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Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 10:46 a.m.
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HOME MOVIES

By Karen Martin

This article was published May 16, 2014 at 2:10 a.m.

Her, directed by Spike Jonze

Her, directed by Spike Jonze (R, 126 minutes)

Spike Jonze's tenderly rendered Her is a meditation on the nature of love, a screwball comedy underpinned by a serious subtext. On one level, it is yet another story of a man who falls in love with something neither human nor quite attainable, a premise as old as the human habit of anthropomorphism.

It's set apart by a heartbreaking performance from Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, a man out of time in a near-future Los Angeles. He is a romantic who makes a fine living as a writer of letters for people who have lost connection with the analog arts.

But Theodore is broken, separated from his wife (Rooney Mara) who wants nothing more from him than his signature on divorce papers. And so when his new operating system named Samantha (voice of Scarlett Johansson) seems to take an interest in him, he is susceptible. And given the way we live in 2014, there is little in Her that seems implausible. It's not hard to imagine an artificial intelligence that can do most of the things that Samantha does, and apparent consciousness is an illusion that some programmers are already working toward.

Maybe that's what gives it such emotional traction -- no one in Theodore's world thinks it's strange for him to be dating his OS; for the most part they're happy for him.

Theodore is basically a lonely spirit who is brought back to life (briefly perhaps, but still) by an artificial being. Maybe that's sad, but maybe it's brave, too. There's a key line here where Theodore's friend Amy (Amy Adams) calls love a "socially acceptable insanity." Maybe we should all seek to go mad. By any means necessary.

Stalingrad (R, 132 minutes) This operatic, sensationally forceful Russian film focuses on a ragtag band of determined Russian soldiers who fight to hold a strategic building in their devastated city against a ruthless German army in a pivotal battle of World War II. Blu-ray bonus features include an English dub and a making-of featurette. With Thomas Kretschmann, Heiner Lauterbach, Maria Smolnikova. Directed by Fedor Bondarchuk. Subtitled.

That Awkward Moment (R, 94 minutes) Zac Efron (The Lucky One), Miles Teller (the coming Fantastic Four) and Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) star in this alternately sentimental and raunchy, callous comedy as friends who, in the wake of a brutal breakup that devastates one of them, vow to remain single for as long as they can. Then each one of them falls in love and is forced to secretly work around his promise to the others. With Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis, Jessica Lucas; written and directed by Tom Gormican. The Blu-ray comes with an extended gag reel and an interview with Gormican on his inspiration for the film and the process of bringing it to the screen.

I, Frankenstein (PG-13, 100 minutes) A confusing dystopian thriller that takes itself too seriously, I, Frankenstein turns Mary Shelley's signature monster into a superhero. Decades after his creation, Adam Frankenstein (Aaron Eckhart) is still hunted through modern city streets, although now his pursuers are opposing clans of demons who want to uncover the secret of his longevity and use it to sustain their own immortality. With Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto; directed by Stuart Beattie.

Fuse (unrated, 110 minutes) This animated science-fiction fantasy follows Hamaji, a young huntress from the mountains, as she stumbles into the middle of a shogun's vendetta against a group of human and dog hybrids known as the Fuse. Directed by Masayuki Miyaji. Subtitled.

MovieStyle on 05/16/2014

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