Johnny Depp

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) [DVD]

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It was with some trepidation that I approached the latest big screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s seminal Murder on the Orient Express. For one thing, my enduring affection for both the novel and Sidney Lumet’s 1974 film meant I was already predisposed to not liking the new kid on the block. For another, I’d heard some very polarised reactions to the new film with some not liking it one bit. I can’t remember the last time that my father was ever as vitriolic about a film as he was after seeing this at the local Odeon.

Given all that, I was surprised by how much I liked the new film. Its by no means a match to the original version, nor even to the delightful 1994 BBC Radio 4 dramatisation by Michael Bakewell starring John Moffatt as Hercule Poirot (the pictures are always better on the radio.) But it’s nonetheless a solid, quality production which strikes a balance between sensible reverence for the source text with the necessary updates to appeal to a 21st century cinema-going audience. Read the rest of this entry »

Transcendence (2014) [DVD]

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Contains some spoilers

It’s safe to say that Transcendence didn’t exactly set the box office on fire when it came out earlier this year. Largely critically panned with a few notable exceptions such as the LA Times’ Kenneth Turan, the film only just made its $100 million budget back and will certainly never be regarded as one of the shining jewels of Johnny Depp’s film back catalogue.

I had felt that this was a shame, as I was rather intrigued by the basic premise of the film. Depp plays artificial intelligence pioneer Will Caster who is working toward the moment he calls ‘transcendence’ when a computer intelligence will truly exceed that of a human for the first time. Caster’s work is cut short when he is shot by a terrorists from an anti-technology group afraid of the consequences of his work, and Caster’s devoted wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max (Paul Bettany) seek to save him by uploading his consciousness into a mainframe computer. But is what they’ve saved actually still Will – and what will the experience of ‘transcending’ do to him?

There’s plenty of space there for a lot of thought-provoking metaphysical debate and discussion, but the film pretty much ignores every single part of that. It’s actually quite amazing how disinterested it is in the implications of the questions that its premise sets up, simply jumping to knee-jerk answers without any real contemplation of the issues beyond a few spouted slogans. Instead, the film prefers to go off in a very strange direction that’s both slow and obtuse; in the end the questions of consciousness are abandoned entirely in favour of an attack of CGI-rendered nanobots waging war on humans, which reminded me strongly of the equally unsuccessful 2008 remake of the science fiction classic The Day The Earth Stood Still starring Keanu Reeves. Read the rest of this entry »