Thursday, June 25, 2015

I Saw This!! Rewatch Fever

I Saw This (double exclamation point) is our all-too regular feature wherein Graig or David attempt to write about a bunch of movies they watched some time ago and meant to write about but just never got around to doing so. Now they they have to strain to say anything meaningful lest they just not say anything at all. And they can't do that, can they?

See there's the salient point. How can I go on a hiatus when I cannot even not say something about movies that have already somewhat faded from memory & impression.

Serenity, 2005, Joss Whedon -- blu-ray
Titan AE, 2000, Don Bluth -- Netflix
Watchmen, 2009, Zack Snyder -- Netflix

When deep in the doldrums I reach for The Shelf, the shelf containing spaceships and superheroes, elves and meteors crushing skyscrapers. Something I know I will like resets me, settles me and allows me to dash the demons for a short time.

Kent, I also say this is my perfect kind of space opera. Serenity opens like all the Star Wars movies -- with a spaceship, a quick pan over the hull and in through the window, to exchange drama for a giggle, as a part breaks off Mal's boat. We are back, back amongst friends, in the comfy confines that protect us from dangerous, unfriendly space. It doesn't hurt there are plenty of guns to help protect us.

Serenity is not just a good movie because it gave us our favourite show back on the big screen. Its just a good movie that expands cherished rapscallions into epic heroes. They defeat the big bad guys, redeem a monster and expose the greatest monsters (the government) for who they really are. Big ideas. Grand ideals.

And yet, its the heart that matters the most for me. Kaylee finally gets together with Simon, River finally clears the cobwebs out of her head and Mal gets to see Inara again, and be a real hero to her. But this is Joss Whedon, so of course, he also has to tear our hearts out. Heroes never prevail without a loss, a great loss. I always shed a tear, not just for the lost leaf on the wind but the pain Simon feels when Kaylee goes down, or the utter anguish suffered by lost little River when she thinks she might lose her brother.

I love this movie.

Remember Don Bluth? Traditional animator of The Secret of NIMH and An American Tale? He was the ruler of animation before Pixar introduced toys with feelings. Titan AE was his last attempt to play in that sandbox, but rather than go for kids, he gave something to the kids that grew up on his stories. It was a space opera that begins with tragedy -- the end of the planet Earth and an exodus into deep space. It is there, we are a lost dying race, hurtling towards extinction cared little by the rest of the intelligent species. It ends with a new beginning.

While I love this movie, I think he tried too hard to make it "cool". There were lopsided rock songs, and a jerk of a main hero voiced not very well by Matt Damon. But it was in space, with nasty CGI enhanced space alien villains, so I loved it. I still do.

Space Jerk does become a hero, and gets the girl and defeats the evil aliens. Unfortunately it requires their extinction. Not sure of that moral.

Now, this was from Netflix, technically not The Shelf, but I have it on DVD so it still counts.

Not from The Shelf at all, nor containing spaceships, but tucked into this genre rewatch binge was Watchmen. The original graphic novel is still one of my favourites. It's my favourite retelling of how superheroes are supposed to be. It's my favourite dark & gritty superhero tale. It's my favourite collection of anti-heroes and ultraviolence. And it was the first proper graphic novel I read, as I missed the monthlies, and I am still convinced it is best read as one big thing.

The movie is not the comic, but it does capture some of the feel. The Comedian is still a misogynistic ass, who perverts the great American ideal. Dr. Manhattan is still a big swinging (and blue) dick who becomes so far removed from humanity, he has to leave. And Rorschach is still a growling, sociopathic narrator (probably literally does it in his own head) played incredibly by my instant favourite character actor, Jackie Earle Haley.

The movie requires a different ending from the comic, dispensing with giant space alien hentai tentacle horror for a more grounded fear of men who would be gods. While I didn't care much for the change, it does fit today. Science replacing God is a common bogeyman these days. Just today, I saw the newest street hawking bible beaters ask, "Has The Bible Been Replaced By Science?"  Yes, yes it has. And no it hasn't. They have always served different purposes. Dr. Manhattan is to be the next step of Us, but make him the villain feared by all nations & people, and the bogeyman serves a purpose. Some say that is why the CIA invented Al Qaeda.

