Archive for Kurtwood Smith

Revisited: RoboCop

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the near future, Detroit, Michigan, is a dystopia and on the verge of total collapse and anarchy due to financial ruin and a high crime rate, higher than any large American city. To avoid mass collapse, the city mayor has signed a deal with the mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP), allowing them to run and control the underfunded police force in exchange for giving OCP the freedom to demolish the poor run-down sections of Detroit and construct a high-end utopia called “Delta City,” to be managed by OCP as an independent city-state free of the United States. However, OCP must clean the city of crime in order for the plan to be put in effect.

This move angers the police officers as they are now forced to obey OCP instead of the city, and they threaten to strike, but OCP evaluates other options for law enforcement. OCP senior president Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) offers the prototype ED-209 enforcement droid, but when it accidentally kills a board member during a demonstration, the OCP chairman, nicknamed “The Old Man” (Dan O’Herlihy), decides to go with the experimental cyborg design titled “RoboCop” as suggested by the younger Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer). His decision disgusts Jones, who objects to the idea of a human having robotic parts.

Because a recently-deceased officer is needed for the RoboCop prototype, OCP reassigns police officers to more crime-ridden districts, expecting officers to be killed in the line of duty. One such officer is Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller), who is teamed with Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), a rookie police officer. On their first patrol, they chase down a gang led by the ruthless criminal Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), tailing them to an abandoned steel mill. When Murphy and Lewis are separated, Boddicker’s gang corner him, then gun him down with shotguns.

Murphy is pronounced dead and is chosen by Morton for the RoboCop program. As RoboCop, he is given three primary directives: serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law, as well as a fourth classified directive that Morton doesn’t know of. He single-handedly and efficiently cleans Detroit of crime, and Morton is given praise for his success. This draws Jones’ anger with Morton’s plan working perfectly while Jones’s ED-209 is ridiculed. Lewis eventually discovers that RoboCop is really Murphy. Murphy experiences past events from his life and, at one point, returns to his former home, finding out that his wife and son have long since moved away, thinking that Murphy has died.

Later on, as Morton shares cocaine with two prostitutes, Boddicker arrives, forces the prostitutes to leave, then shoots Morton’s legs, crippling him. He then shows him the message from Jones, explaining that he hired the killer to execute him for going over his head and not going through the proper channels of OCP. Boddicker then places a grenade on the table and abandons the crippled executive, leaving him to die after Jones tells him he is ‘cashing him out’.

Murphy tracks down Boddicker to a cocaine factory and threatens to kill him, but Boddicker admits his affiliation with Jones, and is able to verbally trigger RoboCop’s law-abiding directive. Murphy finds he cannot kill Boddicker and arrests him instead. He approaches Jones at OCP headquarters and attempts to make an arrest, but Jones reveals he planted the hidden fourth directive that prevents Murphy from taking any action against an OCP executive. Jones explains his larger goal of taking over OCP, and confesses to Morton’s murder. Although he orders his personal ED-209 to kill Murphy, Lewis is able to help Murphy escape and takes him to the same steel mill at which he was murdered to repair himself and recover. There, Lewis learns that much of his personality still exists intact.

Meanwhile, the police force, under further duress by OCP and fearing their replacement by the RoboCop program, finally goes on strike and crime runs rampant. Boddicker regroups his gang to take out Murphy using anti-tank rifles and a tracking device provided by Jones. They converge on the steel mill, but Murphy and Lewis are able to fend off the attack and kill the gang, although Lewis is wounded. Murphy assures her that medical help is on the way, and heads back to OCP, easily destroying the ED-209 guarding Jones using one of the anti-tank rifles.

He arrives at the board room where Jones is offering his ED-209 to replace the Detroit Police Department, which is still out on strike. Murphy replays Jones’s confession, which reveals his duplicity to the board, and explains that he is unable to act against an OCP officer. Jones threatens to kill The Old Man unless he’s given a helicopter. The Old Man immediately fires Jones, which gives RoboCop clearance to kill him by shooting him out the window. The Old Man thanks RoboCop and asks for his name, to which RoboCop replies, “Murphy.”

