The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

thehungergamesmockingjaypart12014a

Director: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Screenplay: Peter Craig, Danny Strong

123 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material.

 

Of all the young adult post-apocalyptic stories currently drowning our theaters, The Hunger Games is definitely at the top of my list. The list is of good quality work, and the list is small. At just over two hours, the newest film in the franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, takes the series in a new direction while setting up the final climactic piece to this series, but does it work?

thehungergamesmockingjaypart12014c

Yes and no.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook, X-Men: Days of Future Past) has escaped from the Third Quarter Quell Hunger Games intact, and now she finds herself in the midst of a major rebellion against the Capitol and the insidious President Snow (Donald Sutherland, The Italian Job, Horrible Bosses). Her on-again-off-again real-but-also-kind-of-fake boyfriend Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, Bridge to Terabithia, Epic) has been captured and might be dead. She is joined in her quest to take down Snow by friends Gale (Liam Hemsworth, The Expendables 2, Empire State) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson, TV’s True Detective, No Country for Old Men) as well as the rebellion leader President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore, Magnolia, Non-Stop) and her second-in-command Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote, Doubt). Does Katniss have what it takes to be the face of a rebellion, and can she save the ones she loves from the dark and powerful Capitol?

First of all, I must say that I was in agreement about making Mockingjay into two films. Having read the book, I found that there was a lot of material to be mined from it and I couldn’t see a logical place to cut it without it feeling rushed. That being said, I felt that the area they could’ve beefed up and gone into more were not. We are thrown into the film without have a few minutes to start connecting the dots. I spoke to some views who hadn’t read the books to question their thoughts and they felt as though a little more prologue or something to bring the story into its frame of reference would’ve been appreciated. We also could have spent more time with some of our new characters and there are a lot of them, virtually all of them in this film. We could’ve developed Liam Hemsworth’s Gale as more than just a good-looking fella. There is some action for Hemsworth in this picture but it doesn’t feel as exciting because frankly we don’t know his character like we should.

Now, this movie isn’t bad, don’t think that’s where I’m going with this, but it could’ve had better pacing and more to it. We get some great work from J-Law here as Katniss, and some awesome work our second tier players Moore, Hoffman (in the last performance before he was taken from us), and Harrelson.

Director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) handles the material well, but I don’t think he added as much from a stylistic perspective as he could have. Think about the latter Harry Potter films, the ones directed by David Yates. Each Yates film in the series, although directed by the same man, has a different feeling and a wholly unique style. I could see a moment from Yates’ film and know which film it is. I don’t feel like F-Law has learned anything from last year’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which he should have. Again, not really a flaw, just a notice.

thehungergamesmockingjaypart12014b

The problem with most of these films is that they are intended to be viewed as a whole, so when The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is released next year, I will take a look back at this first installment (or third, technically) and see how it holds up as a complete saga. Mockingjay – Part 1 is a strong and powerful entry in The Hunger Games saga. There are some truly great moments in this film, and we get a wide array of awesome performances and a lot of tension building for next year’s finale. It is, however, a step down from Catching Fire.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Advertisements

RoboCop (2014)

robocop2014a

Director: Jose Padilha

Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Joshua Zetumer, Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner

117 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material.

 

In order to make a solid remake, you need to analyze the areas where the original incarnation succeeded and also find avenues to bring something new to the table. RoboCop tried this, and for what it brought to the table, it worked just fine. The problem stems from the fact that this film could’ve worked so much better as a reboot than a remake. There were avenues laid out in the original series, and they could’ve been examined closer. The original RoboCop is not that far back.

robocop2014c

Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman, TV’s The Killing, Safe Haven) is a cop on the edge, and he has nothing but contempt and handcuffs for crooked cops. When an attempt is made on his life, Murphy is left horribly disfigured and limbless, essentially dead. But the folks over at OmniCorp, including CEO Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton, Batman, Birdman) and lead science doctor Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight Rises, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) have new thoughts for Murphy. They turn him into RoboCop, a cyborg officer with a human heart.

