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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Drama > Relationships > Computers > Technology > Science > Politics > Theory > Aliens > UF > Her (2013/Spike Jonze/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? (2013/Chomsky/MPI/Sundance Selects DVD)/Mirage Men (2014/Cinedigm DVD)/Tim's Vermeer (2013/Sony Blu-ray w/DVD)

Her (2013/Spike Jonze/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? (2013/Chomsky/MPI/Sundance Selects DVD)/Mirage Men (2014/Cinedigm DVD)/Tim's Vermeer (2013/Sony Blu-ray w/DVD)

Picture: B- & C/C+/C/B- & C+ Sound: B & C+/C+/C+/B- & C Extras: C+/C+/D/C+ Films: B/B-/C/B-

These new releases are about technology, special interests, mysteries and how analog and digital forces in our world are interacting with each other.

Spike Jonze's Her (2013) rightly won a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award as Joaquin Phoenix (back in top form yet again) plays a writer in the near future who deals with expressing private thoughts and ideas named Theodore, someone who is personally unhappy, until he starts using a new computer program that talks back to him with a female voice. Her name is Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) who has a sense of artificial intelligence and that includes a remarkable imitation of emotional range.

Theo takes this seriously and starts to have a relationship with the program, including going out to parties, sharing personal feelings and opening up as if Samantha was human. To say anything more would be telling, but Jonze is several steps ahead of his audience and that makes this easily one of 2013's best feature films. Besides reminding me of Jonze best short work and being easily his best feature work, it also reminded me of the early, original Rod Serling's Twilight Zone TV episode The Lonely (from Season One, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) plus Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara and Amy Adams are perfect in their supporting work. If you have not seen this gem yet, see it!

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while the discs add A Short Films By Lance Bangs on the creation of this film and featurettes Love In The Modern Age and How Do You Share Your Life With Somebody.

Michel Gondry's Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? (2013) is the director's attempt to understand, grasp and interpret the work of writer, innovator, theorist Noam Chomsky though a series of questions and his own animation. It might be Gondry's best feature-length work and makes for a good introduction to Chomsky for those who have never heard of him or heard bad, dumb things about him (because he is critical and wants people to think, he has been dubbed anti-American, whatever that means), so the 89 minutes here is time well spent, even if you know him and his work better as I do.

Extras include a Making Of piece called Animating Noam Chomsky, Huffington Post Live Interview, Doc NYC Q&A, Democracy Now Interview and Original Theatrical Trailer. You can also read more about Chomsky at these links:

Noam Chomsky: Distorted Reality


Noam Chomsky: Rebel Without A Pause


John Lundberg's Mirage Men (2014) is somewhere between a documentary and speculative work with its take on the UFO craze of the 1950s, but in this case, we have government men who admit they were following, even stalking people who claimed they saw flying saucers, aliens and were asking too many questions since a secret board of experts thought this was the best way to handle too many inquiries into actual secret government operations. This included getting some of these people to believe there were aliens here so they would not know about any actual top secret activities. It was also to have them easy to discredit at any time, just in case they needed to do so.

At 85 minutes, you get plenty of interviews, rare clips, darkly humorous moments and some people admitting to things that maybe should inspire some kind of official inquiry, but who knows. Too bad this subject is so played out, but in the face of so many bad reality TV shows and speculative series on the subject, it is an improvement. Worth seeing once if you can handle the repetition.

There are no extras.

Penn & Teller's Tim's Vermeer (2013) is an interesting documentary about the obsession of Tim Jenison, a technical innovator who has become driven to figure out how the master Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer managed to create paintings that were so photo-realistic a century and a half before photography's advent. X-rays have revealed that there are no sketches underneath and his work was like no one else's. How did he do it. It may take him massive patience, several years and have him go down many avenues before he finds his answers, but Mr. Jenison is going to find out if it is his last act on earth.

Fortunately, it is never that melodramatic, but it is at least interesting and this documentary shows us how he does this the long way because it is the only way to see it unfold. David Hockney and Martin Mull are among those who also show up and this is more interesting than you might think, for as Jenison uses the latest digital technology to figure things out, he has more analog work to do than he or anyone could have ever imagined he would need to do.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Penn, Teller, Tim & Producer Farley Ziegler, Deleted, Extended & Alternate Scenes and Toronto International Film Festival Q&A.

The Blu-rays tie for the best image quality, with the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Her and 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Vermeer being a little softer throughout than I would have liked, but at least having a consistent look in each case throughout, but their anamorphically enhanced DVD counterparts are much softer, especially Her, which is sometimes unwatchable it is so soft and ties the also anamorphically enhanced Men for the softest presentation on the list. That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Happy as good as any DVD here. Wonder how much better an HD presentation would be.

As for the sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the Her Blu-ray has the best sonics on the list with a consistent, even clever soundfield throughout, something the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on its DVD version cannot keep up with. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the Vermeer Blu-ray is more about quiet times and talking heads, so it is not going to sound as good, but the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on its DVD version is so weak that it is the poorest performer sonically on the list. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Happy and Men are just fine for what they are, interview documentaries.

Also, you can read more about the great Directors Label releases of short films and Music Videos by two of the filmmakers above at these links:

Michel Gondry


Spike Jonze


- Nicholas Sheffo


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