REVIEW:

The city of Detroit has fallen on some hard times of late, but if there is one thing they haven’t lost it is that they are the city in which RoboCop was based. Ironically, this film was set in the future and now “old Detroit” resembles actual Detroit. As a staple of 80s R-rated action, this is surely worth a viewing, right? Especially since I’m not in the most pleasant of moods right now since the President has taken over the airwaves and I’m missing Agent Carter and I already missed The Flash thanks to traffic. Let’s hope this cheers me up.

What is this about?

A monolithic corporation controlling a futuristic, crime-riddled Detroit transforms a dead cop into a cybernetic law-enforcement unit called Robocop.

What did I like?

Commercials. I hate commercials. When they come on, that’s when I flip through channels. When ads pop up on YouTube, I press the skip button, or open another window and do some random surfing. However, the commercials that are interspersed throughout this film caught my attention, mainly because they are just random cutaways and the products they are advertising are just plain ridiculous, such as a Battleship-type game called “Nuke ‘Em” that the whole family can enjoy. You know, I was watching these things and started pondering whether or not this is where Cowboy Bebop got the idea for their random broadcasts.

Satire. When you look at this film, the last thing you think of is that it is a comedy, unless you count the 80s cheesiness of it, of course, but truth be told, there is so much satirical material in here that a few tweaks to the script would have totally changed its genre. For instance, the big corporation running everything was supposed to be an allegory for how “big brother” was going to look out for us in the future. Debate whether that happened or not. Some theories have compared the death and “resurrection” of Officer Murphy to Jesus. Yes, you read that right! Apparently, this was the director’s intent, going even further by having the idea of him walking through water at one point in the film symbolize Jesus’ walk on water. Of course, there are the aforementioned commercials which take consumer culture at the time and turn it on its head with how ridiculous they are. Who would have thought this little action movie would have such a message hidden underneath, right?

Hemoglobin. Ah, good ol’ 80s R-rated action flicks! There truly is nothing like them. Why? Well, just look at the death scenes! They are bloody as hell. Peter Weller’s character gets his hand shot off, then has a firing squad of shotgun shells put in him, followed by a show from a pistol, and we see all this bloody goodness. In an earlier scene, the ED-209 shoots up a guy in the office and the blood gushes like no one’s business. This is not to forget the guy at the end who crashes into a vat of toxic waste, has his skin melting and then is smashed by his bosses car. Back then this kind of stuff was allowed, and it was awesome! Today, well the fact that horror movies are rated PG-13 and don’t have killing in them most of the time, even if they are a slasher flick, should tell you something.

What didn’t I like?

Partner. The main character of this film is Peter Weller’s Robocop and he is mostly a solo act, but for some reason I wanted more from his partner. Granted, this is a woman who watched her brand new partner get brutally gunned down, and there really wasn’t much of a connection developed between them beforehand. That being said, a partner is a partner, and in the world of 80s cinema, females either have extreme compassion or develop feelings for their male counterparts, sometimes both. In Allen’s case, she does the former, but there is no reason for her to be in the film past the shooting, other than to tell Weller that his wife and kid are gone.

Wife and son. Speaking of the wife and son, we never really see them, other than in flashbacks. When Weller, as Robocop, returns to his home, they are gone, it is up for sale, and everything looks like it survived a mini house fire. What is wrong with this, you ask? Well, the duration of the film where Weller is a cyborg, he is struggling to find his humanity. What is more human that the two most important things in a man’s life? Surely, they would have helped him with that. On another point, I can’t see the wife just letting her husband’s body be donated to an experiment like this and then just packing up and leaving town, even if it is Detroit and they just moved there.

