Sunday, May 31, 2015

As if Ripped from Today's Headlines

Film: Khartoum
Format: ThisTV Chicago on rockin’ flatscreen.

I wasn’t specifically in the mood for a massive military epic today, but I’m constantly fighting a battle against the amount of movies saved on the DVR. Khartoum is a long one, particularly with the addition of commercial breaks. It doesn’t help that I keep recording films that aren’t otherwise available on NetFlix. It’s not unlike struggling with one’s waistline.

It’s interesting to me that the heart of the plot seems like it could be taken from pretty much any month’s newspapers in the last decade. We are dealing here with a military uprising of Muslims under the leadership of a charismatic and religiously-fueled leader claiming to speak for the prophet. Despite the 50 years separating this film and the present day, much of it seems incredibly relevant.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Guess Who's Coming to Banquet

Film: Shrek 2
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on laptop.

There was a time when anyone could be fairly certain that a sequel would be a step down from the original. Things have changed a bit. There are plenty of modern sequels that are equal to or better than the original film, but I can remember a time when finding a sequel that was even in the same ballpark as the original film took some thought. Now it’s not that hard to think of a film where the sequel tops the original, even though sequels are still often disappointing. So it was that I went into Shrek 2 with guarded optimism.

I like Shrek. It’s not only a good story, it’s a clever script that makes smart reference to a lot of other movies and a number of fairy tales. Shrek 2 has the unenviable task of building on that created mythology and retaining the same level of cleverness. This is not an easy task for an animated film following up a movie that not only won the inaugural Oscar for Best Animated Feature, but was good enough to be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Film: Fiddler on the Roof
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

It would be a lie to say that I’ve been looking forward to Fiddler on the Roof. This is a film that doesn’t seem to know when to stop, clocking in at just over three hours. That’s a lot to take for any film, but even more when that movie is a traditional musical. Calling Fiddler on the Roof a “traditional” musical is true in more ways than one, since the main through story here is about tradition, family, and a changing world. I knew the story going in; I’ve seen this story performed on stage. It’s been some time, though (my age may have been in single digits), and so this felt like it was hanging over my head for ages. Well, now it’s no longer hanging over my head.

Fiddler on the Roof is the story of Tevye (Chaim Topol, typically just known as Topol), his wife Golde (Norma Crane), and their five daughters. Primarily, only the oldest three daughters are of any real concern to the plot here. We learn early on that the role of women in this Russian pre-revolution village is to essentially be married off. Tevye’s daughters come with the issue of not having a dowry, which means that their marriage prospects are more catch as catch can. They are forced to rely on the services of Yente (Molly Picon), the local matchmaker to find them husbands. Of course, since arranged marriages have been the way in this Jewish community since forever, this is not unusual.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Winner of "Least Imaginative Title" Goes to...

Film: Love Story
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on The Nook.

I make no secret of the fact that I am a fan of Roger Ebert. I think he’s one of the finest film critics to every sit behind a typewriter. Ebert came up with a list of film tropes that are some of the great observations of filmdom available. My favorite is what he called the Gandhi film, a film that one is happy to have seen but never wants to see again. I’m also a fan of “idiot plot,” or a movie where the problems could be solved in a couple of minutes if only the characters were not all idiots. The third that I love is “Ali MacGraw’s disease,” which is defined as a disease in which the only symptom is that the patient grows more beautiful before finally dying. That phrase comes from Love Story, a film that I finally got around to watching.

I had a lot of hope for Love Story. Romances aren’t my favorite genre, but there are plenty that I do like. I also tend to like my romances when they play more to the tragic end of the spectrum, and I knew going in that that’s what was on offer here. Additionally, Love Story was nominated for seven Oscars: the five listed in the tags as well as Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Score (the only one it won). So I genuinely was interested in seeing where this went.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Flattened Out

Film: The Boxtrolls
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

If awards were handed out for weird, The Boxtrolls would certainly win more than its share. It’s movies like this that make me worry for the fate of a company like Laika. They may not have the wholesomeness of Disney or the mass appeal of Pixar, but this is not a company that has ever let a bizarre idea get away. The issue is that their ideas are so singularly weird that I question their mass appeal. The Boxtrolls lost $10 million, which makes me wonder how much longer Laika can put creativity above box office demand.

