Her (2013)

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Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze
Production Company: Annapurna Pictures
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt
Genre: Drama/ Romance/ Science Fiction

What It’s About: A writer who is still recovering from a recent breakup develops a relationship with his computer operating system.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment.  Evening.

Thoughts: We have Theodore (Phoenix), who is still recovering from a recent separation–and pending divorce–from the love of his life, Catherine (Mara).  He lives a fairly lonely life: works at a place where he writes handwritten love letters for other people, comes home to an empty apartment and plays video games, talks to his hands free bluetooth-like device more than actual people.  Then one day, he discovers this new computer operating system that is designed to be individually customize-able.  So he gives it a female personality.  And that personality is capable of normal computer things…but then it’s also capable of things such as empathy and emotion.  The O.S. takes on the name Samantha (Johansson).  They become…close.

Okay.  First of all, let’s talk about the world that this movie takes place in.  Spike Jonze has created this futuristic world that is, in my mind, totally plausible.  Like…this world seems like a world that we could be experiencing in a decade.  Which is AWESOME, but to be perfectly honest, kiiiiind of creeps me out a bit.  It’s like today, only slightly upgraded–nothing so out there, that it takes you away.  I dunno.  I just found something so eerie about it.  Maybe it’s the clingy computer operating system that can think for itself, but I think it’s more than that.  Or maybe it’s the video game character that can react to you and things in your surrounding environment.  I dunno.

I had no idea what this movie was about going into it.  I figured it was gonna be some sad love story, with some sap reflecting on past relationships and where they went wrong. And sure, there’s some of that.  But then you bring in this relationship he has with his O.S. Wasn’t expecting that one. A computer software that thinks for itself is pretty fucking terrifying, if you ask me.  Just imagine what something like that could do to your life. It could fuck you over REAL BAD.  Without spoiling what happens, may I just say that I anticipated a much different turn of events in this movie.  But I appreciate the approach taken.

Joaquin Phoenix was really fantastic in this movie.  I’ve always had somewhat mixed feelings about him as an actor, but he really made me feel for him in this.  The fact that he works as a writer, creating heartfelt letters for other people is so sad, but so interesting.  I imagine that there are really people out there that do that, and it boggles my mind.  There are so many scenes where he walks a fine “crazy” line, and he does that really well.

It’s different watching a movie with Scarlett Johanssen and not having to view her bodacious bod the entire time (and by different, I mean slightly disappointing).  She was great as the voice of Samantha, though.  Definitely some pure creeeeeeepy moments from her.  As there should be.  Because she’s a computer program that can think for herself.

Shoutout to Kristen Wiig for her small role as SexyKitten in the online chat room.  I about died from laughter/awkwardness.  She’s the best.

My Rating: Huzzah!

I’m still slightly creeped out by the idea of this movie.  But it’s good.  Spike Jonze created a totally believable world.  But yeah.  There’s love and stuff too. But you’ll have to watch it to discover all of that mushy stuff for yourself.  😉

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August: Osage County (2013)

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Director: John Wells
Writers: Tracy Letts (Screenplay and Stage Play)
Production Companies: Weinstein Company, Jean Doumanian Productions, Smokehouse Pictures, Battle Mountain Films, Yucaipa Films
Stars: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch
Genre: Drama

What It’s About: A family tragedy brings the Weston family back together at their old Oklahoma homestead.  Based on the play made for the stage by Tracy Letts.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment. Evening.

Thoughts: The Weston family is getting together again, and boy oh boy, is it entertaining to watch.  The patriarch of the family, Beverly (Sam Shepard), goes missing.  His wife Violet (Streep) calls her sister and all three of her daughters and tells them to congregate at the old homestead in Oklahoma. One thing leads to another and before too long we find out that good ol’ Papa is dead.  These grieving family members have to try and get along long enough to not kill each other–more difficult than you might imagine for some.

HOLY DRAMA, BATMAN!  The character dynamics in this movie are just…ridiculous.  But the characters are written so well, that it all just melds together and makes sense.  A few of the motifs that get touched on (not to spoil any specific details): pill addiction, suicide, incest, infidelity, divorce, drug usage, pedophilia, terminal illness, alcoholism, child abuse, mental illness, racism….I know there are more, but I’ll just stop there.  That list just looks ridiculous, doesn’t it? You’re probably thinking, “You can’t lump all of that crap up into one script and have it work!”  Well, you’re wrong!  It works so seamlessly, that you don’t even take notice. I give that credit to great writing and wonderful acting.

Acting. I was a little concerned going into this movie because it had such a star-studded cast.  Sometimes a list of A-list actors can lend a hand to a film, but sometimes it can be detrimental.  The casting for this movie just nailed it on the head.

First of all: Meryl.  Her character is an old-fashioned hag of a lady who’s dealing with mouth cancer by popping as many prescription pills as she can get her hands on.  She. Is. Nasty.  There are so many moments where I find myself wondering if she’s being rude and awful to her children because she’s on too many drugs, or if she’s just cranky.  But they also touch on the fact that somewhere along the line, something went not-so-right in her upstairs department. She’s tormented…and sad…and lonely.  She’s just…incredibly complicated, but played so well by Mrs. Streep.  Always so many kudos to her.

Julia Roberts has never been my favorite actress.  It’s been a good while since I’ve seen something that I really enjoyed her in.  Well, this is probably the best role I’ve seen her in for some time….maybe ever. She plays Barbara, the eldest of the three sisters.  She’s having marital problems and dealing with a teenage daughter at home, and to top it all off, her precious father just died–and she isn’t her mother’s biggest fan.  She becomes the pseudo-matriarch while her mother is having a breakdown (so…forever). It’s so nice to see her grungier side–she’s not all dolled up and being her usual romantic-comedy self. There are so many fantastic scenes between her and Meryl.  They just play off of each other so well in this.  And believe you me, there are scenes when shit. hits. the. fan.

I could talk about how I loved each and every actor/character in this movie, but I won’t. Such a great ensemble cast.  Also, I’d like to point out that the three sisters are played by Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, and Juliette Lewis.  The casting director must have a thing for names that start with Juli-. Just a weird coincidence, I’m sure.

My Rating: Huzzah!!

If you think your family is screwed up, just watch this.  You’ll feel 10 times better about yours. Be prepared for a dramatic ride with this one.