February 18th, 2014

THE ULTIMATE WEAPON (1998) **

Hulk Hogan stars in a rare turn in an R rated action flick. Hogan plays “Hardball” Cutter. And no, he’s not a moil. He’s a mercenary sent on “Operation: Shamrock” with his new smart aleck partner. They get duped into helping some IRA terrorists and The Hulkster gets some payback by blowing up their shipment of weapons. The bad guy doesn’t take kindly to that so he kidnaps Hulk’s stripper daughter. Things get complicated when she falls in love with Cutter’s partner.

Hogan looks pretty ridiculous with his short hair. He looks like a G.I. Joe action figure come to life. Because of that, it’s hard to take him seriously. Hogan does alright in the action sequences, but not so much during the “dramatic” scenes. The parts where he tries to reconnect with his daughter aren’t very involving and the Hulkster also gives what has to be one of the worst proposals in screen history.

I’m not sure Hogan was right for this role. They should’ve used The Ultimate Warrior instead. Can you imagine the trailers? The Ultimate Warrior IS The Ultimate Weapon! But I digress.

Don’t let the R rating fool you. The action is akin to something you’d see on one of those made for TNT Chuck Norris movies. The only reason it’s rated R is for some brief nudity in a strip club. With a couple of snips (amounting to about fifteen seconds), it would be ready to play on TNT or Spike. At least it moves at a breezy enough pace. Plus, it features a fairly over the top death for it villain (and henchman) so I can’t say I completely hated it.

Our friends at Comeuppance Reviews’ take on the film can be found here: http://www.comeuppancereviews.com/2010/08/ultimate-weapon-1997.html

MY LITTLE EYE (2004) ** ½

A group of strangers living in a house in the middle of nowhere have their every move captured and broadcast on the internet. If everyone stays in the house for a period of six months, they will win a million dollars. On the final week of the competition, things get increasingly strange. The mysterious owner of the site stops sending them food and begins leaving each one of them ghoulish messages about something hidden in their past. Is the owner of the site trying to force them into forfeiting their loot, or is the new stranger in their midst playing a psychotic game with them?

My Little Eye is a hair or two better than the usual Horror Webcast Movie. The filmmakers find a couple of neat little complications to the usual formula that at least make things semi-interesting. And there is a nice bit of atmosphere that is slowly built up along the way.

The big problem here is with the way it was presented. The camera shots are taken from security cameras, webcams, and camcorders, which kinda gives you a headache after a while. Plus, there’s a lot of lime green-tinted night-vision footage that’s pretty annoying too. If the flick had just been filmed like a normal damn movie, it would’ve easily been a *** joint. Oh well, at least you get to see a young Bradley Cooper in an early role as a potential psychopath.

ROBOCOP (2014) ** ½

Robocop 2 is one of the most prophetic movies of all time. Not only did it predict that Detroit would go bankrupt, it also accurately predicted the softening of its main character. Remember when that bitchy scientist consulted a parents group and programmed over 200 bullshit directives into Robocop’s brain? It resulted in a completely wussified Robocop. But since Robocop is owned by big conglomerate, it was just business as usual.

Soon, life imitated art with a vengeance. There were kid-friendly Robocop cartoons, comic books, and TV shows that watered down the original concept. The next sequel even became a PG-13 affair with none of the ultra-violence that made Paul Verhoeven’s original and Irwin Kershner’s Robocop 2 classics. (It should be noted that I’m in the minority that thinks Part 3 is pretty good, just not a patch on its predecessors. I’m also in the minority that believes Part 2 is a misunderstood masterpiece, but there you have it.)

Robocop fans have been bitching and whining that this new remake is watered-down PG-13 retread, but honestly, the neutering of Robocop is nothing new.

With this remake, die hard Robocop fans will probably find reason to both complain and rejoice. (This review is filled with equal parts.) This new Robocop is not nearly as bad as I was expecting, but not quite as good as I was secretly hoping. (I had my expectations set to: “I hope it’s as good as Part 3”; which unfortunately wasn’t the case.)

The story is basically the same, with a couple of additional wrinkles. There is more of a concentration on Omnicorp (whose parent company is OCP) and the reasons why they can’t police the streets using machines. There are long sequences where a political pundit named Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) rattles off reasons why we need machines at home. There are long sequences set in Tehran where ED-209 machines are suicide bombed by terrorists. We get long scenes of Omnicorp’s CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) fighting Washington over anti-robot legislature.

These scenes taken on their own probably looked great in the editing room. However, coming right at the open of the movie, it starts things off on a sluggish note. While Jackson is good in his scenes, they ultimately stop the movie cold in its tracks. His scenes particularly hurt the film late in the game when he pops up doing interviews and making editorials when really, the action should be heating up.

Once Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnamon) is introduced, the movie is already sort of on shaky ground from the abundance of exposition. Luckily, Kinnamon equips himself nicely in the role. He’s really good in the early scenes before he becomes Robocop and does a fine job once he’s in the armor too. And I particularly thought he did some nice work once Omnicorp completely zombifies him.

Which brings me to the most interesting thing about this new version: In the original, Murphy was a robot who slowly found his humanity. In this one, he’s fully aware he’s a human in a robo-suit, but once his emotions begin to interfere with the programming, they shoot him full of drugs to pacify him. Then he spends some time as a monotone robot, working for “The Man”. But when he sees his hot wife (Abbie Cornish) and kid suffering, his emotions are able to override the system.

That is about the only new inclusion to the film I really enjoyed. And Gary Oldman is excellent in his scenes with Kinnamon as Norton, the scientist in charge of the project. Omnicorp wants Murphy to be Robocop, but he wants Murphy to be able to still live his life. And despite the PG-13 rating, the scene where Norton strips Murphy of his armor and shows him what’s left of himself is rather devastating.

When Robocop is on patrol; the movie works in fits and starts. Some of the action is pretty cool (like when he singlehandedly takes out an army of ED-209s) and the scene where he taps into the criminal database and starts bringing in suspects has a kick to it. But these scenes feel rushed and are interrupted by Pat Novak spoon-feeding political commentary to the audience. And the scenes where Robocop finally confronts his creators are extremely disappointing. The scenes with Sellars and his right hand man (played by Jackie Earle Haley, on the verge of becoming Clint Howard) are abrupt, anticlimactic and lack the closure Robocop (both the film and the character) needs.

Michael Keaton is a lot of fun to watch in this. He seems genuinely thrilled to be involved in a big budget movie again, and he has energy to spare. If you take anything away from Robocop ’14, it’s that Keaton still has the goods.

Robocop ’14 is not without merit. It is not altogether uninteresting. Some of the special effects are pretty good, and while the redesigned suit will never beat the old one (which has a brief cameo), it at least gives Robocop the ability to run, jump, and ride a motorcycle. Are these additions particularly noteworthy? Not really. But if you ever wanted to see Robocop ride a motorcycle, then you’ll probably enjoy it.