RoboCop Prime Directive: Release New Trailer & Images

Jose Padilha’s RoboCop remake has been the topic of much conversation going back to the day it was announced. For many, the original 1987 Paul Verhoeven action/satire starring Peter Weller and Nancy Allen is a true classic that should remain untouched. Of course, the sequels might have tarnished some of that idea, but that never stops Hollywood from trying to transform previous successes into current ones.

There have been all kinds of rumors swirling around this film, about Padilha reportedly not being happy with the film and whatnot. Whether any of that is true or not, it looks like Sony’s ready to start the big PR push for the film. The studio just released the first trailer for the film as well as a group of images originally posted on Hero Complex featuring stars Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Jay Baruchel, Jackie Earle Haley and Michael Keaton.

RoboCop is poised to hit theaters on February 7th.

I Very Much Enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises

My wife has very kindly offered for me to head over to the theater and watch Dark Knight Rises a few times. I bowed out because it was too late one night, I wasn’t up to the three hour commitment and I just wasn’t feeling up for something so seemingly intense another night, but today I took her up on her very generous offer. As I tweeted before heading over to the theater, I actually can not remember the last movie I saw inside as the few new movies we’ve gone to since Lu was born 15 months ago have been at the drive-in.

Somehow, I’d actually been able to avoid any and all spoilers since the film’s July 20th release date. I might have written about Dark Knight Rises a few times a week for Spinoff leading up to the film, but since then any and all stories have been purely about box office. I’ve scrolled over tweets, avoided emails and even skipped some of my favorite podcasts to stay in the dark. I’m actually shocked it worked.

I don’t think I need to get into too much detail about the plot, but this film picks up eight years after the events of Dark Knight. Batman’s been out of commission since then, vilified thanks to his plan with Jim Gordon while Harvey Dent was turned into the city’s fallen knight. It’s been a good time for Gotham…until Bane comes to town and wants to knock everyone off their collective high horses.

Okay, the rest of the review until otherwise stated will take place in SPOILER country, so you’ve been warned. What I liked about this movie is the journey it took us on, even if it’s not one that’s necessarily the most original. Bruce is destroyed by the death of Rachel from the previous film and doesn’t know how he can go on living when she can’t do the same. This dovetails nicely with the plan he hatched with Gordon, giving Gotham the Batman they deserve. We also discover that Bruce’s distrust of humanity make him automatically deject any plans that might be used negatively even if their primary source could be good. That’s the kind of person her is at this point.

Bane is a whole different animal, one whose MO feels like a living breathing thing throughout the movie because we’re only hearing and seeing it from other peoples’ perspectives for the most part. I thought that was a really interesting take on him: you basically only know him by his actions and his speech, not because you know anything about him or his past. The way that his plan not only confirms the fears Bruce always had about the tech getting into the wrong hands but maybe also that you might as well get some good out of things even if they can be abused for evil (that’s not said anywhere on film, but something I thought while watching). I will say that the voice took some getting used to. It almost sounds like someone dubbed in a funny voice in that opening scene, but gets a little less cartoony as it goes on. I also had a hard time understanding him a few times, but that didn’t really bother me. You tend to understand the point he’s trying to convey.

I also want to talk about Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake. Man, I loved this character and his arc. He’s Bruce Wayne if he wasn’t rich, an orphan who learned later how to hide his anger at what happened to him and his parents, but eventually decided to do good by joining the police force. How he goes from that to freedom fighter could have been a whole movie in its own right and one I would have watched. I also enjoyed Anne Hathaway’s performance. She really dug into her bag of actor tricks going from flummoxed demure maid to femme fatale in no time flat, something that could have felt slopping in the hands of a lesser actress. She’s the bad guy side of the Bruce Wayne/John Blake model: poor kid taking what she needed to survive and never really stopping, but wanting to.

