Django Unchained, Tarantino’s Explosive Cameo

Django Unchained

Man, I love Tarantino movies. They’ve got action, adventure, thrills, sass, and hilarious amounts of blood and dismemberment; everything a good flick needs. That’s the short version of this Django Unchained review, to be sure, and it is bloody. That tends to happen when a freed slave turned bounty hunter gets to exact revenge on the sadistic slavers who took his wife from him. Paired with a charming German ex-dentist named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and armed with enough guns to change the air-to-lead ratio, Django (Jamie Foxx) sets out on a quest to buy his wife’s freedom from the nefarious Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) of the Candie plantation.

Now, the first thing you should know about Django Unchained is that the story takes place in 1858 in the South. If gratuitous use of the N-word makes you uncomfortable or outright offends you, steer clear!

Django UnchainedThe story begins with a transaction gone foul: Masquerading as a dentist, Dr. Schultz approaches two slaveholders and their latest purchases in the night, wishing to acquire a particular slave that might harbor knowledge of his latest bounties. In truth, he is a bounty hunter employed by the United States government. When the slavers threaten to kill Schultz if he doesn’t depart immediately, one winds up with a hole in his head, and the other with his leg broken underneath a dead horse. Despite the bloodshed, or perhaps owing to it, Django agrees to help Schultz in his hunt, and the two depart for the Gatlinburg plantation where the Brittles are employed.

Over the course of their journey together, Django proves himself to be a competent bounty hunter, and so Schultz takes him on as a sort of partner/apprentice. They roam the land, exchanging the corpses of criminals for cash money, and getting themselves into particularly tight situations that are resolved only by Schultz’s immaculate charm. At a point, Django tells Schultz of his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who was sold at an auction in Mississippi. Schultz realizes that he’s witnessing a real-life rendition of the German fable of Siegfried. He feels compelled to help Django, and so the movie shifts to its main attraction: Candyland!

Calvin Candie, the owner of Candyland, is a man that deals in mandingo fighting; a brutal form of one-on-one combat to the death with virtually no rules beyond winning at all costs. Schultz and Django – disguised as a novice mandingo aficionado and a talent evaluator, respectively – veil their desire to purchase Broomhilda with an outlandish offer of $12,000 for one of Candie’s top mandingos, Eskimo Joe. The head house slave, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), doesn’t take too kindly to the fact that Django, a black man, isn’t treated like a slave. While Candie is seduced by the prospect of making money, Stephen sees right through the sham and lets his master know what’s what, forcing the two bounty hunters into a very dire situation indeed. And that’s the cliffhanger I’ll leave you with.

Django UnchainedOh, right. And that Quentin Tarantino himself appears as an Australian slaveholder and explodes within minutes. Horrible as it may be, that was the hardest I laughed throughout the entire movie.

This movie is two hours and forty five minutes long, just so you know what you’re getting yourself into. If you’re touchy about racism or ultraviolence, you’re going to have a lot of both on your hands if you try to sit this one all the way through. If you’re sufficiently jaded as I am, you can laugh at the overdone violence, revel in the righteous vengeance Django and Schultz lay down on the sadistic slavers, and feel pretty good when the movie ends with a literal bang.

Anthony Quinn of Independent.co.uk thinks that Tarantino’s delicious Western spaghetti wasn’t cooked enough, and may have a bit too much sauce. In a single word, one might describe Django Unchained as tropey or campy, requiring viewers to take the film’s sporadically silly and dramatic content with a grain of salt. But as I said, I’ve got a blatant bias towards most every Tarantino film I see, so perhaps you’d best check out the Independent review here for more perspective before you watch.

The Hunger Games are Bloodthirsty

The Hunger Games

Ah, The Hunger Games. Nothing better complements an oppressive government than yearly battles to the death consisting wholly of children. Better yet, most of them don’t even want to participate! What’s a poor poacher to do when her twelve-year-old sister (against impossible odds) wins the Hunger Games raffle and has to sacrifice herself for the glory of Panem’s vindictive totalitarian regime? Easy answer in theory, but tough in practice: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has to volunteer, and more importantly, she has to win.

