Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Final Trailer


Well, it all comes down to this.

During tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, ESPN is hosting the final trailer for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The last film of the new trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker seems to have Rey (Daisy Ridley) coming into her own as a Jedi. It also looks like her friends are due to face a new threat, could it really be The Emperor? While Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi may have left some audiences divided, Disney is hoping this will bring everyone in line and in the theatre. It seems to be working as theatres around the country are already selling out in pre-sales for the film.

It looks like we have Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) fighting against and alongside each other again. Could this also mean some sort of redemption for Kylo? We’ll find out come December 19th, when the film is released.

Enjoy!

Triple Frontier, Review By Case Wright


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The heist movie or treasure hunt movie is always the same and always pretty fun.  It’s not supposed to be Shakespeare; it’s supposed to pull you in and be a thrill ride.  This iteration is all about the down and out Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who decide to seek their fortune the old fashioned way: ripping off a drug kingpin!  In true heist genre fashion, everything works out great!

The characters came across as real Veterans to me.  After some research, the writer- Mark Boal was embedded with a platoon in Iraq and he also wrote The Hurt Locker.  The characters in Triple Frontier were like the men I knew: strong, divorced, and liked to joke.  Ben Affleck’s character Tom struck me as especially realistic.  He loved his daughter, but there was a distance because he was just not suited for civilian life.  She wanted him home, but he always wanted to be away.  You could see on her face that she knew the moment his buddies came calling that he was already gone.

Oscar Isaac plays Pope who has a gig doing private security/law enforcement in South America.  He is in pursuit of Lorea, a drug boss, who is causing all kinds of problems. Yada Yada Yada.  Pope finds the location of Lorea’s hideout which has hundreds of millions of dollars stashed inside, but he needs a team to kill Lorea, Lorea’s men, get the cash, and get out of the country.  He turns to his former squad to pull off the heist.  They need a little cajoling, but they come around. There isn’t a lot of dialogue after they agree to the heist, which makes sense.  They committed and now transitioned to soldier-mode.  The heist starts off with success in sight, but it’s not long before everything goes wrong and they are in a fight for their lives.

The film is shot really beautifully and has some high-priced songs for a Netflix program. Everything seemed very real.  Even the way the characters carried themselves and flowed through Lorea’s hideout was seamless.   They moved the way we are trained to move through rooms.  I am always looking for that in action films.  Are they not having muzzle-awareness (pointing there weapon accidentally at a friendly)?  Are they holding the rifle close to their face? Are they aiming right?  The answers to those questions were yes.   J.C. Chandor should be really proud of himself for the realism.

What kept pulling me into the story wasn’t the action (which was excellent BTW); it was that these men were like the ones I knew.  The team itself was representative of who does our killing for us: salt of the earth…men.   I like seeing women in action films and I am already excited about Black Widow, but the infantry in real life is male.  They are regular guys who are asked to do terrible terrible things.  When those terrible things are done, we cast the men aside.  The story concludes a lot like the war itself did with a lot of loss and not a lot to show for it.  This film has a political statement between the explosions and it’s worth listening to it. 

* I included Mary Pop Poppins by the True Loves in my review.  The song embodies the heist genre like no other.  Also, they are Seattleites!!!!

Film Review: Life Itself (dir by Dan Fogelman)


Watching Life Itself is like getting a Hallmark card from a serial killer.  Even if you appreciate the sentiment, you still don’t feel good about it.

Written and directed by This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, Life Itself attempts to juggle several different themes, so much so that it can sometimes be difficult to understand just what exactly the film is attempting to say.  That said, I think the main lesson of the film is that you should always look both ways before stepping out into the middle of the street.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a horrific backstory, involving a decapitated father, a pervy uncle, and a gun.  It doesn’t matter if you love Pulp Fiction or if you think Bob Dylan’s more recent work is underrated.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a dog and husband who is so in love with you that he’s practically a stalker.  It doesn’t even matter that your pregnant and looking forward to naming your firstborn after your favorite musician.  If you don’t look both ways before stepping out into the middle of the street, you’re going to get hit by a big damn bus.

That’s the lesson that Abby (Olivia Wilde) does not learn and, as a result, she not only gets run over by a bus but we, the viewers, are subjected to seeing her repeatedly getting run over by that bus.  As temtping as it is to feel bad for Abby, my sympathy was limited by the fact that she and her husband (Oscar Isaac) named their dog Fuckface.  I mean, seriously, who does that?  Not only is it cruel to the dog but it’s also inconsiderate to the people who have to listen to you shouting, “Fuckface!” whenever the dog gets loose.  For whatever reason, the movie doesn’t seem to get how annoying this is.  That’s because Life Itself is another one of those movies that mistakes quirkiness for humanity.

