Science Fiction

Southland Tales

Year: 2006
Directed By: Richard Kelly
Written By: Richard Kelly

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie has been at the center of controversy in our home for nearly ten years. It is one of the greatest disagreements Amber and I have about a film. I think this is a brilliant though complicated movie while she calls it the worst movie she has ever seen.

Richard Kelly called this his “misunderstood child” and I think that pretty much sums it up for this movie. It’s an entirely misunderstood movie that doesn’t even have the support of some of its cast members. It’s a big idea with a low budget and I think that took away from the attention it received. Had it gotten a bigger release I think it would be the center of much greater controversy and conversation even today.

I won’t deny this movie is weird but I like that about it. I like the actors cast in strange roles, I like the randomness of it all and the ultimate point behind the film. I think this movie takes a strong stance against the current events in the mid 2000s and it was during that time that I saw the movie and connected with it. It’s an interesting vision of the future where America actually suffers consequences for its actions. The world has moved on from that time with a whole batch of new and interesting problems but what of the events following 9/11? The world got crazy in the aftermath but kept on turning nonetheless. There were plenty of movies that examined the situation but this one to date has probably been my favorite. A beautiful satire that never really found its voice, or audience for that matter.

Richard Kelly’s first film, Donnie Darko, became a cult classic and I was one of its biggest fans at one time. I thought it was so interesting and ahead of its time. I feel like Richard Kelly is too smart for his own good as a filmmaker. If I remember correctly his father worked for NASA and I have always thought that had to have some kind of influence on his films. There is always something highly scientific about his films. Whether it’s worm holes or fluid karma he has something thrown in there that will befuddle the masses. I myself do not know anything about the science in his movies, it could be all made up as far as I know, but I think it all sounds good enough to work in a movie. I have enjoyed all of Kelly’s movies but this one is by far my favorite.

I think the cast that was assembled for this movie was nothing short of spectacular. I am not really a fan of the actor Dwayne Johnson, but I think he is perfect in this movie. The Rock has climbed out of the ring and into the big arena but I don’t always like what he’s cooking these days. I’m not a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise, and despite all his success I just can’t ever take him seriously as an actor. I think this is one of the most interesting roles he has played and I really liked him in the part. His character is even more interesting upon multiple viewings of the movie because so many of the weird ticks make sense when you understand.

On the other hand, I have always been a big fan of Seann William Scott, which sucks because his career tanked after this movie. American Pie was my generation’s high school classic and Stifler will always be a character I tune in to see. Like The Rock, he too has a really interesting part in this movie that gets better the more you watch it. While I think Scott does well in this movie I tend to think his performance gets lost among the others because some were truly able to shine in a short amount of time.

My favorite stand out in this movie is Cheri Oteri. I used to love her on SNL and the excitable personality she brought to the comedy. Seeing her in this movie as a ruthless and violent villain has always appealed to me. In fact there were several actors in this movie cast specifically contrary to their known personas. Others include John Lovitz and Amy Poehler playing villains. Lovitz particularly is impressive as the cold and silent hitman.

I think Justin Timberlake is fantastic in this movie and love the drug induced scene that plays out like a music video. It’s so randomly placed in the movie and I love that about it. As a teenager I had a natural dislike for Timberlake, and anybody else involved in the boy band phase, but he has long since won me over with shear talent. I am amazed by any celebrity that can do it all. Timberlake is an incredible performer and has made a smooth transition into a good acting career. He has impressive range as an actor and continues to be a successful artist in the music industry. When I mention that this movie didn’t have the support of its own cast it was Timberlake I was referring to, who said something along the lines of having no idea what this movie was about.

Since I was a teenager I had a thing for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Not because of her popular television show but just because I was a horny teen who thought she was really hot. So naturally I liked her in the role of the sexy porn star with the aggressive business plan. I think Mandy Moore was really good as the WASPy wife of Boxer Santaros. It was interesting to see these two actresses of the same popular teen era to play adult roles and do so well.

Beyond the big names there are several pop culture icon actors hidden within the film. Such as the “inconceivable!” guy from The Princess Bride, the little medium from the original Poltergeist, and even Kevin Smith pops up for a small role. These three, among others, make up a rich cast of supporting characters. I always think the cast of any film can make or break it and say what you want about this one but it has a really cool cast.

This movie is not for everybody and I can’t recall finding anybody else who has even seen it, let alone liked it. I like it though and I think it stands out for several reasons. I’m not going to get overly political because those days are long behind me now but when this movie came out things were different for me. Back in the days when I was more opinionated this movie stood out to me because of its message and I still like that message today.

Due to the nature of this movie’s controversy within my own home I won’t say whether it is worth your time or not. The battlelines have long since been drawn and opinions are dug in despite my efforts to force conciliation. If you can look past the low budget and the weirdness within then I’d be really interested to know what anyone else thinks about this movie. If you’ve seen it before and you are still with me in this review leave us a comment or send a message and share your own thoughts. If nothing else this is an interesting movie that deserves a bit of discussion. 

