“Her” (Science Fiction/Drama: 2 hours, 6 minutes)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Scarlett Johansson
Director: Spike Jonze
Rated: R (Nudity, profanity, sexual content)
Movie Review: “Her” is the best original screenplay of 2013’s movies. It is another creative endeavor from the mind of Spike Jonze. He gave audiences “Being John Malkovich” (1999) and “Adaptation” (2002). If nothing else, Jonze always provides entertaining films that stretch the imagination.
Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) is a writer for BeautifullyWrittenLetters.com. He is a single man recently separated, who spends his time playing video games and contacting people through social media Internet sites. He installs an artificial intelligence operating system on his computer named Samantha (voiced nicely by Johansson). An intuitive program, Samantha becomes the answer to all Twombly’s needs. Over days, Twombly becomes infatuated with Samantha, the voice he hears. Man and a machine begin an intimate relationship.
Plenty of silly moments exist with this tale. Some are adolescent in nature. A holographic video game character, Alien Child, curses in a childlike manner. The character is a somewhat surprising addition to this film that otherwise provides a fine drama. However, these comical moments are funny and add to the underlying message this film conveys regarding social media, video games, technology and online dating. Therefore, these moments, as intriguing as they are, exist for an important reason, even if creativity is overdone at times.
At the core, Jonze makes a bold statement. People retreat into virtual worlds, where human interaction becomes less common. This resonates throughout the film.
Jonze also looks at artificial intelligence. He moves his film into a realm of a quickly emerging field of technology while posing inquisitive moments. What happens when the thing you create grows beyond you?
This makes the film a modern philosophical spectacle. It works as good intellectual entertainment.
Phoenix, Johansson and Adams are superb. Phoenix is a solid actor. He more than carries the film and fits the role of a .com-writer finding solace in technology. He deserves multiple accolades. Johansson is sexy, even if only a voice. She manages to emote well without viewers seeing her body.
In addition, Adams, who is more compelling here than in the currently playing “American Hustle,” rounds out this nice trio. She is believable here and works well with Phoenix.
“Her” is another unique film by Jonze. If a fan of his work, no audience member will be disappointed. Creative and entertaining is the presentation. This story appears like something straight out of “The Twilight Zone.” It is forward-thinking material, a place movies rarely go with a persuasive efficiency.
Grade: B+ (She provides creative entertainment and social commentary)
“The Legend of Hercules” (Action / Adventure: 1 hour, 39 minutes)
Starring: Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins
Director: Renny Harlin
Rated: PG-13 (Violence and some sensuality)
Movie Review: While the many versions of stories of Hercules vary slightly, this is different. It puts the Greek mythological hero into a “Twilight”-type romance mixed with elements of “300” (2006) and “Troy” (2004). The result is a blond Hercules, not the typical Mediterranean image audiences know.
In Ancient Greece, 1200 B.C., the womanizing god Zeus impregnates Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee). She bears a son who grows up to be Hercules (Lutz).
An angry King Amphitryon (Adkins) vows that Hercules will always be second to his brother, Prince Iphicles (Liam Garrigan). After Hercules and Crete’s Princess Hebe (Weiss), who is betrothed to Iphicles, fall in love, King Amphitryon sends Hercules on a fool’s mission with the intent that Hercules would die. Instead, the half-man, half-god Hercules embraces Zeus with the intent of returning to his kingdom and reclaiming Hebe.
Renny Harlin (“Driven”) directs this wayward tale that attempts to add another dimension to the legend of Hercules. The attempt fails.
If movie producers are going to make a film based on mythology, they should stick to the ancient story. The Greek-Roman mythological tales are already fascinating, so no need exists to dilute them with weak modern romance, too many special effects and overdone stunts. This is the case with this screenplay. In addition, it has unconvincing acting, and it is a very weak story, mainly because it deviates from the known story of Hercules.
Typically, Hercules’ depiction is a heroic man of great strength. He is strong. “The Legend of Hercules” is not.
Grade: D- (Not a herculean movie)