Saturday, 18 November 2017

Review: Transcendence

Transcendence is a surprisingly thoughtful look at what happens when strong AI is developed. It's unusual to see a sci-fi blockbuster make a decent attempt to reference current scientific thinking and explore relevant themes with some depth.

That's not to say it doesn't drift into the fantastical towards the end.

The direction is workmanlike - and the cast of characters realistically flat rather than sympathetic which is probably why this film didn't get much love despite the A list cast.

Overall, I can see the potential for this 50s inspired B movie to be a minor classic in years to come.

The special features on the blu-ray are really no more than extended trailers with small sound bites from the cast, crew and friendly scientist.

Verdict: An AI much ordinary.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Review: Public Enemies

This Depp gangster vehicle is on the face of it an unusual choice for director Mann. For example, it swaps his distinctive city based cinematography of metallic blues and greys in favour of sepia and harsh lighting.

Depp is on form here as gangster Dillinger, alternatively arrogant and naive, and the story of  this 1930s criminal celebrity is a good one although lacking back story.

Ultimately though, it does suffer in comparison to Heat. The  lawman's and the criminal's stories and characters simply aren't as engaging as Pacino's and De Niro's. Similarly, it also lacks the punch of the set pieces in the earlier film. Perhaps less would have been more.

Verdict:  Good, but oddly unengaging.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Review: Sucker Punch

Inception-like dark fantasy within a darker fantasy that is partly an excuse for highly kinetic hyperviolence against dragons, clockwork nazis and samurai led by scantily clad and heavily armed young women.  Innovative covers of 80s and 90s classics simply add to the steam punk induced pop video vibe.

It does become a little repetitive, but the ending when it comes, truly is a sucker punch.

Verdict: Dream-like fantasy with bite.

Review: Giving Notice: Why the Best and Brightest are Leaving the Workplace and How You Can Help them Stay

Giving notice is a classic text on why diversity and inclusion matters in the workplace.

Essentially, the premise is that micro- and macro-insults contribute to women, ethnic minorities and gays leaving some workplaces - and that ends up costing companies, not just in lawsuits in the worst case, but also other losses through opportunity cost, turnover, less engaged employees, less innovation etc.

Further, it challenges us to try and tackle our own unconscious bias. I found it a useful reminder that perfectly competent (potential) role holders may not get a chance because they lack the right network.

Verdict: Eye opening and clearing

Friday, 10 November 2017

Review: X-men: First Class

This back to the past origins story was a genius idea to revive a flagging franchise as it allowed us to see a much younger Magneto and Professor X on-screen as well as tap into a wonderful 1960s Man from Uncle vibe.

The result is definitely one of the more stylish and interesting X-men movies although not quite as genre-busting as Logan.  The story is one of a loss of innocence making characters like Magneto and Mystique's future and shifting motivations much more understandable.

Verdict: One of the stronger X-outings.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Quote: Why a good conversation is like a mini-skirt

This week, I thought I'd try a new habit - watch a Ted talk everyday for inspiration. I particularly enjoyed this one by Celeste Headlee:

Which ends on this excellent summary of what a good conversation is like:

A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Review: Einstein's God Model

Intriguing and chilling independent science-fiction film which asks what happens if you try to reconcile the afterlife with theoretical physics.  The result is something like a blend of Contact and the 1980s low budget sci-fi film, Hardware with perhaps a dash of Sapphire and Steel.

The production is often a bit amateurish and even gimmicky in places - but in a way, that somehow makes it feel more credible as many scientific academic productions (or at least the ones I worked on) have a few basic film making fails.

But it is never boring to watch, and the special effects budget is well used.

Verdict: Thought provoking view.