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.
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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.
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.
>> See more mini-reviews, including 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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