Spike Jonze doesn't waste any time introducing us to the technology at the center of Her. "An operating system that can mimic human sentience?" a dangerously lonely Joaquin Phoenix wonders after catching glimpse of an ad in a transit station. "Don't mind if I do!" (He doesn't actually say that, don't worry.) But by the time we're meant to believe that such a world can seamlessly integrate characters like Scarlett Johansson's automated voice Samantha into the lives of living, breathing men and women like Phoenix's Theodore, we're already established residents of this arresting, icy, quivering world the filmmaker has built. We meet Theodore midway through his recitation of a "handwritten letter" he penned on behalf of a woman to her husband of many years. That's his job — tapping into his own unique sensititivies to play ghostwriter for people hoping to adorn their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and children with personal notes of personal affection. Theodore is no independent contractor; he's part of a thriving company, and we almost get the feeling that the folks on the receiving end of these letters are in the know. Before we ever encounter Samantha, we're embedded in the central conceit of the movie: emotional surrogacy is an industry on the rise.
What makes Jonze's world so palatable is that, beneath its marvelously eerie aesthetic, this idea is barely science-fiction. Theodore, humbled and scarred by a recent divorce from lifelong love Catherine (Rooney Mara, who contrasts Johansson by giving a performance that, for a large sum of the movie, is all body and no voice), accesses the will to go on through interractions with video game characters and phone-sex hotlines. But the ante is upped with Samantha, the self-named operating system that Theodore purchases to stave off loneliness, deeming choice a far less contorting one than spending time with old pals like Amy (Amy Adams)... at first.
Samantha evolves rather quickly from an articulate Siri into a curious companion, who is fed and engaged by Theodore just as much as she feeds and engages him. Jonze paces his construction of what, exactly, Samantha is so carefully that we won't even catch the individual steps in her change — along with Theodore, we slowly grow more and more enamored and mystified by his computer/assistant/friend/lover before we can recognize that we're dealing with a different being altogether from the one we met at that inceptive self-aware "H-hello?" But Jonze lays tremendous groundwork to let us know this story is all for something: all the while, as the attractions build and the hearts beat faster for Samantha, we foster an unmistakable sense of doom. We can't help but dread the very same perils that instituted one infamous admission: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
But Jonze's sci-fi constructs are so cohesively intertwined with his love story that our dread doesn't exactly translate to an anticipation of HAL's hostile takeover. Her wedges us so tightly between Theodore and Samantha that our fears of the inevitable clash between man and machine apprehend a smaller, more intimate ruin. As Samantha's growth become more surprising and challenging to Theodore, to herself, and to us, the omens build for each.
And although all three parties know better, we cannot help but affix ourselves to the chemistry between Theodore and Samantha, and to the possibility that we're building toward something supreme. A good faction of this is due to the unbelievable performances of Phoenix — representing the cautious excitement that we all know so painfully well — and Johansson, who twists her disembodied voice so empathetically that we find ourselves, like Theodore, forgetting that we have yet to actually meet her. The one castigation that we can attach to the casting of Johansson is that such a recognizable face will, inevitably, work its way into our heads when we're listening to her performance. It almost feels like a cheat, although we can guarantee that a performance this good would render a figure just as vivid even if delivered by an unknown.
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In this way, Her is as effective a comment on the healthiest human relationships as it is on those that rope in third parties — be they of the living, automated, or greeting card variety. In fact, the movie has so many things to say that it occasionally steps on its own feet, opening up ideas so grand (and coloring them so brightly) that it sometimes has trouble capping them coherently. Admittedly, if Spike Jonze had an answer to some of the questions he's asking here, he'd probably be suspected of himself being a super-intelligent computer. But in telling the story of a man struggling to understand what it means to be in love, to an operating system or not, Jonze invites us to dissect all of the manic and trying and wonderful and terrifying and incomprehensible elements therein. Just like Samantha, Her doesn't always know what to do with all of its brilliance. But that might be part of why we're so crazy over the both of them.
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Much like the somber melodies that float throughout its 105-minute runtime, Inside Llewyn Davis will remain lodged in your head weeks after you and the film first meet. With Oscar Isaac's "Fare thee we-e-ell..." ringing daintily in your ears, you'll shuffle out from the grasp of the Coen Brothers' wonderland of gray, but you won't soon be able to relieve yourself of what is arguable the pair's best film yet. Llewyn's is a story so outstandingly simple — he's a man who's s**t out of luck, and not especially deserving of any. He wakes up, loses his friend's cat, plays some music, and wishes things were better. And yet his is the Coens' most invigorating and deftly human tale yet.
