Paul Verhoeven

RoboCop

Few years in the history of recent Hollywood have gone by without a sizable pile of ‘80s remakes. Typically, those remakes are at least somewhat spread out. But this Valentine’s Day weekend greeted us with a grand total of three remakes, all bearing (with the exception of a conspicuously absent ellipsis) the titles of their predecessors: RoboCop (original: 1987), About Last Night (original: 1986), and Endless Love (original: 1981). So many ‘80s clones haven’t opened wide the same weekend in two and a half years, when Footloose 2.0 battled the prequel to re-re-make of The Thing. Recycling the ‘80s is hardly exclusive to cinema. Indie and mainstream pop have been revisiting the era of New Wave and post-punk for years. Sometimes this results in uncanny synergy, like two singles from the past few months referencing the opening sequence of The Hunger. And, of course, in the political sphere the ‘80s are ever present, as the exponential concentration of wealth to the very rich have forced a public conversation rethinking Reaganism and neoliberal economics. Few films used popular culture as a platform for exploring this political climate quite like RoboCop and About Last Night. So rather than taking to task whether these remakes are “worthy” or “necessary” or not (is any?), I’d rather mine how the subtle differences between these revisitations and their originals betray our complicated relationship to the era of “Just Say No” and “Where’s the Beef?”. Perhaps we keep recycling the ‘80s because that decade in particular, invited […]

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robocop-commentary1

With the RoboCop remake hitting theaters next week and the recent 4K remastered Blu-ray release of the original film, it’s a good time to look back at the story’s humble beginning. While 1987’s RoboCop launched two lame sequels and a terrible television series, the original was a gas-station-explodingly fun excursion into 80s action excess. A few years ago, MGM released a Blu-ray set of the three films, but the RoboCop disc had no special features. These have been resurrected from the old DVD release and encoded on the new 4K remastered version, including the commentary by the filmmakers. It’s been a few years since this commentary track was recorded, but it still gives a nice retrospective of this action classic, including a look at why the film wouldn’t have made it through the MPAA and studio process now. So whether the remake is good or bad, we will still have the original RoboCop in all of its violent glory. On to the commentary…

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Brian De Palma’s Passion, as alluded to in this review, teeters on a level of badness that, in turn, becomes camp. This female-vs.-female rivalry film with strong Sapphic overtones and a constant back and forth of ludicrous backstabbing can’t help but draw comparisons to Paul Verhoeven’s “epic,” Showgirls. Without revealing too many spoilers, below is a list of categories with which to pit the two films against each other in a brutal cat fight. Will the newcomer reach the near-impossible Razzie-winning, midnight screening heights of the Paul Verhoeven disaster? Let’s find out with these seven totally scientific, head-to-head category comparisons!

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Boiling Point

As with any movie that people can actively remember that gets remade, there has been plenty of poo-pooing of the recently underway RoboCop reboot. The 1987 classic from Paul Verhoeven set the standard for violence and gave us a kick ass super-cop who didn’t mind shooting right after asking you to surrender. I get it – there are plenty of films that shouldn’t be remade – true classics. Films like Casablanca or Gone With the Wind. I don’t think anyone is looking for another take on Schindler’s List or Amistad either. I was a big RoboCop fan. Because my parents were cool, I saw this movie when I was only like five years old. There’s still a Polaroid picture of me standing with a dude in a RoboCop costume somewhere from some neat event. I dug Robocop and remaking it is the right call. Say what?

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If ever there was proof remakes are worthwhile, it’s the 1995 adaptation of Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone. Neither a critical nor a box office success, the movie would probably be forgotten entirely if it weren’t for the fact that it’s based on a very popular comic strip. In the UK, anyway. Also, as much as there is to dismiss about the movie, it has some good ideas that aren’t necessarily taken from the source material. Basically, it’s a movie that could be remolded into a very fine film. That said, the upcoming Dredd 3D doesn’t appear to be a remake so much as another attempt to mine a movie out of the character, which made its debut in the pages of 2000 AD in 1977. Not even the title is the same. Nevertheless, this isn’t simply an umpteenth adaptation of Romeo and Juliet or Anna Karenina. With comic-based movies we think of the franchise. While The Dark Knight is not exactly a remake of the 1989 Batman, there’s a tendency for people to be conscious of all movies involving the Caped Crusader, as a unified property. And we can’t rightly think about Dredd 3D without considering its predecessor, either. Two and a half years ago, Brian revisited the earlier version with a thorough look at its pros and cons for a Junkfood Cinema column. So, there’s no need to redo that, and I don’t mean to. What I mean to do is address the movie in the context of its […]

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Director Len Wiseman made the 21st Century remake of Total Recall we kind of expected. It’s big, flashy, and in modern remake/reboot fashion it’s also gritty & grounded. Sure Wiseman nicely packed three-breasted women into his PG-13 picture, but this isn’t a movie fit for Kuato, small prostitutes firing off machine guns, and Arnold Schwarzenegger making funny faces. There’s little room for comedy in the futuristic world Wiseman has built. Compared to his previous films, it’s the biggest sort he’s created thus far. With a budget of $125 million — which, as Wiseman points out, has been falsely reported as being $200 million — the director has also made a blockbuster about as big as one can get. That scope isn’t what drew the Underworld filmmaker, but the identity crisis at the film’s core is. Wiseman set out to make a personal detective tale which happens to be set in a big, futuristic world. Here’s what Total Recall director Len Wiseman had to say about not going big for the sake of big, the influence of The Fugitive, and how certain Roland Emmerich classics served as his film school:

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Let’s get this out of the way – there’s quite a bit different about Len Wiseman‘s remake of Paul Verhoeven‘s Total Recall. Although the film hasn’t exactly been greeted with the most pleasant of critical responses thus far, one thing you can’t criticize the film for is being a carbon copy of the 1990 film. Obviously missing is the iconic Kuato and the setting of Mars, but also absent from the film is a widely reported appearance by Ethan Hawke. Although it sounds like Wiseman’s remake lost a sizable amount of material in the editing bay – considering there is a 17-minute-longer director’s cut in the works – Mars and Kuato never even made it past the script stage. While speaking with Wiseman yesterday, he told us why there is no Mars, no appearance or mention of Kuato, and why you won’t see Ethan Hawke’s brief role in the theatrical cut:

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As the cinematic summer season winds to a close, audiences everywhere will soon get to relive the joy of memory implantation, three-boobed ladies, and governmental double-cross. No, no, it’s not The Bourne Legacy (is anyone triple-stacked in that? Let’s hope so!), it’s Len Wiseman‘s take on Total Recall. This time around, no one goes to Mars and Ahnuld is nowhere to be found, instead Colin Farrell takes over as the mystified and misplaced everyman Douglas Quaid whose fun-time mind-trip ends up with some seriously unexpected consequences. Last weekend, Beverly Hills’ own Four Seasons Hotel played host to scads of press primed to interview the Total Recall crew about such things as what they’d want Rekall to implant in their minds, what it was like working with a married couple, and how the film’s lovely lady stars stay so young-looking. Of course, there were also interesting questions asked at the junket, and director Wiseman and his stars Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, and Bryan Cranston answered those, too. And also Cranston talked about Breaking Bad for twenty minutes and we all took it in, starry-eyed. After the break, check out 21 we learned at the Total Recall junket, from how Cranston thinks BB will end, what element of the film stands out as the major difference between it and the original (hint: it’s not that the film doesn’t go to Mars), what Biel knows about the status of David O. Russell’s Nailed, and the special cameo that Wiseman built into the film […]

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Drinking Games

This week, Colin Farrell tries to fill Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sizeable shoes in the remake of Total Recall. If you’re not a fan of Farrell or director Len Wiseman, or if you’re just angry about a PG-13 remake of an R-rated film, why not check out Paul Verhoeven’s original? Lionsgate releases the new Blu-ray in the “Mind Bending Edition” this week, which basically means a new edition to sell the week of the remake’s release. But that shouldn’t stop you from visiting a bar in Venusville where you can drink yourself silly while watching this slice of R-rated 90s silliness.

