Entertainment & Arts

The thought-provoking, brainy sci-fi drama ‘Ex Machina’

New Releases
Alicia Vikander in “Ex Machina.”
(Liam Daniel, A24)

Ex Machina

Lionsgate, $19.98; Blu-ray, $24.99

Available on VOD on Tuesday

Until now, Alex Garland had been best known for writing the novel that became the movie “The Beach” and the script that became “28 Days Later,” though after making his directorial debut with this brainy science-fiction drama, he may have a new go-to credit. Domhnall Gleeson stars as a bright young programmer named Caleb, who’s invited by his genius billionaire boss, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), to spend a week at a remote compound, testing the intelligence of a super-advanced android, Ava (Alicia Vikander). As the experiment plays out, Caleb begins to have feelings for Ava and questions the sanity and motivations of Nathan. The movie follows a somewhat predictable path from there, but the striking set design and strong performances make it an enjoyable trip, and the conversations about what makes us human will be sparking inspiring, late-night arguments for decades to come. The DVD and Blu-ray add featurettes.


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It Follows

Starz/Anchor Bay, $26.98; Blu-ray, $29.99

Available on VOD on Tuesday


There’s been a small wave of horror films lately that are beautifully shot, well written, character-driven and cruelly relentless. Like “The Babadook,” David Robert Mitchell’s creepy movie features an unstoppable killer: In this case, a mysterious force that can be seen only by its prey, who can delay death by passing the curse on via sexual intercourse. The film works just as a throwback scare-flick about promiscuous young people cowering in fear, or it can be seen as a keen analysis of the eroticism and generational anxieties in old slashers. Most important, it’s a fine piece of dynamic visual art in which any given frame is stunningly composed. The DVD and Blu-ray feature a brief interview with electronic musician Disasterpeace (responsible for the unnerving score) and a fun commentary track featuring the voices of several critics, led by genre buff Scott Weinberg.

Clouds of Sils Maria

Paramount, $29.99

One of last year’s festival favorites, Olivier Assayas’ talky drama stars Juliette Binoche as an aging actress who’s been asked to take a supporting role opposite a hot young starlet (Chloë Grace Moretz) in a play the older woman made famous 20 years ago. Reluctantly, she retreats to the Swiss mountains with her down-to-earth personal assistant (Kristen Stewart), with whom she runs lines and debates whether the world’s changed for the worse. All three actresses are terrific, though the lifeblood of the film is the chemistry between Binoche and Stewart, playing characters who are playing characters. Throughout long, intense scenes, Assayas keeps it ambiguous whether they’re reciting dialogue from the script or speaking from the heart.

The Salt of the Earth

Sony, $35.99; Blu-ray, $45.99

Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado scored an Oscar nomination this year for their documentary about Juliano’s father, Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. Initially, their film comes off as the cinematic equivalent of a museum exhibition, with Wenders’ whispery voice serving as a tour guide through a brief history of Salgado’s life and work, which has consisted mostly of photos of the working poor around the world. But just when the succession of artful, heartbreaking pictures starts to reach peak melancholy, Salgado’s interests begin to shift toward unspoiled nature, and the doc becomes more hopeful. The arc of this movie is sneaky but powerful. The DVD and Blu-ray include a commentary track, a featurette and deleted scenes.



The Black Stallion

Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

The Fabulous Baker Boys

Twilight Time Blu-ray, $29.95

Gangs of Wasseypur

Cinelicious Blu-ray, $24.99

Goodbye to All That

MPI, $24.98


The Longest Ride

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

112 Weddings

Zeitgeist, $29.95

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $38.99

Places in the Heart

Twilight Time Blu-ray, $29.95

Powers: Season One

Sony, $35.99; Blu-ray, $45.99

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

X-Men: Days of Future Past — The Rogue Cut

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $29.99

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