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Her

Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix) lives in a high-tech, digitised world where practically everything is done in the virtual space. He’s a writer – of personalised letters on behalf of his clients. He spends his days composing tender, empathetic and meaningful prose, sent as personal letters by email to people in relationships who have neither the words or time to write their own. Outside work, Theodore’s life is beige – he is constantly connected into his virtual news feed, emails, calendar and internet. His instructions are all verbal and the content is all fed back to him through his earpiece – his “window” to the world. Since his marriage to Catherine (by Rooney Mara) ended two years ago, he’s been on his own, but he really wants a new relationship. His neighbours, Amy (by Amy Adams) and Charles (by Matt Letscher) are great – they care about his welfare and even set him up on blind dates from time to time. In his solo, digital world he plays video games and browses the web-sphere for things to spark his interest. One day, he sees an advertisement for the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system – but, not just a plain operating system, this one will “learn as it goes … it will change and adapt the more you use it”. Theodore is intrigued and gets right into it, he loads the new system and starts to chat with it. He gives it a female voice and when he asks its name, after reading the entire encyclopaedia of baby names in two seconds flat, it calls itself “Samantha”. Theodore is delighted. Samantha (by Scarlett Johansson) has a sweet, charming and quirky personality and Theodore quickly warms to it. He develops a friendship, then a relationship with Samantha and she responds to him the same way. He finds a refreshing happiness with his new OS – but then things happen in this relationship, just like they’d happen in any other – there’s excitement and joy, but there’s anguish too … Theodore feels a familiar dread as their relationship evolves and Samantha’s personality develops further. What’s the future for this seemingly ideal partnership? … What awaits Theodore?

This is a beautifully made movie. The production alone is meticulous – everything in Theodore’s world is neutral … beige, grey or cream … with specific flashes of colour only from Theodore’s clothes or personal items around him. This is very well done and gives the audience an appreciation of the way Theodore sees things. The entire piece is thought provoking – it brings forth familiar issues in relationships and will no doubt raise questions in the mind of anyone who sees this … What’s common about all relationships? Why do we seek “human” interaction, or at least interaction that includes passion and emotion? Can we exist without it? What’s the right balance of intelligence, spontaneity, trust and respect in a successful relationship? Are the best relationships the exclusive “one-on-one” type? The depiction of the three support characters, neighbours Amy and Charles, the office co-ordinator Paul (by Chris Pratt), is masterful and they all provide a good opposition to the virtual relationship of Theodore’s. In a bizarre twist, nobody’s particularly surprised to know that Theodore is in a relationship with his “OS” – he’s not the first, it’s almost commonplace in this future. Amy and Charles are robotic – particularly Charles, whose wooden character’s speech is staccato and forced. Whether this is the script, the direction or the actor’s natural style, it works really well here. Amy Adams’ character, Amy, is superficial and she is weirdly vacant, but that also works. In some ways, Paul is soul-less too – it’s all very curious. Theodore is lovely – he’s so sensitive, tender and yearns to have love in his life. He’s never really recovered from his marriage breakdown and his interactions with Catherine (Rooney Mara) are thoroughly realistic. In 2014, the movie won the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Writing, Original Screenplay and was nominated for Motion Picture of the Year, Music, Original Song and Production Design. It also won a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and an AFI Award for Movie of the Year. It’s great. Well done everyone.

Made in 2013. Directed by Spike Jonze.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2014 in Movies

 

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The Fighter

Micky Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg) has always wanted to be a fighter, ever since his brother Dicky Eklund (by Christian Bale) put Lowell, Massachusetts “on the map” and made a name for himself when he went a few rounds in the ring with Sugar Ray Leonard. Dicky’s been a supporter and coach of Micky’s ever since. The family’s so proud of Dicky – he’s really made good. Even as an adult, Micky still wants to be a fighter – in fact, he wants to be World Champion … his long time dream. Things haven’t been going so well lately for Dicky though, he’s been in prison and he’s got into crack, which has affected his life and his thinking, but he’s still the same old Dicky underneath – a strong supporter and strong influence for Micky. Although he’s had a string of fights, arranged by his mother Alice (by Melissa Leo), lately Micky’s fortunes have been mixed – the fights have been tough, so he hasn’t had a win yet. His trainer, Micky O’Keefe (by Micky O’Keefe) says Micky should just keep working at it – he’s a great support and mentor. On the good side, Micky’s recently met a really great woman, Charlene (by Amy Adams), who’s helping him with a more positive outlook. Micky’s Dad, George (by Jack McGee) is a great help with that too, so things should really turn around for him soon …