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In Paul Verhoeven‘s 1987 film, RoboCop, the sci-fi action takes place in a future Detroit, one that is overridden by crime and violence. Mega-corp Omni Consumer Products has been contracted by the city to run their police force and to clean up the city and its many criminals. Part of their initiative involves a cyborg cop program called, you guessed it, RoboCop. When veteran police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is killed in the line of duty, OCP takes his body and uses it for their very first RoboCop. While successful in his job, the now-eponymous RoboCop is still haunted by memories of his old life as Alex Murphy that he must battle as he also battles crime. Jose Padilha is now remaking RoboCop, set to star Joel Kinnaman and, as is the case with all reboots and remakes and rehashes, this new film begs the question – just how similar will this new film be to the original? Turns out, in the case of RoboCop, pretty damn similar! Over at ComingSoon, they’ve posted the newest synopsis for the RoboCop reboot (a Robocop-sis?), and it sounds like some very well-tread territory:

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More than a few opinions were changed about the upcoming Total Recall when that trailer hit last month. The big summer sci-fi blockbuster’s preview sold an epic scope, the chance to explore a new world, and a fresh take on Philip K. Dick‘s story. Gone was Mars, the mutants, and a body builder acting like a killing machine. What director Len Wiseman is bringing to the table is more in line with the tone of Dick’s short story: serious, heady sci-fi. Wiseman has unquestionably made a film that will contain its fair share of explosions and one-liners, but the mystery of Douglas Quaid is what piqued the Live Free or Die Hard filmmaker’s interest the most. “Who am I?” is a quintessential life question, so imagine the stakes of having to answer that while being chased down and shot at. Speaking with Wiseman, the busy director discussed his reliance on practical effects, building an entire world without too many talking heads, and the identity crisis Douglas Quaid faces.

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It’s taken 33 Commentary Commentaries, 33 different movies we’ve heard all kinds of people from directors to actors to whatever was going on with Cannibal: The Musical, but we’ve finally gotten to AH-NOLD. That’s right. This week we’re looking into Total Recall, that mind-melting actioner from 1990 wherein Arnold Schwarzenegger uses a completely innocent bystander as a human shield, loses his memory, and saves just about every mutant living on Mars. He doesn’t save the girl with three breasts, though. That probably deserves a spoiler alert. But it’s time to hear what Schwarzenegger and director Paul Verhoeven have to say about the whole experience. With the remake headed our way this Summer, we felt it was time to find out everything we could about this modern classic. Maybe this time next year we’ll have a Total Recall 2012 commentary from Colin Farrell and Len Wiseman. Wiseman has already offered a commentary for his film’s trailer, but there’s no way in the world it’s going to be as entertaining as listening to Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger. No way. Let’s get our asses to Mars, shall we?

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It’s fair to say the reception for the Total Recall trailer has been positive. Nathan Adams notably went over the moon for it, declaring the visuals “mind-blowing.” While that might a bit extreme, the trailer was pretty damn cool, and certainly more impressive than most skeptics were expecting. Now, courtesy of MTV, director Len Wiseman provides a commentary for the trailer, in which he discusses the world of the film, the unique opium den take on Recall, and how that one shot is an all-practical effect.

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This Sunday! There will be a thing on the Internet! That we all might be interested to see! But here is some of it now! The teaser trailer has somewhat recently become quite the en vogue way to heighten anticipation for films – throw up a few splashy title cards, dice in some scenes that could (or could not) be important to the film, bate viewers for the full trailer. It’s a fair way to market stuff, and when it works, it really works – like in this teaser trailer for Len Wiseman‘s take on Total Recall. Wiseman’s film is “inspired anew” by Philip K. Dick’s short story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” and it stars Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, and Bryan Cranston. While it’s hard to get too much of a feel for an entire production from a thirty-second spot that’s peppered with reminders to watch for the full trailer this Sunday, Wiseman’s film at least looks to be a bit more serious and hardcore than Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 film. And, of course, it appears to come complete with Farrell jumping on stuff, like, all the time. The teaser trailer won’t make you wish you had three hands, but it will certainly make you want to see more.

