“her” Favorite Movies Review


This movie creates an intense inner mental and emotional experience, more than being merely an observed visual narrative.

Joaquin Phoenix, a surrogate love-letter writer, plays a nerdy yet cool guy who begins a relationship with a computer O.S. (Operating System), voiced by the sexy Scarlett Johansson.

Filmed in Shanghai, China, it is the rightful companion to CODE 46, which also was largely filmed there. I was expecting to see Samantha Morton in the movie, but in fact she is the producer, which blew my mind.

The online voice/personality is so empathetic and understanding and caring–that Phoenix’ character falls in love with her.

This film probably has more extreme close-ups than any movie ever made, tracking the intimate nature of Phoenix’ character’s relationship (it’s in his ear).

Don’t think something like this could happen in your life? Notice your strong feelings as you watch this movie–it happens every time you “fall in love” with a screen character in a movie.

Now imagine how much more intense that experience would be if a movie character talked back to you and interacted with you over months and years.

After a while, would you remember or care that this person that you have such a wonderful relationship with is not human?

Human beings want love and understanding so badly that I think many of us would take even the similitude of it from a computer.

There are several parallels we can draw from Phoenix’ relationship with the O.S. (named “Samantha,” –a wink to Samantha Morton) to a believer’s spiritual connection and experiences with God.

This movie works and has such beautiful cinematographic and subtle and nuanced emotional scenes in it that it is nothing short of amazing. It has been a long time since I saw a movie that was this good on so many levels.

There is one point where the screen goes blank for an extended couple of moments–I actually closed my eyes before they did that–what sentient timing by the director.

“her” is an absolute and immediate commentary on our times. What happens in the film is not at all far-fetched. People fall in love with music, with books–even with movies. We love certain things and even have a “relationship” with them. We even use that word.

People walk around completely entranced by their phone screens. Getting a message on a phone seems far more important than sitting next to someone and having them talk to us.

Imagine how immersive, seductive, and powerful it would be to talk to an artificial online personality that talks back and really gets to know you.

The thing that happens in this movie is going to happen more and more in our lives.

Like memories and past relationships, the movie literally says that love lives on in the hearts of those who been loved–forever.

Also, the movie has a great ending that shows love and appreciation for human-to-human conversation and relationships.

I strongly recommend that you see this movie–alone if possible.

This movie, just like CODE 46, with its intelligence, emotion, evocative music and soaring subdued visuals of Shanghai city lights at night, is ~wondrous~.

–Curtis Smale


LABOR DAY Movie Review


LABOR DAY Movie Review, by Curtis Smale (This is a Must-See Movie.)

LABOR DAY is a very good, possibly great, movie. It’s the story of a woman who falls in love with a prisoner on the lam, who forces his way into the house of her and her son. A special relationship develops.

This movie is very important to the times in which we live. That’s the main reason I think it’s great. In this review, I will explain why I think it is a great film, so I will reveal a few details about the film. Since this is a character-driven, not plot-driven, movie, knowing things that happen in the movie doesn’t spoil anything at all. So, please read on. In fact, I think insightful reviews will enhance your appreciation of the film.

I can’t think of another movie that is more dead-on in its presentation of the major social issues of 2014 American culture.

LABOR DAY stars Kate Winslet as a single mother who is forced by a very masculine man, an escaped convict (Josh Brolin), to harbor him in her house (gimme shelter). The reason this movie has such power is that it was adapted from the story of a writer, not a screenwriter.

The story is very simple on its surface. The man’s man forces himself into their house, and, over the course of only a few days, works his way into their hearts.

Now in reality, this level of emotional and relational development would probably take months or even years, but the dramatic developments are compressed into four days. And, when someone falls deeply and madly in love, that is often the way things happen, right? This aspect of the film reminds me of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY.

Some movies are, “not about what they are about.” This one is.

This film is a story about all that we have lost in American culture, and so very recently. The movie is set in 1987, about the time that a lot of our current disastrous cultural changes were just beginning.

