Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is the latest in a string of recent science-fiction films exploring questions around artificial intelligence, transhumanism and the role of technology in our lives.
Katniss Everdeen may be the Mockingjay now, but Jennifer Lawrence is still the girl on fire.
Propaganda and symbolism have always been a crucial weapon in the arsenal of any campaign, but their value increases exponentially in the information age. This isn’t a particularly radical idea, although this may be the first time it’s trickled down into a blockbuster franchise. Can you imagine Luke Skywalker making subversive videos calling out Darth Vader and coining popular slogans about fighting the Empire?
The word utopia was coined by St. Thomas More in his book of that name — an important and enigmatic work of fiction and political philosophy generally understood as some sort of satire.
Among this summer’s successful indies were a pair of R-rated comedies — each from a filmmaker serving as writer, director and star — depicting two very different responses to the formidable responsibilities of parenthood.
October Baby is at its most thoughtful contemplating Hannah’s unresolved feelings about her biological mother and the tragic way that her life began.
Suzanne Collins says she got the idea for The Hunger Games while sleepily flicking channels between some reality-show game and footage of the invasion of Iraq until the images began to blur in her mind. What’s bracing about Gary Ross’ film of the first book in Collins’ wildly popular young-adult trilogy is that the topicality of the story’s origins still comes across. When was the last Hollywood science-fiction action blockbuster that felt like actual ideas about the world we live in were at stake?
The shocking thing about Sanctum’s fictional survival story, relocated to Papua New Guinea, is not that it kills off one expedition member after another, often quite brutally. The shocking thing is how callously it treats their lives. More than one team member is euthanized by his fellows, submerged and drowned after sustaining catastrophic injuries.
The Switch is about an attractive woman in her early 40’s with a history of unfortunate relationships and a gnawing concern that she’s been hitting the snooze button on her biological alarm clock for too long. I can’t imagine why they cast Jennifer Aniston.
The celebratory media frenzy over the 50th anniversary of The Pill has reached even the pages of Variety, where past editor and current vice president and editorial director Peter Bart has written a strange essay called “‘Sex’ and the summer franchise” (subscription required) that somehow contrives to link a blip in summer movie patterns to five decades of contraception.
C. S. Lewis’s bleak prediction about human mistreatment of extraterrestrial creatures was framed in terms of human spacefarers encountering alien life on distant worlds, but the gist of his thesis is eminently applicable to the scenario proposed in District 9, a caustic and gory but sharply made sci-fi fable with a pungent South African flavor.
There’s an ambitious modesty to Duncan Jones’s debut film Moon, a smart, existential science-fiction drama with one onscreen actor that runs 97 minutes and goes nowhere more exotic than our planet’s natural satellite.
In the end, in its easygoing, nonpolemical way, Brokeback Mountain is nothing less than an indictment not just of heterosexism but of masculinity itself.
By the film’s end, Frankie is faced with a choice that the priest says could lead to his damnation. The film makes the wrong choice seem right. But it leaves it an open question, I think, whether making that choice leads to redemption or damnation. Million Dollar Baby suggests, perhaps, that the right and most loving thing to do for someone else may entail one’s own damnation. This is very far from good way of looking at things. But it suggests a film that is less complacent, more thoughtful, less like smug propaganda than some of its detractors allege.
The life and work of Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, the Indiana University entomologist turned pioneering sexologist, has provoked accounts and interpretations as divergent, and as bitterly contested, as John Kerry’s Vietnam service in the last election. And, while it’s true that Kinsey’s work warrants such scrutiny, it’s also true that this only makes the task of weeding through the arguments more daunting.
The Cell gives imaginative and visual shape to as it were the very soul of misogynism, perversion, depravity, sadism, and the supreme nihilism and egotism of the damned. The film also has some images of beauty, peace, and serenity; even some Christian symbolism — but all this is quickly overwhelmed, even betrayed and subverted, so that the dark themes dominate the film.
The film’s central conceit is that the process of colorization is spread through acts of exploration or self-discovery by which people step outside their customary ways into a new world. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s TV sitcom, one common means of transformation is sexual activity, which didn’t exist in "Pleasantville" until the teenagers (Jennifer in particular) introduced it. When Jennifer gently explains the facts of life to her sitcom mother (Joan Allen), the latter is certain that her prosaic husband (William H. Macy) could never be induced to engage in such activity; so Jennifer proceeds to coach her mother (offscreen) on how to commit self-abuse. The mother then proceeds to do so, with such explosive results that by a kind of sympathetic magic the tree in the front yard bursts into flame.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.