Aging Al Pacino (Danny Collins)vs. Female Robot (Ex Machina)and the winner is…

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’.

The world might be back in order: The D Train and Far From the Madding Crowd

Jack Black is back to dark quirky roles in “The D-Train”, where he plays a desperate man looking for friendship intimacy while rejecting the familial kind. The film’s uniqueness is due to the genuine nature of the character’s actions. We all screw up in real life, get caught up doing embarrassing things for meaningless connections, wanting to please, yearning to be the person all others seek out and admire.
Jack Black

In “Far From the Madding Crowd” (directed by Thomas Vinterberg), may I say that the romance (as old as the Thomas Hardy novel is from 1874) did not seem farcical? And this is coming from the female version of Mikey in the old Life Cereal commercials when it comes to romance (“She won’t like it, she hates mushy’).

Much like D Train, there are times in our lives when we also get caught up in the old adage ‘flattery will get you everywhere’ whirlwind attraction. I was riveted to her marriage to Tom Sturridge, when she realizes on her wedding night, in that all of his charm is the equivalent of smoke obscuring a needy and weak human being. I’ve only disliked one of Carey Mulligan’s roles (Inside Llewyn Davis in which her character was just a horrible foul mouthed misandrist) and LOVED her in Drive and Shame. She’s perfect in “Far From…”, an all natural no-nonsense 1870’s gal.

Tom Sturridge was panned for his role of the bad boy soldier that Carey’s character marries and while I wanted to see the movie and say it ain’t so (I was moved by his Broadway performance in Orphans), tis pity tis true that he just falls flat. I think there’s a way to show charm and not seem vacant to keep us as fooled as Carey’s character was, but his character lacks the ability to trick the audience. I hope he’ll eventually get the role that shows the talent of which I witnessed, or perhaps he is better with live audiences. Time will tell.Tom Sturridge

So beyond Black’s choice originality, Vinterberg/Mulligan’s believable, yet old romance, as proof that the world is righting itself is a trailer I saw before “Far from the Madding Crowd” with Johnny Depp finally in a macho talent worthy role as Whitey Bulger upcoming in “Black Mass”.

Summer truly is the best time of the year.

Clouds of Sils Marie, ‘CirrEus’ clouds that is

I liked Clouds of Sils Marie and was glad that yet another trailer was deceiving. It’s not a shallow Black Swan- cut throat theater actress pic, but more like a dramatic theater like performance; a mountain made slowly with layers of sedimentary rock. In fact, when a dark screen title Part Two popped up, I thought ok, Part Three must be where the showdown happens.

What little I’ve read of reviews (I try to avoid due to spoilers) critics definitely all concur, as do I, that Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart have tremendous individual stage presence and their chemistry together felt real as well. Doug Benson had joked on Doug Loves Movies that the only small highlight was a skinny dipping scene where Juliette strips to reveal an old school throw rug, while KS remains in underwear…which may be true, yet in the time of Avengers saltines, us deeper folk like a hearty piece of bread.

While there is something sad (as a woman clinging to youth myself; re. longer Samsonesque hair) about JB’s husky legs and asexual haircut, I do respect, even envy, her confidence. KS, on the other hand (mirroring the theme of the film) displays her femininity and youth on subtly natural terms, which I also respect. And doesn’t she have the market cornered on brooding female characters that perky Emma Stone could never pull off?

So, on a rainy afternoon, or even a sunny one if you have to watch your sun intake like me, see Clouds of Sils Marie. It’s a complex and thought provoking film.