Robocop (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, On Demand) – We gripe about remakes all the time, but when you approach something with the status of the original 1987 RoboCop, Paul Verhoeven’s perversely violent, savagely smart, and wickedly funny science fiction action blast laced with political and social satire, it gets personal for a lot of folks. And for good reason. Twenty five years later, it seems more prescient than ever, which puts the onus on the new film to justify itself: just what does it have to say about a world where unmanned military drones are being drafted into stateside police work?
Brazilian director José Padilha, who delivered both gritty, high-tension action and a savvy social drama in Elite Squad, takes on this remake, and Swedish-born / Texas-tutored Joel Kinnaman is Detroit cop and family man Alex Murphy, rebuilt with military robotics as an urban assault weapon after he’s mortally wounded in an ambush.
This is certainly much slicker than the original, with military robots that look like the Cylons of the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot and mayhem galore, but it’s also much tamer in terms of both violence and satire. Where the original found an insidious handshake between corporate profits and planned obsolescence and design flaws designed to keep contracts full and a cut of the drug and flesh trade around construction projects, this is just about greed on small and large scales, with OmniCorp, the insidious contractor hoping to sell the dubious American public on a mechanical police force, as the big-time crooks. Michael Keaton is despicably good as the instinctively disingenuous CEO and Gary Oldman, Abbie Cornish, and Samuel L. Jackson co-star.
The battle between the human spirit and an operating system offering “the illusion of free will,” a metaphor rife with possibility but lacking conviction, for a film that turns on the struggle between man and machine, this film has less personality than Verhoeven’s. The film ultimately favors soggy sentiment over the cleverness of the original: emotion overrides the system here, rather than taking on the fatal logic of the system itself in the darkly witty twist of the original. The human factor is the wild card. I just wish it was actually more wild and less predictable.
One question that really bothers me in all these future films: how have they managed to create entirely self-contained robot soldiers yet never found a way to make silent servo motors? Every movement comes with the whir and buzz of working parts just to remind us that it’s not just a suit, it’s technology, baby!
The Blu-ray offers the three-part featurette ” Robocop: Engineered for the 21st Century,” an OmniCorp product announcement and deleted scenes, plus a bonus DVD and UltraViolet Digital HD copy. No supplements on the DVD.
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (Adopt Films, DVD, Digital, VOD) is not a traditional portrait of the artist. The veteran character actor with over 200 movies to his credit doesn’t like to talk about himself, his family, his personal life, or pretty anything except music. This is more of an impression of the artist, a series of sketches and a couple conversations with old friends and colleagues: coffee and cigarettes with David Lynch, reminiscing with Kris Kristofferson, hanging at his favorite L.A. bar, Dan Tana’s, where he’s known the bartender for more than 40 years. Stanton is, of course, modest about his work: “Do nothing” and “Play yourself” are his familiar pieces of advice, but his assistant sets us straight on Stanton’s commitment to his craft and to his roles.
There are clips from a handful of his films (Paris Texas, The Straight Story, The Missouri Breaks, Repo Man, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and singing a spiritual in Cool Hand Luke) but don’t expect a life story or career chronology. Much of the 77-minute film is driving through Los Angeles with Stanton, the camera watching the landscape go by at night, and letting Stanton sing his way through his favorite songs (he probably sings more words than he speaks). The rest is director Sophie Huber trying to get Stanton to talk about his past or the craft of acting. It’s a fitting portrait of an actor who makes it look so natural. No supplements.
Lone Survivor (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, On Demand), based on the memoir by Marcus Luttrell, stars Mark Wahlberg as one of four Navy SEALs ambushed during a mission in the mountains of Afghanistan. Blu-ray and DVD include the featurettes “Bringing the Story to Light” and “The Fallen Heroes of Operation Red Wings.” Exclusive to the Blu-ray is a collection of four additional featurettes—”Will of the Warrior,” “Recreating the Firefight,” “Learning the Basics” and “The Pashtun Code of Life”—plus bonus DVD and UltraViolet Digital HD copies.
Son of God (Fox, Blu-ray, Digital HD, DVD) is the story of Jesus, a feature film edited down from the TV mini-series “The Bible” and starring Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado as Jesus. With three featurettes (including one in Spanish). The Blu-ray also features bonus DVD and UltraViolet Digital HD copies.