Long ago, the people of Panem rebelled against their government, and were brutally defeated. Their failure wrought more than death; in order to crush the spirit of any future rebels, The Capitol began hosting the Hunger Games. Every year, two people from each of the twelve districts– one young male and one young female – are selected via a raffle known as the Reaping to compete in a twenty-four person epic battle royal. The lone victor will be granted a life of riches and luxury, and will be celebrated by all the districts until the day they die. The PTSD doesn’t factor into any of that, though, nor does the fact that no amount of media will trick the poorer outer districts into being okay with the terrible lives The Capitol has forced them into.

The Hunger GamesThe dystopian future in which Hunger Games is set is colorful, in both a literal and metaphorical sense; the inner districts are so outrageously stylish that you might go blind just by glimpsing their fashion sense. Everyone has brightly colored hair, outfits worthy of an LSD-addled Lady Gaga, and a posh sort of disregard for the bloody reality of the world they live in. The color fades in the outer districts, however. The further you get from the Capital, the less immersed you become in fashion and whimsy; by the time you hit twelve, there’s hard manual labor as far as the eye can see, from coal mines to power plants. The blatant class divide is consequent of the past rebellion more likely than not, and unfortunately is bound to produce more of the same.

The revolution begins within the Hunger Games themselves, oddly enough, with an act of defiance thought up by Katniss Everdeen herself. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) helps slightly. I’d get into detail about her tribulations during the games, and the means by which she initiates the fall of The Capitol, but that’s the action; that’s where all the thrill and fun is. If you’re seeking visceral, in-depth descriptions of people getting their assorted limbs and/or internal organs punctured by arrows and having their faces eaten by genetically engineered mandogs, I suggest you read a book about that or something. Like the Hunger Games book by Suzanne Collins. Or the movie that I’ve been describing to you. It’s got a well fleshed-out and complex story to it, so go watch/read the thing.

The Hunger GamesAngela Watercutter of Wired speaks of how the character of Katniss Everdeen breaks the mold of female heroines by not being subject to arbitrarily sexualization her or being helpless without a male lead. If you’re sick to shit of gender roles, then yeah, Hunger Games is definitely an empowering movie to watch. Lots of people die, but the movie’s empowering nevertheless. You get to see Katniss overcome all manner of adversity, from oppressive political bullshit to deadly hallucinogenic wasps, and most things in between. Read the full Wired review here!

It’s Such a Beautiful Day to Watch a Movie

It's Such a Beautiful Day

Let me start this review off by saying that I sincerely love Don Hertzfeldt’s work. If you’ve been on the weird side of YouTube long enough, you’ve probably run into The Animation Show, Rejected Cartoons, Billy’s Red Balloon, or Genre. These are all perfect examples of the nature of Don’s animations: They’re surreal, goofy, oftentimes profoundly dark, yet great fun to watch and re-watch. It’s Such a Beautiful Day is comprised of three contiguous short animations strung together to create a feature length film, and what a film it is. Between the enchanting classical musical score and the simple, charming animation style that mixes pencil drawing and video, It’s Such a Beautiful Day is most assuredly one of Don Hertzfeldt’s finest works.

It's Such a Beautiful DayBill’s tale is one of decay; descent from normality into insanity into death at the hands of a nameless genetic illness buried inside his brain. Heavily narrated by Don himself, you experience and explore the intimate nuances of Bill’s life, from his daily chores to his whimsical ponderings. As his condition worsens, you also learn of his mother, his grandmother, and other ancestors who also share his condition. While not terribly complex, the whole tale is intriguing and strangely uplifting, bringing to mind a certain word: Sonder, which is the realization that every single human being on Earth has a life as complex and vivid as your own.

It's Such a Beautiful DayEven if you’re not keen on having a life-changing epiphany at the hands of a delightfully abstract animation, you can still enjoy the ride. That’s part of the symbolism, anyway: Even if you don’t grasp the profundity of the film, it’s still going to end. Just like life! Not Bill’s life, though. The narrator loves Bill too dearly and refuses to let him go, sparking a very inspiring concluding section about Bill’s life as an immortal. Between that and letting him succumb to his condition, I much prefer the former.

