-down. To deal with this problem, the city police is put under the funding and control of mega-corporation, Omni Consumer Products (OCP). Its Senior President, Dick Jones (played by Ronny Cox) proposes the use of an enforcement droid, ED-209, to perform the duties of the police. That proposal is then rejected when a demonstration goes horribly wrong and an OCP board member is killed as a result. They then turn their plans to a human-cyborg project named "RoboCop" instead.

Officer Alex Murphy (played by Peter Weller) meanwhile is on duty with his partner Officer Anne Lewis (played by Nancy Allen). They go in pursuit of the city's top criminal, Clarence Boddicker (played by Kurtwood Smith) and his gang, but things don't end up well. In the aftermath, Murphy is brutally gunned-down by the criminals. He is pronounced dead and his remains are used by OCP to build "Robocop" instead.

The Verdict Is In:
There are some things that can just look timeless and fit into any era long pass its initial introduction. Among them are Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers, an iPod classic, a Lomo camera, Johnny Depp, and a Vespa Scooter. Another than can fit in seamlessly into today's world is the RoboCop costume design from 1987. Seriously, that suit still looks awesomely-cool even today (hey, wait.... the film is supposed to be set in 2029, so its still relevant for a few more years I guess ;P ). As for the film itself, it was such a huge success that it has spawned two sequels, an upcoming remake (to be released a mere few weeks from now), a television show, two animated TV series, a few video games, and a number of comic book adaptations. Safe to say its a cult favorite then.

As is the norm with most action movies from the 80s, a whole lot of suspending belief is required for today's audience. In fact, the scene where Alex Murphy is gunned down is so brutal, that its amazing there's anything left remaining of his body. The abuse he took was just a little short of a nuclear war! If you're able to get past that, then RoboCop [1987] can be quite an entertaining watch. Although quite violent, and at times rather over-the-top and cartoonish, the action sequences are pretty fun and even amusing. The story and plot is solid and director Paul Verhoeven manages to make each scene come to life with a lot of vividness. Also, to ease the tension, there's a lot of funny and bizarre clips of TV ads and news segments.

While recent remakes of cult classics from the era, like Fright Night [1985] (its newer version in 2011) and another Verhoeven film, Total Recall [1990] (its remake released in 2012) has been extremely disappointing, I'm still looking forward to the brand new RoboCop [2014] movie. At least its trailers make it look good. In the meantime, this original 1987 will remain one of the definitive sci-fi/action movies of its era! The bar is set up high!
8 out of 10

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Review: Her [2013]

"Sometimes I think I have felt everything I'm gonna feel. And from here on out, I'm not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I've already felt"

Release Date: 16 January 2014 (Malaysia), 10 January 2014 (USA)
Directed By: Spike Jonze
Written By: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson (voice), Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde
Duration: 126 minutes

In A Nutshell:
Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely and depressed writer who is ignoring an impending divorce from his childhood sweetheart, Catherine (played by Rooney Mara). He purchases a talking operating system (OS) equipped with a top notch artificial intelligence. Theodore chooses a female identity for the OS, and it then chooses for itself the name Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Samantha's incredible ability to adapt, learn, and evolve just like a human-being soons creates a special bond between her(it) and Theodore. The connection that the two of them share soon grows into a relationship of love.

Thumbs Up:
+ Intellectually stimulating. The mind will have a lot of thought-provoking issues to ponder on.
+ Emotionally engaging. You'll be hard-pressed not to immerse yourself into your feelings
+ A powerhouse performance by Joaquin Phoenix. I'll be rooting for him come awards season.
+ Sterling performance by Scarlett Johansson. Never before has voice-acting been so captivating.
+ Elegant cinematography. Every shot is beauty to the senses.
+ The score enhances the mood and tone of the entire film with exquisite precision. There's constantly a feel of deep exploration and awe towards the world.
+ Err.... costume design? I'm sooo in love with the movie right now that I'll even throw that in... yeah, like I really know anything about fashion! I'm probably wrong, but the style on display subtly shows that the film is a few years further into the future (which the time it is set in).
Thumbs Down:
- n/a

The Verdict Is In:
Some movies engages us on a cerebral level. While there a those that appeal deep to the core of our emotions. Since Her [2013] intelligently asks questions on basic human feelings, it succeeds in achieving both. Why do we love? Why do we hate? Why don't we allow ourselves to be happy? Why do we put so much effort in perfecting things, that we forgo to just simply enjoy them? Then, we also have questions on how much involved and dependent we are with technology right now? And to what stage does this eventually evolve into? (My hunch is still Skynet and machines will rise against humans led by John Connor :P )

Although initially the love relationship obviously feel weird, as the film progresses, we will get more and more smitten and charmed by Samantha (excellently bought to life by Scarlett Johansson... probably her best role, even more than Lost In Translation [2003] ). Sooner, rather than later, we will get the sense that the relationship is indeed an authentic and genuine one. Its like what Theodore says to Samantha in the film: "You feel real to me".

