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Tuesday: Footloose (2011)

Footloose (2011) isn't as good as the original due to its made-for-TV feel and some changes that simply didn't work out so well, but it could have been much worse.

Footloose (2011)
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In the current world of cinema where remake, prequels, and sequels are much more common than original features, we're bound to come across a "re-imagining" of Footloose. The film certainly made a big enough impact on the entertainment industry to still be receiving references and many connections in movies and TV shows. The original Footloose is highly spoken of by some viewers, but I found it to be a bit underwhelming after hearing all of the buzz. It's one of those movies where you have to switch off your brain and simply enjoy it for what it is. Well, if you were a fan of the 1984 original, then you should have a blast with the remake, I suppose. After all, they do feel like essentially the same movie at times. The major differences are that the songs are by different artists with different tempos and there are some focuses here that weren't present in the original. Since I saw this after the original, I had a good idea of how to approach this one. To try to switch off my brain and take it as it is. However, this becomes a little bit difficult to brush off so much at times. Even with the flaws, is the remake able to modernize the moves that at least entertained audiences?

Dancer and big-city kid, Ren MacCormack, is stuck in a small town where dancing is illegal. As he rebels against the town and its influential Reverend Moore, Ren falls for the pastor's beautiful daughter. While the general story is exactly the same, there are some differences here and there. Thankfully, the filmmakers have modernized quite a bit of it. Everything from the music to the dancing to some of the characters' personalities. One of the very few advantages that the remake has over the original is that the pacing is a bit smoother from start to finish. The biggest issue with the screenplay is that it ultimately feels like a cheap cable movie. The dialogue is completely cliché and there are some 'sentimental' moments where the audience won't be able to help but roll his or her eyes. In the original, the source material for Ren MacCormack's role is a bit underwhelming, but he's still likable enough. Here, it feels like the screenwriter tried way too hard to make us like the character. This is done by bringing in backstory on him before he was placed in this little town regarding some family problems. This felt a bit unnecessary and simply made it feel like I was watching a flick on the Lifetime channel. What remains from the original to the remake is that Reverend Moore remains to have a completely unconvincing change of heart. No human being that's that narrow-minded changes his or her views in a matter of minutes. The transition doesn't feel believable in the slightest. There are surely pros and cons to this script, but the cons outweigh the pros. Big fans of the original probably won't mind the big script issues since the first didn't exactly have a well-crafted screenplay either. The key question here is whether or not the script is successful in modernizing the story and its characters for this generation. In my opinion, it feels very close to the original, but younger audiences who haven't seen the 1984 version should feel that they have received a fair understanding from the remake on its own.

If you read my review for the 1984 version of this movie, then you should know my opinion of the acting. That it's a good cast that was simply not given the correct source material in order to show all of his or her skills. Well, in Footloose (2011), there's even less dialogue. There's more dancing though, so I suppose that's one of the crucial elements to find in a cast. That they can actually dance. In this remake, the cast sure can dance, but there are times where the acting suffers a bit. Kenny Wormald is solid as Ren. He's believable in the character, especially since he isn't a big name in Hollywood. His dancing is spot on and even his dialogue sequences are fine. Julianne Hough plays Ariel, the love-interest. While she fits the look, the director never backed the camera up enough to see her dancing skills. Instead, we see a lot of shots focused on her ass and hips. It's not a bad thing to show off her nice body every once in a while, but the filmmakers are slapping us in the face with it and it makes the dance scenes suffer a bit. It isn't her fault, but she's simply alright in this picture. Dennis Quaid is Reverend Moore. He fits the unlikable role of the overprotective father. As far as the looks and dancing goes, the cast has been picked relatively well.

At the end of the day, nobody is going to remember either of these movies for the screenplays or the acting. it all comes down the music and the dancing. That's what Footloose is all about. With the music, all of the original songs have been modernized. I feel that it was successful in showing what teenagers of that age would be dancing and listening to. During some more emotional scenes that weren't in the original, the songs have been given a slower tempo. This will certainly appeal to Taylor Swift fans as it has that feel to it. As far as the dancing goes, everybody is a lot better than one would expect from a town of people who generally don't dance due to the law banning it. The opening sequence playing the hit song Footloose is still just as fun as it was in the original. A similar camera angle displaying people's feet as they dance still accompanies the song. Fans or newcomers, you will still find it difficult to resist tapping your feet to the beat. When it comes to the audio department, those with a home theater will be jovial to know that this is a reference track. The dialogue is perfectly mixed and the music is crisp and has incredibly balanced highs as well as deep and punchy lows. The music sounds as clear as it could. In both the video and audio departments, Footloose (2011) is satisfying.

I'm not a fan of the original Footloose, but I still decided to check out the remake. It still follows the same story, but modernizes it for the current generation. The story is just as predictable and cliché with the same unconvincing ending. I didn't like how the writer tries too hard for us to like the lead character by adding the sad backstory. It makes it feel even more unbelievable and doesn't do the feature any favors when it comes to liking the characters any more. The acting is fine, but don't expect anything ground-breaking. Those who are fans of the dances that were originally shown in the 1984 version should be pleased with those seen here. The film is accompanied with a masterful video and audio transfer. Footloose (2011) isn't as good as the original due to its made-for-TV feel and some changes that simply didn't work out so well, but it could have been much worse.

My Rating = Two and One Half Stars

Next movie: RoboCop 2

Thursday: RoboCop 2

RoboCop 2 doesn't live up to the strong piece of cinema known as the original film as there isn't much worth recommending with this flick.

RoboCop 2
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After the successful RoboCop, anybody could have guessed that a sequel was inevitable. The original made a lot of noise in society for the year it was released. With the violence and the subject matter, it offended some and had others embrace it with open arms. This did nothing but provide the film with a stronger following due to curiosity. All of the violence had a point to it and none of it was there for simply shock-value alone. It's very interesting to find a science fiction/action feature that's actually well-written and holds its ground for many years. Is RoboCop 2 a worthy sequel or was it simply made for a quick dollar?

A corrupt businesswoman seeks to disable RoboCop in favor of her own model of cyborg law enforcer who is out to spread a deadly new designer drug. Despite the fact that the original RoboCop didn't have the most original plot, it managed to do a lot with it and fill it with fresh air. When it comes to the plot of the sequel, exactly what I thought would occur with the first happened here. Not only is it unoriginal, but it never manages to break away from all of the clichés and what we're used to seeing in these movies. It ultimately never separates itself from similar features. By the end of the movie, the screenplay has clearly shot itself in the foot. It doesn't make us care very much about what happens to the characters, which was an important element in the original. In RoboCop 2, the villains aren't nearly as sinister as those in the original. Here, they're uninteresting and are the generic drug lords we're used to seeing in law enforcement movies. The only thing really different is that one of the main antagonists is a little boy, which feels extremely tacky. Despite the fact that RoboCop gets injured many times, it never feels like he's in any serious danger. There are times in the original where I would be really caring about what happens to our law enforcement officer. Well, in this, we're constantly aware that he's going to survive whatever crosses his path. The plot is extremely flat and the story itself just doesn't stand up. This script is such a letdown.

This film wouldn't work if Peter Weller didn't return as RoboCop. He's back as the robot law enforcement officer. A lot of his character, along with the rest, has been destroyed due to the screenplay not able to bring them to life. Instead, the entire cast feels very robotic. There are times where the dialogue is so pathetic that you can't help but laugh out loud, and at times where it isn't meant to be funny. Some of the actors, primarily the villains, take the picture far too seriously. Be prepared to roll your eyes a lot during the delivery of a lot of this dialogue. If the cast was more aware of the fact that there are times where this feels like a parody than a serious picture, then perhaps the acting would have been more acceptable. If you're planning on just ripping on RoboCop 2, then you will have a lot of material in this motion picture.

Generally, when sequels are made of successful films, the production values increase. Even when the script and acting decrease in value, the budget is larger, meaning that the visuals are quite a bit stronger. Well, I'm not so sure about that in this case. Fortunately, RoboCop's look is maintained here and not altered in any way. However, the cyborg of the drug lord looks horrible. It's a much larger robot and it has a screen at the top with the face of the drug lord before he became a robot. This looks very cheap and the filmmaker should have left the robot without having the face on the screen. When it comes to the audio, it's alright for a film released in 1990. For those purchasing the Blu-ray, it appears that the DVD audio was simply ported over with the DTS-HD Master codec. I'm glad that RoboCop kept the same appearance, but the visuals are a bit disappointing given the fact that the original actually utilized the visuals better than the sequel.

After being very impressed with the original RoboCop, I was excited to check out the sequel. Unfortunately, this sequel doesn't feel like very much work was put into it. The screenplay is a mess. There are some interesting ideas here and there, but none of them are fleshed out. They feel like uncompleted concepts that were never able to be fully utilized. Some of the actors take the roles far too seriously, which makes the film even more unintentionally humorous. The visuals aren't very strong, either. The entire reason why I gave the movie even two stars is because it's at least entertaining. RoboCop 2 doesn't live up to the strong piece of cinema known as the original film as there isn't much worth recommending with this flick.

