Her (2014)

Genre: Comedy, Sci-fi, Romance

Director: Spike Jonze

Writer: Spike Jonze

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson

Rating:★★★★★

Her is certainly one of the most connecting films I have watched in recent years making me experience a bundle of emotions from sadness to inspiration. The story along with the script, characters and acting is a real credit to the amazing writing and visual direction by director and writer Spike Jonze who has really created something special. It’s hard to find faults in one of this year’s big Oscar films and it certainly deserves its reputation and plaudits and in some respects deserves more as Joaquin Phoenix gives a simply great performance as the lead character along with the rest of cast.

Set in a futuristic time, technology is thriving and as a civilisation we are thriving with it. We follow Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) a New Yorker and letter writer who amazes us along with everyone else with his compassion, charm and romance however to our surprise we find that he is actually a lonely man in the final stages of a harsh divorce. Spending his nights choosing between the dilemma of internet porn and video games Theodore is hooked when he sees an advertisement for a new operating system OS1 labelled “It’s not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness”. Upon installing his newly purchased OS1 he is matched up with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the voice behind his system, a programmed conscious who can evolve just like Theodore himself. Being his only and new founded company Samantha becomes more than an operating system for Theodore and the two together fall in love.

It is amazing to watch how an operating system voice with only audible presence can have a huge impact and connection to not only Theodore but us as an audience. However after falling in love and forming a relationship the obvious problems form as Samantha is only a voice but there is more than it first seems which causes harm for our main characters. Despite Samantha’s pure and high intelligence helping Theodore in his work and everyday life, he still finds conflict within himself, finding himself mostly withdrawn at times and alongside the ongoing divorce he gets pulled down. As for Samantha finding and discovering new things and feelings isn’t always good and the popularity of OS1 and relationships seem to grow and grow along with the operating system’s intelligence proving to be a disastrous thing.

Spike Jonze has written possibly one my favourite scripts of all time and one of the most diverse screenplays. The whole concept in itself is unique and this unconventional romance is somewhat refreshing and certainly pleasant. At times I was in tears due to the witty and hilarious comedy, by far one of the most entertaining scenes this year to watch is Theodore’s encounter with a lost alien whilst playing a video game. On the other hand at times there was some real emotional pain and heart-felt sadness when you could see the despair in Theodore and even the sorrow in Samantha’s voice as the story closes. It was too inspirational, showing sometimes the message of just doing what makes you happy or as Theodore’s friend Amy says “you know what, just fuck it”. It was a story that slowly grew on me than eventually took over and became amazing, the only flaws are the slightly perverted moments but those can easily be overlooked. It was also inspirational as one day I hope to be able to write a screenplay or script with such emotional impact and connection with the audience as Her achieves.

The cast give fantastic performances and for me a big surprise was how the role of Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore was overlooked by the Oscar committee as it was truly great. Instantly we felt for our protagonist, we felt his harsh and deepest emotions and when happiness approach him it approached us, and that was due to a combination of excellent writing but even better acting. Scarlet Johansson although only a voice was brilliant, I think it needs to be pointed out that it must be harder to communicate emotion with only tone available yet it was completely believable. Amy Adams too as Theodore’s friend Amy was very believable, apparently Jonze made the actors spend forced time together in a locked room to make them all form a connection. It was an idea that really worked as the dialogue and delivery was so real it felt like it wasn’t even acting.

Jonze’s direction too was great along with the cinematography, a flurry of scenery shots of New York’s skyline and coast beaches hogged the screen and it was awe-inspiring. The shots were mainly long and simple but so beautifully crafted as it created a warm glow and feeling. At times it was the simplicity which made the emotion stand out the most.  Along with Best Motion Picture, Original Screenplay and Production Design, Her achieved two nominations for its achievement in score and music something I found joy in. Not only are the scenes where a happy Theodore and Samantha sing together made up created songs pleasant to watch, but it is pleasant to listen to with such a beautifully lyrical song made. The “Moon Song” is something to listen out for within the film.

Her is hard to fault, maybe the perverted scenes were unnecessary but at times it did show us Theodore’s character and his struggle, however it is something that can’t and really shouldn’t bring down this film at all.  Jonze’s creation is a real treat to experience, leaving you somewhat sad not only due to the story but that the film ended and with it the experience and our time with Theodore and Samantha who we bond with an amazing amount. It is a film worth-while to watch and one worth the huge reputation and praise; it is Her’s ability to be outstanding in so many aspects that makes this film complete and something real special. Easily watchable, entertaining, inspiring and emotional it is a film which is firmly making its way as a modern great alongside a personal favourite.

