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Review: Transcendence

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Johnny Depp stars in this ham-handed techno-thriller about artificial intelligence that feels like it was created by a computer who knows what movies look like, but not how they actually feel ...

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Review Round-Up for the Week Ending April 18 ...

Friday April 18, 2014
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While plenty of other movies had had worse initial showings, Transcendence -- with Johnny Depp as an Artificial Intelligence expert who turns himself into the malevolent version of Microsoft's Clippy -- is currently enjoying a mere 19% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. And I know I'm making light of Transcendence, but the movie-lover inside me thinks it's a shame; cinematographer Wally Pfister is legitimately one of the top humans shooting movies in the world, and one might hope his directorial debut would have done just a little better.

My review was not one of the ones holding Transcendence up at the post:

If the plot of Transcendence sounds familiar, it is; Hollywood's been making films exactly like this for the past 44 years, from 1970's Colossus: The Forbin Project to The Lawnmower Man, and if you look at thematics more than specifics, you can trace it back to the early 1800's and Dr. Frankenstein -- or, for that matter, the dawn of man and Prometheus. But Transcendence doesn't add a single new thing to that time-honored plot -- or, rather, adds new elements more out of Ghost than science fiction -- and instead goes over a well-traveled road with sparkly new hubcaps.

While Transcendence looks great, blame can be freely laid at the feet of screenwriter Jack Paglen, who fills the film with bad science and techno-babble until a third act twist/reveal that undermines the little bit of excitement the film had manages to generate. A lot of the film is Hall and Bettany -- two actors you buy as intelligent people -- arguing over one question: When they boot up the computer where they stored a human mind, is it Will, or is it Memorex?

Click here for our .5/5-Star Review

For a lighter sight of the machine apocalypse, why not read Matt Patches' excellent Rage Against the Machine: A Brief History of Evil Movie Computers at RollingStone.com?

Also on the big screen this week is Bears. from the Disneynature slate of semi-docs from the Mouse House. Alonso Duralde at The Wrap approves, noting:

It's hard not to immediately adore the stars of Bears, with their dog-like snouts and bright eyes and obvious affection for one another. Still, if there's a breakout star here, it's sneaky, hungry, cub-stalking, salmon-stealing wolf "Tikaani," who really knows how to hold a close-up. Somewhere, a team of writers is whipping up a script for The Grey 2.
The only other big wide opener? A comedy spoof, with, aparently no comedy ... Read More...

Review Round-Up for the Weekend of April 11 ...

Friday April 11, 2014
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This week, there's more than a few choices on the big screen, as Kevin Costner comes back with a different kind of sports drama in Draft Day, which is considerably helped by a cast of pros and some gorgeous shots of NFL Nation. In depressing news for family audiences, it's with great regret that we announce that the sequel to Rio, Rio 2, crashes and burns pretty much on take-off. And Captain America: The Winter Soldier is also in theaters, as one of the better Marvel movies yet made thanks to close-to-the-ground fight scenes and a startlingly satisfying sense of down-to-earth characters fueling the action. Below, some excerpts from our full reviews for all three films starting with Rio 2... Read More...

Shailene Woodley on The Fault in Our Stars

Sunday March 30, 2014

Shailene Woodley

Shailene Woodley's a hugger. Making her way down the red carpet at the 2014 CinemaCon where she was on hand to promote 20th Century Fox's The Fault in Our Stars, Woodley hugged each and every reporter before answering any questions. Woodley comes across as intelligent and passionate, and she believes the film adaptation of the bestselling The Fault in Our Stars could be the most faithful book-to-screen adaptation yet:

(Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Warner Bros at CinemaCon: Tons of Stars But a CGI Creature Steals the Show

Sunday March 30, 2014

Wally Pfister, Morgan Freeman and Johnny Depp

Warner Bros Pictures isn't resting on its laurels and instead is continuing to be committed to year-round releases and the launching of new franchises (the LEGO movies and the new Harry Potter series) with a packed slate of films ready to hit theaters worldwide in 2014/2015. The studio's coming off a record-breaking year in which they scored the triple crown: earning the top spot among all studios in domestic box office numbers as well as internationally and worldwide. The 2014 Oscars also earned a place in Warner Bros history as they netted 21 Oscar nominations overall, the most in the studio's lengthy history. All of these facts were delivered by CEO Ken Tsujihara to the 2014 CinemaCon crowd at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas before the mic was turned over to WB President Dan Fellman to introduce clips and talent from select upcoming releases.

Here's a rundown of what Warner Bros unveiled at this year's gathering of the National Association of Theatre Owners in Vegas:

  • First up, first-time director Wally Pfister hit the stage with two of his Transcendence stars Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman. Depp and Morgan had a bit of trouble figuring out who was delivering which lines, and Depp joked, "He's god, by the way." The footage screened provided slightly more insight into this sci-fi film about artificial intelligence taken too far.

  • Next it was Godzilla director Gareth Edwards' turn to talk about his film. Edwards said that he'd literally completed the final cut on March 26th and that as the second biggest Godzilla fan on the planet (the first being producer Thomas Tull), he's really proud of the way the film's come together. Edwards assured the crowd that he tried to do it properly before joking that he's British and therefore he must be modest about these things. He also joked that he was sorry Godzilla himself couldn't make it to CinemaCon but unfortunately he's busy in a play on Broadway. After that introduction, Edwards' promise of doing it properly seemed to have not been just empty words as the footage received the loudest round of applause of any shown during the entire presentation. Read More...
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