Tag Archives: Academy Awards

Con-Fabulous

Swirling scandal saga based on real events from the 1970s

American Hustle

Blu-ray $40.99, DVD $30.99 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

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Director David O. Russell’s sprawling, swirling ‘70s saga, nominated for 10 Academy Awards, is a tale of con artists, FBI agents, a fake oil sheik, real gangsters, crooked politicians and others hustling to make it or break it against the backdrop of a real-life American scandal. The fabulous ensemble cast of Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner keeps the show rolling; the colorful clothes and disco-era hairstyles are dy-no-mite; and the soundtrack rocks with tuneful tracks of the era. Extras include a making-of documentary with the filmmakers and cast, plus deleted and extended scenes.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Live Like You Were Dying

McConaughey, Leto lead Oscar nominees in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’  

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

Blu-ray $34.99 / DVD $29.98 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

Matthew McConaughey stars as a high-living, homophobic Texas cowboy whose life is turned inside out when he’s diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to live. Taking matters into his own hands, he seeks alternative treatments—legal and illegal—and begins his own “buyer’s club” for the life-extending drugs he can’t obtain through conventional channels, eventually uniting an eclectic group of fellow social outcasts. Based on a true story from the 1980s, this powerful, inspiring tale resulted in six Oscar nominations, including Picture, Lead Actor for McConaughey, and Supporting Actor for Jared Leto, whose wrenching performance as the transgendered Rayon has already raked in dozens of awards, including trophies from the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Guy Meets Gigabyte

A surprisingly sweet, audaciously witty, somewhat weird and ultimately warmhearted ‘what if’ about love in the not-so-far future

HER

Her

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and the voice of Scarlett Johansson

Directed by Spike Jonze

R, 126 min.

Can you love someone who isn’t really anyone? That’s one of the questions at the heart of Her, in which a lonely writer in the not-so-distant future develops a romantic relationship with the operating system of his computer.

Think of Siri, the speech-recognition software that comes with an iPhone, or the “voice” that narrates routes mapped out by your vehicle’s GPS navigational device.

Only Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), the first of an advanced new operating system (OS) product line, is much more than just a voice. She has personality and a powerful “artificial intelligence,” and she immediately begins to wow her new owner Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) with attention to his every need. She proofreads his work, composes music for their moments together, helps him play his favorite holographic videogame and sends him dirty-minded doodles that make him laugh.

HERSamantha “gets” Theo—understands him, relates to him—like no flesh-and-blood woman ever got him before. Soon enough, he begins to develop feelings for “her.”

Written and directed by Spike Jonze (Where The Wild Things Are, Being John Malcovich, Adaptation) Her takes an old-fashioned romantic convention—guy meets girl—and runs it through an innovative wavelength of sci-fi wi-fi that at the same time doesn’t seem all that out of sync with today. We never know when it takes place—presumably, it’s only a couple of decades from now—but its scenes of people walking around with ear buds, constantly speaking commands for their portable devices to check email or play songs, look oddly contemporary.

Jonze’s movie—nominated for four upcoming Academy Awards, including Best Picture—raises issues about relationships, intimacy, isolation, jealousy, sensory experience, and our connections to the technologies on which our lives have increasingly come to rely. Phoenix gives his usual standout, immersive performance in a very tricky role, playing to a co-star who isn’t really “there” in a physical sense.

As for Samantha, heard but never seen, Johansson is mesmerizing, a warm, sensual, palpable “presence” that moves from Theo’s head into his heart, re-awakening him in every way

_DSC2097.tifAmy Adams frumps down her recent firecracker role in American Hustle to play Theo’s old college friend with love problems of her own, and Rooney Mara portrays his soon-to-be ex-wife, scoffing at his inability to find and date a “real woman.” Theo’s co-worker (Chris Pratt from TV’s Parks and Recreation), however, doesn’t bat an eye when he finds out his girlfriend is an OS. Olivia Wilde has one scene as a date with doubts about Theo’s abilities to commit.

At one point, Theodore plays a ukulele and plunks out a song for Samantha. It’s a charming little tune about being “a million miles away” with the one you love. The very idea of a guy head-over-heels with a female voice coming out of a device in his shirt pocket may seem, indeed, w-a-a-ay out there. But Spike Jonze’s surprisingly sweet, audaciously witty, somewhat weird and ultimately warmhearted “what if” makes you wonder if it’s not so far off, after all.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Ahoy, Captain!

Tom Hanks stars in gripping true tale of modern-day piracy

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Captain Phillips

Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Combo $40.99 / DVD $30.99 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Tom Hanks stars in this gripping, critically lauded thriller about the hijacking of an American cargo ship by Somali pirates and its daring rescue by the U.S. Navy. Based on a real 2009 incident, it’s a knockout performance for Hanks, who adds yet another notch to his formidable acting belt—but it’s a propulsive breakout for Oscar-nominated newcomer Barkhad Abdi, who, as leader of the ragtag Somali hijackers, conveys an urgency and desperation essential to the movie’s emotional tug-of-war. Extras include a three-part, behind-the-scenes look at the production and the true events on which the story was based, and commentary by director Paul Greengrass.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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