Tom Basham

Ex Machina

In This Just OUT on May 3, 2015 at 7:46 pm

ExMachina-PosterI have just seen “Ex Machina” and now I am scared to death of my microwave. Look, she started it, with all her custom popcorn settings and automatically changing the clock for daylight savings time.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson from “About Time”) is a delightful young man who wins the ultimate prize: a week with the eccentric owner of Blueprint, the top search engine in the world. When he finally gets to the remote subterranean compound and meets Nathan (Oscar Isaac from “Inside Llewyn Davis“), he is a little freaked out. Instead of a week of geek talk and just hanging out, Nathan wants him to conduct the Turing Test on his new Artificial Intelligent robot. This is where Caleb gets to ask it lots of questions and see if he can tell if it’s a machine or just like the girls he meets on Long Island.

Caleb is a brilliant programmer himself, and when he first meets Ava (Alicia Vikander from “Son of a Gun”) he tries to break down her response algorithms. This is something I usually try on the third date. Caleb is a nerd with just the right mix of boyish charm and computer aptitude to match wits with both Nathan and Ava, but soon he has to decide which one to trust. And he must figure out who and what is really being tested.

I was impressed by writer/director Alex Garland (“Sunshine”) and how he elevated this classic sci-fi setup while keeping some of the familiar touchstones. The connection to “Blade Runner” is obvious and perfectly updated, as Caleb knows Ava is a machine from the beginning. This reminded me most of the old Star Trek episode “Mudd’s Women,” which first appeared in 1966. While keeping the sex appeal of that episode, Garland has chosen to humanize the robot experience in a very simple and unique way. In then end, we are amazed and horrified at the same time – the way I used to be around the fourth date.

I found the movie to be quite intriguing and enjoyable. While there were some cool special effects, they only served the character and servo-driven drama. What some movies try to do with hundreds of people and robots on a massive scale, this movie did with just a few “people” in a few rooms. For that, I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. Now I want to dig out my old Erector set and get to work.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 https://bashmovies.wordpress.com

The Age of Adaline

In This Just OUT on April 25, 2015 at 8:35 am

Adaline-Poster“The Age of Adaline” is interesting, but then age is just a number.  It doesn’t matter how old you are if you haven’t lived or loved, even if you are a looker.

Adaline (Blake Lively from “Savages”) is a normal gal born in 1908 San Francisco. She falls in love, gets married, has a daughter, and then falls in a river at 29 and stops aging. This is not like Cher, as Adaline’s body undergoes some kind of transformation the movie wastes 15 minutes on.  By the time Adaline’s driver’s license says she is 45 and she looks younger than her 29, the wrong people start to take interest.

To avoid being dissected or labeled a circus freak, she says goodbye to her daughter and changes her name and moves into obscurity. She stays on the move for decades and dodges attachments, including love and anything resembling a normal life.

Adaline seems way too sad for someone who is over 100 and still looks like a million bucks. The only thing sadder is the narrator, who chimes in every 20 minutes to state the obvious and let us know why we should care. This kind of thing bothers me whether it comes from the screen or the schmuck in the row behind me.

She is about to move again when she meets Elis (Michiel Huisman from “World War Z”), who loves all things historical, including her. He recites poetry and makes her laugh, which worked for me when I met my wife 34 years ago. He thinks she is hiding something, since most women are. She is also hiding how much she loves him along with  being around the last time the Cubs won the World Series.

So many things fit so perfectly together here that you could see the design of the story way out in front of the character-driven experience. When I see the pitter-patter of things looking too pat, I feel pitiful. This is the Lifetime-style movie it seems it would be. Nothing in the story or direction elevates the piece to the promise of magic the movie promotes.

The leads are amazing, and they kept me looking at the screen instead of my watch, and for that reason I will give this movie 3 stars out 5. Next time when someone is stuck in time, just show it on Lifetime.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 https://bashmovies.wordpress.com

Unfriended

In This Just OUT on April 18, 2015 at 2:51 pm

unfriended-posterThere are worse things than being “Unfriended” – like seeing the movie named for the same Facebook-coined term. Not everything online is as much fun as a Minion Meme.

Blaire (Shelley Hennig from “Ouija“) loves to Skype with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm in his feature film debut). They get a little playful until three of their friends show up in the same Skype session. It’s all fun and games until they notice someone else is in on the group chat. The mystery messenger is using the profile of Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman from “Remembering Phil”), a girl who committed suicide a year ago after a nasty round of trashing by cyber-bullies. Laura only communicates by instant message, while the others are on camera with mics. She threatens to kill anybody who tries to leave the session, which at first they think is a joke.

The movie started with Blaire’s laptop screen covering the entire movie screen. After about five minutes in, I remembered how boring it is watching someone’s computer screen, and I wondered how long this could go on. Eventually I succumbed to the horror in knowing we were never going to see anything but Blaire’s computer screen.  Sure there were others coming and going in their little Skype boxes – but we didn’t even cut to their screens – we stayed on her screen for the entire movie.

I know lots of people watch a movie on their computer, and I have done it a few times, but I have never gone to a theater and watched a whole movie on the big screen on a computer screen. At 30 minutes in I almost walked out. Then I realized I might just be old and not able to see this gimmick as a nouveau-web-world-cinema-masterpiece. So I hung on to the end, if for no other reason than to let my friends know if this was something they should “like.”

Director Levan Gabriadze (“Lucky Trouble”) deserves some credit for only using Skype to expose the modern internet experience of today’s virtual relationships and how they creep into the real world. Watching these kids try to defy the digital demon of death in a web world of their own lies was a little bit interesting.

Being boxed into the little screen on the big screen, you sensed how they were trapped in their typing teasing temples of temptation. For that reason, I must give this movie 2 1/2 stars out of 5. Just see it on the little screen, and don’t go to a theater to watch a movie on a computer.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 https://bashmovies.wordpress.com

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