Are You OK, Annie?

Criminal

by Rachel Willis

Director Ariel Vroman has crafted an interesting character study within the bones of an action movie with Criminal.

When CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is killed in the line of duty, his boss, Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman), desperate to obtain the information Pope was bringing to him, enlists the help of Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) to perform a radical memory transfer from Pope to Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner). Dr. Franks is unsure if the procedure will work, as he’s only performed is successfully on small mammals, but Wells pushes him to perform the surgery.

Predictably, the operation is successful. However, Jericho Wells is unpredictable. He is a man without a conscience, and his predilection for destruction jeopardizes Wells’s objective.

Costner is marvelous as Jericho, first playing the character with cold indifference, but shaping him to the memories and feelings of Pope as they overwhelm him. Attempting to use Pope’s knowledge for his own gain, he finds himself drawn to Pope’s life, particularly Pope’s wife and daughter.

As the deceased’s wife, Jill Pope, Gal Gadot (the new Wonder Woman) gives a compelling performance as a woman who is suddenly confronted with a very dangerous man who happens to know things about her life that only her husband would know. The characters’ initial interaction is tense, and it’s unclear how Jericho will act toward Jill and her daughter.

Unfortunately, the situation plays out the way one would expect, as Jericho is influenced more and more by Pope’s thoughts and feelings. What could provide for an unexpected, and possibly deadly, confrontation is instead relegated to a predictable attack of conscience before anything truly sinister occurs.

Though Costner ably carries the weight of the film, many of the supporting characters feel flat, with little to do other than attempt to steer Jericho in the direction they want. Gary Oldman is especially mundane in his role as a CIA director who seems inept and impulsive.

Only Gadot, and Michael Pitt (The Dreamers, Funny Games) as Jan Stroop, imbue their characters with emotions and wants that have nothing to do with Jericho. Pitt is especially effective, radiating various emotions and providing a nice contrast to Jericho.

Despite the weakness of some of the characters, the film is an intriguing study of Jericho. There are a number of tense, and occasionally funny, moments as we watch him navigate his new memories and feelings.

On the whole, Criminal is an enjoyable, if predictable, film.

Verdict-3-5-Stars

Best Draculas Countdown

There is a new Dracula movie, which begs the question: Do we need a new Dracula movie?

No. There’s nothing new to say, and with so many worthy options already available, why buy new? With that in mind, we have pulled together a list of our favorite cinematic Draculas. (Note, we cheated here and there. Sue us.)

10. Frank Langella

In 1979, Frank Langella recreated the Stoker anti-hero as a virile romantic lead and the ladies swooned. Langella is a consummate actor who brings a wry charm to the screen.

9. Jack Palance

Breathy and weird – as always – Jack Palance makes the vampire into a strange beast in a film that’s campy and ridiculous but worth watching.

8. Udo Kier

Speaking of weird! The effortlessly bizarre and uniquely compelling Udo Kier is the anemic and pathetic monster at the heart of Andy Warhol’s Dracula – a gorgeous piece of vampire trash if every there was such a film.

7. William Marshall

Officially, no, he is not Dracula. He is Blacula – respect him! Fear him! Dig him!! There are few Seventies blaxploitation films that can hold a candle to this one, mostly because of Marshall’s rich baritone and compelling presence.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXrL_Hm50eU

6. Klaus Kinski

In 1979, Werner Herzog revisited F. W. Murnau’s masterpiece Nosferatu – a film that was originally meant to be a Dracula film, but copyright forbade it. Herzog fixed that, with a mesmerizing Kinski as the bloodthirsty count Hypnotic and creepy, Kinski nails it.

5. Gary Oldman

What I love about most of the vampires on this list is that the actors zero in on the inherent weirdness in the role. Oldman channels the Count’s smolder, but that granny version early on is the one we remember.

4. Willem Dafoe

OK, so this is a bit of a stretch. In Shadow of the Vampire, Dafoe plays Max Schreck, the actor who played Count Orlock in Murnau’s Nosferatu. But Orlock was supposed to be Dracula, and the point is, Dafoe is amazing – hilarious, creepy and terrifying all at once. He is easily one of the best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAn5uLNMmjk

3. Bela Lugosi

Sure, #3 may seem low for the actor most linked to the role. He’s the icon, we give him that, and even if there are others we find scarier or more interesting, Bela will always be image of Dracula.

2. Christopher Lee

But Christopher Lee – the six foot five inch baritone – is so much more menacing. This was the Dracula to fear. This was the one we believed could turn into a wolf and tear your throat out, the one that had the strength of ten men, the one who could woo the ladies. Christopher Lee was the one.

1. Max Schreck

Hopefully we’ve made the case by now that Murnau’s Nosferatu counts, and our favorite Count is Orlock because Max Schreck is one sick genius. So sick that an entire brilliant film was created to due him honor. He’s the creepiest, most memorable, all time best Dracula, even if he is a vampire by another name.

No Donuts Required

 

by George Wolf

 

Rebooting 1987’s RoboCop seems like such an obvious idea, you may wonder why it took this long. No matter, the new RoboCop is here now, ready to clean up the streets and pump some fun (along with a decent amount of lead) into your Valentine’s date plans.

We’re back in crime-ridden Detroit with honest cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnamen) but beyond that, the backstory is rightly, and effectively, re-imagined for a new audience.

Robot drones built by global conglomerate OmniCorp have become commonplace in American military action overseas. OmniCorp would like to expand but Congress, bowing to public sentiment against these “soulless” enforcers in our own backyards, has blocked any attempt to put the same robots to work in law enforcement here at home.

That’s a problem for OmniCorp honcho Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), and for uber-outraged TV host Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson, just as hilariously over-the-top in his Bill O’Reilly sendup as you would expect).

The chance to turn the public tide their way comes when Murphy is blown nearly to bits by the local crime lord. OmniCorp scientist Dr. Dennet Norton (Gary Oldman) and his team spring into action, meticulously bringing Murphy back to ass-kicking life via the super suit!

Director Jose Padiha (a Brazilian film veteran making his English language debut) has no trouble delivering the frenetic action and impressive visuals, so much so that any motion- sensitive viewers might want to skip the IMAX print. Otherwise, strap in and enjoy the ride! It’s one that Padiha paces well, hitting the gas just when events start to bog down in melodrama.

Screenwriter Joshua Zetumer dials back the misanthropy of the original to provide more thoughtful inner conflict, as Murphy/RoboCop fights to overcome the engineering which allows him only the “illusion of free will.” Less subtle, but still worthwhile, are the nods to the ongoing debate about liberty versus security.

What’s missed in this new version is the knowing approach the original brought to the entire cop genre. Murphy’s fight to bring down the crime boss and his cronies is stitched together with nothing but well-worn cliche, and just doesn’t mesh next to the satirical layers that bubble up elsewhere.

No, RoboCop 2014 ain’t perfect, but it’s sleek and exciting enough to make the inevitable sequels feel much more promising.

 

Verdict-3-0-Stars

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INmtQXUXez8