Forget man vs. machine. This is man merging with machine.

Johnny Depp stars as Dr. Will Caster, an artificial intelligence researcher who’s trying to create a computer with human emotions. He gets to live that dream himself after anti-tech terrorists (led by a blonde Kate Mara) leave him mortally injured. His consciousness is uploaded to a computer, not so much in the name of science, but in the name of love for his scientist/wife, played by Rebecca Hall.

Paul Bettany is their friend and collaborator who previously warned the scientific community about the increasing reliance on computers. The great Morgan Freeman has a small role as a third scientist in their community with Cillian Murphy as an FBI agent hunting down anti-tech terrorists.

This movie has a fantastic look with awesome sfx’s , thanks to newbie director Wally Pfister, who won an Oscar as a cinematographer for Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” franchise. He still refuses to shoot digital, relying on 35mm for this project.

While the heart of the film is a love story, this movie raises pertinent issues concerning out increasing reliance on technology . As to the possibility of uploading human thoughts and consciousness , Paul Bettany tells “USA Today”, he was told be one expert we are just 30 years away from that form of immortality. The question : is that a blessing or a curse.

3 stars


An amazing nature film following a bear family a full year in Alaska.

You must take your kids to see this most incredible journey. Directors Alistair Fothergill (“Earth” 2007) and Keith Scholey (director/producer of “African Cats”) take you astonishingly close to a mama bear moments after she gives birth to two cubs and then follows this family as they fight for survival an entire year in the wilds of Alaska. Not just bears, but a wolf who follows the family, hoping to nab one of the cubs for a meal of his own. There’s also a bird who guides the bear family to food, and is treated to leftovers, as a thank you. And the menacing alpha bear of the community. This is real-life drama not ordinarily seen in a nature movie. You don’t even realize how close the filmmakers got to the bears til the closing credits.

An added plus with Earth Day this Tuesday: If you see the film through April 24th, Disneynature will make a donation to The National Parks Foundation.

Do yourself a favor. Take your own cubs to see this 70-minute gem, a perfect length for the kiddies. Oh- and it’s voiced by John C. Reilly.

4 stars

“Fading Gigalo”

A John Turturro rom-com that feels like a Woody Allen movie and actually stars Woody Allen.

John Turturro wrote, directed and stars in this love letter to New York, and particularly to the old-school Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, as opposed to the hipster Williamsburg.

This tender . smart, very adult rom-com is all about the need for human touch and loneliness. Woody Allen plays Murray, whose bookstore is going the way of many indie and even franchise bookstores in this era of kindles and ipads. It’s closing. Turturro’s Fiorvante is like a nephew to Murray and also not doing great money-wise. When Murray’s married dermatologist (Sharon Stone) confides to Murray her big fantasy is to have a ménage a trios with her I’ll-try-anything-once gf played by Sofia Vergara, Murray sees a money-making opportunity for himself , as a pimp. He proposes to Fiorvante to become a male prostitute with Murray pimping him out. Espcially since Fiorvante has a way with women as a man’s man who has insight to women’s needs.

Things get complicated when Murray befriends a young widow, Avigal, a Hassidic Jewess who longs for the forbidden touch of a man. Not sex. Just touch. Liev Schreiber is her longtime secret admirer and neighborhood watch guy who becomes concerned that she’s crossing the line when it comes to the ultra-orthodox strict rules concerning women.

It’s a rare treat to see Woody Allen starring in another director’s film. Especially when it resonates as a Woody Allen creation. Allen hasn’t starred in another director’s film in about a decade. He makes this movie.

Kudos to John Turturro (best known for the “Transformers” franchise, “The Big Lebowski” and “Barton Fink. Props to him for exploring the needs and desires of characters who are, let’s say un-youthful. The sex scenes are tame. The subject matter is not. This one’s more touching than funny but it has its moments. If you like Woody Allen films, put his on your must list.

3 stars.