Llewyn Davis makes the bold, but practical, choice of never insisting that we love its hero. He's effectively a jackass, justifying all the waste he has incurred with the rudeness he showers on the majority of those in his acquaintance. But Llewyn Davis isn't the villain here, either. The villain is the industry, and all the uphill battles inherent to its machinations. The villain isn't Llewyn's substantially more successful contacts — an old pal Jim (Justin Timberlake) and new fellow couch-surfer Troy (Stark Sands), but the listening public that prefers their saccharine pop to his dreary drips of misery. The villain isn't Llewyn's resentful old flame Jean (Carey Mulligan), no matter how many volatile admonitions she might shoot his way, but the act of God surrounding their unwitting adherence to one another. And it's not even the cantankerous and foul Roland Turner (a delightfully hammy John Goodman), but the endless, frigid open road of which each man is a prisoner (if the film has one flaw, it's that this segment carries on just a bit too long, but that might very well be the point). The villain is the cold.
Call it all a raw deal. But the real dynamism isn't in the challenges that happen outside Llewyn Davis, but in the determined toxicity brewing inside as he meets each and every one.
But this isn't the Coen Brothers' Murphy's Law comedy A Serious Man — we don't watch a chaotic pileup of every imaginable trick that the devil can manage to pull. Llewyn is steady throughout, not burying Llewyn deeper but keeping him on the ground, with the fruit-bearing branches forever out of his reach. In its narrative, Llewyn Davis is as close to natural life as any of the filmmakers' works to date. Perfectly exhibited in a late scene involving a trip to Akron, Llewyn isn't a cinematic construct, but the sort of person we know, so painfully, that we are very likely to be... on our bad days.
Still, working in such a terrific harmony with the grounded feel of Llewyn himself, we have that Coen whimsy in their delivery of 1960s New York City — rather, a magic kingdom painted in the stellar form of a 1960s New York City. And not the New York City we're given by the likes of Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen. Closer, maybe, to Spike Lee or Sydney Lumet, but still a terrain unique to moviegoers. A New York that's always recovering from a hostile rain, and always promising another 'round the bend. One that flickers like a dying bulb, with its million odd beleaguered moths buzzing around it against the pull of logic. There is something so incredibly alive about the Coens' crying city; this hazy dream world's partnership with half-dead, anchored-to-earth portrait like Llewyn is the product of such sophisticated imagination at play.
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And to cap this review of one of the best features 2013 has given us, it's only appropriate to return to the element in which its identity is really cemented: the music. Without the tunes bobbing through the story, we'd still likely find something terrific in Llewyn Davis. But the music, as beautiful as it is, is the reason for the story. As we watch Isaac's hopeless sad sack drag himself through Manhattan's winter, past the helping hands of friends and into the grimaces of strangers, as we struggle with our own handfuls of nihilistic skepticism that any of this yarn is worth the agony (or that our attention to its meandering nature is worth the price of a ticket), we are given the rare treat of an answer. Of course it's all for something. Of course it's all about something. It's about that beautiful, beautiful music.
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A man who was set to testify against an associate accused of stealing computers from Nicolas Cage's ex-lover has been arrested in connection to the burglary himself. Darwin Vela had reportedly teamed up with main suspect Ricardo Orozco and approached representatives for Charlie Sheen with information about the whereabouts of a sex tape belonging to the Platoon star earlier this year (13).
Police managed to link Orozco to the theft of items from Cage's former girlfriend, actress Christine Fulton, after learning he had worked as her handyman. Detectives believe the swiped computers contained the Sheen footage.
Orozco was taken into custody and charged with burglary, and Vela had been recruited to give evidence against his alleged partner in crime during a preliminary court hearing in Los Angeles on Thursday (21Nov13).
However, Vela went missing two days before his scheduled testimony, only to resurface on Friday (22Nov13), claiming he had been kidnapped.
Cops launched an investigation into his disappearance and the drama took another turn on Monday night (25Nov13) when Vela and his girlfriend, Kelly McLaren, were both arrested and charged with breaking into Fulton's home and stealing four computers, among other possessions.
According to TMZ.com, authorities are convinced Vela's kidnap tale was made up so he didn't have to testify against Orozco and they now have reason to believe all three people committed the theft.
A man who went missing two days before he was scheduled to testify against an associate accused of stealing computers from Nicolas Cage's ex-lover has been found. Darwin Vela vanished on Tuesday (19Nov13) while taking his dog for a walk in Los Angeles. Police insiders tell TMZ.com he was picked up by cops on Friday afternoon (22Nov13).
Vela and the accused computer thief, Ricardo Orozco, reportedly alerted Charlie Sheen's representatives to the fact they had a sex tape belonging to the star earlier this year (13). Police then linked Orozco to the theft of actress Christine Fulton's computers, which they believed contained the Sheen sex tape.
Orozco was arrested and charged with burglary and Vela was scheduled to testify in his preliminary hearing on Thursday (21Nov13).
Vela disappearance is currently under investigation. He has told law enforcement officials that he was kidnapped.
Nicolas Cage has denied reports suggesting intimate pictures of him and ex-girlfriend Christina Fulton were among the items allegedly stolen from her home by a former handyman. The Face/Off star's ex-employee Ricardo Orozco has been charged with felony burglary over claims he took four computers and a batch of photos from Fulton's home.
Reports suggested the haul of pictures included graphic images of the former couple, but Cage has now shot down the rumours.
A statement from the actor reads, "Explicit photos of myself and Ms. Fulton simply do not exist and never have."
Orozco has pleaded not guilty to the charge and will return to court on 22 November (13).
Nicolas Cage's former handyman has been arrested on suspicion of stealing personal photos from the home of the movie star's ex-girlfriend Christina Fulton. Ricardo Orozco was taken into custody on 22 October (13) over accusations he took four computers and a box of pictures, allegedly including intimate images of Cage and Fulton, the mother of the actor's son, Weston.
Orozco has pleaded not guilty to a charge of felony burglary and is currently being held on $1 million (£666,667) bail, according to TMZ.com.
He is set to appear in court in Los Angeles on 22 November (13).
Rapper Guerilla Black has been sentenced to nine years behind bars for credit card fraud. The You're the One hitmaker, real name Charles Tony Williamson, was arrested in January (13) amid accusations of federal conspiracy, unauthorised access to a protected computer to facilitate fraud, access device fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges relating to his involvement in a major scam.
He pleaded guilty to all counts in July (13) and in a Seattle court in Washington on Friday (25Oct13) he was handed a nine-year stint behind bars.
Handing him the sentence, District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez told the rapper that "impact of the crime is tremendous". Williamson's jail time will be followed by five years of supervised release.
The Compton, California native purchased more than 27,000 stolen credit card numbers from computer hackers who had targeted restaurants and supply stores in the Seattle, Washington area. The illegal operations are alleged to have netted him $150,000 (£96,774).
Hell On Wheels star Dohn Norwood is a married man after exchanging vows with his fiancee MARLENE GLASPER. The couple tied the knot at the Fess Parker Santa Barbara in California on 28 September (13), in front of the groom's co-stars Common, Anson Mount and Colm Meaney, and actors Ricardo Chavira and Omar J. Dorsey, according to Usmagazine.com.
Norwood proposed to Glasper, who is a musical consultant for the TV drama, in October, 2012.
This is the second marriage for Norwood and the first for Glasper.
"Ms. Longoria was nice enough to give me a hand, do a favour for me, and she's coming in (and) playing a guest star... a former girlfriend of mine, who is the teacher to our younger son." Actor Ricardo Chavira on reteaming with his Desperate Housewives co-star Eva Longoria on new sitcom Welcome to the Family.
We all know J.J. Abrams has a repertory company of actors who keep popping up in his work: Simon Pegg, Keri Russell, Greg Grunberg. But now Benedict Cumberbatch may be set to join that group. Star Trek Into Darkness' erstwhile Khan is rumored to be in the running for a role in Abrams' upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII, according to the website Film Chronicles. Admittedly, the source here is murky, and Lucasfilm is neither confirming nor denying the news — "no comment" is the preferred response of the House that George Built for any such rumors. But given Abrams' proclivity for repeat casting, it seems a definite possibility.
If this report turns out to be true, we can muster only one response — screw you, J.J. Abrams. Cumberbatch did his best as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, but you gave him an impossible challenge: to live up to the standard of Ricardo Montalban. Obviously, it didn't work, as Trekkers recently voted Into Darkness the worst Trek film of them all. (And here are 12 reasons why we agree.) If Cumberbatch will indeed play a character in Episode VII, it's going to be hard for me, and a lot of other fans, to avoid dwelling on Into Darkness connotations. That's not something Cumberbatch will have to worry about in any of his upcoming other projects like 12 Years a Slave, The Fifth Estate, and August: Osage County, but it will be everpresent in J.J.'s Galaxy Far, Far Away feature.
Lucasfilm and Disney obviously want Episode VII to be a fresh take on the saga. That's why they brought in screenwriter Michael Arndt, as well as Abrams himself. But Abrams seems like he wants to replicate what he did on the Trek films with Wars — he's already brought in his DP on Into Darkness to shoot the new film. Cumberbatch's casting will feel like he's deliberately retreading what he did in Trek. And I know some fans will quibble and say that was George Lucas' thinking when he originally decided against having Harrison Ford play Indiana Jones. But Dr. Jones came off Ford's universally beloved turn as Han Solo. We can't say the same for Cumberbatch as Khan.
Am I just a fan throwing a hissy fit or do you also object to the idea of Cumberbatch in Jedi robes? Khaaaaaaaaan!
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