Advertisements

Tag Archive: Robocop


Review by C.J. Bunce

For a movie that had some pretty rough previews, including Tom Hardy as a journalist with some indecipherable dialogue and a scientist who mispronounced a key word in the story, the end result may come as a surprise: Venom is actually a pretty good movie.  Do we credit a great post-production and re-shoots, including a complete redo of the strange “symbiote” explanatory scene, or does Sony need to simply work on improving its movie trailers?  Frankly all that matters is what made it to the screen.  Fans of the comic book anti-hero and villain, of alien invasion movies, of that unique character design from co-creator artist Todd McFarlane, of Tom Hardy, and non-traditional superhero movies, you’ll have to work to find anything wrong with this movie.  It’s a good Halloween month monster movie and you don’t need to know anything about the character or Marvel Comics to jump right in.  But you just might want to check out the comics after you see it.  Like Frank Miller caused Daredevil to become popular, McFarlane made Venom big in the 1980s.  Unlike McFarlane’s movie Spawn, an R-rated film that was too dark for mainstream audiences, the PG-13 rating for Venom makes this movie accessible to everyone.

A mix of the classic alien invasion flick, the horrifying McFarlane character look, with the grimy city vibe like the Detroit of Robocop, Venom has elements that make it feel like it belongs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, regardless of its origin as a Sony film.  As for quality and delivery, it falls somewhere above Blade, Iron Man 2 and 3, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk movies, and Spawn, X-Men 3 and X-Men: Apocalypse, and somewhere below Hellboy and Deadpool.  For most fans of adaptations of comic books on the big screen, that will be enough.  Full of good humor moments, the film doesn’t take itself seriously.  We meet the archetype from 80 years of superhero comics with Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock, an Everyman, a down-and-out guy who can never get a break who gets caught making a few mistakes.  Usually this archetype ends up captured by Batman (or insert other superhero here) and thrown into the slammer, but this time he encounters a body shifting alien presence that merges with him, blending the best and worst of both beings.  Beginning with a crash landing as a SpaceX-inspired ship returns with some specimens from outer space, we eventually meet four alien beings, the lowliest of rank who calls himself Venom.  Merged with Eddie, Venom needs to eat living lifeforms to continue on and he doesn’t grasp the subtleties of only killing bad guys just yet.  Audiences will get to watch these aliens, the symbiotes, body-shift through several random characters (like Denzel Washington’s character in the movie Fallen), including the key cast and an animal or two–and it’s mostly great fun.

Venom is probably a rare time audiences will see Michelle Williams in a stock role.  Usually every part she takes on results in an Oscar-worthy performance, but it’s nice seeing her do something less dramatic.  And she gets some great scenes directly with Venom (including an Easter Egg scene that points straight back to the origin of the character originally discussed between Marvel Comics editor Jim Salicrup and writer/co-creator David Michelinie).  This may be Tom Hardy’s best role since Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (where he was the only good thing in the movie), as he at last gets to play a spectrum of emotions and demonstrate a broad acting range.  Despite what we heard in the movie trailers, his regional American accent is spot on in the final cut and his dialogue is delivered clearly–none of that crazy speech we saw him bring as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises Not hiding behind make-up or masks as in Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk, or Star Trek: Nemesis, Hardy again proves he’s one of the best actors around.  The sound department gets it just right–Hardy’s voice is also the voice transformed into the monstrous, demonic sounding Venom, and it’s unique and effective.  No doubt some elaborate work went on behind the scenes for Hardy-as-Eddie to be arguing with Hardy-as-Venom.  Some of the best lines, and laugh-out-loud moments come from Venom, reminiscent of Gollum and Sméagol.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Review by C.J. Bunce

Let’s cut to the chase:  Daniel Godfrey’s new novel The Synapse Sequence is not just the leading contender for the best science fiction novel of 2018, it’s the most absorbing, riveting, and thrilling science fiction novel I’ve read since I was first blown away by Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park in 1990.  Hyperbole?  Maybe just a little, but when you are reading a new book and you’re taken aback by the twists, turns, and surprises as this book provides, it’s a bit like walking out of a big rock concert, wanting everyone else to witness what you just experienced.  Godfrey is relatively new to the genre, with two solid sci-fi books behind him, New Pompeii (reviewed here) and Empire of Time (reviewed here).  But this story is a completely different take on science fiction, and so deftly written, smartly paced, and completely believable in its speculative reach, Godfrey is worth comparison to some of the greats in the genre for it.