And now I’m given pause, because I don’t really know how to tackle the narrative aspect of The Boxtrolls. While films like Neco z Alenky are certainly stranger in many ways, this is the oddest mass-market animated film I have ever seen, at least for a film directed primarily at a young audience. I’ll do my best, but if the next couple of paragraphs appear as word salad, forgive me. This isn’t a very forgiving film in terms of plot elements.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Overcome by the Vapors

Film: Summer and Smoke
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

There’s a particular view of femininity that is almost perfectly captured by the work of Tennessee Williams. It’s primarily evident in works like A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie, but that same idea stands front and center in Summer and Smoke as well. In fact, in terms of Tennessee Williams characters, Alma Winemiller is straight out of central casting.

The female idea—I hesitate to call it an “ideal”—is one of a feigned purity, of striving to attain an impossible goal of refinement and culture and of holding any and all in judgment who do not meet or strive to meet those same goals. That is Alma Winemiller (Geraldine Page) in a nutshell. Daughter of the local minister (Malcolm Atterbury), Alma is as close as possible to a spinster as we’re likely to find. She takes part in readings of edifying books, sings and gives voice lessons, and frequently puts on airs to hold herself above the common folk. She is also given to nervous fits and fainting spells, the sort of thing that might be termed “the vapors.”

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Time Served

Film: The Last Detail
Format: Movies! on rockin’ flatscreen.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, which means I probably should post the review of The Last Detail tomorrow rather than today. However, today is when I watched it, and that’s how things work. This is a film I’ve heard of before and knew virtually nothing about beyond the broad strokes of the plot and that it’s a film that features the legendary Jack Nicholson in his prime.

Those broad strokes of the plot are pretty much the whole film; there’s not a great deal of nuance in the story of The Last Detail. Two career Navy men are assigned the detail of taking a prisoner to lockup. And that’s pretty much it. The guts of the movie are that trip, which is far less than the constant escape attempts you might initially think. While there’s certainly some comedy here, this is not a comedy of errors or anything like a chase movie with two swabbies tracking down an escapee. Instead, it’s more of a road movie and a character study of the three men involved.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Oh, Pancho!

Film: Viva Villa!
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

Viva Villa! has been sitting on my DVR since last February. I’ve just never quite gotten around to it. I go through periods of recording films and periods of burning through as many of them as I can. At the moment, I’m more or less engaged in both. Movies that are more difficult to locate keep showing up on cable, which means I continually need to make room for them. There was a certain logic in knocking out something that had been sitting around for a good 15 months.

There are a couple of giant problems lurking in the heart of Viva Villa! I’m not sure the film can really be understood fully without addressing these two glaring problems. The first is one that I often complain about on this blog. Viva Villa! is much more than simply a warts-removed biography of Pancho Villa. It is an almost entirely whole cloth fabrication that bears resemblance to the man only on the surface. The film claims, for instance, that Pancho Villa spent time as Mexico’s putative president. Names are changed, as are a ton of verifiable facts.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

More Film Gris than Film Noir

Film: The Late Show
Format: Streaming video from TCM Watch on laptop.

There are few joys in watching a new movie like seeing a septuagenarian character beat the crap out of a guy half his age. That’s one of the perks of The Late Show. This was a “target of opportunity” for me; it was streaming on TCM’s site and it’s a film not currently available on NetFlix. When a movie like this shows up, it only makes sense to save myself the trouble of tracking it down later and to watch it right away.

The Late Show is a very unusual neo-noir. Imagine Sam Spade 30 years older with a bleeding ulcer, living in a boarding house and looking to get out of the detective game. As the film opens, aging detective Ira Wells (Art Carney) is visited by an old friend named Harry Regan (Howard Duff). It soon becomes evident that Harry has taken a bullet and is about to die.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Iran so Far Away

Film: Persepolis
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

Persepolis is a film that I’ve been looking forward to since I added Best Animated Feature as a category on this site. It’s also one that I’ve more or less been holding back on to give me something to continue to look forward to. I’ve set getting through all of the remaining Best Animated Feature films by the end of this year as a goal, though, so it was time to watch this. The real question with Persepolis isn’t whether or not it’s any good, though, but whether or not it lives up to the hype.

