April 18, 2014, - 4:55 pm

Wknd Box Office: Transcendence, Heaven is For Real, Joe

By Debbie Schlussel

Only one really crappy movie new in theaters this weekend, and it’s an arthouse flick.



* “Transcendence“: I enjoyed this movie for the first two-thirds of it. It does a great job of social commentary on the dangers of the “Brave New World” era of computer-human hybrids and the tragedies that can result. And the “terrorists” in the movie aren’t black-and-white terrorists either. Scientists and computer experts say we are only about 30 years away from being able to upload a human mind to a computer and vice versa and only about that amount of time away from computers that think and operate for themselves in the ultimate in dangerous artificial intelligence that is beyond our control. This movie elucidates some of the worst that can happen from this.

Although I loathe America-hater Johnny Depp, the movie is good until a last third that is a jumbled mess and repetitive and an ending that isn’t believable or satisfying.

Depp plays a scientist who has uploaded the mind of a rhesus monkey to a computer, which is independent and thinks and acts on its own. An anti-technology terrorist group blows up a number of computer networks at major government labs and, on the same day, tries to murder Depp. He’s shot, but he recovers from the bullet, or so he thought. Soon, doctors discover the bullet has been coated with radiation material and he’s going to die within the month. His wife (Rebecca Hall), desperate to hold on to her husband, insists that he upload himself to a computer, and he agrees. Then, she uploads the computer to the internet, and Depp’s mind is unleashed on the world and all of its computer networks, like a virus. He wants to dominate the world and inject himself into others, all in the guise of helping the world and healing its injured and ill people.

The terrorists in this movie aren’t typical. Led by Kate Mara, at first you believe they are anti-technology crazies. But then you learn that they are, in fact, very tech-savvy former students of Depp who foresaw the destruction his work wrought and could wreak on the world. Even though they are violent, they are trying to save the world from control by independent computers. Some might be troubled by this movie’s justification of terrorism. But in this case, they aren’t really terrorists, so much as brave warriors trying to save humanity. On the other hand, the terrorists’ actions brought the world much closer to this scary reality much more quickly.

Other movies have covered the topic of artificial intelligence taking over and costing lives, such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.” But none have done it with such interesting depth, raising so many moral questions and provoking thought and discussion that must be had as we come closer to this likely reality. At least, none that I’ve seen.

The first 2/3rds of this movie are fascinating and a great exercise in sci-fi that not only doesn’t seem so “fi,” it isn’t. If we are that close to these kinds of things happening, what will we do if independent-thinking computers run amok and take over our world? It isn’t so impossible. Is it?


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Heaven is for Real“: This movie is based on a best-selling book by Pastor Todd Burpo, about his young son’s claimed visit to heaven, when the son is being operated on in the hospital and clinging to life. After the surgery, the son tells of vivid visits to heaven, meeting family members who he was never told existed, and noting the actions of his parents while he was supposedly under anesthesia and being operated on. These are things he couldn’t possibly have known but for divine intervention.

As readers know, I’m not a Christian and I don’t believe Jesus was or is the savior. But, still, I appreciated this religious movie that appeals to people of faith. I do believe that people have or can have out of body experiences in which they temporarily died and saw heaven, angels, and/or G-d. And, so, I appreciated this movie.

Since this is a Christian movie, I was surprised at one or two of the lines in this movie which imply sexual acts, even though it’s between married people. But, overall, it’s fine for family viewing and kids, though they may not understand it entirely. The acting is fine, and the story is entertaining. Greg Kinnear plays Pastor Burpo. But the real star is first time actor, Connor Corum, a very cute six-year-old whose acting skills and poise are well beyond his years.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Joe“: Oy Vey! I cannot believe I sat through this and didn’t walk out. Two hours wasted I’ll never get back. This is absolute garbage. YUUUUUUCK.

Nicolas Cage plays an ex-con who runs a tree-felling business somewhere down South or in Appalachia. I couldn’t exactly tell where, but it’s a rural area that’s very poor. He drinks, is violent, and patronizes prostitutes. And he gets in constant trouble with police. He also shot someone’s dog . . . or something. Amidst all this, he’s “mentoring” the 15-year-old son of nearly-homeless, drunken hillbillies. The son wants to work and is a good worker, and he wants to buy Cage’s old truck. But his drunken father beats him for the money. And the drunken father murders a Black homeless man for his liquor bottle. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the drunken father prostitutes his mute, mentally slow daughter for money for alcohol. In the end, they all have a final confrontation that results in a lot of killing.

The movie has such classy dialogue as this line uttered by Cage in a brothel to a prostitute: “What’s your favorite color? . . . Red? Now blow me.”

If only they’d killed everybody at the beginning and saved me the two hours of this pure Gitmo torture material.

And it should be noted that all of the Black characters in this movie–from the Black tree fellers to the Black cops to the Black wino–are nice guys, hard workers, and victims. And nearly every White person–with the exception of the 15-year-old boy and his mute sister–are horrible people.

Absolute dreck. Whoever greenlighted this crap should be shot. The people who made this are evil. But I’m sure all the liberals will tell me that I just don’t understand or appreciate this “great cinematic art” and “social commentary.” Uh-huh. You keep tellin’ yourself that. This is absolutely depraved trash.


Watch the trailer . . .

14 Responses

Obviously, this “Joe” can never be confused with the 1970 film of the same name that starred the late Peter Boyle . . .

ConcernedPatriot on April 18, 2014 at 5:00 pm

“Crazy Joe,” actually.

Art Chi on April 18, 2014 at 5:29 pm

No decent people left in Hollyweird.

Jimmy Stewart was my hero. And my favorite actor.

Interestingly, Kim Novak is selling signed prints of her paining “Vertigo.” Worth looking at. The way the Hollyweird slime treated an 81 year old woman and decent human being is abominable.

Occam's Tool on April 18, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Jimmy Stewart? Serviceable, but overall not even close to, say, Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley or Russell Crowe.

    Rocker on April 18, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Agree completely re both Stewart and Novak.

    Little Al on April 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm

I saw Transcendence yesterday and for once I have a different view from Debbie’s.

I wanted to hate this film because I’d heard it was a crudely obvious, hackneyed, left-leaning Luddite story where terrorists were glorified and technology was demonized. The majority of critics were tearing into it, though (19% approval at Rotten Tomatoes), and that made me suspicious, because I rarely agree with THEM.

What I discovered when I saw the film (warning: spoiler ahead) was that it was more like the film AI (the pathos of a machine’s unrequited love) than Lawnmower Man (an ordinary guy develops super-powers and terrorizes the world). It’s important to remember that this is a film produced by Chris Nolan, the guy who made the ironically subversive films Memento, The Following and The Prestige. Nolan’s original auteur concept (before he made the repulsively superficial Batman movies) was: Never trust what people are saying on the screen. In this story, everyone is shouting that Johnny Depp is evil and scary, and the tragedy is that his soul mate Rebecca Hall eventually believes them. Despite the hysteria around him, though, Depp is doing nothing but good: curing the sick and blind, “healing the earth,” making plants grow in deserts, etc. In a Nolan film, it’s important to watch what’s ACTUALLY happening rather than listen to what everyone is SAYING is happening. This is an example of what Chris Nolan long ago in an interview termed the “unreliable narrator concept applied to film.”

As for Debbie’s view that the terrorists in the film were “brave warriors trying to save humanity,” my view on them differs also. They begin by literally blowing up a group of computer nerds and experts all working together in a room (my image here was of employees at Apple or Google); then they shoot Depp full of plutonium so he can die slowly and painfully (probably learned this trick from Putin). Although terrorist Mara is presented sympathetically in the film, I personally believe that was a mind-bending irony of the film, just as were the dire warnings of Morgan Freeman (who often plays characters–even including God– as the voice of reason and sanity, but who in this film, ironically, we’re not supposed to trust.)

B: I agree that blowing up everyone at government labs was entirely inexcusable terrorism. However, I don’t agree with you on Depp’s character only doing kindness and good. Everyone he “heals” ends up being a slave/robot to him and he controls them. He is also invading everyone’s business and seeks to control all human thought/action. DS

Burke on April 19, 2014 at 5:37 am

“Depp’s mind is unleashed on the world and all of its computer networks, like a virus.”

Hmm… “Johnny Mnemonic”, “The Matrix”, “Tron”

“If only they’d killed everybody at the beginning and saved me the two hours of this pure Gitmo torture material.”


DS_ROCKS! on April 19, 2014 at 11:59 am

We recently watched The Postman Always Rings Twice with John Garfield, Lana Turner. What a GREAT MOVIE. Boy has Hollywood gone downhill since those days.

The new movies are pure trash. I would not go to see them even if someone paid me.

Fred on April 19, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Man, nothing beats Vikings on the History channel.

Laura S. on April 19, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    I’ve been watching fly fishing on the Outdoor Channel or B&W Andy Griffith lately, wondering how I let my kids talk me into buying a 70″ HDTV. Haven’t seen a decent movie in light years. I too watched ‘Joe’ and was so f—–g depressed afterwards I couldn’t stand myself.

    #1 VATO on April 19, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Good review with honest debate and/or opinions.
Take care and may God bless you.

Jeff Schrembs on April 19, 2014 at 11:07 pm

There have been some good movies out there. Granted, I don’t attend theaters so I’m not up to date on all very newest movies but still. Y’all are picking depressing ones or something.

Laura S. on April 20, 2014 at 8:02 am

The racial pandering in “Joe” can also be seen in any TV crime drama. Blacks are only cast as cops, police captains, lawyers, judges, doctors, scientists, professors, etc but almost NEVER as the murderer of the week. Casting for the weekly villain is virtually a white males only club.

John on April 21, 2014 at 10:48 am

@ John Racial pandering in the movie Joe?
Hardly. It was backwoods white folk and docile simple minded uneducated black folk. You know just as in the days of free labor. The movie has nothing to do with race. Actually it has nothimg to do with anything. Plotless pointless and a comlete waste of film.
As far as Blacks being in all the aforementioned positions on TV, well see on the flip side, Blacks believe that they give them those roles because they aren’t an integral part of the plot. Go figuere whites and blacks on opposite sides of the spectrum once again lol

BigD on June 23, 2014 at 12:26 am

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