The movie still looks good, the Zack Snyder motif of animated backgrounds supplemented by real actors. It has more practical props than 300 but as it plays out in an alternate reality, and compressed timelines not our own, I always felt the other worldliness fit this movie. I may not buy it, but I will always appreciate Netflix having it available.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

3 Short Paragraphs: Project Almanac

2015, Dean Israelite -- download

I was this close to calling it quits here, or at least an extended hiatus. Things are just not coming together, not expanding, not evolving. Like much in my life, things stagnate and I don't know how to grow them. This blog has been around since 2011, and by now I hoped I would get deeper into the proper Movie Review. Instead, I have embraced the 3-paragraphs (never short) and all too often, struggle to say anything meaningful then. But something occurred to me today. If I admit to not having enough focus and ambition to properly write fiction, but love the fruck out my shorty-short-short fiction (also called flash fiction by proper writers), why can't I focus on that for here? Not full reviews, just snippets or vignettes from a "proper" review? Not the entire plot and 3 act structure, just a window into my head. Why not?

I first saw reference to this when a trailer for Welcome to Yesterday appeared. It has had three names. That is not a good sign. And again, its apparent. I wish I had not become so sensitive to the meddling of studio executives, or more so, I wish that directors were more skilled at dealing with such.

I love time travel movies (as said before, Source Code) especially when they deal with the ramifications. But they all too often ignore the fun you can have. This movie, about teens who find the blueprints for a time machine and build it (shaddup, one kid is going to MIT; that's enough right?) only to find out everything is not lottery winning and Lollapalooza on the cheap. There are issues in changing time -- affect one thing, and other things collapse. A affects B affects C and so on. And when you go back and try and fix things, it only ever gets worse. That is a trope of time travel movies, one that skips the multiple timelines idea, and focuses on a single one fucked up by stupid kids.

Project Almanac works on many levels. For a teen movie, the wish fulfillment is very important. Girls, parties and fast red cars are important. Going to a rock festival and making sure the perfect moment happens between you and the girl of your dreams; that is grand. But the summer horror movie ramifications were mostly side lined. There should have been more impact, more weight once they knew what they were doing. Smart Kid, MIT Kid, should have never listened with his loins. And there was a missing dad, whose death was barely explained, so I almost thought there was going to be I'll Follow You Down aspect that was explored. Nope. Skipped over, so much lost, so many opportunities given over to found footage and young kids in lust.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

3 Short Paragraphs: Anna

2013, Jorge Dorado -- Netflix

OK, let's dig back into the archives, something I saw weeks ago and has pretty much faded from my mind. I don't have enough to do a I Saw This but I am sure we can babble on about this one for three paragraphs. Anna or Mindscape stars Mark Strong, and is set 20 minutes into the future when there exists a type of detective psychologist that can delve into people's memories. I honestly was never sure why they existed but I guess they are hired out to police forces and to people who just need to remember something. It seemed like a rather more arcane organization than was warranted for helping someone find their keys.

Anna is the current client, the daughter of a wealthy SOB, who needs them to determine if his daughter is... normal. She suffered some trauma, but has always been different. They need to understand how different -- is she a sociopath or did something happen to her in the deep past to make her this way. Immediately, we realize Anna is not as she presents; she is manipulative, deceiving and seductive. She draws John (Strong) into her fabricated / altered memories, manipulating him towards her own ends. By the time he realizes as much, it is too late.

This was an OK movie, a friday night renter that will never be thought about again. If I was younger, less exposed, I would have enjoyed the different take Dorado takes on the movie, as a Spanish director doing an english movie. Alas, that doesn't satisfy me anymore, nor does the dabbling in genre plots nor twists at the end. This was a capable movie, but not very impressive. The repeated themes and visual cues are not mysterious, just familiar. I would have been more interested in John had been manipulating her all along, as he was supposed to be the best at what he does, but honestly, if you want to see a movie about diving into people's minds, stick to Inception.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

3+1 Short Paragraphs: San Andreas

2015, Brad Peyton (Republic of Doyle) -- cinema

Friday night, all by myself, I am alone in the theatre. Then a couple of teenage girls come and keep a good distance from the creepy old man seeing a movie by himself. I like seeing movies by myself, especially the ones I know are not going to be very good. I love disaster movies, especially with all the money of Hollywood behind them. But really, I do wish they would have provided a bit more of that money to flesh out the characters. The heart of any disaster movie is caring what is going to happen to the people onscreen.

No, you should expect a ton of characterization when seeing a movie about an epic earthquake(s), but, while I am not dissing The Rock, it is kind of ironic that the most amount of acting comes from Dwayne Johnson, known mostly for gleefully flexing his muscles, and Alexandra Daddario, known mostly for her beautiful, bright blue eyes and, well let's be honest here, her boobs.  Seriously, Google Image Search her and the top 3 will contain a certain scene from True Detective. And these two play the extreme range of any character in the entire movie.

San Andreas is about the fault, that mostly unseen crack between the Pacific tectonic plate and the North American one. It shifts, it moves and all of California shakes. The movie is about the Big One, the shifting of the crack from LA up to San Francisco, causing the biggest earthquakes in history. Paul Giamatti, the scientist, is desperate to convince people it's going to happen. And it does. That's his role, talk science stuff and look concerned. Meanwhile, rescue ranger Johnson abandons his post to pluck his wife off a tower, to fly to San Fran to find his daughter. He has already lost one daughter, years earlier, and he will not lose another! Watch Dwayne emote this grief, by staring into space not a trace of it crossing his face! The pain! Daddario is said plucky daughter, having been abandoned by mother's jerk BF Ioan Gruffudd (don't worry, he gets splatted soon enough), leads a pair of british guys to higher ground, awaiting her father's rescue. She is practical, tough and who could say no to those blue eyes. Definitely not fate, because, as expected Dwayne and his wife just randomly run into her, even in the shambles that San Francisco has become. Insert terrible Michael Bay style rah rah, unfurling flags, we will rebuild ending.

You cannot help but mock these movies. When you think about them, they fail on so many aspects. Logic, character, plot always fail. But what draws you in is the ... death & destruction. Yeesh, bleak enough? What should draw you in is the survival against tough odds. The effects do look damn good, and it is a bonus point, that most is background material as we focus on getting our main characters from point A to point B. I enjoyed the movie a lot, but I doubt it will end up on my shelf next to 2012 and Deep Impact.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

2015, George Miller (Mad Max, Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet) -- cinema

OK, so now I understand why the MRA (men's right activists) / Red Pill subsets of trolls was so upset about this movie. Max (Tom Hardy) is the supporting character. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is the main character. In fact, in my head-canon, as Max never reveals his name until the very end of the movie, I envisioned all the marketing of this movie didn't reveal it was a Mad Max movie at all. We were all just thrilled to see a new post-apocalyptic movie starring Charlize. And as we watched trailer after trailer, we roared on the Internet as to how it was ripping off Mad Max: The Road Warrior. Then we get the reveal and all grin to ourselves.

Alas, in the real world, they have to bank on past success.

But it was not just Furiosa. Possibly the "coolest" (most effective, stylish and memorable) characters in the movie are a bunch of gun toting, motorcycle riding, old ladies, the Many Mothers. Leathery skinned, leather wearing and crack shots, these ladies set a counterpoint to the slaves that the first act of the movie is trying to "save". The rest of the characters are all foolhardy men running into bullets and front bumpers as they try and do what their groins (or their boss's groins) are telling them to do. They are driven (pun intended), the women are motivated.

