Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ex Machina (2015)

ex machina
Image is property of DNA Films, Film4, Scott Rudin Productions and Universal Studios

Ex Machina – Film Review

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander

Director: Alex Garland

Synopsis: A young man is selected to take part in a unique programme that develops and evaluates the world’s first artificial intelligence.

Review: As humans, we all go through life wondering what does it feel like to be alive? We all go through different stages, birth, childhood, teenage years, graduation, jobs and of course ultimately death. In these big moments, we are overcome by emotion and feel what it is like to be alive. But what if you’d been brought into the world by some technical genius who sought to create the world’s first proper artificial intelligence? How do you express how you feel? How do you convey emotions? Are you truly alive? This is the enthralling premise of the directorial debut of Alex Garland, who primarily is known for his screen-writing credentials on the likes of Dredd and 28 Weeks Later. However, his first foray into directing is a dazzling, beautiful piece of work.

In recent years, we have seen science fiction films go from apes with incredible intelligence, to time travel, and to interstellar voyages and back on a crazy big budget scale. Yet there is none of that crazy grand scale adventure here. At the heart of the story here, is a simple tale of humanity, emotions, feelings. Yet also at its core, its dark, dangerous and somewhat eerie. We have seen forays into beings of artificial intelligence, with the likes of Kubrick’s 2001 and The Matrix, yet nothing on quite the personal, intimate level that we see here in Garland’s sharp screenplay. The interaction between the AI being, played wonderfully by Alicia Vikander and the lucky (or is he?) programmer Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson. As they interact, you feel the tension building. Does he have feelings for her? Does she have feelings for him? Is she really that different from a human being? There’s no guns blazing, high intense action here, but the dialogue between the two is extremely riveting to watch, as their chemistry grows, it definitely provides some of the most intense dialogue so far this year.

By stark contrast, Oscar Isaac playing the eccentric playboy billionaire Nathan, gives off contrasting signals. Sometimes he’s very warm and friendly, other times he feels cold and detached, which one might suspect if you lived in a vast complex with a considerable amount of money at your disposal to build an AI. The relationship between the three characters is thoroughly compelling as you wonder if any of them have any ulterior motives. All three are electric together which should be encouraging for this December’s Star Wars. Yet by far the biggest shining performance is that of Alicia Vikander’s work as Ava. She maybe an AI but with every action she takes, she feels like a real human being. Sexiness and remarkable intelligence combined, every man’s dream.

For a directorial debut picture, the film looks immaculate, with wonderful shots of breathtaking scenery. The look of Ava in her full mode is also immaculately well realised. Sometimes in film, it can be painfully apparent that what you are looking at is CGI but not in this instance. She may look like a robot, but Vikander’s grounded and sublime performance will make you think again. Likewise, this film will have you thinking about its content and characters long after you finish watching.  This is a landmark achievement in CGI films, and will have a great impact on the genre going forward as it feels remarkably real and personal. Also this is not the last we will hear of Alex Garland as a director or Alicia Vikander.

A thought provoking, imaginative and original sci-fi flick with tremendous performances from the three leading actors and a wonderful directorial debut from Garland. 


Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

Image is property of Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions, TC Productions, China Movie Channel, Alibaba Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Synopsis: When the IMF learn of the existence of the Syndicate, a group committed to destroying them by causing global panic, Ethan Hunt and his team have to go rogue and take them down

Review: Is there an actor working today more insane and more gutsy than Tom Cruise? Here’s an actor who absolutely commits to his roles, including taking on some ludicrously dangerous, death defying stunts all in the name of some awesome entertainment. Climbing the tallest building in the world? Check. Fighting on top of a high speed train? check? Clinging on for dear life as a jet takes off with him on the outside? Check. On the basis of this evidence, the answer is yes, Tom Cruise is certainly one of the most barking mad actors in the business, but all the better for it, because it provides us cinema goers with some awesome high pulse action sequences and a thrilling movie that reminds us why we pay money to go watch these movies on the big screen. In what is his fifth outing as Ethan Hunt, Tom  Cruise shows no signs of slowing down, He’s choosing to accept these missions, and we the audience are very grateful that he is.

The MI franchise has had a few stutters on its way to its fifth outing. Yet the last picture, Ghost Protocol was a storming critical and commercial success, so Rogue Nation had much to live up to. However in the hands of Christopher McQuarrie, taking over directing duties from Bird Bird, the ship is well and truly afloat once more. This time, the team has the task of tracking the Syndicate, an organisation which ruthlessly carries out tasks with the intention of causing mass panic on a global scale, and much like in Ghost Protocol, they have to go it alone after they are disbanded by the CIA. Right out of the gate, the action on show is fantastic, from the enthralling opening sequence of the plane, as we saw in the trailer and on the poster, to a spectacular battle right in the middle of an opera show.