I've already said this a few times in previous blog posts..... 2013 has been an excellent year for movies. The amount of quality films been released in amazing. With the Golden Globe Awards being just a few hours away from starting (I am writing from the Malaysian time zone), Her [2013] so far is my favorite of the lot and the one I'll be rooting for in awards season.

p/s: for someone who is a little bit of an introvert, Theodore is clearly one lucky guy... I mean girls that look like Rooney Mara, Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, and the voice of Scarlett Johansson? Damn....

***Okay, that's a wrap! Samantha.... publish blog post!***
9.5 out of 10

Monday, January 6, 2014

Norman Reedus (Daryl) Appreciation & Melodies From Walter Mitty

I know it's six days too late... but "Happy New Year" everybody!! Despite me missing out on seeing a lot of films, 2013 was still one of my favorite years in terms of movies released. Let's hope 2014 will be just as entertaining. Here's a completely random blog post from me today....

# Happy Birtday Norman Reedus!

Today marks the 45th birthday for actor Norman Reedus, or better known as Daryl Dixon from the ever-popular zombie TV show, The Walking Dead.  Daryl is the most bad-ass character from that highly-addictive series. He most recently demonstrated the awesomeness of his character in the superb mid-season finale of the show's fourth season. *spolier* Not even a tank could stop him in that episode! Just imagine if they did a spoof of The Avengers [2012] in that show which goes something like this: The Governor threatens by saying "We have a tank!" and Rick answers "We have Daryl!". *end of spoiler*. He's not the main character on the show, but definitely the coolest! Kinda like how Hans Solo was!

I actually only recognize Reedus from his role as Daryl. I don't believe I've seen any of his other work. No, not even The Boondock Saints [1999] or Blade 2 [2002], both of which have been on my watching list for what seems like forever! But I have a feeling that even after I do finally get to see him in something else, he'll still be bad-ass Daryl in my eyes. I know its unfair, but some actors will always be known to most people for a particular role, no matter how good their other works are. Its like how I'll never be able to view Hugh Laurie as anything other than Dr. Gregory House. I'll also always see Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders as Ted Mosby and Robin Scherbartsky, Laurence Fishburn as Morpheus, Elijah Wood as Frodo, Dan Arkroyd as Dr. Raymond Stantz, and Jake Lyold & Hayden Christensen as those guys who ruined Star Wars, particularly Darth Vader :p.

Heck, I remember Ruth form Flixchatter doing an article on Christopher Reeve. I commented that I thought Reeve WAS Superman as I've only seen him in a non-Superman film just once before. I just remembered opening the TV and seeing Superman in movie that was not about Superman! It was like finding-out for the first time that Santa Claus or Bigfoot wasn't real. Wait, hold on a second, there's no evidence yet that the latter one isn't real.....

(photos & gifs taken from here, here, and here)

Okay, back to Reedus. Here's some trivia on him:

# He has a modeled for Prada, Levi's, Durban, and Lexus.
# Lived for a time in London and Japan. Prior to him getting his first acting role, he was earning $7.50 an hour working in motorcycle shop in California.
# Previously had a long-term relationship with Danish model, Helena Christensen. They had a son together, born in 1999.
# He has a titanium eye-socket and 4 screws in his nose, as a result of a car accident in 2005.
# He has a cat named "Eye In The Dark", which he also calls "fatso".
# Owns a dog named "Zero".
# Has appeared in music videos for Goo Goo Dolls, Ugly Kid Joe, R.E.M, Radiohead, Bjork, Tonic, Keith Richards, and even Lady Gaga.

Aw, man! Can't wait for The Walking Dead to be back on TV! It one of the very few shows that I get to follow nowadays. Daryl rules!!

# Melodies From: The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty [2013]

Despite The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty [2013] gaining just average/mixed ratings from professional critics (some even said they HATED it), I stand by the high rating I gave to it in my review. I enjoyed the film tremendously and feel that Ben Stiller did a pretty good job not just starring but also in directing it. I don't mind seeing it again and am currently treating myself to delightful melodies of the film's soundtrack and score. Yes, those are actually two separate albums. I'd describe the tunes from both as "serene". A great way to unwind after a hard day's of work.

 The movie's score is mainly from composer Theodore Shapiro and is featured in the album The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack). My favorite so far is Track 27: Stationary Cycle.

The other album is titled The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture) and features songs from Jose Gonzalez, David Bowie (featuring Kristen Wiig), Jack Johnson, Of Monsters And Men, Junip, Rogue Wave, Bahamas, and Grace Mitchell.

# Cool Movie Site: History Vs Hollywood

I just realized that not only have there been a lot of good movies in 2013, but also plenty that were "based on a true story".  Films like The Conjuring, The Wolf Of Wall Street, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, The Bling Ring, 12 Years A Slave, Diana, Pain & Gain, Rush, Jobs, and Pacific Rim. Wait, that last one was only true events in my childhood dreams....

Well, the website History vs Hollywood does extensive research on how much these Hollywood adaptations stay true to actual events. First introduced to me by friend and fellow movie blogger Reza in his comments of my Conjuring review. I've loved the site ever since. Go over there and see what's real and what's just a film studio's way of spicing the story up. I'm not even getting payed for promoting this!

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