This is the true story of Micky Ward and his fighting career during the 1980’s and 1990’s.The environment in Lowell, Massachusetts is downbeat and a bit “better days are coming”, which to some degree reflects Micky’s life too, but when the strength of family ties and loyalty is tested it shows through in this drama. The characters are marvellous. As Micky’s girlfriend Charlene Fleming, Amy Adams is the best I’ve seen her here and she deserves the Academy (Oscar) and Golden Globe nominations she received for Best Actress. Great, too, is Melissa Leo as Micky’s mother, Alice; From the minute we meet her, she totally dominates every scene she is in – and she totally dominates the family. She was recognised with both the Academy Award (Oscar) and Golden Globe for this performance. Most remarkable though, is Christian Bale. Almost unrecognisable at first, he is superb as the crack-head Dicky Eklund … very good. Mark Wahlberg is strong, as he often is in his natural way, he makes it look easy. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance also. The Oscar and Golden Globe awards are very well deserved. It’s the second attempt I’ve had at watching this movie though. The first time I had real difficulty trying to understand the speaking, so I gave up after about 10 minutes. But the second time I watched it with subtitles, so it was much more user-friendly. Having said that, the reason I had difficulty is because the performances, particularly of Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg, are so authentic they are a bit difficult to penetrate at first. Their characters are marvellous and very well done. There are cameos by George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard also. Along with the awards it received, in the 2011 Academy Awards (Oscars), the movie was nominated for Best Picture, Directing, Film Editing and Best Writing (Original Screenplay). The nominations for Golden Globes were for Best Picture (Drama), Actor, Actress and Director. Well done everyone.

Made in 2012. Directed by David O. Russell

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Movies

 

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Sunshine Cleaning

Rose (performed by Amy Adams) and Norah (by Emily Blunt) are sisters who have been raised in Albuquerque by their dad, Joe (by Alan Arkin). Things haven’t been easy for Joe or the family – he’s raised the girls single-handedly since their mother died while they were children. Things could be better for both women – Rose is in a dead-end relationship with her high school sweetheart Mac (by Steve Zahn), who’s a cop and is married – and her job as a house-cleaner isn’t exactly what she envisaged for herself either. Norah’s a waitress in a greasy diner, but she never holds down a job for long and overall she’s at a bit of a loose end. She never really seems to get it together. But the one bright spark in everyone’s lives is Rose’s young son, Oscar (by Jason Spevack), who’s a creative and smart young boy who doesn’t quite fit the mould either. Money’s always been tight – Joe’s usually got a big idea that never seems to come off and these days Rose’s job isn’t paying enough – she is getting into a bind. As the elder sister, she makes sure she’s got everything together, not only for herself and Oscar, but she tries to keep an eye on Norah too. One day Mac suggests to Rose that there’s big money to be made in cleaning up messy crime scenes. Even though she knows little about it, Rose decides to take this up and employs Norah as her assistant – so the “Sunshine Cleaning” business is born. They get underway and things start to look up – but then, just when everything is starting to fall into place, Norah’s luck suddenly runs out and with bad results for Rose as she is left to pick up the pieces.

This movie is nice. The difficult lives of this family are clear – and the strong message throughout is that they get their pleasure from their relationships and the love within the family. As Rose, Amy Adams is very good, as is Emily Blunt. Alan Arkin makes a great grandfather and young Jason Spevack is a natural – well done. I like Clifton Collins Jr here too – he’s a surprise actually, he’s really good in the support role as the cleaning supplies guy. He brings a breath of fresh air to this otherwise fairly predictable story. However, much more could have been made of his role and I’d say the same for the weird side story that involves Norah and the daughter of a deceased client from one of their “clean-up” homes; it promises much but isn’t really developed at all, so I wonder about its relevance. However, the two key women work well together as the sisters. I’ve seen a few of Emily Blunt’s performances and there hasn’t been one that I didn’t enjoy – she always seems to have a role with an edge. I’d say Amy Adams is better here than in some of her work since this one.The comedy is sweet and some of the emotion is quite raw. Overall it’s quite good.

Made in 2008. Directed by Christine Jeffs.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Movies

 

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Trouble with the Curve

Gus (played by Clint Eastwood) is a baseball talent scout – baseball has been his entire life and he’s been a scout for the Atlanta Braves since before anyone can remember. He’s starting to feel his age and his club is seeing it too … they wonder whether he’s really up to the task anymore – he’s always had a great eye for talent in the past, but has he still got it? Gus is grumpy .. his eyesight’s failing him and he’s irritated about that – he can’t see very well to drive and he’s worried that technology is going to take what’s left of his enjoyment of his career, so he doesn’t let his shortcomings show – or so he thinks.  His long time friend and colleague, Pete (by John Goodman) can see it and encourages Gus to think about taking it easy, but he won’t have a bar of it.  Instead, Pete persuades Gus’s high-flying lawyer daughter Mickey (by Amy Adams) to accompany him on his latest “scout run” to North Carolina to find the next big baseball thing, but that’s really the last place Gus wants his daughter …..