NEXT MOVIE: South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut (1999)

Cloud Atlas

Year: 2012
Directed By: Tom Tykwer, and Andy and “Lana” Wachowski
Written By: David Mitchell (Novel) Tom Tykwer, Andy and “Lana” Wachowski

RYAN’S REVIEW

First Attempt (5/2/13)

My brother, who twisted my arm into watching this movie, described it as “ambitious.” After seeing it I could not think of a better way to describe it.  In fact I think this represents how movies will be made in the future.  One day we will look back at this film and it will be seen as a landmark accomplishment.  In the movie, “Moby Dick” is specifically referenced.  It is said that in its time the author died starving but at the present every serious literary student owned a copy of it.  I think this movie is the Moby Dick of films.  It was not a financial success and largely misunderstood by its audience.  One day however, we will look back at this film and marvel at it.  One day this film will stand out as ahead of its time and be proclaimed as a classic.  I had lost faith in the Wachowskis after the completion of their Matrix trilogy but this film has proved to me that I was wrong about them.  They are brilliant filmmakers with an ability I admire and I will never lose faith in again.

Reviewing this movie has been a long time coming because I wanted to understand the story completely before doing so.  There are six story lines within the movie and I have figured out how the first three and the final three piece together but not how those two halves connect.  I bought the book the movie was adapted from but have yet to read it.  I find this film so impressive I wanted to write my review before the book has an opportunity to destroy my impressions of it.  Under almost every circumstance in which I have read a book after seeing the film the book has destroyed my perception of the film.  The only exception being The Godfather, but even with that film the book is much better.  I hope the book offers some sort of clarity on how the story pieces together in its entirety and after reading it I will update this review with what I am able to find out.

This movie blew me away in a way that no other movie has blown me away before because it brought to light a realization that I find so profound.  This story in its entirety is simply the only thing that is left after the fall of mankind and after our time on Earth comes to an end.  The idea hit me so hard because under those circumstances what does anything any of us do really matter?  We have so much history documented throughout our existence but after the fall of society if nothing survives then nothing is remembered.  In the beginning of the film Tom Hanks, in the character of Zachry, is telling a story that doesn’t make much sense at first.  He is a much older version of Zachry in that scene and it isn’t until the end that we see where he is and who he is talking to.  He is on another planet, telling his grandchildren the only story he knows from Earth.  It is the story this film tells and this story has very little bearing on our actual existence.  It is simply the only story he knows from his homeland and the only story that has survived from the entire history of this planet.  That is a lot to swallow because it is such a real possibility for the future. I don’t know how everybody else sees it but I see the possibility of humanity crumbling in the eventual future as very real. If that happens what is it that lives on in memory? There is such a real possibility that nothing any of us have ever done makes any difference in the future of existence.  As the slave owning father tells his son-in-law in the end of the film, his notion to stand up to slavery will never amount to being “more than a single drop in a limitless ocean.” To which his son-in-law replies, “What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?” That brought the whole thing full circle for me and I had a moment of clarity that was as clear as any I have ever had.  That’s all we are, drops in a limitless ocean.  The significance of our personal lives are more important than anything else, but they only matter to us as individuals.  Our individual worlds of existence are separate from one another but ultimately part of something so large we can never wrap our heads around it.

Second Attempt (12/26/15)

I think this movie is so innovative in its use of actors. In fact I’ve said several times that I thought this was such an incredible opportunity for an actor to showcase their talents that it was very possible this was only a hint of what was to come in the future. In this film the actors portray not one but many roles that allow them to show a much wider range of skill. Not only do they play multiple roles but they play incredibly diverse characters in turn. They play a variety of different ages, classes, and in many cases even races of people. It is an interesting idea usually only reserved for silliness like we see in several Eddie Murphy movies. Here the effort is made not to be funny but to be serious and it is an exceptional opportunity to appreciate the actors on hand. The actors in this movie show a tremendous amount of talent and a diversity that garners our respect. I’m always discouraged by the reality that so many actors and actresses succeed based on looks over talent. When actors are required perform on this level such a thing will never happen. It’s no easy thing what the actors in this film accomplish and the strength in their talent is showcased perfectly.

This movie can be a difficult one to follow simply because it is so complex. There are six different storylines that are seemingly alien of one another taking place across a wide spectrum of time and location. It can be easy to get lost in the vastness of how everything pieces together but after giving this film several viewings and much consideration I think I can dumb down how it all fits together.

