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post #1 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 12:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Once in a while, my job has some great perks. Last week, for example, Dolby invited me to attend the world premier of Transcendence, a mind-bending sci-fi thriller directed by Wally Pfister and starring Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, and Morgan Freeman.

 

 

The premier was held at the Regency Village Theater in Westwood, CA, one of the best cinemas in Los Angeles. Part of the appeal for me was Dolby Atmos sound—hence the invite from Dolby—though I was a bit concerned that it would be too loud and the movie would be a typical Hollywood good-guys-versus-bad-guys shoot-'em-up.

 

 

I needn't have worried on either count. The seats were assigned, and I was in the first row of the balcony, about halfway between the center and left side, and there were side and overhead surround speakers placed so I experienced a decent Atmos soundfield. Even better, I measured an average sound pressure level of only 77.6 dBC over the two-hour movie, with a maximum 1-second level of 98.1 dBC. The level remained above 79.4 dBC 10 percent of the time, 69.0 dBC 33 percent of the time, and 65.8 dBC 50 percent of the time, with an OSHA exposure of only 1.22%. I had brought my earplugs, but I didn't feel the need to use them.

 

The movie was shot entirely on film—except for some CGI, I'm sure—and scanned to digital for distribution. At the premier, a 4K DCP (digital-cinema package, the digital file containing the movie) was played on a Christie 2230 4K projector firing onto a 45-foot-wide white screen. I noticed some lack of shadow detail in dark scenes, which the projectionist said was normal for digital-cinema projection. I don't know about that—I recall seeing more shadow detail in other digital presentations. On the other hand, the overall imagery is spectacular.

 

My only real complaint about the presentation was dialog intelligibility. Part of that was Johnny Depp's mumbling, but I think some of it was in the mix and/or sound system, because it affected other characters' dialog as well. In addition, Depp's dialect is unclear; he sometimes sounds like Capt. Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, while at other times, he uses a generic American accent. On the other hand, the Atmos soundtrack is excellent, with objects flying around the room quite effectively during certain scenes.

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

As for the movie itself, I was blown away by its intelligence and moral/ethical ambiguity—hardly the simple good-versus-evil meme that seems to dominate Hollywood thrillers these days. Throughout the movie, the moral compass shifts—those who appear to be terrorists at the beginning turn out to be freedom fighters, while those with the best of intentions might become evil, or not. I honestly didn't know what was going to happen next, but I really wanted to find out, which is the hallmark of a great story.

 

Speaking of the story, it's a great premise on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, nanotechnology, and privacy in the technological age. The influence of futurist Ray Kurzweil is obvious—his notion of the "singularity," when humans will merge with machines and AI will spawn computer-based consciousness, is referred to by name in the movie. It's a concept that leading AI researcher Will Caster (Johnny Depp) calls "transcendence."

 

Soon after the movie begins, a group of anti-technology terrorists conduct simultaneous attacks on several AI research facilities, injuring or killing many scientists. (Interestingly, they use high technology in their attacks.) Among them is Will Caster, who is critically wounded. To save his essence, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall)—who is also a leading AI researcher—and his best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany)—yet another top AI scientist—try to upload his consciousness into the quantum computer they've been developing for just such experiments.

 

It works, and the disembodied Caster continues his efforts—at a greatly accelerated rate—to develop technology that will benefit humanity, especially in the field of nanotechnology. Evelyn is doggedly loyal to her "husband," at least at first, while Max is ambivalent—is that really Will in there, he wonders? This becomes one of the central questions of the movie, and all the major characters wrestle with it at different times. Meanwhile, the terrorists become freedom fighters who see the potential danger in what the Casters are doing and try to stop them before humanity is changed forever by self-replicating nanobots that quickly repair injuries at the cellular level and greatly enhance human capabilities. These enhanced humans are also interconnected wirelessly to each other and to Will, able to act autonomously or as a unit as needed.

 

Does this become a cautionary tale of absolute power corrupting absolutely? That would be the easy way out of the story, but Pfister and screenwriter Jack Paglen resist that temptation, much to my delight. The question of whether that's really Will Caster within the computer—and whether he stays good or becomes evil—remains open to the very end. Aside from that, the movie raises many fascinating questions about the nature of consciousness and what it means to be human.

