The Monuments Men is a worthy World War II drama about a U.S. Army unit recruited to save art, cultural artifacts, and important buildings from destruction or theft. Based on a true story, it stars George Clooney as the unit's inspirational leader. The skilled cast includes Bob Balaban, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Bonneville, Matt Damon, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, and Bill Murray. With that lineup, only clumsy writing or direction could bomb this picture. But Clooney was the co-writer and director, and he tells the story well. Although cramming a year's worth of action into two hours of screen time is a challenge, the real people who tackled this mission were hurried, too, as they scrambled to rescue artifacts from the desperate Germans and reparations-minded Russians. Clooney persuasively argues that preserving art and culture is a vital wartime goalone that the U.S. Army forgot 58 years later when it entered Baghdad.
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Her stars Joachin Phoenix as a lonely dot-com worker who falls in love with the artificially intelligent operating system on his cell phone. Voiced by Scarlett Johansson, the OS is a clever computer program that learns and adapts to the user's personality. It's also capable of phone sexbetween the user and the phone, that is. Although this story certainly has its comedic and romantic moments, the overall tone is rather morose. Writer/director Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) explores the meaning of love and the depth of object personification. His premise is not as far-fetched as it may seem. The technology is attainable, and emotional attachments to nonpersons are as common as household pets and religions. In the end, this cerebral film makes the point that love really is a two-way street.
August: Osage County is a depressing drama based on a stage play about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family. Meryl Streep plays the matriarch, an aging wreck addicted to prescription drugs. Her husband (Sam Shepard) is an alcoholic poet who peaked in 1965. Her three adult children include an embittered daughter with a crumbling marriage (Julia Roberts), a clueless floozy with a creepy fiancee (Juliette Lewis), and a spinster in love with her first cousin (Julianne Nicholson). And then there are the crass in-laws... Things go from bad to worse as the family gathers at the mother's house in 108-degree summer heat and engages in reverse group therapy. Even the casting is perverse. Benedict Cumberbatch, a very British actor who plays Sherlock Holmes as an insensitive genius in the popular PBS series, here plays a sensitive dunce from the American heartland. A double feature of this movie and another bleak film made in the same county in 2012 (To the Wonder) should be enough to keep anyone away from Oklahoma.
Lone Survivor spoils its climax with its title, but most historical accounts have the same problem, so don't worry about it. The suspense is in learning what happened. This fact-based drama tells the story of four U.S. Navy SEALs who penetrated a remote region of Afghanistan to capture or kill an important Taliban leader. Obviously, their mission went tragically wrong. The numerous combat scenes are superb, as are the performances, led by Mark Wahlberg. Even so, this movie can't help but be a downer. It struggles to end on a high note by showing that the lone survivor was aided by Afghan villagers whose custom is to protect guests from their enemies at all costs. But the film doesn't note a terrible ironythat the same custom led to the Afghanistan war in the first place, when the Taliban declined to surrender Osama bin Laden to the U.S. after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stubborn devotion to culture can be a sword that cuts both ways.
>> See more mini-reviews, including The Wolf of Wall Street ... American Hustle ... Inside Llewyn Davis ... Nebraska ... The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ... All Is Lost ... Ender's Game ... Captain Phillips ... The Fifth Estate ... Gravity ... Elysium ... Blue Jasmine ... Despicable Me 2 ... The Heat ... Oblivion ... The Place Beyond the Pines ... Much Ado About Nothing ... Star Trek Into Darkness ... The Great Gatsby ... The Company You Keep ... 42 ... Oz, The Great and Powerful ... On the Road ... and many more!
Tom's Oscar Contest
First Place Prize: Christopher Null
Second Place: Computer Average (ineligible)
Second Place Prize: Allison Hensley
Booby Prize: David Hensley
Booby (tie): Leslie Mizell
Booby (tie): Computer Booby
Christopher Null has won Tom's 31st Annual Oscar Contest. Computer Average was close behind in Second Place, and the second-highest human scorer was Allison Hensley. Allison's husband David Hensley finished in a three-way tie for last place but won the Booby Prize by submitting his ballot before the other two contestants who scored a perfect zero: Leslie Mizell and Computer Booby. 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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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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