Welcome to this bonus episode of the Fuds on Film Podcast! We’ll be covering Ant-Man, Ex Machina, and Terminator: Genisys. Join us.
A quick note on show scheduling to kick off with: we decided that one podcast a month might be a bit spartan, so we’ve cooked up a few tasty extras. The main podcast episode will be released on the 1st of each month, and we’re going to follow that up on the 10th of each month with a commentary track for one of the films featured in or related to that episode. We produced a few back in theOneliner days, and we think they turned out quite well, so I hope you’ll be as excited to hear them as we are about recording them.
On the 20th of each month we’re going to give you a more free form Intermission podcast, where the three of us give you a brief rundown on one of the films that caught our attention that month, be they new releases or back catalogue movies, just to keep our oar in and hopefully keep you entertained. Are you not entertained?
Marvel bring Phase 2 of their Cinematic Universe to a close with one of their lesser-known properties, Ant-Man. Keen to keep his revolutionary technology out of the hands of those who would misuse it, genius inventor Hank Pym withdraws from the world. But when his invention is replicated, he recruits a thief to steal it in an effort to protect the Earth.
While it may lack the big name star, or marquee character, of other Marvel films, Ant-Man has plenty to recommend it. Chemistry between the characters, and a tangible sense that the cast are enjoying themselves, allied with large helpings of charm and humour, make this recommended viewing for anyone with any interest in Marvel’s big screen output.
You can lead a robot to WD40, but you can’t make it drink… no, wait. The proof of the cognition is in the play testing? No, that’s not right either. If only there were a way to truly discern when an artificial intelligence has achieved self-awareness. Long time writer, first time helmer Alex Garland is game to take a stab at the topic with his debut feature, Ex Machina.
When a coding drone from Bluebook, the world’s biggest tech company, wins an internal prize draw to spend a week of bonding with their reclusive CEO at his remote woodland bunker he certainly isn’t expecting to be one half of an advanced Turing test, and certainly not for an AI as advanced as Ava; a walking, talking, feminine automaton who appears to all intents and purposes to be functioning with consciousness. Things soon take a sinister twist, however, as revelations about the set-up of these tests and the research leading up to this point begin to cast doubt not just as to the nature of Ava’s being, but upon the agenda of billionaire genius Nathan, embodied here with sinister, aggressive aplomb by Oscar Isaac.
Domhnall Gleeson is surprisingly effective as the bookish, submissive yet inquisitive Caleb, winner of the competition and would-be foil to the nefarious agenda Nathan may or may not be pursuing, however it is Alicia Vikander who steals the show as Ava, delivering a performance of subtlety and nuance that belies the complexity of the thought, simulated or otherwise, that computes behind her placid exterior.
Dealing in questions of self, being and awareness familiar to the genre, Ex Machina is rewarding in its assured direction, Garland setting aside the temptation to dazzle visually, focusing instead on the notion that his audience may actually harbour some intelligence of their own, and serving up an asymmetric ratio of questions to answers. Not for everyone, Ex Machina will reward those who prefer their sci-fi flavoured with paranoia and inquisition more than explosions and effects.
Or as it’s localised for PAL regions, Terminator: Megadryve. The bones of Genisys ought to be familiar enough to anyone with a passing familiarity with modern cinema. We start off in the post nuclear apocalypse world, where the remnants of humanity stand against the murderous robot terminators and, with Jason Clarke’s John Connor at the helm, are about to win. While the killing blow to Skynet happens off-screen, Connor and his trusted lieutenant Kyle Reese must take out a facility where the robots are hiding their ultimate weapon, Reese now embodied by the thus far unimpressive Jai Courtney.
They’re too late, sadly, as they find a Terminator unit has been sent back in time to kill John’s mother before he was even born, Skynet as always being a subscriber to the Great Man theory of history. To stop him, Connor sends Reese back in time with orders to track down Sarah Connor (Game of Throne’s Emilia Clarke) and safeguard her from the clanking assassin.
Immediate signs that you’re no longer in the murderous robot version of Kansas are delivered in the shape of a liquid metal T-1000-alike pretty much immediately stalking Kyle, while a freaky, uncanny valley CGI’s 1984 version of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger terminator enters battle with an aged, 2015-era Arnie, ending with Sarah Connor firing a fatal round through the young robo-interloper with an anti-tank rifle, in stark contrast to the mousy waitress we were told would be waiting for us.
And so it goes, taking a good amount of inspiration from Terminator 2, which doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world. It’s largely a collection of chase scenes and robots clattering into each other while casually destroying the set in the process, and at least on that level of spectacle it delivers solidly. Unfortunately in a year where any action film has to be reckoned against Mad Max: Fury Road it’s going to come across as a poor relation, but that can’t be helped.
Instead, it’s merely about as good as the third installment – a definite cut below the first two, but a decent enough outing. This is actually a hell of an achievement, because the story that’s linking the impressive action scenes and, admittedly, slightly nostalgia-tinged Arnie turn, is a slice of fourth grade fan-fiction that has no business being turned into a movie.
And yet, I have to concede, it doesn’t actually matter all that much. No-one, at least no-one with an ounce of realism, was going in to Terminator: Genisys looking for a narrative masterclass. We expected a reasonably-paced, effects-driven summer blockbuster, and that’s exactly what has been delivered. It is entirely adequate, but nobody’s going to get too excited about adequacy. Meh/ten.
Well, if after all that lot you aren’t entertained, or especially if you are entertained, please give us your feedback, either on Twitter (@fudsonfilm), on our Facebook page (facebook.com/fudsonfilm), by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or leave a comment on our site. We’re very concerned with your entertainment. If you want to make our day, you could leave us a review on iTunes.
Catch y’all for our next episode on the 1st of August!