Robocop(s)

Ah Robocop. What is there I don't love about you? At your best you're a glimpse into what writers and directors of the 1980s and 90s thought the future would hold based on the economic and social climate of their time and at your worst you're a series of silly but fun action movies about a cyborg. Basically what I’m saying is anyone who says they don’t like you is lying.

I had seen the original Robocop before but definitely enjoyed it a lot more watching it a second time. For me the tongue-in-cheek aspects became a little clearer while re-watching the film, so I could appreciate the overall effect more. I was also used to the dry, pared back style style the second time around, so it wasn't as jarring as I first found this movie to be. The film is a very clever take on action/sci-fi films and the tropes they have embedded in them, for instance the corporation that is half evil for the sake of it and half evil because it is staffed by people who don't know any better. The quick glimpses through advertisements show how bad the reality of the setting is and how some people are still managing to profit off it. The heightened violence is perfectly executed to show there is real danger present for the characters while also being so over the top it registers as humour rather than horror. I really loved it and I'd recommend it for anyone who likes schlock violence movies or seeing Kurtwood Smith kick a whole bunch of ass.

For the first third of Robocop 2 I thought I was going to like it a lot more than the first film. It was snappy and interesting and there were several plot elements that interwove with each other to make the outcomes more complicated, however as the film wore on it became more predictable to the point that it felt like it was reusing plot from the first film - especially where the main obstacle to be overcome was concerned. I didn't hate it because the fight scenes were still good and it was definitely an interesting take on the Robocop idea but it definitely didn't have the same flair that the first one had. I’d also say the same for Robocop 3, which is a good closing act for the franchise but doesn’t do anything with the idea that they haven't done before. They’re both fine but I probably wouldn't watch them again, and I'd recommend them only so you can say you've watched the whole franchise.

This might be sacrilege to say, but I enjoyed the reboot. It was very different to the original, which makes it hard to compare the two, but overall I thought it stayed pretty true to the ideas and messages of the 1987 film. There is a bit too much set up in the beginning of the film, a stark contrast to the original in which almost nothing is explained, but otherwise what information the writers added felt necessary to the action. I'd recommend it, whether you've seen the original or not. 

- L

Despicable Me 1 & 2

I doubt there is anyone alive who hasn't had at least some contact with The Minions. The fact that these oblong yellow sidekicks appear in the studio logo and are getting their own movie shows what an effective marketing tool they have been for Illumination Entertainment Animation, however it is not simply good marketing that has drawn in audiences. I've seen both Despicable Me films a few times and have been impressed with the strong stories and joke writing. They are a credit to the studio as a cut above a lot of movies made for children, especially girls.

In the first movie, a supervillain named Gru adopts three orphan girls, Margo, Edith and Agnes, to use as pawns against his rival, Vector. Once he has retrieved the shrink ray Vector stole from him Gru plans to shrink the moon and steal it for himself, winning in the process the respect of all other villains in the world. When Gru brings his charges home he finds them harder to deal with than he assumed, eventually warming to them as they chip away at his tough exterior.

What was most enjoyable about the first movie was that the family storyline was introduced naturally and remained an integral part of the way the supervillain theme was played out. While it is the girls that cause the most conflict between what Gru wants to be doing (looking after his charges) and what he thinks he should be doing (being a great supervillain) they are also the catalyst for Gru to achieve his goals re: moon shrinkage, so when he decides to adopt them once and for all at the end of the film it isn't just a sappy feel-good plot device but a natural endpoint for the story.

In the second film Gru is recruited by a secret organisation known as the Anti-Villain League to find out who stole a mutagen from a secret laboratory in the Arctic Circle. He is reluctantly partnered with Agent Lucy Wilde to case a local mall where they suspect the mutagen to be. Meanwhile, Agnes is pestering Gru about having a mother and after she meets Lucy insists that Gru will fall in love with her. After several mishaps Gru and Lucy uncover that the Mexican restaurant owner is actually El Macho, a supervillain who was thought to be dead from skydiving into a volcano. After besting him and his mutated minions Gru and Lucy agree to go on a date. The film closes 147 dates later at their wedding.

The story in the second film is a little more predictable but I feel the new characters make up for that in a big way. Where as Vector was slightly annoying and didn't have much screen time, El Macho is a major part of the story and is a funny, well-developed character in his own right. Lucy is a great addition to the story, and not just because she's an independent and self-possessed female character. Unlike a lot of sequels this film manages to maintain the quality established in the first film, and I'm definitely interested to see where the creators take the franchise in the next installment.

I really enjoy the animation in these movies, especially the second one where the range of female characters is especially apparent. In a time where Disney is churning out the same tiny-waisted, small-nosed, ample-busted females it always has and trying to pass them off as different people (compare Rapunzel and Elsa if you don't know what I'm talking about) it is really refreshing to see a studio unafraid to animate women with big hips, large noses, or flat chests. I'd recommend these movies if you want something to watch with kids or if you're a sentimental adult who gets misty at movies about orphans finding a home. 

- L