RoboCop tries new things, but not enough of them. It comes off as a TV movie version of the original, a copy made with a poor printer. Kinnaman’s performance comes off as wooden, which doesn’t work since Alex Murphy is supposed to be struggling to find humanity in his new metal body. Gary Oldman gives us some batshit crazy work here, probably the best in the film. Michael Keaton plays up his villainy and reminds us why we love him. Then there is Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) who portrays Pat Novak, a television personality who essentially takes over the satirical commentary that the original film had. He was interesting but ultimately pulled me out of the film. This script just doesn’t differ or add enough to be worth the trouble.

Let’s talk about the violence. Where is the blood? I know that it shouldn’t be an issue, but this RoboCop is so tame that one can’t help but wish for the days of RoboCop being a badass. This Alex Murphy, a badass he is not.

robocop2014b

Maybe RoboCop is the beginning of a new franchise, and if so, it has a lot to learn about creating a world. As for now, RoboCop 2014 doesn’t have this.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

ps. I also miss the 1987 RoboCop score…

So I Just Got My Christmas Gift Early; Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer Arrives!

starwarsepisodeVIItheforceawakens2015a

This is exciting news for my nerd friends and, well, everyone else too!

Disney has released the first official teaser trailer for next year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams. The trailer is below, and while it doesn’t contain much, I’m sure it will put a lot of fan fears to rest. This is a pretty sweet taste of what is to come and I am pretty damn excited. Check it out and let me know what you think of it, and check back often, I have a feeling we will be treated to a lot more Star Wars news soon.

 

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits our galaxy on December 18, 2015.

A Long Way Down (2014)

alongwaydown2014a

Director: Pascal Chaumeil

Cast: Toni Collette, Pierce Brosnan, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul

Screenplay: Jack Thorne

96 mins. Rated R for language.

 

I like Nick Hornby. I saw him at a writer’s conference some time ago and had the opportunity to just sit and listen to him muse about life and writing. I like Nick Hornby.

A LONG WAY DOWN

I did not like A Long Way Down. I’m speaking about the film here, which is a conflicted little tale about suicide for four people. First we have Martin (Pierce Brosnan, GoldenEye, The November Man), a shamed talk show host who has become a social pariah for sleeping with an underage girl. Then there’s Maureen (Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense, The Boxtrolls) who struggles with being a parent for a child with special needs. We get Jess (Imogen Poots, Need for Speed, That Awkward Moment), a young girl with daddy issues and a need to prattle. Finally, there is JJ (Aaron Paul, TV’s Breaking Bad, Exodus: Gods and Kings), who has cancer. These four fail to kill themselves on New Year’s Eve when they accidentally pick the same building to jump off. Then they make a pact to stay with each other until Valentine’s Day, when they would try again.

This story is offensive even on the surface. We get characters that make light of the decision to kill themselves, and even regularly joke about it. I found none of this funny. I can stomach a lot, but it even felt like the actors were having troubles with the line reading, stemming from a bad script  by Jack Thorne (TV’s The Fades, The Scouting Book for Boys) from the novel by Nick Hornby. Poor Nick, he has his name attached to this piece of garbage. Everything after the first scene just falls short of remembrance and the plot meanders from one unimportant event to another.

A Long Way Down

With disappointing work from pretty much everyone involved, especially Imogen Poots, who acts as though she will vomit if she can’t get her line out right now, and an ending that you see coming a mile away, A Long Way Down is a dreadful piece of dreck that belongs in a furnace somewhere. Haven’t read the book, but I can bet it is streets ahead.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Horrible Bosses (2011)

horriblebosses2011a

Director: Seth Gordon

Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Jamie Foxx

Screenplay: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

98 mins. Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.

