Monday, June 30, 2014

11 Reasons Why The New Robocop Just Didn’t Work

Ask my friends and they’ll tell ya, I was pumped as hell for this new Robocop movie! Why? Because I love the character, ever since I was a kid I loved all things Robocop. So of course I gave this reboot the benefit of the doubt. But now that it’s out on video I can finally give it a proper watch, no expectations, no anticipation, I just watched the movie for what it is. What I wanted to do was pinpoint the exact reasons why it just wasn’t feeling right; cause it never did. Feel right I mean. Boy is this one a letdown, and in so many ways! I still love the original better. So here I leave you guys with the reasons why the new Robocop sucked so badly.

No Urban Decay

In Veerhoven’s Robocop, Detroit was a city in ruins, a dark, decaying city in which crime had taken over; in fact, this is the main reason why Robocop was created, to bring crime rates down so OCP could build their precious Delta City. On the new film, crime isn’t even an issue. The city of Detroit looks clean and wholesome, a far cry from the almost post-apocalyptic feel that Veerhoven brought to the original film. Where’s the criminals? Where’s the terror on the streets?

Robocop Isn’t Special Anymore

One of the things that made Robocop special was that in the first film he was a one of a kind experiment. He was the first cyborg, the first mix of man and robot, the first freaking android. It’s what made him so damn unique and special when he walked down the streets. Sadly on the new film he is just another robot amongst an army of robots that OCP has built. You see on this new film OCP uses their robots for military purposes, so robots are actually becoming common place in this new film; a fact that strips Robocop of his uniqueness.

No Memorable Villains 

Where’s Dick Jones or Clarence Boddicker? I mean, wow, on the first film it seems everyone that was behind creating Robocop was a major villain, even Robocop’s creator only saw Robocop as a means to climb the corporate ladder, as a product, nothing else. The villains in the original Robocop were these big bombastic, selfish villains, the kind that are loud, theatrical and insane…not so on this new film where we don’t even get a decent villain. You know how in the original Robocop villains just went crazy blowing shit up with their super guns? Just because? There’s no such insanity on this new movie, Michael Keaton doesn’t exactly exude evil from his pores does he? Every time I see him, I just see Beetlejuice. This gets me to thinking: where have all the memorable movie villains gone?

Not a Drop of Blood or Graphic Violence

So shoot me, I enjoy over the top violence in films. I know it’s not real, which is exactly what makes it fun to watch! I mean, how about that scene where they pour a vat of chemicals over a villain’s entire body?! What a sight! And how’s about when officer Murphy’s completely over the top death sequence in which they blow up his hand and shoot his brains out? Do you think Robocop shoots bad guys in their genitals on this new film? Hell no! On this new one there isn’t even a hint of that. This new one is the kind of movie where lots of bullets fly, but not an ounce of blood is spilled. Why are action films being softened up like this? Making this new Robocop film PG-13 was a bad move creeps! It sucks balls! I want the over the top violence; it was fun!

Robocop’s Black Suit Does Not Look Robotic

On the original film, Robocop has an all metallic look; this helped him look more robotic. With the black suit from the new film, he looks like a man in a suit; he does not look like a robot. Apparently the filmmakers realized that the black suit didn’t really work because in the last moments of the new film they turn him back to metallic look? So it’s like they realized they made a huge mistake going with the black, but it was too late, they’d already made the movie, so they turned him back to the metallic look in the last frames. Ugh, black Robocop sucks. Give us the original design again. It was way better.  

The Actor Who Plays Robocop Was A Bad Choice

I don't have anything against the actor, but Joel Kinnaman looks goofy as Robocop. He has a goofy looking face; they needed an actor that didn’t look funny in Robo gear. I think it’s something about his round clownish nose or something, but I just couldn’t take the actor seriously. A goofy looking Robocop was not a smart move for this revamping of the character.