Fortunately, it does. The disc I got came with both French and English versions, and I watched the English, which I tend to do with foreign animation. There’s no real reason for it beyond the fact that animated films are dubbed by definition. Here, since two of the main characters are voiced by the same actresses in both French and English, it mattered even less.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"The Darned" Doesn't Go Far Enough

Film: The Damned
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I knew going into The Damned that I was going to be in for a rough ride. I’ve been spending too much time with short movies lately, though, and needed to get something with a little more heft crossed off. I’ve also been ignoring the 1960s of late, not for any reason other than I’ve just been watching from other decades instead. The Damned, which clocks in north of two-and-a-half hours and is from 1969, fit both criteria. That it’s also a singularly unpleasant film about pre-war Germany and the rise of the Nazis is another matter entirely.

So, this is very much a film with characters centered in Nazi ideology, but it’s absolutely not a war film. Instead, the focus is on a wealthy German family that runs a steel-making empire. The family has weathered the defeat of Germany in the Great War and the massive economic depression that followed. Now, with the rise of National Socialism, the family deals with its evolving opinion of the new chancellor. Sounds like fun, right?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Your Face Picks Movies (Nolahn): Deathstalker II

Film: Deathstalker II
Format: DVD from personal collection (no, really) on laptop.

This is the fifth in a series of twelve films suggested by the guys at YourFace. This is Nolahn’s second pick.

I knew a few things about Deathstalker II going into it. First, I knew that this movie was particularly special to Nolahn. When I first envisioned this monthly project, I was warned that he’d assign this movie to me. As it happens, this was on the top of his list. I also knew this was going to be a really, really bad movie. The guys at Your Face revel in the cinematic sewer, as it were. What I didn’t know was how to find this movie. Ultimately, I bought the damn thing in a Roger Corman four-pack. So now I own Deathstalker II for good or ill.

Roger Corman is a unique case when it comes to movies. For the most part, his movies are shit, and low-budget shit, but he’s made a few good ones here and there. He’s also responsible for starting the careers of directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, and Ron Howard. So there was at least a little bit of hope going into this that maybe, just maybe there was something here.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Turbo Charged

Film: Mad Max: Fury Road
Format: Carmike Market Square Theater.

I knew that I’d be seeing Mad Max: Fury Road in the theater. When I found out that men’s rights activists, the misogynist clods who complain that men are discriminated against in a male-dominated society hated this movie because of the prominent roles of women and pro-women plot elements, well, I knew I had to go on opening weekend. I’m a long-time Mad Max fan. I saw The Road Warrior in the theater at the tender age of 13. And when the reviews started coming in, I knew this was going to be the film I had to see if I saw no others for the rest of the summer.

So let’s get through the plot nice and quickly here. Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) lives in a blasted post-apocalyptic wasteland. He is captured by the War Boys, the military arm of a place called The Citadel, run by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Designated as a universal blood donor, Max is used as a way to get injured and sick War Boys back into battle. Meanwhile, one of Immortan Joe’s main assistants, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has headed off to bring more gas back to the citadel. But this is not her plan; instead, she’s running away with Immortan Joe’s five wives (Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton) to get them away from him. So Joe rounds up the troops, including Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a war boy who is using Max for a transfusion. To keep going, he straps Max to the front of his vehicle, and the chase begins.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Off Script: The Ninth Gate

Film: The Ninth Gate
Format: IFC on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’m not necessarily one to judge someone else’s idea of a horror movie, but The Ninth Gate is not an easy fit into the genre. I suppose, since the film deals overtly with Satan, that there is a horror element to it, but this is much more of a suspense and mystery film than anything else. The elements of the supernatural that pop up really only happen once or twice in the middle and then a bit more heavily at the end despite all of the Lucifer this and Lucifer that through the running time. Still, it’s shown up on one of my horror lists, and I am, as ever, a slave to the lists.