Mr. Ed. There is no bigger proponent of stop-motion animation than I, and the fact that they used this technique on a mechanical creature, the ED-209, rather than dinosaurs and mythical creatures was something that I appreciated (the dinosaur in one of the commercials is stop-motion, now that I think about it). While I appreciated it, that doesn’t mean it worked. Maybe this is just something that hasn’t stood the test of time, but there is a look to the film that is sleek and sophisticated, dare I say modern or even futuristic (for the time that this was released), and then there is ED-209, who is supposed to be even more futuristic looking, but comes off as more of a cartoon. Making matters worse is that this is supposed to be a giant killing machine that is meant to uphold the law. How can you take something like this seriously when it can’t walk down stairs without falling and then squealing like a pig? For comic relief, that was fine, but it didn’t fit in with what this thing was supposed to do.

With all the police issue going around these days, RoboCop is just what we need. I highly doubt he would have choked a guy to death for just standing there, or killed a guy who hadn’t committed a crime, or any of the other things that have been reported (and not reported) involving police and their killing the public. This is a good 80s escape film. What I mean by that is you will be transported back to the 80s when you watch this, and that isn’t a bad thing. Unfortunately, there is a remake that was released which I’m sure just defecated all over the legacy of this film, but you can never go wrong with the original! So, do I recommend this picture? Yes, very highly!

4 out of 5 stars

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Cedar Rapids

Posted in Comedy, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Naive and idealistic insurance agent Tim Lippe has led a sheltered life and hasn’t encountered all that others have; the movie is about his becoming more aware of his cocoon and moving out of it. At the beginning, he is shown welcoming a former teacher into his home, addressing her as Mrs. Vanderhei, and promptly having sex with her. Afterwards, he reminisces about his experiences as her student. In his position as an insurance agent, he is sent to represent his company (Brownstar Insurance) at a regional conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Lippe is sent as a replacement for his co-worker, Roger Lemke, who dies in an auto-erotic asphyxiation accident. Tim idolized Roger, believing that his death was merely an unfortunate accident, and that he embodied all it was to be decent, honest, caring to the community and most importantly “Christian,” as these are the key criteria used to judge the winner of the coveted “Two Diamonds” award, which Roger had won 2 years in a row. Tim is under pressure from his boss, Bill, to ensure they win again and keep the small company afloat.

Lippe meets fellow insurance agents Ronald Wilkes, Dean Ziegler and Joan Ostrowski-Fox, or “Ronimal”, “Dean-Z” and “O-Fox” respectively. He also meets Bree, a prostitute who works the parking lot in front of the hotel. She affectionately calls him “Butterscotch” after he offers her a piece of butterscotch candy. Initially wary of almost everyone at the conference, he spends more time with Ron, Dean and Joan, and starts to develop genuine friendships and even a crush on Joan. All the insurance agents participate in a Scavenger Hunt, with Tim being paired with Joan, and although no one manages to complete the final task, they come farthest and thus win the contest and a gift card to a local restaurant. Tim, Joan and Dean become rather intoxicated through the night and end up in the hotel swimming pool, Tim and Joan’s sexual tension builds to a head and, after making out in the pool, they make love (later, in Joan’s hotel room). Regrettably, they were all seen in the pool by ASMI president Orin Helgesson.

The next morning, Tim is guilt-ridden and calls his older girl friend (and ex-teacher) Macy to confess, before desperately asking her to marry him, she takes this opportunity to explain that as a recently divorced woman she just wants to have fun, so she too has been sleeping with other people and tells him that perhaps “it’s time for him to fly away from the nest and start a new life”. Tim returns to Joan, who attempts to comfort him by telling him what Roger Lemke (the man he idolizes) was really like: that she was his lover but left him after his sexual appetites became a bit too twisted for her, and that he bribed Helgesson for each one of his Two Diamond awards. Tim refuses to believe this, and flees Joan’s room, accusing her of being a “prostitute” sent to destroy his life.

He runs into Dean and accidentally lets it slip that Lemke had bought all of his Two Diamonds. Dean swears to not tell anyone, it becoming apparent that he already sees Tim as a true friend. After some words of advice from Dean, Tim goes to Helgesson for his assessment: it does not go well, and under the pressure he ends up also bribing Helgesson for the award, leaving him penniless and ashamed. He later comes across Bree and accompanies her to a party, which ends up with Tim getting high on crystal methamphetamine and inadvertently starting a fight. Ron, Joan and Dean show up just in time to rescue him, as well as Bree who claims she is in love with Tim. The night ends with Bill appearing at Tim’s door to inform him that with the successful acquisition of another Two Diamond award, he has received a generous offer for the company and despite it meaning the branch’s closure, he has chosen to sell. The day of the Diamond awards comes and while Bill is formally announcing the sale, Tim bursts in and takes over the podium; this when he reveals that his company has unethically acquired the award every year by bribing Helgesson and confesses to doing so himself. Helgesson flees the room, his reputation in tatters. A furious Bill confronts Tim, his revelations having cost Bill the sale of his company. Tim responds by announcing his intentions to leave the company and start another with his clients from Brownstar, 17 of which have agreed to stay with him. Bill storms off, dumbfounded.

As the four friends say their goodbyes and prepare to see each other next year, we see Joan and Tim are happy as friends and Dean invites Ron and Tim to stay at a wealthy friend’s cabin in Canada for the summer, both of them surprising Dean by gleefully accepting, their shared experiences having clearly awarded genuine friendships and personal growth to them all.

It is revealed during the credits that the three of them went on to start their own company together called Top Notch, with Joan involved as well.

REVIEW:

Sometimes, Netflix will send me movies that are at the top of the list, but only because I hadn’t rearranged it, yet. This is how I got to watch Cedar Rapids. While I wasn’t excited about this flick and wondered how it even managed to make it on my list, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Chances are most of you have not heard of this. I know I hadn’t. The plot involves an insurance agent who has been working in the town he grew up in. All of a sudden, the man he has idolized since he began working for the company turns up dead. This means that Tim, played by Ed Helms,  will have to head to the conference down in Cedar Rapids and take his place, not to mention continue the tradition of bringing back the coveted Two Diamonds award.

At the conference, Tim meets an interesting cast of characters, starting with the young prostitute Bree, and fellow insurance agents Ronald, Joan, and the man his boss had told him to avoid, Dean. I can’t remember why it was that he was supposed to avoid him, though.

At the conference, things start to happen, such as Tim falling in love with Joan, finding out a terrible secret about his former idol, getting high on crystal meth, and of course the climactic moment when he finally grows a backbone and tells his boss off.

The comedic chemistry between all of these character is gold. While Ed Helms may not be the best leading man, he makes for a nice central character. Isiah Whitlock, Jr. makes a nice comedic turn as the “token black guy”, with his best scene being when he goes all “gangsta”. John C. Reilly steals the whole show as Dean., the loud-mouthed, lecherous supposed “frenemy”, if you will. Anne Heche (where has she been?) makes a very Julianne Moore-like appearance as the girl of the group, Joan. Take my word for it, you’ll have to do a double take when you see her.

There are quite a few funny moments throughout the film, and it never seems to get bogged down in trying to be too serious. It remembers that is a comedy, first and foremost, which is something so many films tend to forget these days. There are better comedies out there, but you will still be at least mildly entertained by this one. I have to say that is likely to go down as one of the surprises I’m sure to see this year. Check it out if you get the chance!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Green Lantern: First Flight

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2009 by Mystery Man

 

PLOT:

Before any other sentient beings existed in the universe, a race of beings calling themselves the Guardians of the Universe harnessed the power of the “green element” (Ion), the greatest power in the universe, to create the Green Lantern battery. However, the battery has a flaw: the color yellow, the one part of the light spectrum that can resist green. The most concentrated source of yellow energy, the “yellow element” (Parallax), was hidden by the Guardians to prevent others from using it against them.

Test pilot Hal Jordan (Christopher Meloni) is recruited to join the Green Lantern Corps after the death of Abin Sur. He is placed under the supervision of respected senior officer Sinestro (Victor Garber), who is investigating Abin’s murder. Abin was killed while doing an undercover investigation of Kanjar Ro (Kurtwood Smith), who managed to locate and steal the yellow element. What no one realizes is that Sinestro provided Kanjar with the location of the element, in order to have it fashioned into a weapon of comparable power to the Green Lantern battery.

