Hey, guys! So because I’m abominably lazy and didn’t feel like writing two long reviews, I had this idea for a new feature that I’m going to refer to as “Duets.” Basically, it’ll be me giving two short(ish) reviews of newer films. Honestly, I doubt Duets will become a regular thing—I much prefer writing longer reviews for new movies—but it’ll be nice to have as a fallback should I see several new films close together and can’t find the time for a longer write-up. Or if I’m just an unmotivated bum, as is the case today. Anyway, here we go!
Synopsis: “A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.” –www.imdb.com
The high notes:
- The performances. All of them are pretty darn great. Joaquin Phoenix shines as sweet, awkward leading man Theodore. Amy Adams delivers as best friend Amy. And then there’s Scarlett Johansson, the voice of Samantha. Despite being a mere voice, she somehow manages to give a performance as praiseworthy as her costars. All of the characters feel very genuine. Of course, that’s also due to…
- The script. I haven’t seen all of the films nominated for Best Original Screenplay this year, but Her seems to be a favorite for the Oscar. I can understand why. The concept is fascinating, and the dialogue is humorous and clever. Plus, it just feels real. Nothing forced about it.
- The atmosphere. Everything feels fresh and futuristic. There’s a pinch of sci-fi, but the film is definitely in the not-so-distant future. Like, I could see this world springing up in the next 20 years—perhaps even less. To me, it seems like a pretty spot-on imagining.
The low notes:
- Phoenix’s creeper ‘stache and all of the high-waisted pants. If these are the styles of the future, I’m not looking forward to it. It’s a small thing, I guess, but I was bothered by it and so was the friend who saw the film with me.
- The idea of Her scares me. I shouldn’t count that against it—it’s just trying to tell a story, right? But the fact that the film highlights the benefits of a man’s romantic relationship with his computer…there’s something really, really unsettling about that. Try though the film did, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the concept, and, frankly, I didn’t want to. And perhaps that’s exactly what director/writer Spike Jonze is going for, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
- The ending. All of the sudden, things change in a big way. I understood how the film led up to the ending…but I still didn’t quite get it (or like it for that matter). Again, what happens is something that’s fairly difficult for me to understand, but that’s partly because the technology in this film is so very advanced. If you’ve seen the film, you probably understand what I’m trying to say (even if I don’t).
The staccato version: Her examines romantic relationships in a fresh, clever way that utilizes a hint of sci-fi. The performances are stellar, the atmosphere is interesting, and the script sparkles. But for me, the film was a little too out there to completely click. I liked it, but it’s one I have no desire to see again. Honestly, I think my criticism comes down to personal taste, so forgive me for going against the grain this time.
My Grade: B+
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Synopsis: “Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.” –www.imdb.com
The high notes:
- Chris Pine as hero Jack Ryan. He’s handsome, he’s likeable, and he’s a solid action star. I’m not complaining.
- Kenneth Branagh (who is also the director) as Russian bad guy Viktor Cherevin. He’s pretty good at creepy and intimidating. Plus, having a Russian villain gives the film a fun retro vibe.
- Seeing Jack Ryan at his start. Admittedly, I don’t believe I’ve seen any of the other Jack Ryan films, but from my understanding he becomes quite a successful operative. This gives the character a fresh beginning in a new era, and that’s pretty fun.
The low notes:
- Keira Knightley. I’ve never been a fan, and this film didn’t change my mind. Though Ryan’s girlfriend, Cathy, isn’t necessarily a great part to begin with, Knightley brings nothing special. I was either bored and/or annoyed with her most of the time.
- It’s about as generic as you can get. Generic car chases, generic fights, generic dialogue, generic love story—I could go on. I struggle to think of anything this film brought to the table that was fresh or original. It is 100% “meh.”
- It’s a small thing, but this bugged the crap out of me: at the very end, Jack and his mentor, Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), get to have an audience with the president. Know what Mr. Prez says to Jack? “And what’s your name, son?” That is the definition of lazy writing. It’s the president. If he has a private meeting with two men in his office, he will know their names and exactly why they are there—none of this clueless, who-are-you-son nonsense.
The staccato version: As far as action flicks go, I suppose you could do worse than Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, but I’m so “whatever” about it that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. My dad liked it, so I guess there’s that.
My Grade: C+
So there you go—the first Duet! What do you guys think? Is this a segment you’d like to see more of in the future? I’d love to hear your feedback. Also, for those of you who missed my post on Saturday, I’m hoping to start a new series in April! Read all about that here and let me know if you’d be interested in participating. 🙂