 

After the screening, I got to attend the after-party at the Hammer Museum a few blocks away, and it was an all-out Hollywood extravaganza. The food was exquisite—especially the parmesan bread pudding.

 

One of the most amazing food stations at the after-party was making "liquid-nitrogen ice cream." First, cream is poured into a metal mixing bowl, followed by flavoring—in this case, caramel and salt. Then, liquid nitrogen at -320 degrees F is poured into the bowl, and the mixture is stirred vigorously, white steam billowing from the bowl as the nitrogen evaporates. What's left is a soft-serve ice cream to die for. Molecular gastronomy at its finest!

 

As a serious fan of thought-provoking science fiction, I recommend Transcendence in the highest possible terms. It's definitely a thinking person's movie that is way better than the typical superhero blockbuster in its intelligent treatment of complex issues. Yes, there is conflict and even some shooting and cannon fire—which is emphasized heavily in the TV trailer—but it's in service to a superior story, which makes it far more acceptable to me than the gratuitous violence that pervades so much of Hollywood's output.

 

If you enjoy sci-fi for smart people, put this one on your short list, even if you don't go out to the movies very much. And by all means, see it in a Dolby Atmos theater if possible—you won't be sorry.

 

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post #2 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 01:18 AM
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Thanks! Really looking forward to this one.

Looky here!
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post #3 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 06:18 AM
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nice... thank you for the review.

was this 35mm film?

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post #4 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 06:44 AM
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Scott, thanks for the review. Sounds like you had a great time. I can't wait to see this one.

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Originally Posted by MSchu18 View Post

nice... thank you for the review.

was this 35mm film?

Pssst. Scott mentions in his review that although the movie was shot on film, it is distributed as a digital file. He saw it on a 4K digital file projected using a Christie 2230 4K projection system. That means no film.
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post #5 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 07:08 AM
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I will check this one out. We NEED at Atmos theater in the Philly area! I would like to experience one.
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post #6 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 08:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will2007 View Post

Scott, thanks for the review. Sounds like you had a great time. I can't wait to see this one.
Pssst. Scott mentions in his review that although the movie was shot on film, it is distributed as a digital file. He saw it on a 4K digital file projected using a Christie 2230 4K projection system. That means no film.

Pssst... what film was IT SHOT ON!

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post #7 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 09:29 AM
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nice... thank you for the review.

was this 35mm film?

According to imdb, it was 35mm yes.
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post #8 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 09:44 AM
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That was a fun read, my gal has been bugging me about this one, her being a J. Deep fan. After reading the review and experience I'm interested in seeing it.

Thanks

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post #9 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 10:25 AM
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So far the reviews have been terrible. 27% on RT.
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post #10 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 10:29 AM - Thread Starter
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So far the reviews have been terrible. 27% on RT.


I was afraid of that. It's probably too sophisticated for the mass market and even some professional reviewers. Oh well, to each their own. I loved it.


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post #11 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 11:56 AM
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So far the reviews have been terrible. 27% on RT.

for a grand total of...13 critics... For me this one is critic-proof anyway, I'm seeing it.
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post #12 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 12:07 PM
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Quote:
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for a grand total of...13 critics... For me this one is critic-proof anyway, I'm seeing it.

But when they start off trending poorly, they tend to remain that way. I have it in my queue. smile.gif
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post #13 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 12:57 PM
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And by all means, see it in a Dolby Atmos theater if possible—you won't be sorry.
There is an Atmos theatre near me in Monrovia, so I'll definitely check it out.

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post #14 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 01:55 PM
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Up until about 5 years ago one of our 2 movie threatres had the air conditioning unit in the back 2 rows. The theater closed and last year was the first time we had 3D., I will be lucky to hear it in stereo but planning on this weekend to see it. Thanks for the review,The whole idea of AI that thinks for itself is truly a Pandora's Box.
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post #15 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 03:21 PM
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I will check this one out. We NEED at Atmos theater in the Philly area! I would like to experience one.

I agree. The closest one is at westown movies middletown de, and I saw Captain America 2 there (had to drive an hour and 20 min to reach there) but was not impressed with it. I hope King of Prussia UA will get the Dolby Atmos soon.
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post #16 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 03:51 PM
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Early reviews are damning. Guess I won't be wasting any money on this.
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post #17 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 03:54 PM
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I have it in my queue as well, just waiting for it to get to the top.

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post #18 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 04:14 PM
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I agree. The closest one is at westown movies middletown de, and I saw Captain America 2 there (had to drive an hour and 20 min to reach there) but was not impressed with it. I hope King of Prussia UA will get the Dolby Atmos soon.


Wow an hour and 20 mins drive to watch a movie? a 15 mins train ride to Lincoln square Manhattan after work. Will check it out.
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post #19 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 05:53 PM
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Wow an hour and 20 mins drive to watch a movie?
I drove a bit farther than that to see The Phantom Menace in a nice theater. Learned my damn lesson.

Stephen.

Chances are very good that I was drinking when I posted the above.

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post #20 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 06:01 PM
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Wow an hour and 20 mins drive to watch a movie? a 15 mins train ride to Lincoln square Manhattan after work. Will check it out.

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I drove a bit farther than that to see The Phantom Menace in a nice theater. Learned my damn lesson.

smile.gif yup I learned my lesson as well. We just wanted to experience the Atmos set up. The theater was new and the 3d was really good but sound was not what I expected. Did felt the effect during certain scenes but overall didn't feel it was worth the money (and drive:) ).
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post #21 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 06:34 PM
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But when they start off trending poorly, they tend to remain that way. I have it in my queue. smile.gif

Very true! As is the case right now as it's now down to 18%. mad.gif

i still wanna check it out. Also the critics hated Depp's last movie and my family and I thought it was great. smile.gif

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post #22 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 06:53 PM
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for a grand total of...13 critics... For me this one is critic-proof anyway, I'm seeing it.
Critics don't get sci-fi and in many cases purely hate it. let them play to their minons...:
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post #23 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 07:06 PM
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Many touted sci fi's are merely thinly veiled "other" genres that happen to have a technological or futuristic component to them.

Just because some bad movie takes place in a time period that has yet come to pass (or perhaps one that revolves around technology), doesn't make that movie a Science Fiction.
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post #24 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 07:11 PM
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I hate to sound like a conformist sheep, but most times (certainly not all) the RT score tends to jive with my overall impression of a film. Regardless of looking at the score before or after I see it.
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Stephen.

Chances are very good that I was drinking when I posted the above.

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post #25 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 07:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by booga24 View Post

Wow an hour and 20 mins drive to watch a movie? a 15 mins train ride to Lincoln square Manhattan after work. Will check it out.


Same here, from work is 15 minutes to Lincoln Sq, from my Apt. is 25 minutes....Love that theater.

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post #26 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 10:04 PM
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I would have to drive about 2 and a half hours to New York City to experience Atmos.
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post #27 of 68 Old 04-16-2014, 11:44 PM - Thread Starter
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I hate to sound like a conformist sheep, but most times (certainly not all) the RT score tends to jive with my overall impression of a film. Regardless of looking at the score before or after I see it.


Well, my preferences are often at odds with the mainstream; your mileage may vary. It will be interesting to read the comments here after people have seen it, starting this Friday.


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post #28 of 68 Old 04-17-2014, 04:50 AM
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I drove a bit farther than that to see The Phantom Menace in a nice theater. Learned my damn lesson.

Hey Jar jar was worth it biggrin.gif

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post #29 of 68 Old 04-17-2014, 06:38 AM
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Same here, from work is 15 minutes to Lincoln Sq, from my Apt. is 25 minutes....Love that theater.

DJoel


You should, its $20 a pop.
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post #30 of 68 Old 04-17-2014, 09:28 AM
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Well, my preferences are often at odds with the mainstream; your mileage may vary.

The nice thing about movies, Scott, is that while some are a hit and some are a miss, at least we get an opportunity to see for ourselves and make up our own mind. smile.gif
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