Tag Archives: Movies

Rethinking Robocop

Yesterday, during commercial breaks of the Saints/Vikings NFC championship game, I was flipping over to watch bits of Robocop 2. When I was younger, I remember my friends would gather to watch Robocop and were very excited when the sequel was announced. Watching it now, however, I see how bad that movie was. Or was it?

It struck me how old the entire thing felt, and how silly the technology was. It got me thinking about a franchise reboot, and then it got me thinking about what Robocop would be today, if he were re-envisioned.

The first thing I noticed is that Robocop is slow and deliberate, and when his “joints” move, they produce a hydraulic buzzing sound. So we’ll need him to be smoother in movement, and without announcing his presence. He’ll need to be significantly lighter on his feet than the slow and heavy-stepping original.

The original sported an eye plate, that stretched only a centimeter or so in height and a few inches in wrap. That will need to change to be supplemented by smaller cameras that can give Robocop a 360 degree view of his surroundings.

Since Robocop was severely damaged after being caught in a magnet, we’ll need a better metal. I propose new Robocop be constructed of a smarter, so-called “space age” metal such as titanium, vanadium, tungsten, or magnesium.

The original Robocop recorded interaction on an in-body video camera, presumably storing it digitally, which was pretty pretty commonplace for the 1987. New Robocop will not only record interaction to a bank of flash memory or some sort of SSD array, but he will be equipped with Wifi and some sort of cellular connection like LTE or WiMax (he’ll be in a big city, so we can presume coverage). He will transmit all of his data periodically, so he won’t need to store terabytes of memory in-body.

New Robocop will not have exposed skin (or internal mechanics). Period. That’s weakness.

Original Robocop stored his gun in his leg. This is an outdated concept based on a concept that looked cool in the 80′s. Today’s Robocop will store multiple weapons throughout his body, small rubber-bullet-like projectiles perhaps in his forearm. We can equip his chest or fingers with mace or tear gas. If he requires an actual gun, it will be not be trigger deployed. It will be activated only when connected to Robocop, and very likely controlled via WifiDirect or Bluetooth. There’s simply no good reason to rely on old fashion triggers that can be exploited. In the event of system malfunction, a manual weapon will be present, but since Robocop shouldn’t be relying on his gun most of the time, he will have a nightstick of some sort.

New Robocop should not have an over-synthesized voice.

One of the constant flaws we saw in Robocop 2, as they attempted to build a second Robocop, was the lack of control they had over the machine. We fix this by running the Robocop program on a Linux-based system and jailing/chrooting it. New Robocop can do what he wants, but if he gets out of hand, we still have control. We allow remote SSH logins from authorized IPs, and sudo up to root guaranteeing ourselves a remote shutdown option. No sloppy infrared remote control here, just pure IP access.

Once Robocop is a computer, we’ll need a few more accommodations, because that becomes the chief point of vulnerability. We’ll need pretty sophisticated software here to prevent someone from hacking into Robocop, but that’s of course the plot of the movie, I’d suggest: someone hacks into Robocop remotely and alters the programming, and despite Robocop’s knowledge that he’s been compromised, he’s unable to prevent his own actions since he’s jailed into a subdirectory. The twist at the end, I’d suppose, is that some hot-shot teenage hacker finds an exploit and jailbreaks Robocop remotely, thereby giving Robocop the ability to control himself, at which point, he pretends to be following orders, but instead, tracks down the guy controlling him.  Right before his death, the guy should shout something cliche like “But… I’m your masterrrrrrrrrrrrrr….!

One of the unaddressed issues I saw with the robotic cops in the movie was the perpetual need for a lubricant like oil. It seems submersion in water would simply short out all of these solutions. So I’ll reiterate the lack of exposed skin and mechanics, and we’ll spend some time making our Robocop water resistant and reuse some sort of internally stored WD-40-like fluid, which is also “green.”   It would be a shame to build a billion dollar robocop only to have him quashed by a bucket of water.