The Pretty One (Sony, DVD, Digital, On Demand) stars Zoe Kazan as twin sisters, one a shy, awkward young woman who takes on the identity of her popular and extroverted other half. Jenée LaMarque writes and directs. With a featurette.
Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton (Alive Mind, DVD) surveys the life and career of the poet and independent filmmaker who influenced the beats and celebrated “a life of pansexual transcendence.” The disc features deleted scenes and bonus interviews among the supplements.
More non-fiction: Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself (Echo Bridge, DVD) profiles the literary figure and cultural celebrity. Peter Brook: The Tightrope (First Run, DVD) takes on the celebrated stage director and sometime filmmaker and Super Duper Alice Cooper (Eagle Rock, Blu-ray, DVD) celebrates the rock icon through the years.
A Long Way Down (On Demand), a comedy with Pierce Brosnan and Toni Collette, is available via Cable On Demand in advance of theaters on Thursday, May 5. On Friday, the comedy Ping Pong Summer (On Demand) with Susan Sarandon is available, same day as theaters.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa .5 (Paramount, Digital HD), created from outtakes and deleted scene, and the horror sequel Joy Ride 3: Road Kill (Fox, Digital HD) are available for digital purchase two weeks before disc.
In the Blood (Anchor Bay/Fox, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD)
The Motel Life (Gaiam, Blu-ray, DVD)
Parts Per Billion (Millennium, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
What’s in a Name? (First Run, DVD)
Black Out (Doppelganger, Blu-ray, DVD)
Mirage Men (Gaiam, DVD)
We Always Lie to Strangers (Virgil, DVD)
Tiny: A Story About Living Small (First Run, DVD)
Beyond the Trophy (Arc, DVD)
Valentine Road (Docurama, DVD)
Goodbye World (Phase 4, DVD, Blu-ray)
The Odd Way Home (Breaking Glass, DVD, VOD)
Breaking Through (Breaking Glass, VOD)
The Trouble with Truth (Maverick, DVD)
Axel: The Biggest Little Hero (Arc, DVD)
Breeding Farm (Troma, DVD)
TV on disc:
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD)
Graceland: The Complete First Season (Fox, DVD)
Barbary Coast: The Complete Series (DVD Debut)
True Blood: The Complete Sixth Season (HBO, Blu-ray, DVD)
Falling Skies: The Complete Third Season (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
Pretty Little Liars: Season Four (Warner, DVD)
Workaholics: Season Four (Comedy Central, Blu-ray, DVD)
New Tricks: Season 10 (Acorn, DVD)
The New Adventures of Superman: Seasons 2 & 3 (Warner, DVD)
The Killing: Season 3 (Fox, DVD)
The Glades: Season 4 (Fox, DVD)
Rawhide: The Eighth and Final Season (Paramount, DVD)
The Adventures of Batman (1968) (Warner, DVD)
Komodo: Secrets of the Dragon (BBC, DVD)
Nova: Inside Animal Minds (PBS, DVD)
Frontline: TB Silent Killer (PBS, DVD)
Nature: My Bionic Pet (PBS, DVD)
Nature: Snow Monkeys (PBS, DVD)
Classics and Cult:
The Man With No Name Trilogy (Fox, Blu-ray)
Alexander: The Ultimate Cut (Warner, Blu-ray)
The Nutty Professor: 50th Anniversary (Warner, Blu-ray)
The Outsiders: The Complete Novel (Warner, Blu-ray)
Ravenous (Shout Factory, Blu-ray)
Kissing Jessica Stein (Fox, Blu-ray)
The Birdcage (MGM, Blu-ray)
The Ringer (Fox, Blu-ray)
Bloodsucking Freaks (Troma, Blu-ray)
Death Bed: The Bed that Eats (Cult Epics, Blu-ray)
Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide (Severin, DVD)
Gestapo’s Last Orgy (Intervision, DVD)
Deported Women of the SS (Intervision, DVD)
42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. 2 (Impulse, DVD)
Orozco the Embalmer (Massacre, DVD)
Junk Films: The Collected Short Shockumentaries of Tsurisaki Kiyotaka (Massacre, DVD)
Female Gym Coach: Jump and Straddle (Impulse, DVD)
Office Love: Behind Closed Doors (Impulse, DVD)
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday The 13th (1428 Films, DVD)