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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pompeii...

Mount Vesuvius wreaks havoc on the city of Pompeii in POMPEII.

Earlier today, I watched Paul W.S. Anderson's cinematic take on the volcanic eruption that wiped out a Roman city back in 79 A.D., and all I can say is, this was one of the most derivative movies I've seen in a while. Clearly, Anderson and/or his screenwriting team for Pompeii must have viewed the film Gladiator (and maybe the 2004 Brad Pitt flick, Troy) around the time the script was being written. From a man (Milo, played by Kit Harington) who lost his family due to a murderous Roman politician (Corvus, played by Kiefer Sutherland) and befriending an African slave (Atticus, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) who he was suppose to fight to the death in a gladiatorial fight, to the 'thumb-down' gesture and the line, "We who are about to die, salute you," Pompeii is the unofficial and CGI-heavy sequel to Ridley Scott's 2001 Academy Award winner. While the thumb-down gesture and "We who are about to die..." salute was used in real life (I think), I find it amusing that Anderson must have presumed that enough time had passed since Russell Crowe's Oscar-winning take on Maximus to copy Scott's flick pretty much scene-by-scene...up until the eruption of Mount Vesuvius itself. Not surprisingly, the visual effects of the volcano coming to life and decimating Pompeii was top-notch—and I'm tempted to see how the visuals in Pompeii compare to those of 1997's Volcano and Dante's Peak. Or the volcanic eruptions on the planet Mustafar in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, for that matter.

As Cassia (Emily Browning) looks on, Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) confronts Milo (Kit Harington) in POMPEII.

I have to give props to Anderson for opening the movie with a shot of Pompeii victims completely encased in volcanic ash...which is what really happened. You can actually see plaster casts of these poor souls in person at the Archaeological Museum of Naples in Italy today. Apart from the volcano part, I also wanted to check out this film just to see how well Kiefer Sutherland pulled off a Roman accent as Corvus—what with me being a huge fan of 24 and all. I'm also a big fan of Emily Browning after watching her ass-kicking performance as Babydoll in the 2011 Zack Snyder flick, Sucker Punch (Browning was also in the 2004 Jim Carrey film, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events...but she wasn't exactly toting a sword or automatic rifles in that movie). And in case you're wondering, no, not even her character Cassia was able to avoid Vesuvius' wrath. That is all.

Milo and Cassia share a moment before they confront their fate at the hands of Mount Vesuvius in POMPEII.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

RoboCop: Movie Review...

Maimed by a car bomb explosion, detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) dons silver robotic armor in ROBOCOP.

"I won't buy that for a dollar..." Such is Rick Mattox's (Jackie Earle Haley) updated take on the classic line from Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop. While there were no criminals who melted in acid or that other memorable quote "Can you fly, Bobby?" in this remake of the 1987 sci-fi satire, the new flick is still a decent one that provides an allegory on the use of unmanned drones here in the United States. Talk show host Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) actually has some pretty interesting lines about how Americans are resistant to robots being used on native soil to police this country (and potentially invading privacy rights), despite the fact that in real life (for folks who haven't been watching the news for the last ten years), drones are being used to lethal effect in other nations and dispatching terrorists (which may include those who were born here in the U.S.) left and right long before they put their attack plans into motion. But enough about the political undertones of RoboCop... Let's talk about the part-man, part-machine, all-cop himself.

Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), Tom Pope (Jay Baruchel), Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) and Liz Kline (Jennifer Ehle) are members of OmniCorp in ROBOCOP.

In terms of the 'Tin Man' (a nickname given to RoboCop by Mattox), Joel Kinnaman did a commendable job playing Detective Alex Murphy and his eventual robotic self. Kinnaman looks just as imposing in the metal suit as Peter Weller did in the 1987 flick and 1990's RoboCop 2. With the rest of the cast, Abbie Cornish (of 2012's Seven Psychopaths) does a great job and looks beautiful as Murphy's wife Clara, Michael Keaton is devious (in a good way) as OmniCorp owner Raymond Sellars, Gary Oldman is channeling the conflicted heroism of Commissioner Gordon in The Dark Knight trilogy through Dr. Dennett Norton, Haley clearly had a lot of fun playing the humorous character Mattox, Liz Kline—played by Jennifer Ehle (of Zero Dark Thirty)—is just as delightfully shady as Keaton's Sellars, Jay Baruchel (of last year's This Is the End) is amusing as Tom Pope, and Samuel L. Jackson took his role as Novak in stride. One thing's for sure, director José Padilha put lots of effort into this movie having a stellar cast to make up for the absence of biting satire that the original film possessed.

