Critics Consensus: Transcendence is a Sci-Fi Snooze

Plus, Heaven is for Real is heartfelt but uneven; Bears is beautiful and entertaining, and A Haunted House 2 wasn't screened -- guess the Tomatometer!

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This week at the movies, we've got a techno-dystopia (Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall), a near-death experience (Heaven Is For Real, starring Greg Kinnear and Connor Corum), a bunch of furry carnivores (the nature documentary Bears), and some supernatural high jinks (A Haunted House 2, starring Marlon Wayans and Jaime Pressly). What do the critics have to say?

Transcendence

19%

Sometimes a movie needs more than an intriguing premise, an all-star cast, and a distinctive visual look. Critics say that's the case with Transcendence, a surprisingly dull and narratively muddled sci-fi drama that's short on suspense and logic. Johnny Depp stars as Will Caster, a leader in the field of artificial intelligence research who uploads his consciousness to a computer with the intent of creating a sentient machine. In doing so, Caster runs afoul of a group of militant luddites, who fear that humans have become too dependent on technology. The pundits say Transcendence is sleekly crafted, but it largely squanders its cast on a story that never quite coheres. (Check out our video interview with the stars, as well as this week's Total Recall, in which we count down Depp's best-reviewed movies.)

Heaven Is for Real

46%

It's an age-old puzzle for Hollywood: how to make films that appeal to devout Christians without alienating everyone else. Critics say that Heaven Is For Real ends up in the mushy middle, and the result is a well-acted, thoughtful tale that never quite follows through on the interesting questions it raises. Four-year-old Colton (Connor Corum) briefly flatlines during surgery; when he's revived, he tells an incredible story about the deceased family members he met during his short visit to Heaven. Colton's revelation awakens something in his father Todd (Greg Kinnear), a small-town pastor in the midst of a crisis of faith. The pundits say Heaven is for Real is well-made and often quite affecting, but its depiction of the afterlife leaves something to be desired.

Bears

89%

With Earth, Oceans, African Cats, and Chimpanzee, the good folks at Disneynature have delivered an unbroken string of high-quality nature documentaries. Critics say the streak continues with Bears, which offers breathtaking images of these animals in their natural environs and tends to avoid shoehorning its subjects into a narrative. Narrated by John C. Reilly, the film follows a mama grizzly bear and her two cubs as they try to survive in the Alaskan wilderness. The pundits say that Bears' furry protagonists are engaging and lovable, and the footage captured here is crisp and intimate. (Take a look through our gallery of memorable bears in the movies.)

A Haunted House 2

8%

Given the critical drubbing its predecessor received, it comes as little surprise that A Haunted House 2 wasn't screened for reviewers prior to its release. Marlon Wayans stars as a man who moves with his new girlfriend and her kids to a new home that's bedeviled by spectral spirits; hilarity ensues. Time to guess the Tomatometer!

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Final Member, a documentary about an Icelandic museum that houses a vast array of male genitalia from humans and animals, is at 100 percent.
  • Gabrielle, a drama about a love affair between two developmentally disabled adults, is at 100 percent.
  • Manakamana, a documentary about a cable car in Nepal that carries tourists and locals to a temple in the mountains, is at 100 percent.
  • Soft In The Head, a dramedy about a troubled woman who ends up living at a halfway house for men, is at 80 percent.
  • Small Time, a drama about a used-car salesman who teaches his son the tricks of the trade, is at 71 percent.
  • Proxy, a horror film about a woman dealing with tragedy who finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy when she joins a support group, is at 69 percent.
  • 13 Sins, starring Mark Webber and Ron Perlman in a thriller about a financially-strapped salesman who must undertake a series of increasingly dangerous challenges dictated to him via cell phone, is at 60 percent.
  • Fading Gigolo, starring Woody Allen and John Turturro in a comedy about a man who becomes an escort to help a friend in financial trouble, is at 57 percent.
  • That Demon Within, an action/horror hybrid about a young cop who suffers from hallucinations after providing a life-saving blood transfusion to a ruthless criminal, is at 44 percent.
  • Make Your Move, a drama about a pair of young people from different worlds who bond whie dancing, is at 20 percent.
  • Tasting Menu, a comedy about a disparate group of people who assemble for the closing of a world-class chef's restaurant, is at 13 percent.
  • Authors Anonymous, starring Kaley Cuoco and Chris Klein in a mockumentary about a group of aspiring novelists, is at zero percent.
  • A Promise, starring Rebecca Hall and Alan Rickman in a period drama about an ambitious young man who falls for his boss' married daughter, is at zero percent.

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