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Robocop Is Another Sad Re-Make

jpfmovies:

I knew this would be the case!

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RoboCop-2014-HD-Wallpapers-e1380690800674 I’ve said on many occasions, re-makes are a very tricky element. It doesn’t matter if it’s the re-make of a good movie or a bad one. Unfortunately, every writer and director thinks they can improve on a film or make their movie better than it was originally done. Usually the reason a film was successful in the first place was because of originality. When you remove a key aspect of a movie’s success, you are already starting from behind.

One of the many re-makes is the recently released Robocop. Robocop is based on the 1987 movie in which a badly injured police officer is used as an experimental new hybrid robot/human police officer in an effort to clean up the streets of the violence in futuristic Detroit. With Peter Sellers in the original and almost iconic role, as far as action fanatics are concerned, the original Robocop was cool and…

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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

In my quest to rid myself of rigidly formulaic American media, I was shocked to come across something from France: Engrenages (Translated as “Spiral” in English).

There is a terrific French TV police series in France called Engrenages (the first four seasons are available on Netflix here in the USA).  In addition to containing plenty of exciting action (I have to tell you that it shows rather grisly macabre crime and forensic scenes), the series delineates the different and challenging ways under which violent crimes are investigated in Paris by the police judiciare, which are handled by an investigating magistrate who reviews the allegations made through private interviews and decides whether or not to move the process forward to prosecution.  Such a system is essentially the opposite of what we Americans, and our great cousins across the sea, England use; that is an adversarial system based on common law versus the Napoleonic Code in France (which has its origins dating back to the Roman Empire).  The Napoleonic Code (also known as civil law) is still in action and it makes for fascinating viewing compared to the American criminal justice system as depicted on TV or in the movies.

The characters are very complex as well.  The sheer brutality the French police can get away with while being supervised by a French magistrate is scandalous to any American viewer.  Virtually all interrogations start with some sort of beating and there is no such thing as a Miranda warning.  The main characters are:

Police Captain Laure Berthaud.  She is a capable Paris criminal police officer who is very tenacious and tough as nails using questionable methods.  Devoted to her work, she is very attached to her male subordinates and would do (and does) anything to protect them when they make a mistake.

Assistant Prosecutor Pierre Clément.  A young magistrate with a promising career, he believes in his profession and in the integrity of justice.  That said, his success and his righteousness provoke the hostility of his superior, the powerful Republic Prosecutor of Paris.  He is close friends with Captain Berthaud and Judge Roban but also, more surprisingly, with Joséphine Karlsson (my favorite).

Judge François Roban.  An experienced investigating magistrate (juge d’instruction), solitary and hardworking, he is cold and even cruel with suspects and witnesses, but he is also aware that his job has nearly destroyed his life and the people he loved.

Lawyer Joséphine Karlsson.  She is my favorite character of all hands down, a clever, beautiful and ruthless young lawyer who is always looking for cases that will earn her the maximum amount of fame and money.  She finds it exhilarating to defend monsters and does not hesitate to cross or even double-cross legal and ethical lines to get what she wants.  What comes around goes around however, as her shady dealings and her hate for police eventually gets her into trouble.

The first four seasons are on Netflix and a fifth and sixth have been ordered in France.  As someone who is in the legal profession, I find the show nothing short of fascinating.  Engrenages makes American cop shows look like a joke.  In addition, the French language sounds like music and is a pleasure to hear.  Engrenages is also worth watching for the sake of appreciating the significant cultural differences between Europe and America.  I will tell you this, while watching Engrenages you get the feeling that the Puritans’ legacy is alive and well in the U.S.A.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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The Outlaw Jose Wales (1976): the film that spawned two bad things for Client Eastwood: Sandra Locke and the Director’s Guild’s new legislation, known as “the Clint Eastwood Rule.”

I don’t like westerns that much.  There are exceptions of course—Eastwood’s the Man With No Name series, the Wild Bunch and a couple of others but that is really about it.  Then there is the Outlaw Josey Wales, a western that is near the top of that genre’s food chain in my book.  Eastwood directed part of the film (the initial director Phillip Kaufman was fired) and starred as the Outlaw Josey Wales (as well as his son playing a small role) along with soon to be longtime lover Sandra Locke (a big mistake there)—but more on that later.