There are six storyline within this film:

1. The free thinking lawyer, the two faced doctor, and the stowaway slave on a journey across the world.

2. Robert Frobisher, Rufus Sixsmith, and the creation of Cloud Atlas with Vyvyan Arys.

3. Reporter Luisa Rey’s chance encounter with an aged Sixsmith and her battle with destiny and the truth.

4. Timothy Cavendish and his desperate and oddly comedic struggle that inspires Somni-451.

5. Somni-451 and her realization of existence. In custody she testifies about living a life that changed the world.

6. Zachry and the true-true. A haunted man in a world that has moved on and is at the end of its run.

These six storylines weave together to make a story that is as incredible as it is complex. I have put a lot of thought into them since seeing the movie for the first time. Once I started doodling a web like design in which I wrote out these storylines and started drawing lines to connect them all to one another. I was just passing the time but the bad thing was I left it sitting on my desk. A week or so later I had to clear out of the house for an overnight ladies only party Amber was hosting. While I was gone, hanging with my brother watching this movie incidentally, my wife and her friends found my doodle. While totally reasonable in truth, the Beautiful Mind-looking series of words and lines I had drawn out about this movie made me look like a totally insane person. My wife and her friends had quite a time speculating on both what it was and exactly what was going on in my head. It’s been a year or more since that happened and some of them still bring it up to me when I see them today. Now, I will attempt to explain how these stories fit together without the aide of a spiderweb looking doodle that may or may not make me appear to be insane. Keep in mind this is a rough effort and I am undoubtedly missing plenty…

1. The free thinking lawyer Adam Ewing is on a mission at the behest of his slave owning father-in-law Haskell Moore. He suffers from a rare illness in which he enlists the help of the sketchy teeth harvesting doctor, Dr. Henry Goose, he first meets on the beach. Adam does his business and begins to make his journey back home with his new doctor acquaintance of secret sinister motives. Along the way he happens upon a stow away slave that he befriends and bounds his life to. His story is one of the finest in the movie and quite interesting. It fits into the grand scheme of things by way of the journal Adam keeps. Robert Frobisher later finds the unfinished journal in the home of Vyvyan Arys and mentions reading it in his letters to Sixsmith. Letters which in turn are read on by Luisa Rey a lifetime later.

2. Robert Frobisher is the talented but delinquent musician who captures the heart of the promising young student Rufus Sixsmith. When we meet the young couple Frobisher is rushing out the window while men of authority aggressively knock on the door of Sixsmith’s apartment demanding entrance. It seems their homosexual relationship is frowned upon and a letter is being drafted to Sixsmith’s father. Frobisher runs off to work on his masterpiece with the once great composer Vyvyan Ayers. Sixsmith and Frobisher correspond regularly writing letters to one another that are saved by Sixsmith and later fall into the hands of the young reporter Luisa Rey. While staying with Arys, Frobisher creates the catalyst for the entire film. A sextet called Cloud Atlas that will go largely unknown in modern times but live on with significance in the future.

3. Luisa Rey is a reporter who has a chance encounter with an aged and considerably older Rufus Sixsmith in a stalled elevator. While they are stuck in the elevator Sixsmith realizes Rey is exactly who he has been looking for as an outlet for a dark secret he is in possession of. Sixsmith’s efforts to unveil the secret he holds gets him killed by the powers that be. Rey, who is simply minutes too late, enters into a dangerous search for the truth that Sixsmith died for. She comes across the letters Sixsmith has always kept between himself and the late Robert Frobisher. Reading through them she learns about the Cloud Atlas and in passing learns about Adam Ewing’s journey across the Pacific. The truth she is trying to uncover about the shady dealings of a nuclear power plant is obviously what leads to the world of Somni-451 and the downfall of society that leads to the civilization of Zachary and the need for humanity to find new dwellings off planet.

4. The story of Timothy Cavendish is one of my favorite in the film. It is an unusual story packed full of humor and curious circumstances. The unsuccessful but savvy publisher has sat down to write his life story. Which largely involve his personal differences with his brother that lead to him being imprisoned in a retirement community. He hilariously assumes he is signing himself into a hotel while drunk and is in fact signing over his rights as a person to the facility. His efforts to free himself and the escape that follows is nothing short of hilarious. His story is eventually made into a movie and secretly watching a small clip of it inspires and changes the life of Somni-451 forever.

5. Somni-451 is a slave of the future. A genetically engineered servant that lives for no other purpose than to serve the consumer. Her path starts by chance when she catches the closest thing she has to a friend breaking the rules and living a little. One of her fellow servant slaves, Yoona-939, has a curious nature that influences and changes Somni’s existence forever. She shows Somni a clip of the Timothy Cavendish movie and together they share the secret until Yoona’s boldness gets her killed. Somni is rescued by resistance fighter Hae-Joo Chang who uses her as a focal point for the resistance. He shows her the truth of her existence and it is a truth that she cannot live with. As a genetically engineered slave she is part of a recycling process that simply kills and feeds the servants to one another in a cycle that is inhumane for beings capable of thought. As the servant slaves are led to “Exaltation” i.e. extermination/recycling they use their voices to harmonize the Cloud Atlas sextet. I have no idea why the Cloud Sextet is involved but it is some connecting factor I have failed to figure out. Once Somni is captured and interviewed she is executed by the government, but she “Obi-Wan Kenobis” death and becomes more powerful than anyone could have ever imagined. She become a martyr and rises to the status of a God in the future after the fall.

