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Ex Machina (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

May 27, 2017 by  



It has been several years since I watched this film, and still “Ex Machina” still resonates strongly and stays in my mind.  I felt this film was  well-executed, brilliantly-written film that approaches the topic of humanoid robotics and artificial intelligence. Thought provoking and entertaining, Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lions Gate Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ex Machina

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 108 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English DTSX Audio, DTS Headphone:X Audio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 DTS Digital Surround, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Graphic Nudity, Language Sexual References and Some Violence)

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


Directed by Alex Garland

Written by Alex Garland

Producer: Andrew McDonald, Allon Reich

Associate Producer: Jason Sack, Joanne Smith

Executive Producer: Eli Bush, Tessa Ross, Scott Rudin

Music by Geoff Barrow, Ben Salisbury

Cinematography by Rob Hardy

Edited by Mark Day

Casting by Francine Maisler

Production Design by Mark Digby

Art Direction by Katrina Mackay, Denis Schnegg

Set Decoration by Michelle Day

Costume Design by Sammy Sheldon


Starring:

Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb

Oscar Isaac as Nathan

Alicia Vikander as Ava

Sonoya Mizuno as Kyoko


After winning a competition to spend a week at the mountain estate of his company’s party hardy CEO, programmer Caleb Smith arrives to discover he has been chosen to take part in a study of artificial intelligence.  Sworn to secrecy and cut off from the outside world, Caleb meets his subject, a beguiling and seductive cyborg named Ava (Alicia Vikander) – and is plunged into an A.I. experiment beyond his wildest imaginings in this epic thriller charged with heart-stopping suspense.


In 2015, the independent sci-fi psychological thriller, “Ex Machina” written and directed by Alex Garland (writer of “28 Days Later…”, “Dredd” and “Sunshine”) was released in theaters.

The concept for the film first emerged when Alex was 11 years old, doing basic coding on his PC and he felt the computer had a mind of its own.  Then later in his life, from a discussion with a friend who had experience in neuroscience and the discussion from his friend that machines could never become sentient.  Wanting to find out for himself if machines could become sentient, Alex started to read books about the possibilities.

It wasn’t until Alex read an article from Murry Shanahan (a professor of Cognitive Robotics at Imperial College London) who researches artificial intelligence, robotics and cognitive science.  This led to Alex Garland writing these ideas down (during the time that “Dredd” was in pre-production) and would come back to it later.

Wanting total freedom, Alex wanted to write and direct the film with the smallest budget as possible.  “Ex Machina” was born and along with Murray Shanahan and British genetecist, author and broadcaster Adam Rutherford serving as consultants, Alex was able to create the film for $15 million and the film would earn over $36.9 million worldwide.

The film stars Domhnall Gleeson (“The Revenant”, “About Time” and both “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” films), Oscar Isaac (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “Inside Llewyn Davis”, “Drive”), Alicia Vikander (“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, “Jason Bourne”, “The Danish Girl”) and Sonya Mizuno (“La La Land”, “Annihilation”, “Beauty and the Beast”).

And the film would go on to win an Academy Award for “Best Visual Effects” in 2015.  And now for the first time, Ex Machina” will be released on 4K Ultra HD courtesy of Lionsgate.

“Ex Machina” begins with programmer Caleb Smith (portrayed by Domhnall Gleeson), an employee for a search engine company, Blue Book, winning a one-week visit to the home of CEO, Nathan Bateman.

When Caleb arrives, he learns quickly that the home is isolated and very secure.  The only person he sees is the Japanese servant, Kyoko (portrayed by Sonya Mizuno), who doesn’t know any English.

When Nathan offers Caleb a chance to become of something important and special and having to sign a non-disclosure agreement to not mention any of this to anyone vocal, electronically or anyway possible, Caleb signs and finds out that Nathan has built a humanoid robot named Ava (portrayed by Alicia Vikander) with artificial intelligence.

Alicia has passed the Turing Test (a test developed in 1950 to test a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent or indistinguishable from that of a human) and Nathan wants Caleb to test Ava and find out if she is capable of thought and consciousness.