Anna Glover is an investigator with an unfortunately troubled and public past for her conclusions in investigating an airplane crash.  She lives in the somewhat distant future–bots serve man, taking on so many functions that personal freedom is limited.  As told from the alternating viewpoint of Glover in the present and looking back on her life, future London is very familiar and steeped in the world that technology is building right now with so much of life absorbed into the digital world.  When we meet our protagonist she is attempting to lie low conducting trials for a company with an emerging technology, a “synapse sequencer,” which allows a person to be tapped into the mind of another, like a witness to a crime, to experience vivid, shared memories as an observer.  She meets with her boss inside this world, where he lives out most of his life, a life better than he would experience in the real world.  The process requires the help of a monitor, and hers sees that she gets in and out of submersion safely.  But we learn there are risks for anyone who participates in this intermingling of brain activity.  If you’ve seen the 1980s sci-fi classic Dreamscape, the modern classic Source Code, the television series Stitchers, or the shared visions of iZombie, you’ll find no suspension of disbelief issue with the wild ride that awaits you.  The method for the journey isn’t as elaborate (or glitch-filled) as Connie Willis’s elaborate time travel tech, but Godfrey provides enough to submerge us into the stress and angst of Glover as she takes journey after journey to learn the who and why of a case involving a boy in a coma and a missing girl.

You can’t predict where Godfrey will take Glover from chapter to chapter in The Synapse Sequence Godfrey has been likened to an emerging Crichton, but Crichton rarely could craft as satisfying an ending as found here.  The story embraces that speculative futurism like many a Philip K. Dick story (Paycheck, Total Recall/We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, and Minority Report for starters), while weaving in a plausible future from the seeds of new tech today.  He combines the audacious duplicity of Vincent and Jerome in Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca with the foreboding and despair of The Man’s story in Chris Marker’s Le Jetée and Cole’s in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. 

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Yesterday the international press reported that Facebook shut down an artificial intelligence experiment when two robots named Alice and Bob started to communicate with each other in a non-human dialect of their own.  Intended to test the robots’ ability to negotiate with each other, the programmers did not include coding that required their discussions to be intelligible to humans.  A new novel takes the story further as its two lead characters Ray and Ada, also robots, work together to carry out missions to kill businessmen in Los Angeles for a secret client.  Adam Christopher’s new sci-fi novel Killing is My Business is a 1960s noir story, only it’s a different kind of noir.  Not steampunk noir–maybe call it robot noir, it features Ray the robot, not a futuristic android or cyborg, he’s the last of the robots after their use came and went years before the story begins.  Ray was formerly programmed as a private investigator–he has the skill and resourcefulness of Chinatown’s Jake Gittes–only he’s been reprogrammed as a hitman.  He does his business in the city like any P.I. would back in the ’60s, and despite his obvious robotic appearance he still blends in.  It’s still Los Angeles, albeit a parallel Los Angeles, with gorgeous cars, a pulp novel’s worth of detective work, and, of course, plenty of murder to go around.

We read the story through Ray’s eyes and his analytical voice carries some of the innocence of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but mixed with the decisive actions of Robocop, only subtract the ethical subroutines.  He’s smart but a bit of a Pinocchio, somewhat naïve, and his handler Ada only gives him the information he needs to know to do the current job.  His limitation is a 24-hour recording memory, which is wiped when he returns to his alcove each night, but his morning briefings include relevant bits from his past jobs so he’s not completely a blank slate each day.  The stakes are raised if he doesn’t get home, and no, he doesn’t turn into a pumpkin, but he can fail like any machine.

When we meet Ray he thinks he’s embarked on another typical case, only a strange trend may be emerging:  Why are his targets turning up dead before he gets a chance to pull the trigger himself?  Killing is My Business is a mash-up of pulp noir and science fiction, but it’s also as much a robot’s horror tale.

Continue reading

RoboCop Blu-ray

Thank you for your cooperation.

It is likely the best format you will have seen of director Paul Verhoeven’s classic vision of social commentary meeting science fiction since it appeared in theaters 30 years ago.  If you’ve only watched it on TV and in standard formats you’ll want to take another look at RoboCop, your favorite borg cop, on high-definition Blu-ray in its unrated director’s cut.  Known for its excess violence and campy cyborg superheroics, RoboCop avoids the dated look of many of its contemporary films, falling in an elite league of re-watchable, cult-favorite 1980s films with The Terminator and Tron.   Filmed in Dallas for its futuristic building locations instead of its actual story setting in Detroit, the police uniforms, corporate setting, and street scenes all feel as if they could be part of some future, with maybe only hair styles and faked media clips that shout 1980s.

RoboCop remastered

Relive the classic boardroom scene where Ronny Cox’s new alternative police replacement robot has a “glitch.”  Relive the first time you saw Ray Wise and Kurtwood Smith playing their earliest genre roles, plus the late Miguel Ferrer in one of his best roles.  And don’t forget that unforgettable Basil Poledouris (The Hunt for Red October, Starship Troopers, Conan the Barbarian, The Twilight Zone) soundtrack.