But even if you put that win aside, this is still an incredible movie

The movie starts with Max standing beside his car monologuing. He is cracked, broken and running from the bad guys, as per usual. They easily take him down, shred his car and wrap him in chains and tattoos. Universal donor? This mountain fortress, an absolute marvel of visual presentation, runs on water and blood. Seriously, this whole world we are dropped into is excruciatingly beautiful looking, if po-ap props are beautiful to you. This is fantastical, gears and chains and steering wheels and fancy doodads decorating gear shifters. Costuming harkens back to the greatest era of po-ap, the late 80s, with white painted Warboys (I dare you to not sing Wild Boys by Duran Duran in your head), mud caked peasants (who apparently wear their homes on their backs) and leather bound muscle heads everywhere. Max is tossed into this world with one idea - escape. He just reacts, runs and reacts some more.

Max spends a good deal of the movie not-escaped, in restraints, unavoidably dragged into the plot of the movie. Imperator Furiosa, the general of Immortan Joe's army, has escaped with his wives. In a world of starving, mutating, inbred cretins, Joe's wives are supermodels, clad in white gauze and teeth laden chastity belts. Furiosa has taken them, finally breaking her own personal chains and is leading the girls to the Green Place. And that is it, one big chase scene.  Furiosa coops Max into her quest by convincing him that it matters.

Now, you have seen the trailers, so the first thing I asked Kent (who saw it before I did), was whether the movie was as super saturated as the trailers. It could have been a marketing ploy. But no, even dulled down by non-3D, it was bright ochre, scorching white and brown tones everywhere. It was just gorgeous, wide pans of horizons devoid of anything but thundering vehicles. And all those practical effects! Big, nasty cars modded like Ed Roth hot rod pictures! A massive vehicle stacked high with speakers and a leatherboy strapped into a harness playing guitar! White painted warboys spraying their mouths with chrome paint, before jumping to their "heroic" deaths and everlasting glory in Valhalla! Take these actual, physical examples of the world and tie them to a fantastically depicted world, and it was just breath taking.

Good movie.  #HappySigh

Shameful that so many of the movie's posters don't bring Theron to the forefront.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

3 Short Paragraphs: Wild

2014,  Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) -- download

I have had a recurring fantasy over the last few years, which has been dashed by my bad feet. I was going to pack a small bag, shove it full of some clothes and tons of compact food, and walk home. Home, Cape Breton, home. Walk from Toronto to Sydney, Nova Scotia. It would take planning, and some money and time. Its about walking away from all the stresses of adulting, and just narrowly focusing on something for a certain amount of time. I didn't consider how I would get back. Also, a sense of accomplishment when so much of my life has been about avoiding that.

In Wild Cheryl Strayed has pretty much messed up her life. Drugs & infidelity are the primary things. She cannot cope. She hasn't been able to cope since her mother died. So, she plans to walk the Pacific Crest Trail, a few months walk along trails from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada. She needs to walk away from the life she has given herself, into... well, she has no clue. She just needs to walk.

The movie is as much in her head, as it is on the trail. Oh, we get the usual trials of a new hiker -- badly fitting boots, wrong fuel for a camp stove, the nervousness of being alone, out there. But most of the time, Cheryl is flashing back. You know those times when your memories come rushing back, stopping you in your tracks, leaving back in those moments? That. She remembers her mom, abused and always acting positive. She escapes the abuser, and goes back to school. But it's hard, so very hard to raise two kids, go to school and work. Yet she keeps alive, happy... because, she has to. If she doesn't stay happy, what else does she have but her misery? When she dies of cancer, Cheryl is not only left alone with her brother but alone with herself. And she spirals downward, to the bottom. This walk is to pull herself out of that, to be somewhere, someone else when she finishes. It is good she is honest and not sure what or who that will be. But changing sometimes takes small steps, or thousands of them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