 

I usually find one great comedy every year. 2011’s Horrible Bosses was a great comedy. My review for Horrible Bosses here.

horriblebosses2011c

Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman, TV’s Arrested Development, This is Where I Leave You) has been working his butt off for a promotion, but his boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey, TV’s House of Cards, American Beauty) seems not to notice or care. Dale Arbus (Charlie Day, TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Lego Movie) is trying to be the best fiancé he can be, but his boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston, TV’s Friends, Cake) wants to ruin it be forcing Dale into a sexual relationship through blackmail. Then there’s Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis, We’re the Millers, Drinking Buddies), who is all set up to take over his boss’s position when he retires. Unfortunately, Kurt’s boss Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland, The Italian Job, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1) dies, and his son Bobby (Colin Farrell, Total Recall, Winter’s Tale) takes over instead. Now, these three have no choice but to get the help from Mothafucka Jones (Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained, Annie) to kill their horrible bosses in this dark comedy gem.

I love this movie. Most films don’t try the black comedy anymore and even fewer actually succeed as perfectly as Horrible Bosses did. I also found the story to have plenty of twists and turns to it, enough so to keep me enthused even without the laughs, but then add in the genius of Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis as the everymen along with the strong performances of Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell as the “horrible bosses” and you have a great time at the movies. Director Seth Gordon (Identity Thief, Freakonomics) handles this crew nicely and gives each equal laughs and equal screentime to boot.

horriblebosses2011b

All in all, you see a movie like Horrible Bosses for laughs, and it has plenty. It isn’t a perfect film, but it is about as close to genius comedy as one can get.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Dumb and Dumber (1994)

dumbanddumber1994a

Director: Peter Farrelly

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly, Karen Duffy, Mike Starr, Charles Rocket, Victoria Rowell, Teri Garr

Screenplay: Peter Farrelly, Bennett Yellin, Bobby Farrelly

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for off-color humor.

 

1994 was a very good year for films. I may have already discussed this, but I feel like I need to reiterate. 1994 was one of the best years for films in history. From a critical standpoint, we had such classics as Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, and Forrest Gump. From a comedy standpoint, audiences received a hilarious turkey (or triple play) from Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kick-Ass 2) with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb & Dumber. It was a great year.

dumbanddumber1994c

Dumb & Dumber is a bit of a comedy enigma. The film is far too stupid and outlandish to be good, and yet it is one of the most incredibly perfect comedies ever constructed.

Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) is an idiot. He has just fallen in love at first sight with a woman he doesn’t even know named Mary (Lauren Holly, TV’s NCIS, Spirited Away) and when he finds a briefcase she has lost in an airport terminal, he vows to return it to her. He enlists dog groomer and best friend Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels, TV’s The Newsroom, Good Night and Good Luck) who, like Lloyd, is an idiot, to help him in his quest and make a new name for themselves in the land of opportunity, Aspen. The trouble is, Mary didn’t lose her briefcase, and Lloyd and Harry have entangled themselves in a plot more menacing than either could have anticipated.

The film is made by its performances. Everybody in this movie plays it straight to the book except Carrey and Daniels, and it is made all the more goofy than it should be. We have some incredible supporting work from Mike Starr (TV’s The Young and the Restless, GoodFellas) as a hitman trying to take our lovable morons out of the picture. There is also the terrific late actor Charles Rocket (Dances with Wolves, Hocus Pocus) who is a family friend of Mary’s.