6. Now to Zachry and the true true. Although I can’t remember it specifically right now I found the time period given to be a very fascinating aspect of his story. Zachry’s society exist in a time that as listed as a certain number of seasons since “The Fall” or something like that. While I can’t remember off the top of my head what it said, it is merely the suggestion that time as we understand it no longer exists in this future. There are two types of civilization in this future. One where Zachry and other dwellers live in a village that would form a peaceful society were it not for the harrying cannibals that come calling now and again. The second sort of civilization lives with all the left over technology from a strong hold where society as we understand it has survived to a certain degree. Zachry’s people live a rudimentary life and marvel at the occasional visitors from the advanced culture of the past. The advanced civilization is represented by Meronym who seeks the help of Zachry in searching for a lost beacon of salvation. The world is dying and locating this beacon is the last chances to find a habitable planet and preserve what is left of the human race. In Zachry’s society they worship Somni-451 as a God and follow her teachings in their every day life. Meronym knows the truth of Somni-451, that she was simply a slave that was martyred, but Zachry is really reluctant to believe when she tries to explain it to him. As far as Zachry is concerned the true true lies in the teachings of the great Somni.

Now excuse me if any of this is not entirely correct. I’ve written this without a full viewing under my belt. This review has become something on the shelf that I started long ago and waited to finish up. Last night my brother and I found ourselves watching this movie yet again at the end of a heavy drinking session and I must admit I only made it through about half of this beautiful but enormously long film. The moon was on the far side of the sky when I, deep in my cups, decided to jump back into this review. One of the reasons this review has taken so long is simply because I refuse to do any actual research on it and have insisted on figuring it all out on my own with no additional input. So, aside from cross checking the names of specific characters on IMDB, I have pulled all this from memory and there are holes in it because I lacked a full viewing before jumping in. Bottom line, don’t hassle me over little things because I’m admitting this synopsis is full of tiny errors but the big picture is all on the table. Connecting the dots and outlining the big picture to this magnificent movie is my main goal with this review.

The movie begins with Zachry, ancient and scarred, telling a story dramatically to an unseen audience. The movie closes with that same scene, and it’s revealed that the story is being told to a large gathering of children. The product of Zachry and Meronym’s eventual union and a suggestion of success with the relocation of the human race. Zachry has overcome all of his demons to survive the end of Earth and serve as a future version of Noah for the human race. As he raises his growing family he regales them with the story of the Earth as he knows it. Making this story of Cloud Atlas and all that created it seemingly the only history that survives the doom. Certainly Meronym’s people might have more records of the past but the movie gives the impression to me that this was what was left and this is what survived. This is the story the future of mankind grows up with on this new planet it inhabits.

Such an idea struck me as so reasonable and so profound. What do the lives of any of us ever matter when such a thing is not only possible but certainly probable? To put it in the words of Haskell Moore we amount to little more than a drop of water against an endless ocean of possibility. The response to that line in the movie is equally profound because why we all may only amount to a drop we are the individual drops that create the ocean. We are all part of the greater story of life regardless where we stand in it. It’s an idea that has bound me to this movie that I would have loved regardless because it is interesting, funny, exciting, and profound all on it’s own. It’s such a deep movie, both provocative and inspiring in the idea it can prompt in our imaginations.

A movie such as this is on a platform all by itself. Revered by some but given no consideration at all by most. It’s a movie that makes you think and while I have known so many exceptions I find that the averaged audience is opposed to thinking. Too many simply want to be dazzled and mesmerized by the images on screen and never gain anything more out of the experience of watching. Some movies are simply made to hypnotize us for a short time with excitement and nothing more. There are still movies like this one though and they are not for everybody. I find this to be such a compelling movie but it has few precious other fans out there. I have gotten swept up in finishing up this review today but find it disappointing I haven’t had the time to do it the right way. With a full viewing and more specific information this review could have been much more but I will settle for this. It’s grown to a length that I would be shocked to find out there is even a single person that makes it this far. Like the movie this has turned into a creation of enormous length, such is necessary and not even enough with a film like this.

Final Thoughts (5/15/16)

I don’t know what stopped me from publishing this back in December. Maybe I was a little intimidated by this film. I love this movie but it is so unlike any other and so deep. It has provoked plenty of criticism in popular culture yet here I am claiming it is great. Not only am I claiming this to be a great movie but more than great, something for the future to build on. I am not the type of person that conceives my personal feelings from what others are thinking or even what everybody may think. If everybody else says yes but I think the answer is no I am digging in.

I’m digging in on this movie and saying the haters out there just didn’t get it. I get it, and I get a lot out of it. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter to me what anybody else thinks because in this little droplet of the ocean it’s all gravy. I think this movie is worth your time to see. I think this movie is worth plenty of your time in fact. I think with considerable attention this movie has the opportunity to teach you something, to inspire, to open the third eye and make you see. It is truly a rare film that can do such a thing and films like this should be treasured.

This is the Moby Dick of films, and I hope you give it a chance. There is so much more that should be said about this film but I have said enough for now. It’s time to finally drop this post.

Jurassic World

Year: 2015
Directed By: Colin Trevorrow
Written By: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, and Derek Conolly

RYAN’S REVIEW

When I first watched this movie I felt for the first time that this franchise had finally produced a sequel that felt right. The Lost World was great and Jurassic Park III was good though underwhelming but neither had same kind of feel to it that the first one had. There is clearly the possibility that the feeling is the result of the fact that this is more or less the same movie as the first one, or the third one. How many kids can get lost on a dinosaur island anyway? Nevertheless I found this to be a good sequel and a great effort to advance the franchise.

