Ep. 111 – Annihilation, Game Night

February 28, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Annihilation” and “Game Night.” The guys are also baffled by James Gunn’s revelation that Baby Groot isn’t Groot reincarnated, but actually Groot’s son.

Click here to download the episode!

Ex Machina

April 24, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander
Directed by: Alex Garland (debut)
Written by: Alex Garland (“28 Days Later”)

After the SXSW premiere of “Ex Machina,” director Alex Garland was asked a directorial question, with this film being his debut after years of solely screenwriting. In a fantastically articulated answer, Garland explained that people tend to deify directors; a sentiment that he called “bullshit.” He contended that he is a writer first, and that every part of the crew from the director down was a “filmmaker.” Writer, director, filmmaker; the semantics, job titles and roles don’t matter. As long as Garland is putting his ideas to screen, like the fascinating ones he has with “Ex Machina,” the film industry is a better place.

After winning a company-wide contest, programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) is invited to spend a week with his reclusive boss and tech CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Previously unsure of what the week would entail, Caleb soon finds out that Nathan has built artificial intelligence, and that he is there to perform a test on its intelligent human behavior. However, as Caleb gets to know the A.I., Ava (Alicia Vikander), he sees that things may not be what they seem.

Another word about “Ex Machina” cannot be written without first acknowledging the staggeringly great performance from Isaac. Equal parts charismatic, humorous, dark and enigmatic, Isaac shows expert level character building and chops. It’s a down-to-earth performance that gives what could easily be an off-putting, egotistical, super-genius character into an affable, fun-loving guy. He’s also responsible for a completely unexpected and equally hilarious dance sequence that will easily go down as one of the best moments in any film this year.

Garland’s smart and ambitious screenplay keeps an air of mystery that allows every moment to unfold without knowing is what to come. After a great set up to pique interest, Garland throws a wrinkle into the film that keeps audiences on their toes. Without getting into too many plot details, motives begin to come into question and the complexity of the story and relationships kick into high gear, allowing audiences to flex their mental muscles to stay engaged.

As “Ex Machina” comes to its dramatic conclusion, there are moments where the storytelling becomes a little too dense and thematically crowded. As a result, the different themes at play get a little muddy and it takes a little unpacking to find the prevailing ones. Even with an overstuffed ending, “Ex Machina” is jam packed with moments of brilliance and bursting with originality. It’s atmospheric, intimate and joins Mike Cahill’s “Another Earth” and Duncan Jones’ “Moon” as one of the best original sci-fi films of the past several years. Also, that Oscar Isaac dance scene.

Never Let Me Go

October 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield
Directed by: Mark Romanek (“One Hour Photo”)
Written by: Alex Garland (“Sunshine”)

With such an original concept, it’s unfortunate when “Never Let Me Go” simply trails off without much emotional impact. The artful cinematography is remarkable by Adam Kimmel (“Capote,” “Lars and the Real Girl”), but the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel of the same name leaves a lot to be desired in the dreary dystopian world it has created.

Part coming-of-age British drama, part science fiction love story, “Never Let Me Go” is a melancholic narrative that follows three life-long friends – Ruth (Keira Knightley), Kathy (Carey Mulligan), and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) – as they grow up together in Hailsham, an boarding school where special rules to ensure their health and safety are enforced so their sole purpose in life can be fulfilled.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the film explains that scientific breakthroughs have increased human life expectancy to over the age of 100. Children raised at Hailsham are one of the reasons people are able to live longer than ever.

During their stay at the boarding school, Ruth and Tommy begin an innocent relationship. Kathy watches them casually as she conceals her own feeling for Tommy, which last throughout their childhood and into their teenage years. After graduating from Hailsham, the trio is sent off to live in an area known as the Cottages where they are given a bit more freedom than before, but are still well aware of thier ill-fated future.

Directed by music video veteran Mark Romanek, who’s only other film credit is 2002’s creepy drama “One Hour Photo,” “Never Let Me Go” is a delicate and surreal story that doesn’t provide enough answers in a script that seems to ignore its most obvious flaws.

As the melodrama rises, it becomes more evident that screenwriter Alex Garland (“Sunshine”) has backed himself into a corner. No matter how faithful he stays to Ishiguro’s source material, the film’s lack of balance between genres is irresolvable. It’s undoubtedly one of the more profound movie premises of the year, but never gets paid the attention to detail it deserves aside from its technical accomplishments.