I’d like to see Robocop be a little less terrifying to the average citizen.  Robocop ought to represent something, and cops are supposed to be there to protect and serve the average citizen, not just to get the bad guys.   So Robocop ought not be stomping around the police station and calling people “punk,” nor should he be be marching into an arcade, smarmily offering “Isn’t today a school day?” Nein, Robocop should be there for citizens, first and foremost.  We’ll disable his sarcasm and “witty quip” programs.   Robocop should offer an air of protection, not a fear he’ll malfunction.

Lastly, if I’m going to invest a billion into a Robocop, I think I might put him in something a touch nicer than an old, banged up Ford Taurus.

Review: The Dark Knight

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS:
Do not read any further if you do not want critical plot points revealed

I saw The Dark Knight on Friday afternoon. Like many movies, I need a few days to truly digest the film. Sometimes, I like a film and later decide I didn’t like it as much as I thought (see: Spiderman 3, Die Hard 4). Sometimes, I like a film and decide later it was better than I thought (see: The Matrix, The Bourne Ultimatum).

In this case, I knew I liked the film. It was very true to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins film in both storyline and dark overtones. But, like James Bond, I fear there are some real breaks with reality that I struggle to accept. Nothing in the Bourne movies I mentioned above requires major suspension of disbelief. But The Dark Knight pushes reality a little too much. Let’s examine some aspects of the film:

Cast and characters
Again, masterfully done. I enjoyed the acting quite a bit. Christian Bale, Michael Cain, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhardt, Gary Oldman, Nestor Carbonall, all were fantastic. Heath Ledger – while I won’t call him Oscar-worthy, primary because I don’t really understand what makes one role Oscar worthy but not others) – was truly genius. I say this for several reasons: firstly, his facial expressions, voice tone, and eyes were masterful. Secondly, because I largely forgot it was him for most of the film. To me, this was the Joker, not an actor I’ve known for over a decade.

Storyline
Like the last film, pretty well executed. The entire thing felt a bit rushed – they crammed a lot of plot into a little time (note it still runs well over 2 hours), meaning some characters got a little short-changed, primarily Two-Face. The fall from do-gooder and justice-seeking Harvey Dent to the conscious-less Two-Face was a bit too harsh and dramatic. Such a cool character would have been a great long-term adversary.

Bruce Wayne was a bit brash, which I suppose was how they wanted to keep him, a trait established last film. Alfred Pennyworth and Lucious Fox were consistent. The Joker was perfectly executed in that we learned virtually nothing about him and his origin remains a mystery.

Where Things Went Wrong
Okay, I’m a stickler for plot bending. I don’t like when an otherwise semi-realistic film, requires me to entire dicard realism. So there are several key points here:

Amazing Explosives!
How did the Joker get the hospital wired so effectly and so quickly with no one noticing and no real team of goons to speak of? That were a LOT of very well placed explosives that would surely require a very skilled expert to help design that implosion, no?
Sonar on your mobile?
After months of work, presumably, Lucious Fox was able to design a prototype “sonar” using CDMA or GSM technology. He was able to rig a device to use it. He was able to make it work through existing mobile networks with neither the networks, nor the satelite owners, nor the military noticing it. We must presume, given these facts, and the limitationsof existing hardware, that the data was tranferred as internet data. Not much later, with no previous knowledge of the project or how it works, Bruce Wayne, never an engineer, was able to decipher, understand, and deploy this technology to millions of existing phones, most of which, I’d wager, do not have internet plans, a good portion of which is using half-decade old technology. We must also presume that the Wayne R&D department has the necessary bandwidth to receive the data from millions of phones and that their ISP and the phone carriers wouldn’t notice this incredble spike in traffic. Oh yeah, did I mention that they somehow were able to locate a particular crystal-clear voice amongst this overwhelming parade of sonar? Pshaw!
Extra! Extra! Commissioner Dead!
Explain how the Joker and/or his minions were able to get into the commissioners office, replace his booze with poison, and get him to drink it at the exact time?
Mayor Assasination Attempt Thwarted by Gordon
So, uh, the Joker anticipated the Batman locating a name that was NOT actually him and going there and breaking in? And conveniently, some cops who had recently been kidnapped were all there waiting? And the Mayor, while under fire, delivered a speech in a neighborhood with more Windows than a room of government computers without a protective shield or bulletproof glass? What the hell? Who runs Gotham security? Find him and smack the bitch upside his stupid head!
A Boatoad of Trouble
Lastly, why didn’t the boats explode at midnight? Did Batman somehow disarm it off camera? It was the BACKUP Joker was holding. That means the original device failed. But how? By the way, give me the remote while I’m on a ferry with my wife and kids. The scene would be like this: “Give me the remote!” BOOM!