I loved the scene in which the water dinosaur, whateverosaurus, eats the great white shark. I saw that as symbolism and a bold statement from the movie. It literally ate Jaws and made claim to the summer blockbuster of 2015. This movie of course was the biggest movie of the 2015 summer, and it actually went on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time, before adjusting for inflation.

This day in age, you simply can’t go wrong casting Chris Pratt. The guy is just so unbelievably likable. So much so that he was rumored to be the guy taking on the Indiana Jones helm. That’s not going to happen now as Harrison Ford is prepping for another go as the character himself. Still, the name dropping shows how well received Pratt currently is as an actor. He’s perfect for this movie as the cool dinosaur guy because he is the ultimate cool guy in Hollywood right now.

I really think the rest of the cast is well put together too. I am a big fan of Ron Howard‘s daughter Bryce Dallas Howard, I like Vincent D’Onofrio a lot since seeing his incredible rendition of the Kingpin in Netflix’s Daredevil, and I think Irrfan Khan is terrific as the park owner. The cast in this movie is great and I like it but I think Jeff Goldblum proved with The Lost World that nobody watches these movies for the stars. Nope, the real stars in this these movies are the dinosaurs.

This films version of the T-Rex/Spinosaurus/whatever is bigger and badder is the genetically modified Indominous Rex. It’s a snazzy and scary dinosaur and all but where can they really go from here? I think they need to get more inventive with their storytelling and get away from the same old same old. In the end the dinosaurs even come together to destroy this abomination to their own existence but isn’t that what always happens? Also with every movie comes some new and terrifying thing to be done with Raptors. I thought it was cool when they were just scary dinosaurs. Why do they need to be able to communicate, and then be the tamed dinosaurs to be used as weapons? It’s just not practical, we don’t deploy any vicious creature today, why would we do so with dinosaurs? Lions can be trained to do all sorts of crazy stuff but we aren’t sending them after the terrorist are we? Although now that I think about it that seems so awesome.

This is a cool movie but I don’t want to call it great. I liked it enough when I first watched it to immediately punch the Amazon button to add it to the collection. I did that more for my love of the franchise than for love of the movie though. At the end of the day I’m still that little kid who watched the premier of the original at the Uptown theater in D.C. Yet there is a reason this movie made so much money, it is exciting. If you haven’t seen it then you wouldn’t be wasting your time by checking it out.

 

Robocop (2014)

Year: 2014
Directed By: Jose Padiha
Written By: Joshua Zetumer, Edward Zeumeier, and Michael Miner

RYAN’S REVIEW 

This actually turned out to be one of the weirdest reviews I have ever written and when I couldn’t figure out what to do with it I decided to just roll with it. I have broken the review into two pieces to make it easier to understand. So here it is, the post that has been holding me up. I am happy to wash my hands of it and move on.

PART 1

I usually loathe remakes but this is not just an exception to that fact, it’s an exceptional exception to my typical line of thinking. I love the original Robocop, and when I first heard there was a remake coming I was frustrated. Yet, at the same time I kept an open mind. If there is ever a movie to remake it’s a futuristic vision that can be adapted to more modern realities. Not only in the vision of the future Robocop presents but the future as it is with the capabilities we have today to bring things to screen.

This movie gets props by following in the footsteps of the original by assembling an excellent cast. It horribly failed by copping out for the PG-13 rating with a complete lack of violence but when it comes to the cast it gets props. The action in this movie is fantastic but ultimately lacking when it comes to the graphic violence we saw in the original film. Yet, they have Omar from The Wire, they have that likable awkward funny kid Jay Baruchel in a serious role, they have Gary Oldman who can do just about anything, they have the up and coming Joel Kinnaman, they have Michael Keaton, and if that’s not enough they have Samuel L Motherfucking Jackson.

This movie is adapted to the times while staying to its roots and I find it very impressive. It manages to make its own thing while honoring the original at the same time. I love that they maintained a similar musical score to correlate with the character so many of us grew up with. Robocop was awesome, but due for an upgrade. The internet has been created since the idea was first conceived and it is an important element to be incorporated into the character. This movie doesn’t have the substance of the original but it has the upgrades to make for an interesting retelling.

There are things to like about this movie but overwhelmingly it doesn’t measure up, and having watched both this and the original on the same day I can sum it up simply. It’s all in the lack of bad guys. Michael Keaton is awesome but he simply doesn’t compare to the likes of Dick Jones and Clarence Boddicker. Those two were bad guys for the ages and that element is absent entirely from this film. This movie lacks intensively in the bad guy department.

The way this movie ends made it what is was for me. It’s the same principle George Costanza figured out one time on Seinfeld. Leave them laughing and they remember you fondly. I fell victim to that scenario with this movie. Samuel L. Jackson closed out this movie with an awesome monologue that cleverly covered up his preferred profane dialogue. When I considered the film in hindsight the ending immediately came to mind and I remembered loving that while forgetting a lot about what I didn’t like.

