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'.
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.
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.
For a gal named Carrie White, she's sure got a lot of red on her.
Watching Kimberly Peirce's 'Carrie' is an odd experience. If you've seen Brian De Palma's version from 1976, this new version is - and there's really no point in denying this - like watching a cover band. There's a tweaked scene here and there (including a new, creepy-as-heck opening) plus the addition of cell phones and references to 'Dancing With The Stars.' This remake, more than most, really feels like hitting the same marks. It may be a peculiarity specific to 'Carrie,' because, let's face it, not a whole heck of a lot happens in this story. Considering most moviegoers' familiarity, there's plenty of room to stew and think, "Why is this considered such a classic?"
With piracy drama 'Captain Phillips,' Paul Greengrass ('Bloody Sunday,' 'United 93') has defended his ground as the go-to man for tragic, reality-based pressure-cooker films. The dude really knows how to get your palms sweaty, even when you kinda-sorta know how things are going to end up. Note to self: don't take your cargo ship through the Somali Basin if you don't have to.
Greengrass is also the director of the best two 'Bourne' movies ('Supremacy' and 'Ultimatum') and just as Matt Damon glided through those films as the steely, mixed-martial killing machine, Tom Hanks' center-seat performance here is a master class in keeping it cool.
It's clear from the start that 'Getaway' is not a good movie. The opening sequence is a mess of different video stocks and flashbacks, an easy tell that a team of editors tore out their hair trying to skip as much boring exposition while leaving the first scenes cogent. But once former race car driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) is behind the wheel of his stolen souped-up vehicle and is receiving crazy, destructive orders from the disembodied voice of Jon Voight, there's at least plenty of smashy-smashy to keep you occupied. The bad guy has some master plan – kidnapping Hawke's wife so that he'll be a mobile slave to his chaotic whims is part of laying the ground work.
But more than seeing traffic destruction on the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria (this month's production location low-bidder) there's a bigger catastrophe. Fifteen minutes into the movie, Selena Gomez shows up.
How could something that is so gorgeous also be so damn dull? Well, where there's a will, there's a Wong Kar Wai.
The jazzy, experimental arthouse darling of the 1990s ('Chunking Express,' 'Fallen Angels,' 'Happy Together') fails to get out of his '2046'/'My Blueberry Nights' slump with 'The Grandmaster,' a strong contender for most boring picture of 2013. The version I saw is the Weinstein Company's “American Cut,” not to be confused with the homegrown successful “Chinese Cut” or the intermediary cut that played at festivals like Berlin.
That's what 'Arrested Development' star Tony Hale shouts from the back of Melissa McCarthy's broken down jalopy of a police car as she goes through the motions of an uninteresting chase sequence.
"Hoo boy," I mutter. "We're in for another 'Identity Thief' here" - a movie where physical comedy and riff-heavy music cues will have to suffice instead of any real wit. But something happens about 10 minutes into 'The Heat,' the latest comedy from 'Bridesmaids' director Paul Feig. McCarthy's Detective Mullins loudly and brashly bursts into a room and meets Sandra Bullock's Special Agent Ashburn.
The chemical reaction is instantaneous. McCarthy and Bullock, both naturally funny people, feed off one another and crackle as one of the best comedy pairings since John Cleese and Michael Palin. 'The Heat' is a decent movie; McCarthy and Bullock are outstanding.
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.
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