Robocop (1987)

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Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.

With the impending release of the Robocop reboot, I thought I would pop my nostalgia boner and revisit the 1987, Paul Verhoeven original. Oh, and spoilers for a 26 year old movie. Though you really should have seen this…

In a dystopian and crime-ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg haunted by submerged memories. (Source: IMDb)

One of the main reasons I absolutely love this movie is the amount of horrifying brutality, and almost Manga-style violence and gore throughout; a cop gets shredded with a shotgun and his head blown apart; a perp gets shot in the the genitals; and my favourite kill…a gang member ends up doused in radioactive material, after which his deformed and sagging skin and body explode on impact from Robocop’s car. I remember watching this as a child and feeling a huge void, and almost nauseous, when Peter Weller (Murphy/Robocop) gets ripped apart in a hail of shotgun blasts. Oddly enough, I still feel a little bit repulsed upon viewing it today, but that’s quickly overridden by my love of horror movies and fictional gore.

Despite Robocop being an 80s, macho-action flick, I always enjoy the way the film deals with memory, repressed or submerged. It’s interesting that the relationship between man and machine is implicit in the resurrection of Murphy, with their manipulation if his memories going wrong later in the film, and resulting in some rough justice. Also, allegory-wise, Verhoeven confirmed it was a modern day telling of the story of Jesus, which can be confirmed in this set of pixels and by this 2010 quote;

It is about a guy who gets crucified in the first 50 minutes, and then is resurrected in the next 50 minutes, and then is like the supercop of the world. (source: Uproxx)

It’s important to note that, apart from the visuals on the displays as well as Robocop’s HUD, the look of the movie stands up on viewing even today. Detroit probably looks better than it does today, the cinematography is gritty and set design has the standard Verhoeven playful-cum-dilapidated aesthetic seen throughout his dystopian sci-fi products. And much like Total Recall, this movie also has an amazing, industrial soundtrack, and one of the best theme tunes for any character in 1980s cinema.

Onto the reboot; I agree with Verhoeven that it is going to lack the soul that is obviously present in this version, which will mainly be due to the over-reliance on CGI. That and it won’t half as gory!

Robocop is an action/sci-fi classic, which not only has an interesting allegory (and fantastic style), but contains an awesome amount of horrific imagery, which should tickle the bloody-bones of any horror fans out there.

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The World’s End

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Thanks to Midnites 4 Maniacs for putting on an advanced Bay Area screening of this movie, which can be read about here.

Not to be confused with This is the EndThe World’s End is the latest and final offering from Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, in their series of genre-busting movies that deal with responsibility against the odds. Shaun of the Dead, a zombie apocalypse horror, and Hot Fuzz, an action flick set in rural England, are now actual entries into their genres, rather than being considered ‘just parody movies’. And they are really f*****g funny. Which doesn’t stop in The World’s End.

Gary King (Pegg), and his four mates (Frost, Considine, Freeman and Marsan), reunite for a pub crawl of binge-drinking, epic proportions, but suddenly find themselves at the centre of something that proves out of this world.

And that’s all you’re getting. I am not going to ruin this movie for anyone. I am honestly still smiling (the screening was on Monday) because The World’s End was absolutely hilarious. Pegg and Wright have managed to sign off their trilogy, which is linked in thematics and tone rather than characters, in such style. The characters are wonderfully drawn, entirely believable and deliver some of the most immature yet serious lines in recent cinematic memory. It is evident that the actors are having a blast on set, which bleeds into their lines, and even though the tone is so similar to the previous two movies, it works so well. Paddy Considine perfect as the stoney-faced friend, Frost and Freeman nail their characters, and Marsan is in an unfamiliar, nice guy role; Wright mentioned he wrote Eddy a friendly character because, at a Q+A in Toronto when Marsan was promoting Tyrannosaur, he said he has never had consensual sex on camera.

Thematically, this movie deals with nostalgia and how hard it is to accept change. It deals with letting go of the past and moving on, which is embodied with consummate ease by Pegg in his character Gary King. Wright himself said that the movie also presents a reality of how things, such as the English high street, are being replaced by branded familiarity; the Starbucks effect. It owes a debt to Monty Python towards the end as things get unfathomably incongruous, and it ends up in places that aren’t telegraphed as things are in Shaun of the Dead.

The cinematographer who worked on this movie also worked on Scott Pilgrim, so the colours are rich and lighting is perfect for the genre. We have shots of pub fights that aren’t epileptic as in Hot Fuzz, but are choreographed to the bone; the camera lingers as the proverbial shit hits the fan in the second act. Once again, the music choice is perfect, but that does not come as a surprise as Wright knows how to formulate aural tone as well as visual.

The World’s End, being such a huge fan of Wright’s movies, is the perfect film for me. I got all nostalgic for my youth, as well as my local pub and a pint of cold amber. I laughed from the very first second until about five minutes ago, and every time I think about it I wish I was back in the screening. It doesn’t come out until 23rd August in the States, and I can assure you I will be first in line. And then when I get back to the UK in September I am going to watch it again.

See this movie.

Primer

“I haven’t eaten since this afternoon.”

To make a movie that wins Sundance Festival’s prestigious “Grand Jury Prize” award is one thing, but to do it with a debut film that cost $7000 is, frankly, ridiculous. The mathematician (yes, not filmmaker) behind this feat was Shane Carruth and the movie was Primer (2004).

Primer deals with sci-fi’s most dangerous subject; time travel. When done poorly, time travel movies alienate their audiences and cause them to question the logic and science of the plot, which, as a filmmaker, is the opposite of what you want of your audience. A great time travel movie is one that moves at a satisfying pace, passes over you like a warm breeze and delivers enough twists and turns to keep you occupied and without questioning too much logic. Primer does all of this, yet at the same time is full of mathematical jargon that only the physicists among us will understand, and is still a success.

The greatest thing I can say about this movie is that it was raw. It was a pleasure to watch because you can tell the cast and crew were having an absolutely incredible time just making a movie. There were scenes in which they didn’t have a focus puller, so the blocking made members of cast appear out of focus. In a Hollywood production this would be unacceptable, but in Primer it added to the heady, sci-fi feel of the movie. The camerawork was fantastic, and the cinematographer did a great job with the colour tones and overall look and feel of each shot; everything was adventurous and exciting, even shots of computer chips, solder and numbers on computer monitors!

The innocent pursuit of knowledge is a large theme of the movie. The protagonists stumble across one of the biggest breakthroughs in human history, and while the science is exciting the scientists as well as the audience, there is an undercurrent of tension and unease. Much like the sci-fi movies of the 30s and 60s, the scientific progress is seen as an unknown, possibly dangerous pursuit for the human race. This tone left me on the edge of my seat, wanting to know how the plot was going to unfold, but it was never boring or unenjoyable. It also ventures into Memento/The Presitge territory, which are firm favourites of mine, and the ending is as enigmatic as you’d expect. Everything that stitched the movie together was execptional, and despite some of the acting being a little bit suspect at times, Primer was one of those movies that I will definitely be watching again.

If you are a sci-fi fan, a lover of independent movies, or want to watch a movie during which your brain needs to be 100% engaged, Primer is the perfect choice.