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Reviews: Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner, Blake Lively in The Age of Adeline and robots in Ex-Machina

Also notes on new documentaries, including DOXA

A couple of anniversaries show up in the movies this weekend. Remember the garment factory collapse in Bangladesh? It happened two years ago, and is recalled in a documentary that tracks where our clothes come from. In another anniversary, Aussies remember the battle of Gallipoli every year on Anzac Day— 2015 being special as the centennial of the 1915 campaign that brought crushing defeat to troops from Australia and New Zealand.

And there’s more. Artificial intelligence, growing old, India’s monsoons and the origins of Greenpeace.

Here’s the list:

The Water Diviners:  3 

The Age of Adaline: 3 ½

Ex Machina: 3 ½

How to Change the World:  4

Traceable:  2 ½

Monsoon: 3

Songs She Wrote About People She Knows:  2

 

THE WATER DIVINER: Russell Crowe acquits himself well as both the star and the director (his first time in that role) in this good old-style adventure yarn. He plays a farmer in Australia whose three sons went off to fight in the First World War and were never heard from again. He heads to Turkey, the site of the infamous bloodbath at Gallipoli, to find what happened to them, or at least bring their remains home. Crowe deftly juggles several levels in the film: the family melodrama, the determined individual pressing on, the alien but intriguing culture he enters and, in the background, the geo-politics of the region. Modern Turkey was being born and both Australia and New Zealand had come of age at Gallipoli which they celebrate annually on Anzac Day. That’s tomorrow, April 25th.

This story probably has quite an emotional kick for Australians and Crowe is just the actor to deliver it. His farmer is strong and quiet and won’t be stopped.  He defies the British army (Jai Courtney plays an officer) and gains help from a Turkish colonel (Yilmaz Erdogan) who had fought on the other side. His quest will keep you engrossed and you’ll be rewarded with an emotional payoff. Less germane is a flirtation with a hotel woman (Olga Kurylenko) and the water diviner angle. Locating a well and finding body parts seem unrelated.  Still, the film won three trophies at Australia’s top movie awards including a shared one for best picture.  (5th Avenue and Coquitlam Cineplex) 3 out of 5

THE AGE OF ADALINE:  I seem to remember watching films like this on TV years ago. They were fantasies from the 1940s or even 30s and you could enjoy them if you didn’t demand scientific logic. Go with that flow and you’ll have a good time with this dreamy assessment of time and aging and the drawbacks of staying forever young.

Blake Lively (of TV’s Gossip Girl) is ever elegant, playing a woman who hasn’t aged since the 1930s. A car crash, icy water and lightning caused her condition.  She’s eternally 29 while her daughter is played by Ellen Burstyn who is in her 80s.

The film finds her in various eras: a New Year’s Eve party in 2014; suspected of subversion in the 1950s, changing name and residence whenever anybody comes close to learning her secret. One is persistent though and she warms to him despite herself. He’s played by Michiel Huisman of Game of Thrones. He brings her home to meet his parents (Harrison Ford is the dad) and thereby sets up an unbelievable coincidence. Again, if you can accept it, you can enjoy the film for the central drama—her inability to commit to anyone—and for Ford’s sturdy emotive performance. The ending is very Hollywood circa the 1940s. This one was filmed here in B.C. (International Village and suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5

EX MACHINA: Artificial intelligence is one of the big obsessions in the movies these days. Are we that scared by where technology is taking us? We had three films last year, Chappie just recently, and it seems the next Avengers may also touch on it. With Ex Machina we’ve got a direct hit. The best programmer in Oscar Isaac’s office is brought to his mountain retreat and laboratory to evaluate his latest creation, an android (played by Alicia Vikander). Is she independently intelligent or just a mimic?

 

Domhnall Gleeson is to apply a Turing Test. (Think Alan Turing of The Imitation Game which I guess was about some early A.I. work). He finds her sexy, although, with gears and machinery visible, clearly a robot. She wields more power than she lets on but also harbors fears for her future. So what exactly is intelligence and what does it mean to be human? Alex Garland’s script and this his first directing effort considers those issues at length, generally through the bristly conversations between Isaac, the boss, and Gleeson, the protégé. Isaac is charismatic, exuding self-confidence and amiability but demanding compliance and intellectual rigor. Gleeson is a bit gawky. Vikander is cool and alluring. The film is smart, at times claustrophobic and eerie and finally aiming for acceptance with a resolution we’ve seen before. (The Park and International Village)  3 ½ out of 5 

More in New Movies

Melissa’s forgeries, Rami’s dead-on Freddie Mercury and a cult classic re-imagined

Also: a bit of opera (real with Maria Callas and fictional in Bel Canto) and an ode to BC’s chief geographical feature in This Mountain Life

A touching drama about dementia, a daredevil rock climb and another 007 spoof

Also a teen’s life lessons from skateboarders and a cold war anachronism with submarines
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