Glenn Heath Jr. of LittleWhiteLies articulates his thoughts on It’s Such a Beautiful Day much better than I have, and praises it in a way that is much more befitting, given the philosophical quality of the film. The surreal nature of Hertzfeldt’s work makes it a little difficult to describe linearly, so check out the LittleWhiteLies review through here. I do hope you end up watching It’s Such a Beautiful Day. It may well change your perspective on life.

Antiviral, Sick Mind, Sick Body

Antiviral

Have you ever loved a celebrity so dearly that you wanted to make them a part of you? Have you studied them, obsessed over them, perhaps even followed them in a way that skirts the borders of legality? If you had heard that your idol had been infected with a disease of some sort, would you want to make that very disease your own? If you’ve said yes to one or more of these questions, I highly recommend watching Antiviral after you finish therapy. Antiviral is a movie that portrays a world utterly infatuated with celebrities, and shows you the grimy inner workings of the well-oiled, beautiful media machine.

Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works for the Lucas Clinic, one of several organizations responsible for the distribution of celebrity illnesses amongst obsessed fans. The process is fairly straightforward: A celebrity falls ill, the Lucas Clinic (or one of its competitors) purchases a tainted blood sample from said celebrity, modifies the illness to remove any chance of infection, and then sells the final product to obsessed fans who desire a more profound connection with their idols. The modification process is performed via running the blood through a futuristic machine that simulates the “face” of the virus, and alters its fundamental nature to be more marketable. Marketable in this context meaning non-infectious and thus inaccessible to competing groups.

AntiviralThings aren’t so simple, however. Syd, having stolen one of the virus modifying machines from the Lucas Clinic, likes to make money on the side by smuggling viruses to piracy groups. After obtaining samples of sick celeb blood, he injects a little into himself for later at-home modification. Despite having to be sick all the time, he’s got a nice little side business cut out for himself. That is, until he “acquires” a lethal illness from Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon).

Lethal pathogens are illegal in this celebrity-run world, and with Hannah Geist facing her death, her popularity has skyrocketed. Underground demand for the deadly Hannah pathogen is greater than ever, and Syd finds himself pulled into one bad situation after another: Greedy smugglers, secret corporate wars, and of course, the increasing probability of his own death. What’s a poor sick guy to do?

Antiviral’s portrayal of celebrity obsession is disturbing in that it isn’t wholly unrealistic. Ours is a world of powerful media and shifting cultural trends; obsession with the flavor of the month is commonplace. Who is to say that, if the technology were made available, the world wouldn’t begin taking on celebrity diseases? If you can cover yourself in tattoos of your idol, cover the walls of your bedroom with their face, fill your life with their music or movies, why not fill your blood with their illness?

AntiviralThat’s really gross, though. You shouldn’t do that or want to do that. I don’t. I mean, Caleb is a pretty good-looking actor, but I wouldn’t want to dose myself with a noninfectious strain of whatever he’s got goin’ for him. Ah, but maybe I need to obsess a little more.

Annalee Newitz of io9 thought that the movie got a little preachy at points, and that Syd could have been a little more… present in the film. True, his character was very quiet, very calm, and didn’t show any real emotion until the very end of the movie, but maybe Cronenberg thought that a vibrant main character would get in the way of his film’s message? Leave a comment to let us know what you think, and check out the io9 review of Antiviral right through here.

Comforting Skin is Uncomfortably Bad

Has art gone too far? Or not far enough? Comforting Skin is one of those shitty artsy film festival thrillers that try to be a lot of things and fails catastrophically at most of them. Let’s be honest here, pretentious art films are horrifying in and of themselves, but when done badly… Oh, if I hear that same set of somber piano notes one more time whilst the nude protagonist continues to look distantly contemplative in an uncomfortable sexual situation that calls for no such behavior, I may just smash something. If you’re afraid of feeling uncomfortable and/or annoyed while watching a movie, Comforting Skin will scare the unholy hell right out of you.