There are some truly laugh-out-loud moments and one-liners that keep this film at the forefront of fans’ minds long after viewing for the zillionth time. I still cringe at the encounter that the dumb-dumbs have with local law enforcement after getting discovered with an open bottle. I still giggle everytime the guy in the diner yells “Kick his ass, Seabass!” and I still find a happy place every time Seabass tries to get revenge on Lloyd in the bathroom stall of a gas station.

dumbanddumber1994b

To make a long story short, or for that matter, a smart story dumb, Dumb and Dumber is a perfect comedy that belongs in a hall of fame alongside other greats like Tommy Boy and Animal House. It stands the test of time even after twenty years and I can see it living on another few decades.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] The Princess and the Frog (2009)

theprincessandthefrog2009a

Director: Ron Clements, John Musker

Cast: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody, Jim Cummings, Peter Bartlett, Jennifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, John Goodman

Screenplay: Ron Clements, John Musker, Rob Edwards

97 mins. Rated G.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (“Almost There” by Randy Newman)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (“Down in New Orleans” by Randy Newman)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

Disney has been known for years to be the leading developer and creator in 2D animation. So even after they had essentially made the change to CG animation, it was a shock to see Disney reverting back to 2D for their next release in 2009’s The Princess and the Frog. It was a definite risk as most moviegoers had made themselves comfortable with the newest form of animating.

theprincessandthefrog2009c

Tiana (Anika Noni Rose, Dreamgirls, Bag of Bones) wants, more than anything, to own a restaurant. It was a passion she shared with her father (Terrence Howard, Iron Man, Sabotage) until he passed away. Now, after years of all working and no playing, Tiana is a dull girl but has forged enough dough to buy her restaurant. It seems like everything is going her way finally, until a talking frog claiming to be the rich Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos, Mimic 2) convinces her to kiss him to turn him human. That kiss backfires, changing Tiana herself into a frog. Now, the two, along with some new friends, must find Mama Odie (Jennifer Lewis, Cars, Think Like a Man Too) in order to turn back to humans.

I happen to find The Princess and the Frog to be one of the more unique entries in the Disney Animated catalog. It also falls into one of the safer entries in that same catalog. I enjoyed the film and the stylistic choices made for the music and the characters, but I don’t feel like The Princess and the Frog takes any steps to be less generic. I feel like the Disney execs were so worried about not offending anyone by showing the first black Disney princess in an imperfect light that they turned the film rather bland, which is too bad for a film with so much flavor. It jumps back and forth in the belief that it will be approved by everyone and in that sense it doesn’t leave the audience with much. Likable? Somewhat. Memorable? Less so.

The voice work is fine, with extra praise to Keith David (TV’s Enlisted, Platoon) for his portrayal of Dr. Facilier and Oprah Winfrey (The Color Purple, The Butler) as Tiana’s mom.

The film deserves attention for the music by Randy Newman, usually known for a specific style which is wholly unlike what he gives us here.

theprincessandthefrog2009b

Is The Princess and the Frog worth a Best Animated Feature Oscar? Probably not, but it is a fun romp which kids should enjoy and adults should be able to sit through.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] The Lovely Bones (2009)

thelovelybones2009a

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli, Saoirse Ronan

Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Bowen, Peter Jackson

135 mins. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images, and some language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Stanley Tucci)

 

Certain directors get going and when they do, they just can’t stop. Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, King Kong) is one of those directors. The last film he made that truly disappointed me was the splatter-fest Dead Alive, a gore-lovers delight from some twenty years ago. Then came cult classics like The Frighteners and major wins like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and King Kong. And like I said before, he just couldn’t stop. In 2009, he gave filmgoers something that they hadn’t seen from Jackson yet. His adaptation of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was much awaited and polarized many who saw it, but it’s Jackson’s most personal work in years. It dives to the core of human emotion and digs until it hurts.

thelovelybones2009b

Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan, Atonement, The Grand Budapest Hotel) is a pretty smart young girl living in the 1970s with parents Jack (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights, Transformers: Age of Extinction) and Abigail (Rachel Weisz, The Mummy, Oz the Great and Powerful). She has a bright and shining future ahead as her most important growth period of her life looms ahead, but sadly, her light is cut short all too soon when an encounter with the strange George Harvey (Stanley Tucci, The Hunger Games, Muppets Most Wanted) leads her to an early grave. As her family struggles to grieve, Susie enters an ethereal plane of existence and must overcome her need for revenge before it tears her family to pieces.