All the foolishness aside, I still really liked it. I really hope there’s a third entry to this series.

I Reckon I Willn’t Be Watchin’ Firefly

This weekend, I took a stab at the “Firefly” series via the movie Serenity which was delivered to me via HBO. I tried, I really did, but I bailed after about an hour.

I generally believe that even though I don’t watch much Sci-Fi, I probably would like most of it by nature of the fact that I am a scientist and (mostly) a nerd, and I can get on board with complex, scentifically sound ideas. So I figured this would be a good starting off point.

Let’s start here: I really like Nathan Fillion, I really do. I loved him in Two Guys, A Girl, and A Pizza Place (seriously) where he played Johnny. But whoever wrote his “accent,” you know, the one that pretends that this space captain who grew up on a farm has a hick twang, should be slapped around. Even Fillion couldn’t convincingly tell me we’re supposed to be believe that. Ditto for his female first mate, who threw in some extra verb-disagreement. I just couldn’t get past the strained dialogue.

Also, the plot left me clueless. I didn’t know what the plot was going in – I just knew it was based on Firefly. But the idea that I was supposed to understand that some of the creatures ate humans; the thought that the kung fu/gun combo seemed natural to all characters; the concept of the skinny girl as the sole engineer in the galumphing spaceship trying not to be so cliche, it just didn’t work.

This movie was made for fans of the show, not for the rest of us. So yeah, as Malcom Reynolds might say, “I reckon I willn’t be watchin’ this show.”

Bourne Ultimatum is the Best Movie of the Summer

This weekend, Jenn indulged me by seeing The Bourne Ultimatum despite the fact that she really wants to see Hairspray. I was very excited, and after a summer of crappy three-quels (Spider-Man, Shrek, and I’d include Pirates even though I kinda liked it), this one was poised to rock. I loved the first two and I really dig this new “real spy” genre.

Jason BourneAnd rock it did. Bourne is the baddest hero in the last two decades, ahead of Thomas Crown, Daniel Craig’s James Bond, and even Christian Bale’s Batman. There were scenes in this movie where my heart felt like it was going to explode. It was totally action-packed and relentless.

I am really tired of script writers, directors, and producers glossing over aspects of their script. For $100 million dollars, you should be able to get 1 IT guy to read your script and tell you if something is implausible. My complaint with Die Hard 4 was that the “virus” that blew up computers had no basis in reality. At least in the Matrix Trinity used a real hack so that nit-picky geeks were appeased when they screen-captured their DVDs.

There are very few things in the Bourne series that are flat out implausible. Sure, there are several “Wow, that was lucky” moments, but I never felt I had to suspend disbelief. And Bourne is just incredible. The character is a machine, and his dialogue, his actions, his brains, his skill… it’s all exciting to watch.

So, summer 2007 looks like this so far: (1) The Bourne Ultimatum, (2) Knocked Up, (3) Harry Potter.

Six Movies That Are Supposed To Be Funny… But Aren’t

Scary Movie 3
From (at least part of the) team that brought you Airplane comes a new stinker that still riffs off other movies but instead draws on recycled crap like poking fun of Michael Jackson. This movie couldn’t have been dumber if they tried. There is nothing witty, nothing funny, and nothing original about Scary Movie 3, in which they parody – if it can be called that – Signs, The Ring, 8 Mile, to name a few. Skip this one – see parts 1, 2, and 4.