First and foremost, nudity. Lots of it. All the time. Are you, dear reader of reviews, at all interested in seeing Victoria Bidewell nude? Yes, no? Regardless, you will. This is an art film about living tattoos, you main-stream film inundated sheep. If there isn’t a bare breast every third cut, the material is too willingly oppressed by social taboo and is consequently rendered mundane and uninteresting to real film connoisseurs. Get it? Got it? Good.

Comforting Skin 2Koffie (Bidewell) is an attention-starved junkie loser who lives with her neurotic, antisocial composer friend Nathan (Tygh Runyan). Nathan relies on her to do most “outside” things, like going out for breakfast with him or buying his groceries, and has exactly one truly amusing moment in which he fumblingly tries to order sausages and eggs at a breakfast joint. Following that, he’s relegated to being an emotional crutch for all of Koffie’s inane bullshit. It’s a little disappointing that the film would rather show us Koffie prancing around naked than explore Nathan’s personality a little further; the fact that he has no sexual interest in her (or her promiscuous junkie friend) makes him the most complex movie persona in the universe.

Once upon a time, Koffie was out partying, and when nobody paid any attention to her, she decided to get a tattoo. And then, for some inexplicable reason, this tattoo began to speak, and proceeded to help Koffie masturbate when her intention at the time had nothing to do with masturbation whatsoever. Between the tattoo’s pseudo-surreal, whispery, annoyingly indistinct voice, its appropriately (initially) comforting discourse, and its tendency to jack her off in elevators while appealing to her self-directed toe fetish, Koffie feel deeply, deeply in love with it. If there’s any semblance of self-love and self-acceptance buried in this movie’s metric ton of frustrated sexuality, you won’t see it. Actual happiness isn’t nearly pretentious enough.

Then some shit happens and the tattoo gets jealous of Koffie’s relationship with Nathan and that plays on her fear of being alone so she goes movie crazy. Like, cliché crazy, mumbling how the tattoo is hers and she loves it and it loves her over again while ignoring everything around her. And then she cuts her toes off with a white collar machete.

Comforting Skin 3Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe this movie is actually art, and I’m the inundated sheep I sarcastically mentioned. All I know is that my final impression of Comforting Skin was one of irritation. I cannot stand self-important “I have a message buried in tumultuous human nature” garbage. Give it a watch, throw down a comment if I’m wrong, and please tell me why and how Comforting Skin is good. Also I’m lying, and if you actually comment that the movie is good then you really need to reevaluate your standards. “See past the nudity”, ha-gosh darn-ha.

The Bloody Disgusting review of Comforting Skin thinks that Nathan’s gay, but I think they’ve got it wrong, man. Nathan’s just not willing to subject himself to the romantic turbulence that comes with dating/screwing Koffie. But hey, whatever, it’s never explicitly stated. Or… maybe it is? I can’t remember, I was too busy wading through nearly two hours of angsty bullshit. Read the Bloody Disgusting review here, and go away. I need to watch something that doesn’t make me feel bad.

Choices Matter in Would You Rather

Would You Rather

Lately I’ve been noticing a number of horror/thriller movies that revolve around sadistic aristocrats hosting cruel and often demeaning games played by average Joes bogged down in debt. The reward, of course, is always a sum of money large enough to eradicate any and all monetary issues one had prior to playing. However, as many taglines probably say, the price contestants pay to win is greater than the sum they earn. That’s the point of Would You Rather: To watch an assortment of poor folk struggle against each other and their hosts in order to make all their problems go away.

Would You RatherWould You Rather? focuses on the story of Iris (Brittany Snow) and her leukemia-riddled brother Lucas (Enver Gjokaj). While discussing the nonstop barrage of expensive treatment for brother dear with the good Doctor Barden (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), the generous Mr. Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) steps in and offers her an opportunity to make all the money she’ll ever need, as well as find a bone marrow donor for Lucas. All she must do to earn it is play a game, and after her initial skepticism is assuaged by Mr. Lambrick, she agrees to meet him at his estate.
The remainder of the cast is introduced at Lambrick manor, consisting of Shepard’s sadistic son Julian (Robin Lord Taylor), his equally sadistic former special agent butler Bevans (Johnny Coyne), Bevans’s staff, and a motley crew of people deep enough in debt to have a collectively large threshold for abuse. Abuse that includes making Iris, a vegetarian, eat a piece of foie gras for ten thousand dollars, and Conway, the recovering alcoholic, imbibe in a bottle of scotch for fifty thousand. Unfortunately for them, the game has yet to start, and those quaint payoffs are little but distractions. The real game consists of electrocution, whipping, drowning, eye-slicing (as per the box art), and other assorted party-friendly activities, all intended to reduce the player population to one.

