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RoboCop is a movie that means business. It gets down and dirty from the get-go, and feels like an experienced filmmaker was behind it. In a World is a bit more awkward, stumbling around like a newborn calf.

It’s fine. It’s a cute movie, though it doesn’t quite feel finished. Like it should have had certain things rewritten, or re-shot. It’s got a ton of funny people in it, but the performances range anywhere between fantastic (Rob Corddry) and embarrassing (Fred Melamed.) The plot is intriguing, about a young woman who is hoping to break into the field of voiceover, while grabbing the coveted phrase of, “In a world…” from her more established father.

RoboCop also had a plot about a young up-and-comer trying to seize an old man’s throne. Bob Morton is a cocky executive who wants RoboCop to be the future of law enforcement. Dick Jones is an older, more experienced contender, who will do anything to get ED-209 on the map. Because RoboCop is a much more intense movie than In a World, we get to see Bob Morton blown up at Dick’s command. Then later, Dick gets shot a bunch of times and falls out of a window at OCP headquarters.

Those are serious brushstrokes…and it’s all done without a single wasted frame. Even though both characters are cutthroat scumbags, it’s sad to see them go, because they’re both so wonderfully written and acted. RoboCop feels confident, and reassuring – the audience never has to wonder if every scene or character is necessary, or properly presented. Lake Bell is just starting out, so it’s understandable if her first movie is a bit wobbly. I’m just reinforcing the idea that RoboCop is a sturdy film, like a pair of metal legs

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Blue Jasmine focuses on a wealthy woman whose life has recently fallen apart. She had built her life upon her husband’s wealth, and the film explores what happens when the rug is pulled out from under her. She does not cope well. While it’s interesting to see her fight the downward spiral, one can’t help but think about Alex Murphy and his transition into the role of RoboCop.

Maybe Murphy had a better foundation. He was a family man and a decent cop, and was wrongfully robbed of his own life. When Jasmine finds out her husband was a charlatan, she is forced to confront the fact that she never really built a life of her own. She had stopped communicating with her family years ago, and without completing her college degree, she has no job experience to speak of. In some ways, she is without her own identity. She’s able to move in with her sister, who feels a familial obligation, but Jasmine doesn’t seem able to “step down” in lifestyle. Repulsed by blue collar dating, standards of living, and job opportunities, she becomes socially poisonous; embarrassing and offending anyone she comes in contact with.

Much like Murphy in RoboCop, shadows of her past life keep creeping in. At first, it’s psychological – she recalls the events leading up to her husband’s arrest. She feels guilt about her complacence with his shady practices, and later, guilt about turning him in. Toward the end of the movie, she encounters real-life specters in the form of people she had burned in her past life.

RoboCop is a much happier tale, focusing on justice and revenge. After Murphy is tortured by memories of his family and encounters with his own murderers, he is able to overcome his digital restrictions and finish the job he started as a human cop. He’s able to embrace his new situation and move on. Jasmine just doesn’t have that in her.

Anyway, in comparison to RoboCop, BJ is a much more depressing movie. However, it is an interesting counterpart to RC as it shows us what can happen when our tragic protagonist isn’t given cybernetic limbs.

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One might think this movie’s subject matter would be too serious for this blog’s treatment. That comparing this movie to one about a fictional robotic man would be disrespectful to the actual source material. Maybe they’d be right…but then again, who in Hollywood thought it would be a good idea to make a movie about this kind of tragedy when RoboCop already happened back in ’87?

In the case of Fruitvale Station and RoboCop, we have main characters that are unjustly murdered. Both characters are good people with families. We all know Alex Murphy was a good person – he was a noble cop who was trying to bring down the most dangerous gang in Detroit. We also see him being a good father and husband in flashbacks. RoboCop didn’t spend much time on these points as it was busy being an action film with lots of blood and explosions…but maybe the points had already been made.

The problem with Fruitvale is that the movie tries a bit too hard to make the audience feel the force of the tragedy. Obviously, the whole point of the movie is to make people aware of how real a person Oscar was. The thing is, there’s no need to force this point down everyone’s throat. The fact that a regular kid can be shot dead over nothing should speak for itself. They didn’t need to over-set up the fall, or make the subject of the film seem like too great of a person. Once the filmmakers do that, they might push the audience right back out of the movie. As I mentioned before, RoboCop does have scenes where we see Murphy being a great guy, but they don’t take up even a few minutes of the movie’s running time.

