Transcendence, A Haunted House 2 – Movie Reviews

TranscendenceTranscendence – PG-13
Release Date: Fri 18 Apr 2014

A promising concept with mixed results and nothing very unique, Transcendence often looks great and seems to be leading in an interesting direction. But it never pays off. The idea of a sentient artificial intelligence and whether it would be a good or bad thing for humanity is a well-worn science fiction plot. This movie does a fairly good job of showing us the people behind the research into this kind of technology before inevitably creating one – that may or may not be the consciousness of Johnny Depp’s Dr. Will Caster captured on a hard drive.

Director Wally Pfister was the director of photography for many of Christopher Nolan’s movies including the Dark Knight trilogy, and the film looks and feels like a Nolan movie without the clever twists and turns. In a “Garfield Without Garfield” sort of way, the movie feels like The Dark Knight Rises without Batman, and Depp’s performance is wooden and dull even before he becomes a face on a computer screen.

Paul Bettany and Rebecca Hall fare a bit better, but they are mostly there to serve the plot rather than feeling like real people. Hall plays the wife of the man in the machine. She goes from wanting to save him at any cost to distrusting him to full out turning on him without any of those turns coming through as realizations but rather what the story needs her to do. In a way, this is her story and the movie may have connected better had it played more of a gender swap of Her and dealt more with what it’s like to be in love with a man who is now a computer.

There were so many things I wanted from this movie’s premise and several times I felt the direction fail to explore something interesting. Why would an AI that can control and access everything on the Internet choose to stay in a secluded data center in the middle of nowhere? Why were several important scenes shot with actors wearing dark sunglasses completely obscuring their expressions? I made every effort to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the ride, but we ended up on a swing rather than a roller coaster.

Cal, Jeremiah and I saw it in the theater had a discussion in the car:

A Haunted House 2A Haunted House 2 – R
Release Date: Fri 18 Apr 2014

Marlon Wayans is back with another parody of recent horror films. Where the first Haunted House movie focused mostly on the Paranormal Activity series, the sequel opens things up a little bit more with some elements from The Conjuring and Insidious. Whether you’ve seen the films being lampooned here or not won’t effect the jokes as they’re mostly of the over-the-top screaming into the camera variety.

Some of it works. An early slapstick scene involving multiple sight gags with a dead dog was truly ridiculous but very funny. The trailer was full of tired race humor, and while it was just as tired in the movie itself, it wasn’t as prevalent as I feared and never truly offensive. Other elements, like relying on Gabriel Iglesias and Cedric The Entertainer to improvise tired lines into the proceedings did not work and seemed to interrupt the story. For every scene with a laugh there was at least one or two with very little novelty.

And that’s where this kind of movie falls apart. It’s a concept that can sustain 30-45 minutes at the best of times, and is best enjoyed in a couple of sittings at home versus all in one go. While the movie did recycle a few scenes and bits from the original, they felt fine in the context of a horror-sequel-spoof, and Wayans definitely seemed to be working for every laugh.

Cal, Jeremiah and I saw it in the theater had a discussion in the car:

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