Film Review : Ex Machina (2015)

IMDB Score – 8.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 90%
Metacritic Score – 78/100

Directed By – Alex Garland
Starring – Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno, and Alicia Vikander

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

Let me start off by saying that I’m extremely happy for Alex Garland. I’ve been a fan of his since 28 Days Later. His stories, while flawed at times, always strike me as interesting and unique. His novels and short stories such as The Coma have inspired some of my short story writing that I do independent of this website. I’m a fan. I was excited to hear he had directed a film and even more excited that his film is doing so well. It only means we’ll be seeing more of his mind on screen soon enough.

That being said, I loved the film.

There’s something about tiny films that appeal to me. Alien is a much better horror film than it’s sequel Aliens to me. Why? There’s less space to move around. It all takes place on the ship and deals with one alien. It’s more personal…intimate. Aliens is a fine film, but it’s more of a Terminator 2 type of film where they took what was great about the first film and then turned it up to eleven. Ex Machina is an intimate film. It takes place mainly in one location, the multi million dollar estate of Nathan, the CEO of Bluebook. Bluebook is basically the combination of Facebook and Google so right off the bat you know how rich and smart the man is. Caleb is a programmer working for Bluebook and wins a contest sending him to his boss’s home. There we find out that Nathan has built an AI and that Caleb was brought there to test it.

The first scene of the film is brilliant. It doesn’t meander around who Caleb is or what exactly this company does. We learn that later as the film progresses. We’re given a 30 second dialogue free set up and away we go into the world of this house and it’s inhabitants. I just love how that was done. Garland and his DP really took their time with the aesthetics of this house. It’s obviously a very modernized home with the latest and sometimes one of a kind technology. Garland makes sure to hold the camera at precise points to vaguely foreshadow certain plot twists later in the film. I love films that I can watch a second time and catch new things. I haven’t seen it a 2nd time yet, but I’m going to. There are so many points in the beginning of the film that can be recalled later in the film as being significant. I think that may be the best highlight of the entire film for me. It’s just so tight and clean, just like every inch of Nathan’s house. The dialogue between all three inhabitants is sharp, often funny, and always engrossing. Once Caleb finds out why he is there, the real show begins.

Alicia Vikander.

Yeah, I wasn’t aware she was a thing either. That’s changed. She was fantastic in this. It should be taken with a grain of salt however because her performance isn’t something flashy or grandiose. This is a small and quite performance. Most of the time we see her as Ava, we see her bare robotic body with just the front half of her face. Vikander was tasked with portraying the emotion and thought processes of a robot using only her facial expressions. This is why I find her performance so good. She was able to draw me in so well and actually believe that she was an AI with her own conscious and intelligence. Her sessions with Gleason were engrossing to watch.

Has Oscar Isaac just become my favorite actor? That’s hard to say, but he’s certainly in the discussion now. I think I can safely say that both he and Michael Fassbender are the future of male actors. They have not been in a bad film, not delivered a bad performance, and have pretty much been getting better with each role. He’s able to portray Nathan as somebody who you seem to like judging by the way he talks to Caleb, but somebody who you just don’t seem to trust. He reminds me of Jack Torrance before he went crazy in The Shining. Even in the beginning of the film you can tell something is off. Something just isn’t right about him. His drunk scenes were the best and may have been in the greatest dance scene I’ve seen in a long time. His co-star Domhnall Gleeson is solid but really takes a back seat to Vikander and Isaac here. I feel her started to skip towards the end of the film. It may have to do with the circumstances his character got into, but I just wasn’t with him towards the end.

That’s the gist of the film. What I haven’t talked about, and will dance lightly around, is the way the story progresses. There are scenes in with I was on the edge of my seat, not from excitement, but from pure envelopment of the story. It lured me in. It had my full focus. I didn’t check my phone to see what time it was. I didn’t wonder what I was going to do after the show. I was just fully enveloped in this tightly written sci-fi. There is a lot to discuss at the end of the film. Who was the villain here? Did so an so deserve what happened to them? I’m still not entirely sure who’s side I’m on. That’s what a great screenplay does for me. Makes me question myself.

