Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…
If the things I love about horror movies were laid out in checklist form, It Follows would tick all of the boxes. On the surface, it’s a simple horror movie with a basic yet terrifying premise: if you have sex with the wrong person, you will be pursued by a strange entity that will not stop following you until it kills you. The only way to be rid of it is to sleep with someone else. It Follows executes this nightmarish idea perfectly, assisted greatly by a top notch score and lots of long, lingering shots. Who knew that someone slowly walking towards you – often the entity just takes the form of very normal looking people – could be so terrifying. But beyond the surface-level stuff, It Follows is extremely clever. Director David Robert Mitchell decided to play into his nightmare plot even further by deliberately making the film seem like it takes place in a dream. There’s a sense of temporal displacement; some characters drive cars from the 70’s, others drive modern vehicles. There are cell phones (and a bizarre eReader device that doesn’t exist in reality), but at the same time it all feels like something out of the 80’s. All of these elements combine to make It Follows one of the scariest and most original movies I’ve seen in ages. You’ll find yourself looking over your shoulder a lot after you see this film.
4.25 out of 5
I’ve been a fan of Alex Garland’s work since his screenwriting debut with The Beach, so I was greatly anticipating his directorial debut Ex Machina, and I’m pleased to report that it’s a terrific movie. Ex Machina deals with a lot of the same concepts as other science fiction films concerning artificial intelligence, but on a much smaller scale and with less alarmism. When Caleb, an employee at a massive Google-like company, wins a company lottery, he’s sent to meet with Nathan, the CEO, at his remote and vast estate. Once there, Caleb learns that Nathan has created an artificially intelligent android, and Caleb is to be the human control subject in a series of tests to help determine if a human could emotionally connect with an artificial being. Without spoiling anything, things quickly start to spin out of control as the three players – Caleb, Nathan, and Nathan’s female robot Ava – start to question each others’ motives and undermine each others’ plans. Ex Machina makes the wise choice (perhaps necessary on its low budget) to keep the action confined to enclosed spaces. Scenes frequently take place in windowless rooms, focussing on the interaction between the characters, and these moments mean that although the cast list is small, the stakes for every character’s actions feel big. Domnhall Gleeson does a fine job as Caleb, but the real stars of Ex Machina are Oscar Isaac as Nathan and Alicia Vikander as Ava. Isaac plays Nathan as a real-life Tony Stark: quippy and charming, but unlike the Stark of the Marvel world, constantly depressed and tormented by his alcoholism – the very portrait of a modern, vice-ridden genius living alone in his castle. Vikander plays Ava with a grace and cunning – her physicality combined with great special effects sells the idea that she’s an android immediately upon meeting her, and there was never a point where I felt as though she wasn’t a robot. But Ava still has emotions that resonate with the viewer…or is that just her programming? The mystery of what Ava’s intentions are is a big part of what makes Ex Machina so compelling. Overall, this film is a smart and well-written look at our possible future, as well as things like gender dynamics and the male gaze. Ex Machina is a must-watch for fans of sci-fi.
4.25 out of 5
Compared to Tim Burton’s other output of recent years, Big Eyes could be considered a masterpiece. As a movie unto itself, however, I found it to be pretty lackluster. Big Eyes tells the story of artist Margaret Keane, whose unusual, big-eyed portraits became a phenomenon during the 1960’s. However, credit for her work was taken by her husband Walter, which ultimately leads to a legal battle in an attempt to prove who really created the big eyes. The problem with Big Eyes as a film is that the conflict never felt like it had high stakes, or wasn’t easily solved. At first, when Walter takes credit for Margaret’s work, she scolds him for doing so. He then gives her an opportunity to take credit for the paintings when the couple are about to make a sale, but Margaret clams up and Walter steps in to take the credit and complete the deal. Following this point, Walter becomes a complete scumbag, but because the film includes a moment where Margaret actively denies herself the agency to take credit for her work, I found it difficult to sympathize with her. There were countless times when she could have taken her credit, but she doesn’t. Ten years pass, and THEN she decides to tell everyone the truth, leading to a courtroom battle between her and Walter. But again, the conflict is easily solved: the judge just asks them each to complete a Big Eyes painting. I felt as though this story could have been told in twenty minutes, but it’s five times that length. It may be the best Tim Burton movie in ten years, but I think that says a lot more about Tim Burton’s other movies of the past decade than it does about Big Eyes.
2.5 out of 5
See you next Sunday for more thrilling short reviews!