This movie is equal parts visual candy and horrifying family tragedy. I love that its struggle in tone is much like that of its lead characters. The film goes to extremes treating little pieces of genre with the intensity of a mood swing. I find this, whether intentional or not, to be so jarring that it works. Jackson’s visual style is here and it looks gorgeous.

Now let’s talk performances. Wahlberg’s is terrible, this is easily one of the most disappointing areas of this film. He can’t handle the tragedy that Jack Salmon is supposed to experience. Rachel Weisz’s is passable but he really isn’t a fully-realized character. Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise, Tammy) is Susie’s Grandma Lynn, who jumps in as prime caretaker when Susie’s parents fail to care for the siblings. Michael Imperioli (TV’s The Sopranos, Oldboy) also does passable work as Len Fenerman, the detective charged with finding Susie’s killer.

And then you get George Harvey, played perfectly by Stanley Tucci. Tucci’s performance is so painful and disgusting to watch that every scene with him becomes a living car wreck, one that is so terrifying that you can’t look away. George Harvey is perhaps Tucci’s best work to date and remains a truly chilling piece of work.

The script-work by Fran Walsh, Philippa Bowen, and Jackson, the same writing team Jackson has used on much of his previous work, does a great job here with the source material. They helped to piss me off as the film’s events meandered through life in the 70s. That’s what this movie does best, it pushes one through the stages of grief while equally pissing me off. I hated this movie, and that’s what I loved so much about it.

thelovelybones2009c

When I look back on Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, I remember my anger. I also remember the film’s beauty and the search for a passable moment of happiness in a sea of sadness. If you have yet to see this strange odyssey of death, please do so, and let it anger you, but also, let it take hold of you and show you something you haven’t seen before.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, click here.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

captainamericathewintersoldier2014a

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a powerhouse that needn’t even be tested right now. After DC/Warner Bros. release their own cinematic universe lineup to follow last year’s Man of Steel, Marvel Studios unleashed their Phase 3 plans involving more films from Thor, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers, along with a bunch of new properties that will likely destroy most other contenders. With all this news, it is tough to focus on specific individual films, which is a shame, because Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the perfect Marvel movie, as it not only tells a compelling story that works as both a genre film and a superhero movie, and it also stands alone while fueling plot threads for multiple avenues for Marvel to take on in future productions.

captainamericathewintersoldier2014b

The Winter Soldier follows Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, Snowpiercer, What’s Your Number?) as he continues to adjust to life in the present, working for S.H.I.E.L.D. with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation, Lucy) under the tutelage of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, RoboCop). Meanwhile, a plot to attack S.H.I.E.L.D. from within is unveiled and the addition of new foe The Winter Soldier adds multiple new threats to Cap. Rogers is going to have to use new help from Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker, Runner Runner) and fellow agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders, TV’s How I Met Your Mother, The Lego Movie) to take down the Winter Soldier and save S.H.I.E.L.D.

This movie was awesome. It felt like a separate film much more attuned to 70s espionage and political thrillers than a superhero comic book adaptation. New to the Marvel Directors Club, Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, and Dupree) saw the film through a unique lens and decided to forgo CG in favor of practical effects whenever possible (and it shows). The cinematography is engaging and the visual literally POP off the screen (even in 2D). The pacing is perfect. I never once found myself reaching for my phone.

We also get some incredible performances from new Marvel family members Frank Grillo (Warrior, The Purge: Anarchy), Anthony Mackie, and Emily VanCamp (TV’s Revenge, Carriers) as Brock Rumlow, Sam Wilson, and Kate, respectively.