It’s my film of the year so far. It provoked a lot of interesting theories as far as creation goes. It made me more afraid of the future than I already am. It provides two incredible performances from Vikander and Isaac and needs to be seen for the dance scene alone. I’m glad it came out when it did because it’s going to be buried by Avengers, but if you’re trying to see a film and want to duck around the Marvel crowds, this is your film. It’s one of the better sci-fi films to come out in some time and is a wonderful sign that Alex Garland will be making thought provoking films for a long time.

4.5/5




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Double Review! : Coherence (2014) and Starred Up (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 85%
Amazon Instant Watch

Directed By – James Ward Byrkit
Starring – Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Nicholas Brendon, Elizabeth Gracen, Hugo Armstrong, Alex Manugian, and Lauren Maher

Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead.

This is going to be one of my shortest reviews. Why? I am not going to ruin the privilege of seeing this film as blind as I did. All I knew going in to the film was the IMDB plot summary above and that it was a sci-fi film. That is all you’re going to get too. I didn’t add the trailer. Don’t watch it. It gives too much away. The film is currently on Amazon Instant so if you have Prime you can watch it for free. If you don’t have prime, find it on VOD and pay for it. You won’t be disappointed if you love sci-fi and mindbending movies.

I’m pretty much going to end it after this. This certainly isn’t a masterpiece. It is however a film with a completely unique story and consists mostly of improvised dialogue and low budget film making that is both impressive and promising. The acting splits between amateur and really good. Baldini and Brendan are the standouts here. I hope they do more things.

See the film. See it.

4.5/5

IMDB Score – 7.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 98%
Amazon Instant Watch

Directed By – David Mackenzie
Starring – Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend, Sam Spruell, Anthony Welsh, David Ajala, and Peter Ferdinando

A troubled and explosively violent teenager is transferred to adult prison where he finally meets his match – a man who also happens to be his father.

Well, Jack O’Connell is going to be a fucking star. He’s already breached into the public eye with his role in “unbroken” but this is the film that he shines. He’s a powerhouse. He’s a wrecking ball. Think Tom Hardy in Bronson. It’s that good of a performance.

Starred Up isn’t a pretty film. It’s ugly. The brutality behind the violence is troubling to watch at times. It’s a hard look into the British prison system. For those who grew up with Oz and Shawshank Redemption, this is going to be different for you. Guards aren’t always right around the corner and when they are, they don’t usually have the upper hand. There were many moments in this film that made me confused as to who was really running the prison. Fights break out and are left unattended for minutes. Assaults on guards don’t really end too bad for the inmate. In fact, it’s like getting the shit kicked out of you is almost a daily hassle, for both the inmates and for the guards. Enter Eric Love, a 19 year old kid who is as explosive as they come. Right from the get go he is rubbing oil on his body in preparation for guards bursting through his cell door. I told you it’s like Bronson. Starred up however is a bit less theatrical than Bronson. It’s a realistic view at just how fucked up it can be in prison. It sheds light on how far prison officials are willing to go or how blinded they can be that there are people in those cells that need help. Its eye opening.

A lot of the film is a bit hard to understand. I don’t mean story. I mean I had problems getting through the mumble mouth cockney jargon that these prisoner conversed in. It really is a whole other language but I got through it without the subtitles. I’m proud of that. Ben Mendelsohn, who is fantastic in this by the way, plays the father of Eric and at times is completely non-understandable. That Mendelsohn though. He’s been acting like that since Animal Kingdom. I don’t want him to change. He’s always a menace whenever he’s on screen and I love it. The relationship between father and son is interesting in prison. You can’t always take peoples shit, including your fathers in fear of looking weak, but you also need to look out for your son. I think this is the main focal point of the film for me. The relationship between father and son here is handled beautifully and comes full circle by the films end. There is also a great sub theme by which a young anger management counselor, played by Rupert Friend, tries to get some of the more violent and angry inmates to calm the fuck down. Those scene were like Dead Poets Society except instead of poetry we’re dealing with pure insanity filled rage.