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Back in the late 90s, expert director of schlock Paul Verhoeven took a stab at adapting one of legendary sci-fi novelist Robert Heinlein’s most popular stories, “Starship Troopers”, and the results were something that resembled Heinlein’s far-looking, satirical tale less than it did a B-level genre piece that was far more…well, schlocky. Starship Troopers was all about bad acting, big explosions, disgusting amounts of bug goop, and exploitative co-ed naked shower scenes. It may not have been an adaptation with a tone that was true to its source material, but it had its own kind of charm, you know? And since it was just made in the 90s, and it’s got special effects that actually hold up pretty well, you wouldn’t think there would be any need to revisit the material again. But you would be wrong. Or at least producer Neal Moritz thinks you’re wrong. You may have heard Moritz’s name before, he’s the Sony Pictures bigwig responsible for another recent remake; the upcoming and Colin Farrell-starring Total Recall. The similarities between these two projects are endless. The original Total Recall was also a Paul Verhoeven movie, it was also (very loosely) adapted from a story by a legendary science fiction writer (Philip K. Dick), and it was also something that nobody really thought needed to be remade. That film hasn’t hit theaters yet or anything, but Moritz must be really happy with what he’s seen of it, because with this new take on Starship Troopers he’s pretty clearly […]

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News of a RoboCop remake has been bouncing around for literally years, usually with Darren Aronofsky’s name attached in some manner. Recently, the plan for the film has been that Aronofsky would serve in a producer’s role and José Padilha, helmer of 2007’s Elite Squad, would be sitting in the director’s chair. Even more recently, Dutch film site Film1 caught up with the director to have a chat about Elite Squad 2, and at the end even managed to get a quote out of him about how his approach to the material will differ from original RoboCop director Paul Verhoeven’s. Padilha’s comments were posted in some sort of indecipherable moon language, but luckily the gents over at /Film were kind enough to run it through Google translate and have some good old-fashioned English come out the other end. Padilha roughly said, “I love the sharpness and political tone of RoboCop, and I think that such a film is now urgently needed. But I will not repeat what Verhoeven has done so clearly and strongly. Instead I try to make a film that will address topics that Verhoeven untreated. If you are a man changes into a robot, how do you do that? What is the difference between humans and robots developed? What is free will? What does it mean to lose your free will? Those are the issues that I think.” That’s kind of vague, but I guess what Padilha is getting at is that his version of RoboCop will focus […]

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What if Joshua bar Joseph (you know, Jesus) was just a man spreading ideas about loving your neighbor and your enemy alike? What if the claims of transcendence only mask a truth about a young child born from a raped mother who grew up to do radical exorcisms and challenge the political structure? Somewhere along the way, director Paul Verhoeven became fascinated with Christ as an historical figure, and he wrote a book about it called “Jesus of Nazareth” that was published last year. Now, according to Deadline Judea, he’s been trying to find financing for a film version. Regarding the project, Verhoeven has said, “If you look at the man, it’s clear you have a person who was completely innovative in the field of ethics. My own passion for Jesus came when I started to realize that. It’s not about miracles, it’s about a new set of ethics, an openness towards the world, which was anathema in a Roman-dominated world. I believe he was crucified because they felt that politically, he was a dangerous person whose following was getting bigger and bigger. Jesus’ ideals are about the utopia of human behavior, about how we should treat each other, how we should step into the shoes of our enemy.”

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; if this is your first time, you have to fight. Despair all ye who accidentally stumbled upon this column while searching for information on junk bonds, food poisoning, and/or Cinema Paradiso. Instead you found the weekly internet column that celebrates the cheesiest, the corniest, and the hammiest that Hollywood has to offer. Every Friday I serve up a not-so-great movie and pick apart its faults until only the greasy carcass remains. But then I fashion that carcass into an unsightly headdress which I then don as an embarrassing testament to my love for said movie. As if this weren’t obnoxious enough, I will then pair the film with an appropriately terrible-for-you snack that will wreak havoc upon your insides as the movie cannibalizes your IQ. This week’s treat: Starship Troopers

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Movies We Love

Serve the public trust. Protect the innocent. Uphold the law. Synopsis Welcome to Detroit, sometime in the near future. The city’s a cesspool. Its streets are overrun by homicidal criminals. Greedy industrialists, charged with protecting the common good, are bleeding the place dry. Enter Officer Alex Murphy. He’s an honest cop, freshly transferred to the city’s anarchic Metro West precinct. He’s also one unfortunate cop, savagely cut down the first day on the job. Not to worry. Thanks to the miracle of cybernetics, Murphy will rise again as the city’s most unlikely savior.

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In honor of the fact that Tom Tykwer’s espionage thriller The International hits theaters tomorrow — and the fact that FSR reader Justin Niemeyer was kind enough to send it over — we thought we’d share this little trailer mash-up with you.

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