August 2, 2014 | Rome, Italy | Partly Cloudy 24°C
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Drama

Le Meraviglie (The Wonders)

A story about bee keepers in Tuscany runs several levels deeper than appearances.

The Lincoln Lawyer

Matthew McConaughey's forty-something comeback began in Brad Furman's hands.

Party Girl

Three French directors give a middle-aged reveler a new look on life.

Science Fiction

Peggy Sue Got Married

Coppola's "Peggy Sue Got Married" still stands out as a top-notch fantasy charmer.

The Double

British director Richard Ayoade gets tangled up in noir-bizarre and loses the plot.

Chronicle

Josh Trank's cautionary tale about superpowered-adolescence is sneaky smart.

War

Sink the Bismarck!

Lewis Gilbert's 1960 standard sets a high mark for World War II dramatizations.

Fantasy

Enemy

Two Jake Gyllenhaals aren't enough to carry a Canadian thriller about doppelgangers.

The Faculty

Robert Rodriguez does something special with his high school horror flick.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Good intentions don't save Wes Anderson's latest from a kind of historical identity crisis.




Date: 2013
Directed by: Wally Pfister
Starring: Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman

Transcendence

Silly science fiction tends to baby you into what it is and where it's going. Director Wally Pfister's film is unfortunately all too baby-like. Physicist Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is a brilliant AI guru striving to rally support behind his pet project PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network). He's flanked by his believing scientist wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and supported by devotee Max (Paul Bettany). Cometh anti-tech terrorists, led by Patty Hearst styled Kate Mara, and a lethal radiation bullet. Suddenly, Caster is a dead man in waiting, and the only way to "save" him is to download his consciousness into a jerry-rigged version of PINN. The effort succeeds, or appears to, and Caster is revived as a sentient ghost locked in his own kind of Skype.

Rebirth indeed, but is AI Caster the Caster of the Flesh, self-aware and present? "Bride of Frankenstein" Evelyn seems to think so. But eagerness for new succulent new data — to "expand, evolve and influence" — and the creation of a futuristic underground lab in a desert town would suggest that the once-noble scientist has instead morphed into a disembodied schemer of suspect intent (this you know when FBI agent says the magic words, "We gotta call Washington.")

In all, "Transcendence" doesn't really transcend much of anything. Behind its slick mask it's little more than a man-become-God movie for web-dependent audiences foraging for the visionary (with a love story thrown in). Nothing's terribly wrong with any of it, nor is anything — pace, acting and script included — especially satisfying, which is a pity since the idea of manipulated intelligence, and how its right-wrong boundaries should be drawn, is potentially fertile territory for 21st-century fantasy. Not here.

Reviewed by: Marcia Yarrow
Everything you need to know about visiting or moving to Tuscany, Italy.