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Her

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Technology and society’s relationship with it has been the focus over many films over the years. In Spike Jonze’s film we see how technological advances leads to an unconventional romance.

In a futuristic Los Angeles Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is lonely and going through a stressful divorce. When he purchases an A.I operating system called Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) the two begins to form an unexpecting relationship.

The world inahbited in Her is very similar to ours  but where technology is five minutes into the future. I could believe a lot of the technology we see here being made in the future, if not already being developed. The main focus is on humans relationship with technology, while you would expect all this new tech to be isolating (and some early scenes show how this could be the case) Theodore’s relationship with Samantha opens him up to the world in a way he never did before.

At first I thought that Theodore would come across as a bit creepy and be unable to cope with a real woman with her own thoughts and that’s why he’s in a relationship with an OS. Luckily the film is more complex than that and while Samantha may be an A.I she also comes across as real and complicated just like everyone else.

Phoenix is great in the lead-which is good as he is in practically every scene. And he’s especially good when you think about the fact he is reacting to someone who wouldn’t have been present in the room with him, yet you believe in his bond with Samantha. As someone who is only present through her voice Johansaan is a dominating force and manages not to come across as robotic but still have an otherworldly feeling to her character that marks her out as not human. I also liked Amy Adam and Rooney Mara in supporting roles that add differing views on the central relationship.

The only thing I wasn’t sure of was the ending, not that it was a bad ending but the whole third act seemed a bit random. Hopefully if I watched it again maybe the climax will make more sense.

Rating 4/5 – intelligent, funny and strangely romantic

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Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

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Since Zack Snyder’s latest foray into the DC universe was released the real battle has been the critics vs the audience, with critics slamming the movie but audiences rushing in their droves to see DC’s biggest heroes clash. With record breaking box office numbers in its first week Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice has been a hit so far but will it be a misfire for me?

Two years after Superman (Henry Cavill) saved the world from Zod and the world is still trying to decide how to view Superman. Is he like a benevolent hero like his girfriend Lois Lane (Amy Adams) believes or someone who could destroy us all in an instance if he so pleases? Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) believes it’s the latter leading to an almighty smackdown between the two. But who will end up victorious?

I hate to be jumping on to the negative bandwagon but for the majority of the movie I was completely bored. It doesn’t help that the movie is so long at 151 minutes and takes forever to get to the part audiences really want to see which is the fight between Batman and Superman. Before this we’re exposed to numerous sub plots and characters that dragged the story down.

One of my main complaints about this movie is that its so dour and serious. Granted Man of Steel was hardly a laugh a minute but up until the last third I was really engaged in that movie and the plot. In reverse Dawn of Justice only really starts to soar in its last third when our heroes finally battle it out. The film is so concerned with being grounded and gritty it forgets to also inject some warmth and humor. Ok it doesn’t need to be a comedy but the movie feels so joyless at times it becomes an effort to watch. The film’s muted colours also fails to make the film visually engaging.

Despite his casting causing much controversy I didn’t have a problem with Ben Affleck’s Batman although he is perhaps more convincing as the Playboy Bruce Wayne than Batsman himself. The writing for Batman also makes him come across as a jerk rather than someone with a genuine concern for the safety of the world. Cavill is still great as Superman although it’s strange that the character seems so reluctant to publicly defend himself against the  naysayers. Dawn of Justice also marks the big screen début of Wonder Woman and Gal Gadot makes an impressive introduction in her small role. The scene of the three heroes fighting together against their for is a highlight and maybe holds some hope for Justice League movie, as does the small glimpses of future DC superheroes.

Unfortunately Jesse Elsenberg’s Led Luthor is a misfire. I could see what the filmmakers were trying to do updating Luthor into a Mark Zuckerberg type figure. However Elsenberg’s manic, melodramatic performance sticks out amongst everything else and not in a good way. He just becomes an irritating villain and the reveal that his hatred against Superman stems from his daddy issues is a disappointing motive for such an iconic baddie.

