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SURROGATES

Studio: Touchstone

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, language, sexuality and a drug-related scene.

Starring: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Ving Rhames and Boris Kodjoe

Directed by: Jonathan Mostow

What it’s about: In the not-too-distant future, people use robotic surrogates to interact with the world. However, when two surrogates are destroyed – and their operators are killed in the process – the police open the first homicide investigation in years. It’s up to Bruce Willis – and his full head of surrogate hair – to track down the killer and uncover the mystery of why the murders took place.

What I liked: I’ve always liked these sort of off-season science fiction action movies. While they wouldn’t survive in a tentpole summer release, Surrogates is like Demolition Man, Virtuosity, Paycheck and this spring’s Next. They’re fun action flicks, and they can also be thought-provoking.

Surrogates is based on a graphic novel, and for the most part, it retains the feel (or at least it retains that of which I’ve read). It’s not as dark and grim as the graphic novel, but the concepts are in place.

The coolest part of the film was its commentary on our current state of technological affairs. With people using various social media services, we’re not that far away from the surrogate users who stay at home and let the robots do all the interacting for them. Of course, there was a certain irony when I tweeted out a quick positive review after seeing the film.

What I didn’t: While this movie is fun, it’s not without its flaws. There’s a greater human story that the film attempts to tell between Willis’ character and his wife. This is where the film bogs down and becomes uninteresting. Plus, there are some pretty huge plot holes, but I was willing to overlook them because I enjoyed the film.

Oh, and one more thing. What the frak is up with Ving Rhames’ hair? Go back to the Marsellus Wallace days, man!

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of off-season sci-fi action.

Grade: B+

FAME

Studio: MGM

Rated: PG for thematic material including teen drinking, a sexual situation and language.

Starring: Asher Book, Kristy Flores, Paul Iacono, Paul McGill and Naturi Naughton

Directed by: Kevin Tancharoen

What it’s about: The original high school musical from 1980 gets remade with a modern face. Rather than repeating the characters, this modern version of Fame follows a new group of teens as they make their way through the four years in the New York School of Performance Arts.

What I liked: I didn’t see the original Fame when it was released in 1980 because I was nine, and it was rated R. However, I did watch the television show when it ran through the 80s. Overall, this new movie captured the spirit of the original material by showing snapshots of the lives of the kids in the school.

The stories are held together with a series of production numbers and songs, which is really the strong point of the film. Some are better than others, and I could do without all the hip-hop (’cause I’m an old fuddy duddy, apparently). But some numbers are pretty neat.

What I didn’t: With its PG rating, this new version of Fame is aimed at a much younger audience than the R-rated original. Tweens and teens into the performance arts should eat this up, but there’s really not enough story to make it appeal to anyone else.

With a dozen or so characters, and each getting his or her own arc, the plot is whisper-thin. Instead of being anyone’s movie, Fame becomes a patchwork of the various stories, each having about five to fifteen minutes of screen time.

Who is gonna like this movie: Teens and tweens in the performance arts.

Grade: C

PANDORUM

Studio: Overture Films

Rated: R for strong horror violence and language.

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue and Cung Le

Directed by: Christian Alvart

What it’s about: A skeleton crew on a spaceship wake up from hyper-sleep with no memories of who they are and what their mission is. As they try to piece together their lives, they discover a ship full of mutants that want to eat them… and they struggle to survive.

What I liked: There’s a mood in this film that makes it work really well, at least for half of the movie. It has some very scary and disturbing moments, and that can be fun for an audience. The acting is decent from both Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid. And Cam Gigandet (from Twilight fame as well as Never Back Down and The Unborn non-fame) does an okay job in his little role.

I’ve always enjoyed haunted house movies in space to a certain degree, and this definitely delivers on that front… at least a bit.

What I didn’t: Ultimately, this film boils down to a hodge-podge of different films. I’ve seen all of this before in Alien, The Road Warrior, The Descent and even a recent Batman cartoon. While the movie gets points for concept, it loses quite a bit for originality.

I’ve never been a big fan of movies that feature people reverting to a tribal culture. Nothing against tribal cultures, but I’ve just seen too much of it in films over the years. And to make things worse in this film, even 200 years in the future, apparently the agricultural workers are people of color. Go figure.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of haunted house movies in space.

Grade: C-


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