Wednesday, 19 February 2014


By Chris Luckett

As the I approach the end of my time studying Journalism at Mohawk College, I look back on how far I’ve come since 2011, as a film critic and as a person. There are myriad things I’ve taken away from the lessons I’ve learned, the experiences I’ve had, and the people I’ve met in those three years, but one of the most resonant things has been the realization of just how much I absolutely LOVE being a film critic. Everything about the experience of watching movies, of writing about them, of analyzing them, and of discussing them with people is... Well, I can think of nothing better.

And with that in mind, I’m very pleased to announce the new and re-launched form of The Apple Box, at Weekly movie reviews, Oscar race updates, videos, lists, tweets, and podcasts are just some of the content you’ll find at the new site – made possible thanks to the tireless work of Scott Joseph Summerhayes, who helped design the new layouts and set it up. Also, be sure to check out or subscribe to The Apple Box in other forms of social media:

Lastly, to help announce the arrival of the improved and re-launched Apple Box, I am pleased to reveal The Apple Box’s anticipated Best Movies of 2013. We may be a little ways into 2014 at this point, but I hope that you’ll find it worth the wait.

Thank you to everyone who’s helped me realize my passion, who believes in me, who follows my output as a film critic, or who just occasionally checks out a review of mine. You have made me who I am now and shown me what I want to become, and I continuously appreciate it.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Saturday, 15 February 2014


By Chris Luckett

3½ stars out of 5

Photo: Columbia Pictures
The 1980s are popular again at the movies, especially when it comes to remakes. (This weekend alone, three of the four new wide releases are remakes of ‘80s movies.) After having exhausted the catalogue of ‘80s horror movies to remake a few years ago, studios have been shifting the focus to remaking ‘80s action movies, like Clash of the Titans or Red Dawn. Now comes RoboCop, a remake that manages to be close to the original’s quality while not being afraid to deviate from its origins.

The original RoboCop, released in 1987, was the breakthrough picture for director Paul Verhoeven, who would go on to make Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Starship Troopers in the ‘90s. Like most of his movies, RoboCop featured excessive violence that really pushed the R-rating for their day. The new version does dial down the extraneous blood and gore, but there are still a few scenes twisted and intense enough to push the boundaries of its tamer rating and give nightmares to the squeamish.

Photo: Columbia Pictures
The story is mostly the same this time around. In the near-future, evil corporation OmniCorp manufactures robot soldiers for every country in the world except the U.S., where citizens are concerned about being policed by unfeeling machines. OmniCorp’s solution: building the brain and face of a human police officer into a robot suit. When police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is nearly killed in a car bomb explosion, he becomes their test subject.

The rest of the movie toggles between an overt satire of the mass media/scare tactics and an action-packed origin story of the robotically enhanced hero. If anything, so much of this RoboCop is origin story, it feels more like a set-up to future movies than necessarily a complete movie of its own. The ending feels anticlimactic, in large part because it’s not preceded by a necessary amount of build-up.

Photo: Columbia Pictures
One thing that can’t be faulted is the cast. Kinnaman, star of 2012’s Easy Money and AMC’s The Killing, is great as Murphy and RoboCop. He’s surrounded by heavy-hitters like Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Jay Baruchel, Michael K. Williams, and Samuel L. Jackson. The great spread of talented actors allows the remake to be a more emotionally gratifying movie than Verhoeven’s original.

Plenty more remakes are on the way later this year, and the odds are most of them won’t be worth watching. RoboCop, though, is one of the few remakes that stand above the rest. It would be better with less setup and more payoff, but considering the track record for ‘80s remakes at this point, it’s good enough that RoboCop is good enough.

OSCARS 2014: A Look at the Supporting Performance Nominees

Artwork: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
By Chris Luckett

(This is Part 2 of a four-part series looking at the Oscar nominees in the eight major categories.)

Ten supporting performances are nominated for Academy Awards each year: five male and five female. This year’s batch includes six first-time acting nominees, two previous nominees, and two Oscar winners.

Best Supporting Actor

BARKHAD ABDI (Captain Phillips)

Abdi, who moved from Somalia to Minneapolis, MN at the age of 14, had never acted before Captain Phillips. Having spent his childhood witnessing the desperate lives of many Somalis, Abdi brought personal experience and perspective to the role of Muse, one of four pirates who hijacked the Maersk Alabama in 2009. He goes toe-to-toe with Tom Hanks in every scene, completely holding his own against the Oscar winner.

BRADLEY COOPER (American Hustle)

After scoring his first Oscar nomination last year for his lead performance in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, Cooper landed his second just 12 months later for Russell’s follow-up, American Hustle. As hot-headed FBI agent Richie DiMaso, Cooper gives a subtle performance, never sure whether he’s the puppet-master of his sting operation or another puppet.


After giving performances in the Oscar-nominated Inglourious Basterds, Shame, and Prometheus that ultimately didn’t receive the Academy’s attention, Fassbender finally broke into the realm of Oscar nominees for his portrayal of the deplorable Edwin Epps, a cruel plantation and slave owner. Playing both quiet lows and raging highs, Fassbender is genuinely frightening as a powerful man capable of pretty much anything.

