On DVD & Blu-Ray: May 13, 2014



For the first hour of Her I couldn't decide what I was watching; I couldn't figure it out, I couldn't follow the hype. I understood the acuteness under which director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are) was operating and I could see why it was easy for the hipster crowd to so easily jump on board with the flick because our main character, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), seemed to very much be a hipster himself jumping on the latest technology and style trends with his belly button-high pants. What was perplexing me though was the way in which the film has seemed to entrance everyone else and not just those hoping to be in touch with their own spectacled intellectual, but those who aren't desperate contrarians or what you would necessarily call progressive and seem to have a balanced understanding of the value in both large and small scale filmmaking. The strange thing here is that despite Her having the ideals and philosophies of a small, independent film it looks magnificent, as if it were operating with a fairly large special effects budget. The ethereal atmosphere in which these characters exist, though obviously in the not too distant future, actually feels like a plausible place that we as a society might reach. I drank the Hoyte Van Hoytema cinematography in with wonder and the China serving as Los Angeles locations only re-enforced the color scheme and scope with which Jonze was able to convey the mood and minuteness of our main character. We take Theodore as a surrogate of Jonze as it is evident from the opening speech in which Theodore shuffles through his thoughts on what it must be like to share your life with the same person for half a century and that we are not only getting a love story, but an examination of love as an emotion and how it transcends everything else in our existence to ultimately become every persons main point of focus and fulfillment. If we don't have loved ones what have we done to make this life worthwhile? If we don't have people who care about us, what will allow us to live on after we're gone? Questions we've no doubt asked ourselves plenty of times before, but Her looks to take them, throw in a little social commentary, and inevitably come to an epiphany not about the technology at the center of the film, but the emotion that continues to define the satisfaction of our being. Full review here. C+

How could something with so much potential and so many valuable moving parts be reduced to such utter filth? Well, that problem and answer is on full display in what we are calling That Awkward Moment. Why each of these talented actors decided to waste their valuable time on a project like this is beyond me, but maybe it was for nothing more than an opportunity to hang out with one another as that seemed to be the hook the studio was looking to sell in the advertisements for the film so why should we think they made it look any different to Zac Efron, Miles Teller or Michale B. Jordan? While Efron is the clear marquee name here because he will put the most teenage girls in the seats it is Teller and Jordan who have actually been making the better career choices as of late that have landed them on many critics radars and have movie lovers like myself looking forward to their future projects. Both Teller and Jordan starred in films that made my list of the top fifteen films of 2013 and I like Efron enough that I was really hoping this along with Neighbors (which he nearly steals the show in) might put him on the map to having a great transitional year. Still, That Awkward Moment was no The Vow and though it became clear Efron might not have the breakout year Channing Tatum had in 2012, he will still at least continue to look for that one role that will push him to the next level while hopefully, at the very least, cementing his status as a young adult primed at playing to his comedic chops in quality comedies. That retrospective of where each of these stars are at in their career right now aside, That Awkward Moment had the potential to be an interesting and unique take on the romantic comedy from the perspective of a couple of twenty-something males living it up in New York City, but instead paints a portrait of these assholes and pathetic losers who have such a delayed sense of maturity that it takes them crushing young ladies emotions in more ways than one to realize they may actually care about them after all. It isn't flat out horrible, Teller does all he can to salvage it, but when there is hardly anyone to like on screen and no entertainment value in their moral ambiguity there is hardly anything to like or enjoy at all. Pity, because it had such serious potential. Full review here. D

There is little to say about a film or anything really when it feels the "artists" behind it didn't care enough to invest their own interests in it. There is little vision to be held with something like I, Frankenstein as it was nothing more than a typical January release, an ugly step-sister to the summer blockbusters that have equally silly stories or premises, but real vision and money behind them. With something like I, Frankenstein what we have is the writer of such blockbusters as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and the first G.I. Joe, but who also has more credible fare like Australia (c'mon you know you liked it) and Collateral to his name and has now apparently earned the right to direct his own feature and so Lakeshore Entertainment, for some unknown reason, entrusted him with a rather large budget and gave him free reign to pen a script that concerned Victor Frankenstein's monster living on into the modern world and being caught in the middle of a war that has been raging between demons and gargoyles. Sound ridiculous? It is. Its essentially another attempt to capitalize on bringing well known, well respected properties back to the big screen in more gritty fashion. It seems Stuart Beattie, the aforementioned writer turned director, decided he'd go just outside the realm of fairy tales and instead chose to pick from the iconic roster of horror figures and give them an all CGI environment with dark and brooding attitudes that would be fine if this were a substantial take on the gothic romanticism of Mary Shelley's source material, but instead it seems to want to achieve little more than box office success and disregards any sense of deeper storytelling in order to fit squarely into this pre-ordained January genre. It is an ugly genre, one where we get movies year in and year out like any one of the Underworld films (which this so proudly touts as being produced by the same people) or last years Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters or even Season of the Witch from two years ago (see a trend?). It is one of those films, set in a period where set designs call for grotesque statues and worn out castles, where CGI baddies look ridiculous and we forget about character and story the moment we walk out of the theater. You'd think, given Beattie's track record in writing he would jump at the chance to make his own film and be keen on leaving a good impression so as to earn another turn behind the camera, but if I, Frankenstein is any indication he should never be allowed to direct or pen a script again. Full review here. F

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