Thursday, April 30, 2015
It's best not to know too much about Ex Machina other than the basics: Nathan Bateman (Oscar Issac, turning awesome acting into a common occurrence) the owner/creator of the world's greatest Internet search engine, BlueBook. Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson, son of the great Brendan and building a fine film resume of his own) works at BlueBook and wins a contest to meet CEO Bateman for one week, who lives far far out in the mountains in a futuristic estate full of luxurious technological advances, living like a hermit.When Caleb finally reaches the automated door of this modernistic mansion, he realizes that the contest that he "won" may be less a victory and more the most interesting week of his young life.
The two Male performances are precisely what propels Ex Machina into the real of recent sci-fi greatness. Oscar Issac has been noticeable in two recent films: 2013's Bob Dylan-esque Inside Llewyn Davis and last year's A Most Violent Year. Both showcased his ability but were subdued. Ex Machina allows Issac to unleash his darker side, as he slowly reveals to Caleb his plans for his stay. Gleeson is also noteworthy as the nerdy Caleb, showcasing a solid arc of emotions as the week progresses. But it's not just men who make you sit up and watch: newcomer Alicia Vikander portrays a character named Ava with deft skill. It's Ava's situation that brings out the more thought-provoking ideas of the film
Director Alex Garland shows that screenwriting is only one of his skills. Ex Machina is slick and shot without distractions. The music/score is also stellar. If Ex Machina has a fault, it's the fact that it raises plenty of interesting moral questions but doesn't dig too deep into them: but when we're left with such great performances and an ever-building tension, even if the story doesn't break any new ground it's still infinitely watchable. So far, 2015 hasn't seen many films of note, but Ex Machina rises to the top, a film the general public and pimpled sci-fi nerds can all enjoy. (A-)
Saturday, April 4, 2015
I wouldn't suggest reading any of this review if you haven't seen It Follows but you are planning to see it one day. I went in only knowing the bare minimum: no review reading or trailer viewing. Like any horror film that sometime relies on surprises and shocks, the less you know the better. Let's just say--like 2007's humorous Teeth--it promotes a strong case for young adult abstinence. Maika Monroe (formally seen in last year's The Guest) stars as Jay, a happy young lady who has recently fallen for a mysterious guy who--when we first see him--seems a bit paranoid: he's always glancing around like something is watching him. On a fateful night, Jay decides that she's ready for the next step in their relationship, so they jump in the backseat of his car and get...it...on (as seen in the movie poster above).
Turns out--in the film world of It Follows--that HPV and getting pregnant aren't the only things that young women have to worry about after having sex: Jay's boyfriend, in the afterglow of their first sexual experience together, turns violent, and explains the hook that the rest of the film relies on. He's passed on a sexually-transmitted curse. Until Jay spreads her legs for another guy, "It" will be after her. "It" takes on any human form and can show up anywhere, but it always walks, never runs, straight at you, regardless of setting. You can avoid "It", but if it gets close enough and touches you, you die. Yeah: sounds like typical PG-13 horror to scare teenie-boppers whose parents dropped them off at the theater. But It Follows is much better than that.
One could easily write a dissertation on the metaphoric plot points of It Follows: is it promoting abstinence, so "It" will never come to get you? Is it a parable about AIDS and how you can never escape it? Or is it something different, as the only way to get rid of "It" is to actually have more and more sex...as much sex as you can to distance yourself from the horror. No point to delve into that stuff here though: the basic fact is that It Follows is a very well-made horror film from a promising new director (this is only Mitchell's second film), a simple and effective little package that may make you think twice about your next sexual encounter, (B+)