JONAH HILL (The Wolf of Wall Street)

After surprising the world with his dramatic work in 2011’s Moneyball (and scoring his first Academy Award nomination in the process), Hill returned to the genre in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Hill gives his most complex performance yet as Donnie Azoff, a salesman who becomes the partner of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort, joining the titular stockbroker in his spectacular rise and inevitable fall.

JARED LETO (Dallas Buyers Club)

The character of Rayon, a transgender drug addict dying of AIDS who goes into business with a homophobic redneck, is the kind of role almost every actor would kill for, but not everyone would be able to pull off what Leto does with it. Treating her with true dignity, Leto gives the best performance of his career as Rayon, losing himself completely in the funny, proud, scared, heartbreaking, and heart-warming character.

Best Supporting Actress

SALLY HAWKINS (Blue Jasmine)

Sally Hawkins may not be the main character of Blue Jasmine, but she’s the beating heart of it. Torn between her hot-headed husbands and her familial obligation to look after her stuck-up, deluded sister, Hawkins simultaneously projects effervescence and melancholy as Ginger – a modernized Stella Kowalski, for those who know their Tennessee Williams.


Hot off winning Best Actress at last year’s Academy Awards for her stunning turn in Silver Linings Playbook (as well as starring in the highest-grossing film of 2013, Catching Fire), Lawrence has already been invited back to the red carpet for her performance as Rosalyn Rosenfeld, the mercurial, explosive wife of con artist Irving (Christian Bale). If she wins, she’ll be the first back-to-back Oscar winner for acting since Tom Hanks.

(Warning: NSFW language)

LUPITA NYONG'O (12 Years a Slave)

Like Best Supporting Actor nominee Barkhad Abdi, Lupita Nyong’o scored her acting nomination for very first movie. As the persevering Patsey, Nyong’o is forced to cope not just with being a slave but also with being slave master Edwin Epp’s (Michael Fassbender) most prized slave and his forced mistress. Patsey speaks softly and survives stoically through horrible conditions, but it’s her outbursts of desperate emotion that haunt the most.

JULIA ROBERTS (August: Osage County)

Roberts hasn’t been invited to join the ranks of Oscar-nominated actors since her starring performance in 2000’s Erin Brokovich, but co-starring with Meryl Streep will bring out the best acting in anybody. As the eldest daughter of a racist, passive-aggressive, vindictive, dying drug addict (Streep), Roberts more than holds her own in a cast stuffed with great actors.

(Warning: NSFW language)

JUNE SQUIBB (Nebraska)

It took six decades of consistently good work, but at 84 years old, Squibb scored her first Oscar nomination for performance as Kate Grant, the caring but exasperated wife of a man (Bruce Dern) who’s convinced he’s won a million dollars. As played by Squibb, Kate’s character gets the more laughs from audiences than anyone else in Nebraska. If she wins, Squibb will be the oldest winner for acting in Academy Awards history.

(Warning: NSFW language)

Saturday, 8 February 2014


By Chris Luckett

4½ stars out of 5

Photo: Warner Bros.
Remember when you played with toys as a kid and one fantasy scenario would lead right into the next? Wolverine, Donatello, and Scrooge McDuck could race the Batmobile across the deck of the Titanic, before suddenly warping to the moon and playing a game of darts with Bart Simpson, and it all made a twisted kind of sense. It’s that childlike sense of genius randomness that makes The LEGO Movie the first great movie of 2014.

Emmet Brickowski, voiced by Chris Pratt, is a happy, normal LEGO guy. He’s positive about everything, his favourite TV show is Where are My Pants?, and he has a construction job laying LEGO bricks. One day, his uninteresting life is interrupted when he becomes tangled up in a plot involving the leader of Brickburg, President Business (Will Ferrell), trying to destroy the world and a Matrix-style prophecy that just might apply to Emmet.

Photo: Warner Bros.
Really, the plot is as present as it needs to be, but doesn’t spend lots of time dwelling on details like story and motivations. (Or so it seems, actually – the final act of the movie contains a number of brave narrative gambles that come out of left field and show just how out-of-the-box The LEGO Movie was thinking all along.)

Much like 2012’s underrated The Pirates!: Band of Misfits, The LEGO Movie is made to look animated in stop-motion, but is actually amazingly detailed computer animation. The LEGO bricks that make up the characters and settings look completely real; the plastic bricks even have worn paint and chipped plastic, like most that you played with as a kid.

Photo: Warner Bros.
The voice cast is so large, there’s not enough time to go into how great they all are. Suffice it to say, though, that any movie that lands a cast comprised of Pratt, Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Will Forte, Anthony Daniels, Cobie Smulders, Jonah Hill, Dave Franco, Billy Dee Williams, Nick Offerman, Morgan Freeman, Jake Johnson, Will Arnett, and Channing Tatum definitely knows what it’s doing.

So many family movies nowadays either pander to children with insulting antics or are too busy being kinetic to attempt to be clever or funny. The LEGO Movie has such an effortless power behind it, it’s a sheer joy to behold. The comedy is really funny, the animation is simple yet intricate, and the action careens from one random moment of genius to the next. It’s the type of movie that a kid could come up with, but in treating its whimsy with thoughtfulness, it also makes you feel like a kid again.