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Ex Machina Review!

Caleb is a computer programmer working for Bluebook, the apparent Google of the Not-Too-Distant-Future.  He wins a company contest to meet with Nathan, the company’s Howard Hughes-esque genius founder, on a top-secret project at his secluded home.  When he arrives, he discovers that he has been selected to help Nathan test a new form of artificial intelligence in the form of an advanced robot named Ava.  As the story goes on, Caleb begins to have feelings for Ava, who may or may not have feelings of her own for Caleb and against Nathan.

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Domhall Gleeson is the everyman-esque main character, Caleb, and as such, he gives the film its humanity; the quiet, reserved guy who is intrigued by what he sees, but gradually starts to question and challenge what the circumstances present themselves.  He provides the thoughtful eagerness that properly feeds against Oscar Isaac’s douche-extraordinaire Nathan. Isaac plays Nathan as the guy you knew in college who was approachable, who knows from the get-go that he was smarter and more talented than you, but still tried to be a friendly rival all the same.  He nearly steals the show while helping provide a Luke-and-Han dynamic between the two, which may come into play when they co-star together in Star Wars: The Force Awakens this Christmas.  The standout is Alicia Vikander, who gives Ava the type of effective but reserved wonderment toward humanity, and Caleb in particular, that Brent Spiner gave to Star Trek: TNG’s Data, but hers is with a greater sense of either genuine fear or cunning manipulation.  Sonoya Mizuno plays Kyoko, Nathan’s assistant, as a practically mute slave, unable to speak of the horrors she’s seen in Nathan’s hidden fortress, though she finds the strength to stand tall when the final act comes into play.

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Garland, who also wrote the original 28 Days Later and the criminally-underrated Dredd, populates his directorial debut with scenes comprised mostly of long, takes between one or two of the characters with cutting only when seemingly necessary.  These scenes are in environments consisting of either bright, Kubrickian hallways and sitting rooms or in the serene, almost magical forests that surround Nathan’s tiny structure outside.  Nearly every shot in the film, courtesy of  cinematographer Rob Hardy, is a wide-angle photograph unto itself.

In addition to the finely-tuned acting, I really appreciated Garland’s approach to 2001 and Solaris visuals.  He opts for bright-but-claustrophobic rooms and hallways shot with long, wide-angle takes to give Nathan’s small forest dwelling with a big, techy basement a sense of dangerous intrigue.  It effectively and beautifully plays on the nature-versus-nurture state of Ava and Caleb’s budding relationship as well as the conflict that arises between the trio.  Ava’s design itself is equally sparse but effective, with just her arms, torso and the back of her head showing any visual signs of inhumanity.  She even manages to hide those with some girly outfits and wigs to make herself look and potentially feel real.

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If there is anything to complain about the film, it’s that there a only a precious few surprises.  Nathan’s story is a variation of Frankenstein’s Mad Scientist/Playing God motivation, and as said before, Caleb is pretty much a smarter, more cynical version of Luke Skywalker.  But when your biggest complaints are retreads on well-established formulas, at least ones that have been done over and over again for decades, you can easily forgive the filmmakers for going the unbroken routes that they did.

Yes, there is precious few fresh ideas about this tried-and-true cautionary tale, but film still thrives on the wide-open sparseness of the environments and cinematography as well as the completely believable performances of the three main actors.  In the modern era of Sci-Fi, littered with the flashy fun of superheroes and giant robots (which I also love), it’s nice to see the kind of smart, bleak and thought-provoking tales of the future that only seem to come along every few years.  And Garland has taken this simple idea and created a fantastic, little film that’s the best of its kind since Moon and District 9 that may not be a fully recognized now, but in hindsight will only become a benchmark for Sci-Fi films of this decade.   Maybe the future won’t be so bad after all.

RATING: 9.0/10

Written by: Christopher Dees


Dredd Writer Says Dredd 2 Isn’t Coming!

Written by Alex Garland and starring Karl Urban, Dredd was one of those movies that no one thought would be any good because of the mess the Sly Stallone stinker left us with, but, it turns out, the creative forces behind the 2012 film knew exactly what they were doing and managed to crank out a legit, pretty amazing action movie so of course it flopped.  Fans rallied to get the film it’s due, signing petitions, bying the DVD’ and Blurays in droves, showing the movie to anyone they can so we can show the producers that an audience is there but according to Alex Garland, we’re wasting out time.

dredd, sequel, film monster, karl urban, alex garland“There isn’t, as far as I can tell, going to be a Dredd sequel. The basic mechanics of film financing say that if you make a film that loses a ton of money, you’re not going to get a sequel. And that’s basically what happened.

And I understand and appreciate the support the film has had, and the campaigns that have existed for it, and it’s really genuinely gratifying — I love it in all respects except one, which is when I hear about people buying copies of the DVD in order to boost sales and to change the figures. And what I want to say to them is, “Don’t do that. Keep your money.” Because the people that are making the decisions are much colder and harder than that. And the graphs they’re looking at are not really going to be sufficiently dented by that.

So the support for the film is truly appreciated. But if there is going to be a sequel, it’s not going to be me and the team of people who worked on the previous film, it’s going to be another bunch of people. And good luck to them, and I hope it happens. I really do. I hope they do a better job than we did.”

This is just sad.  Dredd  is a perfect example of a good moving getting ignored while crap is continually getting pushed out and what he ways really doesn’t make complete sense in today’s society.  There are many sequels to movies that didn’t do all that great the first time, same thing with TV shows that didn’t have a great first season.  I think they just need to really convince the bigwigs that a sequel is bound to do better because of all the fans it’s gained since the reboot was released, but alas, this is terrible news…I’m going to go lay down for a while…