Continue reading

magnificent-seven-banner-2016

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s almost more useful to critique the critics than the new movie The Magnificent Seven, released in theaters this weekend.  You’ll find the whole lot so predictable.  The Magnificent Seven is a reboot or a remake (call it what you want) and so the best that critics are willing to do is provide the phoned-in, knee-jerk dismissal of it being something less than the original and therefore not worth the time it takes them to write a thoughtful review.  Or they will compare it to the best Westerns of all time, and tell you why it falls short.  The better reviews will point out that it’s a remake of the 1960 classic Western starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.  The smarter ones will remind you that even that version was based on the original Japanese version, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.  Paycheck earned.  Existence justified.  But that’s all too easy.

Yes, the original 1960 John Sturges version is both a great Western and quite fun (it’s on my top ten list).  The darker original Japanese film is more dramatic, brilliant in its simplicity, and not so much a rousing popcorn movie.  Is the 2016 remake among the best Westerns of all time?  Maybe not.  But is it a good Western?  Absolutely.  Do we always want to see the best picture nominee when we go to the theater?  I don’t.  I want to have fun.  And The Magnificent Seven is a blast.  In fact, critics are looking at it wrong.  It’s actually the year’s best superhero movie.

I understand the modern film critic’s dilemma, especially when Hollywood seems to have lost its imagination, churning out remake after remake.  It’s the same old song:  If you were a fan of–or better yet–love the original, you’re more likely than not to brush off the remake altogether, or at least not give it the attention it deserves.  Those who never saw the original or those who can view a remake as its own incarnation–those who can tell themselves their feelings for the remake will not “ruin” their feelings about the original–probably enjoyed the Star Trek reboot from 2009, or Always, or Assault on Precinct 13, or The Flight of the Phoenix, The Fog, The Jackal, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Money Pit, Ocean’s Eleven, RoboCop, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, or Walking Tall.  Each of these, viewed on their own merits is a great film.  They may even be good remakes.  Those who avoid The Magnificent Seven are missing out on a fun outing.  And a good remake.

sensmeier-magnificent-seven-scene

Today’s ensemble movie is mostly found in the superhero genre.  Stack up The Magnificent Seven against The Avengers, The Avengers 2, or Captain America: Civil War, or any DC Comics superhero film of the past 20 years, and it leaves them all in its dust in its success in introducing a team, getting them to work together, and MacGyver the situation into some giant climactic battles.  Each of the titular seven stars of the movie have their own extraordinary abilities, they just don’t wear capes.  It’s an ensemble piece.  A superhero team-up.  So why don’t we have a casting Oscar?  The three casting directors knew what they were doing–they created the teams for Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Sin City, and Star Wars Episode VIII.

Continue reading

Michael Keaton in Jackie Brown

With the popularity of Quentin Tarentino’s other writing and directing achievements, Jackie Brown tends to get short shrift. Based on Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch, it’s the exception in Tarentino’s film arsenal where the story concept didn’t originate from the mind of Tarentino.  Yet there are enough changes made by him to make 1997’s Jackie Brown a standout film for the heralded director, and it may very well be his best all-around film, full of style, suspense, and pulp cool.

The prime reason for that is his handling of the character of Jackie Brown as a tough, no-nonsense survivor, and Pam Grier’s ability to fill those shoes perfectly.  The cast of top Hollywood stars and character actors, including Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, Bridget Fonda, and the great Robert Forster fills in the remaining blanks. But you may forget the key role played by Michael Keaton as straight-shooter cop Ray Nicolette.

Michael Keaton as Ray Nickolette

Keaton played a supporting role in a previous ensemble cast effort under a popular director, Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, as Dogberry, the closest on-screen attempt at showing what Charles Schulz’s Pigpen would look like all grown up.  Part of the conceit of Keaton’s new film Birdman is the intended irony of a washed-up actor that once played a popular character called Birdman, and the obvious comparisons to Keaton’s Batman and lack of promising acting gigs in recent memory.

In fact Keaton has always been a working actor plugging away at film roles through the years and Dogberry, along with Jackie Brown’s Ray, may have helped fuel the vibe since Keaton was either content to join these ensemble casts with small parts, or that was all he was offered.  Either way, these weren’t major leading man roles as he has found with Birdman.

Continue reading

Chappie police robot

First we saw CNN’s Anderson Cooper reporting in the Black Widow comic book series, now he’s leading up the latest trailer for Neill Blomkamp’s 2015 release Chappie.  Columbia Pictures has switched gears since the original trailer was released, from a quirky preview about a Pinocchio-esque robot trying to be real to a story that looks a lot like RoboCop.

It gets better–this trailer actually may bring in more moviegoers.  It reveals more action, the kind of action that Blomkamp showed us he could provide in his Academy Award-nominated geopolitical sci-fi thrill ride District 9.  And where the first trailer sidelined stars Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, now they’re front and center.