The movie celebrates the physical and emotional and role-based differences between men and women and how we function with each other and in society. This is a beautiful thing. When I heard about this film, I was hoping it would show these things, and it didn’t disappoint.

The boy, maybe 14, is on the verge of understanding the basics of the adult world. His bedroom door has an E.T. poster on it, symbolizing his youth and innocence.

As a second tribute to Spielberg, the three of them are seen sitting on a couch in (their) living room watching TV: the final shot of the mothership flying off into the stars as the credits roll, in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, (one of my all-time favorite movies). CE3K was released in 1978. I love that movie so. I identified the End Title theme music right away, and am so glad they put that tribute in there. It reminds me of the almost subliminal shot of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS that is in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. And that movie, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, has its roots in a story that goes back almost to the beginning of time, near the very beginnings of large civilizations. Movies are our common cultural references, and I love that they are often integral to our current movies.

As a brilliant cue, the credits rolling in this scene indicate that the falling action of the third act of the movie is about to begin.

Also, I love movies that show periods of time that I have personally lived through: the pre-computer-dominated, wood-paneled, slower and simpler days of the ’80s. This always feels like time-travel to me, if it is done well.

The man in this story is a manly man. He knows how to do things. He fixes the woman’s home and her car (there’s a living metaphor for ya). He teaches the boy baseball pitching technique and how to change a tire. He also cleans the floor (twice) and makes food (twice). He fixes, makes right, protects, strengthens, and leads and feeds the family (his family). He’s a real man. He also -dances- with Winslet. He makes up for all that Winslet’s first husband lacked, which was just about everything. The single mother had either given up making meals or had never learned to make them, because she buys all of her food as cans at the grocery store, the clerk in the movie tells us.)

As the movie progresses, Brolin shaves off his beard to look different to the police that are looking for him, but also (thematically) to look more like the “man” he is replacing (Winslet’s former husband.) Also, it is a symbol of his adjustment to domestic life.

Brolin gently ties up Winslet to give plausible deniability to Winslet if she ever needs to testify to the bare facts of what happened.

But he is really tying her up with the bonds of his ~love~.

This movie is important because it shows us how different men and women really are, and how much we need each other. It throws a huge rock through the window of feminism. It also takes a mediated jab at homosexuality, with her son’s friend and his parents thinking he might be gay if he takes up dance instead of sports.

There is a scene involving making a peach pie that conjures the pottery scene in GHOST, redone as a family bonding set-piece.

This movie shows that there are needs and desires that are so deep in men and women that people will do extreme things to fulfill them (like make a run for Canada, or say that a few days with the love of your life would outweigh being in prison for years).

Kate Winslet’s character has been devastated because of several miscarriages. Her husband left her because of her grief and sadness about them. Brolin, a real man, understands the deeper meanings of things. What was printed in the newspaper about him being a murderer is not all that there is to his case (truth matters). He tells Winslet that he has never intentionally harmed anyone (he has morality). He knows she is a woman worth fighting for, not merely because she is beautiful, but because she has heart, kindness, and character.

This story shows the contrast between a real man and a real woman–and people who are run by intellectualism and the cheap, unrealistic, and unworkable social ideas of our day.

People fall in love with other people for their character, their beliefs, their personality, and their uniqueness (and flaws) as a person.

This movie shows that even when logic and social reality force two people apart, there is sometimes an immortal love that lives on in the hearts of those touched by self-sacrificing love, the ultimate reality. Even romantic love transcends physical reality, and partially transcends emotional reality, as shown by Winslet’s explanation of sex and love to her son–her character actually criticises the inhumane, cold, unspiritual, and unemotional character of public school sex education–hallelujah!

True love lives on forever, no matter what, no matter the decisions people make, no matter if time or distance, or even death, separates people.

Labor Day, the holiday, provides an extra day for the events in this story to unfold. Labor day, the labor of a woman giving birth to several miscarried babies, provides the emotional gravity of the story (as it did also in Winslet and DiCaprio’s REVOLUTION ROAD). And, you can see labor pains, pain and grief, on the face of Brolin’s character as the police show up to put him on his knees and carry him away to prison again. And then, there was the all the labor that Brolin performed around the house in those four days. So, their burgeoning love affair has been killed at its birth. I love symbolism in movies.

There is a little more to be desired from the directing, a few momentary dead spots and rhythms that could’ve been improved, but in a few more films, Jason Reitman will rise to mastery in that.

There is something in humanity that cannot be eliminated by politically correct education, or by feminism, or by the homosexual movement: Reality.

Men want certain things, and women want certain things, no matter what. Neither can have, or should want, all of the advantages of the other sex.

Children need a mother and a father.

There is such a thing as right relations between these three.

Morality and truth are important.

This movie is like a giant wake-up gong for our culture.

Copyright 2014 by Curtis Smale

INTERSTELLAR Movie Review, Part 2


(Caution: Movie Plot Points are discussed below)

Two more thoughts about INTERSTELLAR.

I didn’t like that the movie went from speculative hard science to fantasy.
Think about it. Cooper was floating in space, about to die. He was soon to become a ghost. Then he became the ghost from the beginning of the movie. Then his daughter built Ringworld. Then he saw his elderly daughter. Then he had closure with his other relationship.

So–this was all a man’s dying dream. All of the satisfaction of the library books’ ghost, and seeing his daughter, and everything–was all not real. A person can have a flashback of good memories at the end of a film, but to make the end of a film, tying up all the plot points, be a -dream-? Seriously? No thanks. Not satisfying.

Also, on a spiritual level, after seeing all of these incredible things–Saturn, stars, wormholes, etc.–and the entire thing is all to the glory of -Man-?

Man’s mind and technology was the ultimate source of everything from the “aliens” who were calling them to the starship, to the dream Ringworld?

No. The film would have been elevated by reference to God, the creator of heaven and earth.

The whole scope of the film closed in at that point. It was all about Man. If it had been about God and His glory, the film would have opened up…


–Curtis Smale

GRAVITY –The Second Review

GRAVITY  The Morning After Review… by C.S.

Click here to watch the official GRAVITY movie trailer:

While it was a great spectacle, GRAVITY ultimately has no character or story substance. The movie melts away in your mouth. In terms of meaning and insight and lasting emotion, there is nothing there. A huge thrill for a moment, and then its entire value is gone. (In the back of my mind, I guess I knew that I needed to write my first enthusiastic review quickly.) Can you imagine: thousands of people spent four years of their lives making this movie.

A great insult to a film, I realize this morning, is that if a movie is not great on the small screen, it may be a great spectacle in IMAX 3D, but it will never be a great film. While sometimes a momentary load of fun, I don’t think 3D or IMAX are the future of films, in general. Putting a film into 3D or enlarging it to an extreme can never improve the quality or value of what is already there.

And $14.50 is way too much to spend for a movie ticket. I think the movie industry is hoping that $14.50 is the future of movies. The guy running the WIZARD show a few weeks ago, the guy behind the curtain, told me that the twin projectors that show IMAX films cost $3 million dollars each–that’s six million dollars for one movie projector!

A couple of weeks ago, when I first spent $14.50–the most I had ever spent on a movie, it was for THE WIZARD OF OZ. Even though the 3D effect was almost non-existent, the film was not remastered, and the frame ratio did not fill the screen side-to-side, the film itself was great. It was wonderful to see it made huge!

In the past, people have watched THE WIZARD OF OZ on small black-and-white television sets and it was great. People have watched STAR WARS on their iPads and it was great.

This is also why I love low-budget independent movies so much–story and character, meaning and emotion and insight. Someone once said that action movies need even more character development and a stronger story than dramas, because it is these things that give meaning to the action.