Jordan quickly comes to understand that Sinestro’s beliefs are not in line with those of the Guardians: Sinestro believes that the Guardians have reduced the Corps to the role of “trash collectors,” merely picking up the messes criminals create as opposed to proactively dealing with the problem. During a mission to capture Kanjar Ro, Jordan is knocked unconscious by Kanjar’s energy staff. Sinestro comes in and kills Kanjar, pinning the blame on Jordan. Jordan is stripped of his ring as punishment.

While Jordan waits to be taken home, Sinestro uses his ring to temporarily animate Kanjar’s corpse in order to access the data in Kanjar’s energy staff, allowing him to learn the location of Qward, where the yellow element weapon is being fashioned. Jordan convinces fellow Lanterns Boodikka (Tricia Helfer) and Kilowog (Michael Madsen) that Sinestro is not what he seems. They catch Sinestro red-handed, but Boodikka turns out to be in league with Sinestro and attacks Jordan and Kilowog. Sinestro escapes, and Boodikka is killed when Jordan tricks her into destroying Kanjar’s unstable energy staff.

On Qward, the Weaponers bestow Sinestro with the yellow ring and battery. Using its power, he lays waste to Oa, the yellow light easily overcoming the Green Lantern rings. The yellow battery (which in practice functions like a giant yellow ring) even destroys the green battery, killing countless Green Lanterns who were in space at the time. Jordan, having recovered his ring moments too late, pounds on the inert green element, breaking it and absorbing the whole of its power. Imbued with the full might of the green energy, he destroys the yellow battery by smashing two moons into it.

However, having exhausted most of his power to destroy the yellow battery, Jordan is left weakened against Sinestro, whose ring still holds a significant charge. After a pitched battle, Jordan uses the last of his power to knock Sinestro to the surface of Oa, where Kilowog crushes the yellow ring. Kilowog, his ring having regained some of its power, then saves Jordan from free fall.

Once Oa is rebuilt and the Green Lantern battery restored, Jordan is asked by the Guardians to lead the Corps in reciting the Green Lantern oath. Jordan then leaves for Earth to check in with his other boss, Carol Ferris (Olivia D’Abo), remarking on the long “commute.”

REVIEW:

It was announced this summer that Ryan Reynolds would be playing Green Lantern in a long overdue live action film. I must say I can’t wait, it’s about time DC let some of their characters on the screen besides Superman and Batman (and Flash, if you count that short lives TV show in the late 80s).

A while back, I was extremely impressed with Wonder Woman. One of the special features on that DVD was a first-look at Green Lantern: First Flight. Since then, I’ve been counting down the days until I got to see this….I won’t go into the fact that Netflix was playing around with my emotions the past couple weeks and teasing that it was available. On this one, there is a first look at the next DC direct-to-DVD film, Batman and Superman: Public Enemies (don’t quote me on the title).  The next countdown can begin!

We’ve all seen superhero films that spend the majority of the time dwelling on the origin. Thank goodness this is not the case here. Yes, they do go into the origin, but its more of a footnote version of it. No complaints from me about that. The reason they give for choosing to not go into the origin is that it is covered in-depth in Justice League: The New Frontier.

This is what I wish superhero movies on the big screen would be. It is faithful to the source material, not too dark, filled with action, and is just a joy to watch, just like reading the comic.

The voice cast here in top notch. Christopher Meloni, of Law & Order fame, is the voice of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern. Nothing to really brag about with him, but considering the character, he really works.

Victor Garber’s voice as Sinestro gave me chills. not because he’s scary or anything, but rather the fact that he is the perfect fit. The timbre of his voice is the perfect mix of maniacal villainy and sophisticated contempt.

Michael Madsen and Tricia Helfer work in their roles, as well. both are said to be stars of the film, but thir roles aren’t that big, yet they are enough to make mention of, especially Madsen, whose gruff voice seems perfect for Killowog.

The action and animation in the film are the main draw. The big climax at the end isn’t a surprise for any Green Lantern fan, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. The animation impressed me because it appears that about 90% hand drawn. CGI has its place, and its not mixing animation styles, at least in my opinion.

Should you rush out and see this? Well, I’m not going to say that. If you not a fan of the character, or at least have a decent background in the Green Lantern lore, you will get a bit lost, but if you can get past that, then by all means rush out and enjoy. It is definitely worth the time!

5 out of 5 stars

Robocop

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on September 27, 2008 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film is set in a dystopian near future, in Detroit, Michigan. Violent crime is out of control, and the city is in financial ruin. The city government contracts the megacorporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) to fund and operate the police department, in effect privatizing it. OCP is not interested in rebuilding “Old Detroit” but rather replacing it with a modern utopia called “Delta City”. Before this construction project can begin, OCP wishes to end crime in the city, but knows it can’t rely on an already overwhelmed police department.

OCP Senior President Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) presents the new law enforcement droid ED-209, which he believes will end crime in Old Detroit, at an executive meeting. The demonstration quickly goes awry when ED-209 fails to recognize that the OCP volunteer dropped his weapon, as commanded by the droid. The unarmed executive unsuccessfully tries to flee and is gunned down. Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) uses this opportunity to propose his alternative project, the RoboCop program, directly to the head of OCP (Daniel O’Herlihy) who accepts, earning Morton the wrath of Jones.

Detroit police officer Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller), recently assigned to the Metro West precinct, is mortally wounded in action by a gang of criminals led by the notorious Clarence J. Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and pronounced dead in the hospital. Murphy’s brain and face are rebuilt into a robot body, and he is dubbed RoboCop. RoboCop patrols the city and upholds the law and is extremely effective at stopping crime. Morton’s overwhelmingly successful project propels him to an OCP vice presidency, but Dick Jones warns him that his humiliation won’t go unanswered. Boddicker, who has been secretly working with Jones, later kills Bob Morton on Jones’ orders.

RoboCop starts to experience memories from his previous life and starts hunting Boddicker and his gang. Boddicker is arrested in a cocaine factory by RoboCop. In desperation, Boddicker inadvertently implicates Dick Jones. While trying to arrest Jones, RoboCop is stopped by a directive in his program, Directive Four, prohibiting him from arresting any senior OCP executive. RoboCop is severely damaged by an ED-209 unit and a police SWAT team but escapes with the help of his former partner, Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen).

Jones frees Boddicker and tasks him with the destruction of RoboCop, promising to make him a crime lord when OCP starts the construction of Delta City. Boddicker’s gang members, rounded up by RoboCop, are released when the police force goes on strike. Supplied with military weapons by Jones, they follow RoboCop to the same abandoned steel mill in which Murphy had been killed by the gang. In a final showdown, RoboCop and Lewis kill Boddicker and the gang. The battle leaves RoboCop damaged and Lewis wounded.

RoboCop proceeds to the OCP headquarters and reveals Jones’ criminal activities to the head of OCP. Jones tries to take the OCP head hostage. But as he starts making demands, he is fired, which refutes his protection under Directive Four. RoboCop immediately shoots Jones, forcing him through a window to fall to his death. When the head of OCP asks RoboCop for his name, he replies, “Murphy”, before leaving the boardroom.

REVIEW:

Back in the 80s, movies weren’t so scrutinized. Thusly, they were of higher quality. Robocop is no exception. While the effects aren’t on par with today’s standards, you can’t watch this and not be impressed.

I remember this being the first R rated movie I ever saw that wasn’t a horror movie. Today I look at it with different, more mature eyes. and still love it.

Though I do love it, there are some flaws. This could be because they spend so much on the origin part of the story. As far as I know, they didn’t know there were going to be two sequels, so there was no need to spend half the movie on it. Also, they could have spent a little more time developing the human aspect of Officer Murphy and a little more in depth with Clarence Boddicker. Those are just my opinions, though.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars