Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Robocop”

Movies that entertained me in 2014

best-movies-2014

Following on from my last post about my favourite music from this year, today I present the movies I watched that were released in 2014. Unlike my music list, this list is a review for the movies I watched, not just the ones I really enjoyed. As such I get the chance to highlight a couple of films that everyone should avoid watching, if they haven’t as yet been sullied.

There were a lot of good films released in 2014, especially in the action genre. But I will note that more films are suffering from the dreaded PG13 rating, whereby horrific violence is glossed over to save us from harm. All this really does is mean that we have violence without consequences portrayed in film. And no nudity. At least the DVD versions often have a more mature cut of the film available. Still no nudity. FSM forbid there be nudity. Won’t somebody think of the children!

By release date:

Snowpiercer
Technically released last year but only made it to Australia (US, etc) this year, as it was a South Korean production. I have been very impressed with the films coming out of Korea, with visuals and camera work that belie the production costs. Snowpiercer is no exception to this and managed to attract an international cast. Unlike many Hollywood films, Snowpiercer, and other Korean films I have seen, are not afraid of going for the hard ending to the film. Expect to see more from the Korean film-makers and their influence spread.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Inspired by, or based upon, or royalty check paid to, Tom Clancy for his Jack Ryan series of novels; Shadow Recruit is the latest take on the character. Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford (who killed Sean Bean) and Ben Affleck have all brought Ryan to the big screen, with adaptations of a series of books I gave up on back in my teens. There was nothing particularly wrong with this movie, it was entertaining enough, but there was also nothing that was going to see this franchise have another instalment soon.

The Raid 2: More Arse Kicking
You could be forgiven for thinking that there wasn’t further story to be had from The Raid. Given that the first film was pretty much one long fight scene that the hero won, what more was there to do? Aside from visit the hospital and spend months recuperating. But when a film that awesome is made there is always going to be a sequel, no matter how tenuous the narrative link is (although apparently the sequel is based upon a discarded script used in early development by the director). Where The Raid was flat out action, The Raid 2 has more suspense and plot, and plenty more awesome action. Can’t wait for the next Judge Dredd film to be based on it.

Non Stop: Taken on a Plane
Liam Neeson beats up bad guys on a plane. This time he’s an alcoholic and not really sure who he should be beating up. Not a patch on Taken but has a better plot than Taken 2.

RoboCop
It is hard to remake a classic film, especially in Hollywood, which generally requires writers and directors to gather up copies of the old classic to burn in a fire pit and then piss on the ashes in order to develop a script. When judged as a brand-new movie with no baggage from Verhoeven or the 80s (not one bad 80s suit or haircut appeared in this film), then Robocop is actually worth watching. In fact, I’d go as far to say that it is worth watching the film just to see Samuel L Jackson’s performance as a loud-mouth, arrogant, douchebag cable news anchor (you know, Bill O’Reilly). But we can’t ignore the baggage, so this comes off as a pale imitation. Still superior to the other Verhoeven remake, Total Recall.

The Lego Movie
Honey, where are my paaaants? The Lego Movie has grabbed a lot of attention and it is well deserved. The movie isn’t without its faults, but it is a kids film that doesn’t silently make parents wish they had decided to be ‘just good friends’ a decade ago.

3 Days to Kill
There were a lot of ingredients in this film that suggested it would taste fantastic. Instead it was a bit bland and made you feel guilty about eating all those calories for no reward.

300: Rise of an Empire
I am an unashamed Eva Green fan. I could happily spend 2 hours watching her stare at the camera, she is that good an actor (more on that in my 2014 in TV). All the ingredients that made 300 awesome are back (except Gerard Butler) with a more expansive stage. The director was clearly going for epic and almost made an action flick that got there. Unfortunately the cool visuals have been copied by too many other movies since the original, so much of the impact is lost.

Need for Speed
I played a lot of Need for Speed when I was younger, so it was awesome to watch the game being brought to life in the movies… Is that an oxymoron? Aaron Paul holds this film together, since the material is paper thin, and NFS wasn’t exactly weighed down with plot as a game. Enjoyable whilst being nothing amazing.