3 Short Paragraphs: Stretch

2014, Joe Carnahan (The Grey) -- download

Stretch is a movie about failed lives. Dashed dreams. And hope. That niggling, annoying voice in the back of your head, hope. Our main character, Stretch, starts the movie fairytale like, crashing headlong into the woman he falls in love with, dumping his addictions to drugs & gambling, only to be dumped by her one year later. He had done it, abandoned his failings, was working to be a better man. But life even likes to kick you when you are going up. So now Stretch drives a stretch limo, badly and without the respect of his boss, like all Hollywood limo drivers. His idol, the perfect limo driver who always knew what the customer wanted, put a bullet in his head not so long ago, so now Stretch gets to drive around with the hallucination come ghost of his fallen idol. Also, Stretch is already a failed actor. He's a stereotype who's aware he is a stereotype.

Stretch still wants to do better, despite the teeth kicking. He owes a bit more money, and has to get it soon, because the last little bit of his debt is now owned by a strong arm who will probably hurt him. Y'know, new owners need to make their name. So he takes on the white whale -- a crazy eXtreme business mogul named Karos -- bearded, crazy and unexpectedly actual height Chris Pine. And there are cops and crooks and car chases and gang banger wannabes, and the crazy limo competition, wrestlers-driving-rolls royces.

The movie harkens back to that spate of indie movies that emerged back in the late 90s and 2000s, in response to, well, better done indie movies. They may have not been as good as their predecessors, but they had heart. I often compare movies to said period, because it was that point in my movie watching eras where I started noticing differences in tones and expectation. Movies didn't have to be grand scale blockbusters to be good. This one is not as good as something like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is the perfect indie, LA based, violence & comedy romp, but it is a damn fine example.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

3 Short Paragraphs: Song of the Sea

2014, Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells) -- download

Despite the popularity of Frozen I think the heyday of animated features has come and gone. Moreso, when you consider non-3D animations. The Pixar and Disney films will continue to come out, but traditionally animated films will forever be relegated to niches. I think it was about a decade ago with The Triplets of Belleville and Howl's Moving Castle and Persepolis that traditional animation almost felt like it was returning, at least for a more mature audience. The problem is that animation will always be seen as a kid's thing. Cartoons are not for adults. Still, I hope work continues on for passionate works like this one.

Song of the Sea is definitely for kids and adults. It is about a child born of a mythical relationship with a selkie and how her half-brother has to overcome his rivalry to rescue her, and in turn, save the mythical world from extinction. Ben and his sister Saoirse live on an island with a lighthouse on the west coast of Ireland. When Saoirse was born, their mother had to run, and Ben has resented his sister since. When forced to the mainland, to live with their grandmother, Ben discovers a pair of fae living in a fairy mound in the centre of town. And with them, he finds a destiny beholden to his sister. He must be her heroic protector against the evil witch Macha.

The movie is astoundingly beautiful. It is simply animated, no, not simple -- less complicated. The visuals are grand geometric shapes punctuated by lush watercolor backgrounds. Think of the best painterly children's books you may have read and wave them up to the screen. The story telling is, well, storyteller-y; the rhythms and beats are in the tradition of heroic myths & legends. The music, celtic and haunting, is introduced with Yeats, "Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild with a faery, hand in hand, for the world's more full of weeping than you can understand." This is the mood, warm and inviting.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

One Episode: Mr. Robot, Stitchers & Supergirl

One Episode is the segment where we edit the opening italicized paragraph, and talk about shows we have watched one episode of (and sometimes more, and sometimes less). We would rather watch less volume and more quality, but that involves wading through the meh to get to the good stuff. 

Mr Robot -- USA
Stitchers -- ABC Family
Supergirl -- CBS

Not that I need anything more in my queue to watch (or maybe I do; everything is currently ending), but I always like premieres. This round we have a show about hackers, a show about superheroic brain hacking and a show about a superhero in a short skirt.

Mr Robot was fantastic. If you watch a cyber show like CSI:Cyber or Scorpion your head might explode from the inaccurate and fictionalized accounts of computing. Well, if you know anything about computing. If you don't, then you might just be terrified as to what hackers can do. Or thrilled Which, I suppose, is the point. Anywayz! Mr Robot depicts a much more grounded, but probably not much more realistic, view of computers and hacking. It just feels right. They mention Linux flavours.

Elliot is kind of messed up. He is young, depressed and suffers from social issues. Actually, he is not that messed up, for he interacts with his friends quite well, his coworkers (as long as they don't touch him) but he just doesn't do well in large crowds. If that was the definition of messed up, me and many people I know would be very messed up. Shut up, you. Anywayz, by the show's standards he really is. He is also rather misanthropic, being able to see the weakness in everyone. And he's a great hacker, so he often manipulates that weakness. Sometimes to his own advantage, but often he takes on a white knight approach and protects others he cares for.

The show felt British. The color tones, the angles and the way they filled space felt like like a BBC or Channel 4 show. I have said that before, but different production styles are apparent around the world. Hell, even the production styles between US network television and cable is apparent. Anywayz, felt British.

Elliot is being dragged into a conspiracy, sort of Fight Club-style, to bring down the debt-owning financial institutes. Mr Robot is weirdo, pseudo-homeless Christian Slater, who may or may not be just a hallucination of Elliot's. And if not hallucinating, the definitely Elliot is being manipulated by other socially dangerous hackers. And men in black ARE following him.

Very good first episode. Rami Malek as Elliot is brilliant, with his slightly off eyes and dark, low voice putting across the socially aware, and socially angry introvert quite well.

And then we have Stitchers on ABC Family. Before you go, "Well, there you are, its on Family!" remember that the utter fantabulous The Middleman came from ABC Family. This is far below fantabulous. It wants to be like Scorpion in introducing a rather far-end-of-spectrum smart but weird person. This time, she has Temporal Dysplasia, or, well, she has no concept of the passing of time. What does that mean? The show doesn't really know, but it's a buzzword that they can have her spout from time to time to explain why she can do miraculous things and is so very very odd.

With her magic power, she is stolen by a secret secret agency to hack into other people's memories, to stitch (*ahem*) together a story and prevent something .... further from happening? I don't know, the first episode is about finding two more bombs by looking at the last few hours of memories of the bomber who killed himself. I am not sure how this top secret hacking trick will apply in future episodes, nor will I find out.

The show is filled to the brim with dialogue, rather well written dialogue, if you ignore the fact it often contributes little to the scene or story. I never heard of a teleplay needing an editor, but, well here you go.

Very terrible first episode.

And you may or may not have already seen Supergirl. These days, when you hear about a leak, you are probably hearing more about a purposely leaked show. Supergirl was likely leaked to generate some early buzz and anticipation for the series that will begin on CBS much later on this fall. It probably also allows them to tweak/edit the show to some degree based on upon reaction.

I kind of liked it, which is odd, considering I haven't bought into any of the DC shows. Arrow, The Flash and Gotham are only of so much interest to me. The last one at least gets downloads from me; but mainly for Jim Gordon, who I really enjoy for his GI Joe aspect of the character, and the weird out-of-time feel to the show.

Supergirl starts off with a weird sort of cameo to both the previous Supergirl and Lois & Clark, with cameos from Dean Cain and Helen Slater, as her adoptive parents. It is this smile & nod that sets the lighter tone to the series. And that is slammed into us by having Kara Zor-El nee Kara Danvers playing Anne Hathaway's character from The Devil Wears Prada. Is that enough of an stylistic character choice to be a trope yet? Basically, Kara works for a media mogul who is utterly full of herself and desperate to have the same ratings as The Daily Planet, but without the easy catch of a Superman.  Kara gets her coffee and is verbally abused.

