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.
There is a sex scene in '300: Rise of an Empire' that is an all-timer. Put it right up there on the shelf next to 'Don't Look Now,' 'A History of Violence,' 'Blue is the Warmest Color,' '9 ½ Weeks' and any of the others that make those best-of lists. Actually, put next to that insanity in the pool from 'Showgirls' (you know, with the dolphin statue?), because there's a level of playful absurdity that changes it from a representation of love (or, more accurately, lust) to something of a Broadway choreographer's interpretation of a fight. Like a 'West Side Story' rumble, but with Eva Green moaning and bent over a table with maps and war figurines. A rise of an empire, indeed.
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.
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.
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."
The kids today and their video games! Well, if Gavin Hood's adaptation of Orson Scott Card's beloved sci-fi novel, 'Ender's Game,' is any indicator, the fragging youngsters of today may become the saviors of tomorrow. Whether they want to or not.
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?"
'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.
Seventeen summers ago, Will Smith gave us the catch phrase "welcome to Earth" and then punched an alien in the face. This time he's the invading alien (kinda) and his new line "this is Earth" is much more doom and gloom than swagger. An international icon, father and potentially the next great crazy celebrity, Will Smith is finally ready to pass the baton to his son Jaden.
But it isn't a baton he's using in 'After Earth' (an original sci-fi film based on a story of Smith's own creation) but a C-40 Cutlass – a doohickey kinda like Darth Maul's lightsaber, which springs out different blades depending on what you need. Actually, we never quite know how the Cutlass in 'After Earth' works, but it is one of a number of really nifty gizmos that populates the half-baked mythos of this film.
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