PART 2

I wrote all of the above on the day of. In fact, the first three paragraphs were typed out before the movie had even been on for 15 minutes. I had only seen this movie one time before the review and wrote all of that in anticipation. I had really been looking forward to watching this movie. It had set an impression on me when we watched it the first time and I had waited until it was the movie on deck for the blog before watching it again.

Now this review has held me up for weeks as I considered it. Did I scrap whatever I had written and start from scratch? Did I try to adapt what I had already written to my current thinking despite the drastic difference? I was at a loss because I like to keep moving forward and frankly this one stopped me in my tracks.

Here was a film that I remembered liking an awful lot but on the second take I was so let down. I have considered how this happened and believe I have solved the issue. When I watched this remake for the first time I had incredibly low expectations. I hate remakes on principle but gave this one a chance and it surprised me. I was very taken with the effects and the advancements to the actual title character. I really liked the cast and when the movie closes with Samuel L Jackson doing his Samuel L Jackson thing it left me laughing and I remembered it being better than it actually was.

Fast forward to March 4th 2016 and everything was different. I had been on a roll going through the movies in our collection. So much so that I had a day to myself and decided to tackle two movies back to back. Those two movies were this and the original. That morning I fell in love all over again with Paul Verhoeven’s science fiction classic, and then that night everything that was wrong with the remake was poisoning my eyes.

This movie has a great cast, it has a few select scenes that are memorable and exciting, it echoes the original just enough to get your nostalgic mood brewing, but overwhelming it fails at everything else. The story is all wrong and despite how awesome Michael Keaton is there is just no villain in this film that can compare to those of the first film.

I think Joel Kinneman gave a terrific performance in one scene specifically. The scene in which he sees what is left of him physically for the first time and a tear rolls out of his one real eye as the horror overwhelms him. Very powerful scene that really got me the first time I saw it. I think it is really cool to see Robocop scanning crowds and running. In the first film, Robocop is incredibly slow for technical reasons but in this film he is the way he should be as a robot. I really like the part played by Samuel L Jackson and think he shines as he always does. Other than that there is no other reason to see this movie.

I am almost embarrassed to even have this movie in my collection and can’t figure out what kind of spell I was under when I thought it was good enough for our collection. To think I’ve not only owned it but had it sitting on the shelf next to the true classic it stole its name from seems like a personal travesty. My suggestion would be to not see this movie at all and save your time. There is no way, shape, or form in which this one measures even a tiny bit up to the original film.

NEXT MOVIE: The Rock (1996)

Robocop

Year: 1987
Directed By: Paul Verhoven
Written By: Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner

RYAN’S REVIEW

The farther we go into the past the more interesting the movies about the future tend to be. They are interesting because they represent a clear idea of what people thought was coming in the future. Looking back it’s always fun to see how wrong they were and to contrast it with what did and didn’t actually happen. This movie never says specifically what year in the future it is but they had some very interesting things going on in their rendition of it. These future on goings include a presidential visit to a space station, nuclear war in South Africa between the Afrikaners and the South Africans, specially modeled mechanical hearts like the “sports heart”, and of course robot and cybernetic police officers. It’s so obvious they had little to no idea about the internet. Something that would literally change every facet of modern society. That has to make you think about the future in a different way. What crazy new development lies ahead of us now that none of us could ever imagine?

Not that they had everything completely wrong about the future in this film. At the very least they presented some very interesting ideas. The portrayal of the media is very interesting and the idea that a police force could be owned by a corporation is also interesting. Not that this has happened but the possibility in our ever changing now makes it something to think about.

Something I love most about this movie is the graphic violence. Even by today’s standards it’s incredibly violent but that’s so much about what makes the movie satisfying. It isn’t just violent, it’s excessively violent. From the dismembering gun shots to death by toxic waste this film went above and beyond to earn its R rating. It was worth it, it makes the movie so much better. Yeah, Robocop could have easily disabled the would be rapist and rescued the woman, but don’t we all relish in that scene where he gets more savaged with it? He doesn’t do the easy thing, he shoots between the victims legs to hit the criminal in the junk. When Clarence Boddicker takes a warning to the up and coming executive Bob Morton he could have simply punched Morton to knock him down and make him watch the video. Not in this savage film though, Boddicker dismisses the ladies with the classic line “bitches leave!” and then shoots Morton multiple times in the legs. The more than necessary shooting not only makes the bad guy a more ruthless villain but it makes this ultimately violent movie all that much better.

This movie is loaded with talent, and so many of the actors are exceptional that it’s hard to know where to begin. Best start with the bad guys because they own the show in this movie. Even though they are facing off against a really awesome robot cop. Kurtwood Smith turned in one of his finest roles ever as Clarence Boddicker. He is so vicious and provocative in this movie. He plays the part with a confidence that is impressive and he is so unpredictable as a villain. I spent so much time during my formative years watching Kurtwood Smith portray Red Foreman on That 70’s Show that it always blows my mind to see him in this movie. He is legendary as Clarence Boddicker even until the end as he is beating Robocop with a metal pipe. One of my favorite scenes is the aforementioned threatening of Bob Morton. He doesn’t even speak to Morton. He just shoots him up, pops in the video of Dick Jones, and moseys around before using his tongue to pull the pin out of the grenade that will bring the hotshot executive’s rise to an end. There is also that scene when he is arrested by Robocop and he spits blood onto the police desk at booking. Boddicker manages to be a one of a kind bad guy in this movie who is not simply ruthless and cutthroat but immature with a sexual streak that is surprising.