I Miss Stop Motion Animation

True, stop motion animation always looked kind of fake in certain movies, but I’m of the opinion that for the Robocop movies, stop motion animation actually worked very well. I mean, we’re talking about robots, they don’t have to look life like, they simply have to look robotic and in my opinion robotic movements can be achieved well through stop motion animation.  I miss stuff like that whole ending sequence in Robocop 2 where the two robots are destroying the city as they fight. Let’s face it, the stop motion animation work done in Robocop 2 by Phil Tippet and crew is awesome to behold. You can bet your ass I didn’t enjoy the CGI fest in the last minutes of the new Robocop. It’s been happening to me more and more often with CGI filled movies, I grow detached because nothing feels real. Sigh.

Where’s the Freaking Satire?

The original Robocop wasn’t a comedy, but it had comedic elements to it. It had satire; it was an exaggeration of real life. This was something that was sorely missing from the new Robocop. It was lifeless and boring, all the characters, all the situations, everything was downplayed to a nullifying, boring film. That satirical tone from the original film was what made it so special. Where were the fake commercials and television shows? That commercial for a board game called ‘Nuke ‘Em’ where you’re supposed to nuke your opponent with nuclear weapons? Hilarious! Where was the “I’d buy that for a dollar” guy? There was nothing similar to any of that in the new film, and it shows. What we were left with was this serious and boring film that only made me miss the sarcastic, mordant tone of the original.

They Eliminated Robocop's Relationship with Lewis

Now this is one of the suckiest things about the new film, they relegated Robocop’s relationship with Lewis to zero. I loved how in the original, Robocop had a lady for a partner, I loved that it was Lewis, I loved that she was this tough chick that could kick as much ass as Robocop. She knew Murphy, she was closest to him before he died. Why the hell change Lewis into a man and on top of everything, Lewis isn’t even part of the film, he’s like a totally forgettable second tier character in the background somewhere. Ugh; bad idea. 

Robocop the Family Man  

The first film creates Robocop and quickly puts him on the streets to do what we want to see him do, fight crime, kick ass. I mean, at the end of the day Robocop is all about cleaning up the streets and fighting crime. Unfortunately this new movie focuses more on Robocop trying to be a family man, all this was quickly brushed upon in the original film to get to the good stuff, Robo vs. the bad guys. Sure Robocop misses his family in the first film, even going as far as returning to his old family home only to discover an empty house for sale, but he quickly realizes he can’t be a family man anymore. It’s who he used to be, not who he is now. On this new one for some reason he thinks he can still be a father to his kid? Or a husband to his wife? How exactly is this supposed to work? Those scenes with Robocop visiting his son and wife just feel all wrong. How can the wife expect Murphy to still be a father and a husband? He’s a freaking cyborg lady! Wake up! Point is, we want to see Robocop fighting bad guys, not trying to go back to family life that he can obviously no longer be a part of.

It’s PG-13

Finally, the real reason why I just don’t like this new Robocop; its PG-13 and as a result toned down for mass consumption. This means, no profanity, no drugs, no nudity. I mean, how awesome is that scene in the original Robocop in which Robocop’s creator (played by Miguel Ferrer) snorts cocaine from the breast of not one, but two prostitutes!? And they made a Saturday morning cartoon out of this movie!? Only in the 80’s! And only in the 80’s would you see the good guy slashing the bad guys throat, and then having said bad guys blood fall all over Robocop’s face! From inception, Robocop was a sci-fi actioneer for adults, why change what made it successful? Of course people will be dissapointed when they find out that what made the original cool is no longer there. Only in the 80’s could you see Robocop shoot a rapist in the nut sack and then say the classic one liner: “You’re move…creep!” Speaking of which, another reason I don’t like this new Robocop: NO ONE LINERS! I want the 80’s back that’s all there is to it. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Altered States (1980)

Title: Altered States (1980)

Director: Ken Russell

Cast: William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban, Drew Barrymore

I wish Paddy Chayevsky had written more films; sadly he died shortly after Altered States was released. I enjoy his writing because there’s always this depth in themes that I don’t get from many screenwriters in Hollywood. His screenplays spoke of intelligent, relevant themes. By way of an example, he wrote Network (1976), which I still consider to be one of the most controversial anti-system films around, very subversive, very critical of society. Now you pair Chayevsky’s writing with an equally good director like Sidney Lumet and the result is nothing short of brilliant, Network is a film I love, it’s like a thunderbolt of truth, highly recommend checking it out. Altered States is also a good example of the kind of writing Chayefsky was good at, brainy stuff with intelligent characters searching for the ultimate truths about God and the origin of man. Can’t get any deeper than that! So how did Chayefsky’s writing pair with a surrealist director like Ken Russell?

In Altered States we meet Eddie Jessup, a scientist experimenting with isolation tanks, hallucinatory drugs and an attempt to regress to a more primal state of existence, namely, Eddie Jessup wants to connect with his inner caveman! You see Eddie thinks that hidden within our DNA are the past experiences of our ancestors and that we could reconnect with those ancestors somehow. This idea is not all together alien to me because Frank Herbert played with similar themes in his Dune novels; the idea that we all have somehow, the lives of our ancestors hidden within us, in our minds, in our DNA and that we could, if we wanted to, reconnect with that collective knowledge and experience. Of course it’s all trippy as hell and many would call it hippy mumbo jumbo, but in my opinion it makes an interesting premise for a sci-fi film, and in the case of Altered States one that explores some very interesting themes. 

Like for example, where did we really come from? Who was the first human being? Who is God? Should we even ponder such questions? The character of Eddie Jessup is a very intelligent one, he is always questioning everything and he’s never afraid of exploring his psychological boundaries. Brainy people tend to wonder with their curiosity into mental territories that most would find terrifying and this is the type of theme that Altered States explores. At the center of the film is the kind of character that likes to poke around existential matters, so existential, so in depth that others around him can’t take it. Similar characters have appeared in films like Darren Aronofsky’s Pi (1998), a film centered around a mathematician looking to decipher the mysteries of the universe through math equations; ultimately that films message is don’t break your head trying to find answers to questions that have no answers. It might just drive you mad. I think Altered States is this kind of film, it’s main character, Eddie Jessup is always pondering the edges of human knowledge, he dives deep into the pool of the unknown. When he comes back from these depths, is he the same guy? Or is he changed somehow?

The film was based on a novel written by Paddy Chayevsky; he even wrote the screenplay himself, which is a good thing in my book. Even though according to director Ken Russell the dialog on the film is almost word for word Chayevsky’s novel and screenplay, Chayevsky was never happy with the resulting film. He thought it was too loud; he didn’t like the overall tone of the film, which is at times overtly dramatic, especially when it comes to William Hurt’s performance as Eddie Jessup, which some might consider a bit over the top, I personally enjoyed it. I mean here’s a guy trying to face god in his experiments! It is my humble opinion that Ken Russell was actually the perfect director for such a surreal and introspective film because his films are always filled with religious iconography, proof of this are films like Gothic (1986) and Lair of the White Worm (1988); two very surreal and nightmarish films. Since the main character in Altered States always ends up thinking about god and the origins of man, Russell exploited this angle of the story and used it to infuse Altered States with his trade mark religious imagery, which translates to lots of crosses, goats, bibles, crucifixions, images of hell, snakes, the whole shebang. So be ready for an onslaught of surreal biblical nightmares. Visually speaking, the film is a complete delight, so many awesome images and colors. By the way, this was also one of the first films to deal with computer generated imagery. But my point is Ken Russell goes all out with some truly special dream sequences, they are one fo the many highlights of the film. 

It’s this awesome mixture of intelligence and art that makes Altered States worth revisiting. Chayevsky commented that while many saw Altered States as him going into more surreal territory, he always thought of the book as a love story, because it’s about this guy who goes after confronting all the darkness and the nothingness, what brings him back is love. Love once again, is what keeps us sane.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Strange Creatures from Filmland (Part 4)

One of the many creatures from Spookies (1986)

Since my “Strange Monsters of Filmland” posts have turned out to be so popular, I thought you guys would enjoy another one. There’s so many more monsters to go around! So here I leave you with another batch of strange cinematic creatures, hope you find this list useful when the time comes to see a cool monster flick!  By the way, if you wanna see more monsters go here!

