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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The latest movie in the Step Up franchise aims for a politicized message behind all the flashy moves but it could do with a lot less plot and a lot more dancing. In Step Up Revolution the Miami dance group "The Mob" takes to the streets (and other random locations) to perform intricately choreographed routines with their own DJ a camera guy who uploads their videos to YouTube and a graffiti artist who leaves their signature behind. It takes at least that much effort just to get hipster New Yorkers to ride the subways without any pants on once a year; it's hard to believe that The Mob could pull off their elaborate schemes without getting caught but that's the magic of movies.
The Mob represents the more diverse working class side of Miami a young multiracial group of friends who create incredible works of art that disappear before they get shut down. One of the Mob's leaders Sean (Ryan Guzman) earnestly explains to newcomer Emily (Kathryn McCormick) that the group's reason is to give a voice to the voiceless or to be happy or to dance or something. It's not really clear but they have a lot of fun and look amazing doing it.
Once Sean and his friends find out that a greedy developer plans to raze their neighborhood to make way for another South Beach-style hotel monstrosity they have a reason to rally but until then they're just trying to win a cash prize by getting clicks on YouTube. The typical Step Up twist is that Emily is the developer's daughter. Mr. Anderson (Peter Gallagher) doesn't approve of Emily's love of dancing or other frippery and he certainly wouldn't approve of her hanging out with the people causing such mayhem in the streets of Miami.
Step Up Revolution biggest misstep is trying to give the movie more of a hook than the franchise's typical Romeo and Juliet-style love story and tap into "the Zeitgeist" (I swear that's from the studio-provided press notes) of flash mobs. The film could have cut out most of the plot and characters and still have a completely intact film insofar as the point of the film is its multimedia dance routines. The sort of productions The Mob pulls off are more akin to carefully planned art installations or music videos in terms of scope; it would have been better to at least make that somehow feasible in terms of the storyline. Yes we are here for a spectacle and we surely get a spectacle but it needs to have some roots in reality.
The dance scenes are fun sexy and occasionally a little sappy but overall quite enjoyable for people who enjoy "So You Think You Can Dance" type of shows. Kathryn McCormick and Stephen "tWitch" Boss both appeared on "SYTYCD" and their costar Misha Gabriel is a classically trained ballet dancer turned pro back-up dancer for folks like Beyoncé and Michael Jackson. Guzman doesn't have a dance background but he is an MMA fighter who obviously took his training very seriously. The entire outfit is pretty damn entertaining to be honest.
As far as the 3D goes it makes most of Miami look overcast and grey. The extra zings added in to make sure we get our money's worth like sand flicking out at us or a breakdancer whose foot seems to be aiming for our face only serves to distract from the real show at hand. There is also an awful lot of ramping and generally spazzy editing tricks that look cheap. The screenplay by Amanda Brody is definitely not its strong suit.
Step Up Revolution is the cinematic equivalent of a trashy beach novel. It's embarrassing to be caught actually enjoying it and you'll forget about it almost immediately but it's a decent way to spend a summer afternoon.
Jim Carrey and Jake Gyllenhaal will show their pinstripes for New Line’s adaptation of Damn Yankees.
Both actors are attached to star in a contemporary transfer of the classic musical with Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel on script duty. The musical is being produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the duo behind New Line's Hairspray.
Damn Yankees centers on Joe Boyd, a happily married man who makes a deal with the devil to help save his favorite ball team.
In exchange for his soul, he's transformed into slugger Joe Hardy. He can break the deal but as fate and the devil would have it, the deadline falls during the World Series.
Carrey would play the devil, and Gyllenhaal would play Boyd.
Five years ago, reports Variety, another proposed version of Damn Yankees struck out at Miramax.
Lola, engaged by the devil to tempt Joe, won’t be cast until the script is turned in. Meetings with directors will also wait.
The original was directed by George Abbott and choreographed by Bob Fosse, with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, and book by Abbott and Douglass Wallop.
Damn Yankees was also turned into a 1958 Warner Bros. film that was directed by Abbott and Stanley Donen, with Ray Walston and Gwen Verdon re-creating their stage performances. Tab Hunter played the slugger.
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In a mammoth deal, NBC has signed an agreement to have its hit show Will & Grace on the air for three more seasons. The network will pay a license fee of nearly $4 million per episode to its in-house producer NBC Studios, for a deal valued at more than $300 million. The comedy will stay on the air through May 2005--into its seventh season. This makes Will & Grace the fourth most expensive series, behind ER ($8 million per episode), Friends ($6 million per) and Frasier ($5.2 million per).
As if we expected anything differently, Tonya Harding, the ice-skating terror who likes to maim her competition, won her celebrity boxing match against former Bill Clinton accuser Paula Jones. The Fox TV special, which aired Wednesday, also had Todd Bridges (Diff'rent Strokes) pummeling rapper Vanilla Ice, and Danny Bonaduce (The Partridge Family) annihilating Barry Williams (The Brady Bunch). A stellar night of entertainment.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell won her lawsuit against her former personal assistant Vanessa Frisbee, who allegedly revealed personal details of Campbell's life, breaching her contract of confidentiality. Frisbee was Campbell's assistant for three months between January and April 2000 and, once let go, sold her story, including details of Campbell's sex life, to News of the World. Frisbee is ordered to pay damages.
