Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Mini Reviews: Ex Machina, The Gift, Dark Places, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Spy

I've been kind of too busy to write full reviews for all of these, but thought I would post a few quick shot reviews of a few movies I've watched over the past month or so!

Ex Machina
Caleb, an employee at a large tech company, wins a contest to spend a weekend at the company's CEO's mountain retreat. But Caleb soon discovers that the CEO, Nathan, has other plans. Nathan has developed an AI and she is in the form of a beautiful female named Ava. Caleb is to perform Turing Tests on Ava and he soon finds things are not all that they appear.

I had heard so many great things about Ex Machina before seeing it, and I found I was not at all disappointed. The storyline is a slow-burner, but it's incredibly compelling, twisted and kept on the edge of my seat, not really knowing what was real. The performances here are all so perfect. Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac all deserve to be such bigger stars than they already are. All are fantastic here. As well, the writing really is incredible and the film itself it just really beautiful to look at. While I felt some of the scenes nudity was a little gratuitous the movie still asked some incredibly compelling questions about humanity and technology. Ex Machina is definitely one of the most interesting, compelling and just overall best film of this year. Shame more people haven't seen it or that it won't necessarily appeal to mass audiences.


The Gift
Simon and Robyn, a young married couple, have just moved into a huge new house in a new city. When they run into an old acquaintance of Simon's from high school, Gordo, things start to change. Gordo is unsettling, and amidst the unexpected visits and gifts he pay Simon and Robyn, a horrifying secret from the past is brought to light.

Again, this was another movie I had heard generally good things about. This film wasn't at all on my radar until I had seen the extremely high Rotten Tomatoes score for this, and wondered what exactly made Joel Edgerton's directorial debut so good? (Especially since he's an actor I've never particularly found interesting). However, this film kept me drawn in, wondering what exactly was happening. Robyn is our main character here and a lot of this through her eyes, as someone who didn't previously know Gordo and starts to find herself unsettled, and then terrified. I honestly wasn't sure where the film was going with the "dark secret" but it went in a slightly different direction than I thought it would. The results truly were disturbing.

The casting was also really great here. Jason Bateman as Simon was some fantastic against-type casting. Simon is someone who we discovers has an edge to him, something that I don't immediately think of when I see Jason Bateman. But he played Simon perfectly. As well, Rebecca Hall was great as Robyn. And even Joel Edgerton's small role as Gordo was really unsettling. All around, this movie was quite good and definitely an interesting, intellectual thriller.


Dark Places
Libby Day is the sole survivor of the brutal Kansas City Massacre that left her mother and two sister dead, and had her brother thrown in jail as the killer. It's been almost 30 years since the killings and Libby is almost out of money. She's never had a job and doesn't know what to do. But then she receives a letter from Lyle, asking her to do an appearance and get paid $500. This "appearance" is at a place called the Kill Club. It's a club with people obsessed with true crime. When Libby attends, she finds the majority of the members don't believe her brother, Ben, actually killed their family. The case has been fudged and not a lot adds up. At first Libby storms out, not willing to listen. But when she realizes that, should she investigate into this, she could make money from the group. So she sets out to discover the truth about what happened that night he family was destroyed.

I actually read this book, written by Gillian Flynn, a few months back. I quite enjoyed the book and the movie itself stayed pretty true to the book. However, the movie itself was just kind of blah, despite how faithful it was. I can't really put my finger on what made it so blah, but it just kind of was. The cast was pretty good, though I'm unsure if everyone really suited the parts they were cast in. However, Dark Places is not nearly as good as it should have been. Especially considering the careful direction Flynn's next book, Gone Girl, received last year. A film that had potential, but just didn't get there.


Avengers: Age of Ultron
Tony Stark and Bruce Banner create an AI and want to develop it to create a peacekeeping program called Ultron. Tony had previously had a vision in which he saw all the Avengers dead, and Tony fears this vision will come true. However, Ultron comes to life while Tony and Bruce are absent, and Ulton sees the Avengers as a threat to the worlds peace. As well, he sees humanity as a threat to itself, and the Avengers must assemble once again, this time to stop Ultron before he destroys the world.

I have been increasingly disliking Marvel movies. They really just aren't up my wheelhouse and I find they often pander too much to their fans. While I did moderately like the first Avengers, this one just kind of felt like a hot mess. There was so many characters to try and give story and development and pretty much everyone felt short changed. As well, I'm just getting tired of the unrealistic placement of zingy one liners. They just aren't all that funny to me? I don't know, I just increasingly don't care for Marvel movies and this seems to be the prime example why. I do, however, commend Joss Whedon for somehow keeping this movie coherent. The story wasn't a terrible one, and Whedon was somehow able to give everyone enough screen time to both develop their characters but also set up the next 15 installments.


Susan Cooper is a desk bound agent at the CIA. She loves doing behind the scenes work for Bradley Fine, the field agent whom she has a huge crush on. However, when he dies on a mission, and when other agents have become compromised, Susan volunteers to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer and stop a global crisis.

To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of Bridesmaids. And there haven't been many Melissa McCarthy movies I've seen or enjoyed (how wonder is she on Gilmore Girls though?). However, I actually really did enjoy Spy. Spy hits the right balance of being both an actual spy/action movie and being a comedy. There's so much awesome female power here and all of it goes unquestioned and I really, really liked that. There were just so many females who kicked butt just as much as men, and that's always so great to see. Spy is actually quite funny and Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne do some great work here. As well, Jason Statham was also really great, playing such a parody of all the characters he plays. His characters exaggeration was really funny and it was a great role for Statham.  This film was a surprise to me in that I actually did enjoy it.


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