Film: House (1986)

Creature:  Ex-wife Witch

Comments: House is all about this writer who goes away to a house he’s inherited from his late aunt to write his novel. Unfortunately, this house is a haunted house that drives people crazy by making them face their personal demons. The film offers up some pretty amusing creatures, one of them is this witch you see pictured above, who by the way used to be the protagonists wife! Should he shoot her? Is it really his ex-wife? Or is this house playing tricks on him again?

Monster Quote: “Where's you're son Roger? He's Dead!”

Film: Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Creature: Demonic Rabbit 

Comments: Twilight Zone: The Movie is an anthology film and one of the stories is about this little boy named Anthony who has the powers of a god! Anything he wishes for comes true! Problem is he’s just a child! He lives in a house with his family, whom he hates. And if there’s one thing you should never do is piss off a kid with the powers of a God! When he gets angry, he brings all the Warner Bros. cartoons he watches to life! As a result, we get this crazy fucked up version of Bugs Bunny amongst other cartoony yet monstrous looking beasties! 
Monster Quote: “I know you have a power, a gift that makes you special. You better be careful, for one day it might be too big for you to control.”

Film: The Gate (1987)

Creature:  Demon from Hell

Comments: The Gate is all about these kids who unwillingly do every rite necessary to open up a gate to hell, right in their backyard! It isn’t long before all matter of demons, zombies and midget monsters start roaming around their living room! At one point, a gate to hell opens up right in the middle of their living room and this gigantic demon pops out to spook everyone!

Monster Quote: “We accidently summoned demons who used to rule the universe, to come and take over the world”

Film: Night of the Creeps (1986)

Creature:  Midget Alien

Comments: Night of the Creeps is like a sci-fi flick from the 50’s, mixed with a zombie flick, a detective flick, a slasher flick and an alien invasion flick, all rolled up into one big fat cinematic blunt! You see, in Night of the Creeps, this crazy alien scientist pictured above creates these slugs that crawl in through your mouth and procreate in your brain! Then, when all the new slugs are ready, your head blows up and a gazillion alien slugs roam free, looking for more brains to procreate in! Crazy huh? What? You haven’t seen this flick yet? What are you waiting for? Go see it now!

Monster Quote: “Zombies, exploding heads and creepy crawlies…and a date for the formal. This is classic Spanky!”

Film: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

Creature:  Mr. Hyde

Comments: This film is based on Alan Moore’s comic, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which essentially brings together all these classic heroes all in one story. This is why we get Allan Quatermain, The Invisible Man, Dorian Gray, Captain Nemo, Tom Sawyer and finally, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They all get together to stop a villain from taking over the world, you know how that goes. One of the coolest moments in the film is when Dr. Jekyll takes a potion and turns into the monstrous Mr. Hyde. This movie is hated by many, but I honestly find it to be tons of fun. And with gnarly monsters like Mr. Hyde to make things all the more entertaining? Sign me up.

Monster Quote: “You can’t shut me out forever, drink the elixir!”

Film: The Fly (1986)

Creature:  The Fly

Comments: On this David Cronenberg remake of the classic horror film, we meet Seth Brundle, a brilliant scientist who’s just figured out the secrets of teleportation, by experimenting on himself! Unfortunately, when he teleported himself, a fly got into the telepod with him and voila! Now he is half human, half house fly! He goes through some amazingly gross transformations, but the end result is the horrendous (yet cool, ‘cause monsters are cool let’s not forget about that!) creature you see pictured above.

Monster Quote: “I am an insect, who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over and the insect is awake”

Film: The Monster Squad (1987)

Creature:  The Creature from the Black Lagoon

Comments: In Monster Squad, Dracula is reuniting all the classic monsters from the Universal Monsters movies to aid him in taking over the world! Imagine that, a world, ruled by Dracula! So anyhow, one of these creatures is The Creature from the Black Lagoon! Honestly, this is one of my favorite interpretations of that monster; it was done by Stan Winston studios, and as you can see, the creature rocks! It really looks alive on film.

