Will you love me until I become a hyperaware AI? – Her

Her - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Her – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Her (2013)

Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams

Spike Jonze is one of those directors that has a unique perspective on storytelling. From Adaptation to Being John Malkovich to Jackass. His repertoire is diverse. And always just that little bit strange. He is able to play with what we think and believe able the world and create a social and cultural commentary without making you feel like what he is critiquing is wrong. This is exactly the case with his latest writing and directing feat of Her.
Joaquin Phoenix is a writer in an age where everything is digital. He creates beautiful handwritten notes for people. He creates their voice, their words, their feelings, and is really good at it. But he has trouble connecting and understanding people. His wife left him and has drawn up divorce papers, he is a bit of a loner with only a few friends. So when a new operating system comes along with the ability to understand and predict what the user needs and wants, he subscribes, and then falls in love with his AI, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. She becomes every thing he needs and they start up a relationship.
This film delves into the very real situation of us falling in love with someone we can’t see, touch, be with. Most people would say that is just a long distance relationship or an online relationship, and that is what I think Spike Jonze is getting at. Why wouldn’t it be okay for us to fall in love with an operating system? We fall in love over a screen already, it isn’t that much of a stretch. We have friends all over the world who exist mostly in our minds and on a screen. Of course, they also do exist in the real world, but what if they didn’t? Would it make that much of a difference to us? If we had an operating system that was like our friend, what would we do? Do we treat it just like a computer, or would we treat it like that friend we have in another city, state, or country?
Her is a film that tips the balance on romantic cliches and uber gooey lovey-dovey talk which makes it unbearable in parts if you aren’t romantically inclined to sentimental talk. And even for someone that has seen more bad romantic films more than once it is cringe worthy in parts. It’s like those couples that stare lovingly into one another’s eyes for long periods of time in the park. It’s just a little sickening. Of course there isn’t any staring into one another’s eyes in Her, because she is an operating system and doesn’t have eyes, but there is a lot of talk.
I liked this film, even though it left me feeling uncomfortable, because it makes me question how I use my technology. Do I really consider who I am texting or am I doing it just to have contact with someone in the void? Am I more in love with the idea of someone or am I appreciating them for who they truly are, outside my own crazy imagination. In saying that though, it isn’t a film for everyone and for some it will be unbearable. But isn’t that the way with all films?

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Action without narrative – Man of Steel

Man of Steel - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Man of Steel – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Man of Steel (2013)

Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: David S. Goyer (screenplay and story), Christopher Nolan (story), Jerry Siegel (Superman created by), Joe Shuster (Superman created by)
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon.

A good action film should have some great action sequences but there also should be a good story controlling the action. To have action just to show off a character’s abilities and special effects is not justification for action in a film, especially not a blockbuster. There have been lots of films that have done just that. They’ve also probably made a lot of money. But it doesn’t make them great films. It makes them bad films. With so many action films being pumped out each year it must be hard to compete and come up with new and exciting ideas for how to construct a good action film. With Marvel and DC Comics competing on the big screen there is a lot of speculation and comparison. After The Avengers making box office history last year and the Batman trilogy being a big success, Man of Steel was always going to be under scrutiny and highly produced. So why did it end up being so pathetically average?

The moment the film lost me was when Superman was trying to fly and smashed through a mountain. He could’ve missed it, hit the top of it, skidded along the side, but the movie makers decided that sending Clark Kent through the thing was the better option. And coming out the other side unscathed, yep that’s a way to win a human audience over. This was basically what the majority of the film was, unnecessary action sequences to show that Superman was indestructible and so was his enemy, so how do you defeat an indestructible enemy? Oh yes, you try to smash him into every building you’ve ever seen, because that’s really going to make a difference. It wasn’t that the film was bad, it was just that the action was so unnecessary that it detracted from the film.

Man of Steel takes a different kind of look at Superman’s story, his origins, and how he became the hero. It covers different ground than previous Superman films and gives Clark Kent a broader scope of character. Henry Cavill cannot be faulted for his performance as Kal-El (Clark Kent’s Kryptonian name) and Amy Adams brilliantly portrays the strong and determined investigative reporter Lois Lane. But their characters, the narrative development, and the character development are overlooked and the action takes first priority in the film. I expected more from the guys that brought us the Batman trilogy.