The other annoying thing about Abby is that she’s an English major who somehow thinks that the use of the unreliable narrator is an understudied literary phenonema.  In fact, she’s writing her thesis on unreliable narrators.  Her argument is that life itself is the ultimate unreliable narrator because life is tricky and surprising, which doesn’t make one bit of sense.

Speaking of narrators, Life Itself has three, which is three too many.  Two of the narrators are unreliable but I get the feeling that the third one is meant to be taken literally, which is a shame because the film would have made a lot more sense if it had ended with a Life of Pi-style revelation that none of what we just watched actually happened.

Anyway, Abby getting hit by a bus has repercussions that reverberate across the globe and across time.  Not only does it lead to her husband writing a bad screenplay but it also leads to him committing suicide in a psychiatrist’s office.  Abby’s daughter, Dylan (Olivia Cooke), grows up to be what this film believes to be a punk rocker, which means that she angrily covers Bob Dylan songs and stuffs a peanut butter and jelly sandwich down another girl’s throat.  Meanwhile, in Spain….

What?  Oh yeah, this film jumps from New York to Spain.  In fact, it’s almost like another film suddenly starts after an hour of the first one.  You go from Olivia Cooke sobbing on a park bench to Antonio Banderas talking about his childhood.  Banderas is playing a landowner named Vincent Saccione.  Saccione wants to be best friends with his foreman, Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) but Javier suspects that Saccione just wants to steal away his saintly wife, Isabel (Laia Costa) and maybe Javier’s right!

Javier has a son named Rodrigo (who is played by five different actors over the course of the film before eventually growing up to be Alex Monner).  When Saccione gives Rodrigo a globe, Javier decides to one-up him by taking his wife and child on a vacation to New York City.  Rodrigo has a great time in New York, or at least he does until he distracts a bus driver, which leads to a bus running down a pregnant woman…

…and the movie’s not over yet!  It just keeps on going and believe it or not, there’s stuff that I haven’t even mentioned.  Life Itself has a running time of only two hours.  (For comparison, it’s shorter than almost every comic book film that’s come out over the past few years.)  This is one of the rare cases where the film might have been improved with a longer running time because Fogelman crams so much tragedy and melodrama into that running time that it literally leaves you feeling as if you’re being bludgeoned.  This is one of those films that gets in your face and screams, “You will cry!  You will cry!”  Even if you are inclined to cry at movies (and I certainly am), it’s impossible not to resent just how manipulative the film gets.  You get the feeling that if you spend too much time wondering about the plot holes or the on-the-nose dialogue, the third narrator might start yelling at you for not getting with the program.

Life Itself is full of twists that are designed to leave you considering how everything in life is connected but, for something like this to work, the twists have to be surprising.  They have to catch you off-guard.  They have to make you want to see the movie again so that you can look for clues.  The twists in Life Itself are not surprising.  Anyone who has ever seen a movie before will be able to guess what’s going to happen.  For that matter, anyone who has ever sat through an episode of This is Us should be able to figure it all out.  Life Itself is not as a clever as it thinks it is.

Also, for a film like this work, you have to actually care about the characters.  You have to be invested in who they are.  But nobody in the film ever seems to be real and neither do any of their stories.  (To the film’s credit, it actually does point out that one narrator is idealizing the past but that’s an intriguing idea that’s abandoned.)  Everyone is just a collection of quirks.  We know what type of music they like but we never understand why.  Background info, like Abby being molested by her uncle or Isabel being the fourth prettiest of six sisters, is randomly dropped and then quickly forgotten about.  Almost ever woman has a tragic backstory and, for the most part, a tragic destiny.  (Except, of course, for Rodrigo’s first American girlfriend, who is dismissed as being “loud.”)  Every man is soulful and passionate.  But who are they?  The film’s narrators say a lot but they never get around to answering that question.  This is a film that insists it has something to say about life itself but it never quite comes alive.

Some critics are saying that Life Itself is the worst film of 2018.  Maybe.  I don’t know for sure.  The Happytime Murders left me feeling so icky that I haven’t even been able to bring myself to review it yet.  Life Itself, on the other hand, is such a huge misfire that I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it.  There’s something to be said for that.

Lisa Marie’s Too Early Oscar Predictions for May!


It’s time for me to post my monthly Oscar predictions!

As always, the usual caveats apply.  It’s way too early for me to try to make any predictions.  Most of the films listed below haven’t even been released (or screened) yet and it’s totally possible that a big contender might come out of nowhere in the fall.  That seems to happen almost every year.

So, take these predictions with a grain of salt.  These are my guesses.  Some of them are based on instinct.  Some of them are just there because I think it would be a really, really neat if that movie or performer was nominated.  However, I will say this: I do think that if a comic book movie is ever nominated for best picture, it will be Black Panther.

(I actually preferred Avengers: Infinity War to Black Panther — sorry, Ryan — but, much like Get Out, Black Panther has gone beyond being a movie.  It’s become a cultural signpost, in a way that Infinity War never will.)

The Cannes Film Festival is going on right now and one potential Oscar contender — Spike Lee’s BlackkKlansman — is due to make its debut in the upcoming days.  Right now, I don’t have BlackkKlansman listed in my predictions, mostly because the Academy hasn’t exactly embraced Lee in the past.  But I will be interested to see how Cannes reacts to the film.

(Check out my predictions for January, February, March, and April!)

Best Picture

At Eternity’s Gate

Black Panther

Boy Erased

First Man

If Beale Street Could Talk

Mary, Queen of Scots

The Other Side of the Wind

A Quiet Place

Widows

Wildfire

Best Director

Damien Chazelle for First Man

Ryan Coogler for Black Panther

Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk

Steve McQueen for Widows

Josie Rourke for Mary, Queen of Scots

Best Actor

Steve Carell in Beautiful Boy

Willem DaFoe in At Eternity’s Gate

Ryan Gosling in First Man

Lucas Hedges in Boy Erased

Robert Redford in Old Man and the Gun

Best Actress

Viola Davis in Widows

Felicity Jones in On The Basis of Sex

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Saoirse Ronan in Mary. Queen of Scots

Kristen Stewart in JT LeRoy

Best Supporting Actor

Russell Crowe in Boy Erased

Sam Elliott in A Star Is Born

Oscar Isaac in At Eternity’s Gate

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Forest Whitaker in Burden

Best Supporting Actress

Claire Foy in First Man

Nicole Kidman in Boy Erased

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk

Margot Robie in Mary, Queen of Scots

Sissy Spacek in Old Man And The Gun

 

 

8 Deserving Actors Who Have Never Been Nominated For An Oscar


Last year, on Oscar Sunday, I shared lists of 16 actors and 16 actresses who has never been nominated for an Oscar.  On the list of actors was Sam Rockwell.  One year later, Rockwell has not only been nominated for an Oscar but many think he’s the front runner to win!

Needless to say, my list had absolutely nothing to do with this fact.  Still, who knows?  Maybe one of the actors listed below will be next year’s sure-fire winner.

Here are 8 more deserving actors who have yet to be nominated for an Oscar!

  1. Idris Elba

I have to admit that I’m still shocked that Elba wasn’t nominated for his chilling work in Beasts of No Nation.  Elba is one of those supremely talented actors who makes it all look easy.  In fact, that may be part of the problem.  Elba is such a natural performer that sometimes, I think people overlook just how many different roles he played.  Elba seems destined to be nominated someday.

2. Armie Hammer

Armie Hammer has appeared in some truly regrettable films but, at the same time, he’s given really good performances in a handful of memorable ones.  It seems like ever since he played twins in The Social Network, Hammer has been circling Oscar recognition.  This year, he probably came the closest yet to getting nominated, with his performance in Call Me By Your Name.  I would also say that he deserved some consideration for his slyly humorous work in Free Fire.

3. Oscar Isaac

Oscar Isaac is going to be nominated some day.  It’s all a matter of when.  I would have given him an Oscar just for the way he delivered the line, “I declare him to be an … OUTLAAAAAAAAAAAW!” in Robin Hood.

4. Tobey Magurie

Personally, I think that Maguire has it in him to make a comeback, perhaps even an Oscar-winning comeback.  Right now, his main problem seems to be that all of the good Tobey Maguire roles are going to Edward Norton.

5. James McAvoy

McAvoy deserved a nomination this year for his performance in Split.

6. Ben Mendelsohn

There was some speculation that Mendelsohn’s role in Darkest Hour might result in a nomination this year.  It didn’t happen but Ben Mendelsohn is another actor who seems to be destined to be nominated eventually.  I would have nominated him for his frightening performance in Animal Kingdom.

7. Kurt Russell

A lot of us thought that Russell would receive a nomination for The Hateful Eight but, instead, that film was dominated by Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Walton Goggins.  Everyone loves Kurt but he’s not getting any younger so someone needs to write him a really great role before he decides to retire to Vancouver.

8. Peter Sarsgaard

Peter Sarsgaard is another one of those really good actors who never seems to get as much appreciation as he deserves.  If you want to see how good Sarsgaard can be, track down a film called Shattered Glass.

Here’s hoping that, come next year, at least one of those actors will no longer be eligible for this list!

 

 

Here Are The Nominations From The San Diego Film Critics Society!


The San Diego Film Critics Society announced their nominations for the best of 2017 earlier today!  The actual winners will be announce on December 11th.

Check them out below!

(I know this might seem a little dry to some people but I love lists.)

(By the way, in case you’re wondering which sites I usually put the most trust in when it comes to Oscar coverage, here they are: AwardsWatch and AwardsCircuit.  Two of my favorite sites ever, right there.)

Best Picture
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
DUNKIRK
GET OUT
LADY BIRD
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Director
Christopher Nolan, DUNKIRK
Greta Gerwig, LADY BIRD
Guillermo del Toro, THE SHAPE OF WATER
Jordan Peele, GET OUT
Martin McDonagh, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Actor
Gary Oldman, DARKEST HOUR
James Franco, THE DISASTER ARTIST
James McAvoy, SPLIT
Robert Pattinson, GOOD TIME
Timothée Chalamet, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Best Actress
Frances McDormand, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI
Margot Robbie, I, TONYA
Sally Hawkins, MAUDIE
Sally Hawkins, THE SHAPE OF WATER
Saoirse Ronan, LADY BIRD

Best Supporting Actor
Ethan Hawke, MAUDIE
Oscar Isaac, SUBURBICON
Sam Rockwell, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI
Willem Dafoe, THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Woody Harrelson, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Supporting Actress
Allison Janney I, TONYA
Bria Vinaite, THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Catherine Keener, GET OUT
Holly Hunter, THE BIG SICK
Laurie Metcalf, LADY BIRD

Best Comedic Performance
Daniel Craig, LOGAN LUCKY
Ezra Miller, JUSTICE LEAGUE
James Franco, THE DISASTER ARTIST
Lil Rel Howery, GET OUT
Ray Romano, THE BIG SICK

Best Original Screenplay
Christopher Nolan, DUNKIRK
Greta Gerwig, LADY BIRD
Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, THE BIG SICK
Jordan Peele, GET OUT
Martin McDonagh, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Adapted Screenplay
James Gray, THE LOST CITY OF Z
James Ivory, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, THE DISASTER ARTIST
Sofia Coppola, THE BEGUILED
Virgil Williams & Dee Rees, MUDBOUND

Best Documentary
EX LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
FACES PLACES
JANE
LAST MEN IN ALEPPO
THE WORK

Best Animated Film
COCO
LOVING VINCENT
MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA
MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI
THE BOSS BABY

Best Foreign Language Film
BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE)
FACES PLACES
THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE
THE SQUARE
THELMA

Best Editing
Jonathan Amos & Paul Machliss, BABY DRIVER
Jon Gregory, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Lee Smith, DUNKIRK
Sarah Broshar, Michael Kahn, THE POST
Sidney Wolinsky, THE SHAPE OF WATER

Best Cinematography
Ben Richardson, WIND RIVER
Dan Laustsen, THE SHAPE OF WATER
Darius Khondji, THE LOST CITY OF Z
Hoyte Van Hoytema, DUNKIRK
Roger Deakins, BLADE RUNNER 2049

Best Production Design
Anne Ross, THE BEGUILED
Alessandora Querzola and Dennis Gassner, BLADE RUNNER 2049
Nathan Crowley, DUNKIRK
Paul D. Austerberry, THE SHAPE OF WATER
Sarah Greenwood, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Best Visual Effects
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
BLADE RUNNER 2049
DUNKIRK
THE SHAPE OF WATER
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Best Costume Design
Jacqueline Durran, BEAUTY and the BEAST
Jenny Eagan, HOSTILES
Luis Sesqueria, THE SHAPE OF WATER
Mark Bridges, PHANTOM THREAD
Sonia Grande, THE LOST CITY OF Z
Stacey Battat, THE BEGUILED

Best Use of Music
BABY DRIVER
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
DUNKIRK
THE SHAPE OF WATER

Breakthrough Artist
Barry Keoghan
Brooklyn Prince
Greta Gerwig
Jordan Peele
Sophia Lillis
Timothée Chalamet

Best Ensemble
GET OUT
LADY BIRD
MUDBOUND
THE POST
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI

Film Review: Ex Machina (2015, dir. Alex Garland)


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I know this was already reviewed by Leon last year. I watched it for the first time this March. It has bothered me ever since, so I decided to purge it from my system by writing my own review of the film. Can you tell I didn’t really like it?

The movie opens up and we meet our main character Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson). He just won the “Staff Lottery”.

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Whatever gets him out of having to program a search algorithm in C++ is a good thing. C++ is not the most fun language to program in, which is why I assume he switches to using Python later on in the film. If you think that’s going to lead to Caleb asking the robot about non-computable functions such as The Halting Problem, then you’re going to be very disappointed. These are functions that to a computer cannot be evaluated to obtain their result. That means there are problems that cannot be solved by machine intelligence. This of course leads to a debate about what exactly does natural intelligence have that machine intelligence doesn’t, and what does that say about whether a machine has consciousness. All things that will not be brought up. These are things I learned in a course I took before a basic ground level Computer Science course. A remedial CS course. Caleb not knowing these things is like making a movie about racing when the main character, who is a mechanic, can’t change a tire.

Now we are off to where Oscar Isaac’s character lives.

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I know his name is Nathan, but I just kept referring to him as Beard while watching the film. When Caleb shows up to enter his place I had to pause the movie.

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I love watching movies on the iPad with the Amazon Prime app because it not only tells you the characters, but it also drops in trivia about the current scene. This is how I know that this takes place at the Juvet Landscape Hotel in Alstad, Valldal, Norway. Beard has a pretty nice place. It comes with it’s own Kubrickian hallways…

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The Shining (1980, dir. Stanley Kubrick)

The Shining (1980, dir. Stanley Kubrick)

and Oldboy (2003) prison rooms.

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Oldboy (2003, dir. Chan-wook Park)

Oldboy (2003, dir. Chan-wook Park)

Beard gives Caleb a key that will only open rooms and let him use devices that he is allowed to use. It’s kind of like a computer game. In fact, that’s how you could describe the whole movie in a nutshell. It’s a game composed of cutscenes with the robot and Beard, except you don’t get to run around in between, and there are no dialog trees.

After showing Caleb into his room, he tells him he needs to sign an Non-Disclosure Agreement. Again, I had to pause the movie here cause I was taking care of my dog while a new ceiling fan was being put in.

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Okay, if you say so, then Beard saying his home is his research facility is a reference to It’s A Wonderful Life (1946). Now we get the Ex Machina definition of what a Turing Test is that isn’t what a Turing Test actually is. Caleb says:

“I know what the Turing Test is. It’s when a human interacts with a computer. And if the human doesn’t know they’re interacting with a computer, the test is passed”

Actually, the Turing Test is when you have a “Human interrogator” that is separated by a barrier with an isolated interface that let’s the interrogator interact with two sources that are both separated from each other and the interface. One source is a human being who has never met the interrogator. The other source is a machine that is being tested. If the interrogator cannot distinguish the two sources from each other than robot has passed the test.

Such a test is never really performed in this film unless you think that the point when Caleb cuts himself, he believes he might be a robot because he thinks he is indistinguishable from the robot. It’s not the same, but it may have been stuck in there to allude to that. Regardless, it means that it would be literally impossible for the Turing Test to even be performed since it would require three humans (a source, an interrogator, and someone setting up the experiment), and there are only two humans at Beard’s home. Here’s a nice diagram from the Second Edition of Introduction to Artificial Intelligence by Philip C. Jackson Jr.

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It doesn’t really prove that the computer has “artificial intelligence” either, but that a human being can’t tell the difference. That simply means it can pass for human in this controlled environment. That’s of course why the film will unceremoniously toss it aside in favor of a setup that will allow for a lot of engagement between actors that is done face-to-face.

Thus begins the “test”.

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We see Beard’s office first which is covered with post-it notes. I haven’t seen that since I think either the remake of Oldboy or that episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 where Brandon covered a professor’s office with them. Caleb also sees foreshadowing about previous robots who got a little cabin fever when he enters the interrogation room.

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Yes, that is glass. Does he turn right around and walk out because he has obviously been lied to about taking part in a Turing Test? Nope. We just meet Ava played by Alicia Vikander.

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I have to admit that I feel a little sorry for her. She really was cast in some terrible movies in 2015. You have this movie of course. You have her in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. where she is just there to make a reference to Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita (1959) by standing in a fountain while the male leads all but start making out. She was in The Danish Girl (2015) that will have more people asking children about their genitals since it makes being transgender all about bottom surgery. I loved how it didn’t tell you she had a uterus transplant at the end. Probably because leaving it in would mean the movie is actually equating having babies with identifying oneself as a woman like people think Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) did. Then she was also in Burnt (2015), but I’ll be damned if I could find her in it while watching it.

No, I’m not kidding about The Danish Girl having that effect. People ask transgender children all the time about whether they plan to have surgery when they get older and that movie doesn’t help. Neither do other things, but I refuse to review that movie right now.

After some initial pleasantries, he asks how she learned to speak. She says she “always knew how to speak.” She also says she thinks she is clever since “language is something that people acquire” but she can apparently do it out of the box. He responds about language being inborn in the human mind, and that it is only attachment of words to this built-in stuff that allows us to speak. You could say it’s an explanation for why everyone gets a free language. This confuses Ava, but I’m more confused why rebooting Tomb Raider in 2018 with her as Lara Croft is a thing that’s happening. This is also a conversation of foreshadowing because we will get an explanation later that, surprise, surprise, shows again that Caleb really doesn’t know about Computer Science.

Now you’d think they would leave the Turing Test thing behind here, but no. They feel the need to rub their nose in it some more.

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He says that “if I hid Ava from you, so you just heard her voice, she would pass for human.” Maybe, except the Turing Test uses terminals, not voices, since that really wouldn’t be a test of human intelligence, but speech synthesis. Take for example talking to Siri or a similar intelligent agent. The very fact that it speaks instantly makes people start to think of it as human. That’s an example of Weak AI rather than Strong AI, which is what Ava is supposed to be. They’ll bring up Strong AI later, but will conveniently leave out Weak AI because it would open up holes in the film.

He wants to show him Ava, then see if he feels she has consciousness. What he is actually saying is whether he has effectively recreated superficial aspects of a humanoid robot with a reasonably passable intelligent agent controlling those parts. That’s not even close to the same thing. That would be like saying you have proven somebody actually works for immigration because illegal immigrants run when they see someone in pressed pants, a white shirt, and holding a clipboard enter a factory. You’ve simply proven that you can make something that can socially engineer a person. This is why the separation factor is so important to not have in a movie like this that can’t have its ending if it doesn’t ignore these things.

I don’t know why he couldn’t just say that he already had some people test her in a proper Turing Test, but now he wants him to do what he is asking him rather than just claiming that of course she would pass. Oh, well.

Since this movie isn’t very well written, they now have Caleb spout some jargon about her language abilities. Beard quickly shuts this down by saying he isn’t going to explain how she works. By that, he means until later when he decides to do just that in order to remind us of a real world event that happened a few years ago. The power soon goes out after this too for the purposes of foreshadowing that somebody is doing it, and it changes where and what Caleb is able to do with his keycard.

Caleb is now woken up by some speechless Asian lady robot.

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That makes two female robots. There must be a male one around here somewhere, right? Of course not. This would lead any reasonable person to wonder if he is building a brothel for straight men. The actual reason the movie tries to subtly slip in is that part of them being human is sexuality and gender. I’m assuming that means he has to test to make sure their vaginas work, and since they are both straight, then the robots must be women. Nope, still comes across like he is building a brothel.

Now Beard and Caleb have another conversation about how to test her. He basically breaks out more jargon, which Beard says isn’t important because too much thinking gets in the way of the drama and building of tension. Seriously, before it cuts to the image below, he says: “How does she feel about you?”

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It starts off with Ava showing him a picture, but they already want to turn the tables and have Ava ask Caleb questions as if we really are interested in him. But first we find out that Caleb works for Beard’s own version of Google. Then the funniest thing in the movie happens.

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He says that he is an advanced programmer. Sure, Caleb. Sure, and the majority of people knew what a race condition was when they started up Steve Jobs (2015).

Ava goes on to brag about how Beard wrote the code for not-Google when he was 13. She then asks him if he likes Mozart to which he responds that he likes Depeche Mode. What are you trying to say here, Garland? Maybe that people are people? Doesn’t matter because she doesn’t want to listen. She has other priorities like setting up the ending. The movie actually has very little to with robots. It’s about a woman who is imprisoned and uses the dumbest guy she can find to manipulate in order to get out. That’s the real movie in a nutshell. You won’t be asking yourself interesting questions here. It’s all kind of sleight of hand with what appears to be intelligent writing. Then the power goes out again and she takes credit for it before trying to drive a wedge between Caleb and Beard.

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Then the power comes back online.

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I have an idea. Ask her if on a hot summer night would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses. It’s totally random. No matter what she says, you respond that you bet she says that to all the boys. See how she responds. Of course not. This game has you on strict rails and doesn’t give you a dialog tree.

Blah, blah, blah. Now Beard says he is going to show Caleb where he created Ava even though he said he wasn’t going to tell him how she works earlier because it would ruin the test. Remember that they have established that Caleb is an advanced programmer, and at least as a degree in Computer Science. Beard asks him if he knows how he got her to “read and duplicate facial expressions.” That’s easy, you simply get a lot of training data and use it train something like a neural network or some other statistical model. Basic stuff for someone with a Computer Science degree that people use and interact with everyday in the form of a spam filter.

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Moving onward, Beard reminds us of that incident a few years back when it was discovered that Apple was using people’s iPhones to do war driving in order to improve their location services. In Beard’s specific case, he simple turned on the camera and microphone on cellphones to get a bunch of data and used it to train whatever he is using. He says the search engine itself, but that doesn’t make sense unless you want to say that his Google can search by image and sound bite, thus allowing for him to build a language of sorts between the collected data and the meanings humans assign them. That actually is probably what they were going for given the explanation of language earlier. It still doesn’t explain why they just had Caleb throw up his hands to say he has no idea how it was done.

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Next we find out that writer/director Alex Garland is probably a fan of Quantum Leap. I say that because that is Ava’s brain, which Beard refers to as wetware. What that means is that it should be a combination of physical aspects of the human brain interconnected with mechanical parts to create an artificial intelligence. This is what Ziggy on the show Quantum Leap has as its’ “brain”. That’s why they refer to her as a hybrid computer, and as having aspects of Sam in her since the brain cells are his. We also find out that the software running on it is his version of Google’s search engine.

