Love & Mercy is an outstanding biopic of Brian Wilson, the troubled musical genius who wrote most of the Beach Boys' songs. Paul Dano expertly portrays the young Brian in the 1960s who crafts intricate pop hits while struggling against inner and outer demons. John Cusack doesn't look as much like Brian but plays him with grace in middle agea barely functional man who is overmedicated and dominated by a quack doctor. The highlights of this film are the studio recording scenes, which show the measure of Brian's talent in arranging music that sounds light and breezy but is heavily layered and lovingly wrought. Paul Giamatti has a good turn as the overbearing shrink, and Elizabeth Banks convincingly plays the Cadillac salesperson who becomes a guardian angel. No Beach Boys fan should miss this.
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San Andreas is an exciting summer blockbuster about earthquakes wrecking California, but don't take it too seriously. Not content to destroy just one city, the filmmakers invent a network of hidden faults that wreaks destruction on Hoover Dam, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and just about everything in between. Meanwhile, our hero is an L.A. helicopter-rescue pilot (Dwayne Johnson, aka "The Rock") who shirks his job responsibilities when he's most needed. Ignoring the beleaguered citizens of his own crumbling city, he first saves his estranged wife, then steals a car, an airplane, and a boat to search for his daughter hundreds of miles away. We're not supposed to notice his reckless behavior or other anomalies, such as the speedboat's ability to zoom through debris-strewn waters without fouling the propellers. Never mind ... it's all in fun.
Tomorrowland is more likeable for its theme than for its filmmaking. It's a shame, because a better movie is hiding in this jumble. George Clooney and remarkable child actress Raffey Cassidy star in a time-travel story about a bright future that may or may not happen, depending on our actions today. The theme is that pessimism and apocalyptic visions become self-fulfilling prophecies if we fall under their spells. But time-travel stories are always potentially disorienting, so special care is necessary to keep the narrative coherent. Unfortunately, writer/director Brad Bird fails on that count. It's not for lack of talentBird has written and directed several successful animated features for Pixar. In this live-action feature, though, he stumbles through the opening acts and dwells too long on gratuitous fight scenes. The second half is better, but a straightforward narrative would have made everything more comprehensible without diluting the suspense or the message.
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).
>> See more mini-reviews, including Danny Collins ... Cinderella ... Chappie ... 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 ... and many more!
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Tom's Inflation Calculator includes the latest U.S. government inflation data plus alternative data sets. Both calculators are free and should automatically run in your web browser after clicking on the links above. By using historical data and forecasts, they can adjust U.S. dollar amounts for retail price inflation either forward or backward in time for any years between 1665 and 2100. (The alternative data sets have narrower ranges.)
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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!
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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- Fujifilm X20 Camera Review. An illustrated field test of a high-quality compact camera, the Fujifilm X20.
- 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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