Kam on Film: ‘Ex Machina,’ ‘Days Of Grace’ and What’s New In Theaters

—by , April 29, 2015

Ex Machina

A24

Rated R for profanity, violence, sexual references and graphic nudity

Computer Nerd Falls For Fembot With Free Will In Intriguing Sci-Fi Thriller

Caleb Smith (Domnhall Gleeson) works as a computer programmer for Blue Book, the most popular internet search engine in the world. As the winner of a staff lottery, he is summoned to the secluded, hilltop retreat of the company’s reclusive CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac).

Only after being brought there by corporate helicopter does the nerdy 26-year-old discover that his billionaire boss has a hidden agenda. As it turns out, the place is less a home than a high-tech facility dedicated to conducting research in artificial intelligence.

But before Caleb is allowed to stay, he’s forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement promising to keep secret what he’s about to witness. Nathan next explains that it’s an invention, an android he wants Turing tested, meaning examined for any software flaws revealing it as non-human.

He then introduces his curious guest to Ava (Alicia Vikander), the fetching fembot he wants studied over the course of a week. Caleb is surprised by her level of sophistication, since her brain is complex enough to discern the connotation of idioms like “breaking the ice.” He’s even more impressed by her non-deterministic nature, as she appears to have been successfully programmed with free will.

The plot thickens several days into the project when Ava senses Caleb has developed feelings for her. At that point, the attractive automaton quietly confides her fears about being expendable in the eyes of Nathan who wouldn’t have a second thought about wiping her memory banks clean once she’s no longer considered state-of-the-art. After all, that’s what he’s done to each of her mothballed predecessors in his relentless quest to build a better cyborg.

Where does Caleb’s loyalty lie? With the callous employer he suddenly sees as a heartless tinkerer? Or with the flesh-covered machine exhibiting a full range of emotions, including a seductive vulnerability? That is the dilemma confronting the anguished protagonist in Ex Machina, an intriguing sci-fi adventure marking the splendid directorial debut of Alex Garland.

Best known as the scriptwriter of 28 Days Later, the gifted Brit more than proves his mettle as a filmmaker, here, with a thought-provoking thriller guaranteed to keep you enthralled while reassessing the meaning of consciousness.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 108 minutes

 

 

Days Of Grace

Cinema Libre Studio

Unrated

Mexican Drug War Saga Features Kidnapping, Corruption And Violence

Days Of Grace is the title of Arthur Ashe’s moving memoir about his remarkable tennis career as well as his stoic battle with AIDS after receiving a contaminated blood transfusion. By contrast, Days Of Grace, the movie, is a gruesome gansta’ saga set in Mexico City.

The intricately-plotted crime thriller takes place in 2002, 2006 and 2010 during the weeks when the World Cup is being played. Apparently, that’s a great time to break the law, since both citizens and the police are so focused on the games that they unwittingly lower their guard.

The film is constructed as a trio of discrete storylines, although all paint Mexico as a godforsaken environ run by mobsters and crooked cops. Because they unfold simultaneously instead of chronologically, it’s a little difficult to keep the casts of characters straight, especially if you don’t speak Spanish and need to read the subtitles.

One thread revolves around the frustrations encountered by a socialite (Dolores Heredia) desperate to free her husband (Juan Carlos Remolina) who’s been abducted for a $2 million ransom. Apparently there’s a lot of that going around south of the border.

Trouble is the detectives handling the case are so corrupt she’s even more afraid of them than the kidnappers. A second thread focuses on another kidnapped businessman’s (Carlos Bardem) ordeal while the third chronicles the friendship forged between an honest cop (Tenoch Huerta) and the at-risk nine-year-old (Jose Alberto Solorzano) he’s mentoring with tough love.

Written and directed by Everardo Valerio Gout, Days Of Grace features gratuitous violence, graphic vivisection and slo-mo displays of senseless slaughter reminiscent of such masters of the genre as John Woo and Sam Peckinpah. If lingering looks at torture gets your juices going, this indulgence of bloodlust is probably right up your alley.

The best Mexican splatterfest since Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

In Spanish and English with subtitles

Running time: 121 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening May 1, 2015

 

Avengers: Age Of Ultron (PG-13 for suggestive comments and intense violence, action and scenes of destruction) 11th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise finds Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) joining forces to prevent a diabolical villain with a God complex (James Spader) from wiping humanity off the face of the planet. With Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen, Idris Elba, Hayley Atwell, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Anthony Mackie and Linda Cardellini.

 

Far From The Madding Crowd (PG-13 for violence and some sexuality) Third screen adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel, set in Victorian England, revolving around a trio of suitors, a shepherd (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sergeant (Tom Sturridge) and a wealthy bachelor (Michael Sheen), vying for the affections of a fetching, headstrong farmer (Carey Mulligan). With Juno Temple, Jessica Barden and Eloise Oliver.

 

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared (R for profanity and violence) Screen adaptation of Jonas Jonasson’s novel of the same name about a frisky geezer (Robert Gustafsson) who celebrates his 100th birthday by making a break from his retirement home to embark on a daring adventure of a lifetime. With Iwar Wiklander, Mia Skaringer and David Wiberg. (In Swedish, Spanish, Russian German, English and French)

 

Any Day (Unrated) Romance drama about a just-paroled murderer (Sean Bean) in search of redemption who moves in with his sister (Kate Walsh), gets a job at a pizzeria and starts dating a woman (Eva Longoria) he meets in a grocery store. Cast includes Tom Arnold, Shane Black and Sonya Eddy.

 

Cas & Dylan (Unrated) Unlikely-buddies dramedy about a suicidal, senior citizen with a brain tumor (Richard Dreyfuss) who embarks on a cross-country road trip with the free-spirited, 22-year-old girlfriend (Tatiana Maslany) of a guy (Christopher Cordell) he accidentally ran over. With Aaron Poole, Jayne Eastwood and Corinne Conley.

 

Gerontophilia (Unrated) Romantic comedy about love which blossoms between a teenaged summer intern (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) and one of the residents (Walter Borden) in the old folks home where he works as an orderly. Featuring Katie Boland, Yardly Kavanagh and Shawn Campbell. (In English and French with subtitles)

 

Marie’s Story (Unrated) Fact-based biopic, set in 19th century France, about a neglected, deaf and blind girl (Ariana Rivoire) who realized her potential with the help of the Catholic nun (Isabelle Carre) who started teaching her how to communicate for the first time at the age of 14. With Gilles Treton, Brigitte Catillon and Noemie Churlet. (In French and sign language with subtitles)

 

Maya The Bee Movie (G) Animated adventure about a lowly drone with a big heart (Coco Jack Gillies) who leads the search party after the Queen bee’s (Miriam Margolyes) royal jelly is stolen. Voice cast includes Jacki Weaver, Noah Taylor and Nina Hagen.

 

Ride (R for profanity and drug use) Helen Hunt wrote, directed and stars in this California dreaming dramedy as a concerned mom who quits her job as an editor at the New Yorker to be with her son (Brenton Thwaites) in L.A. after he drops out of college to surf while finding himself. Supporting cast includes Luke Wilson, Richard Kind and Robert Knepper.

 

Welcome To Me (R for sexuality, profanity, graphic nudity and brief drug use) Quirky character study about a lottery winner suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (Kristen Wiig) who stops taking her meds and starts hosting her own TV talk show. With Linda Cardellini, James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Loretta Devine and Jennifer Jason Leigh.


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