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Fame

You know you’re getting old when they remake a film you remember from nearly thirty years ago.  Although this Fame is less a remake than a re-interpretation of an idea.  In many ways its timely release is more potent as today’s society is much more savvy in the workings of desired notoriety.  Linking the two is the dedication of its students and the guidance of the teachers in shaping burgeoning talent.
The New York City High School of Performing Arts trains a wide range of gifted students.  Among them are Denise, Malik, Jenny & Marco whose struggles and triumphs are chartered over a four year period.  Helping them achieve their ambitions are teachers Joel (Kelsey Grammer), Alvin (Charles S. Dutton) and Principal Angela Simms (Debbie Allen) who work hard in ensuring their eventual graduation leads to a road of continued professional success.
Minus some crimes of fashion and Irene Cara’s legendary theme tune there could be a perception that Fame hasn’t much going for it.  That would be a bit harsh as, although indulging in some obvious clichés, this version still has something to say.  In searching for the potential of each student, the relationship between teacher and pupil becomes an important factor in their development.  The ability to trust and believing in your talents is paramount, with Fame thankfully unafraid in showing the harsh reality of rejection.  This aspect makes it watchable with some reasonable acting by the mostly unknown cast.
Although the musical numbers are well staged, Fame suffers from a dearth of characters.  There are too many vying for attention that not enough time is spent nurturing their various traits.  This gives a dis-jointed feel with various sub-plots never fully reaching fruition.  Some fare better than others with this lack of focus detracting from its easily adaptable concept.  Generally there is more to like than not and it at least differentiates itself from its predecessor to allow proceedings to stand on its own.  
Those hoping to revive memories of Fame’s former lives in film and TV may be surprised by this new version.  Others should receive something from this as today’s singing and dancing recruits on various reality shows give this a more opportune spin where each make their fifteen minutes count.
Rating out of 10:  5

Surrogates

If actors are occasionally accused of succumbing to vanity then Surrogates would perhaps appeal to their tastes. By playing automations presenting themselves in a blank monotone manner, it becomes difficult judging their performances.  Whilst this would sink lesser films Surrogates uses this to its advantage.  In creating a world of make-believe, it explores how humanity can become lost in the quest for the body beautiful.
In 2017 society has embraced the new ‘Surrogate’ technology.  Allowing people to stay at home while their android replacements go about their daily tasks, the invention has changed lives.  Some are unhappy with this and when the son of the manufacturer is murdered, the FBI are called.  Sending its top agents, Greer (Bruce Willis) and Peters (Radha Mitchell), they attempt to unmask the killer against a tide of technological warfare.
Briskly directed by action auteur Jonathan Mostow, Surrogates is an enjoyable comeback.  Last seen putting Arnie through his paces in Terminator 3, Mostow’s direction of Surrogates feels like a natural successor.  Where the former pitted humans against computers, Surrogates finds the machines have taken over.  In this case a populace’s lust for perfection has won over any need for real personal contact.  The theme of using technology to escape reality isn’t anything new but Mostow keeps events moving rapidly with any crucial exposition given during its many explosive sequences.
You have to admire a film able to balance messages with its action.  That it does so well is a credit for everyone involved, in particular Bruce Willis, who still has the skills to portray a believable hero.  He is a much better actor than given credit which is perhaps why he has lasted the distance.  While most of his action generation have quietly retired, he continues to expand his action persona in new directions.  Surrogates provides plenty of moments for his famed gunplay and quips, although importantly the concept is effectively used to its fullest potential.  This generates some genuine suspense with the constant cat and mouse game-playing an intriguing spectacle.
Surrogates is a very entertaining sci-fi-/action combination using some brains as well as brawn.  Although it may be predictable in places, its muscular and lean direction ensures Willis’ latest is amongst his most memorable.
Rating out of 10:  7