"Transcendence"

The best thing about this Johnny Depp techno thriller is that Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore Labs feature prominently. The worst thing about it is the other 99.4% of the film.

Depp has gone off the deep end, and he wants to take us with him. The brooding anti-hero stars as a brilliant scientist who is on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence development -- computers that can think for themselves. But then a group of Luddite terrorists poison him with radiation, and, in his final weeks of life, our boy Johnny uploads a copy of his brain and marries it to his whiz-bang computer. With that, our new ethereal super-brain tries to take over the world.

I'm bored just describing the movie -- imagine how bad it was to actually watch.

The fault for this ridiculous movie, saddled with flat acting, poor special effects, a slow script and even slower action, can't truly be pinned on Depp, as easy as that might be. In truth, I blame director Wally Pfister, who took a challenging script and made it even worse.

I'm also fully over Hollywood's attempts to scare us with dystopian visions of technology run amok. Don't mistake me for a technology fan boy. The false promises from the prophets of Silicon Valley confound me on a daily basis. But for 20 years uncreative filmmakers have been trying to concoct villains modeled after power-mad technologists, and it's yet to be compelling.


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And those East Bay scenes in the movie? Turns out they were really shot in Albuquerque, thus negating the one nice thing I had to say about the film.

Appropriate for kids as young as 11, but the faux intellectual theme about technology taking over mankind will have them grabbing their phones to Tweet #MoralizingCrud within 10 minutes. (PG-13: Language and violence). 1 hour and 59 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 1 star

Kids: 1 star

Teens: 1½ star

Adults: 1 star

Seniors: ½ star

Should you watch it? No — playing Tetris on your 1998 flip phone would be more fun.

"Jewtopia"

Based on the hit off-Broadway play off the same name, this movie is a silly, overly broad, mildly offensive comedy parodying modern Jewish life in America. And as a Jew, I'm good with that.

Done lovingly by a large crew of actors from The Tribe, writer / director Bryan Fogel teases the foibles and phobias of my people. Ivan Sergei stars as a young Christian man (aptly named 'Christian') desperate to marry a Jewish woman so that she can make all of life's decisions for him. Christian sets his sights on the rabbi's daughter (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and enlists the help of his only Semitic friend (Joel David Moore) to help him pass for Jewish.

Fogel generates many laughs, though only those gentiles with a strong affinity for Jewish culture will appreciate the many inside jokes. Best for teens 14 years old and up. (Unrated, but the equivalent of R for language and sexuality. 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 3 stars

Kids: N/A

Teens: 2½ stars

Adults: 3 stars

Seniors: 3 stars

Should you watch it? Yes -- hysterical, bawdy, Jewish comedy.

J.B. Alderman lives in Piedmont and can be reached at jason@alderman.net.

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