The Outlaw Josey Wales was an adaptation of Forrest Carter’s 1973 novel The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales (republished, as shown in the movie’s opening credits, as Gone to Texas).

 

The story is about Josey Wales, a Missouri farmer, who is driven to revenge for the murder of his wife and son by a band of pro-Union Jayhawkers—Senator Lane’s Redlegs from Kansas.  Seeking revenge Wales joins a guerilla group of pro-Confederate Missouri Bushwhackers.  Being on the losing side, when it is all over the group is promised amnesty.  But Wales was not in the war for the politics, but revenge, and not having succeeded he refuses to surrender.  Luckily Wales avoids a trap in which his compatriots are massacred by the same bunch that killed his family.

Well this puts Wales on the run from Union militia and bounty hunters.  Along the way, despite wishing to be left alone, he accumulates a rag-tag group of followers including an old Cherokee named Lone Watie, a young Navajo woman, and an elderly woman from Kansas and her granddaughter (Sandra Locke) whom Wales rescued from Comancheros.

 

In Texas, Wales and his companions are cornered in a ranch house which is fortified to withstand Indian raids.  The Redlegs attack but are gunned down by the defenders. Wales, despite being out of ammunition, pursues the fleeing Captain Terrill on horseback.  When he catches him, Wales dry fires his pistols through all twenty–four empty chambers before stabbing Terrill with his own cavalry sword.

 

Wounded and recovering at the bar in Santa Rio, Wales finds Fletcher with two Texas Rangers.  The locals at the bar successfully hide his identity and convince the Rangers that Wales died in Monterrey, Mexico.  Fletcher pretends he does not recognize Wales, and says that he will go to Mexico and look for Wales himself.  Seeing the blood dripping on Wales’s boot, Fletcher says that he will give Wales the first move, because he “owes him that.” Wales rides off.

 

This is a great film that had some not so great long term consequences for Eastwood.  First, the film began a close relationship between Eastwood and Locke that would last six films and the beginning of a romance going into the late 1980’s.  This relationship would cause some serious headaches later for Eastwood eventually resulting in a lawsuit that ended up in my law school contracts casebook.  In 1995, Locke sued Eastwood for fraud, alleging that he had paid Warner Bros. to keep her out of work since the studio had rejected all of the 30 or more projects she proposed, and never assigned her to direct any of their in-house projects (maybe they just sucked).  In 1996, just minutes before a jury was to render a verdict in Locke’s favor, Eastwood agreed to settle for an undisclosed amount.  The outcome of the case, Locke said, sent a “loud and clear” message to Hollywood “that people cannot get away with whatever they want to just because they’re powerful.”  This case appears in law school textbooks as an example of breaching the implied duty of good faith in every contract.  In my opinion, she deserved nothing because I think all palimony cases are nonsense (palimony was the underlying basis for her claims).

 

The second unflattering item for Eastwood that came out of this great film occurred when, on October 24, 1975, Kaufman was fired at Eastwood’s command by producer Bob Daley.  This caused an outrage amongst the Directors Guild of America and other important Hollywood executives, since the director had already worked hard on the film, including completing all of the pre-production work.  Heavy pressure was put on Warner Brothers and Eastwood to back down, but their refusal to do so resulted in a $60,000 fine (a fair amount of money in the mid-seventies).  This led to the Director’s Guild passing new legislation, known as ‘the Clint Eastwood Rule’ in which they reserved the right to impose a major fine on a producer for discharging a director and replacing that director with himself.

Besides these two unflattering matters that arose out of the film, the Outlaw Josey Wales is some of Eastwood’s best work.  It combines some of his “man with no name” characteristics with a more complete human being—though never taking the mystique out of Wales.  The movie also has some very funny scenes in it, an unusual trait found in most westerns.  Though long, the Outlaw Josey Wales gets a worth-the-time-to-watch thumbs up from me.

 

Next time a-to-be-determined film I hate.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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It’s my step-daughter sweet sixteen-birthday today so what else was there to watch: John Hughes 1984 classic 16 Candles.

