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 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.
You'd think that a guy trapped in a hotel room for 20 years would find a better movie to be in once he got out, right?
'Oldboy,' Spike Lee's remake of the Park Chan-wook cult film from 2003, is a fairly rotten film, which is strange because it is very similar to the rather effective original. Sometimes, though, there's something gained in the translation.
When the closing credits rolled after the original 'The Hunger Games,' I thought to myself "eh, not bad." But I was in no rush to see the follow-up. When the closing credits rolled after Francis Lawrence's 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,' after I was able to collect myself, I was fully prepared to run out and get a mockingjay tattoo. Over my heart. With the phrase, "I will lay down my life for you, Katniss Everdeen, because you are the first and finest true hero of 21st century cinema."
Is it a Quantum Field Generator or a a Soul Forge? It's both, and that's why 'Thor: The Dark World,' like 'Thor' before it, is one of the best films that blends sci-fi and fantasy. Add the humor, star charisma and nods to the wider Marvel Movie Universe and you've got 120 minutes of straight-up nerdy glee. If dorky blood flows through your veins, you will love this movie.
'We're the Millers' is a vexing film. It's just funny enough to keep from being truly bad, but too preposterous and predictable to be anything close to good. For every laugh there's something that will make you want to hurl an object at the screen. When it flubs, it flubs hard, allowing each of the four main characters a chance to embarrass themselves. And yet, if you wait 'til the next scene, there's the possibility that whoever just served up a would-be joke in a humiliating fashion will do something inspired. As such, 'We're the Millers' wins some respect for at least being a very odd moviegoing experience.
Here's one of my favorite jokes of all time. There's no punchline, it's just a sentence. "I've been rich and miserable, and I've been poor and miserable. And I'll tell ya: rich is better."
I don't know if this is what director Neill Blomkamp had in mind as the ultimate message of 'Elysium,' his visually stunning follow-up to 'District 9,' but beneath the dazzling spectacle, there isn't much else beyond that aphorism to cling to.
The title is 'World War Z,' but I can think up two other letters: "O" and "K."
'World War Z' is okay because it zips along with the fury of a computer-generated cascade of fast zombies. 'World War Z' is okay because Brad Pitt is a great leading man, even if his character has no depth. 'World War Z' is okay because there is always a fatalistic draw to see our social order tumble and great cities reduced to cinders.
It is also, unfortunately, merely okay because there's nothing in this movie you haven't seen before.
My disdain of the 'Scary Movie' franchise came early. I distinctly recall seeing the 'Scary Movie 2' poster, which featured Kathleen Robertson wearing a t-shirt that says "I See Dead People." This isn't a joke. It's just a reference. It isn't clever, it isn't witty - it's just saying a thing from another movie. It's not funny.
Almost 10 years later, 'Scary Movie 5' still suffers from this debilitating problem. There is absolutely nothing funny about going 'Inception'-style into Christian Grey's S&M room and having Mike Tyson show up. Yet, if you are somehow able to ignore the lowest common denominator pop culture appearances (I hesitate to even call them jokes) there are a great number of truly amusing gags and examples of rapid fire dialogue zings. Put bluntly: when the film is freed from the shackles of its referencing mandate, there's some good, dopey humor in here. Much to my surprise, I laughed out loud a good half-dozen times.
Nobody asked for this movie. But someone was going to make it. I'm just glad it was Matthew Johnson, a young (but not as young as he looks!) Canadian director/co-writer/co-star who has the chutzpah to take on a really difficult subject and the chops to deliver without coming off as crass or exploitative. There are plenty who will refuse to give 'The Dirties' the time of day, and that's somewhat understandable, but if you believe that, in order to correct a problem it must first be discussed, 'The Dirties' is, I feel, a noble mix of entertainment and social importance.
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