Jan 242014
 
Transcendence-data-cloud-of-Johnny-Depp-movie-poster

Today we give you a first look at the trailer for Transcendence, a new movie starring Johnny Depp that takes a look at one possibly outcome.  What happens when a human mind gets loose in the planet’s cybersphere of interconnected computing power and starts to function without limits or control?  Is that mind still human?  When man blends with machine, what will it mean to be human?

Depp plays Dr. Will Caster (“will caster”?  Okay, nyuk nyuk, we get it) is an artificial intelligence researcher who strives to create a machine that possesses sentience and collective intelligence. Extremists who oppose technological advancement target him, but their actions drive him toward his goal. Caster also wants to become part of the new technology, and his wife Evelyn and his best friend Max Waters, also researchers, question the wisdom of this drive. Caster’s goal to acquire knowledge becomes one to acquire power, and he seems to be unstoppable.

It is, of course, entertainment first, so there are a lot of very visual action sequences.  It’s not a spoiler to tell you that the Johnny Depp character gets shot and eventually killed, and that’s the jumping off point.

There’s a lot to this idea of Transcendence, and we do seem to be headed in this general direction as a species whether we all like it or not.

“Transcendence” as a Concept

In the trailer, Depp’s character gives us a catchy new name for a predicted step in the evolution of the human species, called “The Singularity”.  Futurist Ray Kurzweil, the current head of technology at Google, coined the term.  He has spent much of his life exploring the ramifications of the eventual complete merger of ourselves and our technology.  Though he has detractors who disagree, Kurzweil predicts that in 30 years, humans will be able to upload their entire consciousness to a cybernetic host, and that the entirety of the human body will be replaceable by mechanical components within 90 years.  He’s so certain that this is going to happen, and so certain about when, that he’s put himself on a dramatic health regimen to try to ensure that he will live long enough to see it.

Kurzweil’s interest in humanity’s cyborganic destiny began about 1980 largely as a practical matter. He needed a way to predict and keep track of the pace of technological progress.  Introduce a product too soon, and it fails because the world isn’t ready for it.  Introduce it too late, and it’s over before it begins.  “Even at that time, technology was moving quickly enough that the world was going to be different by the time you finished a project,” he says. “So it’s like skeet shooting — you can’t shoot at the target.”

Moore’s law until recently was a common yardstick for estimating the advance of technology.  It  states that the number of transistors you can put on a microchip doubles about every two years – but we’ve since hit the lower limit.  Once you get down to a few atoms, you can’t go any lower!  Just the same, it’s been a surprisingly reliable rule of thumb.   Kurzweil, though, realized that measuring computing power based on a single criterion might not work over the long haul.  Physics does have its limits, after all – so he plotted the change over time in the amount of computing power, measured in MIPS (millions of instructions per second), that one could buy for $1,000.

Kurzweil’s curve looked a lot like Moore’s, with computing power doubling every couple of years. This worked backwards, too,  even extending the curve backwards through the decades to 1900.

Here’s what the exponential curves told him. We will successfully reverse-engineer the human brain by the mid-2020s. By the end of that decade, computers will be capable of human-level intelligence. Kurzweil puts the date of the Singularity — never say he’s not conservative — at 2045. In that year, he estimates, given the vast increases in computing power and the vast reductions in the cost of same, the quantity of artificial intelligence created will be about a billion times the sum of all the human intelligence that exists today.

He predicts that by 2045, we’ll be able to upload our entire minds to a cybernetic host – including our consciousness.  But that will be a copy.  It won’t be us.  The original will still exist, creating a moral and ethical conundrum the likes of which humanity has never dealt with before.

Transcendence explores that conundrum.  It’s sensationalistic, and depicts a worst case scenario. This likely won’t happen – but something will happen.  In the meantime, this looks like good cinema.  It debuts in the United States on April 18, 2014.
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Jul 152013
 
Reviewed by Movie Moxie’s Alicia Glass

lone_ranger_ver12_xlgStudio: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG 13

Director: Gore Verbinski

Review Rating: 6.5

John Reid is a masked legend of justice, accompanied by his painted Indian sidekick Tonto, as they clean up the corruption of the Old West!

I didn’t watch the television show. My mother did, of course. So I don’t know if this Cowboy and Indian slapstick-fest is how the actual show is or not. That’s one of the first things the film has going against it, sadly, the generation gap. Okay so yes I understand Hollywood is rather devoid of original creativity and is now delving into history to “remake” and “modernize” movies and television shows that have no business having either one done to them. Take Dark Shadows as an example. And hey, anyone notice Mr. Depp starred in that one too? Moving on.

Problem #2: Tonto. Yes, I adore Johnny Depp, who doesn’t? Yet here we have him allllll over the place. As the narrator to the little boy in the museum, as a fighting badass, a sad small boy who didn’t know any better in a man’s body, and both the comedic relief and the straight man, all at the same time. Proud Comanche warrior, and yet he argues with the spirit horse who brought the Lone Ranger to him, to aid him in his vision quest. Got that? It’s a lot like making Jack Sparrow the main character of Pirates of the Carribean 4: Yet More Johnny Depp Acting Funny, oh wait, I mean, On Stranger Tides. The more unkind critics are referring to Lone Ranger as POTC 5, and that just isn’t good. Tonto gets way too much exposure, he all but overshadows the Lone Ranger himself for pete’s sake, and yes Depp did get top billing first too.