There’s a scene that crystallizes this point. Oscar plays with a stray dog who is then struck and killed by a car. This scene was either to show how tender and kind Oscar was, or to establish a metaphor for Oscar’s impending tragic death. Either way, it served no real purpose other than adding on to that, “Hey, the thing at the end of the movie is really going to suck” list.  That list also features entries like the scene where Oscar and his girlfriend trade New Year’s Resolutions, or when Oscar takes the first steps towards quitting the pot business, or when Oscar’s daughter tells him he might get shot, or when Oscar gets a business card from someone he meets on the way to the party…

Sure, show that your character is decent and promising, but don’t jackhammer it into everyone’s head. There weren’t any scenes of Alex Murphy talking to his old cop buddies, saying things like,  “Guys, I’m gonna try to become lieutenant this year, I know I can do it!” or whatever.

Anyway, there were a few attempts to make Oscar seem normal and imperfect. Specifically, there’s a scene in a grocery store where he tries to get his old job back by threatening his ex-boss. This was a good attempt to balance out the martyr-izing of Oscar’s character, but it didn’t feel like enough. He still does things like mutter “I got a daughter,” to his shooter while in shock.

It’s totally possible that something like the above did indeed happen, but after the movie has been obviously pulling the strings the whole time (dog, dog, dog)…it’s hard to believe it wasn’t just another manipulation.

A more disgusting author would use this final line to make a joke about Oscar Grant coming back as a cyborg but

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Hollywood has begun to understand – Robots! That’s what it’s all about, people. A movie with robots…and a human element.

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Not that Pac Rim is as good as RoboCop. For starters, PRim is really shallow. There’s bad guys, there’s good guys, there’s a tiny bit of romance…that’s it. It’s a big dumb action movie that happens to be done well. The zany scientists’ subplot is the only thing that gives the movie any intrigue, and it also contains the only segments with believable dialogue. All the military dude stuff…it’s overly dramatic. Hot-blooded SERIOUSNESS. It wasn’t as hokey as Man of Steel, but it’s uninteresting, regardless. Anyway, the scientists’ investigation into the monsters’ origin could have led to a deeper movie, but it just ended up serving the main plot. It’s a safe bet that the original script had way more going on, but not much made it into the final cut. Guillermo del Toro, the film’s director, says there is no “extended cut,” that the theatrical version is his “director’s cut.” Whatever, dude.

RoboCop doesn’t do this stuff. It’s as deep as can be, but it’s also a brutal and stupid revenge movie. It was engineered to be that way by Neumeier, Miner, and Verhoeven. It doesn’t feel like anything is missing, unless you watch the R-rated version – then you’re missing some extra blood and guts. Fun action + human emotion = good times.

Back to Pacific Rim – the movie is mostly a collection of homages to Japanese media…and really only two specific forms: Mech (giant robots) anime, and Kaiju (monster) movies. There’s many parallels to be drawn between Pacific Rim and the popular anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, though they both pull from older IPs. You’ve got the end of the world by waves of foreign invaders, multiple nations cooperating in defense, pilots mentally synching with their bots…etc. While I love a good tribute piece, RoboCop managed to do justice to its cultural references while creating a whole new chic. It’s as influential as it is influenced. Pacific Rim is too simple to be remembered for a long time, but it’s a well put-together movie for the time being.

Final note: While this type of movie couldn’t be done without it, CGI is still confusing and bad and dumb

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Many movies are successful because they do several things very well. This Is the End is supposed to be a dumb comedy, but also a movie about an ebbing friendship and the end of the world. RoboCop also wanted to accomplish more than its primary objective; it’s a sci-fi cop thriller, but it’s also a cynical satire of our materialistic world. It pulled both of those things off flawlessly, while This Is the End felt like a rote comedic exercise with not much else for audiences to enjoy.

