The history of Lara Croft is the history of female video game characters. Debuting in 1996 with the very first Tomb Raider game for PC, Playstation and the now forgotten Sega Saturn, Lara Croft, though shakily animated in early 3-D rendering, has long stood the female equivalent to the predominantly male adventurer/archeologist figure throughout the video game and cinematic world. Angelina Jolie achieved superstardom cramming into a skin-tight black wife beater and sporting a fistful of pistols as the titular character in the largely maligned 2001 Simon West adaptation, which saw a slightly less maligned, but less financially successful, sequel drop in 2006. The plug was soon pulled on Jolie’s tomb raiding days. Enjoying a celebrated franchise reboot in 2013 courtesy of publisher Square Enix, the game itself has never been better and the folks crammed into smart Hollywood suits wisely cast rising star Alicia Vikander to put a new spin on the resurrected character. Read More
With The Light Between Oceans, Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) fancies himself both a ballerina and a first responder. The fine line between drippy sentimentality and earnest adult drama is a tightrope that Cianfrance tip-toes with all the testy bravado of Philippe Petie, loading his screen with moody tableaus of bereaved faces and decadent sealand landscapes. With great finesse, he probes the dour depths of the human spirit, framing a lurid moral no-no within a heartrending saga of romantic turmoil. Bottling the melancholy and adding pathos-laden Mentos until it erupts into a geyser of emotion, he applies the jaws of life to his audience, breaks open the collective chest cavity, steals your heart and tap dances all up on it. Read More
You may know his name but the titular amnesic super spy has lost his purpose in Jason Bourne. Unnecessary sequels are the hottest trend of summer 2016 and none may be a worse offender than the latest collaboration between Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, the team responsible for the wide-adored sequels, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. Nothing is more in vogue than loosing an unnecessary addition unto rabid fanbases and few have been more unnecessary than the offerings of Jason Bourne. That’s not to say it doesn’t entertain though… Read More
Telling the rousing story of Lili Elbe, a landscape artist who was the first to undergo gender correction surgery, Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper enlists a talented crew lead by last year’s Oscar-winner Eddie Redmaye and illustrious hot ticket item Alicia Vikander. Both show off their acting chops like wolves gnashing at lambs but there’s an uncomfortable air of assumed prestige to Redmayne’s whisper-heavy performance and Tom Hooper’s mawkish tendencies on full display. Redmayne’s clearly a phenomenal talent but, in a role that requires so much externalization of ticking internal clockwork, his turn as Lili risks being too showy, much like the film itself. On the surface, The Danish Girl is among the most “progressive” movies of the year and yet it can never stay the feeling of being tame, almost safe. Read More
Guy Ritchie is the Rembrandt of slick action capers. His signature twisty-turny plotting suggests a much more reined-in Shyamalan while his carefully syncopated, pop-art action beats share a locker with contemporaries Zack Snyder and Matthew Vaughn. From Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Ritchie has operated within a comparable sandbox, utilizing a very similar set of stock tools within shifting budgetary constraints. With The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Ritchie has set aside his signature accoutrements for something with an embarrassment of cinematic fervor. His latest creation is chic and classic, timely yet timeless, shiny on the surface with rich characters driving the engine underneath. This much fun is rare at the theaters. Read More
At the beginning of James Kent’s Testament of Youth the Armistice has been signed and World War I is ending. Though our protagonist, Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) isn’t celebrating. As she makes her way through crowded London streets, she looks beaten down and dazed. By this point, the war has taken everything from her. In real life, Brittain became a Pacifist after experiencing the horrors of The Great War first-hand. Based on her memoir of the same name, Testament of Youth carries a strong anti-war message that Kent handles with subtlety and compassion. He slowly easing into Brittain’s tale, instead of starting with suffering right away. Keeping the focus squarely on Vera and her evolution as a character, he crafts a delicate and understanding biopic worthy of mild celebration. Read More
In Alex Garland‘s sci-fi opus, Ex Machina – most commonly seen in the phrase “deus ex machina”, meaning “god from the machine” and frequently used to describe convenient plot contrivances (of which Ex Machina has none) – refers to the process by which a machine transcends its “machininess”. The Turing test has come to describe this as-of-yet unrealized phenomenon more specifically. This experiment tests for a “machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.” Thus the barrier to entry for any truly credible A.I. is sky-high.
Not only must you exhibit superlative intelligence but it must also be nigh indistinguishable from that of a human; a tricky task indeed and one that drives the audience to question what it is specifically that makes an intelligence human. Halfway through Garland’s film, a character drives a scalpel into his arm fervently hunting for circuitry. When the aesthetic design and electronic capacities are this close to impeccable, who’s to say what is man and what is machine. Read More