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Her: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Review

Her (2013) movie poster Her

Theatrical Release: December 18, 2013 / Running Time: 126 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Spike Jonze

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix (Theodore Twombly), Scarlett Johansson (Samantha), Amy Adams (Amy), Rooney Mara (Catherine Klausen), Olivia Wilde (Blind Date), Chris Pratt (Paul), Matt Letscher (Charles), Sam Jaeger (Dr. Johnson), Luka Jones (Mark Lewman), Portia Doubleday (Surrogate Date Isabella), Bill Hader (Chat Room Friend #2), Kristen Wiig (SexyKitten), Spike Jonze (Alien Child), Brian Cox (Alan Watts), SoKo (voice of Isabella), Laura Kai Chen (Tatiana), Evelyn Edwards (Mother Who Dated Pricks), Steve Zissis (New Sweet Boyfriend of Mother Who Dated Pricks)
Her is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).Her ranks 37th in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

Buy Her from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Combo Pack • DVD • Instant Video

Spike Jonze adds another creative comedy to his résumé in Her, a film that also represents the first original feature screenplay from the director of Adaptation,
Being John Malkovich, and Where the Wild Things Are.

Set in the near-future, Her centers on the relationship between a lonely man and his computer's operating system. Though that could be the foundation for some high concept science fiction, Jonze instead makes it a real and relatable exploration of romance, the human condition, and, to a smaller degree, the growing presence of technology in our lives.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) works at a company that pens personal "handwritten" (not really) love letters for a fee. Sensitive Theodore has a flair for his work, but his own experiences with love are not as heartwarming. He is soon to divorce a wife (Rooney Mara) from whom he has long been separated. His life is filled with kinky erotic phone calls and video games more interactive than ours. Into this depressing existence comes Samantha, the name that his new computer's state-of-the-art operating system gives itself.

With his mustache, bright shirt, and high-waisted pants, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a stylish man of the future in "Her."

Samantha represents cutting-edge artificial intelligence. She speaks with a perfectly human-like female voice (that of Scarlett Johansson) and exhibits personality and emotions just like a person. Samantha quickly declutters Theodore's inbox and dutifully reminds him of scheduled meetings. But she's more than just a personal assistant. She tucks Theodore in at night, sees what he points his tiny, all-purpose phone's camera at, and engages him in the most meaningful conversations he has.

Before long, Theodore is calling Samantha his girlfriend and sharing innermost thoughts and intimate experiences with this unseen companion. The relationship isn't without some limitations; Samantha's request to use a sexual surrogate goes all wrong, for instance. But this relationship seems to be both mentally and emotionally fulfilling for both parties.

You can be sure that Jonze, who helmed music videos throughout the '90s before making his feature debut on Malkovich, infuses Her with directorial style and technical pizzazz. But style and pizzazz alone do not keep viewers thinking about a movie. Story and characters do and it is in these areas where Her excels. Jonze manages to invent something utterly original, but make it feel organic and genuine. Films tend to depict a dystopian future and though you can classify Her's unspecified setting as that, it's believable and any social commentary is secondary to this unusual love story. Jonze is not the first to recognize the growing reliance on technological devices or the corresponding drop in human interaction, but he's one of the first to find real beauty and poetry in it.

A blonde, messy Amy Adams plays Amy, a video game designer, aspiring filmmaker, and Theodore's friend and confidante. Samantha's use of a sexual surrogate (Portia Doubleday) does not go as planned.

Jonze gives us a near-future Los Angeles with striking architecture where everyone seems to walk around talking to someone or something on the other end of their earpiece. Mustaches and high-waisted pants are apparently back in fashion. Bright colors are favored in both work attire and workplace decor.
There's a market for sentimental missives that look like they were created with pen and paper. Though challenged, the human spirit marches on. Theodore even has some people in his life he talks to, like an admiring co-worker (Chris Pratt) and a video game designer and aspiring documentarian (Amy Adams) who similarly falls for her personal OS.

Much of the film plays out with Theodore simply talking to his unseen love. Their talks range from deeply philosophical to routine lovers' spats. That design might get old or tiresome, but Jonze gives both characters dialogue worth speaking and the actors compellingly bring it to life, with Phoenix doing the visual acting for two. The film makes this utterly preposterous premise (man in love with computer) seem absolutely viable as it marginalizes the physical aspects of romance next to mental stimulation and basic relating.

Her gives you plenty to ponder regarding the nature of love and of modern living. That it can do so without being enamored of its ideas or going off the deep end is no small achievement. For all its acclaim, Malkovich does go off the rails at points. Adaptation, also written by Charlie Kaufman, similarly runs out of charm with its reflexive Meta design overpowering everything else. With Her, Jonze manages to marry his confident rhythm and splendor to a more resonant and consistent script of his own. It's more on the order of Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or of Richard Linklater's Before... films with its intellectual/sensory exploration and celebration of life's most fundamental and confounding emotion.