Would You RatherThe progression of the game is rather linear, save for one ambiguous interruption by Dr. Barden. His experience with Lambrick’s game comes to light, along with his apparent distaste for the torment involved. Whether or not he manages to sway the game’s outcome will remain unmentioned, of course, though the movie remains almost comically grim through to the twisted conclusion. You will like the ending, even if you don’t care for the perfunctory mid-game dialogue.

Nathan Rabin of AV Club found Would You Rather’s protagonist tropey and uninspired, the torture scenes dull, and Sasha Grey’s performance comparable to that of a wet paper towel. Frankly, she was only as good as her lines, and being cast as a living PSA for “there’s nothing we can do” favored her nothin’. But hey, Jeffery Combs rocked as much of the movie as he could, and depending on how much you enjoy the end, you may well consider the movie salvaged. Check out the AV Club review here.

Dead Silence, the Consequence of Living Noise

Dead Silence

There should be a name for the spooky phenomenon that occurs after staring at a doll’s face for several minutes. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? After a while, you half-expect the lifeless face to blink, twitch, or otherwise move. What say we call it Dead Silence since it’s so downright disturbing? Ah, no, that’s actually the title of a movie about staring at creepy ventriloquist dummies. Rather, the dummies in Dead Silence stare at you before making you die in a terrible, jaw-dropping way. James Wan, the director of the movie Saw, continues to express his passion for horror with this tale of a vengeful spirit and her creepy, doll-centric haunting.

“Beware the stare of Mary Shaw. She had no children; only dolls. And if you see her in your dreams, be sure you never, ever scream.” In Ravens Fair in the 1940s, there was an aged ventriloquist by the name of Mary Shaw, who supposedly went mad and kidnapped the boy who had called her a fraud during one of her performances. Enraged, the townsfolk cut her tongue out and killed her, burying her with each and every one of her dummies as per her will. Curiously, the families of those who had killed her began to suffer mysterious deaths in the years following…

Dead SilenceJamie (Ryan Kwanten) and Lisa (Laura Regan) Ashen are a happily newlywed couple, content save for the fact that Lisa dies and has her tongue ripped out in the opening scene. What an odd coincidence! One could assign the blame to Billy, the haunted ventriloquist dummy that Jamie received in a package not minutes earlier, but that would be a lot of superstitious nonsense. At least, that’s what Detective Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg) thinks, and lets Jamie know that he’s the top suspect in his wife’s murder investigation. Eager to be proven innocent (or to remove the spiritual executioner’s axe from his neck), Jamie-boy sets off for Ravens Fair.

Only, the closer he gets to his solution, the stronger the haunting becomes. Billy seems to follow him everywhere, and he can’t seem to enjoy alone time without some tongueless apparition appearing to him. Before long, the people who have helped him on his way suffer the same horrific deaths, and Jamie finds himself in a perilous struggle with the spirit of Mary Shaw. If only defeating her was as easy as not screaming; the long-dead ventriloquist’s got quite a few tricks up her sleeves.

Dead SilenceAs far as horror movies go, Dead Silence is above average in all fronts despite being particularly orthodox within the paradigm of the genre. Jump scares galore, of course, yet this is made more tolerable by remembering that little precautionary poem. You’ll even be pleased to notice that Jamie does not scream. At least, not until- Oh, I wouldn’t spoil it for you.

Josh Green of  FirstShowing thoroughly enjoyed Dead Silence’s gimmick, and I can see why. Building tension is a crucial aspect of the horror genre, and the one employed here is both creative and effective. Of course, as Mr. Green says in his review here, telling you any more about it would ruin the fun. So, happy watching, and remember not to scream!