The guys that made TItE admit that they are students of the Apatow school of cinema. Judd Apatow’s breakthrough movie was The 40-Year Old Virgin, which is a tender, late-coming-of-age film filled with ridiculous humor. That movie kicked off a series of comedies with the same recipe: oodles of sentimentality with silly improvised dialogue. With each Apatow-helmed movie, both the emotion and the humor felt more and more forced. They were relying too heavily on their actors’ irreverent improvisations while forgetting to be well-written movies. Kind of like how the series of movies with the word “RoboCop” in their titles became less and less badass with each release. They wanted cool robot fights, but didn’t bother with any of the depth the original RC had. For this reason, they cannot even be considered RoboCop movies. In fact, there’s reason to start a petition to remove that word from their titles.

Anyway, though Apatow-produced movies like Walk Hard and Forgetting Sarah Marshall were as hilarious as they were refreshing, the movies that wanted to be like 40-Year-Old just got boring. Part of what made the above movies great is that they felt like well-written movies first and comedies second.  TItE barely makes an attempt at being anything else but an improv-style comedy. So when the familiar, tired, comedic bickering between actors isn’t working, it feels like a failure. Actually, RoboCop actually has more laughs in it than this movie. The man behind Bixby Snyder was a comedic genius, and who can forget ED-209’s last, sputtering moments before collapsing outside of the OCP building?

Never forget your prime directives!

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An obvious problem with the Superman character is that he’s too darn strong, physically. He can fly, smash himself through buildings, defy alien gravity thingies, throw the guy from Bug around…RoboCop wasn’t perfect. We got to watch him spaz out when he got (physically) close to Dick Jones, and he got pretty messed up by the Detroit Police. He had to use baby food to fix his aim. Damn. While RC was really strong, he wasn’t totally invincible. Man of Steel never had me worried for the main character. It’s an old issue with the Superman character, so I guess the task writers are left with is to flesh out his humanity, and the pitfalls of his sympathy for mankind.

Well, Man of Steel has no humanity. When it’s not being soaked in boring CGI, it’s being melodramatic. Right from the jump, we’re treated to this overacted Shakespearean plot on Krypton…which somehow ends up being the most interesting part of the movie.Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon and others try really hard to look serious in a flat set of scenes. They deliver lines like, “…in time, they will join you in the sun.” What’s odd is that this kind of prelude actually worked in Thor. Maybe it was due to the better cast, or maybe the world of Asgard was more interesting. That movie also became less interesting as the focus turned to humans on Earth. You only had one Earthen city in RoboCop, but somehow it was enough!

Computer-generated effects can be great, but they need to be crystal clear. Too much of the time they obscure parts of the action sequences, relying on sound effects and smart editing, so the audience has to use their imagination to figure it all out. There used to be good choreography in action scenes; scenes with real explosives destroying miniatures (see: Bob Morton’s house) and super gory squibs popping on someone’s chest (see: that poor schmuck who got perforated by ED-209). Even when that stuff doesn’t look totally convincing, at least you could follow the objects from point A to point B.

Basically, Man of Steel is mediocre. It does a lot of what you’d expect from big blockbusters these days. It wants to be over-the-top entertaining, but it also desperately wants to evoke emotion. It fails at being interesting. I already had a Man of Steel. A steel man. A robot man. A robot…cop. ROBOCOP

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Frances Ha is a movie about a weirdo girl. And white people, mostly. I don’t know if you remember, but RoboCop had, like, three black people and one Asian gangster. All of them were badass dudes – think about the line, “This guy’s a serious asshole.” (Sergeant Reed,) or, “Oh, fuck you!” (Steve Minh.)

Anyway, in FHa, two almost-gay best friends are living together, and then they’re not. Then the main girl, Frances, bounces around without getting her shit together for awhile. That’s pretty much it. It all takes place in the big city of New York, but there’s no construction sites cum war zones, no imposing monoliths of consumer culture, no sprawling criminal landscapes on the verge of rebirth…That’s a missed opportunity if you ask me; compared to Detroit, NYC is big enough to warrant ~2.12 RoboCops.

It’s not just that nothing really happens in Frances. It’s also a lack of real or interesting conversation. While writer/director Noah Baumbach is trying his hardest to channel Woody Allen’s style, he’s missing the knack for natural dialogue. A lot of the lines feel like they were engineered to be clever, rather than realistic. This also induced muscle-straining eye rolls in this fine writer.

