When I was a young man and the Internet was new, I made the same joke every time I dialed-up and heard those dissonant, scratchy tones. “Chhhhhhh-CHHHHHH-Chhhhhh” my modem would bray, and as soon as there was silence I'd turn to whomever was in the room and conspiratorially say, "all right, we're in."
'Transcendence,' the first feature film directed by Christopher Nolan's longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister, is two straight hours of that “all right, we're in,” with (slightly) updated peripherals. Featuring more technobabble than a middling episode of 'Star Trek: Voyager,' Rebecca Hall and Johnny Depp star as husband and wife computer geniuses who, along with artificial intelligence labs across the country, are attacked by a band of “neo-Luddite” terrorists.
Whereas Tom Hanks' Captain Phillips talked, finessed, sweated and went into shock to rescue his crew, Chris Evans' Captain America jumps onto a hijacked boat from a helicopter without a parachute. His liberation of a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel captured by international terrorists involves flinging himself across the deck; a human pinball with terrorists as his easily neutralized bumpers. Make that a super-human pinball, because as much as Steve Rogers maintains his golly shucks good nature, he is, after all, a Marvel superhero and he's here to save the day in the most preposterous and camera-ready fashion that's possible. Welcome to 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'.
The story of Noah as it is written in the King James Bible is about three pages. If you want to Google it, read it, then come back to this you can go ahead. I'll wait here as I continue to stream some of Clint Mansell's spooky and enthralling score to the new Darren Aronofsky film starring Russell Crowe.
Back? Yeah, so, not a whole heck of a lot there. But did you catch the tiny references to things you may not recall from Sunday School? The “giants in the Earth” and the “flaming sword”? These are the pools from which Aronofsky irrigates his 'Noah.' This is, to adopt a phrase, the “old, weird Bible,” and its visual language more resembles 'Lord of the Rings' than any typical sandal epic.
There are 35,000 deaths due to motor vehicle accidents in the United States each year. Every ten seconds someone is given emergency treatment because of a car crash. According to a report by the CDC the financial impact is close to $100 billion on injury care and lost productivity.
I know 'Need For Speed' is just a movie, and movies are entertainment, but it is shocking beyond all reason how much this movie thinks automotive safety is a big joke. I understand loving an outlaw, but when 'Bonnie & Clyde' robbed banks they were “punching up.” When Aaron Paul and his merry band of mayhem mechanics destroy public works and send innocent bystanders careening off of highways, they are “punching down.” 'Need For Speed,' its producers, writers, director and maybe even its stars should all hang their heads in shame.
The opening shot of 'Non-Stop' has Liam Neeson pouring whiskey in a coffee cup and stirring it with a toothbrush. He then reaches out to a photo of a young girl to stroke it with his fingertips. After this the phone rings and the caller ID reads 555. In other words, three of the biggest movie cliches, all in about sixty seconds.
Wes Anderson has finally done it. He's gone and created his own country.
Zubrowka, the fictional town at the heart of 'The Grand Budapest Hotel,' is positioned on the farthest Eastern edge of Europe's great empire. It is a melange of stylistic flourishes and decorative signifiers from a make believe 20th Century - a memory of a memory, a fastidious, whimsical take on real horrors - a storybook samizdat that entices with madcap adventure then goes in for the kill with existential dread. It is an incredible place to visit.
In the late 1950s, American bodybuilder Steve Reeves somehow ended up in Italy and made a cheapo production of 'Hercules.' It spawned an avalanche of knockoff strongmen films -- some starring Reeves, some featuring a rather malleable new character named Maciste -- and are just wretched examples of boring cinema that, for whatever reason, I ended up seeing quite a bit of as a little kid. But to an 8-year-old back then, sub-Ray Harryhausen special effects and wafer-thin plots still managed to impress. Hey, it was a Sunday afternoon and a color TV.
It's easy to say “they don't make 'em like that anymore,” but the spirit of these garbage movies is alive and well in Renny Harlin's charmingly awful 'The Legend of Hercules.' Starring Kellan Lutz as a block of concrete that has to fake the classic British accent (even though Hercules is Greek), this is boring by-the-numbers dross from the artless Millennium Films, best known for 'The Expendables' films. It has maybe three good fight scenes and two moments that are so over-the-top bad you just have to laugh, and that makes for some undeniable entertainment. The best way to describe 'The Legend of Hercules' is as the fake movie that teenagers in movies go to see.
There comes a time when we must stop kidding ourselves. These 'Hobbit' films – with 'The Desolation of Smaug' representing the shank of the trilogy – are not real movies. These are exploitation films for Tolkien nuts, for enthusiasts of the original 'Lord of the Rings' movies and for audiences so hungry for high fantasy they'll gobble up whatever is served to them and ask for seconds.
As someone who has sympathy, but not empathy, for those who have such proclivities, I can get why someone might come away liking this picture. But that is more of an involuntary reaction to exposure to certain elements, not the summation of a film. Listen, there's a grey-bearded wizard who warns in low tones about a place that sounds like “Doggledoor.” And there's someone referred to as “Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror.” I love that geekorama stuff more than most. It's hilarious, and I'll probably refer to my cat as “Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror” for the next week. But this movie doesn't cohere – there's no forward momentum, no character development, no story happening. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fibber.
Christian Bale's disastrous comb-over/rug combo basically opens the film with a wordless monologue. Beneath that unnatural mop is the sharp mind of Irving Rosenfeld, a “from the feet up” con man making the leap from running legit (but boring) dry cleaning businesses to grifting down-on-their-luck rubes on bad bank loans. His operation starts taking off when he hooks up with Amy Adams, a natural businesswoman looking to reinvent herself. She does this with a name change, a phony British accent and, later in the film, by frizzing her hair out to preposterous proportions.
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