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After showing Caleb another picture, she decides to manipulate him more by putting on hair and clothes. I had to pause the movie again here.

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In other words, they told her to just walk rather than walk while swinging her hips. I’m not sure why that was a thing they bothered with honestly. Without that bit of trivia popping up it would have just come across as someone who was shy rather than someone who was starting to conform to the gender forced upon them by form and/or programming.

Now we get Caleb explaining that AI doesn’t need a gender, so that they can get into a conversation that amounts to explaining how things such as neural networks work by using sexual preference as an analogy. A neural network is a graph formed of vertices and lines that is based on the way the human brain works. The vertices have some sort of function that acts on the inputs that are sent into it in order to spit out a value either as a final result or as inputs to other vertices. The lines have a weight that is assigned to them, which is then multiplied by the value being sent along it in order to create the value that enters the vertex it connects to. Here is a very simply example of a neural network taken from AI Application Programming by M. Tim Jones.

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What this all means is that using certain techniques such as backwards propagation, you can send information through such a network that in turn adjusts the weights in order to change the way it will operate by changing what it will output. In the context of his explanation, it means that if you pass a bunch of black girls through your brain, and you respond in a certain way, then your brain’s own neural network adjusts to having an attraction to them, or developing a dislike of them sexually. It also depends on the structure of said brain initially and how it is formed during your early years. To go back to the mathematical example, it would mean how many vertices you have, how they are linked, and the functions at each vertex.

Caleb doesn’t seem to understand because he isn’t very good at Computer Science. Beard takes Caleb into a room with a Jackson Pollock painting.

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He tries to explain what Automatic Art is to Caleb. It sounds like he is referencing Fuzzy Logic to me, which is when instead of using simple true and false, or 0 and 1, you make decisions based on everything in between 0 and 1. It’s not a fixed algorithmic if this then that, but something more human.

Then Beard references Star Trek by telling Caleb to “Engage intellect”. I’m still thinking he is making a brothel, so I’ll go with Mudd’s Women as the episode of the original series he is referencing. Amazon Prime says it’s a reference to the episode Requiem for Methuselah. I also think of The Measure of a Man from Star Trek: TNG where Data’s designation of being sentient or property is put on trial.

Beard now asks him to reverse the challenge of doing something not partially deliberate and partially unconscious. He asks Caleb what would happen if Pollock didn’t make a single mark if he didn’t know exactly what he was doing. Caleb says that he wouldn’t have made a single mark. In other words, he is describing the difference between how humans operate with fuzzy logic instead of with a strict rule system. I have a feeling that somebody told Alex Garland about how they tried things like theorem-proving software and knowledge systems in AI before Strong AI research collapsed and we switched to research into Weak AI. Weak AI being what we have been enjoying at an ever-growing rate since the 1980s in the form of speech recognition, image identification, and even programs that can write new songs in the style of Bob Dylan. Those things operate on probabilities, which when attached to incoming examples such as speech, images, and lyrics written by Bob Dylan will spit out another probability that is used to make a decision while also creating something that will make the kind of decisions you want based on the samples you gave it. Thus, it isn’t a strict rule, but something in between structure of the model and the current state of the probabilities in that model being used to generate the result. The Bob Dylan example would be feeding his lyrics into a chain that builds a series of probabilities between words so that if you picked a starting word, then it would generate the rest of the words based on the actual lyrics Bob Dylan wrote. You can do this with music as well. They are called Markov Chains/Hidden Markov Models in both cases.

This is all stuff to make you think that the more information you give to Google, then if the model is built correctly, all that data created by human beings will train that model to operate as a human does by becoming predictive of correct human behavior. Unfortunately, that’s not Strong AI. It’s simply Weak AI used on a large scale that impresses us the way a shiny object does a small child.

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Then Caleb comes right out and tells Ava he took a semester in AI. Yeah, sure you did Caleb. I took one and a half of them at Cal. Trust me when I say that if Anastasia Steele from Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) is the worst English major in recent film, then Caleb is the worst Computer Science major in recent movies.

Why does he say this? He says it because the movie wants to get arty by showing black and white shots. No really, there is no other reason. Caleb brings up a famous thought experiment about a person living in a black and white room who has perfect knowledge of color without having ever stepped out of that room. That would mean that the person in question would have never experienced color. However, Caleb screws this up by saying:

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Hmmm…you mean like the colors in the image I just posted that would show up on a black and white monitor, Caleb? He breaks the thought experiment simply so the film can show shots like that. He says that it gives her experience, which perfect knowledge about something doesn’t give you. That difference between pure knowledge and how something makes you feel is supposed to be the difference between human and machine intelligence according to Caleb. That’s why she mentions that she wants to go to a busy intersection if she is ever allowed to leave at a point in the movie. Of course the movie realizes that it needs to move the plot along instead of getting too smart so Ava messes with the power again to try and guilt Caleb some more. Boring.

