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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cindy Prascik Review of Transcendence

Dearest Blog, yesterday I took full advantage of a day off to sneak out to the cinema. On my agenda was the new Johnny Depp flick, Transcendence.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailer.\

When a brilliant A.I. researcher is gunned down by opponents of his work, his grieving widow and a former colleague seek a way to save him, but the result of their efforts is not quite what they intended.

Well, dear Blog, the first thing I noticed when I got to the theatre yesterday was that I couldn't check in to Transcendence on TV Tag (formerly GetGlue); it wasn't even in their library. I thought to myself, "Self, that can't be a good sign," and I was right. Opening on a holiday weekend to a pretty busy cinema, there were only three other people in the room with me, far fewer than for my second screening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier afterward.

As regular reader(s) and anyone who knows me will be well aware, I think Johnny Depp is the world's finest living actor. I've been a fan since his days on Jump Street, and, while his performance never lets me down (even in sub-par movies), I admit I've grown tired of him playing the quirky guy in the funny hat, and was ready for something at least a little bit more serious. Sadly, after seeing Transcendence, I think I'd almost rather have had another Mad Hatter; the role was so blah I wasn't even looking forward to his screen time as the movie dragged on. Rebecca Hall is fine as his widow, though she, too, has little to work with and does even less with it. (Also, leggings, big shirts, and ballet flats are not her best look. She's one of my favorite girl crushes, and I was deeply saddened by this.) The rest of the cast is a who's who of faces I love seeing, to the point that listing them all here would venture into the ridiculous. Instead I'll just say a movie that can't be fixed by Clifton Collins, Jr. simply can't be fixed at all.

Transcendence doesn't exceed my recommended two-hour guideline, yet it seems to go on forever. The premise is fascinating and the cast solid...yet somehow the execution fails completely. I grew more bored by the second and practically sprinted from my seat when it was over (and not just because I was that eager to see Sebastian Stan matter what you've heard)!

Transcendence isn't a terrible move, but, when you can't help comparing what it is with what it could and should have been, it's bound to be a disappointment.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Transcendence gets four and a half.
Until next time...


I call it Transcendence!


A brilliant innovator in the field of Artificial Intelligence becomes the bridge in the gap between man and machine in this sci-fi thriller starring Johnny Depp. His entire career, Dr. Will Caster (Depp) has been working toward one goal -- to create a machine possessing the entire spectrum of human emotions, and the collective intelligence of every person who has ever lived. But while Dr. Caster's unorthodox experiments have made him famous in scientific circles, a radical anti-tech group known as Rift is determined to stop him at all costs. In the midst of an attack on A.I. labs across the United States, one Rift agent manages to shoot Dr. Caster with a radioactive bullet, ensuring his death. Little did Rift realize that their efforts to destroy Dr. Caster would only make him stronger than they ever could have imagined, because before he dies, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max (Paul Bettany) successfully transfer Dr. Caster's consciousness into a computer, where his hunger for knowledge and power transforms him into an unstoppable force of sentient energy inhabiting every computer and electrical system on the planet. Morgan Freeman co-stars. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Director: Wally Pfister

Cast: Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara

Release Date: Apr 18, 2014

Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and 

Runtime: 1 hr. 59 min.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Suspense/Thriller


Transcendence is a movie that desperately wants you to think that it’s intelligent.  It throws so much technobabble at you that you vaguely start to think it might be smart. Until you snap out of it and realize it is a hodgepodge of sci-fi tropes and clichés is nothing but a silly Frankenstein, Skynet, Her retread.  Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan’s long time award winning cinematographer, first film is visually impressive but thematically empty.  Pfister’s style is wasted on such a silly script and story.  Even worse it’s filled with top name talent that’s wasted throughout.  Some people might be comforted by the fact that Depp isn’t doused in two pounds of make up in this film but the trick’s on you because he disappears from the film fairly quickly with the majority of the film’s performance done by an avatar.  I had a passing thought that his contract stated he’s do this movie if he only physically had to be there at the start and end of filming.  Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany are given fairly thankless roles of looking sad and not much else, Bettany is allowed to grow a beard at one point so that counts for something.  Kate Mara, whose creepy looking enough, sports a bad blonde dye job and enough black eye mascara to give a raccoon pause.  Even worse off are poor Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy who, I assume, thought were shooting another Batman film and were thoroughly disappointed when they showed up, much like you will be when this crock is over.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cindy Prascik's Review of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Rio 2

Dearest Blog, yesterday it was off for what I hoped would be a quiet afternoon at the cinema. On the docket: The Grand Budapest Hotel and Rio 2.

Spoiler level here will be mild-ish, almost nothing you haven't seen in the trailers. I do have to mention one specific thing from Grand Budapest Hotel, which, while not a plot spoiler, might be more than some want to know before seeing it.

