Her (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, VOD, On Demand), the first film from Spike Jonze since his underrated take on Where the Wild Things Are, returns to the territory of his debut film Being John Malkovich but without the satirical edge. Like his fellow filmmakers and former collaborators Michael Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, Jonze is narratively playful and challenging, but his interest as a filmmaker is in the human experience: unresolved emotions, emotional pain, longing, disappointment, and the need for love and affirmation. Jonze wrote this original screenplay himself and won the Academy Award for it.
As you probably already know, Her is a love story between a man and his smartphone operating system, a science-fiction conceit that springboards off Siri and the plugged-in culture to create an artificially intelligent operating system that picks up on vocal cues and emotional states, responding empathetically to its user. Joaquin Phoenix is Theodore, an emotionally wounded man who armors himself from personal contact after a break-up and divorce, and the only person to break through that is not a person at all but this bodyless entity. It’s the logical step since he communicates with his computer and its voice-activated system more than he does with people, one-sided a relationship that prevents him from interacting with the world. When it becomes an interactive entity, a personality that responds to and bonds with him, it’s seductive. It’s also, unexpectedly, a way back to the rich pageant of human existence around.
Jonze creates an almost idealized vision of Los Angeles here, a clean, handsome urban cityscape of affluence in cool colors and an austerity we don’t expect to see in L.A. This is a city with litter, no gridlock, and no overcrowding, a beautiful but strangely lonely vision of city life that only becomes energized when Samantha, as the system is named, takes Theodore into the crowds of public spaces. Samantha grows exponentially, reaching out into the world to experience all she can, and she leads Theodore back into the world with her even as she evolves far past his limitations.
Sure, it’s a metaphor for communication and relationships in the plugged-in world, a point brought home by Theodore’s job writing “personal handwritten letters” for subscribers looking for a go-between for their communications, channeling all of his desires of a perfect romance into the missives he ghost writes for strangers. But more importantly it is a melancholy story of people who retreat into this non-physical relationships after an emotional wounding. People are messy and impulsive and tentative and often unaware of how their behavior affects others and these systems are all about empathy, picking up cues, pleasing the person on the other end. Scarlett Johansson voices Samantha with an open, inviting, upbeat, excited about life quality that charges up Theodore. It’s a beautiful performance and a full character created solely with her voice. Amy Adams co-stars as Theodore’s best friend and Rooney Mara is his ex-wife.
Blu-ray and DVD with three featurettes: “The Untitled Rick Howard Project,” a behind-the-scenes featurette that brings the viewer into all aspects of production; “Love in the Modern Age,” featuring interviews with viewers reflecting on the film; and “How Do You Share Your Life With Somebody,” a brief montage of clips from the film. The Blu-ray also features bonus DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD copies of the film.
Also available on Digital HD, Video On Demand and Cable On Demand.
Stranger By the Lake (Strand, Blu-ray, DVD), a French thriller from director Alain Guiraudie, takes the cinematic staples of sex, murder, desire, and suspicion to lakeside location where gay men come to cruise for partners. The mystery isn’t in the murder, which takes place early on, but in the aftermath. Guiraudie won the Un Certain Regard award for Best Director at Cannes 2003. In French with English subtitles, features an interview with the director. See reviews at MRQE.
Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? (IFC, DVD) is the animated documentary from Jonze’s business partner Michel Gondry, based on interviews he conducted with linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky. Includes a making-of featurette and bonus interviews .
Stalingrad (Sony, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD) is Fedor Bondarchuk’s take on the devastating World War II battle to protect the city from the German assault. The epic war drama was originally presented in 3D and the Blu-ray release includes standard and 3D editions (for viewers with compatible Blu-ray 3D systems). Russian with subtitles, with a bonus featurette.
From Sweden comes Easy Money: Life Deluxe (New Video, Blu-ray, DVD), the third film in the crime series starring Joel Kinnaman as the college kid in the underworld (in Swedish and English with English subtitles) and from Uruguay comes Tanta Agua (Film Movement, DVD), a drama about a divorced father trying to connect with his kids on a rained-out family vacation (Spanish with English subtitles).
After Tiller (Oscilloscope, DVD, Digital, VOD) talks to the only four doctors in America who openly provide third-trimester abortions since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in 2009. Features bonus interviews with the filmmakers and doctors.
God’s Pocket (IFC), featuring one of the final screen roles by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is available to see via Cable On Demand as it debuts on theaters. Mad Men veteran John Slattery directors and Christina Hendricks and Eddie Marsan co-star.
Endless Love (Universal, Digital HD), the remake of the eighties romantic drama of obsessive love, is available for digital purchase in advance of disc.
The horror film Devil’s Due (Fox) arrives On Demand weeks after its disc debut.
That Awkward Moment (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand)
I, Frankenstein (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, VOD, On Demand)
Generation Iron (Anchor Bay, DVD, Digital)
Special ID (Well Go USA, Blu-ray, DVD)
Deadly Code (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, VOD)
As High as the Sky (Cinema Libre, DVD)
Unsolved Mysteries Of The Second World War (Eagle Rock, DVD)
Poseidon Rex (ITN, DVD)
The Zombinator (Inception, DVD)
Piggy (Inception, DVD)
Daddy’s Little Girl (Vicious Circle, DVD)
American Jesus (Shelter Island, DVD)
Shelter Island (Shelter Island, DVD)
Orange is the New Black: Season One (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD)
Longmire: The Complete Second Season (Warner, DVD)
Glad All Over: The Dave Clark Five and Beyond (PBS, Blu-ray, DVD)
Afterlife: Season One (BBC, DVD)
Eastbound and Down: The Complete Fourth and Final Season (Warner, DVD)
Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 2 (Paramount, DVD, Amazon Only)
Theatreland (Athena, DVD)
American Dad!: Volume 9 (Fox, DVD)
Last Man Standing: The Complete First Season (Fox, DVD)
Last Man Standing: The Complete Second Season (Fox, DVD)
Bob’s Burgers: The Complete Third Season (Fox, DVD)
Louie: The Complete Season 3 (Fox, DVD)
The New Normal: The Complete First Season (Fox, DVD)
Coming Back with Wes Moore (PBS, DVD)
Rollerball (1975) (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
Two Rode Together (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
Thunderbirds Are Go / Thunderbird 6 (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
The Firm (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
Fate Is the Hunter (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
Overlord (Criterion, Blu-ray)
“Crocodile” Dundee / “Crocodile” Dundee II (Paramount, Blu-ray)
Amistad (Paramount, Blu-ray)
Home of the Brave (1949) (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Flying Tigers (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Ocean’s Trilogy (Warner, Blu-ray)
Ultimate Gangsters Collection Volume 2 (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (Paramount, Blu-ray Combo)
Evilspeak (Scream Factory, Blu-ray)
Final Exam (Scream Factory, Blu-ray)
Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection Volume 8 (Warner, DVD)
Wolverine Weapon X: Tomorrow Dies Today (Shout Factory, DVD)