Time for another session with Beard for Caleb. Nothing really happens here of consequence. Then more artsy shots and Beard banging the Asian lady robot. This is followed by Asian lady and Beard disco dancing to Oliver Cheatham’s Get Down It’s Saturday Night. I’m guessing Alex Garland also played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City since it’s on that soundtrack for the Fever 105 station hosted by Oliver “Ladykiller” Biscuit. It’s also there so that Lisa could have a scene from this movie to include as a dance scene that she loves.

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Unfortunately, Caleb doesn’t want to cool off on Saturday night, or any other night right now. He’s pissed off because the movie can’t really decide whether it wants to be smart about the technical stuff, or whether it wants to focus on that other boring prison break plot.

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There’s numerous questions that are batted back and forth here, but the only one that was important to me is that according to Ava she has an off switch like Data.

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So, why do they fight her before the Ms. 45 (1981) backstabbing ending when they could have simply turned her off? No matter. The conversations with her in this movie really aren’t the actual sessions. The sessions are with Beard. It’s time for Beard to think that Strong AI is right around the corner, and misunderstand what the singularity means.

I love how Beard makes sure to mention that the bodies are kept around after he builds the next model. He does this not for any in-movie reason, but for the horror factor of a bunch of bodies and so that Ava has a place to get skin later in the movie.

Beard brings up the singularity now and he seems to be confusing it for Terminator 2 (1991). The singularity is not when robots take over and replace us. The singularity is a point at which progress begins to outstrip our ability to fully comprehend the changes it creates till we essentially can do whatever we want. It’s like the Krell in Forbidden Planet (1956). Another example would be The Ancients in Stargate SG-1 who shed their material form and ascended into the freedom of pure energy. Not exactly something you whip out the Oppenheimer quote about being the destroyer of worlds when discussing. It’s an evolution, but not at the expense of the existence of humans. However, at this point the film is on autopilot towards its very unsatisfying conclusion, so who cares.

With Beard knocked out from drinking, Caleb decides to write a prime number generator.

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He is supposedly working to free Ava, but he will not use that prime number generator to keep the power system busy like they did in Real Genius (1985). Also, why the comments? It’s almost as funny as in Blackhat (2015) when they didn’t seem to know that comments disappear when you compile code, which means they wouldn’t be present when you decompile something like a virus.

More boring stuff that has very little to do with anything, but looks semi-impressive and atmosphere maintaining if you haven’t already given up on the film like I had long before this point.

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Ava is sitting in a corner to further guilt Caleb along with saying some more stuff and shutting off the power again.

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Good session.

Caleb and Beard talk some more before Ava finally breaks out from her prison. Beard is killed in the process.

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She locks Caleb up and gets away. I was honestly hoping that it would turn out Caleb was a robot, but they made sure to shoot that down by having him cut open his arm at one point. Then they juxtapose that with scenes later in the movie of the actual robots pulling off their skin.

I am part of a social network called Letterboxd. It isn’t a place where I write proper reviews. That’s what this site is for where I can really think about it, and include screenshots. I believe they are crucial. That’s why I use that network for initial gut reactions to what I watch. I try not to bring that over here, but really step through the film. This film isn’t as bad as I thought it was initially. I’m still not a fan though. The film boils down to somebody trying to socially engineer two people in order to make a prison break while we get pseudo-intellectual stabs at real tech stuff while not bothering to maintain consistency throughout the film. It’s not awful as I thought during and after watching it the first time, but it hardly deserves the ridiculous amount positive critical attention it has been getting since its’ release in 2015.

My ultimate conclusion is this: Watch Sneakers (1992), Real Genius (1985), and WarGames (1983) instead. Also, if this movie sparked an interest in AI for you, then run with it, because it is a fascinating subject that is not done justice by this film. My actual semester at Cal in AI was amazing. I had already read several books on the subject prior to taking the class, and it still was some of the most fun I had while at UC Berkeley.

Side notes: The reason for the race condition at the beginning of Steve Jobs is because a race condition is when two or more things try to operate on the same thing that causes unwanted results. Since the film uses Jobs’ brain as a metaphor for end-to-end control, a race condition is a perfect bug that doesn’t jive with what Jobs wants to achieve.

It is interesting that the film has exactly seven sessions with Ava since a byte is comprised of 8 bits. It makes one wonder whether Garland wants you to think it was cut short, there was a zeroth session prior to the official session since computers begin counting at zero, the 8th session is what happens at the very end, or that the missing session that would make it a byte represents that she is truly human and not really a computer anymore. Just something I thought I would pass on.