Along those same lines, it’s worth saying that Roman Polanski makes interesting horror movies, or movies that at least contain some horror elements. The Ninth Gate fits in nicely with that crop of pseudo-horror films in his filmography. This is a movie that goes more for unsettling and mildly creepy rather than outright scares. Polanski is good at that, and I like The Ninth Gate probably a little more than it warrants.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I'm a Barbie Girl

Film: Lars and the Real Girl
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’ve sat here with a Word document open for a few minutes wondering exactly how to approach Lars and the Real Girl. Anyone who hasn’t seen it and knows the story will understand that, as will most of the people who have seen it. It’s alternately a truly bizarre drama and a poignant comedy at times, despite the elevator pitch. Everything about Lars and the Real Girl screams that it will be trash comedy that manages not even a smile in all but the thickest cretins in the audience, and yet it’s actually an effective, even heartfelt film.

That elevator pitch makes this unlikely. Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) is an introverted loner living in the garage behind the house of his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and Gus’s pregnant wife Karin (Emily Mortimer). Virtually all interactions with Lars are incredibly frustrating. He doesn’t like to be talked to or touched and always appears (and is) uncomfortable in all personal situations. This changes when Lars sends away for life-sized, presumably anatomically correct sex doll that he names Bianca (presumably played by herself).

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

White Riot

Film: No Way Out
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I like film noir. I like it a lot, so I tend to spend a lot of time watching black-and-white films from the 1940s and 1950s. Of course I watch everything, but I’m always happy when a noir shows up in the mailbox. I wasn’t aware No Way Out was, in fact, a film noir until I popped it in and watched the first couple of minutes. This is not a traditional film noir in any sense, but it certainly fits into a place in the genre.

The reason No Way Out is more or less a stealth noir is that the surface story is entirely about race and racism. We’re presented with newly minted Dr. Luther Brooks (Sidney Poitier in his big screen debut, at least in a credited role). Luther has been working in a county hospital, and plans to hang around to get a little more experience. Actually, he’s hanging around because being a black doctor in the 1950s was not the sort of thing that many people were prepared to deal with.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Here's Bergman's 19th Nervous Breakdown

Film: Face to Face (Ansikte mot Ansikte)
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Geek out enough on movies, and eventually you’ll wind up watching Ingmar Bergman. Whether or not you’re watching his actual movies or just the legion of films and directors who were inspired by him, you can’t escape the massive shadow he has cast on the film world. There’s a reason, though, that Face to Face (or Ansikte mot Ansikte as it is called in Swedish) isn’t listed in the same breath as films like The Seventh Seal or Persona (or about a dozen others). This isn’t a bad film, but it’s one that more or less hinges entirely on the performance of Liv Ullmann. It’s similar in a lot of ways to Persona, but not nearly the same film. It’s telling, in fact, that while it was nominated for both Best Director and Best Actress for Bergman and Ullmann respectively, it wasn’t even nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.

Essentially, this is the story of a woman’s mental and emotional breakdown. The interesting level of meta that is superimposed on this is that the woman in question, Dr. Jenny Isaksson (Ullmann), is a psychiatrist. It is, more or less, the same ground that Bergman trod with Through a Glass Darkly and Persona both with this added wrinkle of the sufferer being more acutely and professionally aware of her own neuroses. It’s also longer than both of those films, which makes it a much harder sit.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Picks from Chip: And Then There Were None

Film: And Then There Were None
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is the fifth in a series of twelve films suggested by Chip Lary at Tips from Chip.

The vast majority of my pleasure reading is non-fiction. I tend to read a lot of science and similar topics—cosmology, evolutionary biology, sociology, and the like. So it’s rare that I come across a movie where I’ve actually read the source material. In the case of And Then There Were None, I actually have read the source material. A couple of years ago I went on a mystery novel kick and read a bunch of Agatha Christie for a month or two. While most of that was Hercule Poirot stories, I did read the novel that this film is based on. It’s widely considered Christie’s masterpiece, and I’m not confident that I could disagree with that assessment.