The film is a wonderful look at a different kind of prison system. It is brutally violent at just the right times and features powerhouse performances by O’Connell and Mendelsohn. Watch out for Jack O’Connell. He’s looking like the next Michael Fassbender or Tom Hardy.

4.5/5




Two Film Review : Interstellar and Birdman

You may be wondering why I’m lumping these three films into one post. Well, fact of the matter is that both Interstellar and Birdman need second viewings from me to really get into full review mode. I have pretty laid out opinions on both but I don’t think I could justify a full post for each one without having seen the film a second time.

IMDB Score – 8.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 73%

Directed By – Christopher Nolan
Starring – Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Wes Bentley, Josh Stewart, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Topher race, and fucking finally, Ellen Burystn

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

Okay, I need to get this out of the way first. I saw this film almost three weeks ago. If you have not seen this film in a REAL IMAX theater with 70mm film, please do so. It will most likely be one of the last times you will seeing something this new be projected on film. The projectionist in me had a field day with this one. I was privileged to be able to see this at the Lincoln Center IMAX which is one of the largest screens in the country and most likely the world. Regardless of your opinion of the film, it’s something to be seen in 70mm before film goes the way of the 8 track and seatbeltless vehicles.

That being said, I didn’t particularly love this movie. I didn’t really hate it either. What I ultimately came to was a feeling of mild satisfaction mixed with utter bewilderment. I’ve been a fan of Nolan from the beginning. I generally believe The Dark Knight, Memento, and The Prestige to be some of the best films of the decade. Interstellar marks the second film in a row from Nolan that not only failed to meet my expectations but seemed to lack in the screenwriting that characterized his earlier films. This was just a mess story wise from beginning to end. In fact, parts of it nearly ruined the whole thing for me.There were instances in the film where decisions were made at the blink of an eye, huge decisions, LIFE ALTERING DECISIONS, MADE AFTER ABOUT TEN MINUTES OF THOUGHT. Seriously, Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper is the worst father ever. What he does to his daughter in this film is just atrocious. I hated his character for like 40 minutes after this happened. There is also huge jumps in timeline. Basically Matthew McConaughey goes from farmer to in space in like three days. Sure, he was a NASA fighter pilot a long ass time ago, but you don’t get trained for space in three days. You just don’t do it.

The dialogue was also pretty bad. Anne Hathaway delivers a monologue in the middle of the film, about love, that nearly had me puking in the auditorium. It came off so cheesy and forced that I couldn’t stand it. A big character reveal in the middle of the film also progressed in a way that could be seen a mile away. This character also forgets who he is and ruins pretty much everything. The end of the film, which will be talked about for some time as it is very “2001”-esque, kind of muddles the entire thing for me. Like, I get where they were going with that. I get how unimaginable space can be an how it works, but to put it all together like that just seemed like Nolan was trying to be more profound than he needed to be. I don’t like throwing around the word pretentious often because I think that it insults creativity, but the end of this film teetered on being a bit pretentious. Also, the BIG emotional reunion end the end of the film, the one that the audience has been waiting for the entire three fucking hours, was over in like four sentences. Seriously, fuck Matthew McConaughey’s character in this movie. He’s the worst.

What did I like? First off the acting was pretty top notch. Matthew McConaughey was in full form as he has been for the past two years. There are a few scenes in this movie that really struck a chord with me emotionally and that was all on MM. Michael Caine continues to be sad Michael Caine and that’s okay because the man is a true legend and makes my eyes water every time he is sad. The voice acting from Bill Irwin, who voices the robot TARS, was a wonderful addition to the cast and might have been my favorite character. The robots were awesome by the way. At first I thought they were too weird but then I really got into the functionality of them. The action and space sequences were gorgeous to watch in 70mm. It made the effort to see this is IMAX all worth while. Also, Mackenzie Foy can act. That girl is going to be big if she continues acting.