The Grand Budapest Hotel was first on my agenda.

A former lobby boy recounts his adventures with his mentor, a concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel.

I guess it's first and foremost important to point out that I'm neither an expert nor the number-one fan of Wes Anderson. I've seen a couple of his previous films and liked them, but none ranks among my favorites. Still, I loved the Grand Budapest Hotel trailer and expected great things.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is quirky and clever, full of humorous little twists and great dialogue. It boasts a fine cast, including Ralph Fiennes, who is phenomenal in the lead. The scenery and set pieces are so glorious they almost deserve top billing themselves. Why, then, did the movie leave me a little flat? I really couldn't say. Other than pointlessly playing a dead cat for laughs (an automatic deduction of one-half Weasley on the final grade), there wasn't anything specific I didn't like; on the contrary, I liked all of it very much...yet I didn't walk out of the theatre with that feeling I get when I've seen a really great movie. Due to my unusually high expectations, maybe that feels more disappointing than it should.

The Grand Budapest Hotel runs 100 minutes and is rated R for "language, some sexual content, and violence."

Smart and funny, well written and well acted, somehow The Grand Budapest Hotel is still less than inspiring. Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Grand Budapest Hotel gets six and a half.

Closing yesterday's double-bill was the animated sequel Rio 2.

Blu and family leave their comfortable Rio home to fly to the aid of Linda and Tulio in the Amazon jungle, but the jungle, they find, is full of surprises.

Rio is one of my all-time favorite animated films. It's not special, like How to Train Your Dragon, but it's so pretty and lively you can't help but be happy while watching it. I had high hopes for Rio 2, but, alas, it falls very far short of the bar set by its predecesser.

Rio 2 is as beautifully drawn, colored, and animated as the original. It throws in a bouncy tune here and there to keep the kids' attention, though, as an adult, it feels more like uncomfortable, contrived attempts to show off the alleged singing talents of certain cast members. Jesse Eisenberg is a delight as Blu, and would easily stand out even if the rest of the cast weren't so...meh. It was no surprise to me that a cartoon Kristin Chenoweth is just as annoying as a live-action one, but Rio 2's chief problem goes beyond petty annoyances; the sad truth is it's just plain boring. It's not an overly long movie, yet it seems to go on forever, and a few good laughs and some nice-looking artwork are by no means enough to recommend it. If I had to say one good thing, it'd be that a Friday afternoon screening spared me the eight-year-olds' birthday parties with which I've been cursed at my other recent animation outings.

Rio 2 clocks in at 101 minutes and is rated G.

An unworthy sequel to its delightful predecessor, of a possible nine Weasleys, Rio 2 gets four.

Until next time...

If I play my cards right, there might be room for me in that dragon movie!

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Two siblings haunted by a childhood tragedy learn that the source of their horror is a mysterious mirror with a dark history. Tim (Brenton Thwaites) and Kaylie (Karen Gillan) were merely teenagers when both of their parents were brutally butchered. Convicted of the killings and sentenced to protective custody, Tim serves his time while Kaylie drifts into a deep despair. Years later, a newly free Tim does his best to lay the past to rest. Meanwhile, Kaylie is certain that her brother was innocent all along, and that the antique mirror their parents used to own holds the answer to her darkest questions. Upon locating the long-lost looking glass, Kaylie's deepest fears are confirmed -- a menacing force inhabits that mirror, and it has plagued every owner who has come into possession of it. Now, as curious Kaylie reacquires the mirror, the nightmarish cycle of horror returns with a vengeance. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Release Date: Apr 11, 2014

Rated: R for some Disturbing Images, Brief Language, Terror and Violence

Runtime: 1 hr. 45 min. 

Genres: Horror 

Director: Mike Flanagan 

Cast: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane, Katee Sackhoff, Garrett Ryan


Oculus is one of those pleasant surprises that randomly pop up from time to time in the horror genre which is overrun with more crap than an old portopotty.  Oculus is a mind bender, even if it can turn rather silly at certain points, which play with time and perception.   All the while maintaining a strong tension throughout while it keeps us guessing whether things are really happening or not.  It borrows heavily from Japanese horror but make for a rather enjoyable yarn.  The cast is lead by the lovely Karen Gillan, and her bangs, who oversells her part a tad too much in the beginning but settles into her role as the film moves on.  Brenton Thwaites is a solid counter weight to Gillan’s obsessive character.  Katee Sackhoff is always excellent playing nutty and she does a good job here even though I was disappointed by where the story takes her character in the third act.  The last act is a fun trip through the fun house of terrors which messes with your perception enough to keep you on your toes even if it ends up in a predictable place.


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