Monday, April 27, 2015

Brief Impressions....

After a year it’s time for a couple more short-but-sweet mini reviews I think.  Here we go.

Ex Machina:  This widely heralded indie sci-fi gem from British writer/producer and first-time director Alex Garland (28 Days / Weeks Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go, Dredd) is a stylish, atmospheric and riveting slow-burner that's as cerebral as it is mesmerizing. A young computer geek (Domhnall Gleeson) is chosen by the reclusive and brilliant CEO (Oscar Isaac in another stellar and intense performance) of a Google-esque company he works for to spend a week at the latter's secluded and highly secure retreat to conduct the "Turing Test" on his latest android Ava (Alicia Vikander). What follows are a fascinating series of interactions and conflicts culminating in a mind-bending twist ending worthy of water cooler conversation.  Enough said, go see it already.

Grade: A
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Unfriended:  "Cyberbullies" who unintentionally drove a friend to horrific suicide (after posting a humiliating Youtube video of said friend having soiled herself after getting shit-faced drunk at a party without considering the repercussions to her self esteem) get their supernatural comeuppance in this low budget “found footage” horror film seen entirely from the laptop computer screen of one of the transgressors, pretty high schooler Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig).  As with last year’s similarly themed ‘The Den,’ you don’t have to be social media-savvy to wrap yourself around this claustrophobic chiller about five young friends who video chat via Skype with each other on the one-year anniversary of the aforementioned suicide.  Can you say “Ghost in the Machine” is gonna getcha?  You are so unfriended.  Before you laugh, consider that with a mere budget of $1 million and a cast of virtual unknowns working for peanuts, this movie co-produced by Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) literally paid for itself.

Grade: B
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Kung Fu Killer:  A silly name for a movie, surely, but this latest chop-socky kung fu actioner from Hong Kong starring Donnie Yen (Ip Man) is undeniably kinetic and fun in its martial arts mayhem.  Equal part police drama/chase thriller centering on the pursuit of an elusive serial killer who targets well known kung fu masters by challenging them to death matches and equal part kung fu action flick, KFK’s well tread formula and predictability do not diminish the fact that its superbly choreographed set piece fight scenes are wildly entertaining.  Still, a better name would be “Enter the Red Dragon” with a nod to Thomas Harris.

Grade: B+
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