Monster Quote: “Creature stole my twinkie!”

Film: Leviathan (1989)

Creature: Leviathan

Comments: So once upon a time during the late 80’s James Cameron was shooting The Abyss (1989) and every studio in the world wanted to do their copycat version of this big ass movie that Cameron was making for 20th Century Fox, so Carolco made Deep Star Six (1989) and MGM made Leviathan (1989), which was a mash up of two much better films: Aliens (1979) and The Thing (1982). But still, Leviathan had creature effects designed by Stan Winston, which is why the end result kind of baffles me because it just doesn’t look all that great on film, in my book anyways. The film worked better when it kept the creature in the shadows, the big reveal was kind of a letdown. Still, the film has it’s moments and the art direction and set design are impressive. 

Monster Quote: “That’s just great, you’re telling me we’ve got a goddamn Dracula in here with us?”

Film: Dreamscape (1984)

Creature:  Humanoid Snake

Comments: Dreamscape is all about these scientists who’ve built a machine that allows you to go into peoples dreams. In order to help these machines, they need people with a certain mental disposition, they gotta be psychics! So anyhow, at one point one of the psychics enters a childs mind to try and help him overcome his fear of nightmares and the creatures he confronts in them, amongst these creatures the child encounters in his nightmares is the humanoid snake pictured above. By todays standards the stop motion animation is pretty awful, but still, the idea behind the creature is kinda nuts which is why I included it here.

Monster Quote: “In this world Alex, you’re nothing. And me, I’m God!”

Film: Hellraiser (1987)

Creature: Demon from Hell

Comments: Hellraiser is one of those films that’s filled from top to bottom with makeup effects, gore, monsters and demons. In it, a girl named Kirsty comes into contact with the Lament Configuration, a puzzle box that when solved opens the gates of hell wide open. One of two things happen, strange creatures known as Cenobytes come and get you so they can take you back to hell and torture you for all eternity, or you wonder into hell out of curiosity, which is what Kristy does when she solves the puzzle. Upon her wonders through the hallways of hell she encounters many dark, strange vistas, one of them is the strange creature pictured above! This strange creature chases her straight out of hell and into the real world!

Monster Quote: “You solved the box, we came. Now you must come with us, taste our pleasures.”

Film: The Princess Bride (1987)

Creature:  R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size)

Comments: In The Princess Bride, the good guys are escaping the bad guys and at one point they decide to hide in ‘The Fire Swamp’ a swamp that has three inherit dangers: The Flame Spurt which is a burst of fire that comes out of the ground every couple of seconds and can be avoided by this warning sound it makes before it bursts, the lightning sand, which is basically quicksand, and the R.O.U.S.’s, which are these savagely huge rats. Basically, imagine what a man sized rat would be like and that’s an R.O.U.S.

Monster Quote: “Rodents of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.” [Immediately an R.O.U.S. attacks them]

Film: The Unnamable (1988)

Creature:  The Unnamable

Comments: Based on the H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name, The Unnamable is the story of this woman who during the 1880’s has this horrible looking baby that is so ugly that they don’t even know what to name it, so they call it the unnamable. The creature murders its own family and ends up locked up in the dungeon of a house. Fast forward to 1988 and a group of curious teenagers, who have heard of the legend want to find out if it’s true. Of course, we all know what happens once they get there. The creature is real and so is the mayhem. Even though the film isn’t all that great, I always liked the way this creature looked.  

Monster Quote: “They are all dead!”

Film: Little Monsters (1988)

Creature:  Boy

Comments: The idea behind Little Monsters is very similar to Pixar’s Monsters Inc. (2001), that of a magical world where monsters live and train to scare the beejezus out of kids everywhere. Fred Savage becomes best friends with Maurice, one of the monsters played by 80’s comedian Howie Mandel. Little Monsters is ultra cheesy and has some cringe inducing dialog, but the monster underworld offers up a lot of strange creatures; one even played by Rick Ducommun. One of the weirdest monsters is a character called ‘Boy’, the leader of the monsters. At one point his face is ripped off and we get the beautiful looking beastie pictured above. A cheesy movie no doubt, but a nightmare inducing one if you saw it when you were a a kid!