Man of Steel lacks substance. It lacks reality. It lacks faithfulness. If you looked simply at the narrative scenes and were able to re-cut the film so that the action was removed you’d have a far better film. This film is the perfect example of how big budgets can wreck beautiful films.

I feel a bit sad that I didn’t enjoy this film because deep down I really wanted to love it. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams were perfect on screen, and I’m usually a big fan of Christopher Nolan’s work, but Man of Steel is just one big indestructible disappointment.

2.8/5

Swing, batter, batter, yawn – Trouble With The Curve

Trouble With The Curve – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Trouble With The Curve (2012)

Director: Robert Lorenz
Writer: Randy Brown
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman

You would think that after starring in and directing some of the most acclaimed films of the last few decades, Clint Eastwood would be able to tell whether or not a movie was worth making or not. There are dozens of sports films out there, there are dozens of romcoms and dramas out there, and as I step into another film that I haven’t really heard of I hear myself asking “Is it really necessary that we have another one enter the world?”

The thing with RomComs and Dramas is that each one, although it may be formulaic and predictable, will appeal to its audience members in different ways. Trouble With The Curve is a story of an old hat baseball scout who is trying to stay in the game whilst his eyesight is failing and his bosses try and squeeze him out. Gus (Clint Eastwood) is joined by his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), on a last hurrah as a baseball scout before his eyes go. Their relationship is rocky to say the least. Mickey is a hotshot lawyer but has mountains of daddy issues and really just wants to do what he does. Their relationship is strained and their communication skills need serious work. But it’s a sweet kind of relationship that forms over the film, as you know it will. And it is the predictability of this film that makes it feel longer than it actually is. It is sweet at points and you do come to like the characters enough to want the happy ending for them, but you know from the opening moments of the film that it is approaching and it takes a lot of energy to care about the characters when you know their problems will be gone in an hours time.

John Goodman provides a stand out supporting role as always and Matthew Lillard, although he plays an incredible annoying and dislikable character, does it splendidly and so must be commended on making his audience hate him. Amy Adams plays a wonderfully strong female character which I love but is pushed down somewhat by the forced love interest of Justin Timberlake. Timberlake may be an okay actor but I felt the love interest was commercial and crowd appeasing more than anything else.

2.5/5

Traveling By Map – The Muppets

The Muppets - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Muppets – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Muppets (2011)

Director: James Bobin
Writers: Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller, and Jim Henson (based on) (as Disney’s Muppet properties and characters)
Stars: Amy Adams, Jason Segel and Chris Cooper

I have always loved the Muppets and I grew up watching their films and TV show reruns. However I really fell in love with the Muppets when I turned 21 when I, for the first time, watched the original Muppet Movie. There was something about seeing the self-aware sense of humour be done in a subtle way that really appealed to me. So of course when the new Muppet film was due to be released I organised with a few girlfriends to see it on opening day. It was everything I could’ve hoped for and more. It had the random singing numbers, the self-aware humour, the story of the Muppets having to come together again and defeat the challenges facing them. And yes, it is the “same story” as the other Muppet movies (Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppet Movie, even A Muppet Christmas Carol has the same idea) but there is a wonderful beauty to a good story arch and The Muppets stands up for itself in that.

Jason Segel and Amy Adams are brilliant but my favourite performance in this film is by Mickey Rooney who appears for one line but warms my heart so brilliantly! And many of you may not know who Mickey Rooney is and you should go and google him and watch some of his early films with Judy Garland because he is a brilliant actor/musician/dancer/singer/etc. The entire Muppet cast is incredible but even more so is the writing of Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. They have created an accurate rehashing of one of the world’s most loved family enterprises and I really hope that a whole new generation get to fall in love with The Muppets like I did as a kid.

If you haven’t seen anything of the Muppets previously then a) I feel sorry for you and your childhood, and b) you may not get the Muppets straight away. It is particular strange as an idea but it is an idea that works. The characters, their development over the course of the film, and the way the film brings together so many different artists is a delight to watch for people of all ages. It makes a great family film and adults will love this film as much, if not more than the kids.