Ex Machina, the directorial debut of Alex Garland (screenwriter of 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Dredd), is a fascinating exploration of the essence of humanity which challenges an audience to wonder at the nature of not only consciousness, but independence and justice. The movie opens with a plain title screen and we are introduced to Caleb, working at his desk. He learns that he has won the grand prize of a contest. He rides in a helicopter to an isolated location, navigates through a jungle to a strange futuristic mansion, and meets his benefactor: the hipster-bro head honcho of a giant software company named Nathan (Oscar Issac) who has recruited him for a secret mission: to proctor a Turing test for the newly-developed female artificial intelligence named Ava, portrayed by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander.
Alejandro Iñárritu’s Birdman, Or: (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) dedicates itself to providing commentary on the state of the dramatic arts, especially in Hollywood, while also offering a haunting, too-familiar meditation on ego and inner conflict. These two foci are married through telling the story of an actor named Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) who is desperately trying to make his mark on the New York drama scene by directing and acting in his own adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story called, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Years ago, Riggan played a superhero named, “Birdman” in a trilogy of movies that, while successful, labeled him as an unserious, talentless Hollywood actor and he desperately wishes to shed this characterization of himself.