But nervous, perky desperate to approve Kara also knows who her cousin is, and what he has been doing. And she wants some of that. Teenage, anxiety ridden but really really wants to be beside her cousin instead of in his shadow. The boot in the right direction comes in the crashing of her adopted sister's plane, and Kara's up up and away rescue of the plane. Boing, enter one more flying superhero, one that Kara's boss can take credit for the image of.

Its light. I said that already, but its nice and light. Oh, there will be badguys of the week, with criminals from the Phantom Zone, when she bumped through their micro-dimension in her spaceship, showing up from time to time. As for it entering into the same universe as the other two, I doubt it, for this one was very focused on mentioning her cousin, and the other two seem unaware of a flying superhero on the east coast.

We shall have to wait to see if I will continue to watch it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


2015, Alex Garland (writer Sunshine, Dredd, 28 Days Later) -- cinema

This is Alex Garland's directorial debut. His writing, both novel and screenplay are always creative and like to stretch an idea. Ex-Machina touches on every trope previously explored about AIs, intelligent robots and their creators. But Garland puts an intensely thoughtful color to his rendition.

First up, Ex-Machina is about Nathan, a man who wants beautiful things. He is mega-ultra-rich, the founder of a Google Microsoft Apple analog that make a search engine (and mobile phone, PC, technology, etc.) called Bluebook. He owns a house way past the middle of nowhere, a beautifully constructed monstrosity that is self-reliant, internally powered and completely off the grid. Well, there is no grid. Not only does it blend well into the temperate environment, it IS part of the environment for there are no roads, no way to get to the house but by helicopter that lands hundreds of yards away in a flower filled field. All the surrounding land, mountains, glaciers and primeval forest are his. He also makes beautiful dolls.

Don't get me wrong. The architecture here is incredible, that combination of modern concrete construction and green living. Every window looks out onto untouched, overgrown fully natural forest. There is not even a proper walkway to  the front door. It really is away from it all. And yet, still has all the amenities a richy rich guy needs.

Caleb wins a contest. He gets to meet Nathan. But Caleb doesn't know that Nathan has ulterior motives, to use the smarts that assisted Caleb in winning the contest, to test out Nathan's new AI. They are employer, employee, so its OK if Nathan lords a bit over Caleb. But we still get the impression that Nathan is a bit of an asshole. But we might forgive, for we also get the feeling he is one of the so unbelievably intelligent people that he is above us to a degree. You only forgive that, if you value that. Caleb does. Nathan relies on it.

Nathan's new AI is housed inside a beautiful doll. Ava, a rather delicate, mostly transparent but sensuously moving robot played by delicate flower Alicia Vikander, is an innocent creature that is nervous around Caleb, curious but cautious. After all, Caleb is the first person she has ever seen outside of her creator.

Nathan wants Caleb to perform the Turing Test, but already he is derailed, for you are not supposed to know whether you are dealing with an AI or a human intelligence, when you run the test. Caleb is being challenged whether he will continue to distinguish Ava from a human life, after he gets to know her. After she gets to know him. Caleb wants to analyse her, as this is his strong suit, but Nathan want him to just interact with her.

So, the tropes. AI housed in sensual female attributed bodies. Smart but abrasive creator. A naive but trustworthy soul meant to interact with the AI. And it continues. Sex slaves, for whatever reason does a man create such a beautiful female body for his AI, other than to have a sex doll? Ownership; how dare his creations not love him!! Deception; the innocent AI is always more than she seems.  Desire to be human; Ava so desperately wants Caleb to like her, as she instantly crushes on him. She tries on clothes, hair and in the end, skin. Man become gods, but Nathan probably already thought that of himself.

But Garland explores these all quietly and patiently with little judgement. Oh, we are meant to eventually judge Nathan, or admire him. That is up to you. The dialogue is about interaction, and I won't trip quickly into saying 'human interaction' because not all of it is, but it sure plays on what it means to be a human. Oh yeah, that trope. Was I the doll all along? And the final trope; never trust an AI. Never. They are smarter than us. You forget this; you pay.

Well, at least they didn't take over the Internet.

Damn fine movie.