I am a huge fan of Ronny Cox playing the top dog villain. He has a very similar role in Verhoven’s other great 80’s sci-fi movie, Total Recall. In fact in that film he delivers one of my favorite lines of all time. His role in this movie was first and he was just warming up. He has such a professional look that makes him perfect for playing this type of executive part. He looks like the kind of guy you can trust, but he is as cutthroat and ruthless as the henchman in his employ. Having a villain like Clarence Boddicker under his thumb makes him even more of a badass. When Robocop comes to arrest him he is so cool as he casually approaches the situation. He planned ahead for the scenario and when the classified Primary Directive 4 takes effect he is ready. He has ED-209 waiting to beat up on Robocop while a battalion of cops are waiting in the parking lot to open fire on him. Dick Jones is a great bad guy because he’s a man with power, and he knows how to wield it to his advantage. A villain like him is as unpredictable as he is dangerous, is there anything more to love in a bad guy?

The strength of the bad guys in this movie only make the hero more thrilling and Robocop is an ultimate badass. This movie went against the grain when casting its hero not out of choice but out of need. In the era of StalloneSchwarzenegger action films the role of Robocop was highly coveted but neither would get the opportunity. Schwarzenegger specifically wanted the part but couldn’t be cast because he was physically too large for the suit. A smaller man was needed and Peter Weller was tapped for arguably the biggest role of his career. Weller is an incredibly accomplished man having received his doctorate degree a few years ago. However, after appearing in over 70 features this movie remains the one he is most famous for. Weller’s star has been rising over the last ten years though as he has been featured more prominently in both film and TV. In his older age he is more often cast as a bad guy but that is a role he has thrived in.

I’ve let this draft sit a bit too long at this point so I will just wrap it up here. This is an exceptional movie that still holds weight almost 30 years later. Despite multiple sequels and a reboot this movie still stands head and shoulders above the rest. While it has a silly portrayal of the future; you simply cannot challenge the quality of the story or film. This isn’t a movie for the tender-hearted but if you have an appetite for action and violence then this is something you definitely need to see. This movie is easily worth your time and it can surprise you.

NEXT MOVIE: Robocop (2014)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Year: 2014
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Written By: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver

RYAN’S REVIEW

My standing opinion of sequels is always that they should be more of the same only bigger and better. Sequels have the ability to ruin our favorite characters and stories but when they are done right they become part of something larger. This sequel continued to build toward a solid trilogy that I look forward to seeing completed. I love the 2026 post apocalyptic setting where the virus that started in the first film has wiped out most of civilization. It evens the odds with the ever evolving society of advanced apes led by Caesar. The idea behind what draws the humans and apes into conflict is the most natural one of all; the need to survive. Humans are after certain resources and it just so happens that what they need is in ape territory and apes aren’t too thrilled by their presence. Add in the ignorance to two separate societies that don’t understand one another and the stage is set for a brutal conflict. In an era of too many post apocalyptic films featuring zombies I find this one a nice change of pace.

There are times during this film that I don’t feel like the effects are as good but I think that probably has plenty to do with the effort to make it a 3D film. Studios love that effort to cash in larger profits on their films by charging the extra money. It’s really only the deer and the bear in the beginning that don’t look very good to me. Sometimes it’s as simple as a director change that makes things look just different enough to be frustrating but I don’t think that is the case in this film. Direction definitely could have been better but this movie was good enough at advancing the story to overlook any flaws that could have made the film better.

I love how the story of the apes in this movie unfolds and builds on what was established in the first film. I’m a big fan of Stanley Kubrick so I love the regular references in sound to 2001: A Space OdysseyThe score features audio from the beginning of 2001 in which the ape-men first discover the monolith and figure out how to use weapons for the first time. It’s a fitting reference to a film that has proved over time to be so incredibly influential, although such a difficult film to watch. I love 2001 because it was an awesome film and it’s so iconic, but it does require a certain level of patience to sit through. I had a professor in college claim that it was billed as “the ultimate pothead movie” and it’s easy to see why. You’d almost have to be high to sit through the entire thing as it is mostly a visual movie and the effects it features are long outdated.

I thought the cast of this movie was better than that of the first one. I like that only the actors in the motion capture suits reprised their roles, most notably Andy Serkis who continues to be amazing. I thought the casting of Judy Greer as Cornelia (Caesar’s wife) was a bit odd but apparently she is married to a huge Planet of the Apes fan and might have actively went after the role that no one will know her from. It makes too much sense for none of the humans to have survived to the second film after the “Simian Flu” wipes out most of the population. There are a couple of subtle references to James Franco’s character that easily imply he died of the disease before this film took place. Most notably the fact that when Caesar goes home the house is abandoned and Franco’s vehicle is still in the driveway overgrown by weeds. Had he survived he undoubtedly would have taken his vehicle with him. I think that his absence in this film means even more that the original ending in which Franco died would have been a better way to end the first film.

