Ha! I knew when I was reviewing Against All Odds that I had seen Out of the Past; so this is why I couldn't find it on the blog!
So, it looks like I did a thriller double feature of sorts on the first Sunday of the IFFBoston Weeks - Child 44 & Unfriended. Checking the blog, my memmories of that seem about right - the first was not that great despite having Tom Hardy and an interesting subject, while the second was as genuinely exciting and thrilling as everyone had said it was at Fantasia the year before.
Monday night was when I saw noir classic Out of the Past, probably with the intentions of writing about it, although the upcoming IFFBoston just left me in too much of a time crunch. I recall liking it, though.
Then, it was IFFBoston 2015, and this was my line-up:
Wednesday the 22nd: The End of the Tour
Thursday the 23rd: Slow West and (T)Error
Friday the 24th: Angkor's Children and Shorts Delta (including "World of Tomorrow")
Saturday the 25th: Stray Dog, H., Lost Conquest, Call Me Lucky, and Day Release
Sunday the 26th: The Chinese Mayor, A Brilliant Young Mind, The Look of Silence, and The Keeping Room
Monday the 27th: Manglehorn and Future Shock!: The Story of 2000AD
Tuesday the 28th: I'll See You in My Dreams and The Wolfpack
Wednesday the 29th: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
All in all, a pretty good festival, although I probably crashed and crashed hard Thursday.
Friday, I had Red Sox-Yankees tickets, and it ended poorly - A-Rod getting a home run off Taz is about as much of a bummer as these games can be. I was going to just go home afterward, but I'd been looking at my phone on occasion, and even the people who weren't posting actual spoilers about Avengers: Age of Ultron were tweeting stuff like "my 32 non-spoiler thoughts on the movie", so I headed straight into the RPX theater a couple blocks away from Fenway Park. Not a terrible idea.
Saturday night, I tried to stagger things so that I could see a couple of movies without a whole lot of delay, although I don't think it quite worked that way. First up was Ex Machina, a pretty decent little sci-fi movie that I didn't quite love as much as the similar The Machine, but whose slickness I enjoyed. Then it was a ways down the C line for Roar, which is an outright curiosity that I don't quite love as much as many do, in part because I don't feel hugely comfortable about paying for something dangerous.
Out of the Past
* * * (out of four)
Seen 20 April 2015 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (Big Screen Classics, 35mm)
It's been long enough since seeing this that I can't really remember the details, especially since I saw the remake since. I do remember it being pretty good, though, with an excellent performance by Robert Mitchum.
Just means I'll have to see it again sometime!
Avengers: Age of Ultron
* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 1 May 2015 in Regal Fenway #13 (first-run, 3D DCP RPX)
That Marvel got itself to the point where Avengers: Age of Ultron could be described as about what you'd expect is testimony to what an astonishing job they had done in building a shared universe on film despite nobody having done this sort of thing before. It's a bit more unidirectional than the first Avengers movie - where that was both the culmination of the individual films that had come before and the set-up for what came next, this one is much more about setting up Phase 3 than picking up from what happened in Phase 2, except where bonus scenes had been explicitly placed. Really, it requires setting what Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) had grown to aside.
It is still a bunch of fun, though - with even more characters to balance, Joss Whedon shows just why he was the right guy for the job of managing the franchise; it needed a TV guy even if he is mostly a workmanlike director, with the big stylistic flourish the long-shot action bit at the start. He does a nifty job of seeding something early on with a joke and letting it be a casually big deal later, while also taking a bit of casting that was almost a lark way back in the first Iron Man movie and making it something perfect.
The action is also top-notch, at times almost feeling like a direct rebuke to Man of Steel in how a fight is almost never just a fight, but also a rescue mission, with an emphasis on problem-solving and minimizing danger. They're great bits of action that properly emphasize heroism, to the point where the villain is dispatched in almost off-hand manner, much like it was in Avengers. It's sort of an indication on how Marvel, contrary to was previously the case, has dedicated themselves to building on their heroes rather than their villains.
* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 2 May 2015 in AMC Boston Common #4 (first-run, DCP)
I must admit that, to a certain extent, I initially liked Ex Machina more for what it represents than what it is; hanging around as a bit of a sleeper hit and likely intriguing people more when they start looking for other things that is cast of stars on the rise did is great for the genre of science fiction even if I found myself more fascinated by The Machine, another take on the same sort of story.
That's unfair, of course, because despite what similar central trios and broad plot outlines (a decent man employed by a shark to engage an A.I. given sensual female form in a Turing Test), the themes diverge. The Machine is much more about mankind not being prepared for its descendants to both surpass them and have different values, although its secondary theme is in line with the core of Ex Machina: That the creation of conscious, self-aware artificial intelligence is implicitly the creation of slaves, and as such is immoral for reasons far more universal than the usual explanation of "playing God."
It's a fascinating step for writer/director Alex Garland to take, but a natural one; his screenplay for Never Let Me Go revolved around this sort of servitude and he has mentioned that he and Sunshine director Danny Boyle came at that film from different directions (Garland saw it as being about atheism, Boyle about faith, and that it works as both indicates what a collaborative medium film is). Here, Garland makes it clear that while Nathan (Oscar Isaac) may present Ava (Alicia Vikander) as her own autonomous being, it's fairly clear that his goals certainly include creating sexual slaves, with the idea that this will allow him to act on his worse impulses guilt-free, rather than improving himself. I initially thought that the ending was a little too harsh, but it's Garland drawing a clear moral line, saying that there is no room for equivocation: A slave's drive to escape supersedes her owner's right to life, and while Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) seems decent enough, he's part of the system, and if you aren't actively fighting it, you're complicit.
I'm actually glad to have another chance to watch it soon, to see how all this looks when I'm once again in the moment rather than looking back on it. It's at least great to look at - Garland and company do fine "futuristic things in a real-world environment" work - and there's little bad to say about the cast. They would all be in more prominent movies later in 2015, meaning this film really caught lightening in a bottle in some ways.