I needed to take a moment to talk about Robert Redford (Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, All is Lost). He just knocks his role out of the park. He plays a very important character, Alexander Pierce, the man in the big office of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he just nails it. For a man without a ton of screentime, Redford makes this film official, and I loved every minute of it.

captainamericathewintersoldier2014c

In short, Captain America: The Winter Soldier would be a great movie even without all the superheroics. It would be a great mystery on that alone. Add in all the Marvel greats that make this franchise what it is and you have a recipe for not only a great installment (easily among the high points in this franchise) but a damn great time at the movies. Better get two tubs of popcorn, because this popcorn flick is something not to miss!

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Did you suit up or defect? Let me know!

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

Transcendence (2014)

transcendence2014a

Director: Wally Pfister

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

Screenplay: Jack Paglan

119 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality.

 

When longtime visual perfectionist Wally Pfister decided to make his directorial debut on a project produced by colleague and master filmmaker Christopher Nolan, I think I wet my pants in excitement. And why not? The film, Transcendence, seemed all too perfect to fail. The screenplay was part of a shortlist of amazing unproduced screenplays floating around Hollywood. The director had proven himself visually. It had an all-star cast at the front lines of major players in the business. It couldn’t fail, right? Then, reviews started coming in. The film immediately dropped down to “rotten” on the famous tomatometer, and I started to get concerned. Finally, my chance to see the film came, and I knew I had to form an opinion all my own.

transcendence2014b

I saw it. Oh, I saw it.

Transcendence is the story of the Casters, Will (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands, Tusk) and Evelyn (Rebecca Hall, The Prestige, Iron Man 3). Will is dying, and Evelyn will do anything to save him. So when Will comes up with a controversial theory concerning crossing his living mind with a technological super-computer in order to leave his withering body of flesh to exist amongst cyberspace. Longtime friend Max (Paul Bettany, A Beautiful Mind, The Avengers) helps the Casters achieve their goal only to second-guess his decision when Will’s mind wants more input. As Will’s consciousness continues to expand into new avenues of human psyche, a more horrifying truth comes to light for Evelyn: is this thing still her husband anymore, and if not, what has it become?

I want to like this movie so much. I really do. It has fine performances and the dialogue isn’t bad. The real issue of the movie is the pacing. After the first third of Transcendence, it slows the hell down. Seriously. There is a whole middle of this movie that has stuff going on but doesn’t feel important, which leads to an underwhelming ending trying to be deeper than it is. There are issues.

After Will’s consciousness begins learning and becoming something greater than itself, we see him experimenting with humans to progress both humans and itself, but I didn’t feel the stakes. I knew they were there, but I just didn’t find myself caring about them, which disappointed me. Maybe if the film pulled me in more, I would have found myself rooting for a solution, but Evelyn Caster doesn’t take up the lead as far as cathartic characters go. I wanted her to figure out what we had all figured out, but it took too long. On the other hand, Max has entrenched himself with known terrorists to try exposing this experiment to the public, so he wasn’t as likable either. Then you get Cillian Murphy (TV’s Peaky Blinders, Inception) and Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Dolphin Tale 2), who play Agent Buchanan and Joseph Tagger. Seriously, who the hell are these guys and why do I care about them. They bare no weight whatsoever on the plot or anything going on. They merely observe. They just exist. Why? Exactly. These roles seemed more like a favor to Pfister than anything else. Yeah, I liked The Dark Knight trilogy too, but I wouldn’t take an easily worthless character to show my affection.

Then, there is the ending. It tries to be the ending to Inception or perhaps The Dark Knight Rises. It tries to compel its viewership into discussing exactly what happened. The problem here is that it feels so forced. It feels shoehorned when it could’ve been a simple explanation of what Max thinks happened without trying to imply anything. Just let us have the info that we have attained and let us use that for watercooler talk. Instead, the film leaves a dry taste on the tongue that leads to simply nothingness.

transcendence2014c

I want to love this movie. There are so many parts of it that I do love. Many of the actors turn in fine work, and I didn’t have any issues with the visual presentation of the film, but I think good ol’ Wally needs to learn about pacing.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Wally Pfister’s Transcendence? Did you login or shut down? Let me know!