Force Majeure: Ruben Ostlund's tale of a family ski trip that goes wrong from the beginning is darkly funny and an interesting portrait of modern family life. Tomas and Ebba and their impossibly adorable children are spending a week at a gorgeous Alpine hotel. They seem like the perfect family on their first day, they all ski wonderfully, happily brush their teeth with their matching electric toothbrushes and play with their fancy drone from their hotel room window. The next day, during lunch on a beautiful, large patio, they see an avalanche starting that gets closer and closer. Everyone panics and runs from the restaurant. Tomas grabs his cell phone and pushes his family out of the way to run to safety, while Ebba tries to gather the children. As it turns out, the avalanche was controlled, and everything is fine. Except now its not.
Ricki and the Flash: Ricki and the Flash is not a great movie by any means. In fact, some have called it Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married for the red states. And while it can't hold a candle to that amazing film, Ricki manages to hit so many cinematic pleasure zones for me: Meryl Streep playing against type, family drama, singing, and an unexpected performance from a soap actor/one hit wonder?! Meryl Streep is Ricki, a rocker chick who never made it big. She has a regular gig at a local bar, a lovely boyfriend (Rick Springfield, more on him shortly) she won't commit to, and a family she abandoned in the midwest. When Ricki's ex husband calls and tells her that their daughter Julie is in shambles: her husband has left her and she has attempted suicide, Ricki returns to her old life, at least temporarily. As you can guess, heartwarming yet acerbic antics ensue. And like my beloved Rachel Getting Married, Jonathan Demme paints a portrait of a family at their best and worst time by mixing, comedy tragedy, and music.
Ex Machina: Alex Garland's directorial debut is a clever little sci-fi tale. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) works at a tech company and is seemingly randomly selected to travel to the enigmatic owner's very remote compound to check out new, super secret technology. It turns out to be a robot (a very pretty girl robot played by Alicia Vikander), Ava, who seems to be developing an intense crush on Caleb. Oscar Isaac is amazing as this menacing but weirdly aggressively friendly tech bro billionaire founder, Nathan. I loved how you were afraid of him and in awe of him all at once. Dread envelopes the movie from the moment Caleb arrives at this perfectly sterile mountain hideaway and his rivalry, jealousy and admiration of Nathan creates a really interesting dynamic.
Ava doesn't feel like a human, which I liked; instead, she does feel otherworldly and strange, but she feels real enough that you understand Caleb's attraction and fascination with her. In a lot of ways this movie reminded me of Under the Skin, one of my favorite films from last year and another film with a beautiful, naked creature who is luring men, but Ava doesn't find the humanity that we expect her to. I thought I knew exactly where Ex Machina was going, and while I was close, the ending still surprised me.