Talladega Nights
#1 NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby stays atop the heap thanks to a pact with his best friend and teammate, Cal Naughton, Jr. But when a French Formula One driver, makes his way up the ladder, Ricky Bobby’s talent and devotion are put to the test.” That’s about as much of my brain as I care to devote to Talladega Nights, which is about as dumb as a movie can get. Despite hoardes of devout twenty-somethings spouting off the lines to this film like a classic Family Guy episode, there is no actual comedy here, just ridiculousness trying to pass as comedy. The whole “Dear sweet baby Jesus” thing was never funny and still isn’t. I find Will Ferrell both funny and entertaining, but in this film, he’s neither.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
I’ll probably take some heat for this one, but Ace Ventura was just not very funny to me. The only comedy in the film was watching Jim Carrey’s crazy plastic face contort. I actually find Jim Carrey to be a very entertaining person and I was really blown away by Eternal Sunset of the Spotless Mind, but his earlier comedy like this and its eponymous sequel pandered to the lowest chuckles in its teenage target crowd.

Waterboy
I have to admit I’ve never made it entirely through this film in one sitting. But be fair: it’s only because it sucks so bad. Let me get this straight: we’re supposed to laugh at Adam Sandler acting like a retard for an hour forty straight? Sucked. Let’s not forget about Rob Schneider. This guy is actually funny – or at least, used to be – and is so unfunny he could make a clown cry.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Borat, although the hardcore call it a two hour laughfest, is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I am a huge Ali G fan – I’ve seen pretty much every episode of the HBO show and laughed hysterically through most of them. I have literally fallen out of my chair laughing at Sacha Baron Cohen’s characters. Then why did they release this piece of shit? Borat was, since its inception, about parody – putting people in uncomfortable positions and/or exposing their true, crazy beliefs. Then why have a movie where only about 10% is donated to that success formula and the rest to a stupid subplot, replete with bad acting, a drifting story, and a fat, hairy Russian’s asshole in your face? While some will call this a classic, I will call it what it actually is: shit. I pray – literally pray – that Cohen doesn’t eff up Bruno like he did Borat. Bruno is fantastic.

Epic Movie
This 2007 film played off the success of Scary Movie, Date Movie, and other satire flicks by working off the material Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Chronicles of Narnia, Nacho Libre, X-Men, Superman and a slew of other action flicks provided. Unfortuntely, this movie was so boring I had to resort to slicing my eyes open with the edge of my Twizzler bag to stay awake. This movie doesn’t suck, it’s just so unfunny and boring you may find yourself on the edge of a psychotic break. Fo reals. Epic Movie contains fewer that 5 laughs, and those are:
1. Laughing at yourself for buying a ticket
2. Laughing at the actors for demeaning themselves so
3. Laughing at the writers for thinking this was going to be funny
4. Laughing at the fact that you are still watching the movie

Do yourself a favor, and instead of watching this movie on Friday, kill yourself. It’s easier.

Six Movies That Are Supposed To Be Funny… But Aren't

Scary Movie 3
From (at least part of the) team that brought you Airplane comes a new stinker that still riffs off other movies but instead draws on recycled crap like poking fun of Michael Jackson. This movie couldn’t have been dumber if they tried. There is nothing witty, nothing funny, and nothing original about Scary Movie 3, in which they parody – if it can be called that – Signs, The Ring, 8 Mile, to name a few. Skip this one – see parts 1, 2, and 4.

Talladega Nights
#1 NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby stays atop the heap thanks to a pact with his best friend and teammate, Cal Naughton, Jr. But when a French Formula One driver, makes his way up the ladder, Ricky Bobby’s talent and devotion are put to the test.” That’s about as much of my brain as I care to devote to Talladega Nights, which is about as dumb as a movie can get. Despite hoardes of devout twenty-somethings spouting off the lines to this film like a classic Family Guy episode, there is no actual comedy here, just ridiculousness trying to pass as comedy. The whole “Dear sweet baby Jesus” thing was never funny and still isn’t. I find Will Ferrell both funny and entertaining, but in this film, he’s neither.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
I’ll probably take some heat for this one, but Ace Ventura was just not very funny to me. The only comedy in the film was watching Jim Carrey’s crazy plastic face contort. I actually find Jim Carrey to be a very entertaining person and I was really blown away by Eternal Sunset of the Spotless Mind, but his earlier comedy like this and its eponymous sequel pandered to the lowest chuckles in its teenage target crowd.