Alex Murphy confronts Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley) in ROBOCOP.

Unlike the original RoboCop flick, this one went more global by having OmniCorp dispatch its army of ED-209s to places such as Afghanistan, and having Murphy (severely-maimed from a car-bomb explosion outside of his house) don his silver (and then the Dark Knight-ish black) armor at a remote facility in China. Speaking of the armor, one cool thing about this RoboCop movie over the first one is that we see what's underneath the metal. Like General Grievous from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, all that's left of Murphy are his head, lungs, heart(?) and right hand. Murphy apparently doesn't have the capacity to eat (since we don't see him eat baby food like Weller's version did in '87)...what with his digestive system being removed and all. But it was a nice touch by Padilha to use modern visual effects to allow the audience to view what was underneath the suit that allowed RoboCop to strike fear into the hearts and minds of criminals throughout the city of Detroit.

Alex Murphy reunites with his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) in ROBOCOP.

All-in-all, RoboCop was an entertaining film. It is understandable that CGI would be utilized to create scores of ED-209s that could move much more dynamically than the full-scale puppet used in the 1987 version, and that the 2014 RoboCop is much more agile and can leap over large walls in a single bound. Plus, he gets to drive through the streets of Detroit on a souped-up motorcycle that almost sounds like the Batpod from Christopher Nolan's last two Batman films. I would also have to give props to Padilha for briefly featuring Basil Poledouris' main music theme for the 1987 flick at the beginning and end credits of this movie. And last, but definitely not least, I have to give kudos to Padilha for allowing Murphy to regain the iconic silver suit near the end of this film. The black 'tactical' armor was cool...but nothing beats the silver covering that fans have come to know and love since its metallic feet first made those "wamp, wamp" sounds throughout the halls of that Detroit police station in 1987. That is all. "Thank you for your cooperation..."

Donning black tactical armor, Alex Murphy is about to neutralize a criminal who was hiding amongst the crowd in ROBOCOP.

Friday, February 14, 2014

RoboCop 2...

A replica of Cain from ROBOCOP 2.

In honor of José Padilha's remake of Paul Verhoeven's sci-fi classic RoboCop being released in theaters this week, just thought I'd post these images of Cain...the main mechanical villain of 1990's RoboCop 2. Back when this film was released (I just finished 4th grade around the time it came out), I was a huge fan of Cain—thinking that his design was a lot cooler than that of ED-209 from the first movie. To this day, I still dig Cain's design...and can definitely picture him being a more brutal and unstoppable machine through the use of computer-generated effects should an updated version of him pop up in a future RoboCop sequel (assuming the new RoboCop doesn't flop at the box office). RoboCop 2 was helmed by none other than The Empire Strikes Back's Irvin Kershner...and this was his last directorial work before Kershner passed away in 2010.

A screenshot of Cain from ROBOCOP 2.

Cain wreaks havoc inside an auditorium in ROBOCOP 2.

Cain prepares to open fire in ROBOCOP 2.

Cain opens fire in ROBOCOP 2.

RoboCop (Peter Weller) battles Cain in ROBOCOP 2.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The LEGO Movie...

Emmet (Chris Pratt) is unaware of the destiny that will befall him in THE LEGO MOVIE.

Everything is awesome!!! Everything is cool when you're part of a team! That um, awesome song (by Tegan and Sara featuring The Lonely Island) is still stuck in my head after watching The LEGO Movie earlier today. Featuring the voices of an all-star cast that includes Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Jonah Hill and even Shaquille O'Neal, this flick does absolute justice to the classic toy blocks on which this film is based. The LEGO Movie conveys the theme that LEGOs are meant to be turned into any creation that a child can fathom in his or her mind...and that these creations aren't meant to stay permanent through the lack of vision and the reckless use of Krazy Glue. Bent on using the latter product to take the fun out of LEGOs is Will Ferrell, who plays the main animated villain Lord Business as well as the live-action Man Upstairs. Pratt (who played a Navy SEAL in Zero Dark Thirty and stars in NBC's Parks and Recreation) does a great job voicing the main protagonist named Emmet...an Average Joe who would save Legoland when he finally embraces his destiny of being the MasterBuilder.

Emmet becomes friends with Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), Benny (Charlie Day), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) in THE LEGO MOVIE.

Along with having really great animation (I couldn't help but feel nostalgic when classic LEGO sets—ranging from castle fortresses to spaceships—that I used to own and wanted to own when I was young were brought to life on the big screen), it was fun to see cameos by other brand characters that LEGO was able to build toys for over the last decade or so. Among them are Batman (voiced humorously by Will Arnett), Superman (Channing Tatum), Wonder Woman (voiced by The Avengers and How I Met Your Mother's Cobie Smulders), C-3PO (once again voiced by Anthony Daniels) and Lando Calrissian (voiced by Billy Dee Williams... One wonders if he'll reprise his role as live-action Lando in next year's Star Wars: Episode VII). It wasn't a surprise to see Batman, Superman and other Justice League members in The LEGO Movie—seeing as how this flick was produced by Warner Bros., which owns the rights to all DC Comics characters—but it was cool to see Star Wars references as well.

Emmet is greeted by Superman (Channing Tatum) and the Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) in THE LEGO MOVIE.

While The LEGO Movie may not have been as moving (only slightly so) as such Pixar flicks as Up or WALL-E, it was still a great film for kids and adults alike. You would think that it would be a straightforward cartoon like the aforementioned Disney films and other movies such as Shrek or Despicable Me, but that live-action scene featuring Will Ferrell's Man Upstairs having a change of heart after seeing his son's imagination come into play was a nice touch. Considering how well-received this movie has been with the critics, and how big this film will do at the box office this weekend, it's pretty much a sure bet that The LEGO Movie will see a sequel. Assuming that the sequel strikes the right notes that its predecessor is doing, The LEGO Movie has a chance to spawn a series that will be as moving as say, Pixar's Toy Story franchise. Everything will be awesome if that was the case. Carry on.

Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson) and Lord Business (Will Ferrell) are up to no good in THE LEGO MOVIE.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)

Yesterday, we lost yet another phenomenal actor when Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose in New York City. The winner of the Best Actor Academy Award for his role in 2005's Capote, Philip Seymour Hoffman had been battling heroin addiction when he passed away in his New York apartment on Super Bowl Sunday. It is obviously very unfortunate that an actor who starred in such movies as Scent of a Woman, The Big Lebowski, Patch Adams, Mission: Impossible III, Moneyball, The Master, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and both installments of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay would have an accomplished life end on a tragic note. Despite the nature and cause of his death, Hoffman should be remembered for all of the excellent work that he did in a film and TV career that spanned more than 20 years. Rest In Peace, Mr. Hoffman... He was 46.

Philip Seymour Hoffman in his Oscar-winning role as Truman Capote in 2005's CAPOTE.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction...

A battle-ready Optimus Prime hitches a ride atop Grimlock in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Check out these awesome screenshots from the Super Bowl spot for Transformers: Age of Extinction! Seeing Grimlock and what appears to be Swoop in all of their live-action glory makes up for watching the Denver Broncos stink it up in Super Bowl XLVIII. Go Dinobots! As if June 27 couldn't come soon enough...

The Decepticon called Lockdown arrives on Earth in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Optimus Prime is about to confront Lockdown in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Lockdown arms himself in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Optimus Prime is shot by Lockdown in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Lockdown wreaks havoc on a passing car in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Optimus Prime is held captive by Lockdown in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

An Autobot named Crosshairs shows off his mid-air combat skills in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Bumblebee dodges an explosion in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Optimus Prime and Grimlock are ready for combat in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.