Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Blu-ray Review: HER (2013) [Warner Brothers]

Her (2013)

Buy the Blu-ray/DVD

The Movie

I usually don't start reviews out like this, but I feel the need to preface this by saying that HER was my favorite movie of 2013. Based on that alone, I think that you should run - not walk - to grab Warner's new Blu-ray release of the film, as it is one that certainly warrants repeat viewings. Now, with that bit of business out of the way, let's talk a little bit about why I love the movie so much.

In case you managed to miss it over the last several months, the official synopsis of HER is as follows:
Set in Los Angeles in the slight future, HER follows Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a complex, soulful man who makes his living writing touching, personal letters for other people.  Heartbroken after the end of a long relationship, he becomes intrigued with a new, advanced operating system, which promises to be an intuitive and unique entity in its own right.  Upon initiating it, he is delighted to meet “Samantha,” a bright, female voice (Scarlett Johansson) who is insightful, sensitive and surprisingly funny.  As her needs and desires grow, in tandem with his own, their friendship deepens into an eventual love for each other.
On the surface, you might think that a movie that is essentially about a guy falling in love with his phone sounds a little absurd. However, this is a Spike Jonze film that we're talking about, so we should know better than to set expectations, as they will likely be turned around completely and shoved back in our face. That is to say that, quite frankly, HER perfectly captures the ideas of what it is to be human, and fall in love, in this technology-obsessed world. Never once does it feel silly, melodramatic, or unbelievable, and though I don't generally put a lot of stock into Oscar buzz or wins, it is no coincidence that the film took home a Best Original Screenplay award at this year's ceremonies.

It also helps that the movie has some fantastic performances in it. To be honest, I think that HER features what may just be Joaquin Phoenix’s most subtle and emotional acting to date, and Scarlett Johansson manages to steal the movie without ever having to appear on-screen. Through just her voice acting and Phoenix’s reactions to it, the two create a believable love affair out of something that seems utterly implausible. I may have felt more for them – robotic or not – than almost any other couple in cinematic history that comes to mind, and I never once found myself scoffing at the nature of their relationship.

At its core, HER is about connecting with the world around us; physical or otherwise. It neither celebrates nor condemns our fascination with technology, but it does remind us that our interactions with one another are still important; even if love is an intangible thing. Jonze manages to convey these things in a way that is so unique to his style, but feels so effortless at the same time. The film is certainly quirky, but it is extremely accessible, and while I’ve enjoyed Jonze’s previous films quite a lot, HER is certainly a testament to his growth as a filmmaker.

Not only is HER smart and well-acted, but it’s also extremely beautiful. From the stunning cinematography, to the wonderful score, the movie sucks you in. Like the rest of the film, the visuals and audio cues are never flashy, opting for subtlety instead, and the end result is one of the most well-rounded pictures of the last decade.

I could go on and on about the things I love about HER. In fact, it’s one of those rare films that I think is just about as perfect as they come. Not only does it have a lot to say about the human condition, but it’s entertaining as hell and never stoops to the usual overwrought tropes that most relationship dramas seem to thrive on. Sure, it may touch on some of the same points, but it never feels tired or false. If this is an indication of what Jonze has in store for us in the years to come, then I think it’s safe to say that, one day, he will be one of the most revered filmmakers in cinematic history. Bravo.

Movie Score


The Blu-ray

As usual, Warner brings HER to Blu-ray in a wonderful package. The technical merits of the disc are stunning, and there are some nice extras included. The initial run of the Blu-ray includes DVD and digital copies of the film; along with a nice slipcover.

Video Quality (5/5)

Warner has been one of my favorite studios, when it comes to Blu-ray releases, for some time now. Their transfers are usually very spot-on, whether the film in question is an old catalog title or a new release. Simply put, HER is stunning on Blu-ray, and its 1080p AVC-encoded transfer looks amazing. Detail is wonderful, blacks are strong, and the movie looks every bit as great as it did in the theater. I can’t find anything wrong with the picture quality, and it’s certainly a great example of what HD is capable of.

Audio Quality (5/5)

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track included on the disc is another smash hit. Though the film’s sound mix is a far cry from that of a Michael Bay Summer Blockbuster, it uses ambient sound brilliantly. Couple that with the wonderful score, clean dialog, and active surrounds, and you have a top-notch mix that far outshines what we generally get within the romance/drama genre. Honestly, I think HER sounds even better on my home theater system than it did in the theater.

Extra Features (3/5)

HER doesn’t come loaded with special features, but what is included is worth your time. The best feature is the “Untitled Rick Howard Project,” which is an artistic making-of piece on the film. The director of that piece, Lance Bangs, also gives us “HER: Love in the Modern Age,” which features interviews on the subject of modern day romance. The last feature, “How Do You Share Your Love With Somebody?” is less substantial, but is a nice touch. I would have loved to have a commentary track with (at least) Jonze, but what’s here is solid and worth your time.

  • The Untitled Rick Howard Project (25 min)
  • Her: Love In The Modern Age (15 min)
  • How Do You Share Your Love With Somebody? (5 min)

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, Warner’s Blu-ray release of HER is a must own disc. The movie is one of the most affecting films in recent memory, and it is certainly one that warrants multiple viewings. Honestly, this is one movie that will be going into regular rotation at my house, and it is sure to find its way into my Blu-ray player at least once a year. Warner’s Video and Audio presentation of the film is stunning, and as close to flawless as they come, proving that they are one of the best, most consistent studios in the HD arena. The extras are the only area where I didn’t give the disc a perfect score, but what we do get is above average and worth your time. Because of these things, I give HER my highest recommendation.

Highly Recommended

Blu-ray Score


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