Monster Quote: “We’re the reason brothers hate their sisters”

Film: The Church (1989)

Creature: Winged Demon

Comments: Michelle Soavi’s The Church is a film about how these overzealous Christians killed and buried all these people that weren’t Christian, and then built a church on top of their buried bodies! Christians can be quite morbid sometimes!  So anyhow, fast forward a few hundred years and a group of people get locked inside of this church with absolutely no way of getting out! On top of things the angry spirits of all the people that were buried start attacking everybody! At one point, one of the demons manages to lure a lady to have sex with her on top of an altar!  This is one of the strangest images on this film, and it isn’t the only demon to get some on this film either!

Film: Coneheads (1993)

Creature: The Garthok

Comments: So when the Coneheads return to their home world, they are put on trial for not having conquered earth. In order to pay for their failure Beldar Conehead must battle The Garthok, the cool stop motion animation creature pictured above. This was one of the last times that stop motion animation was used in a major motion picture; cgi was just starting to take over with the release of Jurassic Park (1993), from here on in it’s all cgi all the time in monster movies!

Monster Quote: “Therefore you will Narftle The Garthok!”

Film: House (1986)

Creature: Winged Skull

Comments: I know this is my second monster from House (1986), but this one is just too weird not to be mentioned. At one point in the film, Roger Cobb, the films protagonist has to make his way down this portal that leads into a pit of darkness. As he descends into darkness, hanging from a rope, suddenly a winged skull appears, takes Roger’s shotgun and shoots him with it. The visual is pretty crazy, and if I’m not mistaken, Sam Raimi used this exact same creature during the opening credits of Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987). 

Monster Quote: “Damn! Come back from the grave and ran out of ammunition!”

Film: Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)

Creature: Gargoyle

Comments: This is an anthology film, and one of the stories is called ‘Lovers Vow’ and it’s all about this artist who stumbles upon a gargoyle in the back alley of a seedy part of town. The gargoyle makes the artist a proposal, he will grant the artist incredible success and wealth, but in exchange, the artist must promise never to talk about their encounter, he must never talk to anyone about the gargoyle. The artist accepts the deal, but can he keep his promise? What will happen if he breaks it? 

Monster Quote: “If I let you go, you must swear you will never see your sorrow, never say you heard me speak, never tell anyone how I look, never repeat what I have said; a promise, forever.”

Film: Night of the Demons (1988)

Creature: Possessed Angela

Comments: Night of the Demons is all about Angela, a nerdy goth girl who throws a Halloween party in Hull House, the house that all the kids are afraid of. You know, the house that everyone says is haunted, only this time, it really is! Angela invites a selected few to her Halloween bash, but you know how stupid teens can get, so they decide to do a séance, on Halloween night, in a house that is crawling with demons! It isn’t long before the teens start dying in gruesome ways and Angela becomes possessed by demons from hell!

Monster Quote: “Blessed be the sinners, for the Day of Atonement is at hand”

Film: Deep Star Six (1989)

Creature: Crustacean

Comments: So yeah, this is the film that was to compete with James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989), but of course, we all know which film ended up being the better film of the two. Funny story about this movie is that James Cameron actually asked the filmmakers of Deep Star Six to delay their film so it wouldn’t compete with The Abyss, but the filmmakers behind Deep Star Six went ahead anyway and released their film before The Abyss. In my opinion Cameron had nothing to worry about because while they are both “underwater monster movies” they are also vastly different in tone. Cameron’s film is more epic and grand in scope while Deep Star Six is a b-movie all the way, more of a sci-fi horror film, a straight forward monster flick with a creature that looks like an ancient crustacean beast.

Monster Quote: “Eat this, you big sack of fish shit!”

A scene from Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)


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