RoboCop and Beyond: Fanboy Says Yes to 2014


I saw RoboCop tonight.

If you’re younger than me, you can’t imagine the thrill the original Star Trek gave science fiction fans and budding futurists. The thing was nothing short of a revelation about a future of light and beauty, technological brilliance and human adventure. And Captain Kirk was this intrepid figure of never-give-up determination and courage, a studly MAN to match alien beings and technologies, the depths of space, and the challenges of the unknown.

When Star Trek: The Next Generation was announced, we were all certain nothing could live up to Kirk’s perfection. But here came Picard. Wonderful, steely, quiet, determined, deep, courageous, never-give-up Picard. The truth was, Picard was Kirk’s equal. In lots of ways he was better than Kirk; William Shatner’s Kirk became a figure of fun, today’s joke of overacting and comical cadence of speech. (For those of us who loved the original Star Trek, the magic will probably always be there, but we can appreciate the comedy too.)

Here’s the thing about RoboCop the original. It was both dramatic and comedic. It was bombastic and ridiculous. It took place in a world of dark comedy, a world where a least-common-denominator Everyman could be a television icon — “I’d buy that for a dollar!” — a world that resonates all too scarily with those of us trapped in RoboCop’s near-prophetic vision of the future, with  Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo Boo, FOX News and Sarah Palin.

Here’s the thing about RoboCop the reboot. It’s dramatic. Period. The future is just as dark, but it’s the darkness of PR shills and corporate CEOs who are both likeable and casual-sociopath-slimy. The action is just as good, the special effects are equivalent, and the acting by Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton is spot-on.

The story isn’t perfect, but neither was the original RoboCop. And this fresh one has the positive attribute of not being mugged by a series of lesser sequels. Overall, I’d say this new RoboCop is Picard to the old RoboCop’s Kirk. It works, and I liked it.

I, Frankenstein

This one was fun but forgettable — evil demons bent on calling demonic hordes from Hell to take over the world, opposed by Frankenstein’s monster and angelic gargoyles. I did like Aaron Eckhart in the role, having enjoyed him as Harvey Dent in the Batman reboot, and noticing him as far back as Erin Brockovich in 2000. And I sort of liked the detail of demons “descending” when killed, while the gargoyles “ascended,” both accompanied by active swirls of light. It was a feast of special effects. The disgusting Franken-Rat was a nice touch. But overall … meh.

The Rest of 2014

I’m looking forward to a really good season of SF movies. Here are some of the dozens that caught  my eye:

Mr. Peabody and Sherman, March 7
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, April 4
Transcendence, April 18
The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Enemies Unite, May 2
X-Men: Days of Future Past, May 23
How to Train Your Dragon 2, June 13
Guardians of the Galaxy, Aug. 1
Lucy, Aug. 8
The Hobbit: There and Back Again, Dec. 17

I’m especially eager for Mr. Peabody, Spider-Man 2, the new X-Men movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and The Hobbit.

God Goes Silver Screen

Oddly enough, this is a banner year for religious-themed movies too. No idea why; I guess the idea just hit a number of filmmakers at the same time.

Son of God, Feb. 28
Noah, March 28
Heaven Is For Real, April 16
Exodus, Dec. 12

I expect godders will eat them up, but I’ll give all of them a big miss.  Most of them look like stories you can take or leave, but Heaven Is For Real, coming on Easter and BASED ON THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY (!!), looks like an especially vile sample of manipulative swill.

I MIGHT see Noah on video, to enjoy the animals, and Russell Crowe’s and Emma Watson’s acting. I’m predicting some idiotic protest based on the fact that no dinosaurs will appear (or at least I’m assuming they won’t), said idiotic protest enjoying widespread media coverage and incensed-atheist-blogger gaspage.

Jesus and God are once again Hollywood commodities, which I expect will cheapen whatever mystique the figures once held, but conversely allow them to appeal even more to dumbed-down audiences.

Feeling the Pain of the Rich and Famous

Apparently actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died. He ROCKED “Capote,” but hell, I liked him as far back as “Boogie Nights.”

There seems to be some doubt about his death:

Yep, dead: Philip Seymour Hoffman found dead with needle in arm

Nope, alive: Philip Seymour Hoffman Death Hoax

… but his Wikipedia page lists him as deceased, so I’m going with that.

Considering it a “teachable moment,” I said something unflattering about Whitney Houston back when she died of an overdose: “Whitney, you idiot.”


Well, yes I do. Everybody does. Nobody has a lock on pain. Everybody loses people, loses life opportunities, goes through agonizing shit at some point in their lives, or all their lives. I went through years of abuse, and I’ve lost people who meant more to me than I can ever express. Just like everybody else.

No, dear shrieker, my pain isn’t the same as yours, but don’t ever imagine it’s less intense, less hurtful to me. Don’t you dare say that.

Besides which, I wasn’t – and am not now – talking to addicts. I’m talking to all those people who are NOT addicts, the ones who are not yet users.

To them I say: Drugs don’t help. They don’t solve anything, they don’t improve anything. And no matter what the people around you are doing, you can live your whole life without them, and never miss them. Millions of people do.

I work with drug and alcohol abusers. I’m not a counselor or therapist, but I do get to see and talk to the demographic pretty much every day. And damn … it’s disturbing as hell to see what drugs do to people. Looks to me like they make you feel good – temporarily, VERY temporarily – while they suck every last drop of real goodness out of you, destroying every positive thing about living until nothing is left, not even the “living” part.

According to the users I’ve spoken to, it’s s0000o goddam easy to slide down into it, but you never really get out. Even if you stop using, even if you “beat” addiction, you will never be free. The rest of your life will include all the struggles that other people go through, but added on will be this additional struggle, the struggle to stay clean and sober. For the rest of your life you’ll walk around with this evil monkey whispering in your ear, “C’mon, it’s not that bad. You remember how good we used to have it. Just a taste won’t hurt. Besides, your Gramma died, and your car won’t start. You’re devastated. There’s no way you can cope with all this. No human can. Let’s have just a little bit to get through the next few days, then you’ll feel all better and you’ll never have to touch the stuff again.”

All of you out there considering trying the substance du jour, it’s probably a really good idea if you don’t. If a rich, famous person can get hooked and die in this stupid, futile way, don’t think for a second YOU will beat the odds and get some better result.

So I say again, with the name of a different victim: Philip, you idiot.



And no, I’m not talking about pot. But I don’t think that’s a good idea either.



Help Get ‘Hug An Atheist’ to a Wider Audience

Sylvia Broeckx writes:

I apologise for sending you this message out of the blue, but we could really do with some help. We’ve made a film about atheists in the USA and it’s from the perspective of everyday atheists, dealing with the aspects of life where religions provide solace and guidance such as morality, raising a family, and coping with tragedy.

But, what’s the point of making a film that presents atheism in a positive light, if it doesn’t get seen by lots of people that aren’t already atheists? We have less than 48 hours to raise the funds to help get this film to into festivals and reach a wider, non-atheist, audience.

We are getting close, but could really do with your help to spread the word about the campaign. It can really help make quite the difference.

Thank you!


Done! Here’s the trailer, with the Indiegogo fundraiser link below: