sci-fi

Things I Learned from ‘Terminator Genisys’

I’m a fan of Terminator films. The first two movies are classics, and I didn’t hate Rise of the Machines. The franchise is ripe for another entry, and with James Cameron endorsing the new film, I figured it was worth checking out. How bad could it be?

Famous last words. I was really, really disappointed with Terminator: Genisys. Here are my biggest takeaways from the film. I’m tagging this post as [spoilers], I guess, though honestly if you’ve seen the trailer and any mediocre action movie in the past 15 years, the movie doesn’t offer many surprises.

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‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ VS ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

Summer blockbuster season begins with two mega-budget colon-sporting action franchise sequels that couldn’t be more different. Mad Max: Fury Road serves as a throwback to the insanity of action movies of the 80’s, while Avengers: Age of Ultron is firmly rooted in contemporary blockbuster filmmaking. While I can recommend both movies, for my money Fury Road is far and away the more interesting of the two.  Mad Max succeeds on so many levels, and it really highlights the shortcomings of Avengers, and by extension, many modern action films.  Mild [spoilers] for both films from here on.

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‘Ex Machina’: Of Machines and Men

At what point has Artificial Intelligence become advanced enough to be considered life? Is it once it passes for human? Once it has emotions, wants and needs? Once it’s self-aware?

This is one of several core questions behind Alex Garland’s directorial debut, Ex Machina. The film is a surprisingly intimate sci-fi drama in which Domhnall Gleeson plays Caleb, a computer programmer at a Google stand-in. Caleb is invited to the isolated estate of tech-billionaire-genius Nathan (Oscar Isaac) under the pretense of having won a week-long retreat. Once there, he discovers that the true purpose behind the invitation is far more interesting. In addition to boozing it up with his boss, Caleb is tasked with evaluating an advanced A.I. of Nathan’s creation, Ava (Alicia Vikander). In a series of sessions, he must test her humanity in an updated version of the Turing test. The film is extremely tightly written. Its relatively modest budget is used to the fullest extent, and like any good sci-fi film, Ex Machina uses the sci-fi genre to generate discussion on modern concerns. [Spoilers] from here on.

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