Despite near-universal acclaim from critics and thinking moviegoers (who quickly thrust this into the middle of IMDb's all-time Top 250), Her fell flat in theatrical release, grossing just $25.6 million domestically and another $20 M in foreign markets. That is despite the boosts it got from a prominent award season premise that saw it vie for many a Best Picture award and win the majority of Best Original Screenplay honors, including the Oscar.

The commercial ceiling could not have surprised Warner Bros., following the precipitous weekly drops of Where the Wild Things Are. With a $23 M production budget and a maximum theater count of 1,729, Her was nowhere near as costly as Jonze's previous effort for the studio. But it's similarly too strange for mass consumption, with its pin drop moments of bared emotions and blank screen orgasms.

On Tuesday, Her becomes one of the last films of 2013 and the last of the year's major award contenders to hit home video when Warner releases it to DVD and Blu-ray combo pack.

Her: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Blu-ray Extras Subtitled
Release Date: May 13, 2014 / Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP)
and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

As the industry continues to favor the wider aspect ratio in great numbers, Her is one of a few 2013 films to stand out using 1.85:1. The imaginative photography is nicely represented on Blu-ray. The image isn't as sharp as what some contemporaries offer, but it boasts tremendous detail that only enhances your appreciation for the compositions and their blend of elements and styles.

The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is a treat, capably showcasing the film's mix of sound and silence and doing a great job of presenting Arcade Fire's score and end credits song.

Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix play crew on the set of "The Untitled Rick Howard Project", later known as "Her." Charlyne Yi does not appear in "Her", but that doesn't mean she doesn't have thoughts on "Love in the Modern Age."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

On Blu-ray, Her is joined by three HD bonus features.

"The Untitled Rick Howard Project" (24:19) is an unusual featurette
that gives us candid looks at the film's creation in an artsy blend of mediums. Opting to show rather than tell, this offbeat piece takes its name from the film's working title.

"Her: Love in the Modern Age" (15:10) collects reactions to the film and thoughts on modern love from a variety of sources, including comedians (Marc Maron), actors (Charlyne Yi, Olivia Wilde), authors (Bret Easton Ellis), musicians, and artists. It's deeper and much more distinct than your typical bonus feature.

"How Do You Share Your Life with Somebody" (3:56) is a short in the same vein as "Untitled", setting audio from the film to an assortment of production and post-production footage. The end of it suggests it was used to market the film.

Filled close to capacity, the DVD only includes one of the three extras, and the one least relevant to the film, "Love in the Modern Age."

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) plays uke on the Blu-ray and DVD's appealing, unusual menu.

Both discs open with an UltraViolet promo and a Winter's Tale trailer. The DVD also includes trailers for Tammy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,
300: Rise of an Empire, and Veronica Mars. Her trailers are unsurprisingly but unfortunately not included, apart from the aforementioned montage.

The creatively offbeat menu places listing down the right side of the screen over a shot of Theodore playing ukulele, though it eventually settles on a freeze frame and piano score.

The hint of greater than usual creative control extends to the aqua and pink discs billing this, like the atypical cover and poster, "A Spike Jonze Love Story." They're joined by an insert with your Digital HD UltraViolet code and topped by a slipcover.

With Samantha in his ear, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) takes in the sight of the future Los Angeles in "Her."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though visually and sonically inspired, the melancholic Her strikes its deepest chord with strong ideas. The rare movie where romance, comedy, and what you might call science fiction can harmoniously co-exist, this original, profound and highly cinematic experience stands out from the pack.

Some may be disappointed not to delve into the film's visual effects, production design, and music or to get an audio commentary, but this clearly seems like not some mindless, lazy oversight but a conscious decision by Jonze to leave some mystery to his personal creative process. As is, the film is good enough to pick up in any form and the unconventional extras oddly befit the offbeat feature presentation.

Buy Her from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Combo Pack / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Spike Jonze: Being John Malkovich • Where the Wild Things Are | Written by Spike Jonze: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Best Picture Nominees: Nebraska • American Hustle • The Wolf of Wall Street • Philomena • Captain Phillips • Gravity • Dallas Buyers Club
Best Original Screenplay Winners: Midnight in Paris • The King's Speech • Juno • Annie Hall • Chinatown • The Apartment • Sunset Boulevard
2013 Oscar Winners: The Great Beauty • Blue Jasmine • Frozen • The Great Gatsby • 20 Feet from Stardom
Joaquin Phoenix: The Master • Ladder 49 • Brother Bear • The Village | Rooney Mara: Youth in Revolt
Amy Adams: Doubt • Trouble with the Curve • Julie & Julia • Man of Steel • The Muppets • The Fighter
Scarlett Johansson: We Bought a Zoo • Chasing Ice • The Other Boleyn Girl • The Spirit • He's Just Not That Into You
Olivia Wilde: In Time • Butter • People Like Us • The Words • The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Before Midnight • August: Osage County • Frances Ha • Prisoners

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Reviewed May 10, 2014.



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