Movies out today: AI, cowboys, railway men and good Christian girls

It's a bit of a quieter week at the movies with just four new releases hitting cinemas in addition to local Marikana-centred documentary Miners Shot Down.

This sci-fi drama is the directorial debut of Oscar-winning cinematographer - and frequent Christopher Nolan collaborator - Wally Pfister. Johnny Depp plays a controversial artificial intelligence researcher who finds his consciousness separated from his body and implemented into one of his powerful sentient systems. Also with Rebecca Hall, Cillian Murphy, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman and Paul Bettany.

Transcendence may look like a Nolan flick, complete with many of his frequent on-screen collaborators, but evidently it doesn't quite cut it as cerebrally-gratifying fare. It looks great but never gets a good grip on its themes. The end result is "cyber nonsense" that's a chore to watch. 19% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.

A Million Ways to Die in the West:
This follow-up comedy from Ted writer-director-"star" Seth (Family Guy) MacFarlane centres on a mild-mannered sheep farmer (played by MacFarlane) in 1880s Arizona. Said farmer has to discover his inner tough guy when the outlaw husband (Liam Neeson) of his new girlfriend (Charlize Theron) pitches up. Also with Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris.

Apparently A Million Ways... delivers the R-rated dialogue and "did they really say that?" political incorrectness. However, it also overplays its jokes (particularly those of the toilet humour type) to cringeworthy levels. Or so says Nick in his TheMovies review. Internationally critics have also found the film very uneven, and lazily scripted. It's currently sitting with a 35% Fresh review score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Railway Man:
Nicole Kidman pops up at the movies for the second time in two weeks with this war drama based on the bestselling autobiography of the same name. Colin Firth is British officer Eric Lomax, who has been forever scarred by his experiences at a Japanese POW camp in WWII (as a younger man he's played by Jeremy Irvine). He sets out to find and confront one of his captors.

Evidently The Railway Man presents a too-tidy cathartic experience, and isn't as engrossing as it could have been - preferring an old-fashioned, predictable approach all around. Performances are fantastic though. 66% Fresh.

I'm in Love with a Church Girl:
For fans of cinema with Christian themes there's this drama about a high-living former drug trafficker (Jeff 'Ja Rule' Atkins) who falls in love with a religious young woman (Adrienne Bailon). Despite having very different pasts and priorities, they begin a relationship, but face a continual series of threats to their happiness. Also with Stephen Baldwin.

I'm In Love with a Church Girl will obviously be speaking to a very specific kind of faith-focused audience. Mainstream critics have slammed it as a predictable and heavy-handed "message movie."  6% Fresh.


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