ROBOCOP. Slick, not too long, a little bit of fun — RoboCop hits a few notes right, but never gets better than its visuals. That the '80s version remains satirically relevant (and endearing) makes the remake even more hollow.
Alex Murphy, a Detroit cop is set up and nearly killed by his coworkers when he gets too close to a gun-running operation. Murphy becomes the humanity that drone manufacturer OmniCorp needs to sell Americans on artificially intelligent crime fighting machines. After brief self-doubt, Murphy takes on his new role with vigor, but quickly learns that corrupt cops are a minor inconvenience compared to OmniCorp's sinister multinational marketing scheme.
There's never any doubt that Murphy/RoboCop will prevail in this revenge tale, but as he climbs the ladder of corruption, there's no single villain for the viewer to rally against. After his attempt to connect with his family doesn't click, there is no hope for Murphy to return to what he was, either. Jose Padilha's stylish direction delivers some inspired shots of an uncomplicated vision of the future, but the action never gets better than an early, frenetic training sequence.
Swede Joel Kinnaman could have brought some of the snarky cynicism he embodies as a young detective in The Killing, but, like Murphy, his dopamine levels appear to have been drained. The rest of the cast is clearly having a good time, at least. Diminutively sneering and sociopathic Jackie Earle Haley happily chews scenery, and Samuel Jackson's salivating jingoist is fun, but too strident. Michael K. Williams is fantastic, as always, and underutilized.
Buried in there is a moral fable about humanity and artificial intelligence, but it — along with the commentary on cable news punditry, drones, surveillance, marketing and capitalism — lacks the humor or invention of the original. PG13. 108m.
WINTER'S TALE. How did this get made? It's based on a book (not Shakespeare), so presumably, the producers thought it was a safe investment. The film can't find a tone, makes little sense and comes up empty-handed for all its grasping at emotion, profundity and sexiness.
Set in 1910s Manhattan, Colin Farrell (with his eyebrows co-starring) plays Peter Lake, a thief on the run after somehow pissing off his boss/father figure/underworld kingpin Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). A flying horse rescues him and urges him into one last B and E during which he's discovered by an infirm Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay), who unfathomably invites him to tea. Romance blooms, and the movie lurches on, jumping eventually into modern day New York City.
Winter's Tale is filled with exhausted tropes that bore: the reading of star names; "destiny"; a Native American "spirit guide"; that thing where someone watches a funeral from afar. It's also unclear if the melange of accents is intentional or a byproduct of laziness. Farrell sounds Irish, though his ambiguously Eastern-European parents abandoned him as a baby in New York. The rest of the cast is similarly all over the map.
Director Akiva Goldsman (who produced Jonah Hex and Hancock) creates a world that makes no sense, even magically speaking. At one point, Crowe's baddie Pearly Soames puts out an underworld APB for Lake, only to use moonlight to magically show Lake's location moments later. Why does he need manpower if he's got moonpower? Later, when Soames lets Peter and Beverly escape across an icy lake, he announces, "We can't follow him out there." Why? "The rules," says Soames.
In the fantasy world Goldsman has created, the magic comes and goes with no explanation and the "rules" are arbitrary. Magic is just a convenient way for the writers to plop characters into contrived situations. It's frustratingly lazy storytelling, and it takes all of the enchantment out of the fantasy, leaving only hokum.
It's a shame. Farrell is charming (despite his Billy Corgan haircut), and yet he rarely gets cast in anything worthy of his talents. Perhaps the only redeeming moment in Winter's Tale comes out of sheer bizarreness: a cameo by a disinterested Will Smith as Lucifer, who apparently shares David Blaine's stylist. Were the filmmakers hoping people would remember Winter's Tale as "the movie in which Smith played the devil"? At least they created a piece of Hollywood trivia in an otherwise forgettable film. PG13. 118m.
— Grant Scott-Goforth
3 DAYS TO KILL. A gravelly Kevin Costner as a CIA tough guy on one last assignment to save his own life and spend quality time with his daughter. PG13. 113m.
POMPEI. Spoiler: Vesuvius erupts. But not before a young gladiator finds love in this ancient disaster movie. PG13. 100m.
ABOUT LAST NIGHT. An '80s movie remake with Joy Bryant and Kevin Hart trying to go from hooking up to settling down. R. 100m.
ENDLESS LOVE. Another '80s movie remake with young love and parental disapproval. With Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde. PG13. 105m.
FROZEN. Kristen Bell in some standard Disney princess fun with Josh Gad as a slapsticky snowman. PG. 108m
HER. What if HAL crossed with Siri and sounded, you know, hot? Joaquin Phoenix is an introverted writer who falls in love with his upgrade. Like the relationship, it feels surprisingly real. R. 126m.
I, FRANKENSTEIN. Schlocky comic book adaptation with Aaron Eckhart as an immortal battling the undead. Not bad enough to be fun, not good enough to deserve Bill Nighy as its villain. PG13. 93m.
LEGO MOVIE. Underdog, villain, evil plan, destiny, heroism, jokes — the usual stuff, but with Legos! PG. 100m.
LONE SURVIVOR. A Navy SEAL team mission in Afghanistan goes sideways leaving Mark Wahlberg and Emile Hirsch between the rocks and the Taliban. Gripping and heartbreaking. R. 121m.
MONUMENTS MEN. Clooney's squad of artists and curators liberate art from the Nazis. A rousing and impressive detective story. PG13. 118m.
PHILOMENA. Steve Coogan helps Judi Dench track down the son who was taken from her as a baby. PG13. 98m.
RIDE ALONG. Ice Cube is a scowling cop with plans to terrify his sister's mouthy fiancé Kevin Hart by taking him on patrol. R. 89m.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill