Her (2013) Film. Director: Spike Jonze

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Theodore is a lonely man in the final stages of his divorce. When he’s not working as a letter writer, his down time is spent playing video games and occasionally hanging out with friends. He decides to purchase the new OS1, which is advertised as the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system, “It’s not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness,” the ad states. Theodore quickly finds himself drawn in with Samantha, the voice behind his OS1. As they start spending time together they grow closer and closer and eventually find themselves in love. Having fallen in love with his OS, Theodore finds himself dealing with feelings of both great joy and doubt. As an OS, Samantha has powerful intelligence that she uses to help Theodore in ways others hadn’t, but how does she help him deal with his inner conflict of being in love with an OS? Written by Bob Philpot

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1798709/

Needless to say, the film is half in love with the loneliness it diagnoses. The whole thing looks like the most expensive ad for urban anomie ever made – Antonioni for the artisanal-cheese set – and for the first hour the conceit is unveiled beautifully, via a brisk series of gags, most of them in the periphery of the main plot. Theo’s workplace is a website called BeautfulHandwrittenLetters.com, where he sits in office composing personal notes for those who can’t be bothered – “Who knew you could rhyme so many words with ‘Penelope’?” says a co-worker, admiringly of his work – while a neighbour, played by a curly haired Amy Adams, designs video games in which mums pick up “Mom points” for feeding the kids or beating the other mothers to the carpool, or else face the ignominious charge “You’ve Failed Your Children!”

The closer we draw to the central romance, the straighter grows the film’s face. “Sometimes I think I’ve felt everything I’m gonna feel,” confides Theo to Samantha, finding in her precisely the sympathetic ear he failed to find in his wife. She is played by Rooney Mara, thus confirming Mara’s position as the ex most men would regret breaking up with, ideally through a happier times montage involving cascades of hair and white sheets seen in chalky sunlight. She gets in the zingiest line in the film, delivered over an exchange of divorce papers – “He couldn’t deal with me, tried to put me on Prozac and now he’s in love with his laptop” – but it doesn’t quite land. It’s like a zinger from one of Woody Allen’s comedies that has somehow drifted into one of his alienation-and-anomie numbers. The script wants things both ways – an obvious outrage to Mara, Phoenix’s love for his computer is seen as entirely normal by others – a penchant for blur that starts with the film’s wispy compositions and seems to spread from there.

Phoenix is as sweet and soulful as we always suspected he might be. Ditching the trail of dysfunction and hiding his scarred lip behind a neat little moustache, spectacles and high-hitched pants, Theo is a portrait of the sad sack as saintly urban eunuch – a great listener and perfect empath whose less attractive attributes are discretely masked from view. An early mention of Theo’s anger issues is never followed up on. A session of phone sex leaves him the bemused victim. Even his consummation with Samantha is discretely blacked out, to spare us the lonely, masturbatory truth. That’s quite a burden of simplicity to put on a figure who must carry a two-hour film; you can detect the strain during some of the date scenes, where Phoenix is required to gurgle with happiness one too many times – he wears the fixed grin of a man on a visit to the dentist.

Johansson has an easier time of it, having long taken over Demi Moore’s mantle as the owner of Hollywood’s huskiest tonsils. If anything she may pack too much punch for Theo, who remains a strangely chaste figure, too hung up on his ex-wife for sex, let alone a relationship. What he really seems to need is a therapist, and so it proves, as the script succumbs to the kind of well-intentioned maundering that ensnares the better kind of romcom: “It’s in this endless space between the words that I’m trying to find myself right now,” says Samantha. How did such a sharply conceived movie end on such a woozy note? It’s almost as if the haze above Los Angeles descends to envelop the rest of the film.

We are a long way from the sprightly anarchy of Being John Malkovich, which remains Jonze’s most fully realised film. Adaptation continued some of the fun, but Where the Wild Things Are felt far too depressed for a children’s fable: a movie about childhood from an adult who seemed to regret growing up – “run for the hills!” it seemed to warn them. “We don’t have a thing in hand!” Her seems to come from the same place – the desire, above all, to be comforted, cradled. The most direct emotional demand comes from Rooney Mara, who tells Theo “Come and spoon me,” and the cry recurs, as if technology had ushered us not into adulthood but made infants of us, trapping and swaddling us in our hi-tech cocoons. Oh well. The hunt resumes. Maybe one day, Jonze will find out and tell us where the wild things are.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/oct/14/her-new-york-film-festival-first-look-review

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Gravity (2013) Film. Director : Alfonso Cuarón

Gravity

 

7 November 2013

Alfonso Cuarón’s incredibly exciting, visually amazing film is about two astronauts floating in space. The title refers to the one big thing almost entirely absent from the film: it’s like The Seventh Seal being called Levity or Last Tango in Paris Chastity. With gorgeous, tilting planet Earth far below in its shimmering blue aura, a bulkily suited spaceman and spacewoman veer, swoop and swerve in woozy slo-mo as they go about their business tethered to the station, like foetuses still attached to their umbilical cords. The movie’s final sequence hints at some massive cosmic rebirth; a sense that these people are the first or last human beings in the universe, like something by Kubrick.

Sandra Bullock plays a scientific engineer, Dr Ryan Stone, who after six months’ specialist Nasa training has been allowed into space to attach a high-tech new scanning device to the Hubble telescope. She is under the watchful supervision of Matt Kowalski, a genial and grizzled space veteran played by George Clooney. The voice of Houston mission control is played by Ed Harris, in playful homage to Ron Howard’s 1995 space-disaster classic Apollo 13. Only this time it is him telling them about the problem. Soon, a terrifying situation unfolds.

Director and co-writer Cuarón brilliantly manages to create both awe at his glorious space vistas, and knuckle-gobbling tension at what’s happening in the foreground. It’s like a bank heist in Reims cathedral – in space. You could find yourself asthmatically gasping with rapture and excitement at the same time. After it was over, I was 10 minutes into my tube ride home before I remembered to exhale.

Since its release, various specialist observers have unsportingly emerged to say that the science involved in Gravity is fanciful and wrong. No matter. What makes Gravity so gripping, and so novel, is that it behaves as if what everyone is doing is happening in a world of commonplace fact: like a movie about two drivers on a runaway train or hot-air balloon. A movie set in space tends to trigger an assumption: that it is set in the future (although not the case with Star Wars). If it is not like Apollo 13, about the bygone era of space exploration carried out by guys in quaint crewcuts, then it is going to be set in some madeup futurist world about space exploration in aluminium-foil costumes and spacecraft doors opening and closing with zhhh-zhhh sounds – a world that may or may not involve extraterrestrial creatures, but which importantly and patently doesn’t exist; a movie whose effects depend, at least partly, on the assumption that what is being shown is not true.

Gravity isn’t like that. It’s not sci-fi, more a contemporary space thriller. It’s happening in the here and now. That is why it is so absorbing, although you may have to abolish your own scepticism-gravity – suspending disbelief at the idea that Stone’s training would have allowed her to be reasonably familiar with the control panels of Russian and Chinese spacecraft with their Cyrillic and Chinese letterings. Of course, these aspects may have been cunningly devised by Cuarón so that his movie can blast off in Russian and Chinese territories.

The movie draws, broadly, on the style, if not the substance, of that dystopian tradition stretching from Kubrick’s 2001 (1968): it is comparable to Alien (1979) or Dark Star (1974) or Silent Running (1972), in that it adopts something of their downbeat, quasi-realist behaviour, applied to something notionally real; it has some of their flashes of humour and horror and tension, but it is without cynicism or satire, without monsters or talking computers. Incidentally, the deeply scary question of what happens if you accidentally become detached from your spacecraft and float irreversibly off into space brought back memories of Brian de Palma’s little-liked Mission to Mars (2000). But importantly, it’s supposed to be real.

Clooney effectively concedes star status to Bullock and Stone’s face, as she finally reveals the personal anguish she’s brought up to space inside her, becomes gaunt and waxy and agonised: a very real 3D image of pure human pain. When she cries in zero-gravity, with real tears floating away from the face, it is a heartstopping spectacle. Kowalski’s gallantry and Stone’s yearning are compelling and unexpectedly romantic.

Is Gravity very deep or very shallow? Neither. It is a brilliant and inspired movie-cyclorama, requiring neither gravity nor gravitas. This is a glorious imaginary creation that engulfs you utterly, helped by superlative visual effects design from Tim Webber, cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki and production design by Andy Nicholson. As you sit in the cinema auditorium, you too will feel the entertainment G-forces puckering and rippling your face.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/nov/07/gravity-review

 

 

7 Nov 2013

Watch an astronaut drifting through space for long enough and eventually you notice how much they look like a newborn baby. The oxygen helmet makes their head bigger, rounder and cuter; their hands grasp eagerly at whatever happens to be passing; their limbs are made fat and their movements simple by the spacesuit’s cuddly bulk. They tumble head-over-heels like tripping toddlers or simply bob there in amniotic suspension. Even the lifeline that keeps them tethered to their ship has a pulsing, umbilical aspect.

Gravity, the new Alfonso Cuarón picture, is a heart-achingly tender filmabout the miracle of motherhood, and the billion-to-one odds against any of us being here, astronauts or not. It’s also a totally absorbing, often overpowering spectacle – a $100 million 3D action movie in whichSandra Bullock and George Clooney play two Hollywood-handsome spacefarers, fighting for their lives 375 miles above the Earth’s crust.

A series of captions over the opening titles reminds us that this is a dead zone: no oxygen or air pressure, and nothing to carry sound. “Life in space is impossible,” the final message tells us, as the cinema shakes with Steven Price’s resonant score, and then suddenly falls quiet.

For Dr Ryan Stone (Bullock), a mission specialist in orbit for the first time, the lack of noise is welcome. She’s a medical engineer called up by NASA to install new software on to the Hubble Telescope, but also a mother in mourning for her four-year-old daughter, whom she lost in a senseless accident, and the silence enfolds her like a comfort blanket.

