"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.
Q. Today was a very discouraging day for me. With a group of intelligent friends, I started watching "Annie Hall" at my home. Unfortunately, as the movie started, people began talking. This continued throughout the movie, much of the conversation unrelated to the movie. Then there was the texting, the visits to the bathroom, the talking to the dog, and so on. I considered walking away or saying something abrupt, but I didn't want to be rude. That's truly ironic, as I've always considered talking during movies to be rude.
When it was over and I was thoroughly annoyed with my friends, one of them told me it was boring. The other said she really liked it. It's hard to trust either opinion as it didn't seem they really watched it. I've noticed similar habits in movie theaters too: people texting despite the warning before the movie not to so, people talking, people going in and out, and the not so new problem of the rustling of candy bags. I'm 35 and it sometimes surprises me when my peers can be so obtuse in their movie watching habits. How can anyone appreciate greatness if they aren't really looking for it? (Christopher Willson, Carson City, NV)
A. You've heard about people being killed in car crashes while texting? Some people's attention spans are being killed in the same way.
Q. I watched the movie "The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia" last night at a theatre. The previews had the Apple logo in the corner from iDVD, and the movie itself was YouTube quality. The frame rate stuttered, and it was heavily pixelated and compressed. Was this movie distributed everywhere that way? When I see places that aren't movie theaters screening older movies, I expect it to just be a laptop hooked up to an office projector, but this was a first-run theater. (Drew Zipp, Louisville, KY)
A. The picture quality of the trailer is fine. The movie hasn't played here yet, but it was reviewed by A.O. Scott in the New York Times, and if I know Tony, he would be inclined to mention an Apple logo from an iDVD. There's your smoking gun right there.
Q. I read your review of "Winter's Bone," saw the movie and know the answer to your unanswered question about Ree Dolly (how did she become the person she is?). It's actually pretty simple. She decided. There are many of us out here who have done the same thing. (Jim Boulton, Albuquerque, NM)
A. Think you could offer counseling to Dustin Dear?
Q. In your review about "Best Worst Movie," which was "Troll 2," you said there is no original "Troll." Actually, there is. It stars Sonny Bono, Michael Moriarty, Noah Hathaway, Julia Louis Dreyfuss, June Lockhart and Phil Fondacaro. I've seen it dozens of times. It's technically not good at all, but has a bit of style and an occasionally interesting score. "Troll 2" has nothing to do with it though. Side note, the main character in the film is named Harry Potter, and he encounters a world of magic. Hmmmm. (Dustin Dear, Austin,Tx)
A. Not good at all. Bit of style. Score occasionally interesting. Watched it dozens of times. Does that have anything to do with specials on pitchers at the Alamo Draft House?
Q. Have you listened to Armond White's criticism of your career? It's quite astounding and elitist. It's at: http://j.mp/diVOxc (Nathan Kuhl, Bear Creek, PA)
A. Yes, he says, "I do think it is fair to say that Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism." I was actually quite chuffed to read this. He's the only one of my colleagues willing to admit the power of my influence.
Q. Do you remember the audio industry's brief and unsuccessful flirtation with four channel "quadraphonic" sound? It was a technology that was supposed to deliver surround sound; unfortunately it appeared to have been created by people who knew everything about audio electronics, but nothing about how people hear. Similarly, 3D movie technologies (which properly speaking are merely stereoscopy, like an old View-Master) appear to have been created by people who know everything about digital projection, but nothing about how people see. In particular, stereo image separation is only one cue that people use to infer depth, and when that cue is inconsistent with other cues -- as it often is with 3D movies -- what you get is a headache or, if you're really unlucky, motion sickness. (Carl Zetie, Waterford, VA)
A. Man, I've been saying this since Day One. 3D is the waste of a perfectly good dimension. It's been interesting to read several articles in trade publications recently speculating that the latest version of 3D is already on terminal support. Public acceptance seems to be fading, and the higher prices are causing sticker shock.
What do you really get for the several dollar surcharge on 3D? Look at it this way. When toll roads open, the theory is that the tolls are to "pay for the road." Years go by, the roads are paid for, and the tolls go up. Are you "paying for the 3D projection?" A projector costs maybe $120,000. With a $3 surcharge, that's covered by 40,000 admissions. The projectors are paid for. What's more, because they're digital, they allow much lower print costs. There is also the problem that 3D delivers an inferior picture, noticeably dimmer, not to mention occasional headaches, nausea and dizziness.
I've argued this year after year after year. Armond, if I can destroy film criticism? why can't I destroy 3D? What am I doing wrong?
Footnote: There have been fewer Answer Man columns recently because I'm on leave to write my memoirs. Be full time again soon.
Q. I have watched and read your reviews for years with great honor. I disagree so strongly with your review of "Eat Pray Love" that it makes me sick. You just don't get it, and many others like you don't get it. You do not know at all what it is like being a woman in this day and age (or previously) who did not want to be defined by a man or married off to one. If you think Stephen in the movie was an OK husband, you are out to lunch. He was horrible!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (except on paper to people who do not need emotional sustenance). David was the narcissist from hell that many of us have fallen for… do you not get that??????????? Many of the males of the species are frankly overrated and the women's movement has proven this (or frankly not sufficiently). I hope your wife will bring you up to speed. (Jeanine Carlson, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist)
A. Here is what I wrote about Stephen: "Her first marriage apparently broke down primarily because she tired of it, although Roberts at (a sexy and attractive) 43 makes an actor's brave stab at explaining they were 'young and immature.' She walks out on the guy (Billy Crudup) and he still likes her and reads her on the Web." Here is what I wrote about David: "She meets a man played by James Franco, about whom, enough said."
My wife???????? She already has me up to speed!!!!!!!!
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