Making the proceedings even more entertaining for me was the fact that some of the Batman comics I read growing up were the basis of this story. I’m seen lots of comic movies and really enjoyed them, sometimes going back later and reading the stories they were based on, but I really can’t explain to you how much a part of me the long form Bane story Knightfall meant to me. Those were the first Batman issues I ever collected. I devoured the parts of that story I could find and it lead me to buying Batman comics for the next 20 years almost. But that’s not all, the movie also includes elements from the No Man’s Land story that saw Gotham cut off from the rest of the country and even some of the Bane/Ra’s al Ghul stuff that came about in later issues. I was even retroactively remembering how things fit in with my comics after we found out who Miranda Tate really was (facepalm, of course it was her!).

The movie wasn’t perfect though. Like I said, Bane’s voice was pretty cartoony at times, to the point where I was trying to figure out what animated character he sounded like. It doesn’t help that I have no idea what Tom Hardy sounds like normally. I also thought some of the larger crowd fighting was a little weak, specifically outside city hall, though the bouts between Bane and Batman were always gnarly. OH, and how awesome was it seeing Batman and Catwoman fighting awesomely side by side?! Oh, right, I’m on complaints. Let’s see…oh, Batman took an awful lot of very previous time to stop and say goodbye to Catwoman and Gordon when flying the bomb out, didn’t he? It reminded me of a much less campy version of that famous scene from the 60s Batman movie where he’s trying to get rid of the bomb.

Speaking of the end, I thought it was very curious. Going in, I knew that this was going to be Christopher Nolan’s last Batman film (unless the famously tricky director is playing with us once again), but I was also assuming that this would be the last Batman movie set in his movie universe, like Warners would just scrap it and start over again with a new idea. But that’s pretty silly isn’t it? In comics, sometimes a writer leaves and blows everything up, leaving the next guy to pick up the pieces and sometimes there’s a really smooth transition. It seems like Nolan was giving whoever comes after him a very easy access point. They can clearly move forward with the John Blake developments or bring our hero back any number of other ways. Heck, Nolan could even still produce like he’s doing on Man of Steel, that would give him time to work on whatever his next original project will be. I don’t know any of the answers here, but I like having the questions running around my brain.

End SPOILERS. So, yeah, I really enjoyed this movie. It didn’t grab me right away in the beginning, but kept winning me throughout and by the end, I was completely in, rooting for Gotham and believing that one man really can make a difference. I was so pumped on the way home I had to make sure to watch my speed. I also bought in hard to the idea that you have to make sacrifices to help change things, you can’t just hide behind whatever’s safe or even your family because you’re just making a crappier world for your kid to live in if you’re not helping change things.

Ele-Mental: A Fifth Element Review

8:15:14 pm

A few weeks ago, I brought home a stack of movies from Wizard’s DVD closet. I was just looking for flicks that I hadn’t seen before and one of them was The Fifth Element, a movie I distinctly remember being interested in when it came out (I was 14 of the time), but just never saw for whatever reason. When I brought it home, my wife Emily seemed pretty excited, she remembered watching and liking (not loving) it. Well, the weather was pretty crummy on Sunday, so we stayed in and watched:

The Fifth Element (1997)

Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Starring Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Ian Holm, Gary Oldman, Chris Tucker and Luke Perry

Going in, I knew very little about The Fifth Element, so here’s the deal for those of you who haven’t seen it: there’s these lumbering mechanical armadillo turkey aliens called the Mondoshawan who kept stones representing the four elements (wind, earth, fire, water) on earth that are part of a super-weapon. An ancient line of priests kept the secrets of the stones for the day when this big crazy planet of death (called the Great Evil) would come. In 1914, they come back to Earth and take the stones back with them. 300 years in the future, the Great Evil is alive and kicking and the priest wants to get his hands on the stones. Too bad these shape-shifing aliens called the Mangalores blast the Mondoshawan ship carrying the stones out of the sky (well, space). To figure out what happened with the stones, some scientists clone the last surviving Mondoshawan hand from the ship into a woman, called Leeloo (Milla).

Okay, so those are the basics. Getting back to the beginning of the movie for a moment, I really like the design of the Mondoshawan. Personally, I’ve never seen an alien race that looks like this, so props to the design department for creating these guys. Speaking of the design details, fun note to comic fans, French artists Moebius and Jean-Claude Mézières had a hand in the overall design for The Fifth Element. Anyway, the Mondoshawan show up in 1914 to the shock of Luke Perry, playing an artist/assistant to an archaeologist. I never watched 90210 back when it was on (seriously, I’d tell you if I did), but I did find him very charming and convincing in a roll that I wish had somehow carried over into the future sequences (especially if he could have replaced the ridiculously annoying Chris Tucker character Ruby Rhod, but more on him later).

So the aliens come, grab their toys and leave a key with the secret priests, then head into space and we head 300 years to the future where we meet Korben Dallas (Willis) who has an apartment that would make Tim “The Toolman” Taylor proud. I’d like to see such space-saving furniture and appliances in the near future. Willis basically plays the same character he played for most of the ’90s: tough, rough around the edges, but, in the end, a good man. And I don’t mean that as a dig. I’ve got no problem with a guy doing what he does best, few people could pull it off like Willis. That being said, I’m glad to see him spreading out in the past decade.

Anyway, Dallas is a a former military man who now works as a cabby with plenty of points on his license. While we get introduced to Korben, the aforementioned Mondoshawan ship crashes and the scientist explains that their DNA is so highly complex and perfect, that a whole Mondoshawan can be cloned from a hand. They put the hand in a cool, tube-looking machine that, a few moments later, produces Milla in an awkward looking suit of white bandages. They go on about how she’s perfect, but I’m not as much of a Milla fan as, say, Diggnation’s Kevin Rose (my fellow podcast fans know what I’m talking about). So, Milla, who we eventually finds out is called Leeloo (and is also the fifth element), escapes from her creators, wrecking shop on a bunch of cops (who look like they borrowed their fashion sense from Judge Dredd and Flavor Flav) and leaping to her possible death.

Luckily for her, the future has flying cars (which, again, look awesome) and good dudes like Korben Dallas driving flying cabs because she smashes right through his roof, landing in the backseat. Korben contemplates turning her over, even letting the police connect their cars with a wire before rethinking things and speeding off in one of the coolest flying car chase scenes I’ve seen. We get our best look at the future society in these scenes, including the proliferation of McDonald’s (but, really, who’s shocked by this?) and a filthy underground that resembles many other future-based movies both before and after.

Leeloo eventually guides Dallas to Father Vito Cornelius (Holm), the current priest keeping the secrets of the Mondoshawan, who recognizes Leeloo because of her element tattoo (which must be part of her DNA I guess, like her crazy orange hair). Cornelius kicks Dallas out, who returns home to find out he got fired from his cab-driving job.

Meanwhile, the big bad guy, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (who sports a pretty annoying accent and haircut, but still makes a creepy villain) (Oldman) meets up with the Mangalores, offering them some pretty rad guns that shoot bullets, fire, ice, etc. in exchange for the case holding the four stones. Did I mention that if a bad guy assembles the stones around himself in the pyramid on Earth, he’ll get all kinds of powers? Okay, consider it mentioned. Zorg gets pretty peeved when it turns out that case they got from the crash is actually empty, a fact that Leeloo, whose back with the priest still, knows. Turns out they’re on a pleasure cruiser (in space) called Fhloston Paradise. Zorg blows up a number of the Mangalores before leaving.

The government (remember, Dallas used to be in some kind of military), rigs a contest that he wins to send him to Fhloston Paradise. I forget how they find out about it, but when they do, Zorg’s bug (an actual remote-controlled bug with a camera in the president’s command center) tips Zorg off. The Mangalores are also on the trail, using a mistaken identity, thinking it’s Dallas. There’s a somewhat confusing scene in which the military comes to tell Dallas about their plan, then Leeloo and the priest show up and finally the police. Korben hides the three military people in his refrigerator which sinks into the floor to reveal a shower. He then hides Leeloo in the shower and the priest on his hide-a-bed by the time the cops show up. Somehow they get mistaken that a neighbor is Dallas (I’m not really sure how this worked). Besson played this gag really well, using the apartment he already set up in a great, claustrophobic way that actually had me worried they he’d get caught and relived when he didn’t.

