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The Last Original Movie??


OK, now I have officially had it, Hollywood. I have put up with your endless sequels every summer, mostly lousy movies, worse than their predecessors, and thinly-disguised attempts at money grabbing. How many Transformers movies has Michael Bay made now? I know they make big $$$-- that's my point, and receipts never indicate quality. Avengers: Age of Ultron made a ton of money, and still is, but Marvel's goal has never been to make quality adventure films, even considering the brilliant Guardians of the Galaxy. Sequels are expected, because they are basically the only path Hollywood has to making profits in the era of home theatre, on-demand movies, and movies on portable devices.

What I am tiring of are reboots--particularly of 80s and 90s classics. I get it-- many executives are my age and have an appreciation for the stuff they watched as kids. But just take a quick glance at what is showing at your local cineplex right now:

Sequels:
Pitch Perfect 2
Fast and Furious 7
Avengers
Coming Soon: Jurassic World

Reboots:
Mad Max (now I never saw any of the originals, and I'll admit this movie is AWESOME, so I am willing to give it a break.)
Poltergeist 

Recent, failed/unnecessary reboots:
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Friday the 13th
Karate Kid
Footloose
Red Dawn
Clash of the Titans
Carrie
Robocop
The A Team

These are in production:
Point Break (never saw the original so I don't have an opinion.)
Legend of Conan (Ahhnold returns!)
Ghostbusters

And there are all kinds of websites speculating and confirming rumors of upcoming sequels and reboots. Even Pixar, the studio I once heralded as the last mainstream original content producer, has bought/cashed in-- literally-- to sequels: Toy Story, Cars, Monsters Inc. At least this year there are two original Pixar movies being released: Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. I'll be near the front of the line for both!

But today's news finally pushed me over the edge: a remake of Big Trouble in Little China. One of my all-time favs. That's it. I'm done. Well, I am not counting the Star Wars reboot this December!

A couple of weeks ago I saw a movie that is completely original and has little chance of being a sequel or rebooted (because it doesn't meet the only requirement: box office dollars): Ex Machina.


I loved everything about this movie, from its distrust of technology and human relationships to its simple cast-- basically four actors in the whole movie-- to its unexpected surprises and turns. If you love sci-fi this may be the purest sci-fi movie in years. I'm talking about shows and movies like Firefly or 2001 or Blade RunnerIt gets into the very important discussion of artificial intelligence in a way that I, probably naively, hoped we'd see in Age of Ultron.

Ex Machina takes place inside a cold, ultra-modern home, cast in concrete and buried in a secluded forest, only accessible by helicopter. A young male employee of a technology company, Caleb, is summoned by its CEO, Nathan, when he wins a contest-- he is invited out for an exclusive one-on-one with the boss for two weeks. The only other person at the compound is Nathan's Japanese companion Kyoko. Then we are introduced to Ava, Nathan's invention. A female robot he has been testing for many months. Caleb's purpose is to interview Ava to check the authenticity of her personality, etc. We immediately begin to sense there is more to Ava than her metal and plastic body parts. She wants to feel loved. She is a prisoner behind glass and metal. Caleb falls in love with her and wants to rescue her.

Artificial intelligence and our emotional response to it was a theme in last year's excellent Her. But that female presence was a voice over a computer network. Ava is physical. We don't know what will happen to her, but we feel an emotional response to her. We want her to be ok. As much as possible, we want her to experience the full life we humans enjoy. I was surprised by how quickly I became emotionally attached to Ava.

This really is the key to great story telling. When we feel disconnected from a character in a book or show we check out. We don't care what happens to them. But if we somehow make an emotional connection the entire experience is different. Maybe this, well, after

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$,
is why Hollywood is so obsessed with reboots and sequels. These are already characters we know and love. No time is necessary to develop a backstory-- just pick up where the story left off or start over from familiar territory. There is nothing familiar about Ex Machina. It's original, different. And it's one of the best, and least known, movies of the first half of 2015. Check it out. It won't be around much longer.

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