Movie Reviews

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Her
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 01.10

Leave it to Spike Jonze to take us into the not-too-distant future and excite us with the advancement of technology, yet shock us with the possibilities. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) works as an author to other people’s intimate letters while unable to keep his own marriage intact. After purchasing the latest operating system with artificial intelligence, our lonely writer is introduced to Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) and the two form an unconventional, passionate relationship that will test their limits on fully sharing themselves with someone else. Spike Jonze is a master at simplifying the extraordinary and making you believe the impossible. As he did with Being John Malkovich and Adaptation., Jonze mesmerizes audiences with a twisted sense of reality. Besides the phenomenal acting from Phoenix and an astonishing voice-only performance from Johansson, Jonze succeeds in developing an environment where the likelihood of humans dating machines is not only not absurd, but believable. Think about what the masses thought about online dating 10 years ago, and what the perception is now. With gaming consoles recognizing its users’ identity by their physical appearance and modifying its behavior to their preferences, who knows how long until we all have a Samantha in our own lives? –Jimmy Martin

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 12.13.13

It’s been 12 years and four feature films since we were first introduced to Peter Jackson’s vision of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. In The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (or what I am calling “Walking: The Prequel: Part 2 of 3”), we are reconnected with the company of dwarves who are journeying to reclaim their kingdom and golden treasure from the legendary and deadly dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). In tow is everyone’s favorite hairy-footed hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), and charismatic sorcerer, Gandalf (Ian McKellen). It’s clear that Jackson is stretching Tolkien’s words as much as humanly possible in terms of length, but the liberties that he’s taking by adding characters to the story is actually one of the better elements. While their characters are nowhere to be found in the pages of this particular story, Orlando Bloom’s Legolas and Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel lead the majority of the well-crafted action sequences that have them performing feats with a bow and arrow one would never think possible. Seriously, The Avengers’ Hawkeye and The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen could only dream of having these types of skills. This rendition is certainly a better execution than last year’s adventure, and the cliffhanger ending leaves audiences craving for the “precious” follow-up. –Jimmy Martin

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
20th Century Fox
In Theater: 12.25.13

Just when you thought your case of diabetes was cured after viewing the sweetest film on the planet, Forrest Gump, almost two decades ago, along comes Ben Stiller and his remake of the 1947 tale of a daydreamer who envisions personal heroics with wild, imaginative sequences. In this modern-day interpretation, Walter Mitty (Stiller), a daydreamer who longs for love and heroism, works for Life Magazine, but when the photo negative for the publication’s final cover goes missing, a global manhunt for the renowned photographer is set in motion. Stiller sheds all the embarrassing roles of late to genuinely take on the actions of a kindhearted shut-in who decides to live life to the fullest. As our lead escapes volcanic eruptions, man-eating sharks and oxygen-deprived altitudes, his fascination for his co-worker crush (Kristen Wiig) keeps him yearning to be a better man who refuses to waste another breath of life. Stiller, who also directs, captures the essence of the human condition with a heartfelt tale of courage, bravery and sensitivity. Stiller has not been this alluring and enjoyable since 2010’s Greenberg, and Wiig’s authentic sincerity only adds to the film’s charm. A personal favorite comes with the inclusion of comedian Patton Oswalt as an inquisitive and concerned eHarmony employee who continuously offers our protagonist advice on his online dating profile. Stiller has turned this old tale of wonderment into a present-day journey of affection and excitement. –Jimmy Martin