While Ava is confined to her apartment in a locked room, her facial features look real but around her body, is robotic.  Caleb then has talks with Ava and as Nathan is observing these private talks, Ava manages to drain the power and create temporary power outages that shuts down the surveillance system, Ava gives Caleb a distressing message that he can not trust Nathan.

And as the two become closer in their talks and she expresses romantic interest in Nathan, even flirting, Caleb starts to question Nathan and wants to help out Ava.


VIDEO:

“Ex Machina” is presented in 2160p High Definition (2:40:1). The film is presented in 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray.

While the film is considered low budget, the film was shot as ordinary live action and no special effects or green screen was used.  All effects were added in post-production.  Picture quality is fantastic as closeups show amazing detail of one’s skin to the vibrant outdoors and the lush, green forest area surrounding Nathan’s isolated home.

Black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, the film looks great in 4K Ultra HD!

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI 2.0A Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ex Machina” is presented in English DTS: X Audio, DTS Headphone:X Audio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 DTS Digital Surround Audio.

Dialogue was crystal clear, the power outage sounds when Ava disrupts the surveillance system is crystal clear, as with the music especially when Nathan and Kyoko start dancing.  But for the most part, the film is dialogue and musically-driven.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ex Machina” comes with the following special features on the Blu-ray disc:

  • Through the Looking Glass: Making Ex Machina – (39:57) Interviews with writer/director Alex Garland, the producers and Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac.
  • SXSW Q&A with Cast and Crew – (1:00:58) Q&A with writer/director Alex Garland, actor Oscar Isaac, cinematographer Rob Hardy and music by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury.
  • Behind the Scenes Vignettes – (28:38) Vignettes featuring the visual effects of the film.  From creating Ava making Natha’s world, new consciousness, Alicia becoming Ava, directing the film and casting the film.
  • Trailers – Lionsgate trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Ex Machina” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


There have been numerous stories that went into possibilities of machines having artificial intelligence.

We have seen androids on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, rogue robots in animation such as “Bubblegum Crisis” to robot technology going awry and deadly in the “Terminator” films.

But what Alex Garland was able to write and direct, “Ex Machina”, is a film that is not only smartly written but it is a thought-provoking film that will no doubt stir up discussion and debates courtesy of its shock ending.

What starts out as innocent as programmer Caleb Smith is given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in a Q&A with a humanoid robot named Ava with artificial intelligence.

It’s one thing to be in the presence with the intelligent CEO of the search engine, Blue Book, Nathan Bateman but to be in his modern, advanced and very secure home but to see this humanoid robot with advance artificial intelligence thanks to the technology connected to the search engine Blue Book.

But when a power outage that causes the surveillance to go down and Ava taking the opportunity to give Caleb a warning that Nathan can not be trusted, starts to chain reaction that when the film concludes, viewers watching the film will be mind-blown, shocked, while those who let the film linger in their mind and see things scientifically, will know the ending does make sense.

It’s such a unique film and a wondrous first film for writer/director Alex Garland, featuring a wonderful performance from actress Alicia Vikander and also from Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac.

And even surprising is how the film was an independent, low-budget sci-fi film, which visual effects were added post-production and eventually earning the visual effects crew an Academy Award.  Garland set out to create a film, his way, his style, no Hollywood interference and what he is able to create is a sci-fi classic that will no doubt resonate for years, decades to come.

As for the film’s first 4K Ultra HD release, picture quality is magnificent.  Details are fantastic during closeups, outdoor scenes are vibrant and lush and the lossless soundtrack is crystal clear.  There are also numerous, lengthy special features included as well.  Plus the inclusion of the Blu-ray and Ultraviolet HD version of the film.

Overall, it has been several years since I watched this film, and still “Ex Machina” still resonates strongly and stays in my mind.  I felt this film was  well-executed, brilliantly-written film that approaches the topic of humanoid robotics and artificial intelligence. Thought provoking and entertaining, Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina” is highly recommended!






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