The Scribbler Scratches Your Conformist Brain

The Scribbler

So, you know how people will say that nonconformists are actually conformists because they conform to nonconformity? Don’t listen to those people; they’re wise-asses without the wise. Nonconformity suggests a collection of people with staggeringly diverse tastes, personalities, aspirations, and ideals. Nonconforming groups like hipsters and hippies aside, it would be incredibly difficult to find two free spirits who think exactly alike. Now, take around twenty of those personalities, cram them into a single, sassy protagonist, and set her loose in a very tall halfway house for the socially and mentally inept; that there is the recipe for The Scribbler.

Suki, our delightful protagonist (played by Katie Cassidy), is afflicted with that brutal case of dissociative identity disorder, and flew the cuckoo’s nest all the way to Juniper Towers. Sometimes called the Jumper Towers due to the inanely high suicide rates within, this “psychiatric purgatory” is Suki’s final step on the road to normalcy. Doctor Sinclaire, Suki’s psychiatrist, employs the use of a seemingly volatile technique called the Siamese Burn; it is a form of electroshock therapy that regulates synaptic firing and effectively “burns away” excess personalities while counting those that remain.

The ScribblerThe Scribbler is given a vague presence early on in the film, but as the counter on Suki’s burn box shrinks, it becomes much more prevalent. Characterized as the film’s tentative antagonist, Suki is afraid that this mute but powerful personality is her true self, leading her to struggle with her ultimate goal: To follow through with Sinclaire’s treatment and risk losing out to the Scribbler, or to consider herself a permanent, incurable resident of the Jumper Towers and risk being incarcerated once more.

But then, a third option opens up. Out of the blue, Suki wakes up after a day-long blackout to find that her Siamese Burn box has been dramatically modified by none other than her brain-sister. Hogan (Garret Dillahunt), Suki’s long-time friend, tentative lover, and the only male patient in the Towers, samples the modified box and claims that it let him experience his true self. The stakes are raised all the more; if our protagonist were to use the newly modified box, who would she become? Suki, or the Scribbler? And why does Alice (Michelle Trachtenberg) keep pushing her down the stairs?

The ScribblerThis one’s definitely lacking in budget, but as far as B-movies go, The Scribbler is solid gold. Sure, it can feel a little nonsensically preachy at times, but that’s part of the charm. Up until the end, that is. The conclusion of the movie seemed rather… out of place. Epic, but out of place. Regardless of its shortcomings, the characters are strong (though most of them short-lived), the plot is gripping, and the musical score ain’t half bad. Watch you The Scribbler.

Matt Donato of WeGotThisCovered reveals the sad truth about poor little Scribbles: It yearned to be a cult classic and a seamless comic book adaptation, but lacked the chutzpa to pull it off. It seems the general consensus is that the conclusion was icky, but it is nice to see the Scribbler personality get some actual screen-time. Even if it is spent kung-fu fighting in the rain! Check out the WeGotThisCovered review right here, okay?

Housebound, but Not Genre-Bound

Housebound

Housebound is brilliant in that it’s never what you’re expecting it to be. A quick glance at the gloomy box art invokes thoughts of the used and abused haunted house genre, yet a closer look reveals that things aren’t thematically absolute. Brutal acts of violence and jump scares are preceded by satirical snippets of humor, making you wonder whether you should laugh or wet your pants. Complimented by an atypical (and wonderful) absence of the “damsel in distress” trope, Housebound’s composition is immaculate; by the end of the film, you’ll feel as if you’ve actually watched a different kind of horror movie.

HouseboundKylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is nothing but trouble. She’s chasing purple dragons, blowing up ATM machines with homemade explosives for some quick cash, and is generally unapproachable owing to her punkish attitude. Bad luck strikes when one of her robbery attempts falls flat on its ass and she winds up arrested, convicted, and sentenced to a supposedly lenient eight months of home detention, complete with an ankle monitor and a irritatingly chatty mother. The judge hoped to impose some stability on her chaotic life, but as one would expect, Kylie isn’t happy to be home, and she ensures that EVERYONE in the house is aware of this sentiment.