The shuttle pilot is Matt Kowalski (Clooney), a divorcee and veteran of zero-G. While Stone works on Hubble, he boosts around her playfully, piping country and western ballads over the team’s intercom and telling stories about his unfortunate love-life. (During a previous space flight, while Kowalski was hanging in the sky above Texas, Mrs Kowalski was on the motorway down below, absconding with a lawyer in her husband’s sports car.)

“Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission,” Kowalski jokes, although by the end of the opening shot, which runs unbroken for a progressively astonishing 17 minutes, his fears have proven well-founded. On the other side of the planet, Russia has detonated an old spy satellite, and the shrapnel is hurtling towards our heroes at bullet-speed.

Cuarón is no stranger to the extended single take, as anyone who has seen Children of Men, Y Tu Mamá También and his Harry Potter film, Prisoner of Azkaban, will know. But he outdoes himself here – and then out-outdoes himself, with the camera weaving and knotting around the astronauts and their craft as cleanly as a needle stitching silk. Then when the debris bears down on them, everything on screen is either smashed to pieces or else swings crazily off its axis, and you swear you can feel the cinema lurching away beneath you.

Like Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky, whose 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris are obvious touchstones, Cuarón understands the power of the shot. He doesn’t just show us the impact and its aftermath, his camera explains it to us; tracking objects as they crash into and ricochet off one another with terrifying solidity, then holding on Stone and Kowalski as they plummet away from the wreckage and into nothingness. Cuarón holds a close-up on Stone’s face as she gulps at her falling air supply, and then moves closer still – and suddenly we become Stone, gasping at oxygen that’s barely there and watching Earth spin into the distance through the glass bubble of her helmet.

In her subsequent struggle to stay alive, Stone’s status as a bereaved mother is absolutely key. That tragedy has dampened her survival instinct – the force that draws one human body instinctively towards another – but the disaster reignites it, and pulls her, and us, towards the film’s thrilling and spiritually attuned finale.

Cuarón and his son Jonás, who co-wrote the script, have given Bullock the role of her career, and she returns the favour with the performance of a lifetime. Clooney, meanwhile, is exactly as you’d hope Clooney in space would be: cool-headed but still flirtatious, with a muscovado drawl that suggests he’s a couple of Old Fashioneds to the good. A cast like that could overwhelm a film with less in its head, veins and soul, but Gravity swings perfectly in the balance between stars and cosmos. This is one of the films of the year.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/10271540/Gravity-review-heartachingly-tender.html

 

 

 

Looper (2012) Film.Director: Rian Johnson

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In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by transporting back Joe’s future self.(Imdb)

In the futuristic action thriller Looper, time travel will be invented – but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a “looper” – a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good… until the day the mob decides to “close the loop,” sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination. –TIFF

Already dubbed as “this generation’s Matrix,” Looper is a fast-paced sci-fi action thriller with a stellar cast. Directed by Rian Johnson following the hits Brick and Brothers Bloom, the film is set in 2077 when time travel is possible but illegal –only the mob uses this black market technology. A group of special hit men called “loopers” kill their targets who are sent from the future. Joe is one of the top assassins, but the next target he is announced is his future self 30 years later. Unable to kill his target, he must find a way to fix this problem or he will be assassinated himself.(Filmekimi)

Yıldızlarla dolu kadrosu, hızlı temposuyla bu bilimkurgu aksiyon filmi daha şimdiden “yeni neslin Matrix’i” olarak tanımlanıyor. Rian Johnson’ın Brick / Asi Gençlik ve Bloom Kardeşler filmlerinden sonra çektiği Tetikçiler, zamanda yolculuğun mümkün olduğu 2077 yılında geçiyor. Yasadışı ilan edilen bu zamanda yolculuğu yalnızca mafya kullanmakta ve ortadan kaldırmak istediklerini geçmişe yollayarak tetikçiler tarafından öldürülmelerini sağlamaktadır. Gelecekten gelen kurbanları öldüren uzman tetikçilerin en iyilerinden biri Joe’dur. Ne var ki, Joe’nun yeni kurbanı, 30 yıl sonradan gelen kendisidir. Hedefini öldüremeyen Joe, bu işi çözmelidir, yoksa kendisi de öldürülecektir.

Solyaris (1972) ( Solaris ) Film. Director : Andrey Tarkovskiy

The Solaris mission has established a base on a planet that appears to host some kind of intelligence, but the details are hazy and very secret. After the mysterious demise of one of the three scientists on the base, the main character is sent out to replace him. He finds the station run-down and the two remaining scientists cold and secretive. When he also encounters his wife who has been dead for ten years, he begins to appreciate the baffling nature of the alien intelligence. (Imdb)

Ground control has been receiving strange transmissions from the three remaining residents of the Solaris space station. When cosmonaut and psychologist Kris Kelvin is sent to investigate, he experiences the strange phenomena that afflict the Solaris crew, sending him on a voyage into the darkest recesses of his own consciousness. In Solaris, legendary Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky creates a brilliantly original science fiction epic that challenges our preconceived notions of love, truth, and humanity itself. —The Criterion Collection