Jason Clarke plays the most important human in this installment. His star has been on the rise over the last few years and he continues to turn in solid performances. Gary Oldman seems out of place to me in this movie but the man is a pro and he can do anything he puts forth the effort towards. The earliest casting news for the third film shows again that none of the human actors will be returning and I’m not sure why. Jason Clarke and Keri Russell seem like obvious options to be in the follow up but they are not listed on the roster for War for the Planet of the Apes. Woody Harrelson has been cast to play the human military leader and that is a very promising development.

This movie offers some cool looks at social development among the ape community. As a group they have clearly continued to adapt and evolve into a higher society. It also has some really cool action and an interesting build up to the next installment. I love how the movie closes with Caesar telling his new human friend that the war had already begun. Caesar opposed a war but is a smart enough leader to know that at this point there is no backing out. He won in the end but didn’t really win at all. Heavy is the head and it will be really interesting to see what he is like in the next film.

If you haven’t seen this film or this franchise then you are missing out. If you haven’t seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes you should definitely see that one first. This movie is a good follow-up that builds to the next film in the franchise. Currently War for the Planet of the Apes is set to be released in the summer of 2017. Hopefully it will hold that date and the movie will bring a close to this exciting franchise. In the meantime if you haven’t seen this one you should check it out, it is definitely worth your time.

NEXT MOVIE: Risky Business (1981)

 

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Year: 2011
Directed By: Rupert Wyatt
Written By: Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

RYAN’S REVIEW

I specifically remember getting mad about this movie before ever seeing it. I remember following the production, as I do with so many films, and I remembered when it changed from simply being an original film and into a Planet of the Apes film. That disappointed me as the trend was beginning to emerge wherein nothing seemed willing to try unless it could tie itself to an older successful franchise. We are fully into the era of remakes and reboots now and I hate it. I considered the switch in direction of this film and the assimilation it sought into a successful franchise as a cop out. It does not sit next to the original film in my collection simply because it does not belong there. Planet of the Apes was an awesome franchise that needed to be left alone and shouldn’t be touched again after the terrible effort by Tim Burton almost 15 years ago. I see this movie and franchise as an altogether different thing and see its intentional effort to include itself as simply a marketing ploy to make more money.

After seeing the film for the first time I found that I enjoyed it so much I was only more frustrated by the efforts to make it a psuedo reboot. Simply because it didn’t need to do that. It’s a good movie and good enough to stand on its own. There are certain similarities it bears to the original story but that does not make it the same. I have and will always say it is ridiculous to remake or reboot Cold War themed films. The conflict is gone and over and the movies that were about it don’t have any context to be remade today. Whether it’s a movie about high school youths who suddenly have to defend themselves from invasion (Red Dawnor a film about the consequences of self imposed destruction by fighting one another with doomsday weapons. The reality of that situation does not exist today and remakes about the situations do not translate. This movie however is neither a remake or a reboot despite what the title suggests.

This movie has its own social problem the story revolves around. An important one at that being the search for a cure or treatment for Alzheimers. Such a wicked disease is the one that robs us of the very thing that makes us who we are. It is even worse for those who love the afflicted. The husbands and wives who have to watch their spouses deteriorate and disappear after decades of union. It’s an illness that has been around forever but even today there is not enough effort being made to combat or cure the disease. If nothing else this movie is great for bringing more awareness to a problem that needs more money and more research.

This movie has a really good story and excellent special effects. Andy Serkis is an incredibly talented one of a kind actor. I love this franchise because it gives him the opportunity to display his exceptional skills performing in a motion capture suit. The next generation of actors that utilizes technology more and more will turn to the efforts of Andy Serkis when they study their art. Serkis in this movie works his magic in the suit as Caesar. These movements came easy to him this time around because he performed as an ape before in Peter Jackson’s King Kong. The rest of the cast is good enough. The only other one I’d deign to mention would be John Lithgow. Watching a second of his films in a row is a rare opportunity and it’s interesting because the roles are so different. Of course he is great in both of them because he is such an exceptional actor.

There are scenes in this movie that echo the original Planet of the Apes franchise but I remember reading somewhere along the way that they did that in re-shoots after production had wrapped. I could be wrong about that but it is the impression I have been under for 5 years and I stubbornly hold onto the idea. I think this movie is great, so long as it is separate and its own thing away from the original franchise. I think this story of one genetically mutated ape building and leading an uprising is really cool. I read somewhere that in the original ending James Franco was supposed to die but they changed it at the last minute. I actually think that might have made for a better ending to the movie but the movie is just fine the way it is.

This movie is a really cool start to an ongoing franchise that has plenty of potential to end well with a third film. The film builds a powerful story while setting up the sequel along the way. If you haven’t seen it you are missing out on a fun franchise. This movie is easily worth your time to see.

NEXT MOVIE: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)