99 Homes is an outstanding drama of the housing-bubble collapse that triggered our recent Great Recession. Although it can be criticized for barely mentioning the high-finance schemes hatched by big banks and derivatives traders, the intricate details of collateralized debt obligations and credit-default swaps would only confuse most viewers. Instead, writer/director Ramin Bahrani focuses on the personal story of an evicted homeowner and a predatory real-estate agent who flips foreclosed houses in Florida. It would be easy to cast these characters and good guys and bad guys, but 99 Homes depicts a more complex morality. The victim becomes a predator, and the predatory agent has his reasons. Andrew Garfield as the former homeowner and Michael Shannon as the real-estate agent have their starring roles down cold in this skillfully made film.
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Grandma stars Lily Tomlin as an eccentric grandmother whose teenage granddaughter desperately needs $630 for an abortion. Both are nearly broke, so they embark on a journey to collect old debts or borrow money from friends. It sounds depressing, but the movie is pitched as a comedy-drama that finds dark humor in quirky personalities and relationships. Much of the humor, though, revolves around the Hollywood cliché that coarse language and outrageous behavior are endearing in older people. Tomlin steals the show, as intended, and it's a good show. But it would be much better if writer/director Paul Weitz (About a Boy, 2002) had exploited more dimensions of Tomlin's comedic talent.
Rikki and the Flash stars Meryl Streep as the middle-aged leader of an L.A. bar band that never won fame but that rocks a few dozen ragged fans every night. Although Streep performs several songs, the plot revolves mainly around broken relationships with her estranged family. These characters include her ex-husband (Kevin Kline), an adult daughter (Mamie Gummer, Streep's real-life offspring), and two adult sons. Kline's performance is carefully calibrated, and Gummer is excellent as a woman severely depressed by her husband's infidelity. Streep, as always, is Streep. The dialogue is sharp, having been penned by Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno, 2007). Although the climax is predictable, this is an above-average comedy-drama.
Inside Out is the brainiest animated feature ever made. Literally. Its main characters are four basic emotions inside an 11-year-old girl's brain: Joy, Sadness, Fear, and Disgust. Contending with each other for control, they steer the girl's behavior as she navigates her family's difficult move from suburban Minnesota to urban San Francisco. When a mishap leaves Fear and Disgust in total command, things go awry. Like almost all Pixar movies, Inside Out is intelligent enough to keep adults interested without going over the heads of children. In fact, it's fairly educational, but don't tell the kids that. (Its metaphors for memories are particularly clever.) Pixar keeps pleasantly surprising us and enlarging the once-tired genre of animated films.
>> See more mini-reviews, including Amy ... Jurassic World ... Love & Mercy ... San Andreas ... Tomorrowland ... Ex Machina ... Danny Collins ... Cinderella ... Chappie ... Jupiter Ascending ... Selma ... American Sniper ... A Most Violent Year ... Wild ... The Imitation Game ... Big Eyes ... Nightcrawler ... The Theory of Everything ... Interstellar ... Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) ... Before I Go to Sleep ... Fury ... Kill the Messenger ... The Giver ... and many more!
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Tom's Inflation Calculator includes the latest U.S. government inflation data plus alternative data sets. Both calculators are free and should automatically run in your web browser after clicking on the links above. By using historical data and forecasts, they can adjust U.S. dollar amounts for retail price inflation either forward or backward in time for any years between 1665 and 2100. (The alternative data sets have narrower ranges.)
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Here's an index to more than 400 of Tom's articles in Microprocessor Report, Networking Report, and Mobile Chip Report, the insider's guides to microprocessors, networking chips, and mobile-phone chips. Learn about embedded processors, microcontrollers, digital-signal processors, and other chip-related topics. (Subscription required for most articles.)
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Here is an index to more than 180 of Tom's computer articles from BYTE Magazine published from 1992 to 1998. (BYTE ceased publication in June 1998.) Most articles are still available online and include the original photographs, figures, and screen shots.
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- Fujifilm X20 Camera Review. An illustrated field test of a high-quality compact camera, the Fujifilm X20.
- Tom's Oscar Contest. An annual tradition for 25 years, Tom's Oscar Contest is both entertaining and challenging. Hundreds of people have tried to guess who will win an Oscar in each Academy Award category. Competing against them is the computer brain of Tom's famed OscarCalc program, which sometimes wins the contest and always places near the top.
- The Death of BYTE Magazine. In 1998, after 23 years of operation, BYTE Magazine was shut down by its new owner, CMP Media. A year later, CMP launched BYTE.com as a very different web-only publication. To learn the inside story about what happened to the world's second personal computer magazine, see Tom's Unofficial BYTE FAQ: The Death of BYTE Magazine.
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