One uneventful evening (and there are many, presumably), Kylie hears her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) on the radio, talking about how her house is haunted. Years back, she witnessed a shadowy figure down in the basement, and the memory spooks her to this day. Kylie initially ridicules her mother for being superstitious, but then begins to experience the symptoms of the haunting firsthand. Funny enough, her corrections officer Amos (Glen-Paul Waru) happens to be a real paranormal enthusiast, and proceeds to give her a hand scoping the place for any unruly spirits. It isn’t long before they discover that they’re digging up something worse than a few spooky ghosts.

HouseboundI won’t spoil the twists and turns for you, but I will tell you that there are a solid few. Twists that involve sociopathic behavior, the revelation of deeply buried secrets, and the possibility of murder. Who knows which order those’re in, eh? You’ll have to find out yourself.

Mike D’Angelo believes that Kylie’s house arrest needed to be a much more pivotal point of the film, but I’m inclined to think that the genius is more evenly dispersed. The spunky, aggressive protagonist and interspersed satirical humor are reason enough to like Housebound; the layered plot and slow-but-steady revelation of the real antagonist is reason to love it. Still, my sense of humor might not be in line with everyone else’s, so you should check out the A.V. Club review right through here.

The Machine is No Terminator… Or is it?

The Machine

The Machine skirts the dangerous boundary between philosophical sci-fi and artificial intelligence cliché Hell, as is common of creative works that try to humanize the inhuman: The weapon or person conflict, the discovery of love, the inevitable phasing out of humanity… Though these obnoxious, omnipresent A.I. tropes have a presence in the film, they don’t receive a lot of screentime. Perhaps the film just wasn’t long enough to encompass them in entirely? If so, be thankful; The Machine is quite enjoyable as a result.

The MachineVincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens) works for the British Ministry of Defense, developing advanced artificial intelligence to aid the war against China while simultaneously trying to cure his daughter Mary’s Rett syndrome with brain implants. While running a secret audition to recruit new programmers for the MoD, he meets Ava (Caity Lotz), an aspiring A.I. developer with a promising quantum computer. Not long after she and Vincent begin their true work on the new and improved quantum A.I., Vincent’s boss, Thomson (Denis Lawson), has Ava assassinated by a group of Chinese hitmen in order to secure her technology.

The film’s true protagonist emerges when Vincent creates the machine using Ava’s likeness; the product is a curious, childlike humanoid robot capable of killing a person with her pointer finger. I have dubbed her Avatron. The first major cliché crashes through the nearest wall when Thomson begins scheming to remove the humanity from Avatron, wanting her to function solely as a weapon of war. Of course, his arbitrary cruelty results in Avatron starting an anti-humanity revolution, resulting in major cliché number two.

The MachineThe third is tactfully hidden between the first two; in order to prove to Thomson that Avatron is human and deserves to be treated as such, Vincent unwittingly discovers that his creation loves him. It’s not nearly as bad as the first two, as Avatron sees Vincent as more of a father figure than a lover, but you’ll still probably get that reflexive eye-roll when she utters the humanoid A.I.-adored L word.

The Machine is a solid movie, but I found that I was most entertained when Vincent was performing the Turing test on pairs of A.I. to find viable candidates for the MoD. It was clever, amusing, and had lots of personality. More personality than the film’s vague, depressing conclusion, to be sure. While it did narrowly avoid being consumed by sci-fi cliché, it didn’t quite fill the void the clichés left behind. Worth seeing, but I can’t guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

Kim Newman of EmpireOnline enjoyed Caity Lotz’s portrayal of Avatron, and I think I’m going to have to disagree. A.I. are anthropomorphized enough as it is in modern and not-so-modern sci-fi; Avatron’s sweet and innocent demeanor turned robot revolutionary felt hokey, almost like a bait and switch. What is the machine, an adorable little learning robot, or the harbinger of the new world? Regardless, check out the EmpireOnline review right through here.

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