Movie Review #454: Her

There are so many words to describe it, but excellent is the best one

If I had a time machine and decided to go back to the 50’s or 60’s with the sole purpose of showing the world how cinema has evolved through the years, I wouldn’t bring a dumb summer blockbuster to wow them with CGI. No, I’d rather present them with a story and a premise that’s way ahead of their time, just to mess up their minds.

A perfect fit for my diabolical plan would be Her, a film even I didn’t know was possible until I saw it and was blown away by its idea. It’s an uncanny fusion of romantic comedy, art-house drama, and even sci-fi and I love how everything ties up and how it helped shape the story of Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a human being that ends up in a relationship with a highly-advanced operating system named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johannson). The two leads are phenomenal in their own ways, convincing in every moment of interaction between human and computer. Even Scarlett’s physical absence can’t stop me from feeling she pulled off arguably the greatest performance of I’ve seen (or heard) from her. And then there’s the beautiful cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema and score from Arcade Fire to top it all off.

The more I think about it, the more there is to explore. The Theo-Samantha angle was just the tip of the iceberg. Two people who have seen and enjoyed the movie could end up talking about it for days. From the technology being used, to how it affects who and how we love to topics concerning changes in human behavior, layers upon layers of interesting themes are there for discussing. And by the time we get to the core, we would’ve exhausted all our questions involving the movie’s ideas, yet still question our very existence. If that isn’t thought provoking, I’m not sure what is.

GRADE: A+

A Few Months Ago I Watched: Fast & Furious 6, The East, Scary Movie V

Author’s Comment: Hey everyone! If you haven’t noticed, I’m back to regular blogging after a crazy semester in college. I may not have this much free time in the future, so I might as well make the most out of it. I have yet to post several movie reviews I’ve written before so I’m trying to finish the backlog for now. Rest assured I’ll begin covering recent releases in a few days.

This week I covered the sixth installment of the Fast franchise, the fifth Scary Movie as well as eco-thriller The East. Among the three, the last stood out the most as the other two were rather forgettable.

Fast 6 is disposable cinema at its finest. This is what happens when you have a star-studded cast, a studio in need of a summer tentpole, and an audience whose simple demand is to be entertained. The cars are fast, the action is interesting, things blow up, and the story and dialogue are still dumb as hell. Same old thing, but we fall for it time and time again. GRADE: C+

I don’t mind disposable as long as it’s not utter garbage like Scary Movie 5. You wanna know what type of jokes they hitcha with? Just check the image above. It’s not really funny, and that pretty much sums the whole movie up. The only thing working in its favor is the fact that directors and actors involved in this project are incredibly self-aware that you’re able to laugh at their work without feeling bad for insulting them. They brought this to themselves and while I’m being kind for not giving it an F (because I actually laughed a few times), as a movie it’s something that should’ve never have been greenlighted. Lazy writing and terrible segments destroy it. GRADE: D

At the other side of the spectrum there’s a much better film called The East an inquisitive and intriguing thriller with some minor setbacks. What I liked most about it is its tendency to ask questions about the status quo in our society: should we stay blind and allow the people with power to decide the fate of the world? Or are we going to stand up for what we believe in and make a difference? No matter whose side you’re on: corporations, non-profit organizations, activists, even anarchists, the film allows people to see each other’s perspective. And this sense of humanity helps us in understanding the motivations of each group.

The film, although clearly contrived, is competently written and well-acted. This is my first glimpse of actress Brit Marling’s work and she’s quite impressive. I also don’t see much of Alexander Skaarsgard but he too did a good job. The East faces some pacing issues here and there, but that was not enough to prevent me from liking the movie as a whole. GRADE: B

Movie Review: 10,000 Hours

A solid Philippine political action thriller

Amid a nationwide scandal involving the misuse of public funds in the Philippines comes this timely film called 10,000 Hours, a high-octane thriller whose story stems so close to the truth that it’s easily relatable, especially for Filipinos who are barraged by the media with non-stop revelations of corrupt politicians. It’s technically proficient and superior to most mainstream Philippine action films in recent memory, save Erik Matti’s On The Job (2013) which revived my interest in these type of movies altogether.

The plot is pretty straightforward: a senator (Robin Padilla) is forced to flee the country after a warrant is issued for his arrest on the day that he was about to deliver a speech unveiling a massive scam involving the president and several other politicians. He arrives in Amsterdam, where a Filipino expatriate (Carla Humphries) whom he had saved during his time as a police officer offers her shelter and provides details regarding an old police informer hiding in the city that could help clear his name and convict the corrupt officials. He’s also helped by a feisty news reporter in the Philippines (Bela Padilla), whose aid arrives just in the nick of time in his search for justice.

Directed by Bb. Joyce Bernal, the film is a solid political action thriller buoyed by a less over-the-top Robin Padilla (who has a tendency to overdo things), a surprisingly versatile Bela Padilla (not just eye candy), and a handful of decent supporting actors such as Humphries (who’s gorgeous by the way). It may not linger in the mind as much as On The Job, but it surely asks the same relevant questions.

I also really liked the way the film was shot, particularly during the scenes in Amsterdam. Yet I felt its usage of the ‘10,000 hours’ was downplayed. It served merely as a time marker and skipped dates randomly, which is probably its most disappointing aspect. But other than that it’s a good watch and perfectly recommendable.

GRADE: B