John Hughes, the writer/director of such 1980’s-1990’s classics as: The Breakfast Club, National Lampoon’s Vacation; Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Weird Science; Some Kind of Wonderful; Pretty in Pink; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Uncle Buck; Home Alone and Home Alone 2, made his directorial debut with the film sixteen candles.  The commercial success of the film clearly paved his way for his subsequent hits listed above.  The film has some of the most popular 1980’s feature bands as the Stray Cats, Patti Smith and the Thompson Twins.  Whatever your views on the whole coming of age films, Sixteen Candles kicked off the whole genre of films and made the careers Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall.

They forgot her sixteenth birthday because her sister was getting married.  That was the situation Molly Ringwald’s character Samantha “Sam” Baker was in.  She wakes up on her sixteenth birthday and no one has any clue it’s her birthday.  In fact she is scolded by her older sister (who is getting married) about how selfish she and trying to horn in on some of the attention going around.

Meanwhile her whole family converges on her house putting her on the sofa.  Unable to withstand her family dinner, she claims there is a dance she is being graded on (for gym) and heads out.  At the dance she runs into Anthony Michael Hall playing the proverbial leader of the geeks who has made a bet with his friend (John Cusack who’s sister plays the girl with braces) that he can bag Sam, the proof is in the underpants that he has to get in order to win.  Meanwhile Long Duck Dong, and Chinese foreign exchange student, finds a girl at the dance while Sam is crying in the auto-body shop of the school.  Hall talks with Sam and confirms that the boy she likes is interested in her.  In return she lends Hall her underpants letting him win the bet.

They end up at a wild party where Hall also confirms with Jake (Ringwalds want-to-be boyfriend) that she is interested in her.  Well as you probably have guessed after some twists and turns things wind up ok in the end with her sister so high on valium that she collapses when leaving the church.

It was nice stroll down memory lane to see this film again and compare where these teenage stars were and where they are now.  I am not a fan of rigidly formulaic films as you well know, but this one was the beginning of the formula in fact innovative for its time.  A movie worth watching in certain situations—like when a stepdaughter turns sweet sixteen.  Happy birthday E.J.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

We know William Shatner as captain Kirk and from Priceline.com but do you remember him as the cliché cop in the 1980’s series T.J. Hooker with his side kick Adrien Zmed?

T,J, Hooker starring William Shatner, Adrien Zmed and after the first season Heather Locklear ran from 1982 through 1986 (switching networks for the last season) and was created by Rick Husky, who later went on to serve as executive producer of the long running Walker Texas Ranger.

Frankly I am surprised the series ran as long as it did.  Hooker encapsulates the tired TV stereotypical cop—non-nonsense, divorced and clashing with his superiors over his tactics but is tolerated because “he gets the job done.”  Sound a lot like Dirty Harry to me except Hooker wears a uniform not a plain clothed detective.

His partner is played by none other than Adrien Zmed and his role as Hooker’s partner is considered the zenith of his career.  What a bummer.

Working behind the desk at the police precinct, Vicki Taylor (April Clough) was a female officer who usually spent time dodging pick-up comments from Vince Romano (Zmed).  Introduced at the start of the second season was Officer Stacy Sheridan (Heather Locklear), the daughter of Captain Sheridan and Hooker’s younger partner-in-command, who attended the police academy and replaced Vicki.  Initially brought in to fill Officer Vicky Taylor’s shoes, by the end of the season she had progressed to patrolling with Jim Corrigan (James Darren), another veteran cop much in the mold of Hooker.

From the third season onward, Hooker and Romano (Unit 4-Adam-30), and Stacy and Corrigan (4-Adam-16), usually worked together to tackle cases.  The addition of Corrigan and Sheridan’s partnership was an obvious attempt to save the show by adding an extra dimension.

I know I’ve used the word cliché a couple of times already but I can’t help it.  It has everyone it the book.  Well you can see for yourself in the clips.  I can’t believe the show lasted as long as it did.  What does that say about the typical American TV show or the TV viewer?

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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Part II of this Sequel Didn’t Suck.

We left off where Fraga and Nascimento have figured out that the “militias” purportedly formed to protect the slums are actually armed tax collectors.  The corruption ultimately goes higher up than previously thought.  In a plan to help the governor win re-election, a group of disguised militia men raid a hostile district’s police station and steals a cache of weapons.  While the local police chief is being interviewed by a controversial journalist, he asks that the recorder be turned off.  The chief knows that the thieves were militia, since they used references and equipment that police, not dealers, use.   In the counter-attack planned by the corrupt cops Fabio assures the Secretary that these are the drug dealers, saying that he got this from a “reliable source.” Rocha, the “god father” of the slums uses his power to bring Matias back into BOPE, further weakening Nascimento’s power.  Nascimento is against this mission as he has over 300 hours of recorded phone calls with dealers, that reveal the dealers know nothing about the guns, but the Secretary orders him to schedule the attack on the last favela (revealing that the governor planned the raid himself).

Nascimento plans the attack, but he is concerned about the corrupt officers, who usually let the dealers through the station. Matias devises a plan; He and rest of the BOPE team will arrive dressed as patrol officers and replace the corrupt officers in the police station.  The next day, BOPE team arrives and wipes out the dealers.  Matias manages to subdue the main dealer and tortures him for the information, but the dealer keeps telling that they didn’t steal the guns.

The minute Rocha and Fabio arrive during Matias’s “interrogation” they immediately shoot the dealer.  Furious, Matias orders the rest of the BOPE soldiers to carry away the dealer’s body, and then he confronts Rocha.  Matias tells Rocha that he could manage to get the information, as doubts about the guns being at the dealer’s favelas, and orders Rocha and Fabio to give him the source’s name by the rest of the day.  As he storms off in anger knowing he has been played, Rocha shoots him in the back, murdering Matias.  Fabio is not happy since Matias has saved his life but Rocha orders his units to give them a 15-minute window before reporting Matias’s death and concocts an alibi that he wasn’t with Matias when he was killed.

Nascimento confronts Fabio at Matias’ funeral, promising to find Matias’ murderer.  Concerned, Nascimento uses his power to listen to calls from Fraga’s phone, because of Fraga’s influence in the politics.  Meanwhile, Clara, the journalist, goes into one of Rocha’s favelas to make a story about corrupt officers. She is foolish.  Clara goes to an apartment run by an old lady to give her an interview, unaware that she has been paid by Rocha as an informant, and she stalks them and makes a call to Rocha.  He arrives with his men, killing the reporter and raping and killing Clara.

Rocha takes Clara’s phone and burns it, but not before hearing Fraga on the phone, realizing that she has been talking to Fraga, who is shocked by this events.  Nascimento also hears this and records the data, taking it with him.  Realizing that Rocha is on his tail, Nascimento desperately tries to call Rosane, and he waits at her apartment.  Fraga, Rafael and Rosane arrive, and Nascimento tries to warn them about Rocha’s orders, but not before a drive by shooting seriously injuring Rafael.  Nascimento shoots one of the men and leaves with the trio, rushing Rafael to the emergency room.

 

As we stated before, the beginning of the movie is shown with Nascimento leaving the hospital and Rocha and his henchmen arrive and try to assassinate Nascimento.  But he is no fool and has his friends from BOPE in a backup car behind him.  He manages to defend himself from Rocha’s men, who barely escape after the failed attack.

 

Nascimento takes his men and confronts the Secretary, beating him and threatening that he will kill him and the rest of his corrupt men if anything ever happens to his son.  The next day, he is called on a trial in Brasilia and he testifies with Fraga for three long hours at the court, also regarding to dismiss BOPE.

 

In the aftermath, the governor is sentenced to a longtime sentence in prison, the Secretary is placed as the new governor, Fraga is still trying to enroll himself deeper in the politics, and many witnesses are killed so the militia officers can protect themselves.  Rocha is also killed on Fabio’s orders, with his body dumped into the sea.  Nascimento takes the Secretary position and still has control over BOPE, although much bigger now.  Nascimento ends his narration with the words: “And who is paying for all this? It must be expensive. Real expensive. That is the system, it’s tough.”

What is also tough is to compare the two movies.  While they are sequels, the films don’t take place where the first left off.  Elite Squad the Enemy Within takes place 13 years after the end of the first film.  So they really are almost 2 different movies with most of the same characters but, like in life, facing a new reality.  The film is shot using the same gritty, documentary style view for the audience and is just as violent when the violent hits.  All in all I would have to say these two movies are the best I’ve seen this year.  The Portuguese language is interesting to listen too, the story is great, the actors are perfectly cast and the filming technique is superb.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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