Ex Machina

A weird, extended cyber version of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Ex Machina features a “romance” between a sentient and a non-sentient that’s more compelling than 1,000 rom-coms.

In this, the vision of Alex Garland, writer of the exemplary neo-zombie effort, 28 Days Later, programmer Caleb — a kind of James Damore type — also toils away for a global search engine juggernaut. (And speaking of Damore, the #GoogleMemo author recently Tweeted, “Just as foods are labelled “non-GMO”, I wonder if future products will be labelled “non-AI”?)

Caleb wins a one-week stint at the home of his boss, tech jag-off, Nathan, in a secluded modernist Xanadu that’s more of a Xana-don’t when it comes to poking around its various rooms.

It’s there Caleb learns of his assignment: he has to put a pretty robot (Ava) to the Turing Test to see if her thinking behaviour can be differentiated from that of a human. She’s confined to one room of the sprawling home, let out periodically from her confines.

The duo exchange stilted banter at first, the stuff of any real world first date. Soon, sparks fly, metaphorically speaking (they would’ve literally too, if Ava’s engineering wasn’t so darn advanced). Soon, Caleb and Ava are having tête-à-têtes away from Nathan’s prying eyes and Panopticon surveillance.

Are they star-crossed lovers, bridging the human / cyborg divide? Who’s the real automaton?

That’s when the fireworks really begin, as Ex Machina leaps between love story and a cat and mouse between hard-drinking big boss and subservient employee, the latter as riveting as the surreal back and forth between the autocratic director and The Stuntman in that dynamite Peter O’Toole/Steve Railsback-starrer.

Alicia Vikander as Ava is dazzling in the lead, the one time a performance can be described as mechanical and that be a good thing. Her cast-mates more than equal her.

Ex Machina dangles the odd telegraphs here and there, then pulls the rug right out from under the viewer. Stark, unrelenting, thought-provoking, this is top-notch stuff.

****1/2 (out of 5)

Kirk Hammett collection at the ROM

If you didn’t think your love of horror could be amplified, Kirk Hammett’s collection at the Royal Ontario Museum will dial it up to 11.

The Metallica guitarist flew in from Moscow (and boy, were his arms tired… probably needs a rest before ripping out two-handed tapping solos) and was in Toronto for a sold out discussion about It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art From The Kirk Hammett Collection

In a talk moderated by exhibit co-creator Dan Finamore, a curator at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, Hammett admitted that he misses his collection, generating knowing chuckles from his fellow traveller nerds. And miss ’em, he should. This exhibit warrants another visit, as the authors of this site already miss ’em. This is essential viewing for horror sci-fi heads, and one need look no further than below.

This exhibition explores Hammett’s significant collection and “examines the connection between artistry, emotion, and popular culture through a selection of works from 20th-century cinema,” according to the site.

Favorites include a mind-blowing Swedish art deco poster for Metropolis, and Boris Karloff’s Mummy (above).

There’s a sensational  promotional piece for Invasion of the Saucer Men, that is literally out of this world. And perhaps the showstopper is a couple of gorgeous Bride of Frankenstein pieces.

The Hammett collection runs until Jan. 5, 2020. Check out our Really Awful Movies Podcast Kirk Hammett episode!