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"Her“ 3.5stars

Joaquin Phoenix's Theodore makes his living writing personal letters for other people but leads a lonely existence -- until he orders an artificially intelligent operating system in "Her."

She, aka Samantha (voice of Scarlett Johansson), tells Theo, "In every moment, I'm evolving, just like you." He starts off by observing, "Well, you seem like a person, but you're just a voice on a computer." As she helps to organize his life and return joy, passion and possible heartbreak to him, she becomes so much more.

He falls in love with her in this tender romance between man and, technically, machine told with great sincerity.

"Her," written and directed by Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation") tracks their relationship with all of its human emotions, from giddy infatuation to jealousy, and introduces other flesh-and-blood characters along the way: Amy Adams and Matt Letscher as married neighbors; Rooney Mara as Theo's estranged wife, a neuroscientist; Chris Pratt as a congenial co-worker; and Olivia Wilde as a blind date who seems too good to be true.

A mustachioed and bespectacled Mr. Phoenix plays another lost soul but as a wounded introvert who is a cross between a regular guy and soulful oddball while Ms. Johansson brings a sexy crackle, sensitivity and intelligence to the voice of Samantha.

The ending isn't as strong as what's come before, but "Her" poses questions about intimacy, real and learned emotions, the evolution of a relationship and what technology can -- or should -- supply to men and women.

Rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity. Extras include a "Her: Love in the Modern Age" featurette. Blu-ray adds two additional featurettes.

-- Post-Gazette

"That Awkward Moment” 2.5stars

Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan star as college friends and New Yorkers -- the first two illustrate and design book covers, the third is a physician -- who take a vow to steer clear of commitments and relationships.

Mr. Efron's Jason and Mr. Teller's Daniel are content to drink and date and have fun while Mikey (Mr. Jordan) is crestfallen when his wife reveals she's been cheating on him and wants a divorce.

In this romcom with a male point of view, and the now-obligatory outrageous moment designed to make audiences guffaw or gasp, the men end up in actual relationships, which they must hide from their buddies.

Written and directed by relative newcomer Tom Gormican, it tries to have moviegoers at hello with its hip handsome cast. To its credit, it gives the men relatively interesting jobs that nevertheless don't interfere with nightly rounds of drinks at their favorite bar, and it makes effective use of New York neighborhoods, including Gramercy Park.

Tucked among the laughs, an inordinate number of which involve the bathroom, are observations about the aspirational aspects of living in the city and whether this gang belongs to the "selfish generation" or wants to shun the traditional paths to suburban marriage. It has some smart and sweet moments, but it never explores anything with depth.

Rated R for sexual content and language throughout. DVD has making-of featurette with the three stars and Blu-ray adds gag reel and one more featurette.

-- Post-Gazette

"I Frankenstein“

Right from the title, there's an off-putting air of pomposity about "I, Frankenstein." The aura of goofy grandeur is enough to scare some viewers off the movie, an adaptation of Kevin Grevioux's graphic novel about Mary Shelley's monster, set in a modern-day dystopia being fought over by demons and angel-like gargoyles.

Don't be frightened. The contents of the film are a lot more fun than the package looks. Aaron Eckhart makes for a surprisingly deep and compelling antihero in this update of an antique monster movie for the IMAX 3-D age.

Frankenstein's creature is the consummate outsider: not quite human, yet unwilling to fully ally himself with either of the film's supernatural warring parties.

PG-13 for sequences of intense fantasy action and violence throughout. Extras include commentary with co-writer/director Stuart Beattie and a second commentary with Mr. Grevioux and producers Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright and James McQuaide; and featurettes "Creating a Monster" and "Frankenstein's Creatures." Available in 3-D.

-- The Washington Post


• "Afterlife: Season One": Andrew Lincoln plays a fierce skeptic who meets a real psychic.

 "Stalingrad" (4stars): Drama set during one of the most important battles of World War II.

• "Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection Volume 8": Includes 30 theatrical animated shorts.

"Scooby Doo! 13 Spooky Tales: Field of Screams": Scooby gang face scary adventures.

"Regular Show: The Complete Third Season": Include 40 season three episodes starring Mordecai, Rigby and their collection of pals.

"Crocodile Dundee & Crocodile Dundee II": Both films starring Paul Hogan are on one DVD.

"Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic: Season 5": First volume in the animated set is being released.

"Theatreland": Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen provide a look behind the scenes of a production of "Waiting for Godot."

"PAW Patrol": Puppies are ready to save the day.

"Final Exam": Prank backfires on a group of students.

"Wolverine Weapon X: Tomorrow Dies Today": Wolverine's life becomes complicated when cybernetic robots from the future embark on a superhero killing spree.

"Martha's Superhero Adventures": Based on the children's book series by Susan Meddaugh.

"Evilspeak": Blu-ray release of the story of a bullied military academy student who discovers a hidden evil.

"The Godfather Part III": Third part of the trilogy is available on Blu-ray.

"Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron": Animated tale is being released as a Blu-ray combo pack.

"One Direction: Reaching for the Stars Part 2: The Next Chapter": Gets up close and personal with the pop group.

"Easy Money, Life Deluxe": This installment in the series has JW (Joel Kinnaman) more determined that ever to find his missing sister.

-- Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee




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