Advertisements

My Favourite 10 for 2013

Since I have now viewed most of the 2013 releases I had originally intended to here are my favourite 10. I know I have already posted My 2013 Awards but here is a more formal list, fortunately I don’t have a habit of going to bad screenings so my list was a bit of a headache to conclude and finalise.

#10

“Different”, “Refreshing” and “Tense”

#9

“Fun”, “Alive” and “Heart-felt”

#8

“Thrilling”, “Clever” and “Chilling”

#7

“Pleasant”, “Touching” and “Powerful”

(Reviewed Here)

#6

“Fun”, “Entertaining” and “Brilliant”

(Reviewed Here)

#5

“Master-class”, “Violent” and “Brave”

#4

“Fun”, “Entertaining” and “Simply Great”

(Reviewed Here)

#3

“Touching”, “Inspirational” and “Magical”

(Reviewed Here)

#2

“Visually-Flawless”, “Tense” and “Special”

(Reviewed Here)

#1

“Breath-Taking”, “Tense” and “Stunning”

(Reviewed Here)

Captain Phillips concludes my 2013 list and gets named my favourite film of the year. I only wish I had reviewed more of them but I’m sure I shall with second watches. Feel free to debate and comment about my choices and it would be great if you’d name your top 10 films of 2013 below!

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Genre: Adventure, Action, Drama, Comedy

Director: Ben Stiller

Writers: Steve Conrad, James Thurber

Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Jon Daly

Rating: ★★★★

Ben Stiller directing and starring in the film of his career. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has been compared to some big name films and has been frequently labelled “The New Forrest Gump”, but for me it has enough loveable aspects to stand alone and be regarded as having its own story and being its own style of film. Surprisingly funny and powerful, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has heart and a great storyline with an even better message being conveyed.  Inspiring visuals and cinematography then add the star quality Stiller would have hoped for creating an entertaining watch.

Ben Stiller is Walter Mitty, a dreamer so busy dreaming he doesn’t get to live, always finding himself “zoned-out” in the background of everything that he does. A long-time server and loyal employee of Life Magazine Mitty works as a negative film developer but his position is soon under threat due to the magazine turning to the world wide web,  revealing there will only be one more issue of the global magazine printed before the online version is launched. When photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) sends Walter “the best work of his life” for the final issue, the intended final front page, shot negative 25 goes missing. Stepping out of his daydreams Walter Mitty goes on the most courageous adventure of his life in attempt to track down the mysterious photographer and the missing photograph that takes him half way across the world.

The adapted classic tale also focuses on the growing relationship between Walter Mitty and his co-worker Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) that sets up a rather heart-felt romance and relationship. The film in a whole is very pleasant and heart-warming whilst at the same time surprisingly funny from script to scenes. In the opening of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty the focus is very much on the constant drifts from reality by Mitty, where he rescues small dogs from fires and makes harsh compassions between his boss and the beloved Dumbledore. The rest of the film though, focuses on the idea of reality both however are very action packed and entertaining.

The art of enjoying this film is to stretch your imagination; at times the humour is silly and so is the story but despite this it is hilarious and entertaining if you let it be. The gags are great and the majority are due to the unfortunate events in Walter’s life, the comedy almost hints at Stiller’s previous work, especially Zoolander.  The action is the highlight however as the missing shot takes Walter half way round the world, to the jaws of a shark and to the face of an erupting volcano, providing more than enough escapism.

The thing I loved most about the story of Walter Mitty is the element of truth and realism it holds; especially speaking about myself I can firmly say we can often find ourselves drifting from reality into daydreams and wild imaginative thoughts all with the same hope of one day experiencing them. Ben Stiller and Steve Conrad have really worked well together and have successfully achieved a great adaption from James Thurber’s classic, creating a film we can all relate to.

I can see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty achieving many awards and much recognition; technically I believe the film flourished in terms of visuals and cinematography. The vast amounts of long shots and wide shots  showing off scenery views from mountains to long roads was awe inspiring and a real treat for the eyes. The score was also a real gem, especially the clever inclusion of the classic Space Oddity by David Bowie.

The Secret Life of Walter isn’t perfect, at times the narrative has flaws and the script comes across too cheesy making it look like it’s trying just too hard for laughs and gags. However you leave the cinema feeling inspired and there’s a real special element about this film that is quite unique. The ending is a real heart-warmer and glorifies a fantastic piece of writing, if you’re thinking of seeing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty than I can only ask you take it for what it is and then you will really realise how great this film is.

