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Ghost in the machine

... or in the house, or in the clones

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BIG RELEASE: Transcendence (April 17)

BIG PICTURE: One dark, stormy night a ragged, sleepless screenwriter came up with a cinematic formula: Lawnmower Man + Tron + Her + Terminator + Johnny Depp playing another weirdo Transcendence. Depp stars as Dr. Will Caster, the world's most renowned researcher on artificial intelligence -- a man hoping to create an all-powerful supercomputer with human emotion. His vision: "Its analytical power would be greater than the collective intelligence of every person in the history of the world." (What could possibly go wrong?) After a near-fatal attack at the hands of anti-tech extremists, Will's consciousness is uploaded to a computer. And not the kind of computer that helps people - like Siri, sexy Samantha from Her... or a Roomba. Will turns into a super-creepy, super-scowly pixelated version of himself bent on world domination. Will's "evil computer-enabling" wife, Evelyn, is played by Rebecca Hall. The stellar supporting cast includes Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy and Paul Bettany.

FORECAST: Transcendence could surprise critics and moviegoers alike, just like Inception did in 2010. Plus, we could do a lot worse than Johnny Depp as humanity's new cybernetic overlord and slave master. Imagine how insufferable Gwyneth Paltrow would be if we inserted her into a supercomputer? She'd block Internet access to everything but, force us all to do a juice detox -- and probably shoot us all with lasers every time we ate anything but organic vegetables.

DIS-HONOURABLE MENTION: A Haunted House 2 (April 18): The world needs another haunted house movie like it needs another Kardashian. And it needs another haunted-house-movie spoof like it needs another Kardashian reality show.



BIG EVENT: Orphan Black (April 19, Space, 8 p.m.)

BIG PICTURE: They could have called this show Clone Wars, but Star Wars claimed that title first. Regina native Tatiana Maslany is the hardest-working woman in television. She plays seven -- and counting -- clones on the critically acclaimed sci-fi drama Orphan Black. The versatile, magnetic actress pulls you into the orbit of this show, regardless of whether you're a typical fan of the genre. I'm all for cloning Maslany in real life; the quality of TV would certainly improve. In Season 2, Sarah (Maslany) is desperate to find her abducted daughter Kira and confront her new nemesis Rachel (Maslany), the corporate clone that fronts the Dyad Institute, a shady group dedicated to Neolution -- otherwise known as self-directed human evolution. The institute holds the key to the secrets behind the clones' existence. On the other side of the coin is Prolethean, a shady religious cult opposed to cloning. The omnipresent Michiel Huisman (Nashville, Game of Thrones) joins the cast this season as Sarah's former lover. Meanwhile, two other clones face significant challenges: the brilliant Cosima (Maslany) tries to discover the cause of her declining health and Alison (Maslany), a suburban soccer mom, is consumed with guilt over her misdeeds from Season 1.

FORECAST: Orphan Black will go from cult hit to mainstream breakout this year and Maslany will be playing double-digit clones before long. We'll probably also find out the clones from Michael Keaton's terrible movie Multiplicity were the failed prototype for Sarah and her kin. On a related note, I also predict Oprah Winfrey will take the series to heart and invest her fortune in cloning herself. Imagine a world with seven competing Oprah magazines?

HONOURABLE MENTION: Fargo (FX, April 15, 10 p.m.). You betcha! Loosely based on the Cohen brothers' iconic 1996 film, this 10-episode limited series will likely make TV history as the only series ever to be set in Minnesota. Its talented cast includes Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne, a nefarious drifter who brings violence and menace to unsuspecting small town of Bemidji -- and complicates the life of the locals, including a befuddled insurance salesman named Lester (Martin Freeman).



BIG RELEASE ON APRIL 15: Gord Downie, the Sadies, and the Conquering Sun (self-titled)

BIG PICTURE: Canada Day comes early as two of the country's brightest talents pair up for an album that has been seven years in the making. Gord Downie's signature, twitchy warble finds a perfect companion in the Sadies' brash and brooding brand of alt-country. Downie's lyrics are at their idiosyncratic best, delivering lines like "I'm walking home in the valley of ghosts, can't do a thing in these budget shoes" and opining about "danger in the silence of the afternoons." Stand-out tracks include the title track, the country-infused romp Demand Destruction and the emotive, driving punk number It Didn't Start to Break My Heart. From angry to reflective, hard rock to folksy, distorted electric guitars to mandolins, this record is an expansive affair that allows both Downie and the Sadies to play to their many strengths.

FORECAST: This musical pairing is truly hip. Tragically, it's been a long time in coming. Hopefully it doesn't take seven years to record their follow-up.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Big Sugar (Yard Style). Is it a good sign when your album title sounds like a new dance invented by Psy?


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 13, 2014 ??65525

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