Cornelius grabs Dallas’ winning tickets to Fhloston Paradise and makes off with Leeloo, something that Dallas shortly realizes and heads to the spaceport, just barely making it in time to replace the priest’s assistant on the trip. Cornelius finds out about this and sneaks his way onto the spaceship. Oh, also, this is where the movie takes it’s (in my opinion) biggest misstep by introducing Ruby Rhod in the flesh.

I’m not really sure what his character’s supposed to be. He’s some kind of superstar radio DJ, but his continued stuttering and way-too-fast-and-high-pitched dialog drove me crazy. I was hoping the whole time he was on screen that a stray bullet would end my misery. Jar Jar Binks didn’t bother me this much. Seriously. I almost turned it off 10 minutes into his first real appearance, but I was intrigued enough to stick with it.

Now that all the players are on a pretty dangerous locale (the equivalent of a cruise ship floating through space) the action really starts to ramp up. Even while a tentacled blue alien called Diva sings in some pretty crazy tones. Leeloo rumbles with some of the Mangalores in the Diva’s room (she’s the one that has the stones on the ship, I shoulda mentioned that before), the Mangalores don’t like what’s going on, so they abandon their “covert” plan and just decide to take over the whole ship. One of them even kills the Diva, who explains to Dallas that the stones are inside her. We then get treated to a pretty gross, but cool scene of Dallas pulling the stones out of the hole in her torso. You know what would have made it cooler? No Ruby, who spends the rest of the movie being annoying right next to our hero. Jerk. I’d like to think that the Bruce Willis of Lucky Number Slevin or Sin City would just plug him, call it collateral damage and continue saving the universe.

Zorg’s also sneaking around. He gets his hands on the case that he thinks has the stones, seemingly kills Leeloo and then sets the ship to explode before taking off.

Zorg realizes he doesn’t have the stones so he returns to the ship, stopping his own destruct countdown, but Korben and crew are already on the run. Too bad for Zorg that a dying Mandalore sets off his own bomb that destroys the mostly-evacuated pleasure cruiser.

An interesting thing about The Fifth Element is that the bad guys don’t seem to know who Korben Dallas is (even though it turns out that he worked for Zorg’s company as a cab driver). It’s not like the Mangalores care who he is when they first get on the ship (only once he starts blasting the crap out of them while leaping through the air, does he become an annoyance), even though he’s in direct opposition to them. Also, he never meets Zorg in the film once, even though they’re supposedly the opposite numbers in the flick. It’s an element that I like which sets this movie apart from a lot of others which seem to think that the good guy and the bad guy HAVE to face off at some point, regardless of how cliched it might seem.

What we do get to see is a race-the-clock situation in which Korben, Leeloo (she’s beat up pretty bad, but not dead), Cornelius and Ruby (for some reason) race to the pyramid on Earth and try to figure out how to use the stones and Leeloo (she’s the fifth element by the way) to stop the Great Evil, which is racing towards Earth to destroy it. Due to some dumb luck (and sighing), the men figure out how to activate the four stones and Dallas figures out how to activate Leeloo (the fifth element appears to be love). Upon kissing, the stones shoot beams into her and she shoots a beam out at the Great Evil which explodes.

We end with the president showing up at the science lab that created Leeloo to congratulate the pair, but they’re having sex in the regeneration tube. Nice, Korben. I like the James Bond-like ending.

A few other thoughts. A friend told me he didn’t think the movie takes itself seriously as a sci-fi movie, but I don’ think that’s the case. To me, all the performances seem sincere, even the cursedly annoying Ruby. It does have a bit of a cartoony feel to it, especially with Willis in the lead, but it’s a fun kind of cartoon, one that I would gladly watch Saturday mornings. No, it’s definitely not Star Wars, but I don’t want another Star Wars, I’ve already got a bunch of those.

In the end, I’m glad I watched The Fifth Element, it proved an entertaining ride that was able to keep my waning attention. It was fun and like Em, I liked it, though I didn’t love it. I don’t think 14-year-old me would have felt cheated if I laid down money for this back ’97.