RoboCop or Chappie

It still looks to be more light-hearted like Blomkamp’s District 9 and certainly less dark than his Elysium, but that might be a good thing, too.  Elysium sorely lacked any heart, and this may be an attempt to re-balance Blomkamp’s movies for a wider audience.

See for yourself–check out this new trailer for Chappie, after the break:

Continue reading

emily-blunt-edge-of-tomorrow

What a busy year!  We took in more content this year than ever before, reading more books, watching more TV series, and reviewing more movies.  Wading through all that Hollywood had to offer, we try to hone in on the genre films and TV series we think are worth our time.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual “Best of the Best” list.  Today we reveal the best content focusing on movies.  Come back for more of our picks tomorrow.  If you missed any of these films this year, check them out when they arrive on video or digital release.

Edge of Tomorrow Omaha Beach scene

Edge of TomorrowBest Film of the Year, Best Science Fiction Fix, Best Action Fix, Best Actress (Emily Blunt), Best Supporting Actor (Bill Paxton).  The benefit of Blu-rays/DVDs is the ability to go back and verify whether a movie was as good as you remembered it in the theater.  Of all the top genre films of the year, including Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: Days of Future Past, it was Edge of Tomorrow that became an addictive re-watch, to see all those great, funny scenes, like Tom Cruise’s demoted soldier rolling under the jeep, and Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski destroying all those aliens.  Rita was the best character we saw this year–anywhere–and Blunt provided the best performance.  Superb sci-fi components?  Check.  Superb action sequences?  Check.  With top-notch acting by Blunt and Bill Paxton.  This will be the movie of 2014 that we one day will re-watch just like we re-watch Aliens and Predator today.

Guardians in prison

Guardians of the GalaxyBest Superhero Fix, Best Actor Runner-up (Dave Bautista), Best Supporting Actress (Zoe Saldana), Best Villain (Lee Pace), Best Soundtrack, Best Rock Album.  It was the perfect blend of B-level superheroes and a space fantasy like we hadn’t seen since the original Star Wars.  A surprisingly fun ride.  Guardians introduced the world to Dave Bautista, who will likely get more and more popular in 2015 and beyond.  His serious but comedic Drax may have been the best part of a great cast of new characters.  Zoe Saldana created her best genre role so far and Lee Pace’s Ronan was a perfect comic book villain.  And those tunes on Starlord’s Walkman!  What was more fun this year than Rocket and Groot?

Continue reading

Big Trouble Ish 3   RoboCop 2014

BOOM! Studios is continuing two fun retro-series this week based on classic 1980s movies.  First, Big Trouble in Little China, based on the John Carpenter movie starring Kurt Russell, continues the crazy antics of Jack Burton in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  And Robocop: Dead or Alive You’re Coming With Me is the latest RoboCop continuation series.

Big Trouble in Little China is written by John Carpenter and Eric Powell, with artwork by Brian Churilla and colorist Michael Garland.  RoboCop is written by Joshua Williamson, with artwork by Carlos Magno and colorist Marissa Louise.

After the break you’ll find previews for Big Trouble in Little China, issue #3, and RoboCop, Issue #2, courtesy of BOOM! Studios.  Both will be released tomorrow, August 6, 2014.

BigTroubleInLittleChina03_coverA

Continue reading

Hobbit booth Weta SDCC 2014 Azog

We thought we’d share some of the best exclusives and other offerings scheduled to be available at San Diego Comic-Con International this weekend for those of you who just can’t decide what to spend your money on.  There’s too much to be able to see everything at the big Con, so we’ve listed booth numbers so you can make sure you don’t miss out on those toys, posters, and comic books that you simply must have.

But first, how about some early SDCC reveals, like this image of Roy Harper’s new Arsenal costume from CW’s Arrow:

Arsenal reveal at SDCC 2014

and this great new SDCC 2014 exclusive poster for the final installment of The Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies:

The Hobbit Battle of Five Armies SDCC 2014 poster

And what’s better than news of a new comic book series tie-in from IDW Publishing for Orphan Black?

IDW reveal SDCC 2014 Orphan Black comic book series

Now on to the exclusives:

From the Weta Workshop (Booth #3613) you can get this Smaug scales T-shirt inspired by The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies:

Smaug scales T-shirt Weta SDCC 2014

and a pre-release copy of the new book The Art of Film Magic, signed edition:

Art of Film Magic SDCC 2014 WETA booth

From Alex Ross Art (Booth #2419) pick up original comic book art or limited prints, or this great 10-print edition portfolio of some of Alex Ross’s Marvel Comics work:

Alex Ross Art Portfolio - 10 prints

BOOM! Studios (Booth #2229) will be selling several exclusive cover variant comic books, including RoboCop #1:

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: