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Ex Machina Ava Caleb Nathan Kyoko Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Sonoya Mizuno, Alex Garland

Ex Machina: a young programmer wins a contest to spend a week with his boss to complete every nerds fantasy; participating in the ultimate Turing Test with a sexy humanoid robo-babe!! There’s no doubting that it’s an ambitious movie; it’s not particularly dumbed down, leaning on some quite technical programming / A.I. terminology and dialogue – there’s no explosions or robots hitting robots in here, and the focus isn’t solely on the droid-meets-boy angle. It’s a fun film to watch because the script and acting are continually misleading and distracting you – hinting that a person or story may go down one path, which isn’t always the case. The direction’s solid, especially for a first-timer – there’s a sustained creepy and unsettling tone, especially once the plot gets rolling, which is aided by an ominous electronic score, crafting a slowly unraveling spiral that even dabbles with horror and body horror elements towards the end. The coldness of the house/facility, and TrollHunter-esque organic, wild and remote scenery also play a large part. My only real issue with this is that the last 5 minutes include some seriously lingering shots of nudity, which felt unnecessary – especially given that the characters are covered for most of the duration. The slickness and simplicity of  Ex Machina is like a shiny facade, behind it are dozens of bigger questions about humans, creations, robots, A.I., ethics, religion… although it’s hard to tell if this is all deliberate, as it’s somewhere between Blade Runner / A.I. lite and a slicker, stripped back Frankenstein – with a hardware and firmware updates, of course.

Score: 7.5/10

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Largo Winch Window Tomer Sisley, Mélanie Thierry, Bojana Panic, Karel Roden, Kristin Scott Thomas, Miki Manojlović, Elizabeth Bennett, Steven Waddington, Anne Consigny,

The Heir Apparent – Largo Winch: when a billionaire tycoon is murdered his secretly adopted son has to prove he’s the true heir to the business empire, while fighting off an aggressive takeover attempt. It’s an easy film to engage with for several reasons: firstly, it’s not a completely dead by-the-numbers affair – the story is interesting and is split between the eponymous Largo discovering his roots, and getting tangled up in action-based situations. Secondly; it looks great – sometimes even Bessonesque. Thirdly; it’s full of familiar spy/espionage aspects like frenetic action and chase scenes, global locations, femme fatales and everything else you’d expect from a James Bond type film – minus the budget. Think Bruce Wayne in an indie Bourne film and you’re almost there. LW also aims high with blatant global aspirations: it’s primarily English and French, with a decent ‘World’ Cast, and worldwide filming (Brazil, Hong Kong, Baltic States). There’s something for everyone in here: action, politics, drama, family, business, espionage, rumpy pumpy – but the only real problem is that large parts of backgrounding made it feel more like an ‘origins’ story, setting up a larger franchise. Having not heard of it, and with a wildly international scope and graphic novel roots, I was expecting a total euro-pudding; but with a charismatic lead, interesting story, and solid action Largo Winch is a fun, albeit lightweight, film.

Score: 6.5/10

Largo Winch Tomer Sisley, Mélanie Thierry, Bojana Panic, Karel Roden, Kristin Scott Thomas, Miki Manojlović, Elizabeth Bennett, Steven Waddington, Anne Consigny,

Orphan Black Season 1 - Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Michael Mando, Kevin Hanchard, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Dylan Bruce, Natalie Lisinska, Matt Frewer, Evelyne Brochu, David Richmond-Peck,

Orphan Black (Season 1) [Mild Spoilers]: When her doppelganger commits suicide a con artist tries to steal her identity; but gets way more than she bargained for. I’d class this as ‘Sneaky Sci-Fi’ – it starts out as an innocuous TV drama, but soon hits some obscure territory: DNA sequencing, evolution, cloning, body mods, it even gets a bit ‘Matrixy‘ in tone and style. The smart part about this is that by the time someone figures out it’s not something they’d usually watch, they’re probably hooked. Despite the Sci-Fi leanings there’s enough titbits of standard genres (Police procedural, Suburban Housewife comedy, Science girl for the nerds, religion) to give it general appeal. The central actress (Tatiana Maslany) is absolutely outstanding; she has to play at least 6 people, often one disguised as another – and is so convincing throughout; looks, mannerisms, accents – all nailed down. The gay step-brother is also fantastic comic relief. There are a heap of welcome – albeit unnecessary – panty shots / lesbian scenes for no real reason other than to keep the hard sci-fi dudes interested. Overall, a good concept, tight story, great talent and a solid budget – what’s not to like?

Score: 8/10

Orphan Black Season 1  - Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Michael Mando, Kevin Hanchard, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Dylan Bruce, Natalie Lisinska, Matt Frewer, Evelyne Brochu, David Richmond-Peck,

Porkys 01 - Shower Scene Peephole Dan Monahan, Wyatt Knight, Mark Herrier, Roger Wilson, Tony Ganios, Cyril O'Reilly, Kaki Hunter, Nancy Parsons, Boyd Gaines, Kim Cattrall, Susan Clark

Porky’s [Steelbook] a group of teenagers in 1950s Florida head to Porky’s strip club to get some action, but nothing goes to plan with this – or any of their sexual misadventures. Undoubtedly one of the most (in)famous coming-of-age teen-sex comedy flicks, Porky’s is less of a “film” and more of a bunch of individual scenes edited together to form a loose plot. There are so many side-stories like the jew-hater, bad biker dad, and horny P.E. teachers that really have nothing to do with the premise. There’s also far too many characters, none of which are the central focus, which makes it all seem even more tangential. But Porky’s was never trying to woo the critics, and for a sexcomedy there’s enough of both to make it a genre-classic, from the infamous voyeuristic shower scene to the 5-minute penis report (not to mention that it’s a High School where they only seem to teach sports classes and playground hijinks) it’s packed with entertaining stuff. While it’s a little dated (and even timid) compared to teen movies these days Porky’s is the definitive blueprint / Supertext for the genre; opening the door for films like American Pie, Superbad, Van Wilder, Road Trip… It’s good, it’s funny and the Blu Ray looks lovely. Great little Mr Skin feature about 80s skin-flicks too!

Score: 6.5/10

Porkys 02 Get it at porkys Dan Monahan, Wyatt Knight, Mark Herrier, Roger Wilson, Tony Ganios, Cyril O'Reilly, Kaki Hunter, Nancy Parsons, Boyd Gaines, Kim Cattrall, Susan Clark Porkys 03 Howler Dan Monahan, Wyatt Knight, Mark Herrier, Roger Wilson, Tony Ganios, Cyril O'Reilly, Kaki Hunter, Nancy Parsons, Boyd Gaines, Kim Cattrall, Susan Clark Porky's 04 - Dan Monahan, Wyatt Knight, Mark Herrier, Roger Wilson, Tony Ganios, Cyril O'Reilly, Kaki Hunter, Nancy Parsons, Boyd Gaines, Kim Cattrall, Susan Clark

Dream Home 2

“They wouldn’t slash the price, so she slashed them up.”

Dream Home (維多利亞壹號): when property developers bump up the price of her dream house, Cheng Lai goes on a killing spree that should make it more affordable again. The film opens up with the perfect one-sentence setup: ‘the average wage in Hong Kong has gone up 1% since the 1997 handover, in 2007 alone house prices went up by 15%’ – easy to see why the central character’s so frustrated. Although they all take place in one night, the killings are spread throughout the film; and they’re pretty graphic, imaginative, and brutal – blood, guts, gore all in abundance, but seamlessly done and outrageously OTT, although there’s a couple of really nasty deaths that may be too much for fair-weather horror fans. Equally scattered through the film is a very modern, hitting, and relevant commentary on the housing market prices. Most surprisingly for a violent B-movie / horror film, it’s beautifully shot: the entire film looks superb, in particular the shots of the city and it’s buildings are mesmerizing, and brilliantly done. It’s also great to see a strong female wielding the knives for a change in this type of movie. With both a modern social commentary and top-tier gore – Dream House is a total winner in my book, although this film definitely puts the ‘gory’ in ‘Category IIIfilms. Great shock/exploitation movie.

