Tag Archives: 2015

Review: EX MACHINA (2015)

When taking our seats in the cinema, we constantly search for things that identify us as uniquely human in film. In Alex Garland’s directorial debut, what makes us human and how we identify others as so is pushed to the ultimate limit.

In Ex Machina, the set-up is immediately gripping. A computer programmer named Caleb wins the chance to spend a week with the reclusive mega-rich CEO of the search-engine company he works for: ‘Bluebook’. A wordless first scene in which Caleb is informed via a computer pop-up (‘Grand Prize!’) sets the story in motion, and so he is whisked away to meet Nathan (Oscar Isaac) at his isolated forest retreat.

It soon becomes clear that Caleb is there for more than just beers and good times. Nathan is an unsettling presence, with a ‘red pill/blue pill’ opportunity for the impressionable Caleb; to meet his first A.I. creation. When the young programmer sees ‘Ava’ (Alicia Vikander) for the first time, we are complicit in the same voyeuristic emotions which drive our protagonist. The face, hands and feet of a beautiful woman are attached to a frame which is undoubtedly mechanical- a robot with human-like expression.  To Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), he has won the ultimate prize, to conduct a ‘Turing Test’ on Ava to discover if advanced Artificial Intelligence can pass for human. When the daily sessions begin, Caleb becomes increasingly enamoured with Ava, immediately impressed with her ability to hold interesting conversation and even more intrigued by her apparent flirtation.

Essentially a three-hander between Caleb, Nathan and Ava, Glesson, Isaac and especially Vikander are tremendous in their roles. With the help of entirely convincing computer graphics, Vikander whirs and glides eerily within every shot. Just as Caleb begins to disregard that Ava is a cyborg, we also begin to forget that Vikander is an actress playing a machine. Isaac’s Nathan is domineering, veering from ‘just one of the guys’ sociability to bullishness and anger. A disturbing scene in which Nathan spontaneously starts dancing to ‘Get Down Saturday Night’ is a frightening example of how the powerful can indulge whims at the expense of those increasingly under their influence. As the power-play between the three leads intensifies, Ex Machina works as a haunted house horror tale, with secrets behind every keycard-operated door. Garland’s clinical direction unveils secrets and creepy hidden-camera scenes which add alternate threads to the man versus creation B-movie plot.

Like Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), the female form is constructed and destroyed. Ava’s artificiality is undermined by her womanly curves and her clever use of her given sexuality. Just as Jack Torrence is swayed by the beautiful woman on Room 237, Caleb’s analytical head is turned. As the film reaches its conclusion, Ava’s man-made femininity is fatal. How very film noir.

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The Bradford International Film Summit! 4 March – 6 March 2015

GIRL ON FILM  is happy to hear that the first ever Bradford Film Summit will be taking place in March 2015.  It is a wonderful opportunity for industry professionals, filmmakers and local film fans to interact and attend some wonderful (and mainly FREE) events in the area! 

Here is just some of the information gathered on the Bradford City of Film website:

“From 4-6 March 2015, Bradford will host a three day international film summit.

The summit will stage a series of seminars, events and screenings to discuss film and TV production and education, set against the backdrop of this film-loving city.

Following the prestigious award of the United Nations Education Social and Cultural Organisation’s City of Film status in 2009, Bradford has used the transformational power of film to help drive social and economic change.”

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“Welcoming leading film industry professionals, academics, policy makers and members of the UNESCO Creative Cities, the summit will discuss innovative ways to expand the role of film in society for cultural and economic benefit.”

Here’s just some of the programme:

The Business of Film, 5th March 10.00 – 13.00: The Midland Hotel 

Women Making Movies, 5th March 12.00 – 13.30: The Studio, Alhambra.

The Power of Film in Education, 6th March 09.00 – 13.00: Michelle Sutton Lecture Theatre Bradford College.

Focus on Children’s Film and Television, 6th March 14.00 – 16.00: The Studio, Alhambra.

Film Hub North Roadshow, Friday 6th March 2015 from 11:00- 16:00: National Media Museum.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY – Guest Lecture and Lunch – ANNE MORRISON, Friday 6th March 2015 12.00 – 14.30: City Hall

Keep an eye on the Bradford City of Film website for further updates about the Summit and for details on how to get involved.

Book now for all events to avoid disappointment!

 

 

Review: TAKEN 3 (2015)

Barely out of the starting blocks of 2015, the third instalment of the multi-million geri-action Taken franchise sets the bar low for the rest of the year. Anyway, enough of the sporting metaphors, onto the bloodshed (or lack thereof)…

So, a catch-up. His daughter was taken in erm, Taken (2008). His ex-wife was taken in, you guessed it, Taken 2 (2012). In this final film, no such plot device is used. The only thing is that is ‘taken’ is your time and money…while Liam Neeson doesn’t even seem particular pleased to be in receipt of it.

Taken 3 sees Forest Whitaker plays the LA police detective on the trail of Neeson’s Bryan Mills after he is the only suspect in his ex-wife death played once again by Famke Janssen. Dialling in his performance (probably whilst thinking of his Oscar), his character is laden by clichés, from the haphazard box of doughnuts to the rubber-band snapping which is never explained. Even the eventual cat-and-mouse phone calls between these two acting heavyweights are dull and perfunctory. Mills is once again psychotically single-minded and still appears to completely misunderstand the needs of his daughter, much like in the previous films- I’m sure she really enjoyed those CIA spy laxatives. I suppose in that sense I should congratulate the continuity. The same cannot be said of the character played by Dougray Scott. You can’t recast a minor part of the previous outings and then expect us not to immediately single out a culprit.

Laughable, repetitive and cheap (though I’m sure the explosions cost a pretty penny), the film is cynically and lazily directed by Olivier Megaton and proves once again that just because Luc Besson is involved, it doesn’t mean it’s worth viewing.  Rated at 12A, Taken 3 is left with the bare bones of a tired story which reminds you just how good The Fugitive (1993) was and how bonkers but grimy the first film, Taken could be at times.  Now cinema-goers can happily watch Bryan Mills practically water-boarding another character with all the family. And yet because the film has been awkwardly edited to get the widest audience possible, your children won’t even get to realise how terrible it is to see the hero do that.

If you are going to see this film, play a game. I call it: Bagel Bingo. All will be revealed and trust me, it’ll make Taken 3 so much better.