Overall the film just wasn’t up to what I thought it was going to be. As far as space movies go, I enjoyed Sunshine and Solaris much more but there were definitely some great reasons to see the film. The camera work, the acting, the practical effects mixed in with CGI, all made this a film to see. It just happened to be a mess in the story telling department that may get better with a clearer viewing but I’m not holding my breath. Nolan gets points for doing it in film though. I’ll give him added points for that.

3/5

IMDB Score – 8.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring – Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, and Lindsay Duncan

A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

What a show. I don’t particularly know what the show meant or if I was 100% into it, but what a goddamn show.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the film is shot in a way that looks like one long take. You can tell where the edits are, but the film chugs on like an engine through the entire run time. It didn’t come off gimmicky. It came off glorious. The fact that Emmanuel Lubezki was able to keep every single frame of this movie gorgeous as shit while still maintaining the longness of the shot is a true thing to watch. The film also had this rhythmic drum fill that permeated the entire film from start to finish. It was like a heartbeat, getting faster and louder as scenes unfold into chaos. It was such an opposite kind of feeling from the rest of Iñárritu’s work that it almost made me forget who made the film. His previous movies are all filled with depressing situations and heartbreaking performances. I laughed out loud in this film. I was having a fucking ball. The whole cast pretty much had be heaving. Well, maybe not Emma Stone’s character, but she was still sassy enough to give me a chuckle.

The acting is top notch. We’re going to see at least two major award nominations from this film. Keaton is the star. He is in nearly every scene and completely solidified himself as “back in form”. The film goes into a meta sense as I realized just how alike Keaton and his on screen character Riggan were. Both are actors who portrayed superheros in the 80s and have been away from the spotlight for some time. Both are trying to make a comeback and in the case for Keaton, he does, in a big way. The guy just hit it out of the park. Edward Norton steals every scene he is in. It reminds me a little of when Robert Downey Jr. got an Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder because he was so goddamn funny. You could make the case for Melissa McCarthy as well but I don’t find her funny. Norton is going to complete that triangle. His character of Mike is so out of his mind that it can only be achieved by Norton, who is himself a lot like his on screen character. He was hysterical and also hammered in the scene chewing jobs just as well. Everybody else was fitting for their role. Emma Stone could sneak in the Oscars but honestly I felt her performance to be a bit overdone. Galafianakis was on point as always. I’ve considered him to be one of the best underrated actors for a while now. Watts finishes the top of the line up as she always does. She’s a professional and it shows.

The only reason I didn’t shower this film with praise is because there are so many subtleties in this film that I just can’t grasp them all right now. The ending left my head spinning a bit and there was a lot of dialogue I missed the meaning of because the film was rolling by my face at a million miles an hour. Will this affect my rating? Not really. It just makes this review a little shorter than usual.

See this film. It’s something that you’ll be thinking of for a long time and itching for a second viewing. I may have to see this again before it leaves theaters.

4.5/5

Update and Film Review – The One I Love (2014)

So, here’s an update on why I haven’t written anything in a while. I’ve been battling depression for the better part of my adult life. Some of you may have read a few things on this website that has dealt with some personal events and thoughts. I try to keep this website movie related but sometimes I just need to write out my feelings on a medium that won’t just be read by myself in a few months. My fathers side of the family is riddled with depression history and while I’ve managed to function correctly since high school, a month ago everything kind of came crashing down. I had a week where the only time I left my bed was to work and the work I did was shit anyway. So I decided to get some help and see a psychiatrist and ask if maybe medication was right for me. I started taking a mild anti-depressant about a week ago and I’m finally finding the energy to sit down and write. I have been watching a few movies here and there but most of them are either films I’ve seen already or movies that have been talked to death. I recently watched all three Indiana Jones films for the first time. Do I need to talk about them? No, because everybody and their mothers have seen those films. Expect more musings from me in the near future. I think I actually might make it to the theater tonight. We shall see. Here’s a short review of something special I saw last night. As always, thanks for reading…

IMDB Score – 7.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 81%
ON NETFLIX

Directed By – Charlie McDowell
Starring – Mark Duplass, Elizabeth Moss, and Ted Danson

Nope. You’re not getting a trailer for this one. Hell, you’re not going to even get much of a review. This is a film that you need to go in blind. The only thing I can tell you is that Duplass and Moss are married and are seeking help in the form of counseling from Danson suggests going away for a weekend. That’s it. That’s all you get. The film isn’t something that is going to absolutely blow you away with mind bending twists and turns, but rather it’s a film that just can’t be talked about in any form of detail without giving away key plot points that make the film a fun watch.