Captain America: Winter Soldier
This was just such an awesome film. The script was inspired by the classic run of comics by Ed Brubaker, with the writers and director managing to capture so much of what a good superhero comic is all about. Without much doubt, Captain America: Winter Soldier, was my favourite film of the year.

Sabotage
Just awful. There is virtually nothing to like about this film. All the characters are unlikable, the script doesn’t make sense, the ending feels like a let down, and not even Arnie’s charisma can stop this steaming pile of elephant crap from being one of the worst films I’ve ever watched.

Transcendence
Not many people liked this film, yet it wasn’t as bad as most claimed. The hate is probably a hangover from the last Johnny Depp vehicle, The Lone Ranger, which will haunt him to his deathbed. That doesn’t make Transcendence a good film, as it is slow, predictable, and crammed with undeveloped characters. But it has Cillian Murphy in it and Paul Bettany does his Paul Bettany thing, so the movie is watchable.

Brick Mansions
Brick Mansions is a remake of the French film District 13. They even got the original star, parkour legend David Belle, to play the same role again. There is nothing to like about this film, they even managed to ruin the parkour scenes with terrible camera work and editing. Watch the original, this was pitiful.

X-Men Days of Future Past
The problem with watching an X-Men movie is that we have seen The Avengers, Iron Man, and the previously mentioned Captain America. There is nothing particularly bad about this movie, but we have just had a slew of excellent comic book movies (which is a rarity), so this pales in comparison. X-Men suffers from being far too serious, lacking humour and interesting dialogue. Also, Hugh Jackman is a tad too lean and veiny in this film.

Edge of Tomorrow
I don’t know that I’ll ever forgive Tom Cruise for making Jack Reacher a foot shorter than he should be. But Edge of Tomorrow goes some way toward making amends. This was an excellent movie and was not the usual Cruise fare. The only thing that annoyed me about the film was the ending, which was the typical Hollywood rubbish. If they had stuck with the ending from the book then they would have had something remarkable.

A Million Ways To Die In The West
Family Guy is one of my favourite TV shows, despite having gone off the boil in recent seasons. Seth MacFarlane made a successful transition to movies with Ted, but some people aren’t enamoured with his brand of humour. I am and this was the funniest film I’ve watched since Ted. It isn’t as good, however, as A Million Ways To Die In The West suffers from being about 20 minutes too long. It seems all recent films are clocking in at 2 hours long, which is 30 minutes too long for a comedy, in my opinion. And A Million Ways could have retained most of the material and come in shorter, just by utilising tighter editing.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Of all the comics to become a blockbuster movie, Guardians is not an obvious choice. But everything about this film is done just right. Everything about Guardians says that it has to walk such a fine line that it should fail miserably. Instead the humour hits its marks, the acting stops the characters falling into Batman & Robin territory, the action is awesome but not overdone, and there is a sentimental note to the film that could have easily become soppy. My second favourite film of the year.

Lucy
It is hard to get past the ridiculous premise of this movie when it is a well known brain myth. But even if you dismiss that, Lucy is a rubbish film, so the use of the 10% Myth is the least of its problems. The main thing I hated was the problem that many of these “I’ve just become super smart” themed movies have (Transcendence had this as well to an extent), and that is the idea that the smarter you become, the more inhumane you become. Smart people = jerks, apparently.

The November Man
This was a solid action movie starring Pierce Brosnan (who killed Sean Bean) showing that he hasn’t lost his action chops. Nothing amazing about this spy-action-thriller, which means Brosnan carries the film. One thing I did hate was the ending, which seemed really odd. I’m sure there is a director’s cut that will be released that will make more sense, as clearly there was a scene missing.

The Equalizer
Denzel Washington is a Man On Fire…. Wait, different movie. Denzel Washington is a man with a particular skill set… Sorry, that’s Liam Neeson. Denzel Washington kills some Russian mobsters using hardware supplies and Sony product placement. The Equalizer is a pretty standard vigilante action movie. What sets it apart, or makes it worth watching, is Denzel, because when is he not worth watching, and the understated story-telling. A lot of films like this go out of their way to beat their audience over the head with various plot points, The Equalizer just pokes their audience in the face.

A Walk Among the Tombstones
Liam Neeson doesn’t beat up nearly enough people in this film.

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Total Recall: the movie, the movie, or the book?

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 7.54.03 pm

At the moment there is a lot of talk about Paul Verhoeven’s ‘trilogy’ of sci-fi movies being remade. I think the terms used to discuss the remakes are stupid, banal, and facile. Verhoeven made three fantastic social satires, that were also science fiction action films: Robocop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers*. Okay, only two were fantastic, Starship Troopers was stupid. They were also all made at a time when you could make a grossly violent film and not be shunned by cinemas and TV in favour of PG13 violence – you know, the violence that is heavy on explosions and pew-pew noises, but light on the consequences of that violence, which raises kids to believe that violence doesn’t hurt anyone.

Robocop: The Reboot has just hit the cinemas, spurring people the internet over to complain about a movie they haven’t seen (new Robocop), a movie that hasn’t been made yet (new Starship Troopers – not to be confused with Super Troopers), and how terrible the recent Total Recall movie was. Anyone would think that Colin Farrell had personally shagged Arnie’s housekeeper the way they talk about the Total Recall remake.

So I did something unthinkable: I rewatched the remake, the Verhoeven/Schwarzenhamneggnburger version, and read the Phillip K Dick short story (or is it a novella?). The reason for doing so? Because these remakes were being derided so heavily. Nothing inspires people to touch wet paint like putting a wet paint sign on it.

Let’s start with the Total Recall remake. It is an action film: good start. It is a sci-fi: in that it doesn’t have a talking dragon in it, thus it can’t be fantasy, despite the lack of ‘science’ in the science fiction, making it closer to fantasy. It has half decent actors in it: I’d watch just about anything with Kate Beckinsale in it since seeing Shooting Fish, as long as the movie doesn’t have Ben Affleck in it – yes that one, let us not speak it’s name. It also appears to have a plot: I could be mistaken.

As a film the Total Recall remake is fine. All the right things explode, all the good guys live, all the bad guys die horribly, most of the needless violence is against robots so we don’t get caught up in the mass genocide that the hero performs. As an adaptation of the short story, you could be forgiven for thinking the film makers only read the first few pages; much like the original movie. As compared to the original Total Recall, it is a pale, facile shadow.

The Arnie version worked as both a straight up action movie, but also had a much better secondary plot about whether it was all happening or all in his head. This part is what makes the original movie closer to a Phillip K Dick adaptation than the new movie. Although the original movie being closer to the source material is probably because the screenwriter and Verhoeven had read the dust jacket of the story, whereas Len Wiseman and his screenwriter just took Verhoeven’s word for it that there was an original story to base the movie upon.

Dick’s story actually has a really funny and interesting twist ending, which neither movie used because the movies and story diverge at about the time when Doug Quaid (Quail in the book) arrives home after visiting Rekall. In fact, We Can Remember If For You Wholesale bears so little resemblance to the movies that you’d more call it an inspiration for them rather than source material. I don’t have a problem with this, as long as they handed Dick a great big cheque, maybe a signed picture of Arnie to go with it, maybe some Planet Hollywood shares as well.

The movies are both good fun, both are entertaining, both are well made, both had dubious understandings of physics. There is nothing wrong with the new movie as a piece of entertainment. But it won’t last the way the original movie has. This comes down to Verhoeven’s handling of the secondary plot, which might as well not exist in the remake. I certainly look forward to the even more facile Total Recall movie that will come out in another 20 years, which will probably not even have a three boobed woman in it.

* I could write an entire essay on how Heinlein’s original novel differed from the movie and how its social comment was far deeper and insightful than the movie.

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