Star Wars is and always has been an underdog story. An action-packed intergalactic odyssey about small legions of rebels rising against seemingly insurmountable adversaries, Star Wars is rooted in an idea of hope against all odds, and you don’t need C3P0 on hand to butt in for that calculation. After the politically-charged prequels, The Force Awakens (and Rogue One) returned to this central conceit of a Sisyphusian struggle – toil in the face of utter improbability – depicting new characters taking their turn against a tyrannical empire, its limitless armada and impossibly supercharged firepower and with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, hope has never seemed so out of reach and victory so unachievable. Read More
American Made. What a suiting title for a Tom Cruise vehicle. The 55-year old superstar is, for all intents and purposes, American made as can be. Raised on the nipple of Hollywood, Cruise made his first million at the tender age of 21 before becoming one of the most recognized Americans across the globe. No amount of Oprah couch jumping, public divorces or religious scandals could keep the man down, thing of grit and determination and charm and externalized positivity that he is. Cruise is like a living pep rally, draped in an American flay and showered with atta-boys. Like Barry Seal, the true-to-life pilot turned CIA operative/Cartel drug smuggler he portrays in American Made, he’s a man who, despite innumerable punches, won’t stay down. He always gets the job done. He always delivers. Read More
Not since Jim Caviezel hitched himself to a cross and got struck by lightning playing JC himself has an actor suffered so mightily for his craft. Enter Leonardo DiCaprio, the heir to Mel Gibson’s “they killed my family, I will have my revenge” throne. In The Revenant, DiCaprio plays a guide for a fur-trading company who survives a savage Indian assault, is brutally mauled by a mama grizzly, finds himself stitched up like the Necronomicon, left for dead and buried alive all before dragging his ass across a frigid tundra hot on vengeance’s trail. Read More
The Brooklyn of 2015 is associated with being hip and trendy; a once counterculture locale turned into one of the most desirable places to live on the planet. It’s home base for the American Dream; a hotspot where you can expect to spot Aziz Ansari drinking elderberry kombucha while jotting down scene notes in an artisanal moleskin; a fantasy land that environs the hottest up-and-comers and gives birth to the most in vogue fads while taking in loads of new arrivals by the truckload. John Crowley’s Brooklyn stands in stark opposition to many of the things that Brooklyn represents today. It’s not hip, it’s certainly not trendy and it bears its heart on its sleeve in a way that most of the millennials occupying the various boroughs would not dare display. Rather, the Nick Hornsby-penned immigrant romance is about as earnest as they come, forthright in its good intentions and ultimately charmed beyond compare. 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