There are more than enough action scenes to get the heart truly pounding, but through all of these impossibly plausible action scenes (clue is in the name) there is emotion that resonates throughout the story, similar to that of Ghost Protocol. Yes there is a lot of crazy and borderline ridiculous action going on, but the story packs heart in there. The audience cares about these characters, and feel on edge when they seem to be in extreme peril.

Cruise, as usual, brings his A game to this movie and shines brightly. Yet a key theme of these movies has been the team element. Cruise is awesome, yes but the team play an important role in the mission as well. Simon Pegg, returning as Benji Dunn, effortlessly provides the comic relief once more, whilst also maintaining a very serious tone as the gravity of the situation they are in is fully realised. Taking over the role of femme fatale from Paula Patton is Rebecca Ferguson, who provides great charm and sexiness, whilst also being a very dangerous badass in a dress! Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner are both back to complete the team line up, and together they all make a powerful ensemble.

Previous MI villains haven’t always been the greatest, and it is certainly the franchise’s Achilles Heel. No one has really topped Phil Seymour Hoffman’s turn in MI 3. However, we are here presented with a much strong villain, with some more clear motives. Yet the series has really lacked that strong, powerful villain that is so often present in for instance the James Bond franchise.  But take nothing away from Rogue Nation, it packs a lot of fun into its 130 minute running time, and with talk of a sixth film in the franchise in the works, Tom Cruise shows no signs of slowing down just yet.

 With a great ensemble cast, and some superb action sequences, nothing is truly impossible with this franchise


Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Inside Out (2015)

inside out
Image is property of Pixar Animation Studios

Inside Out – Film Review

Cast: Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan.

Director: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen

Synopsis: As a young girl is uprooted from Minnesota to San Francisco, her emotions, Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness all battle to try to keep her emotions in check

Review: ‘Do you ever look at someone and wonder “What is going on inside their head?”‘ asks a voice not long into the beginning of Pixar’s latest adventure. A question that many will have thought at some point in their lives when talking to friends or family if they’re doing something idiotic or daft. The human brain is a vast and complicated organ that makes us who we are. Throughout our own lives, we all go through different emotions, some we sometimes cannot explain. Yet rarely, if ever, has a film gone deep into the minds of someone and try to understand the maze that is the human brain. It’s little wonder that Pete Docter is one of the founding members of the Pixar Brain Trust, a group that has all powerful control of the slated movies in production, because this latest flick from Pixar is nothing short of absolute genius. 

The story focuses on that of 11 year old Riley, and the horror she goes through when her father gets a new job that forces the family to uproot for their cosy Minnesota abode to the uncomfortable new life in San Francisco. Her mind goes into overdrive and it falls to her five chief emotions: Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness to keep the ship that is Riley’s mind steady through this frightening storm. The emotions keep things in order in their shiny futuristic headquarters that have all of Riley’s stored memories that are represented by five islands that represent the key things that Riley holds dear in life. However when disaster strikes, and the emotions are separated in the maze of Riley’s mind, the emotions are in a race against time to sort everything out and make things right.

Pixar for many years has been the champion almost of witty, clever and just downright awesome animations in the last decade or two. You look back to the likes of the original Toy Story, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo among others. Stories that hit adults as well as kids in incredible ways that everyone in the family can enjoy, and they have come up trumps yet again with their latest creation. Emotions are what makes us all human, we all go through difficult or testing scenarios in our lives and our emotions can sometimes overpower us, or keep us in check. Thus everyone who watches this movie can relate to it, as everyone has had deep emotions about something, or someone. The concept behind how the emotions and memories work is absolutely superb in its originality and innovation, and what is also superb is the voice work. Leading the way is Amy Poheler as Joy, the lead emotion in Riley’s mind who fights to prevent the other emotions from taking control, Lewis Black brilliantly portrays Anger, Mindy Kaling is Disgust, Bill Hader as Fear and Phyllis Smith as Sadness who is starting to gain prominence as events in Riley’s life start taking turns for the worse, and the emotions are all battling for control of Riley’s mind. The voice work from everyone is outstanding, but by far the leading light (literally) is Joy who has been the mainstay emotion of Riley’s life and the one who keeps things ticking.

The movie could get very lost in the maze that represents Riley’s mind, but at its heart is a very simple story of the human brain and all of the emotions that go with it, and the power that those emotions can have. It is a very simple story that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. The animation is pristine and top quality, as is the norm with Pixar. The studio has triumphed many times down the years and has an almost flawless track recordand this is an excellent  addition to that roster of top quality animations that the studio has produced.  Do not be surprised this bagging Pete Docter another Oscar and Ronaldo Del Carmen his first when next year’s Oscars roll around because the rest of the animated movies this year will need to produce something truly special to top Inside Out.

Original, clever, emotive and an insightful adventure into the workings of the human brain. A movie that will touch the hearts of everyone who sees it.