Tag: Spike Jonze

MOVIE REVIEW | Her (2013)

A man works in an office designed for little people and discovers a portal into the mind of real life character actor John Malkovich…  In an adaptation of a book about flowers, the premise of the book is immediately abandoned for Nicolas Cage to play the real life screenwriter of the movie and his completely fictional twin brother…  A feature length adaptation of a 40 page kids book that’s mostly pictures.  I don’t know if ‘high concept’ is the correct phrase to describe the work of Spike Jonze, or if ‘bat shit, nutso crazy’ is more accurate.  Whatever it is, his latest effort fits in well, as a man falls in love with his phone, in Her.

In the not so distant future, Joaquin Phoenix is that man, Theodore Twombly.  He writes seemingly heartfelt, personal letters on behalf of others for a living, which is a direct contrast to the emotionless, shut off life he leads outside of work, ever since breaking up with this wife (Rooney Mara).

Already reliant on his phone and computer games as a way to avoid any interaction with real people, apart from his old friend Amy (Amy Adams), he knocks things up a notch when he downloads a new operating system for his phone that boasts the most sophisticated artificial intelligence ever.  Named Samantha and voiced by Scarlett Johansson, Theodore’s phone quickly becomes a close friend and trusted confidant, before moving on to the next level.  The level of love and sustained moments of gettin’ it on.

Not many film makers could turn this concept into a believable movie.  Charlie Kaufman gets a lot of credit for coming up with the wackiness of Being John Malkovich and  Adaptation, but what about the bloke who manages to reign in the wacky and turn them into movies with genuine emotion that we can somehow relate to?

It’s making this story believable that makes Her so impressive.  From a writing and directing standpoint, Jonze somehow makes the goofy concept of “Man falls in love with Siri” surprisingly realistic and understandable.  Sure, the husky, sultry voice of Scarlett Johansson is a good start, but it’s a lot more than that.  Jonze makes the relationship believable because he makes it so real.

And what makes it so real is Jonze’s decision to inject it with the good and the bad of a real relationship with a real person.  Samantha might be a computer program, but for every dream girl attribute that you could imagine the designers of artificial intelligence might try to emulate, she also has plenty of negative emotions.  Happy and adoring one minute, petty and jealous the next.  And the very human Theodore Twombly is just as quick to indulge in his own pettiness and jealousies.

This, combined with the world Jonze creates in which the idea of people falling in love with their operating systems is quickly accepted, means the gimmick is just as quickly over shadowed by a legitimate love story that feels just as real to the audience as it does to Phoenix’s character.

Directed By – Spike Jonze
Written By – Spike Jonze

MOVIE REVIEW | Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013)

When I saw Borat, it’s possibly the hardest and loudest I’ve ever heard a cinema full of people laugh.  Then six months or so later it appeared on cable and I couldn’t wait to see it again.  I think I may have half chuckled a couple of times on second viewing.  The shock impact was gone and so were most of the laughs.  If anything, I actively disliked large portions of Borat on the second viewing because I started to feel sorry for the real people.  When Borat is the butt of his own jokes, I love it, when an innocent person is the victim, even if they don’t seem like a particularly nice person, it’s just too mean.  I never got around to Bruno, and like the rest of the world, didn’t bother with The Dictator.  And for the same reasons, I almost avoided Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, but luckily, my curiosity got the better of me.

In heavy old man prosthetics, Jackass ringleader Johnny Knoxville is Irving Zisman, the Bad Grandpa of the title.  After the death of his wife, he’s excited to finally have her off his back so I can chase some serious tail.  Until his estranged daughter shows up the funeral and abandons her son, Irving’s grandson, Billy.  Now Irving and Billy are on a road trip to leave Billy with his deadbeat Dad who sees his son as nothing more than a welfare cheque.  It’s a surprisingly intricate setup for what is basically an hour and half of hidden camera pranks on the public, but stick with it, because it kind of pays off.

Knoxville is great and hilarious, but that’s to be expected.  It’s an act he’s perfected over several series of the TV show and three movies.  He’s a super likeable guy who can convince almost anyone to do almost anything.  Add to that the disarming advantage of looking like a little old man, and he really goes to town.  But the stand out in Bad Grandpa is Billy, played by Jackson Nicoll.

He’s obviously being fed lines and told what to do, but he has a charisma about him that is pretty amazing for a kid who probably hasn’t even hit double digits yet.  There are a couple of moments when he makes Knoxville legitimately laugh, catching him of guard with jokes and reactions that clearly weren’t written or rehearsed.

Even more surprising than Nicoll’s performance is the genuine heart of this movie.  Somehow, amidst all the swearing, pranks, strippers, sexual innuendo, cross dressing and projectile diarrhea, there’s a real sweetness to the relationship between Irving and Billy.  And because this has Jackass Presents before the title, whenever it veers dangerously close to becoming too sentimental or clichéd, there’s always the dead body of a little old lady to keep the movie from taking itself too seriously.

For me, what differentiates this from the Sacha Baron Cohen movies is Knoxville’s clear goal to make sure the joke is always on him.  There’s no polite lady left holding a bad of human shit, or rodeo rednecks made to look stupid because they take the national anthem a little too seriously.  The unsuspecting public always come off looking better than Irving Sizman.

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Directed By – Jeff Tremaine
Written By – Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze, Jeff Tremaine