Showing posts with label Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: "RoboCop" Remake Has Lots of Ideas, but Lacks Focus

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 33 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

RoboCop (2014)
Running time:  118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material
DIRECTOR:  José Padilha
WRITERS:  Joshua Zetumer and Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner (based upon the 1987 screenplay by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner)
PRODUCERS:  Marc Abraham and Eric Newman
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Lula Carvalho (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Peter McNulty and Daniel Rezende
COMPOSER:  Pedro Bromfman


Starring:  Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Marrianne Jean-Baptiste, Samuel L. Jackson, Aimee Garcia, Patrick Garrow, and John Paul Ruttan

RoboCop is a 2014 science fiction film from director José Padilha.  The film is a remake of the Oscar-winning, 1987 film, Robocop.  The 2014 RoboCop follows a police detective who is transformed into a part-man/part-robot police officer by a powerful corporation that wants to place robot police officers all over America.

The film opens in year 2028.  Omnicorp, a division of the multinational conglomerate, OCP, specializes in “robot soldier” technology.  Omnicorp supplies the robots and drones that the United States military uses to pacify populations around the world.  Omnicorp wants to sell their product in the U.S. for civilian law enforcement, but is prohibited both by the federal Dreyfus Act and by public opinion.

Omnicorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) concocts the idea of creating a new law enforcement product that blends the human police officer with the robot.  Sellars believes that this kind of police officer could really help Detroit, the crime-ravaged home city of Omnicorp.  Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), a scientist under contract to Omnicorp, believes that he can take a permanently injured police officer or solider and use him as the core of a robot policeman prototype.  He wonders, however, if he will find the kind of police officer that is perfect for his experiment.

At the Detroit Police Department, Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) and his partner, Sergeant Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams), are pursuing drug lord, Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow).  However, Vallon has an unknown number of crooked cops on his payroll, and they keep him apprised of Murphy and Lewis’ investigations.  Vallon orders Murphy killed, but Murphy survives the attempt, just barely.  Suddenly, Murphy is the perfect subject for Dr. Norton’s bid to create a part man/part machine cop, and RoboCop is born.  But how much of Alex Murphy is left inside of RoboCop, and how much of him does Omnicorp want to control?

The 1987 Robocop featured a number of thematic elements, and it contained black humor and satire, especially early in the film.  It was also a quasi-Western with RoboCop/Alex Murphy as a kind of frontier lawman facing off against heavily-armed criminals and a corrupt government all on his own.  RoboCop 2014 also includes themes about corporate manipulation of governments, the militarization of law enforcement, and the man-machine interface, among others.  There is a gallows humor about the remake, and it also has elements of the Western film.  That is where the comparisons end, for the most part.

RoboCop 2014 has a big problem in that it lacks focus.  The screenplay for the 2014 film takes almost every subplot, setting, and character from the 1987 film and makes them so important – even the elements the original film largely passed over.  For instance, Alex Murphy’s family was largely unseen, except for in flashbacks, in the 1987 film.  In the 2014 film, however, Murphy’s wife and son are important to the point of being in the way of the story.

It is almost Shakespearean the way the screenplay for the new film wants to make every supporting character and two-bit character a major player in the plot and story.  I could not help but think that more could have been done with Samuel Jackson’s Pat Novak, a Bill O’Reilly-like host of the pro-corporate, law and order television show, “The Novak Element.”  But where would he fit in an already overstuffed story?

With so many ideas and characters, RoboCop 2014 ends up without an identity.  In the original film, the title, Robocop, really meant that the movie was about Alex Murphy/RoboCop.  In the remake, the title RoboCop is practically about the idea of the “robot cop” or RoboCop.  The film is about weighing the good and the bad of having corporately-controlled robot cops patrolling the streets of America.  RoboCop/Alex Murphy just happens to be the robot cop of the moment.  Without an identity, what is RoboCop 2014?  Is it about Alex Murphy?  Is it about Omnicorp’s plans?  Is it about military technology as law enforcement?  Is this movie about corporate product as a means to uphold law and order?  Is it about Dr. Dennett Norton’s questionably experimentation on humans?

There is so much stuff in the new RoboCop that it would work better as a television series than it works as a two-hour feature film.  It is not a bad movie; it is simply packed with too many good ideas, characters, and plotlines.  That is a shame, because RoboCop 2014 is a cautionary tale.  It is a Frankenstein scenario that is relevant to our current times.  RoboCop warns us to beware of profit-driven, multi-national corporations that want to sell us permanent war and also a police state because those are the means by which they make piles of corporate cash.

For that reason, RoboCop 2014 is worth seeing.  It is a science fiction movie with a horror movie twist.  It has the thrills of an action movie, but also the chill of a scary movie that has a ring of truth to it.

6 of 10

Monday, July 14, 2014

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: 2001 Oscar Nominee "The Cell" Finds Power in Vincent D'Onofrio

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 175 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Cell (2000)
Running time: 107 minutes (1 hour, 47 minutes)
MPAA – R for bizarre violence and sexual images, nudity, and language
DIRECTOR: Tarsem Singh
WRITER: Mark Protosevich
PRODUCERS: Julie Caro and Eric McLeod
EDITORS: Robert Duffy and Paul Rubell
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D’Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Dylan Baker, Jake Weber, James Gammon, Colton James, and Jake Thomas

I never liked music video director Tarsem’s video for rock band R.E.M.’s fondly remembered single, “Losing My Religion,” – pretentious video for a pretentious song. However, I have a little more tolerance for Tarsem Singh (his full name) because of his movie, The Cell. In the film, science can send one person’s consciousness into the mind of another person. That scenario allows Tarsem to create wonderfully colorful and bizarre images that would make for a nice music video, but that also work in the context of a film narrative.

Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio) is a serial killer, but before he can kill his latest victim, he has a seizure related to schizophrenia that puts him in a coma from which he will not recover. FBI Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) knows from studying the evidence in Carl’s house that they have less than two days to find the latest victim before she drowns in a cell (or chamber) Carl has rigged to flood via a time release device. But where is the cell?

Enter pyschotherapist Catherine Dean (Jennifer Lopez). She is the only person with experience entering the mind of another human being, so Agent Novak convinces her to journey into Stargher’s mind to communicate with him in hopes that he will reveal the whereabouts of his latest victim to Catherine. However, Catherine has never entered the mind of someone she hadn’t studied. When she enters Stargher’s mind, Catherine finds a world of revulsion and hyper bizarre images. Before long she meets Stargher’s idealized version of himself, a powerful, cross-dressing, behemoth emperor of a strange land, who captures and traps Catherine in his mind.

No doubt, The Cell was released in hopes of attracting the same audience that liked the mind-bending trip of The Matrix’s shifting realities. The Cell isn’t anywhere nearly as good as The Matrix, but it’s a convincing thriller; Tarsem also creates a real sense that the clock is ticking while they search for Stargher’s latest victim. The bizarre landscapes and visuals within Stargher’s mind are intriguing and, with a few exceptions, both visually striking and appealing.

Sometimes, it all seems a little silly, but the journey into Stargher’s mind and the Stargher character are the entire film. Jennifer Lopez’s acting is quite bad in this film; she shows no emotion or life for that matter. There is little or nothing there; she’s an empty vessel. Vince Vaughn is just as bad, if not worse. He’s not acting; he’s pretending and doing a bad job of it.

Vincent D’Onofrio, who always seems willing to put himself through the contortions of makeup or to jump through emotional hoops, gives the performance that saves this film. He has a great film presence, especially when he plays the heavy or plays a bad guy. There’s an air of menace about him, or better yet, he always looks like he’s about to go postal. So everything that is scary and thrilling about this movie goes through him, and luckily Tarsem just happened to notice that.

5 of 10

2001 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Makeup” (Michèle Burke and Edouard F. Henriques)


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: "Takers" Brings Heat

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 8 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Takers (2010)
Running time: 107 minutes (1 hour, 47 minutes)
MPAA – R for intense sequences of violence and action, a sexual situation/partial nudity
DIRECTOR: John Luessenhop
WRITERS: Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus, John Luessenhop, and Avery Duff
PRODUCERS: Jason Geter, William Packer, and Tip “T.I.” Harris
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Barrett (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Armen Minasian


Starring: Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Matt Dillon, Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen, Michael Ealy, T.I., Jay Hernandez, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Zoe Saldana, Steve Harris, Gaius Charles, Johnathan Schaech, and Glynn Turman

Arriving in theatres last August 2010, Takers is an ensemble crime drama that focuses on a seasoned team of professional bank robbers and the hard-nosed detective that is hunting them. Though not great, Takers is nonetheless an exciting little heist movie that manages to walk its own way, while showing its influences.

Gordon Cozier (Idris Elba), John Rahway (Paul Walker), A.J. (Hayden Christensen), and brothers Jake Attica (Michael Ealy) and Jesse Attica (Chris Brown) are a highly-organized team of bank robbers. They describe themselves a “takers,” because they see something they want and they take it. After shocking Los Angeles with their latest heist, they plan to lead a life of luxury for a long time before taking on their next job.

They get a surprise, however, from former team member, Dalonte Rivers A.KA. Ghost (Tip “T.I.” Harris). Caught in a previous robbery five years earlier, Ghost received an early release from prison and is on parole. Claiming he harbors no ill will towards his former teammates, Ghost convinces them that now is the right time to strike an armored car carrying $20 million. The “takers” carefully plot out their strategy and draw nearer to the day of the heist, but their activities have brought a reckless, rule-breaking police officer named Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) closer to learning their identities. As Welles and his partner, Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez), get closer, things get crazy and new players move into the game.

Early on in the film, I recognized Takers as a sort of urban contemporary take on Michael Mann’s influential heist flick, Heat (1995), but Takers isn’t the complex and insightful character study that Mann’s film is. Takers’ characters are either shallow (John, A.J.), potential poorly executed (Ghost), or well-developed, but shorted on time (Jack Welles, Gordon Cozier).

Takers moves quickly and has a cool, slick visual manner befitting an L.A. crime film. Gripping set pieces open the film, straddle the film’s middle, and close the film, all of which make this work very well as an action movie. Takers is a thrill to watch. It’s a shame that the writing on the character side isn’t stronger, because that is pretty much what keeps Takers from being an exceptional action and crime film. Still, Takers is better than most recent crime films, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel or even a prequel.

7 of 10

Tuesday, January 25, 2011