Ex Machina is an intriguing science-fiction film about a wealthy Internet entrepreneur who's trying to invent an artificially intelligent android. To test his invention, he recruits one of his brightest young programmers to conduct a Turing testan evaluation of artificial intelligence first proposed by Alan Turing, the British math genius who helped crack the Nazi's secret codes in World War II. From the start, this eerie film hints that neither the programmer nor the movie audience should take things at face value. And sure enough, the plot soon begins to unwind. Some twists are expected, but clever misdirection leads to surprises. This film is artistic without being arty and uses special effects without being flashy. It could almost be a prequel to the classic Bladerunner (1982).
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Danny Collins is loosely based on a true story about a 1970s folk singer who didn't receive an encouraging letter from John Lennon until 34 years after it was mailed because it was intercepted by a Beatles collector. Al Pacino plays the singer, who's now a famous but fossilized performer who hasn't written an original song in decades. When the long-lost letter finally arrives, it makes him reflect on a career that's financially successful but creatively irrelevant. Annette Bening plays a hotel manager who urges him to rediscover his muse. Although this movie is well acted, a cliché family subplot soon demotes the main plot, spoiling what could have been a more interesting story about the conflict between art and commerce.
Cinderella remakes the classic French fairy tale in lavish fashion. Lily James as Cinderella and Cate Blanchett as her cruel stepmother are perfect foils. They get amusing supporting performances from Helena Bonham Carter (fairy godmother) and Sophie McShera (one of the step-sisters, more famous for her servant's role as Daisy in Downton Abbey). Highlights include the spectacular grand ball at the duke's palace and magical special effects when Cinderella's carriage reverts to a pumpkin. The story avoids excessive meanness and preaches forgiveness. Although it's rather long for young children, it's lively enough to keep them interested.
Chappie is a violent but fascinating science-fiction film about artificial intelligence. Dystopian director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) places this near-future story in Johannesburg, South Africa, shortly after the world's first robotic police have halted a crime wave. The robot manufacturer employs a brilliant but poorly supervised engineer (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire) who secretly endows a badly damaged robot with his new AI software. The machine awakens with a childlike intelligence but is a very fast learner. Soon the story becomes a morality tale that pits nature versus nurture (favoring John Locke's "blank slate") and poses age-old theological questions ("Why did you create me if I have to die?"). However, the philosophizing is nearly lost in a cacophony of action-movie violence and special effects. The best effect is Chappie himself, a remarkably lifelike creation who nearly outshines the human actors.
>> See more mini-reviews, including Jupiter Ascending ... Selma ... American Sniper ... A Most Violent Year ... 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!
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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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- 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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