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Staff & contributors
Ex Machina is the directorial debut of Alex Garland, the writer of 28 Days Later (and 28 Weeks Later). It tells the story of Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson from About Time), an IT developer who is invited by a billionaire CEO to participate in a groundbreaking experiment—administering a Turing test to a humanoid robot called Ava (Alicia Vikander). Meeting the robot with feelings of superiority at first, questions of trust and ethics soon collide with the protagonist's personal views. While this dazzling film does not rely on them, the visual effects and the overall look-feel of Ex Machina are absolutely stunning and were rightly picked for an Academy Award. They make Ex Machina feel just as casually futuristic as the equally stylish Her and, like Joaquin Phoenix, Gleeson aka Caleb must confront the feelings he develops towards a machine, despite his full awareness that 'she' is just that. This is possibly as close to Kubrick as anyone got in the 21st century. Ex Machina is clever, thrilling, and packed with engaging ideas.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Alex Garland, Alicia Vikander, Chelsea Li, Claire Selby, Corey Johnson, Domhnall Gleeson, Elina Alminas, Gana Bayarsaikhan, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno, Symara A. Templeman, Symara Templeman, Tiffany Pisani

Director: Alex Garland

Rating: R

Pain Hustlers is based on a 2018 New York Times article of the same name exposing a drug company that marketed a fentanyl-based drug. Zanna, the on-screen pharmaceutical start-up, is modelled after Insys: the actual company who pushed a fentanyl-based spray for pain management with the help of sales reps who particularly appeal to a certain male gaze. A DIY scheme of bribing doctors through "speaker programs"—or recurring, debaucherous parties—gets Zanna off the ground, catapulting stripper-turned-manager Liza Drake (Emily Blunt) to a much-yearned financial stability. Together with the coked-up COO (magnificently played by Chris Evans), Liza puts her street smart potential to work; she goes all in, until it all crashes and burns. It's cynical how predictable the plot of such a film can be, mainly because the only character development we see is in Liza's sudden moral spark at the sight of drug abuses and overdoses. Pain Hustlers tries really hard to build a hero, tear her down, and then rehabilitate her status, but to what end? The film ends up using the fentanyl crisis as a narrative drive, a highly dubious move when you're supposed to be spreading awareness. 

 

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adrian Eppley, Alex Klein, Amit Shah, Andy Garcia, Aubrey Dollar, Avis-Marie Barnes, Becca Breitfeller, Brian d'Arcy James, Britt Rentschler, Catherine O'Hara, Chloe Coleman, Chris Evans, Emily Blunt, Erin Ownbey, Greyson Chadwick, Jay Duplass, Josh Ventura, Mandi Christine Kerr, Mary Ann Hagan, Michael Kosta, Michael Lowry, Nicholas Christopher McNeil, Omer Mughal, Pat Dortch, Quinn Bozza, Rowan Joseph, Samantha Kacho, Selena Anduze, Sharon Conley, Tris Marie, Valerie LeBlanc, Willie Raysor

Director: David Yates

Rating: R