This movie is okay. Unfortunately I have been spolt by the unquestioned excellence of Clint Eastwood’s directorial work in  “Gran Torino”, “Mystic River”, “Unforgiven”, “Million Dollar Babies”, “The Changeling” (and even “Bridges of Madison County” to a point) over recent years, so I sort of anticipated more of the same wonderful stuff – I was wrong. I understand that this movie is directed by Eastwood’s protege, Robert Lorenz, so that’s my mistake to anticipate his own work – but unfortunately, Eastwood has been typecast into the cantankerous role he’s played a few times lately and it’s getting a little tired. However, the relationship portrayed between himself and Mickey is very well done – in these portions, Eastwood displays some remarkable sensitivity which is great to see.  Amy Adams is very good (and beautiful) as Mickey, but I can’t tell whether Justin Timberlake (he plays Johnny) is acting or just being himself, but he seems very natural here.  John Goodman’s role is done very well, he’s very nice in this. Overall it’s a nice movie, but not a stunner.

Made in 2012.  Directed by Robert Lorenz

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Movies

 

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Doubt

In 1964 at St. Nicholas in the Bronx, Father Brendan Flynn (by Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the parish priest who sees the need to change the strict practices of his school. These have been the realm of the School Principal, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (by Meryl Streep) who runs her school with an iron fist. Sister Aloysius believes that fear and discipline are the two key ingredients to successfully educating children. However, her fellow teacher, Sister James (by Amy Adams), is far more kind hearted and she exudes love for teaching and for the students in her charge. 

These are changing political times and the school has just accepted its first black student, Donald Miller (by Joseph Foster). One day, Donald is called to see Father Flynn and when he returns to his class Sister James feels there is something unusual about his behaviour – and perhaps Father Flynn is paying too much personal attention to Donald. As a result, Sister Aloysius decides that Father Flynn has behaved inappropriately towards the boy – particularly as his explanation is unsatisfactory. Although there is no evidence of impropriety, Sister Aloysius mounts a crusade against him, which involves Donald’s mother and the broader community. Sister Aloysius is determined to pursue Father Flynn and ensure that justice is done. 

This movie is brave – it explores the difficult and controversial issues of religion, racial equality, child abuse, community culture, suspicion and presumption of innocence. I am not familiar with the detail of the political isses relating to the Catholic Church at this time, but the movie evidences a lot of change and upheaval between “old school” and “new wave” practicing Catholics. The performances of Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams are all very good indeed. Viola Davis is marvellous and very realistic as the anguished Mrs Miller.

This is a good movie – but it doesn’t go where I expected it to.  Well done.

Made: 2008. Directed by John Patrick Shanley

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Movies

 

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Julie and Julia

This movie gives the audience two parallel stories. Well known cook Julia Childs (played by Meryl Streep) and her husband Paul (by Stanley Tucci) are in Paris during the 1940s and ’50s because Paul is a foreign diplomat posted there. Julia has a wonderful passion for life and while in France she develops an interest in cooking and builds a reputation as a successful (and female!) French chef. Alongside this, in 2002 in Queens, New York, Julie Powell (by Amy Adams) is a bored and frustrated temporary secretary who loves food and all things “cooking”. She sets herself a challenge – to cook all 524 recipes in her favourite cook Julia Child‘s book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. She journals her year-long challenge with all its ups and downs in a blog that develops a huge following with internet foodies. As she faces daunting culinary tasks like deboning ducks and fighting lobsters, her husband Eric (by Chris Messina) tries but often fails to encourage her. We watch as she cooks day after day for the entire year and the impact of this on the other parts of her life.

This film is really delightful. Meryl Streep absolutely inhabits the persona of Julia Childs. She has a huge and contagious enthusiasm for life, for the French, for cooking and for her husband which is played out beautifully. Stanley Tucci is wonderful as Paul too. The modern day scenes with Julie are interesting, but I would have loved to see more of Julia and her life in Paris as she established her notoriety in French cuisine. All in all, this movie is nice – but Julie Powell can get a bit obsessive!

The resoruces for the film are Julie Powell’s blog and subsequent book and Julia Childs’ posthumously published memoirs about her life in Paris where her husband Paul was posted as a diplomat in 1948.

It’s a nice movie.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Movies

 

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