HER – will not appeal to everyone

A review by Brenda Daniels

Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and the voice of Scarlett Johanson, is a Cinema Nouveau film which opens on Valentine’s Day. Billed as a romance, Her is the story of how writer, Theodore Twombly (Phoenix), recovers from the loss of a previous relationship by meeting someone else. The someone else turns out to be Samantha (Johanson), a, wait for it, OS (computer operating system).

Theodore’s OS is an intelligent programme that learns as she goes along and forms a close relationship with Theodore, talking to him through an earpiece, initiating calls and even performing some heavy breathing during intimate moments.

Theodore’s few friends don’t find it strange that he’s dating an OS – partly because many of them are too. Set in a futuristic Los Angeles, people are seen walking the streets and corridors with microphones in their ears talking animatedly with disembodied “people”, not unlike they do today. And this is where I think director, Spike Jonze, means us to see the absurdity of their (and our) disconnected lives. Lives in which we seem to bond more over devices than we do face to face. Lives in which a computer, not a person, is able to meet our need for friendship and worth and help us in turn to negotiate the world.

Although Her’s premise is an interesting one, the action drags. I found the characters’ constant self-absorption and the lack of humour in this two-hour movie tiresome after a while. An interesting idea, but boring in parts, Her will not appeal to everyone.

Her releases at Cinema Nouveau Theatres on 14 February.

Scarlett Johansson, a digital painting by Marco nl

Scarlett Johansson, a digital painting by Marco nl (source: Creative Commons)

Message in The Monuments Men meanders vaguely

A review by Brenda Daniels

The Monuments Men is a World War II drama based on a true story. It recounts how artworks in the form of paintings and sculptures, stolen by the Nazis during the war, were recovered. The film features a cast of big names including George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and Bill Murray.

Seven men, previously unconscripted because of age, are handpicked by Frank Stokes (Clooney) for their art expertise. They don uniforms right near the end of the war and set out on their mission to find the artworks and return them to their rightful owners.

There are no flashy heroics in this film. The characters are old and ordinary. And their mission of saving artworks seems silly when compared to saving human lives. But, argues their leader Stokes, preserving art is preserving culture. And culture reflects the importance of a people and their achievements.

What the group did recover is indeed staggering. What they helped prevent is monumental. Hitler had plans to build his own Führer Museum. He needed art, books and other treasures to fill it so stole what he needed, storing it up in hiding places. This ragtag bunch of chaps was instrumental in putting an end to his dreams.

Unfortunately The Monuments Men meanders through a vague plot, throwing in some sentimentality and personal suffering just for good measure. This makes what promised to be a fine film slow and unnecessarily long.

The actors do a good job, particularly Cate Blanchett as a sour but helpful source of intelligence. As a group they don’t leave a lasting impression nor do they capitalise on some potential for humour. Although The Monuments Men fails to make more of its noble message, the message does get through and is worth watching just for this.

The Monuments Men opens at NuMetro Theatres in South Africa on 14 February.

MFAA soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle               (Source: Creative Commons)

MFAA soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle (Source: Creative Commons)