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Sunday, 21 February 2016

Weekend TV Movie Review: RoboCop - Channel 4 (2014)

Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L. Jackson
Genre: Cyberpunk Action
U.S Box Office Gross: $58 million

Plot: The year is 2018 and multinational conglomerate Omnicorp is at the centre of robot technology. When Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), a loving husband, father and good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit is critically injured in the line of duty, Omnicorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot officer. Omnicorp envisions a RoboCop in every city & even more billions for their shareholders, but they never counted on one thing: there is still a man inside the machine pursuing justice

''Felt like I was watching a version of Bicentennial Man but with added gun violence''

It's not difficult for me to put my finger on how and where it went wrong in this remake, reboot, retelling-whatever you want to call it in this film.  

Robocop is one of those timeless classic movies that shouldn't be remade at any cost. It didn't need remaking. Now Robocop 2 and 3 deserved to be remade, but the first film, to touch the first movie, which was a huge hit and was so brilliant in many aspects, is a big mistake. Whilst in the original 1987 movie, officer Alex Murphy is set upon, shot at and mercilessly beaten to death by a group of thugs with metal bars, in this 12A/PG-13 version, here, he is injured after being blown up by opening a car door. & this is just one of the many problems that have blighted this movie from the start. 

Alex's transformation into Robocop in this movie was flimsy: in the original, Alex was proclaimed dead and when he woke up, he wasn't Alex anymore, nor did he remember much of his identity. He became a machine and thus, his core sense of humanity was a huge tragedy that was also touched up in the 1987 film. Yet in 2014's Robocop, despite the car bombing, nothing much has changed for Alex: the creators and writers of this film took out the key elements of the first movie and in doing so, they do not go out of their way to underline important themes. 

The original, whilst it was raw, gritty, over-the-top in violence, had its share of biting satire and instances of police and social morality is thrown in as well. But in this rendition, all of these aspects are stripped away in favour of catering to the kids and families and making Robo more family-friendly and holier-than-thou and adding a scene where a young child bonds with Robocop. Due to the 12 A/PG-13 classification rating. The metal Silver armoured suit is replaced by an all-black colour; the helmet looks nice and sleek, but from the chest downwards, it looks dreary & awkward. I am questionable of that open faced helmet/suit and I don't like how it flips up and down so you can see Alex's eyes. 

The corporate, big business, greed-is-bad' ideology is replaced by scenes of heavy-handed Middle-Eastern killings and murders and swipes at US foreign policy, which I found bizarre, ridiculous and irrelevant to the main plot & characterization of Alex Murphy. The film's inability to transfer the characters' inner struggles and difficulties meant that for me I couldn't take this film any more seriously as I'd truly wanted. 

The gratuitous and excessive blood and violence was excessive in the original, but though it was done to shock, it also shocked people in a way that is effective; in the sense that it showed the disturbing realities of life as a cop and having been killed in cold blood, only to be resurrected and to live - but as a robot, rather than as a human. 

The talents of Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman - who were relatively big stars of the early 90s and 80s - were truly wasted. The villains just weren't menacing and loathable enough. 

The violence has also been massively downgraded, diluted and replaced by excessive CGI scenes, - some of which look like they have been ripped off by some third-person shooter video game. The action scenes pale in comparison to the original film: there is no tension or suspense, no real fear. However, probably the biggest flaw this movie has made has been the b*stardisation of Alex Murphy, which during the 1987 version, it saw a machine/cyborg-like cop trying to figure out who he is now whilst wrestling with his emotions, but with his emotions left intact, it wasn't overdone in a way that came across as being sentimental and melodramatic. Unlike this film. 

Joel Kinnaman's portrayal of Robocop was nothing to write home about and too much emphasis was placed on Alex's wife and his son. The movie tried to tackle and delve into Alex's emotions too much, to the extent to which it became more and more like a sob story, whilst dumbing down on the action. 

The performances by most of the cast were under-par and underwhelming, to say the least, and it was as if they were all phoning it in. Not one quotable or memorable line in it whatsoever. And I wouldn't even bother commenting on the script. 

What disappointed and upset fans of the original movie most of all, is that it totally disregards almost everything that made the 1987 Robocop so memorable, thoroughly watchable, as well as a hardcore R-rated action classic, in order to pander and cater towards families and children. It tries to put a moral and emotional spin, and yet also have it watered down with the melodrama. Big mistake. The action was also so bland, unexciting and was not eye-opening enough. 