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

Despicable Me 2 (2013) Poster

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Crime, Family

Directors: Pierre Louis Padang Coffin, Chris Renaud

Writers: Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul

Staring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt

Rating: ★★★½

Despicable Me was a huge success and there is no wonder why, it was charming, fun and adorable with a somewhat unique approach to characters, especially the crazy lovable minions. When announced that a sequel would follow and that Despicable Me 2 would be hitting our screens this summer I was worried and unsure to say the least, it had a lot to live up to and to achieve the same success was going to be a big challenge. The ending to its prequel was heart warming and simply lovely but it doesn’t take long for Despicable Me 2 to steer away from that focusing more on a different story, I’m still unsure if this film totally works but nevertheless its adorable and hilariously funny.

We once again follow the character of Gru (Steve Carell) however this time he’s retired and living a somewhat dull life where making jam is the only horrific thing the former villain is inflicting upon society causing his own professor to even leave. The film firstly opens to a group of workers being magnetically attacked and pulled up into the air in a highly comedic manner only leaving the occupant of a rent-a-loo behind. This bizarre event attracts the AVL (Anti-Villain League), in desperate need they send for an agent to hire former villain and master of mass destruction himself Gru to help them solve the case, with his new mission certainly spicing up his life it fuels for the rest of the film. Gru works alongside agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig) with their first meeting involving electrical lipstick and getting chucked into a boot of a car its safe to say there’s more than a few sparks between the two. As the plot develops a strange love story evolves surrounding the two agents, however their mission will get in their way. Investigating a number of suspects located in the local mall, including hairdressers and restaurant owners they are looking for a deadly dangerous formula however one of their leads rings bells in Gru’s head about a former legendary villain.

Although the plots are entertaining for the first half of the film there seems to be too many and its overwhelming and somewhat confusing to say the least, even for a kids film. I haven’t even mentioned the arrival of a young boy that sweeps one of Gru’s girls of her feet, the deadly crazy chicken or the mysterious case of the lovable minions disappearing quickly and bizarrely. It makes for a sloppy watch and it seems that they had too many ideas and wanted to use them all however as they eventually interlinks around the half way mark things start to be more linear and enjoyable. As Gru worries about his daughter Margo’s love life the three girls worry about his causing for some funny scenes including internet dating and impressions of Gru “pooping”, well according to Agnes. As the film draws ever so closely to an end Gru’s suspicions of the legendary villain appear to be true leading to Gru becoming an unlikely hero. The disappearance of the minions become apparent and they are soon found, but just with a different colour and sanity and as for the love story, it boils down to a predictable happy ending all providing laughs and giggles on the way.

Despicable Me was charming due to the cuteness of characters such as Agnes and the change of heart by Gru however its sequel doesn’t seem to focus or highlight this one bit. The ever so sweet Agnes is somewhat in the background as is her lovable companion Mr. Unicorn, Despicable Me 2 feels to me like a completely different film and I’m not too sure if that’s quite a good thing. However one of my favourite things about Despicable Me and I can safely speak for others too, are the cute; small, crazy minions and they are very much present and in abundance. If there’s something that saves Despicable Me 2 from being another pointless boring sequel it is the minions, when the plot seems dry they pop up with a gag or in this films case a song and dance. Despicable Me 2 very much focuses on the minion mayhem and it leads to some crazy sequences and some hilarious entertainment.

Although there are certainly tricks and elements missed by the creators of Despicable Me 2 it seems to be as you reflect you realise that you found yourself laughing more times than you think and when comparing to those bland moments it more than levels out. The quality of the animation is outstanding and completely faultless, although something you come to expect I thought its more than worth a mention. The casting as always is great, Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig as main characters were brilliant and as were the likes of Russell Brand as Dr. Nefario and Benjamin Bratt as Eduardo. The score added to the entertainment, helped of course by the adorable singing voices of the minions.

Despicable Me 2 had a lot to live up to and it was never going to be easy, it could have played it safe and writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul could have milked the relationship of Gru and his family even more but instead they were original and inventive and most importantly funny. Although not as cute or adorable as the first film it is certainly funnier than its prequel, with many eye-watering moments and even relatable embarrassing scenes. It has its flaws but I was left entertained and that was what its aim was, for me Despicable Me 2 is worth the watch and definitely a trip to cinema to see. Cue cheesy sign off and minions singing.