Jupiter Ascending makes me wish that someday Hollywood will outgrow its obsession with computer-graphics special effects. I'm tired of waiting for the story to resume while an overdone action scene veers into videogame modeespecially when the story is as interesting as this one. Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, and Eddie Redmayne star in this science-fiction drama about a present-day immigrant house cleaner who unwittingly becomes the focus of galactic intrigue. It seems that Earth is merely an "estate" owned by capitalistic space aliens intent on economic exploitation, and a deceased owner has reincarnated to reclaim ownership. But whenever the story gets rolling, Tatum gets into a repetitive fight with various pixelsaurs. A lower budget that shortened the fight scenes would have actually helped this movie. It's not all bad, but it's not a must-see.
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Selma is a dramatization of the American civil-rights movement in 1965. The focus is Dr. Martin Luther King's march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to protest that state's barriers to black voter registration. Although generally accurate, historians criticize it for showing President Lyndon B. Johnson as overly reluctant to propose the Voting Rights Act to Congress. Nevertheless, the film effectively re-creates a period in which frivolous local laws and prejudiced county registrars prevented millions of U.S. citizens from voting. Oddly, the filmmakers couldn't find Americans to play the lead roles, but David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo (both born in England to Nigerian parents) give excellent performances as Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King. Tom Wilkinson, Dylan Baker, and Tim Roth are less convincing as President Johnson, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and Alabama Governor George Wallace, though only for people old enough to remember that era. This film's strength is its depiction of the backroom maneuvering that underlies every social movement.
A Most Violent Year isn't as violent as the title implies, even though the backdrop is New York City in 1981, when a local heating-oil business is under attack by mysterious criminals. This film is a work of art in every way, right down to the muted colors that mimic a faded color photograph from that era. Writer/director J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost, 2013) gets skillful performances from Oscar Isaac as the harassed business owner and Jessica Chastain as his mobster-daughter wife. Halfway through, I thought I had this crime story figured out, but I was surprised by the climaxand by Isaac's character, which turns a 360-degree twist. (I dare not say more.) The biggest crime is that this film garnered no Academy Award nominations. It ranks among the best efforts of 2014.
American Sniper is the most representative movie yet made about the Iraq Warbecause, like the war, it's a pack of lies. It's based on the autobiography of Chris Kyle, a U.S. Navy SEAL sniper who scored more than 160 kills during four combat tours. But director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Jason Hall start hallucinating from the very first scene, when Kyle must decide whether to shoot a child carrying a grenade. (Never happened, according to Kyle's book.) They continue by fabricating additional characters ("The Butcher") and by building much of the drama around an enemy sniper who gets only passing mention in Kyle's book and whom Kyle never killed. Hollywood filmmakers always fictionalize true stories to some extent, but this film is shameless. As a final insult, Eastwood doesn't show us how Kyle died, probably because this genuine war hero didn't fall heroically in combat. Instead, he died by foolishly thinking that a shooting range would be good therapy for a shell-shocked veteranwho abruptly lost control when a gun was placed in his hands. Although the movie is filled with graphic combat scenes, the climax of Kyle's life story was apparently too ironic and contradictory to merit the same treatment.
>> See more mini-reviews, including Wild ... The Imitation Game ... Big Eyes ... Nightcrawler ... The Theory of Everything ... Interstellar ... Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) ... Before I Go to Sleep ... Fury ... Kill the Messenger ... The Giver ... Boyhood ... Lucy ... Magic in the Moonlight ... Begin Again ... Godzilla ... Edge of Tomorrow ... Maleficent ... Finding Vivian Maier ... The Grand Budapest Hotel ... The Monuments Men ... and many more!
Tom's Oscar Contest
First Place Prize: Rebecca Willingham
Second Place Prize: David English
Booby Prize: Amy Helen Johnson
Rebecca Willingham has won Tom's 32nd Annual Oscar Contest. David English tied her score but finished in Second Place because he submitted his Oscar ballot later. Likewise, three contestants scored a perfect zero, but Amy Helen Johnson won the last-place Booby Prize by submitting her ballot first. Read the thrilling story of this year's contest, check the final scoreboard, see how Tom's OscarCalc program fared with its Oscar predictions, read the winners' acceptance speeches, and view the Oscar contest Hall of Fame.
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Are you baffled by a technical term or acronym you've never seen before? Or just curious about the latest techie slang? Tom's Computer Dictionary may have the answer. From "AAC" to "zoo virus," it defines more than 800 terms in plain language.
Fuji X20 Review
Read my in-depth review of the new Fujifilm X20 compact digital camera on the Maximum PC magazine website. Access is free!
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Here's an index to more than 380 of Tom's articles in Microprocessor Report and Networking Report, the insider's guides to microprocessors and networking semiconductors. Learn about embedded processors, microcontrollers, digital-signal processors, and other chip-related topics. (Subscription required for most articles.)
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How safe is your system from hostile Java applets? Find out with JSecure, one of Tom's free applets. JSecure harmlessly tests the security manager of your Web browser or applet viewer by trying to access information from your computer's operating system and hard disk. Try it today!
Scramble Text With ROTator
ROTator is a Java applet that lets you encode and decode text in the popular Internet format known as "ROT 13." Lots of other programs do that, too, but Tom's ROTator applet goes further by allowing you to encode and decode text in any rotational letter-substitution format. With ROTator, you can shift the letters left or right, and you can shift them by any number of letters from ROT 1 to ROT 26.
Here is an index to more than 180 of Tom's computer articles from BYTE Magazine published from 1992 to 1998. (BYTE ceased publication in June 1998.) Most articles are still available online and include the original photographs, figures, and screen shots.
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- Tom's Oscar Contest. An annual tradition for 25 years, Tom's Oscar Contest is both entertaining and challenging. Hundreds of people have tried to guess who will win an Oscar in each Academy Award category. Competing against them is the computer brain of Tom's famed OscarCalc program, which sometimes wins the contest and always places near the top.
- The Death of BYTE Magazine. In 1998, after 23 years of operation, BYTE Magazine was shut down by its new owner, CMP Media. A year later, CMP launched BYTE.com as a very different web-only publication. To learn the inside story about what happened to the world's second personal computer magazine, see Tom's Unofficial BYTE FAQ: The Death of BYTE Magazine.
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