The acting is pretty bad a lot of the time, too. I spent most of the movie waiting for a stop-motion, walking turret to show up, but it never happened. Stick to the classics, I guess.

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So, Mud is an interesting movie. Maybe repeated viewings of RoboCop have made me a little cynical, but I couldn’t believe how genuine and straightforward the titular character of Mud is. He’s out for love, and he needs these children to help him do it. He means everything he says, right down to his name actually being “Mud,” which really tripped me up. When he told us he was trying to rendezvous with his girlfriend, I was all, “Yeah right. Next thing you know, he’ll be a Clarence Boddicker wannabe. I bet he’s big into snorting wine, too.”

The main character, the kid, is the coolest person in the world. I’m not being remotely sarcastic here, I really wish I could have been him when I was 14. Wait, scratch that. I think I’d rather be you-know-who. Anyway, the kid’s dad is the best-acted character in the movie. He was the most believable, in my opinion, but the kid was IMPOSSIBLY COOL and like some of the characters in this movie, talks in ways that nobody ever does in real life. In RoboCop, we get lines like, “He’s a cyborg, you idiot!” and in Mud we hear things like…Well, it’s been awhile since I saw it. Trust me, I was rolling my eyes at a few lines in this movie. In RoboCop, there’s a whole lot of camp, but some of the silliness to the dialogue in Mud took me right out of the otherwise-believable film.

Moving on, they keep calling Mud a “liar,” but aside from being stuck on his old girlfriend, he’s a pretty stand-up dude; not a whole lot of flaws. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was waiting for some twist to happen, where Mud would turn out to be a terrible person. Maybe another Bob Morton, whom you can’t help but love, even though he’s a huge d-bag. Do you remember when he told the RoboCop team to “lose the arm?” That was messed up.

If I’m hard on Mud, it’s only because I really liked it. Maybe not RoboCop-liked it, but it’s a great watch. I thought I was gonna be disappointed with its bloodlessness, but there’s a really nice action scene toward the end of the movie. I gotta give this movie four severed arms up.

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Comic book movies are an interesting topic. Some of the subject matter they cover might be pretty similar to ol’ RoboCop. In fact, RoboCop himself was in some comics in the ’90s, precisely because his story lends itself to comics pretty well. We’ve got a robot-suited man in IM3, but that doesn’t mean Tony Stark is comparable to Alex Murphy. What Murphy went through was a torturous death and failure as a policeman, followed by a mechanical rebirth in a cyborg shell. Stark is some rich jerk who felt like building himself a fancy toy – a toy he can step out of.

The Iron Man suit is a capable one, but would we be able to empathize with RoboCop if he could fly? Probably not. Actually, that question was already answered by a certain 1993 movie that shall remain nameless. RC’s limitations, his inability to escape, his duty…these are human qualities. It’s why I kinda liked Guy Pearce’s character, Aldrich Killian,  in IM3 since he took on a permanent change with “Extremis.” He’s almost on that Murphy-level of commitment.

I know I didn’t talk much about the plot of IM3 here, but it’s the type of movie you go to watch, not examine. It’s got some great visuals, though they’re not as iconic as shots from RoboCop…like the one where Dick Jones falls out of a building and his arms look all long. It’s visually entertaining, has some fun dialogue (it’s not “bitches, leave” level fun), and it has Ben Kingsley talking funny.

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Pain & Gain is a pretty awful movie. This already does not bode well for a RoboCop comparison. The Rock is a huge dude who could probably bend gun barrels if he wanted to, but he’s most likely not a robot. He’s also the best thing about this movie, as it gets pretty dark. Admittedly, so does RoboCop, but the happy ending and good humor saves that movie from being depressing…and it’s (allegedly) not based on a true story, like P&G over here. Also, it’s got a lot of childish homophobia and racism, so, look out for that! As a reminder, RoboCop was an equal-opportunity, badass movie.

The movie has its moments, and it reeks of Michael Bay…so of course, there’s the unnecessary briefing room scene and the slo-mo military shot. I guess that’s fine for people who go out for that sort of thing. RoboCop didn’t need any military BS, as it’s already got a one-man-army…

(RoboCop, I’m referring to the titular character of RoboCop, RoboCop.)

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