ex machina

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The Basics: A coder gets invited to the manor of his reclusive, genius CEO and petitioned to interact with artificial intelligence.

The Bottom Line: The tone of this movie is taut and effective; even the more predictable plot twists are carried out with breath-stealing determination. The characters, while not especially likable, provoke a base level of empathy, and the economical nature of the film on the whole is quite impressive. This was far better and more thought provoking than I expected.

[Related: Please check out The Incomparable Podcast's discussion of the film in pairing with 2013's stellar Her.]

Rating: 8 (of 10).

american ultra

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The Basics: A dormant killing machine is activated and flees as a target.

The Bottom Line: This is an peculiar film, in that the main characters are fleshed out and interesting, but I would rather see them follow a different plotline. Is screen presence and depth worthwhile enough to endure a threadbare story? Unfortunately in this case, not really.

Rating: 5 (of 10).

an affair to remember

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The Basics: The odds are stacked against a couple struggling to reunite after a high profile cruise ship romance.

The Bottom Line: I share a common gripe with [fantastic TV critic] Tim Goodman, in that a narrative problem that can be resolved by a character piping up is especially irksome. For all the enduring charm of this classic Cary Grant movie, the premise is too quickly undone.

Rating: 7 (of 10).

paper towns

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The Basics: A high school senior and his closest friends travel the east coast in search of a teenage runaway.

The Bottom Line: This movie gets the dual attractions of childhood and adulthood right – but otherwise it’s a paint-by-numbers road trip romance. Based on a John Green novel popular with teens, the flick seems more suited to tweens on the cusp.

Rating: 5 (of 10).


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The Basics:  A group of academic teens from a rough L.A. neighborhood get caught up in a drug ring.

The Bottom Line:  The plot device of interwoven stories can go wrong so easily, and here it falters almost immediately.  The three main characters are likable and even relatively complex, but the situations they find themselves in are almost comically coincidental.  Dope has a smart point to make, but makes it clumsily.

Rating:  5 (of 10).

kicking and screaming

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The Basics:  A group of friends tentatively proceed in non-paths directly after college graduation.

The Bottom Line:  Not to be confused of the Will Ferrell vehicle of the same name, this is the 1995 debut from Noah Baumbach, and it’s a perfectly ’90s companion to Singles - meant in the most complimentary way possible.  Eminently quotable, relatable characters – careless, wobbly adulthood embodied.

Rating:  8 (of 10).

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