New in Theaters: 'Transcendence,' 'A Haunted House 2,' 'Heaven is For Real,' 'Bears'


This is another jam-packed weekend, with an almost comical variety of films opening in theaters: a drama that takes itself too seriously, a comedy that doesn’t take itself seriously enough, a decent drama with a strong religious streak, and a Disney nature documentary.

Opening today is Transcendence, the tale of a talented scientist (Johnny Depp) pursuing what he sees as the next great step in human evolution—an omniscient AI with human emotion. People who have watched scifi movies (Morgan Freeman) and know this is a bad idea try to stop him, and inadvertently enable him to merge with this AI, and pursue dreams of world domination while his wife (Rebecca Hall) and best friend (Paul Bettany) watch helplessly.

The critics were distinctly unimpressed with the film, as it received only 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film grapples with themes and scope that are far too big for the limited, cliché script to handle, and the film ultimately flops. The Box Office Guru still predicts a decent $25 million for the film this weekend.

The only film to rate lower is the sequel to a film that should never have had been released in the first place, let alone have a sequel: A Haunted House 2. The found-footage horror parody is supposed to pick up where the last film left off, but the plot and poorly written (and arguably racist) jokes are more or less identical, so it may as well be a remake, with all the same actors as last time.

There’s no getting around it: this film is awful, hitting a low 9% on the Tomatometer. If the last film was bad, this one may be worse—critics are labelling it as absolutely dumb across the board, with not even a single funny gag to redeem the movie. It’s predicted to earn $14 million over the weekend.

On a much higher intellectual note, we have Heaven is For Real, the tale of a child (Connor Corum) who claims to have visited heaven during a near-death experience; he weaves a fantastical tale of his journey through the storied realm, validating his tale by having knowledge of events preceding his birth, which he would otherwise have no way of knowing.

This film gets a lot closer to “fresh” than the previous two, scoring a 51% from Rotten Tomatoes. The screenplay and cast are entertaining and convincing (in a purely cinematic sense) for a good part of the film, but it’s easy to slip into campy idealism and bland clichés with a plot like this, and the film succumbs to both on several occasions. It may earn as much as $16 million over the weekend.

Finally, we have Bears, a Disneynature documentary on everyone’s favorite cuddly omnivore. The film follows two brown bear families in the Alaskan wilderness over the course of a year, documenting the growth of two young cubs.

This film received ratings so much better than its fellow releases, it’s almost not funny: an 88% on the Tomatometer. To a degree, you can’t go wrong with baby mammals of any kind, and bear cubs are no exception. Disney was also able to establish a good balance between showing too much cutesy material and showing too much graphic nature, including just enough of both to make a film that felt real while still eliciting “Aww”s from the audience—not to mention the stunning visuals. Still, it is a documentary, so it’s only predicted to earn around $7 million over the weekend.

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