In fact, this is such a classic story that it’s been spoofed quite a bit. Murder by Death is straight out of this movie’s playbook, and there’s a great deal of this in Clue as well. There’s even a connection to a film like House on Haunted Hill. But that’s all beside the point. The premise is one you’ll be familiar with even if you aren’t familiar with this particular story. A group of eight people and a couple of servants are invited to an island where they are to spend the weekend at the behest of their host, a Mr. Owen.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother and Daughter

Film: Postcards from the edge
Format: ThisTV Chicago on rockin’ flatscreen.

Right around the time she was in Terms of Endearment Shirley MacLaine began a string of films in which her defining character trait was to be as intensely annoying and self-absorbed as possible. This is a role she seems to have perfected by the time she got to her supporting role in Postcards from the Edge. Fortunately, she’s only in a supporting role here and we spend the bulk of our time with the incomparable Meryl Streep. Unfortunately, it’s a major supporting role, so we’ll still be spending a great deal of time watching Shirley MacLaine essentially play the same character she has over and over yet again.

Postcards from the Edge is based on Carrie Fisher’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. The book (which I haven’t read—I’m reporting what I’ve heard here) is about drug addiction, the movie industry, and the relationship between a drug-addicted actress living in the shadow of her ridiculously famous mother. Fisher is the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and also had a drug addiction issue. So there are certainly parallels here between her real life and the film. However, that’s not really important in judging the film itself.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Film: Sorry, Wrong Number
Format: Movies! on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’ve never been shy about my deep and abiding love for the great Barbara Stanwyck, so when Sorry, Wrong Number appeared on Movies! I figured it was a good opportunity to get a little time with the delightful Babs. It also happened to be the only one of her four nominated performances that I hadn’t seen. This is a film long considered a classic and with pretty good reason. Best of all, it’s Stanwyck who carries about 80% of the film.

Leona Stevenson (Stanwyck) is a bed-ridden invalid with a heart condition. She’s also extremely wealthy thanks to her father (Ed Begley). On the night in question, she is distraught about her husband Henry (Burt Lancaster) being very late coming home from work. It happens to be the servants’ night off, which means that Leona is home alone. Trying to reach her husband on the phone, she is connected instead to a call where two men are talking, two men who can’t hear her. It soon becomes evident that the two men are discussing a murder that they are to commit that night at 11:15.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Watch Your Six

Film: The Great Santini
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

Movies like The Great Santini are difficult for me to watch. This has nothing to do with the events of the film and everything to do with the story that is presented on screen. The Great Santini is less a film with a plot and more the story of the relationship between a man and his son, a relationship that is nothing but issues and problems and emotional abuse. I don’t have an issue with that at all. The problem is that the film seems all over the place. It’s all about this relationship, but at the same time, it tells that story not with rising action or a building plot, but a series of not-well-connected events that are essentially just slices out of a year of their life. It’s so disconnected from itself that I had trouble with where it was going.

Lieutenant Commander “Bull” Meechum (Robert Duvall), known as The Great Santini to his fellow Marine jet pilots, is a top pilot but also a discipline problem, a drunk, and emotionally stunted. He and his family are transferred to Beaufort, South Carolina in the years between the Korean and Vietnam War. The film follows most of that year, giving us as much of Santini as we can handle.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Catch and Release

Film: The Old Man and the Sea
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

I should probably start off talking about The Old Man and the Sea by saying that I am not a fan of the writing of Ernest Hemingway in general. I’m happy to say that a number of his short stories are fantastic and worth reading, but I’ve never liked his novels. A large part of this for me is that Hemingway couldn’t write a woman character to save his life an anything longer than a couple of pages. That’s not an issue with this film, since virtually the entire film is Spencer Tracy sitting by himself in a boat. This film has other problems, though, which we’ll get to soon enough.

Know going into this that this will likely be a pretty short review. There’s not a lot here to write about in terms of plot or interaction between characters. Aside from the opening few scenes and the very end, this really is literally what I said above. Santiago (Spencer Tracy) is an old fisherman in Cuba whose best days are long gone. When the movie begins, Santiago has not caught a real sizable fish for nearly three months. The boy (Felipe Pazos) who worked as his apprentice has been sent to another boat by his parents. Now working for a “lucky” boat, the boy still looks after Santiago, buying him food and sardines to use as bait.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Off Script: Deathdream

Film: Deathdream (Dead of Night)
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

I claim to like horror movies, and I do like them. I don’t seem to watch them that often though because of the needs of this blog and my tendency to focus on Oscar films. “Oscar film” and “horror” aren’t words said in the same sentence that often. I’ve decided that I’ve been neglecting my horror movie lists too long, though, so I’m going to try to start putting up a horror movie review every couple of weeks. After all, this is supposed to be fun. And so I watched Deathdream, also known as Dead of Night today. Thank the Buddha for DVRs, right?

Deathdream has an interesting pedigree. First of all, it was directed by Bob Clark, who is better known as the guy who directed A Christmas Story. Less interesting but more relevant is that this is a take on the classic story of the Monkey’s Paw. We begin in Vietnam and Andy Brooks (Richard Backus). In fact, we watch Andy get shot, and as he dies, we hear the voice of his mother Christine (Lynn Carlin) saying that he can’t die; he promised he’d come back.

Monday, May 4, 2015


Film: Gods and Monsters
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

Movies about movies, or movies about the people in movies are at least a little bit self-referential. Gods and Monsters is such a film. While not actually about the movies themselves, the film serves as something like an emotional biography of James Whale, the man who directed Frankenstein and Show Boat among other films. While it touches briefly on his early life, the film focuses instead much more on the end. The title of the film comes from a line spoken in Bride of Frankenstein, a film that is referred to throughout the running time.

Gods and Monsters takes place after the Korean War and about a decade and a half after Whale had left the film industry completely. He was a unique personage in the era, being one of only a few people in the country, let alone Hollywood, who was openly gay at a time when such was more than simply taboo. This is more or less what the film explores, and in truth, Gods and Monsters is more about Whale’s homosexuality than it is about his life specifically.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

I Sold My Soul to the U.S.O.

Film: For the Boys
Format: Streaming video from Netflix on The Nook.

For the Boys has been sitting in my streaming queue on NetFlix for a couple of years. I can’t say I was looking forward to it, but there’s a large “eating my vegetables” component of this project and I try to knock out a couple of films I’m not particularly looking forward to every month…or week. Lots of those films end up being as difficult as I expect them to be and now and then I get a pleasant surprise of something that’s really worth seeing. For the Boys falls in the second category, at least for the majority of its running time.

This is a “takes place in flashback” movie, so we start in the film’s present. Jeff Brooks (Arye Gross) arrives at the apartment of Dixie Leonard (Bette Midler) to take her to the production of a live television broadcast. She and her former stage partner Eddie Sparks (James Caan) are being awarded with a presidential medal for their services in keeping up the morale of American troops fighting in wars overseas. But Dixie doesn’t want to go and doesn’t want to share the stage with Eddie Sparks again. When asked why, she starts to relate the story of her life and we go “doodley-doodley-doop” into the past for most of the rest of the running time.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Turing Test

Film: Ex Machina
Format: Kerasotes 16 Theater.

My life rarely allows me to go to the theater. Yesterday I suddenly had a spare couple of hours and while a part of me really wanted to go see the new Avengers movie, that one will be playing for weeks. Ex Machina is likely coming to the end of its run, and it’s one I’ve wanted to see for the last couple of weeks. So that’s what I went to see. One of the great things about going to the non-tentpole movie on that movie’s opening weekend is that you get the theater pretty much to yourself. There were fewer than 10 of us, which meant I got the best seat in the house.

Ex Machina is the first directorial effort from Alex Garland, who also wrote the screenplay. Garland is no newbie to the movies, though; he wrote 28 Days Later among other screenplays. This is a film that manages to include a lot of his A-level ideas (Garland also wrote the 2/3 brilliant, 1/3 crap Sunshine), and he shows definite comfort behind the camera. It also offers a few solid thrills while touching on some high level philosophical material. In other words, it’s what we expect from the best of science fiction.