My Rating = Two Stars

Next movie: The Iron Lady

Sunday: The Iron Lady

For those interested in the story of Margaret Thatcher, be prepared to be disappointed with what you'll see here.

The Iron Lady
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When I first heard about The Iron Lady being released, I was certain that this would be Oscar bait. I didn't even know very much about the movie itself. However, it has the marvelous Meryl Streep in it. The Academy seems to award nearly any movie she's in, even if the quality of the movie itself isn't good, although Streep is always able to shine bright in every performance. Once you hear the story, you'll understand that The Iron Lady is clearly for older audiences and the Academy. Outside of that, this doesn't have very large of a target audience. I suppose that's why this picture wasn't released in many theaters and didn't receive very much money. This is primarily because the screenplay and crew have some very serious faults, although the performances are excellent. Where does this leave The Iron Lady.

Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minster of Britain, whose political career and determination changed the rules that had limited women's opportunities for leadership. After hearing so much about Margaret Thatcher over the years, I was very interested to learn more about the first female prime minister. Those who are looking for the same type of plot won't find that here. The screenplay constantly switches between a senile and hallucinatory Thatcher, as she sees her dead husband, to flashing back to the past. There isn't very much about Thatcher while she was prime minister. Most of the movie is stolen by unnecessary drama as she's an old, crazy lady. I didn't find this portion of the story to be interesting at all. As the feature flashes back to her before she was the role of power, to gaining the role, to holding it, the movie is a little bit more interesting. Even then, these flashbacks are short and not nearly as interesting as it could have been. This screenplay is surely a mess. The movie is a bit long for what it's trying to accomplish here, which is try convey a lot of unnecessary drama. This movie doesn't even scratch the surface of who Margaret Thatcher really was. If the screenwriter wanted to simply write a drama, why not write a story made up? If a story of a true person is going to be displayed, why not go into the character? The narrative falls flat on its face with surprisingly one-dimensional character and no hook to keep the audience compelled to desire to watch more.

The strongest asset The Iron Lady has is the acting department. The brilliant Meryl Streep performs as Margaret Thatcher. She most certainly deserved the Oscar-nomination, although I wouldn't say that this is the strongest female performance of the year. Streep still manages to deliver a perfect accent and handle this role with a lot of class. Despite the fact that she's wonderful as Thatcher, Director Phyllida Lloyd has some issues handling her. Streep most certainly surpasses her talents. Streep's array of skills are excellent, but are a bit all over the place due to a director unable to utilize her to her full potential. If this film had more to do with Margaret Thatcher with a better director, this could have been an even better performance. She would truly make the character come to life. Jim Broadbent is Thatcher's dead husband, Denis, who she continues to see as an old woman. He does a fine job in the character. While there are some other supporting roles, they receive such a small amount of screen time that it doesn't really matter to bring up the actors playing them.

Other than the Oscar win for Best Actress, the film scored another Academy Award-win for Best Achievement in Makeup. I don't agree with this Oscar-win due to the films that it was up against, although the makeup utilized during the scenes where Thatcher is an old woman. The makeup used on Meryl Streep is fantastic. However, I don't think that only old-age makeup should win an Academy Award when there are other movies nominated that succeed in this department with so much more involvement. Despite the fact that Phyllida Lloyd had some difficulties with using Streep, her visual eye is great. Between using a steady-cam to some handheld work, she handles the camera very well. As expected, the track isn't very aggressive. The dialogue is never difficult to understand, although there is some sound coming from the surround speakers.The audio coming from those speakers is primarily ambience, such as music and whatnot. This is a focused track that pulls off what is desired of it.

For those interested in the story of Margaret Thatcher, be prepared to be disappointed with what you'll see here. Instead of focusing upon her early-life, rise to power, and being the first female prime minister, audiences see more of her as a senile old woman. I don't see how this is anywhere near as interesting as her life as the prime minister. I believe that this was done in order to create more unneeded drama and deliver what the Academy generally looks for. Instead of exploring the character, there's just a lot of generic crap. However, Meryl Streep is absolutely phenomenal as Thatcher and surely deserved the nomination. The visuals are strong, as well. I without a doubt believe that cinema needs a strong telling of Thatcher's tale, as I would certainly be interested in watching such a narrative. The Iron Lady drags for the majority of the feature, as the only thing that makes this movie even watchable is Meryl Streep.

My Rating = Two Stars

Next movie: RoboCop 3