Another thing I didn't understand is the absence of the Detroit police force and Officer Anne Lewis in this movie only to be replaced by a fellow male cop - I think Anne was an essential part of Robocop and she was a counterfoil to Alex and having her beside him, it gave us someone we could identify and understand with and who was on the same wavelength as Alex on an emotional level. As she helps him regain his humanity beneath that metal suit of his. But then that is when Murphy's wife in the 2014 remake comes in and stands in for Anne. But unlike Annie, she is not there with Alex partaking in missions, fighting and busting criminals. That is the difference. Also making Lewis a Black guy, instead of a white woman is a feeble attempt by the creators to pander to racial demographics. He doesn't even contribute much to the film, never mind the story; other than just agreeing with every single thing Robocop says and does. 

I felt like I was watching a version of Bicentennial Man but with the added gun violence. It was that terrible. 

As a matter of fact, one could be watching this film and you would mistake it to be a different film. And not Robocop. Now, if this was titled anything else, then, sure enough, it would be all right. But this is Robocop, this is (supposed to be) based on an original 80s movie and to a lesser extent, the comics. 

Final Verdict: 

Having heard and read of the negative reactions and comments this version received, I saw it on Channel 4 and decide for myself whether or not I liked It - and I didn't. And I'm glad I saw it and now knowing how poor this version is, I'd be saving my money in not purchasing the DVD of the 2014 version of Robocop

Existing as nothing more than by living off the back of the original and relying on its nostalgia to wrestle more money out of the audience this version of Robocop is too stylised, too fancy, too modern - and which is why it doesn't work. I loved the original from Paul Verhoeven: everything about it was spot on and it's something you can't just remake, but also you can't get rid of completely and just wipe the slate clean. 

I wasn't fooled by the impressive looking poster above - this is a poor and cheap imitation of the original Robocop, & an unnecessary remake. 


Friday, 5 February 2016

Chinese New Year

Known as the 'Spring Festival', Chinese New Year is an important festival celebrated at the beginning of the Lunar calendar, in contrast to the Gregorian New Year, which is based on the solar calendar.

It is considered as a major holiday for those living in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and is the main Chinese cultural festival of the year. It still remains as the most economic and social holiday in China. 

When China adapted the Western calendar in 1912, the Chinese joined in the January 1st celebrations as New Year's Day; however, China continues to celebrate Chinese New Year in more traditional ways than Hong Kong, UK, USA, Australia, Canada. 

Speaking of which, it is also observed as a public holiday in numerous overseas countries with enormous Chinese communities and people of Chinese descent, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada to name but many. Depending on the date, Chinese New Year varies in correspondence to the new moon in January or February; therefore, it changes from time to time. In China, it typically lasts for 15 days, whilst outside of China it tends to be around 2 or 3 days. 

For many Chinese people, who aren't Christians, such as myself and don't celebrate it religiously, Chinese New Year is our version of Christmas, but without Santa, snow, Xmas tree and gifts. 

A few days before Chinese New Year commences, people will tidy and clean up their homes to get rid of evil spirits and put up Red and Gold coloured new year decorations. Family and friends will get together and meet up at home or by dining at a Chinese restaurant, get involved in Chinese -related activities, watch shows and make plans for the remaining year ahead. One may see this as an extension to their new years resolutions, which are made earlier on in the year. 

According to popular myth, the roots of Chinese New Year originated from the battle against Nian: a dragon in Chinese mythology. Nian would visit various places in China and devour the cattle, crops and people. Therefore, to help ward off the dragon, the Chinese people would put food on their doorsteps, so that it wouldn't harm them. But then when they saw it was afraid of the colour red, they would put out red lanterns and envelopes, as well as set off firecrackers to scare it away. 

The primary colour in Chinese New Year traditions is red; whereas in Western traditions, red connotes evil, negativity and bad, in Chinese tradition, red is considered as a symbol of 'good luck' and positivity. Themes of good fortune, wealth, happiness, prosperity and longevity are also emphasized.  

The reunion dinner is the Chinese equivalent to Thanksgiving Day dinner in America and Christmas dinner. Dumplings, which are shaped and look like coins, are supposed to symbolise wealth.  

The Chinese zodiac symbol consists of each birth year represented by a type of animal that contains associated characteristics. It is also possible and viable to combine your Chinese zodiac star sign with that of your Western star sign to decipher more traits. 

The Chinese pronunciation of Happy New Year is 'Gong Xi Fat Cai' in Mandarin and 'Gong Hey Fat Choi' in Cantonese but they mean the same thing, regardless. 


Chinese New Year - Wikipedia 

Top Marks - Chinese New Year  

Chinese New Year - 

Chinese New Year - Calendar Labs

18 Fun Facts about The Chinese New Year - The Language Blog 

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