Next we have the accuracy problem. And I don’t mean accuracy as far as the original show is concerned, I think we can all agree that at this point, that idea has been scrapped anyways. Historical accuracy has also been sadly scrapped, pretty much everything concerning historical fact: the Comanches and their culture, the long legends of the Texas Rangers, even the whorehouse madam with the leg made of carved ivory that has a shotgun in the heel. The Madam, by the way, is of course Helena Bonham Carter. Most of those valid points were either tossed outright, or spruced up, may the movie Gods forgive us, with Hollywood humor for comedic effect. I’m not seeing a wave of Lone Ranger, or Tonto for that matter, fan-atics inundating the Conventions and theaters. (If you actually feel the need to go there, make sure your pop-gun is bright orange, or else face the cops.)

Then there’s the slapstick action of the movie itself. I’ve heard enough about the show to know that the Lone Ranger was a champion of justice behind a mask, kind of like Batman for the Old West. (As I am a huge Batman fan, that was actually a big compliment attempt.) Yet this version, oi. Arnie Hammer does a game job for the character they give him, he really does. Yet the character they give him to play, oh geez. He starts off as a man in a fancy suit riding a train surrounded by singing Presbyterians, studying to become a lawyer. In the Old West. Where the Comanche and the Rangers are still fighting for control of Texas. A whole bunch of ass-kickery and death later, Reid dons the mask Tonto tells him he has to wear, takes up the mantle of the Spirit Walker who can’t be killed, and goes off to serve his own brand of justice to the lawless. Please bear in mind, this finally happened at about the beginning of the third act. The third act is also where we finally get to hear the iconic Lone Ranger theme music, for that utterly ridiculous great train showdown. The other thematic shenanigans the Lone Ranger is known for do visit us, but only in the third act of the entire film. Are we sensing a theme here? They’ve saved all the questionable “best” for last.

Taking all these things into account, this new bigshot film attempt of The Lone Ranger will not make older fans happy, nor likely garner any younger generation new fans. If you can come to the film with no expectations other than a blockbuster-style spaghetti Western starring Johnny Depp (sorry Arnie Hammer) with no “based on” history, more power to you.

Apr 192012
 
Jonathan Frid
Krypton Radio Newswire

An Acting Legend Passes Away

Jonathan Frid

I have always thought of myself, frankly, as a sort of dilettante actor.  That is to say, an actor that considers himself reasonably successful but hardly ever sparked by the urge to make big bucks or even a modest living from his profession. Consequently some of my early or even opening night performances have been appallingly bad and yet by the end of their runs have been as good as any other actor in the business.  I repeat, “as good as any other actor in the business” – Jonathon Frid (December 2, 1924 – April 13, 2012)

If you’re not into Gothic stories, then you may not have heard of Jonathan Frid. But Mr. Frid through his work did for Gothic stories and vampires what Star Trek did for sci-fi and race relations, they both changed television history forever. In 1965 Dan Curtis created a first of its kind drama for ABC Television, he created a Gothic Drama Soap-Opera, called Dark Shadows. Premiering in 1966, Dark Shadows had moderate success and stunned audiences by introducing a serious supernatural element with ghosts after six months of running. By 1967 the show’s ratings were fluctuating and a new character was introduced, a vampire named Barnabas Collins played by Jonathon Frid, graced the screen and turned the Dark Shadows world on it’s ear with a new storyline.

Jonathan Frid born John Herbert Frid, a Canadian National who spent over thirty years in live theater, was best known to American audiences as his Vampire character Barnabas. But Mr. Frid who was an accomplished actor also starred in productions such as Dial “M” for Murder and Oliver Stone’s  movie Seizure. There have been a few reports of his death on different dates, but one source claiming to have received the news directly from his survivors indicates that Mr. Frid passed away from natural causes on April Friday the 13th, 2012 at a Canadian hospital.

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Mar 152012
 
Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins in 'Dark Shadows'

Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins in 'Dark Shadows'

Do you remember Dark Shadows?  The original Dark Shadows was, of all things, a soap opera.  It ran between 1966 and 1971, and the vampire whom we now regard as its central character wasn’t actually part of the show until 1967.  Jonathan Frid, a Canadian actor, played the role.  He was originally a dark, horrifying character, but evolved into the show’s main protagonist, saving his family from dire events at every turn.  Because they were doing the show five days a week, they shot over 1,200 episodes – more than Doctor Who and Star Trek put together.

It was done on a shoestring.  It was camp, it was fun, it was convoluted just like any other soap opera, and it had a devoted following that tuned in every single day to see what was going to happen next. So it’s only natural that it be revisited.

Our first clue that this was going to be a thrill ride was that Tim Burton is directing it.  This isn’t the first time Burton and Depp have worked together (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, The Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow and Ed Wood),  so the ease and comfort they have working together lets them get past the strangeness of first projects and Depp can get down to business.  His role as Barnabas Collins is played with the usual Depp deadpan humor, and the absurdity of the character is made even more so by transplanting him into 1972 – an era that was absurd all on its own.

Frankly with all those pointy collars I’m surprised nobody put an eye out.

This looks like it’s going to be no-holds-barred fun, though purists will likely be dismayed.

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