Movie tests

HEADLINE: Movie Reviews: Dallas Buyers Club, Robocop, Mr Peabody & Sherman

Deck: What movie will you be seeing this weekend?

Dallas Buyers Club

Nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is a profoundly moving biopic of a hard-drinking Texan electrician, who refused to passively accept that his HIV-positive diagnosis in the mid 1980s was a death sentence.

Instead, Ron Woodroof smuggled a cocktail of unapproved drugs into America in direct defiance of his physician, who believed clinical trials were the only way to combat the virus.

Woodroof established a club to sell medications to other HIV-positive patients but his actions drew the attention of police and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which at that time took eight to 12 years to approve a new drug.

Ron didn’t have time on his side – doctors expected him to be dead within a month – so he bent the rules to stay alive.

‘Dallas Buyers Club’ doesn’t sugar-coat a bitter pill. Woodroof isn’t portrayed as a flawless, morally robust hero.

However, the friendship with Rayon opens Ron’s eyes to the lasting good he can achieve through his business.

McConaughey is mesmerising, shedding 40 pounds to convincingly portray the emaciated sandy-haired hustler, who dared to live only when he had a death sentence hanging over his cowboy hat.

Leto is equally compelling, concealing his character’s pain behind the armour of fake eyelashes, earrings and painted nails.

Star Rating: 4/5

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 93%


RoboCop

Jose Padilha’s glossy remake of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 sci-fi blockbuster looks and sounds like ‘RoboCop’.

The setting is still a dystopian, futuristic Detroit, home to conglomerate OmniCorp, which plans to revolutionise global law enforcement with its robot technology including hulking ED-209 drones.

The central character remains a murdered cop called Alex Murphy and elements of Basil Poledouris’s original score, including the theme tune, have been incorporated by composer Pedro Bromfman.

So far, so familiar.

Padilha and screenwriter Joshua Zetumer embellish this framework with timely references to the War On Terror plus slick digital effects.

Back in the 1980s, lead actor Peter Weller lost three pounds in sweat each day encased in a heavy, cumbersome suit. In the absence of digital trickery, he was a convincing hybrid of man and machine. Statuesque Swedish-American hunk Joel Kinnaman, who headlines the revamp, also wears a suit but he is frequently lost amidst the pyrotechnics of computer-generated battle sequences that play like videogames.

Crucially, filmmakers have jettisoned the biting satire.

Verhoeven’s film was punctuated with TV commercials, which pointed both barrels at the rampant consumerism of 1980s America, and pulled the trigger.

Here, excerpts from a TV show fronted by Pat Novak (Samuel L Jackson) bookmark the narrative but fail to draw blood.

Verhoeven’s relentless blood-soaked vision earned an 18 certificate from UK censors. By comparison, Padilha’s re-imaging is 12A – the same as ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ – and wanton carnage has been dialled down accordingly.

As Sellars and his marketing team would concur, mechanised killing machines have to be family-friendly nowadays.

Star Rating: 3/5

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 50%


‘Mr Peabody & Sherman’

Man is a dog’s best friend in Rob Minkoff’s computer-animated time-travelling yarn based on characters created for segments in the 1960s TV series ‘The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show’.

‘Mr Peabody & Sherman’ harnesses the latest digital trickery to propel the hyper-intelligent canine protagonist and his adopted son on a rip-roaring adventure, including pit-stops in besieged Troy, 18th century France and the Italian Renaissance.

Craig Wright’s smart script refuses to roll over for sugary sentiment, charting a less obvious route to our heartstrings as the four-legged lead character learns that when his son says, “I love you”, it’s unacceptable to respond, “I have a deep regard for you as well”.

With limitless possibilities for sequels, Mr Peabody & Sherman maintains a pace brisk to ensure younger audiences are constantly engaged.

A prelude detailing Mr Peabody’s difficult puppy years is hysterical – he refuses to chase a stick thrown by one boy because, “You’ll just throw it again. It’s an exercise in futility”.

Famous figures including Leonardo da Vinci (Stanley Tucci), Mona Lisa (Lake Bell) and Agamenon (Patrick Warburton) litter the haphazard narrative.

However, it’s the touching central relationship that anchors the picture and ensures Minkoff’s colour-saturated romp is a well-groomed pick of the animated litter.

Star Rating: 3½

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 83%

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