A disappointing entry into DC’s Extended Universe but there is some hope that they can turn it around in time for the Justice League movie.

Rating 2.5/5 – for a while it’s longand boring  but with a ray of hope in the climatic final stretch

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American Hustle

Combining key cast members from The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook director David O’Russell brings us this crime comedy drama  based partly on a true story.

When con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are caught by FBI agent Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), they strike a deal that they won’t get prosecuted if they assist Di Maso with four additional arrests. Things get complicated when a politican Mayor Carmine Polito comes on the scene and Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) gets herself involved.

As a big fan of Silver Linings Playbook I was excited to see this movie. However the experience left me rather cold. It may have been that I was expecting to see a different type of film. I thought it would a fun heist flick  with some great twists up its sleeves and although American Hustle has its moment it’s more a case of style over substance. I’m not sure what enticed a cast this talented to be a part of the movie-I guess they enjoyed working with O’Russell on his previous projects. 

The performances however are great. Bale, Cooper and Renner are all convincing in their respective roles but it the women who really shine in this film. Ever since I saw Adams in Enchanted I’ve been a huge fan of hers and she is fantastic as hustler Sydney, a woman who will do whatever she has to in order to survive. She’s tough, intelligent and more than a match for the men around her. She’s already bagged a Golden Globe and Bafta nomination for this role and I expect an Oscar nom will also be on the horizon. Lawrence also gives another amazing performance as Irving’s boozy, wildcard wife Rosalyn. A whirlwind mess of big blonde hair and ballsy attitude, she manages to be funny, hideous and vunerable often within the same scene. Another possible Oscar nomination should be within her sight.

Good performances aside the story is just not as strong. The plot rumbles on well enough but fails to captivate or intrigue as a good crime drama should do. I guess I was waiting for a really great plot twist or character reveal to come. However I just found myself not caring what happened to anyone in the film or how things would work out. It looks great and the cast perform well but all in all it’s not the modern classic I thought it would be.

Rating 3/5-a great cast elvates an otherwise average movie

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Man of Steel

So here is the latest Superman film since 2006’s Superman Returns. I found the  last film was disappointing. Although I liked Brandon Routh in the title role the story felt flat to me, Kate Bosworth was miscast as Lois Lane and the less said about her son the better. Now Zack Synder is taking the reigns-can he do better?

This time we get a reboot of the Superman Origins. Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is trying to figure out what to do with his life. Should he continue to keep his powers a secret or announce himself to the world? It might be taken out of his hands if journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) tracks him down. Then  an old enemy from Krypton General Zod (Michael Shannon) appears and Clark has some tough choices to make.

I’ve always found films by Zack Synder to be more visually impacting than the story or characters, but at last he seems to have got all the elements right.  The film has a fine balance keeping us mostly in the present but with a good amount of flashbacks, meaning we’re not too bogged down by Superman-the early years. We get a sense of why Superman has been hiding for so long and  explores his reasons for deciding to stand up and fight now despite the risks.

As Superman Henry Cavill looks and acts the part well. He has a strong screen presence and treats the material seriously. Amy Adams is great as Lois Lane and has great chemistry with Cavill which makes you believe in their willingness to protect each other despite not knowing each other for very long. Although she could have done with some more character development, as most of the time she’s either vulnerable girl in peril or feisty reporter, would be good to know more about her. Luckily Adams is a great actress so she makes Lois a more 3d character. The rest of the supporting case is great, especially Russell Crowe who does a lot with what he’s given as Superman’s dad Jor-el.

There are also some fantastic fight scenes in this film, with Superman’s fight against two of General Zod’s soldiers being the best fight scene I’ve seen so far this year.

However the film is not without its flaws-mostly being that it’s too long. This isn’t always a problems with blockbusters but if a film is going to be 143 minutes long you don’t want the audience to feel it. I thought it could have ended half an hour earlier.

Rating 4/5

Unlike Bryan Singer’s effort, this Man of Steel looks set to soar

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