I will say that Moss and Duplass are fantastic together. The chemistry they have resembles a real husband and wife going through a struggle and let’s just say their performances are very layered. I was very impressed with both of them.

The film really gets to the core of what it means to spend your life with somebody you love and while I can’t go into why it does, the ending of the film is very uplifting and promising if you yourself are going through the same problems.

Please see the film. It’s on Netflix. It’s one of my favorites of the year.

4.5/5



Film Review : The Double (2014)

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IMDB Score – 7.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 82%

Directed By – Richard Ayoade
Starring – Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor, Cathy Moriarty, Chris O’Dowd, and Paddy Considine

A clerk in a government agency finds his unenviable life takes a turn for the horrific with the arrival of a new co-worker who is both his exact physical double and his opposite – confident, charismatic and seductive with women.

I decided, for the first time since moving to Fort Lee, NJ, to head into the city and see a movie. I tried picking a theater where I could see a double feature and settled on seeing “The Double” and Only Lovers Left Alive” at the Landmark Sunshine on East Houston street. I figured that since I live next to the most famous city in the world that just so happens to have a billion theaters showing films that show nowhere else around me, it might be a good idea to start venturing in and taking advantage. First up is “The Double”, directed by the extremely talented British quirk, Richard Ayoade.

His first film, “Submarine” is one that I have actually seen but remember nothing of. I must have been outside my head that day because even though I have tried, I can’t remember a single thing from that film. I stated he is talented because of his work on “The IT Crowd” and the fact that he was the only entertaining thing about “The Watch”. I’ve also heard him in a bunch of interviews and he seems like a very intelligent and unique person. All those qualities showed up in “The Double:, an adaption of a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel of the same. Jesse Eisenberg, who was brilliantly cast for this role, plays Simon, an employee at a data processing firm who can’t seem to catch a break or the recognition from his peers. In walks James, an identical looking/dressing Simon who is everything Simon is not, charismatic, funny, charming, and outgoing. He picks up women as he pleases and he wins the smiles of everyone he encounters. I remembered seeing the trailer when it was released and thinking that the film was going to be a trip because I had no idea what was going on. Having seen the film I’m still not quite sure. It’s going to take a second viewing to understand fully what happened but one thing the film was…impressive.

Besides the obvious science fiction elements, for example the fact that the film takes place in an obvious dystopian world not of our own, the film is a comedy. It’s a quick draw of wit around every corner and delivered perfectly by Eisenberg who secured an Oscar nomination for playing a character who is fast talking and witty. Ayoade did his homework. Eisenberg, who plays both main characters, played them both wonderfully. Simon is shy, neurotic, and miserable whereas James is outgoing, engaging, and seems to be the favorite person of every single employee and person in the city. Nobody mentions the fact that they both loo exactly alike which is the game played on the viewer. I was constantly trying to understand why nobody seemed to notice the similarity and why bad things continually seemed to follow Simon around. It’s only as the movie progresses that we start to accept the vagueness of the other characters and start to focus in on the similarities of James and Simon. The ending of the film was a bit disappointing as we are led to believe the mystery behind the two is a conclusion that we’ve seen in film countless times but for what the ending lacks in originality, the rest of the film thrives in being a type of comedy I’ve never seen before.

Oh, and the cameos by Paddy Considine and Chris O’Dowd were fucking hilarious.

The film showed just how talented Ayoade is as a young filmmaker and I’m going to be looking forward ti what he does next because if it was anywhere as unique as “The Double” then he has a bright future ahead of him.

4/5

Suggested Viewing – Brazil, 1984, Enemy, Dark City,