Waterboy
I have to admit I’ve never made it entirely through this film in one sitting. But be fair: it’s only because it sucks so bad. Let me get this straight: we’re supposed to laugh at Adam Sandler acting like a retard for an hour forty straight? Sucked. Let’s not forget about Rob Schneider. This guy is actually funny – or at least, used to be – and is so unfunny he could make a clown cry.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Borat, although the hardcore call it a two hour laughfest, is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I am a huge Ali G fan – I’ve seen pretty much every episode of the HBO show and laughed hysterically through most of them. I have literally fallen out of my chair laughing at Sacha Baron Cohen’s characters. Then why did they release this piece of shit? Borat was, since its inception, about parody – putting people in uncomfortable positions and/or exposing their true, crazy beliefs. Then why have a movie where only about 10% is donated to that success formula and the rest to a stupid subplot, replete with bad acting, a drifting story, and a fat, hairy Russian’s asshole in your face? While some will call this a classic, I will call it what it actually is: shit. I pray – literally pray – that Cohen doesn’t eff up Bruno like he did Borat. Bruno is fantastic.

Epic Movie
This 2007 film played off the success of Scary Movie, Date Movie, and other satire flicks by working off the material Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Chronicles of Narnia, Nacho Libre, X-Men, Superman and a slew of other action flicks provided. Unfortuntely, this movie was so boring I had to resort to slicing my eyes open with the edge of my Twizzler bag to stay awake. This movie doesn’t suck, it’s just so unfunny and boring you may find yourself on the edge of a psychotic break. Fo reals. Epic Movie contains fewer that 5 laughs, and those are:
1. Laughing at yourself for buying a ticket
2. Laughing at the actors for demeaning themselves so
3. Laughing at the writers for thinking this was going to be funny
4. Laughing at the fact that you are still watching the movie

Do yourself a favor, and instead of watching this movie on Friday, kill yourself. It’s easier.

The Draw, and Inevitable Letdown, of Sequels

This weekend, I saw “Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End,” the third, and reportedly final (but probably not final) installment in the Pirates of the Carribean franchise. Last weekend, I saw “Shrek the Third” and just weeks ago I saw “Spider-man 3.” I am also excited for The Bourne Ultimatim, another “part 3.” All of these movies were tremendously exciting events for me, but unfortunately, more than anything right now, I feel let down.

The concept of a sequel is genius: take a storyline people love, bring back the characters for another adventure, or feature a new group of characters in the same place or going through the same challenge. Whatever the case is, most sequels are, in essence, “the continuing adventures of…” Sometimes, like with Back to the Future II, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, or The Empire Strikes Back, the story becomes richer and more intricate. Your audience appreciates this. Sometimes, though, Hollywood thinks we need to be out-thrilled, or further amazed, or that they need to entertain us beyond a quality tale story. I like to say that too often, the story gets lost amongst “the killer phrase.”

The “killer phrase,” as I’ve dubbed it, is ‘bigger and badder.’ It’s a hollow promise. Because ‘bigger and badder’ is never what people want. They just want better. Period.

And nothing is more proof of that than Spider-Man 3. I was so excited for this movie. And, now that I’m a few weeks away from seeing it, I can tell you simply: it sucked. It was terrible. The effects were great, sure. The scene at the top of the building was amazing and my eyes believed everything they saw. As promised, the battles were ‘bigger’, and there were explosions, but the list of problems is endless: the mini-stories were too plentiful and way too short. Fantastic plot devices like the incredible black suit story were ruined because there was too little setup, too little emotional connection, in far too many cases, too little understanding, and universally, too little pay off. Great backstories like the sympathic Flint Marko were lost because of overcrowding. The whole Harry Osborn thing had me screaming, “Couldn’t this idiot butler have had this conversation with Harry like, say, TWO YEARS AGO?!” The entire thing was far too fast without my ever caring about anything or any character. Spidey 3 was everything about Hollywood blockbusters that I hate. And while it may have had the BIGGEST OPENING WEEKEND EVAR!!1!, let’s not forget that it is currently the most expensive movie ever made and it will almost certainly gross less than its two predecessors …and they’re already talking about Spidey 4.

Shrek the Third gave me a few chuckles and was generally a good story, for the most part. It just lost all of the edgy comedy that made Shrek 2 such a scream. So while it may stand better as a kid’s story, that was mostly what it was for me. I laughed a handful of times, but definitely less than 1/10 as much as I did for the second installment. The problem came from a swelling cast of all-stars, a cast that honestly had me unable to identify which character was which anymore after a certain point. Building to the ‘bigger and badder’ tagline made this film boil over.

And Pirates 3, while the best of the bunch, was just shy of 3 hours. There were entire volumes of the film that could have been cut, but inexpicably, weren’t. While it caps off the trilogy, I’d bet my hat it’s not the last we’ll see of Captain Jack. The ridiculousness of the swordfight on the wheel in “Dead Man’s Chest” wasn’t matched in Part 3, thank Science, although there was a very long, trippy sidebar sequence featuring the rescue of Jack Sparrow from the Land of the Dead, replete with hallucination Cap’n Jacks and a series of rocks/crabs that may or may not have been real. Whatever it was meant to be, clearly the goal was to amaze audience, but frankly, the whole of the last two films left me less with “Wow! That was amazing” and more of “Wow! That story could’ve been told in one 2-hour film.”

This is my usual feeling about Hollywood these days. I find films like “The Rise of the Silver Surfer” suck me in only to let me down. Even the Matrix fell to ‘bigger and badder.’ In fact, for me at least, it’s usually something out of the box that I enjoy: most recently Stranger Than Fiction or The Departed. More people left Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and will leave Michael Moore’s upcoming “Sicko” feeling good about seeing the movie than left Spidey 3 thinking it was worth it.

As we approach Die Hard 4, Bourne 3, Rambo IV, Terminator 4, and zillions of other sequels, I hope they remember this advice: audiences want to be respected. They may see your crappy 100 million dollar movie, but big explosions don’t impress anyone anymore, and while your film may have a 70 million dollar bow, it will likely fall more than 50% in the second week, and even more in week 3. As Waitress, a little indy movie climbs steadily up the charts; LOST – a serialized drama with intellectual science fact as the basis of theories – sits high in the charts; and geeks log off of first person shooters and onto websites to discuss Ron Paul and Mike Gravel, the proof is clear: people want to be challenged and they want to be respected. When Hollywood stops pretending to offer quality and starts actually offering the moviegoing public real stories that make people feel happy, or sad, or connected, or just good about being alive – then people will respect the movies again.

Melinda and Melinda

I saw a movie last night called “Melinda and Melinda.” Here’s the two sentence premise: two men – a comedy writer who believes life is tragic and this must be offset by moments of comedy, and a dramatic writer who thinks that only tragedy can make poignant the comedy of life – are a given the shell of a tale and must share their view of the story. Thus, over dinner, four friends recount two very distinct journeys of a mysterious dinner guest, Melinda, and her effect on the dinner guests.

All in all, the movie was decent – it wasn’t a defining point for cinema or anything, but it certainly plucked a string for me. In the end, you are left with one unavoidable conclusion: comedy, tragedy, meaning… it’s all in the eye of the beholder, and where you look for empty and desolate, you will find it. Likewise, where you look for meaning, you will find it. It’s important for me, a soon-to-be parent, to see happiness and joy and love and hope and charity and comedy and meaning in life.

And I do. While life may seem small on a cosmic scale, it’s up to us to enjoy the ride or choose to waste it. And I decided that I, for one, would prefer to spend my time laughing.

So it turns around now. From here on out, I focus on the positive.