Score: 6.5/10
B-Movie Score: 8.5/10

Dream Home 1

“She’d Kill for a harbour view”

Skyfall: James Bond comes back from the dead to help MI6 – and justify his existence – during the agency’s darkest hour. The story is easily one of the strongest in the franchise, split in to three well-defined acts, and even at 2.5 hours it never feels like it over-stays its welcome, as most scenes reveal something about at least one of the central characters.

Javier Bardem‘s villain perfectly mangles the theatricality and campiness of the Bond classic villains (Scaramanga / Blofeld) with a dark, maniacal and twisted persona that’s among the best modern cinematic antagonists (The Joker / Detective Stansfield). It’s also a testament to Daniel Craig that he never gets out-performed – some previous Bond’s would have struggled. As for the under-discussed Bond Girls Sévérine perfectly plays the vulnerable and dangerous seductress; on the other hand, Bond’s field agent colleague Eve was pretty rubbish, lacking any believability, conviction or presence – she looked like she was on daytime TV.

The film’s well-paced, directed, and looks fantastic, with plenty full-frame/wide shot of landscapes & sets and – as you expect from the travelogue element of every Bond film – there’s a ton of stunning locations to take in; Turkey, Shanghai, the abandoned Hashima Island, Glencoe, and an eerily beautiful shot of a misty Glen Etive.

This film also continues to keep Daniel Craig’s outings firmly rooted in the ‘reality’ of the post-Bourne action film, steering well clear of the fantasy / ridiculous / gadgetry elements. Although this is the current style of most action movies, it would be good to see some gadgets and stunts that brought a bit of the classic Bond magic, although the line between magic and cheese is very grey.

The most interesting aspect of Skyfall is that it focuses on James Bond more than any other outing: not just through questioning his relevance in the modern world, or whether he’s still physically / mentally capable, but it also goes back to his pre-spy roots, fleshing out his childhood & backstory, giving the audience an insight into how he became the fearless, suave and dangerous 007.

You couldn’t ask for much more in a 50th Anniversary Bond film; most of the classic elements are there, even if they’re hinted at, or – like the famous ‘gun barrel sequence’ – simply tagged on to the end again. The story, characters and direction are all well above the average for a Bond film; however, more mentions of the previous 22 movies would have been the cherry on the cake, and added a truly celebratory vibe to the longest-running cinema franchise in history.

Score: 8.5/10

TOP TRUMPS

Villain: Raoul Silva – camp, cunning, crazy, deformed… just not in enough screen time 9
Henchmen: Patrice, the capable and silent assassin, + a few dozen mercenaries. 6
Babes: 50% classic beautiful siren, 50% awkward and rubbish. 7
Action: Opening mission / MI6 Bombing / Shanghai / Casino / Underground / Skyfall Shootout. 8

For reviews of every other James Bond film, click HERE

Stitches: six years after being bullied to death at a party full of brats, Stitches the clown returns for some blood-splattering revenge. As a low-budget british comedy horror, Stitches looks way slicker than it should, and the physical old-skool horror FX are great as impressive as they are fun – very Carpenter, what with all the exploding/bursting limbs, impalement and generally gruesome and comedic deaths. The film’s other main weapon is the streak of black humour throughout; it definitely passes the Kermode 6-laugh test with ease, although it feels like there’s room for a lot much more gags. Ross Noble is the only really notable cast member (Other than Monster Munch Mary!) as the can’t-be-assed clown with a bucket full of so-bad-they’re-good puns and quips, and a taste of the ridiculous. The story’s pretty crap, bu that’s to be expected in this territory. Stitches is a passably funny slasher-at-a-party horror romp that makes up for its shortcomings by laying out some of the goriest, bloodiest and ridiculously entertaining death sequences.

Score: 5/10