To expand this entertainment insight to spirituality, I think this is why Christianity is deeply satisfying, (aside from being true and efficacious for the salvation of the human soul). Christianity rings true with human experience, and it provides a framework for daily life that is usable.

Hinduism and Buddhism–and Oprah Winfrey, for example, do not provide a human solution to human problems (witness India’s extreme poverty and uber-corrupt government; Buddhism’s endless striving and desiring but dead-end and frustrating non-attainment of its goals (and, in the end, in the case of both these Eastern religions: the dissolution of the human soul); and Guru-to-millions Oprah’s health and relationship angst.

Finally, back again to film–to make a final point, (a human comparison), GRAVITY is an exciting and beautiful girl that you would never love and you would never marry–but who was totally fun to look at, and was super-fun to be with. For one date only.

Sent from my iPad

Here is God’s explanation of reality, and of the Gospel. These truths were taken exclusively from the Bible. -Curtis

God created the cosmos; and the brain, DNA, and biological aliveness of your remote ancestor Adam, literally out of absolutely nothing (1). God, therefore, says what is right and what is wrong–He gave the Moral Law, the Ten Commandments (2). You have sinned and you have done what is wrong in the sight of God by breaking these Commandments of God (3), as every human being has done, and still does. God does not owe anyone forgiveness or Heaven (4). But God does owe everyone justice and punishment for wrongs committed, and He will justly punish everyone after death for breaking His Law, for every last sin and evil thing they have done on this earth, because He is exalted and terrifyingly holy and just (5). This punishment causes painful and fearful and despairing and eternal hellish separation from God, in a literal place called Hell. (6). But, because God is love, He sent His divine Son to be incarnated as a human (7). God is amazingly kind and generous and compassionate (7) and does not want a single person to go to Hell (23). He was willing to suffer pain for you beyond your imagination (8). The righteous life, sacrificial substitutionary death on the cross, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is your ~only~ hope for the forgiveness of your sins, your only hope for new spiritual life, and your only hope of Heaven (9). Change your mind about Jesus and about your sins (10). Through the written Word of God, the Bible, God commands you to believe in Jesus right now (11). Believe in Christ today and be irrevocably saved forever (12). Tomorrow you may well be dead (13), (people don’t die only of old age), and it will be will be too late for God’s grace in Christ (24). But it will not be too late for God’s justice (4). Even if you do not die for a long time, Jesus has promised to physically return to earth to judge the living and the dead (14). Believe in Jesus today, Who loves you and Who will forgive you of all your sins, past, present and future (15), right now. You will have a spiritual connection with God through His Holy Spirit (16). You will have God as your heavenly Father (17). You will have a new identity as a holy, righteous, child of God, in Christ (24c). You will have a new family of believers (18). You will know God’s love (19). You will have peace with God and you will have inner peace and joy(24b).You will have transcendent objective meaning in your life and Heaven as your destiny (20). God loves everyone, but unfortunately, most people reject His love and forgiveness (21). Please believe in Jesus today (22). God bless you (25).

(1) Genesis 1:1; 1:26
(2) Exodus 20: 1-17
(3) 1st John 1:8
(4) Revelation 20:15
(5) Matthew 25:46
(6) Luke 16:24
(7) John 3:16
(8) Mark 15: 17-19, 25, 34
(9) John 14:6
(10) Acts 17:30
(11) Acts 16:30,31
(12) Ephesians 1:13,14
(13) Psalm 90:12
(14) Revelation 20:6,15; 22:12
(15) Ephesians 1:7
(16) 1st Peter 1:12
(17) John 8:42
(18) Ephesians 3:14-19
(19) 1st John 3:16
(20) Matthew 6:9
(21) Matthew 20:16
(22) Acts 16:30,31
(23) 2nd Peter 3:9
(24) Hebrews 9:27
(24b) Romans 5:1; Galatians 5:22
(24c) 1st John 3:2; 2nd Corinthians 5:21
(25) Revelation 22:21