Robocop (2014)

Let’s get one thing off the table here: Whatever I think of this movie I’m reviewing, there’s one completely objective issue I’m going to run into: It has the exact same title as the popular 1987 movie of which it is a remake. This makes discussion hard. So henceforth, I will call the original “RoboCop” – since, after all, it was made in the faraway mists of time when you were allowed to use CamelCase without leading your Wikipedia entry to ruin and misfortune. Conversely, the remake we’re talking about here will be “Robocop”. I’m sure that won’t create any problems.

A year later, there’s not a whole lot of love or hate for Robocop, passable little SF and action-tinged social commentary that it is. The consensus seems to be that remaking RoboCop was a bad idea in the first place since it was so good, but I think that’s not looking far enough into why that is.

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Thor: The Dark World

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Thor was bad because so much of it was what Douglas Adams termed “a beautiful void” (speaking of Adams, the movie is also one of the better adaptations of his works); very good looking, but with almost nothing in the way of character development or plot. Sure, people are talking and moving around with haste, but for long stretches of the movie it’s never clear what they plan to accomplish.

Thor: The Dark World recognizes this problem in its predecessor, and addresses it by giving it an even thinner, less interesting plot that only serves as an excuse for a veritable toy box of a film – a combination of loosely connected performances, set pieces, scenes, locales and pithy lines that exist mostly for their own sake rather than to combine into any kind of story.

As such, this review will be on its terms, not mine, presenting a binary judgement of each of these items in chronological order, with minimal connective explanation from yours truly.

Rest assured, the fact that I’ve got my hands so full this month with Catching Fire, Frozen and Day of the Doctor all in five days has nothing at all to do with this.

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THUMBS UP: It’s correct – Thor is the main character in the movie, and the Dark World is a crucial location

THUMBS DOWN: Even worse than Star Trek Into Darkness when it comes to the endless parade of “dark” titles – Knight, Shadows, Of the Moon…uh, City, Crystal, Star…Souls… (more…)

Batman: Arkham Origins

It’s scarily easy to make Batman look pathetic.

What’s this fall’s most-anticipated new TV show directed exclusively at nerds? Well, probably the new The Flash show, thanks to its devotion to comic-book style storytelling and reliance on sexy young men as major characters.

But that’s sort of irrelevant right now, since in a clear second place, we get Gotham, another DC universe adaptation, although how much of an adaptation it really is is sort of in doubt. Originally it was supposed to be a cop show based around increasingly more outlandish and supernormal criminals, who would of course be cadet Batman villains, but then it became apparent that this wouldn’t have wide enough appeal, and it became straight up Smallville with Batman instead of Superman.

I mention Gotham because it’s only the second Batman prequel to come out in a year – the other is highly successful video game and Grand Theft Auto V’s lone, audacious competitor, Batman: Arkham Oranges.

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Agents of SHIELD: Pilot

Well, you try thinking of a better acronym.

Yeah, I like the Marvel movies.

But yeah, I also don’t like quite a few things they represent – like how commercialized they are, the ouroboros storytelling method that means the movies won’t stop even if everyone wants them to, and so on – but the fact remains that the actual movies are still in a golden age because of their post-modern storytelling sensibilities and an imaginative visual style coupled with archetypal storytelling…man, those were long words.

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Iron Man 3

Twice in a row now with the baking sheets...

Let’s get real for a moment here, and say that the multi-billion-dollar juggernaut of the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs no introduction. I’ll just briefly run down the stuff you haven’t heard before: i.e. my opinions on the movies I’m too late to the party to cover.

The Avengers is a flawed movie, but I can tell already that it’s a classic of our times – no matter how contrived all the fighting is.

Thor is the worst film in the franchise at time of writing  – mostly for the long swaths of nothing going on that permeate most of the film.

– I don’t care about the Hulk enough to watch it.

Captain America: The First Avenger was lots of fun, but it really dragged around the middle and lots of the plot threads were left hanging by the rushed and incongruous “freeze” ending.

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Dredd

Grrrr! Grumble growl grrrrr.

In this modern age of movies, of $200 million budgets fast becoming the norm, of Man of Steel and Pacific Rim losing huge amounts of money for their studios despite critical and financial success, of Peanuts The Movie and Finding Dory and Transformers 4, Dredd feels like a breath of fresh air.

It’s not a movie for everyone: An independent movie, adapting a long-running British comic with a good-sized fan base. Written, directed and produced by people in this fan base, for a sum of money that I have to refer to as “low budget” despite being several times more money than I’ll ever see in one place. A cast of accomplished character actors playing out a tightly focused story, with minimal characterization and next to no symbolism or message.

Though it’s by no means flawless, Dredd is one of those movies I support on principle. I thought that movies like it were the whole point of all this geek-culture-becoming-the-norm deal: niche films that get wide theatrical releases and big advertising campaigns like broader and more mainstream movies. But lately those have been few and far between, and so it’s nice to have the movie out there out there. (more…)

The Dark Knight Rises

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t weigh in on the tragic Colorado theater shootings that so marred this film’s release…

So I guess I’ll just sit here and be remiss, then. On with the show, folks.

Not counting my previous “review”, this is the first comic-book movie I’ve talked about on this site. And so, I’m laying my cards on the table right away: I don’t read comic books. Never have, never plan to. My experience with the medium comes through pop-cultural osmosis, internet memes in the vein of “The Flash makes his pants out of GOES FAST” and “Lex Luthor stole forty cakes, and that’s terrible”, and various adaptations, not the least of which is Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman, the Dark Knight Saga.

Said Saga, a trilogy that concluded in last year’s climactic The Dark Knight Rises, is probably the most well-known and influential trilogy since the original Star Wars. When I realized this, I decided to prepare for the review by rewatching both trilogies in succession.

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The Amazing Spider-Man

No idea about scenes from this movie, folks. All you're getting is this. Enjoy.

No idea about scenes from this movie, folks. All you’re getting is this. Enjoy.

This isn’t a review of The Amazing Spider-Man. This is a boycott.

That’s right, I never saw last’s year’s third-string superhero movie, and I don’t plan to. It’s not the generally lackluster reviews it’s gotten, it’s not a response to its indecisive abstention from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s not the casting.

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