Screening Room: ‘Do You Trust This Computer?’

doyoutrust1 ‘Do You Trust This Computer?’ (Papercut Films)

The new documentary from Chris Paine (Who Killed the Electric Car?) takes on a far more mistrusting topic of technology, namely: What’s artificial intelligence going to do to us as a species?

Do You Trust This Computer? is playing now. My review is at Film Journal International:

The delicious danger of malevolent machines has been an attractive science-fiction standby ever since R.U.R., Karel Capel’s 1920 play about a robot rebellion. There are a couple of problems with that statement, both of which are obliquely referenced in Chris Paine’s stylistically monotonous but occasionally thought-provoking documentary Do You Trust This Computer?

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Eighth Grade’

Elsie Fisher in ‘Eighth Grade’ (A24)

My review of Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade is at PopMatters:

Unlike most movies about school-age outsiders, Eighth Grade doesn’t rely on the traditional dramatic tropes of embarrassment and rebellion. Kayla wants desperately to have friends. Like most shy kids, she’s paralyzed in social settings. But unlike most shy kids, she pushes herself past that cocoon of diffident silence. First are her videos, which, you get the impression, are as much for herself as for anybody who might be come across her YouTube channel. This is a girl whose bedroom mirror is ringed with motivational quotes scribbled onto Post-It notes. (“Learn a joke every day!”) But also, instead of always hanging back on the periphery, occasionally she jumps…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: Summer Movie Sequels

My essay on the ever-more sprawling world of movie franchises, “Sequel Summer: Deadpool Fights Thanos in Jurassic World,” is at Eyes Wide Open:

After banking a billion-plus revenue from Black Panther, Disney kept the Marvel machine humming with the late April release of Avengers: Infinity War. The first half of an apocalypse two-parter, this was less a standalone movie than a short-attention-span episode of a long-running series that was running out of ways to keep engineering conflict. Infinity War: Part One didn’t even bother establishing itself as a standalone movie like Black Panther did. It just dumped every available Marvel hero into a Battle Royale against Thanos, a big dull dud of a genocidal villain, and made sure to string it out to next summer’s sequel. Spider-man, Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Thor, and Nick Fury? Sure! How about Guardians of the Galaxy, too? Why not?…

Screening Room: ‘Equalizer 2’

Denzel, paying the bills (Sony)

The sequel to Denzel Washington’s surprise hit The Equalizer is hitting theaters this week.

My review is at Film Journal International:

When Antoine Fuqua’s sequel begins, Robert McCall (Washington) is far from his blue-collar Boston life. We find him in a Muslim cap and beard on a train through Turkey, reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and keeping a watchful eye on a man traveling with a young girl. A few clipped lines of dialogue (“American?” McCall is asked; “Guilty,” he responds) and some swiftly crippled henchmen later, the girl is safely back on American soil and McCall is back to his day job…

Screening Room: ‘Dark Money’

(PBS Distribution)

The newest movie from Kimberly Reed is a scorcher of a documentary about the corrosive effects of big outside money on elections in underpopulated states.

Dark Money is opening in limited release this week and should appear soon on a PBS affiliate near you. My review is at Film Journal International:

The Montana that Reed (Prodigal Sons) shows is one of nearly unnatural beauty. Angular cliffs carpeted with bright green pine trees and great sweeping plains unfurl under her frequently airborne camera as though for some pristinely photographed travel documentary. But there’s wrack and ruin amidst the glorious nature. Abandoned mine shafts, rusting derricks, and the oil-slicked expanse of a Superfund lake so poisonous that geese who accidently landed in it died by the hundreds all speak to the legacy of a state with a long history of corruption and resource exploitation…

Screening Room: ‘This is Congo’

One of the year’s most gorgeous, emotional, and harrowing movies, This is Congo, is opening this week in limited release. Make sure to find it.

My review is at Film Journal International:

“To grow up in Congo,” says a man at the start of Daniel McCabe’s lacerating new documentary, “is to grow up in paradise.” This comes as McCabe’s camera swoops over lush green hills and deep forests that do indeed seem paradisaical. But the turn comes soon, as we see rough roads jammed with refugees, children cowering at the unearthly roar of rocket launchers and artillery. Being raised in this place, the voice points out, is also “to grow up in misery.” Why the life of the average Congolese is that of misery and not joy is the question that this inquisitive movie asks…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado’

Isabela Moner and Benicio Del Toro (Columbia Pictures)

Sicario: Day of the Soldado opens this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

The portentously named follow-up to Denis Villeneuve’s moody and murky 2015 cartel thriller starts with a pair of bombings and a declaration of war. A Muslim man blows himself up in Texas after being caught by the Border Patrol while stealing into the country. Then several other men walk into a supermarket in Kansas City and detonate more suicide bombs … In the news business, they would call this confluence of scarifying and adrenaline-charging events Fox News Bingo. In the movie business, it’s just Sequel Maintenance…

Here’s the trailer: