Movie Review: “Ex Machina”

Starring
Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, Sonoya Mizuno
Director
Alex Garland

Screenwriter Alex Garland has worked almost exclusively in the science fiction genre (from “Sunshine,” to “Never Let Me Go,” to “Dredd”), so it comes as no surprise that his directorial debut occupies a similar space, this time focusing on the decades-old debate of artificial intelligence. Making a movie about A.I. isn’t exactly a novel premise, but Garland has a really good track record when it comes to putting a fresh spin on familiar material (see: “28 Days Later”), and he doesn’t disappoint with “Ex Machina.” A smart and chilling piece of sci-fi that packs a punch, the movie is so self-assuredly efficient in the way that it utilizes its various parts that it doesn’t feel like the work of a first-time filmmaker at all.

Domhnall Gleeson stars as Caleb, a young programmer at Internet search engine Blue Book who’s just won an office-wide lottery to spend a week with the company’s reclusive but brilliant CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), at his remote home/research facility in Alaska. Although Caleb is excited just to have the opportunity to meet and hang out with the tech genius, Nathan has other plans: namely, to enlist Caleb’s assistance in conducting a Turing test on his newest creation, an incredibly lifelike robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander), in order to determine whether the artificial intelligence can pass as human. But when Caleb begins to develop feelings for Ava during the course of their conversations, he begins to question whether her sexuality has been programmed by Nathan or if her mutual attraction is real. As he digs deeper into Nathan’s research, Caleb discovers that there’s more to his work than he’s letting on.

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Movie Review: “About Time”

Starring
Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan
Director
Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis has written (and directed, in the case of “Love Actually”) some of the best romantic comedies of the past two decades, so it should come as no surprise that his latest movie follows in the same footsteps. Though Curtis has recently announced that “About Time” will likely be his final film as a director, the movie represents everything that’s great about the kind of romantic comedies Curtis excels at making. That’s because unlike most of the garbage in the genre, his films are about much more than just the superficial meet-cute between boy and girl, aiming for something a lot deeper and more emotionally rewarding, which he delivers in spades with the excellent “About Time.”

Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) has just turned 21, and the day after his family’s customary New Year’s Eve party, his father (Bill Nighy) lets him in on a secret: the men on his side of the family have the ability to travel through time. All he needs to do is go somewhere dark (like a closet or bathroom), clench his fists, and think of the time and place he wants to go back to. There are some caveats to Tim’s newfound powers, but the most important one is that he can only change events in his own life, so he decides to use them to find a girlfriend. It’s hardly the most inspiring use of such an incredible gift, but after moving to London to work as a lawyer, Tim meets the girl of his dreams in American import Mary (Rachel McAdams). He’s able to perfect every moment in their relationship by doing it over and over again “Groundhog Day”-style, but Tim eventually discovers that there are consequences to altering history.

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