Director Spike Jonze handles ‘Her’ with deft touch; Phoenix in top form

Published on Thursday, 9 January 2014 23:19 - Written by STEWART SMITH ssmith@tylerpaper.com

Here’s what’s hitting the silver screen this weekend.

“Lone Survivor”

What’s it about? It’s based on the true story of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell (played by Mark Wahlberg) and the failed 2005 mission “Operation Red Wings” in Afghanistan. Spoilers: If the title wasn’t clear enough, Luttrell was the only one to make it out alive.

Will it be good? Luttrell’s story is certainly compelling enough to make for an intense film and it’s the kind of material that I’m surprised doesn’t get made more often. That said, if director Peter Berg hadn’t had a string of bad films directly before this I might be a little more optimistic than I am. What I’m quite curious of is to see how Berg handles the film’s tone. Will this be an “OOH RAH AMERICA WOOOO” film or something that keeps the jingoism to a minimum?

Rated R for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language.

“Inside Llewyn Davis”

What’s it about? Struggling folk musician Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) makes his way through the music scene in Greenwich Village in the ’60s.

Will it be good? It’s the latest film by Joel and Ethan Coen, which conjures a certain sort of blind enthusiasm and expectation from their devoted fans (among which I count myself). This seems to occupy a pocket in between their broader fare (like “O’ Brother, Where Art Thou” and “The Big Lebowski”) and their more cynical material (i.e. “No Country for Old Men” and “Burn After Reading”) for something that ultimately looks like one of the most sincere and heartfelt movies they’ve ever done. All I know is that Oscar Isaac is one of my favorite up and coming actors, John Goodman always makes everything better by being in it and this has been one of my most anticipated films of the last year. I can’t wait.

Rated R for language including some sexual references.

“Her”

What’s it about? A reclusive writer named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with an operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) custom tailored to meet his emotional needs.

Will it be good? Spike Jonze’s movies are not for everyone. They’re weird, off-beat and often the very definition of “art films.” That said, I love his work even at its weirdest (such as “Being John Malkovich”). As for “Her,” a movie where a guy falls in love with a computer is certainly an odd concept, but leave it to Jonze to seemingly handle it with a deft touch. Phoenix looks like he’s in top form here and I’ve heard nothing but praise for Johansson’s work as well. I’ll be checking this one out this weekend.

Rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity.