The top 10 coolest supercomputers in movies (with video)

The architect from "The Matrix"

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Computers are smarter than us, so don’t go messing around with them or telling them to open the pod bay doors. Here are some mighty machines from sci-fi movies that have forced us to examine our own humanity — and whether it’s such a good idea to be advancing technology so damn quickly.

Alpha 60 in “Alphaville” (1965)

Jean-Luc Godard’s hipper-than-thou New Wave sci-fi film has been nothing if not influential to other cool auteurs over the years with its tale of a faraway planet whose central city (that looks exactly like 1965 Paris) is ruled by the evil Professor von Braun (Howard Vernon), whose creation, Alpha 60, is a sentient computer (with a really creepy voice) that outlaws free thought and emotion, replacing them with dehumanizing and often contradictory concepts that keep everyone confused. . . and obedient. The interrogation scene between secret agent Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) and Alpha 60 features the super-computer at its most sinister — even though, like every other scene in “Alphaville,” you get the vague impression that we’re not supposed to be taking any of this seriously.

Hal-9000 in “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

Never send a super-computer to do a man’s job, as “protocol” always gets in the way of improvising when the initial plan suddenly needs reevaluation. As much as HAL fills the “villain” role of this sci-fi masterpiece as the champion of the mission over the welfare of the crew, director Stanley Kubrick gives this smart machine a heavy dose of humanity when he dies a painfully slow death (as astronaut Dave Bowman shuts him down through a series of agonizingly long processes); indeed, HAL, like any self-aware being, is ultimately afraid to die — he even tries to comfort himself as he sings himself the lullaby of “Daisy Bell.” HAL was reactivated for the sequel, “2010: The Year We Make Contact” — and, for the most part, behaved himself.

Bomb 20 in “Dark Star” (1974)

Take “2001: A Space Odyssey” mixed with Ray Bradbury’s short story, “Kaleidoscope,” throw in what was probably a hell of a lot of hashish and filter it through the minds of two film students named Dan O’Bannon and John Carpenter and you’ve got “Dark Star,” the “spaced-out odyssey for the Strangelove Generation.” The crew of the Dark Star is on a mission to destroy “unstable planets” that might threaten the colonization of the entire universe, an endeavor for which they’re armed with artificially intelligent “Thermostellar Triggering Devices” — or, simply, “Bombs.” Unfortunately, with artificial intelligence also comes the capacity for Cartesian doubt (the process of doubting the truth of one’s beliefs), which leads to. . . well, watch the clip and see. We think we’ll miss the beachball alien the most.

Master Control Program in “TRON” (1982)

Disney’s other gonzo sci-fi film from the late ’70s and early ’80s isn’t as bizarrely misguided as its truly insane predecessor, The Black Hole, but that doesn’t mean it actually makes much sense itself. It doesn’t really matter, though — “TRON” is nothing if not pretty with its glowing lights and neon haze, and the special effects somehow look almost (almost) as impressive today as they did back in 1982. Well, maybe the villainous Master Control Program could use an upgrade (its lips — so mesmerizing!), but the commanding and intimidating voice of David Warner keeps any and all potential snickering in check. Good ol’ MCP was sorely missed in “TRON: Legacy,” though a new rather disconcerting sight was provided by Jeff Bridges as he was put through the CGI fountain of youth to portray both a young Kevin Flynn and his evil Grid alter ego, CLU (Codified Likeness Utility). Ugh.

Joshua in “WarGames” (1983)

That’s right, Joshua, nobody wins in nuclear war, so the only option is to not play the game at all! One of the better ’80s films to cash in on the video game/home computer craze (and definitely one of the darkest), “WarGames” follows young David Lightman (Matthew Broderick, three years before becoming Ferris Bueller), a teenage hacker who unwittingly accesses a military supercomputer programmed to predict possible outcomes of nuclear war. . . and nearly starts World War III as he innocently starts playing what he thinks is a cooler version of Pong. This clip features the third act climax, where Joshua talks itself out of blowing up the planet — you have to admit, that’s a sound and light show worthy of a Pink Floyd concert.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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