You would think that an aging Al Pacino in Danny Collins (directed by Dan Fogelman) couldn’t hold a candle to a futuristic Ex Machina robot (directed by Alex Garland), but you would be wrong.
Ex Machina makes Under the Skin look like an action flick. A more appropriate title might be “Pregnant Pause”. Conceptually it’s great, and I’ve never liked Oscar Isaac more, oddly enough, as he’s the one who usually makes me yawn (Inside Llewyn Da-snore). But the script, ah, jeepers, no life and not enough creep factor. At least Under the Skin had pounding suspenseful music and Scotland’s miserable woods and cold. But inside Ex Machina’s compound with only the old red light power outage to scare us, I just wasn’t moved. On a positive note, there is a kooky scene with Oscar Isaac and Sonoya Mizuno, where Isaac’s Dr. Frankenstein character encourages Domhnall Gleeson to blow off steam by dancing. The disco type dance in the middle of a sterile sci-fi flick reminded me of the oft times kookiness of Star Trek (the original series). A laugh in the oasis of ennui was quite welcome.
The night before I had seen Danny Collins and while it was certainly August in its surplus of corn, I have to say at least I cared about Bobby Cannavale’s character (good in everything he does!) and felt nostalgia for the Dog Day Afternoon vitality of Al Pacino. I also felt mixed feelings of embarrassment (like you would for your mom wearing a neon pink frock) and respect (God love her for saying yes to this) for Annette Bening who plays the geekiest hotel manager I have ever seen. Christopher Plummer should still be a leading man (and I know he is, Beginners, for instance, but not often enough). His sarcastic manager was a breath of fresh air in what was a little predictable. Based on a true story about a man who receives a letter from John Lennon decades after his death, may make us change the saying, ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ to ‘truth is more mawkish than fiction’.