A cause for the mysterious virus that affected many attendees of the Academy Awards Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards banquet March 2 has yet to be determined. About 200 of the 500 guests were afflicted with symptoms of nausea and diarrhea that lasted a few days, including the Oscar show's executive producer, Laura Ziskin. Host Charlize Theron was not affected.
A man who slipped on a puddle of urine and water at a U2 concert at Soldier Field in Chicago was awarded $2.6 million for the disfigurement of his leg after many knee surgeries. U2 is not liable, and the man, Steven Chang, maintains he is still a huge fan of the Irish rock band.
Hearts are breaking all over. Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean told VH1 that he is engaged to singer Sarah Martin. Seems McLean is getting his life in order after entering a drug-rehabilitation program last July. The two plan to tie the knot sometime in 2003, aiming to be married on the anniversary of the day they met. Isn't that sweet?
Cristian Saliadarre, 28, and Anthony Alvarez, 27, two actors from the TV show America's Most Wanted, pleaded guilty Wednesday to having sex with a minor at an abused children's shelter. The plea was made so that in return the two would also not be charged with sodomy and oral copulation. Very nice.
Janet Jackson was named Entertainer of the Year by the National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters on Friday, People.com reported. She told the audience in Washington D.C., "I believe that one of the greatest treasures we have as a people is the freedom to express ourselves and the opportunity to share that expression. Thank you, NABOB."
The battle over Jerry Garcia's guitars hit one more snag. The Grateful Dead rocker, who died in 1995, had four cherished guitars--Tiger, Wolf, Rosebud and Headless--and had left them to their maker, Doug Irwin, but Grateful Dead Productions maintains the guitars belonged to the Dead, not Garcia. The two parties reached a compromise of taking two guitars each, but a new question of Irwin paying taxes has arisen and will be dealt with accordingly.
MGM is finalizing a deal to have Jackie Chan star in the remake of the 1960 comedy The Bellboy, Variety reports. The film will reportedly be set in Las Vegas' MGM Grand Hotel. The original The Bellboy starred Jerry Lewis.
Actor Ben Affleck, who checked himself into the Malibu Rehabilitation center Promises on July 31, is making progress, Entertainment Tonight reports. While Promises is not a "lock down" facility, it does monitor its patients 24-hours a day. ET also reports that Affleck was spotted on a casual shopping outing over the weekend.
Bobby Dall, the bassist for the 1980s rock band Poison, is recovering from back surgery, The Associated Press reports. Dall had several discs in his spine replaced and will need at least six months to recover. The injury occurred Sunday during a concert at the South Dakota State Fair. Poison has cancelled the rest of their tour dates through September.
Larry Adler, better known as the king of the harmonica, died Monday in a London hospital, Reuters reports. Adler, 87, had been ill for several months. His career spanned seven decades and he worked with artists such as George Gershwin and Elton John.
Debbie Mathers, Eminem's mother, will only receive $ 1,600 of a $25,000 settlement she won against the rap star, AP reports. Macomb County, Mich., Court Judge Mark Switalski ruled Monday that Mather's attorney, Fred Gibson, was entitled to $23,354.25 because they had made a deal entitling him to more than the standard one-third of the settlement. Mathers sued her son in 1999 for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress because of some lyrics on the rapper's CD The Slim Shady LP.
MGM is preparing to do a sequel to Legally Blonde starring Reese Witherspoon, the Hollywood Reporter announced. Marc Platt, who produced the original film, also is in talks with the studio along with screenwriters Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith. Witherspoon would reprise her role as Elle Woods subject to script approval.
Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Madonna and Jason Alexander will voice DreamWorks animated feature Madagascar, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The film centers on four zoo animals that are shipped back to their homeland by animal rights activists. The foursome is left stranded in Madagascar after their ship capsizes. Madagascar will be directed by Eric Darnell (Antz) and Conrad Vernon (Shrek).
John Mellancamp is expected to finish up a musical he is working on with writer Stephen King in February, AP reports. So far, Mellancamp has written about five songs for the story, which he describes as anything but rock. The singer still has another 10 songs to write for the production.
Limp Bizkit have recorded a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" for the film Zoolander starring Ben Stiller, SonicNet.com reports. Electronic artist/producer BT is scoring the film. The only other track confirmed so far for the soundtrack is The Wiseguys' "Start the Commotion." BT described the score as "out of control." The Zoolander soundtrack is due out Sept. 25.
British pop star Robbie Williams said he would keep his promise to help a 23-year-old woman dying from leukemia, according to the BBC News. Williams provided a blood sample and has promised to donate bone marrow if he is a suitable donor. Williams. 27, met Johanna MacVicar after a concert in October.
In an effort to expand theater uses, the Texas-based Cinemark movie theater chain will screen a live concert by Sugar Ray in 14 locations across the Untied States, Reuters reports. The theater chain will broadcast the Aug. 15 concert in a live simulcast via satellite to locations in 21 states.
Alfred A. Knopf will publish the memoirs of former president Clinton, Reuters reports. While no amounts were disclosed, the figure is rumored to exceed $8 million for the deal. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Clinton's wife, reportedly received between $7 million and $8.5 million for her memoirs published by Simon & Schuster. According to Sonny Mehta, Knopf's president and editor-in-chief, the book would focus on Clinton's two-term presidency.